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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Citizen's Movements

Individual and citizens rights are so underappreciated. For instance, the well-publicized presidential run by former chess all-star Gary Kasparov officially concluded recently with foreseen, yet utter disappointment. According to the New York Times:
From early on, his campaign encountered many problems. He was denied access to state news media; one of his political organizers was forcibly committed to an insane asylum; and Mr. Kasparov and dozens of his followers were arrested during street protests during the spring.

Mr. Kasparov spent five days in jail last month after trying to march on a Moscow street.

To formally register for the March 2 presidential vote, he would have been required to notify the Central Election Commission of his intention to hold a gathering with 500 citizens to endorse his candidacy. The deadline was Wednesday, but Other Russia was unable to rent a hall in Moscow to accommodate the gathering, according to Mr. Kasparov’s spokeswoman, Lyudmila V. Mamina.
Ms. Mamina continued, "It was clear that there had been an order from above to prohibit us from gathering anywhere."

In Russia, citizens' movements are effectively dampened, if not completely drowned by the state (Putin endorsed current deputy prime minister Medvedev who will likely turn around and name Putin prime minister).

In Italy, the story is quite different. The government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi has been attempting to cut the budget, against the will of its citizens. The truck drivers union - not usually on the top 10 list of most influential groups - went on strike this week, causing resounding effects. Stores are going unstocked, gas is very hard to find as stations dry up, trash piles up with no one to haul it away, and trucks literally stood still - blocking access to main transportation routes.

A spokesman for the union echoed the sentiments of many, "They didn’t think that we’d take such a tough position, and neither did the media until now,"a clear warning not to underestimate the power of any one segment of our population and how easily they can effect change the hard way.

Not to be outdone, the Greeks continued to set the standard:
A one-day strike by unions representing 2.5 million workers brought Athens to a standstill. Protesting planned government changes to the state-financed pension system, an estimated 80,000 people marched through central Athens. In Thessaloniki, 30,000 people rallied, the police said. The strike shut down hospitals, banks, schools, courts and all public services. Flights were canceled, and public transportation, including boats connecting the mainland with the islands, ground to a halt. More strikes are expected next week.

Why don't you see that kind of response when privatizing social security is seriously
considered, or when corporations drop their pension programs?

We can only hope that this becomes a trend as people stand up for their rights and the rights of others. Then perhaps there'd be more than 30 people standing up to the destruction of housing projects in post-Katrina New Orleans. Citizens movements and civil disobedience protesting injustice, even by our federal government are surely lacking. Perhaps the real showdown will occur this Saturday, when the ability "to take advantage of tax credits made available after the 2005 storm," expire, tax credits to the tune of $250 million.

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