REAL Democracy History Calendar – December 5 – 11

December 5

1782 – Birth of Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the US – on MONEY POWER
“The MONEY POWER… when firmly established, was destined to become the only kind of an Aristocracy that could exist in our political system.” (Note: Van Buren always capitalized “MONEY POWER” when using the term, which he used to describe banking corporations).

Van Buren was Vice President when President Jackson refused to support the rechartering of the private, misnamed “Second Bank of the United States” – the nation’s central bank at the time (equivalent in some ways to the Federal Reserve Bank of today). The Bank had been originally chartered in 1816 for 20 years. A corporate charter was considered then a democratic tool, a means for the public to define the actions of a corporation to ensure it remained subordinate to meeting public needs (something “We the People” have forgotten today).

2011 – “Grassroots movement fights against corporate money in politics,” Dylan Ratigan Show, msnbc.
Mary Beth Fielder of ‘Move to Amend’ previews the Los Angeles City Council vote on a resolution that calls on Congress to amend the Constitution and clearly establish that only living, breathing humans are afforded Constitutional rights. The resolution passed, and Los Angeles became the first major U.S. city to declare that corporations aren’t people.

December 6

1865 – States ratify 13th Amendment to US Constitution – slavery (for the most part) is abolished
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Slavery is abolished – except for prisoners. This “exception clause” resulted in the widespread “convict lease” system throughout the South following the Civil War. Tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested under “Black Codes” (which criminalized legal activity of African Americans) and then leased to private corporations (i.e. coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries, and farm plantations). This system was abolished in the early 20th century.

Court decisions have held that inmates are not protected by the constitutional prohibition against involuntary servitude and may be required to work.

It’s estimated between 600,000 and 1 million inmates work full-time in jails and prisons in the U.S.
Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR and FPI, is a wholly owned United States government corporation created in 1934 that uses penal labor from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to produce goods and services for federal government agencies. This includes products made on behalf of military arms manufacturers to be marked up in cost and sold to the United States military.

At least 37 states have enacted laws permitting the use of convict labor by private corporations.

December 7

1941 – Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor, U.S. enters World War II – US corporations conspire with enemy
The Japanese attack on the U.S naval base at Pearl Harbor led the US to declare war on Japan and later Germany and Italy. Despite these nations being deemed “the enemy,” several major U.S. corporations collaborated with them, especially Nazi Germany. Nazi collaborators included IBM, Standard Oil, Kodak, Chase Bank, and Coca Cola.

December 8

1993 – NAFTA signed into law by President Bill Clinton
Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that requires the removal of most tariffs and restrictions on trade between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Under NAFTA a corporation can sue a foreign government and can force the taxpayers of the defendant nation to pay the corporation for any profits it might have earned if the nation had not passed laws that “restricted free trade.” NAFTA expanded the “rights” of multinational corporations, giving them even greater powers than many sovereign governments

1998 – Article details how corporation used its “Civil Rights” to force cell tower erection
The article “Activist Electrifies Wellfleet Tower Opposition,” published this day in Cape Cod News, describes how the Omnipoint Corporation threatened to file a lawsuit under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to force the erection of a cell tower in Wellfleet on Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts.
“Citizens had organized against the tower being placed in the steeple of the First Congregational Church, located in the middle of town, based on human health concern.
“The Planning Board voted against the tower. Omnipoint Corporation threatened a lawsuit if the decision was not reversed, saying its “civil rights” were being violated.
“After meeting with lawyers for the Town and the Corporation behind closed doors, the Planning Board reversed itself.
“Town selectman Dale Donovan described the result of the Corporation’s wielding judicially granted constitutional rights:
“Our legal counsel said, ‘You’re dead in the water on this one.’ How much of the people’s money can we spend to defend something? There’s legislation at the federal level, and you can no longer defend the principle without saying we’re going to have to throw $250,000 at something. It’s really a problem and a burden for small towns everywhere.”

December 9

1731 – Birth of Edward Thurlow, Lord Chancellor, Great Britain – corporations do as they like
“Corporations have neither bodies to be punished, nor souls to be condemned; they therefore do as they like.”

December 10

1890 – Wyoming Territory extends voting rights to women
The Territory became the first to grant women the right to vote. Other western states and territories followed: Colorado 1893, Utah 1896, Idaho 1896, Washington 1910, California 1911, Arizona 1912, Kansas 1912, Oregon 1912, Montana 1914, Nevada 1914, New York 1917, Michigan 1918, Oklahoma 1918, South Dakota 1918.

1923 – The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) first introduced in Congress
Co-written by suffragette Alice Paul, the ERA was designed to guarantee equal rights for women. It was subsequently introduced in every session of Congress through 1970, but almost never reached the floor of Congress for a vote.

It finally passed both houses of Congress in 1972. It was ratified by 35 states, 3 short of the number necessary for adoption. Several groups continue to work for the Amendment.

1948 – Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The United Nation’s adoption of the UDHR was the first effort to express what many people believe are the rights that all human beings inherently possess.  The 30 articles cover economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights.  The UDHR formed the basis for ratification of the 1976 United Nations International Bill of Human Rights.

In none of these international agreements are corporations anointed with human rights.

December 11

1886 – Colored Farmers National Alliance and Cooperative Union was founded in Houston County, Texas
“The Colored Farmers National Alliance and Cooperative Union, was a Black political party, union and cooperative development agency that started in Texas, and spread throughout the South. It was so controversial that their leader was actually a white man because no Black man could have led it without being killed. Most of the Black organizers were underground, organizing secretly. They lasted less than 10 years but it was the largest Black organization until the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the 1920s.”

1922 – Corporations first granted 5th Amendment Bill of Rights protections by US Supreme Court
Corporations granted 5th Amendment “takings clause” rights in Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon (260 U.S. 393).

From the Move to Amend film “Legalize Democracy” on the decision: “If you pass a regulation that impacts a corporation’s ability to make a profit that is deemed a taking, they can sue for the right to future profits lost. This creates a chilling effect. Local and state governments become much more hesitant to pass laws in the public interest for fear that corporations can claim loss of potential profits that cities and states will be on the hook to pay.”

Corporations have used the takings clause ever since to oppose and thwart environmental laws. Takings compensation on an international scale is the basis for the expanding corporate rule agreements, misnamed “free trade” agreements, like NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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