David Cobb Interview

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Interview of David Cobb, Move to Amend National Outreach Director and principal of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy on his “barnstorming” speaking tour in Ohio, elections, social movements, corporate rule, race and oppression, and the Move to Amend 10 year plan for ending corporate constitutional rights and money as speech.

http://afsc.org/audio/david-cobb-interview

 

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NEO AFSC May 29, 2015 Podcast

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Listen to podcast here

We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week; and comment on how much corporations paid US senators to fast-track the TPP, how the TPP is unconstitutional, AT&T’s lawsuit claiming net neutrality violates their first and fifth amendment constitutional “rights,” the average age of minimum wage workers is 36, and the acquittal of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo on the 137 shots killings.

“Top” 10 Democracy Realities in 2014

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This is the second of a two part series. Like part 1, “top” is in parenthesis to acknowledge the relative nature of the selections. There is no presumption that this is the definitive list. Readers will, no doubt, have their own ideas.

The lens used to determine both lists were what were impediments/possibilities for We the People to have genuine opportunities to have their voices heard and ability to shape decisions impacting the world around them.

Overall, 2014 saw a surge in participation of people seeking to build power for just and peaceful change. The quest to build mass movements linked issues, strategies and people in ways unseen for many years.

1.    Protests against police brutality
“Black Lives Matter” not only became a refrain of street protestors in 2014, but a movement sparked in response to the killings of blacks in Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland and many other communities. Participants are racially and age diverse – with some police officers among the growing ranks. Issues extend beyond issue of police mistreatment of people of color to militarization of police forces, disproportionate imprisonment of blacks, and institutional racism throughout society. Demands are equally expansive – from local to national, from political to cultural, from short- to long-term.

This growing movement has forced the mainstream culture to begin facing issues of race and prejudice as they relate to power and privilege. In doing so, it offers the opportunity for mass awareness and solidarity. Any progress in understanding and meaningful dialogue also strategically makes it more difficult for the power elite to use race as a divide and conquer strategy to maintain illegitimate power and authority.

2.    Movement to end corporate personhood and money as speech
The Move to Amend movement to end the inane constitutional doctrines asserting corporations are “persons” and money equals “free speech” continues to grow from its inception is 2010 following the Citizen United vs FEC Supreme Court decision.

More people in more places educated, advocated and organized in their communities for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to achieve these duel objectives.  Fueling the movement were the McCutcheon vs FEC and the Burwell vs Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decisions. The innumerable local, state and federal examples of growing corporate power and corruption associated with money in elections also contributed to a surge in awareness and attraction to this solution.

Many communities organized for passage of city council resolutions. Each and every of the two dozen communities that organized ballot initiatives were successful with most of the citizen driven ballot measures winning with landslide margins. That these these victories took place during the same elections that saw Republicans make gains at the federal and many state levels is evidence of the trans-partisan appeal of these concerns.

3.    Growing environmental movement
The state of New York’s ban on fracking may have been the most tangible victory in response to organized citizen pressure, although no doubt the science and economics of gas drilling were also factors. Resistance to fracking grows both in the U.S. and Europe.  Resistance included marches, rallies, forums, lobbying, civil disobedience and Community Bill of Rights initiatives.

The climate march in New York City drew hundreds of thousands of people. The Keystone pipeline continues to be delayed due in part to growing popular pressure (the fact that major Obama supporter Warren Buffett owns railroads that could transport the oil rather that pipelines was also a consideration).

The Vermont legislature passed a mandatory labeling bill for all food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Voters in Jackson county, Oregon and Maui county, Hawaii banned GMO crops. Voters in Oregon came within an eyelash of passing a statewide ballot measure on GMOs – only losing because of massive political campaign spending by the pro GMO food corporations.

4.    Exposing the truth of money creation
Two of the fundamental sources of financial power of banking corporations worldwide are (1) most people believe a nation’s money is created by government, and (2) most money in a nation is actually created by private financial institutions, including private central banks.

So long as financial institutions control the issuance of money – whether by a private central bank (i.e. the misnamed Federal Reserve in the US) or by banking corporations (when they create money out of thin air as debt when they issue loans), financial institutions will not only possess the ultimate economic power in a society but the ultimate political power, since economic profits are translated to political power via lobbying and campaign contributions/investments.

More people worldwide are shedding the myth and understanding the reality of actual money creation – a major step toward the democratization of our money. Leading the way in 2014 was Britain.

Bank of England officials admitted in March that banks don’t loan out pre-existing deposits, they simply create it out of this air.  Martin Wolf, the chief economics writer for the Financial Times (the Wall Street Journal of England) wrote an article in April “Strip private banks of their power to create money.” And the U.K Parliament debated money creation in November – for the first time in 170 years. All of this was in part the result of the ongoing education, advocacy and organizing of the pro democratization of money group, Positive Money.

5.    Alternatives to dollar
The U.S. Empire hasn’t just been military. It’s been economic. The bomb and dollar operate hand-in-hand to maintain control and thwart democracy. There’s growing resistance to not simply U.S. military installations worldwide, but also to US-dominated World Bank and IMF policies, as well as to the US dollar as the world’s “reserve currency” – meaning nation’s must have dollars to purchase oil (the “petrodollar”) or conduct trade. This is changing.

The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations announced plans to launch their own rival development bank to the IMF and World Bank. Russia is setting up its own SWIFT banking transaction system. Nations began trading with one another in their own currencies. This movement is led by China and Russia, with the later willing to sell oil for Rubles and Yuans. England, Canada and other countries also began to accept non-dollar payments with other nations.

Breaking away from the dollar is a key ingredient for nations to achieve national monetary sovereignty.

6.    Global resistance to corporate trade deals
Opposition to the proposed U.S.-Asian Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and U.S.-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) were global. Whenever and wherever negotiators and their corporate “advisors” met behind closed doors (where it should be acknowledged labor, indigenous, consumer, and environmental representatives were not invited), people were in the streets, lobbing their respective national elected representatives and educating the general public.

The message was clear and direct:  these “trade” agreements are in actually about global rule which, if enacted, would circumvent democratically passed laws and regulations on labor, environmental, consumer, health, the internet and financial controls. Fast Track (which would have allowed the President to ram these measures through Congress) was at least temporarily derailed from a vote.

7.    Increased revelations of spying and surveillance
The continued revelation of documents by Edward Snowden, Julian Assange (founder of WikiLeaks) and others detailing US domestic and international snooping of citizens en mass using the sweeping pretext of “terrorism” provided strengthened resolve to US citizens to take action to protect privacy and basic civil liberties and human rights under the U.S. Constitution. Actions calling for fundamental change at the legislative, executive, bureaucratic and judicial levels are all essential requirements for anything approaching a real democracy.

Snowden’s story received further attention when the documentary Citizenfour was released in the fall. He was honored in December with the Right Livelihood Award, an international award to “honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.”

8.    Technology
The flip side of technology as a tool of spying, surveillance and suppression is the way technology can be used for mass education, awareness and mobilization.

As “mainstream” media in all its forms becomes more corporatized, the Internet has become a more important source for alternative information and analysis. This made the nationwide struggle to maintain net neutrality all the more important in 2014.

Pictures and videos documenting police brutality as it happened from mobile phones sparked mass reactions. Twitter was used to mobilize mass actions, be they in the U.S. against police brutality or in Hong Kong for democracy, in an instant.

9.    Local alternatives / sustainability
The more local the institution, the better chance people have to define it.

The last few years have seen a significant increase in the forms and numbers of local “micro” alternatives to large national or transnational “macro” political and economic institutions.

The rise of local independent businesses, local food production and distribution, local renewable energy, community internet broadband, community money (in both electronic and paper versions) sustainable housing, and decentralized transportation are among the many localized ways people are building democracy from the ground up.

10.    Increasing disgust with US politicians and Supreme Court
A majority of U.S. residents feel public officials don’t represent their interests, given the massive disconnect between what the public desires on issue after issue and existing public policy. A national Rasmussen Reports survey in 2014 found that an all-time high 53 percent of all Americans believe that neither major political party “represents the American people,” while 65% of Americans are dissatisfied “with the U.S. system of government and its effectiveness,” according to a 2014 Gallop poll – also an all time high.

Public views on the Supreme Court weren’t much better. Just 35% in a 2014 poll gave the court a positive job performance rating and a strong majority believes that Justices are influenced more by their own personal beliefs and political leanings than by a strict legal analysis. A huge majority, 74%, believes there should be a fixed term of 18 years for Justices.

This growing awareness that our government is broken because the system is fixed is a very positive sign for achieving real democracy. It reflects that the U.S. “democracy myth” that keeps people on the sidelines, believing all is good and that others should make decisions for them is evaporating.

We have to take charge if we want real democracy, self-governance or self-determination. It won’t happen by magic or physics, only by intentional, deliberate and genuinely inclusive engagement with others.

Statement on Brutality

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This is a powerful and prophetic piece by Genevieve Mitchell, a potent political activist in Cleveland, that makes the connections between racial, economic and political injustice — and the need for ongoing grassroots social action. It was presented last Saturday at the Cleveland Civil and Human Rights Coalition Meeting.

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We are confused about what to do when we see downtown ferguson decorated and lit up for Christmas with  “seasons greetings” signs strewn across the light posts, amidst the backdrop of 2500 uniformed police and national guard, armed with tanks, rifles, mace, smoke bombs and bullets… locked and loaded to kill civilians protesting police brutality. Merry Christmas.

We are angry because the purveyors of institutionalized racism advance the notion that black life has no value as black men, women and children are killed with political impunity.

We are frustrated with a system that we recognize, has failed us.

The civil unrest in ferguson, new york, cleveland and throughout the nation is the direct result of state sanctioned abuse of police power and authority.

It is a political problem that requires a political solution.

The tragic deaths of Michael brown, Tamir rice, Eric garner, timothy Russell, Malissa Williams and thousands of others has an historic premise. Long before “911” and isil ever existed, blacks, minorities and the poor have seen the paddy rollers, posses, gulags, and the Klan.

Our mothers and fathers have seen a few things. They’ve seen lynchings. And bombings. They’ve seen their country churches and homes burned to the ground. They’ve seen emmett till’s, Medgar evers’, Fannie lou hamer’s and Carolina skeletons’. Black men in military uniform with a rope around their neck, swingin from a tree.  mama done seen a few things.

They’ve had to sit in the back of the bus and be denied the right to read and be educated. They’ve been remanded to the nations’ jails and prisons for vagrancy and peonage, with life sentences. They’ve seen “no nigger signs on stores and restaurants and hotels”. And been denied housing or had to pay more for less. Mama, done seen a few things.

They sharecropped and no matter how hard they worked, it was never enough to do more than break even or still owe the plantation boss. Couldn’t never get free! They done seen the aftermath of what happened to three civil rights workers tryin’ to register blacks in the Mississippi Delta to vote. Mama….. done seen a few things.

Terrorism to black people then, is a relative term. We recognize it when we see it.
We recognize when someone ain’t treatin somebody right. we recognize it when we don’t get treated right.

It is all part of a much larger narrative on slavery, race, racism, class, privilege, and the residual effect of state sanctioned violence, social control and power over those deemed ….expendable.

It’s a sad day in this country, but I’m hopeful. I am so very hopeful, because I saw young folk; white, black, Hispanic, Asian marching in the street for justice and social change and that’s a good thing. It’s a good place to start, but the real work has yet to be done.

The real internal work is to perform an “exorcism” on the American psyche, to excise the racism and hatred that creates the rules that allow a grown black man to be murdered on international television with no one called to account.

The real work is to change the modus operandi of the institutions that defund black studies. The real work is to change institutional behavior that won’t allow black institutions to exist and thrive with the same propensity as other institutions.
The real work is to Change the core of police departments nationwide. The real works is to work toward judicial reform. The real work is to change court dynamics which remand black and poor to the nation’s prisons.  The real work is fighting for government system reforms that create an environment inclusive of everyone. The real work is to change the internal operations of the nation’s academic and cultural institutions to include the youth locked out and on the street, giving them an opportunity to succeed.  Additionally, the real work is to work for changes in sentencing and shut down the nation’s privatized prison systems. To create campaign finance reforms that does not allow political incumbents, beholden to private interests with ulterior motives and not public interest, to exist and proliferate.

To work to humanely protect and value the lives of all of us in a way that is growth oriented and sustainable. That is substantive and not superficial.

Dr. King said, America has been issued a blank check that has been sent to the nation’s repositories for the black, brown and poor white folk, marked insufficient funds. This check is now payable and due, the collateral of which, must be paid in full. This then, is the great work which must be done if America is to save itself, from itself. This is our charge, this is our moment, this is our time…..carpe diem!

– Genevieve Mitchell

WHY POCLAD SUPPORTS THE MOVE TO AMEND COMMITMENT TO AN ANTI-OPPRESSION ORGANIZING FRAMEWORK

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POCLAD was formed over 20 years ago with the premise that transnational corporate CEO’s did not merely exercise power, but that they had become de facto rulers. We argued that the Constitution was created by a ruling elite of propertied white men to protect their property rights over the human rights of “the rabble” (never mind the rights of ecosystems), and that Supreme Court decisions granting corporations constitutional rights and misinterpreting the commerce clause had created an entire legal system that allowed a predatory class to wield the power of law and culture to subvert the will of the people. We began using the phrase “corporate rule” to try to describe this illegitimate usurpation. We also argued that the systems of male domination, white supremacy, European imperialism and the exploitation of the working and non-working class was the toxic interconnected foundation upon which corporate rule was built.

We provoked lots of good conversations, and grappled with many people. We know that many of you reading this have been part of those conversations from the very beginning.  We are proud of the role that POCLAD played (along with MANY others) in helping to nurture what has blossomed into an actual democracy movement in this country. And not a moment too soon! As we witness the ecological, economic and political collapse being caused by corporate rule and the widening political influence of the super rich, it is clear to us that only a broad, deeply conscious and educated mass movement can create the just, peaceful, ecologically sustainable society we so desperately need, and so richly deserve.

We are thrilled to see that our work has helped to inspire so many people, including the founders of Move To Amend. (As a matter of full disclosure, all of us still active as POCLAD now support Move To Amend in one capacity or another). We are such avid members and supporters because we believe that Move to Amend is one of the premiere examples of groups doing the deep grappling and political education necessary to understand the social, legal, and historical basis for corporate rule.

It is in that spirit that we offer our praise, support, and appreciation for the Move To Amend commitment to an anti-oppression organizing framework that understands and accepts that it will take a broad and deep social movement to win real democracy in this country. Because they know what we know and what you know– there is not some mythological age of American democracy to “restore” or to “reclaim.”

In order to create real democracy, the phrase “We the People” must include all of the people. (D’uh). But let’s not forget or sweep under the collective rug of our political consciousness that when the Constitution was originally drafted only wealthy, white land-owning men were understood to be legal “persons.” It took broad and deep social movements to drive other human persons into the definition of “legal personhood.”

Let us be crystal clear – corporatism can’t exist without white supremacy and racism; it depends on a ‘throwaway’ class of people who must suffer to maintain the comfort of the rich and powerful elite. We know this is nothing new. “Divide and conquer” is the oldest game in empire’s playbook. It has been—and still is—used by elites to retain their privilege and maintain minority control over the majority.

It’s not out of some sense of altruism that we promote these ideas. Yes, it is the “right thing to do.” But in addition, it MUST be done. Quite simply, the only way our movement will have the power needed to make such revolutionary change is if we commit ourselves to doing this work.

We literally cannot have a successful democracy movement — let alone a real democracy — without centralizing the economic and political realities of people of color, and following their leadership in changing these realities. Those realities include mass incarceration, police harassment, beatings, and murder.

That is partly because the rules of law and culture have been historically applied unequally by race. The objective reality is that white males are treated with privilege, and punishments are harsher for crimes committed by people of color. In order to win a democracy movement, systemic racism must be uprooted from both law and culture.

Since the most critical barrier to organizing an effective mass movement is race, Move to Amend has engaged in an ongoing study for the past year among its local leadership to examine race in our country. They have been studying and learning the way race was manufactured historically in the United States to prop up corporate rule, and how it continues to prevent us from winning the world that most of us want.

People bring with them the social constructs they learn as innocent children. No one is immune to the biases inherent in their upbringing and culture– including you the reader and we the collective members of POCLAD writing this essay.

American society divides us into status groups and attaches different values to each. Typically, white people rank higher than people of color, and the deeper the color, the lower the rank. Men have a higher rank than women, youth is valued over age, physically and mentally challenged people are marginalized, and Christians rank above other religious groups. Non-heterosexuals are seen as flawed, and poor people are treated as lesser no matter how hard they work. Wealthy people are admired and catered to regardless of how they accumulated that wealth. Though these generalizations do not always hold, in most cases they are the norm. This is a shocking realization to confront for many of us, but it is absolutely essential to do so. These different valuations show up as personal prejudices and are woven into the fabric of our culture and our organizations, and they impact the ways we experience and understand the world.

Diversity is a key factor in producing high quality work as a team. Along with differences come a variety of perspectives, which give a richer base for understanding situations and coming up with successful solutions. At the root of many institutional problems in U.S. culture is our history that decisions are made by a homogeneous group of middle- and upper-class white men. Today’s world is far too complex to be negotiated by a homogeneous group, no matter how many credentials they possess. If our goal is a society that is just and that maximizes human potential, it is also necessary to reject the oppressive programming that ranks some groups of people higher than others.

Move to Amend is building a multi-racial, multi-generational movement demanding real democracy, an end to corporate rule, and justice for all with two central goals as an organization:
1. Amend the Constitution to read that corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech
2. Create genuine, justice-driven, participatory democracy in the United States.

POCLAD supports and endorses Move to Amend’s efforts, and we share their belief that building a democracy movement requires a commitment to dismantle the structures of exploitation and a dedication to building just structures and cultures in their place.

So we of the POCLAD collective invite and lovingly challenge our supporters to join us in not only supporting Move To Amend, but to also participate with their Movement Building Internal Education Project (https://movetoamend.org/education).

With respect and commitment,
David Cobb
Greg Coleridge
Mike Ferner
Lewis Pitts
Jim Price
Virginia Rasmussen
Mary Zepernick

Permalink: http://poclad.org/BWA/2014/BWA_2014_Aug.html

Make a donation to POCLAD. Contribute what ever you can online at http://poclad.org/donate.html or by sending it to POCLAD, P.O. Box 246, S. Yarmouth MA 02664. For a tax deduction, send your check of $50 or more — earmarked for “POCLAD”– to the Jane Addams Peace Association, 777 United Nations Plaza, 6th Floor, New York City, NY, 10017. Thank you!