Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tony Gronowicz on American Democracy

Tony Gronowicz, one of our speakers Sunday on electoral politics and social change is the author of a new book, Grand Illusion: American Democracy from its Roots to the Present. Here is the prologue to his excellent book.

Grand Illusion: American Democracy from Its Roots to the Present
By Anthony Gronowicz


This is the story of how the United States rapidly evolved from royally chartered mercantile corporations that serviced British aristocracy into industrial corporations whose political arm is a federal government that grants citizens only those freedoms corporate lawyers deem necessary. During this historical evolution, rights to a living wage, affordable housing, health care, and education were denied the public.

From the first permanent English settlement in 1607, citizen fate has been directed by an upper class whose thickest roots straddle the English-speaking Atlantic. By the Civil War in 1861, immense profits had accrued to a thriving Anglo-American financial marriage, based upon a labor force disciplined through a uniquely cruel chattel slavery for transported Africans, and an indentured servitude that most European immigrants shared until the nineteenth century.

The states were forged to reflect the mastery of a class whose collective national self emerges in 1884 with the annual publication of a Social Register that lists those whom this upper class seeks to include. Ironically, the very richest and most powerful among them, like a David or Nelson Rockefeller, have no need for such self-designation as their immense power is recognized in the context of the prevailing ideology of corporate-managed democracy.

Two world wars allowed this upper class to shape consumption patterns that polluted the very pores of the planet as an oily film penetrated air, water, and earth. Each of these global holocausts generated revolutions in Russia and China respectively. They snapped the shackles of Anglo-American capital and became great powers in their own right.

Upper-class failures to gauge the strength of Red Armies led to unanticipated military outcomes. Rockefeller interests then instigated a costly arms race. It was calculated to undermine the psychological incentive for socialism that the expansion of the Soviet Union and the establishment of Communist China had upon the world’s peoples. To facilitate the task of bringing down the Soviet Union while the U.S. national deficit soared due to record military expenditure, CIA and Saudi Arabia in 1979 began to fund and supply Sunni Muslim religious extremists as part of the largest covert operation in history. That this occurred in a region that produced 80% of the world’s oil, made the stakes very high for an upper class whose assets rested upon hegemonic control of a carcinogen.

Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia’s extreme brand of Islam, Wahhabism, soon took on a life of its own. Into the new millennium, the Saud dynasty poured almost one trillion dollars into Fortune 500 companies. The cash infusion bought the complicity of the U.S. upper class to the machinations of a cutthroat regime unique for being the only sovereign state on the planet not to possess even a fig leaf of a national legislature.

This unholy alliance was formalized in 1979. It was emboldened by the collapse of the Soviet Union whose loss of 50 million people and 2/3 of its industry at the hands of upper-class supported Nazis in World War II posed an insurmountable obstacle to the establishment of socialism, especially when it faced a United States that had sacrificed the least and gained the most from the two world wars.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union presented the Saud and corresponding U.S. dynasties with the opportunity to liquidate the neighboring Iraqi regime and privatize its oil. Saddam Hussein had been propped up in 1979 by Washington as a counterweight to the Shiite revolution in Iran that overthrew the CIA-installed Shah dictatorship and resulted in the sudden deprivation of extravagant profits for the Anglo-American upper class. In the immediate aftermath, record interest rates and oil price spikes more than recouped their losses.

A pretext was required, one that would shock and awe the average American into supporting an invasion of Iraq and the seizure of its oil through the installation of puppet surrogates like the Shah. That pretext occurred on September 11, 2001. Even though the destruction of New York City’s World Trade Center was triggered by mainly Saudi hijackers funded by members of the Saud royal family, many people were hoodwinked into believing that Iraq was involved—even though it was a secular dictatorship at bitter odds with the divine monarchy of Saudi Arabia. The Houses of Bush, Rockefeller, and Saud—and their minions—stood to gain the most.

Besides, time was of the essence since Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, planned to sell his nation’s oil to the French and Germans for euros, a financial exchange that would strain a dollar weakened by a half century of Cold War, and wars against Korea and Vietnam.

First, the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2002 as part of President Bush Junior’s “crusade” to get the American public accustomed to “endless war.” Then came the blitzkrieg against Iraq in 2003.

Iraq could not, thanks to popular insurgency, increase its oil production to pay for the costs of the war as Washington had maintained. In less than two years, it dropped out of the top 10 oil producers after having been # 4 before the U.S. invasion. By 2005, Russia had rebounded from the collapse of c ommunism to become the world’s second largest oil producer. And China for the first time consumed more raw materials than the United States.

If these developments did not pose sufficient threat to the U.S. plutocracy, Venezuela under the charismatic leadership of Hugo Chavez, used its vast oil resources to effect (in Chavez’s words) “a revolution of the poor,” in alliance with Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and a communist Cuba that is first in education, health care, and life span in Latin America.

Currently, with 5% of the world’s population, the United States consumes 25% of the world’s resources—hardly a globally democratic use. With military expenditures that exceed the rest of the world combined, the American upper class continues to demand more and more privations from the American people that point to economic collapse, revolution, and the establishment of genuine democracy and environmental concern.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tony & Mary Lipnicki: Building Grassroots Community

Here is the excellent presentation Tony and Mary Lipnicki gave us on Saturday:

Building Grassroots Community and First Fridays:
Ways to Encourage Participation in Local Community
Anthony and Mary Lipnicki, August 11, 2007

We would like to welcome all of you to the panel discussion on Building Grassroots Community and to the New York State Green Party “Green Fest.”

Community is defined as people sharing an environment. In communities, the degree of adhesion of community members is based upon everyone participating in something bigger than each other. In this talk, we hope to throw out some ideas that we have tried to help build community through First Fridays, a monthly discussion group.

Several years ago my wife Mary and I began a journey to simplify our lives and to disengage ourselves from the fast pace, draining, market economy that we found ourselves living in. We had been sold the idea that success in career through competition and performance would bring happiness. We learned – at least for ourselves – that this was the wrong way to go. There came a time when honesty, personalization, and human dignity, came to be what really mattered to us. We read Joe Dominguez book, ‘Your Money or Your Life’, and began cashing in our so called ‘security’, paid off our indebtedness, and began living our lives which meant - contributing to making the community we lived – a little more like what we thought it should be.

After quitting my job in NYC, we sold our house, and moved to rural Western New York State. We bought an old house in Andover New York, used the windfall from the sale to renovate it, and opened up the Mustard Seed Inn and Bed & Breakfast, a platform for us to build grassroots community. It was through the idea of ‘hospitality,’ that we would initiate a response to dealing with the problems we saw in our culture - problems which limited us and enslaved us it seemed.

In the book, ‘The Coming Anarchy – Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War,’ Robert D. Kaplan describes a coming world of scarcity and violence as the peoples of the world fight for their share of the limited resources needed to survive. Kaplan says, “The breaking apart and remaking of the atlas is only now beginning. Volatile new democracies in Eastern Europe, fierce tribalism in Africa, civil war and ethnic violence in the Near East, and widespread famine and disease, and the brutal rift developing as wealthy nations reap the benefits of seemingly boundless technology, while other parts of the world slide into chaos, are logical extensions of what to expect in the near future.” If this isn’t a reason to build local community, we don’t know what is.

We decided to focus on abundance rather than fear and scarcity, and went down the path of community – a practice of age old security – to rediscover ourselves, and the place where we lived.

Living amidst the poverty of Allegany County, we saw people who had once participated in the local economy, becoming more isolated and dependent on grants and the welfare state to survive at the very basic level of existence. The rural self-sufficient agricultural economy had left for more profitable greener pastures. Replacing community interdependence with government programs, deregulated monopoly based electricity, natural gas and water, state controlled education, and the effects of globalization on the local economy, stacked the cards against the people in our community.

We launched First Fridays in August 2006. First Fridays is a “community oriented group of people interesting in learning about issues that are close to their hearts, and concern them, but need to be better understood, so a response could be initiated in the community.” First Fridays is open to all and meets the first Friday of the month from 7:30 – 9:00 pm at the Mustard Seed Inn and B&B in Andover, New York. The makeup of the group is relatively diverse, including women and men, young and old, and people from different political parties and religious persuasions. There are no dues or other costs associated with participation, though participants are encouraged to assist in the planning of the programs. We encourage people to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to the village food pantry on behalf of the First Fridays group. We have used the food pantry to help members of the community in need – a member of the group was helped while out of work recovering from surgery. We made a donation of mittens and hats to the Andover Central School nurse during the winter for the school children too!

We get the word out on First Fridays by writing up a news article every month on the last meeting, and submit it to the local newspapers. We have the cooperation of the local press. We announce the next month’s topic at the end of the article. We have upcoming First Fridays programs announced on the local radio station. Down the road, we want to have the topic leaders do interviews with the local radio station. Word of mouth helps too. We may do seminars and workshops on topics too.

First Fridays, therefore, was a culmination of what we thought would be the initial step in building community. In the last year we have discussed:

1. the corporation and its influence in our lives, and the work of POCLAD;

2. peace through direct non-violent service to others;

3. the restorative justice movement;

4. the Catholic Worker movement;

5. sustainability and community;

6. the Baker Hamilton Alternate Peace Plan for Iraq;

7. healing inner violence through centering prayer;

8. understanding violence in the scriptures of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism;

9. breaking our dependence of foreign oil through renewable energy;

10. Genesee Valley Habitat for Humanity; a way for the working poor to afford owning a home with a zero interest mortgage;

11. Oasis of Peace – an Israeli Palestinian village of peaceful coexistence;

12. the Canticle Farm CSA; a way of supporting the local agricultural economy

We are now reaping some of the benefits of our discussions at First Fridays. First of all we have developed a sense of honesty and trust between each of us who have participated; a sort of interconnectedness has developed between us and people outside the group as well, and the idea that we are all in this thing together, and the realization that we can make a difference.

We have fundraised for Habitat for Humanity, and may be doing a Habitat project in our village; one of our members ran for school board; we are putting together a resource guide of local agriculture producers; we bought a share in Canticle Farm; participated in the Wellsville Balloon Rally Parade with a group against Iraq Troop Escalation; attend monthly village board meetings to learn about issues affecting the community; volunteer with the Quaker Prison Ministry to Attica Prison; volunteer with the local hospice; worked with some Iraqi war veterans on adapting to community life; and as I mentioned the donations to the local food pantry and school, and visits to members of the group who were in need.

To build grassroots community at the local level, I have outlined the following which you may want to keep in mind:

1. Begin by simplifying your life, if you haven’t already done so, particularly in the area of your personal finances. Live at the most basic level possible. I mentioned a great book by Joe Dominguez, “Your Money or Your Life – How to Achieve Financial Independence through Simplification.”

2. Access the needs of your community, and determine what depletes and affirms life in the place where you live. Get to know the people that you live with, and get them to know you and to trust you, by listening and understanding their concerns and needs.

3. Join organizations that support your value system! Learn how they meet a community need. Don’t reinvent the wheel. We attend our local church. I joined the Andover Lions Club, became a hospice volunteer, and board member on the Andover Free Public Library, and the Andover Historical Preservation Corporation, which meets housing needs for the poor. I also joined the community choir.

4. Work with others in small groups! Participate in study groups and issues groups and meet the people who are out there participating in community events.

5. Find a spiritual center! Deal with your fears. Find a spiritual advisor to hear you out and bounce ideas off. Look one up at a retreat house or on the web. Work on developing your conscience.

6. Visit with other organization and meet like minded people! We connect with St. Joseph’s CW House of Hospitality in Rochester, NY, the Olean Area Coalition for Peace and Justice, the Friends Service Committee Attica Prison Ministry, Canticle Farm CSA (community supported agriculture) in Allegany, NY, and the Genesee Valley Habitat for Humanity.

7. Get involved in local politics! Participate in community life. Speak out on issues that concern you. Find out what the local government’s position is on issues, who are the people making the decisions and what are the public and private interest groups shaping community life. Access if these organizations are meeting the needs of the community. Go to village and town and school board meetings. Join the Green Party and participate in communication the political issues that affect the community through political activism. Get involved. Give a talk on an issue that is close to your heart!

8. Put you shingle on your heart! Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Be human! Initiate a community platform, either through a church organization, volunteer and community service organization, or business; to give your community organization authority, presence and respect that supports your meaning and purpose. We began the Mustard Seed Inn and B&B. You could run for political office, or the school board, or join a peace and justice organization, or a group with an affinity toward community and social justice issues (Franciscans, the Catholic Worker, the Canticle Farm CSA or POCLAD.

9. Motivate people to help them realize their interdependence! Start a small community group and network with like minded people, and learn through them how to refine your value system. We began a weekly Short Story Reading and Discussion Group at our house after a course we enjoyed on short stories. We also began First Fridays. There are Book Groups at the local public library. All these ideas help engage oneself with our common humanity, and help each of us better understand each other and the world we live in, and what really is important.

10. Take some risks! Encourage everyone to participate in community life. Help identify people’s interests and skills, and support them unconditionally in their passions. Learn from people who have special abilities and are different from you. Buy local! Support family run businesses.

11. Provide vision and purpose to the group and to the community! Get the group to participate in a community oriented-civic minded project. We are considering as I mentioned, working on a local Habitat project, and studying the feasibility of beginning a community farm share farm in our area.

12. Think outside the box! Take courses at the local university and continue to learn. We have taken humanities and history courses at Alfred University, and Alfred State College (SUNY), our local colleges, and are considering courses in agriculture and community economics. These courses teach us about alternatives we never quite imagined in our lives. There is a great book called ‘Deep Economy’ which gives other ideas on alternative community economics.

In summary, First Fridays uses a variety of programs to achieve its goals: speakers on community oriented topics, letters to the editor, communication with elected officials, radio interviews with First Friday speakers on topics addressed at meetings, prayer vigils, protest events, study groups on topics to better understand the market based global economy, and the dominate pervasive presence of the corporation in our lives, participation in village and town meetings, articles in the newspapers on First Friday topics, support of local grassroots community oriented organizations, i.e. Habitat for Humanity, Canticle Farm CSA, development of alternatives to the global market based economy, like renewable energy, alternatives to the justice system in defusing disputes and disagreements and bringing about peace through direct non-violent service to others.

We encourage all of you to find your inner self through participating with others to help build local community, and in so doing turn the course of history to a more amenable place to coexist and enjoy the beauty, goodness and kindness available at the grassroots level of community. We encourage you to open your consciousness, develop you conscience and participate in community life at a new level. We are not meant to live in isolation nor in fear nor as individuals. We are designed to live with others at a basic level of interdependence and understanding. We are designed to participate in community!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Virginia Rasmussen: The Politics of Sustainability

Many thanks to Virginia Rasmussen for the wonderful talk she gave Friday evening!

Comments on "The Politics of Sustainability"
Presented at Green Fest, Ithaca, NY, August 10, 2007
Virginia Rasmussen, Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy

I appreciate the invitation to be with you tonight and, in particular, to have had an opportunity to explore, deliberately, the matter of sustainability politics. Surely, this will be at the root of our capacity to live sustainably. The suggestions I offer tonight are quite grand in sound and vision, yet must become, I believe, a very practical part of our work in the years ahead. If it is our intention:

* to adopt ecological technologies,
* to recognize and live within the limits of a finite planet,
* to bring the fairness, justice, restraint, and community as well as citizen rights, all essential to sustainability, then a new kind of political process is required, one we've barely begun to consider.

Common sense tells us that a systemic, FUNDAMENTAL response is needed to address the ecological and social breakdown enveloping us. Yet many struggling in environmental and social change work continue doing what we have always done:
* dealing with an issue here and an issue there;
* confident we know the nature of the problem, we work hard and yet harder on a playing field we did not build, using rules we did not write -- rules that are solidly stacked against us;
* we've gone on ad nauseum at times, describing in fuller and fuller detail the old problems and then the new problems and then the newest problems...

Not that it's easy getting to these roots! Daily we face forces of denial more brazen, more militant than ever.
(1) insidious religious doctrines that foster dangerous ignorance and superstition
(2) ever-growing corporate rule that denies us any access to the power of decision-making and governance.
(3) and a virulent patriotic ideology that makes one shudder.

This is a tough reality to try to change. Bill Moyers pointed out that when "ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind." And getting the blind to change directions is even tougher than getting the bad to do so!

So, how might a sustainable politics break into this seemingly vicious downward spiral?

I'm going to suggest four basic aspects of our cultural-political lives that I think require great focus and evolution if this search for a sustainable politics is to reward us. They are, each one, about RELATIONSHIP within the work of GOVERNING OURSELVES. We'll have to address each of them, because the one we do not address will undo any gains in the other three. Each is politically fundamental to the creation of sustainable communities and the sustainable lives of those who dwell in them.

None is new to you. Some effort in each has already begun. But there is great need to bring these basic aspects of political life up front, provoke rethinking and a dedication to these four tightly connected, determining aspects of any sustainable future.

Let me state them briefly at the outset:

First, can we bring up front, include in our work and conversation, the fact of our present dominator, patriarchal, industrial worldview that drives us inevitably toward inequality, violence, war, and earth destruction. Only a tireless commitment to comprehend, counter and change it will stand us a chance.

Second, an alternative world view is inadequate in itself to the task of evolving a sustainable politics. That worldview must find its expression in REAL democratic processes. Is it possible that through our work and conversation, the fraud that is our current so-called "democracy" can be made clear to an entrenched, indifferent middle class, along with a will to build the real thing, a radical democracy?

Third, what good will establishing a radical democracy do us if we can't sustain it through our capacity to DO democracy? Might we bring up front in our work, our teachings, a valuing and learning of the arts and skills of DOING democracy?

And fourth... What good will our capacity to make skillful democratic decisions within a people-centered democracy do us, if we have no AUTHORITY as We the People, to put those decisions into policy, law, governance?

In the time we have, let me elaborate briefly on each of these fundamental aspects of the work ahead.

A sustainable politics calls on us, in the words of Adrienne Rich, "to understand the assumptions in which we are drenched." This is prerequisite to knowing ourselves and being able to change ourselves. The present dominator, patriarchal (industrial, anti-ecological, war-culture, anti-democratic) worldview, too long with us, and too little acknowledged, will block and then annihilate every sustainable measure and attitude we place in its ferocious grip.

We have to pull this conversation into the forefront of most every issue we take on, government and corporate, community and even personal . That wrong-headed worldview defines who we believe WE are, it TELLS us what OUR nature is, who we think we CAN be with one another and the earth. As long as we do not hit head-on this limiting, frankly terminal, dominant worldview, we will continue to see human beings as what that worldview assumes us to be: primarily individualistic, acquisitive, selfish, competitive, and generally quite nasty. Of course, that serves those who want to rule over us; if we're that crummy, we BETTER have strong and powerful rulers to keep everyone sufficiently at bay from everyone else.

I share the resolute view of Anne Scales, in her book "The Emergence of a Feminist Jurisprudence," when she says: "It is insane at the end of the 20th Century to adhere to the belief that people are innately horrid and can do no better. Rather we must recognize that our fears -- of contingency, of dependency, of unimportance -- have put us on a suicidal path."
* But what good will this nearly opposite worldview and assumptions about ourselves do us in regard to sustainability politics unless we apply it within a very different understanding of democracy. Many minds in this country have been falsely, intentionally colonized with untruths about democracy.

In "The Populist Moment, a work by Lawrence Goodwyn, he claims that "we are culturally confused and cannot even imagine our confusion. ...we are culturally organized by our society not to rebel... not to understand protest..." and most importantly, "not to understand the prerequisites of democracy itself."

Might we be able to help ourselves and others
decolonize our minds and promote an understanding of and commitment to radical democracy, which means nothing more than the REAL thing, people REALLY ruling themselves.

Democracy, according to C. Douglas Lummis in his book Radical Democracy, is not a kind of government, but an end of government. It's an ideal, a project, "the art of the possible," a "performance art." He sees radical democracy as "an adventure of human beings creating with their own hands the conditions for their own freedom... it's a way in which people order their lives together, through discussion and common action, on principles of equality and justice."

Democracy is NOT what so many have come to believe in this country:
* It is "not handing your power over to people in exchange for promises." Political parties have a role in education, but they do not make the people's decisions.
* it's not "just rulers looking out for people's welfare," it's about people ruling themselves;
* it's not "economic development or a stage of development;" it's a form of political rule
* it's not the "free" market or "free trade," deceptive language for global corporate rights law that divides society into rich and poor and is utterly inappropriate to democracy;
* it's not the U.S. Constitutional system which was opposed by radical democrats of the time as putting too much power at the center and giving too much power to the rich;
* it's not free elections, although that can play a democratic role;
* it's not allowing the people to have their say; the "right to dissent is not power, it is not the right to decide."

Can we bring these wrong, even dangerous perceptions of democracy up front for people, and begin to shape the REAL thing for ourselves?

Establishing radical democracy is not "some leap of consciousness into an uncharted future" assures Lummis. "Rather it only means returning to a natural attitude. Our challenge is to break the ideological bonds that prevent us from assuming that natural attitude of democratic common sense."

Democracy IS in our nature, says Lummis. We CAN be a primarily community-based, cooperative, less material and radically democratic species.
* Since a sustainable politics requires that radical democracy be made real, then the skills necessary to DO Democracy, to DO the "art of the possible," must also be made real, become part of our teaching and learning. This rarely happens...

We hear about the value of diversity, the importance of inclusion and participation. But how often do we hear these values presented in the context of doing democracy, of governing ourselves successfully?

When do we learn how to set an agenda and facilitate a meeting that people are glad they attended; are eager to return to in order to continue the conversation and mutual learning that can lead to smart decision-making?

When do we learn the skills of communication necessary to share knowledge and opinion with one another in a way that can be heard, that works for the group and truly adds to the social learning essential to self-governance?

When do we learn the skills of decision-making without losers, where everyone gets to participate and be a part of the outcome? How long will we settle for Robert's Rules of Patriarchal Order????

--And conflicts? We need them. They're natural. Dealing with them usefully teaches us new things and brings us to a better, wiser place. How many people learn conflict resolution as part of the art of conducting our lives, much less governing ourselves? Without an appreciation of conflict and some skills to make the most of conflict, many stifle their voices and others prevail by aggressively filling the void. This disempowers individuals, the group, the society.

Organizing and planning skills -- who learns them? How do we form a group? Set goals? Determine priorities. Hold an event? Address accountability? Learn how to evaluate our work along the way and on its completion? Gain support from others for our efforts? How can we ever do democracy and govern ourselves if we never learn organizing for self-governance 101?

All of this must be learned and practiced and called what it MOST IMPORTANTLY IS -- the art of self and mutual governing. Do some of us have natural gifts in these skills and arts? Of course. Does that mean we hand our power over to the people with "the gifts?" Whose agenda will we then be subject to? Yes, those people get to use their gifts on our behalf. All the more important that we stay involved and participate where and how we can?

Every educational setting -- classrooms, organizations, municipal boards, etc. should be a forum for learning and respecting the art and skills of democracy.

* And lastly, a sustainable politics requires that those decisions we make with our democratic skills and mutual work be implemented through a governing system that puts the people in charge. That is, We the People must have the AUTHORITY to govern ourselves.

And let's be clear... from the days of the Constitution on, we have NOT had that authority, despite all the mind control and colonization that sends the message -- that this is a democracy and we people rule. Of course, not everyone continues to fall for the standard "line" about our so-called "democracy:" A friend recently caught sight of a bumpersticker... "Watch Out or We'll Bring Democracy to Your Country!"

Nonetheless, our Constitution hangs on to its unchallenged, unquestioned place of reverence; most people know little about those passages written by its authors to keep democracy OUT of the picture!
There is positive content in that Constitution. We must know of it, use it and build on it:< >--- never before was a nation established on a set of agreements...
--- the system of checks and balances is brilliant and intended to serve vital objectives in a democratic set up, .... CURRENTLY BEING THROWN RIGHT OUT THE WINDOW!
--- every state was guaranteed a Republican form of government...

BUT, where legal authority over economic and political life is concerned, the framers wrote a Constitution that protected the propertied few from the many with ease. the Constitution's principal author, James Madison, saw to it that political and economic structures "would protect the opulent minority against the majority."

So the "Founding Fathers" designed a plan of governance that sanctified the individual and the rights and protections of property; not the community and the rights and protections of persons.

Even though there was no mention of corporations in the C'n, the propertied class used the property bias of the Constitution to hone the corporate form as its vehicle to concentrate wealth and legal power, a scheme generously assisted by judges and courts over the 19th and 20th century. Whatever business wanted, business got; business practice and malpractice simply turned into law.

Property's legal protections turned into all kinds of legal POWER OVER people, communities and the earth.

These rights of property gave to the corporate form control over production, investment, the organization of work and the development and diffusion of technology. This is control over our economic life and whoever controls economic life also controls political life.

Not content with that, corporate boards realized that the designation of the corporation as a person under the law would gain them legal PROTECTIONS FROM the people through the Bill of Rights, intended to protect REAL people from denials of free speech, assembly, search and seizure rights, etc.

So we arrive at today's corporations, able to do most anything they wish, and it's ALL PERFECTLY LEGAL, because they saw to the writing of the law, the shaping of policy, the defining of every debate, the election, in so many instances, of THEIR FAVORITE candidates:

What they do is the stuff of governing, it represents historical takings of powers that belong to people. But here's some good news: because this crisis is systemic, the problems are being driven right down to the local level, where the way is open for the development of NEW approaches.

People in their communities are beginning to take their right to govern themselves seriously. They are waging the struggle to shift the cultures of their communities and rewrite law to serve people and PUBLIC authority, not property and CORPORATE authority.

They are changing the law by challenging existing law, recognizing that democracy is without meaning when corporations have constitutional powers to deny to people the democratic process.

More and more communities are no longer exhausting themselves in the regulatory maze. Instead they are educating themselves, organizing, making decisions together and passing their own laws that ban corporations from owning farmland, from dumping sludge on farmland, from giving money to candidates or referenda within their jurisdictions, from planting GE crops, from placing any more BIG BOX stores in their jurisdictions; communities are extending rights and protections to nature, and denying them to corporations.

These people are reframing their issues in terms of democracy and rights, no longer in terms of regulating corporate harms and haggling over permits to pollute. They are building a movement to drive self-governance into communities all over the country and eventually, into the Constitution itself.

While it's true that sustainable politics requires our possessing the rights and the law to govern ourselves, all the good law in service to people and public authority, should we acquire it, will not survive without attaining a level of success in the other three fundamentals of a sustainable politics: a new partnership or post-patriarchal worldview and accompanying assumptions; a deeper understanding of democracy as radical democracy; and the capacity to DO democracy by respecting, learning and practicing its arts and skills.

It's a tall order, but all of this work is underway. Let's be deliberate in joining it at every opportunity.

Award for Protecting Old Growth White Pines

Ranger Michael Liu of the Finger Lakes National Forest received an award at Green Fest from Gudrun Scott on behalf of "We the People" for his decision last fall to preserve a grove of ancient white pines in the forest. Above, Ranger Liu discusses white pine ecology.

Friday, August 10, 2007

2007 Green Fest Schedule

Here is our updated schedule for the weekend:

Friday, August 10, 2007
2:00 — Check-in for Camping sites at Cayuta Sun
At Community School, Ithaca
6:30 — Registration
7:00 — Opening and welcome
7:15 — 9:00 pm - The Politics of Sustainability
Art Weaver, Renovus Energy, "Social Change and Its Connection to Renewable Energy", Virginia Rasmussen, Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy, Dan Hill, Cayuga Nation rep to the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force

Saturday, August 11, 2007
At Cayuta Sun Permaculture Homestead
7:00 am — Sunrise Yoga with Ann Eagan, Sunnyside, NY
8:30 am — Early Bird Workshop: Baking in an Earth Oven
Lois Hilton, Tickletown Trade, Great Valley, NY
Elizabeth Thompson, Allegany, NY
10:00 am — Opening and welcome
10:15 am — Grassroots Organizing for Sustainability
Gay Nicholson, Sustainable Tompkins, Ithaca, NY
Anthony and Mary Lipnicki, First Fridays, Andover, NY
10:15 am — Cob for Kids Workshop
11:45 am — Building a Local Food Network
Lois Hilton, Tickletown Trade food coop, Great Valley, NY
Matt Glenn, Muddy Fingers CSA, Ithaca Farmers Market
Michele Danels, East New York Food Co-op, Brooklyn
Josh Dolan, EcoCity Ithaca
11:45 am — Job Free Living
Ed Haffmans and JoAnn Myers, Accord, NY
1:00 pm — Lunch, Blues by Deborah Magone
1:45 pm — Permaculture Workshop
Michael Burns and Steve Gabriel, Finger Lakes Permaculture
1:45 pm — Living off the Grid
Steve Nicholson, Ithaca
Tony Moretti, Hammondsort
3:00 pm — Make Your Own Wind Turbine
Barry Miller, Hinsdale
3:00 pm — Getting Media Access for Alternative Viewpoints
Sander Hicks, VoxPop, Brooklyn
Bill Huston, Binghamton
Carl Lawrence, Producer, Green Vision, BCAT, Brooklyn
Deborah Magone, Green Cable Producer, Rochester
4:15 pm — Native Earthling Band on Solar Stage
6:00 pm — Dinner, Ki-tun Band
7:00 pm — Liberation Ecology: Refusing to Choose Between
Social Justice and Sustainability, Rafter T. Sass
9:00 pm — Burning Hearts Band

Sunday, August 12, 2007
At Ithaca Commons, downtown Ithaca
10:00 am — Opening
10:15 am — Green Roof Demonstration
Lexie Hain, Motherplants, Ithaca NY
11:00 am — Building New Media Outlets
Ilonka Wloch, Positive News, Ithaca
Craig Seeman, Third Planet Video
Cyril Mychalejko, Upside Down World, Vermont
12:00 noon — Political Songs by Peacesmiths
1:00 pm — Creating Change through Third Party Electoral Politics
Howie Hawkins, 2006 Green Party candidate for US Senate
SKCM Curry, 2008 candidate for Green Party Vice President
Anthony Gronowicz, author Grand Illusion: American Democracy, New York, NY
Jason Nabewaniec, Co-Chair, Green Party US, Batavia, NY
2:30 pm — Campus Organizing for Sustainability
Ethan Rainwater, Cornell Sustainability
Peter LaVenia, Albany U Campus Greens
3:45 pm — Closing

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Photos of Cayuta Sun

Great photos of Cayuta Sun by Simon Wheeler accompanied the Ithaca Journal article on Green Fest.

Ithaca Journal Features Green Fest

Green Fest to attract over 100 this weekend
Lessons on permaculture, sustainability and local food on agenda

By Jennie Daley
Journal Staff

CAYUTAVILLE — From pine grove to meeting room, such are the conversions under way at a Cayutaville homestead preparing to host this weekend's Green Fest.

Billed as a sustainability-focused weekend that also will serve as a fundraiser for the Green Party, Green Fest will span three days with two of them based in Ithaca and Saturday's happenings at the Cayuta Sun homestead.

The home of Elmira school teacher Michael Burns and his fiancée, Kelly Dietz, Cayuta Sun has been a five-year project for Burns that started as an empty lot. It now is home to the two-story, highly energy efficient house Burns built with a contractor, gardens, chickens and two geese. The newest addition is an almost finished, double outhouse for campers who will be using the homestead as a base for the weekend.
Where all these features were placed and how they are used is based on permaculture principles. Created as a set of design guidelines, permaculture aims to maximize natural efficiencies. For instance, permaculture principles would encourage someone to put their gardens between the house and where they park so they pass by it often, rather than sticking the garden in an inconvenient corner of the yard.

Yet permaculture lessons will only be one part of a busy weekend. Workshops will touch on a range of topics including cooking with a solar oven, constructing your own wind turbine, the politics of sustainability and building a local food network.

Organizers are expecting more than 100 people to attend from all areas of the state, including Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse and New York City. Already in town and helping with set up is Michele Danels, a local food organizer and community gardener in East New York, which is an impoverished edge of Brooklyn.

“When I heard about this I said ‘I'm in.' People are really depressed about what's happening in the world, and this offers hope,” Danels said.

Working along with Danels Tuesday was Rachel Treichler, a former Green Party candidate and an organizer of the 2003 Green Fest. Triechler has been spearheading this year's efforts and said they decided to be more ambitious with this summer's agenda after the positive reception they received four years ago.

This year's events begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday at The Community School of Music and Art, 330 E. State St. All events Saturday will be at Cayuta Sun, 2962 S. Swamp Road, and events Sunday will begin at 10 a.m. at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on The Commons.

The cost for Friday and Saturday is $35, including lunch and dinner Saturday. There is an added fee for camping.

With the schedule set and the sites coming together, now all the organizers have to do is figure out how to feed those 100-plus people. One menu item was easy for them to settle on, locally grown salad.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Lois Hilton's Earth Oven

Lois Hilton (in orange), Elizabeth Thompson (holding child) and their fellow oven builders at last summer's Earth Oven Festival at Tickletown Trust & Trade in Humphrey, New York. Lois and Elizabeth are leading our Earth Oven Baking Workshop at Green Fest, Saturday, August 11 at 8:30 am.

Getting Around Downtown Ithaca

Below is a map of downtown Ithaca showing the location of the Bernie Milton pavilion in the Ithaca Commons, the Community School at 330 East State St., and parking garages in the area. Click on the map to enlarge. Click here for driving directions to the Commons.

The Ithaca bus terminal is located in downtown Ithaca at the corner of W. State St. and N. Fulton St. (Route 13 South). It is six blocks walking east on State Street from the Ithaca Bus Station to the Ithaca Commons and nine blocks walking east on State Street (through the Commons, which is closed to vehicular traffic) to the Community School at 330 East State St. It is not possible to drive east on State St, because the street is one way the other way. Drivers should take Greene St. from the bus station to the Commons or the Community School.

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) buses service Ithaca and the surrounding areas. Routes 14 and 21 connect the Commons with the Ithaca bus terminal on the weekend. Click here for TCAT weekend service map.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Activists Share Sustainability Skills

Activists from across the state will gather Aug 10-12 for a weekend sharing sustainability skills and visions at NY Green Fest. Workshops at locations in Ithaca and Cayutaville will address how to build a small wind turbine, bake in an earth oven, build a green roof, live off the grid, practice permaculture, live job free, build local food networks, practice liberation ecology, build new media outlets, and use third party politics to effect social change. Green Fest has been organized by an ad-hoc group to promote sustainability and is a benefit for the Green Party of New York. The festival is open to all who are interested in sustainable living and sustainable politics.

Exhibitors include VoxPop, the Climate Change Action Group of Central New York, Democracy School, Farm Sanctuary, SOA Watch, Cures not Wars, the Citizens Environmental Coalition, Eco Books, the Shopping Bag Action group, Sustainable Tompkins, Community Energy, Indigo Summer, MyshellaZ Art, Joey Gates henna body art, a veggie car and a small wind turbine. Musicians include the Native Earthling Band playing on their solar-powered stage, Deborah Magone, Dan Hill, the Peacesmiths and Burnin' Hearts.

The weekend offers many opportunities for sharing visions of sustainability.

Green Fest begins Friday evening, August 10, with a program on the politics of sustainability at the Community School auditorium, 330 E. State St., Ithaca from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Three speakers will address the power relationships that promote sustainability. Art Weaver from Renovus Energy in Ithaca, will speak on social change and its connection to renewable energy, Virginia Rasmussen from Alfred, a founder of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy, will speak on the politics of sustainability, and Dan Hill, the Cayuga Nation representative to the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force, will speak on sustainability for the long term. Dan will open and close the program with native flute music.

Saturday’s programs take place at Cayuta Sun, an off-the-grid permaculture homestead at 2962 Swamp Rd. in Cayutaville, 15 miles southwest of Ithaca. The workshops begin at 8:30 am with a bread baking workshop in the earth oven at Cayuta Sun lead by Lois Hilton from Tickletown Trust & Trade in Humphrey. Lois will also join Saturday’s panel on building a local food network, along with Matthew Glenn from Muddy Fingers Farm in Hector, editor of Southern Tier Farm to You Local Food Directory, Gwen Quigley from Keuka Cookin’ in Bath, Josh Dolan from EcoCity Ithaca and Michele Danels from East New York Farms in Brooklyn.

Living job free living and minimizing the need for money with ecological frugality and resourcefulness will be presented by Ed Haffmans and JoAnn Myers from the Catskills. A permaculture workshop will be conducted by Michael Burns and Steve Gabriel from the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute. Grassroots organizing for sustainability is the topic discussed by Gay Nicholson from Sustainable Tompkins, Mike Sellars, Mayor of Cobleskill, from Sustainable Cobleskill, and Tony and Mary Lipnicki, the founders of a monthly discussion group in Andover, NY. Two off-grid pioneers, Steve Nicholson from Ithaca and Tony Moretti from Hammondsport will offer advice on living off-the-grid.

How to build a small wind turbine will be demonstrated Saturday afternoon by Barry Miller, a mechanical engineer from Hinsdale, New York. Barry has spent 20 years in the wind energy business. For nine years he operated a wind farm in Altamont Pass west of San Franciso. Four media activists, Sander Hicks from Brooklyn, Carl Lawrence from Brooklyn, Bill Huston from Binghamton and Deborah Magone from Rochester will discuss getting media access for alternative viewpoints. Carl, Bill and Deborah produce cable access television programs. Sander is editor, publisher and reporter of New York Megaphone, the founder of Soft Skull Press and the proprietor of Vox Pop bookstore.

Saturday evening Rafter Sass will present ideas for a Liberation Ecology. His topic is refusing to choose between social justice and sustainability. Rafter lives and works at the Germantown Community Farm, a collectively-run community food security project in the Hudson River Valley.

A Cob for Kids workshop will run throughout the day on Saturday. Lunch and dinner including local foods will be served on Saturday. Sunrise yoga at 7:00 am with Ann Eagan from Sunnyside, Queens begins the day. Deborah Magone will perform gutsy blues at 1:00 pm. The Native Earthling Band will perform from 4:30 to 6:00 pm, and Burnin' Hearts will perform in the evening.

On Sunday, August 12, Green Fest moves to the Ithaca Commons in downtown Ithaca with a series of speakers and musicians at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the center of the Commons. Lexie Hain from Motherplants will show how to make a green roof. Ilonka Wloch, the editor of Positive News in Ithaca, Craig Seeman from Third Planet Video in Brooklyn, and Cyril Mychalejko from Upside Down World in Vermont will discuss building new media outlets that address sustainability issues. Helene Williams, Susan Blake and Leonard Lehrman from Peacesmiths will perform political songs.

Using third party electoral activism to foster social change and challenge the underpinnings of corporate power will be discussed by Howie Hawkins, SKCM Curry, Tony Gronowicz and Jason Nabewaniec. Howie was the 2006 Green Party candidate for US Senate from New York and is a current candidate for Syracuse Common Council. Tony Gronowicz, the 2005 Green Party candidate for Mayor of New York City, teaches at the City University of New York. His most recent book is Grand Illusion: American Democracy from its Roots to the Present. Jason Nabewaniec from Batavia is a Co-Chair of the Green Party US. Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry from Los Angeles is a Green Party candidate for Vice President of the US.

Sunday’s program concludes with a discussion of campus organizing for sustainability led by Ethan Rainwater, Sustainability Intern at Cornell University, Peter LaVenia from the Albany University Campus Greens, and Krista Carlson, a student at Alfred University.

$35 admission for Friday and Saturday, includes Saturday lunch and dinner, Sunday free. Camping available for an additional charge. Green Fest is a benefit for the Green Party of New York. For a detailed schedule, directions, registration forms and more information, visit or call 607-569-2114.