Important events: Nov 13, 17 and 24

Posted 11/09/2015 by demovrcorps
Categories: Uncategorized


Report on Democracy Day

Posted 06/20/2015 by demovrcorps
Categories: Uncategorized

On Saturday, June 13, 2015 Athens and Meigs Counties shared a Democracy Day held at the delightful Community Center in Shade, Ohio. We were welcomed by Roger Hawk, Lodi Township trustee, and by Lenny Eliason, Athens County Commissioner. Dick McGinn and John Howell oriented the participants, which numbered at least 60 throughout the day, to the issues of the day – democracy and the relation of the proposed county charter’s bill of rights both to democracy and to the threat posed to Southeast Ohio by injection wells. A panel explored the recent history of community efforts to address this concern. A second panel in the afternoon addressed the possibilities that might be afforded by charters to the counties in addressing a number of local issues.

In a keynote address Tom Hodson, journalist, lawyer and judge, described how fast things were moving legally, with three relevant court cases in Ohio within the last 6 months. One Ohio Supreme Court case, based on zoning laws, went against the community of Monroe Falls, but it was a closely divided opinion, a decision which will not provide precedents for future cases, even those based on the same legal arguments. A summary judgment was issued by a judge against Broadview Heights, which had banned further fracking within its city limits through a voter initiative, but the city prosecutor had failed to make a serious attempt to the defend the city’s law, resulting in the summary judgment. Summary judgments also cannot be used as court precedents. A suit has now been filed by citizens of Broadview Heights against the state that will begin to address the power of the people and their rights, which are specified in the Ohio Constitution. The charters being proposed in Athens and Meigs counties, when adopted, will likely be challenged in the courts, but Hodson made clear that a serious defense can be mounted.

Local efforts to make the state and federal regulatory processes work to defend the communities have failed, as the first Panel clearly documented. Now, the more radical approach of passing local ordinances that are at variance with state laws, laws which result in the violation of inalienable rights, seems like an appropriate path.  This approach constitutes community civil disobedience, which may result in legal expenses to the counties, but keep in mind that no extensions of rights have ever been won without civil disobedience. think about the struggles to end segregation and to establish women’s suffrage. No defense of democracy comes without costs and sacrifice.

In a second keynote, Jack Frech emphasized that in a democracy, everyone counts. Collusion of government with corporate interests often erodes that democratic essential, as wealth is drawn persistently from the many to the few. Jack’s talk emphasized how public servants, committed to fairness for all, can make a positive difference in the lives of people and in the health of communities.

Entrenched power uses fear to cow the public into submission to protect its privileged position. In the present case corporate interests will attempt to frighten voters with the threat of expensive law suits and with the claim that banning injection wells will have a negative effect on local employment and prosperity. Evidence was presented during the day that such threats and claims have little substance.

Does the banning of injection wells and the prohibition of use water for fracking, as specified in the proposed charters, unfairly limit property rights? That question has some legitimacy, especially in terms of fracking, where land owners and mineral rights owners can realize significant financial returns from agreeing to have their lands fracked. To prohibit fracking would amount to blocking owners´ rights to profit from their holdings. These rights, however, have to be balanced against the interests of others in the community, interests which include their own property values, as well as important factors upon which it is more difficult to fix a price, such as health concerns arising from water, air and land pollution with toxins.

The proposed charters do not, in fact prohibit fracking, but they do make it less profitable by insisting that the water used for fracking be obtained elsewhere and the waste from fracking be disposed of elsewhere. Although fracking does have the potential for significant fiscal return, the promise of fiscal return is much less for injection wells. For fracking it can be argued that there can be a broader economic benefit to localities, but that argument is weak for injection wells. Yet injection wells present hazards to communities, in terms of potential water supply contamination, air pollution from methane and other volatile organics, land contamination from leaks of toxic frack wastes during transport or from within the injection wells, and degradation of roads and bridges. The price which the people within the community may have to pay seems to outweigh the potential benefits to a very few land owners.

An explanation of why SE Ohio is getting all this frack waste, which I heard from an oil and gas worker who signed the petition for the county charter, is that depositing the waste in areas promising for further gas and oil extractions risks fouling the very fossil fuels being sought. For this reason the oil and gas companies would rather dump the fracking wastes in an area like SE Ohio, whose geology is still suitable for dumping, but which is highly unlikely to become a source of gas and oil.

One concern raised during the discussion was whether the charters might make it possible for the county residents to make decisions which later might be regretted. That concern raises the very issue of democracy itself. There may, of course, be unintended consequences of democratically based decisions, but there are unintended consequences of decisions made by tyrants or even by well-intended democratic governments at the state or federal level. Do we trust the people to make good decisions for themselves or do we want oligarchs or other elites to govern us. The American decision back in 1776 was that the people should rule. Taking matters in our own hands, as the American revolutionaries did, is the stuff of democracy itself. Adopting the charter in defiance of the state law and appealing to inalienable rights guaranteed in the Constitution stands in the tradition of those who signed the Declaration of Independence.

A related question is whether regulatory law should be done at the local, state or federal levels. An argument can certainly be made that everyone in the country should be entitled to the same protections, if these protections constitute inalienable rights. If either the Federal Government or Ohio had been protecting our rights to clean air, water and soil by appropriate regulation of injection wells, we would not now be seeking local charters; government at any level can fail to protect the rights of the people. When states failed to prohibit segregation, the federal government stepped in, and rightly so. When federal and state governments fail to protect our liberties, what recourse do we have except to act locally, as individuals or as communities? In terms of regulatory law, perhaps there should be a floor established at higher levels, but with the right of local communities reserved to achieve greater protection for themselves. Regulatory law at the federal or state levels may not always be suited for all regional variations. Surely there is an appropriate role for local action like we are taking in Athens and Meigs Counties.

Democracy Day participants appreciated the fine lunch and excellent facilities provided by Lodi Township folks.

John N. Howell, Coordinator of Democracy Over Corporations

P.S. One idea raised was the generation of a local municipal power company to promote the use of renewable energy. According to a recent article, creation of public monopolies, which displace private companies, would be outlawed under the terms of the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement. That would seem to prevent Athens from establishing its own power company. The TPP would also eliminate public banking, which is the thrust of the article. ( These are reasons, among others, to inundate representatives over the next few days with communications opposing the TPP. It will come up both in the House and the Senate.

Power to the people: Democracy Day this weekend

Posted 06/13/2015 by demovrcorps
Categories: Uncategorized

The swimmer who is doing fine just swims; the swimmer who is drowning yells for help. A democracy that is functioning doesn’t need a Democracy Day. On Saturday, June 13, Athens County will have a Democracy Day. Perhaps its function is to celebrate democracy, or to ask if we really have a democracy, or at least what is wrong with it, or to explore how we in southeast Ohio might make better use of democracy to address issues of local concern.

Democracy means rule by the people, but a question long debated is whether people can be trusted to rule themselves, to govern themselves. Should governing instead be done by a subset of the population, such as an aristocracy, or an educated elite?

Democracy insists that people can be trusted to govern themselves. Rule by the people in modern democratic states is, however, typically indirect, namely through elected representatives, but democracy is distinguished from systems such as monarchy, aristocracy or oligarchy in which rulers are not popularly elected. Democracy implies a degree of equality among people, one vote per person.

Democracy has had a rough history since its flowering in Athens, Greece, 2,500 years ago. Whenever it arose, the equality of its citizens tended to be eroded over time by concentration of wealth and power, either from within or from outside. Human communities always have needed a degree of organization in order to survive and prosper. That organization typically involved a hierarchy, and along with it came the concentration of wealth and power.

The American Revolution established the idea of democracy among the Europeans who had come to North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. It rejected monarchy and included voting for government leaders and protection of certain liberties for all. Well, not quite all. Just as people aren’t perfect, democracies aren’t perfect either. At the start, American democracy applied only to white, property-owning males. Now people of all races and women can vote and are, in principle, afforded equal justice under the law.

Democracy seems under siege today, possibly as much from the apathy of the comfortable and the apathy of those who feel completely disenfranchised, as from antidemocratic intent, but both are detectable. The pervasive polarity of our current democratic process is tearing apart the very community required for democracy to function.

Those on the political right emphasize personal liberty; those on the left emphasize community. Both are essential for human fulfillment. Liberty without community devolves into chaos. We have seen in places like Libya the tyranny of a tyrant replaced by the tyranny of chaos. Community without liberty saps our souls of meaning and is likewise unacceptable. The real question is, “What limitations on our liberties are we willing to accept in order to live together?”

Rights are not absolute. Free speech doesn’t allow us to slander others or to endanger public safety by yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Property rights don’t allow us to use our property in ways that endanger others or the property of others. We have the privilege to drive, but only within the limits of the law.

The tradition of common law is that injuries are redressed by penalties and restitution. Regulatory law tries to prevent the injuries from happening. These include such things as traffic laws, and health and safety laws. Regulatory laws limit some of our freedoms in order to preserve community, our quality of life, and our fundamental freedoms. As John Locke wrote in 1690, “where there is no law there is no freedom.”

An important question is, “At what level of government should regulatory laws be established?” Having regulations established at the highest level, the federal government, brings about a uniformity which is often useful. Uniformity comes with a price, however. Uniform regulations imposed on non-uniform regions and situations can have non-uniform, and often unfair effects on people.

It can be argued that democracy demands that functions of government, business and other secular activities should be as local as possible. If a complex function is carried out at a local level just as effectively as on the national level, the local level should be the one to carry out the specified function. This principle is based upon the autonomy and dignity of the human individual.

When uniform state regulations of fracking waste disposal threaten the quality of life for people in some regions of the state, but not others, something is wrong. When decisions are made in Columbus on economic terms, they foster exploitation of some for the benefit of others. They ignore the autonomy and dignity of people in the exploited areas. Should the people of the region not have something to say about these decisions?

In the light of increasing population densities and rapidly changing technological capabilities are there human rights beyond the familiar ones in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights that need to be recognized? Is it time to claim our rights to clean air, water and soil at a local level through the mechanism of county charters provided in the Ohio Constitution?

Perhaps the Democracy Day gathering will provide a forum for these challenging questions to be considered.

Editor’s note: John Howell, a retired Ohio University physiology professor, currently serves as coordinator of Democracy Over Corporations, a local group dedicated to making democracy work (

By John Howell
Readers Forum
Athens News
June 11, 2015

The Current Money System and an Alternative

Posted 04/24/2015 by demovrcorps
Categories: Uncategorized

John N. Howell

  1. Money is continually created. It has to be, in order to accommodate growing populations and growing economies. New money is created out of nothing. Federal Reserve Notes, our money, are backed up only by the good faith credit of the U.S. government. An important question is, “Who creates money.” Creating money is a very lucrative privilege. Throughout history it has been created at various times both privately by financial institutions and by governments.
  2. What is money in our system? Three things: coins, bills, and money in accounts (“digital money”). Coins and bills constitute only about 3% of the total money that has been created. The rest is money in accounts.
  3. Who creates money in the current system?

Coins. The government, via the U.S. mint creates the coins. It can sell 4 quarters that it makes for 11 cents each, i.e., for $1. That is 56 cents profit for the government per dollar. This profit is called “seigniorage.”

Bills. The government Office of Printing and Engraving prints bills for about 11 cents each and sells them to the Federal Reserve System for the cost of production. (No seignorage for the government.)

Account money. Money in accounts created by banks when they make loans or buy securities.

  1. The Federal Reserve system of banks creates money. Is the Federal Reserve a government agency?

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors is federal in that it is appointed by the U.S. President, but the 12 regional federal reserve banks, which carry out the business of the Federal Reserve, are all privately owned.

The Federal Reserve System was created in 1913 and serves as the central bank of the U.S. Its objectives are 1) maximum employment, 2) stabilize prices, and 3) moderate long-term interest rates. It was established as an agency to be independent of government.

In 1982 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “Federal reserve banks are not federal instrumentalities …, but are independent, privately owned and locally controlled corporations in light of fact that direct supervision and control of each bank is exercised by board of directors, federal reserve banks, though heavily regulated, are locally controlled by their member banks, banks are listed neither as “wholly owned” government corporations nor as “mixed ownership” corporations; federal reserve banks receive no appropriated funds from Congress and the banks are empowered to sue and be sued in their own names. . . .”

  1. At $85 billion a month of Quantitative Easing (QE), the Federal Reserve System is currently (in 2013) creating at least $1.5 trillion a year in new money. All of this money is created as credit, which means it is created as debt. Banks in the Federal Reserve System create this money as they make loans. Banks of the Federal Reserve System loan money to, among other entities, the government. $2.4 trillion of the total federal debt of $16.8 trillion is held by Federal Reserve banks.
  2. In addition to creating money by making loans, commercial banks also create money through “fractional reserve lending,” which basically means that after someone deposits money in a bank, the bank can lend most of that money (~90%) out to others, who then deposit it in their accounts in the same or other banks, which again lend most of out to yet another person, and so on. Each bank client thinks he has the money he deposited, the total of which now far exceeds the amount that was originally deposited to start the chain. This has set the stage for bank runs and bank failures – when depositors lose.
  3. The new money created each year, about $1.5 trillion at present, could be created by government. It could be used in a variety of ways – to build the infrastructure needed to maintain a healthy economy, to reduce taxes, to pay down the debt, to support state and local governments in providing infrastructure, education, health care, etc. Building infrastructure would create jobs, good ones, and it can be done without increasing taxes or the federal debt. As this money filters into the economy, improving employment and increasing the amount of money working people have, personal debt will fall as the economy improves. Money created by government is a public asset; money created by banks is an asset to the banks, and a liability to the rest of us, the public.

“For the government to permit banks to issue money, borrow that money, and pay interest on it is idiotic.” William F. Hixson (

  1. The debt money system puts most of us in debt, including governments. The payment of interest on government debt, the 3rd largest item in the federal budget, systematically transfers money from tax payers to those wealthy enough to loan money to the government, from the poorer to the richer. Government is unable to end deficit spending, because decreased government spending, which is about 22% of national economy, and/or increased taxes sufficient to make a significant dent, would throw the economy into severe recession. Increased spending alone could stimulate the economy, but would increase the federal debt. The Federal Reserve is trying to stimulate the economy, but is unable to do so, because it can only increase the money supply by increasing lending, and it has already lowered interest rates as far as it can to encourage borrowing. Purchase of securities by the Federal Reserve banks (QE) creates new money, but puts it in the hands of those wealthy enough to have securities (such as Treasury bonds) to sell. Little of it gets to Main Street; most goes to Wall Street, where it underwrites the rising prices of stocks.
  2. The U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, gives Congress the authority to “coin” money and set its value. “Coin,” used as a verb here, means to create, as in “to coin a phrase.” The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 gave that authority to the Federal Reserve System of private banks. Prior to that time, money creation had partly been governmental, through the “greenbacks” initiated during the Lincoln administration, and partly private, through issuance of “notes” by private banks. A national system was needed, but the Federal Reserve Act unfortunately put money creation in the hands of private banks.
  3. A bill introduced into Congress in 2012, H.R. 2990 (not yet introduced this year), provides a real solution. It transfers money creation to the government, ends fractional reserve banking, and commits the government to use the profit from creating money (seigniorage) for repairing and building infrastructure without increased taxes, and for paying down the federal debt as it comes due. It brings th11e Federal Reserve into the Department of Treasury, and sets up an independent Monetary Authority, whose only responsibility is to determine the appropriate rate of money creation, based on economic and population data.
  4. H.R. 2990 has been critically analyzed by economists associated with the IMF (Benes and Kumhof, ) and found to be able to stimulate the economy without inflation, to reduce debt, and to eliminate, or at least minimize, boom and bust cycles.

Web Resources: ( and (

JNH 7/23/14

Let’s renew efforts to undo terrible Citizens United decision

Posted 01/15/2015 by demovrcorps
Categories: Uncategorized

Jan. 21, 2015 is the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. That ruling opened the door for unlimited corporate spending in elections by declaring unconstitutional all laws that had limited corporate campaign spending in elections; these included the federal McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2008, and many state and local laws adopted in order to protect elections from being bought by corporate money.

Many people across the political spectrum were horrified by the Supreme Court’s decision, realizing as Justice Stevens pointed out in his dissent, the court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation. Congressmen can no longer simply represent those who elected them; they represent those who funded their campaigns. In foreign countries, when elections are bought, we call it corruption. The high court has made it legal here.

The Supreme Court’s slim majority based their Citizens United decision upon legal precedent that had judged corporations to be “persons,” entitled to the protection of the human rights written into the Constitution, such as freedom of speech, and upon the assertion that freedom of speech means there can be no constraints on money spending in elections.

Corporations are creations of people, and are rightly given the privilege of doing business and of concentrating wealth in order to undertake big projects. The combination of great wealth and legal equality with people as “corporate persons” means, however, that corporate profit motives completely overpower public interest when they conflict. Our creations become our masters.

Additional toxic effects of corporate personhood include the following:

Corporations can hide illegal activity from legitimate regulatory efforts of OSHA and EPA by hiding behind the protections of the 4th amendment against “unreasonable search and seizure,” intended to protect people from government overreach.

In cases in which corporations are accused of illegal activity, it lets them conceal their records from court inspection by claiming 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Free speech for corporations will allow them to lie in their advertising (just as individuals are free to lie, except when under oath).

Elimination of corporate personhood will require a Constitutional Amendment. Such an amendment was introduced into Congress in 2013 (House Joint Resolution 29). The Resolution can be read at

You can be sure that any representative who fails to support this amendment is more interested in re-election than in protecting democracy.

John N. Howell, Coordinator
Democracy Over Corporations


Posted 09/04/2014 by demovrcorps
Categories: Uncategorized


Referring to the Federal Reserve, he stated, “maybe there’s too much power in the hands of those who control monetary policy?  The power to create the financial bubbles.  The power to maybe bring the bubble about.  The power to change the value of the stock market within minutes.  That to me is just an ominous power and challenges the whole concept of freedom and liberty and sound money.”


“As we all know that a regular influx of wealth, from a majority to a minority, is a regular influx of power, the United States ought to estimate the quantity of each, they are pouring into a banking interest. If no new banks should be created afer 1808, nor the acquisition of the old increased, the five millions annually collected by the existing banks, at compound interest carry from the public to the corporations, in twenty years, above one hundred and eighty-four millions of dollars. Here is already a vast current of money and power running one way…”


The law made the FDIC a permanent agency and raised the deposit insurance level to $5,000.
The Federal Reserve System was reformed with the transformation of the Federal Reserve Board of Directors to the Board of Governors. All board members were appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and the term of service was expanded to 14 years. Open-market operations were formalized in the Federal Open Market Committee and the Governors were allowed to determine interest rates and bank reserve requirements. These “reforms,” however, were window dressing. The power and authority to issue money as debt was retained in the hands of the private Federal Reserve and private banking corporations. Keeping reserve requirement decisions in the hands of the Fed only invited speculation and risk (reserve requirements are the ratio of money banks lend in excess of money they actually possess “in reserve” to cover loans. Banks loan many times the amount of funds in their reserve).


“It is not obvious that there are serious defects in our banking system and our tax system that deprive most of us of fundamental rights and bestow enormous privileges on others? How many riots must we endure?  How many prisons must we build?  How many of our rights must we lose?  How many of our young people must be sent away to fight in foreign wars before we decide that enough is enough?”

In response to the announcement that the Obama administration was going to give billions of tax dollars to the financial industry, he said:
“They’re really dedicated to keeping the financial system, which doesn’t mean us, doesn’t mean the people; it means the bankers, the banking industry, the lenders, the insurance companies keeping them afloat by giving them hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. Now, it’s amusing to me to see that suddenly, in this past week or so, there’s been this flurry of anger about the fact that some of these companies that have been given hundreds of billions of dollars are giving out several hundred millions in bonuses. And Obama has I think very cleverly joined the indignation against the bonuses. But, after all, these hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses come out of the hundreds of billions that have been given to these financial institutions. So instead of pointing to that, to this huge bailout, Obama and other people and this goes for the press too, the media — the media have seized upon it, television, newspapers all indignant and congressmen all indignant about the hundreds of millions of bonuses. Well, what about the hundreds of billions, leading up to trillions, really, given to the banks?”

Visible steps in Washington toward a Constitutional amendment

Posted 07/08/2014 by demovrcorps
Categories: Uncategorized

Visible steps in Washington toward a Constitutional amendment that will reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision are welcome.

Last month Senator Durbin’s Subcommittee on The Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights approved a modified version of the Udall amendment proposal (Senate Bill 19). The original proposal addressed the “money in politics” matter by specifying that campaign contributions are not speech protected by the First Amendment, but fails to address the more general matter of “corporate personhood.” As pointed out in the attached Steering Committee notes, the Durbin modification does touch on this latter issue, but not in a direct way that Move To Amend (MTA) favors (House Joint Resolution 29). See an MTA letter at the following website:

At the local level, two County Democratic Party Committees have now adopted resolutions favoring amendment, namely Morgan County and Gallia County (not Athens!). People are urged to contact their local committee reps, of either party, urging their adoption of similar resolutions. (To find out who your rep is, contact the election board in your county.)


John Howell, DOC Coordinator


PS: If you would like to read arguments against the amendment proposals above, go to To my mind they boil down to the argument that limitation on campaign spending favor incumbents. Some truth perhaps, but the imbalance that now favors the wealthy seems far greater than the imbalance of incumbency under conditions where all voices can be heard without being drowned out by the voice of big money. The argument also made by the Heritage Foundation article, namely that any restriction on free speech is unacceptable, cannot be taken seriously. Speech is restricted already in ways that are not contested, i.e., don’t yell “fire” in a theater, speak the truth under oath, etc. The consequences of speech restrictions matter.