Friday, April 29, 2005

You Need Live Music to Have a Decent Party

Welcome Local 802! The largest union of professional musicians in the world -- Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians -- has joined the WFP, and we're thrilled to have them in our band of labor and community affiliates.

If you care about live music, take 20 seconds to sign Local 802's electronic petition at

Finishing off Rocky

The Drug Policy Alliance is gearing up to finish the job of full reform of the Rockefeller drug laws. The state legislature took the first steps towards full reform last December -- after witnessing the David Soares' upset victory in his campaign to become Albany County District Attorney (a campaign that the WFP helped turn into a referendum on Rockefeller drug law reform).

But much more needs to be done, and DPA is gearing up to finish the job that tireless advocates and families have been working at for nearly 30 years. A big event is coming up:
A “phase 2” victory is now on the horizon. The Alliance has been hard at work with the Real Reform coalition to influence the next round of reforms, and the State Assembly is currently drafting a reform bill which the Alliance will analyze upon its release. On May 6, 2005 the Alliance will join coalition partners from Real Reform New York at a major press conference on the steps of City Hall in New York City to show our support for real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The press conference will feature community advocates like Cheri O’Donoghue, (whose son Ashley is serving a 7 – 21 year Rockefeller sentence), State Senator Eric Schneiderman, and the Alliance’s director of public policy, Michael Blain, among others.

Despite last fall's progress, this remains a very important fight.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

In New York, it's spelled W-F-P

David Sirota asks what happened to the party of the working class.
... an increasing number of Democrats are abandoning the party's traditional working/middle-class base. Adding insult to injury, Roll Call today reports that these turn-coat Democrats demanding an apology from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for having the nerve to call them out for voting for the credit card industry-written bankruptcy bill - a bill that most rational people know completely sells out average Americans. Yet, as writer Matthew Yglesias correctly notes, "I've yet to hear a good explanation - or even an attempt at an explanation -- from anyone in the 'centrist' faction as to what [Democratic defectors] were doing on the bankruptcy bill" (See Atrios and Dailykos for more on this specific issue).

One simple question jumps out from all this pathetic news: What happened to the Democratic Party, the party that bills itself as representing the middle and working class? Certainly, there are still terrific individual Members of Congress who fight for the middle /working class. But in general, the party is clearly facing an insurgency from people who do not care about average Americans' economic concerns. So the question again: what happened to the Democratic Party - the party that is supposed to fight for regular people? I'd like an answer.

In New York, it's spelled W-F-P.

Moving and Shaking in Albany

Democracy in Albany posts about the Third Ward race shaping up in Albany where Soares campaign aide and 1100 organizer Corey Ellis is going to be taking on (down?) incumbetn Michael Brown:

Corey Ellis has announced his intention to challenge incumbent Michael Brown for the 3rd ward Common Council seat in Albany. From the TU:

"Our current representative has been a loud voice, but he has not brought hope to our community"

Now the TU refers to Michael Brown as "fiery". What makes one "fiery"?

Calling your fellow common council members cockroaches.

Sending out political mailings attacking your other common council members and using tax payer dollars to do it.

Refusing to show up in court for your involvement in a voter fraud case.I think a new voice for the 3rd ward sounds like a great idea.

A Solid Plan

Our brother Eddie Bautista's guest op-ed in Sunday's Daily News is a must-read for all those concerned about the city's, and the region's, trash issues. Here it is in full:

Each borough should handle its own trash


Plans to change the city's sanitation program so that garbage gets floated
out of the city on barges - not hauled out of town on trucks every day -
represent a smart, fair way to correct a terrible injustice in how New York
handles its trash.

Right now, it literally takes millions of truck trips a year to get the
city's trash out of town - and over 80% of the garbage is trucked, stored, and
bundled for interstate transport at waste transfer stations in just four of New
York's 59 community districts.

Not one waste transfer facility is in Manhattan; most are concentrated in
low-income communities in the South Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

The diesel fumes from all the trucks carry high concentrations of fine
particulate matter, contributing to the staggeringly high rates of asthma in
these neighborhoods.

The city's environmental leaders, including Marcia Bystryn of the League of
Conservation Voters and Mark Izeman of the Natural Resources Defense Council,
are united in calling for an end to this injustice. The new Solid Waste
Management Plan proposed by the mayor is an important step in the right

The plan would convert many city-owned properties - distributed equitably
around the city's waterfront - into state-of-the art marine transfer stations.
Every barge used to float trash away would carry the equivalent of 15 long-haul

Most importantly, under the mayor's plan each borough would handle its own
waste at these waterfront locations.

The big challenge of making the plan work is Manhattan. The borough
generates more than 40% of New York's commercial putrescible waste - the
smelliest, rotting garbage - but it all gets trucked daily to communities in
Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

Manhattan has three dormant marine transfer stations that were operational
until a few years ago - at 59th St. and 12th St. on the Hudson River and 91st
St. on the East River. These are ideal locations for new stations that use good
design, new technology and a smart operational plan to handle the borough's

It's unjust for communities of color and working-class New Yorkers in the
outer boroughs to bear the city's trash burden alone. Fairness demands that each
borough needs to be responsible for its own waste, and the mayor's plan will
make sure that happens.

Eddie Bautista is lead organizer of the Organization of Waterfront

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Billy Joe Armstrong on the Bankruptcy Bill

Indicia of the penetration of the wretched stench of the Credit Card Issuer Protection Act passed by Congress comes in this a posting about the band Green Day on Crooked Timber, quoting their lead singer at a recent concert:

the line of the night was certainly when Billie Joe Armstrong introduced the band, culminating in this: “And I’m George W. Bush.”

Crowd: “Boo!”

Armstrong: “You better hope you don’t go bankrupt.”


Organizing the Middle East

Interesting story in The New Republic by Joseph Braude, courtesy of Crooked Timber, recommending that the U.S. support unionization of the Arab world as a way of advancing democracy:
In light of the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were
Saudis, it’s hard to fathom why the United States would even consider ignoring a
secular movement in the Gulf with reasonable goals and thousands of members. ...
The Gulf unions, by contrast, according to the American labor official, desire
logistical support and training from the United States—a sentiment you don’t
hear very often from the traditional Arab labor headquarters in Damascus. To be
sure, the Bahraini unions are—and the Kuwaiti unions are about to become—members of the Damascus-based establishment. All the same, their eagerness for American partnership is an opportunity to plant the seeds of meaningful political change. ... What can the United States do for these unions in practical terms? In
countries where there are no unions, the U.S. government should demand to know
why—well before a free trade agreement is signed. Laws restricting public
assembly—which exist in many Gulf states—ought to be eased in any country
wishing to sign a free-trade agreement with the United States. But the right to
assemble is only the first step in a long road that should lead to the rights to
strike and collectively bargain—which either don’t exist or are severely
constrained in all Gulf states. And it’s not just the U.S. government that has a
role to play. In countries where unions are already active and feisty, like
Bahrain and Kuwait, American labor unions should lend support to their
counterparts by offering advice and tactical training.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Mike Has Kind Words for a WFP Idea

Michael Bloomberg on WABC Radio (4/22/05):
“Taxes are a necessary evil. If you’re going to pay the municipal workers we talked about, provide the great services we talked about, there are intelligent ways to do it. Take a look -- the Working Families Party has come up with some ideas on how do you raise revenue without driving people out of the city. There are a number of other people who have – advocates for New York City schools – who have come up with other suggestions.”

The WFP/Alliance for Quality Education Tax Proposal:
Continue the City's personal income tax surcharge on New Yorkers making more than $500,000 per year. Dedicate the proceeds to reduce class size.

Last week, Bertha Lewis, WFP State Co-Chair said: "The simple question we’ll be asking every politician, including Mayor Bloomberg, is this: Do you stand for tax cuts for the wealthy or making sure our children have a sound basic education?”

We think we may have heard Mayor Bloomberg's answer.

Rutenberg's Overstatement

Whatever one thinks of Gifford Miller, Allan Jennings and NY Times City Hall bureau chief Jim Rutenberg, a certain amount of perspective seems inadvertently absent from this sentence in Rutenberg's lede today:

Allegations of sexual harassment against Councilman Allan W. Jennings Jr. of
Queens, which first surfaced more than a year ago, presented Gifford Miller
with his first major test as the Council's speaker.
(emphasis added)

Rutenberg, who is generally an outstanding reporter and analyst, can perhaps be forgiven. He was covering presidential media wars during the property tax fight, the budget fights of 2002 and 2003 and the lead paint bill debate.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

How much does a political line cost?

In Newsday today:
One Bloomberg insider derides Working Families as a "bargain-basement" line for
the Democrats.

Well, if there's one politician in New York who knows something about how much it costs to buy a political line ...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Organizing, Millworker Style

Former Sen. John Edwards, the featured speaker at the WFP's blockbuster fundraiser last week, had this to say today about propsoed new federal legislation that would facilitate labor organizing:
As I have been traveling across the country looking at ways to help families escape poverty and join the middle class, I have seen time and time again that joining a union is one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty. Americans in unions earn 27% more than Americans not in unions.

Today, Congress is introducing bipartisan legislation to restore a worker's right to organize. The Employee Free Choice Act would make it harder for employers to prevent workers from joining a union.

All too often, America's workers face harassment and intimidation when they try to join a union. They work hard for our country, but our laws aren't working for them. This important legislation would change our laws so that workers - not employers - can decide whether to start a union.

Please help America's workers by contacting your Senators and U.S. Representative and asking them to cosponsor this critical legislation immediately.

This bill would ensure a worker's right to join a union by requiring employers to recognize a union if a majority of employees have designated the union as their bargaining representative. Also known as "card check," this system offers a free and fair way for American workers to decide whether to join a union.

And this act strengthens penalties against employers who violate the rights of their workers while they are trying to organize a union and negotiate their first contract.

Americans all across the country want the chance to build a better life for their families. They want a fair wage, good health care coverage and the option of joining a union. It is wrong for employers to interfere with their right to organize.

We need your help to ensure that the rights of America's workers are protected. By asking your representatives in Congress to support this legislation, you can help build an America that respects the rights of all its citizens.

Right on.

We're not holding our breath waiting for this Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, but kudos to its 119 (at last count) co-sponsors for forcing their colleagues to choose publicly whose side their on.

MoveOn's Not Bankrupt

Anyone who says MoveOn is an uncritical appendage of the Democratic Party should check this out.
In an aggressive ad buy starting today, targets the Democrats' number two in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). The group believes Hoyer failed progressives by not rallying Democrats against the bankruptcy bill, which they say caters to credit card companies and special interests.

"Last year, half the personal bankruptcies in America were ordinary working people with extraordinary medical debt," an avuncular announcer reads in their 60-second radio ad. "You'd think Steny Hoyer would've helped them. Think again."
Of course, Hoyer was not the only House Dem sleeping with the enemy.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Mission Corrupted

(Courtesy of The Stakeholder)

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) blasted the growing politicization of the U.S. Department of Labor today, at the same time as the agency "frequently fails in its primary mission to protect American workers and that misuses public resources." Miller's dead-on critique follows below and is available in its original form on the web here.

Representative Miller Says Labor Department is Growing Increasingly
Cites Decision to Investigate AFL-CIO’s Social Security Campaign as Example of Misuse of Public Resources

Monday, April 18, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC -- Representative George Miller (D-California) said today that he harbors serious concerns that the Bush Administration is turning the Department of Labor into a partisan political organization, one that frequently fails in its primary mission to protect American workers and that misuses public resources.

Miller cited a recent decision by the Labor Department, prompted by a letter from two Republican lawmakers, to consider launching an investigation of the AFL-CIO over the trade federation’s public outreach campaign on Social Security as evidence of the growing politicization of the Department. The AFL-CIO has publicly opposed the President’s plan to privatize Social Security, and Miller said the investigation appears to be retaliatory.

“I am deeply concerned that partisan politics is dominating the decision making at the Bush Labor Department to the detriment of its official mission to honestly represent and protect the interests of America’s working women and men,” said Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

“Under President Bush, the Department of Labor has increasingly shifted its resources and attention away from protecting workers and towards attacking the organizations that represent workers. It looks like this has more to do with using official resources to retaliate against organized labor because it opposes certain Bush Administration policies, not because there is a documented concern about
increased legal violations by organized labor.”

The Labor Department’s shifting focus is confirmed by an analysis of its

Funding for staffing at the Department’s Wage and Hour Division, which enforces overtime, minimum wage, and child labor laws, dropped $113 million between 2001 and 2005. And the Administration has not sought any increase in that division’s staffing budget for the 2006 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, funding for staffing at the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), which investigates labor unions, increased $74 million (28.2 percent) over the same period. This has happened even though union financial reporting is now automated and digitized for online searches, and even though the share of the American workforce that belongs to a union – now at 7.9 percent of the private sector – is at an all-time low.

Yet the Administration is now seeking an additional $48 million for fiscal year 2006, a 14.3 percent increase over 2005, for OLMS staffing.

Congressmen John Boehner (R-OH) and Sam Johnson (R-TX) sent a letter to Secretary Chao in March that accused the AFL-CIO of several violations of the law for its Social Security campaign.

“Those accusations are without any merit,” said Miller. “The claims are an overreach of stunning proportions. Nevertheless, they have gained currency with the Bush Administration, which has made no secret of its desire to undermine labor unions.”

Miller raised his concerns in a letter today to Secretary Chao. Miller’s letter states that the accusations from Reps. Boehner and Johnson lack both legal and factual support and warns of the effects that an investigation of the AFL-CIO over its Social Security campaign would have.

“Any effort to use Department of Labor’s investigative arm to bully political opponents and chill their First Amendment Rights would set a shameful precedent, and would constitute an abuse of governmental authority,” Miller wrote in his letter.

“America’s labor unions have a Constitutional right to speak out on issues affecting the economic security of their members, free of governmental intimidation and threats.”

Bush Administration Using Taxpayer Dollars to Fund Partisan Events

Miller also criticized the Department for considering this investigation in light of the Department’s own efforts to promote President Bush’s privatization proposal. For example, the Department’s web site features a link on its front page to ‘,’ an Administration web site advocating privatization of Social Security. Secretary Chao herself recently spoke at an event in Pittsburgh that was part of the Administration’s ‘60 Stops in 60 Days’ Social Security tour.

“These events are highly partisan, complete with reported blacklists to exclude people because of their views, yet they are paid for with taxpayer dollars,” said Miller.

A Contrast with Labor Department’s Sweetheart Deal with Wal-Mart

In February, Miller criticized a deal between the Department of Labor and Wal-Mart that gives the giant retailer 15 days of prior notice before launching an investigation into a complaint of a violation of wage-and-hour law. In effect, Miller said, that deal would allow Wal-Mart to sweep complaints under the carpet before they are investigated. Miller contrasted that decision with the Department’s decision to investigate the AFL-CIO.

“Wal-Mart, an enormous corporation that has contributed lavishly to the Republican Party, gets special treatment even in the face of numerous violations of child labor laws,” said Miller.

“Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO, the primary organization representing American workers, might now get investigated even when no legitimate evidence has been presented to support the need for an investigation.

“The conclusion is inescapable: The Bush Administration is using the
Department of Labor as another weapon in its considerable political arsenal, to the detriment of workers and taxpayers. I am calling on Secretary Chao to stop using the department for partisan political purposes and return to the responsibility the department has to fairly represent American workers.”

What Would Marty Markowitz Say?

Evening with the Democratic Candidates for Mayor

“A Forum for the Candidates to Discuss Their Vision for NYC"

hosted by

Brooklyn Young Democrats, New York Urban League & Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, April 21, 2005 6-9PM

Program Begins at 6:30pm – Please Arrive on Time

Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
68th Street between Lexington & Park Avenues

A. Take the 4 to the 6 ? Fuhgeddaboutit?
B. Whatsamatter with Brooklyn College? or
C. Oy! It's like the Dodgers all over again!

Tom DeLay & Co.

A correspondent reminds us of another connection in the whole DeLay/Abramoff scandal that hasn't been written about in the round of stories this year.

Karl Rove's assistant and gatekeeper, Susan Ralston, was hired at the suggestion of Abramoff.
Abramoff had his own person at the exact center of power of the free world. Think Abramoff used that connection? How does this fit into Abramoff-DeLay? Something to think about.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Top 10 Reasons the Times Is Wrong

The Times editorial page got it mostly* wrong in its analysis of the state's third parties. Cross-endorsement is good for New York and good for democracy. Here's why:

1. The best response to the Independence Party is to defeat it politically, not legally. The Times is right to have a problem with the vastly disproportionate amount of power Lenora Fulani has through the ballot line she controls. But defeating the Independence Party politically, by exposing its dearth of values and its spectacle of corruption is preferable and less threatening to First Amendment values. Liberal Party R.I.P.

2. Effective third parties are the most effective way to actually fix Albany. The Times editorial page (when it deigns to discuss state issues) is fixated on the need to repair the 'dysfunction' of state politics. In fact, third parties (like guess who) have been the most potent force in starting to break the logjam of dysfunctionality that the Times rails against. By cleaving the legislature's conspiracy of stasis in 2004, the WFP was responsible for both forcing an increase in the state minimum wage and the first step towards meaningful reform of the Rockefeller drug laws.

3. The power of third parties with a distinctive political perspective to cross-endorse solves the "spoiler" problem. Does the Times really prefer a Naderite universe? The ability of a third party -- conservative or progressive -- to offer a way for citizens unhappy with some aspect of the Democratic or Republican parties to still cast a meaningful vote. Voting on the Conservative line for Bush in 2004, for example, or for Kerry on the WFP line, sends politicians an important message without wasting a vote.

4. Cross-endorsing third parties are the best way to enfranchise minority views. Short of proportional representation, which the Times has not supported, cross-endorsement is the most effective mechanism within the American tradition of ensuring that minority perspectives are heard. Winner-take all elections, the American model, discourage (even silence) minority opinions. The ability of potent third parties forces major parties to consider and negotiate with groups that would otherwise be voiceless.

5. The absence of cross-endorsement cements the power of the two-party system. Given the entrenched power of the two major parties and the concentration of wealth and power supporting the status quo, it's VERY difficult for a new political party to grow without building relationships with an existing party. Cross-endorsement permits this. Prohibiting cross-endorsement virtually guarantees that the two-party status quo will never be upset.

6. The Times' argument places it on the wrong side of history (Part I). The movement to abolish political party cross-endorsements around the turn of the century comes from Wall Street special interests, terrified at the potency of the alliance between agrarian and industrial labor movements with progressive forces.

7. The Times' argument places it on the wrong side of history (Part II). The United States is virtually alone among mature democracies in the persistence of its two-party system. Nearly every advanced democracy in the world enjoys the diversity of debate among more than two major political parties. The ability to build multi-party coalitions is a key to the strength of these pluralistic systems. The prohibition on cross-endorsement (the rule in nearly every other state) has retarded the advancement of robust democracy in the U.S.

8. The Times' argument about "party shells" has as much relevance to the State Democratic and Republican parties. The state's most organized political party is actually the WFP -- with more staff and infrastructure than any other party in the state.

9. The biggest problem with political parties -- corruption and patronage -- is not particular to cross-endorsing third parties. Unchecked, unaccountable centers of power tend to become corrupt. Agreed. That's the story of the Liberal Party in New York. But it's also the story of the Republican Party in Nassau County and the Tweed-era Democratic Party in New York City. That's not a problem that's cured by eliminating cross-endorsement. In fact, third parties are one of the best mechanisms available for insurgents to reform corrupt major parties.

10. One voter's ballot "clutter" is another voter's choice. The Times complains about "pretend political parties cluttering the ballot." That's all well and good if you're 100% happy with the 'choice' offered between the Republican and Democratic parties. And you're secure enough in the arrogance of your own opinion to make that determination for every one of your fellow citizens (ah, the power of the printing press). But if you're not that happy, or not that secure, that clutter represents additional voices and additional choices for your neighbors.

Agree? Send a letter to the editor of the Times by e-mailing

* Mostly wrong because they're right that pols could stop kow-towing to kooky Fulani.

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George Pataki Used to be a Pretty Smart Guy

This is crazy. According to a Michael Cooper story in Saturday's Times, Gov. Pataki drew a comparison between former State AG Dennis Vacco and current AG Eliot Spitzer, with Vacco being superior because under his regime there were no "overly aggressive investigations" that threatened people's retirement income.

Pataki used to be a pretty smart guy (evil, but smart). Now he's just a suck-up to the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Republican wing of the Republican party.

Arguing that Eliot Spitzer, through his successful investigations of Wall Street brokerages, the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry, has threatened retirement security? Give us a break!

Eliot Spitzer has done more to try to restore the integrity of the marketplace than any other elected official in the United States. And it's only a marketplace with integrity that can reduce the risk of pension investments and thus enhance retirement security.

Pataki and his crowd are going to have to do better than that.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Credit Card Issuer Defense Act of 2005

This is not good news. The bankruptcy "reform" bill passed the House yesterday. Some very disappointing votes among the New York House delegation. See them at

Want to know why this bill is SO BAD? Good story at

And this was especially disappointing: One New York City Democrat whipping votes to ensure passage.

"The Voice of the Growing Centrist Movement"

Kevin Sheekey: Mike for Mayor's campaign manager: "The Independence Party is the voice of the growing centrist movement in New York politics, which is why centrist Democrats like Senator Schumer, Attorney General Spitzer, and Council Education Chair Eva Moskowitz have taken that line in recent years."

Sheekey was responding to this exchange on NY1:
Dominic Carter: According to a 1995 Anti-Defamation League report this is what you they quote you as saying about Jews. Jews had to quote "sell their souls to acquire Israel and are required to do the dirtiest work of capitalism – to function as mass murderers of people of color – in order to keep it." Did you make that comment? Did you write that?

Lenora Fulani: Well, a couple of things. One is so many of these quotes have been quotes that have been in plays that Dr. Fred Newman has written in exploring some very important issues having to do with the conflicts that people on the left and people on the right have been in relative to Israel. I actually don't remember the particular quote. It’s one that comes up from time to time. One of the things I've always wanted to ask, what is anti-Semitic about it? Basically what it comes down to is a dialogue that's been going on in this country and in the world on the left by many people including progressive Jews about the role of Israel in the Middle East.
Uh, Kevin, the center of what?

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

One Agenda for Fairer State Taxes

The good folks at the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy have proposed a series of measures to produce a fairer state tax system and ensure adequate revenues for New York to provide a sound basic education to every student in the state.

Some of the key recommendations are:

-- Making the personal income tax more progressive, helping to offset the regressivity of New York's state and local sales and property taxes.

-- Making up for declining corporate tax revenues -- which contribute only half as much to the state's economy as they did twenty-five years ago -- by broadening New York's corporate income tax base.

-- Modernizing New York's regressive sales and excise tax system by broadening it to include more goods and services and providing tax credits to low-income taxpayers.

-- Restructuring New York's regressive property tax, which hits low and middle income taxpayers most heavily, as they are based on home values rather than income levels.

Worth checking out the press release summary here and the full report here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

What They Said!

"Unnecessary, irrational and unaffordable." The Washington Post editorial page on eliminating the death tax. Can't say it any clearer.

Daily Anthony

Hadn't seen this before. Today's Times reports on growing dissatisfaction in Democratic circles with New York City mayoral candidates, and mentions that, to build support online
[o]ne of the Democratic candidates, Representative Anthony D. Weiner, has been posting his own notes on [] to try to galvanize those who visit it. He argued that he had been making substantive points but that the local news media have been slow to pick up on them - an argument similar to those of the other campaigns yesterday.
To save you the work, here are his posts:

And apparently, Rep. Weiner isn't the only elected posting regularly on DailyKos...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Another Ramirez Prank?

Ben Smith has this interesting item on his blog:
So somebody is making a pitch for Hispanic Bloomberg volunteers on Craigslist:

"If you are interested in volunteering for a major political race then keep reading. As you know, NYC, post 9/11, the city had to come to grips with the destruction of the World Trade Center and the lives lost.... Based on this, NEW LEADERSHIP was what people voted for. That LEADERSHIP was one given to a gentleman by the name of Michael Bloomberg, your current mayor... [Feel] free to come on board and volunteer for Mayor Bloomberg.

The reply-to address is Anyone know who that is?
A commenter on Ben's blog then helpfully suggests that the e-mail address belongs to a bizarre-looking GOP consulting firm called American Strategies LLC.


With Terence Tolbert on board Mike for Mayor and Fernando Mateo possibly on his way, Kevin Sheekey hires a West Point cadet named Brett to recruit Latino volunteers on Craigslist?

Are we sure this isn't another Ramirez prank?

Fusing Oregon

The effort to spread fusion voting (the ability of political parties to cross-endorse candidates, as in New York) around the country is growing. Progressives, seeing the success of the WFP in New York in advancing a good jobs/good schools/good government agenda, are exploring similar tactics. Check out this great post from

Did you work hard to elect John Kerry, but worried that if he won, it might not make that big a difference in economic policy, education policy, health care or even foreign policy? Did you vote for Ralph Nader in 2000, but worry that you were throwing your vote away or worse yet, helping to elect George Bush? Are you frustrated by the number of working people who vote Republican, against their own economic self interest? Do you think the Democrats have lost their focus? Do you want to make your voice heard in elections as more than a symbolic protest? Well, now that the election is over, and we're facing four more years of George Bush, it's time to talk about fusion.

Back when our democracy was younger and more vibrant, fusion was a common voting system throughout the US, including in Oregon. There were multiple parties competing for votes based on strong and clear programs.

But precisely because it gave a choice, and a voice, to militant workers and farmers, the Republicans outlawed it in all but a few states at the turn of the last century. Fusion is now legal only in a few states, and only used actively in New York and Connecticut.

Fusion gives voters a new choice, a way to make their vote meaningful without being forced to vote for a hopeless candidate, or wind up helping elect a distasteful one. Fusion voting permits more than one party to nominate the same candidate, or cross-endorse, so that voters can vote for the party that stands most strongly for their issues while knowing their votes will go to someone with a chance to win. The votes from the different parties are tallied separately, reported publicly, and then combined for that candidate's total.

Using fusion, minor parties can demonstrate in clear and unequivocal terms how much support they can deliver to a candidate by highlighting the number of votes a candidate receives on each party's line. This gives greater influence with candidates and elected officials, especially when a third party provides the margin of victory. Imagine that fusion had been legal in 2000. People could have voted for Al Gore on the Green Party line, making it clear that his margin of victory came from people who cared about Green Party issues. Or, if Oregon had had an 'education party' in 2002, Ted Kulongoski might know exactly how important saving public education is to Oregon's future, and his own.

That's what happened in the 19th century, when fusion was legal in Oregon and there were viable populist parties. In Oregon we even elected an 'anti-monopolist' reform Governor, Sylvester Pennoyer, who campaigned against 'the intolerable tyranny of trusts and corporations,' using fusion. The populists at the time regularly 'fused' with the Democratic Party. As a result, the Republicans lost their grip on the Northwest and many populist reforms were put in place. In the 1890's, the Republicans focused their energy on making fusion voting illegal, and they succeeded in Oregon and in most other states.

New York State gives us the best example of what fusion voting can accomplish. There in 1998, the Working Families Party, a coalition of labor unions (including SEIU, AFSCME, Communications Workers, Teamsters, UAW, UNITE-HERE, Laborers) and community organizations formed the Working Families Party. It now has over 60 affiliate unions and community organizations and over one million members in chapters throughout New York State. The Working Families Party regularly fuses with Democrats, and with the occasional Republican, who support their issues, which include living wages, fair progressive taxes, support for public education, and universal health care. The Party will run their own candidates when neither of the two major parties' candidates support working families' issues, but their greatest impact comes from aggressively promoting their issues rather than personalities, and using fusion by cross-endorsing major party candidates who commit to support WFP issues.

As a result of WFP pressure, New York State has managed to avoid the right wing tax cut frenzy. In 2002 the WFP led the fight for solving the New York City budget crisis through progressive revenue increases, not deep social service cuts as Oregon and so many other states have done. The WFP has also been given substantial credit for the passage of strong campaign finance legislation in New York City, a $2/hour raise in the NY State minimum wage, and the recent repeal of the worst aspects of the Rockefeller drug laws, which set the bar two decades ago for mandatory sentencing. For more details about their structure, history and many accomplishments over the past five years, visit the Party's website at

Here in Oregon we have long suffered a gridlocked Legislature from which we get no real solutions to our current fiscal, education, health care and environmental crises. Could fusion voting make a difference? Can we imagine forming our own Working Families Party in Oregon to build a strong majority for basic economic issues, issues of education, living wages, clean jobs and energy, health care, affordable housing, and support for the fair tax structure needed to provide those things where corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share? Could such a party appeal to the many working people, including some 40% of union members, who now vote Republican on 'cultural issues?'

In New York the Working Families Party attracts voters from the right, left and center. They get culturally conservative, Catholic, union voters in the suburbs and upstate New York who think the Democratic Party stands for elitism. They attract voters with no party affiliation who are generally distrustful of both major parties. And they get votes from the left and from progressive Democrats who think the Democrats should and could be much better on many issues and who want to send a message without throwing their vote away or helping to elect a Republican.

Unlike instant runoff voting (IRV), fusion voting focuses on issues rather than on candidates. Recognizing that it is hard to recruit good candidates, and harder yet to raise the money necessary to make them visible enough to win an election, fusion allows a third party to focus instead on being a party, raising issues, building constituencies for those issues, and holding candidates accountable on those issues once they are elected.

On April 12 there will be a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, (7:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Church on NW 12th and Salmon) about the state of our political parties and current reform proposals. Among the speakers will be Dan Cantor, the Director of the Working Families Party in New York. Put it in your calendar and join the discussion of how to take back our democracy.
To comment, click on "Comments" below.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I guess it doesn't take THAT MUCH time to build a law firm

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 GIULIANI in Hilton Head, SC: Rudy Giuliani in Hilton Head, SC: fundraiser for state Attorney General Henry McMaster. [The State, 1/31/05]


Saturday, May 7, 2005 GIULIANI in High Point, NC: Rudy Giuliani in High Point, NC: deliver the commencement address at High Point University [Greensboro News & Record, 3/4/05]

Friday, May 19, 2005GIULIANI in St. Paul, MN: Rudy Giuliani keynotes Center of the American Experiment annual dinner [ABC News, 3/25/05]

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed...

I noticed a new slogan on C. Virginia Fields' web site: "Let New York be New York Again."Reminds us a bit of John Kerry's toying with a campaign slogan borrowed from Langston Hughes ("Let America Be America Again").

Of course, Fields also has campaign literature bearing the banner, "A Mayor for All New Yorkers" mentioned in the Daily News last week. That slogan was borrowed from Ferrer '01.

Power Used for Good - Syracuse and the WFP Model

Great news from Syracuse today. It looks like the Common Council will pass the Living Wage bill that was defeated three years ago.

As retribution against one of the Councilors, Mike Atkins, who blocked the bill, the WFP backed a candidate named Tom Seals, who thrashed Atkins on Election Day. As in the David Soares race in Albany* and the Wayne Hall race in Hempstead,** the WFP demonstrated that it could make incumbents pay the ultimate political price for impeding the progressive agenda.

But it's not about vengeance. It's about results. And we see that now in Syracuse. Councilors formerly opposed to the legislation have switched sides and support a bill that will give hundreds of low-income workers a living wage. That's the WFP model.

To comment on this post, click on "Comments" below.

* David Soares upset incumbent Albany County DA Paul Clyne on a campaign based on Soares' support for, and Clyne's opposition to reform of the Rockefeller drug laws.

** Wayne Hall upset incumbent Mayor James Garner, running a campaign based on Hall's support and Garner's opposition to Living Wage legislation in the Village of Hempstead.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Pope and working families

So much has been said about Pope John Paul II over the last several days that I hesitate in posting this short note. He is perceived in progressive circles as a controversial figure, with much resistance and resentment about his positions on what are generally called social issues in this country. But for those whose daily work focuses on economic issues, there is much to laud in the Pope's legacy.
  • John Paul II was an inspiration for the trade union movement, both in Poland and around the world. As the AFL-CIO observes:
    "The pontiff’s most powerful statement on workers came in 1981 in the encyclical Laborem Exercens—'On Human Work'—in which John Paul called for 'ever new movements of solidarity of the workers and with the workers. This solidarity must be present whenever it is called for by the social degrading of the subject of work, by exploitation of the workers and by the growing areas of poverty and even hunger.'"
  • John Paul II was not shy about pointing out the evils of naked capitalism. In Centesimus Annus, the Pope wrote:

    "In spite of the great changes which have taken place in the more advanced societies, the human inadequacies of capitalism and the resulting domination of things over people are far from disappearing. In fact, for the poor, to the lack of material goods has been added a lack of knowledge and training which prevents them from escaping their state of humiliating subjection.... It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are "solvent", insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are "marketable", insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish. It is also necessary to help these needy people to acquire expertise, to enter the circle of exchange, and to develop their skills in order to make the best use of their capacities and resources."
It is inevitable in the days and weeks following the Pope's passing that competing interests will seek to claim and elevate portions of John Paul II's legacy. His work on behalf of workers and unions and his advocacy for social and economic justice should not go unnoticed.

Monday, April 04, 2005

80% of Life Is Showing Up

Woody Allen is credited with saying, "80% of life is showing up." Showing up on time, we think he meant. And that must explain the waves of self congratulation that swept Albany last week, and the wave from the editorial board bleachers.

However, we commented earlier on some of the well-known major substantive deficiencies in the budget. And now this:

Michael Rothfeld of Newsday explains an appalling under-the-radar bit of corporate welfare bile that was snuck in the back door:
A provision buried deep in the budget approved by the State Legislature on Thursday extends a tax break that was meant for poverty-stricken areas but in practice benefits some of New York City's most successful companies.

Those who stand to gain from the five-year extension include four companies run by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the heart of Times Square; along with Ernst & Young, the accounting firm with $14.5 billion in annual revenues; Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that employs more than 50,000 people; and Proskauer Rose, one of the nation's largest law firms.
Our good friend Frank Mauro at the Fiscal Policy Institute reminded us over the weekend how appalling this giveaway worth tens of millions of dollars is compared to Pataki's continuing effort to get the Legislature to go along with a SUNY and CUNY tuition increase.

We also note again that the aforementioned tax break comes simultaneously with the icnrease in the regressive sales tax borne most weightily by working class New Yorkers.

As Woody well knows, the other 20% counts too.

Discuss by clicking on "Comments" below.

p.s. Props to Good Jobs for New York for highlighting the giveaway to the media.

Friday, April 01, 2005

What part of 'April 15' does she not understand?

Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples did it again (or, oops, she didn't).

One Night: 900 Voters, 3 Empty Chairs

Amherst. Staten Island. Massapequa.

Three IN THIS TOGETHER town hall meetings on Social Security on Wednesday night. Three Congressmen (King, Fossella and Reynolds) without the courage to face their constituents. Three empty chairs symbolizing their absence, including this one:

The only that seemed to make the constituents of the AWOL Congressman madder than the threat to Social Security was the dereliction of duty by their elected representatives.

Great work by the IN THIS TOGETHER team!