Sunday, February 28, 2010

Call for Constitutional Convention in PA

If and when we become much more organized in Ohio, this may be something worth replicating.


The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
P.O. Box 2016 Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 17201

February 20, 2010

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ben Price Projects Director 717-254-323

Attached: The Chambersburg Declaration (see next e-mail)

Laying the Groundwork for a People’s Constitutional Convention
Pennsylvania Community Rights Network Launched

To organize a people’s convention of delegates, representing municipal communities, who will propose constitutional changes to secure the inalienable right to local, community self-government free of state and corporate preemption.

Chambersburg, PA (February 20, 2010)

Citizens from more than a dozen counties met in Chambersburg on Saturday, February 20th , to initiate plans to convene a Pennsylvania People’s Constitutional Convention made up of delegates from municipalities across the state.

The Community Rights Network Conference brought together men and women who have struggled for years to assert the rights of citizens to protect the health, welfare and environment of their communities, only to be met with a barrage of legislative preemptions and threats of corporate lawsuits. “Not one of our 12.5 million Pennsylvanians enjoys the fundamental right to self-government in the communities where they live,” commented Ben Price, Projects Director for the Legal Defense Fund. “In January 2008, attorney general Tom Corbett’s office declared in Commonwealth Court that ‘there is no inalienable right to local self-government.’ Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly think he’s wrong, and it’s time for our Constitution to reflect the will of the people,” Price said.

The day-long conference was the first opportunity for many of these local organizers to meet and share their experiences. Describing their townships and boroughs as “resource colonies for corporations” and “sacrifice zones” for waste haulers, they concluded their deliberations by pledging to become Community Rights Networkers, and by issuing the Chambersburg Declaration, which presents the case for building a community-driven movement for constitutional change to guarantee local self-governing rights that protect the rights of all Pennsylvanians, not just the privileges of corporations and their limited-liability beneficiaries.

The Networkers pledged to quickly implement the first steps of a campaign to create a people’s movement for community rights. They will be hosting neighborhood discussions, scheduling Democracy School seminars that unveil the legal checks on democracy that prevent people from exercising their rights to protect their quality of life in the places where they live, and by urging their municipalities to appoint delegates to form an organizing committee as the first step toward convening a People’s Constitutional Convention.

Over the past few years, more than a dozen communities across Pennsylvania have adopted local self-governance ordinances that challenge the authority of the state to preempt local decision-making on behalf of corporations. In response, the state and corporations have conspired to adopt anti-democratic legislation that preempts local decision-making, and have used the courts to sue a handful of these municipalities. Some cases have been dismissed, some communities have prevailed and others are ongoing, but state agencies, municipal solicitors, state legislators and corporate lawyers have erected a legal fortress to protect corporate privileges against democratic governance at the community level.

Over the past year, the Legal Defense Fund staff have discussed the need to bring together all of the communities they have worked with across Pennsylvania to decide on next steps in the struggle for community governing rights. The goal is to build a statewide movement to drive the right to local self-government into the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The need for constitutional change has been recognized by a growing number of people and organizations across the state. Of highest importance to the convening of any constitutional convention are the manner of its convening, the scope of its powers and the choosing of delegates.

The Pennsylvania Constitution recognizes that “All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.” (Article I, Section 2) It also cautions us “To guard against the transgressions of the high powers which we have delegated, we declare that everything in this article is excepted out of the general powers of government and shall forever remain inviolate.” (Article I, Section 25) And yet, the legislature and courts, to whom we, the people, have delegated high powers, claim that the “inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper” may be exercised by the people only if and when the legislature places a question on the ballot to call for a convention or to allow the people to adopt an amendment proposed by the very government the people want to alter, reform or abolish.

The Pennsylvania Community Networking Conference marks a significant turning point in the struggle for community rights, and the Chambersburg Declaration is a common-sense assessment of the obstacles to Pennsylvanians realizing their aspirations right there in the communities where they live. Placing a constitutional convention in the hands of real people representing their municipal communities is the innovative solution that is needed.

In 1776, when Pennsylvania revolutionaries drafted the first state constitution, they asserted that:
“all government ought to be instituted and supported for the security and protection of the community as such…government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation or community; and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single man, family, or set of men, who are only part of that community: And…the community hath an indubitable, unalienable and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish government in such manner as shall be by that community judged most conducive to the public weal.”

It is time to realize those principled aspirations.

~ 30 ~

The Chambersburg Declaration

By the Undersigned in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on
Saturday, February 20th, 2010

We declare:

- That the political, legal, and economic systems of the United States allow, in each generation, an elite few to impose policy and governing decisions that threaten the very survival of human and natural communities;

- That the goal of those decisions is to concentrate wealth and greater governing power through the exploitation of human and natural communities, while promoting the belief that such exploitation is necessary for the common good;

- That the survival of our communities depends on replacing this system of governance by the privileged with new community-based democratic decision-making systems;

- That environmental and economic sustainability can be achieved only when the people affected by governing decisions are the ones who make them;

- That, for the past two centuries, people have been unable to secure economic and environmental sustainability primarily through the existing minority-rule system, laboring under the myth that we live in a democracy;

- That most reformers and activists have not focused on replacing the current system of elite decision-making with a democratic one, but have concentrated merely on lobbying the factions in power to make better decisions; and

- That reformers and activists have not halted the destruction of our human or natural communities because they have viewed economic and environmental ills as isolated problems, rather than as symptoms produced by the absence of democracy.

Therefore, let it be resolved:

- That a people’s movement must be created with a goal of revoking the authority of the corporate minority to impose political, legal, and economic systems that endanger our human and natural communities;

- That such a movement shall begin in the municipal communities of Pennsylvania;

- That we, the people, must transform our individual community struggles into new frameworks of law that dismantle the existing undemocratic systems while codifying new, sustainable systems;

- That such a movement must grow and accelerate through the work of people in all municipalities to raise the profile of this work at state and national levels;

- That when corporate and governmental decision-makers challenge the people’s right to assert local, community self-governance through passage of municipal law, the people, through their municipal governments, must openly and frontally defy those legal and political doctrines that subordinate the rights of the people to the privileges of a few;

- That those doctrines include preemption, subordination of municipal governments; bestowal of constitutional rights upon corporations, and relegating ecosystems to the status of property;

- That those communities in defiance of rights-denying law must join with other communities in our state and across the nation to envision and build new state and federal constitutional structures that codify new, rights-asserting systems of governance;

- That Pennsylvania communities have worked for more than a decade to advance those new systems and, therefore, have the responsibility to become the first communities to call for a new state constitutional structure; and

- That now, this 20th day of February, 2010, the undersigned pledge to begin that work, which will drive the right to local, community self-government into the Pennsylvania Constitution, thus liberating Pennsylvania communities from the legal and political doctrines that prevent them from building economically and environmentally sustainable communities.

That a Call Issues from this Gathering:

- To create a network of people committed to securing the right to local, community self-government, the reversal of political, legal, and cultural doctrines that interfere with that right, and the creation of a new system and doctrines that support that right;

- To call upon the people and elected officials across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to convene a larger gathering of delegates representing their municipal communities, who will propose constitutional changes to secure the right of local, community self-government; and

- To create the people’s movement that will result in these changes to the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Founding Signers,

- Bill Belitskus – McKean County, Hamlin Township
- Mary Belitskus – McKean County, Hamlin Township
- Martin Boksenbaum – Northampton County, Lehigh Township
- Lori Cooper – Northampton County, Lehigh Township
- Bonnie Glose – Carbon County, Bowmanstown Borough
- John Liddle – Schuylkill County, Norwegian Township
- Kathleen Liddle – Schuylkill County, Norwegian Township
- John Dunphy – Montgomery County, Cheltenham Township
- Monica Liggins – Montgomery County, Cheltenham Township
- Joe Martin – McKean County, Foster Township
- Diane Martin – McKean County, Foster Township
- Joe Norley – Chester County, West Chester Borough
- Maria Payan – York County, Peach Bottom Township
- Cathy Pedler – Erie County, Erie Township
- Lisa Pignataro – Northampton County
- Kara Scott – Carbon County, Bowmanstown Borough
- Marva Simon Iano – Montgomery County, Cheltenham Township
- Vicki Smedley – Lycoming County, Nippenose Township
- Bob Stanley – Lancaster County, Mt. Joy Township
- Fred Walls – Franklin County, St. Thomas Township
- Pat Walls – Franklin County, St. Thomas Township
- John Wolf – Lancaster County, Mt Joy Township
- Ben Price – Cumberland County, North Middleton Township
- Stacey Schmader – Franklin County, Guilford Township
- Shireen Parsons – Carbon County, Summit Hill Borough
- Cathy Miorelli – Schuylkill County, Tamaqua Borough
- Chris Morrison – Schuylkill County, Tamaqua Borough

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Only 21% Say U.S. Government Has Consent of the Governed

It’s not big government per se than people are angry about. It’s big government in cahoots with big business. This new poll is well worth reading.

Only 21% Say U.S. Government Has Consent of the Governed
Thursday, February 18, 2010

The founding document of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Today, however, just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 61% disagree and say the government does not have the necessary consent. Eighteen percent (18%) of voters are not sure.

However, 63% of the Political Class think the government has the consent of the governed, but only six percent (6%) of those with Mainstream views agree.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of all voters now view the federal government as a special interest group, and 70% believe that the government and big business typically work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors.

That helps explain why 75% of voters are angry at the policies of the federal government, and 63% say it would be better for the country if most members of Congress are defeated this November. Just 27% believe their own representative in Congress is the best person for the job.

Among voters under 40, 25% believe government has the consent of the governed. That compares to 19% of those ages 50 to 64 and 16% of the nation’s senior citizens.

Those who earn more than $100,000 a year are more narrowly divided on the question, but those with lower incomes overwhelming reject the notion that today’s government has the consent from which to derive its just authority. Those with the lowest incomes are the most skeptical.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) of Republicans say the government does not have the consent of the governed, and that view is shared by 65% of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties. A plurality of Democrats (44%) agrees, but 32% of those in President Obama’s party believe the government has the necessary consent.
From an ideological perspective, most moderate and conservative voters say the government lacks the consent of the governed. Liberals are evenly divided.

In his new book, In Search of Self-Governance, Scott Rasmussen observes that the American people are “united in the belief that our political system is broken, that politicians are corrupt, and that neither major political party has the answers.” He adds that “the gap between Americans who want to govern themselves and the politicians who want to rule over them may be as big today as the gap between the colonies and England during the 18th century.”

The book has earned positive reviews from Larry Sabato, Pat Caddell, Bill Kristol, Joe Trippi and others. In Search of Self-Governance is available from Rasmussen Reports and at

Sixty percent (60%) of voters think that neither Republican political leaders nor Democratic political leaders have a good understanding of what is needed today.

Thirty-five percent (35%) say Republicans and Democrats are so much alike that an entirely new political party is needed to represent the American people.

Nearly half of all voters believe that people randomly selected from the phone book could do as good a job as the current Congress.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Organizational Responses to Citizens United decision

Adopted by the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, February 8, 2010

A fundamental Friends belief is that every person has inherent worth and dignity regardless of religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, income, gender, physical ability or sexual orientation. Humans have the capacity for emotion, imagination, awareness, self-reflection, empathy, aspirations, reason, creativity, responsibility and more. Every human being possesses inalienable rights simply by being human. Government laws and constitutions have affirmed many of these rights.

Corporations are not human and possess no human traits. They have no inalienable rights. They are entities, chartered by the State, with a purpose to serve the public by providing goods and/or services. They are nothing more than a set of legal documents much like deeds, wills and other warrants.

Historically, corporations were created to be subordinate to human persons. The State can revoke a corporate charter if it does not follow its terms.

Despite the recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs FEC, granting corporations greater political free speech powers to contribute to political campaigns and despite past Supreme Court decisions granting corporations the same legal status as living, breathing human beings, rights reserved exclusively for human beings under the Bill of Rights and other sections of the US Constitution should not apply to corporations.

Corporations are not persons. Equating the two is not only a perversion of laws and constitutions but a usurpation of self-governance and perversion of life itself.

The Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker-based social action organization that educates, advocates and organizes on justice, peace and self-governance.



Campaign to Legalize Democracy / Move to Amend

Alliance for Democracy

Reclaim Democracy

Progressive Democrats of America

Common Cause

League of Women Voters of the United States

Green Party of the United States

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Public Citizen

Brennan Center for Justice

People for the American Way

Reactions to Citizens United Decision

Below are some of the best and relevant articles, videos, radio interviews (and, of course, to maintain sanity) satire I’ve come across on the Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United vs FEC expanding political free speech powers of corporations. In the next few days, I’ll forward a list of statements from organizations on the decision.

ACTION: Read, watch and listen to what interests you, share the list with others, and gather several human persons (corporate persons are not permitted!) together to discuss the issue. Go to for action ideas. If ambitious, plan a public program to let others know. For help planning an action, contact me at 330-928-2301 or

Also sign up on the Move to Amend Facebook page.


The new American crisis
Op Ed by Ben Manski February 8, 2010

Corporations have evidence to support their personhood
(a funny letter to editor) February 8, 2010

Amend Constitution, restore our citizenship
by Ben Manski & Lisa Graves Sunday, February 7, 2010

Senator Statements on Citizens United decision (including Sherrod Brown)

Today’s Judiciary Committee Hearing On Citizens United
by Bill Egnor Wednesday February 3, 2010

Pelosi Taps Task Force To Counter Supreme Court's Citizens United Ruling
February 3, 2010

John Kerry: Amend The Constitution In Response To Citizens United Decision
February 2, 2010

Majority of Respondents Support Legislation That Would Regulate How Corporations Spend Money on Political Advertising
Feb 1, 2010

Citizens United Fallout Already Being Felt
An Ongoing Case Points Up Just How Dramatically The Court's Ruling Has Changed Judicial Thinking
by Eliza Newlin Carney February 1, 2010

Thank You Supreme Court
by Greg Coleridge January 29, 2010

Editorial Notebook: Hanging a ‘For Sale’ Sign Over the Judiciary
Published: January 29, 2010

The Supreme Coup
by Jim Hightower 27 January 2010

Commentary: Citizens United vs. FEC is an egregious exercise of judicial activism
by Thomas Mann January 26, 2010

Editorial: How Will the Citizens United Decision Affect Sustainable Business?
by Steve Puma January 26, 2010

Move to Amend radio interview of Ben Manski
Wisconsin Radio Network, January 25, 2010

Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction
by Chris Hedges January 25, 2010

Supreme Corp (Video)
John Oliver celebrates the Supreme Court decision to finally award corporations their long-denied rights.
Monday, January 25, 2010

The Supreme Court's Ruling: What Would Milton Friedman Say?
by Justin Fox January 25, 2010 |

Supreme Court ruling calls for a populist revolt
by E.J. Dionne Jr.
Monday, January 25, 2010

Money Grubbers: The Supreme Court kills campaign finance reform.
By Richard L. Hasen January 21, 2010
Are politicians failing our lobbyists?
The Onion (humor)

Murray Hill Incorporated is Running for Congress
Corporations are people too! (satire...or is it!?)

Challenges to Citizens United begin
Proposed changes in Constitution
by Lyle Denniston Sunday, January 24, 2010

Court's campaign finance decision a case of shoddy scholarship
by Ruth Marcus
Saturday, January 23, 2010

Keith Olbermann on "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission”
January 22, 2010

Activists push to abolish ‘corporate personhood’ in wake of Supreme Court decision
January 22, 2010 (radio interview of David Cobb, Ben Manski and George Friday of Move to Amend)

Editorial: The Court’s Blow to Democracy
Published: January 21, 2010

The Pinocchio Project: Watching as the Supreme Court turns a corporation into a real live boy
By Dahlia Lithwick January 21, 2010

The Anatole France First Amendment of Citizens United
by Brenda Wright, Director of Democracy Program, Demos January 21 2010

Whose Rights?
A new Supreme Court decision promotes corporate rights at the expense of the rights of citizens. What happens when the legal structure itself stands in the way of democracy?
by Thomas Linzey, Mari Margil January 21, 2010

The Word – Let Freedom Ka-Ching (video)
Colbert Nation September 15, 2009

Thursday, February 4, 2010