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Letter to the Editor: In response to Mike Blevins' letter

Posted: Tue, Dec 10, 2013 4:48 PM

A recent editorial posted on Decorah News characterizes me, and other Community Rights supporters as puppets of some slick talking Pennsylvania lawyers.  I would prefer it if we could all sit down and talk together rather than snipe across the electronic ether because clearly the author has significant misconceptions about the people and strategies involved. The straw man arguments and smears don't further the important discussions that need to occur about how we will address our most significant environmental problems. The editorial leaves me with many questions.
 
In paragraph 4, the claim is made that we have "rights- that contrary to [CELDF] materials are contained in already ubiquitous and enforceable local, state, and global human rights instruments."  
 
My experience is different from that.  
 
As evidenced by the recent Millennium Ag decision, my neighbors do not have the right, and my public institutions do not have the authority to protect the lungs of rural children from the industrial levels of hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and multi-drug resistant bacteria that blanket parts of our county.
 
Over the years I've chatted with local producers, asked the Farm Bureau for help, tried to submit reports to the DNR, contacted local and state health departments, contacted local, state, and federal lawmakers, asked for help from ISU experts, the CDC, and the EPA. I have used the system. And yet the author claims that I am "seeking the circumventing and ultimate replacement of our legal system."  What ARE the "enforceable instruments" that can protect the right to clean air in our homes and on school playgrounds? Am I really an anarchist just because I keep insisting that the current regulatory paradigm is not serving the health needs of the children of Winneshiek County?
 
Paragraph 5 says that there is danger in aligning with the losers of history.  It's surprising that the author has particular contempt for the Diggers and Levelers, who are the pre-cursors to modern indigenous rights movements and Christian social justice leaders.  Yes, maybe the indigenous rights movements and Christian liberation theologians are historical losers, but are they wrong?  
 
A good portion of the letter is eerily similar to a script lifted from an Americans for Prosperity funded legal team.  Is that a reliable source?
 
Dire warnings are issued.  The claim is made that as a person promoting the Community Rights approach I want to cause: confusion, wasted time, misdirected energy, litigation, unethical legal expenses, and frustration. It says that I reject the Bill of Rights, the balance of powers, civil rights protections, and that I ignore international environmental justice and human rights law.  Furthermore I am similar to religious fundamentalists, take pride in isolation and foster community isolation, I cherry-pick the historical record, ignore the rule of law, mislead the disaffected, and ignore true tools for action.  Whew. Am I really doing all those things?  No wonder I feel tired at the end of the day!  
 
The suggestion is made that instead of insisting that children have a fundamental right to clean air, I should use 'proven democratic tools" to work within the system of laws that are written with the primary purpose of protecting corporate profits.  I spent Saturday in the fellowship hall of a local church reading and discussing the documents that I was supposed to have read in high school history class- the Magna Carta, Papal Bulls, Paine, Jefferson, Madison, Garrison, DuBois, Supreme Court rulings, the Federal Constitution, the Iowa Constitution, Bernays, and the Bible. If my goal is to learn more about the history and workings of our legal system, what should I be reading and discussing instead?
 
One area where I have reservations of my own is the question of whether the Community Rights approach is mistaken in that it questions federalism, and does not confine itself to questioning corporatism.  But the claim that the Community Rights approach "bolsters dangerous states rights agendas while not directly affecting corporations legal status" is factually incorrect. The Community Rights approach addresses four core areas   1. Corporate privilege  2. Sun, air, and water (nature) as property  3. State pre-emption and Dillon's Rule and 4.  The regulatory fallacy.
 
The editorial mentions a lawmaker named Lilliquist from Washington state.  Elsewhere Lilliquist makes a point that hyper-local democracy could potentially be a dangerous and corrupting tool.  That's why CR ordinances are written only to expand or protect rights and never to limit or diminish rights.  The idea that democracy is too dangerous because the unwashed masses are too stupid to govern themselves is wrong.  Another concern I have that was not mentioned is the question of how, and by whom, CR ordinances are enforced.  We have serious problems with enforcement of ordinances using the regulatory approach. There is plenty to discuss there.
 
The list of alternatives suggests that we turn to human rights and environmental laws.  The problem is that all U.S. civil rights protections, environmental protections, and labor laws are grounded in the commerce clause of the constitution and not in inalienable rights. I wholeheartedly agree that we should embrace the precautionary principle.  How might that be implemented and enforced using the regulatory approach?
 
I appreciated the style of the letter in which the author raised concerns and then proposed alternatives. But, Iowa's environmental refugees are unable to embrace participatory democracy and effectively organize for constitutional amendments.  That esoteric vision of how an idealized federal framework is supposed to function is structurally corrupted by a corporate controlled regulatory system.
 
Email flaming is a destructive path.  I would far prefer to talk face to face with the people I disagree with, especially when we have similar goals, but differ only on strategy. Corporations have been carrying out a well-practiced war against ordinary citizens who want to protect themselves from pollution and exploitation.  Their strategy is simple- divide and conquer.  Let's not play their game.