Vol. 2, No. 2 February 2002
Editorial Comment by David Duboff
This issue of The People’s Voice shows how all issues are interrelated. As a giant corporation (Enron) falls apart, a government (Argentina) falls apart because of the politics promulgated by the World Economic Forum, now meeting in New York City. Meanwhile here in Ann Arbor, the YMCA tries to get away with putting their new building on a floodplain, while the DDA backs them up. It’s all part of one system, major or minor, based on putting corporate greed ahead of people’s needs.
FOLLOW THE MONEY by Jim Mogensen
Enron – The Mess from Texas
It is hard to escape mention of the ENRON scandal in the corporate media. The three major themes are the accounting scandal involving Arthur Anderson, the loss of retirement money in ENRON workers’ 401(k) accounts, and the political connections of ENRON with Bush administration officials.
Lost in all this coverage is an explanation of what the business plan of the company was supposed to be in the first place. Several years ago I went to a public lecture at the University of Michigan Business School where a professor was explaining the "new" economy. He said that now you could make lots of money in the energy business without building or owning any power plants. My thought at the time was that given that energy is real someone would have to build the power plants and that this was just a fancy financial scheme. Perhaps I was on the right track?
The "innovation" that this company was supposed to exploit was tied to the "Washington Neoliberal Consensus" that emphasizes deregulation, privitization, minimal social safety nets, and global reach. Inherent in this ideology is the sense that our elders had no idea what they were doing when they created regulations and safety nets following the Great Depression that, after all, had global reach. Oddly enough, conservatives seem to avoid taking responsibility for their screw-ups!
This should not keep us from forgetting about the other scandals. First there was the accounting scandal. There is an old accounting joke that goes something like this: A man needed to find a new accountant and began to interview potential candidates. He asked each one what "1+1" equaled. The first candidate stated that the answer was 2. The second candidate stated that the answer was 3. The last candidate asked, "Well, what do you want it to equal?" So, guess which candidate got the job?
The second scandal involved the 401(k) private retirement accounts. Aside from the fact that it appears that the top executives lied to the workers about the financial health of the company, how many ENRON workers–or Lucent workers for that matter–do you think will be testifying before Congress in favor of turning Social Security into a private account system? Apparently you can lose retirement money in the stock market!
The number of political connections that this company nurtured and worked on didn’t save it from collapse but are really quite impressive. It will take a book (or two) to document the extensive networks. A number of high-ranking officials will be unable to investigate the company because of conflicts of interest. Two Republican Texas politicians–Senator Phil Gramm and Representative Dick Armey have already announced that they won’t be running for re-election.
I propose that we call this scandal "Whitewashergate." Given all the clever People’s Voice readers perhaps we should hold a contest. Send ideas to the editor David Duboff. Call 995-2524.
Cry for Argentina
The "Washington Consensus" that advocates for neoliberal economic policies can do more than just cause energy companies to fail–it can take down entire countries! In the 1990’s Argentina was the model of how the world through the IMF and World Bank could help developing countries. They would help the countries cut social spending and privatize everything.
In December, Argentina fell apart. Two days of rioting brought down the government and left 31 people dead. They went through something like five presidents in two weeks. One legislator actually resigned his position so that he would not become the de facto president.
So the $132 billion debt has been defaulted on, the peso has been devalued, and savings accounts were frozen. It is really quite a tremendous mess! Surprisingly, the conservatives who advocated for the initial policies are seeking cover. They will blame everyone but themselves. Anybody else starting to see a trend? Don’t agonize, organize!
Workers Ahead: The Ann Arbor YMCA
The Ann Arbor YMCA is proposing to redevelop the old Tech Center site located in the Miller’s Creek floodplain and floodway. Unlike the proposed homeless center that is on the edge of the floodplain/ floodway, the Tech Center site is unequivocally in the middle of the flooding area.
The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) went into action and created a resolution supporting the YMCA plan. Before voting on the resolution they had to identify any conflicts of interest and abstain from voting if any were found. There was a brief pause before the vote was taken to ensure that they still had a quorum. They did, and among the members still allowed to vote it was unanimous!
Power and Policies of World Economic Forum Challenged
Grassroots activists from around the world, including three from Ann Arbor, will gather in Porto Alegre, Brazil from January 31st to February 5th, 2002, in a World Social Forum to consider the creation of a new and more just way for the nations and peoples of the world to live. The World Social Forum will discuss such topics as:
· Building proposals to democratize institutions such as the WTO, IMF and the World Bank
· Building economic policies to promote human development
· Creating international strategies for grassroots organizations
· Creating sustainable development programs to end poverty and hunger
· Protecting indigenous land and culture.
The dates of the World Social Forum were selected to coincide with a meeting of the World Economic Forum, to be held at the Waldorf-Astoria in NYC.
The World Economic Forum is financed by major corporations, and for 30 years has assumed a key role in formulating economic policies throughout the world, profits of course being the main consideration, above communities, workers, or the environment.
Delegates returning from the World Social Forum in Brazil will organize forums, teach-ins, and workshops. For information about local events, contact Monica Weinheimer, one of the attendees from Ann Arbor, at 734-761-6520, or email@example.com; or watch The People’s Voice and Agenda.
In addition, a rally protesting the World Economic Forum policies will be held in N.Y.C. on February 2nd; a police permit has been obtained to hold a rally in front of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where the forum is to take place.
Local Solidarity Rally
A local solidarity rally will be held in Ann Arbor as well. The local even is sponsored by a loose coalition of groups, including the People’s Progressive Network, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Pilot Light, Peace is Power, the Alliance for Global Justice, the Huron Valley Greens, the Ad Hoc Committee for Peace, Ann Arbor Solidarity, and perhaps others.
The local event will take place at the Federal Building, Fifth and Liberty Streets in Ann Arbor, at noon on Saturday, February 2, 2002.
Due-Process Demands for Rabih Haddad
About 125 people attended a rally in Chicago on Jan. 19th, organized by the Ann Arbor Ad Hoc Committee for Peace and the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, in support of Rabih Haddad, the Ann Arbor Muslim leader who was arrested in his home on December 14th 2001, for a visa violation. He was held at the Monroe County jail until January 11th, when U.S. Marshals took custody and kept him at an unknown location until transferring him to Chicago on Jan. 17th.
In addition to family members, several people from Ann Arbor attended the rally in Chicago, including Jeri Snider, Laurie White, and Henry Herskovitz of the Ad Hoc Committee, who, during interviews at the rally by the media, called for due process for the defendant.
At two earlier hearings while in the custody of the INS, which neither Haddad himself nor his supporters were allowed to attend, bond was denied. In Chicago as well no one, including his wife, was allowed to see him.
The U.S. Marshall’s plans for him have not been revealed, except that there is a subpoena for him to testify before a grand jury; but what the grand jury is investigating is not public information, nor when it is to convene. He is still being held without having been charged with a crime.
Meanwhile he is to appear at a "removal" (deportation) hearing at an immigration court in Detroit, on February 19th.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees due process to "all persons", not merely all citizens. It is clear that Rabih Haddad’s constitutional rights are being abridged: he has a right to be told what the charges are against him, and he has a right to defend himself in a court of law.
Haddad’s Wife Facing Deportation
Salma Al-Rushaid received a letter from the Justice Department advising her that she and three of her children (excluding a fourth born inside the U.S.) are subject to deportation on an expired visa charge. She is to receive a second letter with details as to when and where she must appear.
COMMITTEE KILLS PARITY LEGISLATION
by Jim Salisbury
The ongoing discrimination and denial of treatment to people who have mental illnesses, due to inequality in insurance coverage, was detailed in a previous edition of The People’s Voice. A grassroots movement among people concerned about mental health has recently made great strides towards ending this outrage. "Mental health parity" legislation was introduced in congress and has wide bi-partisan support. In fact, two-thirds of all the members of the Senate co-sponsored a mental health parity bill (S. 543) and a majority of members of the House of Representatives were on record supporting the Senate amendment and asking the House Conference Committee to support it. Despite this wide support, the committee effectively blocked the bill by killing it in committee (H.R. 3061).
In response, the national Alliance for the Mentally Ill said, "Killing the amendment was more than a disappointment to individuals with mental illnesses and their families. It is an outrage–representing a conscious decision to protect unconscionable discrimination. Mental illnesses are brain disorders. They are as much physical illnesses as heart disease, diabetes, or epilepsy. Congress should not be abandoning the millions of Americans who battle severe mental illness every year."
Poll after poll shows Americans favor ending this discrimination, and data from states that have enacted parity legislation show that it does not significantly raise health care costs. In fact, it often saves money.
What’s worse, the leaders who have blocked this legislation in the House also refuse to hold hearings on the issue. They know there is no legitimate defense of this type of discrimination.
POOR TO MARCH FOR ECONOMIC HUMAN RIGHTS
On February 8, 2002, poor, unemployed and homeless people from across the United States will lead a massive March for our Lives on the opening day of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. Marchers will demand their basic economic human rights to jobs at living wages, health care, housing, food and education.
The March will be led by the Philadelphia-based Kensington Welfare Rights Union (www.kwru.org) and JEDI Women of Salt Lake City (www.jedi4women.org; JEDI = Justice, Economics, Dignity and Independence). These two organizations have been nationally recognized for their work fighting poverty for the past decade. The KWRU organized and led the largest demonstration during the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.
Cheri Honkala, Director of the KWRU, says, "The ‘March for Our Lives’ at the Winter Olympics is an urgent effort to break the invisibility of the poor in the United States. Every day millions of Americans are denied their Economic Human Right to decent health care, education, food, and housing, and living wage jobs. This has to be an American priority."
America is entering an unknown territory–a time of economic recession and the lack of a safety net. Honkala says, "Welfare to work is a fatal insult to poor families who are asked to find a job when thousands are being laid off every week."
The march takes place at a time when poverty, unemployment, lack of health care, homelessness and hunger threaten the lives of the majority of the world’s people. All eyes will be on Salt Lake City during the Winter Olympics. Honkala says, " We will highlight the economic human rights violations being committed here in the richest country in the world, and demand economic human rights.
We have seen our lives, livelihoods and rights devastated by Welfare Reform, NAFTA, privatization, and other cuts in the social safety net."
For more information contact the KWRU at: 215-203-1945, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The above article was taken from the Winter 2002 issue of Independent Politics News. - Editor)
QUESTIONS FOR ACTIVISTS IN THE NEW YEAR
These questions are presented in the hope of generating
thoughts of a more peaceful and humane future.
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