The Present and Future Echo the Past

It often seems like nothing gets done in Washington, D.C. Sometimes it just takes a very long time to accomplish great things, so long as we have visionary leaders at the local, regional, and national levels fighting for what is right for the greater good.

The first volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook’s biography of Eleanor Roosevelt suggests that everyone in the U.S. has a lot for which to thank Mrs. Roosevelt and her contemporaries. And there were more women (and men) that came before her that set the stage for what many of us now take for granted.

Theodore Roosevelt’s second run at the presidency in 1912 was done as a third-party candidate. One of his supporters was Jane Addams. She supported him because his platform contained everything for which she had been fighting for more than 10 years. All of us now benefit from her efforts:

  • Regulations to guarantee decent housing;
  • A law to end child labor;
  • Protection for women workers;
  • A National system of accident, old-age, and unemployment insurance; and
  • Equal suffrage (the right to women to vote and hold office).

Who was Jane Addams? Ms. Addams (1860-1935) was a leader in women’s suffrage and world peace. She was considered to be one of the most prominent reformers in the early decades of the 20th century. In 1931 she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the U.S.

In 1920 and 1921, the League of Women’s Voters, led by other prescient women, including Eleanor Roosevelt, put forth a political platform that included many issues subsequent generations have benefited, and other issues for which we still need to fight:

  • National health insurance;
  • Unemployment insurance;
  • State and federally funded old-age pensions;
  • Expanded appropriations for the Women’s Bureau and Children’s Bureau;
  • An end to child labor;
  • Maximum-hour and minimum-wage legislation;
  • The Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infant Protection Act;
  • Pure-milk-and-food legislation;
  • Federal aid to education;
  • Civil-service reform;
  • Full citizenship for women (whether or not married to U.S. Nationals);
  • The participation of women at every level of national life;
  • The promotion of international peace; and
  • Membership in the League of Nations.

Have you ever heard of the Woman’s Peace Party? Jane Addams, with other outspoken women reformers and peace activists, formed the Women’s Peace Party (WPP) in 1915 after the start of World War I with the immodest goal of brokering permanent peace among warring nations. President Wilson, however, did not support their proposals. But that didn’t stop the WPP or the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) from pursuing pacifist outcomes. Jane Addams and others were labeled unpatriotic traitors because they were against American entering the war.

“After the war, pacifists were hugely disappointed by the Treaty of Versailles and the failure of the United States to join the League of Nations. However, two important organizations did grow out of the women’s peace movement. With the support of Jane Addams, the AUAM developed into the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In 1919, the Women’s International Committee for Permanent Peace developed into the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Both the ACLU and the WILPF thrive today.”1

Seems we should have a day on the calendar dedicated to remembering Jane Addams and all that she attempted to do, and has done, for us.

1National Women’s History Museum

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The Real Reason Behind the Oil Price Collapse

“Emerging economies, notably China, have entered less oil-intensive stages of development . . . On top of this, concerns about climate change are influencing energy policies [and so] renewables are increasingly pervasive.” Maria van der Hoeven, IEA Executive Director

This article suggests that the full-steam-ahead production model Big Oil has adopted is out of date and out of touch with the realities of climate change, the impact of which has been largely ignored by the industry. The article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. Excepts are included here, but the full article is worth reading.

“Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel (nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United States; the decision of the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to maintain output at current levels (presumably to punish higher-cost producers in the US and elsewhere); and the increased value of the dollar relative to other currencies. There is, however, one reason that’s not being discussed, and yet it could be the most important of all: the complete collapse of Big Oil’s production-maximizing business model.

The dramatic decline in oil prices had changed the viability of the production-maximizing business model, which was first adopted in 2005. “With demand stagnant and excess production the story of the moment, the very strategy that had generated record-breaking profits has suddenly become hopelessly dysfunctional.”

“[In 2005] Only one top executive questioned this drill-baby-drill approach: John Browne, then the chief executive of BP. Claiming that the science of climate change had become too convincing to deny, Browne argued that Big Energy would have to look ‘beyond petroleum’ and put major resources into alternative sources of supply. ‘Climate change is an issue which raises fundamental questions about the relationship between companies and society as a whole, and between one generation and the next,’ he had declared as early as 2002. For BP, he indicated, that meant developing wind power, solar power and biofuels. Browne, however, was eased out of BP in 2007 just as Big Oil’s output-maximizing business model was taking off, and his successor, Tony Hayward, quickly abandoned the ‘beyond petroleum’ approach.

“The production-maximizing strategy crafted by O’Reilly and his fellow CEOs rested on three fundamental assumptions: that, year after year, demand would keep climbing; that such rising demand would ensure prices high enough to justify costly investments in unconventional oil; and that concern over climate change would in no significant way alter the equation. Today, none of these assumptions holds true.

“Demand will continue to rise—that’s undeniable, given expected growth in world income and population—but not at the pace to which Big Oil has become accustomed. . . Big Oil’s multibillion-dollar investments in tough energy were predicated on all that added demand materializing, thereby generating the kind of high prices needed to offset the increasing costs of extraction.

“. . . the International Energy Agency (IEA), an arm of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the club of rich industrialized nations), believes that oil prices will only average about $55 per barrel in 2015 and not reach $73 again until 2020. Such figures fall far below what would be needed to justify continued investment in and exploitation of tough-oil options like Canadian tar sands, Arctic oil and many shale projects.

“There is, as well, another factor that threatens the wellbeing of Big Oil: climate change can no longer be discounted in any future energy business model. Whether Big Oil is ready to admit it or not, alternative energy is now on the planetary agenda and there’s no turning back from that. ‘It is a different world than it was the last time we saw an oil-price plunge,’ said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven in February, referring to the 2008 economic meltdown. ‘Emerging economies, notably China, have entered less oil-intensive stages of development . . . On top of this, concerns about climate change are influencing energy policies [and so] renewables are increasingly pervasive.’”

Debating Corporate Personhood Constitutional Amendment

Five years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, with the same right to influence politics as voters. I have to admit, this never made sense to me (actually, it seems ludicrous, but that’s just me, or perhaps it’s you, too?). Now corporations are challenging new laws, saying, as in one example, that some laws “force” them to speak against their will.

Democracy Now, with hosts Amy Goodman and Juan González, host a debate on the movement to draft a constitutional amendment to overturn the doctrine of corporate constitutional rights with two guests: Ron Fein, legal director of the organization Free Speech for People, which backs a constitutional amendment to overturn the doctrine of corporate constitutional rights, and Kent Greenfield, professor of law and Dean’s Research Scholar at Boston College Law School. He recently wrote a piece for The Washington Monthly called “Let Us Now Praise Corporate Persons.”

Watch the video of the debate:

http://publish.dvlabs.com/democracynow/ipod/dn2015-0313.mp4

Or you can read the full transcript at www.democracynow.org.

Ron Fein: “There are two constitutional amendments that we at FreeSpeechForPeople.org and other allies in the field are promoting. One is called the Democracy for All Amendment, and that would overturn the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decisions. So that would enable local, state and federal government to set limits on spending money and raising money to influence elections. The other constitutional amendment that we’re promoting is called the People’s Rights Amendment, and that would clarify that the rights in the Constitution are rights of natural persons, not corporations.

“What our amendment would do is it would force the courts to do a two-step analysis. The first step would be to say, “Who are the actual people who are being affected by this law, and do they have a constitutional right at issue here?” The second step would be to say, “Do those people have a constitutional right to use the corporate tool to exercise that right?” And so, what that would mean is that we would have to look behind the corporate form to say, “Are there actual people here whose rights are actually being violated?” And that would change the entire discourse that we’ve been having.

“Every state of the union has some provision for revoking corporate charters. And these powers belong usually to the attorney general of the state. They’re not often used nowadays. But at FreeSpeechForPeople.org, we are very shortly going to have on our website a model corporate charter revocation law that would provide that when a corporation has committed repeated multiple felonies within a short period of time, then its corporate charter can and should be revoked.”

Kent Greenfield: “I agree that corporate accountability is a problem, that corporate power is a problem, that there’s often a tension between human rights and corporate rights. And I’ve spent my career trying to craft solutions to that problem within corporate governance. And I think that’s where progressive efforts should be aimed, not toward constitutional right—constitutional amendments, which in the end would do little to address the real problems. I think the real problems come from the fact that corporations are managed and structured to further the interests of the managerial and financial elite. And how to make corporations more accountable, more attuned to issues of human rights and the like, is to make corporations themselves more democratic, to make the corporate governance, to make boards of directors attuned to interests of all stakeholders, to interests of society. I think I would put employees on the boards of directors of companies. And this is something that works in Europe.

“Ron Fein and others, with whom I’ve worked for a long time, all recognize that the core problem here is corporate power. We simply disagree about how to address it. I think to go at the—to the heart of how corporations are managed is the real remedy.

Are you for or against a corporate personhood constitutional amendment?

Is Peace a Dirty Word?

“We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.” President Eisenhower (1960)

Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash at TruthOut, wrotePeace is not Profitable Enough for the United States.”

”The National Priorities Project, which keeps running expenditure tabs on the costs of war, estimates that the US has now spent nearly $1.7 trillion on wars since 2001.

“The dramatic expansion in privatizing war and intelligence services only increases the incentive for trying to find ways to profit from conflict and focusing on the elimination of ‘enemies.’ This includes not just the major wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but numerous spots around the world in which the US is engaged in what are called low-intensity conflicts.

The triumph of the military-industrial complex – which President Eisenhower warned against before he left office – is indisputable. It has bipartisan support in Congress and the White House. The only variable is the degree of the hunger for wars. (This question of degree comes out at moments like the current one, as the decision on whether to go to war with Iran hovers in the air.)

“. . . there are relatively few US decision makers, industry leaders, or bureaucrats who would actually welcome peace. After all, their government jobs or privatized contracts are at stake. There’s just too much money, too much profit, too many campaign contributions and too many jobs that rely on war and the vilifying of endless – and quickly replaceable – ‘enemies.’”

Here’s an excerpt of President Eisenhower’s prescient and cautionary speech [editors emphasis]:

“We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a [20th]century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

“Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

“Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology — global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger is poses promises to be of indefinite duration…

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Power Past Coal – Speak Out!

Climate Solutions (www.climatesolutions.org) sent this message out on March 14. There is still time to raise your voice with Communities Against Coal Export.

In 2014, by submitting 8,000 public comments and providing six hours of public testimony to the Oregon Transportation Commission, Power Past Coal scored a major victory that stopped state funding from subsidizing a coal dock on the Columbia River.  Now, because of pressure from the coal industry and its allies, the victory is at risk of being overturned.

On Thursday, March 19, we need to let the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) know that we oppose a controversial and inaccurate Connect Oregon application to fund a coal dock.

The Port of St. Helens wants $2 million dollars of state money to fund a coal dock at Port Westward for Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific Project. But their request was rejected in August by the OTC. Rather than simply rubberstamping funding for the coal dock, members of the OTC listened to those who testified, diligently researched whether the coal dock application complied with the state’s laws, and concluded that it was inaccurate and incomplete.

After months of heavy lobbying from politicians and Big Coal, the coal dock application will go in front of the OTC again and we need you to be there to stop it…again!

  • What: Public meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission to re-vote on the funding of the coal dock at Port Westward. Remember to wear red and RSVP if you want to carpool!
  • When: Thursday, March 19, 2015, 10 a.m. Carpools leaving from the Columbia Riverkeeper office at 1125 SE Madison in Portland at 8:15 a.m. Please RSVP to jasmine@columbiariverkeeper.org if you plan to carpool!
  • Where: 355 Capitol Street NE, Room 103 Salem, OR

Three minutes of public comment is allowed at the beginning of the meeting, but not on any agenda item (Connect Oregon and the coal dock are agenda topics). This means that your public testimony could mention the importance of public participation in decision making and reminding the commission that transportation decisions create the road map for our region’s future. It’s important that commissioners see and hear the impacts of their decisions to our state before they vote on the coal dock!

In January, former Governor Kitzhaber fired the chair of OTC, Catherine Mater, over her tie-breaking vote on the coal dock application. Without her leadership, the OTC could make a move that provides state money to dirty energy projects like coal export.

Changing the Moral Arguments to Engage Climate Change Non-Believers

The large majority of Americans (and apparently up to half of Republicans) say they support governmental action to address global climate change, this according to an opinion piece by Robb Willer of The New York Times on Sunday, March 1.

“While the number of Republicans who say global warming is a serious problem has reached high levels, there remains a very large gap in moral engagement with the issue . . . Where liberals view environmental issues as matters of right and wrong, conservatives generally do not.”

Most environmental arguments are couched in terms of needing to protect people and ecosystems from harm and destruction, a moral concern that resonates more with liberals than conservatives (even though a conservative president, Richard Nixon, founded the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970). However, the opinion piece and research suggest that pro-environmental messages specifically targeting conservative values—patriotism, respect for authority, sanctity or purity—could persuade conservatives to join in the environmental movement. When tested, emphasizing the need to protect natural habitats from desecration so that our children can experience the uncontaminated purity and value of nature resonated with conservatives.

“Such efforts to understand others’ moral perspectives might not only bring both sides in line on this important issue, but also foster the sort of sincerity and respect necessary to sustain a large-scale collective effort.”

Finding environmental common ground looks like a possibility. Rejoice!

Automatic License Plate Readers Track Location Information in Oregon

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon’s new legislative director, Kimberly McCullough, is jumping in on the ACLU’s privacy agenda, which includes a package of important bills and the upcoming lobby day for supporters in Salem.

Join ACLU’s Privacy Day on Monday, March 16.

Did you know that law enforcement agencies across the state are now deploying automatic license plate reader (ALPR) surveillance technology without adequate and consistent privacy protections? They are retaining the location information and photograph of every vehicle that crosses the camera’s path, not simply those that match a warrant. This stored private location data can reveal the travel histories of thousands of Oregonians who have committed no crime.

That’s why ACLU worked with bipartisan support to craft SB 639, one of the ACLU privacy bills designed to impose statewide guidelines for the government’s use of ALPR surveillance.

Other privacy bills ACLU is advocating for:
•    SB 339 – Strict guidelines for the use of automatic license plate readers (ALPR)
•    SB 640 – A warrant requirement to access email, phone, and location records
•    SB 641 – A warrant requirement to search cell phones