Our country is no longer controlled by, and for, We the People, but instead by, and on behalf of, international banking and multinational corporate interests. While the gradual, almost imperceptible takeover of our government by this corporate fascism has been evolving by design for many decades, it is a coup d'etat nonetheless and has been disastrous for the vast majority of Americans. This blog is an exploration and discussion of how this occurred, and the damage it has done to our democratic processes.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Unpleasant Truths

The following essay really needs no introduction, simply because Chris Hedges rarely, if ever, requires an introduction. His writing, like that of Joe Bageant, is always on the side of reality and veracity. Brave New World author Aldous Huxley's biologist grandfather, Thomas H. Huxley, observed, "veracity is the heart of morality". Truth can only be hidden and denied for so long before time and truth seekers reveal its oft times ugly scars and aftermath, yet they search for the truth despite the consequences. Why? Because it's their moral imperative to do so. Read Mr. Hedges' latest. It's really powerful; astute, and full of so much unwelcome truth -- yet the truth it is.
By Chris Hedges

The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled. 

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse. 

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.”  “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” in his book “Democracy Incorporated” to describe our political system. It is a term that would make sense to Huxley. In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass.
Read the entire article at Truthdig.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hail to the Corporatocracy!

Mr. Obama's "negotiation" made it very apparent whose side he's on -- and it "ain't" ours. A few years from now -- which could be as early as the next election cycle or as far off as...well, it really doesn't matter -- Social Security will be derided by pundits and opponents alike, as being in default (which they already do, but is a total lie) and in need of elimination. Any proponent seeking to shore up the program due to the 33% funding decrease, cumulative over the years, will be debased as being a tax hiker. Remember this year...this month, because this is the date Social Security took a fatal hit from its detractors. The bleeding starts in earnest now. The pronouncement of death is imminent.

Besides adding over $850 billion to the deficit over the next two years, the extended Bush era tax-cut package will include and divert $112 billion from the Social Security Trust Fund, with a reduction in the FICA tax under the pretense of providing economic stimulus and creating jobs. Horrific enough on its own, the new law also mandates that the government borrow $112 billion, much of it probably coming from China, to repay the Trust Fund. This sets a dangerous precedent that opens up Social Security to attacks from those seeking to dismantle or privatize it, and is not the type of investment that will create jobs or put people back to work. Hearkening back to an earlier time when a similar scenario was proposed and the American public was browbeaten by the obsolete idea of supply-side economics (trickle-down economics, or "Reaganomics"), it would appear that our president is firmly in charge of holding the hose as we're showered with the most up to date version, called "piss-on-omics".

Mr. Obama is a turncoat; he's a traitor to the American people. He's a Trojan Horse of extraordinary proportion. He's selling out We the People, and the vast majority of Democrats seemingly don't see this, or refuse to acknowledge it. The heretofore, behind-the-scenes, coup d'etat has taken on a new reality. It's coming out into the open and becoming more visible by the day. But one has to look in order to see, and right now America's citizens are truly diverted by the proverbial bread and circuses. Naomi Klein's "Chicago Boys" are in town (ironic...or is it?) and the push to privatize every social safety-net, and what remains of the commons, has accelerated.

The Bilderberg Group (and, who knows, the CIA?) must be extremely happy with their "plant-of-choice", don't you think? My goodness, he's on the verge of accomplishing in two short years what the conservative caucus has attempted to do in over sixty-five -- bring Social Security to its knees. Undoubtedly, case upon case of Dom Pérignon had been ordered and the corks must have been flying high! Final victory is at their threshold, and Mr. Obama, code name: "the socialist" -- the crown prince of their creation, was their guest of honor. Mr. Obama, the son of the oligopoly, the chieftain of the corporatocracy, reigns high and sits at the right-hand of his makers now. He's accomplished what Messrs. Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, and G.W. Bush couldn't do (but they certainly paved the way).

Just the threat of austerity programs brought tens-of-thousands of protesters into the streets of Greece, France, and Ireland. What's going to happen here, next year, when the threats become reality? When cuts in programs affect the lives of millions in this country, will we see the same reaction? Or will people even notice? 

The hammer is poised and ready to come down -- while the vast majority of Americans are right underneath. How long will it be before they see the shadow and turn to look up? Unfortunately, it'll be too late by then.

(The embedded video was recorded June 6, 2008 on Obama's chartered campaign plane. Apparently, the press-corps following the "presumptive nominee" was boarded and awaiting Mr. Obama's arrival. It's assumed, and I believe the assumption is correct, that Mr. Obama went from his campaign kick-off at Nissan Pavilion in Manassas, VA, directly to Dulles International Airport, and then after the press was securely locked away, diverted to where the Bilderberg Group was having their annual conference in Chantilly. Coincidence? I hardly think so.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Most Dangerous Man in the World?...Huh?

As I mentioned to a good friend a few days ago, Assange scares the living shit out of our gov-corp. I told her they'll track him down to the ends of the earth, and then wondered aloud why they couldn't do the same with Osama bin Laden. Well, as we know, Mr. Assange surrendered to London police last Tuesday as a response to a warrant issued as part of a Swedish sex-crimes investigation, trumped-up and surely as hollow as a dead oak tree. They've got him where they want him; in jail, without the provision of bail, and tied to a short leash. Mr. Assange is being held in solitary confinement in London with restricted access to a phone and only his lawyers. 

Amazingly, he is being vilified as someone who is a terrorist for releasing diplomatic cables to the world, and even more astonishingly, he has been accused of treason against America -- even though he is not an American. The U.S. government is investigating whether Mr. Assange can be prosecuted for spying against the U.S. government under the 1917 Espionage Act, or other offenses still being conceived and conjured up, and not surprisingly, to me anyway, several Republicans have even called for his death.  

But I wonder if those embarrassing cables were really what staged undoubtedly one of the largest manhunts in modern history? Or was it something else? (No, I'm not referring to the mockingly insane "having-sex-without-a-condom" sexual assault charge.) Was it something beyond even the previously released "Collateral Murder" video, which must have been so embarrassing to the Pentagon and was published by WikiLeaks earlier this year? Is it the yet-to-be "megaleak", promising to disclose unethical behavior at a major American bank? Early next year, Mr. Assange said, WikiLeaks plans to expose tens of thousands of documents that "could take down a bank or two" and promises to "give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms". So is the real barnburner -- the reason Mr. Assange is now considered by many to be the "most dangerous man in the world" (Mr. bin Laden, you've been upstaged), because WikiLeaks is now taking aim at corporate America? 

This is the process and underlying treachery indicative of totalitarian regimes, and obviously the tactics shared by government that bows and serves the elite, the wealthy, the corporatocracy. This isn't what Jefferson and Madison, Washington and Franklin, and countless others thought, or laid their lives and fortunes on-the-line for. All these men believed, and their signatures on either the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution prove it, that first and foremost the unparalleled freedom of a press (i.e., "unrestricted journalism") is paramount to the health and vibrancy of a functioning democracy. As Mr. t is outrageous for any journalist, or respecter of what every American president has claimed is our inalienable, God-given right to a free press, not to join in Assange’s defense." I agree, but I know our corporatist president thinks otherwise.

(In the below embedded video of an interview of Mr. Assange by Stephen Colbert last April, could Mr. Colbert's shenanigan about face pictulating and voice-altering technology be more prophetic? Enjoy.)  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Quo Warranto

The following essay ends by asking a fundamental question: Why not make the result worth the effort? Indeed, if equal effort is required to nibble around the edges of an issue, why not just go right to the root of the problem? If your body has been invaded by cancer, do you leave the malignant cells, if removable, and only treat the symptoms? Isn't treating or masking the symptoms only allowing the cancer to continue to grow...and isn't this tactic tantamount to giving up?

The first step in solving a problem is learning more about the problem, and how and why it became a problem. As I've commented countless times on other blogs, corporate personhood is the disease; the vast majority of our economic, social and cultural problems are only symptoms of that disease. It's due time that we concentrate on removing the malady that afflicts us all.

Why Abolish All Corporate Constitutional Rights (November 2010)

The Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD, www.poclad.org) has educated, advocated and organized for the past 15 years against the rights of corporations to govern. Through historical and legal research, writings, speaking, workshops and strategic discussions, we helped build widespread awareness of what we called "corporate personhood" - the corporate acquisition of constitutional rights intended solely for natural persons that have usurped the rights of We the People to govern ourselves. We worked on this issue before it was popular, fashionable or newsworthy.     

Corporations are creations of the state. As we documented in many resources over many years, they couldn't exist in any form without the legal sanctioning of government. Since citizens are the source of all legitimate power in any representative democracy, We the People have the power to define corporations any way we see fit. We the People have rights and authority. Originally, corporations only possessed privileges bestowed by the state.    

The appointed-for-life US Supreme Court "found" corporations in numerous places in the US Constitution over the past 124 years. These "findings" gave rights to corporations, including many of those in the Bill of Rights. In other words, illegitimate corporate power didn't begin in 2010. The corporate perversion of rights and the Constitution have resulted in the destruction of our communities, economy, politics and natural world in many ways for a very long time.    

POCLAD believes ALL corporate constitutional rights should be abolished. These include at least the following:    
  • 1st Amendment Free Speech rights. Corporations use these rights, meant to protect human beings from the power of the state, to influence elections through political "contributions" (more like "investments"); to advertise for guns, tobacco and other dangerous products over the objections of communities; to avoid having to label genetically modified foods.    
  • 4th Amendment Search and Seizure rights. Corporations have used these rights to avoid subpoenas for unlawful trade and price fixing, and to prevent citizens, communities and regulatory agencies from stopping corporate pollution and other assaults on people or the commons.    
  •  5th Amendment Takings, Double Jeopardy and Due Process corporate rights. Corporations must be compensated for property value lost (e.g. future profits) when regulations are established to protect homeowners or communities. Corporations cannot be retried after a judgment of acquittal in court. The granting of property to a corporation by a public official cannot be unilaterally revoked by a subsequent public official or Act of Congress.    
  • 14th Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection corporate rights. These rights, originally enacted to free slaves from oppression, were gradually extended to corporations by the courts. Corporations have used these rights to build chain stores and erect cell towers against the will of communities; oppose tax and other public policies favoring local businesses over multinational corporations; and resist democratic efforts to prevent corporate mergers and revoke corporate charters through citizen initiatives.    
  •  Commerce Clause-related corporate rights. Corporations have used this section of the Constitution (Art 1, Sec 8), for example, to ship toxic waste from one state to another over the "health, safety, and welfare" objections of communities - claiming the waste isn't actually "waste" but "commerce."    
  • Contracts Clause-related corporate rights. The Supreme Court ruled in Dartmouth vs. Woodward (1819) that a corporation is as a party in a private contract based on the Contracts Clause (Art 1, Sec 10) rather than being a creature of public law. Even though the state creates a corporation when it issues a charter, that state is not sovereign over the charter, merely a party to the contract. Thus, corporations became "private contracts" with the state and, therefore, shielded from many forms of control by We the People.    
Since the problem of corporate constitutional rights is multidimensional, the solution must be comprehensive.    

The threat to authentic democratic self-governance comes from the fact that corporations have been defined as legal persons. As we see it, corporations have exercised this illegitimate status in many ways. Addressing only one or two of those ways won't reverse the profound corporate threat to We the People having ultimate power to govern.    

One hundred and sixty years ago, those who believed the section of the Constitution (Art 4, Sec 2) defining people as property (slavery) was fundamentally immoral didn't call for ending one or two dimensions of slavery. They didn't organize to establish a Slavery Protection Agency, nor ask slaveholders to sign a voluntary code of conduct to treat slaves a little less harshly. They called for abolition of the institution of slavery.    

As a reflection of that thinking, POCLAD and others who hold that defining property as people ("corporate personhood") is fundamentally immoral and a threat to real people and the planet, believe that we should not limit our vision and actions. Let's set out to amend the constitution in a way that abolishes all rights wrongly granted to the corporate form during the last two centuries. Let's put an end to the institution of corporate personhood itself. Nothing less is worth the considerable time and learning, grit and energy required to amend the Constitution.    

Why not make the result worth the effort?    

By What Authority is a publication of the PROGRAM ON CORPORATIONS, LAW & DEMOCRACY, P.O. Box 246, South Yarmouth, MA 02664-0246  Phone: 508-398-1145

By What Authority (ISSN: 524-1106) is published by the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy. The title is English for quo warranto; a legal phrase that questions illegitimate exercise of privilege and power. We the people and our federal and state officials have long been giving giant business corporations illegitimate authority. Today, a minority directing giant corporations and backed by police, courts, and the military, define our culture, govern our nation, and plunder the earth. By What Authority reflects an unabashed assertion of the right of the sovereign people to govern themselves.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Democracy Theme Park

Why does it seem as though every step forward results in two-to-three backward? As Pogo said, "we have met the enemy and he is us". At least this seems to be the case. We continue beating our head against the wall, thinking surely this, or that, will change things for the better, only finding our efforts go mostly unnoticed or misunderstood. It's not that we're really the enemy, for like-minded people everywhere already know who and what actually is, but it seems we're always our own worst enemy. No matter the issue, no matter the particular predicament we find ourselves in during any given news cycle, we lose sight of the true nemesis -- the actual obstacle standing in our way that's blocking our democratic processes and liberty envisioned and fought for by our founding fathers not so long ago. 

As I've mentioned countless time on this blog, along with commentary on other blogs I follow, corporate personhood has proven to be the legal mechanism that has turned our democratic processes upside-down, not to mention being the foundation which has ultimately allowed, as the following author's essay rightfully claims, the "colonizing of our minds". Multinational corporations shape elections, shape the development of ideas, write the laws, and totally shape public debate. Their power and influence has shaped and directed everything about our culture and, increasingly, the world we live in.

It's very complicated because it's not about a single tangible issue, and it's not about the rights of a single class of people. It affects all issues and all people. It's about how people become self-governing, really, without the intrusion of corporate and outside influence. How do almost 300 million people come together in all these different jurisdictions to make the rules and to live as harmoniously as possible? If the ideal in this country has always been that the people rule, the question is how are we going to do that? And can we do this if the Constitution, and the present laws, prevent us from doing this because corporate powers are enabling the few and disabling the many?      

Please read the following essay -- first published in 2001, but still as relevant and vital as ever. The author's thoughts are the basis for why we continue to struggle. I couldn't agree more.  

Take a Lawyer and an Expert To a Hearing and Call Me In a Decade


by Jane Anne Morris*

A third of your friends are locked down in an old growth grove or at a corporate headquarters, with law enforcement officers rubbing pepper spray in their eyes. Another third are preparing testimony so you can be persuasive at a generic regulatory agency hearing while you’re begging them to enforce a tiny portion of our laws. The third third are trying to raise money to pay lawyers to get your friends out of jail (after they’ve been released from the hospital) or take the regulatory agency to court (after it declines to enforce the law).

The pepper spray, groveling and money-grubbing might not be so bad if we could honestly say that the earth is better off today than it was four years ago. I can’t honestly say that.

This diatribe is an effort to take a hard look at what we’re doing and insinuate some new elements into the debate. It’s not intended to belittle any of our efforts, point fingers, or assign blame, so don’t take it personally. We are all earthlings.

Our campaigns follow the gambling addiction model. The last bet didn’t pay off but the next one might if… if… if we just had a new, improved tripod, three more experts, more labor or church support, ten more elected officials on our side, a hundred more people at the demo, or a thousand more letters in the mail…. Who are we kidding? We are just doing the “same old thing” over and over again and fooling ourselves that it might work next time.

We are stuck in a feedback loop where our failures are interpreted as signs that we should repeat our failed tactics, but try harder. This is what it is to be colonized. The telltale sign is not that we’re failing, but that we’re fooling ourselves, and don’t see it as a feedback loop.

If our minds are not colonized, then how come almost every Earth First! Journal action piece starts with a banner or a lockdown and ends with a plea to write a letter to a white male bigshot? (Go ahead, look through back issues. It goes on for years and years.)

Over at corporate headquarters they have a steeper learning curve.
Despite the occasional bag of guts on the committee table or clever banner, it must be reassuring for corporate executives and those who serve them to sit back and smile at the success of their containment efforts, and the predictability of our campaigns.

The issue of whose minds are colonized is a delicate one. We all know people whose minds have been colonized. Who are they? They are other people — people out there. They are somebody else. Not us.

It’s time we did the unthinkable and asked ourselves if we have been colonized. What do we see when we compare our strategies to corporate strategies?

Many of our groups are organized to save wolves, butterflies, trees, prairie flowers, rivers, deserts, or estuaries. But corporation executives don’t organize to destroy the wolves, butterflies… flowers… estuaries. Nor do they organize to pollute the air, spoil the rivers, or promote five-legged frogs.

This asymmetry should give us pause as we try to understand why corporations are on a roll while we’re stuck in a feedback loop. Let’s look again.

Corporate strategy leverages their power; their efforts reinforce and magnify each other. Our strategy splits our resources and dissipates our power.

Corporate strategy aims to increase the power that corporations have over people. That means that when a single corporation gets a victory, it helps all other corporations, too. They are all stronger, they all have more power, and the people have less.

We work on separate harms. When we lock down to one old growth stand, others go unprotected. When we protest about one chemical, others go unprotested. When we testify to preserve one watershed, others are not spoken for.

We have whole campaigns directed at one chemical, one corporation, one species, one grove of trees, one article of clothing.

In doing so, we fracture our resources. While we’re out working on a “Chlorine is Bad” or “Wolves are Good” campaign, we’re not working on all of the other chemicals, animals, trees, etc., that also need attention.

Some of us argue that this fracturing is inevitable, because there’s so much wrong in the world. (Declaring a problem to be inevitable is a great way to justify not talking about it. Another gift to the corporate world view.)

Others of us think that the fracturing results from not being organized enough, or not being organized right. This opens the door for endless bickering about whether we should organize by bioregion or by article of clothing, by species or by chemical, by issue or by occupation. Either way, we’re still fractured.

Being fractured is another way of being colonized.

Another sure sign of being colonized is when you censor yourselves, and don’t even wait for others to do it. Some of our self-imposed limitations are right off of a corporate wish list.

We have a strange “but it’s the law” syndrome. Why can’t we bring up important issues at EPA hearings? It’s regulatory (administrative) law. Why can’t we get our views accurately presented on TV? It’s (corporate) private property law and FCC regulations. Why can’t we imprison corporate executives for what their corporations do? It’s liability law.

So what do we do? We toe the line at the EPA hearing. We dress up as animals to get a moment on TV. We let lying corporate executives lie.

That is, we work around the defining laws that are the groundwork for a rigged system. We’re looking for favors, lucky breaks. We don’t even dream of control, yet we call this a democracy.

This is being colonized.

Corporation representatives do not feel constrained in this way. Nothing is too destructive, too audacious, too outrageous for them to attempt. After all, they have most of us believing and not even objecting to the idea that corporations have “rights.” In early 1998 an association of corporations (itself a corporation that supposedly has “free speech” rights, according to prevailing legal opinion) sued a talk show host in Texas for saying that she’s going to stop eating hamburgers.[1]

Then there’s the Zen of “Describing The Problem.”

We need our storytellers, we need our scribes, we need our analysts, we need our own human fonts of crazy ideas. We needed Silent Spring.[2] By now we have the equivalent of Son of Silent Spring, Daughter of Silent Spring, Second Cousin Once Removed of Silent Spring. But habitat destruction continues as fast as we can describe it, if not faster. Our compulsion to Describe The Problem (something we do really well) serves a purpose, especially for people who think there’s no problem, but the people who need to hear it the most aren’t hearing it. We’re Describing The Problem to each other in lavish detail, which crowds out efforts to rethink our whole strategy.

Are we doing anything other than lurching back and forth between Describing The Problem and then buckling the seatbelt on our feedback loop? I for one think I’ve heard enough “Bad Things About Corporations,” and I’m pretty tired of working on campaigns that will not only fail, but fail in predictable ways.

How have we been colonized? Let me count the ways. We interpret failures as signals to do the same things over again. We are predictable. Our strategies and styles of organizing fracture and dilute our resources. We either accept this dilution as inevitable, or blame each other for not organizing right. We censor ourselves, in thought and action. We act as though if we Describe The Problem to each other enough, it might go away.

And now, we can argue about whether we’ve been colonized or not. Corporate management is popping extra popcorn for this one.

But enough of what we do. What do corporations do? (The question should be, “What do people do behind the fiction of corporations?” One of the signs of our being colonized is that we personify corporations. I’ve been trying to avoid that in this piece but… help, I’ve been colonized and I need help getting up….)

Corporate management figured out a hundred years ago that fighting against each other, competing and diluting their resources was weakening them and limiting their power. So they don’t do that any more.

So what do people do while hiding behind the corporate shield? The short version is that they write a script for us, and we follow it. Then they write a script for themselves, and we don’t even read it.

A big part of the script written for us involves Regulatory Law (including environmental and administrative law). It assumes that corporations have the rights of constitutional “persons.”

It outlines procedures for what We the People can do (not much); what government can do (a little more); and what corporations can do (a lot).

At regulatory agencies, corporate “persons” (that is, corporations) have constitutional rights to due process and equal protection that human persons, affected citizens, do not have. For non-corporate human citizens there’s a “Democracy Theme Park” where we can pull levers on voting machines and talk into microphones at hearings. But don’t worry, they’re not connected to anything and nobody’s listening ‘cept us.

What Regulatory Law regulates is citizen input, not corporate behavior. So when we cooperate in regulatory law proceedings, we are following the script that corporation representatives wrote for us. We’re either colonized, or we’re collaborators. That the regulatory agencies fail to protect the public is clear. Why they fail is another matter.

One reason is that they were set up with the cooperation of and sometimes at the urging of big corporations. Today regulatory agencies and trade associations work together to do the work that the “trusts” of the last century were set up to do.

A second reason for regulatory failure concerns the nature of the corporation, to which we turn briefly.

Corporations are not natural entities, like karner blue butterflies or white pines. Corporations are artificial creations that are set up by state corporation codes. These state laws, plus a bunch of court cases, form the basis for the notion that corporations have powers and “rights.”

This law is Defining Law. This law is the script that corporate lawyers write for corporations. This law is the law that we don’t even read.
It’s right there in the law books in black and white, just like the “regs” that we spend so much time on. But this Defining Law is invisible to us because we’ve been colonized and have accepted it as a given. We leave this defining law — in corporation codes, bankruptcy law, insurance law, etc. — to corporation lawyers, who rewrite it every few years without so much as a whimper from citizen activists. Then we wonder why the parts-per-million regulations aren’t enforced.

So, the second reason that regulatory agencies fail to protect the public is that we have allowed corporate lawyers to write the Defining Law of corporations. This law bestows upon corporations powers and rights that exceed those of human persons and sometimes of government as well. It seems pretty obvious, then, that we need to rewrite the Defining Law.

Sooner or later we come up against the claim that all this stuff about “rights” and so on is just too legalistic. None of us wants to be involved in narrow and excessively legalistic strategies.

However, a glance through any Earth First! journal will confirm that we’re constantly dealing with The Law, whether we’re filing testimony or engaged in direct action. As long as we’re in the legal arena, we might as well be dealing with Defining Law, and not the regulatory frufru that we’ve allowed to distract us.

If the civil rights movement had been afraid to touch the deep defining “law of the land” we’d still be laboring under “separate but equal.” For as long as we stick with Regulatory Law and leave Defining Law to corporate lawyers, we’ll have corporate government.

What are we going to do tomorrow morning?

We could keep doing what hasn’t worked in case it works next time; we could denounce people who suggest that what we’re doing isn’t working; we could declare victory so our folks won’t get so depressed and discouraged. I’d like to steer clear of those options.

I’d also like to avoid “negotiating” with corporations as though they were persons with a role in a democratic system, and avoid doing anything else that accepts that corporations have the constitutional rights of human persons.

Here is one cluster of ideas for rewriting the Defining Law of corporations. It’s not a 3-point plan, and it’s not the beginning of a twenty point plan — just some ideas to think about.

1. Prohibit corporations from owning stock in other corporations. Owning stock in other corporations enables corporations to control huge markets and shift responsibility, liability, resources, assets and taxes back and forth among parent corporations, subsidiaries and other members of their unholy families. By defining corporations in such a way to prohibit such ownership, much of the anti-trust regulatory law becomes unnecessary and superfluous.

2. Prohibit corporations from being able to choose when to go out of business (in legalese, no voluntary dissolution). This would prevent corporations from dissolving themselves when it came time to pay taxes, repay government loans, pay creditors, pay pensions, pay for health care, and pay for toxic cleanups.

3. Make stockholders liable for a corporation’s debts. People who want to be stockholders would reallocate their resources to corporations that they knew something about, that weren’t engaged in risky, toxic projects. (This would encourage local, sustainable businesses and healthy local economies. Imagine that.)

These three measures might seem “unrealistic” to some, but it beats the heck out of a voluntary code of conduct, or a wasted decade at a regulatory agency. All three of these provisions were once common features of state corporation codes. No wonder corporate apologists prefer that we hang around in the regulatory agencies with our heads spinning with parts per million and habitat conservation plans.

These three measures were quite effective, which is why corporation lawyers worked so hard to get rid of them. But they address only a tiny portion of what needs to be done.

Here’s another cluster of ideas for ways to shape a democratic process that is about people. (The idea that corporations have “rights” would seem nonsensical to any but a colonized mind.)

1. No corporate participation in the democratic process. Democracy is for and about human beings. Corporations should be prohibited from paying for any political advertisements, making any campaign contributions, or seeking to influence the democratic process in any way.

2. Corporations have no constitutional rights.
A corporation is an artificial creation set up to serve a public need, not an independent entity with intrinsic “rights.”

3. Corporations should be prohibited from making any civic, charitable, or educational donations. Such donations are used to warp the entire social and economic fabric of society, and make people afraid to speak out against corporations.

These probably seem even more “unrealistic” than the first batch. Imagine how good it is for corporate executives that we find these ideas “impractical.” And by the way, these were all once law, too.

The final objection to be raised is that we’ll never get anywhere as long as the “news media” are against us, refuse to cover our issues, and distort our views. Agreed.

But the “news media” are corporations, key players in a system of propaganda that encompasses not only television, radio and newspapers, but also the entire educational system. The “airwaves” belong to the public.

Why have we allowed a puppet federal agency to “lease” the public airwaves to huge corporations? Ya wanna lock down? Lock down to a TV or radio station and make the public airwaves public again. Not for a day but for a lifetime.

Ya like boycotts? What if a regulatory agency gave a hearing and nobody came? The outcome would be the same but we wouldn’t have wasted all the time and resources, nor would we have helped grant an aura of legitimacy to a sham proceeding.

What could we do instead? We could get together with the lawyer and the expert and begin to figure out how to stop being collaborators.


1. The talk show host was Oprah Winfrey. She had the financial resources and popularity to beat the lawsuit. — Ed.

2. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962).

* Corporate anthropologist Jane Anne Morris is an activist and author. Coming of age during the Viet Nam War, she has been active in a wide range of issues, including local democracy, antiwar, environment, U.S. intervention in Central America, energy, human rights, police brutality, and labor organizing. This essay was published in Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy, published by The Apex Press for the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD), 2001.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gulf Coast is "Open for Business" (Just Don't Eat the Seafood)

Here's one of the insidious results of a government that's beholden to special interests (i.e. corporations) and not to the presupposed citizens who create and allow that government to exist. Just when you thought the news cycle was over for the cataclysmic BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (which, honestly, I never did), you find there's more hidden truth and misleading innuendo. Our president himself, toured the Gulf region on a short family outing last summer, proclaimed the seafood was safe to eat, and assumed all attention would divert to something else. Well, President Obama, I think it's time to look again. 

Link to: URGENT: The Video NOAA and The FDA Are Afraid You'll Watch. Lab Finds 193 ppm Oil in Gulf Shrimp, from OpEdNews.com, and tell me whether or not you'll pass on the jumbo shrimp at your next family gathering or office get-together. Be sure to watch the video of Nancy Mackenzie, as she's interviewed by the press recently about what she discovered. I'm not sure the corporate-owned mass-media ever mentioned this on the six or ten-o'clock news, but my guess is they didn't. I wonder why? (Not really.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Chamber of Money Laundering

In case you haven't heard, which of course you wouldn't if you rely on corporate mainstream media for your daily news, the president and CEO of the United States Chamber of Commerce, Thomas J. Donohue, made a recent proclamation that there are legitimate and good reasons to outsource and move American jobs overseas. His statement is on tape and can't be interpreted to mean anything other than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce condones...no, encourages...the movement and loss of American jobs to foreign countries around the globe. Do you think his statement, and the fact that the Chamber accepts and receives millions of dollars annually from foreign enterprises, go hand-in-hand? Luckily, for now anyway, because campaign finance laws prohibit foreign entities from contributing to political races here in the United States, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is playing the coy game that, "of course, we wouldn't use illegal money -- trust us". Nous? Nosotros? Uns? לנו? لنا؟

Although Democrats are certainly in the pockets of every multinational banking and corporate interest that exists, it's no secret that Republicans are their personal bellhops and will do their bidding much more quickly than the less whorish, though not by much, Democrats. Sure, these oligarchs still will undoubtedly get drunk on Democratic favors, but why wait for a high when you can mainline on the heroin of Republican gift-giving. That's what's apparently happening this election cycle. With all the corporate money flowing into the coffers of Republican candidates, of all persuasions, they're awash in an orgy of undocumented and unaccounted cash. And who do we have to thank for this? None other than the five maverick activist Supreme Court justices who claimed that money equals free speech, and thus allowed the floodgates to open to corporate cash from not only U.S.-based corporations, which previously was illegal, but also to foreign corporations. Nice, huh? It seems to me that when organized crime syndicates, the term used before today's "banksters", did similar things, it was called money laundering. What's the difference?

Watch the following segments from The Rachel Maddow Show from last week (Tuesday and Thursday). If this doesn't bunch your panties into a wad, I don't know what will.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss...And Deadly

As mentioned in my previous article, the most monumental irony about the current Tea Party can be found within the movement's misunderstanding of what the original tea party was about. Here are a number of other ironies, laid-out beautifully in David Michael Green's excellent article. Their ignorance and total misunderstanding of economics, the situation-at-hand, and what led us to this point, will certainly prove to be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Let me know if you agree.    
How Do You Take Your Tea? With Heaping Spoonfuls of Irony, Of Course
It's so great that Americans are finally angry about the state of their country.

But it's beyond awful that all the wrong people are beside themselves for all the wrong reasons.

When I look at the tea party movement in America today, any number of words come to mind, most of which are not fit for print in a family newspaper. But, above all, I cannot help but be struck by the irony of it all.

It's ironic, to begin with, that the ones who are bitching loudest today are precisely the people who created the mess we're in.

We're actually in a whole heaping helping lot of messes, but I'm referring principally to the economic one. I suspect that the rabble ranks of the tea party movement are populated by people who have equally bad politics on social matters and foreign policy issues. But - for different reasons - they don't talk about those questions too much. Instead, they largely confine themselves to economic beefs, especially deficits.

These are conservatives, however - more properly labeled as regressives - and the astonishing irony here is that they've had their way with economic policy in this country for thirty years running. And, excuse me, but now they're pissed off at the results?

Think about it. Economic policy can be divided into a handful of key domains, including taxes, trade, labor relations, regulation, privatization, the budget and the welfare state. In every single one of these areas - with one partial exception - regressive policy choices have entirely predominated over the last generation. Only in the latter case of welfare state spending has that not been true, but even there only partially so.

Taxes today are a mere hint of what they used to be, just as the right has insisted must be the case. For the rich especially, top marginal income taxes have come down from 91 percent to 35 percent. But, of course, even that doesn't include earnings on capital gains, a giant portion of their income, which is now at 15 percent. Nor does it include the estate tax, which has now disappeared entirely. Nor does it include deductions and write-offs. Put this all together and you can see why Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the country, was moved to reveal that he paid a 17.7 percent tax rate on his $46 million of taxable income in 2006, while his employees paid an average of 32.9 percent, and his receptionist's tax rate was 30 percent.

Read the rest at CommonDreams.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Teabaggers Live a Grade School Understanding of History

It's almost humorous...sad, really...when I hear the parroted neo-Tea Party claim about what they believe the original Tea Party participants were protesting over two centuries ago. Their ignorance only lends less credence to what could otherwise be a legitimate movement. Yesterday, the Guardian talked about the beginnings of this misguided but obviously well-intentioned group. "All these bailouts and stimulus packages, that was taking our money and spending it without our permission. Taxation without representation. We thought, didn't that happen to us in the Revolutionary wars? Hello! Anyone remember King George?", one original teabagger claims, well-intentioned as mentioned, but dead wrong.

The real Boston Tea Party was actually a protest against huge corporate tax cuts for the British East India Company, also known as the East India Company (EIC), the largest trans-national ("multinational") corporation in 1773. This large corporation came into existence 173 years earlier, in December of 1600, when Queen Elizabeth I granted a Royal Charter to about 218 merchants and noblemen from London, including herself, as a response to the growing economic power of the Dutch trading companies. The charter awarded the newly formed company, for a period of fifteen years, a monopoly of trade (known today as a patent) with all countries to the east of the Cape of Good Hope and to the west of the Straits of Magellan. Keep in mind, during the early days of corporate formations, running well into the 1800s, corporate charters were issued only for specific time-periods along with specific purposes, so this was the norm of the day.

Initially, the EIC struggled in the spice trade due to the competition from the monopolistic and powerful Dutch East India Company and in 1623 it abandoned the East Indies to concentrate on the Indian subcontinent. With newly build factories on the east coast of India and subsequent profits, King James I renewed the charter given to the company for an indefinite period, including a clause which specified that the charter would cease to be in force if the trade turned unprofitable for three consecutive years. 

With a foothold in India, the EIC expanded to other locations in India. By 1650, the company had 23 factories throughout India and these factories were designed and built to be walled fortresses. In 1670, King Charles II granted the EIC the rights to autonomous territorial acquisitions, to mint money, to command fortresses and troops and form alliances, to make war and peace, and to exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the acquired areas, in effect becoming a government entity itself with all the authority and autonomy of what we only consider sovereign governments having, not corporations, today. Ten years later, King Charles and Parliament (of whom a majority were stockholders) passed "An Act for the Restraining and Punishing Privateers & Pirates", a law requiring a license to import anything into the America and other British-controlled parts of the world. These licenses were so expensive that they were rarely granted to anybody except the EIC and other large British corporations. Anybody operating without a license was labeled a privateer and was subject to the death penalty. Well-funded and now even more powerful, along with mergers and acquisitions in the early 1700s, the company developed a strong lobby in the English parliament which exerted more control and greater rights for the EIC well into that century. As Thom Hartmann explains in his best-selling What Would Jefferson Do?: 
[b]y the mid-1700s, the East India Company had become, to North America, the Wal-Mart of its day. It imported into North America vast quantities of products, including textiles, tools, steel, and tea, and exported to Europe tons of fur and tobacco, as well as thousands of Native American slaves. Protesters and competitors were put down ruthlessly, and the Company worked so closely with the British military that they hired General Cornwallis after he lost the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 and put him in charge of much of its lucrative business in India (which they were beginning to rule as a corporate colonial power).
The late 1760s and the 1770s brought a crisis for the East India Company. Most of the easily found gold and other wealth around the world was now safely in Europe. The period between 1760 and 1773 brought a severe recession for both the American colonies and Britain, and demand for the Company's products went flat. Credit was tight, cash was tight, and as colonies increasingly developed their own industries to manufacture things of steel, silver, and fabric,demand for imports from Europe slowed to a trickle, mostly of tea and spices.
The tea business with North America was still profitable, propping up many other sectors of the Company. As tea became more important, though, the Company also found itself facing increasing numbers of competitors.
Small entrepreneurs up and down the East Coast were building, buying, or charting small private ships to sail to other parts of Europe or India to buy tea below the prices the [East India] Company was selling it for in North America.
The EIC reached out to its stockholders, including King George III, practically begging for desperately needed cash. The monarch and Parliament reached back with very lucrative tax benefits and tax subsidies through legislation know as The Tea Act, passing a nice bundle of goodies for its favorite transnational corporate partner of the day. The Tea Act, or known by its long title: An act to allow a drawback of the duties of customs on the exportation of tea to any of his Majesty's colonies or plantations in America; to increase the deposit on bohea tea to be sold at the East India Company's sales; and to empower the commissioners of the treasury to grant licenses to the East India Company to export tea duty-free, expanded the British East India Company's monopoly on the tea trade to all British Colonies, selling excess tea at a reduced price. As Thom Hartmann explains in Unequal Protection:
Many people today think the Tea Act -- which led to the Boston Tea Party -- was simply an increase in the taxes on tea paid by American colonists. Indeed, the purpose of the Tea Act was to give the East India Company full and unlimited access to the American tea trade, and exempt the company from having to pay taxes to Britain on tea exported to the American colonists. It even gave the company a tax refund on millions of pounds of tea they were unable to sell and holding in inventory.
This corporate tax cut threatened to decimate small colonial businesses by helping the EIC pull a Wal-Mart against small entrepreneurial tea shops, and individuals began a revolt that kicked-off a series of events that ultimately ended in the creation of The United States of America. The protest became infamously known as, in modern historical jargon, the Boston Tea Party. It was probably the first American demonstration against globalization -- and the corporation that first founded, owned, ruled, and settled the original colonies.

So the modern-day Tea Party facsimiles...the teabaggers...should really be upset with the giant corporate tax cut. It wasn't about taxing colonists; it was about the prevailing superpower of the time, Great Britain, granting the largest multinational corporation of the time, the East India Company, permission to transport tea, free of duty, and allowing it to wipe out its small competitors and take over the tea business in America. When the teabaggers rail against big government, remember this: they're only partially right. They should be pissed with corporatism in government -- not big government. It's our government, in bed with the largest corporations around the globe, that's the danger to our democracy and well-being. We, the people of the United States, have become the third wheel, and the third wheel's not needed any longer. 

Does this little history lesson sound familiar? It should. Borrowing an idea attributed to Mark Twain, the past may not exactly repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Maverick Roberts Court Disregards Constitution in Favor of Corporations

For years, even to this very day, righties of all persuasions have repeated the tired old refrain that liberal judges have destroyed this country through their activism. These "activist judges", suspected of basing their decisions on personal or political considerations rather than existing law, were distained for ruling on such basic human rights as Brown v. Board of Education (desegregation of schools); the protection of a woman's privacy in Roe v. Wade (abortion rights), to the admissibility of statements in criminal court in Miranda v. Arizona ("Miranda rights"). Not surprisingly, conservatives haven't objected to this year's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. I suppose activism doesn't apply, in their opinions, when supreme court justices grant undeserving constitutional rights to organizations (i.e. corporations) and when that activism furthers and promotes their causes and agendas.   

Read the following excellent piece by Matthew Rothschild, published in Friday's Progressive on the 223rd anniversary of the adoption of our constitution by the originating Federal Convention in 1787. After reading, you'll know exactly what judicial activism is, and how it has irreparably harmed our already shrinking democracy in this nation. Granted, big money in politics already subverted our democratic processes before this year, but that will seem like pennies-in-a-bucket when the steamroller of millions of corporate dollars start inundating the media with attack ads and influence peddling -- all designed to adversely influence your opinion to support their views and their candidates. 

Feingold Slams Supreme Court over "Citizens United," Implies Roberts and Alito Lied Under Oath  by Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, 9/17/2010

Sen. Russ Feingold recently slammed the Supreme Court and strongly implied that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito lied, under oath, to the Senate during their confirmation hearings.

In a speech on Sept. 10, Feingold, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, denounced the “Citizens United” decision that the Court handed down earlier this year.

Feingold called it “a lawless decision.”

That decision allows corporations to give unlimited contributions in favor of, or in opposition to, a candidate so long as those contributions aren’t coordinated with a candidate’s campaign. It treats corporations the same way it treats individuals. (See http://www.progressive.org/mrapril10.html.)

But, said Feingold, “they are not the same as us. They do not have the same rights as all of us. And that decision is wrong on the law, and wrong for America, and an enormous danger for the political process.”

Without naming any names, Feingold said that George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominees “came before the Judiciary Committee and promised me, under oath, that they would follow precedent, that they would be neutral umpires calling balls and strikes. Well, of course, they did the opposite.”

He was clearly referring to Chief Justice Roberts, who famously said at his confirmation hearing on September 12, 2005: “I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”  Read the rest by clicking here.

Please also watch the video I've embedded below. In it, Senator Franken speaks of other Roberts Court activist decisions that have had adverse affects for normal, real, blood-running-through-their veins natural persons. Watch and listen, then tell me whether this is what our founding fathers had in mind. I'd like to think you agree that these two cases that Senator Franken discusses are totally against the precepts of the United States Constitution. I sure do.