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."

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via @Todd_Spence / Twitter

Seven years ago, Bill Murray shared a powerful story about the importance of art. The revelation came during a discussion at the National Gallery in London for the release of 2014's "The Monuments Men." The film is about a troop of soldiers on a mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis.

After his first time performing on stage in Chicago, Murray was so upset with himself that he contemplated taking his own life.

"I wasn't very good, and I remember my first experience, I was so bad I just walked out — out onto the street and just started walking," he said.

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