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This is my fourth year at Netroots Nation, and I have seen a steady improvement in the overall content of the panels.  But this year there is a major difference.  In the past, you could go to panels on your particular interests and perhaps a couple to expand your political voice or interests.  You would learn a lot and meet people with similar interests and find a community to work with.

This year is different.  This year Elijah actually showed up, and his name is ALEC.

This year our various interests are connected.  This year, whether you are interested in gun politics, education, the environment, whatever, all of us are learning that we are fighting the same infrastructure.  ALEC Exposed is working.

I do not know what effect this will have on our activism.  We may continue working in our own little spaces.  But some of us, I hope, will begin to work to build our own infrastructure to counter theirs effectively.

The net has the potential to become the means to build that infrastructure.  All that we need is to think structurally.  All?  Well, that's not going to be easy, but I'm glad to be here to witness a beginning.

Thanks to ALEC Exposed, and to the bloggers who have been writing about it for the past year.  Knowledge is indeed the first step to change.

12:04 PM PT: I did not expect this to make the Rec List.  Thanks.

Originally posted to ramara on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 10:19 AM PDT.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Everybody has a reason to despise ALEC. (29+ / 0-)

    No matter what your issue is, ALEC is on the other side. Why is our state the "meth lab of democracy ?" Because 50 of our 90 state legislators are members and many in the executive branch are ALEC alums. Let's work to make ALEC membership an issue in the upcoming state legislative races.

    The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

    by Azazello on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 10:28:36 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for letting us know. (13+ / 0-)

    Shining light on those who are undermining our attempts at democracy is excellent!

    For state-level action during this very election season, the list of state chair"men" (many are women ;) is here:

    http://www.alec.org/...

    Perhaps they have opponents we can support in our local state legislative districts ;)

    "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

    by cotterperson on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 10:49:46 AM PDT

  •  ALEC - the unwanted guest (15+ / 0-)

    Showed up at most of the panels I attended.  This just proves that we must be vigilant against ALEC in all progressive pursuits.  Good post.  Thanks.

  •  It is hard to believe that we've only really known (13+ / 0-)

    about ALEC for 1 1/2 years. In that time, a lot has been done to combat the evil. Your diary hold the key.
    Every thinking person in this country needs to band together against ALEC/KOCH brothers/Citizen's United and all of the rest. United we may have a chance.

    Thanks and have fun!!!

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 11:59:18 AM PDT

  •  We need a smartphone app (14+ / 0-)

    like the one Darcy Burner was talking about yesterday -- where you can scan a product and find out who owns it and what their "report card" is on various issues. You could set the preferences for your choice of issues -- whether it's voting suppression, equal treatment of women, LGBT discrimination, environment/global climate change, whatever -- and you'd get a full report so you can shop wisely.

    Manufacturers count on the fact that consumers don't understand who owns what brands and thus will grab the prettiest package or the lowest price without thinking of wider impact. We need an easy way to arm consumers, and more people every day are possessing the technology to make informing them easier. Maybe even build the technology into a general shopping list app; many apps now have the function of scanning a barcode so you can add the product to your "favorites" so it would be just a matter of expanding that function.

    Mitt Romney: the Etch-A-Sketch candidate in the era of YouTube

    by Cali Scribe on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 12:45:48 PM PDT

    •  that was my idea; looks like it went viral. (11+ / 0-)

      The app would tie into a central "boycott/support" database and return a simple "Yes" in green or "No" in red, with a button for "details" to go to the next layer down, a list of scores or conclusions, each of which could be clicked for even more details.  But if the database was managed by a high-trust organization, most people would take the Yes/No as sufficient to buy or not-buy the product.

      If this meme is starting to spread, I'll ring up my coder pals and see about getting the project going.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 01:26:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is an EXCELLENT IDEA! (5+ / 0-)

        I can check pesticide levels in produce with an app, or any number of things through an Environmental Working Group app.  This has to happen!  Can you make it so?

        "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.". Barbara Kingsolver, _Animal Dreams_

        by thea lake on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 01:55:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  working on it as we speak. (5+ / 0-)

          I'm working on putting together a team to do this one.  We have the requisite talent, it's just a matter of persuading my fellow workers that this will be worthwhile.

          Question: how much do you think people are willing to pay for the app and for the subscription to the database service?  

          The reason I'm thinking of a subscription model is because it enables us to protect privacy.  There has to be a person managing the database, which is necessarily paid work (always create right-livelhood jobs where possible), and there are ongoing costs for hosting and so on (same as anything else we do).   Those costs have to be covered somehow.  

          The usual model these days is to make everything "free" with an invasion of privacy as the real price: selling individual data to advertisers and others.  But the data from something like this could make their way to e.g. ALEC (once we sell the data there is no way to prevent our enemies getting access), and that would give the badguys a heads-up for their PR campaigns (not to mention a list of "radicals" to target in whatever way).  

          So instead, with a subscription model and a small monthly cost per smartphone, we can cover costs without having to compromise privacy or risk data falling into the wrong hands.  Question is, how much you think is reasonable?

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 02:56:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hmmmmm. (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PinHole, ramara, G2geek, mapamp, glorificus

            Running through the iPhone and iPad apps I have paid for, and trying to factor in something like NYT access ($20/month) or the Netflix subscription (~$8/month). As an individual, I'd be willing to pay at least $10/month for a subscription. More if updates were frequent--whatever that might mean. And what about institutional subscriptions?

            "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.". Barbara Kingsolver, _Animal Dreams_

            by thea lake on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 03:31:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  that's good information (4+ / 0-)

              .... I want to believe we can do it for less than $10/month, probably quite a bit less (keeping in mind we haven't started the design process yet, and don't know what our costs are going to be).  

              Updates would happen on the website/database side, as frequently as new information came in about new companies to put on the list, and the information was vetted by being cross-checked with multiple sources or any definitive source.

              Thus, subscribers will automatically see those as soon as they go in.  Changes to the interface would happen periodically as well, for example adding new search categories and so on.

              The key to this will be to make it simple to use at the point of sale e.g. grocery stores and other retail outlets.  But a user could access their personal settings any time they choose, to set new priorities or search for specific companies or send information on companies, and so on.  

              One thing we have to adhere to, is keeping the information objective.  For example complaints about product quality or customer service, could be orchestrated by badguys to hit their competitors.  But campaign contributions, ecological damage penalties from the EPA, strikebreaking with scabs, contributions to ALEC, and so on, are objective data that a company can't fake by paying for a bunch of shills to send us bad data.  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 03:59:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Less-than-$10/month would be good, (5+ / 0-)

                as it would make the information much more widely accessible.  I am "comfortably retired" at 55, and very aware how rare that is (especially for the child of farmers-turned-factory workers in the 50's), so my estimation is easier to make.  For such an app to have an effect, it would need to be affordable to many. The point you make in your 4th paragraph is also on the mark.

                It's interesting to contemplate criteria and appropriate authorities to speak to them . . .

                "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.". Barbara Kingsolver, _Animal Dreams_

                by thea lake on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 04:36:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  what do you think would be affordable? (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  mapamp, mashed potatoes, ramara

                  For instance, what price for the app and what price for the monthly subscription?  Would it be better to bill for it monthly or yearly?  

                  Also I should mention, this wouldn't be platform-specific.  People would be able to access it from any device with a browser.  Folks who don't have smartphones could access it from their home computers and print out lists to bring with them.  What I'd like to see it do, is let people put in generic product descriptions and get back lists of companies, and make selections from those lists that would go on their personal shopping lists they could print & take along.

                  You can see why that information would need to be kept private; we don't want advertisers or PR stooges getting hold of it and launching corporate image campaigns that lack substance.  Or worse yet, tying it to individuals as another form of tracking, which IMHO is evil.   Thus the subscription model is necessary to cover costs, instead of selling data to advertisers etc.  

                  Ideal case, this would get popular enough to make a dent in the market for certain products.  Here's what's really subversive about that: it becomes an axis of competition.  Even a 1% shift in a consumer market is significant and makes companies sit up and take notice.  

                  For example 20 years ago, toilet paper with recycled content was a new thing.  People scoffed that 10% recycled was meaningless.  But I predicted that it would become an axis of competition, and we would see other brands jumping in with increasing percentages of recycled content.  Turned out that was correct, and now we can get TP that's 100% post-consumer recycled paper.  

                  It'll be a great day when we start seeing "100% ALEC-free" companies.  All it takes is for more people to vote with their dollars.

                  "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                  by G2geek on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 05:32:33 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Let me think about this . . . . (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    G2geek, ramara

                    too tired to give it the consideration it deserves right now.  Thanks for asking, and thanks for the details!  I will reply after coffee in the morning.

                    "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.". Barbara Kingsolver, _Animal Dreams_

                    by thea lake on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 07:50:40 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  affordable? (0+ / 0-)

                    First, everything you outline in this comment sounds good: not-platform-specific, access info via generic product descriptions, ability to make selections (personal shopping list) to bring with.  Could be printable, or printable "save as PDF" and upload to something like Dropbox--for those who do have smartphones and want to just have the list right there.

                    Second, on subscriptions, I'd say offer both monthly and yearly.  I'd tend to go for the yearly, but others might want to subscribe at a point in time when they're making some major purchase.  So that flexibility would be helpful.  

                    Third, on pricing: as I said last night, I'd pay a monthly fee of ~$10/month--maybe give a $20 break to folks who subscribe for a year--give it for $100.  But it would get to more people if the price could be kept to half of that.  Monthly, $5/Annual, $60? $50?  As for the app--I think I'm out of my expertise on estimating that.  I can say that I have paid up to $30--for iBird Pro. And have paid $5 to $10 for some others.  Mostly I've got free or .99 apps.  Wouldn't your development costs affect this decision to some extent?

                    "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.". Barbara Kingsolver, _Animal Dreams_

                    by thea lake on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 11:54:59 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  Awesome tool, less so to ALEC and the Cabal (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ramara, annieli

        Don't even think that I'm trying to discourage the development of this idea. It's a terrific idea. It's feasible, practical, useful, and appealing. The benefits are are faily easy to see. I think think that the top benefit is to enable more activists. All good.

        I see some challenges in the back end. This is far more complex than one might assume. It's a lot of work to keep things up-to-date. A full time job, perhaps for several people. Keeping things accurate might be futile. ALEC, for one, isn't exactly forthcoming with details. There are practical considerations, too. If, for example, Pepsico is on the list because it funds ALEC, how do you deal with it when Pepsico pulls its funds?

        Still, this isn't a show-stopper. It's a challenge. Perhaps the scale of the design should be narrowed a little.

        The reason that I suggest that this idea is harmless to organizations such as ALEC or the others in the Cabal (Heritage, AFP, Koch, Cato, etc.) is because of the ways that these organizations are funded. It's true that corporate sponsors are important to ALEC, but it's also true that a long list of right wing organizations and too-rich-to-care individuals provide most of the funds. A business that bails out of ALEC sponsorship can simply launder their funds through another organization. Heritage, for example, gives shitloads to ALEC. There are hundreds of undisclosed private foundations that fund all of these right wing money machines.

        This app idea is best applied to increasing participation and efficiency of boycotted products and businesses in a more direct way.

        Boycotting all Koch Industry products is an appropriate example. It isn't all that effective financially, but spreading the message is important. One problem with boycotting Koch is that the Koch brothers don't give a crap about their public image. They have plenty of other investments that boycotts can't affect.

        I'm not suggesting that boycotting such targets doesn't work because it does have an effect. Boycotts increase the pressure. All good.

        ALEC isn't going to be crushed by boycotting their sponsors. But it doesn't mean than boycotting these sponsors shouldn't be promoted.

        And this app is a boycott enabler. Good idea.

        "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 06:40:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Some of us (4+ / 0-)

      don't have smartphones.  I have enough trouble with dumb ones.  But a separate device as well would work for me - a small scanner.

      Old people are like old houses - lots of character, but the plumbing leaks.

      by ramara on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 01:37:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps a password-protected website (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mapamp, ramara

        to afford access to non-smartphone users?  I mean, as a parallel offering?

        "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.". Barbara Kingsolver, _Animal Dreams_

        by thea lake on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 03:58:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'd like to see a History Commons project (9+ / 0-)

    on ALEC. It connects damn near ALL the dots we've drawn over the past 11 years.

  •  Thanks for this insightful diary on ALEC and (0+ / 0-)

    the prevalence of "ALEC" identification at most of the panels this year at NN.

    I was fortunate to be able to attend and will be posting a diary with pictures and video's from the convention tonight.

    I handed out hundreds of cards, networked with media and bloggers, spoke at length with those such as Jim Dean, Marcos and folks at every exhibit booth about ALEC - and yes, Azazello I did wear my now infamous "ALEC For Dummies" VLTP shirt :)

    "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled" http://piecp-violations.com/

    by Bob Sloan on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 01:34:24 PM PDT

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