Occupying Bush’s State of the Union

Here’s what should “occupy” most of the time of George Bush’s State of the Union address tonight.

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My fellow Americans. Cabinet members. Congresspersons. Supreme Court Justices. Guests in the gallery who’ll I’ll reference in an attempt to score a political point.

I come before you tonight, my last State of the Union address, to share with you my reflections on a single topic – occupation.

The reality is that “occupation” much better describes US military actions in Iraq than “war.” Of course there remains brutal violence occurring in Iraq. The US military has killed, injured, and is responsible for the deaths of Iraqis by the hundreds of thousands. Nearly 4000 US troops have also been killed, tens of thousands injured. More than $720 million is spent every single day on the Iraq war according to my friends with the American Friends Service Committee — funds that could go to meeting the economic and social security needs in our communities. In addition, the US military is responsible for the destruction of Iraqi cities and villages, not to mention the natural environment as a result of US bombs, bullets, planes, tanks, guns and grenades. Killing, injuring and destroying are basic acts of war. The US is responsible for inflicting all these acts.

Yet, to call what is going on in Iraq simply as “war” is incomplete. The United States of America, with the backing of a vast majority of members of both political parties, has occupied a sovereign nation for nearly 5 years. We moved in and tried to take over the country in every way, beginning with the initial invasion, followed by the Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) led by my good buddy, Paul Bremer. The CPA issued orders and edicts seeking overall control of the economy, natural resources, public policies, politicians and basic governing rules. My administration has done all it can — sometimes outwardly, other times behind the scenes — to influence the Iraqi constitution, elections and candidates.. We currently are doing all we can to lock in the presence of US military bases for a generation or more and arm-twist the Iraqi Parliament to pass an Oil Law that will open up Iraqi oil reserves to US and other foreign based oil corporations. Invasion and control are among the basic acts of occupation. The US is responsible for all these acts.

Obviously, framing the US military presence in Iraq primarily as a “war” rather than an “occupation” has been pretty smart on my part … and those who invest in my administration.

Connected to “war” by our country are feelings of patriotism, loyalty and obedience to leaders like myself who come across as tough and strong. Implied in war is a threat to the homeland, providing ample opportunity to call for slashing domestic civil liberties, shifting federal spending to the military, and further consolidating my power. Snooping into your mail and email, listening in on your phone calls and arresting and holding people indefinitely is harder to sell under the guise of “occupying” a nation on the other side of the planet. It’s also much easier under the banner of war to create enemies – people to hate, and thus, an excuse to kill and destroy.

In contrast, an “occupation” of another people’s country begs all sorts of discomforting questions, such as: “Why are we actually there?” “Why can’t people take care of themselves?” “Will we leave if a majority of people being occupied, as in Iraq, want us out?”

I’d rather not have to answer these questions. In plain and simple English, this is why we’re in a “war” and not an “occupation” in Iraq.

There’s a second type of “occupation” I want to share with you tonight, my fellow Americans.

It’s an occupation right here at home. It’s not a physical or military one of our cities, suburbs or rural communities by any foreign power. That kind of occupation is easy to see, obvious to everyone and, relatively speaking, easier to resist.

The occupation I’m talking about is much more insidious, one that involves invasion and control and ultimately, like a military occupation, threatens sovereignty, self-determination, and democracy.

Your public spaces, public arenas, public policies, and public trust have been invaded and have become controlled by a few people of wealth against the majority for a very long time. It precedes my administration. It includes Democratic administrations as well as Republican ones. The weapons of this form of occupation are not bombers, tanks or soldiers but the legal structure called the business corporation, aided by several sections of the United States Constitution.

Business corporations have over the past century amassed “rights” to invade and control (that is, occupy) vital parts of your lives, communities and society. Corporations occupy your health care space once reserved exclusively for patients and their doctors. They increasingly occupy your educational spaces once reserved exclusively for students and their teachers. Corporations increasingly occupy the nutrition spaces once reserved exclusively for farmers.

Corporations have invaded elections and political campaigns. They control the airwaves (television and radio) and major print media. They, not you, determine the majority of trade and investment, where plants and factories will move, who will be employed and who will not, what communities will thrive, which ones will suffer. They are threatening the heart and soul of life itself by claiming that human, animal and plant genes can be patented.

The list of arenas, my fellow Americans, within society where business corporations dominate would put any oppressive military occupation force with soldiers on every street corner to shame.

The wealthy few who run business corporations have expanded their occupying force thanks to the supply line of the US Constitution. Anti-democratic provisions in the Constitution (i.e. the Contracts and Commerce Clauses, no direct election of President, life-time appointments of Supreme Court Justices, and holding citizens indefinitely without charge in a national emergency) collectively place the rights of property above people. Corporate friendly Supreme Court justices anointed corporations with Bill of Rights (1st, 4th, 5th) protections over the past century – expanding the invasion and control of corporations into our politics, economy and culture.

Why am I telling you this? Freely admitting to it all? Simple. I’ve blown it on Iraq (no pun intended). As recently documented, my administration lied at least 935 times leading up to the Iraq war. My poll numbers are abysmally low. I want to salvage my legacy in some way.

This nation was founded by colonists who kicked out the occupation army of the most powerful nation on earth. Their task was simple compared to the one at hand. Yet, people are increasingly waking up, opposing my policies, but also increasingly questioning why they don’t have a real voice in what’s going on in their lives, communities and nation. Citizens are flexing their democratic muscles.

Herein lies hope for the future.

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While such thoughts are likely to occupy the attention of George Bush during his address tonight, may they occupy ours.

Strategic Corporate Initiative

I’ve only read through the first couple of chapters. A very well done piece with many suggestions — both long and short-term. Comments welcome on whether any of this is worth further discussion on a state-level. I’d be happy to help organize a meeting.

Strategic Corporate Initiative: Toward a Global Citizens’ Movement to Bring Corporations Back Under Control by Michael Marx, Mari Margil, John Cavanagh, Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Charlie Cray, Marjorie Kelly, Corporate Ethics International.

There are tectonic stresses building beneath the surface of our society that threaten a global earthquake unlike any we’ve seen in recent history. Global warming is accelerating; fossil fuels are being rapidly exhausted; critical eco-systems have been severely damaged; and the income gap between rich and poor is increasing rapidly. The root cause of most of these problems can be found in the excessive power of global corporations. To solve these problems, we must bring corporations back under our control. This will be one of the greatest challenges our society faces this century.

CorpOrNation: The Story of Citizens and Corporations in Ohio

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvNvMWYx0Dc
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpdCtWE88Nc
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyupkbQqffI
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0P8gsd8h6s
Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzrrvcNeE_0

The 40 minute document is also on CD. Cost is $5.
To order, send a check/money order to AFSC and mail to 2101 Front St., #111, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221.

Background CorpOrNation exposes the historic corporate rise to power in Ohio, the barriers citizens have fought to create a true democracy for themselves, and detailed assessments of government influence by corporations through “corporate globalization.” Spanning Ohio’s history from 1803 through present-day struggles between citizens and corporations, CorpOrNation suggests strategies for citizens to overcome current threats to citizen-led democracy and the corporate takeover of society.

Rich with analysis and history, CorpOrNation, produced by the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, features interviews with people from the AFL-CIO, Ohio Public Interest Research Group, United Steelworkers, Ohio Family Farm Coalition, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Program on Corporations Law and Democracy, and student activists discussing corporate farms, factory lockouts, “veggie libel” laws, and regional “free trade” agreements.

CorpOrNation is based on Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, 96 page, Second Edition/Third Printing 2003 – detailing the legal and political history of corporations and citizen control and resistance to corporate power in Ohio.

Reducing the Power of Juries

If you want to know whether people are embarrassed about a decision or announcement needing to be made or are just trying to sneak something through hoping the public and media aren’t paying attention — just watch the day of the week or time of the year when those decisions or announcements are made.

Friday afternoons after financial markets have closed for the weekend are often when companies announce they’ve lost millions or billions. Around Thanksgiving (usually after) is a popular time for corporate announcements of mass layoffs.

Just before Christmas is when the US military attacked Panama and NAFTA was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton. It’s also a popular time for mass layoff announcements by corporations. The Ohio General Assembly a few ago right after Christmas passed a major campaign finance “reform” package increasing individual contribution “limits” by 400% and permitting business corporations to be involved directly in elections for the first time in nearly a century.

It happened again.

Two days after Christmas 2007, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that the power of people like you and me to judge our peers in a court of law (otherwise known as juries) was significantly reduced.

The Ohio Supremes on December 27 in Arbino v. Johnson & Johnson ruled that Senate Bill 80 passed by the Ohio legislature in 2005 capping personal injury awards was not a violation of the constitutional rights of plaintiffs (for example, people who are victims of medical malpractice).

By capping personal injury awards, the Supremes capped the right to decide of people who make up juries. Corporate-funded state legislators and state supreme court justices have made the decision for us. Citizens who compose juries no longer possess the authority to decide fair compensation for injuries suffered by our fellow citizens — even after sitting through an entire legal case, listening to evidence and arguments presented by both sides, and ruling in favor of a plaintiff.

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, in his written dissent (one of two Justices who voted against) asserted that the decision deprives plaintiffs of their right to a trial by jury and that nothing now prevents the Ohio legislature from further limiting damages to $1. “After today, what meaning is left in a litigant’s constitutional right to have a jury determine damages?”

This decision serves corporate interests of course. With citizens possessing little or no power these days to either (a) define corporate actions, or (b) regulate corporate abuse, the only alternative we have to respond to corporate harms are lawsuits.

Now that is severely limited in Ohio.

It’s easy to look at this decision through several different lenses — the specific case of Arbino v. Johnson & Johnson and the general issue of frivolous lawsuits being two of them. More instructive, however, is the lens of public power.
Does this decision increase the authority of the public (namely those on juries) to make decisions in a court of law? To determine to what extent people who are harmed should be fairly compensated for personal pain and suffering and for economic losses?

The answer to these question may suggest why the Ohio Supremes made their ruling two days after Christmas.

It also suggest that our work beginning in this New Year needs to be about doing all we can to uncap the commitment to expanding our right to decide. The Right to Decide — whether it’s our health care, jobs, education, community, media, energy, foreign policy, environment, vote counting systems, lawsuit damages, etc. — is the single most important issue in 2008.