Paul Cienfuegos’ March 22nd, 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.
I’ve just returned home today, after 3½ weeks on the road, leading workshops on Community vs Corporate “Rights” in Iowa, North and South Carolina. In central Iowa, I’ve been helping rural counties to consider passing Community Rights ordinances that would prohibit the Bakken crude oil pipeline from being built through at least one of 18 Iowa counties, on its way from North Dakota to Illinois. In eastern Iowa, I’ve been supporting Jefferson County to prohibit the siting of any more factory farms, and Johnson County to prohibit the spraying of pesticides on any public lands.
Last Friday, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at a Symposium at the University of South Carolina, sponsored by the ‘Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities’ and ‘The Environment and Sustainability Program’. This year, the Symposium focused on the USDA’s new 2015 Dietary Guidelines. My speech was titled, “Why Do Large Corporations Get to Decide What We the People Eat?”. Here is a very brief excerpt from that speech. The entire speech can be found on my website HERE at PaulCienfuegos.com.
I’d like to spend a few minutes imagining with you how very different things would be if corporations had no constitutional “rights” in our society. These are some of the changes that you might immediately have noticed relating to the USDA’s new Dietary Guidelines, and corporate behavior in general:
* The meat, food, and beverage industries would have had no involvement in reviewing or interfering with the work of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report prior to it being reviewed and released to the public as the USDA’s official new Dietary Guidelines.
* The language used in the report would have been entirely science-based, not market-speak.
* The scientific research necessary to produce the new Guidelines would have been carried out entirely by scientists who received no corporate funding, and all of their raw data would have been considered public property for anyone to review at any time, rather than proprietary information.
But what about the USDA and the FDA in terms of how they operate day to day?
* The USDA’s and FDA’s directors would be elected by the public, not appointed and unaccountable. And after their terms were up, those directors would be prohibited from ever serving as paid staff or directors for any corporation that could benefit from their work at the agency. Staff scientists and researchers would have all the legal job protection they needed to blow the whistle if anyone tried to interfere with their work. Neither agency would utilize any research that was led by or funded by corporations. And perhaps most importantly, rule-making by agencies would be required by law to be based primarily on the input provided by the public through public hearings and written submissions, and all of those submissions would be archived online for full public oversight. In short, these two agencies would be entirely unrecognizable by today’s standards. And here I’m still assuming some things that should not be assumed – such as – in a truly democratic society, would we even choose to have food and agriculture standards set at the federal level at all?
Every single change I’ve just described could be achieved rather quickly if We the People shifted our collective focus to dismantling this ridiculous system of law that grants an ever growing collection of constitutional “rights” to corporations. Now you may think this is pie in the sky. But in fact, a movement has been growing across the US for the past sixteen years with exactly this laser focus. And this movement has a flip side too, which is all about simultaneously driving new rights into law that enshrine We the People’s inherent right to govern ourselves. We call it rights-based organizing and lawmaking. I have been an educator and community organizer in this work now for 21 years.
What do you think? Can you see the usefulness of this strategy, as you strive to come up with more effective ways to protect your small farmers, and to guarantee safe and healthy food for all who live here?
And if your communities move forward in setting up a Community Rights ordinance campaign, the question I encourage all of you to be asking is this one: What do you want to achieve? Not what do you think you can get. Not what are you allowed to do. Because you see, our branches of government are all legally required to serve us, to be accountable to us. They are all subordinate to us. They all have duties and responsibilities to us. Again, here’s the first paragraph of your South Carolina State Constitution:
“All political power is vested in and derived from the people only, therefore, they have the right at all times to modify their form of government.”
What I have just been reading to you is a very brief excerpt from my Keynote Speech last Friday at the University of South Carolina, titled, “Why Do Large Corporations Get to Decide What We the People Eat?” The entire speech can be found on my website at PaulCienfuegos.com.
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.