Rights! The Newsletter of the Center for Democracy and the Constitution
Fall-Winter 2006

It's Fall (well, Winter, snowless that it is in New England), and another CDC newsletter is born. Out of days of eery late-season warm weather and struggling through the frightening morass of our unsustainable ways, we are forging ahead with new efforts to change our culture and help grow democracy in local communities. So . . .

Welcome to Rights!, the newsletter of the Center for Democracy and the Constitution ("CDC"), published every now and then!

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) as well as livable Earth, starting at home here in New England.

Adam D. Sacks, Editor

  In this issue:
Thinking Again: The Public Outreach Project (POP)

To whom do we listen?
What do they tell us?
What do we hear?

Having heard, what do we think?
Why do we think some things and not others?

And finally, having thought, what do we do?

Selecting the American Revolution as a historical starting point (arbitrary as all historical dividing lines may be), it is, upon reflection, quite clear that despite massive and extraordinary people's movements a tiny minority continues to make decisions of planetary importance for its own benefit, with utter disregard for the well-being of billions of humans on the planet, never mind thousands of species and the very survival of life on earth.

There are those who will say that there have been many improvements. In some respects this is true. Slavery, for example, is no longer legal in this country. But the effects of slavery persist. African-American scholar Manning Marable makes such an argument compelling (see Race-ing Justice, Disenfranchising Lives in The Black Commentator), and one need only look at the grossly disproportionate numbers of black men in prison as evidence.

Furthermore we export slavery - wage and actual - far away where we don't have to watch it. Similarly, before the Civil War the Northern States profited magnificently from the slave trade and the fruits of slave labor, but at a distance. As Uncle Tom's Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe commented, slavery was just as the Northerners liked it, all of the benefits and none of the screams.

We can make similar cases about the environment, labor, farming, women's rights, globalization, armaments and world peace (and in Democracy School many of those arguments are indeed made, based on sound scholarship and experience in rights-based organizing).

The desperately begging question, of course, is why. Why have all these movements - both violent and peaceful, not only in the United States but worldwide - not resulted in fundamental change? Why are we a culture of competition and exploitation instead of one of peaceful dialogue and cooperation? Why does the oligarchy always prevail, with occasional concessions (in the greater scheme of things, ulimately minor ones), even as it leads humanity into globally heated degradation and quite possibly demise?

When push comes to shove they are vastly outnumbered and therefore we, the People, must be kept in check. How do they do it? And how, finally, do we turn it around?

CDC is launching the Public Outreach Project ("POP") to ask these questions and discover and develop methods of fundamental culture change towards sustainability and democracy. In other words, we are looking to explore how to affect the ways the American people think and act - something that corporations and centralized government do with great efficacy and that people's movements do only with extreme difficulty under great duress. POP is organized as a think tank and we welcome your participation. Please write to us at info411 {a-t} constitution411 [d-o-t] org if you'd like more information about joining us.

In closing, it's worth noting that Edwards Bernays, oligarchical tool par excellence (also known as the "Father of Public Relations") stated the Deciders' position quite frankly:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men [sic] we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.

Propaganda, p. 1, 1928
Bernays was not shy about telling us about the way the system worked. He and his ilk likely figured that we wouldn't notice, and even if we did we wouldn't know how to respond - or even care to.

It's high time that we did.


Gimme Swelter!

CDC has recently decided to address global warming as the primary issue in our rights-based organizing. Who decided we were going to get a changed climate, anyway? By what authority and for whose benefit do they bring calamitous weather?

For those of us concerned with basic rights and sustainable living, addressing climate change is not just about changing energy sources, as important as that is. Our work is to change our way of life, unsustainable in so many other ways besides energy consumption.

Unfortunately, too many politicians and technophiliacs are attempting to sell gadget solutions, embellished with energy-independence and more-jobs themes. Surely those are important, but how we accomplish independence and full employment is critical. After all, we could very well replace a fossil fuel oligarchy with a solar one, and still have a passel of global humanitarian, health and justice issues driven by the greed and unconcern of a miniscule fraction of human beings on this planet.

So what we want isn't swelter, just Swelter Designs! That's a for-profit side business that I started in November. The first product is a set of hard-hitting note cards (ClimateCards) for people who want to share their concern about global warming with family, friends and colleagues. Check out the Swelter Designs website, where you can order by mail. ClimateCards are available online from 100Fires Books, another small business we should all support.

Killing Ourselves

Here's some disturbing advice on a local signpost on the Cambridge Common in Massachusetts:

Of course we're already killing ourselves.

We can't eat the fish because of mercury. Where's the uproar? The forests, which literally keep our land and life support systems from falling apart, are almost gone. Where are the general strikes? Corporations are draining water from communities everywhere for big profits. Why do we drink Poland Springs? The EPA says that 72% of American streams are polluted. Where are the marches of millions? The oceans are dying. Where are our passions? The atmospheric carbon from our escapades is choking us. Why do we continue to burn?

That's what CDC's Public Outreach Project will attempt to answer and act on.

When will we ever learn?

We can only hope that it will be soon.

Democracy School

With our energies at CDC focusing on the Public Outreach Project, as described above, we will no longer be sponsoring Democracy Schools in the Boston area. However, Democracy Schools are being held across the country and we encourage you to check them out for a new perspective on American history and organizing. See the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) website for more information and schedules.

Join Us!
Are you feeling strange about the state of the world?

Perhaps more than a little bit blue?
Here's the antidote: Join Us!

To further this challenging work, 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