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Rights! The Newsletter of the Center for Democracy and the Constitution
September 2004

Welcome to Rights!, the newsletter of the Center for Democracy and the Constitution ("CDC"), published monthly, with a very occasional update between issues.

We're working to end the constitutional rights of corporations and to create a vital, living democracy in the U.S.A. (including strong businesses run for the public good), starting at home in Massachusetts. So please join us! We hope you'll find Rights! informative, engaging, useful, infuriating, energizing, inspiring.
  In this issue:
Constitutional House Party and Fun(d)raiser

Join us one and all!

With special guests:

Chuck Turner Chuck Turner
Boston City
Si Kahn Si Kahn
Union Organizer,
Ken Selcer Ken Selcer
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

What's this rights business all about? Why is it so important? Why is "corporate responsibility" an oxymoron? Why doesn't regulating corporations work? And just what is the Center for Democracy and the Constitution doing about it, anyway?

Discuss these questions and more, meet interesting people, enjoy some delicious refreshments, listen to soulful and inspiring music, and advance the critically important work of POCLAD and CDC -- all in one evening!

To RSVP and get directions, please contact the CDC office by e-mail, info411 {a~t} constitution411 [d-o-t] org - or phone at (781) 674-2339.   Minimum $25 donation requested.

Farmer Filburn's Chickens and Pecking at Democracy
Back in 1938, as the country was struggling its way out of the Great Depression, Congress passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Part of the idea was to limit production to keep prices up, so if a farmer grew extra acres of a crop, a penalty was incurred.

Well, Farmer Filburn of Ohio grew his allotted eleven acres of wheat for sale on the market. But he also grew a few extra acres for himself and his family, just to feed his chickens and bake some bread. However, Mr. Wickard, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, didn't like this one bit, and charged Farmer Filburn $117.11 for exceeding his quota. Farmers were outraged by this federal intrusion on state, local and private rights, and joined with Mr. Filburn to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Local rights are very important for protecting communities from a variety of harms. For example, large businesses such as Walmart can decimate local economies, and distant corporations can poison air and water with an operation such as a quarry or factory farm with relative impunity. Over the past two hundred years states and municipalities have passed countless measures to meet their obligation to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.

A Question of Rights But state and local laws can be very annoying and expensive for large, non-local businesses. In the perennial battle for the supremacy of big business and the federal government, we the people often lose, frequently at the hands of our unelected Supreme Court which is composed mostly of wealthy white men (and lawyers to boot). Over the years these Gentlemen, with a few striking exceptions, have generally proved themselves unable to sympathize with and support normal people going about their lives, earning a living, raising children, and just plain being people.

A prime tool for imposing this federal power has been the Commerce Clause, Article I Section 8 of our Constitution. It states that Congress makes the rules about interstate commerce -- which the Supreme Court, exercising its questionable authority of judicial review, rewrites at will.

And that's what the Judges, in their curious wisdom, did with Farmer Filburn, as they usurped local authority and ordered him to pony up his $117.11. In so doing the Court demonstrated, as it had so many times in the past, that it favored special interests by inventing a decision and then -- well, pecking around -- for the rationale to support it.

So here's what the Supremes said: by not shipping via interstate transport, by not using interstate storage silos, by not giving his chickens interstate wheat for dinner, Farmer Filburn deprived the interstate commerce stream of his business. Therefore, by not engaging in interstate commerce, Farmer Filburn was engaging in interstate commerce (and 1984 hadn't even been written yet)!

There are many examples throughout our history of the Supreme Court, appointed for life and answerable to no one, overriding the will of millions of people as expressed through our elected representatives. To learn more about this fascinating legacy and how we might fix it, come to Democracy School in October (we still have a few places left)!
Many thanks to Jane Anne Morris and POCLAD for the story of Farmer Filburn, from Jane Anne's forthcoming book on the Commerce Clause, From Sea to Shining Sea: Free Trade at Home. We'll let you know when it's published.

Democracy School
Next Democracy School in Boston: October 1-3, 2004

Thomas Linzey, the founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and the attorney at the forefront of legal battles on corporate constitutional rights, will teach our October Democracy School at Boston College. He will be joined by presenters Mary Zepernick and Adam Sacks, and Peter Kellman of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD).

Democracy School covers the history and development of corporations in the U.S., the movements for people's rights, exciting current developments in fighting illegitimate corporate "rights" in Pennsylvania, and strategizing on how to apply all of these lessons for the benefit of Massachusetts communities dealing with toxics, sprawl, pollution, noise, and corruption of government. Democracy School is highly recommended to anyone interested in changing our democracy's collision course with corporate rule!

To find out more about Democracy School, click here. We are limited to 15 attendees -- so sign up today!

Introducing Richard Grossman, Advisory Board Member
Richard Grossman co-founded the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) in 1994. He is a long-time activist going back to the anti-nuclear power movement, a prolific writer and one of the country's leading thinkers on corporations and democracy. Richard has freely shared his insights and guidance with CDC, and is an inspiration in our work. (See an excerpt from Richard's writing below.)
Short Takes
Great new book:

A note from Advisory Board Member Charles Derber on his latest book, Regime Change Begins at Home:

My publisher has told me Regime Change is on sale until Election Day for $9.98 (plus shipping). All anyone wants to do who would like the book for the bargain basement price is call (800) 929-2929 and tell the operator the code for the book discount offer is RCBAH.

. . . and a Cambridge event . . .

Friend and Supporter Frances Moore Lappé sent us a note to pass on to you:

Please share in our excitement and join us to meet my son Anthony Lappé and hear about his new book, True Lies, and the Guerrila News Network (GNN).

Thursday, September 30th, 7 p.m.
WordsWorth Books
30 Brattle Street
Harvard Square

We so hope you'll join us for a stimulating evening!


Frankie Lappé

. . . and another good reason to donate to CDC . . .

You Have the Power Get an autographed copy of Frances Moore Lappé's latest book, You Have the Power. We have a few left, and it's our gift to you with a $35 contribution to CDC -- Donate now!

Join Us!
POCLAD Co-Founder and CDC Advisory Board Member Richard Grossman, in his article "Revoking the Corporation," says:
. . . [F]or billions of years, the universe has been exploding and unfolding. Vast, unimaginable events occurred across unthinkable amounts of time, across millions of light years. Out of that primordial energy emerged new stars and planets, the Earth with its mountains and seas and rivers and trees and diverse species . . . and human beings. For thousands of years these creatures have interacted, and people have struggled to figure out who they are and what is going on and how to live and how to cooperate, to think, to build.

This cosmic convulsion has been under way for billions of years . . . for what? So that in the course of a few generations we can turn it all over to the Walt Disney Corporation? To the Time Warner Corporation? So that it can be destroyed by the Weyerhaeuser Corporation? Union Carbide Corporation? Exxon Corporation? Philip Morris Corporation? Microsoft Corporation?

. . . What are we going to do? How can we take humankind's enormous productive capacity, this enormous technological capacity, this enormous intelligence -- how do we take our nimble fingers and our facile brains, and standing upon the shoulders of people who came before us, build the self-governing, just and sensible societies which so many people in every generation since life began have sought?

Richard's article is published in POCLAD's landmark anthology, Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy, p.134. (The book is a free gift choice with a donation of $35 or more to CDC. Click here to donate now! It's also available directly from POCLAD.) He addresses the fundamental question that we at CDC struggle with daily: how can we turn our profoundly imbalanced culture, which values property far above people, and turn it into a vibrant, living, participatory democracy.

We have some ideas, and we need you to join us in the thinking and organizing. Sign up to volunteer -- there's something of interest to everyone. Or hold a house party or fundraiser in your neighborhood (we'll provide a speaker). Attend Democracy School to learn more about the history of corporations and the Constitution, and what's being done today -- as you read this -- to turn it around. Work with us to educate the public and develop a legal team that will help communities reclaim basic rights when confronted with corporate harms. And engage in the dialogue about who governs as we move towards a ballot question to abolish corporate rule.

Last but not least, please consider contributing to CDC to eliminate the corporate power that creates war and inequity and poverty in its own interest at the expense of the rest of us. We're not going to get corporate funding, nor should we -- but we do need money to continue our work. This is the beginning of an independent people's movement, and it will be built by you, by me, by all of us.

To volunteer, send an e-mail to adam411 {a-t} constitution411 [d-o-t] org.

And to contribute online, click here. Or make out a check to "CDC" and mail it to:

   Center for Democracy and the Constitution
   12 Locust Avenue
   Lexington, MA 02421

Contributions are tax deductible. Many thanks for your interest and support!

Adam D. Sacks
Executive Director
(781) 674-2339

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