Supreme Court to hear whether corpses have PERSONAL privacy rights

The madness continues…actually increases. The hearing of this case before the US Supreme Court is scheduled for January 19, 2011 — two days prior to the one year anniversary of the Citizens United decision. If the court agrees with AT&T, they may change their slogan from “Your World. Discovered.” to “Our World. Secret.”

Thanks to Terry Lodge for forwarding this. His comments with the posting were:
“After all, we don’t want to embarrass them by releasing governmental investigatory reports of how we, the people, are gouged, raped, pillaged and poisoned by corporations….. ‘Please, mister, it’s humiliating to know we had an uncontrolled radiation release for days that will kill thousands of people, and didn’t catch it; we’d feel a lot better if you didn’t tell anyone….’ ‘Please, mister, we feel bad enough about poisoning all those wells when we took down that mountain; can’t you have a heart?’ “

SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 92
November 18, 2010

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

DO CORPORATIONS HAVE PERSONAL PRIVACY RIGHTS?

The Supreme Court will decide next year whether corporations are entitled to “personal privacy” and whether they may prevent the release of records under the Freedom of Information Act on that basis. FOIA advocates say that assigning personal privacy rights to corporations could deal a crippling blow to the Act.

The case before the Court — known as FCC v. AT&T — arose from a FOIA request to the Federal Communications Commission for records of an investigation of a government contract held by AT&T. The FCC found that the requested records were subject to release under FOIA. But AT&T challenged that decision and won an appeals court ruling that the documents were law enforcement records that were exempt from disclosure because their release would constitute “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” — namely, the “personal privacy” of AT&T.

The appeals court noted that the word “person” is defined in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) to include corporations, and it went on to infer from this that the FOIA exemption for “personal privacy” in law enforcement records must logically extend to corporations as well.

But “that analysis does not withstand scrutiny,” the government argued in its petition (pdf) to the Supreme Court for review of the case. Personal privacy can only apply to individual human beings, it said, and not to other entities. “The court of appeals’ novel construction would erroneously create a new and amorphous ‘privacy’ right not only for corporations but also for local, state, and foreign governments [which also fall under the APA definition of ‘person’].”

A concise description of the pending case as well as key case files and amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court by several FOIA advocacy organizations are conveniently available from the Electronic Privacy Information Center . (EPIC prepared one of the amicus briefs and I was among the signatories to it.)

Corporate information that qualifies as a “trade secret” has long been exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. But prior to this case, no court had ever held that a corporation also has personal privacy rights.

If affirmed by the Supreme Court, the appeals court ruling “could vastly expand the rights of corporations to shield their activities from public view,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy this week, and it “would close a vital window into how our government works.”

“Congress never intended for this [personal privacy] exemption to apply to corporations,” he said. “I also fear that extending this exemption to corporations would permit corporations to shield from public view critical information about public health and safety, environmental dangers, and financial misconduct, among other things — to the great detriment of the people’s right to know and to our democracy.”

“I sincerely hope that our nation’s highest Court… will narrowly construe the personal privacy exemption, consistent with congressional intent,” said Sen. Leahy . “Should the Court decide to do otherwise, I will work with others in the Congress to ensure that FOIA, and specifically the personal privacy exemption for law enforcement records, remains a meaningful safeguard for the American people’s right to know,” he said.

FCC v. AT&T is scheduled to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on January 19, 2011.

Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling

An example of citizens resisting corporate Constitutional rights. People have a right to decide economically, politically…and environmentally…what goes on in their communities. This is also an example of corporate power based on something other than 1st Amendment Free Speech rights. It’s why any effort to amend the Constitution to abolish “corporate personhood” must include ALL Constitutional rights — not simply the 1st Amendment [www.movetoamend.org]

“Provisions in the ordinance eliminate corporate ‘personhood’ rights within the city for corporations seeking to drill, and remove the ability of corporations to wield the Commerce and Contracts Clauses of the U.S. Constitution to override community decision-making.”

Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling
A historic new ordinance bans natural gas drilling while elevating community decision making and the rights of nature over the “rights” associated with corporate personhood.
by Mari Margil, Ben Price
posted Nov 16, 2010
http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/pittsburg-bans-natural-gas-drilling

Lots o’ Links of Corporate Assault on Democracy

BACKGROUND
=============

For those who wish to approach the issue of corporate personhood from a religious perspective…
Do corporations have souls?
By THE REV. EDMUND ROBINSON
October 30, 2010 2:00 AM
http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101030/LIFE/10300303

Henry Demarest Lloyd’s Wealth Against Commonwealth.
http://www.ebooks.burnedbookspublishing.com/04003852/index.html
[It took former Ohioan John Storm 5 years to convert this 1894 classic to an electronic format. Find the time to read it!]

NEWS
=====

The Cost of a Vote Goes Up
By EDUARDO PORTER
Published: November 6, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/opinion/07sun3.html

The Re-Education of a Citizens United Denier
The Supreme Court didn’t just let corporations in; it created a new kind of money broker.
Mark Schmitt | November 5, 2010
http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_reeducation_of_a_citizens_united_denier

Big spenders: How candidates backed by outside groups fared
By Anupama Narayanswamy Nov 3, 2010
http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/

Editorial: Judges and Money
States that hold judicial elections must adopt public financing and strict rules barring judges from cases involving major financial supporters
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/30/opinion/30sat2.html?emc=eta1

Economist Joseph Stiglitz: Put Corporate Criminals in Jail
http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/investing/joseph-stiglitz-corporate-crooks-to-jail/19684353/?icid=sphere_copyright

Small Town Declares Freedom from Fracking
Licking Township, Pennsylvania Declares Freedom from Fracking
http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/pennsylvania-township-declares-freedom-from-fracking

TAKE ACTION
============

Pass the DISCLOSE ACT THIS YEAR!
In January, the Supreme Court strengthened corporations’ grip on our government and political process with a dangerous ruling, overturning more than 100 years of election law.
The results of that ruling led to millions of dollars of secret, undisclosed contributions that influenced this year’s elections.
To combat the new, unregulated corporate influence over elections, the House of Representatives passed the DISCLOSE Act – because democracy is strengthened by casting light on spending in elections.
It is time for the Senate to act on this critical piece of legislation. Tell Senator Harry Reid to bring the DISCLOSE ACT to the floor of the Senate this year.
More at http://readersupportednews.org/pass-the-disclose-act-this-year

Visit MoveToAmendOhio.org
For more action ideas. Click on the Take Action link.

Rootscamp
Karen Hansen and I will be doing a workshop tomorrow in Columbus at Rootscamp on Ending Corporate Rule in Ohio and the US. If you’re attending, join us! http://www.ohiorootscamp.pbworks.com

5 Observations from the Vote on Akron Ballot Issues

The votes are in. Four of the seven ballot measures (Issues 12-15) passed. Issues 11, 16 and 17 failed.

1. The recall provision of Issue 12 was the poster child to basically gut the initiative and referendum provisions of the city charter. Anger over last year’s recall campaign was manipulated to shield these other “direct democracy” provisions of the charter. The initiative, referendum and recall are 3 completely different “direct democracy” provisions – grounded in state constitutions and municipal charter across the country going back more than a century to enable citizens to “do democracy directly” and keep public officials accountable between elections. The initiative permits citizens to create a law (via signatures gathered on a petition followed by an election) that citizens feel their elected representatives would not otherwise enact. The referendum permits citizens to undo or reverse a law passed by elected officials via signatures gathered on a petition followed by an election. The recall permits removal of an elected official via signatures gathered on a petition followed by an election. Framing the issue about the recall and abuse of it was the tactic. It worked — as much as those opposed to the Issue tried to inform voters of the initiative and referendum provisions. Still, in spite of it all, Issue 12 only passed by less than 3%. Pretty remarkable.

2. By my count, there were 32 other charter amendment changes on the ballot elsewhere in Summit County in addition to the seven in Akron. Only five were voted down (two in Stow, and one each in Twinsburg, Mogadore and Peninsula). That means 85% of proposed changes passed. That seems about right – as most people sadly don’t pay much attention to their charter – which is the equivalent to their local constitution. Nevertheless, charters are perceived as boring, legalistic and confusing. The defeat of three of seven of Akron’s charter amendment proposals comes to 43% — nearly three times the rate elsewhere in the county. And this was in the face of the 11th hour blitzkrieg of negative mailings.

3. Voters in the Village of Peninsula were asked to vote on Issue 69. What was Issue 69? It was a vote (for no more than 15 people) of who should serve on the Village Charter Commission – presumably a Commission that will soon meet. Imagine if Akron had elected its charter review commission instead of it being handpicked by the Mayor. The original “problems” and “issues” with the current charter might have looked very different – those addressing the economic and social needs of people and neighborhoods rather than how to consolidate political and economic power in City Hall. Yes, city council would have had to approve the recommendations of the body before anything could appear on the ballot. But a “people’s” charter review commission would have set a very different table for discussion and deliberation than the handpicked commission. By the way, Mansfield also elects their charter review commission. Who knows how many other communities do the same across the state.

4. “Citizens for Akron,” which supported passage of all the issues, raised $86,000 based on their most recent campaign filing. Save Our City, which opposed Issues 11-16, only raised a few thousand dollars. Might the results have been different if there had been a move even financial playing field? “Citizens for Akron” drowned out the voices of Save Our City with their repeated mailings to voters during the last week. The stunning irony of this is that “Citizen for Akron” used their big money war chest to promote, among the issues, Issue 14 – which argued that more political money is needed to increase political competition and educate voters.

5. Speaking of “Citizens for Akron,” who were the fine, outstanding Akron residents loyal to their community who funded the $86,000 campaign to pass Issues 11-17.
$25,000 from First Energy corporation
$15,000 from Goodyear Tire & Rubber corporation
$10,000 from Rubber City Arches, LLC.
$10,000 from GOJO Industries, Inc.
$6,000 from Brouse McDowell, LPA. – Law firm.
$5,000 from Myers Industries
$5,000 from Roetzel and Andress, LPA.- Law firm.
$5,000 from Thomarios.
$2,000 from Cavanaugh Building corporation.
$1,000 from the Daniel Pohl Family Lmtd Partnership.
$1,000 from Cardinal Maintenance and Service Co., Inc.
$1,000 from Cardinal Environmental Services, Inc.
Here’s the originals:
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/57697165/Who-Funds-Citizens-for-Akron–Corporations-of-course!

Not a single Ohioan. Not a single Akron resident. In fact, not a single human being. All are businesses of one type or another. No doubt looking at their “contribution” more as an “investment” – looking to get something in return.

Corporations – at every level of government, more and more dominate politics. Elections don’t by themselves equate to a democracy. If they did, there would’ve been a thriving democracy in the former Soviet Union and in current China – as election turnouts were/are extraordinarily high. What makes a democracy real is when every person has a legitimate chance to have their voice heard and opportunity to shape the decisions affecting their lives.

Corporations increasingly influence elections and corrupt the body politic because they increasingly gained constitutional rights as “persons.” Corporate “free speech rights” in elections is an absurdity. This nation’s founders never intended it. The Bill of Rights was meant to protect human beings, not corporations. Corporate political power must end.

There’s a national and state campaign to (re)assert citizen power over corporate power. It’s called Move to Amend. Go their website (www.movetoamend.org) and sign the petition calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood. The state chapter is http://www.movetoamendohio.org. Download the resolution calling for abolishing corporate constitutional rights. Take it to whatever group(s) you may be a part of. Get them to endorse it. The only ways to legalize democracy and end corporate rule is when We the People take charge. If you’d like someone to speak before a group you may be a part of, contact AFSC at 330-928-2301.