REAL Democracy History Calendar – April 17 – 23

April 17

1905 – Lochner v. New York [198 U.S. 45] Supreme Court decision – use of the 14th Amendment to invalidate government regulation of corporations

The decision was one of the most controversial in the history of the Court. It concluded that “liberty of contract” was inferred in the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment (originally intended to apply to freed black slaves). The specific case involved the state of New York seeking to limit working hours to 10 per day and 60 each week. The Court rejected the claim that the law was needed to protect the health of workers, asserting that the labor law was an “”unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract.” In other words, the majority of Justices felt that the law inhibited the constitutional right of workers and employers to make contracts freely.

The implications were devastating. The decision shielded corporations from vast forms of government regulation. The Court invalidated approximately 200 economic regulations from 1905 until the mid-1930’s passed by legislators — usually under this interpretation of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment

April 18

1996 – Publication this month of “Corporations for the Seventh Generation: Changing the Ground Rules, Part 1” by Jane Anne Morris, corporate anthropologist and POCLAD principal

“What if…

• corporations were required to have a clear purpose, to be fulfilled but not exceeded;

• corporations’ licenses to do business were revocable by the state legislature if they exceeded or did not fulfill their chartered purpose(s);

• the state legislature could revoke a corporation’s charter for a particular reason, or for no reason at all;

• the act of incorporation did not relieve corporate management or stockholders/owners of responsibility or liability for corporate acts;

• as a matter of course, corporation officers, directors, or agents could be held criminally liable for violating the law;

• state (not federal) courts heard cases where corporations or their agents were accused of breaking the law or harming the public;

• directors of the corporation were required to come from among stockholders;

• corporations had to have their headquarters and meetings in the state where their principal place of business was located;

• corporation charters were granted for a specific period of time, like 20 or 30 years (instead of being granted “in perpetuity,” as is now the practice);

• corporations were prohibited from owning stock in other corporations in order to prevent them from extending their power inappropriately;

• corporations’ real estate holdings were limited to what was necessary to carry out their specific purpose(s);

• corporations were prohibited from making any political contributions, direct or indirect;

• corporations were prohibited from making charitable or civic donations outside of their specific purposes;

• state legislatures set the rates that corporations could charge for their products or services;

• all corporation records and documents were open to the legislature or the state attorney general?

All of these provisions were once law in the state of Wisconsin. And similar ones existed in most other states.”

From http://poclad.org/BWA/1996/BWA_1996_APR.html

April 19

1775 – Revolutionary War Begins

Shots fired and the subsequent battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. Colonists sought independence not only from the Crown (King), but also from the Crown’s military arm (Redcoats, which oppressed the colonists) and from the Crown’s economic/governing arms (Crown corporations, chartered by the King to conduct the King’s affairs in the colonies – which also oppressed). Examples included the Massachusetts Bay Company, the Carolina Company, the Maryland Company and the Virginia Company. The Revolution constitutionalized these corporations, transforming them into states or commonwealths. It also democratized “sovereignty” from rule by a single person to in principle We the People. In practice, only white, male property owners assumed power and rule.

2012 – Vermont Becomes First State to Call for Amendment Removing Corporations From Constitution

“[Other states] have passed resolutions against the Citizens United v. FEC ruling by the Supreme Court, but the Vermont resolution goes beyond simply overturning that case and aims to remove corporations from the constitution altogether and make clear that money is not speech and that campaign spending and political contributions can be regulated by government.”

http://movetoamend.org/press-release/vermont-legislature-calls-constitutional-amendment-end-corporate-personhood-and

April 20

1868 – Birth of John Hylan, New York City Mayor – corporations and their leaders like a giant octopus 

Hylan was Mayor of New York from 1918-1925. He said, “The real menace of our republic is this invisible government, which, like a giant octopus, sprawls its slimy length over city, state and nation. Like the octopus of real life, it operates under cover of a self created screen…At the head of this octopus are the Rockefeller Standard Oil interests and a small group of powerful banking houses generally referred to as international bankers. The little coterie of powerful international bankers virtually run the United States government for their own selfish purposes. They practically control both political parties.”

1920 – Birth of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

In his 2014 book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” Stevens proposed the following Constitutional Amendment:

“Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

April 21

1796 – Birth of Thomas Earle, U.S. journalist and lawyer – on power of Supreme Court  

Many citizens were outraged by the power of the Supreme Court, which they considered to be a direct  attack on the sovereignty of “We the People.”  In one protest pamphlet, journalist Thomas Earle penned:

“It is aristocracy and despotism, to have a body of officers, whose decisions are, for a long time, beyond the control of the people. The freemen of America ought not to rest contented, so long as their Supreme Court is a body of that character.”

April 22

1970 – Earth Day, birth of environmental movement

An estimated 20 million people took part across the US in marches, rallies, teach-ins and other public events to demonstrate support for the environment. Much of the environment’s deterioration/destruction from toxic and radioactive dumps, pesticides, wildlife extinction, air pollution, oil spills, raw sewage, wilderness loss and freeways came from corporate actions – that were ignored, sanctioned or subsidized by the government.  The day led to the creation of organizations and massive grassroots pressure leading to the establishment of the EPA and federal laws addressing clean air, water and wildlife protection.

Earth Day went global in 1990. More than 200 million people in over 140 countries took part in activities and sparked a global movement, which continues today against these same issues as well as climate change.

Corporate entities remain a major cause of environmental destruction.

2011 – Students call for constitutional amendment abolishing corporate personhood

The Associated Students organization of Humboldt State University in California pass a resolution supporting the Move to Amend campaign and calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood. The resolution was proposed by a group of students working with Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC).

April 23

2001 – Publication this month of “How Long Shall We Grovel: A Memo for the Record” by Richard Grossman, POCLAD co-founder

“…ANYONE who chooses to look will find massive evidence of chemical corporation murder, pillage & lies extending over a century. ANYONE who chooses to look will see persistent corporate denial of people’s constitutional and human rights, & government complicity. This country exalts the platitude “all political authority is inherent in the people.”

But our great corporations have long been protected by the rule of law … empowered by our own constitution and bill of rights. Our society has bestowed upon chemical corporation leaders, as upon top officials of all giant corporations, the highest rewards & honors, & great wealth.

Great corporations have been exalted by legislators & judges, presidents & governors, police and national guards, by local, state & federal governments. How long shall we authorize chemical corporate officials to kill? How long shall we beg them to tell the truth? To make the earth’s air, water and soil, our foods and our jobs, a little less deadly? To please “give us” the right to know? How long shall we grovel before our elected public servants? Other species are counting on us to do more than regulate the destruction of the planet. What do YOU think we the people should do now?” http://poclad.org/BWA/2001/BWA_2001_APR.html

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REAL Democracy History Calendar – April 10 – 16

April 10

1816 – Federal charter granted to create the private Second National Bank of the United States 

As with the earlier First Bank of the United States, the Second National Bank of the United States was private with many of the largest investors being foreigners and those representing great wealth. Congress chartered (licensed) the bank for 20 years.  Corporate charters were democratic tools once used by sovereign people to control and define corporate actions. As a result of bank practices geared to serving the interests of banks/bankers, (including limiting the issuance of money into the economy – which triggered economic stagnation), President Jackson pledged that the bank would not be issued a new charter after its 20-year charter ended. Without a charter – which provides those forming corporations certain legal protections (then and now) – corporations cannot exist.

1900 – State ex rel. Monnett v. Capital City Dairy Co., 62 OS 350 (1900) – example of corporate charter revocation

It was common practice in the 19th and early 20th centuries for state legislatures and courts to revoke the charters or licenses of corporations that violated the terms or conditions of their charters. The legal procedure for this was called “quo warranto” in which the state demanded to know what right the corporation possessed to act beyond the terms of its state-granted charter.

Some states were more active than others in utilizing this democratic tool. Here’s an example of the language from an Ohio State Supreme Court “quo warranto” charter revocation decision:

“Quo warranto may be invoked to stop corporation’s disregard of laws in conduct of authorized business, and to oust corporation if abuse be flagrant….The time has not yet arrived when the created is greater than the creator, and it still remains the duty of the courts to perform their office in the enforcement of the laws, no matter how ingenious the pretexts for their violation may be, nor the power of the violators in the commercial world. In the present case the acts of the defendant have been persistent, defiant and flagrant, and no other course is left to the court than to enter a judgment of ouster and to appoint trustees to wind up the business of the concern.”

1930 – Birth of Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta,  American labor leader and civil rights activist who was the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW)

Along with UFW co-founder Cesar Chavez, Huerta led the effort to democratically and nonviolently educate, advocate and organize the farmworker community. The results were  significant improvements in the lives and working conditions of farmworkers and a change in culture in  how Americans thought about the sources of our food.

April 11

2010 – “To Be Human” sermon delivered by Rev Colin Bossen, Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland

“The absence of conscience means that if corporations are to consider anything other than maximizing their profits then it must be outside forces that compel them to do so.

This is a political problem but it is also a spiritual one. It is a political problem because how decisions are made, and who gets to make them, are ultimately questions of politics. Restraining corporate power, and ending corporate personhood, will only come about if people organize to do so. With the Supreme Court on the side corporate personhood it is clear that change will not come from the courts. Instead what is needed is a constitutional amendment delineating that corporations are not afforded protection under the Bill of Rights. Currently the grassroots campaign Move to Amend is pushing just such an amendment. Whether they succeed or not will depend upon how much support they get.

It is a spiritual problem because what differentiates us humans from corporations is spirit. The word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning breath. Spirit is often equated with the force that propels life forward. Corporations lack this force. They follow a different trajectory. It is trajectory that leads towards a Gibsonian dystopia where the richest live in abundance; the masses in squalor and the planet is threatened with extinction.

The alternative is a world where spirit reigns and the life force is honored above profit.”

From http://www.uucleveland.org/worship/ToBeHuman.php. More info on Move to Amend’s Interfaith Caucus is at https://movetoamend.org/interfaith-caucus

April 12

1787 – The Free African Society is founded in Philadelphia by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones

It was the second African American mutual-aid society to open in the United States. Mutual-aid societies are considered the precursors to formal democratic cooperatives.

From its Preamble: “a society should be formed, without regard to religious tenets, provided the persons lived an orderly and sober life, in order to support one another in sickness, and for the benefit of their widows and fatherless children.”  https://archive.org/stream/economiccooper00duborich#page/21/mode/1up

1945 – Death of Frankin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the U.S. 

“The real truth is…that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.” http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/162689-the-real-truth-of-the-matter-is-as-you-and

“The Bill of Rights was put into the Constitution not only to protect minorities against intolerance of majorities, but to protect majorities against the enthronement of minorities.”

From The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt 366 (1941)

Roosevelt also proposed a “Second Bill of Rights” that focused on economic freedoms. “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” The rights included a job, adequate income to meet basic needs, housing, medical care, and education. It also included rights protecting businesspersons from unfair competition and monopolies, and enabling farmers to raise and sell products and earn enough income to have a decent living. The full list is at  http://www.ushistory.org/documents/economic_bill_of_rights.htm

April 13

1743 – Birth of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States – on banks and judicial review

On banks: “And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

On Judicial Review (the doctrine that all legislative and executive actions are subject to the review for constitutionality by the judicial branch), Jefferson warned that it would make the Constitution nothing but “a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”

1752 – First successful cooperative organized in the United States in Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin formed the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.

The company remains in existence, although its web site notes “The company’s most recent change is structural: The Philadelphia Contributionship Mutual Holding Company is the overall umbrella organization which owns the insurance companies and Vector Security Holdings.” http://www.contributionship.com/history/index.html

April 14

1873 – “Slaughterhouse Cases” – Supreme Court favors corporate protections over civil rights

Combining three cases, this single decision was the first Supreme Court interpretation of the 14th Amendment, enacted in 1868. The Court ruled very narrowly – concluding that individuals possessed federal rights of citizenship, but not state rights of citizenship. Justices didn’t desire in essence the Bill of Rights to be applied to the states for fear that the Court would become a “perpetual censor upon all of legislation of the States” related to civil rights.

The contradiction of this decision was stunning. The same court was during this era a “perpetual censor” of state laws through its use of the Commerce Clause to invalidate scores of democratically enacted local and state laws promoting safety, health and local businesses. This narrow interpretation of the 14th Amendment set back efforts for civil rights and labor rights for decades.

1976 – Death of William Henry Hastie, Jr., American, lawyer, judge, educator, public official, and advocate for the civil rights of African Americans

“Democracy is a process, not a static condition. It is becoming, rather than being. It can be easily lost, but is never finally won.”

April 15

1865 – Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

“The money power preys upon the nation in times of peace and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy.”

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution provides Congress with the power to “coin” or create money. Under the Lincoln administration, the US Government issued 450 million “Greenbacks” – interest and inflation-free money – after private banks refused to lend the government funds to pay for the war unless the government agreed to pay exorbitantly high interest payments. Greenbacks weren’t government bill, bonds or any other debt-bearing notes. They were actual US money.

“The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of government, but it is the government’s greatest creative opportunity. The financing of all public enterprise, and the conduct of the treasury will become matters of practical administration. Money will cease to be master and will then become servant of humanity.”

1975 — Death of Halena Wilson, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Ladies Auxilliary

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was the first official independent Black union. Wilson and the union’s President, A. Philip Randolph (ironically, born on this day in 1889), wrote about, promoted, taught and organized democratic economic cooperatives to keep resources recycling in the Black community.

April 16

1859- Death of Alexis de Tocqueville, French author of “Democracy in America”

“Without power and independence, a town may contain good subjects, but it can contain no citizens.”

[Note: Individuals cannot be citizens unless they possess self-governance. Corporate constitutional right perverts self-governance.]

1930 – Birth of Ronnie Dugger, co- founder, Alliance for Democracy

“We are ruled by Big Business and Big Government as its paid hireling, and we know it. The big corporations and the centimillionaires and billionaires have taken daily control of our work, our pay, our housing, our healthcare, our pension funds, our banks and savings deposits, our public lands, our airwaves, our elections and our very governments…The issue is not issues, the issue is the system.”

1995 – Presentation of “Certificate of Dissolution: Weyerhaeuser Corporation”

The public presentation was part of a “guerilla theatre” gathering outside the home of Weyerhaeuser Corporation CEO George Weyerhaeuser as an example of how to reframe an issue from one of corporate harm into that of contesting corporate authority and asserting the right of the people to define the very existence of corporations.

After providing a long list of political and ecological abuses, the “Certificate” reads:

“The people of the U.S. retain the unalterable right to revoke the charter of corporations which violate the common good. Originally, after the American Revolution, charters were rarely granted, and often revoked—with their assets distributed to compensate for damages and the corporate owners held accountable for their criminal acts. Today we are re-invoking this right. In addition, the inalienable rights of the existence of numerous species of life upon this Earth demand this revocation. Therefore be it ordained, by the powers of the laws of Washington State and the higher laws of Nature, that the corporate charter of Weyerhaeuser be revoked and the said company dissolved.” http://www.ratical.org/corporations/Weyerhaeuser.html

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REAL Democracy History Calendar – April 3-9

April 3

1837 – National Equal Rights Party passes resolution in response to political corruption and business monopolies

John H. Hunt, a member of the Equal Rights Party, drafted this resolution:

“Whenever a people find themselves suffering under a weight of evils, destructive not only to their happiness, but to their dignity and their virtues; when these evils go on increasing year after year, with accelerating rapidity, and threaten soon to reach that point at which peaceable endurance ceases to be possible; it becomes their solemn duty coolly to search out the causes of their suffering — to state those causes with plainness — and to apply a sufficient and a speedy remedy.”

It passed unanimously by cheering mechanics, farmers and working people during a mass rally in a New York City park.

http://www.archive.org/stream/historyoflocofoc00byrduoft/historyoflocofoc00byrduoft_djvu.txt

April 4

1834 – US House of Representatives Votes Against Re-chartering the Second National Bank of the United States

The US House voted 134-82 against rechartering (re-licensing) the nation’s central bank – a private bank not ultimately accountable to the public but to its shareholders. Charters were originally considered democratic instruments of public control to keep corporations accountable – as opposed to today where charters are issued automatically as long as minimal conditions are met and a fee is paid. The bank had established loan policies that were detrimental to the nation’s economy but very profitable for its owners. The bank’s President, Nicholas Biddle, had threatened to harm the US economy by restricting the nation’s money supply if the charter was not renewed. The bank shrank the money supply. A financial panic and deep depression followed. President Andrew Jackson was convinced that the private bank should not be in charge of issuing and circulating the nation’s money supply.

1968 – Assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

April 5

1588 – Birth of Thomas Hobbes, English philosopher

“Corporations are many lesser commonwealths in the bowels of a greater, like worms in the entrails of a natural man.”

Translated: Corporations are worms to the body politic.

April 6 

1937 – Birth of Merle Haggard, country and western singer and songwriter

“Why don’t we liberate these United States? We’re the ones that need it worst. Let’s get out of Iraq an’ get back on the track, and let’s rebuild America first.”

1956 – Birth of Michele Bachmann, four-term Republican congresswoman from Minnesota and founder of the House Tea Party Caucus

In founding the Tea Party Caucus in 2011, she said, “I think it is because of the corrupt paradigm that has become Washington, D.C., whereby votes continually are bought rather than representatives voting the will of their constituents. … That’s the voice that’s been missing at the table in Washington, D.C. — the people’s voice has been missing.”

April 7

2003 – Supreme Court rules to slash jury award over Exxon Valdez oil spill based on 5th and 14th Amendments corporate personhood claims

A jury awarded a settlement of $5 billion to 38,000 commercial fishermen and native Alaskans following the spilling of 20 million gallons of oil by the Exxon Valdez tanker in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989. Exxon Corporation challenged the settlement amount, claiming that it violated the corporation’s due process constitutional rights by the “excessive” jury award of punitive damages under the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court agreed and reduced the original jury award settlement to a little over $500 million. A “line of constitutional impropriety” has now been established by the courts that protects large corporations from certain punitive damage awards.

April 8

1901 – John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Warren Supreme Court decision

The United States Supreme Court has reaffirmed the principle that corporations are “creatures of the state” in at least thirty-six different rulings. This was one of them.

1913 – States ratify Seventeenth Amendment, allowing for the direct election of senators

The Connecticut legislature ratifies this Constitutional Amendment permitting for the first time direct election of U.S. Senators by citizens.  With 36 states having now ratified the Amendment, it becomes part of the Constitution a month later when certified by the U.S. Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan. No longer would state legislatures and the corporate agents behind them choose Senators.

The Amendment represented a victory for the populist and progressive social movements, which included Bryan, who opposed centralized power in the hands of party bosses and politically influential corporations, monopolies and trusts.

April 9

1866 – Passage of Civil Rights Act

This was the first Congressional Act in US history sustained over a presidential veto. It provided that people of different races should have full and equal benefit of the law.

1988 – Publication in New York Times of “Corporations Are Not Persons” by Ralph Nader and Carl Mayer 

“Our constitutional rights were intended for real persons, not artificial creations. The Framers certainly knew about corporations but chose not to mention these contrived entities in the Constitution. For them, the document shielded living beings from arbitrary government and endowed them with the right to speak, assemble and petition.

Today, however, corporations enjoy virtually the same umbrella of constitutional protections as individuals do. They have become in effect artificial persons with infinitely greater power than humans. This constitutional equivalence must end.

…The corporate drive for constitutional parity with real humans comes at a time when legislatures are awarding these artificial persons superhuman privileges. Besides perpetual life, corporations enjoy limited liability for industrial accidents such as nuclear power disasters, and the use of voluntary bankruptcy and other disappearing acts to dodge financial obligations while remaining in business.

The legal system is thus creating unaccountable Frankensteins that have human powers but are nonetheless constitutionally shielded from much actual and potential law enforcement as well as from accountability to real persons such as workers, consumers and taxpayers.

Of course individuals in these companies can always exercise their personal constitutional rights, but the drive for corporate rights is dangerously out of control.

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REAL Democracy History Calendar – March 27 – April 2

March 27

1990 – U.S. Supreme Court rules corporate spending in elections can be limited if compelling interest

The court ruled in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (494 U.S. 652) that a Michigan law prohibiting corporations from using their treasury funds for independent expenditures to oppose or support candidates in state elections did not violate the 1st or 14th Amendments. The case acknowledged the state’s compelling interest in responding to a “different type of corruption in the political arena: the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporation’s political ideas.” The 2010 Citizens United vs Federal Elections Commission Supreme Court decision overruled this decision.

2002 – Congress passes “McCain-Feingold” (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act) – increases regulation of political campaign financing

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (better known as the McCain-Feingold Act after its chief sponsors) was passed by Congress to strengthen the regulations of political campaign financing. Its chief sponsors were Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John McCain (R-AZ).

The Act addressed political “soft money” (by outlawing money raised or spent by national political party committees not subject to federal limits) and “issue advocacy ads” (by limiting broadcast ads as to when they can be aired and prohibiting funding for them from profit and nonprofit corporations and unions).
The 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision overturned this law.

March 28

2015 – “What the BLEEP Happened to Hip Hop,” a two-day event in Detroit

Hip Hop Congress and Move to Amend partner to present: “What the Bleep Happened to Hip Hop?”, a multi-racial and intergenerational public education two-day event. It was part of a larger national campaign seeking to raise awareness of the dangerous power corporations currently wield over the hip hop industry specifically, and over the arts, culture and society in general.

March 29

1875 – U.S. Supreme Court rules that women don’t have equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment in Minor v. Happersett (88 U.S. 162)

The Supreme Court rules that women do not have equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment. They had argued that their right to vote could not be denied by the state under the amendment The Court rejected the argument, stating that the 14th Amendment was only intended to apply to black males. Nine years later, the Supreme Court awarded equal protection and due process rights to corporations. Women would not be granted the right to vote until 1920. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) barring discrimination based on sex passed Congress in 1972 but only 35 of the 38 states needed to ratify it did so, and it died in 1982.

March 30

1822 – Birth sometime this month of Harriet Tubman, “conductor” on the Underground Railroad

“I freed thousands of slaves; I could have freed more if they knew they were slaves.”

[Note: How many of us know we are enslaved by our mental box of reality and limitation we ourselves place on what we think is possible.]

2016 – Statement on Supreme Court by Michele Gilman, University of Baltimore law professor

“A popular conception of the Supreme Court is that it is designed to protect vulnerable minorities from majoritarian rule. Instead, the court of recent memory has enhanced a powerful minority at the expense of the majority. I believe we currently have a court for the one percent.”

Michele Gilman, University of Baltimore law prof, The Conversation, March 30, 2016

March 31

1927 – Birth of Cesar Chavez, American labor leader, civil rights activist and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers union, UFW)

March 31st is César Chávez Day, a holiday observed in ten states. The holiday memorializes the life and work of this Mexican-American farmworker. His creative uses of nonviolent tactics helped create a solidarity movement to benefit the working conditions and lives of farmworkers, all workers and consumers. His most famous campaign was the nationwide boycott of table grapes.

1999 – Release date of the film “The Matrix”

“Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?” — Morpheus to Neo

[Note: Morpheus could easily be asking the same question to all of us today in our politically and economically increasing top-down, corporate-controlled society.]

April 1 

1929 – Birth of Milan Kundera, Czech writer

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

2010- Publication of “The Case Against Judicial Review” by David Cobb

“In a nutshell, judicial review is the power of a court to review the actions of executive or legislative bodies to determine whether the action is consistent with a statute, a treaty or the U.S. Constitution. In its most basic expression, it is the authority of the unelected Supreme Court to declare acts of elected members of Congress or the elected President unconstitutional…Judicial review is an undemocratic extension of the undemocratic nature of the Constitution itself, a document protecting the rights of property over the rights of people. Given that the Constitution was drafted by a small number of people who met behind closed doors, the fact that a small number of unelected judges overrule citizen initiatives or laws passed by legislative bodies is not very surprising…The sobering reality is that judicial review is politically illegitimate. The fundamental premise of this government is that all legitimate political power resides with the people. “

http://movetoamend.org/case-against-judicial-review

April 2

2014 – McCutcheon vs Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision – prohibition on political contribution aggregate limits. 

The decision (12-536) struck down aggregate limits on individual contributions to national political parties and federal political candidate committees. The existing limits, which Mr. Shaun McCutcheon asserted were too constraining and violated his First Amendment “free speech” rights, had stood at a stifling $46,000 for federal candidates and $70,800 for political parties, or a $117,000 aggregate limit in the last election cycle. Following the decision, McCutcheon and his 1% friends are now free to donate to as many candidates as they wish and to as many political parties as they desire knowing their “free speech rights” are protected.

The aggregate limits dated back to the Watergate era of the early 70’s. The majority of the Supreme Court justices obviously felt that the rules to curb the political corruption of the Nixon era connected to money in elections were as antiquated as bell-bottoms and vinyl records.

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REAL Democracy History Calendar – March 20-26

March 20

2013 – Judge Debbie O’Dell-Seneca of Pennsylvania’s Washington County Court of Common Pleas rules that corporations are not persons

Judge O’Dell-Seneca declared, “In the absence of state law, business entities are nothing.” If corporations could claim rights independent from people, she asserted, then “the chattel would become the co-equal to its owners, the servant on par with its masters, the agent the peer of its principals, and the legal fabrication superior to the law that created and sustains it…the constitution vests in business entities no special rights that the laws of this Commonwealth cannot extinguish. In sum, [corporations] cannot assert [constitutional privacy] protections because they are not mentioned in its text.”

Decision at http://celdf.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Wash_Co_PA_Opinion_032013.pdf

March 21

1877 – National Farmers Alliance established – populists challenge corporate power

Commonly known as the “Northern Alliance,” farmers collectively organized against unfair railroad practices and advocated for tax reforms and legalization of insurance companies sponsored by the Grange. Southern farmers organized several years earlier, calling themselves the “Southern Alliance,” in support of abolishing national banks and monopolies, issuing Greenback or Fiat paper money, a national monetary system (called the “Sub-Treasury” plan), progressive taxes, and more.

The Farmers Alliances’ were involved in extensive political and economic education (much of it focused on the power of banks and railroads and the need for public ownership of certain public services), formed cooperatives to sell their produce and goods, published newspapers, and, through the creation of the Populist Party, ran candidates for public office — winning numerous U.S. Senate and House seats. As the largest national social movement in the history of the country, it was a major threat to the political and economic power structures. Internal political and strategic divisions and lack of acceptance of people of color limited its effectiveness, which along with opposition from corporations and the super wealthy, contributed to its demise.

March 22

2000 – Letter to Jerome Groopman, Harvard Medical School by Richard L. Grossman

“I heard you interviewed recently on radio. I am writing to say how refreshing it was indeed to hear a physician talk with passion against the “corporatization” — the literal factoryization—of disease care and health care.

But it’s only logical, no? The rest of our society has been/is being transformed into assembly lines—of work, of art, of the mind and of the soul. Listening to you, I thought of Martin Niemöller, the German Protestant pastor who told how he sat by when the Nazis came for people by category…But the corporate assembly lines came for the workers, and the doctors were silent…

They came for the educators, and then the legislators, and the judges, and the mayors—and the doctors could not be heard. The corporate assembly lines came for the free press, they came for our elections . . . Now, they’re coming for our genes, for food, for the basic biological building blocks of life . . . and where are the doctors? It’s all been of a piece. The corporate assembly lines have come for and gone away with our Constitution, our liberty, our Declaration of Independence. So who should be surprised that now they’ve come for you? Why should anyone care?

But the fact is, plenty of people care … all the people across generations and vocations who have been resisting the corporate assembly-lining of life and death and work and thought and of the natural world.

So it’s not too late for you, for your colleagues, for your students, for your patients, for your spleens and livers. It’s not too late to sew the histories together; to make solidarity connections.

To speak out. To resist. To join with others. To design new designs…The few are coming for the many. As in Nazi Germany, they target people category by category—in the process making each category of people a little less human. They are coming with the protection of the law—of the police, of our learned judges—with the assistance of our own government.

It’s a pisser, Jerry, isn’t it?”

March 23

1888 – Death of Morrison Waite, chief justice of the US Supreme Court, when corporations are first granted unalienable constitutional rights.

Morrison was chief justice at the time of the Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co (118 US 394) decision. The Court ruling focused exclusively on a tax issue. However, the court reporter (and former banker), J.C. Bancroft, added his own summary in the headnotes for the case and nowhere else — granting the railroad equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment. After the fact, Waite said this about the headnotes question: “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids any state to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are of the opinion that it does.” Thus, the onslaught of anointing corporations with never intended constitutional rights began in earnest.

1971 – Proposed 26th Amendment reducing the right to vote from 21 to 18 years of age passes Congress

Both the House and Senate passed the proposed amendment and sent to the states for ratification. It was ratified by the states in just 3 months, 8 days — the quickest time for any amendment. The 26th Amendment became part of the Constitution on July 1, 1971.

March 24

2010 – Posting by Mary Zepernick: “On the History of Corporate Personhood and a Broad Amendment strategy for Overturning It,” on the Alliance for Democracy website.

“At the outset, legal persons were white propertied men, 55 of whom gathered in Philadelphia in 1787, closed their doors and replaced the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution – sealing their records for half a century. The historian James Beard referred to them as the ‘well bred, well fed, well read, and well wed!

“Cape Cod’s revolutionary pamphleteer and playwright Mercy Otis Warren when the new document was unveiled: ‘the Senate is too oligarchical; the country is too big to be governed by a strong federal system, and where are the rights of the people?

Why is the “Campaign to Legalize Democracy” (www.movetoamend.org) using a broad amendment strategy?  In effect, we are seizing the opportunity to exercise active control over our Constitution – not a document belonging to the Courts, nor to the Congress nor to the Chief Executive, but to us, the people’s Constitution. At this stage, no one knows the “right” path to take. This is a long term, multi-layered challenge. It’s not a contest but a collaboration between two approaches (and probably more to come).”

Source: http://afd-e-news.blogspot.com/2010/03/mary-zepernick-on-history-of-corporate.html

March 25

1934 – Birth of Gloria Steinem, feminist, journalist, and social and political activist

“A movement is only composed of people moving. To feel its warmth and motion around us is the end as well as the means.”

2000 – Publication this month of article, “Corporate Social Responsibility: Kick the Habit” by Jane Anne Morris, POCLAD principal and corporate anthropologist

“While we huddled in coffeehouses and church basements debating strategy, corporate managers plotted in boardrooms. Their diagnosis unfolded into a plan. From their perspective, a Great Danger threatened: government action spurred by public demands. A tried-and-true strategy beckoned: make a show of voluntarily Doing Something and publicize it shamelessly.

“This was a strategy with a thousand faces: corporations as socially responsible, corporations as “citizens” with civic duties, corporations as “good neighbors,” corporate executives as “trustees” for the public interest, “business leaders” offering voluntary codes of conduct, and so on.

“There were three pillars to the corporate plan. (1) placate; (2) co-opt; (3) reframe issues so that in the future, people would “demand” something that corporate managers want to ‘give.’

“Corporate donations and other forms of “corporate social responsibility” pacified portions of the community by softening the edges of some of the most egregious and most visible corporate harms. In a quasi-behaviorist twist, they rewarded “good” behavior and disadvantaged “bad” behavior on the part of showcased community and charitable organizations. But most of all they enabled corporate managers to reshape public “questions” so that the “answers” were to come not from a self-governing people but from “corporate good citizens…

“The options were clear: either institute the three-point plan, or the country will succumb to…(I hope you’re sitting down)…a people’s democracy….we have another opportunity to firmly reject the “corporate social responsibility” ruse. A small but growing core of people is demanding not goodies or favors or good deeds but real self-governance. They know that receiving goodies from worried corporate managers is the real “dole,” while a self-governing people controlling their community’s resources in the interest of society as a whole — that is democracy.”

March 26

1790 — Naturalization Act passed by Congress

Immigrants are allowed to become citizens, but only if White. Without citizenship, non-whites cannot vote, own property, file lawsuits, or testify in court.

1929 – Birth of Ward Morehouse, co-founder of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD)

“As men of property had wrapped the Constitution around themselves in 1787, men of the Gilded Age enlisted judges and legislators to wrap the nation’s sacred text around their new financial and industrial conglomerates. By the end of the 19th Century, corporations had been baptized in the contract, commerce, property and personhood pools the Revolutionary elite had dammed into the Constitution one hundred years before. ”

From the “Forward” by Richard Grossman and Ward, Co-founders, Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy to “The Elite Consensus: When Corporations Wield the Constitution,” by George Draffan

1930 – Birth of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Reagan appointee

Her comment following the Citizens United v FEC Supreme Court decision expanding the rights of individuals and corporate entities to make political campaign contributions: “Citizens United has signaled that the problem of campaign contributions in judicial elections might get considerably worse and quite soon.”

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REAL Democracy History Calendar – March 13-19

March 13

2010 – Murray Hill Inc. announces run for Congress

Washington Post article on Murray Hill Inc.’s announcement of its candidacy for Congress. “After the Supreme Court declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to funding political campaigns, the self-described progressive firm took what it considers the next logical step: declaring for office. ‘Until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington,’ the candidate, who was unavailable for an interview, said in a statement. ‘But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.'”

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/12/AR2010031204127.html

March 14

1782 – Birth of Thomas Benton, US Senator (MO) – on objecting to charter renewal of the Bank of the United States

“I object to the renewal of the charter of the Bank of the United States because I look upon the bank as an institution too great and powerful to be tolerated in a government of free and equal laws.  Its power is that of the purse, a power more potent than that of the sword, and this power it possesses to a degree and extent that will enable this bank to draw to it too much of the political power of this Union, and too much of the individual property of the citizens of these States.  The money power of the bank is both direct and indirect.”

1977 – Death of Fannie Lou Hamer – who challenged Mississippi’s all-white voting delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention

A civil rights and voting rights activist and leader, Hamer organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Its purpose was to challenge the anti-civil rights and all-white delegation to the Democratic National Convention, which didn’t represent all Mississippians. The Democratic Party establishment tried to ignore her and the Freedom Democrats’ plight concerning voter registration of African Americans. The Party sought a compromise that didn’t yield any power to the Freedom Democrats. Hamer said, “We didn’t come all the way up here to compromise for no more than we’d gotten here. We didn’t come all this way for no two seats when all of us is tired.” Continued pressure resulted in the Freedom Democrats being seated at the 1968 Convention with the Party agreeing to equality of representation of all states’ delegations. Hamer was elected as a national party delegate in 1972.

She also said: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

March 15

1767 – Birth of Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States

Jackson opposed the private, mis-named Second National Bank of the United States. He refused to support renewing its corporate charter. He said in 1834: “I too have been a close observer of the doings of the Bank of the United States. I have had men watching you for a long time, and am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the Bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the Bank and annul its charter. I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be a true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I have determined to rout you out and, by the Eternal, I will rout you out.”

His opposition to the Bank’s charter renewal resulted in its dissolution.

2010 – First round of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations begin in Melbourne, Australia

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a mis-named “trade agreement” between 12 nations, including the U.S. The negotiations were secret to the public, elected officials and the media — but not to hundreds of corporate representatives who served as consultants. The negotiations would greatly expand the reach of the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) process over what has already been established by NAFTA. The ISDS provisions of the TPP permit corporations to directly sue national governments to overturn democratically enacted national laws and rules governing worker, consumer and environmental protections. The suits are heard before unelected and unaccountable “Tribunals.” The only consideration before them is whether the national law impedes current or future corporate profits. The entire process is designed to overrule national self-governance. The TPP replaces national sovereignty with multinational corporate rule; it is not a “trade” agreement.

March 16

1751 – Birth of James Madison, 4th President of the United States – complicated figure on democracy and corporate power

Madison was a complicated figure on the issues of democracy and corporate power. On the one hand, he was the major drafter of the U.S. Constitution, which initially did not include a Bill of Rights. This document was a replacement for the more democratic, original U.S. Constitution — the Articles of Confederation. Only when people in many states claimed the Constitution protected property more than people and opposed its ratification, was a Bill of Rights added.  Madison then drafted those first 10 Amendments.  He kept the minutes of the Constitutional Convention secret for more than 50 years.

On the question of corporations, he said in 1817: “There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.”

March 17

1924 – U.S. Supreme Court grants tobacco corporations 4th Amendment rights in Federal Trade Commission v. American Tobacco Co., 264 U.S. 298

The U.S. Senate directed the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate possible unfair trade practices of several tobacco corporations. The FTC ordered the corporation to produce documents. The corporations refused. The FTC sued. The corporations claimed 4th Amendment “search and seizure” protections (intended originally solely for human beings) to shield them from Congressional authority. The Supreme Court sided with the tobacco corporations, agreeing that the 4th Amendment shielded them from public scrutiny.

March 18

1831 – Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia court decision

Court rules against Cherokees who sued the state of Georgia for taking their land and rights. The court ruled that the Cherokee Nation was “domestic dependent” and, thus, without status in court.

2000 – Ohio State Representative calls for the charter of the Cleveland Clinic Corporation to be revoked 

The Akron Beacon Journal reported today that Ohio State Representative Barbara Pringle (with the help of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee) asked in a letter that Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery initiate charter revocation proceedings against the Cleveland Clinic Corporation. The Clinic wanted to purchase two Cleveland area hospitals, Mt. Sinai Medical Center-East and St. Michael Hospital, which would have to be shut down before the purchase. This would reduce the availability of healthcare to many Clevelanders and move toward greater healthcare monopolization. The charge was that the Clinic exceeded their legal authority as stipulated in its charter. This effort of citizen authority over corporations yielded media attention and played a role in the ultimate sale of the hospitals to another healthcare corporation, which kept them open.

2006 – “Barnstead Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance” is enacted

“On March 18, the townspeople of Barnstead, New Hampshire voted in favor of the ‘Barnstead Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance’ in their Town Meeting, with only one dissenting vote. The ordinance not only bans corporations from taking water from Barnstead except for local use, but it also denies them corporate personhood. The preamble harks back to the days of the American Revolution: ‘We believe that the corporatization of water supplies in this community—placing the control of water in the hands of a corporate few, rather than the community—would constitute tyranny and usurpation; and that we are therefore duty bound, under the New Hampshire Constitution to oppose such tyranny and usurpation.'”

New Hampshire organizers of the Alliance for Democracy’s “Defending Water for Life” campaign worked with citizens in Barnstead to achieve this victory. Ruth Caplan and Nancy Price lead that AfD campaign.

Source: http://www.thealliancefordemocracy.org/pdf/AfDJR22.pdf

March 19

1962 – Supreme Court grants corporations 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination in Fong Foo v. United States, 369 U.S. 141 (1962)

The Court “found” corporations in the Double Jeopardy Clause and ruled that a corporation could not be retried after a court directed a judgment of acquittal during the presentation of evidence by the government.

2003 – New tobacco company chartered in Virginia – Licensed to Kill Inc.

Cofounder Robert Hinkley declared the company’s purpose was to manufacture and market its product in a way that “generates profits for investors while each year killing over 400,000 Americans and more than 4.5 million other people worldwide.”  Their motto – “We’re rich, you’re dead” – and the corporation were created to demonstrate how states sanction and protect corporate crimes.  Virginia didn’t want to grant the charter, but had no choice, as the corporation’s structure and purpose did not break any laws.

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REAL Democracy History Calendar – March 6-12

March 6

1857 – US. Supreme Court decides Dred Scott v. Sanford (60 U.S. 393)  – affirming slaves are property

Supreme Court affirms Article 2, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution (the Return Servants clause). Slaves are property and Congress cannot deprive citizens of their property. Slaves are “not citizens of any state” and “have no rights a court must respect.”

Observation: Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property while corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person.

March 7

322 BC – Death of Aristotle – Greek philosopher, educator

“Democracy arose from men’s thinking that if they are equal in any respect, they are equal absolutely.” Women too!

1976 – Death of John William Wright Patman, Democratic Congressman 1938-1978, Committee Chairman on Banking & Currency

“In the United States today, we have two governments. We have the duly constituted government and then we have an independent, uncontrolled and uncoordinated government in the Federal Reserve System operating the money powers which are reserved for Congress by the Constitution.”

March 8

2011 – Publication this month of the article “This isn’t about peace. It’s about democracy,” by Mike Ferner, POCLAD principal

“And so we return to the too-familiar, difficult question of what to do?…Few still believe the answer is taking warm clothing and hand-knit caps to the people in Kabul’s camps — although I took along an extra suitcase of just those things. Few still believe that marching with placards past empty offices in the nation’s capital is much of an answer — although I participate in as many of those as I can. Few believe that having hundreds arrested in Washington or in government offices back home will bring change — although it is certainly critical to keep alive the spirit of protest…But how do we move from a relative handful of committed believers, to emulating Tahrir Square in every nation’s capital, to halting and dismembering Empire?…

That means something more than fixing the wrongs. It means making the rules, defining the terms, running the show — in a word: governing ourselves…

I believe the messages of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) and Move to Amend, arguing the case for a self-governing citizenry, make good sense, no matter the audience.”

Source: http://poclad.org/BWA/2011/BWA_2011_MAR.html

March 9

1839 – Supreme Court affirms corporations are “creatures of the state” in Bank of Augusta v. Earle (38 US 519)

The United States Supreme Court has reaffirmed the principle that corporations are “creatures of the state” in at least thirty-six different rulings. This is one of them. It means that corporations are created by We the People through our government and should be subordinate, not equal to, the People under law. Government has the right and authority to define its creations.

1997 – Sermon “We the People: Building a Truly Democratic Society” by Ward Morehouse, POCLAD principal, at the UU Fellowship, Frederick, Maryland

“Establishing our democracy must begin with citizens prepared to devote themselves to challenging the status quo, and to disrupting the contours of power. But the ultimate task, William Greider reminds us, is much more difficult—creating something that does not now exist—the basis for politics as a shared enterprise…My modest hope for the time we are together is, as I suggested at the outset, to persuade you to launch what Greider calls a ‘democratic insurgency,’ individually and collectively.

This insurgency will not begin with abstract ideas or charismatic political leaders. Its origins will lie among ordinary people who have the will to engage themselves with their surrounding reality and to act on the conflict between what they are told and what they experience—thus disrupting existing structures of power and opening up paths for renewal.”

March 10

1899 – State of Delaware adopts general incorporation law

“Delaware acquired its status as a corporate haven in the early 20th century. Following the example of New Jersey, which enacted corporate-friendly laws at the end of the 19th century to attract businesses from New York, Delaware adopted on March 10, 1899, a general incorporation act aimed at attracting more businesses. The group that pushed for this legislation was not acting entirely from altruism, as they intended to establish a corporation that would help other businesses incorporate in Delaware. Before the rise of general incorporation acts, forming a corporation required a special act of the state legislature. General incorporation allowed anyone to form a corporation by simply raising money and filing articles of incorporation with the state’s Secretary of State. Over 50% of publicly traded corporations in the United States and 60% of the Fortune 500 are incorporated in the state.”

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delaware_General_Corporation_Law

1989 – Death of Philip D. Reed, CEO of General Electric Corporation

“If small business goes, big business does not have any future except to become the economic arm of a totalitarian state.”

March 11

1888 – Former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes on corporate power

“The real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few and the unscrupulous who represent or control capital. Hundreds of laws of Congress and the state legislatures are in the interest of these men and against the interests of workingmen. These need to be exposed and repealed. All laws on corporations, on taxation, on trusts, wills, descent, and the like, need examination and extensive change. This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations. — How is this?” From his diary on this day.

2012 – Freedom, Maine residents pass resolution calling for a constitutional amendment ending corporate “personhood”

Gotta love the name of the town! The resolution was passed by a majority of residents at a Town Hall meeting.

March 12

1906 – US. Supreme Court grants 4th Amendment “search and seizure” rights for first time in Hale v. Henkel (201 U.S. 43)

Corporations are granted 4th Amendment “search and seizure” protection for the first time. The Bill of Rights was intended to apply solely to human beings, not corporate entities.

1912 – Speech of former Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan before 1912 Ohio Constitutional Convention

“The first thing to understand is the difference between the natural person and the fictitious person called a corporation. They differ in the purpose for which they are created, in the strength which they possess, and in the restraints under which they act. Man is the handiwork of God and was placed upon earth to carry out a Divine purpose; the corporation is the handiwork of man and created to carry out a money-making policy. There is comparatively little difference in the strength of men; a corporation may be one hundred, one thousand, or even one million times stronger than the average man. Man acts under the restraints of conscience, and is influenced also by a belief in a future life. A corporation has no soul and cares nothing about the hereafter.”

1932 – Birth of Andrew Young, civil rights leader, Mayor, Congressperson, UN Ambassador and pastor

“Nothing is illegal if 100 businessmen decide to do it.”

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REAL Democracy History Calendar – February 27- March 5

February 27

1934 – Birth of Ralph Nader, consumer activist

“I have a consistent rule: The American people should know as much about the Pentagon as the Soviet Union and China do, as much about General Motors as Ford does, and as much about City Bank as Chase Manhattan does.”

February 28

1932 — Birth of Richard Deats, author and minister

“Democracy is the institutionalization of nonviolent problem-solving in the social order.”

(from The Global Spread of Active Nonviolence, Fellowship, July-August 1996)

2011 – Town of Lincoln, VT approves a resolution to end corporate personhood

Simply limiting money in elections from wealthy individuals without addressing “corporate personhood” allows individuals to hide behind the corporate veil and constitutional shield by claiming never-intended protections of the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments, as well as of the Commerce and Contracts clauses of the Constitution to prevent or overturn democratically enacted laws and regulations.

March 1

1781 – Ratification of the Articles of Confederation

This was the first Constitution of the United States, preceding our current constitution by eight years. Provisions included:

-Unicameral legislature with only one house of the Congress.

-No system of national courts or executive branch

-One vote per state irrespective of the size of the state.

-Levying taxes in hands of the state government

-Power to coin and borrow money

-Time limits on holding public office

-No standing army or navy

-No provision for national government interference in commerce and trade – each state could impose tariffs on trade.

This last provision regarding decentralized decision-making on commerce and trade was the pretext for a gathering to  “amend” the Articles. Once gathered, the delegates replaced entirely the Articles with an entirely new proposed constitution that was, in many respects, more top-down and favorable to commercial interests.

1990 – Publication of “Personalizing the Impersonal: Corporations and the Bill of Rights,” by Carl J. Mayer, 41 Hastings L.J. 577, 658-59

“[T]he extension of corporation constitutional rights is a zero-sum game that diminishes the rights and powers of real individuals.” Note: This law review article is arguably the clearest and most thorough legal analysis describing how corporations acquired specific constitutional rights and underlines how our current problems connected to corporate rule go back more than a century.

Source: http://reclaimdemocracy.org/mayer_personalizing /

March 2

1867 – First of Four Reconstruction Acts passed by Congress — Reconstruction Era begins in former Confederate states

The purpose of the Acts was to ensure that all federal laws were to be enforced. This included removing Confederates from power, protecting African Americans and enfranchising black men. Blacks were elected to Congress (both House and Senate) throughout the South. The Era ended with the “Compromise of 1877” when U.S. Army troops were removed as part of deal by Southern Democrats in Congress over the election of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes for President.

1992 – Publication of the article “Your Honor,” by Honorable Edward J. Devitt United States Senior District Judge District of Minnesota in Handbook for Judges, Glenn R. Winters, ed. (The American Judicature Society)

“Being called ‘Your Honor’ day in and day out is a constant reminder, not alone of the prestige of the office, but more importantly of the tremendous power and heavy responsibility and absolute independence of the federal judge.

We are practically immune from discipline or censure or supervision. We cannot be defeated at an election or discharged by a superior…By striking down many government decisions…the Supreme Court has established itself as a major participant in the policy-making process.”

March 3

1777 – Birth of Roger Taney Chief Justice of U.S. Supreme Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford (60 U.S. 393) decision

“[T]he right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution.”

1871 – Indian Appropriation Act declares all Indian treaties void and makes all Indians wards of the federal government

The US broke more than 300 treaties with Indian tribes and nations during its history. Rights of indigenous people to live on their native lands were ignored.

March 4

1861 – Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address – on judicial review

Abraham Lincoln addressed the issue of “judicial review” during his first inaugural address. Judicial review is the doctrine permitting the judicial branch of government to review executive and legislative branch actions to ensure they are constitutional. Many have claimed this authority, not explicitly granted in the Constitution, gives the judicial branch undue power over the rest of government. Lincoln in his 1861 address said: “The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

1918 – Birth of Wayne Andreas, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland

“There is not one grain of anything in the world that is sold in the free market. Not one. The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians.”

March 5

1877 – Corporate CEO Thomas Scott brokers deal to end Reconstruction and install Rutherford B. Hayes as U.S. President

The 1876 presidential election was arguably the most controversial in US history. Samuel Tilden, a Democrat, won the popular vote and seemingly the electoral vote over Hayes. Twenty electoral votes, however, were in dispute. A special commission was formed. It was controlled by Thomas Scott, CEO of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and composed of Supreme Court justices and members of Congress. Scott delivered the votes to Hayes in the “Compromise of 1877” in exchange for a federal bailout of failing railroad investments. Hayes also agreed to pull federal troops from the South (ending Reconstruction and the launch of Jim Crow). Those troops were shifted to the North to put down the first national labor strikes in 1877 in which over 100 strikers were killed.

2012 – Charlestown, WV city council passes resolution on corporate personhood and money as speech

The resolution called on the US Congress to amend the constitution to state that only living persons are endowed with constitutional rights and that money is not the same as free speech.

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REAL Democracy History Calendar – February 20-26

February 20

1895 – Death of Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, social reformer, orator, and writer

“This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

February 21

2012 – Board of commission of Orange County CA passes a resolution supporting an amendment to the Constitution declaring that corporations are not people

This action is part of the growing movement to end the bizarre legal doctrine that corporations, creations of the state, possess many of the same Constitutional rights, including those in the Bill of Rights, as human persons.

February 22

1838 – As white men gain voting rights, free black men lose theirs.

“Since Jackson’s presidency, there’s been a push to give all white men the vote, even if they don’t own property.

Right now, free black men have the vote in several states. But as states revamp their constitutions to loosen voter requirements for white men, blacks are being stripped of rights they had. Pennsylvania’s constitution of 1790 gave the vote to ‘every freeman of the age of twenty-one years.’

Today that was changed to say ‘every white freeman.’”

Harper’s Weekly Source: http://constitutioncenter.org/timeline/html/cw04_11998.html

1966 – Passage of Bank Merger Act

Anti-competitive mergers are permitted if they are outweighed by the convenience and needs of the community to be served.

1987 – Death of Andy Warhol , pop artist 

“I am a deeply superficial person.”

If you think that statement is oxymoronic, how about this:  a “corporate person.”

February 23

1868 – Birth of W.E.B. DuBois, African American activist, scholar, writer, and co-founder of the NAACP.

“It cannot be reconciled with any philosophy of democracy that 50,000,000 white folk of the British Empire should be able to make the destiny of 450,000,000 yellow, brown and black people a matter of solely their own internal decision.”

1869 – Minnesota Grange is organized.

The national Grange, founded by former Minnesota farmer Oliver Hudson Kelley, became a powerful political force against corporate monopolies among western farmers.

Minnesota Grangers resolved in 1873: “We, the farmers, mechanics and laborers of Minnesota, deem the triumph of the people in this contest with monopolies essential to the perpetuation of our free institutions and the promotion of our private and national prosperity.”

February 24

1803 – U.S. Supreme Court establishes supreme authority of the U.S. Supreme Court

Marbury v. Madison (5 U.S. 137) established the concept of “judicial review.” The Supreme Court ruled that they were supreme, and Congress did not contest it. This gave them the power to make law.  President Jefferson said: “The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”

February 25

1791 – Creation of the First Bank of the United States 

The federal government issued a 20-year charter (very unusual at the time since most corporate charters, or licenses, were issued by states) to create the first national private bank. The bank was given permission to create money as debt. Its paper money was accepted for taxes. Eighty percent of its shares were privately owned, and 75% of those were foreign owned (mostly by the English and Dutch).  Alexander Hamilton championed the first national private bank; Jefferson, Madison and others opposed it.

1986 – U.S. Supreme Court rules that corporations have “negative speech” rights

The Court decreed in Pacific Gas & Electric v. Public Utilities Commission (475 U.S. 1) that a consumer advocacy group could not force the company to use extra space in their billing envelope for information. This upheld the corporation’s right not to speak (“negative speech” rights) and protected the corporation’s “freedom of mind.”

Justice William Rehnquist, appointed by Richard Nixon, dissented, declaring that, “[n]or do I believe that negative free speech rights, applicable to individuals and perhaps the print media, should be extended to corporations generally.” In a separate dissent, Justices White, Stevens and Rehnquist stated: “To ascribe to such entities an ‘intellect’ or ‘mind’ for freedom of conscience purposes, is to confuse metaphor with reality.”

February 26

1913 – Conclusion of Pujo Committee Hearings in Congress:  Wall Street holds massive financial power

A committee of Congress, headed by House Banking and Currency Committee Chair, Arsene Pujo, investigated the Wall Street banking “Money Trust” from 1912-1913. The Committee’s report identified a financial network of Wall Street bankers linked by 341 interlocking directorships held in 112 corporations valued at more than $22 billion connected to the Morgan and Rockefeller empires. These bankers exerted identifiable control over the US monetary system and economy.

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REAL Democracy History Calendar – February 13-19

February 13

2014 – Publication this month of “Banking on Never-Ending Power and Rights” by Greg Coleridge, By What Authority.

“Given the increasing omnipotence of money in determining who gets elected, what political voices get heard, when laws get passed, which programs get funded and how regulations are enacted and implemented, understanding the role of banking corporations in the creation and circulation of our nation’s money and in their lock-down control of our “monetary system” is essential to (re)gain political and economic self-governance.

…Giving banking corpses the license to print money, however, dwarfs every other form of privatization/corporatization of our society in terms of transferring economic and political power.

…Compounding the power for banking corporations to freely create money is their ability to leverage existing bank deposits — via fractional reserve banking – and create ten or more times as much money as they actually have on deposit. That’s vast economic power. And with vast economic power comes vast political power.

…While different fundamental reforms divide the public from a practical standpoint (i.e. there’s only so many causes any one person can work on at one time), changing our nation’s basic legal and constitutional ground rules can unite us.

Enacting Move to Amend’s ‘We the People Amendment’ declaring that only human beings, not corporations, possess inalienable constitutional rights and that political money is not equal to free speech helps all of us working for any fundamental reform.”

Source: http://poclad.org/BWA/2014/BWA_2014_Feb.html

February 14

1837 – Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge Supreme Court decision, 36 U.S. 420 (1837)

“[T]he continued existence of a government would be of no great value, if by implications and presumptions, it was disarmed of the powers necessary to accomplish the ends of its creation; and the functions it was designed to perform, transferred to the hands of privileged corporations.”

2015 – “What the BLEEP Happened to Hip Hop” held 2-day event in Seattle

Hip Hop Congress and Move to Amend partner presented on this date: “What the Bleep Happened to Hip Hop?”, a multi-racial and intergenerational public education event. These events have been organized in several cities around the country and more are planned. They are part of a larger national campaign seeking to raise awareness of the dangerous power corporations currently wield over the hip hop industry specifically, and over the arts, culture and society in general.

February 15

1904 – Death of Marc Hanna, political manager of President William McKinley, U.S. Senator, businessman

“There are two things important in politics. The first is money. I can’t remember what the second one is.”

McKinley’s 1896 campaign, orchestrated by Hanna, was (in)famous as the most expensive presidential contest to that date, and is regarded as setting the stage for “modern” American political campaigns.

February 16

2011 – Resolution introduced in Washington State Senate calling for a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not persons under U.S. law

Washington State Senator Adam Kline introduced the resolution.

February 17

1971 – Death of Adolf Berle, lawyer, educator, diplomat, and author of “The Modern Corporation and Private Property”

“A democracy is predicated on the idea that ordinary men and women are capable of governing themselves.”

February 18

1922 – Capper Volstead Act, a “Magna Carta of Cooperation,” becomes law

The Co-operative Marketing Associations Act provided “associations” of persons producing agricultural products certain exemptions from antitrust laws. Before its passage, corporations used the Sherman Act and Clayton Antitrust Act to challenge farmers from forming voluntary cooperative associations to process, handle and market their products. The Act represented the result of a long struggle by farmers for their right to organize cooperatives.

February 19

1942 – Japanese-Americans forced into Concentration Camps in the United States (Executive Order 9066).

Executive order by Franklin Delano Roosevelt forces 111,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese residents into concentration camps until 1946. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mr97qyKA2s

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