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REAL Democracy History Calendar – sign up!
Move To Amend Campaign:
We are pleased to announce the creation of a new resource: the REAL Democracy History Calendar.
You are invited to sign up to this new free weekly email resource – to be sent out beginning January 1, 2016. To sign up, click here.
Corporate entities and individuals of extreme wealth have to a major extent captured our government and economic institutions. Basic political, economic and human rights are in decline. The result is a lack of real democracy — defined as the ability of those who are affected by decisions having an authentic voice in the shaping of those decisions.
However, people have always strived for basic rights, resisted oppression, created alternative structures, and sought to control the power and influence of corporate entities and extreme wealth in society through education, advocacy and social movement organizing.
To sign up, click here.
The REAL Democracy History Calendar will provide 1-2 listings per day sent by email every Monday morning of activities, events, quotes from prominent individuals and/or other occurrences (both past and recent) on the themes of democracy, human rights, corporate power and rule, and wealth in society (especially in elections).
The Calendar is a joint production of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) and the former Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Much of its base comes from our research and writings on these themes over the last two decades.
Our goal is to inform, intrigue and inspire — and to illuminate the reality that creating real democracy will not happen by changing any one politician, passing/repealing any one law or regulation, or reversing any single Supreme Court decision. It requires, rather, changing our political, economic and social culture - one byproduct of which will be to democratize our legal structures through genuinely inclusive, multi-issue, nonviolent social movements.
To sign up, click here.
Below are a listing of postings over the next several weeks – to provide a flavor of the Calendar’s contents that would be sent by email each week beginning January 1.
If you feel this would be valuable information to you, please sign up here. And please spread the word to others!
Thank you for your consideration.
REAL Democracy History Calendar
1799 – Death of George Washington, first President of the United States of America – need for coercive power
“We probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation. Experience has taught us that men will not adopt and carry into execution measures the best calculated for their own good, without the intervention of a coercive power,” said George. According to historian Charles Beard in “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States,” Washington was probably the richest man in the colonies at the time of the Revolution.
1896 – Covington & L. Turnpike Road Co. v. Sandford (164 U.S. 578) Supreme Court decision – corporations are persons
The Court declared, “it is now settled that corporations are persons, within the meaning of the constitutional provisions forbidding the deprivation of property without due process of law, as well as a denial of the equal protection of the laws.”
1791 – Ratification of the Bill of Rights
The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution were adopted to protect We the People from excesses of government and to affirm certain inalienable rights of human beings. At the time, however, We the People were only white males who owned property and were over 21 years old. Each state decided how much property must be owned to qualify to vote or run for office
1986 – Justice William Brennan delivered opinion of Supreme Court in Federal Election Committee v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc. (479 U.S. 238) – spending by corporations in elections may make them formidable power
“Direct corporate spending on political activity raised the prospect that resources amassed in the economic marketplace may be used to provide an unfair advantage in the political marketplace…The resources in the treasury of a business corporation…are not an indication of popular support for the corporation's political ideas. The availability of these resources may make a corporation a formidable political presence, even though the power of the corporation may be no reflection of the power of its ideas."
1773 – Colonists stage Boston Tea Party to protest British Tea Act
Parliament passed the Tea Act, which provided the East India Trading Company complete access to the colonies and exempted it from paying taxes to the colonies – increasing the profits to company stockholders, which included Parliament members and the King. This undercut colonial tea merchants who were required to pay taxes on tea.
Boston Tea Party participants saw themselves as anti-corporate protestors. Their call for “no taxation without representation” was not one against paying taxes, but rather an insistence that every entity – including the East India Company – should pay their fair share and that no entity should be taxed without governmental representation.
1964 – Death of Alexander Meiklejohn, Philosopher and Educator – on 1st Amendment and freedom threatened by dominant business enterprises
The 1st Amendment "does not intend to guarantee men freedom to say what some private interest pays them to say for its own advantage. It intends only to make men free to say what, as citizens, they think.”
“[I]nsofar as a society is dominated by the attitudes of competitive business enterprise, freedom in its proper American meaning cannot be known, and hence, cannot be taught. That is the basic reason why the schools and colleges, which are, presumably, commissioned to study and promote the ways of freedom are so weak, so confused, so ineffectual.”
1882 – Death of Henry James, Sr. – on democracy
"Democracy is not so much a new form of political life as a dissolution and disorganization of the old forms. It is simply a resolution of government into the hands of the people…”
2009 – Publication this month of article, “People as Property: Criminalizing Color, Dissent and Impoverishment through the Prison-Industrial Complex” by Karen Coulter, principal of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD)
“Slavery and involuntary servitude were supposedly abolished by the 13th amendment to the Constitution. However, the amendment reads that slavery and involuntary servitude shall no longer exist in the U.S. ‘except as punishment for crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted’…Then there are the investors in the prison industry: American Express Corporation invested millions in private prison construction in Oklahoma; General Electric Corporation financed prison construction in Tennessee; Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, and other Wall Street investment firms made big profits by underwriting prison construction with the sale of tax-exempt bonds, a 2.3 billion dollar industry as of 1997. Some of the largest Wall Street investment corporations started buying bonds and securities from private prison corporations in the '90's and reselling them for profit to individual investors, mutual funds and others, literally speculating in the growth of locking up more and more people. The rise of the prison industrial complex can be accurately seen as part of a profound transformation restructuring U.S. economic development and its forms of social control. Philip Wood identifies corporate colonization of decision-making structures as a key element of the changes in U.S. public policy supporting the expansion and privatization of the prison industry.” http://www.poclad.org/BWA/2009/BWA_2009_DEC.html
REAL Democracy History Calendar
1885 – Corporate lawyers claim railroad corporation’s 14th Amendment rights violated
In San Mateo v. Southern Pacific R. Co., 13 F. 722 (C.C.D. Cal. 1882), corporate lawyers attacked a provision of the California Constitution that assessed higher property taxes against railroad corporations than against non-corporate properties. The attorneys charged that the state violated the railroad’s “rights” under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The parties settled the case before the Supreme Court announced a decision; however, the argument would be used one year later in what would become the very first time corporations were granted 14th Amendment “rights” by the Supreme Court in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 US 394.
1970 – Birth of Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) – politicians are open to the highest bidder
“Lobbyists and career politicians today make up what I call the Washington Cartel. … [They] on a daily basis are conspiring against the American people. … [C]areer politicians’ ears and wallets are open to the highest bidder.”
1913 – Congress passes Federal Reserve Act – Creating Federal Reserve System
The Act created a largely corporate controlled national banking and currency system, passed in the House by 298-60 and in the Senate by 43-25 and signed by President Wilson on this day. It was a major coup for banking corporations through the establishment of a private central bank authorized to "monetize" government debt (i.e. to print their own money and exchange it for government securities or I.O.U.'s). The central banking system was composed of 12 regional private/corporate banks owned by participating commercial banks. All national banks were required to join the system. Banking corporations now controlled the issuance and distribution of our national currency. By controlling our national money faucet, they could create inflation and deflation. This corporate monopolization of our currency allowed for public regulation, but not control. It was now banking corporations, not the U.S. government, that controlled the national currency. Congress handed its Constitutional power under Article 1, Section 8 to create our money over to private banking corporations. It’s the ultimate form of “privatization” – more accurately “corporatization” – of what was meant to be, and should be a public function or service.
1962 – Birth of David Cobb, national Outreach Director for Move to Amend and principal of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD)
Cobb debated James Bopp in September, 2014 at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN on “Citizens Divided: Corporate Money, Speech, and Politics.” Bopp is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech and was lead attorney for Citizens United, the group that argued their corporate 1st Amendment “speech rights were violated when prevented to air a political program just prior to the election.”
The “debate” turned out to be one-sided – with Cobb presenting a much stronger case for why corporations should not be granted “personhood” rights and money should not be granting “free speech” rights than Bopp arguing the reverse.
Watch the debate at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijSsZdCatTM
2015 – Christmas – Jesus attacks “money changers”
Celebrated birth of Jesus Christ in Christian calendar.
In his only public act of violence, Jesus drove the “money changers” with a whip of chords out of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem, which he called “my Father’s house.”
Modern-day money changers are banking corporations – the most economically and politically dominant of all corporations. They have captured our most sacred democratic “house” – our government. They, too, along with all other corporations, need to be driven out of our government.
2015 – Boxing Day - corporate personhood, money equals free speech and U.S. Constitution “boxes” activists into small spaces of what is doable
“Boxing Day” is an annual holiday celebrated in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations. Traditionally, it was when servants or employees would receive gifts from their bosses or employers in “Christmas boxes.”
Many Supreme Court decisions anointing corporations as legal “persons” and money as “free speech,” as well as many limitations of the U.S. Constitution (i.e. no direct election of President, no national initiative provision, no definition of economic rights, among many others) have been anything but gifts to individuals striving for real democracy. They have, rather, “boxed” activists into ever-smaller spaces concerning what laws and regulations can be passed. Unable to limit the amount of money in elections from individuals and corporate entities and incapable of preventing corporations from asserting Bill of Rights protections, the super wealthy and corporate entities have captured greater portions of public policies and public spaces and, in turn, shrinking these public arenas for the vast majority of citizens.
For background on limitations of and possibilities for a more democratic Constitution, see http://poclad.org/BWA/2007/BWA_2007_DEC.html and http://poclad.org/BWA/2007/BWA_2007_MAR.html#3
1907 – Death of John Chandler Bancroft Davis – unilateral action yielded first Supreme Court corporate “personhood” decision
Davis played a historical role in the corporate personhood debate. As the court reporter in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (118 U.S. 394, 1886), his responsibility was to prepare ‘a summary-of-the-case commentary.’ He wrote in the headnote to the decision that Chief Justice Morrison Waite began his oral argument of the court’s opinion by stating, ‘The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”
Davis’ published reports and notes from 1885-1886 contained his views on the Santa Clara case: ‘The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Thom Hartman and other journalists and authors charged Davis with a conflict of interest as previous President of the Newburgh and New York Railway in his role in the Supreme Court ruling. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bancroft_Davis
REAL Democracy History Calendar
1856 – Birth of Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States of America – on the need for corporations and government to work together
“Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process.“ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/09/usa-sponsored-terrorism-mid-east-since-least-1948.html
1947 – Birth of Spencer Bachus, former Republican Chair of the US House Financial Services Committee – regulators serve banks
"In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks."
2014 – Big money breaks out: Top 100 donors give almost as much as 4.75 million small donors combined
“The 100 biggest campaign donors gave $323 million in 2014 — almost as much as the $356 million given by the estimated 4.75 million people who gave $200 or less,” a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance filings found.
‘When 100 big donors give as much almost 5 million small donors, with whom do we expect candidates to spend their time, and whose interests do we think they will represent?’ McKinnen asked. ‘That’s not democracy. That’s oligarchy.’”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/top-political-donors-113833#ixzz3ta7ebjxE
2011 – Pittsburgh City Council passes resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood
The resolution also called for returning elections to the American people.
1945 – Birth of Harvey Wasserman – exposes fraudulent electronic voting machines
Wasserman is an anti-nuclear and safe energy activist, journalist and senior editor of the Columbus Free Press. He has co-authored numerous articles with Bob Fitrakis on election fraud of elections since 2000, with special emphasis on the 2000 and 2004 election results in Ohio.
Wasserman and Fritakis have recently written.
“The way our electoral process now stands, electronic voting machines guarantee a Republican victory in 2016…
“Source codes remain "proprietary," so the public has no control over the private machines on which our allegedly democratic elections are conducted. There is no usable paper trail, transparency or accountability.
“We are concerned that all voters get fair access to the polls, and all votes are fairly counted, no matter who the candidate. We have no doubt the Democratic Party would be just as willing to flip elections from Republicans as vice versa, and that both have, can and will do the same to the Green Party and other challengers.
“So we support universal hand-counted paper ballots, automatic universal voter registration, a four-day national holiday for voting, major restrictions on campaign spending and a wide range of additional reforms meant to guarantee some kind of democracy in the United States.”
Featured Poclad Article
The Fourth of July Like You’ve Never Seen it Before
by Mike Ferner
This year, sit back with your favorite beverage, prop up your feet, and open your head to consider Independence Day in a whole new way.
Previously, a POCLAD article about the American Revolution would usually relate how the democratic promises of the Declaration were left unfulfilled at the war’s end and a very undemocratic constitution was adopted six years later.
We would likely list how the new constitution abandoned the ideals stated in the Declaration such as: “all men (sic) are created equal” and have unassailable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We would cite that:
Slaves weren’t included in “We the People,” they were only the property of their owners, much like a mule or a bale of cotton. Because this human property, unlike bales of cotton or mules, could plan to run away, particular attention was paid to securing it. Any person “held to service or labor in one state…escaping to another…shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” (Art. IV, sec. 2)
To appease Southerners interested in gaining the maximum number of seats in the new House of Representatives, the Fathers of Our Country declared, in writing, that these “other persons” (slaves) would each count as three-fifths of a human. (Art. I, sec. 2)
Women did not have the right to vote, nor did Catholics and Jews in some states. White, Protestant, men had to own qualifying amounts of property. Thus, only about 6% of the new nation’s population was eligible to vote in the first presidential election and only 1.3%, or 38,818 people actually did.
Those 38,818 people didn’t actually vote for a presidential candidate, but for “electors” who pledged to vote for certain candidates and even then, in four states legislatures picked the presidential electors, not voting citizens.
State legislatures, not citizens, chose U.S. Senators until the Constitution was amended in 1913.
Clearly, there are reasons to ask what the Founders of Our Country were up to and what the fireworks are all about.
But this year, let’s investigate a further question: was a war the only or even the best way to achieve what we now see was more limited than what we were taught?
Who better to proffer that question than the people’s historian, Howard Zinn?
In articles and speeches, including this one in Wellfleet, Massachusetts in September, 2009, Zinn provided his final, giant contribution just four months before he died, by examining what he called America’s “Three Holy Wars,” specifically the Revolution, the Civil War and World War Two, “Three wars in American history that are untouchable, uncriticizable…” as he characterized them.
His theme is that we need to do something never done in history textbooks: put each of these wars on its own balance sheet – costs on one side, benefits on the other – and then make a judgment.
If something’s unquestioned, it means we’re not thinking about it, Zinn said. But the historian was quick to add that his reason for doing so is not to learn what ‘really happened’ in the past. “The past is past,” he exclaimed. “The important thing is what does it tell us about today…and about what we might do in the world? There’s a present and a future reason for going into the past.”
Without that examination, he said, we and our grandchildren will be prone to accept wars as possibly good. “Because once you have a history of ‘good wars’ fought for good causes to point to, you have a model…it’s possible to have good wars. And maybe this is one of them”
If you question the good wars you undermine the possibility of having a good war.
The acknowledged “bad wars” like Vietnam and Iraq are justified by pointing to the “good war.” Words like “We mustn’t appease Saddam Hussein. Munich. Chamberlain. Ho Chi Minh is another Hitler,” come back to us in the buildup to every war. They suggest that maybe we need another “good war.”
Typically we only look at one side of the balance sheet: what was gained – in this case independence from Britain – and ignore the cost. Rarely do we hear how many people were killed in the Revolution. “We won independence. It’s insignificant.”
So how many were killed? Perhaps 25,000 or even 50,000. “You probably know by now that casualty figures in war are very crude,” Zinn remarked. “There’ll be disagreements up to a million – how many people died in Vietnam? I think two million. Or maybe three million. We’re not sure.”
25,000 is not many soldiers killed, he added. It’s less than half the number of U.S. troops killed in Viet Nam. But what would 25,000 mean relative to today’s population? 2,500,000 dead. Today, would we think it’s worth sacrificing two and a half million people? “Might you not say, ‘Well, we want independence, but is there another way?’”
If we do that for each of these “good wars” at least then you have an honest balance sheet and you can make a decision. “Especially if none of those 2.5 million people are related to you,” Zinn said.
Beyond casualties, there are other factors that should go on the balance sheet? For example, who gains from victory in war?
With a smile the historian said, “Governments would like us to believe we all gain from a war. That’s not necessarily true. Did black slaves gain from the Revolutionary War? Slavery before the war. Slavery after the war. You would think blacks would rush to the colors if they were fighting for their freedom, but Washington didn’t want blacks in the army. Washington, Madison, Jefferson, all slave owners, aren’t going to promise freedom. The British did. Only after the British began to enlist blacks did the Continental Army slowly enlist blacks.”
(Indeed, POCLAD and others argue that an important motivation for the Revolution happened in England in 1772, when Lord Mansfield ruled in Somerset v Stewart that a slave, James Somerset, who had escaped after being taken to England by his master, could not be forced back into slavery.)
“What about the people already here, the Indians,” Zinn asked? With independence, the colonists won the ability to go westward, beyond the Appalachian line set by the British in the Proclamation of 1763. “Not because they were being nice, because they didn’t want trouble.”
So what do the Indians gain? It’s worse than nothing. After the Revolution that line was wiped out and we spent the next century taking over the rest of the continent, Zinn reminded his listeners.
Did working people and poor people benefit from the Revolution? Did they rush to Washington’s army? “No. Poor people had to be conscripted. They could avoid conscription by paying a fee, a practice begun with the Revolution that was carried over to the Civil War. Poor white people weren’t eager to join the army, but they were promised land if they won. And much like today, a young man from a tough background, not knowing what the future will bring, might join the army. You get a uniform, a gun, some status, maybe some medals, a little land.”
After they joined, many found they weren’t treated well. They found the officers got good clothes and shoes and food and paid a salary. As a result there were mutinies. “How many of you learned that in school,” Zinn asked, adding that all through his education up to a Ph.D., he didn’t.
“Thousands mutinied. Washington had to deal with it. He made concessions. And when smaller mutinies happened, he rounded up the leaders and had them shot by their fellow mutineers.
All this is to say that the Revolutionary War, like all wars, was a class war. But we’re not supposed to bring that up. “We’re all one class, all one patriotic body. No. Wars affect us all differently,” Zinn reminded.
After the Revolution, in Western Massachusetts, the land given to veterans was taxed beyond their ability to pay. Confiscations began and so did Shays Rebellion in 1786. Thousands rebelled and an army raised by the rich merchants of Boston put it down, Zinn related. “But it raised the question for whom was the war fought? Who was betrayed by it?” And the next year the constitutional convention convened to give us a strong central government.
The founding fathers were worried about Shay’s Rebellion and Massachusetts wasn’t the only place in revolt. Gen. Henry Knox wrote to warn Washington that thousands were beginning to demand an equal share of the wealth gained by the Revolution.
In the shadow of Shay’s and in fear of future rebellions, the Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia in 1787. A strong central government was set up “not just because it’s nice to have a strong central government,” Zinn said, alluding to history text explanations, “but to be able to suppress rebellions” by workers and slaves, and to protect settlers moving into Indian territory. (It should be noted that conventioneers met originally to amend our original constitution, the Articles of Confederation. Once together, however, they ditched the Articles with the more top-down and property-friendly constitution that we’re familiar with today.)
Then Zinn asked a key question about our first “Holy War:” could we have put something good on the positive side of the balance sheet without that human cost? Could we have won independence without a war?
“If something has happened a certain way in history, we assume that’s the only way it could have unfolded,” he said. But unless we use our imagination, “we’re going to be stuck doing the same thing over and over.”
In this particular case, we have more than just imagination to guide us.
The year before Lexington and Concord, farmers in 90% of Massachusetts, everywhere except Boston, had nonviolently driven out British officials. Zinn cites the work of historian Ray Raphael, author of “The First American Revolution: Before Lexington and Concord,” describing how nonviolent action made that state ungovernable. “When a place becomes impossible to govern even imperial powers withdraw because they can’t control the situation,” Zinn explained.
To close this POCLAD examination of Independence Day, it’s worth quoting Raphael at length, from the Journal of the American Revolution.
On September 6, 1774, at dawn and through the morning, militia companies from 37 rural townships across Worcester County marched into the shiretown (county seat) of Worcester. By an actual headcount taken by Breck Parkman, one of the participants, there were 4,622 militiamen, about half the adult male population of the sprawling rural county. This was not some ill-defined mob but the military embodiment of the people, and they had a purpose: to close the courts, the outposts of British authority in this far reach of the Empire.
Lining both sides of Main Street for a quarter mile, the insurgents forced two dozen court officials to walk the gauntlet, hats in hand, reciting their recantations more than thirty times each so everyone could hear. The wording was strong: the officials would cede to the will of the people and promise never to execute “the unconstitutional act of the British parliament” (the Massachusetts Government Act) that would “reduce the inhabitants … to mere arbitrary power.” With this humiliating submission, all British authority vanished from Worcester County, never to return.
So too in every shiretown save Boston: some 1,500 patriots in Great Barrington, 3,000 in Springfield, and so on. In Plymouth, 4,000 militiamen were so pumped up after unseating British rule that they gathered around Plymouth Rock and tried to move it to the courthouse to display their power. The rock stood where it was, but British authority was gone from Plymouth and every other town. The disgruntled Southampton Tory Jonathan Judd, Jr., summed it all up: “Government has now devolved upon the people, and they seem to be for using it.”
Raphael’s comment following Knox’ letter sums beautifully what POCLAD has been about for 25 years: it’s not enough to just react to corporate harm after corporate harm. We have to become self-governing. As Raphael put it: “They rose up as a body, not just to protest Crown and Parliament, but to displace their authority.”
Ferner is a POCLAD principal and former national President of Veterans For Peace.
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