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Thursday, September 15, 2011

STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY





America’s greatest wasted resource is its youth. The obvious corruption in government that three decades of college students have grown up with have led to a political cynicism in this group that rivals that of their parents, who lived through the changes in our government that they are still struggling to understand if they have not given up trying. College students are making tremendous efforts to prepare for a future that is increasingly uncertain, yet most have dismissed the value of spending time in protesting a government and society that has largely abandoned the children of the shrinking middle class and the growing numbers of the poor.

As a result of such fatalism, only a small number of college students are engaged in the political process, mostly in the form of education and protests, neither of which gain much attention in today’s distracted society. In 2008 they enthusiastically supported candidate Obama, only to discover that their parents seemed to be right in dismissing all politicians as liars. Obama has kept very few of the promises he made to average Americans, while clearly keeping promises to corporate interests arrived at behind closed doors as he solicited support for his presidential campaign.

As the fascists who control the US government advance toward their goal of privatizing every government function for their personal profit, the ability to acquire an advanced education has increasingly become a privilege rather than the right that Jefferson argued it must be if the American experiment in democracy is to succeed. As college becomes increasingly inaccessible to our youth they are left with few choices. With jobs being shipped overseas by the millions, many fall victim to the job recruiters from the US military. In effect, they are economic conscripts of international corporate terrorists.

During the Vietnam War students were much more attuned to the effects of war on their future. For ten years, an entire generation of young men faced the prospect of being drafted to fight in a pointless corporate war. The women who faced the loss of their loved ones were affected as well. For those of us not yet of age, the future did not look promising and those of us who understood what was at stake joined the opposition in any way that we could.

The peace movement in the 60s and early 70s grew despite the lack of the critical organizing tool of the internet. Only the cynic would argue that the fact that the corporate media publicized both the war and the protests allowed the movement to grow. In truth, the reasons the movement proved unstoppable were that those involved were determined to achieve victory in spite of the obvious corruption of the US government that declared war on them. That generation was not indoctrinated in the belief that democracy was dead. They knew that their entire generation had been made pawns in the war for corporate Empire and that only their combined efforts at resistance couldend the war.  They were willing to fight to assure that the hope for democracy in America would live on.

Students for a Democratic Society was formed to help organize the members of the resistance to fascism in that day. Like all organizations it had its growing pains in terms of crises in identity and leadership. Those involved persevered and over time, SDS became a leader in the peace movement. It became a leader in promoting the idea that the war was only a symptom of the disease of fascism. Leaders in the fight for the rights of women, African-Americans, Native Americans and gays stood shoulder to shoulder in defense of the right of each of us to liberty and justice.

The only way to engage the youth of the US is to give them reason to hope that they can become part of the struggle to end fascism and war in our lifetime. If those of us old enough to remember the victories of the past can use modern networking tools to get our peers away from their computers and out in the streets, we may be able to inspire a new generation of students to work for a democratic society.

Every generation must have its own leaders. Those who have been in the vanguard of the fight for the last several decades must allow new leaders to emerge from every generation if they are truly more interested in the cause than in self-promotion. There are many young men and women prepared to take up the fight. It is our duty to educate them about our successes and our failures so that they may look at them with fresh eyes and find ways to use this knowledge to mold a 21st century strategy to wage asymmetric warfare against fascism and war.

It is our youth who will live to see the ultimate effects of the effort to create a democracy in the US from the fascist horror that it has become. We cannot leave them to their fate just because most have come to accept that justice and democracy are dead. It took generations for the fascists to create this illusion and the spell cannot be broken overnight. Good parents understand that children mature only when they understand that as adults they will be responsible for their own future and ultimately, for the future of their own children. This happens when they are given responsibility and when they have had good role models to emulate.

If students get out on the street with petitions calling on their members of Congress to introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and support any candidate who will, they may yet have reason to hope that they will live in a democratic society in their lifetime.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

ALL POLITICS IS INTERNATIONAL





Today's blog was written as an editorial for a local paper in Coos Bay, Oregon. It ties together local, state, national and international efforts to promote peace and justice with some lessons learned from our efforts so far.



Tip O’Neills’ famous dictum that all politics is local usually goes without challenge. The implication of this idea seems to be that ordinary citizens only have power to influence local politics and that when they do so, they act in their own self interest. Two events in August of which residents of Coos Bay may be aware were designed to challenge that commonly held belief. Fittingly, one was local and the other national.

Three Oregon nonprofits pooled efforts to hold the event Visioning the Future in Coos Bay on August 22. Human Rights Advocates of Coos County, Take Back America for the People and Good Grief America teamed to put on an event designed to connect the dots between local, national and international issues that Congress seems unwilling to address.

The event was originally sparked by a request by Cindy Sheehan for local organizers to put together an event that would bring together local residents throughout Oregon to discuss how all these issues are ultimately related to war. The intent was not only to educate the public about the need to generate grassroots opposition to war and other injustice but to bring citizens together to talk about how we can work at the local level to end wars now opposed by 70 percent of Americans.

Sheehan bowed out after learning that organizers had invited a popular local politician to speak. Bill Bradbury was invited to talk about global climate change and possible solutions. Sheehan knew only that he was a Democratic politician and that he was a friend of Al Gore. In private correspondence, Sheehan explained to me that she felt all politicians were so corrupt that to include them in the event would be contrary to her vision. She seemed to be arguing that a grassroots uprising would somehow result in Americans taking back their government without dirtying their hands in the messy business of American politics. Organizers and Sheehan fans expressed disappointment that she chose not to come to Coos Bay to make her case.

After learning of Sheehan’s decision not to attend her own event too late to prevent it from being widely advertised, organizers decided to proceed with the event anyway. Experts on various issues were invited to attend and a number responded. Nancie Koerber is the founder and Executive Director of Good Grief America, which was formed to inform Americans about how the banking and finance industry created the housing bubble to finance the derivatives   market that has nearly taken down the US economy and now threatens to destabilize the world economy. Subscribers to the Good Grief America mailing list are also kept aware of efforts to bring the banking and finance industries that engineered the bailout to justice. Most importantly, Good Grief America was formed to help Oregonians learn how as individuals they can fight against foreclosures.

Human Rights Advocates of Coos County was represented by Anita Coppock, who spoke to the audience about the rights enumerated in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. She focused on the manner in which they are routinely violated in various nations and in particular how they are being increasingly violated in the US at local, state and national levels of government. From torture to illegal imprisonment to denying access to health care and many other violations of the Declaration, she explained the reason that HRACC was formed and how they are fighting these injustices at a local level.

As the founder and Board President of Take Back America for the People, I was the last to speak before introducing featured speaker Bill Bradbury. Our mission statement states that Take Back America for the People was formed to educate the public of the dangers of allowing corporations to control the US government and what we can do about it. This is a task that we argue will take work at the local, state and federal levels. The group takes the position that the key task in restoring democracy to America is to overturn the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United and all prior decisions that established the principle that corporations are entitled to the same rights as living, breathing human beings.

The largest crowd at the event gathered to listen to Bill Bradbury speak and answer questions. He is the former Oregon Secretary of State and was a Democratic primary candidate for Governor in 2010. He trained under Al Gore to give hundreds of talks about the evidence of global climate change and possible solutions.

Sheehan had expressed her belief that as an associate of Al Gore Bradbury must hold the position that the solution to controlling carbon emissions was through a cap and trade system, which she and many others oppose. This creates carbon credits that are designed to be gradually lowered, encouraging corporations to reduce emissions as the credits become increasingly expensive. According to Peter DeFazio, this has the potential to lead to a speculative boom as it has in countries where carbon tax credits have become just another commodity to be bought by polluters so that they can avoid making changes in the levels of their carbon emissions.

Bradbury cited the abundant evidence to support the conclusions of the thousands of independent scientists on the international panel on global climate change. Its members overwhelmingly agreed that human-caused increases in the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide are responsible for a steep rise in average temperatures around the planet and the resulting increase in the melting of glaciers and the polar caps, droughts, severe storms and other logical consequences of the unchecked Greenhouse Effect.

Bradbury argued persuasively that the best solution would be a tax on carbon emissions that would directly impact the costs of polluting, but expressed the opinion that Congress is too corrupted by corporate money to even pass a cap and trade bill of questionable value.

On August 30 the Democracy Convention began in Madison, Wisconsin. Attendees gathered from around the nation to meet and discuss how they could work together to challenge corporate power and influence government at the local, state, national and international levels. The parallels with our local event in Coos Bay were striking. We learned about the details of the Move to Amend coalition strategy to end corporate control of the electoral process that had been greatly expanded under the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case in January of 2009.

Move to Amend holds to the position that corporations should have no “rights” under law. The argument is that since corporations exist only to limit the liability of stockholders in civil actions, stockholders have been granted a privilege and not special rights unavailable to average citizens. They argue that as a result, average citizens are increasingly disenfranchised as the CEOs of large corporations are increasingly able to influence the outcome of elections.
 

Move to Amend takes the  position that corporations having the same rights as human beings is a direct challenge to democracy in America. Accordingly, they (and Take Back America, as an endorser of their organization) advocate for a constitutional amendment that will not only strip corporations of the “free speech right” to finance the elections of their chosen candidates but that will give to local, state and national governments both the authority and the duty to regulate corporations in the public interest, which was the case at the founding of the United States.

One of the more interesting developments at the convention was the coming together of some Move to Amend advocates who want to work more closely with Public Citizen and Free Speech for People to achieve their mutual goal of passing a constitutional amendment. There has historically been a deep division between the groups over the issue of whether that amendment should only end “free speech rights” of corporations or whether Move to Amend’s position that it should end all of the corporate privileges granted them in a series of Supreme Court decisions dating back to the early 1800s should be the goal. This split has historically prevented members of the two coalitions from working together beyond the largely symbolic step of both appearing at large events like the Democracy Convention, where members of the two camps generally talk only to each other.


At least two members of Move to Amend coalition attended a seminar held by constitutional lawyers John Bonifaz and Jeffrey Clements. These are founding members and leaders of Free Speech for People. They described a new strategy to challenge corporate power in court by demanding the revocation of the charters of corporations whose actions constitute “crimes against people, communities and nature.”
 

Using the example of the Massey Corporation, they detailed a legal strategy to do so. Their argument is  that the rights of communities devastated by hilltop mining and the rights of the families of twenty-nine coal miners who died in an explosion due to the repeated and widespread violations of safety laws take precedence over the privilege of corporations to exploit with impunity both the environment and the people of the affected communities.


As was the case at Visioning the Future, the main theme of the Democracy Convention was exploring ways to help the public connect the dots between local, state, national and international problems and their solutions. The goal is to find a way of acting at all of these levels to restore democracy to America and ensure liberty and justice for all.

Activists fighting at all levels of government for environmental responsibility, economic and health care justice and the end of war through grassroots organizing are now one step closer to finding a way to work as one to build a coalition of all Americans across the political spectrum to end corporate rule in America.

Monday, September 5, 2011

ECONOMIC SLAVERY AND THE MODERN ABOLITION MOVEMENT





The famous case of San Mateo v Northern Pacific railroad has been described as the precedent that later Supreme Courts used to justify the principle of corporate sovereignty over the people of the US. This case was argued but not decided on the basis of the legal theory that corporations have all the rights of human beings under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, the fascist Robber Barons of the post-Civil War era were asserting their right to determine the shape of the future America by virtue of their economic power over average Americans and the corrupt body that Congress had become.

Let us put aside any quibbling about when corporate personhood became established law in the minds of the majority of corporate members of any of the previous or subsequent Supreme Courts. Suffice it to say that the chain of logic that led directly to the decision in Citizens United was based in large part on the amendment that was written to free former slaves. Thus began the slide into fascism that has led to the threat of permanent economic slavery in the New World Order of the United States Empire.


For the first time since the Great Depression, the people of the United States are feeling the same lash that the victims in other countries of the international corporate terrorists have known for years. Now that the banksters, international financiers, war profiteers, Big Oil and the medical-insurance complex have devastated the US economy, the apparent victors of the war on the US middle class are dividing the spoils among themselves. After decades of moving jobs overseas and chipping at the social safety net, the fascists who control the US government are fighting for supremacy in the New World Order without regard to the welfare of the economic slave class they have created.

An angry but divided US public cannot assert its sovereignty over its own government. Only by coming together in the interest of liberty and justice for all can those fighting fascism in the US salvage the American dream of a democratic Republic. The great divide between those who regard themselves as conservatives and those who think of themselves as liberals is due to a difference in perception of whether our government more closely resembles fascism or socialism. Achieving consensus on the answer to that vital question is central to the task of establishing a democratic Republic in the United States.

Those of us who do not form our opinions by considering only the corporate propaganda promoted by the mainstream media know that the answer lies in the study of the rise of corporate power over the US government. The problem then becomes one of how we awaken both those on the Right and Left who refuse to acknowledge the simple fact that America has become a primary nexus in the network of international fascism. As one WWII veteran tearfully told me one day: “I didn’t fight and my brothers didn’t die for the nation we have become.”

There is an answer to the seemingly unsolvable problem of melding the collective political power of the Right and the Left. It lies in helping others understand that a system of corporate welfare with all power and privilege going to the most wealthy Americans is not a democracy and certainly not socialism. Benito Mussolini coined the term fascism to refer to just such an unholy alliance between corporation and state, with each using the power granted to them by We the People and an activist Supreme Court to improve their positions in the fascist New World Order. When we agree that the government we are trying to overthrow through a nonviolent democratic revolution is a fascist one, the scales fall from the eyes of those who have accepted the myth that democracy exists in the United States.

There is only one issue that has the potential to bring enough Americans together to Take Back America for the People. A modern abolition movement to strip corporations of the power to buy Congress and to dictate policy and legislation is the means by which we will finish the Revolution. Doing so is the only means to ensure liberty and justice for all Americans and Peoples everywhere who are threatened with slavery in the fascist New World Order. A movement is building to amend the constitution to do just that. Restoring the hope of democracy in America is a nonpartisan issue. Anyone who understands the danger of ceding the functions of government to corporate interests that want only to increase their wealth and power is welcome in the fight to end the system of corporate plutocracy that now threatens the survival of human civilization.

Most of those who have been working for decades to amend the constitution are holding to a strategy with a 20-30 year timeline for success. It focuses solely on an educational process that will indeed take this long if not coupled with efforts to get the amendment on the floor of Congress. Once in place, support for it can be used as a litmus test in every subsequent Congressional election. The implementation of this strategy requires that leaders of the abolition movement realize that no modern revolution will succeed without using the political power we hold in a nominally democratic society to force our government to do our will. If we refuse to consider the idea that there are men and women in Congress who are honest enough and tired enough of continuous competition for corporate cash we may miss the chance to be part of movement that will lead to the introduction and passage of the amendment that is our mutual goal.

Those who give up on the political process have an unrealistic vision that somehow a grassroots Army of people will join them with no hope for immediate political victories beyond the local and occasionally state levels. Forgetting that Senators like Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley and House members like Kucinitch and Ron Paul are speaking out loudly against corporate control of the electoral process, they are ignoring the quickest route to the passage of the amendment. With the threats of global climate change, a permanent depression, mass famine and endless war threatening to decimate the population we cannot afford such a long range strategy. To rely exclusively on education divorced from political action would be to risk abandoning millions of  innocent victims to their fate at the hands of a ruthless international corporatocracy.

No revolution has ever succeeded except though a process leading to democracy. Empires from Persia to Macedonia to Rome to the USSR and Nazi Germany have learned from hard experience that violent subjugation of people will always in the end destroy the power structure that it depends on to maintain order among the Peoples so enslaved. If America, Israel and their allies do not learn this lesson soon, they may become the victims of a violent revolution that could dwarf the French Revolution in its carnage. If we can prevent that then we will have ended the ongoing Civil War that has divided and conquered Americans since the bloody battles across five Aprils ended in 1865. Only when we see and act upon our mutual interests will we have the collective power to finish the American Revolution and free the world from the fascist control of the Puppetmasters of the US government.

In the end, it will be the Tea Party that saves the Republic. It is the job of progressive activists to reach across the great divide that separates those in the US who all claim to love freedom and democracy. The only way to move forward as Americans and members of the global community is to put aside lesser differences in the cause of liberty and justice for all. This means talking to those who may not agree with our vision of the America and the world that we will never create unless we do so together. In learning how to talk tone another with mutual respect and compassion, we may live to see the end of war.



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