By Bill Moyers
I wasn't one of the 50,766 participants who finished the New York City Marathon last weekend. Instead, I spent the average marathon finish time of 4:39:07 to read a book—obviously a small book. In the interest of disclosure, I didn't even start the race, but that's another and even shorter story than Radio Free Vermont, the book from which I did occasionally look up and out the window to check on the stream of marathoners passing our apartment, their faces worn and haggard.
A shame, I thought, that I couldn't go outside and hand each one a copy of the book that had kept me smiling throughout the day while also restoring my soul; I was sure the resilience would quickly have returned to weary feet and sore muscles now draped in aluminum foil for healing's sake. I admire those athletes, but wouldn't have traded their run for my read, because Radio Free Vermont is funny, very funny, all the more so considering the author is one of the more serious men on the planet—the planet he has spent his adult life trying to save.
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Muckrakers and activists have been working to expose the brutality of industrialized meat production since Upton Sinclair’s writing of The Jungle in 1906. But an ALEC model bill known as “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” would make it a crime to film at animal facilities—such as factory farms or slaughterhouses—with the intent to “defame the facility or its owner.” So-called “ag-gag” laws that appear inspired by the ALEC model have been passed in several states. This report, produced by Okapi Productions, LLC and the Schumann Media Center, Inc., looks at the effect of these laws on both our food supply and our freedom of speech.
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A national consortium of state politicians and powerful corporations, ALEC—the American Legislative Exchange Council—presents itself as a “nonpartisan public-private partnership.” But behind that mantra lies a vast network of corporate lobbying and political action aimed to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge.
In state houses around the country, hundreds of pieces of boilerplate ALEC legislation are proposed or enacted that would, among other things, ease environmental regulations, dilute collective bargaining rights, make it harder for some Americans to vote and limit corporate liability for harm caused to consumers—each accomplished without the public ever knowing who’s behind it.
Using interviews, documents and field reporting, this episode of Moyers & Company explores ALEC’s self-serving machine at work, acting in a way one Wisconsin politician describes as “a corporate dating service for lonely legislators and corporate special interests.”
Following up on a 2012 report, this update includes new examples of corporate influence on state legislation and lawmakers, the growing public protest against ALEC’s big business-serving agenda, and internal tactics ALEC is instituting to further shroud its actions and intentions.
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