Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ending Corporate Personhood

Way back in 2002, Congress passed the bi-partisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly referred to as McCain–Feingold in reference to its primary sponsors. One of the provisions of McCain–Feingold prohibited corporations (for-profit, nonprofit, unions, etc.) from broadcasting “electioneering communications” either for or against a particular candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary.

Last year (January 2010), the Supreme Court struck down that provision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on the grounds that it violated their first amendment rights to free speech. While there have been many laws and court decisions over the years that have treated corporations like people or citizens, Citizens United was never-the-less a landmark in overtly saying that the protections of the Bill of the Rights are explicitly applied to corporations as well as people.

Justice Stevens, in his dissenting opinion, wrote:
At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding... It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense.
In the nearly two years since then, many have talked about the need to over-turn this decision. Part of that is the movement to amend the Constitution to be clear that corporations are not people, and are not entitled to the same rights and protections as persons, and that money is not speech!

To learn more about this movement, and add your name to the petition, see

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupying This Blog

I have been having many conversations with friends the last few weeks about the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and have been down to take part in Occupy Santa Cruz for a few hours at a time on a couple of occasions, so it seems fitting I should finally post something here as well.

Part of what I have found surprising is that some of the friends who I would have expected to be the most supportive of this movement have been the most skeptical of it, while I see support coming from a few unlikely quarters.

Some of my associates who have been with me through a few decades of protests, from the anti-nuclear movement to trying to prevent and/or end a few wars, are impatient with the "start-up phase" and distrustful of some of the younger leaders of the Occupations. But what gives me hope is the support from people who've never been a part of any mass movement, but who are now ready to take a stand.

I find myself frustrated with those who have bought the mainstream media line that "there's no message." Spend any amount of time at your local Occupation and it's quite clear that this is about economic justice. Within that theme, there are specifics around a fair tax code, re-regulation of the banks and bringing the crooks behind the foreclosure crisis to justice, and the end of corporate personhood.

But, even if it weren't that clear, what does anybody expect from a movement that's barely a month old? On top of that, a movement that's based on consensus and democracy, without clear pre-existing leadership? I'm actually pretty amazed at the success of the OWS movement so far, with over 1,000 local occupations in support of the original in NYC.

I feel the greatest success is simply that people are talking about the protests and economic justice. People have discovered that they are not alone; there are millions of us who are angry but are not represented by the tea partiers. And, they are willing to take to the streets to return democracy to the people.

The media would prefer that there be one spokesperson with whom they are already familiar and whose staff is already in their speed-dial. They don't like the messiness of consensus building among large groups. It takes time, and can be endlessly frustrating. But nobody promised that revolution would be easy or pretty.

Remember, it took the Continental Congress two years to get around to passing that Declaration of Independence. I'm willing to give the Occupy movement a few more months before being disappointed that they failed to change the world.

A couple of obligatory links:
* Who are "the 99%" who are protesting?
* Where can I find Occupy (My Town)?

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