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Up Huffington’s Ante: Pledge to be Unreasonable

Arianna Huffington is calling for people to step up to Barack Obama’s call to service by having each of us make our own personal commitment to working for the public good. We as Americans got into our current mess because too many of us shirked our basic responsibilities as people living in a “free” country. Eleanor Roosevelt said the price of liberty is constant vigilance. She didn’t mean vigilance by proxy. Vigilance can’t be delegated, but that’s exactly what we tried to do. We the People left our liberty in the hands of elected officials while we went off to enjoy our personal lives and pursue our individual forms of happiness. Meanwhile, for the price of getting into – and staying in – office, our elected officials chose to compromise our trust. Our democracy is founded on the premise that “We, the People” are the ultimate check and balance of our three branches of government. But we didn’t demand that our government push back when corporate leaders ran wild with greed. Corporations have been given too many privileges under tax laws, protections under bankruptcy and liability laws, and public dollars for research that lead to patents and private profits – and now we are rewarding their greed and mistakes with bailouts from our public treasury. But corporations pressed for even more power. For the past 120 plus years, the Supreme Court has granted “corporate persons” the rights of natural persons in addition to their rights as businesses. By acquiring both sets of rights, corporations have gained the ability to consolidate fantastic wealth, power, and privilege. Corporations use their power to influence elections by campaign contributions, law-making by lobbying, judicial decisions by junk science and junkets, regulatory behavior through pressure, and public attitudes through massive media campaigns. This usurpation of rights intended for people by “corporate persons” has led to laws supporting unlimited growth – the sole corporate value of profit – at the expense of quality of life, strong communities, and the future of the planet (from a human perspective) through climate destabilization. Our current mess can therefore be summed up in two words: democracy crisis. This is what Obama will inherit. Everything else is a derivative. Think we’ve voted in change? Think again. I’ve just spent a couple days visiting congressional staff and elected officials. I shared concerns about the myth of “clean” coal in the wake of now two coal ash spills. I shared concerns about empty promises for environmentally sound oil development in America’s coastal seas as I handed out jars of rocks still coated with Exxon Valdez oil nearly 20 years after the spill. I asked for Congress to give the people back the tool of unlimited corporate liability so that we could hold corporations accountable to laws protecting consumers, health, and the environment. The Supreme Court took that tool away in its recent decision in the Exxon Valdez case. In all of the offices I visited, I was told we had to be “reasonable.” Congress can only pass “reasonable legislation.” Reasonable to whom, I wondered? Our elected officials are still bowing to pressure from corporate lobbyists who mold lawmakers, judges, law enforcers, and public perception to service their bottomless greed. Nothing has changed: our democracy is still broken. Nothing can change until we strip corporations of personhood. Luckily, real change starts with us. George Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” I can identify with everything except the gender. It is time for each and every one of us to be unreasonable. Real progress depends on it. I urge us all to take up Obama’s challenge and Huffington’s call for personal commitment. But let’s up the ante: Pledge to be unreasonable. Pledge to engage – with your neighbors, at your workplace, school, or church. Pledge to put the planet and future generations first when making everyday decisions. Figure out what you need to do differently tomorrow – and do it. And if the elected officials don’t listen to us, let’s fill our streets with protest and song. Let’s teach our children democracy means caring for each other and working together. It means making our officials represent US. We can’t stop until they do. Ed. Note: See Riki’s Facebook Group for more: One Million Strong for the Separation of Corporation and State.

Lots of Inconvenient Truths — Chemical Illness Epidemic in the Wake of the BP Blowout

Recently Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer overseeing the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility to “make it right” for people harmed by the British Petroleum oil blowout disaster, told a Louisiana House and Senate committee that he had not seen any claims, or any scientific evidence, linking BP’s oil and dispersant release to chemical illnesses. Feinberg […] Read More..

The U.S. Supreme Court Sells Out: A Government of, for, and by the Corporations

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Citizen United v. Federal Elections Commission case sold America down the river. It opens the floodgates to unfettered -- unlimited! -- corporate and union spending on candidate elections by overturning state and federal restrictions on electioneering. This will affect all elections: school board, zoning commissions, state and municipal judges, state representatives, congressional delegates, President. Read More..

A Letter to the Governor of Alaska

There is an opportunity for this state to demonstrate that it will act fairly and responsibly to protect its residents from oil spill impacts when the law fails to do so. Read More..

More Oil? Cheap Gas? Now is the Time to Make Tough Choices

Cordova, Alaska. When President Obama said, during a speech on environment and climate change, “America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes, and a warming planet,” people across the country grew hopeful that we were, at last, charting a course away from fossil fuels. And we certainly can. But it will require […] Read More..

The Human Cost of Bush’s Arctic Policy

Wainwright, Alaska. “We’ll have to give you an Eskimo name if you like our food!” Kenneth “Kenny” Tagarook teased as he sliced another piece of frozen raw caribou meat for me with his ulu – a hand-sized, flat piece of metal with a small handle opposite the sharp, curved edge. Kenny and his wife Ann […] Read More..