We (the Chat People) came into existence as the brainchild of Stanley Pokras, who offered audience members of Humanity Rising Sessions the opportunity to convene as an “afterparty” chat group. Our “afterparty” format has also been evolving. Now we are consistently joined by some, if not all, of the presenters who move from the “main stage” into our chat dialogue. We have morphed from an informal discussion group into an activist community undertaking several diverse projects. The Deep Dive sessions are about sharing the expertise in the group. They are workshops and seminars covering a diverse range of themes and ideas.
The Norfolk Southern Corporation train derailment and subsequent hazardous chemical release into the air, water and land in and beyond East Palestine, Ohio are the inevitable result of multiple anti-democratic realities in the U.S. Many are interconnected and are the same for the roughly 1000 train derailments per year, most recently in Michigan.
Private ownership of railroads
Norfolk Southern Corporation’s record earnings in 2022 led to huge salaries for its top managers and stock buybacks and dividend payouts benefiting speculators and investors. Necessary investments have not been made in technology upgrades and worker safety as the corporation prioritizes maximizing profits over public safety and sustainable business practices. “Since the North American private rail industry has shown itself incapable of doing the job, it is time for this invaluable transportation infrastructure – like the other transport modes – to be brought under public ownership,” concludes the Railroad Workers United. Interstate highways are publicly owned. Railroads were under federal control during WWI. Railroads in many other nations are publicly owned and, therefore, publicly accountable.
No community rights
Local public officials have few legal tools to protect the health, safety and welfare of their residents – especially conditions in any way related to interstate commerce. Communities possess little authority to control material – including trash, chemicals, nuclear waste – coming into or even passing through their jurisdictions by trains or trucks if that material can be defined as “commerce.” The Constitution’s Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8) gives power to Congress and the President to “regulate commerce”among the several states.” While states have at least some ability under certain conditions to push back against “commercial material” in their states if they can redefine it as dangerous, localities have no rights. East Palestine officials weren’t even notified the derailed Norfolk Southern train was carrying vinyl chloride, ethylhexyl acrylate and other highly toxic chemicals since federal law doesn’t classify those chemicals as “high hazardous.”
Lack of worker power
Strikes are powerful tactics of workers to exert leverage against management. It’s different for railroad workers given the importance of railroads in the nation’s commerce. Unions representing rail workers have been virtually unable to strike since passage of the Railway Labor Act in 1926, which gives the government, specifically the President and Congress, vast powers to force workers to accept alternative means of resolving disputes – including mediation, arbitration and a Presidentially-appointed panel to make a recommendation. Without the legitimate threat to strike, rail workers, including those of Norfolk Southern, lack the power to press for ending dangerous working conditions.
Corporate campaign contributions
Railroad corporations are major political donors/investors to federal and state political races. The industry has poured $85 million into federal candidate campaigns, political parties and outside spending groups since 2002 with Republicans historically being the preferred recipients until recent years. Norfolk Southern – along with BNSF, Union Pacific Corp. and CSX Corp. – are the major industry contributors/investors. Norfolk Southern’s political investments have been $17 million since 1990. At the state level, Norfolk Southern has invested $98,000 into Ohio political races since 2018, with Gov. Mike DeWine (who at first didn’t call for federal assistance following the E. Palestine disaster since he didn’t see a problem) being the largest recipient. Another recipient, Rep. Bill Seitz, supports his home city of Cincinnati selling its publicly owned rail line to none other than Norfolk Southern. At the very least, political campaign contributions buy access to public officials; at worst, buys favors.
The railroad industry invested $24.6 million to employee 265 reported lobbyists to influence the federal government in 2022. Norfolk Southern’s portion was $1.8 million. The combination of corporate campaign contributions and lobbying by Norfolk Southern and other railroads results in legislation and regulations favorable to the industry, harmful to workers and threatening to communities. Rail lobbyists and $6 million from the rail industry to GOP campaigns in 2017, backed by President Trump, were effective in reversing requirements that rail cars carrying hazardous flammable materials install modern electronic braking systems to replace Civil War-era systems. Lobbyists have pressed for fewer workers on trains, longer and heavier trains, and reduced fines for penalties – as well as against paid sick leave for workers and having to define trains carrying hazardous chemicals like the Norfolk Southern that derailed in East Palestine as “high hazard,” which would increase additional safety requirements, costs and public notification. Lobbyists are already working to prevent “burdensome regulations” that, no doubt, include provisions of the proposed Rail Safety Act of 2023, supported by Democratic and Republican Senators in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Supreme Court decisions
Courts have granted corporate entities with a long list of constitutional rights which were intended exclusively to human beings. This includes corporate entities having the “right” to contribute to political campaigns. This has permitted all corporations, including Norfolk Southern, to corrupt the political process favorable to their interests, such as the previously mentioned laws and regulations profitable for railroads, but harmful to persons without the means to spend large sums of money to have their voices heard, communities helped and environment protected. Supreme Court-granted corporate Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights prevent surprise inspections of corporate property intended to protect workers and communities.
Ineffective and/or captured regulatory agencies
Railroads were the first federal government regulated corporations with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887 in response to widespread public rage over railroad abuses and malpractices. The railroads preferred government regulation over direct public ownership, which was a growing public call over many natural monopolies. Railroad executives felt they could have influence over agencies through appointments of regulators and limiting the scope of their oversight, which has proven true. Public safety inspections are also limited by regulatory agency funding, which impacts technology needs and human inspectors. The Federal Railroad Administration, the major railroad regulatory agency, has only 400 inspectors to inspect the nation’s rail system covering 140,000 miles. This has forced the FHA to increasingly allow railroad corporations to inspect their own trains, tracks and signals, an increasingly common practice across all regulatory agencies. The EPA recently announced that it’s requiring Norfolk Southern to directly test for dioxins in East Palestine. Where’s the public accountability when, in effect, an entity charged with a crime gets to be the prosecutor, judge and jury?
Criminalization of protest
The response by the state, supported by corporations, to public protests and organizing responding to corporate assaults has been to pass laws criminalizing such activities to punish and smear individuals who exercise their right to peaceful assembly. Forty-five states have considered 265 bills, 39 of which have already passed in 20 states since 2017. Penalties of felonies serve as a deterrent to individuals to attend public events where they might be arrested and plant the message that those who protest must be extremists. This mindset is reflected in the reaction by federal and Ohio “law enforcement” agencies to the recent visit of whistleblower Erin Brockovich to East Palestine. A report by the agencies “assesses that special interest extremist groups will continue to call for changes in governmental policy, which may lead to protests in/around East Palestine and/or at the Statehouse in Columbus.” Clearly, even a public meeting that Brockovich was planning was deemed as dangerous.
The East Palestine tragedy, while dramatic and horrific in its hardships to those who live nearby, wildlife and the environment, is sadly merely a symptom of current political realities. Essential is fundamental systemic change to address not only all the above mentioned conditions, but also to structurally increase the power of people to have legitimate influence over decisions affecting their lives, communities and beyond.
Enacting the We the People Amendment, HJR48 that would abolish all corporate constitutional rights and political money defined as free speech, is urgent. But fundamental self-governance goes beyond the amendment. Independent people’s movements led by individuals who’ve been historically treated unjustly is a prerequisite for how to get real democracy on track – for the very first time.
Greg Coleridge is Co-Director of Move to Amend. He previously worked for more than three decades with the American Friends Service Committee in Ohio where he educated, advocated and organized on a range of justice, peace, environmental and democracy issues — including helping coordinate Move to Amend activities in the Buckeye state. He is the author of The Depth of Change: Selected Writings and Remarks on Social Change (2022); Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future (2003), writer of the documentary CorpOrNation: The Story of Citizens and Corporations in Ohio (2003), and contributed several articles to the anthology Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy – A Book of History and Strategy (2001). He currently maintains and distributes via email a weekly REAL Democracy History Calendar (https://realdemocracyhistorycalendar.wordpress.com/) and Monetary History Calendar (https://monetarycalendar.wordpress.com/) He is a Board Member of the Alliance for Just Money (AFJM). He previously served an elected term on the national governing board of Common Cause and was a Principal with the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD).
Our movement to abolish “corporate personhood” and “money as free speech” is difficult Often frustrating And frequently feels like we’re not making progress Deemed as not relevant Not immediate Not urgent Not newsworthy Not to mention downright impossible
But take a moment And a breath Step back Have perspective Listen to your conscience Put in context Face reality
Our current problems, actually crises As communities As a nation As a species Become wider and deeper every day With the pace speeding up like circling water as it nears the mouth of a drain If we have the courage to truly acknowledge the signs that are all around us
Political Social Economic Ecological Ethical
Interconnected problems and crises that make us realize that Electing better representatives, while important, isn’t enough Passing better laws, while important, isn’t enough Enacting better regulations, while important, isn’t enough
Afterall, elected representatives today can be unelected tomorrow Passed laws today can be reversed tomorrow Enacted regulations today can be unenacted tomorrow
Rather Our responses must fully answer the questions Our solutions must be in proportion to our crises, and Our commitment to change must equal the scale of the energy of those creating injustice and reducing our power
What we envision must be part of the Constitution, where it becomes Rooted Embedded Anchored
Beyond the ability to easily change by simply Removing good public officials Reversing laws Unenacting regulations
Our Eye on the Prize, despite all the barriers, must be constitutional change, after all history shows What initially seems impossible becomes inevitable. What once was a ceiling of possibility eventually becomes the floor of reality What we can only now imagine becomes the obvious concrete step forward
If true, then answer this: How many systematically altering ideas have been converted into actual policy proposals? and Have been introduced as legislation in Congress as an amendment to the United States Constitution? and Have attracted nearly 100 Congressional cosponsors? and Have over 700 national organizational endorsers? and Have over 700 communities (including 9 states) that have passed endorsing municipal resolutions and ballot initiatives? and Have nearly 500,000 individual supporters? and Have a skilled staff and board dedicated to movement building, diversity and inclusion? and Have a collectively/democratically run national organization with local groups and advocates that are politically and economically independent from the pressures by the power structure (government, political parties, big foundations, corporations, a handful of super rich individuals) to moderate, temper or water down what is ultimately needed?
The answer Exactly. Precisely. None. Zero. Nada. Nil. Zilch.
What Move to Amend is doing – you and us together – is Incredibly rare throughout history
We’re calling not to reform, but to transform our relationship between people and the institutions we’ve created To make government accountable to us To make all corporate entities subservient to us To ensure that the ultimate right to decide is empowered to us
But it’s also fragile because of all the interrelated problems and crises All the problems. All the issues Demanding immediate reaction Response Resistance To say no To stop the assaults and the harms To people To places To the planet
But there’s an alternative to “No” To simply opposing It’s proposing It’s promoting an alternative It’s a “Yes” To the We the People Amendment to the U.S. Constitution For starters
A vision, call and plan that affirms that only a human being is a person with inalienable rights, not corporate entities. And that political money in elections is not “free speech” which shall be democratically regulated
It’s definitive It’s clear It’s unequivocal And a stepping stone to even further transformative change
It asserts that Congress “shall’ take action. Not “may” as other amendments propose Since “may” can also mean “possibly” Perhaps Perchance But can also be interpreted as “may not” As in not here Not there Not now Not ever
In the end, is it all worth it? Worth organizing for systemic change, not just immediate relief? Worth going on the offense and not always on the defense? Worth not seeing immediate results vs sometimes seeing some immediate outcomes from taking immediate actions to address immediate problems?
It all depends Not on politicians Not on bureaucrats Not on corporate executives Not even on committed not profit “leaders”
But on us That being you Together with other yous Who collectively at the grassroots have Faith Trust Commitment
And the courage to clearly see the current reality is incredibly dire for us all and all living beings if all that happens is less than transformational Yet phenomenally encouraging if we become aware, have vision and take action for a new reality that’s in harmony within ourselves, with other human beings and all living things.
To create justice in all its forms To ensure a livable world To create real, authentic democracy where every single person has the dignity, respect, support and power they should have – for the very first time.
That’s more than Move to Amend’s immediate current strategy But it’s grounded in our vision It’s a basis for how we engage with our grassroots leaders and supporters, and It’s a commitment when connecting with other organizations
Starting with affirming that human beings should have the power and right to determine their own collective future – of self-determination Not limited by the so-called “rights” of corporate entities Not trapped by the so-called “rights” of money
This is where we stand To us, it’s all worth the time, energy and financial resources As it has to so many like you in the past. As we hope to you and so many more in the present and future.
We can’t individually control the flood of dark money in elections and all the lies, distortions and negativity that it’s created. Nor the increasing number of pathetic – some dangerous – candidates running for political office. Nor the conscious efforts of voter suppression and gerrymandering. Nor who wins.
Some of this we have greater control over by being connected to organizations that are working to build power to create democratic, just, peaceful and planet-protective change – such as Move to Amend.
But we can individually vote. One vote rarely, rarely makes a difference. But such logic, extrapolated, is exactly what those promoted autocracy want us to believe. And of course voting only goes so far – often, but certainly not always, the best choice being not very good. But it’s still a choice worth making – however large or small of a difference it makes – so long as we understand one basic principle: voting is important but is only one part of our responsibility as an individual living in society. Our larger responsibility is between elections to flex our democratic muscles both individually and collectively to educate, advocate and organize for real democracy (for the very first time by the way) that goes beyond changing faces, rules and regulations to include structural change, which in our society must include constitutional change to ensure that We the People include All the People.
So vote today – but commit to become more of a change-maker tomorrow and beyond. Onward!
I’m Greg Coleridge, Co-Director of the national Move to Amend campaign.
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are going.”
If we’re honest with ourselves about the direction of what little democracy we have, which truthfully was never as much as it should have been from day one in our country, then where we’re headed is a monocracy, plutocracy and corpocracy – not to mention an autocracy – all rolled into one.
There is no single cause for this, but major factors are the more than century-long series of bizarre Supreme Court decisions anoinging corporations with constitutional rights – corporate personhood some call it – and decades-long series of bizarre Supreme Court decisions anointing money in elections as equal to First Amendment-protected “free speech.”
Abolishing corporate constitutional rights and money as speech are the two central components of HJR48, the We the People Amendment – now supported by 95 U.S. Representatives – including Tim Ryan – more than 650 organizations and over 700 communities that enacted either a municipal resolution or passed, like Kent, a citizen-driven ballot initiative.
The leadership of this national effort has come from the bottom-up – from people like Bill Wilen, Lee Brooker and others in Kent who educated, advocated and organized for passing the initiative calling on Congress to pass HJR48.
But people like you, elected officials – both individually and collectively – have an extremely important role – if you so choose – to complement this effort.
Here are six actions you can take to move this movement forward:
Publicly call out any “pay-to-play” instances – in which developers or others who want something in Kent donate (or, more accurately, invest) to political campaigns of one or more councilpersons just before or after they receive what they want.
Don’t be intimidated to pass ordinances that protect the health, safety or welfare of Kent residents by corporate threats that they will preempt the law by going to the state legislature or to court claiming their corporate constitutional so-called “rights” have been violated.
Encourage council colleagues you know in Ravenna and/or any other communities in Portage County and beyond to join the hundreds of other communities that have passed resolutions calling for abolishing money as free speech and corporate constitutional rights. Sample resolutions in support of the We the People Amendment are at https://www.movetoamend.org/pass-local-resolution
Introduce a resolution supporting passage of HJR48 to your County political party.
If Tim Ryan wins his race, pass a resolution encouraging him to introduce HJR48 in the U.S. Senate – since he already cosponsored the measure in the House.
Finally, personally, don’t accept large individual contributions and corporate PAC funds for your political campaigns. I realize that under the current political reality, it takes an increasing amount of money to run and the threat of so-called “independent” funding from Super PACs and dark money groups is real, but commit to working at collecting smaller donations from more individuals as much as you can – while at the same time calling for passing HJR48.
It’s time to abolish the corrupting influence of big money in elections – which is legalized bribery – and corporate rule. It’s a major way to change direction before we end up where we are headed.
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com for any questions or ways I can assist any of you individually or Kent City Council collectively.
Aug 29, 2022 Zoom presentation with Greg Coleridge, co-author of the 2007 article, “The U.S. Constitution: Pull the Curtain”. We have been programmed to believe that our Constitution was and is designed to grant equal rights and protections to all but that is not the truth.In the powerful 2007 article, “The U.S. Constitution: Pull the Curtain”, Greg Coleridge and Virginia Rasmussen reveal the many examples within the constitution which blow up our beliefs that this sacred document represents “We the People”.
It is time to “Pull the Curtain” on the US Constitution and dispel the make believe, uncover the deceptions, learn the truth and take actions toward Justice for ALL.
Community activist, speaker, friend and now author, Greg Coleridge talks about his new book, “Depth of Change.” He gives his advise on getting involved in the community has well as his experience fighting for others.
May 20, 2022 Veteran activist Greg Coleridge speaks at Cleveland Peace Action’s 2022 Annual Meeting, on the challenges and opportunities for change in an interconnected world. A lively Q&A follows Greg’s talk, including ideas on Inspiring and sustaining our activist energies.
Selected articles, columns, editorials, letters, sermons, poems, talks and testimonies over four decades on economic, environmental and social justice; democracy; foreign policy/peace/nonviolence and systemic change/movements. Their analysis and calls to action are as timely today as ever.
Greg Coleridge is Co-Director of the national Move to Amend coalition, which works to enact a Constitutional Amendment to abolish corporate constitutional rights (“corporate personhood” for short) and political money defined as First Amendment-protected “free speech.” He previously worked for more than three decades for the Midwest Region of the American Friends Service Committee in Ohio where he educated, advocated and organized with diverse individuals and organizations at the local, state and national levels employing a range of strategies and tactics on issues of peace/anti-war, nonviolence, international trade, economic conversion, local and federal budget priorities, monetary reform, housing, privatization/corporatization of public services, hunger, jobs, poverty, local currencies, alternative media, toxic/radioactive pollution, campaign finance reform and corporate power/rule/rights.
More defense dollars only worsen inflation (letter to editor) 4 North’s secrecy was objectionable (letter to editor) 5 KSU/May 4 and the need for action (letter to editor) 5 The Future of National Security and Economic Conversion (talk) 6 Agenda for the peace builders (editorial) 9
Spirituality, Nonviolence and Social Change (sabbatical report) 12 Nonviolent Revolution (sermon) 21 Bosnia: Military Intervention Is Not The Answer (letter to editor) 26 A few resolutions for public officials (letter to editor) 27 Gift-buying for the conscientious (column) 28
Visions of an alternative “Contract” for America’s cities (editorial) 31 Nuclear weapons still addictive (column) 34 Submarine floats as cities sink (column) 38 No need for bombs – Japan on verge of surrender (letter to editor) 41 U.S. must learn from the past (column) 42
Do we live to U.N. standards (column) 47 Put people power back on agenda (article) 50 GM strike localizes world woes (column) 55 The Costs of Technology (article) 59 U.S. takes easy way out on China (column) 63
Our Friend John (poem) 69 Has time for HOURS finally come? (column) 70 Apathy Funeral Service (talk) 73 Ethics and the Culture of Development: Building a Sustainable Economy (Cuba conference report) 75 Change in Relationship to Corporations Urged (talk) 78
Yes-Simple math: Less money, more democracy (editorial) 80 A Call for Help for Uniontown, Ohio (article) 82 Public Hearing sponsored by Robert Martin, U.S. EPA Ombudsman, on Industrial Excess Landfill (testimony) 84 Democracy, Corporations and the World Trade Organization (article) 88 Wrong Turn in Ohio: A wake up call for other states (article) 90
Rumors of USA Democracy Counterfeit (article) 92 Personal Reflections on 9/11 (letter) 99 Corporate Invading and Escaping (article) 103 Evolution and Social Change (article) 107 U.S. Hypocrisy and Immorality (talk) 108
The Invasion has Begun…But so has the Resistance (spoken word) 109 Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future (forward to booklet) 113 Mantra of US Mainstream Left (article) 117 A Fraction of Democracy (article) 117 Statement on Department of Defense Spying on AFSC 120
Request to Rep. Dennis Kucinich to Introduce Legislation Renaming Department of Defense to Department of War (letter) 122 Closing Remarks at U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) National Conference 123 Ranting and Raking on Eminent Domain (article) 129 Keynote address at Martin Luther King Community Gathering 133 10 Democratic Reasons to Oppose Senate Bill (SB) 117 (article) 140
Electronic Voting Machines Undermine Democracy (testimony) 143 Auctioning the Magna Carta (article) 145 The U. S. Constitution: Pull the Curtain (article) 145 Reducing the Power of Juries (article) 155 The Spirit of Change (article/play script) 156
Municipalizing Democracy (article) 163 Democracy Taxed (article) 165 Local Economic Self-Determination (workshop presentation) 167 Six Ways Corporations Profit from War (article) 173 Pillars of Peace (sermon) 175
Opening Remarks at United National Action Conference – on Iraq and Afghanistan 179 Letter to Senator Sherrod Brown on BP Deepwater Horizon and IEL disasters 181 “One Nation” March Organizers Should Remember Coxey’s Army (editorial) 183 The Rigor of Research and Fundamental Monetary Change (talk) 186 Fracking issue tests citizen’ authority (letter) 192
Testimony on Ohio’ New “Plunder Law” – House Bill 193 Corporate Power: The Legacy of Santa Clara (talk) 196 Banking Political Influence (talk) 198 Lessons from Past Movements that Inform our Current Movement (talk) 202 Participation in our undemocratic democracy (article) 204
Organizing for the Right Rights (article) 204 Corporate Chameleons (article) 208 Four Problems with Billionaires Privatizing American Science (article) 209 The Wrath of Steinbeck: Corporate Personhood (article) 210 Supreme Authority: The Growing Power of the US Supreme Court and Democratic Alternatives (article) 212
Different problems. The same solution.(article) 220 Ronald McDonald is not a person (article) 223 Pope Heats Up Climate Change Debate (article) 224 Trans-Pacific Partnership would be assault on U.S. democracy (letter to editor) 225 Monetary History Calendar (intro) 226
Flint’s Water AND Democracy Crisis (article) 227 Testimony on Political Campaign Contribution Limits 228 3 lessons from organizing for justice during the RNC (editorial) 232 Trumped Up Democracy: 10 Reflections on the 2016 Elections and the Future (article) 234 Commit to seeking common ground (letter to editor) 240
This is What Democracy in Ohio Looks Like! Ohio’s Self-Determination “Infrastructure” (intro to directory) 241 Hacked Off by the Electoral College (article) 244 Democracy Convention (article) 249 With Democracy So Sick, Medicare for All Will Be Uphill Battle (editorial) 252 Winter Solstice (article) 256
Big Love Fest Mentors of Love (talk) 256 Don’t Let the Ability to Rein In Corporate Rule Slip Through Our Hands Like Water – Time to Amend the Constitution Now! (article) 258 Knowing history is key to saying no to corporate rights (article) 262 Remarks at Uniting Families Rally 265 Curing the cancer of the body politic (article) 267
Holy Toledo! (article) 270 How Wealth RULES the World (book review) 271 The Declaration of Independence, Then and Now (quiz) 272 Move to Amend poems 274 Simply reversing Citizens United will not stem the tide of corporate money polluting politics (editorial) 276
Ending the Monetary Pandemic (article) 278 Changed “Modes of Thinking” Needed to Create Real Justice and Livable World (editorial) 285 The U.S. Constitution is hopelessly outdated. It’s time to re-envision it (article) 288 Big Tech Shouldn’t Be the Arbiter of Our Free Speech Rights (editorial) 291 Thank you Darnella Frazier (article) 294
FirstEnergy should be put out of business (editorial) 295 Kent “Democracy Day” Public Hearing (testimony) 296 Holistic Solutions to Holistic Problems (talk) 298