Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Futures Markets in Constitutional Rights?

Jane Anne Morris (author of Gaveling Down the Rabble) wrote the following essay, published in the Earth Island Journal, in 1997.


It's the best of times, if you're a rapacious corporation with money. It's the worst of times, if you're a citizen with democratic pretensions, or a living thing. Or a rock. Especially if you contain ore.
Feeling cash-poor? Already sold your organs? Had your crop seeds patented by a transnational? Don't miss out on the growing market for selling your rights, individually or as a community. And the prospective buyers are... you guessed it, transnational corporations.
In Wisconsin, under the homey phrase "local agreement," corporations have found a way to buy up the constitutional rights of whole cities and counties, once and for all. This is how it works:
MegaMining Corp. (MMC) proposes a contract to a local government body -- city council, county board, Native American tribal council, whatever. Then the corporation runs roughshod over open-government laws and exerts all the pressure that a multibillion-dollar corporation can bring to bear on a handful of local officials.
After months or years of pressure, the officials sign the local agreement and the following provisions become law:
* The local government gives MMC the right to mine, as long as it obtains state and federal permits (a breeze, if history is any guide).
* The local government promises to say that MMC "conforms with all local ordinances" when asked about MMC's mine permit changes or the adequacy of the company's reclamation plan.
* The local government promises not to renounce or repudiate this agreement.'
And here's the good part:
* The local government agrees that this contract replaces and constitutes compliance with all local regulations, laws, permit requirements, licensing conditions, ordinances, etc. -- both in terms of substance and procedure. (READ THAT AGAIN. The local government has just given up all authority to govern or to represent its citizens. Local citizens have just lost their rights to enforce any local ordinances or regulations that were put in place to protect their environment or way of life. This goes for future laws, as well.)
It gets even better.
* If the local government is party to any proceeding that questions the validity of the contract, it agrees to allow MMC to represent it. (MMC will not charge for its legal services in this case. What a deal.)
* The local government is assured that it can sue MMC at any time -- so long as that action is consistent with the agreement. (But the agreement states that MMC is in compliance with all local laws and that the local government won't question the agreement, so what's left to sue about?)
In exchange, the local government gets a load of unenforceable promises from the corporation -- and a yearly payment. (Nashville, Wisconsin a town of less than 1,000 people [1,064 as of the 2010 census -- Ed], stands to receive nearly $1 million over the first six years of its local agreement with a mining corporation.)
In a nutshell, this makes it legal for a local government to abandon all of its governmental and regulatory functions regarding mining activities by promising in a contract not to exercise its its governance functions.
(It also may be possible for a corporation to transfer or sell the contract to another corporation. The contract is a form of property, and stranger things have happened in property law.)
If the local government somehow does end up in court over a dispute about conditions for renegotiating part of the contract, the local agreement stipulates that whatever else happens, "the court may not directly or indirectly prohibit ... mining." (I'm not a lawyer, but it seems downright odd that a contract between a local government and a corporation could stipulate what action a court may take.)
Wisconsin passed one of the first local agreement laws in 1987, right after Exxon Corporation lost its first attempt to turn Wisconsin's North Woods into a mining district. Several local governments already have signed local agreements with mining corporations, despite sustained and persistent protests by area residents. Other government entities are under heavy pressure to do the same. (Of course, they have a "signing bonus" to look forward to. Nashville was set to receive $450,000 up front for signing.) The fact that the Wisconsin law has not yet been judged unconstitutional sets a decade-long precedent.
The Wisconsin law specifically permits local agreements regarding mining. But if the reference to "mining" were deleted from the law (which is simple enough to do), this would permit any corporation to buy off any local government on any pretext.
Imagine a JunkMart Corporation or a Toxic Mismanagement Corporation buying off the governance functions of a town or city, thereby gaining "legal" rights to do whatever the state department of natural resources and the feds would allow.
All such "local agreement" laws, under whatever name, should be located, identified and repealed.
Morris' essay provides genuine insight on issues that are certainly not new and are even more urgent today than they were two decades ago. Can you imagine what's on the agenda for the new ALEC offshoot, American City County Exchange? Just think about the luxury junkets ACCE will sponsor for local council members! 
It boggles my mind how even local (Arizona) environmental activists who have been elected to city councils could refuse to recognize how this relates to the enormous contrast between the two Democratic presidential candidates this year.
An otherwise strong advocate for common sense issues -- like banning single-use plastic grocery bags -- refuses to acknowledge that the corporatist candidate has a decidedly neoliberal history.
"Neo-liberalism" is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.
"Liberalism" can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Right-wing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate "liberals" -- meaning the political type -- have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neo-liberalism. [...]
But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That's what makes it "neo" or new. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale.
 Main points of Neoliberalism:

  • The Rule of the Market
  • Cutting public expenditure for social services
  • Deregulation
  • Privatization
  • Eliminating the concept of "The Public Good" or "Community"

Wake the f*** up, Hillary Clinton supporters. 

Where does her loyalty lie regarding deregulation? Well, she talks an ALMOST good talk but she stops short when demanded to take a stand on reinstatement of Glass Steagall

The foremost authority on Influence lives and works in Tempe, Arizona. Some of the most strident Hillary supporters know him, Dr. Robert Cialdini. Yet they refuse to wake up to the fact that Clinton is caught in a net of influence she cannot escape. That net trapped her by way of the campaign cash flowing from by Wall Street, and other corporate special interests. 

On privatization, Hillary has long had a deep connection to the Private Prison Industrial Complex. 

In 2015, The Intercept reported on her connections to private prisons. In October, she claimed to have changed course and promised to no longer take donations from the industry. But Clinton surrogate John Podesta was on CNN just days ago telegraphing that Hillary was so desperate for campaign cash that she's now actively soliciting from the National Rifle Association. How Will she be able to resist private prison money? How Will she be able to resist returning favors to both NRA and private prison interests? Social/psychological science says NO.

Those same environmental activists wanted to have Tempe enact an ordinance requiring businesses to provide paid sick days to employees. Without serious consideration of the societal benefit, because of the neoliberal culture dominating American economies these days, such an ordinance didn't have a chance.

The "market" is allegedly represented by chambers of commerce. But those chambers are not concerned with the spread of disease in our communities because stockholders' bottom lines are a more immediate, short-term tangible consideration. 

Wake the f*** up, Hillary Clinton supporters. 

What's the definition of reactionary? Characterized by reaction, especially opposition to progress... 

Is "No, we CAN'T" something a "Progressive who gets things done" says... to any voter? Apparently health care for all Americans is Progress we don't need. 

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