Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Fight of Our Lives

Free Speech for People as been in the forefront in fighting for a Peoples' Amendment to overturn Citizens United and to put to rest once and for all the absurd notion that corporations are people. Recently, George Will wrote a column comparing their efforts to infanticide! Rep Jim McGovern who is leading the charge to defend democracy from the corrosive influence of unlimited, secret political donations responded. So far the Wall St Journal refuses to print it. Sign on to support The Peoples' Amendment and share with your friends-

Jim McGovern

Defenders of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United and the ascendant Corporate Rights doctrine that underlies it must be getting nervous.  Why else would George Will resort to arguing, as he so outrageously does (“A Scythe Against Free Speech, May 6) that the bipartisan People’s Rights Amendment I have introduced in the House is “comparable” to condoning infanticide?

A large majority of Americans believe that corporations exert too much influence on our daily lives and our political process.  A Hart Research poll released last year found that nearly four in five (79%) of registered voters support passage of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  Resolutions calling for such an amendment have passed in several states and cities across the country.  Eleven state attorneys general have written to Congress demanding action.

We are already witnessing the corrosive effects of Citizens United: an election system awash in a sea of millions of dollars in unregulated money, drowning out the voices of individual citizens.  Politicians are increasingly beholden to wealthy special interests.  A multi-national oil company that doesn’t like a particular member of Congress can now simply write a big, undisclosed check to “Americans for Apple Pie and Puppies” and watch the negative advertisements work their magic.

But the effects of the Corporate Rights doctrine go far beyond campaign finance.  A Vermont law to require that milk products derived from cows treated with bovine growth hormone be labeled to disclose that information was struck down as a violation of the First Amendment.  A federal judge has found that tobacco companies have a free speech right that prevents the government from requiring graphic warning labels on cigarettes.  A pharmaceutical corporation has claimed that their corporate speech rights protect them from FDA rules prohibiting the marketing of a drug for “off-label” uses.

As Justice Stevens rightly noted in his dissent in Citizens United (and contrary to what Mr. Will would have us believe), the majority ruling was “a radical departure from what has been settled First Amendment Law.”  These corporate “rights” are relatively new, appearing in the last few decades.  They overturn centuries of established jurisprudence and national consensus.  The Supreme Court used to repeatedly affirm that the elected governments of the states and the nation could regulate corporations.  Chief Justice John Marshall described the corporate entity as “an artificial being … existing only in contemplation of law.”  No less an authority than James Madison viewed corporations as “a necessary evil” subject to “proper limitations and guards.”  Thomas Jefferson wished to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”  There is nothing “originalist” about the Corporate Rights doctrine, and it is no mere accident that the first three words of the preamble to our Constitution are “We the People.”

Mr. Will conjures up a nightmare scenario under the People’s Rights Amendment under which “newspapers, magazines, broadcasting entities, online journalism operations – and most religious institutions” would be stripped of all constitutional rights.  Wrong.  Those rights were properly secure before the modern fabrication of the Corporate Rights doctrine and would continue to flourish.  The people who make up those institutions, whether acting as individuals or in groups, would continue to enjoy the liberties we all hold dear and the Constitution enumerates.  Corporations would continue to have legal standing to advocate on behalf of the people associated with them.  But the fiction that an artificial corporate entity is itself entitled to the same rights of citizenship as people would come to an end.

Corporations are created by the people, acting through their governments.  We grant them corporate charters that confer certain legal rights and privileges, like the ability to enter into contracts, limited liability and perpetual life.  These rights serve an important and useful role in our economy.   But our most sacred rights – those enshrined in the Constitution – should be reserved for “We the People.”

Mr. Will says that “controversies can be wonderfully clarified when people follow the logic of illogical premises to perverse conclusions.”  Indeed.  By conflating a good-faith attempt to overturn Citizens United with the killing of newborn babies, banning political speech and regulating religious practices, his column demonstrates the lengths to which the supporters of the Corporate Rights doctrine will go to protect their newfound gains.

Jim McGovern is a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts.

Looks like Will forgot that overturning Citizens United is the will of the people!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NATO Protest- What Wasn't Covered!

Protesters march down Michigan Ave. in Chicago during this weekend's NATO summit Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Photo -

Up to 75,000 people descended on Chicago to protest NATO, endless war, climate change and  economic injustice this past weekend, but MSM talked about hundreds of protestors and there were few, if any images I could see showing the breadth and passion of these protests. Veterans were a leading force and many used the occasion to throw their medals away, including Scott Olsen, the Iraq veteran who was seriously wounded by Oakland police at an Occupy demonstration last Fall.

Three young men were arrested preemptively on the eve of the NATO summit and charged with planning violent actions. Some reports said materials for Molotov cocktails were found, others say it was beer making equipment. There are also reports of entrapment, so the facts are not clear. Here is another take on it from OWS.  CNN has reported this as "Terror Plot in Chicago Foiled". These are guys with no criminal record (one was drunk once and swam in a school pool) and now they will be tried as "terrorists".

The media have also said the police deserve high marks for the way they handled the protests, but many peaceful protestors would disagree, including reporters who were beaten and had cameras smashed.

Lastly, here is a great images of nurses using the Robin Hood theme at the summit to make a plea for economic justice! God Bless all the nurses!

National Nurses United protest fires up in Daley Plaza. (Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)
The fact is thousands of nurses, teachers, veterans, students, occupiers, religious groups, union members and others simply fed up with our corrupt system that continues to pour billions into death and destruction while our infrastructure and middle class crumble- took to the streets in a largely peaceful way in Chicago to demand change. This happened and it will only grow bigger whether MSM covers it or not.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bank of America Protest in Poughkeepsie!

Thanks you to Betty Olson who hosted this gathering and to all who came to express their outrage at the illegal, unfair and immoral practices of the Bank of America.

We protested in solidarity with hundreds who converged on Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte, NC for their annual shareholder meeting. Actions happened at Bank of America branches all over the country. This one was organized by the Ulster County MoveOn Council.

The article referenced in the video can be seen in its entirety here- after reading it, all you can do is scream "Hold the banksters accountable!" After the Savings and Loan scandal almost 1,000 bankers went to jail. It needs to happen this time too, or we are just creating conditions for another and much worse economic collapse.

"Bank of America has systematically ripped off almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, depositors, homeowners, shareholders, pensioners and taxpayers. It brought tens of thousands of Americans to foreclosure court using bogus, "robo-signed" evidence – a type of mass perjury that it helped pioneer. It hawked worthless mortgages to dozens of unions and state pension funds, draining them of hundreds of millions in value. And when it wasn't ripping off workers and pensioners, it was helping to push insurance giants like AMBAC into bankruptcy by fraudulently inducing them to spend hundreds of millions insuring those same worthless mortgages."

Read more:

AND tell the president that 55 investigators are NOT enough- Based on other investigations and the scope of these crimes we need 20 times that- 

Many thanks to Peter Olson, Betty's husband, for these photos from the day!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fracking Nightmare, No to Torture

People living in the Pavillion area of Wyoming complained of water contamination for years. "Their well waters took on a chemical stink around the time that fracking picked up in their neighborhood about eight years ago." (AP, May 3, 2012) ) They gave up on state officials who ignored them and took their complaints to the EPA. The EPA found contaminants at high concentrations likely as a result of fracking. Two monitoring wells showed the carcinogen benzene at 50 times the EPA limit and potassium hydroxide a chemical used in fracking.

Now an AP investigation shows that the Wyoming government persuaded the EPA to postpone the announcement linking fracking to groundwater they could mount a rebuttal. Eleven thousand emails show that even those trying to debunk the report had doubts about how effective their objections would be. They also show that their primary concern was a financial one. Fracking is a $7.7 billion industry in Wyoming representing 20% of the state's GDP.  Read more.

This disgusting billboard brought to you by the Koch brothers funded Heartland Institute- which says "most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants and madmen." Hey Koch brothers- Your desperation is showing!

Torture Does NOT Work
Jose Rodriguez has been peddling his book about how great torture is. He is the one who ordered the CIA tapes showing agents torturing detainees destroyed against instructions from CIA lawyers and the White House. The then CIA executive director, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo said Rodriguez destroyed the tapes because "they would make us look terrible; it would be devastating to us."

Professional interrogators say torture makes detainees more resistant and leads to false information.
President Obama said in a speech early in his presidency that even when London was being "bombed to smithereens" and the British government held 100's of Nazi agents, Churchill said that torture was never permissible.

"Tell the Senate to Release the Real Book on Torture"- The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence 4,000 page report on CIA interrogation practices. Let's set the record straight and educate people like Mitt Romney who believe torture works (proponents now like to call it EIT- a step away from enhanced interrogation technique, a step away from what it is- torture).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

World Rising! (and Some Mind Boggling Facts)

May Day in Madrid- tens of thousands protesting austerity measures                                        AP image
Protestors lay down flowers in front of Oakland police    Image Occupy Wall St
The 99% take over Broadway in NYC            James Fassinger, The Guardian
You would never know it from watching mainstream media, but tens of thousands took to the streets in the US and in countries all over the world on Tuesday, International Workers' Day, to demand an end to austerity measures (in Europe), better wages, immigrant rights and overall fairness for the 99%!

May Day has been associated with workers' rights for over a century. Occupy called for a general strike- a day without the 99%. Locally, there was a march from Vassar to the Poughkeepsie Family Partnership. Organizers asked people to wear white to celebrate "the spirit behind the shared struggles of workers and immigrants for dignified living conditions and basic human rights." If anyone has photos please share them!

The Oakland Police Dept fired multiple rounds of tear gas and flash bang grenades on the protestors there, even though they were laying flowers at their feet. Ironically, on that same day, a federal judge ordered the city of Oakland and its police to submit a plan to address how they handled Occupy protests last Fall. A report by an outside monitor said the police used "an overwhelming military-type response" during the demonstrations. OPD received over 1,000 misconduct complaints during the Occupy protests.

Facts that Boggle the Mind

Thanks to the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizen United decision, 96% of all contributions to Super PACs were of $10,000 or more and made by 1,097 people- which means that .00035% of the population will have an undo influence on our elections.

The Tennessee GOP is firmly in crazy land. The state House passed a bill that characterizes  miscarriage as murder and the House Education Committee passed a Don't Say Gay bill that can imprison a teacher for talking about LGBT issues. It is now law in Tennessee that creationism can be taught as an "alternative scientific theory" and the state Senate passed a bill that categorizes hand holding as a gateway sexual activity. But perhaps worst of all, some Tennessee lawmakers oppose an anti-cyber bullying bill. One said suicides of teens was not caused by bullying but by bad parenting.

The Texas Attorney General said Planned Parenthood is essentially a terrorist organization.

US drone strikes have killed 3,000 including hundreds of civilians and many are in countries we are not at war with- Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. In this country, metropolitan police and county sheriffs are acquiring drones for SWAT operations, which have the capability of having grenade launchers and 12 gauge shotguns mounted on them.

Eighty percent of all antibiotics in the US end up in the livestock people eat, creating antibiotic resistant bacteria that kill tens of thousands each year. The antibiotics stimulate growth and are needed because of the cramped, filthy conditions of factory farms. They also add arsenic to chicken feed to obtain the pink color consumers like. Scientists also found the active ingredient in Tylenol and Benedryl, Prozac (to reduce the anxiety of their hellish lives) and caffeine (to keep them awake at night so they eat and fatten up). Eat organic, go vegetarian, go vegan! End Factory Farming!

Tennessee doesn't have a monopoly on outlandish legislation. In North Carolina, Republicans are pushing Amendment 1, the gay marriage ban that would also ban any cohabitation without marriage. An assistant district attorney says it would also remove vital domestic violence protections. This past Sunday, churches preached for passage of Amendment 1 (if they are doing politics why do they get a tax exemption?). One pastor was caught telling parents to punch "girly" four year olds and to "break their limp wrists".

What do Gov Rick Perry, Justice Scalia, a Utah republican senator and Utah republican candidate for Senate have in common? They all want to to repeal the 17th amendment so Americans would not be able to elect their own senators! They would be elected by state legislators instead.

A leading bee research firm blamed pesticides for bee colony collapse. Monsanto's GM Round Up Ready crops have increased pesticide use. Monsanto bought the bee research firm.

At least 50% of shrimp in one area of the Gulf are born with no eyes or eye sockets. There are also many other deformities, like tumors on fish heads, claw-less crabs, and fish with lesions. Fishermen, scientists and seafood processors say they have never seen anything like it. BP says the abnormalities have always been there.

On April 18 the House Agricultural Com passed a bill that would end free school meals for 280,000 children.

Action is the antidote to despair! Get involved, stay informed, educate others, take to the streets!