US prosecutors told to push for more, harsher punishments

More, harsher punishments = more prisoners in federal prisons, many of which are corporate-run = more profits for corporations that run prisons = more cash available by agents of corporate-run prisons to lobby and contribute/invest in public officials to have more, harsher punishments.

Repeat.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/us-prosecutors-told-to-push-for-more-harsher-punishments/ar-BBB2Pgg

 

 

THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY IN OHIO LOOKS LIKE! Ohio’s Democratic/Self-Determination “Infrastructure”

DemocraticInfrastructure

We are pleased to present our January, 2017 updated edition.

To read the full report, go to: https://www.afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/DemocraticInfrastructure.pdf

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From the Introduction…

From the local to the global, the ability of people to govern themselves is under assault, which will intensify over the next four years. Some of the major sources of this attack are:

• Business corporations looking to make huge profits by converting what once had been “public” to “private” (“privatization,“ though a more descriptive term would be “corporatization”), including traditional public assets like water and sewer systems, roads, police and fire protection, airports, hospitals, and schools.

• Individuals looking to increase their power, status, and/or privileges by concentrating decision-making from many hands (We the People and government) to few (their own).

• A culture that reinforces notions that public policies are too complicated for ordinary people to understand (thus leaving policy making to experts); that distracts public attention away from self-determination toward the trivial and inane; that worships “the market” as the route to financial and economic salvation which is not to be regulated or controlled; that define certain arenas (economic in particular) as outside the scope of public input; that continues to erase memory of any/all historical examples of citizen control and definition of their lives; that equates anything that is “public” as being inefficient, wasteful, decrepit, and dangerous and anything “private” as efficient, modern and safe; and that keeps people separated to learn from one another and organize to (re)assert meaningful changes.

• Continual legal and constitutional definitions that further “enclose” and redefine “public” arenas as other “p” words: “private,” “property,” “proprietary,” “privileged” — and thus beyond the reach of public planning, public shaping, and public evaluation.

• A national government that under the guise of “terrorism” has given itself permission to stifle dissent, intimidate dissenters, and interrupt efforts of self-determination.

But there is another side to this – a democratic/self-determination culture or “infrastructure.” Alternatives to corporations, corporate governance and elite control exist in our communities and across the state.

Scores of documents, policies, institutions, structures and groups reflecting inclusiveness are in place – examples where those who are affected by decisions and policies have a legitimate role in the shaping and making of those decisions… or could if we made the effort. They are where We the People have a voice… or could have a real voice if we merely flexed our self-determination muscles…

Call in TODAY to Congress. Vote NO on the TPP

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While candidates are furiously campaigning to be elected this November, a much quieter but just as furious campaign is being waged to pressure Congress to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the lame-duck session just after the election, but before the new Congress convenes next January.

Not very democratic is it?

Neither is the TPP and its profoundly undemocratic Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision giving giant corporations the power to challenge national laws, rules and regulations protecting workers, consumers, communities and the environment that they claim has harmed their ability to maximize profits.

Today, Wednesday September 14, is a national call-in day opposing the TPP. Call toll free 1-888-659-7351 and tell your Congressperson and Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown to vote NO on the TPP. Global Trade Watch and the Citizens Trade Campaign are among the major organizers of this action.

The TPP is terribly misnamed. It’s not ultimately about trade (be it free or fair). It’s about corporate global rule.

Despite earlier hopes, the TPP is not dead. The Obama Administration is doing the bidding of hundreds of transnational corporations that had a seat at the table when the TPP was first negotiated by pressuring Congressional members to pass the TPP during the lame duck Congress.

The most dangerous provision of the TPP is the ISDS, which hijacks democratic self-determination. A detailed and devastating 4-part investigation into the ISDS is the Global Super Court: A BuzzFeed News Investigation. You don’t have to read much before concluding the ISDS is lethal to national sovereignty, workers rights, consumer protection and environmental sustainability.

AFSC has produced an earlier background piece on the TPP:
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – Background Information
http://afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/AFSC%20Trans%20Pacific%20Partnership.pdf

So, please call-in today. Call toll free 1-888-659-7351 and tell your Congressperson and Senators to vote NO on the TPP.

Not sure who your Congressperson is? Go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Also, if you’re on Twitter, post this message right now to all your followers:
It’s National #StopTPP Call-in Day: Click here to call yr member of Congress & demand he/she commit to oppose #TPP! http://thndr.me/iU3NrV

Thank you.

Connecting multiple problems with a single solution

CorpRights
It’s difficult to keep up with the many seemingly different ills facing us. What helps reduce frustration and increase understanding is when we’re able to group those with a singular root cause. It’s also empowering since the way to solve them many be similar.

Take the following recent problems over the past month that have been in the news – on food, immigration, education, energy, and jobs/wages/unions.

While very different problems, the root cause is pretty much identical – corporate power and rights.

FOOD

President Obama in late July signed into law S. 764. Dubbed by opponents as the “Denying Americans the Right to Know,” or DARK Act, the bill nullified the laws of Vermont, Connecticut and Maine requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods. It also preempted the genetically engineered seed labeling laws in Vermont and Virginia which allowed farmers to choose the seeds they wanted to buy and plant. The law also struck down Alaska’s law requiring the labeling of any genetically engineered fish or fish product, passed to protect the state’s fisheries from contamination. To top it off, passage the DARK Act deters other states from following in the health, safety and democratic footsteps of Vermont, etc.

Over 90% of Americans support clear mandatory GMO labeling, yet President Obama defied overwhelming public sentiment despite his promises during his 2008 presidential run that he would support the labeling of genetically engineered food. It’s ironic when this bill was signed – a week after the Democratic National Convention – where the Democratic leadership portrayed themselves as leaders of the party of the people. Not quite.
Trade groups representing the Big Food industry like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and biotech corporations like Monsanto supported the DARK Act. According to OpenSecrets.org, Senators who had voted on a procedural vote in favor of the Senate bill received more than twice as much in political campaign contributions (or investments) from the agriculture lobby than those who voted against it ($867,518 for the supporters vs. $350,877 for opponents).

The President justified the DARK Act’s massive hijacking of local democracy on the grounds that the bill would create national standards for labeling of GMOs.  The bill, “directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard,” The “disclosure standard” includes consumers having to scan a QR code on a food product to find out about genetically modified ingredients, or call a 1-800 number. There’s no certainly even these measures will happen for another 5 years.
So the national standards are at the lowest common denominator possible – providing much less protection to the safety of our food and health of our citizens.
The bill is just another example of how powerful corporations and moneyed interests have usurped what remains of our representative democracy.

IMMIGRATION

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last month the end of using corporate prisons to house federal inmates. The DOJ made the decision after determining the facilities were both less safe and effective at providing correctional services than those run by the US government.

This is a step in the right direction. But the decision applies to a mere 13 DOJ-run facilities, which detain a small percentage of all those currently held in US. It doesn’t apply to state prisons – many of which like in Ohio are run by for-profit corporations. And it won’t affect prisons run by other federal agencies – including those that detain immigrants. These facilities will continue to be run by giant for-profit corporations, the two largest of which, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, receive half of all their entire revenue from federal contracts.

The U.S. deports over 300,000 people annually and holds approximately 400,000 people in immigrant detention facilities across the country at an annual cost of over $2 billion. More people have been deported under the Obama administration than under the Bush administration. Part of the explanation for this is what’s known as the “immigrant detention quota” or “bed mandate” – a law passed in 2009 during a decline in the undocumented immigrant population to maintain a level of 33,400 beds on a daily basis (raised to 34,000 in 2013).

The quota system triggered an increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement strategy by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to fill the beds. Pressure increased to place most of the beds in corporate-run detention centers. CCA and GEO Group did their part by lobbying to expand the corporatized system and make sure they profited from imprisoning people. Those two corporations alone have invested more than $11 million in lobbying in recent years. Together, they operate eight of the ten largest immigrant detention centers. GEO and CCA combined operate 72 percent of the privately contracted ICE immigrant detention beds.

So while the DOJ announcement is a step in the right direction to close federal prisons, CCA and GEO have managed to continue locking down the bulk of their profits by ensuring that the “bed quota” system remains in force and that most of those beds of undocumented immigrants are in their detention centers.

EDUCATION

In late July, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), a charter school in Ohio, finally complied with an order from the state to turn over attendance records. At issue is whether 15,000 students are actually engaged in 920 hours of “learning opportunities” required each year to justify the more than $100 million it receives from Ohio taxpayers.

A preliminary look by the Department of Education last spring found that ECOT students spent, on average, only one hour participating in online work each day. Five hours per school day are required to reach the state’s minimum 920 hours of “learning opportunities” annually. ECOT maintains that the bulk of student “learning opportunities” take place offline, but there are no records to prove it. ECOT claims state law doesn’t mandate keeping such records, and has filed suit for “purposefully discriminating against them.”

ECOT has been a major beneficiary of laws and regulations regarding charter schools and, of course, a major beneficially of huge contracts. These are directly related to their political influence.

William Lager, ECOT CEO, made political contributions/investments of $2.36 million between 2000-2015. The bulk of these gifts have gone to House and Senate Republicans who’ve been defenders and cheerleaders for ECOT.

It’s been a darn good investment as these same cheerleaders and defenders are paying dividends to block any serious audit of the school’s books and present any claw back of millions of taxpayer dollars that seem to have been wasted.

ENERGY

As reported today on Cleveland.com, a Virginia wind-power development company, Apex Clean Energy, hopes to erect four wind farms in the northern Ohio. Two state laws, however, are preventing the company from committing to the investment. One of them is the 2014 legislation freezing for three years a mandate for investor-owned utilities to tap renewable energy sources. Two bills currently in the state legislature would extend the freeze on renewable energy standards or make them permanent.

Other states are rapidly moving ahead in wind energy. In Iowa alone, more than 3400 wind turbines generate 5700 megawatts of electricity – 28% of the state’s total electricity generation, the equivalent of 1.5 million homes. If you drive across Iowa or southern Minnesota, as I did recently, you’ll witness the future – hundreds of wind turbines. Wind energy developed roots in Iowa because there wasn’t much political influence from oil, gas and coal corporations.

Not so in Ohio.

Those industries have locked down the Ohio legislature with campaign investments, lobbying and funding for bogus science touting the wonders of “clean coal” and questioning the long-term sustainability of wind and solar energy generation.

This hurts our pocketbooks, environment and what’s left of our democracy.

JOBS/WAGES/UNIONS

The decline of organized labor has contributed to the loss of jobs and decline of wages – for organized workers to be sure, but also for nonunion private sector workers.

A just issued report from the Economic Policy Institute, timed for release near Labor Day, researched the amount of money nonunion workers would have earned in 2013 if union membership in the private sector stood at 1979 levels.

The report concluded that wages for men would have been 5% higher, or $2700 higher per year. For nonunion men with lower education, it would have been 9% greater, or nearly $3200 annually.

Why? Because unions provide workers collective power when approaching management. Without that collective power, or in the case on nonunion workers the threat of forming a union, workers have little leverage over job protection, wages, benefits and workplace conditions and input.

Of course the rules in our nation apply very differently to individuals wanting to join together to form a corporation compared to forming a union. To form a corporation, a group of individuals merely come fill out a form, pay a filing fee and voila, they are recognized by the state as a corporation. Being recognized as a union is much more difficult that merely filling out a few pieces of paper and writing out a check. The union certification process involves more hoops than circus animals must jump through.

It didn’t use to be this way. A separate piece of legislation at the state level had to be passed to form a corporation during the first several decades of Ohio’s history – which was similar to the process in every other state. The rise of corporate power before, during and following the Civil War changed all that. Now, it’s just about as easy to form a corporation as it is to get a dog license.

If it were as easy to form a union as it is to form a corporation, the power imbalance in our nation would tip much more toward the rights of working people and their families and communities. It’s a good lesson to remember on this Labor Day weekend.

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These are just a few of the many issues and problems facing us, our families, communities, nation and world from the growing power and never intended constitutional rights of corporations. If won’t change one iota if all we do is prepare more in-depth reports of problems or simply try to manage the abuses by accepting that corporations have the same constitutional rights as human persons.

That has to change…fundamentally. The way forward is amending the constitution to end never-intended inalienable constitutional rights and the doctrine that political money is equivalent to “free speech,” as defined in the We the People Amendment.

Join AFSC, Move to Amend, and people from all over the country in this growing movement.

Local group urging public utilities not be privatized

PrivatePublic

2/18/2016 – West Side Leader
http://www.akron.com/akron-ohio-opinions.asp?aID=29856

To the editor:

We write in response to the Feb. 1, 2016, Blue Ribbon Task Force report.

We understand and commend the desire and need to have an outside ad hoc group assess the current conditions of the city and the present structure and policies of the city government, as well as offer recommendations for improvement.

There is much in the report with which we agree. Many of the challenges Akron faces are, as the report states, due to external political and economic conditions that are shared by other cities — namely deindustrialization, federal and state budget cuts and the recent economic recession.

We would point out that each of these realities has been caused in no small degree by the growing power and rights of business corporations and the super wealthy few. They’ve exerted political and economic influence over public policies and the economy in support of tax cuts, subsidies, perks, contracts and reductions of regulations, which have further consolidated their power and rights and increased their fortunes. The losers, of course, have been programs, policies and people in urban, rural and suburban areas, including Akron — specifically the poor, elderly, persons of color, working class and differently abled.

Not all of Akron’s current problems are due, however, to external factors. Some have been self-inflicted. The past decision by the administration to fight the [Environmental Protection Agency] over the city’s combined sewer overflow resulted in substantial federal dollars left on the table that now must come out of the pockets of Akron water and sewer customers.

The Task Force report asserts that “[T]he single largest challenge facing the City is its financial condition.” We agree. It’s appropriate, therefore, that many of its recommendations address ways to reduce costs or increase income.

Prior to listing any specific recommendations, the report wisely declares, “some of them will require further study; others will require additional resources (human and capital); and still others just may not work at this time.”

We respectfully offer that one of the recommendations in the later category, that “just may not work at this time,” that we believe should not work out ANY time is selling, leasing or transferring the city’s water and sewer system — a suggestion referenced on page 17.

Public utilities should remain public by the mere fact that to be more effective and efficient there should be one provider. Akron voters overwhelmingly approved in 2008 to keep the city’s public sewer system public  — under the control of We the People. Voters understood that to privatize/corporatize public utilities more often than not increases costs, reduces services and results in the lay-off of public employees. And in every single case, turning over a public asset to a for-profit corporation, especially if headquartered outside the community, state, if not country, significantly reduces public control — i.e. democracy.

We believe former [Cleveland] Mayor Tom Johnson, promoter of the public Cleveland electric power system, said it best more than a century ago: “I believe in the municipal ownership of all public service monopolies … for if you do not own them they will, in time, own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties.”

While ostensibly a public official, the emergency manager appointed by the Michigan governor to run the public water system in Flint, Michigan, was unaccountable and unelected. Running the public water system like a business is what led to the tragic poisoning of the residents of that city.

Our concluding message is simple, as reinforced by over 60 percent of Akron voters in 2008: Keep Public Utilities Public.

Thank you for your consideration.

John Fuller, clerk, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); and Greg Coleridge, director, Northeast Ohio AFSC

NEO AFSC February 19, 2016 Podcast

podcasticon

Listen to podcast here

We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week; and comment on Ohio’s ECOT online charter school once more being rewarded for political campaign investments, a transnational corporations having greater water rights than Flint, MI residents, why our government isn’t listening to the needs of people, and the successful effort in collecting 337,000 signatures by democracy activists to place a Move to Amend initiative on the ballot in the State of Washington (Length 35.02).

NEO AFSC February 5, 2016 Podcast

podcasticon

Listen to podcast here

We report on last week’s activities; announce next week’s events; and comment on President Carter calling big campaign contributions “legalized bribery,” a challenge to enact political campaign contribution limits in Cuyahoga County, a proposal to raise political campaign contribution limits in Cleveland by 900%, the Akron “Blue Ribbon” committee recommendation of exploring selling/leasing the water and sewer system, and the official signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  (Length 38:43)