People Power Gains Respect

A couple of New York Times articles give an overview of “people power” in light of what’s been going on in the Ukraine. Youth Movement Underlies the Opposition in Ukraine discusses the similarities between the techniques and demographics of the opposition movement in the Ukraine and other recent “people power” movements (though the article doesn’t mention Serbia’s Otpor, that’s the comparison that jumped to my mind first).

Heeding the Roar of the Street gives a run-down of some of the instances of “people power” uprisings over , and the elements that make for success or failure.

The U.S. government is providing assistance to the nonviolent resistance organizers in the Ukraine, as are some other organizations, for instance George Soros’s Open Society Institute. The Albert Einstein Institution has made available a Ukrainian translation of Gene Sharp’s nonviolent uprising manual From Dictatorship to Democracy.

Reason comments on the situation in the Ukraine and notes that while the demonstrators are certainly being assisted by some deep-pocketed realpolitikers,

Still, the very experience of overthrowing a government this way — of building independent institutions, diffusing power through civil society, and learning first-hand that it’s possible to say no to authority — unleashes something that’s hard for any politician to control. Those tent cities aren’t merely a demand for freedom. They’re acts of freedom themselves: of men and women voluntarily assembled both to defy the old order and to build something new.

Deutsche Welle reports that tax resistance is being used in the Ukraine’s power struggle:

With some powerhouse eastern regions halting payment of taxes to the federal coffers and trade disrupted, [President Leonid] Kuchma said the more than week-long dispute over contested presidential elections was paralyzing the ex-Soviet country.

“Another few days and the financial system could fall down like a house of cards,” Kuchma said in a meeting with [Prime Minister] Yanukovych.

“It is clear today that unremitted taxes have reached a billion hryvnas (€150 million, $200 million). Customs duties have fallen by a quarter,” said Kuchma, according to a statement from the president’s office.

Private Firms to Chase Delinquent Taxpayers reports the Washington Post:

When Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) teamed up in to get the House to pass an amendment blocking the use of private companies to collect back taxes from delinquent taxpayers, it seemed the Bush administration plan might be doomed for at least a year.

But in the final hours of drafting a 3,300-page spending bill last month, House and Senate negotiators eliminated Capito’s and Van Hollen’s handiwork, clearing the way for the Internal Revenue Service to hire commercial debt collectors. These private agents could keep as much as 25 percent of the amounts they recovered.…

Under the legislation, contractors will not have access to tax return information, other than the amount owed, and will have no role in determining the amount that is owed, officials said. They will be given names, addresses, phone numbers and other identifying information about delinquent payers.

Private collectors will have authority to set up installment payment agreements, and gather financial information about those targeted, presumably to assess their ability to pay or to locate assets that might be attached.