Paul Cienfuegos’ July 14th, 2015 Commentary on KBOO Evening News
(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes.)
Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.
Leaders of large business corporations are getting bolder and bolder by the month, no longer playing nice, because they no longer have to. Their political and legal power has reached such a point that they no longer have to plead with governments to get their demands met. They simply hire their own people into positions of elected or appointed government. Or they simply and directly write the laws that politicians then pass overwhelmingly, be they Democrat or Republican. Or their directors simply write the regulatory laws that are designed to regulate that very industry. And let’s not kid ourselves: both mainstream parties support this system overwhelmingly. One of my favorite revolutionists, Noam Chomsky, describes the situation this way: “In the US, there is basically one party – the business party. It has two factions, called Democrats and Republicans.” I couldn’t have said it better if I had tried.
The very first major piece of legislation ever to have been actually written by corporate leaders and for our Congress and Senate to pass was the Telecommunications Act of 1996. And boy what a doozy it was! In printed form, the Act was as thick as the New York City telephone directory, so of course very few politicians ever read it before they voted “yes” in overwhelming numbers. The leaders of the media corporations claimed at the time that it was a no-brainer piece of legislation necessary to “modernize” telecommunications law. But in reality it was a wet dream for the corporate elite.
Buried in this massive piece of new legislation was Section 704, that banned local governments from even considering the potential human or environmental health impact of a proposed cell tower in their decision-making process because that consideration would violate the corporations civil rights. Yes, that’s right. The telecommunications industry’s leaders argued that the corporations they owned were people just like historically oppressed African Americans, and therefore the 1964 Civil Rights Act protected the corporation’s civil rights against discrimination by race, religion, or gender. Since that day, it’s been close to impossible for a local government to stop the building of, or the extension of a cell tower.
And how about those upcoming presidential debates? They used to be moderated by the unimpeachably honest League of Women Voters. But back in 1988, the League was unceremoniously tossed out of their historic role and replaced by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Which sounds like a pretty reputable organization, until you discover that this Commission is literally owned and operated by the same two political parties that are the only parties allowed to participate in the debates – the Republicans and Democrats.
In a 1988 press release, the President of the League of Women Voters stated that they were “withdrawing [their] sponsorship of the presidential debate …because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.” The League President went on to say that what the two campaigns were demanding was “outrageous” including “the demands that they control the selection of questioners, the composition of the audience, hall access for the press and other issues.”
Ever since 1988, the two corporate parties now decide on the format of each debate, who gets to moderate each debate, and which corporate media conglomerate gets to sponsor each debate. And don’t expect the national Sierra Club or AFL-CIO to sponsor a presidential debate anytime soon, because that too is now prohibited under the existing contract. Any Democrat or Republican presidential candidate who dares to accept an invitation to an independently hosted debate will be banned from all further televised debates. That means if Bernie Sanders wants to be in the Democrat presidential primary debates, he’s not allowed to accept debate invitations from any independent organizations. You can’t make this stuff up!
These are just two examples among hundreds of how large business corporations now pretty much own the way we govern ourselves here in this nation state that we still strangely refer to as a democratic republic, although if we’re going to be truly honest with ourselves and each other, it much more closely resembles an ever-expanding corporate plutocracy.
Clearly, we are on a trajectory here that is heading off the cliff on almost every issue, be it environmental protection, labor and civil rights, or economic justice. So it frightens me when virtually all of the activism I see on the ground across the US is merely focusing on one corporate harm at a time, rather than tackling the root cause of the extraordinary legal and political power being wielded by the corporate business structure. We cannot afford to focus our activism just on corporate cell towers, or just on corporate-controlled presidential debates, or just on corporate money in elections.
We have to go to the root of the problem, which is their Supreme Court granted constitutional “rights”, which began, believe it or not, way back in 1819, 195 years ago. Which is why I’m so passionate about the Community Rights movement, because I see it as one of the only social movements in the country actually hacking at those rotten roots of the problem, not merely trimming back the newest branches. We need all of us learning about and beginning to tackle corporate so-called “rights”, and then we will begin to witness the mostly invisible structures of law that hold up this rotten system collapsing like a house of cards.
You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.
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