|Tom and Toni in the KZYX studio|
"Corporations and Democracy" is broadcast by KZYX-FM public radio. Listen to an .mp3 of the show here.
|Tom and Toni in the KZYX studio|
Democracy Convention, and you're invited!
Two days ago, Corporate Europe Observatory, the Transnational Institute and the Council of Canadians warned that the proposed CETA trade pact between Canada and the EU would grant energy companies far-reaching rights to challenge franking bans and regulations. These investor-state disputes are used by multinationals to challenge and overturn democratically-enacted laws protecting labor, the environment, public health, or any other common good that gets in the way of the supposed "right" to make money. The three groups are urging the EU, member states and the Canadian government not to include an investor-state dispute settlement system in CETA.
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) there already exists a precedent for legal challenges to fracking bans and regulations that could be the state of things to come in Europe. For instance, US energy firm Lone Pine Resources Inc., is challenging a moratorium on fracking in the Canadian province of Quebec, suing the Canadian government for compensation.
EU member states already have experience with investor-state disputes undermining green energy and environmental protection policies. Germany is currently being sued by energy company Vattenfall because of the country's exit from nuclear power. Vattenfall is seeking EUR3.7 billion in compensation for lost profits. EU - Canada CETA negotiations were launched at a bilateral summit in May 2009 and negotiators hope to conclude a deal before the summer.
More positively, 12 Latin American governments gathered in Guayaquil, Ecuador at the end of April to craft a common response to investor-state suits.
As Public Citizen reported, "Ecuador, the host of [this gathering] has taken a particularly hard battering from the investor-state system enshrined in NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs)," including a ruling from one tribunal to hand $2.4 billion to Occidental Petroleum after Oxy broke Ecuador's hydrocarbons law, while confronting a ruling from another tribunal that the government should breach its own Constitution and block the enforcement of an $18 billion court ruling against Chevron for massive pollution of the Amazon.
"Seven of the governments present signed a declaration to coordinate efforts in seeking to replace the investor-state regime with an alternative investment framework that respects sovereignty, democracy, and public wellbeing, and announced the launch of an intergovernmental commission based in Latin America to audit investor-state tribunals, draft alternative investment agreements, and collaborate in strategies for reform…. Representatives from the remaining five governments participated as observers and are now taking the declaration back to their capitals to discuss joining the emerging Latin American coalition."
These efforts are matched around the world. Investor-state provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership are a sticking point for Australia, while India and South Africa are also eyeing changes in policy regarding investor-state disputes. Clearly, there is widespread grassroots pressure to end this egregious example of corporate rule.
Portland (OR) Alliance for Democracy endorsed the "Vote No on Fluoridation" of Portland's pure Bull Run water a couple months ago after some extended conversation and having heard presentations from both sides of the issues. In the end, they decided that the only additions which can be justified to our water are chemicals which make the water safe to drink. That has already been done and the addition of fluoride does not meet that standard. Additionally, the benefits of fluoridation are unclear while the dangers for at least some community members are too great. Our water should not be a medical delivery system. If you're in Portland, a vote is coming up on the issue--here's some info and how to get involved
To get some name recognition with the kids on the interwebs, Move to Amend has developed an ongoing series of short videos that don't tell you much about the ins and outs of corporate personhood or constitutional amendment but aspires to be the kind of funny stuff that gets shared online.
The first few videos in the series were all somewhere between NSFW and WTF but these two are a hoot. So we're sharing them online.
The videos are done by Dennis Trainor Jr., whose work is online here, and Lee Camp.
Hopefully this will inspire even more art, video, song and meme-making. The more the merrier and merry is good.
Shout-out to the forefathers: Rich Corporateson and Murray Hill.
There's been some strong community pushback to the idea of developing a massive water bottling plant in the city of Anacortes, WA, and you can read the latest news here. Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin reports on the recent public hearing before the Skagit County Board of County Commissioners, who were considering a bid by Tethys Co. to annex 11.15 acres to an urban growth area to allow the construction of the plant, while letters and essays by community members point out the dangers of low-wage bottling plant work and the impacts to ecosystems, economies and quality of life from the project.
Posted by Alliance for Democracy at 4:19 PM
Bonnie Preston, one of the Alliance's vice co-chairs, was one of the resource speakers at a recent teach-in at the University of Maine-Orono. Bonnie has been an active organizer for local food and self-governance ordinances in her part of Maine. She spoke alongside BJ McAllister, of Maine Clean Elections. Maine's governor is no fan of the state's clean election system, and has attempted to defund it.
Here's what Bonnie said to the group:
Good afternoon! My name is Bonnie Preston, and I am a member of the Alliance for Democracy, which believes that the overarching task of our time is to get our democratic republic out of the hands of the mega-corporations and back into the hands of We the People.
Money in politics is not just about elections and how they are financed. More insidiously, it is about the two arms of the revolving door--lobbying and corporate capture of the agencies of government. It’s hard to pin down the number of lobbyists in Washington DC right now, but it is certainly dozens for each of our elected representatives in Congress. Many of these are former elected officials. For example, Billy Tauzin led the fight to pass a Medicare prescription drug plan that forbade negotiating prices with the drug manufacturers. After that signature achievement, he went to work for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing of America (PhRMA), the lobbying arm of the drug industry, where he became the highest paid health-law lobbyist in the country.
The flip side of people leaving government for lobbying is leaving the private sector to work for a government agency, temporarily of course. Exhibit A is Michael Taylor, who has moved back and forth from Monsanto to either the FDA or USDA for decades. He is now in charge of writing the regulations that will support the Food Safety Modernization Act, now in final draft form. If implemented, these rules could put an end to small farms in the US.
These two forces are driving the complete take-over of government by the private sector, and no campaign finance reform will touch this.
So what can we do to get the government back in our hands? The Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court galvanized people so dramatically that it has opened a door to a possibility that many of us who have worked for years on this issue have seen as a distant hope, if not a pipe dream. Since 1886, the Supreme Court has granted corporations more and more specific constitutional rights; corporations have used these to increase their political power.
The founders kept corporations under control. Corporate charters, required to show how the corporation would serve the public interest, had to be approved by state legislatures. They were limited in time and scope, had to be extended if desired by the legislatures, and could be revoked if the corporation failed to serve the public. A corporation could not buy another corporation, so they must stay small and competitive.
Today, monopolistic corporations, which include the too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks, are preventing progress on everything we need to do if we are going to continue to live on this planet. The rights we have given them are even being enshrined in international law through the World Trade Organization and the NAFTA-style trade agreements. This trade regime is culminating in the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with all the powers of NAFTA, but with a significant difference. Once in place, countries will not have to negotiate a trade deal; they will simply sign on to the TPP. The multi-national corporations, with the enforcement powers of the trade organizations backed by the military might of supposedly democratic governments, are growing into a force that will totally destroy our ability to govern ourselves in a humane and environmentally sound way.
We must directly confront corporations and the concept of corporate personhood. A Constitutional amendment that ends corporate personhood as well as the concept that money is not speech is necessary. Abraham Lincoln did not try to regulate slavery, or end it in steps, or disclose its evils. He backed the 13th amendment, which freed the slaves. We are still cleaning up the mess created by slavery, and we will have a lot of work to do to clean up the messes that corporations have made as well, but a Constitution that says that corporations are not persons with constitutional rights will provide the solid ground we can stand on as we do that work. AfD, a founding partner of the Move to Amend coalition, is committed to this type of systemic change.
...that protesting corporate rule is at least as old as our own American Revolution? Move to Amend's Ashley Sanders brought the history of the early days of corporate domination of politics and economies to this edition of Populist Dialogues.
As true now as ever!
For ordering info see this page on our website!
Tapestry of the Commons