House Dem: Trade Rep Said “Non-Negotiable” Climate Provisions Are Negotiable

Pocan TPP Climate

One of the few areas of common ground with Republicans and thus one of the few opportunities remaining to burnish his legacy in the waning days of his administration, the Trans Pacific Partnership is a major legislative priority for President Obama. But it’s one fraught with land mines. The major one is the Investor State Dispute Settlements clause, which allows corporations to sue countries for loss of profits due to regulations. In October of last year, The Guardian counted 568 such challenges since 1993.

Should the trade treaty pass, the ISDS provision has the ability to blow up Obama’s other initiatives as well, like his historic joint effort with China to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Washington tends to view trade and climate change as separate issues and largely negotiates them as such, although the issues are clearly interdependent — carbon consumption fuels consumer economies. (Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate is a brilliant analysis of that relationship.) If Obama really wanted to be a game-changer, he would mandate strong environmental protections within the TPP, not as an afterthought, but as a driver of the discussion in creating a new model for global trade.

At Progressive Congress, the annual summit of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I talked to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI 2) about tying climate change negotiations into the Trans Pacific Partnership trade treaty. Pocan recounted a conversation with the U.S. Trade Representative, who is the chief negotiator and adviser to the president on trade policy:

Specifically, I’ve been in meetings with the U.S. Trade Representative, where I’ve asked about some of the major provisions that we’re concerned about to have strong environmental protections, and I was told each and every time that they were non-negotiable from a U.S. perspective. However, the very next person who asked a question said, “Does that mean you won’t bring us a trade deal if they’re not included?” And the answer was, “Well, I didn’t say that.”

Presumably the congressman was referring to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, though he did not mention him by name. Froman’s equivocation on environmental protections further underscores the shroud of secrecy around the TPP negotiations. Watch the interview here and subscribe to The Undercurrent for more on-the-ground reporting:


Dem Rep: Party Lost From Fear to Express Progressive Values

Taking control of the Senate and increasing their majority in the House, Republicans swept the election, largely by tying Democrats to negative messaging around President Obama. Accepting the GOP message framework, Senate Democratic candidates like Alison Lundergan-Grimes, Mark Pryor, and Mark Udall took the bait. The Democratic Party failed to offer compelling economic alternatives — in many cases running as pseudo-conservatives — and suffered a drubbing as a result.

But there were progressive victories, in ballot initiatives for raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, and mandating paid sick leave, and in races where Democrats were not afraid to stand on populist principles. Chief among them were Senators Al Franken, Jeff Merkley, and Gary Peters, whose races had all been considered up-for-grabs and were won with double-digit margins. Franken defended healthcare and banking reforms; Merkley spoke of the “commonsense battle between the 1% and the 99%;” and Peters supported capping student loan interest rates and expanding the social safety net.

In Philadelphia at the Progressive Congress, the annual summit of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I spoke with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI 2) about the path forward for the Democratic Party in the wake of its historic losses last year, and the CPC’s role in spurring a turn-around.

This interview took place on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015.

The Underdogma of Elizabeth Warren

At American Family Voices, we are doing a series called “The Aggressive Progressive” to feature the speeches of bold progressive leaders, but with a twist. I add graphics like stylized portraits, charts and animations – if you are familiar with VH1’s “Pop-Up Video,” it is essentially pop-up video for politicos. In this edition, we feature a particularly fiesty Elizabeth Warren, who takes down GOP leading men Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz in her speech at the recent Humphrey-Mondale Dinner in Minnesota.

Normally the Massachusetts senator reserves her ire for bankers and their minions, regulators included, but here she deploys it, with a comedic touch, on the irrationality of Ryanic and Cruzian arguments against unemployment insurance and Wall Street regulation. I’ve seen many of Warren’s speeches and none have approached this level of glee in dismantling Republican dogma, chiefly the party’s unflinching defense of so-called ‘free’ markets. To be critical of free markets or to advocate for better regulation, like Warren, is not to be anti-capitalist or Communist – we do not live in a binary world, despite GOP efforts to characterize it as such.

Regulation must exist in order for society to function. Any time a law or regulation is enacted that has an economic impact, it is necessarily a government intervention into the market. To have a purely free market requires anarchy. Thus, ‘free’ market is a relative term, depending on which interventions your party deems to be okay. If you are Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz, ‘regulation’ is a dirty word, but not regulatory action. Acceptable intervention boils down to whether or not it impedes or improves the profitability of corporations and special interests. For example, the administration of New Jersey Governor and alleged free-market advocate Chris Christie recently banned sales of Tesla electric cars in the state, at the behest of the powerful auto dealer lobby, whose profits are threatened by Tesla’s direct-sales model… That doesn’t sound very free market to me, GOP.

There are winners and losers to every law; it is impossible for legislators to satisfy every constituent. However, when legislators consistently put the profits of powerful corporations and special interests ahead of the greater good, they are furthering plutocracy and weakening economic competition, thereby weakening our democracy. Elizabeth Warren is the true free market advocate here. Ryan and Cruz have dogma; Warren has underdogma. Watch Sen. Warren in the clip below, and subscribe to AFV on Youtube…

Send Me to Netroots

Most of you know that I actively work in the Citizens United/campaign finance reform movement. I am competing to win a scholarship to an important political media conference, Netroots Nation, and I need your help. If I win, it won’t just be a personal victory for my career, but will also help my overall cause of getting money out of politics. That’s because Netroots offers 80 panels, 40 training sessions, and the opportunity to network with like-minded activists.

Please vote for me here:… Any other help you can give, like Facebook posts or tweets, is greatly appreciated. I’m behind in votes, so your help will definitely make a difference… Voting ends tonight at 11:59 PM Pacific! xoxo, L.


Boycott Black Friday: Wal-Mart Edition


As some of you may remember, I did a version of this graphic last year, at the onset of my Occupy Los Angeles euphoria. I imagined Occupy having a major impact economically on Black Friday, sending a signal to Wall Street that reform was coming, that Occupy was a force to be reckoned with (pardon my preposition–it loses the effect otherwise). I was woefully wrong in my assessment of our capability for halting such corruption, and hopelessly idealistic that we would ultimately enact meaningful change in the banking industry… a thing I was certain had omni-partisan support. I am still waiting for my change, Obama, and increasingly without hope that you will be the initiator of it.

What does give me hope anew is the campaign of Wal-Mart workers nationwide to strike on Black Friday. Being from Arkansas, the homeland of the ubiquitous discount mega-store, I was inculcated from an early age to the virtues of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. Mr. Walton, according to the company’s website, said, “If we work together, we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone… we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.”

Apparently the good life does not extend to Wal-Mart’s workers–half of the company’s one-million American hourly employees earn less than $10 per hour. Further, the retail giant customarily keeps workers at part-time hours in order to avoid paying benefits, like medical insurance, that are accorded to full-time employees. These part-time employees often must rely on government assistance like food-stamps in order to survive. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s CEO, Michael Duke made more in an hour in 2010 than most of his employees made in an entire year. That’s approximately $16,826.92, according to Chicago alderman Ed Smith via ABC News. (Duke made $35 million in 2010.)

I don’t believe Sam Walton would have stood for this, nor Uncle Sam for that matter. A “better life” must have meaning, and must equal, at a minimum, a living wage. This Black Friday, let us give thanks to labor by showing solidarity in this socioeconomic struggle, a struggle to live the American Dream. Find a protest near you at Corporate Action Network…  #BlackFriday #AboutTime

Waking the Sleeping Giant

Renowned spiritual author and activist Marianne Williamson has penned six New York Times bestsellers, four of which hit #1; and founded Project Angel Food, a meals-on-wheels program for homebound AIDS patients, and The Peace Alliance, a grassroots effort working to establish a U.S. Department of Peace. She has now set her sights on some of the most intractable problems now plaguing American society:  childhood poverty, the exploding prison population, and corporate money in politics post-Citizens United. Williamson is tackling those issues by engaging women specifically in a two-day event called ‘Sister Giant‘ in Los Angeles from November 10-11, 2012, with the goal of getting more like-minded women into elected office to effect substantive change.


Full disclosure: I am working on this campaign, though in an unpaid capacity. My involvement stems from my current passion project, overturning Citizens United. This Supreme Court case ruled that corporations are people; money is speech; and accordingly, corporations should be able to spend unlimited sums in campaigns as an expression of the First Amendment. I am also involved with Move to Amend, and recently competed in a citizen journalism contest for United Republic to cover the Republican and Democratic conventions.

Now to get back to business… Saturday, Nov. 10 will focus on personal and political issues–the personal being emotional and psychological factors affecting women’s involvement in the public sphere, and the political being the aforementioned key topics. That evening a panel of Democratic, Green, Justice, Libertarian, and Republican representatives will essentially pitch the audience on running for office for their respective parties. Leaders of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University will host a special training on Sunday to inform political aspirants of the realities of a life in politics and to create action plans.

All of this is not free, but lest you think that Sister Giant is an attempt to profiteer off of the current activism trend, let me dispel that notion… Williamson is charging for tickets to the event, but on a good-faith donation basis according to each participant’s ability to pay. She has herself paid considerable sums to promote and host Sister Giant, and simply looks to recoup her expenses. The suggested donation is $50 for regular admission and $25 for students.

According to Rutgers, women held 16.8% of the 535 seats in the 112th U.S. Congress– 17 seats in the Senate and 73 in the House of Representatives. This statistic reflects not only the severity of the gender gap, but the inherent imbalance in psychological energy within our dysfunctional government. Women must participate in the political process in far greater numbers in order to correct the faltering course of our democracy. Join us in Los Angeles from Nov. 10-11 to waken the sleeping giant… Sister Giant.

No Holds Barr: The Co-opting of the Green Party?

You can read this article in its entirety at Green Party Watch

Firebrand comedian and aspiring politico Roseanne Barr is running for the Green Party’s nomination for president of the United States in a move characterized by many as a publicity stunt à la Donald Trump. But the situation is not entirely as it seems. Yes, Barr sought to be recognized as an official candidate just as NBC picked up her comedy pilot “Downwardly Mobile,” but Barr has been talking about running for POTUS — and also for prime minister of Israel — since at least 2010. Her progressive persona is no act: Her sitcom “Roseanne” examined working-class socioeconomic issues, as will her new show, and she addressed Occupy on the day of the movement’s inception.

Roseanne Barr at Rally in the Valley

At contention is whether rules were innocently skirted — or intentionally broken — to allow Barr to be officially recognized by the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) in time for an important press release deadline for the California ballot. Also at issue are apparent conflicts of interest within the national party’s Steering Committee. Note that the national and state parties are different entities under the same Green umbrella.

On Barr’s presidential campaign and personal websites, she advocates the “Green Tea Party” and enjoins viewers to “Occupy the Green Party.” This language irks many party members, who feel that they are complicit in a ploy for comeback publicity, rather than part of a serious campaign; they are wary of being co-opted. On one hand, a celebrity gets people talking again about the Green Party, which suffered when Ralph Nader’s campaign was widely blamed for Al Gore’s loss in 2000. On the other, many feel that front-runner Jill Stein is doing the heavy lifting in rebuilding the party, and that Barr’s charged rhetoric may ultimately damage the party’s credibility.

Barr is no stranger to high profile PR debacles, from screeching “The Star- Spangled Banner” at a San Diego Padres baseball game to dressing as Hitler for a photo spread in Jewish magazine Heeb to tweeting the address of the parents of George Zimmerman, who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Despite its concerns over behavior like this, the Green Party of California (GPCA) tried to accommodate Barr, who applied to the state party in November, but was ineligible because she was a Democrat. The GPCA outlined in a letter to the Barr campaign how California Secretary of State Debra Bowen could place her on the ballot via national party recognition.

The secretary of state could add Barr until March 23, but former campaign treasurer Eric Weinrib stressed to state and national party officials that he wanted party recognition by Feb. 1 to make Bowen’s Feb. 6 press release. On Jan. 25, Presidential Campaign Support Committee (PCSC) Co-Chair Tom Yager announced Barr’s candidacy, and set into motion a one-week period for lodging objections, despite her failure to meet eligibility requirement 10-1.7 for fundraising of $5,000 from independent sources. In a Jan. 31 conference call, the PCSC discussed ways to verify compliance, and ultimately agreed on requiring the campaign to submit a signed affidavit and a list of donors.

According to Yager, both he and Weinrib believed “that February 6 was a hard deadline” and that Feb. 1 recognition would be “crucial.” But Barr still had nearly two months to get onto the primary ballot. Mike Feinstein, a California delegate to the PCSC, pointed that fact out to Yager, and explicitly told him that he would challenge Barr’s recognition if the documentation was not produced on Feb. 1. When it was not provided, Feinstein made his objection. Yager ignored it, citing a tardiness of three minutes.

For verification Weinrib sent Yager a scanned Wells Fargo deposit slip. According to Yager, Weinrib refused to specify the donors, and said that they “would be known when the quarterly [April 15] FEC filing was made.” Despite the 10-1.7 deficiency and Feinstein’s objection, Yager officially certified Barr on Feb. 2. Weinrib did not sign the affidavit of financial compliance until Feb. 4. No donor list was provided. Barr made Bowen’s press release.

Because of its concerns over Yager’s recognition, the state party requested that the national Steering Committee go into executive session to demand that Yager offer “clear and unambiguous answers.” In a March 11 conference call, committee members Farheen Hakeem and Tamar Yager cast two of the three votes against executive session. Hakeem, also a national co-chair, is working for the Barr campaign. Hakeem declined to comment. Tamar Yager, Tom Yager’s wife, voted in a measure dealing with her own husband. According to Ms. Yager, “Executive session would not have changed the outcome of the SC’s [Steering Committee’s] decision.” That decision was to urge the state party and Tom Yager to resolve the matter on their own.

The major issues for the campaign are transparency and accountability — that Weinrib, who declined to comment, circumvented the rules before getting recognition and then refused to comply once he got what he wanted. Barr did not respond to requests for an interview. Problematic for party leadership are Yager’s certification of Barr without 10-1.7 compliance, and the apparent conflicts of interest within the Steering Committee.

In Yager’s interview for this story, he defended his actions as an effort to be as inclusive as possible. That inclusiveness did not extend, however, to candidate Harley Mikkelson, whose recognition he rescinded for an eligibility requirement deficiency, or to the concerns of the GPCA. Much of the 10-1.7 debate is semantics — Yager said there is no verification mechanism and that self-financing will be evident in the April FEC filing. But what then is the purpose of the requirement if it cannot be checked? The state party’s concern is not necessarily self-financing, but rather, the disregard for the rules.

At the very least rules were broken to accommodate Barr — at the very worst, laws. Many Greens support Barr’s candidacy nonetheless. Barr made her first public campaign appearance at Rally in the Valley in Los Angeles on March 23, and gave a compelling speech any liberal would love. In it she challenged critics of celebrity activists:

I hate when people say, ‘Well who does Roseanne Barr, or some other show business type, think they are that anybody should give a damn about their political views?’ Well I have a question for those people … who do I have to be?

This celebrity double standard that Barr decries did however have advantages in the determination of her recognition. Regardless of fame or fortune, transparency and accountability standards must be applicable to everyone seeking office. The question is not who you have to be, but rather what you have to be. And the answer to that is “honest.”

Watch the video below to see Barr’s response to a question from me about her donors:


Know Thine Enemy

When I arrived in D.C. last week for Occupy Congress and Occupy the Courts, I was full of hope for impacting the elected representatives gathered in our nation’s capital, and much more so after the first night’s mass protest, but was unaware of the entire Congressional schedule… that in fact only the House of Representatives was meeting that week and that they would only meet for two days before adjourning for out-of-town retreats… in Baltimore. Seeking interviews with any Congress members I could find, I had popped in and out of the administrative office buildings of Cannon, Rayburn, and lastly, Longworth. Shortly before Longworth closed, I found Speaker Boehner’s office, and was informed that he had already left for the Republican Retreat, a 3-day strategy session mapping out GOP initiatives for the year. I gathered some contact information, namely that of Boehner’s Chief of Staff, Mick Krieger, before heading back to a hotel where several members of the Occupy Los Angeles Media Team were meeting for dinner.

Once I arrived at the hotel, discussion quickly turned to the events taking place in Baltimore that night and for the following days. Not only was the Republican Retreat taking place there, but also the Democratic Progressive Caucus, which was being attended by some members of Occupy Wall Street, NYC. We all expressed the desire to go, and somehow all the pieces fell into place, chiefly that we were able to book rooms at the very same hotel that was hosting the Republican Retreat. We even had an old school, green Volkswagen van to complete the hippy road-trip adventure. Pulling up at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel in the VW was certainly amusing—not only to me, but to the staff and police securing the hotel.

The following day, Thursday, was the first of the Republican Retreat, and I was determined to open a dialogue with the legislators in attendance. Much to my chagrin, the events were not open to the public, and the hotel was crawling with security. I looked endlessly online for an event agenda, to no avail. A colleague and I went to Happy Hour at a neighboring bar, hoping to glean some kind of information from anyone taking a respite from the activities. As the afternoon progressed to early evening, many attendees streamed in, evidently on break. Once people started heading back to the hotel, I took that as my cue to join them.

I rode the elevator with people heading to the reception before the dinner, and was able to blend in with the group. I headed to the bar, made a lap around the room, and sat down at a table to observe the crowd for any opportunities. I spotted a man with a name-tag that read ‘Mick Krieger,’ and recognized it immediately though not knowing why. I pulled his business card out of my purse, and realized he was Boehner’s Chief of Staff. I sat awhile, waiting for an opening, but it did not come. Instead, I got up to do another lap, and ran into Representative Allen West of Florida, a former Lieutenant Colonel of the Army and currently the Tea Party legislator notorious for brawling with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

I engaged Rep. West in a discussion of the National Defense Authorization Act, and how certainly he must find it appalling considering the Tea Party’s stance on civil liberties. He shook his head in disagreement, saying that there was no provision for detaining American citizens indefinitely in the final bill, and that the law was “vital to our national security.” I asked him, “Why, then, did Obama issue a ‘signing statement’ upon signing the NDAA into law? And further, why did I see Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Bill Maher discussing the very topic apologetically?” Mr. West continued to deny the existence of the provision, saying that Wasserman Schultz “didn’t know what she was talking about.” He then asked me if I knew of their feud and for my opinion on the matter. I replied, “Honestly, I found it refreshing that you stated your feelings so openly. It’s so rare in politics these days.” I profusely thanked Rep. West for his military service, and he politely posed for a picture with me.

I continued my stroll around the reception, looking for Krieger and Boehner. The dinner bells rang, and people started piling into the dining room. I went in myself, took a look around, and realized I had very little time for action. I walked back out into the reception lobby, and found Frank Luntz, the GOP strategist familiar to many from his appearances on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. I told him I was a big fan, and asked him how it was seemingly so easy for him to handle Stephen Colbert, to which he replied, “It’s very hard—he’s very intelligent, and it’s hard to know when he’s joking and when he’s being serious.” I was laughing hysterically inside my head, but managed to keep it together enough to thank him and request a picture.

After Frank Luntz, the room was almost empty, most everyone having been seated for dinner. I honestly thought that my adventure was over… I was grabbing a water from the bar; turned to leave; and whom did I see? John Boehner! Walking toward me! The whole transaction went something like this:

“Why, hello there!”

“Hello, Speaker Boehner! How are you? You are looking great this evening!”

“Why thank you.”

“I’m really a huge fan. Would you mind taking a picture with me?”

“Sure, sure.”

As I am pulling up the camera function on my phone, he asks with knowing eyes, “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, well, I’m in town to visit my cousin’s art gallery…” He looks at me directly in the eyes, as if to say, “Cut the bullshit.”

“…and I’m a political blogger covering the events” …upon which he turns and walks away, in the direction of the dining room.

I immediately headed back to my hotel room; found that the key no longer worked; and went downstairs to address the issue with the front desk. Walking back to the elevators, I was stopped by an undercover Capitol Police officer. He asked me what I was doing on the 3rd floor for over an hour, how I had gotten there, etc. I showed him my I.D.; requested his; and returned to my room, where several members of Occupy LA Media were waiting. After going over the details of my story, they told me that they had been very productive talking with Progressive Caucus members that day, and that they were headed back to the other hotel for further discussions. I decided to pen the following e-mail to Krieger, in a last-ditch effort to open dialogue between Occupy and the Republican Party. To this date I have received no reply.

Hello, Mick,

I saw you speaking with Rep. Patrick Meehan, and was wanting to speak with you myself.  However, I thought it inappropriate to interrupt you, being that I do not know you personally.  I am a producer of written content, graphics, and video for Occupy LA Media and for my own website,  I am seeking to open a dialogue with you and Speaker Boehner vis a vis common ground between Occupy and the Republican party.  Just so you know, I am making this effort because I have counterparts that are now speaking with the Progressive Caucus.  Occupy does not seek to align itself with any party, but to open dialogue with all.  Again, we do not affiliate with any party.  I do not speak on behalf of the movement generally, but as an autonomous individual.  I think that our mutual love of civil liberties and the Constitution can be this common ground.  I look forward to meeting you formally and engaging you further.

For love of country,

Lauren Windsor

aka Lady Libertine

My and my colleagues’ experiences in Baltimore reflect a critical issue for Occupy nationally. How does the movement go forward in engaging the political parties to affect change, when we have scant resources in a battle with forces who seemingly have an unlimited supply? The Democrats welcomed Occupy members with open arms… though I am not naive enough to believe they truly seek structural change. The Republicans, did not, and apparently, do not want dialogue, as evidenced by a recent report from Up with Chris Hayes, detailing the efforts of former Boehner staffers to destroy Occupy.

In a memo from D.C. lobbying firm Clark, Lytle, Geduldig & Cranford (CLGC), of which two partners are former Boehner aides, CLGC outlines the threat that Occupy poses to the financial industry and proposes strategies for marginalizing the movement and its supporters to their client, the American Bankers Association (ABA). According to Hayes, “It lays out a plan for a nearly $1 million campaign against Occupy Wall Street and any politicians who might express sympathy for Occupy Wall Street, including specific Democratic politicians in contested races.”  While Occupiers quibble over the political correctness of mission statements for committees, and over not taking help from progressive organizations for fear of being co-opted, and amongst themselves generally, lobbyists and legislators strategize the movement’s demise. I implore everyone who is active in this movement to stop in-fighting and obstructionism, and to start seeing the big picture…

A friend of mine recently told me a story about the Indian tribes fighting for their survival. At first, all the tribes fought each other and could not join together against their common foe. But one day, one of the elder chiefs had a vision during a sweat (a tribal ritual sauna). In the vision, he saw all of the tribes fighting in a valley, decimating each other, and on the hill overlooking it, he saw the white man in victory without any effort. That chief was able to see the bigger picture, and unite the tribes. Occupy and the organizations of the progressive left and libertarian right are the Indians, and we are in dire need of uniting our tribes against Wall Street and its defenders, namely, but not solely Republicans, if we ever want to stand a chance. I know that many will say that the 99% movement is inclusive, not exclusive, that Occupy neither affiliates nor excludes. However, Occupy has extended the invitation to dialogue to BOTH parties. That invitation remains open, but until Wall Street and Republicans come to the table, know thine enemy.

Occupy Congress

This week Occupy will bring its message of reform to Washington, D.C., with mass protests, both in D.C. and nationally, planned for Tuesday, January 17 and Friday, January 20. Tuesday marks both the four-month anniversary of the nascent movement and the start of the second session of the 112th U.S. Congress. Organizers have called for a million tents to be erected on the West Lawn of the Capitol, in reference to the prior effort of the Million Man March. On Friday, the protest will be geared to the Supreme Court, with an action sponsored by, aptly named ‘Occupy the Courts.’ At issue are unconstitutional legislation and court decisions like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and Citizens United respectively, and pending legislation for internet regulation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

NDAA allows the U.S. military to indefinitely detain American citizens under suspicion of terrorism. With the term terrorism being bandied about freely these days, the NDAA opens the door for widespread abuse of military authority and the destruction of civil liberties outlined in the Constitution, namely of due process, habeas corpus, and Miranda rights… !!! Yes, you should be alarmed! How does a Constitutional lawyer and former head of the Harvard Law Review (Obama) sign legislation that is so blatantly unconstitutional? The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling.

Quick refresher for those rusty on the legalese… Due process requires that citizens not be deprived of life nor liberty without opportunity to affect the outcome of the decision, e.g. the right to trial in the case of the imprisoned. Habeas corpus, a legal writ or action on behalf of the prisoner, ensures his right to be released from unlawful detention lacking sufficient evidence. Often habeas corpus petitions are sought by a supporter of an ‘incommunicado’ detainee, a prisoner held without contact to the outside world. Miranda rights refer to the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of privilege from self-incrimination and to legal counsel, respectively. The Miranda warning is the spoken reminder of those rights to arrestees by the police.

Move to Amend is an organization promoting a Constitutional amendment denying corporate personhood. Corporations have been considered ‘natural persons’ since the 1886 Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad decision of the Supreme Court, and given accumulating corollary Constitutional rights ever since. Under Citizens United, corporate money was deemed free speech, and limits on political campaign spending were lifted. This case is especially relevant this year because of the presidential election. Corporations are now allowed to spend unlimited money for issue-oriented advertising campaigns through ‘Super PACs,’ super political action committees. These Super PACs must be independent of individual candidates, and cannot coordinate with them in any way, but may endorse whomever they please.

Supporters of the SOPA and PIPA legislation argue that they will enforce copyrights and protect profits of the copyright holders, specifically from foreign-based websites engaged in piracy. Thus, media, music, and pharmaceutical industry heavyweights like ABC, Disney, Rupert Murdoch, and Pfizer are rallying behind it. SOPA’s opponents assert that the bill will kill the freedom and innovation of the internet, and include tech giants like Google, YouTube, and Facebook. The bill seeks to deny distribution of content that may infringe on copyright, and punish online portals that engage in such distribution. The major issue at hand is how the censorship will be doled out, e.g. defining fair use and determining who, or what regulatory body, will make those calculations. SOPA is currently in revision to omit a controversial provision for DNS blocking. However, with PIPA, Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to make it a priority on the Senate agenda for January 24.

Regardless of whether you can attend a protest yourself, you should be spreading the word about these unconstitutional bills. Most people are unaware that this erosion of freedom is occurring, that our most cherished civil liberties are in danger. Apathy is not the answer… Occupy Congress, Occupy the Courts!