February 2005 Newsletter - Center for Democracy and the Constitution

Back to Main Newsletter Page

Rights! The Newsletter of the Center for Democracy and the Constitution
February 2005

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.

Adam D. Sacks, Editor

  In this issue:
  • Whose Law Is It, Anyway?
  • Noam Chomsky Benefit for CDC
  • Democracy School
  • Introducing Thomas Linzey
  • Community Legal Services
  • Short Takes - 548, MOOB, Greenfield
  • Visit Our Website
  • Donate Now!

Whose Law Is It, Anyway?

One of our cultural maxims is that "we are a society of laws, not men [sic]." This is supposed to be a good thing, because it means that justice is blind to differences in class, race, ethnicity, age, and many other factors -- all are treated equally. Of course it's nonsense, as just about any African American male (among many others) can tell you -- we have a long history of unjust laws unjustly applied, from eighteenth century slavery to twenty-first century corporate rights. In part this is because in our culture the law mostly deals with and favors property, and only grudgingly with human and environmental rights and wellbeing.

Although we tend not to see it due to long ingrained reverence and/or fear, our laws are a result of biases and preferences, enacted by a privileged few, influenced by lobbyists and campaign donors. And all too often it is the miniscule number of large contributors that gets its way at the expense of the majority of voters.

The law is an expression of the culture that lives within us, every moment of every day, awake and asleep. The culture is a set of assumptions -- about who rules and who is worthy of ruling, who has value (for example, white males of property) and who doesn't (for example, just about everyone else), who gets to decide what happens to us and the "resources" of the earth. It turns out that a very small and wealthy minority writes the rules/laws/propaganda that govern the rest of us, and because their vision is narrowly focused on their own short-term goals they are strangling our planetary life support systems. They imagine that wealth makes them immune to global warming, toxic air and water -- and immune to our objections as well.

That's why, when we protest the destruction of the redwoods, or the shorelines, or thousands of species, or groundwater, or a million precious things lost, we get arrested, not the destroyers. The law is not written by us, it is not on our side -- judicial and enforcement arms of the state act on behalf of the law, which favors protection of property, not people. Not incidentally, corporations are collections of property clothed in the law.

How do we undress corporations? We have to learn that we can't rely on federal and state governments to consider the seventh generation -- in the current culture, that's an impossibility. We have to learn to make law that protects people and planet. In order to do that we have to learn to create a culture of survival, democracy, peace and justice.

The culture tells us that everything is basically OK, it just needs a little bit of tweaking -- global warming isn't a real problem (we'll come up with a technofix), we can keep consuming forever, genetically modified plants are better for you, toxins don't cause illness, and socially responsible corporations will save us.

Although our cultural myths say otherwise, in fact we have very little experience to guide us in a cultural renewal. We can learn from other societies and from many hidden corners of our own history, and we can take the paradigm-shifting steps for a direly needed change in direction -- but we're not in that habit.

We'd better get in the habit soon -- we're all adrift on a planetary Titanic. Hitting the iceberg won't be pretty.

Democracy School goes into depth on issues of corporations, law and rights-based organizing, a new approach that can unite thousands of single issue groups in fighting for our fundamental and inalienable democratic rights.

Noam Chomsky Benefit for CDC

WHAT: A Benefit for the Center for Democracy and the Constitution
WHEN: Wednesday, April 13th, 7-9 p.m.
WHERE: First Parish Church, Harvard Square, Cambridge
SUGGESTED DONATION: $15-$25, or whatever you can afford
joined by Jill Stein and Ken Selcer
singing Music for the People
Hear world-reknowned linguist, writer and critic Noam Chomsky give his perspective on corporations in our globalized world. His incisive analysis of American politics, policy, and culture has inspired thousands to look deeply into the machinations and manipulations of oligarchy, and to move towards an enlightened citizenry that demands a world that only genuine democracy -- rule of, by and for the people -- can offer.

(Photo of Professor Chomsky courtesy of Donna Coveney/MIT)

Democracy School
Next Democracy School in Boston: March 11-13, 2005

"The Democracy School pushes activists to go beyond regulating corporations in the public interest to redefining their very rights and responsibilities in a democratic economy. It offers a deeper look at our history than is usual and a very inspiring strategic approach which CELDF has found successful in rural counties that tend to vote Republican. The possibilities to create new and meaningful alliances and take the offensive are explored at a remarkably deep level for a three day workshop!"

Steve Chase
Director, Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program
Antioch New England Graduate School

Joining the CDC staff for March Democracy School will be Richard Grossman, nationally known for his research, teaching and innovative thinking on rights and democracy. Working with Thomas Linzey, Richard designed the Democracy School curriculum. He is also co-founder of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy POCLAD, which has done the basic research and writing that has made CDC's work possible.

We cover 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. Enrollment is limited, advance registration highly recommended.

Introducing Thomas Linzey, Legal Board Member
Thomas Linzey
Thomas Linzey is a public-interest attorney who founded the non-profit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund CELDF in 1995 to assist communities fighting regulatory battles against corporate assaults. By 1998 he realized that the regulatory arena was built for corporate advantage and joined with Richard Grossman to advance what was to become rights-based organizing. Since then he has successfully worked with over 70 rural Pennsylvania communities to prevent factory farms and toxic sludge from invading their lives.

And this is just the beginning.

Legal Services
Thanks to Board Member and Attorney Neil Berman, CDC now offers low-cost legal services ($65/hour) to communities committed to rights-based organizing. If your community is confronting a corporate assault, is frustrated by the regulatory system, wants to work towards addressing the root causes of our failure to control corporations -- and it wants to have another chance to protect its residents and resources in the process, call the CDC office at (781) 674-2339.

Short Takes
Outside Section 548 and CDC in the News

An Outside Section is a Massachusetts law inserted (one might say "sneaked") into a larger bill behind closed doors without debate or recorded votes. Outside Sections are often a favor for special interests.

Outside Section 548 was part of last year's budget bill, and it takes cities and towns out of the loop when the state wants to sell state-owned property. Municipalities used to have a right of first refusal; with 548 they may not even know until a property is sold that it was on the block.

CDC has been getting involved in the discussions of 548 in our town of Lexington and neighboring Waltham. Two of the lead activists will be attending our February Democracy School. And Adam was featured in an article in the Waltham Daily News Tribune on rights-based organizing in the context of 548 -- you can read it here.

The non-profit Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities is among the vanguard in the fight against 548. Visit their site at www.masschc.org for more information.

Minding Our Own Business (MOOB)

MOOB Meeting in Worcester Our first MOOB meeting in mid-January got us off to a rousing start. We decided on a Fall conference to address how to move us all towards sustainability and self-sufficiency. Several people volunteered their time to move the conference forward. MOOB is important - we want to start building communities without poverty, without mind-numbing endless work.

The goal of the MOOB Conference is to provide opportunities for people to learn about actual successful local economic projects and how to go about implementing them in their own communities. Our next planning meeting is on Sunday, March 6th in the Northampton area. You can read more about MOOB here.

Greenfield Reclaim Democracy

Emily at Reclaim Democracy in Greenfield
Emily Mason, a Democracy Schooler and graduate student in the Antioch-Keene Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program, has started a chapter of Reclaim Democracy in Greenfield, Massachusetts. She will be working to educate and organize against corporate power and government complicity in Western Massachusetts. Visit the Greenfield group's web page, and contact Emily for further information.
Join Us - Contribute!

I'm off to Seattle in a couple of hours to join Richard Grossman and Thomas Linzey for our first Democracy School there. Jeff Reifman, one of the attendees at our October Democracy School in Boston, has done a superb job organizing the Seattle School, a public lecture, and several meetings in the area. After the School on Sunday, Jeff, O'Kelly McCluskey and I will be off to Vashon Island to talk about rights-based organizing to Preserve Our Islands, a group that has spent the last seven years fighting a Japanese mining company that wants to remove a chunk of the island and ship it overseas for roads. O'Kelly is a WWII veteran, an activist with Veterans for Peace, and retired attorney who is passionately organizing against corporate insult.

Our first birthday is February 18th, and we've made remarkable progress. Our infrastructure is in place, we've been to dozens of events and community meetings, Democracy Schools are popping up all over the country, and we're engaging with communities to protect people's rights. To do this, we have to meet our modest expenses. Your contribution will make a big difference!

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

Back to Main Newsletter Page