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#349 - Ralph Nader's Democracy Toolbox -- Part 2, 04-Aug-1993

Continuing from last week, here is the second part of Ralph Nader's
suite of proposals for strengthening our democracy. Nader can be
contacted at the Center for Study of Responsive Law, P.O. Box 19367,
Washington, DC 20036.

SEVENTH, the new democracy tool box for working people contains rights
of bringing one's conscience to work without having the risk of being
unfairly fired or demoted. Ethical whistle-blowers have alerted
Americans to numerous abuses in the workplace that damage workers'
health and safety, contaminate the environment, and defraud consumers,
taxpayers, and shareholders. However, they often pay the penalty with
the loss of their jobs. The exercise of conscience needs simple,
effective legal protections which will build inside the corporation,
government, or other large bureaucracies the incentives for care,
prudence, and accountability that foresee or forestall larger harms.

EIGHTH, working people, who own over $3 trillion in pension monies,
need a reasonable measure of control over where these monies are
invested. Presently, a handful of banks and insurance companies control
and make these decisions. During the 1980s the use of pension monies
for corporate mergers, acquisitions, leveraged buyouts and other
empire- building maneuvers showed what does happen when ownership is so
separated from control. Control by the few often left economic wreckage
behind in many communities, and such capital draining takeovers did not
produce employment or new wealth.

Pension monies are gigantic capital pools that can be used productively
to meet community needs, but not when their owners are excluded from
any organized participation or even the right to know and review what
has been decided.

NINTH, the new democracy tool box applies to recognizing shareholder
democracy as well. Whether large, small or institutional shareholders
(such as pension or other trust funds), the separation of ownership (of
the company) from control has been documented impressively, starting
with the celebrated study by Berle and Means fifty years ago. [See
Adolph A. Berle and Gardiner C. Means, THE MODERN CORPORATION AND
PRIVATE PROPERTY (N.Y.: The Macmillan Co., 1933).] The business press
is filled with reports of executives of large corporations repeatedly
abusing shareholder assets and worker morale with huge salaries,
bonuses, greenmail, and golden parachutes (untied to company
performance), self-perpetuating boards of directors, the stifling of
the proxy voting system and blocking other shareholder voting reforms
such as cumulative voting powers and access to relevant shareholder
lists and information. The owners of corporations should be able to
prevent their hired executives from engaging in what BUSINESS WEEK
called casino capitalism that often ends with mass layoffs, loyal
shareholder losses and communities undermined.

TENTH, the new democracy tool box needs to be taught in its historic
context and present relevance as part of an engrossing civic curriculum
for our country's schoolchildren. Involving all students during their
later elementary and secondary school education in practical civics
experience so as to develop both their citizen skills and the desire to
use them, under the rule of law, can enrich schools, students, and
communities alike. Where teachers have made such efforts, the children
have responded responsibly and excitedly, to the frequent surprise and
respect of their elders. Schooling for informed and experienced
participation in democratic processes is a major reservoir of future
democracy and a profound human resource to be nurtured. [Nader has
subsequently published a first-rate textbook: Katherine Isaac, RALPH
STUDENTS (Washington, D.C.: Center for Study of Responsive Law, 1992);
$17.50 from Essential Books, P.O. Box 19405, Washington, DC 20036.]

In conclusion, these tools for democracy have fairly common
characteristics. They are universally accessible, can reduce government
and other deficits, and are voluntary to use or band together around.
It matters not whether people are Republicans, Democrats, or
Independents. It matters only that Americans desire to secure and use
these facilities or tools.

Without this reconstruction of our democracy through such facilities
for informed civic participation, as noted above, even the most well-
intentioned politicians campaigning for your vote cannot deliver, if
elected. Nor can your worries about poverty, discrimination,
joblessness, the troubled conditions of education, environment, street
and suite crime, budget deficits, costly and inadequate health care,
and energy boondoggles, to list a few, be addressed constructively and
enduringly. Developing these democratic tools to strengthen citizens in
their distinct roles as voters, taxpayers, consumers, workers,
shareholders, and students should be very high on the list of any
candidate's commitments to you. Unless, that is, they just want your
vote, but would rather not have you looking over their shoulder from a
position of knowledge, strength and wisdom.

--Ralph Nader, Feb. 1, 1992


A study by the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco[1]
concludes that there has been "a wave of recent attacks" against
environmental activists. In late 1992 the Center reported that a four-
month investigation had "uncovered a pattern of death threats,
firebombings, shootings and assaults targeting 'green' activists across
the nation." The Center has confirmed more than 100 reports of attacks
and harassment since 1988 and has investigated 54 of them in detail.

The Center says, "The incidents read like an Amnesty International
report, but instead of accounts of terror in some distant land, these
attacks are being planned and executed in places like Portland, Oregon;
Junction City, Georgia; and Mobile, Alabama." Amnesty International is
an independent organization that monitors torture and other abuses of
human rights around the world.

Environmentalists have received death threats in at least 9 states.
Wilderness advocate Scott Groene returned to his Moab, Utah home to
find a death threat taped to his porch: "Paper and wood products are no
longer available: wipe your ass on a spotted owl. Southern Utah will
have harmony when Scott has a FATAL accident in the environment!"

Betty Ball at the Mendocino Environmental Center (Ukiah, Calif.)
received a letter calling her a "sleazy dike [sic]" and promising to
"hunt down each and every member like the lesbians you really are."

Shots have been fired at environmentalists in Arizona, Colorado,
Kentucky, Texas and West Virginia. In Hedgesville, W.V., Hilda
Kettering was fighting a landfill that threatened her drinking water
supply. In July, 1990, someone fired a shotgun into a pickup truck
driven by her 25-year-old son, Steve. He was struck by 8 pellets; his
passenger, Holly Folden, 18, received 30 pellets in her face and ears.

In January, 1992, a suspicious fire, which authorities call a likely
arson, totally destroyed the home of environmentalist Michael Vernon in
Solon, Maine. Vernon's home and environmental library were a total
loss. We have previously reported (RHWN #233) that the Arkansas home of
Pat Costner, director of research for the Greenpeace toxics campaign,
was torched in March, 1991, by an arsonist who left behind a gasoline
can. Costner lost 30 years' worth of books, papers and computer files,
along with everything else she owned. Suspicious fires have destroyed
the homes of green activists in Arkansas, Maine, Montana, New
Hampshire, New Mexico, and New York.

Bruce Hamilton of the Sierra Club believes much of the violence is
being fostered by the heads of cor-porations who pit neighbor against
neighbor by "blackmailing" workers with scare tactics. [For a
discussion of this tactic, see Richard Kazis and Richard L. Grossman,
New Society Publishers, 1991).] Former logger Gene Lawhorn describes
mandatory anti-environmental workshops given to workers at his mill.
"It scared the hell out of you," he says. "For an hour they made you
sit while they described environmentalists as preservationists, as
tree- hugging pagans trying to overthrow Christianity. They said the
preservationists were going to take your job."

The Center for Investigative Reporting says "The sharp increase in
attacks against environmentalists parallels the growth of the pro-
development coalition known as the Wise Use Movement." Ron Arnold, a
leader of the Wise Use anti-environmental movement says he is committed
to non-violence, but he speaks of "destroying" environmentalists and
organizing "to kill the bastards." Arnold calls Charles Cushman,
another Wise Use leader [see RHWN #335], "our top bomb thrower" and
says Barry Commoner should be "utterly destroyed."

Stephanie McGuire runs a fishing camp on the Fenholloway River in
Florida. For years Proctor and Gamble [P&G] legally dumped 50 million
gallons of dioxin-contaminated water into the Fenholloway each day. In
1991 McGuire became active with a local group, Help Our Polluted
Environment, and petitioned P&G to reduce their toxic discharges.
McGuire received a chilling phone call: "Keep talking," a man's voice
warned, "and we'll cut your tongue out."

On April 7, 1992, several weeks after P&G announced it was selling the
plant, three men arrived at McGuire's camp dressed in fatigues and
proceeded to torture her. Two of the men wore masks. They held McGuire
down and burned her chest with a cigar. When she broke loose and
punched one in the mouth, he stomped on her hand, crushing it. They
then held her down and cut her face and throat with a straight razor--
not deep enough to kill her, just deep enough to leave permanent scars,
and nightmares.

--Peter Montague


[1] Jonathan Franklin, "'First They Kill Your Dog,'" MUCKRAKER (Fall,
1992), pgs. 1, 7-10. MUCKRAKER is the quarterly journal of the Center
for Investigative Reporting, 530 Howard Street, 2nd floor, San
Francisco, CA 94105-3007; phone (415) 543-1200.

Descriptor terms: ralph nader; democracy; whistle blowers; whistle
blower protection; pension funds; shareholders; civics; curriculum;
teaching; schools; children; violence; job blackmail; wise use
movement; environmentalists;

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