Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Money Is NOT Speech! Corporations are NOT People!

In Toledo, Ohio, an issue was passed (with 64% of the vote) that states once a year the mayor and city council  are obliged to let the citizens speak about how corporate money in politics affects the city and the world at large. The mayor then has to write a letter and send it to Congress stating that money is not speech and corporations do not have the same rights as persons. This annual event was brought to the ballot box and is sponsored by the local chapter of Move to Amend, but it is open to all. A diverse crowd gathered at Toledo city council chambers Monday afternoon to let their voices be heard. Here are some thoughts and images of Democracy Day 2018.
The topics the dozens of activists presented varied from fighting for a cleaner Lake Erie to  preventing homelessness and tackling the problems of overpriced rents and absentee landlords.  There were impassioned pleas for justice for those wrongfully jailed and to stop the travesty of the "right to work" law. Health care for all, prison reform, enacting local gun control (in spite of state pre-emption of the law), income inequality,white supremacy, and banning the use of fracking brine on city roads were also addressed. 
Arguments for fighting climate change by using only 100% renewable energy sources to save the city millions and keeping the Ohio E.P.A. in check (since it seems to side with corporations and feedlots polluting our water) were also presented.  Ending gerrymandering, fixing local infrastructure (please don't mention the state of the roads!) and encouraging young people to become involved in community issues... The list goes on. When asked if I would give a short speech, I decided to speak on how corporate money can deny ordinary citizens of their First Amendment rights.

Democracy Day

My testimony given on March 5, 2018
words and photos by C.A. Matthews

When Americans talk about "democracy," usually the first thing we mention is the sanctity of our First Amendment. It says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Americans say we possess "the freedom of speech." But do we? Increasingly, it is not human beings doing the talking but money. Our Fourth Estate--a former bastion of free speech--has been severely compromised. Media monopolies such as Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media wish to merge, effectively owning 72% of our nation's television and radio stations. It is not free speech if one mega-corporation owns almost three-quarter of the outlets for the distribution of their corporate-vetted propaganda. It is not free speech if vast sums of corporate lobbying money are used to keep ordinary Americans silenced without the ability to afford redress. And so We the People come here today to demand our First Amendment rights be restored.

We the People of Toledo deserve to have broadcast media outlets that are locally owned and controlled so that our voices are heard and attended to by our elected officials--not the voices of CEOs whose agenda could be one of plundering our city's resources and taking advantage of its citizens to fill their already bulging bank accounts.

To this end, We the People propose that the city of Toledo institute a municipal broadband service. A free and open Internet ensures that the public has the access to all viewpoints and are able to share their voices in return--whether or not they are supportive of the status quo. Online freedom of speech is known as net neutrality.

A not-for-profit municipal broadband service would allow Toledeoans to communicate freely and discuss a wide variety of issues. It allows them unimpeded access to online resources to further their education, find employment and to grow their own small businesses.  It would encourage others to come here and start up their businesses and hire Toledoans, further strengthening our local economy.  
The advantages of a well-informed electorate have been documented before--it causes a much higher voter turnout. Better yet, it creates a more diverse community of voters, guaranteeing a voice to minorities and others who have been underserved and under-represented in the past. Again, this level of equality and concern for all peoples would act as a draw to attract new faces and businesses to our area, reversing decades of urban decay and neglect in many of our neighborhoods.

Instituting a municipal broadband service based on the principle of net neutrality, is the cornerstone of the First Amendment in the twenty-first century. Toledoans deserve to speak freely and be heard. They deserve to be protected from the harassment of corporate propaganda and control of information that aim to keep citizens in the dark about happenings in our government that enrich the wealthy elites at the expense of ordinary Americans.

We the People command you to send a clear message to Columbus, Washington D.C., and the world stating  emphatically "Money is not speech, and corporations are not people!"  

Represent.Us has another tactic on how to take money out of politics:


A Small Town Health Care Town Hall

The drive to implement the Improved Medicare for All bill (HR 676) hasn't gone away, but it has taken another tactic. Many states have introduced universal health care bills into their legislatures. Ohio is one of them. HB 440 or the "Health Care for All Ohioans" bill was introduced by state Rep. Teresa Fedor and has gained numerous co-sponsors. Could this be the year it actually passes? Buckeyes are crossing their fingers that it will.

In the meantime, there's much progressives can do to help advance the cause of universal health care.  We need to share and expand on information about current health care bills with our rural neighbors, many of whom have been taken in by the corporate propaganda of Big Pharma and the private health insurance industry that is spread by the mainstream media. Many Americans aren't aware that 65% of bankruptcies in the US are due to medical bills. We are the only country where families and individuals are forced into bankruptcy because of overwhelming medical debts. Even more shocking, the majority of Americans who file a medical bankruptcy have private health insurance!
With the recent introduction of the Ohio Health Care for All bill in the statehouse, SPAN Ohio (Single Payer Action Network) decided to hosted a town hall in the rural town of Defiance. A local paper posted an article about the event, and a local community access TV channel videotaped it for those who couldn't make it. 

It's important to broadcast the benefits of Medicare for All and how it will possibly improve rural and small town folks' access to health care.  Rural folks are often on the front lines in terms of losing health insurance with the crumbling ACA marketplace. For-profit hospitals and private health insurers aren't particularly worried about losing a few customers in rural America if they can make bigger profits in nearby wealthier big cities. 

Many small cities are essentially retirement centers. These towns and villages are home to numerous poorly-staffed, for-profit nursing homes. Many poor elderly and disabled people wish to live out their remaining years in dignity on their own farms or in their familiar hometowns. We owe it to rural Americans to tell them what options they have so they can vote for and help support health care legislation that will be of the most benefit to them and their loved ones. 

After all, one day you could find yourself in a similar situation, wishing someone had cared enough to inform you about how Medicare For All could work for you. Make plans to set up a town hall or public meeting to talk about health care in your town today. Tomorrow may be too late.

We the People can stop illegal war. Call your Senators now!

Common Defense

For nearly three years, the people of Yemen have been caught in a bloody proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And the U.S. government is providing weapons, intel, and resources to keep the war raging on. But we have a chance to stop it.

Bernie Sanders has introduced bipartisan legislation that — if passed — would end our involvement in this war. That’s why we’re teaming up with some of the biggest progressive organizations in the country to hold Congress’ feet to the fire. If we can flip just a few key votes, it’ll end our involvement in the massacre and mass-starvation of millions of Yemeni people.

Add your name »

When I was in the Marine Corps, I served at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Over and over, I saw the CEOs of massive defense contractors press our government to let them boost their profits by selling advanced weapons to the Saudis. I can’t stand by while we put profits for Wall Street over the suffering of innocent people.

This is a race against the clock. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in this conflict, and right now, millions of Yemeni people are starving. Their nation is being ravaged by the worst cholera outbreak in human history. But the resolution to stop it all could be voted on in just 10 days. And every day that passes means more suffering inflicted upon Yemen’s civilians.

Thank you for taking action on this crucial issue. It’s truly a matter of life or death, and direct action is the only way we can fix it.

In solidarity,

Alexander McCoy
U.S. Marine corps veteran
Common Defense

Take action »  
Nearly 400,000 Syrians are trapped in "Hell on Earth." Demand a Ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta NOW — Lives Depend On It!


Right now, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are trapped in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, caught in the crossfire between rebel and Syrian government forces. UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has called the region "Hell on Earth."
They have had no way to escape or safely receive aid supplies to keep them alive. Please sign the petition to demand a ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta now — lives literally depend on it.
Russia, a staunch Syrian government supporter and a major player in the war, has suggested offering a daily five-hour ceasefire to allow civilians to flee without threat. But this isn't enough. The UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire "without delay."
600 civilians have already died in the last 10 days. If Russia and Syria wait any longer to comply with the ceasefire resolution, this number will surely increase.
Thank you,
Alex B.
The Care2 Petitions Team


P.S. A month-long ceasefire could be the key between life and death for the hundreds of thousands trapped in the region. Please add your name to the call for peace in Syria.

Climate Hawks Vote

Rebekah Mercer—the climate-denier billionaire who has propped up Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump—is on the board of one of America’s top scientific institutions, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Scientists across the country—including the museum’s own—have called on AMNH to stop their dangerous mainstreaming of Mercer’s radical, racist conspiracy-theory politics.

Add your voice to theirs:

The Mercer Family Foundation, led by Rebecca Mercer, has sunk millions of dollars into Breitbart.com, climate-denying politicians, and a host of climate denial organizations, including Heartland Institute, CO2 Coalition, and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide. These groups maintain that industrial carbon dioxide pollution is either a vast scientific conspiracy or even beneficial to life on Earth—the position now touted by Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The most important asset any museum has is its credibility. This can be damaged by ties to donors and board members who are publicly known for investing in climate science obfuscation and opposing environmental solutions. Even worse, by allowing Mercer on the board, the American Museum of Natural History and its staff, like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, are providing legitimacy to Rebekah Mercer’s extremist and destructive politics.

We’re proud to be working with a broad alliance of organizations in support of the scientists and educators who work at the museum on this campaign. We are going to win, as long as we speak out.

Nearly two years ago to the day, climate hawks won the campaign to get carbon billionaire David Koch off the board of the AMNH. Now it's time to do the same with Mercer.

At a time when science, facts, and reason are under attack, trusted institutions of science are needed more than ever. The AMNH's ties to donor and trustee Rebekah Mercer are undermining the museum’s vital mission.

Sign your name »

Your fellow climate hawk,



Museum of Natural History Urged to Cut Ties to ‘Anti-Science Propagandist Rebekah Mercer, The Guardian

Trump Donor Gave $2M to Groups Questioning Climate Science, E&E News

What’s a Climate Denial Funder Doing on the American Museum of Natural History Board?

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