Friday, April 3, 2015

ALEC Fights to "Restore Religious Freedom"

What could feel better than the divine sensation of always "being right?" [Alvin Riley -fB]
Another Visit from MeanMesa's Favorite Villain
Are we so busy with the outrage that we've overlooked the perpetrators?

It is no secret that MeanMesa has long ago adopted the "freedom loving" sold out dead enders in the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC] for "special treatment" on this high desert blog. However, in most of these previous cases the "jewels" which have caught ALEC's attention has consistently been one scheme after another to extract absolutely anything "not bolted down" from individual state budgets. One of the group's "all time favorites" has always been scammy "economic development" grants issued in the legislatures of unfortunate states finding themselves firmly in the grip of Republicans.

Yes, although ALEC is "genetically addicted" to pocketing every untended dollar languishing anywhere in a red state's budget, the gang's second most favorite "local prize" has consistently been the deregulation of absolutely anything which might amount to a "profit freeing" gift to one of the Council's quiet corporate sponsors.

However, simply focusing on these "state legislative pillaging and plundering" schemes in an attempt to fully describe ALEC's operational ambitions would leave the picture woefully -- and dangerously --incomplete. These little state level bands of well financed miscreants are always eager to lend their hand to manipulating the Republican Party's tragically under informed base to deliver the political equivalent of the cravenly "cash based" dividends mentioned already. ALEC and other sub rosa right wing influence channels have shown an enduring willingness to perform political dirty work when ordered to do so by the oligarchs in command.

MeanMesa suspects that this is precisely what has "happened" with the tumultuously miscalculated gizmo just signed by Mike Pence, the Republican Governor of the entirely Republican, remarkably sensitive and grotesquely religious State of Indiana.

While it is always great fun to just "crank out" the latest utterly flippant installment of a fantastic, horrific conspiracy theory about ALEC and the already humiliating antics emerging from the tatters of the GOP, MeanMesa is far too genteel to indulge in simply "tilting at the nearest windmill" at the drop of a hat. If the blog intends to post such a damning hypothesis, there had better, by golly, be at least a "little something" to back up the headlines heralding such brazen claims.

After all, there is Short Current Essay's formidable "reputation" for fairness and equanimity which must be considered. [This is, of course, a "joke."]

Of course, there is no possible way for MeanMesa to know -- for a fact -- exactly what creepy discussions might have prompted ALEC to embrace such a bizarrely hazardous public relations extravaganza, so we seem to be left with only what more competent prosecutors would call "circumstantial evidence." Happily, in this case that "circumstantial evidence" is actually rather compelling, and -- at least for democracy loving Americans -- gravely unsettling in its own hilarious way.

So, let's do what we can to "rip the fenders off this thing."

The Circumstantial Evidence
Of ALEC's Involvement
Penetrating the Most Opaque "Anti-Democracy Club" in the Country
Bibles are optional.


At this moment all across the vast netherworld of the internet every possible "thing" has already been breathlessly written nine dozen times about what a hideous, hateful, little bit of Medieval Biblical chicanery this thing actually is, so MeanMesa needs not add another single word to the "terabytes of outrage" already available.

Gosh. "Medieval Biblical Chicanery?"  Really?  Medieval? Hee Hee. [image - ALETEIA]
There's not ever going to be another election, right?
Unfortunately, because of the "local costumes" borne by many in this crowd of suspiciously righteous, ebullient spectators, we have no way of knowing if any ALEC representatives are actually hidden somewhere among these faces. This is a common difficulty encountered when speculating about the dark, faceless, ALEC crime family -- one has only rarely ever seen any of them identified in person much less publicly claiming any knowledge of or association with ALEC whatsoever.

[Have a look at MeanMesa's answer to this situation in New Mexico -- the graphic is posted with the others below.]

So, as usual we find ourselves sifting through the visible details of the action in question, in this case the Indiana Medieval religion bill, as we search out the tell tale similarities with the now well known tactics of state level ALEC gangs. If we can identify a sufficient number of these "similarities," we will have done as much as possible to at least begin to connect the ALEC involvement.

Seven Easily Recognizable Traits 
Seen in Typical ALEC Anti-Democracy Strategies
and in the Indiana Political Catastrophe

Although similar tactics are repeated for a wide variety of ALEC state level, legislative "missions," we will consider the examples of the pattern as it is seen in the strangely curious Indiana case.

1. ALEC "legislative" ideas emerge in numerous Republican controlled states at the same time.

The idea is simple. When a number of red state legislatures all "suddenly" propose a specific type of legislation, we can be assured that ALEC's multi-state strategy is in play. With regard to each of these states national right wing pundits are then able to parrot think tank talking points as they emphasize the idea that "This legislation is being proposed everywhere across the country." By adding this expansive quantifier to their narrative, they are quietly insinuating a few unspoken additional dimensions to their propaganda story.

a. The proposed "idea" is so natural [and spontaneous, organic] that it is completely reasonable that many different red state legislatures are proposing the same thing at the same time.

b.  The reason for this is a clamorous demand -- a "public opinion groundswell" -- for such legislation among each state's constituents.

c.  There may be an implied message that the legislation will be good for the state's economy, that it will protect state businesses from regulation or that it will "create new jobs" in the state.

d.  Although any mention of it will probably not appear in the narrative, the legislation may be promoted as a means to limit or prohibit any behavior which is seen as a "deviation from the traditional values" [or a reaffirmation of presumed values or strengths] which are somehow touted as the cultural foundation of the state's "uniform social model."

Although there are plenty of examples of this strategy, consider the sudden, multi-state adoption of the "stand your ground" bills or the equally sudden, multi-state penchant for using voter identification requirements to suppress voting. The "Restoration of Religious Freedom" bills did not surface solely in Indiana. They appeared almost simultaneously in red states across the Confederacy and the mid-west.

The Indiana bill's intent was fairly clear on the face of the bill's content. A Federal law under a similar title has been cited for "cover," but the Indiana bill contains specific provisions for legalizing discrimination not found in the Federal version. The red states eagerly adopting the Indiana form know that no Federal Congress could get away with attempting to pass such legislation.

Still, supporters of red states presently considering adoption clearly like to describe the red state bills as "somewhat akin" to the Federal law. The Indiana case may well introduce for the first time the case where an ALEC authored propaganda bill is either retracted out rightly or "defanged" with content changes in hopes of making it more palatable to reasonable voters.

2. The Governor later claims that he was unaware of what he was signing.

Naturally, such an awkward disclaimer only occurs when ALEC sponsored legislation incites a public opinion back lash.

When a Governor is elected, his signature gains an immediate and massive importance. That signature can commute or stay a convict's execution, it can transform a proposed bill from the state's legislature into law, it can declare a state of emergency and so on. A sitting Governor is obliged to read a bill before he signs it. He should also be savvy enough to determine whether or not the new law will have sufficient political support in his state to be accepted by voters.

In this case the Governor of Indiana had surrounded himself with vocal proponents of the "Restoration" bill, but he had also concluded that a majority of the state's electorate was also either in favor of the new law or, at least, were willing to passively assent to it. How much influence was required to persuade or coerce this sitting Governor to such a state of confidence that he simply signed the bill without thoroughly understanding its ramifications?

Where did that influence originate? With the strange crowd standing behind him the photograph? Hardly.

Indiana's "Restoration" bill enjoyed a compelling argument in its favor. That argument almost certainly came from the state ALEC. The political intention of ALEC pressure to sign it was part of an ALEC political strategy to further inflame the Republican base voters by indirectly affirming that the Republican government was actively committed to the same, vaguely present, subconscious, un-examined social and religious priorities that they were.

3. Indiana ALEC legislators also claim to have not known what was in the bill.
4. Apparently no GOP State legislator authored the bill in the first place.

It is not a secret that state legislators consult with plenty of both supporters, potential benefactors and political analysts when they are preparing a legislative proposal. Further, it is not at all unusual for them to have their legislative staff write the official version of such things in appropriate "legalese." State legislatures routinely propose bills which are copies of legislation from other states or Federal law, adjusting details to groom a bill's specific intent to the needs or conditions of their own state.

Given all this, one would still expect a legislator to be quite "hands on" when a bill he intended to propose or sponsor was being written. After all, creating proposed bills is a state legislator's main job. This is why we refer to legislators as "law makers."

How could a "Restoration" bill have made it all way through the "conventional" legislative process without the sponsoring "law maker" not becoming intimately aware of what was written in it? 


 Yes. At least "intimately" enough to 1. have a comprehensive understanding of its content and 2. having made an understandably thorough evaluation of its strong and weak points. Presumably, the success or failure of a legislative career would be "riding" on such matters. Did Indiana's GOP state legislators become so inebriated with the arrogant hubris instilled by their ALEC "handlers" that they began to presume that they could confidently legislate anything they pleased?

Here, MeanMesa will recycle a "second hand use" of a couple of graphics prepared for a post some time ago. [Read the MeanMesa post  here - MeanMesa: ALEC New Mexico - Anti-Democracy in the High Desert] Although the post was about New Mexico and the influence of the NM ALEC on our state's legislature, there is an easy, yet eerie, similarity to what we're describing for the Indiana "Restoration" bill's case.

From the note [above]: Here is MeanMesa's graphic of ALEC NM's "go to guys" in the state legislature. The old blog post -- linked above -- offers a description of how ALEC functions in New Mexico.
They're like cockroaches. They don't like it when the lights are turned on.
[All graphics: MeanMesa
Hopefully, all this goes a long way toward explaining why the Indiana GOP legislators weren't entirely up to speed when reporters began asking questions about the legislation they had proposed only a week or so earlier. The Indiana GOP legislators didn't actually "author" the "Restoration" bill because that's not the way ALEC works. The bill was, instead, carefully composed in a right wing think tank propaganda "boiler room" somewhere. A copy of it was handed to an Indiana "law maker" -- no doubt along with a very nice campaign contribution check -- at a lavish ALEC "legislative conference" after a few rounds of ALEC sponsored lukewarm bourbon from the ALEC sponsored "free bar."

In fact, MeanMesa is quite certain that all these Indiana GOP-ALEC "law makers" were very pleased with themselves until the boat started sinking. Why would they spend a single minute worrying about something they didn't write and probably never read, either?

5. The "Restoration" bill was another ALEC "solution" without a problem.

The "Restoration" bill was designed to appeal to state GOP base voters as a brave, Biblical bulwark to protect state Christians from the onslaught of the "wild, sinful, unwashed" social heathens. The Dominionist concept was central. The righteous GOP majority in control of the state government was acting to "correct" the non-Biblical behavior of sinners among the state's population.

Supporters of the legislation repeatedly spoke of "protecting" their "constituents" from the "oppression" of the pious, even though the "pious" represented an electoral majority of state residents and, theoretically, controlled the state's representative government. There is no mention that before this  "Restoration" bill ever reached the state house, that this "pious" majority had suffered any particular material injustices or other damages at the hands of the sinful. There is also no mention of this "pious" majority desperately petitioning the state government for legislative protection. 

If this all sounds suspiciously like a series of non sequitur causes and effects, you are probably over educated.

6. The Indiana GOP Strategists Are Really Terrible at "Rounding up an injured party."

Once the wheels had come off Governor Pence's "big day in the spot light" religious clown car, it became urgently necessary for the "Restoration" bill's protectors to present an "injured party" who might enjoy the far reaching relief the bill offered. To clarify that just a bit, this would be an "injured party" who hadn't actually been "injured" yet, but whom could possibly, hypothetically, be "injured" should a long list of conditions which might, at least possibly, result in a future situation in which those "injury" requirements might come to be realized.

Hilariously, one of those hypothetical conditions which would undoubtedly "usher in" such an "injury" to this "potentially injured" party would be if a same sex couple were to order pizza from the future "injured party's" pizza shop for a GAY WEDDING! [If any visitors to this blog have ever happened to attend a "GAY WEDDING," they would realize how remote the likelihood of "carry out" pizza in boxes being served to guests at such an affair would be.]

"Hypothetical, future injuries" are one of ALEC's favorite justifications for legislation which would not ever be even considered otherwise. Think of the now blood soaked "stand your ground" laws and the preposterous defense at trial for the self-esteem starved gunslinger defendant. What was produced by the search for an "injured party" in the SCOTUS case for ACA health insurance subsidies was even more awkward if that were even possible.

7. Political Denizens of the GOP "Clown Car" Are Ordered to Rush In to Mechanically Defend the "Restoration" Bill and the Beleaguered Governor.

Even without any background information on this tale, one would still reasonably expect every Republican Presidential "hopeful" to automatically rush to the aid of Governor Pence. The reason one might have such an expectation is that politically "closing the breach" and "showing a united front" is part and parcel of the public opinion manipulating propaganda strategy play book of ALEC and [it's cruel step brothers] the retired GOP Congressmen who have now been "recycled" into the K Street "think tank thugs."

However, there was an interesting time lag between the moment that Governor Pence first realized that "he'd stepped in it" and the advent of the "spontaneously" synchronized chorus of support from his fellow troopers who all happened to be running for President. This time lag amounted to the time it took for the think tank strategists to check with the owners of the Republican Party, fabricate the official "billionaires' response" to the crisis and then communicate the orders to both the media and the field commanders running the campaigns.

Within minutes video cameras of the obedient media appeared, ready to film, record and broadcast every "exciting" word of "heartfelt, ideological" support issuing forth from the likes of Cruz, Jindal, Christie and Rubio.

Ayn Rand would have been proud if she could have seen this nationwide net work re-run of the "John Galt" show. [MeanMesa suspects that the whole "Ayn Rand idea" which was "worn bald" in the last GOP election campaigns probably also originated in some ALEC think tank bunker. The GOP candidates who espoused it the most vehemently are hardly what one might consider ardent "readers."]

What to Think When Something
 Looks Like Something Else
You may be on the wagon back to the cabbage patch, or
your sincere political discourse may be "getting managed."

Just before sitting down to polish off a few last points on this post, MeanMesa turned on an "unknown" radio talk show while finishing lunch. This broadcast can legitimately be classified as "unknown" because MeanMesa had no knowledge of its name or the identity of the host.

However, beyond those mysterious elements the broadcast discussion content was suffocatingly predictable. Each caller -- along with the "host" -- was proclaiming one or another mythological "truth" and validating the proclamation with an accompanying religious "authority," all the while dutifully "debating" whether or not the events in Indiana were "consistent with," "contradictory to" or "hypocritical to" this or that "religious tenet" as conveniently interpreted for the sake of the argument.

Without being overly dismissive, let's just say that the conversation was, well, "rotating rapidly."

Unhappily, those involved in such a discussion had already been quite successfully "duped" by precisely the same think tanks where the "Restoration" bill had been so carefully fabricated. While the endless conversation wallowed forward without any hesitation on the part of its breathlessly eager participants, what was missing turned out to be far more revealing.

For example, while Governor Pence is repeating the GOP litany about smaller government and lower taxes, Indiana is a state receiving $1.80 in state revenue for every dollar paid in federal taxes. The federal component accounts for around 33% of its state GDP. Recent economic growth in the state has been consistently lower than national rates. [Read more here - WALLET HUBThese are the things Governor Pence doesn't need to be discussing with Hoosiers as long as he can keep them focused on the "Restoration" bill.

Don't think for a moment that ALEC Indiana isn't acutely aware of this. This was planned to unfold in exactly this way. It is a tiny fragment of the ALEC national strategy. "Cookie cutter" copies of the same game plan are in play -- covering state government "performance problems" -- in almost every economic "basket case" red state in the country.

Now, where were we...

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