Democracy Convention – Day 2

Democratizing Money, Democratizing the Constitution and Building a Democracy Movement in the USA

It was a dizzying day of education and action in Madison. Here are 10 reflections of my experiences, observations and comments.

1. Plenary sessions are streamed live on DemocracyConvention.org. Watch the first 2 days plenary sessions and other workshops at http://www.theuptake.org/2011/08/24/democracy-convention-live-from-madison-wi/

2. People are increasingly interested in taking control of our corporatized money system. The workshop on Democratizing Money was wall-to-wall with people. I spoke on the need, as affirmed in the Constitution, to retake power and authority to coin money through issuing and circulating US debt-free money. This would unshackle our nation from the economic dependency of banking corporations via interest payments. I shared information about HB 6550, the National Emergency Employment Defense [NEED] Act and the work of the American Monetary Institute. A description of the NEED Act is at http://monetary.org/create-jobs-and-improve-the-economy-through-public-control-of-our-money-system/2011/01

3. A movement to fundamentally amend the US Constitution, or any other movement, must address issues of race, white privilege, class and other issues that divide people who have been oppressed. That was the clear message of several presenters at the daylong Move to Amend Affiliates Gathering. At least 50 people pre-registered for this 2-day skill-building and strategy session.

4. There were several very informative skill building sessions addressing Earned Media and Lobbying Public Officials at the MTA Affiliates Gathering. These will soon be posted on

http://www.movetoamend.org (probably in the Tool Kit section). There were also several excellent handouts provided. One focusing on corporate personhood “Talking Points” will be posted on http://www.movetoamendohio.org in the next few days.

5. Madison and Dane county, Wisconsin have paved the way in passing ballot initiatives calling for an end to corporate personhood and the legal doctrine that money is speech. Other communities have worked to pass variations of such resolutions. Many more are in various stages of development.

The following reflections are based on the evening plenary, Building a Democracy Movement in the USA.

6. Ben Manski, Chair of the Convention, said the fundamental question of our time is “Who rules?” A democracy movement must be built to win, to acquire the capacity to self-govern.

7. George Friday of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Green Party felt the 3 most important steps to take in when we return home are (1) pass resolutions against corporate personhood and wanting our war dollars to come home, (2) build relationships with people unlike ourselves, and (3) have a party. It’s very important that is these troubled times that we take care of ourselves.

8. Dr. Margaret Flowers, one of the key organizers of the upcoming October 6 Stop the Machine actions in DC and key single-payer activist, believes lobbying and working on elections at the present time is basically worthless as our political system is broken. The disconnect between supermajority public views and political votes on taxing the rich, ending the wars, corporate welfare, creating jobs, clean energy, getting money out of politics prove the point that corporations and the military have captured our public officials. We must build a grassroots democracy movement.

9. Nichols, author and writer for the Nation and Progressive, quoting Walt Whitman, said democracy is not of the vote but of the human spirit. It has almost nothing do with the voting booth but whether we are human beings. Politics isn’t ultimately about voting but of equality. He very assertively spoke about the success of people who have created their own media and helped them “leap over” corporate media – and called for all of us to become more adept at using all communication technologies. He also said we must overcome our fear of the Constitution. It’s protected us a little bit. But we’ve got to mess with it. Get money out of politics. People are people. Corporations are corporations. And people are superior to corporations.

10. Finally, I observed to David Cobb this evening that the movement against corporations has come along way over the past 15 years. The energy directed at corporations is now rapidly evolving. For years, when activists at all focused on corporations, it was directed on one or more “harms” or “abuses” (the list of which is virtually endless). What we are now seeing is an evolution to awareness and energy focused on redressing corporate rights. That is quite a shift – from a defensive one-at-a-time approach to an affirmative declaration that human beings alone (include nature as well) should possess inalienable rights. It’s been quite a ride. And it’s just beginning!

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Democracy Convention – Day 1

Opening Ceremony / Keynote Addresses

The Democracy Convention in Madison, WI opened tonight with a moving performance of the Call for Peace Native American drum dance group. Two dancers, from tribes located in Wisconsin, combined ritualistic music with dance, including a Circle Dance with more than a dozen hoops, symbolizing unity and harmony of all people of all races and backgrounds.

Mayor Paul Soglin of Madison provided greetings to the hundreds of attendees. Observing what has taken place in Wisconsin since the beginning of the year, he said the actions of Governor Walker over the last 6 months was the result of what happens when we don’t pay attention. The 2 lessons he’s learned since the beginning of the year are (1) investing in infrastructure and education is what improves society and (2) we can’t let conditions take care of themselves.

Ben Manski, Chair of the Convention and Director of the Liberty Tree Foundation, felt that the event was the culmination of hard work of many people involved in many individual movements for democracy that had matured – beginning with resistance of the WTO in Seattle.

Tom Hayden, drafter of the Port Huron Statement which called for participatory democracy, not simply representative democracy in the 1960’s, commented that democracy in the US today is fragmented with our democratic structure build on a historical and present destruction of people and cultures – from Native Americans to the nation’s we are at war with at the moment.

There is a current conflict between the progressive and reactionary forms of populism, Hayden said. Democratic movements always divide over those who’ve been radicalized and want more and those who are moderate and are content with modest gains. Victories of any size also fragment movements. The ruling class is also divided in times of social turmoil – between moderates who are willing to make concessions and solidify most of their power and wealth and those who are absolutists, feeling that to give in on any demand represents a loss of status and power. These absolutists make up a countermovement – which is what we’re experiencing today with attacks on progressive/populist economic and political programs and rules.

One of the major struggles between progressive populist movements for democratic change and counter-movements is over memory, since a large part of current movements is based on the memory and lessons learned from earlier ones.

He said authentic social change always begins with participatory democracy on the margins and ends up impacting representative democracy (elections). Unlike other nations, one device that has always undercut the growing movement for democracy has been war. The US frontier/expansionist culture has been effective at distracting attention from domestic concerns and diverted class and social conflicts by pushing people of color and the poor off “to the frontier” to fight wars or settle lands.

He was encouraged by the recent AFL-CIO statement against the Afghanistan war but cautioned us to pay attention to the “Long War” Pentagon doctrine (calling for perpetual war for 80 years – we’ve 10 years in). The domestic effects of this Long War doctrine are reductions of civil liberties (and difficulties in organizing) and in further domestic economic and social deterioration.

He ended by noting the similarities between the 1950’s and today. Just as the awareness and actions of the Beatniks and Montgomery bus boycotts were the precursors of the organizing for peace and civil rights of the 1960’s, what happened in Madison earlier this year may very well be the precursor to the more profound movement for change in the period ahead.

Cheri Honkla, founder of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philadelphia and organizer of many poor-people’s marches nation-wide, was the final speaker. She said we are living in truly historic times. We must stop trying to adjust to a lower standard of living. To be silent in these times is to betray the millions who are without work, health insurance, or a home while bankers received trillions.

She said fear is being used as a weapon to silence and terrorize us. History has shown when people are no longer immobilized by fear, movements happen. Overcoming fear has allowed thousands of families she has worked with to take over abandoned homes and fight foreclosures. Our quest should be to create an entirely new cooperative society – where people are in control of banks and other institutions that currently oppress people.

By the way, Honkala is running this November to become Sheriff of Philadelphia – so she can stop throwing people our of their homes due to foreclosures.

On a personal note, I have the good fortune to be staying in a cohousing community in Madison called Arbco Commons. With the inspiration and perspiration of several Quakers and others, the 3-year old 40-unit facility is a center of intentional community living and activism in this area. More information about the community is at http://www.arboretumcohousing.org/

Democracy Convention Final Invitation

Received this late yesterday…

One thousand caring, committed people, ready for democracy.

Hundreds of workshops and panels.

Two hundred presenters.

Nine conferences.

Five days.

One Convention.

http://www.DemocracyConvention.org

It all begins tomorrow. If you are moved to walk, pedal, drive, locomotive, or fly to downtown Madison, do it. Because the world begins again tomorrow.

At noon, registration opens up at the Atrium of the downtown campus of Madison (Area Technical) College. Come on down, check in, get your commemorative button (and name tag). Meet other convention goers. Visit the people staffing the informational, book, and chotchke tables.

At 7:00pm, the Call for Peace Drum and Dance troop open the convention with inspiration. They will immediately be followed by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin’s welcome to the city. And then our two incredible keynote speakers, Tom Hayden and Cheri Honkala.

The convention runs through Sunday. You will be amazed at the intensity and breadth of the offerings at this gathering. I hope you’ll also note that everything at the convention comes back to one common challenge: Building a democracy movement for the U.S.A..

We have posted everything on the website. Check it all out at http://www.DemocracyConvention.org

And then –depending on where you hail from– come on down, over, or up to the Democracy Convention in Madison.

In Solidarity,

Ben Manski

Executive Director, Liberty Tree

Chair, Democracy Convention

Reports from Democracy Convention

The First Annual Democracy Convention

August 24-8 / Madison, WI

If you want to strengthen democracy where it matters most — in our communities, our schools, our workplaces and local economies, our military, our government, our media, our constitution — you will find something inspiring in Madison this August.

More than one conference, this first Democracy Convention will house at least nine conferences under one roof. As the great progressive reformer Fighting Bob La Follette said, “democracy is a life,” and “involves constant struggle” in all sectors of society. With the 2011 Democracy Convention, we recognize the importance of each of these separate democracy struggles, as well as the need to unite them all in a common, deeply rooted, broad based, movement for democracy. More than 500 people have already registered.

http://democracyconvention.org/about-convention

http://democracyconvention.org/

I’ll be participating in 3 workshops during the Convention:

At the EARTH DEMOCRACY Conference

Water: A Fundamental Right for People and Nature: Local to Global

http://democracyconvention.org/session/water-fundamental-right-people-and-nature-local-global

At the CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM Conference

Lessons from the Past: Abolitionists, The Women’s Movement, Organized Labor

http://democracyconvention.org/session/lessons-past-abolitionists-women%E2%80%99s-movement-organized-labor

At the ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY Conference

Democratizing Money

http://democracyconvention.org/session/democratizing-money

[the list of presenters has changed]

Between workshop presentations, I’ll be attending many sessions at the Constitutional Reform Conference , which is sponsored by Move to Amend (the organization formed last year to amend the US Constitution to abolish never-intended corporate constitutional rights).

Reports (hopefully daily) will be posted here.

Links will be at:

http://www.facebook.com/greg.coleridge

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Northeast-Ohio-American-Friends-Service-Committee-AFSC/118469198182768#!/groups/123055735045/

MONETARY HISTORY CALENDAR — August 22-28

AUGUST 23 1935 – PASSAGE OF US BANKING ACT

The law made the FDIC a permanent agency and raised the deposit insurance level to $5,000.

The Federal Reserve System was reformed with the transformation of the Federal Reserve Board of Directors to the Board of Governors. All board members were appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and the term of service was expanded to 14 years. Open-market operations were formalized in the Federal Open Market Committee and the Governors were allowed to determine interest rates and bank reserve requirements. These “reforms,” however, were window dressing. The power and authority to issue money as debt was retained in the hands of the private Federal Reserve and private banking corporations. Keeping reserve requirement decisions in the hands of the Fed only invited speculation and risk (reserve requirements are the ratio of money banks lend in excess of money they actually possess “in reserve” to cover loans. Banks loan many times the amount of funds in their reserve).

AUGUST 24 1916 – BIRTH OF ROBERT DE FREMERY, AUTHOR, RIGHTS VS PRIVILEGES

“It is not obvious that there are serious defects in our banking system and our tax system that deprive most of us of fundamental rights and bestow enormous privileges on others? How many riots must we endure? How many prisons must we build? How many of our rights must we lose? How many of our young people must be sent away to fight in foreign wars before we decide that enough is enough?”

1922 – BIRTH OF HOWARD ZINN

“Whether you have a Republican or a Democrat in power, the Robber Barons are still there…Under the Clinton administration more mergers of huge corporations took place that had ever taken place before under any administration…Whether you have Republicns or Democrats in power, big business is the most powerful voice in the halls of Congress and in the ears of the President of the U.S.”

NOTE: National talk show host Thom Hartmann recently spoke out in support of the National Emergency Employment Defense [NEED] Act, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, which calls for the issuance and circulation of US debt-free money to fund infrastructure programs. To read more about the NEED Act, go to http://moneyreform.wordpress.com/2011/01/

Why this calendar? Many people have questions about the root causes of our economic problems. Some questions involve money, banks and debt. How is money created? Why do banks control its quantity? How has the money system been used to liberate (not often) and oppress (most often) us? And how can the money system be “democratized” to rebuild our economy and society, create jobs and reduce debt?

Our goal is to inform, intrigue and inspire through bite size weekly postings listing important events and quotes from prominent individuals (both past and present) on money, banking and how the money system can help people and the planet. We hope the sharing of bits of buried history will illuminate monetary and banking issues and empower you with others to create real economic and political justice.

This calendar is a project of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. Adele Looney, Phyllis Titus, Donna Schall, Leah Davis, Alice Francini and Greg Coleridge helped in its development.

Please forward this to others and encourage them to subscribe. To subscribe/unsubscribe or to comment on any entry, contact monetarycalendar@yahoo.com For more information, visit http://www.afsc.net/economiccrisis.html

MONETARY HISTORY CALENDAR — August 22-28

AUGUST 23

1935 – PASSAGE OF BANKING ACT

The law made the FDIC a permanent agency and raised the deposit insurance level to $5,000.

The Federal Reserve System was reformed with the transformation of the Federal Reserve Board of Directors to the Board of Governors. All board members were appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and the term of service was expanded to 14 years. Open-market operations were formalized in the Federal Open Market Committee and the Governors were allowed to determine interest rates and bank reserve requirements. These “reforms,” however, were window dressing. The power and authority to issue money as debt was retained in the hands of the private Federal Reserve and private banking corporations. Keeping reserve requirement decisions in the hands of the Fed only invited speculation and risk (reserve requirements are the ratio of money banks lend in excess of money they actually possess “in reserve” to cover loans. Banks loan many times the amount of funds in their reserve).

AUGUST 24

1916 – BIRTH OF ROBERT DE FREMERY, AUTHOR, RIGHTS VS PRIVILEGES

“It is not obvious that there are serious defects in our banking system and our tax system that deprive most of us of fundamental rights and bestow enormous privileges on others? How many riots must we endure? How many prisons must we build? How many of our rights must we lose? How many of our young people must be sent away to fight in foreign wars before we decide that enough is enough?”

1922 – BIRTH OF HOWARD ZINN

“Whether you have a Republican or a Democrat in power, the Robber Barons are still there…Under the Clinton administration more mergers of huge corporations took place that had ever taken place before under any administration…Whether you have Republicns or Democrats in power, big business is the most powerful voice in the halls of Congress and in the ears of the President of the U.S.”

Why this calendar? Many people have questions about the root causes of our economic problems. Some questions involve money, banks and debt. How is money created? Why do banks control its quantity? How has the money system been used to liberate (not often) and oppress (most often) us? And how can the money system be “democratized” to rebuild our economy and society, create jobs and reduce debt?

Our goal is to inform, intrigue and inspire through bite size weekly postings listing important events and quotes from prominent individuals (both past and present) on money, banking and how the money system can help people and the planet. We hope the sharing of bits of buried history will illuminate monetary and banking issues and empower you with others to create real economic and political justice.

This calendar is a project of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. Adele Looney, Phyllis Titus, Donna Schall, Leah Davis, Alice Francini and Greg Coleridge helped in its development.

Please forward this to others and encourage them to subscribe. To subscribe/unsubscribe or to comment on any entry, contact monetarycalendar@yahoo.com For more information, visit http://www.afsc.net/economiccrisis.html

Citizen Power or Corporate Power in Ohio



Have corporations become too powerful? This is a relevant question during this time of rapid increase of corporate consolidations, intellectual property protections, movement of factories and money, lobbying and campaign contributions, tax breaks, deregulation, and influence over health care, education, housing, food, prisons, transportation and the environment.

“Corporatization” of our society is not inevitable or irreversible. Corporations were not supposed to reign. The early history of the United States and of Ohio is of citizens clearly defining and closely controlling corporate behavior. It is a history that is outlined in Citizens over Corporations, A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, produced by the Ohio Committee on Corporations, Law and Democracy, a project of the American Friends Service Committee of Northeast Ohio.

The American Revolution was not a revolution simply against a tax on tea or the King of England. It was also a revolution against the British “crown” corporations that ran the colonies – such as the Massachusetts Bay Company, Maryland Company, Virginia Company, and Carolina Company.

Following independence, the colonists “constitutionalized” or “democratized” these corporations, converting them into states with elected representatives. From their experiences, the colonists knew to keep corporations on a short leash. Therefore, they entrusted the essential task of corporate control to the one group who was closest to the people — state legislators.

When Ohio became a state in 1803, the state legislature acting on behalf of the public used their power to create and define corporations. Early Ohio acts creating corporations one at a time stipulated rigid conditions. These privileges, not rights, included:

• Limited duration of charter or certificate of incorporation,

• Limitation on amount of land ownership,

• Limitation of amount of capitalization, or total investment of owners,

• Limitations of charter for a specific purpose (to amend its charter, a new corporation had to be formed),

• The state reserved the right to amend the charters or to revoke them,

• Corporations could not engage in political activities.

In many instances, after a corporation built a turnpike and once the corporation recovered its costs and a fair profit, the charter of certificate of incorporation was dissolved and the turnpike became a public road. In other instances, the charter exempted the poor, voters and churchgoers from turnpike tolls.

A second way people exerted power and control over corporations through the Ohio legislature was by repealing entire or portions of corporate charters that violated terms of their incorporation. From 1839-1849 the legislature effectively dissolved several enterprises. Turnpike corporations and banks were the most common targets; others included silk and insurance corporations.

In an 1842 act to repeal the charter of the German Bank of Wooster, the state legislature stated:

It shall be the duty of the court of common pleas… or any judge of the supreme court…to restrain said bank, its officers, agents and servants or assignees, from exercising any corporate rights, privileges, and franchises whatever…and force the bank commissioners to close the bank and deliver full possession of the banking house, keys, books, papers, lands, tenements, goods, chattels, moneys, property and effects of said bank, of every kind and description whatever…

From the 1830’s through the 1912 Constitutional Convention, the Ohio Supreme Court and various lower courts ruled on hundreds of cases that affirmed the sovereign rights of people and their elected representatives to define corporations and their actions. Cases ranged from sweeping decisions on corporations in general; to more specific decisions on an entire category of corporations (like railroads); to very specific decisions addressing a particular corporation. Many decisions reinforced previously passed state laws or provisions of state constitutions. In one case, the Ohio Supreme Court stated,

The corporation has received vitality from the state; it continues during its existence to be the creature of the state; must live subservient to its laws, and has such powers and franchises as those laws have bestowed upon it, and none others. As the state was not bound to create it in the first place, it is not bound to maintain it after having done so, if it violates the laws or public policy of the state, or misuses its franchises to oppress the citizens thereof.

State courts imposed penalties for abuse or misuse of the corporate charter that were often more severe than a simple plea bargain or fine. They included ousting the corporation of its claimed privileges to perform certain actions. The most severe penalty, common from the mid-1800’s through the 1920’s, was to revoke the corporate charter and dissolve the corporation itself. The legal device used to achieve these penalties was a quo warranto proceeding.

The most well-known quo warranto case in Ohio history involved the efforts by two Republican Ohio Attorneys General to revoke the charter of the Standard Oil Company, the most powerful U.S. corporation of the time, for forming a trust. In the 1892 argument to revoke its franchise, Ohio Attorney General David Watson argued,

Where a corporation, either directly or indirectly, submits to the domination of an agency unknown to the statute, or identifies itself with and unites in carrying out an agreement whose performance is injurious to the public, it thereby offends against the law of its creation and forfeits all right to its franchises, and judgment of ouster should be entered against it.

In a 1900 ruling to dissolve a dairy company, the Ohio Supreme Court said,

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.

Corporations didn’t take this entire citizen self-governance and revocation business sitting down. Corporations fought back against legislative and judicial charter revocations and limitations, confronting the law at every point. They hired lawyers and created law firms. Corporations rewrote the laws governing their creation. They advocated replacing specific chartering rules with general incorporation laws (as Ohio did in 1842) with minimal reviews, perpetual life spans, limited liabilities and decreased citizen authority. Judges redefined corporate profits as property. The courts declared corporate contracts and the rate of return on investment as property. Judges and the legislature redefined the common good to mean corporate use of people and the earth and commons to maximize production and profit.

In Ohio, laws and court cases favorable to corporations were passed and decided over a period of decades. If corporations couldn’t get favorable treatment by the legislature, they focused their energies on the courts where they had a greater chance for success.

The corporate counter attack to citizen aspirations and values for self-governance achieved a significant victory in 1886. That year the U.S. Supreme Court (including three Ohioans) ruled in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Corp. that a corporation was a natural person under the U.S. Constitution, protected by the 14th Amendment. It was the 14th Amendment, passed in 1868, which provided freed slaves rights of due process and equal protection under the law — rights of persons.

With corporate profits, consolidations, tax breaks and political influence following the Citizens United vs. FEC decision at or near record levels today, it is time to reexamine the fundamental relationship between citizens and corporations. Challenging corporate constitutional “rights” is a legitimate and essential task of self-governing people. The time has still not yet arrived when the created is greater than the creator. We Ohioans must learn our history and use it to rethink and reassess our actions today. What is left of our democracy is at stake.

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Copies of Citizens over Corporations are available for $2.00 each plus $1 postage. Order from Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, 2101 Front St., #111, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221 [Check payable to AFSC] Phone: 330-928-2301 Web: http://www.afsc.net