Progressive Calendar 09.12.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2010 02:31:11 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   09.12.10

1. Euro econ crisis 9.12 1pm

2. Corp campaigns   9.13 9am
3. Peace walk       9.13 6pm RiverFalls WI
4. Urban ag         9.13 6:30pm
5. War/bankruptcy   9.13 6:30pm
6. Uhcan-mn mtg     9.13 7:30pm

7. Ralph Nader      - What keeps the Democrats from making their case?
8. Frank Scott      - Who are we?
9. Linh Dinh        - Collapsing America
10. Andrew S Taylor - How and why to regulate the American corporation
11. ed              - Bumpersticker

--------1 of 11--------

From: Doris Marquit <marqu001 [at]>
Subject: Euro econ crisis 9.12 1pm

Sunday, Sept. 12, 1 pm. MayDay Books, 301 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis (West

"The European Economic Crisis: A German View." Two leading German Left
activists, Hermann Kopp & Gisela Blomberg, analyze the current economic
crisis in the European Union and the roles played by Left parties.
Questions & discussion. Sponsored by CPUSA, Central & Southern European
MN. Free & open to public. Ffi: 612-922-7993.

--------2 of 11--------

From: TruthToTell <andydriscoll [at]>
Subject: Corp campaigns 9.13 9am

KFAI-90.3/106.7/LISTEN @ KFAI.ORG;

TTT MON. Sept 13-9:00AM: Whither Corporate Campaigning: They Can Do It,
But Is It Wise? - KFAI-90.3/106.7/Listen @ KFAI.

Do Target and Best Buy serve as prime examples of why corporate donations
to political campaigns may not be wise investments? Is the flap over
donations to Republican Tom Emmer's campaign a short-sighted result of not
thinking ahead to the effect on bottom lines and shareholder discontent,
not to mention customer backlash.

This may be the first inkling of the fallout over the US Supreme Court's
Citizen United decision granting corporations the freedom to donate
directly to political campaigns, not just to independent expenditures and
phony fronts that try to undermine candidate credibility.

TTT's ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN talk with proponents and
opponents of the new campaign finance paradigm in light of public
disclosures of corporate partisanship and the marketplace and public
relations wisdom in using that new freedom to affect electoral outcomes.


MIKE DEAN President Common Cause Minnesota
DAVID SCHULTZ Author, Adjunct Professor of Law Hamline University ,
Campaign Finance Specialist

--------3 of 11--------

From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 9.13 6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022

--------4 of 11--------

From: Amber Garlan <agarlan [at]>
From: patty [mailto:pattypax [at]]
Subject: Urban ag 9.13 6:30pm

Monday, Sept. 13 6:30-8:30 (in the community room at St. Olaf Community
Campus, 2901 Emerson Ave, Minneapolis) Growing Economy in Detroit: "Grown
In Detroit" Growers and their New processing Facility

This session is designed for those interested in the entrepreneurial
aspects of urban agriculture. It is also a great chance to learn more
about the Co-op project. The Co-op project is an integrated network of
community members and small businesses, owned and operated by community
members, created to address the food production, processing,
transportation, and distribution needs of the Minneapolis and St. Paul
communities. Operating under basic co-op principles of equity,
transparency and trust our goal is to grow food, nurture community and
make it economically viable. They grow, process, and sell only locally
grown food, practice fair exchange for labor and for food, are culturally
inclusive, and adhere to sustainable practices in all they do.

--------5 of 11--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: War/bankruptcy 9.13 6:30pm

"War is Bankrupting Our Nation and Making Us Less Safe!"
Monday, September 13, 6:30 p.m. Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900
Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.

The Iraq and Afghan Wars cost over $1.5 billion every week. Despite a $2.5
trillion Social Security surplus, politicians are discussing cutting your
benefits to pay for the deficits caused by these unfunded wars. Instead of
improving U.S. security, our intelligence analysts have concluded that the
war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for extremists,
motivating a new generation around the world...(Washington Post)

Coleen Rowley exposed the FBI's mishandling of information related to the
9/11 attacks and was named one of Time Magazine's Persons of the Year in
2002. This program is free and open to the public. Sponsored by:
Network for Spiritual Progressives, Twin Cities Peace Campaign and WAMM.
FFI: Call 612-827-5364.

--------6 of 11--------

From: Joel Albers <joel [at]>
Subject: Uhcan-mn mtg 9.13 7:30pm

monday, august 13, 7:30pm,
Walker Church, 3104 16 th ave s (1 block south of
lake str and bloomington ave)
in Mpls, 55406. Gallery, basement

items include:
 1.demo for upcoming Obama visit, other ?
 2.our position on the federal legislation, messaging
 3.single-payer, MN, & governor's race
 4.three UHCAN-MN health Screenings/outreach, oct,nov
 5.Renee L's help w/ uhcan-mn website 6.Fed funding to  start MN Health
Care Co-op

other items ? Bioneers conference, networking w/ other groups
come for the coffee, tea, snacks, stay for the conversation

--------7 of 11--------

What Keeps the Democrats from making their case?
By Ralph Nader
September 10, 2010

It is astonishing how many Democrats in the past three months have been
making the worst case scenario for their prospects in the November
mid-term Congressional elections. Do they believe that the most craven
Republican Party in history needs their help in such a self-fulfilling

The arguments that the Democratic pundits, along with some elected
lawmakers, are giving focus on the slowing of the recessionary economy and
the "natural giveback" to the Republicans of the hitherto safe seats that
they lost to the Democrats in 2008.

The mass media-exaggerated aura of the Tea Party, pumped by Limbaugh,
Hannity and the histrionic Glenn Beck, has put the Democrats in a
defensive posture. It is giving the puzzled Republicans an offensive
image. I say puzzled because they can't figure out the many disparate
strands of the Tea Party eruption which includes turning on the
Republicans and George W. Bush for launching this epidemic of deficits,
debt, bailouts and unconstitutional military adventures.

Being on the defensive politically becomes a nightmarish self-replicating
wave among that 10 percent slice of swing voters who can make the
difference between a big win or a big loss. These are also the
non-hereditary party voters whose philosophy is to "throw the bums out"
again and again until they get the message.

Gallup's most recent poll predicted the Republicans taking the House of
Representatives. While political scientist, Larry Sabato, with a 98%
predictive accuracy in Congressional races over ten years, sees the House
gone and the Senate as a toss-up. But it is still early.

The Democratic Party's problems are much deeper than the Sunday talk shows
indicate. First the Democrats do not have a progressive political
philosophy. They could learn from a four time winner--Franklin Delano
Roosevelt--when it comes to being perceived as the working families

One has only to listen to the debates on C-Span between Democrats and
Republicans running for Congress or the Governorships. Too often, apart
from a Libertarian or Green in the mix, there are very few bright lines or
contrasts between the Republicans and Democrats, however much they try to
magnify personal differences. Indeed, the freshman Blue Dog Democrats, who
won in 2008, go out of their way to criticize their Congressional leaders
and President Obama, with the full encouragement of the national
Democratic Leaders.  The latter stayed away from the hustings during the
long Congressional recess. The Democrats lost August to the Republicans
and the right-wing radio and cable yahoos who speak of the stimulus, the
health care law and the proposed restoration of Bush's tax cuts for the
wealthy as "job-killing agendas" and a disaster "for families and small
businesses." Such Republican false statements fill the Congressional

What keeps the Democrats from making their case? Is it their desire to
keep raising big money from big business at the cost of muzzling a far
more effective political message than their post-Labor Day offerings of
more small business tax cuts and a ten year $100 billion tax credit for
corporate research and development?

Do they believe those two actions are vote-getters or balm for getting
more campaign money from business? Indeed, the tax credit mainly goes to
super-profitable computer companies (Cisco, Intel, Microsoft) and big drug
companies that already have outsourced their production to China and

And small business, which is receiving eight tax cuts under Obama, is
waiting for consumer spending to increase. President Obama should fulfill
his campaign pledge in 2008 to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.50 per
hour by 2011, which would increase that buying power. Even that increase,
while worthwhile, still wouldn't equal the minimum wage of 1968, adjusted
for inflation.

The Democrats might listen to some of the articulate callers to C-SPAN
radio or WPFW in Washington, D.C. to catch the powerful vernacular of
protest.  One caller succinctly made the case for policies, including
using the tax code, to encourage companies to bring back industry and
outsourced jobs that were shipped to China and other repressive or
low-wage countries, with Washington's help no less.

People are really upset about where corporate globalization, one-sided
trade treaties, and costly foreign wars have taken our country. Working
Americans who have lost their jobs can stay at home in November and cost
the Democrats elections as they did in 2004. Voters look for politicians
who take a stand, who know who they are and can show they side with the
people, not global companies that have no allegiance to the country that
bred, subsidized and defended them.

How did Reagan, even as a big business apologist, hold the 54 GOP Senate
seats and only lose 26 House seats in the mid-term election of 1982?
Reagan was, in the words of Jim Kessler, "facing 10.8 percent
unemployment, 6 percent inflation, a declining GDP, an approval rating
barely above freezing and the indignity of having drastically increased
the budget deficit over the previous year after running as a fiscal hawk."
Maybe it is because enough voters saw the "Gipper" as knowing what he
stood for and showing steadfastness and better times coming soon, in
comparison to the wavering, concessionary posture of the then-majority
Democrats in the Congress.

[It it hard not to see most of the Dems as conscious traitors, selling out
the people and democracy for thirty pieces of silver. The logic of voting
for them in 2010 and 2012 holds for voting for them in 2014 and 2016 and
20xx and 20xx...., the "lesser evil" forever, voting for views we don't
like because we 99% can never do or have what we really want in a
supposedly "good" and "free" country.  -ed]

--------8 of 11--------

Who Are We?
by Frank Scott
September 11th, 2010
Dissidetn Voice

Under assault by a consciousness control system that insists we are doing
quite well even when evidence shows we're on the critical list, we have
reason to be confused.

We were advised that combat in Iraq had ended as media swooned over 4,000
troops leaving,  without mentioning 50,000 remaining.  Or the 7,000
mercenaries who would  continue murderous policy.  Or the treasonous lies
used to wreak devastation upon an innocent people murdered, made refugees
and reduced to poverty as a result of our destruction of their developed
state, leaving a dysfunctional nation in its place.

We were informed that North Korea was "menacing" 30,000 U.S. military
personnel on its borders, playing what were called "war games". If 30,000
North Korean troops were rehearsing mass murder off the coast of
California, we would not feel threatened but instead send them peace
offerings of Kim Chi.  Meanwhile, our joined-at-the-U.S.-bankroll brethren
in Israel continued suffering an existential crisis because Iran may
someday have nuclear weapons which could destroy the hundreds already
existing in the Israeli arsenal.

And we were entertained by a revival of what has come to be known as the
"peace process". These are pointless meetings offering photo-ops and
blather between Israel and the United States with mis-representatives of
the Palestinians, while the apartheid atrocity continues unabated. The
charade was renewed as Hamas conducted attacks on what most of the world
sees as invaders of its land. Their actions against settlers - the western
term for armed colonialists, as they are seen by those in whose homes and
on whose land they settle - was criticized as bloody murder while complete
silence was maintained, as always, about bloody murders and dreadful
conditions in Gaza.

Politicians who voted against funding health care for workers sickened by
cleaning up the debris after 9/11 then decided that hallowed ground should
not have an Islamic cultural center built more than two blocks away from
ground zero. These parasites had no idea the project existed until it was
brought to their attention by a Muslim hating blogger who, common to that
breed, treats the world's more than one billion Muslims as though they
were the 19 terrorists of 9/11. These ghouls - they actually give a bad
name to creatures who feed on the dead - unleashed an anti-Islamic wave of
moronic and hateful bigotry beyond anything provoked by real problems of
war, immigration, unemployment and the overall economic crisis.

The programmed remembrances of that tragic day of 9/11 always attempts to
obliterate awareness of the much greater slaughters it was used to provoke
and the present national threat posed by our perverse foreign and economic
policies which serve wealthy minorities while driving the majority apart -
and nearly out of its mind - with divisive cultural and identity barriers.
These prevent us from seeing the ominous burdens we bear collectively and
from which we have no personal, cultural or hyphenated protection. We are
made to accept ourselves as dozens of artificially separated minorities,
but are forbidden from seeing ourselves more realistically as two
hyphenated groups:  (1) Rich-Americans;  and (2)
the-other-ninety-nine-percent-who-work-for-a-living Americans.

Our mind managers and their servants tell us how desperately we need those
wealthy people to invest in the market so that we can survive with jobs
they somehow create. Belief in this economic folklore is like believing
the most intelligent person in America is that Florida fanatic who
threatened to burn the Koran. If you think that's so, don't read any

The richest 1 percent of Americans now earn -  an extremely relative term
- more than the bottom 50 percent combined. Back in the 1970s, the richest
1 percent collected 8 percent of the national income. By the year 2006,
that rose to nearly 23 percent and continues climbing. At this point 99%
of us are sharing about 75% of the income. Sounds fair, if you're
satisfied with being a serf or peasant compared to your rulers.  And while
the top 100 CEOs once averaged earning 45 times more than their workers,
in 2009 the nearly incredible ratio was 1,071 to 1. But wait!  That's not

The 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of more than $1.3
trillion, which averages out to more than 300 billion dollars each. How
hard do those 400 work, if at all, compared to the average sanitation,
bank, school, health care, transit or other worker among the millions in
that 99% below them who are the substance of daily economic life? Does the
expression "democracy" have any real meaning?

We are allowed and encouraged to mobilize against suspected 9/11
conspiracies organized by "our" government, strongly urged and manipulated
to form Tea Parties in opposition to the injustices of "our" government,
but forbidden from seeing "our" government as a creature of minority
wealth operating against "our" interest and threatening the social and
natural environment in the process while sustaining itself by setting us
against one another. We are disorganized to hate others among the majority
while justifiably being enraged about material conditions which are
directly controlled by minorities which might as well be invisible gods
for the way we are socialized to treat or think about them.

If we, the people of these United States, are ever to be a united nation
we have to penetrate the lead curtain of misinformation in which we are
imprisoned and begin thinking as a population with a collective destiny
which demands collective action. We have a serious social identity crisis
and cannot save ourselves by making war against ourselves. But if we want
a peaceful world and safe environment, we need to break out of the mental
prison in which we'll remain as long as we are kept separate, and unequal
by the controllers of what goes into our minds under the false label of

Frank Scott writes political commentary which appears in print in the
Coastal Post and The Independent Monitor and online at the blog

--------9 of 11--------

Collapsing America
by Linh Dinh
September 11th, 2010
Dissident Voice

All governments lie, kill and misuse public funds, but these calculated
habits are amplified manifold during wars. We're in two now, aiming for a
third. Japan, whose land we're still occupying 65 years after Hiroshima,
has just announced sanctions against Iran beyond what the U.N. mandated.
South Korea swiftly followed suit. It's surprising to see these two
countries so in sync, until one remembers that they have become American
cheerleaders for decades. Rah, rah, bomb Tehran! A murderous chorus is
rising, yet again. Countries that aren't our client states can be counted
with two hands, even those missing fingers from an exploding grenade.

Universal outrage has been drummed up over the case of an Iranian woman
about to be stoned to death for adultery. She's also implicated in the
murder of her husband, for which she may be hanged. This second, more
serious crime has been left out of many news stories. America also
executes, but it doesn't stone, especially for a bit of ticklish fun on
the side. We inject, electrocute, gas, hang and shoot our condemned. We're
more humane that way. Forever bureaucratic, we pay attention to procedural

Our objection, then, is not to capital punishment, but to certain methods.
Stoning is barbaric. We don't stone, period, except during one of our
serial wars, where we will stone entire communities back to the Stone Age.
But that's war, buddy. We also use phosphorous and cluster bombs, plant
landmines that will last generations. To rectify and avenge the stoning of
one woman, someone we don't really care about, whose name we can't even
pronounce, we'll flatten Iran, maybe by Thanksgiving.

The United States is concerned about women worldwide. It is touched and
outraged by one Afghan woman, Aisha, whose nose was sliced off by her
Taliban husband. To defend her honor, it has killed hundreds of thousands
of her brothers and sisters. To protect her, it has destroyed her country.
It's the principle that matters. We care about the individual, at least
those who are useful to our agendas. It's the masses we don't give a
flying whoopee about. How can we not raise our voices, for example, when
an imprisoned prostitute - hardly a criminal, really, even less so than
adulterer - is left in a cage, to be baked to death for at least four
hours in 107-degree heat? Her captors ignored her pleas for water. They
wouldn't even allow her to use the bathroom, so she soiled herself before
passing out. She was still alive, however, when finally taken to the
hospital, where doctors allowed her to die. Incredibly, no charges have
been filed. Such barbarity and judicial callousness deserve our fullest
condemnations, except that hardly anyone has heard of Marcia Powell, 48,
who died in an Arizona prison in May of 2009. The mainstream media ignore
her, because her abject death cannot be exploited for political purposes.
We're not trying to bomb Arizona.

Needing to kill, a government will lie before, during and after
splattering blood. Eschewing subtlety, it prefers to speak in slogans and
clipped, cartoonish sentences. They hate us for who we are. We must fight
them over there, so we don't have to fight them over here. We're trying to
root out the bad guys. Adopting this lingo, many Americans are dubbing the
community center and mosque near Ground Zero a "jihad mosque" or a
"victory mosque". In Lower Manhattan last week, I saw a man carrying a
Another displayed a caricature of "IMAM OBAMA". There was an effigy of a
tied up Palestinian, complete with keffiyeh, with this placard, "OBAMA:
With a name like HUSSAIN we understand. Bloomberg: what the f@&k is your

Totalitarianism always breeds idiocy. Lies that go unchallenged lead to
more preposterous lies. Idiocy is also the manure from which
totalitarianism rises. On September 11, 2001, the entire world saw America
symbolically imploded, but our actual collapse is ongoing. It is
relatively gradual, unlike the three, yes, three, World Trade Center
buildings that tumbled onto their own foot prints. For the last nine
years, we have endured an unending stream of lies and idiocy, none more
grotesque than the official explanation to what happened that tragic day.

Despite being lied to repeatedly, almost daily, Americans are strangely
gullible to incoherent, even ridiculous narratives dished up by their
government. Brainwashed by the bromide that their nation is always a force
for good, anywhere, worldwide, Americans can't imagine that Washington
could be complicit in the murder of its own citizens. Ignored is the fact
that it has done so many times before, and since, 9/11. Using false
pretexts to invade Iraq, our government has caused the death of over four
thousand Americans, more than the number who perished on 9/11.

I don't know what happened that day, but it makes no sense to me that
World Trade Center #7 fell down without being hit by anything. It makes no
sense to me that it collapsed exactly the same way as the twin towers, as
if imploding. It makes no sense that the passport of Satam al Suqami, one
of the alleged hijackers, could be found on the ground, when entire
skyscrapers were being pulverized. I also don't understand how no military
jets could intercept any of the three planes that hit their targets that
day. The first tower was struck at 8:46AM, the Pentagon at 9:40AM, nearly
an hour later, with no effective response from our vaunted military. I
used to take buses to and from the Pentagon Transit Center. I knew the
building wasn't very tall, so it struck me as weird how an airliner could
hit it from the side. Why fly parallel to the ground, nearly shaving it,
to strike such a low target? Why not just dive into it? There are red
flags all over this incident, yet many sane, reasonable people will become
completely unhinged at the slightest suggestion that the official version
doesn't add up. Our government lies all the time, but when it comes to
this one incident, we shouldn't question anything? Even National Review,
of all places, pointed out visa irregularities among the alleged
hijackers, how they could enter the U.S. without the proper paperwork.

After Martin Luther King was killed in 1968, his family refused to believe
the official explanation. They fought and fought until an assassination
conspiracy trial was scheduled in 1999. Presented with extensive
evidences, a jury concluded that, yes, the federal, state and local
governments all had a hand in Dr. King's murder, and that James Earl Ray
was not the shooter. The King family did what any sane, loving family
would do. Coretta Scott King explained, "We had to get involved because
the system did not work. Those who are responsible for the assassination
were not held to account for their involvement [.] It has been a difficult
and painful experience to revisit this tragedy, but we felt we had an
obligation to do everything in our power to seek the truth".

On September 11, 2001, someone stabbed America. She's being murdered right
now. As Americans, we need to get to the heart of this, because this
madness and deceit are perpetuating themselves. If we don't have the
courage and clarity to confront this evil, we won't regain our sanity or
move forward. We might as well be dead. We're dying. As with the King
murder and so much else, you cannot expect the system to convict itself.
It will lie and lie until the truth hardly matters.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories and five of poems, with a
novel, Love Like Hate, scheduled for July. He's tracking our deteriorating
socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

--------10 of 11--------

How and Why to Regulate the American Corporation
Andrew S. Taylor
September 11th, 2010
Dissident Voice

Most of the economic growth of the past few decades went primarily to
corporate earnings. To the extent that working men and women enjoyed any
benefit, it was not a permanent benefit and could never have been;
premised as it was upon debt and consumption, it was fundamentally
unsustainable. It is therefore important that any "economic recovery" we
accomplish does not simply place us back into another period of
unsustainable self-delusion.

As has been observed by many others, the "rising tide" of GDP and
corporate earnings since the beginning of the Reagan era was not spread
equally among the American population as a whole. Most wage-earners,
including the middle class, has fallen behind in their spending and
earning power where it matters the most; i.e., in housing, health care,
and education. These changes have been largely hidden from the official,
daily narrative of our economic lives by the government's metrics; our
inflation rates are low because everything that inflates (the cost of
education, housing, and health care) is no longer included in the
measurement. The lower consumer prices of televisions and laptops made
overseas is scant compensation for these drastically rising costs, and the
inability of the median wage to rise and meet them accordingly.

Our government's current policy is still fundamentally a corporatist one.
It is premised on the notion that large institutions are the bedrock of
the economy, and that only by lending or, as is often the case, extra
billions of dollars to keep them afloat, will businesses, large and small,
begin to start hiring again. Having spent decades siphoning wealth from
the general populace and re-distributing it amongst the top 1% of the
wealthiest individuals, these companies have become so powerful that their
tentacles are wrapped around every aspect of our lives, and we cannot seem
to extricate ourselves.

Many on the left and right correctly criticize this pseudo-fascist
economic model. However, the most vocal (or at least, the most publicized)
anti-establishment movement - the Tea Party - fails to make a crucial
distinction in its sweeping, anti-regulatory polemics. They think they are
protecting workers and small business owners when they protest the
regulation of Wall Street and big business. But the anti-regulatory
impulse when applied to the corporation is fundamentally backwards. There
is an essential difference between a private business and a corporation,
one that justifies the heavy regulation of corporations even on
libertarian grounds. However, we no longer are aware of the distinction
because we have simply erased it from our consciousness and our political

This is partly due to a century of brainwashing by the corporatist agenda.
>From the dawn of the laissez-faire era, powerful elites propagated the
social Darwinist notion that corporations and the wealth they accumulated
were not the product of legal privilege, but rather natural selection.
Their wealth was seen as precipitate of the productivity and skills of
those who earned it. There was nothing coercive about how corporate wealth
and power was earned, so the story goes, because it was obtained legally
through the free exchange of labor contracts.

It is, of course, common for the ruling elites to justify themselves as
part of the natural order. Once this concept is embedded in public
consciousness, any kind of legal limitation on the corporate form faces a
higher burden of justification than mere pragmatism, since it is the
"natural order" itself that is being interfered with.

In fact, the corporate form traces its origins to late medieval church and
government institutions. The term itself is a pseudo-mystical term
referring to the "incorporation" of specific contractual arrangements into
an "entity," a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts, and which
is, as a matter of legal convenience, believed to have a life (nowadays,
an immortal life) above and apart from those who own and manage it. Thus,
the procedural language itself invokes magical thinking and mysticism.

What this "entity" does, and why it is useful, is that it protects those
who invest in it from financial liability for the decisions made by those
who manage the company. You, British Petroleum stockholder, cannot be made
to pay for the oil cleanup in the gulf. Even though your investment is
what makes it possible for BP to raise capital in order to function and
grow, you are only responsible for the loss of your stock value when your
oil company blows a gasket in a big way. No one can make you pay for your
company's mistakes - even though you own part of it. This barrier is
fundamentally unnatural, but it is why you, BP stockholder, are willing to
buy the stock in the first place.

The "limited liability" of the corporate contract only exists to the
extent it is condoned by the government. Contrary to assertions by some
libertarian theorists, it is no more "natural," or even possible, in a
simple common-law scenario than, for instance, diplomatic immunity. Like
any contractual delineation of personal responsibility, it only has
meaning if the government is willing to enforce it. A contract that cannot
be subject to lawsuit when it is violated is, by definition, not a
contract. And the government does not enforce just any contract - it has
always chosen, as a matter of public policy, what kinds of contracts are
valid and which are not. The government cannot be made to pay for the
enforcement of contracts it deems unreasonable or burdensome to the
government or the people, or for contracts which break laws.

Corporations are therefore fundamentally unlike private businesses, which
can theoretically exist in essentially the same form with little or no
government action at all. The advantage of a private business is that its
managers can act in their own interests exclusively, since they are not
obliged to make the fortunes of shareholders. The disadvantage is that
they will have greater difficulty raising their own multi-million fortunes
in the long run; investors in the company are partners, and they are
legally on the hook for everything done by every other partner. Not many
are willing to take such risks. This is why only a corporation can grow as
big as BP or Goldman Sachs - the limited liability of shareholders turns
business ownership into a safe, transferable consumer product.

The important point here is: it's a choice you form a corporation. You
chose the additional obligations and responsibilities of the arrangement
for the financial benefit brought by a state-created business form. And
the state, after all, is paid for by the people. Corporations are
therefore ultimately supported by the public and ostensibly exist with
their consent.

This is why, for the first 100 years of American history, the right of the
public to regulate the corporate form through their state governments was
essentially unquestioned. Since they were then formed in the public trust
and for public benefit (usually for public works, building infrastructure,
or establishing banks), they were given precise boundaries within which to
operate; their lifespan, their scope of activity, their location, all of
this was placed under strict limitation and specifically enumerated in the
corporate charter. One corporation could not buy another corporation
simply because it could afford to do so, or extend itself into an economic
activity outside its original purpose. Any alteration to its original
charter or business purpose required state permission. This was not seen
as a "limitation on business" to nineteenth century legislators and
citizens, but rather as a common-sense limitation on the exploitation of
public privilege.

Corporations are formed by government action at the state (rather than
federal) level. As a result, the inter-state competition for corporate tax
revenue, which began in the post-civil war industrial era, played out in
what is often referred to as a "race to the bottom" as each state vied to
establish the most permissive corporate environment, wooing potential
business managers with increasingly liberal legal environments for
corporate formation and operation. It soon became possible for
corporations to list several "business purposes" in their charter as
opposed to only one. Eventually, writing "any legal business purpose" into
the charter at the time of formation was sufficient, and it remains so
today. States also permitted corporations ever-greater flexibility in
writing and amending their own bylaws - a flexibility not granted in other
countries, where bylaws are more firmly standardized. Winning this "race"
is how Delaware ended up with roughly 60% of Fortune 500 companies
incorporated in its jurisdiction.

What this means is that, again contrary to the mainstream narrative of
encroaching government limitation and regulation, corporations have
experienced a steady increase in business freedom over the past century,
with our present era being the freest of all. The alphabet soup of
underfunded, understaffed federal regulatory agencies is barely a nuisance
to these companies when compared to the historical growth in their legal
privileges to self-create. This freedom is largely responsible, either
directly or indirectly, for our present inability to prevent the bloated
salaries of CEOs, the abuse of corporate "speech" to corrupt our media and
political processes, and the multiple layers of ownership that powerful
puppet-masters use to hide in the shadows. Ironically, greater "freedom of
contract" requires more state support, because greater and more varied
contractual forms require more statutory action and increased litigation.

And this is the fundamental conundrum that has passed from our
consciousness - to be pro-corporate is to be pro-government, not the other
way around. A state or a country with very little corporate freedom, with
fewer and smaller such entities, actually requires less government
involvement in business. When there are bright-line limitations on what
corporations can do, there is less need for extensive regulation of how
they do it. This is utterly anti-intuitive to today's "conservatives" and
yet, when our country was founded, it was common sense reality.

America needs to return to the notion of the corporation as a public
trust, not a private business. When Americans are able to view the
corporation as something whose very existence they pay for with their tax
dollars whether they buy that company's products or not, they will no
longer view corporate regulation as a burden on free-enterprise, but
rather as a limitation on a public privilege. The best, most efficient way
to accomplish this is through the federalization of the laws of
incorporation, as is done in many social democracies.

Currently, most American laws regarding corporate formation and operation
are written at the state level. This means that in America there are 50
different, wholly distinct jurisdictions and regulatory regimes. Potential
businesses have the freedom to "venue shop" for the environment which best
suits their needs. Knowing this, states - because they must now compete
for the corporate revenue - are loathe to regulate themselves out of
needed tax dollars.

It is unlikely that state incorporation can be eliminated en masse; i.e.,
by suddenly transferring all corporations and the power to form them to
the federal government exclusively. An attempt at such an usurpation of
long-established state powers would make our current political conflicts
seem like child's play. But there is no reason why the federal government
could not provide a regulatory baseline, such as a limit on the number of
"business purposes" that any one corporation can pursue and a strict limit
on how many subsidiaries a corporation can own.

Federalized laws of incorporation and strictly standardized bylaws are the
norm in many European countries and in Japan. Because government
regulators establish a greater foothold from the get-go, the result is
sounder environmental policy, better working conditions, and a drastically
reduced wealth imbalance between CEO's and their underlings, as well as
throughout society in general.

If putting the corporate form under direct federal control seems like a
move towards "bigness" - the last thing we want - again, our intuitions
are leading us in the direction opposite the truth. The power and abuses
of the corporate form are a direct consequence of the inability of a state
government like Delaware to stand up to a multi-national corporate power,
upon whose good graces its state budget heavily depends. Corporations are
already big, and it takes a big government to reign them in. The happy
irony here is that, in doing so, it can place effective and permanent
limits on their size and power, thus ultimately reducing their cost to
society in the form of regulatory support and imbalances of wealth.
Corporations that are smaller and more horizontally arranged can be
regulated more efficiently and effectively. They will also likely function
more efficiently and effectively, making better products at less cost to
the environment.

And this, ultimately, is the change our society must go through. Now,
America is a nation of powerful corporate interests who are able to
leverage its many fractious jurisdictions to solidify and centralize their
power and strength. Under a nationally consistent regulatory regime, "too
big to fail" can be a thing of the past. Even more importantly, modestly
sized corporations can be more easily prevented from outsourcing their
labor force (saving American jobs), and from corrupting the political
process (in the form of lobbyists). The result is a chance for a permanent
fix to the worst of our economic woes - a decentralized, more democratic
economy which is more egalitarian and fair. In this case, to be
anti-corporate is to be pro-business.

Andrew S. Taylor writes fiction, political essays, and book reviews.

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                          Behead the corporations


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   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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