Tag: Move to Amend

Can the US political system deal with climate change?

The American “system” has been a bit tardy in its response to climate change. Experts tell us that the longer it takes to make needed changes, the more difficult it will be to make them.

As 350.org’s Bill McKibben puts it:

We’re talking about a fight between human beings and physics. And physics is entirely uninterested in human timetables. Physics couldn’t care less if precipitous action raises gas prices, or damages the coal industry in swing states. It could care less whether putting a price on carbon slowed the pace of development in China, or made agribusiness less profitable.

Physics doesn’t understand that rapid action on climate change threatens the most lucrative business on Earth, the fossil fuel industry. It’s implacable. It takes the carbon dioxide we produce and translates it into heat, which means into melting ice and rising oceans and gathering storms. And unlike other problems, the less you do, the worse it gets.  Do nothing and you soon have a nightmare on your hands.

We could postpone healthcare reform a decade, and the cost would be terrible — all the suffering not responded to over those 10 years. But when we returned to it, the problem would be about the same size. With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to the timetable set by physics, there’s not much reason to act at all.

Unless you understand these distinctions you don’t understand climate change — and it’s not at all clear that President Obama understands them.

There are lots of reasons why the response of the system has been so slow. There is significant resistance in the system to the sort of changes that need to be made. That resistance has manifested itself in a number of ways, from President Obama using the spies at the NSA to kill global agreements on climate change to the bipartisan popularity of climate change denial in Congress, the media and the public relations industry, despite virtually indisputable scientific evidence.

Resistance is created by a variety of groups based on their perceived interests. Enormously wealthy, powerful corporations and individuals who want to preserve their profits from fossil fuels and related industries, people who rely on jobs created or enabled by fossil fuel industries, people who fear economic chaos and the loss of their comforts due to actions to stop climate change, and politicians whose fortunes depend upon the money and other resources of the fossil fuel industry are some huge sources of systemic inertia.

Executing Citizens United

I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one ~ unknown author #OWSNYC

Back in 1912, the voters of Montana passed a law that barred corporations from direct contributions to political candidates when mining czar W.A. Clark bought himself a seat in the U.S. Senate. That law was overturned in 2010 when the US Supreme Court declared that granted corporations the same 1st Amendment rights as citizens and allowed businesses to freely spend their way into the nation’s political debates. Being single minded Westerners, the Montana Supreme Court has challenged Citizens United by upholding the state’s century old law that limits corporate contributions:

In a 5-2 opinion, the Montana court’s majority concluded that the state’s long history of well-funded natural resource extractors, small population and historically inexpensive political campaigns allow it to demonstrate compelling government interest in regulating corporate financial muscle. Even one of the justices who dissented – saying that the U.S. Supreme Court left no room for states to exempt themselves – argued forcefully against the broad corporate latitude encompassed in the Citizens United decision.

Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people – human beings – to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creatures of government,” Justice James C. Nelson wrote in his reluctant dissent.

“Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons,” he wrote.

(emphasis mine)

Clearly, Citizens United is uniting people who oppose the solidification of the corporate take over of the government. In December, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a constitutional amendment, S.J.Res.33 (pdf), that would strip corporations of the same constitutional rights as persons, subject them to regulation, bar them from making campaign contributions and grant Congress the power to regulate campaign finance. There are now four different constitutional amendments to the U.S. House and Senate seeking to overturn the Citizens United ruling.

In Los Angeles, CA, the city council unanimously passed a non-binding resolution in support of such an amendment.

Then, in one of their first acts of the New Year, the New York City Council passed a resolution calling on congress pass an amendment overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Oakland, CA; Albany, NY; Missoula, MO; Boulder, CO and South Miami, FL have all passed similar resolutions.

The Montana decision, which applies only to state elections, is important because it sets the path for the return of the issue to the US Supreme Court, while we wait to see if a constitutional amendment can be passed.

Reclaiming Our Democracy (Part I of II): Miliary Democracy

“Duck House”:

I sit on the floor of the Duck House with thirty others, brainstorming for the January action. Neither men nor women dominate the group. We are young, and surprisingly old. Counter-culture and conservatively clad. We question whether it is nobler to seek permits or just show up unannounced. We speak of banners, flyers and street theater-anything to educate the public about our goal.

Even when I still lived in Arizona, I had heard of this place. Democracy Unlimited Humboldt County (DUHC) or “Duck” was on the forefront of the war against corporate power. In 1998, they helped pass a ballot initiative establishing the Democracy and Corporations standing committee in Arcata’s city council here in California.

The Committee’s primary functions are: to research and present to the Council options for controlling the growth of “pattern restaurants” in the community; to cooperate with other communities working on socially responsible investing and procurement policies; to make recommendations to the Council, and/or with the Council’s approval, provide educational opportunities to promote “fair trade”; to inform citizens of corporations with negative social and environmental impact; and to provide advice on ways to foster sustained locally-owned businesses, publicly or locally owned services and worker-owned cooperatives and collectives.–City of Arcata

The committee was hailed by Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Jim Hightower. Ralph Nader commented, “I look forward to Arcata being a luminous star in the rising crescendo of democracy in our country.”

Embolden by this success, they passed Measure T in 2004. It forbid nonlocal corporations from contributing to local political campaigns. Two corporations immediately challenged the initiative as unconstitutional. Before the case could be decided by the courts, Humboldt’s Board of Supervisors succumbed to corporate pressure and declared this popularly elected law nullified.

DUHC learned from this experience. They won’t be going it alone, this time. They are but one small seed of democracy, but they are amassing with others to change the political landscape in America. They have joined Move to Amend in a miliary campaign, and this time their aim is not a city ordinance in some far off town on the edge of America, but changing the highest law in the land.

Getting Money Out Of Politics

I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one ~ unknown author #OWSNYC

Besides shifting the conversation in the media from budget cuts, deficits and austerity to jobs, jobs, jobs, the Occupy Wall Street movement has also brought more attention to how Wall St., banks and, especially mega-corporations control the two parties and influence politics. Follow the money. Since the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people and money talks, some politicians, organizations and a few in the media have been examining ways to get money out of politics and put government back in the hands of the governed. One of those means is a constitutional amendment as proposed by Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders:

Sanders’s amendment, S.J.Res. 33 (pdf), would state that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as persons, that corporations are subject to regulation, that corporations may not make campaign contributions and that Congress has the power to regulate campaign finance.

While the Citizens United case affected corporations, unions and other entities, the Sanders amendment focuses only on “for-profit corporations, limited liability companies or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests.”

Sanders said he has never proposed an amendment to the Constitution before, but said he sees no other alternative to reversing the Citizens United decision.[..]

The Sanders amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and a similar amendment has been proposed in the House by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).

On December 3, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to support such a constitutional amendment:

The resolution was backed by Move to Amend, a national coalition working to abolish corporate personhood and overturn U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling. The decision gave corporations and unions the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, so long as their actions are not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign.

“Move to Amend’s proposed amendment would provide the basis for overturning the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,” stated Mary Beth Fielder, Co-Coordinator of LA Move to Amend. “The Supreme Court has no legitimate right to grant people’s rights to corporations. We must clearly establish that it is we, The People, who are meant to rule.”

Move to Amend hopes to get ballot initiatives put on the ballots in cities and states for the 2012 election to help voters show their representatives that they are serious about reigning corporate influences in elections:

“These are how American amendments move forward from the grassroots when Americans say enough is enough.  We’re very proud to come together and send a message but more than that, this becomes the official position of the City of Los Angeles, we will officially lobby for this.  I also chair a group which oversees all the Democratic mayors and council members in the country and we’re going to share this with all our 3,000 members and we hope to see this start here in the west and sweep the nation until one day we do have a constitutional amendment which will return the power to the people.”

There is some bipartisan agreement between Democrats and true conservative Republicans. Former Louisiana governor, congressman and candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, Buddy Roemer, agrees with Sen. Sanders on getting money out of politics when he appeared with Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC. You won’t hear Roemer in any of the debates that are being run by Fox, CNN but he has been getting exposure on the talk show rounds. Roemer believes, like Sanders, that “Washington is being bought and sold like a sack of potatoes”

Like the LA City Council, Occupy Wall Street, Sen. Sanders and Gov. Roemer, we agree that this is the best solution. It will be fought by the corporations and those they control and like any fight it starts with first steps. Lets hope it grows. The survival of democracy in America depends on it.

Contrary to the will of special interests, Buddy wants to see Washington reform that includes full disclosure of campaign contributions, 48 hour electronic reporting of campaign contributions, the elimination of the Super PACs that keep the GOP’s top contenders at the top, limiting PAC donations to same amount of money that individuals can contribute, prohibiting lobbyists from participating in fundraisers, and imposing criminal penalties on those that violate the rules of campaign finance.

These changes seem to be what most Republican voters are looking for, but without a Super PAC to fund him, Roemer is unable to throw the millions of dollars the big spenders like Romney, Perry and even Ron Paul shell out on publicity. And Americans cannot expect those taking money from special interest groups to protect citizens from those very same special interest groups. [..]

Buddy also wants to end corporate welfare. Corporations are big spenders when it comes to campaign contributions. While big oil companies no longer need government money to survive, since they earn billions in profits selling overpriced gasoline and oil to consumers, they are willing to shell out large amounts of campaign money to ensure the politicians that will push their agendas are elected.