Paul Cienfuegos’ July 5th, 2016 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.
For some time now, I’ve been thinking about how obscure the whole concept is of corporations being able to exercise their constitutional “rights”. I’m a full-time educator in this work, so it’s not obscure to me, but for most Americans, including most activists, corporate constitutional “rights” is a concept that is only vaguely understood. I can open the daily newspaper in any city on any given day, and I know how to read between the lines. Corporate “rights” are hidden in plain sight in pretty much every news story that has anything to do with large corporations.
If our news media dug a little deeper and exposed this hidden story on a regular basis, We the People would quickly learn that there’s actually something that we can do to end corporate abuses of power, and corporate interference in our political system, if we work to dismantle these structures of law that make corporate harm not just legal and inevitable, but actually protected by our Constitution. The claim I am making here is certainly true for our mainstream media owned by giant corporations, but sadly, it’s just as true for our own independent media, like Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, which misses golden opportunity after golden opportunity to unveil deeper truths in its reporting.
Here are two examples of recent news stories that are ultimately about corporate “rights”, but you’d never know that unless you knew how to read between the lines, which We the People must begin to do if we’re going to ever turn this mess around.
Story #1) The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a thousand-fold increase in the amount of radioactivity allowed in drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA proposal would permit radiation exposures equal to 250 chest x-rays per year. Yes, you heard me right. The EPA’s proposed new rule would permit the nation’s drinking water to contain enough radiation to dose you with the equivalent of 250 chest x-rays each year.
Now who could have dreamed up such a dangerous proposal? Let me guess. Was it the American people, who are chomping at the bit to be ingesting 1000 times the radiation they’re currently ingesting per year? Um…. probably not. Hmmmm, perhaps city councils are demanding higher levels of radiation in our drinking water? Hmm…. not likely! Perhaps the nuclear power and nuclear weapons industry had a hand in this proposal? Of course they did, though the article never mentions which institutional culprits came up with this nonsense. There frankly is no other explanation for this story.
But here’s the kicker: If nuclear energy and nuclear weapons corporations had no access to this magic thing called constitutional “rights”, the EPA would never have proposed this in the first place. Because, you see, corporations need First Amendment free speech “rights” simply to participate in government rule-making processes. Without access to the First Amendment, granted to them by the Supreme Court, they would have no voice in the process, even behind the scenes. Shouldn’t the public know this detail? Without this context, we’re all left to believe that the EPA has gone nuts, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Story #2) Oregon Governor Kate Brown is getting bolder by the day in her response to the oil train derailment and fire that could very well have burned down the entire town of Mosier in the Columbia Gorge in early June. But she’s still only calling for a temporary moratorium on oil trains in the gorge until they can be made safe (which by the way they can’t!). The Mosier Fire Chief is calling for a total ban on oil trains in the gorge. And yet neither of them believes that the state or the town can pass a law that would ban these trains from entering the gorge. Why? Because federal preemption laws prohibit local and state governments from regulating or banning dangerous freight by rail, even where the public overwhelmingly supports such a ban, like in Mosier. That’s usually where media ends the story. But this leaves out two critical pieces of information.
First, that Governor Kate Brown and the Mosier City Council aren’t allowed to pass bans on oil trains because the US Supreme Court has granted greater constitutional rights to corporations than to We the People. Rail freight corporations exercise this right under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
And second, we in the Community Rights movement are passing local laws that ban harmful corporate activities, even when we’re not allowed to pass such laws. Why? Because we strongly believe that state and federal preemption laws are a violation of We the People’s right to govern ourselves. And in fact, Columbia County, Oregon is currently in the process of gathering signatures to place on the ballot a total ban on oil and coal trains passing through their county. So you see, it can be done, but only when We the People stop acting so obedient in the face of unjust laws.
Just imagine what might change in the public’s understanding of what is possible, if our news media, including our own indy-media, paid more attention to these deeper truths in their reporting. Perhaps most of us would feel less hopeless and powerless. And that would be a very good thing!
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.
You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can sign up for my ‘Community Rights Updates’ at PaulCienfuegos.com. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for.