Tag: Grassroots advocacy

Have People Had Enough of Food Chemicals and Additives?

Food additives that sound more like chemicals from a lab are turning people off.

People who cringe at the weird-sounding chemical additives in food, like sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, guar gum or disodium EDTA, are starting to create and share home-made versions of their favorite processed foods that are free of artificial chemicals and additives. On Pinterest, a social media website that facilitates sharing of recipes, a growing number of people are concocting and sharing chemical-free versions of their favorite highly-processed foods. One member shared a recipe for home-made “Condensed Cream of Something Soup,” offered as a chemical-free thickener to use in casseroles instead of expensive and additive-filled  canned Campbell’s “Cream of” soups. Another person posted a recipe for home-made Oreos that has gotten raves. Still another person shared a way to make her favorite childhood processed food, Pop Tarts, at home using recognizable ingredients. Someone who claimed to be “disgusted” by processed, bottled Bleu cheese dressing posted a simple recipe for home-made Bleu Cheese dressing. Still someone else shared an easy recipe for do-it-yourself red enchilada sauce, saying “you’ll never go back to the canned, store-bought stuff again.” A substantial portion of our modern food supply is manufactured in factories using chemicals and additives, some of which, according for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, are poorly tested and may not be worth the risk of ingesting them.

First Annual Colorado Secular Conference Kicks Off in Grand Junction

Attendees listen to a talk about the Patriot Act at the first annual Colorado Secular Conference held at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

Colorado’s first annual Secular Conference kicked off today in one of the most conservative and deeply religious areas of the state: Grand Junction. Mesa County, where the conference was held, is the second most conservative county in the state, after El Paso County (Colorado Springs), home of Focus on the Family and the Air Force Academy, with its iconic Cadet Chapel. About 120 people from around Colorado and many other states spent the day in the second floor ballroom of Colorado Mesa University’s Student Center discussing the future of the secular movement in Colorado and the U.S. The conference opened with a discussion involving the entire group about the goals secular citizens hope to accomplish by organizing and becoming a political force in Colorado. Attendees shared stories about the discrimination and stigma they have suffered as a result of their lack of religiosity. Several speakers pointed out that non-religious citizens now comprise fully 19 percent of the U.S. population, yet have little to no representation in government or policy matters. Kelly Damerow, Research and Advocacy Manager for the Secular Coalition for America, who traveled to the conference from Washington, D.C., discussed the threats that ongoing religious extremism pose, like attempts to restrict the types of health care that can legally be delivered, loopholes exempting religious people from having to comply with laws and regulations that govern the rest of society, and efforts to enact “personhood” amendments that elevate the rights of fetuses over the rights of the women carrying them. A new statewide secular lobbying group, the Colorado Secular Coalition, was officially created at the meeting, bringing a resounding round of applause from attendees. A speaker from the American Civil Liberties Union enlightened the crowd about how the 12 year-old Patriot Act has eroded citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Afternoon speakers gave attendees tips for creating new secular groups in their schools and hometowns. The conference will conclude tomorrow, on Sunday, after more talks, a tour of the Colorado National Monument and western Colorado’s wine country. The conference was organized by Humanists Doing Good, a secular group in Fruita, Colorado, a town of about 13,000 people located ten miles west of Grand Junction. The conference was free to all attendees, and will be an annual event.

Help Unseat Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis

Mesa County, Colorado Commissioner Craig Meis: Doesn’t understand what “fire ban” means?

Mesa County, Colorado County Commissioner Craig J. Meis epitomizes the self-important, small-town elected official. During his stint as County Commissioner, Meis has repeatedly broken the law and then used his elected position to pressure law enforcement officers to drop actions against him. In 2007, police showed up at Meis’s home in response to a loud party complaint. Meis dropped the names of prominent local Republican elected officials attending his party to pressure the officers to stop demanding he turn the music down. Then, in 2010, Colorado State Parks officer Craig Johnson issued Meis a $50 ticket at Mesa County’s Highline Lake State Recreation area for allowing his 14 year old son to operate a personal watercraft on the lake in violation of the law. In his report about the incident, Officer Johnson wrote that Meis repeatedly tried to use his elected position as a county commissioner to pressure him to reduce the ticket to a warning. According to the report, during the encounter Meis boasted repeatedly that he was good friends with the District Attorney. After Officer Johnson refused to reduce the ticket to a warning, Meis complained about him in an email to the director of the state Department of Natural Resources, saying officer Johnson exhibited a “lack of discretion” in issuing the ticket. Meis copied the email to a long list of other public officials. When asked about the incident, Meis claimed Officer Johnson lied about the statements he made during the incident. Meis then insisted on taking the ticket all the way to a jury trial, was found guilty and had to pay a $78 fine.  Now, just this month, a Chaffee County Deputy ticketed Meis for lighting an open grill in a forested area during a highly-publicized, state-wide fire ban that came amid severe drought and extreme fire danger. After getting the ticket, Meis wrote an email to the Chaffee County Sheriff explaining that he was aware of the fire ban but didn’t understand what a fire ban “truly means.” He wrote that he is “getting educated on it daily.” Meis argued that the disposable charcoal grill he used was far too small to be troublesome and asked for “discretion” regarding the ticket.
Chaffee County Sheriff Pete Palmer emailed Meis back saying, “It’s not often I receive a request to have a ticket fixed, and yours is the first from a county commissioner.” Palmer pointed out that either Stage I or Stage II fire bans had been in effect for weeks, and the information had been posted publicly for over a month on the Chaffee County Sheriff’s website. At the time, Colorado’s Waldo Canyon fire — the most destructive wildfire in state history — was raging and had destroyed hundreds of homes, killed one person and caused over 30,000 people to have to evacuate their homes. Yet amid this disaster, Meis cavalierly lit an open fire, and then tried to avoid the legal consequences. Throughout his time in elected office Craig Meis has constantly shown he thinks his position as county commissioner puts him above the law. His behavior has been an embarrassment to Mesa County and caused the County added expense. Help us get Commissioner Meis to leave his position by adding your name to our petition, Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis: Resign.

Rush on the Ropes in Missoula

Rush Limbaugh

RushOutOfMissoula.com, the grassroots effort to push  Rush Limbaugh off the air in Missoula, Montana, reports making “fabulous headway” this week in their effort. Six more advertisers have opted to pull their advertising from Limbaugh’s show on KGVO radio in just the last week, bringing the total of businesses shunning his show in Missoula to 41.  “They made a good decision, but only because we made our voices heard,” said Dave Chrismon, who organized RushOutOfMissoula.com. Some of the remaining local advertisers include Adair Jewelers, Bagels on Broadway, The BBQ Pit and Big Sky Glass, Montana Republican Party/Denny Rehberg for Senate and Montana Pro Life Coalition. National advertisers include Allegiant Airlines, Blackjack Pizza, and MaxMuscle.

Talk Back! ThoughtOnBoard Launches New E-Commerce Website

A product for people who have something to say

Now anyone can spread his or her own ideas or point of view around town for cheap. ThoughtOnBoard, a simple product that puts free speech back in the hands of real people, launched a new e-commerce website just in time for the run-up to the 2012 general election. “Average working people  can now take back their right to free speech with ThoughtOnBoard,” said Anne Landman, author of AnneLandmanBlog.com and inventor of ThoughtOnBoard. ThoughtOnBoard, a dry-erase sign that sticks to glass facing outward, lets you say whatever you want, whenever you want, and change it fast. Write or draw anything you want on it and post it in a car, home, shop, restaurant, garage or store window. Change it fast. It’s no censorship, no holds-barred free speech — the perfect way to weigh in on today’s quick-moving political campaigns. ThoughtOnBoard has a zillion uses. Use it to promote events, daily specials, say “Wipe your feet,” “Shh…baby sleeping.” The only limit is your imagination. ThoughtOnBoard has been sold locally for 22 years, and just recently launched into the world of e-commerce, making it more widely available. Check out the new ThoughtOnBoard.com website to see some of the fun and innovative ways people are using it.

Limbaugh Show Has Lost 35 Advertisers in Missoula

Rush Limbaugh

RushOutOfMissoula.com, the grassroots effort to push Rush Limbaugh off KGVO Radio in Missoula, Montana, announced this week that three more advertisers have walked away from Limbaugh’s show in the last week, bringing the total to advertisers who have ended their sponsorship of Limbaugh’s show on KGVO to 35. Dave Chrismon, organizer of RushOutOfMissoula, thanked supporters for “helping draw attention to this bully and his track record of nasty, personal attacks.” When RushOutOfMissoula first debuted on April 13, 2012, the Limbaugh Show in Missoula aired four public service announcements. By June 29th that number had jumped to 13 as the radio station struggled to fill gaps left by advertisers fleeing the show. Ads for local businesses dropped from 26 in April to 17 on June 29th. KGVO is still filling the same number of ad slots but is repeating many of the same ads frequently and running many more PSAs in place of paid ads. Adair Jewelers, Sunshine Motors, Trader Brothers, and H & H Meats are some of the local advertisers whose ads have run more than once in the same program. Adair Jewelers, whose owner denounced the RushOutOfMissoula effort as “blackmail,” has had as many as eight ads run in the same program. Businesses and nonprofit groups who have removed their advertising from Limbaugh’s show report they have continued to receive harassing phone calls from Rush supporters. To stop this, RushOutOfMissoula stopped listing these businesses on the site’s “Rush’s Advertisers” page, and changed to an “opt-in” policy where businesses will appear if they request it.  The group will continue to keep records of advertisers who pull their ads as a result of efforts by RushOutOfMissoula.

CO Candidate Who Renounced Special Interest Funding Wins

Jovan Melton, Democratic candidate for CO House, rejected PAC money and won

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.

Three More Businesses Drop Limbaugh Show in Missoula

Rush Limbaugh

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 Walks Away From the American Legislative Exchange Council

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.

Source: International Business Times, June 21, 2012

U.S. Military Revokes Approval of Military Emblems on Bibles

Cover of Holman Military Bible

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) announced it has won a major battle to halt the publication of Bibles bearing official U.S. armed forces emblems on the covers. The bibles were published by Holman Bible Publishers, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Bibles also contained a fake quote from George Washington that was created by excerpting a paragraph of Washington’s 1783 letter to the governors of the states at the end of the Revolutionary War and altering it to make it into a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Almost 2,000 servicemembers contacted MRFF to complain that the bibles were being featured on the shelves of military exchanges and in stores around the world. The bibles made it look like the Bible was endorsed by the U.S. military and was the official religious text of the U.S. military services. MRFF says that over the past few years, it has received more complaints from servicemembers about these bibles than any other single separation of church and state issue it has dealt with. MRFF says the bibles were a “clear violation of the U.S. Constitution” because they used U.S. armed forces logos to promote a specific religious text. Responding to pressure by MRFF over the inappropriateness of the bibles, all four branches of the U.S. Military revoked their approval of the Military series of Holman Christian Standard Bibles, blocking further use of their emblems on the texts.

Source: Military Religious Freedom Foundation, June 12, 2012

Johnson & Johnson Ditches ALEC

Citizens protest ALEC. (Credit: Raw Story)

Johnson & Johnson announced it is ending its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the embattled right-wing bill mill charged with spreading “shoot first” laws like the one that drew attention in the killing earlier this year of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin. J&J is the 19th company to flee ALEC, and held a seat on ALEC’s “Private Enterprise Board.” The company made the announcement after a petition and phone campaign by People for the American Way Foundation, the Color of Change and other groups gathered more than half a million signatures asking corporations to end their support of ALEC’s agenda.  ALEC has been a driving force behind the spread of voter suppression laws across the country, like the law that led to the purge of legitimate voters from Florida’s voter rolls.  The U.S. Department of Justice filed a formal lawsuit against Florida today to stop the purge. J&J issued a statement saying it did not “condone legislative proposals that could serve, even inadvertently, to limit the rights or impact the safety of any individual,” and that it worked with ALEC only on “matters that help create a climate that supports jobs and innovation in the U.S.” Other companies and organizations that have dropped their ALEC memberships include Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Kraft, Wendy’s, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Yum! Brands, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Intuit, Mars, Inc., Arizona Public Service, and Kaplan.

Sources: Sources: People for the American Way, press release, June 12, 2012 and NJ.com, June 12, 2012

ALEC Under Investigation in Minnesota

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has agreed to investigate Common Cause’s complaint that the American Legislative Exchange Council engages in false and deceptive practices. Common Cause says ALEC has improperly failed to register as a lobbyist in Minnesota.  Common Cause filed a complaint against ALEC in mid May, 2012 along with documentation the group says points to ALEC’s lobbying activities.  Common Cause received a  letter back from the Campaign Finance Board saying it would look into the group’s charges of improper activity by ALEC. The letter said the Board is unable to disclose information received from either party regarding the complaint, that it will review the status of the investigation in an executive session at its June meeting and will likely delay consideration of the matter until its July meeting. When the investigation is complete, the Board will release its findings publicly by posting them on its website, cfboard.state.mn.us.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio News, May 29, 2012

More Advertisers Yank Ads from Limbaugh Show on KGVO in Missoula

Supporters of the effort to get Rush Limbaugh off the airwaves in Missoula, Montana are celebrating another milestone this week: They’ve gotten fully thirty advertisers to pull their ads off Limbaugh’s show on KGVO radio in Missoula. To emphasize that Rush Limbaugh is a bully who is offensive to their community, RushOutOfMissoula.com this week features video of a March, 2012 interview with Michael J. Fox on CNN’s Piers Morgan Show that revisits Limbaugh’s 2006 attack on Fox after Fox made a political ad supporting Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill because of her stand supporting stem cell research. In the ad, Fox displays obvious symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as he twitches and moves awkwardly during the ad. Limbaugh characterized the ad as “shameless,” saying it was “purely an act.” He speculated that Fox was either acting or that he intentionally stopped taking his anti-Parkinson’s medicine prior to making the ad to emphasize the severity of his symptoms and elicit sympathy. The backlash against Limbaugh’s cruel and inappropriate statements about Fox eventually prompted Limbaugh to say he would “apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in his characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act, since people are telling me they have seen him this way on other interviews and in other television appearances.” RushOutOfMissoula.com supporters are moving forward in their efforts to pressure advertisers to leave the show, saying Limbaugh is a bully who exceeds the limits of community norms by vulgarly denigrating others for their political views.

Missoula Citizens Rack Up More Progress in Anti-Limbaugh Effort

Rush Limbaugh

Citizens of Missoula, Montana continue to make headway in their effort to push Rush Limbaugh off the air in that town. Dave Chrismon, head of the grassroots effort and website RushOutOfMissoula.com, reports  that seven more businesses have pulled their ads from Limbaugh’s show in the last week, for a total of 27 businesses that have abandoned the show since the group’s effort started in mid-April, 2012. “We’re shaking this bully’s tree!” Chrismon crowed. Remaining advertisers can be seen at this link on RushOutOfMissoula.com, which is tracking advertisers on the show. Local businesses still advertising on Limbuagh’s show include Adair Jewelers, whose owner, Jim Adair, claims he is being “blackmailed” by supporters of RushOutOfMissoula.com and who says the group wants to “take all talk radio off the air.” KGVO, the station that broadcasts Limbaugh in Missoula, has featured Adair on its talk shows as a way to try and defend the station’s keeping Limbaugh on the air amid the firestorm of disapproval of the show. Nationwide businesses that have quit Limbaugh’s show include Home Depot, Sam’s Club, ProActiv, Constant Contact and Legal Zoom.  Some of the national businesses that continue to advertise on the show include Allegiant Airlines, Curves (the health club for women), Habitat for Humanity, Max Muscle, Dish Network, Fram Oil Filters, LifeLock and Match.Com.

Wal-Mart Dumps ALEC

The retail giant Wal-Mart is joining other big businesses in ending its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative corporate bill mill that helps spread “shoot first” laws like the one linked to the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. In a letter to ALEC, Wal-Mart Vice President Maggi Sans wrote, “Previously, we expressed our concerns about ALEC’s decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission ‘to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets’” Sans said. “We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC.” Other large corporations that have already left the organization include Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Intuit and others.

 

Cookie-Cutter News Taking Over U.S. Media Market

If your local TV news broadcasts are all starting to sound the same from channel to channel, it’s because they are. A sneaky form of media consolidation is happening all over the country called “covert consolidation” in which different local TV newscasts use the exact same stories, the same video, same scripts and the same viewpoints, but do it under different “brands.” Covert consolidation occurs when a number of TV stations in the same area are owned by a single corporate entity. Broadcasters between the multiple stations will share their news operations to save money. Covert consolidation not only circumvents Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules regarding ownership of stations, it also eliminates independent local journalism and the competition and diversity between stations that are the basis of a healthy democracy. Covert consolidation has been documented in 83 of the nation’s 210 news communities throughout the U.S. as TV stations across the country quietly merge newsrooms to cut costs — all at a time when broadcasters are already making record profits. Covert consolidation is also a factor blocking  minorities and women from owning and operating TV stations. Big media companies are using loopholes and backroom deals to get around FCC rules prohibiting media consolidation. To draw attention to the problem of covert consolidation, FreePress.org has created an interactive map showing which stations across the U.S. are consolidated, and the severity of the consolidation. FreePress also offers a free “Change the Channels” tool kit (pdf) people can download to document and record media consolidation in their areas, and instructions for  exposing covert consolidation in your own local community.

Main source: FreePress/SaveTheNews.org, May 29, 2012

Syrian Activist Video Documents Results of May 25 Massacre in Homs

Activists opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad posted a startling YouTube video of the aftermath of the Syrian government’s May 25, 2012 massacre of 51 children and nearly as many adults. In the video, a man picks up the bodies of the dead and mangled children one at a time. As he shows them to the camera, a voice says “These are children, for God’s sake! Hey, World, look at Assad’s crimes! God is greater than you, you arrogant murderer!” English subtitles translate voices in the video that urge the international community to intervene to save the Syrian people. United Nations officials report Syrian government artillery and tank fire killed more than 90 people total in the district of Houla in the central province of Homs, which has been under almost constant attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad for months. Syria’s state-run news agency blamed the massacre on non-specific “armed terrorists.” The Syrian government restricts journalists from entering the country, and since several journalists attempting to cover what has been happening in Syria have lost their lives, amateur videos like this one posted on YouTube are the outside world’s main source of information about what is happening inside Syria. WARNING: The video is graphic.

Source: Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2012 and YouTube, May 25, 2012

Amazon.com is 16th Corporation to End its Affiliation with ALEC

The retail internet behemoth Amazon.com announced it would cut its ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after activist groups delivered a petition signed by over a half million people asking the company to ditch the conservative organization. The petitions were delivered at Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting in Seattle, Washington. They filled seven bankers’ boxes, and were collected by ColorOfChange.org, People for the American Way, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and other progressive groups. Amazon.com joined ALEC in 2011, and worked with them on tax issues. Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako stated that “…[W]e’ve decided not to renew our participation in ALEC, in part because of positions that group took on issues unrelated to our business.” She did not say what the issues were. At the meeting, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also promised to spend $52 million to improve working conditions at its warehouse facilities, including retrofitting them with air conditioning. ALEC is the legislative bill mill implicated in spreading legislation like the “shoot first” law that led to the Trayvon Martin case, voter ID laws that block people’s access to the ballot box, school voucher bills that direct taxpayer money to private and religious schools, and other controversial legislation that has been sweeping the country state by state.