Corporate Attack!

2011: The Year Corporations Attacked Democracy

By  (about the author)
For eighty years, Americans have feared robots, worrying they might one day rule the world.  In 2011 we realized our real enemies are not robots, but multinational corporations, who have declared war on democracy.

In 1936 evil robots made their first film appearance in Flash Gordon.  Since then they’ve haunted popular culture, because robots can be designed to perform human functions yet have no conscience — they are programmed to achieve their objectives no matter the consequences.  This nightmare vision reached an apogee in the 1999 film The Matrix.  The movie depicts a world where robots, the “sentinels,” run everything and   humans have become an energy source.   Robots maintain control by enveloping Americans in a simulated reality — we have no idea what’s happening to us.

In 2011 multinational corporations ran most of the US but the average American didn’t realize this because corporations controlled our reality.

Although the concept of a “corporation” is 400 years old, the modern US corporation evolved from an 1886 Supreme Court decision.  Until the end of World War II most Americans did not work for corporations.   Now the typical wage earner works in a corporate setting.

Over the past 50 years, corporate power grew.  In his 1961 farewell address, President Eisenhower warned, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence” by the military-industrial complex.”  Ike should have alerted Americans to the threat of corporations, in general.

The sixties and seventies saw a new era of global trade and the advent of multinational corporations.  In 1981 Ronald Reagan became President and “Reaganomics” became the dominant ideology. At the forefront of this philosophy were three malignant notions: helping the rich get richer would inevitably help everyone else, “a rising tide lifts all boats;” markets were inherently self correcting and there was no need for government regulation; and the US did not need an economic strategy because of the “free” market.  The Reagan administration viewed unfettered corporations as a vital component of a free market and deliberately unleashed a pernicious threat to democracy.

Once Reagan came to power the number of Washington lobbyists grew from a few hundred to an estimated 40,000 — in 2009 Federal lobbyists expended $3.5 billion.  Multinational corporations sponsor most lobbyists either directly or indirectly through organizations such as the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Under Reagan, the Justice Department softened enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act and other statutes limiting the growth of corporations, in general, and monopolies in specific.  As a consequence, five giant corporations now control most of the US media industry — and manipulate the reality of average citizens.

Despite these changes, until recently most Americans were unaware of the threat posed by multinational corporations — unless their job had been shipped overseas or their cable provider dropped their favorite TV channel.  Then three things combined to wake up the 99 percent.

In September of 2008, the US walked to the edge of a profound financial crisis.  In response Congress authorized a $700 Billion bailout and funds went to financial giants such as AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo — the same corporations whose reckless policies had caused the crisis.   Average Americans asked, “What about me?  Where’s my bailout?”

In January of 2010, the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case and strengthened the notion that corporations have “personhood” and, therefore, enjoy the same rights as ordinary individuals, including the right of free speech.  (For a compelling account of how the bizarre notion that corporations enjoy the same constitutional rights as human beings has evolved, see radio host Thom Hartmann’s book,  Unequal Protection.)  The Citizens United  decision allowed corporations to spend unlimited funds in political contests.  Members of the 99 percent bellowed, “Since when do corporations have the same rights that I have?”

In November of 2010, because of their new political clout, corporations were able to shift control of the House of Representatives to Republicans.  Since the GOP took over in January 2011, this has become the most corporation-friendly legislative body in American history.  Republicans have consistently thwarted efforts to have multinational corporations — and their executives — pay their fair share.  Republicans behavior has been so egregious that average Americans were outraged: “Why do corporations get special treatment when I can’t pay my bills?”  (Mother Jones reports that corporations are gearing up to spend billions more to buy the 2012 election.)

In The Matrix the hero, Neo, breaks out of his simulated reality and joins a band of human insurgents, who battle the evil robots to regain control of earth.  Occupy Wall Street  is an insurgent movement that strives to get average Americans to break out of their simulated reality and battle evil corporations.

In 2011 our worst fears were realized.  It’s not evil robots but instead multinational corporations that want to control the world and, in the process, destroy democracy.  Like humanoid robots, corporations have no conscience — they are programmed to  achieve their objectives no matter the consequences to humans or the planet.  Now it’s up to the insurgency to save democracy.

We’ll Just Hope This Is Actually Enforced…

9th Circuit: Corporations Can Be Sued For Human Rights Violations Abroad

9th Circuit Corporations
First Posted: 10/25/11 07:16 PM ET Updated: 10/26/11 09:28 AM ET, Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Corporations can be held liable in U.S. courts for human rights violations committed abroad, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled on Wednesday. The 9th Circuit reached the same conclusion as two other appeals courts, the 7th and D.C. Circuits, which further isolates the 2nd Circuit’s contrary determination, slated for Supreme Court review this term.

The case, Sarei v. Rio Tinto, arises out of a lawsuit brought in 2000 alleging that Rio Tinto, a multinational mining company, is responsible for the deaths of about 15,000 residents on the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. In 1988, Bougainville residents revolted against Rio Tinto, sabotaging its mine and citing the company’s displacement of villages, major pollution and systematic discrimination against native workers. At Rio Tinto’s urging, the Papua New Guinea government sent in its military and, with the use of Rio Tinto helicopters and vehicles, killed many people in an effort to put down the revolt. Soon thereafter, Papua New Guinea imposed a military blockade on Bougainville to secure the mine, and the country fell into a decade-long civil war.

Wednesday’s ruling by an 11-judge panel found that corporations can be sued for genocide and war crimes under the Alien Tort Statute. That law, passed by the first Congress in 1789, allows foreign plaintiffs to bring suit in federal courts for violations of “the law of nations.”

Conspicuously absent from the Alien Tort Statute, however, is any language defining who or what can be a defendant in such suits. The 9th Circuit held that corporations can be sued under the law, although its eight-judge majority splintered over the reason why. Five judges agreed that a court “should consider separately each violation of international law alleged and which actors may violate it,” while three others emphasized that “courts should first look to [domestic law] to see if the corporate defendant is within the ambit” of liability for the alleged wrongdoing. Three additional judges dissented, concluding that the Alien Tort Statute only covers international law violations that have “occurred on American soil,” and therefore they did not reach the question of corporate liability at all.

The differences of opinion both within the 9th Circuit’s majority and between the court’s majority and the dissenting judges further exacerbate the problem of warring interpretations of the Alien Tort Statute, with another court rejecting corporate liability altogether, a third court looking to domestic law to determine appropriate defendants, and a fourth giving flippant approval to foreign plaintiffs’ claims against corporations.

Mercifully, the Supreme Court will settle the matter by the end of June. Which side the Court will take mercy upon — the corporations or those they allegedly harmed — will be hotly anticipated until then.

“Corporations Are People, My Friend” – Mitt Romney [Video]

No, they are not.  They are corporations.

Would You Like Some Hate With Your Purchase Today?

Why Are Netflix, Target, Best Buy, REI, Delta, and 600 Other Companies Helping Fund Anti-Gay Hate Groups?


Today Microsoft announced that it would end its relationship with the “Christian Values Network,” an online service that raises money for various religious groups from the purchase of over 600 companies’ goods and services. Microsoft might have stayed in, except some of those religious groups are actually anti-gay hate groups. So what will the 600 other companies do?

Whenever someone uses CVN to purchase from one of the 600 companies (such as Avon, Apple, Radio Shack, Six Flags, Guitar Center, Banana Republic and ESPN), shoppers can donate a small percentage of the price to CVN’s over 170,000 charities. But QNotes points out the big problem with some of CVN’s charities:

“Among the groups using the Christian Values Network to raise money are Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Summit Ministries, Abiding Truth Ministries, and the Liberty Counsel. Each organization has been identified as an anti-gay “hate group” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Whoops. So while Stuart Wilber’s petition convinced Microsoft to pull out from the program, we actually think that it’s CVN that needs to clean house.

Surely their thousands of other charities do good work without perpetuating violence against the LGBT community. If they wanna show support for their business partners and their queer consumers, CVN should kick the hate organizations out from its program. If not, either the companies or we the queer community should pressure CVN to do what’s right.

In other bad company news, the shoe company TOMS—a footwear company famous for donating pairs of shoes to African kids with every purchase—has apparently partnered up with Focus on the Family, another hate group.

Oh TOMS and company… if only you could walk several hundred miles in our shoes.

Prometheus Radio Project vs. FCC

Media Reform Victory: People Win, Corporations Lose!

By Sue Wilson

The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia handed the public a huge victory last Thursday, and giant corporations a rare loss, in their decision [PDF] on a case that (ironically enough, given the subject matter) most of the public knew nothing about, but one which has the potential to benefit real people with better quality news and information for decades to come.

The case, Prometheus Radio Project v FCC, pitted “Citizen Petitioners” who seek more persons owning local media outlets to ensure diversity in viewpoints and news coverage, versus “Deregulatory Petitioners” who want fewer persons (spell that “corporations”) to own local media outlets, and the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves that go with them, in order to enhance their profits.

At stake were the rules determining how many local TV and radio stations one company can own in a single market; whether a newspaper owner can also own a TV or radio station in the same town; and how broadcast ownership by minorities and women should be handled. (More)