March-April 2005 Newsletter - Center for Democracy and the Constitution

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Rights! The Newsletter of the Center for Democracy and the Constitution
March-April 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:
  • Rights for the Natural World
  • Noam Chomsky Benefit for CDC
  • Democracy School
  • Introducing Chuck Turner
  • Community Legal Services
  • Short Takes - Bedford Talk, Tech Conference, Greenfield Reclaim Democracy
  • Visit Our Website
  • Donate Now!

Rights for the Natural World

Excerpts from a talk by Mary Zepernick
Grassroots Animal Rights Conference, April 2, 2005, New York City

It's probably not news to you that animals don't have constitutional rights. However, for those who aren't aware that the corporate form does, the sad fact is that corporate rights trump people's rights in communities around this country and the world. It follows that if We the People don't have our promised right of self-governance, we are limited in what we can do to protect ourselves, other animals and the Earth itself.

If you've read "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn, you may recall that the title character, who happens to be a gorilla, asked his pupil to recount his culture's creation myth. The pupil embarks on a long tale about evolution, ending triumphantly with "Species followed species and finally humans appeared." Those who adhere to a religious creation story will find the same ending.

Ishmael proceeds to relate a different creation myth. In short, it seems that half a billion years ago, when nothing stirred on the land except wind and dust, an anthropologist was walking along the ocean when she saw a squishy blob bobbing in the waves. She waded out and asked the creature for its creation myth. After much back and forth, the creature said, " 'For many millions of centuries the life of the world was merely micro-organisms floating helplessly in a chemical broth. But little by little, more complex forms appeared, single-celled creatures, slimes, algae, polyps, and so on. But finally,' the creature said, turning quite pink with pride as it came to the climax of the story, 'but finally jellyfish appeared!' "

The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, "Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched, we cannot know ourselves." So long as we subscribe to a hierarchy of creaturely worth and importance, with you-know-who at the pinnacle, we'll be hard-pressed to respect other life-forms -- and to stop despoiling the Earth, our common nest.

People who struggled before us gained rights through a combination of changing the culture and a legal strategy. Thomas Linzey, who helps Pennsylvania townships claim the authority to determine what their communities will look like, was an environmental lawyer until he learned how the regulatory system is rigged. He contends there has never been an environmental movement in this country because the natural world doesn't have rights; therefore, it doesn't have legal standing. So Tom drafted a natural rights ordinance, available at

These largely conservative rural Pennsylvanians have asserted their right of self-governance to decide what they do and don't want in their townships. Unlike single-issue, harm-based struggles, rights-based organizing has the potential for powerful movement-building across issues.

One way to challenge the cultural assumptions in which we are drenched is to stimulate dialogue in our organizations and communities about rights-based organizing. We'll not secure the well-being of the living Earth and all its creatures until we -- and they -- have rights and the corporation, a legal fiction we humans have created, does not.

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: May 6-8, 2005

"I'm tired of our democracy being usurped by corporations. Here I knew I could learn the tools I need to help create our nation's third revolution against 'the crown' of the rich so that We the People can truly rule ourselves."

Charles Uchu Strader, Attendee at the April Vermont Democracy School

Democracy Schools are taking off across the country (click here for the national schedule). We just returned from a spirited and enthusiastic School in the Brattleboro area, where activists are considering turning to rights-based organizing for protection against toxic incinerators, diesel trucks and a cement plant.

CDC Executive Director Adam Sacks will lead the Boston May Democracy School, joined by Ellen Hayes, Joby Gelbspan and Smilia Marvosh. Join us for an exciting whirlwind and mind-shifting weekend, and learn about remarkable and effective new tools for bringing democracy to the United States.

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 Chuck Turner, Advisory Board Member
Chuck Turner Chuck Turner has held leadership roles in many organizations since the 1960s, including Circle, Inc. (Roxbury's first Community Development Corporation), the Center for Community Action, the Dudley Square Task Force, and two grass roots efforts to strengthen the community’s role in the use of public lands and services. He was a counselor at EMERGE, the oldest batterers’ treatment program in the nation, and has taught at New Hampshire College. Chuck has also served on the Boards of Directors of many organizations in Boston, and as a member of the Boston City Council since 1999 has been one of the strongest voices for people's rights in Massachusetts.

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
Bedford Talk - Corporations v. Us

Sunday, April 17th, 2-4 p.m. in Bedford

Ward Morehouse Join POCLAD co-founder, Bhopal activist, lecturer and author Ward Morehouse, and CDC co-founder Adam Sacks for an enlightening afternoon on "Reclaiming our Democracy: Corporate Governance vs We the People." Lecture and discussion at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, 75 The Great Road, Bedford, MA. For directions or information call 781-275-7994

Grassroots Use of Technology Conference

Saturday, April 16th, all day in Boston

Organizers Collaborative is hosting a daylong conference, fulfilling its mission to bring high quality and current technology to community groups and non-profits at low cost.

If you're using technology in your organization, it will be a day well spent!

Greenfield Reclaim Democracy

Wednesday, April 20th, 6 p.m. in Greenfield

Greenfield library As we mentioned last month, Emily Mason, a Democracy Schooler and graduate student in the Antioch-Keene Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program, has formed a chapter of Reclaim Democracy in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Several members went to this past weekend's Democracy School in Vermont, and are excited about the possibilities. The group meets again on Wednesday, April 20th at 6 p.m. in Greenfield at the library on Main Street, all are welcome. Visit the Greenfield group's web page, and contact Emily for further information.
Join Us - Contribute!

We had to do it again -- combine another two issues of Rights! into one. What can we say, life is hectic when trying to build a world of, by and for the people, all the people, and all the animals and plants and this spectacular and precious planet Earth.

But personally, I see little choice. We've got to change the way we organize. So far, when all is said and done, it simply has not worked. Sure, we've had some victories here and there, the Charles River is cleaner, we've got hybrid vehicles, they're not drilling for oil in Alaska -- ooops, they are drilling for oil in Alaska, or maybe not . . .

As we know, our "leadership" is out of control, we've ceded our sovereignty to an increasingly centralized power that is concerned with little more than next quarter's bottom line, and how to extract it from us and our commons. It's time to aim at the root cause -- the rule by the minuscule minority over all the rest of us -- and be serious about the seventh generation. That's what the Center for Democracy and the Constitution is all about.

We're doing a lot with a little. The Democracy School crew - led by Richard Grossman, Thomas Linzey and me, can barely keep up with the demand, and we're training new people as fast as we can (it takes about a year of study and internship to become a Democracy School instructor). We're meeting with community groups, and are moving ahead with rights-based organizing on the ground.

To do all of 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

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