Saturday, August 30, 2008

McCain-Palin - an insult to women

Palin supports oil drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She's not convinced global warming is a problem that our society has to act on.
She opposes women's right to choose whether or not to bear a child - even in cases of rape.
She supports teaching "creationism" in our public school science classes - as if we didn't have enough problems with advancing science in our country.
In short, she's a far-right tool chosen by the Rove slime-machine that has fixated on the notion that women can be manipulated into voting against their own self-interests. Apparently they see this as their key tactic to defeat the overwhelming desire in this country for a turn away from just such tactics.
It's an insult to women everywhere.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

My thoughts tonight

Okay, I'll admit it, sometimes it takes inspiration, stress, exhaustion, and a couple beers to get me to write. Tonight was another evening trying to get caught up on things, and started at the laundromat, finding that, to my surprise and delight, in my Chicago/Bridgeport neighborhood laundromat, one of the two TV's was tuned to PBS' coverage of the DNC. As I was of course glued to it, there was a Latino guy (wearing a tee-shirt that said something about being a designated driver for drunk, hot chicks) who came over and watched closely when Gov. Richardson gave his speech, and periodically afterwards. He wasn't the only one watching there, either. I got home shortly after, and watched Dick Durbin and the really moving video on Obama's life. I guess I'm glad I didn't make it to one of the watch parties, as I don't easily cry in front of people. Tonight I teared up many times, but, for the first time in 2 weeks, it wasn't because of sadness, it was because of hope. Here's what came out right after Obama's speech ended.

I’ll check my cynicism at the door with one quick comment, I could have done without the country music conclusion of Obama’s speech.

Tonight, I have a feeling that’s been hiding deep in my soul for several years now, a feeling that maybe things really can change. Hope, I guess you could say. This is my 4th presidential election voting and being active in campaigns, and I reflect back on why it was I got involved in politics to begin with. I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t aware of elections and who should and shouldn’t win (thanks mom!), but this is the first time I can remember when I knew they absolutely had to. I stand by the opinion that you can’t bitch about politics if you don’t vote. And you can’t change the system from without, it has to be from within.

This election has been a tough one for me, I started out supporting the white, southern boy who was the most obvious friend to workers; then the feminist and long-time Hillary supporter came out in me, only to be heart-broken when the glass ceiling was yet to be broken. It took me awhile to warm up to Obama, I’m a policy, tell-me-how-you-plan-to-do-it kind of person. And a labor person. And a woman. And a cynical Gen X-er. And someone who got their start in politics working on Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign. My initial doubts had nothing to do with race, and I took great offense to accusations that it might, both to me, my friends and family, and the 18 million people who voted for Hillary. Today, I know that race is a big issue for many voters, but I have hope. I have hope that people will see who represents them, who represents their jobs, their health, their security, their future. And that in seeing that, they’ll look past what that person looks like. They’ll see the same hope I finally feel tonight. The hope that if I end up unemployed in 4 months, I’ll be able to find a job that will still pay the bills. That when I start having kids in a year or two, we’ll be able to pay the bills, buy food and diapers, make sure the kids have decent and affordable day care, and not have to worry so much that we don’t enjoy the beautiful children we have.

Tonight I dedicate myself to this election. Not just the presidential, but state and local races, too. I might need periodic reminders as I slide back into my usual cynical self, but this race isn’t about me, it’s about the future, and my future. This race is for my kids. And their kids. It’s time for me to get past the issues I’ve had with this presidential race. It’s time for me to get over the losses of candidates that weren’t really losses. Every little girl, teenage girl, young woman, working mom, and grandmother now knows that women can achieve anything they set their minds to. We will have a woman in the White House. Maybe not this January, but soon. Hillary will do amazing things as she continues serving in the Senate; we need her there now. We need more of our allies there now. And we need more women there now.

We have to make sure that we get more of our allies into the House, Senate, and Governor’s offices this year, and in State Houses and Senates. It’s not enough to get Obama and Biden in the White House, we must also increase the number of Democrats in the House and Senate. We can’t allow another 1994 election, when any gains Bill Clinton made were completely destroyed by that Republican freshmen class. We have to look ahead to the elections in 2010 and 2012 and continue to build on the historical momentum this election is providing, to ensure that real change can and will happen.

Real change. To build on the health care plans that will likely get passed in Obama’s first 100 days, to provide real, single-payer health care for all. To not only pass, but improve the Employee Free Choice Act. To not just make it easier to get student loans, but to give people more ways to achieve higher education. To make sure that everyone is protected on all levels against discrimination, be it who they choose to marry, who they choose to be, or who they choose to live with. And to guarantee that all the benefits that go along with those choices apply, regardless of anything. To make sure that women have the choice to govern their own bodies, to receive the support they deserve for whatever decision they make, to guarantee that birth control will be free and accessible, and that child care and education at all levels are free. To guarantee that women will be paid the same wage as men for the same work, that they won’t be passed over for promotion for any reason; that men and women of all races can expect the same.

November 4, 2008, marks a date that I feel will truly impact my entire life. I don’t think I, or most Americans, can survive another 4 years. I’m tired of going nowhere, I’m ready to go somewhere. I’m ready to build the foundation for new life. I’m ready to work for the future. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to [pause and deep sigh] elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden to the White House. I’m ready to build the future for my future kids. I’m ready to make sure that change can and will happen. And I’m ready to dig in come January 20, 2009, to make sure that all the hard work we’re doing keeps going. Are you?

cheers! and peace and solidarity,
Melissa O'Rourke
Labor Commission Coordinator, CPUSA

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Union delegates and friends

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Health Care For All!!

Just a few photos from today's health care for all rally in Denver. Affordable quality health care is one of the top issues in these elections. Many at the rally showed support for a single-payer system -- meaning a public system without any of the insurance companies involved. Speakers supported electing Barack Obama as president as the first step in getting health care for all.

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Faces from Denver

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Young Clinton delegate: Hillary won wavering Dems to Obama

I found a great piece on the California Progress Report blog by Don Gibson, a student at the University of California at Davis, president of College Democrats and a Democratic Convention delegate pledged to Hillary Clinton. It's titled "Young Calif. Democratic Convention delegate: Hillary won wavering Dems."

Here are a few excerpts:

"Hillary Clinton proved why she inspired millions of Americans. The grand speech she gave reaffirmed the support that she garnered from her years of public service. Before she started speaking, she had 2 minutes of a standing ovation to her. Her speech would not have brought in every PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) supporter but it effectually convinced all of the iffy supporters to vote and campaign for Obama. …

"My friend and die hard Clinton supporter John Vigna said 'So tonight, Hillary elected Barack Obama.' He is right. I do not have any more significant qualms about voting for Senator Obama.
I hope all of the PUMA’s sleep in and do not cause a ruckus at the roll call vote which many of us are not sure how it will work. I was elected to vote for Hillary and that is what I plan on doing. I do not see anything that will change my vote as of now. Hillary had her light in the sun and the American people listened. Obama may have just won the election because of this remarkable woman.

" … Monday’s speeches were all about getting to know who Obama is. It is working and I have been learning so much about this man."

Read the rest here.

- Marilyn Bechtel

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Thoughts on Hillary's speech

All the buzz on Hillary's speech is she did what she was supposed to do -- and with a lot of style, substance and grace. Of course, McCain is focusing on what she -- according to their campaign -- should have said and didn't. Talk about male supremacy!

Anyway, the speech was masterful politics. And the thing that really struck me. She appropriated the Obama-style of doing politics and made it her own. From the grassroots -- bottom up change, references abounded. She even mentioned "union workers" two times. HArriet Tubman quote. Bush, McCain and the Twin Cities were all great parts of the speech.

At the All Boats Rise forum on the economy NY Times columnist Paul Krugman said even Rubin doesn't agree with Rubin-economics anymore. Well even Hillary Clinton doesn't agree with Clintonian politics anymore.

The brilliance of the Obama campaign was they understood this particular moment in history -- the end of the Bush era, the incredible changes taking place with new technology, and the mushrooming up of a major political movement in response to the corporate, ultra right offensive.

Clinton's campaign did not see the future but started out basing her campaign on the 1990s and "triangulation" -- or ameliorating the ultra-right.

But so much has changed since the 1990s. In the economy, look at the disaster their financial free trade has wrought. Subprime, credit meltdowns, foreclosures, bleeding jobs, wages stagnant, bankruptcies from skyrocketing health care costs/millions without insurance. Not to mention the civil rights gains being repealed, college costs, public schools and of course the Iraq war with its lies, deaths, and treasure spent.

I really agree with the previous post by Joelle Fishman. A major political realignment is underway and Hillary Clinton gets it and is going to be part of shaping the flow of history.

I wonder if her husband will get it, too.

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A new political realignment is taking shape before our eyes

Notes from Denver on day two:

I had never been to this beautiful city with majestic
mountain views, friendly welcoming people and a proud working
class history. It is a privilege to be here now as history
unfolds and political shifts open up new possibilities to
raise the quality of life and living standards of working people.

I came to participate with labor and people's organizations who
are fired up to finally defeat the ultra-right. This varied movement
goes beyond the confines of the Democratic Party and the campaign. It
reflects an expansion of the electorate and a good understanding
of the urgency to defeat the ultra-right this year. It is a product
of years of work to create a broad, all peoples front against the
ultra right.

The labor movement is front and center here. A wonderful labor unity rally
got all the union delegates, a quarter of the whole convention, prepared.
The labor caucus, as well as big caucus meets of women, youth and Latino
voters, engaging around the platform, all report that more requests
have been incorporated than ever before.

There is a lot of passion and clarity on why it is so important that
John McCain not become president. At a celebration of the 88th anniversary
of women winning the right to vote, one speaker put it plain: Do you want a zero or a hero?

That means McCain's voting record on women's health issues is zero and
Obama's is 98.

Michelle Obama's speech on the opening night of the convention captured
the journey of her African American working class family and its hopes and
dreams, made possible by struggles since our nation's founding. It showed that her
struggles are the same as many families', and touched deeply.

Both the Latino and the women's caucus meetings were big rallies
with hundreds participating. Music and other cultural aspects have
reached out to young people.

An important venue during the convention is Progressive Central sponsored
by Progressive Democrats of America around the theme Health Care not
Warfare. It organizes at the grass roots to get support for the most
progressive members of Congress. In just four years it has gained official recognition
from the House leadership for opposition to the war and other issues.

I enjoy distributing the Peoples Weekly World / Nuestro Mundo. It givea a
chance to get reactions from the public a little bit. We are getting a
great response to the paper and our election program.

A new political realignment is taking shape before our eyes as many
ordinary people become activated for the first time and embrace more
radical solutions to meet their needs.

As John Conyers said in a panel on universal single-payer health care,
"The majority of people in our country want HR 676. It's just a matter of
time and organizing as to how much longer it will be."

The speech by Barack Obama on August 28, the 45th anniversary of the
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King Jr. gave
his famous I Have A Dream speech, will be a new milestone for our country,
a passing of the torch. The outcome of the election will be determined by
each and everyone doing their part to outfox the Rove hate machine.
Spread the word and get out the vote. That's the message on day 2.

- Joelle Fishman

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hey PUMAs, listen to Hillary

Wow. Hillary Clinton's speech was one of the best political speeches ever! She has solidified herself in herstory/history. I hope these small numbers of PUMAs have listened. But even if they haven't, she reached out beyond those small numbers. Herstory/history's wave is washing over small-mindedness.

Politically -- the dynamics between Obama's approach to politics was encompassed by Hillary's profound speech. It was populist. A bridge between Clintonian politics and the new kind of populism. Isn't struggle full of interest and irony??

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On Hillary supporters and PUMA

The media is going crazy over the Hillary Clinton supporters vs. reality -- meaning that Barack Obama is going to be nominated. Here's my take on it.

I was at a Denver event celebrating the 88 years since women won the vote. The place was packed with older and younger women either in Denver for the DNC or supporters who live in Colorado. I talked to staunch Hillary supporters but the overwhelming majority of the hundreds and hundreds of women who were there were behind Barack Obama.

Yet the women I did talk to who were Hillary delegates -- from Ohio and Kentucky, both Clinton states -- were pretty adamant: They weren't happy about the pending Obama nomination and they weren't going out of their way to work for him.

All these women were white.

In one conversation the women from Ohio claimed that Hillary had brought out the Republicans and Independents in their rock red county and now these voters are going to McCain.

A former New Yorker, turned Coloradan who was a member of the Colorado State Assembly overhearing this conversation, interjected with a New York-Western attitude, "I don't believe it."

This shook these Buckeyes up and they said they were really going to work for Obama but they didn't think he'd win Ohio. "I don't believe it" this seasoned Coloradan elected official said.

Then a boisterous group of women from Kentucky wearing "Pitch Mitch" paraphanalia walked in. Knowing that Republican Mitch McConnell is in trouble for his Senate seat, I wanted to talk to them.

Well I got an earful. "Obama missed a great opportunity when he didn't pick Hillary for vice president. It could have united the party." On and on they told me how upset they still are. How unappreciated they felt. How they weren't into working for an Obama election. "Now don't get me wrong. I've been a Democrat all my life." But they were putting their all into "Pitching Mitch."

"Do you know anything about this lawsuit to prevent Obama from becoming the nominee?" I asked. The woman's face lit up. "Yeah," she blurted out. "The lawsuit was filed for a temporary restraining order but the judge denied it." Then her face changed. And she said, "No, I'm not a part of it." And our animated conversation came to an end.

I was really pondering this phenomena. Could there be women that felt so strongly about a woman president, and Hillary herself, that they are so hurt that they can't really "move on?"

I was feeling a bit foreign from these Hillary feminists. How could they not be worried about a John McCain election? How could they not be working their butts off to prevent McCain, who has a terrible record for women's rights -- declaring himself against pay equity and reproductive rights?

Then another woman came up to me and whispered: They are PUMAs.

"What is PUMA?" I asked.

"Party Unity My Ass" she said.

Hmmm, I thought. Then afterwards it dawned on me. It was history repeating. When the women's rights and abolitionist movement clashed in the 1800s it was ugly. What I read was lots of ugly, racist opinions trying to bolster the women's rights cause. The movement was too young and immature to realize you can't use racism, or be influenced by racism, to bolster another struggle for rights. It just doesn't work.

There are all sorts of people in the Democratic Party, including those influenced by racism, or those who don't want to struggle with their friends and neighbors on the issue. So instead of coming to grip with reality and fighting, these women have chosen to drop out or complain. And objectively that means McCain could win and set back women's rights 100 years. Racism does not advance women's rights.

As I heard a progressive congresswoman say to those who weren't happy about John Kerry: Just get over it!

These women are -- I'm estimating -- no more than 20 percent of the Democratic electorate. But in a tight race that's a lot! What could drive the thinking of such voters. I don't think it can be sugar-coated. It's racism. That's what distorts people from voting for their self-interest. I'm so grateful for the labor movement which has decided to take on the issue head on.

There will always be those who look for the easy way out. The non-struggle path. But as Frederick Douglass once said, Power cedes nothing without struggle, it never has and it never will.

So PUMAs -- do you really want four more years of Bush? If not, then struggle.

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'Wake up America' - Kucinich rocks Dem convention

Here's the video:

As the Chicago Tribune's blog The Swamp said, "Man, is he stirring the hall."

Read it:

"Wake up.''

Dennis Kucinich is calling. And, man, is he stirring the hall. The animated, hyper-ventilated Clevelander was bouncing on his feet as he got the hall going this afternoon.

"We Democrats are giving America a wake-up call,'' Kucinich, the fervently anti-war Democratic congressman from Ohio who twice has waged campaigns for his party's presidential nomination, said at the Democratic National Convention today.

"Wake up, America. In 2001, the oil companies, the war contractors and the neo-con artists seized the economy and have added 4 trillion dollars of unproductive spending to the national debt. We now pay four times more for defense, three times more for gasoline and home heating oil and twice what we paid for health care. ..

"Borrowed money to bomb bridges in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,'' he said. "No money to rebuild bridges in America. Money to start a hot war with Iran. Now we have another cold war with Russia, while the American economy has become a game of Russian roulette.

"If there was an Olympics for misleading, mismanaging and misappropriating, this administration would take the gold. World records for violations of national and international laws. They want another four-year term to continue to alienate our allies, spend our children's inheritance and hollow out our economy.

"We can't afford another Republican administration,'' Kucinich said. "Wake up, America. The insurance companies took over health care. Wake up, America. The pharmaceutical companies took over drug pricing.

"Wake up, America. The speculators took over Wall Street. Wake up, America. They want to take your Social Security. Wake up, America. Multinational corporations took over our trade policies, factories are closing, good paying jobs lost.

"Wake up, America. We went into Iraq for oil. The oil companies want more. War against Iran will mean $10-a-gallon gasoline. The oil administration wants to drill more, into your wallet. Wake up, America. Weapons contractors want more. An Iran war will cost 5 to 10 trillion dollars.

"This administration can tap our phones. They can't tap our creative spirit. They can open our mail. They can't open economic opportunities. They can track our every move. They lost track of the economy while the cost of food, gasoline and electricity skyrockets. They skillfully played our post-9/11 fears and allowed the few to profit at the expense of the many. Every day we get the color orange, while the oil companies, the insurance companies, the speculators, the war contractors get the color green.

"Wake up, America. This is not a call for you to take a new direction from right to left. This is call for you to go from down to up. Up with the rights of workers. Up with wages. Up with fair trade. Up with creating millions of good paying jobs, rebuilding our bridges, ports and water systems. Up with creating millions of sustainable energy jobs to lower the cost of energy, lower carbon emissions and protect the environment.

"Up with health care for all. Up with education for all. Up with home ownership. Up with guaranteed retirement benefits. Up with peace. Up with prosperity.

"Up with the Democratic Party,'' and here, Kucinich finally reluctantly [huh? he didn't look anything but enthusiastic to me - SW] said it: "Up with Obama-Biden.

"Wake up, America. Wake up, America. Wake up, America.''

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DNC Remembers Stephanie Tubbs Jones

Congressional Black Caucus leaders commemorated the life and work of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) today at the DNC.

Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) said, "She was my friend. I will always treasure her smile. Her brilliant light shines and will continue."

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said, coming from working-class roots, Rep. Tubbs Jones built her life and career working for working people. He called for celebrating her life by winning this election and making sure racism and sexism are not part of the equation.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) added, "I knew Stephanie Tubbs Jones as a constant voice for justice and peace." Tubbs Jones led the CBC in standin rock-solid with Sen. Obama, despite her own strong support for Hillary Clinton during the primary, Conyers recalled.

Conyers also recalled Tubbs Jones' fight to protect the vote in Ohio and across the country.

Rep. Benny Thompson (D-Miss.) said, "Her life an dleagcy is full of history makings." He described Tubbs Jones as "strong" for having been the "first" in so many areas of life as an Africna American and as a woman.

Thompson said that Tubbs Jones legacy is to make permanent the change her life represented. "Then her life will not be in vain," he said. He reflected that Barack Obama's election poses that great possibility.

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This is even awesomer -- Michelle Obama

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This is awesome--Kennedy celebration and speech

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"Cosmopolitan New York shares Beijing's Olympic glory

From the People's Daily, newspaper of the Communist Party of China:

Cosmopolitan New York shares Beijing's Olympic glory

The extinguishing of the Olympic flame may have drawn the curtains on the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but the heat it generated is yet to die down.

In New York, a cosmopolitan city that accommodates people of different races and cultures, the Beijing Olympiad has been widely watched and talked about, and will surely be remembered for a very long time.

Around 8 p.m. Eastern Time (2400 GMT) Sunday, many people stopped at NBC's big screen in bustling Times Square on Manhattan Island to watch the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. To them, the extravaganza was just another example of all-around excellence shown by the host nation.

"China did a great job," said Cameron and Megan Lynch from Australia who have been following the Games closely and did not mind comparing the Beijing Olympics with the 2000 Games in Sydney.

"Everything - the organizing, the venues, the environment (in Beijing) - all went so smooth, no trouble, no problem. We've been enjoying it," they said.

"Sports (in China) is good. The country is very progressive, and we've seen more technologies in this Olympics. We're happy that Russia is third on the gold medal chart, but China did better," said Russian students Grigory Kulikov and Eduard Galiullin, who are holidaying in New York.

The fact that China topped the gold medal chart was the most impressive event for Saurabh Gujarati, an Indian student doing his Ph.D at Michigan State University. "It is a spectacular feat by China. I hope India can do the same one day."

Some sports fans noticed that the host country had made progress in some events that are not China's traditional strong fields. Local high school students Dontaye Cerda and George Ayala praised the Chinese baseball team, which had put up a fierce fight against the U.S.

On or off court, many foreigners have found the Beijing Olympics offering a window to more insights into a real China.

"(The opening ceremony and the closing ceremony were) really good introductions to Chinese history, and I hope they gave everybody a better understanding of how much pride the Chinese people have for their country and history," said local businessman Tim Wendt, who lived in Beijing for a year.

He has been closely following the entire event and joined his Chinese friends at a bar in uptown Manhattan for the closing ceremony Sunday night. "It was so spectacular and I think everybody was impressed by what they saw."

"I think the Americans now talk a lot about how really good the Chinese audiences have been, especially when the Americans were part of the competition."

Wendt's Chinese friends find their confidence and pride hugely boosted by the success of the Beijing Olympics and the world's recognition of it.

Feng Zhu, an actor who just landed a part in the popular U.S. TV series Law and Order, hoped that the Chinese power demonstrated in the Olympics will promote the image of Chinese overseas.

Wall Street financier Yanhua Liu said he found courage and strength from the athletes, who motivated him to reach higher.

Margaret Chu of Taiwan was also excited about sharing the glory. "As a Chinese, I am so proud that we have achieved so much in the Olympic Games," she said.

"The Games have shown to the world a different China and lifted our international image," she added. "I am just so proud to be Chinese."

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Michelle Obama: a Remarkable Woman

Michelle Obama is speaking at the convention. She is stressing her family and her personal relationship with Barack Obama.

People of the cynical sort often insist that politics aren't about personalities, but in this case Michele's likability, her intelligence and wit, her poise under ultra right wing fire, and her fine example of leadership and commitment are indeed worthwhile qualities.

Maybe people who insist on devaluing personality do so because they lack it.

Well Michelle has it.

And the people are lovin' it. She said:

"I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president. I come here as a Mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world – they're the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. Their future – and all our children's future – is my stake in this election."

"And I come here as a daughter – raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue collar city worker, and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother's love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion, and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters."

"My dad was our rock," she said. "He and my mom poured everything they had into me and Craig. It was the greatest gift a child can receive: never doubting for a single minute that you're loved, and cherished, and have a place in this world. And thanks to their faith and hard work, we both were able to go on to college. So I know firsthand from their lives – and mine – that the American Dream endures."

She cited her and Barack's choice to teach their kids working-class values: working hard to pay the bills, scrimping and saving, honesty and integrity, treating others with dignity and respect, but also to struggle for a better world.

She talked about Barack's decision to put off Wall Street jobs in favor of becoming a community organizer. She talked about watching Barack talking with working folks on the South Side of Chicago who wanted to rebuild their city as the steel companies closed down looking for profits elsewhere.

Barack, she said, "alked about 'the world as it is' and 'the world as it should be.' And he said that all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and settle for the world as it is – even when it doesn't reflect our values and aspirations. But he reminded us that we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves – to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn't that the great American story?

"It's the story of men and women gathered in churches and union halls, in town squares and high school gyms – people who stood up and marched and risked everything they had – refusing to settle, determined to mold our future into the shape of our ideals.

"It is because of their will and determination that this week, we celebrate two anniversaries: the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.

"I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history – knowing that my piece of the American Dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I've met all across this country:

"People who work the day shift, kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift – without disappointment, without regret – that goodnight kiss a reminder of everything they're working for.

"The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table. The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.

"The young people across America serving our communities – teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.

"People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters – and sons – can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.

"People like Joe Biden, who's never forgotten where he came from, and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.

"All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do – that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

"That is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack's journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

"That is why I love this country."

[update]:My favorite lines: Michelle said, "And in the end, after all that's happened these past 19 months, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago. He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital ten years ago this summer, inching along at a snail's pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he'd struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father's love."

(Michelle for Prez. in 2016?)

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Ted Kennedy Roars [live blogging]

He is the lion of the Senate and his return to public life tonight is amazing.

He looks fit and healthy.

"We are all called to a better country and a newer world. I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate."

[Chants of Teddy Teddy Teddy]

It is a season of new hope for the many not just the few.

Guarantee every American will have decent, quality health care "as a fundamental right and not a privilege"!

[Crowd explodes]

We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes we can; and, finally, yes we will!

[Thunderous applause]

Barack Obama will close the book on divisiveness.

Barack Obama will be a commander-in-chief who understands that soldiers should never be committed to a mistake but to a cause worthy of their bravery.

[crowd roars]

Compares the future under an Obama presidency to John Kennedy's "new frontier."


This November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama...our country will be renewed again and we will be committed to his cause.

The dream is renewed.

Thanks Teddy.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Some thoughts on Biden

All things considered, and reading the initial pundity commentary, Obama's choice of Biden seems like a pretty good pick for his campaign. Biden comes from a working class background in blue-collar Scranton, Pa. (same place Hillary Clinton traces her roots to) and apparently is well liked there - note: key battleground state - key blue collar voting population. He's Catholic and also supports women's right to make their own reproductive decisions. He's a seasoned and well respected political figure/member of Congress. He knows McCain well and is said to be well able to combatively take on and expose McCain. Though he voted for that war authorization in 2002, he has long opposed the war and said that vote was a mistake. Yes he put forward a misguided plan to divide Iraq into 3 parts - but that's not going anywhere and I doubt it's an issue for this campaign. The AFL-CIO gives him an 85 percent lifetime pro-worker voting record. Yes, he's a centrist. Well, duh! This is a liberal-centrist ticket with two very strong political figures. I think it should help propel a dynamic campaign this fall that can move progressive politics forward by leaps and bounds.

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'The Crab Ship' - Japanese hungry for change

"We’re going to hell!," shouts a Japanese fisherman as he boards a factory ship bound for freezing waters off Russia.

The sailor and his comrades – a mix of sea-hardened veterans, university students and poor farm boys – are beaten and exploited by sadistic foremen and greedy bosses. When they form a union and strike, the army stomps aboard and brutally puts it down.

Such is the bare-bones plot of the proletarian classic The Crab Ship, a novel that earned its author Takiji Kobayashi the attentions of Japan’s infamous special police, who tortured him to death four years after it was published. But that was 1933, and to the astonishment of many, except perhaps Japan’s growing army of working poor, Kobayashi’s book is back in fashion, outselling most other titles on the shelves. ...

Read the rest of this fascinating article (in the UK Independent), where you also find out that the Japan Communist Party

is reportedly recruiting 1,000 new members a month, after the party leader Kazuo Shii harangued Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in February. "Day temp staff workers are being discarded like disposable articles," said Mr Shii in a TV clip endlessly circulated on the internet. The party sells 1.5 million copies of its daily Akahata (Red Flag) newspaper, though this is well down on its 3.5 million peak.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Thoughtful piece on progressives and Obama

Obama: Transformational President or Another Disappointment?

'Whether he wins or loses, the vast movement
inspired by Obama will become the next generation
of American social activists'

By Tom Hayden
18 August 2008

Barack Obama, it is true, is a transformational leader.
But he needs a transformational movement to become a
transformational president.

He is transformational not only by his charisma and
brilliance, but by embodying the possibility of an
African-American being chosen president in the
generation following the civil-rights movement. Whether
he wins or loses, the vast movement inspired by Obama
will become the next generation of American social

For many Americans, the possibility of Obama is a
deeply personal one. I mean here the mythic Obama who
exists in our imaginations, not the literal Obama whose
centrist positions will disappoint many progressives.

My wife and I have an adopted eight-year old "biracial"
boy whose roots are African-American. My adult son is
married to an African-American woman with roots in
Jamaica and Costa Rica. Our family is part of the
globalized generation Obama represents. What is at
stake for our kids' future is real, palpable, not only
political. Their future will very much be shaped by the
outcome of this election. Millions of people in this
country-and around the world-feel similarly affected.

Myths are all-important, as Obama writes in his Dreams
from My Father. Fifty years ago, the mythic Obama
existed only as an aspiration, an ideal, in a country
where interracial love was taboo and interracial
marriage was largely banned. In 1960, in my liberal
community of Ann Arbor, Michigan, our student newspaper
exposed the University of Michigan's dean of women for
secretly spying on white coeds seen having coffee with
black men in the campus Union and notifying their
parents. In those days, too, the vision of an African-
American as president was preserved only in a dream
state. As Obama himself declared on the night of the
Iowa primary, "Some said this night would never come."

The early civil-rights movement, the jazz musicians,
and the Beat poets dreamed up this mythic Obama before
the literal Obama could materialize. His African father
and white countercultural mother dared to dream and
love him into existence, incarnate him, at the creative
moment of the historic march on Washington. Only the
overthrow of Jim Crow segregation then opened space for
the dream to rise politically.

This collapse was not an engineering feat, like a
bridge falling, but the consequence of suffering and
martyrdom along with countless invisible feats of
organization in the American South.

If this sounds unscientific or, as some would say,
cultish, think about it. None of the supposedly expert
people in the political, media or intellectual
establishments saw this day coming. I didn't expect it
myself, the news was carried to me by a new generation,
including my own grown-up children. It was dreamed up
and built "beyond the radar" or "outside the box" by
experienced dreamers with long histories in community
organizing, social movements, and not a few lost
causes. They were sustained by the stones the builders
left out, the movement, "calloused hand by calloused
hand," that Obama refers to.

In one of his best oratorical moments, Obama summons
the spirit of social movements that were built from the
bottom up, from the Revolutionary War to the
abolitionist crusade to the women's suffrage cause to
the eight-hour day and the rights of labour, ending
with the time of his birth when the walls came down in
Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, and Delano, California.

As he repeats this mantra of movements thousands of
times to millions of Americans, a new cultural
understanding becomes possible. This is the foundation
of a new American story that is badly needed, one that
attributes whatever is great about this country to the
ghosts of those who came before, in social movements
from the margins.

Although Howard Zinn may not agree, Obama to a large
degree has appropriated Zinn's "people's history" model
of America as against the conservative narrative that
glorifies wars against alien savages as necessary to
forge a new democracy in the wilderness, the unbroken
story of American exceptionalism, from the colonial
forests to the Iraqi deserts, from Custer to McCain.
Obama's emerging narrative also includes but supercedes
the other major explanation of American specialness,
the narrative of the "melting pot," by noting that
whatever "melting" did occur was always in the face of
massive and entrenched opposition from the privileged.

I have met John McCain, and I happen to like him as an
earthy sort of guy. But I am constantly aware that he
bombed Vietnam at least 25 times before being shot down
in a war that never should have been fought, in a
defeat that still cannot say its name. He wants to
continue the unwinnable Iraq war, costing 10 billion
dollars per month, until every suspect Iraqi is dead,
wounded or detained, even though our military tactics
keep causing more young Iraqis to hate us than ever

As if fighting the war on terrorism until the end of
terrorism isn't enough for him, McCain wants to
reignite the Cold War until the Russians are forever
broken and humiliated. The vanguard for the anti-
Russian offensive has been Georgia, a stronghold of the
neoconservative lobby and, incidentally, a cash cow for
McCain's own foreign-policy adviser Randy Scheunemann,
who made hundreds of thousands of dollars working as a
lobbyist for the country before joining McCain's
campaign team. By supporting Georgia's impractical
attempts to seize the breakaway areas of South Ossetia
and Abkhazia, McCain has abetted another unnecessary
war he cannot win.

This inability to limit the adventurist appetite for
war is the most dangerous element of the McCain and
Republican world view. It is paralleled, of course, by
their inability to limit the corporate appetite for an
unregulated market economy. In combination, the brew is
an economy directed to the needs of the country-club
rich, the oil companies, and military contractors.

A form of crony capitalism slouches forward in place of
either competitive markets or state regulation. The
McCain future will be one of circling the wagons around
the five percent who own 40 percent of the planet's
resources against the 95 percent who live vulnerable
lives under our web of empire. To nail down this
future, McCain has pledged to nominate Supreme Court
candidates approved by the far right.

And yet McCain has a good chance, the best chance among
Republicans, of winning in November. He has Gen.
Eisenhower's war-hero persona. It is a dangerous world
out there. He appeals to those whose idea of the future
is more of the past, buying time against the
inevitable. And McCain is running against Barack Obama,
who threatens our institutions and culture simply by
representing the unexpected and unauthorized future.

My prediction: If he continues on course, Obama will
win the popular vote by a few percentage points in
November, but is at serious risk in the Electoral
College. The institution rooted in the original slavery
compromise may be a barrier too great to overcome.

The priority for Obama supporters has to be
mobilization of new, undecided, and independent voters
in up-for- grabs states like Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Michigan, while expanding the Electoral College
delegates in places like New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada
and possibly Virginia. Unlike the nadir of 2000, when
Al Gore and the institutional Democrats seemed unable
to mount a resistance, another Electoral College loss
should trigger an unrelenting and forceful democracy
movement against the Electoral College and other
institutional chains on the right to know, vote, and

There are many outside the Obama movement who assert
that the candidate is "not progressive enough", that
Obama will be co-opted as a new face for American
interventionism, that in any event real change cannot
be achieved from the top down.

These criticisms are correct. But in the end, they miss
the larger point.

The network is
the site to visit for those who want to share and
explore these concerns in depth, while still wanting to
help the Obama movement win. Most of us want President
Obama to withdraw troops from Iraq more rapidly than in
16 months. But it is important that Obama's position is
shared by Iraq's prime minister and the vast majority
of both our people. The Iraqi regime, pressured by its
own people, has rejected the White House and McCain's
refusal to adopt a timetable.

The real problem with Obama's position on Iraq is his
adherence to the outmoded Baker-Hamilton proposal to
leave thousands of American troops behind for training,
advising and ill-defined "counterterrorism" operations.
Obama should be pressured to reconsider this recipe for
a low-visibility counterinsurgency quagmire.

On Iran, Obama has usefully emphasized diplomacy as the
only path to manage the bilateral crisis and assure the
possibility of orderly withdrawal from Iraq. He should
be pressed to resist any escalation. On Afghanistan,
Obama has proposed transferring 10,000 American combat
troops from Iraq, which means out of the frying pan,
into the fire. A July 28 Time magazine cover story by
Rory Stewart rejects such thinking: "A troop increase
is likely to inflame Afghan nationalism because Afghans
are more anti-foreign than we acknowledge and the
support for our presence in the insurgency areas is
declining." Obama should accept this advice.

Pakistan, and the possibility of a ground invasion by
Afghan and U.S. troops, could be Obama's Bay of Pigs, a
debacle. On Israel-Palestine, he will pursue diplomacy
more aggressively, but little more. Altogether, the
counterinsurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan
are likely to become a spreading global quagmire and a
human-rights nightmare, nullifying the funding
prospects for health-care reform or other domestic

In Latin America, Obama supports the Colombian
military, riddled with drug lords, against the Columbia
guerrillas, with ties of their own to narco
trafficking. Beyond that, he has been out of step and
out of touch with the winds of democratic change
sweeping Latin America. His commitment to fulfilling
the United Nations anti-poverty goals, or to
eradicating sweatshops through a global living wage, is
underwhelming and-given his anti-terrorism wars-will be

And so on. The man will disappoint as well as inspire.

Once again, then, why support him by knocking on doors,
sending money, monitoring polling places, getting our
hopes up? There are three reasons that stand out in my
mind. First, American progressives, radicals, and
populists need to be part of the vast Obama coalition,
not perceived as negative do-nothings in the minds of
the young people and African-Americans at the center of
the organized campaign. It is not a "lesser evil" for
anyone of my generation's background to send an
African- American Democrat to the White House. Pressure
from supporters of Obama is more effective than
pressure from critics who don't care much if he wins
and won't lift a finger to help him.

Second, his court appointments will keep us from a
right-wing lock on social, economic and civil-liberties
issues during our lifetime. Third, we all can chew gum
and walk at the same time; that is, it should be no
problem to vote for Obama and picket his White House
when justified.

Obama himself says he has solid progressive roots but
that he intends to campaign and govern from the centre.
(He has said he is neither a "Scoop" Jackson Democrat
nor a Tom Hayden Democrat.) That is a challenge to rise
up, organize, and reshape the centre, and build a
climate of public opinion so intense that it becomes
necessary to redeploy from military quagmires, take on
the unregulated corporations and uncontrolled global
warming, and devote resources to domestic priorities
like health care, the green economy, and inner-city
jobs for youth.

What is missing in the current equation is not a
capable and enlightened centrist but a progressive
social movement on a scale like those of the past.

The refrain is familiar. Without the militant
abolitionists, including the Underground Railroad and
John Brown, there would have been no pressure on
President Lincoln and no black troops for the South.
Without the radicals of the 1930s, there would have
been no pressure on President Franklin Roosevelt, no
New Deal, no Wagner Act, no Social Security. Without
the civil-rights and peace movements pressuring
President John Kennedy, there would have been no march
on Washington and no proposal to reverse the nuclear-
arms race.

It is true that these radical reforms were limited and
gradually weakened, but there is no evidence to suggest
that if radicals had abstained from mainstream
electoral politics that deeper reforms or revolution
would have resulted.

The creative tension between large social movements and
enlightened Machiavellian leaders is the historical
model that has produced the most important reforms in
the course of American history.

Mainstream political leaders will not move to the left
of their own base. There are no shortcuts to radical
change without a powerful and effective constituency
organized from the bottom up. The next chapter in
Obama's new American story remains to be written,
perhaps by the most visionary of his own supporters.

His own movement will have to pull him towards full
withdrawal from Iraq, or the regulation of the great
financial power centres, instead of waiting for him to
lead. Already among his elite caste of fund-raisers,
there is more interest in his position on the capital-
gains tax than holding Halliburton accountable. And his
"cast of 300" national security advisers, according to
The New York Times, "fall well within centrist
Democratic foreign policy thinking".

Progressives need to unite for Barack Obama but also
unite-organically at least, not in a top-down way-on
issues like peace, the environment, the economy, media
reform, campaign finance and equality like never
before. The growing conflict today is between democracy
and empire, and the battlefronts are many and often
confusing. Even the Bush years have failed to unite
American progressives as effectively as occurred during
Vietnam. There is no reason to expect a President
McCain to unify anything more than our manic

But there is the improbable hope that the movement set
ablaze by the Obama campaign will be enough to elect
Obama and a more progressive Congress in November,
creating an explosion of rising expectations for social
movements-here and around the world-that President
Obama will be compelled to meet in 2009.

That is a moment to live and fight for.

[Tom Hayden is a lifelong peace and human-rights
activist, former California legislator, professor, and
author of more than 15 books.]

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Gandhi-King conference on peacemaking

Early registration ends Sept. 1 • Register today!
5th annual Gandhi-King Conference on Peacemaking
October 17-18, 2008 @ Christian Brothers University

“We have inherited a large house, a great "world house" in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, 1967

Register online and get more info about the conference on our website,

Contact Allison Glass at the Mid South Peace and Justice Center with any questions at 725-4990 or

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A Long Way Home

Three Years Later: Residents Still Battered by Storms A Long Way Home PolicyLink presents the first comprehensive look at housing recovery programs in Louisiana since Katrina, Rita, and floods destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.

A Long Way Home: The State of Housing Recovery in Louisiana 2008 shows where rental housing is returning, the funding gaps that remain for far too many homeowners, and snapshots of the heavily damaged neighborhoods that still exist.

Full of extensive data and information on the rebuilding process, this report puts hard numbers on the experiences of residents on the ground.

Progress has been made, but Louisianans still face a long road home.

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New movie: Trouble the Water

It's about a hurricane. It's about America.

Trouble the Water tells the story of a young New Orleans' couple - trapped by the deadly floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina - who courageously survive the storm and its calamitous aftermath. It chronicles their flight from home and their quest to rebuild their lives and Lower Ninth Ward community. It's a powerful story of community fortitude in the face of adversity, and a look into one of the most defining moments in our recent history.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Trouble the Water is directed and produced by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, producers of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. Danny Glover and Jocelyn Barnes are executive producers.

Get started right now by helping spread the word about Trouble the Water. Click here to watch the movie trailer then share it with your friends.

The movie premiers in NYC and LA TODAY, Friday, August 22, at the following theatres:

IFC New York
Los Angeles: The Laemmle Sunset 5
Irvine: Regal Westpark 8

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A good point on Saddleback

From People for the American Way -- they make a good point.

Did you watch last Saturday's presidential candidate forum at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church? The media coverage has made me want to scream, hey, progressives have values too!
Fortunately, we're doing more than yelling about it. With your support, People For is putting progressive values to work around the country this year with:

  • a campaign to expose the threat to Americans' rights, safety, and health from a federal judiciary dominated by President Bush's judicial appointments;
  • activists striving to keep people from being unfairly turned away at the polls this November, a deeply moral undertaking given our nation's history on voting rights; and
  • People For the American Way Foundation is working with equality-affirming clergy in California to challenge homophobia in the church, and promote the value of treating everyone equally under the law.

It's great to be engaged in these great questions of our day.

But back to that forum for a minute. I have no problem, of course, with candidates reaching out to religious voters like any constituency. But there are at least two things that make me uncomfortable about the Saddleback event and the way it's been covered by the media. I worry about the precedent that seems to have been set this year for presidential candidates to be grilled on the details of their faith by journalists and preachers. There's a blurry line between candidates talking genuinely about what grounds their outlook and policies, and having the race for the presidency turned into a forum on which candidate is the "right" kind of Christian. That's definitely not the American Way. People For's Right Wing Watch blog has done some excellent reporting on this. While Rick Warren may call Sen. Obama a friend, and encourage civil debate, there's no question in my mind that his questions were far "friendlier" to Sen. McCain. His forum delighted the Religious Right's "old guard."

I'm also eager to challenge media coverage that buys into the Right's message that the only moral or values-based position on reproductive choice and gay equality is opposition to both. I happened to catch a piece on CNN on Monday in which BOTH interviewees -- Religious Right leader Tony Perkins and a religious leader supporting Obama -- spent much of the segment agreeing with each other about how Obama should water down his positions on choice. If CNN couldn't find a clergyperson to explain the moral underpinnings of choice, they didn't look very hard. We'll keep working to raise those voices.

I think it's important for our leaders, in their eagerness to reach as many voters as possible, not to back down from defending core progressive values. Some of these are equality, free speech, religious liberty (not intolerance) and a willingness to fight against poverty and abuses of human rights. Another core value is a women's right to make the most personal decisions about her health and family. That's no less a "value" than John McCain's stated belief that life begins at conception -- and his support for a constitutional amendment that would make all abortion illegal. The same goes for the value of marriage equality, which polls show is being embraced by a growing number of Americans, even as the Right pours all its energy into fighting it.

I'm off to the Democratic Convention in Denver next week, in part to make sure that at least one party doesn't forget about progressives and OUR values. This work can be tiring and energizing at the same time -- I'm sure I'll feel that way after a week at the convention! I'm looking forward to telling you about it.

If you had the same reaction -- or a different one -- to the Saddleback forum, feel free to let me know at now.

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Million Doors for Peace

Considering the Bush administration and the GOP is trying to "take away" the Iraq war as a major issue in this election with their phony withdrawal plans, I think this is a great initiative.

United For Peace and Justice Helps Organize Million Doors for Peace
25,000 Volunteers to Contact One Million People in One Day Event Will Be the Year's Largest Antiwar Action

New York, NY - United for Peace and Justice, the nation's largest grassroots anti-war coalition, has joined forces with other major organizations to organize what promises to be this year's largest anti-war mobilization. Million Doors for Peace, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 20, will ask at least one million people throughout the country to sign petitions urging the next Congress to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq within one year.

The action combines the best of grassroots activism and support from the netroots. The campaign will allow tens of thousands of volunteers to download a neighborhood "walk list" from a website designed specifically for this project. The volunteers will use this public information to talk to and identify neighbors who oppose the Iraq war and will invite them to join the efforts to end the war. The Million Doors for Peace website,, was launched this week.

As a neighborhood-based mobilization, organizers said Million Doors for Peace is unique in the history of anti-war movements. Instead of bringing tens of thousands of people together for one visible protest, participants will be organizing on the ground across the U.S., with an eye toward one-on-one public education and influencing members of Congress.

Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, said, "The antiwar sentiment throughout the country has never been stronger. To help bring greater visibility to the depth of opposition to the war in Iraq, on Sept. 20th the Million Doors for Peace project will put thousands of people out on the streets in communities in all 50 states. This massive national mobilization will send a clear message: it is time to bring all the troops home!"

"This will be the largest anti-war mobilization effort of 2008," said Tom Swan of USAction and director of Iraq Campaign 2008. "But instead of coming together in one place, such as the National Mall, we are going to go talk to people where they live. When the next Congress is seated early next year, we want one million people to remind them that Americans strongly oppose this war and it's time to responsibly end it."

The coalition organizing Million Doors for Peace includes: Catholics United, Cities for Peace, CodePink,, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action, Progressive Accountability, Progressive Democrats of America, United for Peace and Justice, USAction &, Voters for Peace and Win Without War.

Combined, the coalition boasts a membership in the millions and hundreds of state and local affiliates. The overarching goal of recruiting more than one million war opponents is to broaden and expand the nation's antiwar constituency so that when the next Congress convenes it will not be able to ignore the call for immediate action to end the war in Iraq.

"Million Doors for Peace takes the anti-war movement in a new direction," Swan said. "Each year during the Iraq war, we have seen large antiwar demonstrations in Washington and around the country. This year the tactics and strategy are different. Instead of gathering in one place, we will be in every state in the country. We will meet people on their front door steps in order to expand the antiwar constituency in this country and remind our leaders of America's antiwar sentiment. The cost of this war has been too great."

"When Congress returns next year, members will have to answer to constituents determined to bring an end to this seemingly endless war," Cagan concluded. "Too many people have died, and precious resources have been squandered while the needs of our communities continue to go unmet."


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McCain: Gimme many?

Well, I'm glad this stuff is finally getting attention. NY Times Frank Rich was right...McCain is the candidate that nobody knows.

Aug. 22, 2008

Most of us regular folks know how many homes we own--none or one
( But Sen. John
McCain has so many places he can call home--from ranches to
beachfront condos--he can't remember how many homes he owns. He
had to assign a staffer to figure it out. Wow. It's not like
forgetting how many pairs of socks you own. But with 10 houses
and condos, maybe McCain owns more homes than some of us have
socks. Talk about elite and out of touch.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Student Protest Proposed Cuts to Higher Ed in NY

Governor David Paterson, faced with an even larger deficit than expected in 2009, seems determined to solve New York State's economic problems by cutting benefits, services, government jobs, and yes, higher education.

The Gov has called for an emergency session of the State Legislature beginning Tuesday, August 19 and has proposed $1 billion in new cuts for this year purportedly to stave off deeper cuts next year. Of course, you can't cut yourself out of the crisis. Judicious use of new taxes on the rich and the big corporations can address the immediate budget problems and help put money back into the pockets of working people, which is the only way to really help the economy in the long-run.

Unfortunately, Paterson is also proposing a cap on taxes along with the cuts. By rejecting the proposal by some Albany Democrats for a new 1 percent tax on millionaires, Paterson leaves little room to do anything more than cut.

One of the biggest proposed cuts is to higher education spending in the state. Already in the budget adopted in April, the State University of New York (SUNY) had a whopping $150 million in cuts, and now the Governor's proposal would additionally cut $50 million from TAP (Tuition Assistance Program), $51 million from the City University of New York (CUNY), and 6% across the board from all "opportunities programs." The proposal even put on the chopping block the new Veteran's Tuition Assistance Program, which stand to lose 50 percent of its budget.

But students aren't having it. The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), the Student Assembly of the State University of New York, and University Student Senate of the City University of New York have come together to call on the State Legislators to reject the Governor's cuts.

In a letter to the leadership of the State Assembly and the State Senate, they stated argued,

"Students understand the gravity of the state’s economic situation, but we submit that the benefits of affordable, accessible, high-quality public higher education far outweigh the costs. Higher education’s power as an economic engine and its potential for workforce development and innovation has been well documented, and represent the state’s best chance to pull quickly out of this economic nosedive."
The student groups point out the obvious: that cuts to higher education disproportionately impact low-income and working class youth and their families. At a time when gas, grocery, transportation and housing prices are digging deep, cutting tuition assistance programs and financial aid doesn't spread the pain, it concentrates it on this already hardest hit.
"Some students who need TAP to pay for school could end up deeper in debt or unable to pay for school at all," said Cheryl Lynch, NYPIRG's Chairperson, and Stony Brook University student in a press release. "Just as bad, students enrolled in opportunity programs could find the support structures they've come to depend on severely weakened."
Today, a press conference was held with New York City Council Member Charles Barron, the lone member of that body to vote against the recent City budget that included many cuts to human services. Students plan to lobby their representatives in Albany beginning Monday. A call from you wouldn't hurt either.

For more on the nationwide crisis of State Budgets, check out the article, "Got Money?" By Marilyn Bechtel.

Look for a full article on proposed education cuts in next week's People's Weekly World.

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