This corporation-backed nonprofit literally makes up Mad Libs bills for politicians to pass.
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League of Conservation Voters

Mommy, where do bills come from?

According to "Schoolhouse Rock," it's a whole bunch of boring bureaucratic nonsense set to music, which, well, half of that's right, anyway.

But even with the tedious waiting process, the song still presents a highly idealistic version of the lawmaking process, one where well-informed citizens reach out directly to their state representatives, who act in the best interests of their tax-paying constituents and aim to enact laws that work on their behalf.


Sadly, the groovy melodies aren't the most misleading part of that musical masterpiece.


GIF via "Schoolhouse Rock."

In reality, lawmaking is more like a corporate Mad Libs game, thanks to ALEC.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, which describes itself as a nonprofit organization that advocates in the interest of limited government, free markets, and the "Jeffersonian ideal" of Federalism.

That's the 501(c)3 application way of saying "impossibly wealthy lobbying cabal disguised as a tax-exempt write-off through which corporations can control politicians with pre-written bills."

I would clarify that ALEC is not actually a person, but that whole Citizens United thing (in which they had a hand) made that point moot.


GIFset via "Last Week Tonight."


ALEC's main function is to write business-friendly (read: corporate-profit-positive) "model" bills with a few blanks left for legislators to fill-in themselves.

GIFset via "Last Week Tonight."

It sounds too absurd to be true, right? And yet, here's the actual closing passage from ALEC's "Electricity Freedom Act" model bill:


That's a fancified legalese way of saying that the government needs to protect consumers from ... not ... paying ... electric companies? Something? Who cares when all ya gotta do is fill the state in and sign your name?

(Also, that whole "limited governments and free market" agenda kinda falls apart when you're trying to pass anti-green-energy laws but the market has clearly spoken in favor of clean energy over the services offered by antiquated corporate powerhouses.)

Actual real-life congressmen have used actual real-life ALEC bills passed off as actual real-life legislation.

Here's Wyoming state Rep. Nathan Winters (R), a proud ALEC member, sharing his experience in a video that ALEC made themselves:

GIF via ALEC.

To be clear, Winters is an elected official, and he basically just admitted to cheating on a public policy test.

But he's not just peering over the shoulder over the nerdy kid at the front of the class (honestly, that'd be preferable because then he'd at least be getting information from actual scientists). He's going straight to the Koch Brothers and countless powerful and/or climate-change-denying corporations and asking them to tell him what to think.

And then there's this fun exchange between Reps. Joe Atkins (D-Minnesota) and Steve Gottwalt (R-Minnesota):


GIFset via "Last Week Tonight."

Oops.

They've also got their hands in the prison-industrial complex, voter disenfranchisement, privatizing education, undermining consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, "stand your ground" laws, pollution and anti-environmental initiatives, and the so-called "Death Star" bill that wasn't actually like this but basically did this to minority, LGBTQ, and overall workers' rights:


Emperor Palpatine GIF from "Return of the Jedi."

And ALEC's next trick? Taking legal action against the sun (and destroying the environment along the way).

At their annual meeting in July 2015, ALEC members gathered to discuss their most recent working draft of the deceptively-titled Environmental Impact Litigation Act, which is intended for state legislators to help crush Obama's new Clean Power Plan.

Coincidentally, the top sponsors of that conference included ExxonMobil, American Electric Power, Balanced Energy for Texas, and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, none of whom could possibly have had any ulterior motives in crafting laws relating to energy.

In addition to the classic fill-in-the-blank parts, the Environmental Impact Litigation Act included a number of other incredible passages, like that whole part about the unfair political and economic overreach of ... the sun.


#SunPrivilege

Yes. According to ALEC, the sun has an unfair and illegal monopoly on solar power.

But remember, this is about consumer rights ... right?! ALEC is standing up for the people, who deserve the freedom to spend more of their own hard-earned money to constantly upgrade equipment and pay additional fees to mediating companies even when they generate their own power from natural resources. This is America, dammit!


"purchasers of solar power" smdh

"Without the option of excessive unnecessary upgrades, power companies will be FORCED to offer long-term leases on equipment instead of outright ownership! You don't want THAT on your shoulders, do ya?"

ALEC's tendrils might reach far and wide — but there's still a chance to stop them.

Recently, several big energy companies including BP and Shell have publicly parted ways with ALEC. That's right — the people responsible for that disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the company that still insists on forging ahead with Arctic Drilling both think ALEC is too evil for them. Let that settle in for a second.

Yes, ALEC is big, rich, and influential to an almost-cartoonish-but-actually-frighteningly-real degree. But you and I have still have the power to vote with both our wallets and our polls.

We can tell pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer to stop supporting ALEC and urge our own state legislators to take action against ALEC and cut all ties with corporations that still affiliate them — and we can stop supporting those corporations ourselves.

Let's make our message clear: America doesn't stand for greed.


GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via Texas State Senate and The ACLU

There has been a tidal wave of anti-trans legislation proposed over the past few months in the U.S. At least 17 states are now considering restricting anyone under the age of 18 from transition-related care.

Texas is currently debating two anti-trans bills. Once would criminalize parents for allowing their children to receive gender-affirming treatments. Another would criminalize healthcare professionals who administer them.

For a state that prides itself on promoting personal freedom, these bills go out of their way to punish medical professionals and parents for making deeply personal choices. Shouldn't doctors and parents have the right to make medical decisions for children without the state's involvement?

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less