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Flagpole. (Athens, Ga.) 1987-current, July 19, 2000, Image 9

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t < POLITICS IN THE SHADOW ALTERNATIVE CONVENTIONS SUPPLY WHAT’S LACKING AMONG REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS On July 31, the national media’s attention will turn to Philadelphia. On August 14, the focus will shift to Los Angeles. These are the sites of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, which promise to be choreographed, polished and free of any real discussion of policy. But the vacuum of the conventions will not necessarily cause Americans to forget important political issues. People from around the country will fill both host cities with events providing a strong counterpoise to the major party hoopla, including the Shadow Conventions. These gatherings, held in large venues near the Convention sites, will raise issues that the Republicans and Democrats have chosen to ignore: poverty, campaign finance reform and the disastrous conse quences of the drug war. Philadelphia and Los Angeles will also witness major protests, as both permitted demonstra tions and non-violent direct actions occur to raise issues ranging from universal health care to global economic jus tice. Unlike the Democratic and Republican Conventions, the Shadow Conventions promise to put debate in the foreground. Call to Renewal, the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support, and United for a Fair Economy— three groups dedicated to ending persistent poverty during a period of unprecedented eco nomic growth—are organizing the convention’s proceedings on poverty and the wealth gap. Chuck Collins, Co-Director of United for a Fair Economy, warns of the dangers cf a growing divide between rich and poor in this country: “We are drifting toward economic apartheid, and our national politics reflects this. How could repealing the estate tax become a political priority? A policy that only effects the richest two percent of households and a windfall for 3,000 households with wealth over $5 million? We need a Shadow Convention to remind us of the people who are living in the shadow of prosperity.” United for a Fair Economy and the other organizers of this event hope to call attention to a harshly divided economy in which one percent of the U.S. population owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, a greater concentra tion than any time since the eve of the Great Depression. As Jim Wallis of Call to Renewal observes, “The rising tide is lifting the yachts, but not all the boats." Common Cause and Public Campaign, two groups working to reduce the influ ence of big money on politics, are leading the proceedings on campaign finance reform. Dismayed by the Democrats’ and Republicans’ expected, unregulated “soft money" take of more than $500 mil lion, Scott Harshbarger, presi dent of Common Cause, says, “The political parties have eroded their once-noble traditions and have transformed themselves into something almost unrecognizable: giant mail drops for special-interest money.” Syndicated columnist Ariana Huffington has joined with the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, a drug policy institute which educates Americans on alternatives to cur rent drug policies, to convene the Shadow Convention pro ceedings on America’s “failed drug war." Ethan Nadelmann, director of the foundation, says the nearly half a million Americans currently imprisoned on drug charges is almost 10 times as many as in 1980 and is more than the entire prison population of Europe. “Drug policy reform is rapidly emerging as a new movement for political and social justice in the United States—one that calls for drug policies based upon common sense, science, public health and human rights," he says. The Shadow Conventions’ organizers arid speakers hold generally progressive view's, but there are exceptions. Senator John McCain will presumably call for campaign finance reform. He is only one of several major political fig ures scheduled to speak at the Shadow Conventions. Other speakers include Democratic and Republican senators, rep resentatives and governors, like Representative John Lewis, civil rights veteran and Democrat from Georgia. Despite their appearances at the Shadow' Conventions, these politicians remain insiders. They will speak out on both parties’ failings and then return to their reserved spots within their respec tive parties’ conventions. The celebrity speakers may repeat this pattern of loyal opposition to major party politics as well. Warren Beatty, will be a featured speaker alongside Al Franken and Bill Maher and activists and writers like Jesse Jackson and Jonathan Kozol. Huffington and Franken combined humor with politics when they covered the 1996 National Conventions for Comedy Central, and they will provide similar commentary this year. Green Party Presidential Nominee Ralph Nader will present an alternative to both major parties when he speaks. While McCain may seem more at home inside the Republican Convention, Nader seems more at ease with the protesters who will be present en masse outside both con ventions. Unity 2000, a loose coalition of over 100 groups, will attempt to build on the momentum gener ated by the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle and the International Monetary Fund-World Bank protest in Washington, DC. It is hosting dozens of events to call attention to a wide variety of socio-economic ills. The city of Philadelphia attempted to prevent these protests, but a lawsuit brought by Unity 2000 forced the city to grant permits. On July 31. the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, a coalition of over 35 poor people’s organizations and their allies throughout the United States, will be holding a March for Economic Human Rights. This campaign is building a nationwide move ment led by poor men, women and children to end poverty. They hope to draw attention to rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as a living wage, education, health care and adequate food, clothing and shelter—rights that the United States does not recog nize. despite its signature on this document. The c»ty of Philadelphia has denied it a permit to march, but the group has pledged to go ahead regardless of the outcome of a law suit it has filed against the city. It is calling on students, pro fessionals and other allies of its movement to come to Philadelphia and act as human rights monitors to document any violation of constitutional rights to assemble and speak. The Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care, a national organization of health professionals working for major health care reform, has organized a demonstra tion for July 29 in Philadelphia, immediately preceding the Republican Convention. The members of the Ad Hoc Committee agree to five principles first set forth in a 1997 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They insist that “the healing pro fessions must not be diverted from their primary purpose: the relief of suffering, the pre vention and treatment of illness and the promotion of health,” that “pursuit of corporate profit and personal for tune have no place in care giving," that “potent financial incentives that reward overcare or undercare weaken profes sional bonds, and should be prohibited," that “a patient’s right to a health professional of choice must not be cur tailed,” and that “access to health care must be ihe right of all." In addition to these demonstrations, there will be Seattle- style, non-violent civil disobedience to disrupt both the Democratic and Republican conventions. In Los Angeles there will be direct action to protest for racial, gender, les- bian/gay/bisexual/transgender, economic and environmental justice, and to protest against police brutality, the prison- industrial complex, the death penalty and the criminalization of entire communities. This year, history will not be made inside the major party conventions. Organizers hope the thousands of citizens who gather in alternate conventions and on the streets will rank the Shadow' Conventions alongside the WTO, IMF and World Bank protests as the beginning of a new' citizens’ movement for democracy and justice. James Hare JULY 19 University Round Table invites YOU to the 40 WATT 285 W. Washington Street for an evening of discussion with velena VEGO of THE 40 WATT & bob SLEPPY of NUQI’S SPACE about the ATHENS MUSIC SCENE (past, present & future) cookies and ice cream will be served free to all WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2000 6pm for more info call 549-7871 DePalma’s.. .that’s Amore. DSPALMAS ITALIAN CAFE Come Try Our New Menu. Lasagna • Scampi • Manicotti • Ravioli • Scallopini Fresh Catch • Daily Specials • Homemade Desserts DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE 401 EAST BROAD ST. 1965 BARNETT SHOALS ;<1) A54-6966 369-0085 2000 FLAGPOLE □ Want More Info? Check out the following: • ■? Shadow Conventions 2000, Unity 2000, The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, The Philadelphia Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care, Mobilization to Protest the Democratic National Convention 2000, . .