Colorado citizens had a rare opportunity to vote for a candidate who openly rejected corporate, PAC and special interest funding, and they took it. Jovan Melton, a Democrat who made the honorable but unusual decision to publicly turn down special interest PAC money, appears to have won his election. As of Wednesday, June 27, 2012 — the day after the election — Melton had a 51 vote lead in his district. If he is declared the winner, he will have no opponent in the general election, assuring Colorado’s General Assembly of having one more representative who pledged to only be beholden to constituents. Ken Gordon, founder of CleanSlateNow.org, the new and unique responsive-government organization that backed Melton and has been working to get him elected said, “Our slogan is ‘People…Not Money.’ Huge piles of campaign cash are profoundly undermining our democracy, so we made a major effort to help Melton. We mailed 8,000 pieces of campaign literature, and volunteers made 11,054 calls. However, it was not the amount of literature that we sent or the number of calls that made the difference; it was the power of the message. People want to be represented by elected officials who work for them and not big special interest contributors. It was the power of that message that made the difference.This race was a demonstration project. Americans do not have to accept the inevitability of big money dominating our political process. Citizens can use the power of their vote to fight against the influence auction that American politics has become.” CleanSlateNow.org is a non-partisan organization that opposes special interest money from both the left and the right. They support candidates who do not take special interest money, and they educate the public on the issue of big money in politics. Their website maintains the only known public list of state and national candidates who do not take special interest contributions.
The big biotechnology firm Syngenta is facing criminal charges for covering up a U.S. study that showed cows died after eating the company’s genetically-modified (GM) corn. The charges came after a long struggle by Gottfried Gloeckner, a German dairy farmer and former supporter of genetically-modified crops, agreed to participate in authorized field tests of “Bt176,” a corn variety manufactured by Syngenta that was genetically-modified to express an insect toxin and a gene that made the corn resistant to glufosinate herbicides. Gloeckner allowed the GM corn to be grown on his farm from 1997 to 2002, and fed the resulting corn to his dairy herd. By 2000, Gloeckner was feeding his cows exclusively Bt176 corn. Shortly after, several of Gloeckner’s cows became sick. Five died and others had decreased milk yields. Syngenta paid Gloeckner 40,000 euros as partial compensation for his losses and veterinary costs. Gloeckner brought a civil suit against Syngenta over the loss, but Syngenta refused to admit its GM corn could be in any way related to the illnesses and deaths of Gloeckner’s cows. The court dismissed the civil case and Gloeckner received no further payments from Syngenta, leaving him thousands of Euros in debt. Gloeckner stopped using the GM feed in 2002, but continued to lose cows. In 2009, Gloeckner discovered Syngenta had commissioned a study in the U.S. of its GM feed in 1996. In that study, four cows died within two days of eating the GM feed, and the study was abruptly ended.
Three more businesses have pulled their ads from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in Missoula, Montana in response to a grassroots effort by Missoula citizens to let KGVO Radio, broadcaster of the show, know they have had enough of Limbaugh. The latest advertisers to drop their sponsorship brings the total number of advertisers who have dumped Limbaugh’s show in Missoula to 33. Supporters of the effort to push Limbaugh off the air in Missoula, have been called “radicals” for contacting businesses to let them know they disapprove of their sponsorship of Limbaugh’s show. “Fighting bullies and speaking our minds doesn’t make us radicals. It makes us good, patriotic Americans,” responds Dave Chrismon, organizer of RushOutOfMissoula.com. Chrismon has instructed people contacting businesses over their ads to be polite and respectful when they call. “Be an anti-bully,” he says, urging people to “Drive your point home by being respectful.” RushOutOfMissoula.com says it is the voice of the free market and of a “new, bully-free community standard.” KGVO Radio has not yet responded to the news about the most recent three businesses to pull their ads off the show. The station’s last web post about the fracas is dated May 1, 2012. It thanks Limbaugh supporters for their passionate defense of his show.
Dell Computers became the latest company to drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing group behind the spread of voter suppression laws and “shoot first” laws like the one invoked by George Zimmerman, the man involved in the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida. Deborah Albers, Dell’s principal social strategies, wrote in a letter to ThinkProgress, that the company “will not be renewing our participation” in ALEC. Albers is based at Dell in Round Rock, Texas.
CleanSlateNow.org is a unique Colorado group that is trying to help get big money out of politics by supporting candidates who don’t take special interest PAC money. Currently, only two candidates running for state office in Colorado have made the unusual and admirable public decision to turn down any and all special interest money. They are Jovan Melton, a Democrat, running for a House seat in District 41 (Aurora), and Jeffrey Hare, a Republican, running for a House seat in District 48 (Weld County). The two are running in primaries that are mail-in ballot elections, and so far thousands of people who have gotten ballots have not yet turned them in. The deadline for getting ballots in is 7:00 pm on Tuesday, June 26. Both races are extremely close, and a few votes either way could make the difference. Voters get few chances to vote for candidates who reject corporate money, and they certainly shouldn’t squander this chance. CleanSlateNow.org urges people living in these districts to cast ballots as soon as possible for these two admirable candidates and make sure to get their ballots in on time.
Garbage workers around the world have a physically difficult, smelly job few people want, and typically don’t get much respect or recognition for their efforts, either. So the sanitation department in Hamburg, Germany decided to find a way to improve respect for their workers. With the help of a German advertising agency and a garbage worker who moonlights as an amateur photographer, they came up with a PR campaign that worked to turn Hamburg’s garbage collectors into celebrities. Sanitation workers converted a 290 gallon trash dumpster into a pinhole camera and hauled it around on their routes to places the workers had said they had always wanted to photograph. Dubbed the “TrashCam,” the container had a 0.3-inch pinhole in one side. The workers would open a flap over the pinhole and allow light to project onto a 39 inch by 31 inch piece of photographic paper inside the dumpster, creating a photo. Workers would expose the paper for anywhere from five to 70 minutes, and the photos were developed in a lab later that evening. The result was a series of striking black and white photos that won the sanitation workers a prestigious advertising industry award at the Cannes Lion advertising festival. The photos will be on exhibition starting June 23 at the Axel Springer Passage exhibition space in Hamburg. You can see the photo gallery here.
Yesterday I stopped at a Natural Grocers market to pick up some ginger ale, and the store gave me a free copy of the June issue of a magazine called “Energy Times” with my purchase. As I glanced through it before throwing it out, I noticed it contained big ads for supplements that promised weight loss, “digestive perfection,” better blood circulation, additional energy and sexual enhancement. Page 12 had an article saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is “attacking health freedom.” Right next to the article was a prepaid, business-reply tear-out postcard with blazing red lettering screaming, “Don’t Let the FDA Take Your Vitamins Away! …Join the [National Health Alliance] and protect your health care rights.”
I follow much of what the FDA does, and I just didn’t buy the idea that the FDA was out to take away vitamins or infringe on my health care rights. But it got my curiosity up about how I ended up with this crazy magazine.
The wall of separation between church and state in the military has completely disappeared. A network of hard-line Christian chaplains and fundamentalist parachurch ministries that operate inside the military are using it as a fertile recruiting ground for coercing soldiers to become Christians. A video posted June 15, 2012 by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation contains actual footage of military chaplains saying young people who enter the military become “government-paid missionaries when they leave here.” The missionaries’ strategy? Pounce on soldiers with the gospel at the most difficult points in their training, when they are most vulnerable. Army Ranger School Chaplain Major Jeff Struecker explains,
“Army Ranger School puts the Ranger student in the absolute worst possible conditions. Most of them will go a couple of days with no food. Some of them have gone as long as three days without any sleep whatsoever. My goal has been to meet them when they are at their absolute worst, when they’re coldest and they’re most tired and the most hungry that they’re going to be, because the more difficult the circumstances [a person is in], the more receptive the average person becomes to issues of faith. Many of them are … confronted with the gospel for the first time with no distractions, and I think that’s part of the reason why a number of them will respond.”
The Sparkasse Bank in Chemnitz, in eastern Germany, asked customers to vote on images they would most like to see on their MasterCards, and by far the winner was Karl Marx, the German philosopher who predicted the end of capitalism. More than one third of people voting selected Marx’s image. The bank reports that even people in western Germany were calling and asking to open bank accounts to get a MasterCard with Marx’s image on it. Reuters reports that a survey done in 2008 revealed that 52 percent of citizens living in eastern Germany thought the free market economy was “unsuitable” and 43 percent preferred to go back to a socialist system. NPR’s Planet Money, in a report on the Karl Marx MasterCard, asked people to suggest possible slogans to advertise the card. Some of the responses? “Che Guevara t-shirt: $15. Annotated copy of the Communist Manifesto: $10. Being able to demonstrate your ideological confusion every time you make a purchase: Priceless.,” “I don’t always seize the means of production from the bourgeoisie, but when I do, I prefer the Marx MasterCard,” “A Mastercard for the master race,” and my personal favorite: “Use it when you’re in the red.”
As corporations continue to flee the embattled American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC is struggling to stop the bleeding with a new a damage-control website called “IStandWithALEC.com,” that blames former Obama administrator Van Jones, George Soros and “Big Labor” for recent woes that have put the group on the hot seat. But as soon as ALEC put up its new site, the controversial group was met with yet another activist challenge: a hilarious, new competing one-page website with the very similar domain name, “IStandWithALEC.org,” that features pictures of Alec Baldwin and says, “I stand with Alec, not ALEC.” The site is filled with funny pictures of Alac Baldwin and statements contrasting how nice Alec Baldwin is and how mean ALEC is, like “Alec Baldwin created a scholarship for low income drama students…ALEC creates scholarships for corporations to funnel money to legislators,” and “Alec likes surfing the web naked,” but “ALEC wants you to pay 750% more for high-speed Internet.” The site asks visitors to “Join our efforts to stand up to front groups like ALEC!” The dueling websites make it clear that anti-ALEC activists aren’t cutting ALEC much slack these days, no matter what corporate PR strategy it tries to try and escape from its death spiral.