Vol. 2, No. 3 March 2003
A Weekend of Protest
April 19-22 National Colombia Mobilization
April 20 National March on Washington, D.C.
April 20 Stop the War at Home and Abroad
April 20-21 Protest the IMF and World Bank
April 22 Protest Ariel Sharon and George Bush
Activists from throughout the United States are converging on Washington DC during the 3rd week of April. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are having their spring meeting and anti-corporate globalization protesters are coming to Washington as they have for the last couple of years during the spring and fall meetings. Activists protesting current American foreign policy in Colombia have scheduled their mobilization for the weekend along with anti-war and anti-racist protesters. Finally, Ariel Sharon and George Bush are scheduled to speak at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and people protesting American policy in the Middle East are planning to assemble outside the meeting.
For information about transportation to Washington call Jane: 734-222-8512
Note: A local coalition is forming and for those unable to go to Washington is planning to meet at the Federal Building in Ann Arbor on April 20th at noon for a solidarity gathering.
The next meeting of the People’s Progressive Network (PPN) will take place on Saturday, April 6th from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Guild House, corner of Monroe & Oakland Streets, Ann Arbor.
The following meeting will take place on Saturday, May 4th from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Dominick’s Cafe, 812 Monroe St. (across from the Law Quad), Ann Arbor.
LOCAL ACTION ALERTS
The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) will be announcing major service reduction and fare increase proposals in April. They are proposing to announce the fare changes on April 1st and service changes on April 19th. This would mean that public comment tiame on the fare changes would end on May 15th and public comment time on the service reductions would begin on May 13th. Hmmmm. Think they’re up to something?
The Ann Arbor City Council is in the middle of discussing major structural changes to the city’s work force. There is a proposal to eliminate the Community Development Department and send the Federal HOME (housing) funds to the County. People who rehabilitate homes would go to the building department. A new "Human Service Department" would be created. Divide and conquer. This has been plotted in meetings at "undisclosed locations." Do you think the Mayor will make the list Public?
LAKE MICHIGAN WATER FOR SALE?
Swiss-based Perrier Corp., (a subsidiary of Nestle) intends to begin operating its nearly completed 250,000-sq.-ft. water bottling facility in central Michigan sometime in the coming weeks. They would be pumping up to 720,000 gallons per day from the heart of the Great Lakes Basin at a profit of as much as $1.8 million dollars per day.
The state and the local township have given Perrier $9.5 million in tax abatements to set up shop. All despite broad-based citizen opposition. Selling Michigan’s water for private gain is a violation of the public trust.
The implications of the sale of water-for-profit are immense. Under international trade laws and agreements (WTO, NAFTA) water is not considered a right, but rather is defined as a potential commodity.
This is a precedent-setting battle. The "export and diversion" of water which would occur should the Perrier Plan go forward would open the flood-gates for the sale of Great Lakes water by other corporations whose objective is profit, not the well-being of the public and the planet. What we want is democratic control over our basic life-sustaining resources.
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation are suing Perrier at the state level. Three Michigan Indian tribes have a suit pending in federal court. Likewise, citizens from around the state will meet April 6 to show that we do not want this plan. This will take place at the site of the bottling plant in Mecosta Co., Mich. (Visit www.savemiwater.org. for information). We must act now before it is too late.
Why is this so serious?
"The wars of the future will be fought over water".
Ismail Serageldin, V.P., World Bank.
"At the heart of the matter is the fundamental question, is water a right or a commodity? If it is a right, then an international system must insure access to enough clean water to sustain communities and the environment. If water is a commodity, then it can be bought and sold like any other, hoarded or sguandered by those with enough cash and denied to those too poor to pay."
Chris Ney, "Nor Any Drop to Drink: The Fight for Water in Bolivia", publ. by the War Resisters League.
More than one billion people on earth already lack access to fresh drinking water; approximately five million people die per year due to lack of clean water.
As the demand for water intensifies, governments around the world—under pressure from the multinational corporations (like Perrier)—are advocating a radical solution: the commodification and mass transport of water.
Twenty percent of the earth’s fresh water is in the Great Lakes.
(Excerpted from material prepared by Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation.)
The Debate over Welfare Change
The debate over the federal welfare changes of 1996 is starting up again with the pending reauthorization of the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program. The conversation around this issue can be very confusing.
For most people the question seems simple:
* These women had sex, got pregnant, and gave birth.
* They believe that the women did this "for the money".
* They should have married the father.
* They need to go out and make a living (wage?).
Now perhaps conservatives have sex for money, but for most people sex is the result of lust, love, or both. When approaching the bedspread most people leave the spreadsheet behind. When considering this issue it probably makes sense to increase the use of condoms and other forms of birth control among those who are sexually active, but not to agonize about the impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) on sexual activity.
Pressure on mothers to marry their children’s fathers did not start with the federal welfare changes—societal pressure was already quite strong. Many young mothers have good reasons not to stay involved with their children’s fathers—it’s dangerous. Large numbers of older women using cash assistance have left dangerous marriages and need help during the transition. The reason that cash assistance has not included couples is not because of a societal "acceptance" of single motherhood but because the benefits would have to be given to all working poor folks—a very large group of people. Allowing all working poor folks to get cash assistance would then begin a discussion about living wages—and we can’t have that!
Because the gap between the ideology and reality is so large the policy changes have resulted in a "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" phenomenon. Everyone
knows (at some level) that the policy changes have resulted in putting poor children at great risk. Conservatives don’t care and Liberals don’t know what to do. Advocates can’t have women testify at hearings because it would put the family at risk of action by child protective services. Academics can’t find the risk to kids because University research policies require (wisely) that people in studies have to be told that anything they say can be used against them. Government workers know that putting all the kids in foster care is "the wrong answer"—in more ways than one—and so cope by looking the other way.
People will do what is necessary to survive. To illustrate the powerful effect that employment related policies can have, I turn to the field of occupational health. The American Cyanamid Corporation created a "fetus protection policy" that would not allow women between the ages of 16 to 50 to work in areas that would expose them to lead unless they agreed to voluntary sterilization. Women who did not agree to sterilization would have their employment terminated or be transferred to a lower-wage janitorial job. In West Virginia, where employment options were very limited, five women had themselves sterilized to keep their jobs.
I believe that progressives need to be advocating against the pure stupidity of many of these policies. The mothers and children deserve no less. In short—Don’t agonize, Organize!
Disturbing Legislation Introduced
A bill has been introduced into the state legislature by Randy Richardville(R) of Monroe that would require mental health facilities to stay at least 1,000 feet away from schools. Apparentlythe proposed bill was created in response to some initial neighborhood opposition to a clubhouse that opened last year within a block of a parochial school.
The bill, HB 5639, was introduced in February, and referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform. It is all of six lines, and says a Community Mental Health program "shall not operate a facility within 1,000 feet in any direction of a school’s property line. As used in this section, ‘school’ means a ‘public or private school, kindergarten through the twelfth grade’."
If passed, this bill could set back anti-stigma efforts in Michigan by legitimizing the erroneous misconception that people with mental illnesses are dangerous. The fact that it has gotten this far highlights how much our elected representatives need education and pressure from those who know better. It also reminds us how casually and openly people with mental illnesses are discriminated against.
You can download a copy of the bill at: www.michiganlegislature.org.
As a reminder, this site can be used to track any legislation that has been introduced in Michigan State government. There’s also a feature that allows you to search for bills by subject matter, in case you don’t know the name of the bill, the number, or where it was introduced.
Advocacy efforts should begin with members of the House Committee on Regulatory Reform. For information, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
SECRET GOVERNMENT REVEALED
The mainstream press reports that President Bush has unilaterally activated a cold-war-era plan to protect large parts of the executive branch by moving them to remote underground locations. When viewed together with his other business-friendly and anti-terrorist measures surrounding the Afghan war, a disturbing pattern of overt elitism appears to be forming. Mr. Bush seems to be removing many actions of the executive branch from both legislative/judicial review and press/public oversight. Placing our country on a semi-permanent war footing will surely put all dissenters in a new category of general suspicion.
This type of creeping government secrecy was the major cause of the Watergate debacle, and is totally incompatible with the constitutional checks and balances of traditional democracy. The lack of any strong public outcry against these overt power grabs proves that the lessons of the Watergate Era have still not been fully heeded. Hopefully our society will not be forced through another major crisis before these shameless abuses of official power are remedied.
Signed Elements ©