Tuesday, February 14, 2017

PR Latta’s Garden

Paul Richard “P.R.” Latta was one of the founders of the Wake County Progressive Democrats.  He was also a grassroots labor union and Democratic Party activist for decades.  Both the NC AFL-CIO and the Wake County Young Democrats give an award named after P.R. Latta, because of his many years of activism on behalf of labor and the Democratic Party.  Mr. Latta passed away at the age of 95 on August 17, 2014.
P.R. grew up a rural Democrat from West Virginia.  During the depth of the Depression, while his family was poor, they had a family garden to provide enough food for the family and others in the community – a giving tradition PR continued in his own home garden in north Raleigh until 2013.  I worked in his backyard garden to help him out in his later years, and he did share his vegetables with me and my friends who also came there to help him.
But even more important than the vegetables that he shared with me was the knowledge and experience that he shared and the example he set.  P.R. reminded me so much of my paternal grandfather – not just because he had a garden and a basement workshop crammed full of tools hanging from nails in the ceiling joists – but because P.R. was a teacher and a mentor to those who sought him out.
After I worked my butt off running the sign shop for the Wake County Democratic Party in the primary and general election of 2008, I was invited to P.R.’s house on Christmas and New Year’s Day to have egg-nog with P.R. and a handful of Democratic luminaries.  P.R. told me that he invited me because I had proved myself as a hard worker who got the job done and didn’t make excuses for failure.  He was my “sea-daddy” – one of the best mentors any grassroots Democratic Party activist could ever have.  And after my father passed away in March 2013, P.R. became even more of a father-figure to me.
P.R. Latta was a fixture at every Democratic Party meeting I’ve been to, and all of our Progressive potlucks we had.  He served as the first Vice President of the Wake County Progressive Democrats, and later served as the Outreach Coordinator.  When he finally stepped down from that office, I was deeply honored that he asked me to take over that position. 
Even though he was slowing down in his later years, he attended Democratic Party events – like the Wake Democratic Men’s Club where he set up the PA system, monthly Wake Dems board meetings, SEC/CEC meetings, and county/district/state conventions.  I helped him hold his 2014 precinct organization meeting.  He attended all the conventions up to and including the 2014 NCDP State Convention held on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing in WWII – an event he participated in.  He attended our June 2014 potluck before his health started to seriously decline.  After a few extended stays in the hospital, a stay in a nursing/rehab facility in Zebulon, he transitioned to hospice care and then passed away on August 17, 2014.  I visited him often in the hospital and several times at the nursing/rehab facility and several times in hospice – including shortly before he passed away. 

Several times during the last year of his life, P.R. told me he was proud of me and the work I was doing in the Democratic Party and specifically with the Wake County Progressive Democrats. And every so often I talk with his family members – specifically his daughter-in-law Lucy, and his sons Ricky and Ken.  They thank me for protecting “Pappa’s legacy” and for working to keep the Democratic Party honest. 
P.R. was one of the founding members of the Wake County Progressive Democrats back in 2004.  That happened at roughly the same time as other progressives attempted and failed to form a statewide auxiliary group.  Mr. Latta felt that no county progressive auxiliary could ever hope to get much accomplished unless it was part of a statewide group that had a seat on the NCDP Executive Council.   I know that P.R. would be very proud that there is now a Progressive Caucus of the NCDP, and that the Wake Progressive Democrats worked with so many other progressive Democrats across the state to make that happen at the NCDP SEC meeting on February 11, 2017.
A succession of great progressive activists Democrats have been President of the Wake County Progressive Democrats: P.J. Puryear, John Hollingsworth, Chris Lizak, Jesse Goslen, and Tristy Evely.  Each of us handed over the office of President to someone who was worthy of the job – because they had actually done something in the group to build it up and make it better than it had been before.  When Tristy Evely got a new job and wasn’t able to handle the responsibilities of the Presidency, she asked me if I would take over from her because the then current Vice President didn’t feel he was up to the job.  I was honored and deeply humbled that she asked me.  But I asked P.R. first – and he told me I was up to the job and would be “a damned fool” if I didn’t run for the office. 
Grassroots activism often takes a backseat to the millions if not billions of campaign dollars used to influence voters.  Sadly we’ve gone and lost the last 4 election cycles by focusing more on what money can buy instead of what volunteer activism can do. 
Political scientists have often said that activists can play an important role in low-turnout midterm elections.  As former Congressman Brad Miller noted in his blog: “PR and I did agree that democracy would be better if the personal endorsement of a candidate’s sign in a citizen’s yard was as important in politics as big money.”
At the church during P.R.’s memorial service, I sat in the same row with the past Presidents of the Wake County Progressive Democrats.  It dawned on me that the Wake County Progressive Democrats was P.R.’s “garden” – and that I had a duty to preserve and protect the legacy that he and other grassroots activists left us.  And to make sure that next President was also worthy of that legacy.  That’s why I am running for another two-year term as President – to protect and preserve P.R. Latta’s grassroots legacy.  
I'm not running for other positions in the party other than Chair of my own precinct.  I've done a great job there, increasing Democratic votes for some races by over 50%.  Precinct Chair and President of the Wake County Progressive Democrats is all I want to do - and I have the time to do the job well.  I am not going to spread myself too thin running for positions on other boards, nor promise to do work that I can't deliver or fail to show up to do the work.  Now that we've got a full slate of great candidates who promise to show up to all meetings,  and do all the work - we can really move forward to get more grassroots activists active and engaged in the Democratic Party.  
Please vote for our slate so we can continue to do the work of preserving and protecting P.R. Latta's legacy.  

We, 7 out of 9 current Executive Officers of the Wake County Progressive Democrats whose names are listed at the end of this posting, do hereby endorse and support the following candidates for upcoming Executive Officers on February 15, 2017: 
President - Chris Telesca ** (nominated at January potluck)
Vice President - Mike Pierce ** (nominated at January potluck)
Activities Co-Chair: Quanta Edwards ** (to be nominated at February potluck)
Activities Co-Chair: Kelley Barker (to be nominated at February potluck)
Outreach Chair: Randy Jones (nominated at January potluck)
Policy Chair: Joshua Bradley ** (nominated at January potluck)
Communications Chair: Stacey Piesche * (to be nominated at February potluck)
Tech Chair: Grant Gordon (to be nominated at February potluck)
Secretary: Christina Thompson (to be nominated at February potluck)
* - incumbent officer seeking new position
** - incumbent officer seeking same position 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why we are running for office!

My name is Christopher Jon Telesca and I am the currently elected President of the Wake County Progressive Democrats. Rather than write up something cute for my own campaign ad, I wish to let you all know why the entire Executive Committee (aka the Board) is endorsing a slate of candidates for election on February 15 - listed at end of blog post!
1.            We practice what we teach: democratic procedures and values throughout the Democratic Party.  
We have a great (but not perfect) set of bylaws – which requires that well follow the NCDP Plan of Organization, Roberts Rules of Order.  We also follow applicable state and federal laws.
We have an Executive Committee (aka the Board) that meets to plan our activities.  No one person runs the group – and no one person should be running for any office in the Wake Progressives claiming they can single-handedly change the group.  
Nothing gets done and not one dime gets spent without running by one or both groups.  Everything from what bank we use, to what activities we participate in, and even if we buy hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza, turkey or ham for our various parties – it is all done by a vote of the board and/or membership.
Perhaps you’ve heard the sayings “many hands make light work” and “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.  We are only as good as the officers who show up and do the work.  Nearly everyone has been a member of a group where someone runs for an office and doesn’t show up and/or do the work – putting more of a burden on everyone else who does show up.  And sometimes things don’t get done as well or as quickly as we would all like.  But the Wake County Progressive Democrats doesn’t operate on the whims of one officer, and therefore no one candidate’s campaign promises to make significant changes to the group can actually deliver on those promises. 
Our current bylaws do not allow for the removal of members for missing too many meetings or for dereliction of duty.  Now that the bylaws for the Progressive Caucus of the NCDP has passed at the state level, we will have to amend our County chapter bylaws to allow for removal of members for those reasons.  That should clear up a lot of the problems we are having now.
2.            All officers will work to achieve the objectives set forth in the bylaws.  
We are working to achieve the objectives set forth in the bylaws.  Part of the problem is that while we are the same group with roughly the same objectives that started out in 2004, the Democratic Party isn’t the same as it was back then.
We had our first organizational meeting in June 2004 where the progressive “Greendogs” (younger supporters of Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich feeling alienated from the Democratic Party) joined up with the older “Concerned Democrats” (older party officers and former electeds concerned about the lack of transparency and small-d democracy in the Democratic Party at many levels).  From that time on - we had the blessing and support of then Wake Dems Chair Lorrin Freeman and ED Linda Watson who was a founding member of our group.  We also had auxiliary status either from that point or shortly thereafter. 
But we earned our auxiliary status  – because we did the physical volunteer work in the Democratic Party that no one else wanted to do.  We set up and staffed the sign shop, put together precinct officer training, put together precinct packets and address postcards announcing precinct meetings, set up and operate the Election Day “War Room”, set up for and clean up after party events, etc.  Stuff that wasn’t getting done by people who whose activism was limited to attending catered dinners, getting pics taken with political leaders, and writing checks.  Not that there is anything wrong with that – but that’s not how we roll!  And when we needed information to organize precincts, we got it from the county party.  One night in January 2008, we organized 9 precincts at an OFA meetup!
How times have changed!  After Wake Progressives helped elect a State Party Chair in 2005 and elect a whole new county party board made up mostly of grassroots activists in 2007, some establishment folks vowed to never again let progressives get a chance to look good doing what we do best – volunteer activism and precinct organization. 
Today many people have a different respect for democratic procedures and values – as well as a problem sharing information with an auxiliary like ours that wants to organize precincts to give a larger and more diverse group of Democrats a voice in the party and a seat at the table.
With the creation of the Progressive Caucus of the NCDP, we can get access to statewide Votebuilder data that we can’t get right now at the county level – we will know which precincts are organized and which are not.  Working with other similar grassroots organizations will make precinct organization all that much easier.
3.            Our membership is steadily increasing especially among young people.  But we’ve gotta keep the party from scaring them off!
The Wake County Progressive Democrats started out by attracting a lot of younger progressive Dean and Kucinich people starting in mid 2004.  But they stuck around to help build the Democratic Party because Howard Dean said: “If you want to take back your government you first have to take back your party.” 
We noticed an increase in interest in our group beginning in 2014 - we had increased membership especially with younger people attracted to politics because they wanted someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders to run for President.  Much in the same way an earlier group was attracted by Dean & Kucinich in 2004 and even Barack Obama in 2008.  
While they were attracted to our group, other factors turn them away from becoming active in the Party – like the way Bernie Sanders and his supporters were treated by the DNC in the 2016 Presidential election cycle.  From the way Bernie was treated while he was a candidate to the way his delegates were treated at the DNC Convention, people did notice something was “odd” – and sadly too many voted with their feet.
We had a gradual increase in membership from the spring of 2015 when Bernie declared and then three notable drop-offs: one after the March Primary, another after DNC convention, and then again after Labor Day 2016.  One young female Bernie supporter was supposed to our July pool party – but she ended up quitting her job, closing her FB account, and leaving the country to protest the way Bernie was treated by the DNC.  
4.            One of our main objectives is to encourage volunteerism in the furtherance of our electoral process – fundraising is a secondary goal!  
The Wake Progressive Dems has from the start always focused largely on volunteer activism.  Many people are sick and tired of “pay to play politics”, so we don’t focus on raising tons of money to give to the party and to candidates.  We prefer to give something they don’t see much of – volunteer activism!  
Our main monthly meetings consist of potluck dinners – and contributions aren’t mandatory.  We share with each other because we know that there some people can’t afford a $20/month dinner and shouldn’t feel left out of progressive politics because they can’t afford to pony up for a catered meal.
Fundraising is important, but many other Wake County groups can and do focus on fundraising activities.  If you love raise money for candidates – spend time with us, but by all means join one of the other groups as well!  But we are not alone - other Wake County groups do not exist mostly to raise money to be donated directly to the party and candidates.
We encourage our members to donate their time to candidates, and also donate money if they wish to do so.  We give money to the party – we’ve been one of the biggest supporters of the NCDP State Party Fair booth over the years in terms of both money and working volunteer shifts.  
That being said, we do need money to carry on our mission.  We’ve done a great job of fundraising the last few years.  And with a full board working together in the areas of policy, activities & outreach that will be much better supported by communications and technology, we can raise more money from current and new members and still be true to our original mission. 
5.            Wake County Progressive Democrats speak up to make sure democratic procedures and values are being followed!
We don’t treat the Wake County Democratic Party or any other party committee as enemies – but no Democrat should ever be a mute rubber-stamp.  We speak up to question whether democratic procedures and values are being broken.  Party officers and delegates who have a seat at the table and a voice in the party deserve to be heard and answered when they have a respectful and reasonable objection.  Better knowledge of party rules and parliamentary procedures will help our members and other Democrats not feel left out of the political process. 
Officer Endorsements:  The Executive Committee of the Wake County Progressive Democrats has 9 elected and 1 appointed officers. Currently the Outreach Chair is vacant. That leaves us with 8 elected and 1 appointed officers, for a total of 9. 
We, 7 out of 9 current Executive Officers of the Wake County Progressive Democrats whose names are listed at the end of this posting, do hereby endorse and support the following candidates for upcoming Executive Officers on February 15, 2017: 
President - Chris Telesca ** (nominated at January potluck)
Vice President - Mike Pierce ** (nominated at January potluck)
Activities Co-Chair: Quanta Edwards ** (to be nominated at February potluck)
Activities Co-Chair: Kelley Barker (to be nominated at February potluck)
Outreach Chair: Randy Jones (nominated at January potluck)
Policy Chair: Joshua Bradley ** (nominated at January potluck)
Communications Chair: Stacey Piesche * (to be nominated at February potluck)
Tech Chair: Grant Gordon (to be nominated at February potluck)
Secretary: Christina Thompson (to be nominated at February potluck)
* - incumbent officer seeking new position
** - incumbent officer seeking same position 
Current Activities Co-Chair Linda Suggs wishes to withdraw her name from nomination for Activities Co-Chair.  George Frink wishes to withdraw his nomination for Communications Chair.  Furthermore, although she understands that seconds to nominations aren't necessary, current Treasurer Stacey Piesche wishers to hereby withdraw her second to the nomination of Bill Bryan for President. 
We have endorsed these candidates because they have pledged to perform their assigned duties per our bylaws, and to attend all board meetings and potlucks, and observe and follow all of our WCPD bylaws, the NCDP Plan of Organization, and all applicable state and federal laws. We have endorsed the incumbent candidates because they have performed the duties per our bylaws, have exemplary attendance records at board meetings and potlucks, and have observed and followed all WCPD bylaws, the NCDP Plan of Organization and all applicable state and federal laws.
We Seven have endorsed the candidates listed above - and no others. Please draw any conclusions you like from that fact. 
Chris Telesca - President
Mike Pierce - Vice President
Linda Suggs - Secretary
Stacey Piesche - Treasurer (appointed)
Joshua Bradley - Policy Chair
Nancy Brooks - Activities Co-Chair
Quanta Monique Edwards - Activities Co-Chair

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The gauntlet has been thrown down - time to pick it up and fight back to WIN!

Some of the same people who attacked David Parker last year and called for his resignation in the wake of the Adriadn Ortega sexual harassment scandal were supporting a candidate besides Randy Voller for Chair of the NCDP.

They cannot seem to accept the fact that Randy won.  They promised to never let up on him and to run him out of office.  They have never let up on that promise.

Some of these same folks tried to state a coup by hijacking the April 28th State Executive Council meeting in Raleigh.  They tried to run an alternative agenda and ram through several resolutions designed to weaken the powers of the NCDP Chair. 

When they failed at that attempt, different members of the group filed a petition against Randy Voller with the NCDP Council of Review.  The details of that petition were leaked by documentary film-maker Frank Eaton from Winston-Salem.  He admitted that he was asked to sign the petition.  Then Frank released a video (presumably shot in his own home) entitled: "For the Good of the Party".  Links to the video were posted on Facebook and various blogs, and written about in various newspapers. 

  • Stacking the State Executive committee
There was no stacking of the State Executive Committee.  Frank and his friend allege that Randy Voller stacked the State Executive Council - a different body altogether.

They claim that Randy Voller appointed more than three Sustaining Fund Co-Chairs to the NCDP State Executive Committee, which violates the letter and custom of the NCDP Plan of Organization. 

Randy did appoint a number of people as Sustaining Fund Co-Chairs because many people with lots of experience in the Party were retiring from more active roles in the NCDP, and he wanted to retain their experience to help raise money for the Party.  What rational person could have a problem with that? 

The relevant section of the NCDP Plan of Organization (4.06) does not specify how many Sustaining Fund Co-Chairs the NCDP Chair may appoint.

Composition. The members of the state executive council shall be: the state chair, each of the three state vice chairs, the secretary, the treasurer, the chair or co-chairs of the Sustaining Fund, the chair for minority affairs, the advisor to the Teen Dems, the state presidents of all state auxiliary organizations with by-laws approved by the state executive committee, the congressional district chairs, the members of the Democratic National Committee from North Carolina, the national committeeman and the national committeewoman of the Young Democrats of North Carolina, and three at-large members appointed by the state chair. These three members appointed by the state chair shall reasonably reflect the geographic, racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of registered Democrats in North Carolina. The state chair shall serve as chair of the state executive council.
Here is Section 4.03 of the NCDP Plan of Organization:
The state chair shall appoint a treasurer, a sustaining fund chair or co-chairs, a chair for minority affairs and a state advisor for the Teen Dems, all of whom shall serve at the pleasure of the state chair as appointed officers and all of whom shall be voting members of the state executive committee.
It should be significant that while the POO does not specify the specific number of co-chairs of the Sustaining Fund that the chair can appoint, the POO is very specific about the three at-large members of the State Executive Committee appointed by the state Chair:
...three at-large members appointed by the state chair. These three members appointed by the state chair shall reasonably reflect the geographic, racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of registered Democrats in North Carolina.
Even P.R. Latta agrees with me that Randy Voller appointing more than 3 Sustaining Fund Co-Chairs is not a violation of the NCDP POO!

Some - like the 4 people who filed a petition against Randy Voller with the NCDP Council of Review - suggest that custom dictates no more than three such Co-Chairs may be appointed, but there is nothing in the NCDP POO that requires a Chair to follow "custom".

Roberts Rules of Order do address custom (RRONR 11th edition, Section 2 Rules of an Assembly or Organization, page 19), but when a question is raised about custom vs rules, custom loses. Especially when a vote is taken and the rules win.
  • Derailing investigations into his own behavior and actions
What specific behavior and actions are they claiming need to be investigated? Frank's video suggests things need to be investigated, but he mostly he does not go into specifics.  When he does, he gets the details wrong.

Unless Randy is violating either the NCDP POO or state or federal laws, nothing needs to be investigated. Neither Frank Eaton nor any other Democrat in the state has the God- or POO-given right to look over Randy's shoulder!
  • Bullying NC Democratic Party employees
As someone who has been in and out of Goodwin House for years, the NCDP staffers have not had adequate supervision over the years. It's been a frat-house mentality with no adults in charge. I've seen state party employees almost start physical fights between themselves with party activists and officers present. I've seen staffers drunk on duty, whether stay on their feet or fall on their asses, and otherwise make jerks out of themselves at Party functions in our state and in other states as well. I've been drunk-dialed and drunk-texted by NCDP employees, and when I complained to party officers about it - I was told they would be disciplined AFTER the next election. And I've been called in to provide volunteer labor when other staffers who were supposed to do the work (or arrange for other volunteers) never showed up nor delivered on the volunteers.

Not quite sure how this juvenile and unprofessional conduct of the staff might have contributed to our party's losses over the past few elections, but now is not the time to reward such behavior by pretending it doesn't exist. If certain NCDP employees want to consider proper supervision and oversight to be bullying - they are free to look for jobs elsewhere. As an officer of the Party, I want staffers to be professional and not embarrass the NCDP!
  • Naming himself Executive Director of the NC Democratic Party
There is nothing in the NCDP Plan of Organization to prevent him from naming himself the ED. Other NCDP Chairs have been Executive Directors in the past - including David Price.

Since the ED works at the pleasure of the NCDP Chair (according to the NCDP Plan of Organization), all Randy Voller had to do was hold a State Executive Council meeting to ask them for 

What it sounds like Frank is ticked off about is that to name himself interim ED, there had to be a vacancy for the position of ED.  Which gets into the next subject:
  • Improper firing and hiring practices
This goes back to the issue of oversight and supervision of NCDP staff. There hasn't been enough of it. And when NCDP Chair Randy Voller tells a staffer to do something - whether to produce a document, send out a letter, or come in and work on an event - they need to do it and stop bitching and moaning about it. Randy was elected to reform the Party and cut the unprofessional frat-house nonsense. If NCDP staffers don't like it - they are free to leave and go elsewhere.   And if they won''t do what Randy tells them to do - he needs to fire them.  They should also not be thinking that they can use or steal NCDP resources for their own personal use or for their consultant friends.
  • Misuse of Party funds including hiring un-needed political consultants and using the NC Democratic Party Credit Card for a personal trip to Las Vegas.
Frank Eaton appears to be upset because he was one of three consultants who turned in a proposal to Randy for the NCDP to hire him as a consultant for $15K fee (and expenses estimated between $3-5K).   Randy ran it by the other elected State Party officers, and they shot it down because they were in the process of hiring an ED.  Why spend this money which would make up a good chunck of the new ED's salary when they could let the ED access the situation and come up with a strategic plan?

I guess Randy is not misusing Party funds if he hires Frank, but is misusing them if other consultants are hired?

And Randy Voller did not use an NC Democratic Party credit card for a personal trip to Las Vegas. Randy did to go Vegas to see about getting fundraising opportunties set up in other states. President Obama had a fundraiser in Law Vegas in October 2012. Is Frank saying that what's good for Obama is not good for the NCDP

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's wrong with Gene Messick?

What in the hell is wrong with "Crazy" Gene Messick?

He seems to be under the mistaken impression that he's an NC Democrat, and that he decides who is or is not on the NCDP State Executive Committee.

Witness this pitiful exchange between the Wake Dems's "Party Princess" Joanne Casey and "Crazy" Gene Messick in his Casey: Re: [NCDP-on-Trial] 187: Cal, it's time to withdraw:

On May 23, 2010, at 9:41 PM, Casey, Joanne wrote:

> Please remove me from your email database.
> Thank you.
To which "Crazy" Gene responded:

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: NC Democrats
To: "Casey, Joanne"
Cc: US Rep David Price ; Jack #Nichols: Wake Chair ; NCDP Chair David ^Young ; Elaine Marshall ; Cunningham for Senate ; Kenneth .Lewis ; Governor Bev Perdue ; Senator Kay Hagan ; DNC Chair Tim Kaine
Sent: Sun, May 23, 2010 10:24:54 PM
Subject: Casey: Re: [NCDP-on-Trial] 187: Cal, it's time to withdraw.

Dear Joanne, Wake Co Democratic Party
State Executive Committee Member

Thanks for your Email.
We appreciate hearing from our readers!

Your exodus from any further interest in the SEC has been noted and shall be published for your convenience.

We're so sorry to see you go, but please rest assured that you are welcomed back anytime you decide you care about the future of Democrats in North Carolina.

Our Network provides the only reliable view of what's really happening inside the NC Democratic Party.

We'll still be here, cleaning up the wreckage Progressives have caused, helping create a Democratic Party folks can trust and believe in again.

NC Democrats Network

Helping make NC a better place, one Email at a time!
No Gene - she's not withdrawing from the NCDP or the SEC - she's merely withdrawing from your e-mail list. What drugs are you taking (or not taking) that has you confusing asking to be taken off your list from being taken off the NCDP SEC? Or somehow thinking that you have any say in what goes on in the NC Democratic Party?

And for your information, it's not the progressives who are ruining the party - it's a combination of the Blue Dogs and OFA (" Organizing For America") that are wrecking the party and turning off the base.

OFA used to be called "Obama For America", and is now a "special project" of the Democratic National Committee. It's really trying to become a permanent field operation to push the President's agenda instead of the party platform. I am sure that after this November's election, OFA won't give a damn about working with the Democratic Party, since they will once again turn into a group with only one objective: re-electing Barack Obama. I am sure they could care less about the 435 Democrats running for office in the House, and the 33 or so Dems running for office in the Senate.

You are a poor pathetic man - and you probably got that way because, at some point in time, your darkroom wasn't ventilated properly. As an RIT grad (and the scholarly texts on photography are written by RIT profs/grads, not by grads of the "Crazy" Gene Messick School of Photography), I do have some expertise in darkroom ventilation.....

....BTW, are you still banned from the Virginia Tech campus that you live across the street from? Me - I can pretty much go anywhere I want.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Progressive movement can be a policy agenda!

David Sirota wrote a great article entitled "Progressives pay the Price for Confusing a Party with a Movement", claiming that progressive constituencies within the Democratic party engaged in party building activities to elect Democratic candidates against their own best interests. And he wrote about the reasons why some of the players in the progressive movement did this - in order to ensure their access to the power once we won the election. And how access to this power is keeping many progressive leaders from being effective with advancing their agenda.

I respect David Sirota, and agree with him on many things. But David is wrong about this. Not all parts of the party are loyal to their own power regardless of policy agenda. And not all movements are loyal to their own policy agenda regardless of which party champions it. The Progressive Democrats are a perfect example of this.

We are quietly and not so quietly building a progressive majority within the Democratic Party. Howard Dean said it best: If you want to take back your country, you must first take back your party. In our case, we are working to take our party back from the very people who are leading it at the national and state party levels - but leading it in a way that does not honor or even take seriously our party platform.

This is a perfect time for me to explain my feelings about what political parties are. The word "politics" comes from the Greek word "polis" meaning state or city. "Politikos" describes anything concerning the state or city affairs.

An association is a group of individuals who voluntarily enter into an agreement to form a body (or organization) to accomplish a purpose. A political party is an association of people to accomplish the purpose of being involved in city/state affairs. It's not just about winning elections, no matter how much the party leaders tell us. Winning elections is only a part of the equation.

What are the other parts? First - you have to provide some sort of organizational structure for people to come together under. You have Roberts Rules of Order and the NC Democratic Party Plan of Organization as a guide. You have the precincts, then the counties, then the US congressional districts, then the state party, then the DNC. Since the group is an association of registered Democrats, that is obviously one qualification for membership. You show up at your precinct meeting, where only Democrats can speak, run for office and vote. You elect precinct officers, and nominate other Democrats for delegate positions to other groups like the county convention. People elected at one level serve the next level up, where they repeat the process.

Now we have the association, and the rules and plan for organization, and the officers - what next? Next is what we stand for - and we decide that by using the rules and plan for organization to determine our Platform using committees and the resolution process.

Once we have our platform - how then do we get influence city or state affairs? By either finding candidates who feel the same way we do or they find us - because they believe in our platform. Just how much of our platform they believe in us usually a factor in our primaries, or at least it should be if we have more than one person running for a particular race. But as of late, we have been allowing our votes to be influenced by party leaders who tell us that one candidate is more "electable" than another - usually for reasons such as "they can raise more money (from big donors who may not share our collective values)", or "candidate A is more acceptable to the majority of voters in (insert whatever jurisdiction you wish) than candidate B based on gender, age, race, etc. Or sometimes we just defer to the opinion of someone just out of force of habit or custom, even though by doing so we are voting against some of the very things that the party stands for.

Once we have decided on our slate, that is when we can work to get them elected. At a bare minimum, the same organizational structure that was set up to elect the organizational leaders and determine our platform can be used to help get our party candidates elected by getting out the vote of our party members. We can certainly help a candidate get votes from voters other than those in our party, but clearly this part of the GOTV effort must be directed by the candidates campaigns themselves, since a candidate for one race might be targeting a different group of non Dems in one race than a candidate might need in another race.

OK - now that we have them elected - what do we do? It's not enough to create a platform. select candidates and then get them elected - you have to be able to hold them accountable. That is where I disagree with David Sirota - a political party is a perfect place to have a policy agenda. The policy is your party platform. But how do you hold the elected leaders accountable?

You have a way to measure how well or poorly your elected leaders follow your policy agenda. Certainly if your party is not in a majority or leadership position, it's difficult to grade them when they don't control the respective branches of government. But when your party does this, there is no excuse for not holding them accountable.

We have a very good process for determining what our party stands for - it's the platform and resolution process. The problem is, we have no good way to evaluate how well or poorly our elected officials are working to implement the platform and resolutions into their legislation. I would suggest organizing resolutions along the lines of our party platform, and then issuing a report card at the municipal, county, congressional district, state, and national levels. Sort of like how the NAACP does with the HKonJ 14-Point agenda. We don't have a way to make sure our elected officials are accountable to us. Lobbyists and the big money donors who support them have those ways.

Once we have a way to measure how well or poorly our elected officials are following, then what do we do to hold them accountable? Do we continue to support them when they don't support us? This can be tricky, because party officers from the precinct chairs on up can be removed from their positions for supporting candidates of another party besides our own. But should we be required to support candidates who call themselves Democrats who don't support the party and/or our platform?

We can always run a challenger to an incumbent. Our county party replaces party officers all the time with challengers when the incumbents don't live up to our expectations - we did this in 2007 with the Wake County Chair, and in 2009 with the Wake Board of Elections. To some extent we did this in 2005 when the NCDP State Executive Committee elected Jerry Meek over Ed Turlington who was Governor Easley's choice for Chair. Jerry had the advantage of being 1st vice chair for a while and being well known across the entire state.

At times you even have to remove an officer during their term of office. The Wake Dems felt that a particular municipal vice chair was not working out (especially after sending out an e-mail encouraging the mass defection of Democrats from the party) and so we used the Council of Review and Executive Council procedures to remove this person from office. It wasn't pretty, and this person went out kicking and......well, I'll just say she didn't go quietly. But it had to be done. And the County Party did it.

What do we do when there is no challenger available and the incumbent is not representing the interests of the Democratic Party? This is a good question because Party officers who support a candidate of another party or any party other than the Democratic Party can be removed from office. Why is there no similar requirement that candidates support the party or it's platform?

Could it be because there are party officers at upper levels who really don't support the party or it's platform, but merely act as slight biased referees who see big money coming into the party from donors who want it directed to specific candidates who have promised to take specific action on behalf of those donors? We have seen this happen in our own state with the Democratic Party and the Sleasley mess. And we have heard of the bouts between Rahm Emanuel and Howard Dean over the 50 State strategy. Dean's 50 State strategy was a big part of the reason why we were successful in 2006 and 2008. It was a long-term strategy designed to strengthen and build up the party based on Dean's slogan: "If you want to take back your country, you first have to take back your party."

Emanuel didn't like the 50-State strategy, and is actively dismantling it now. When you put former OFA campaign staffers in charge of party building for the Democratic Party, do you seriously expect them to act in the best interest of the party or for the candidate, his campaign advisors or donors? Do they have any particular allegiance to the Democratic Party? Have they ever worked as a precinct chair or delegate to any level party convention? Did they ever serve as a party officer or as a member of the SEC? Were they even Democrats before the election?

The party is many things, but it can be a movement based on what the party stands for. Some candidates would rather us not think of the Democratic Party as a way to influence their policies. But going back to the definition of what politics is, a political party is made up of people who want to influence the affairs of state. We have every right to expect our candidates to reflect our views - not the other way around. And we have every right to tell our candidates that we expect them to take our party platform seriously - and that we work together. We work to get them elected and they should work to implement our platform. If they don't like the platform - don't run as a Democrat. But if you come to our Party meetings and ask us to work for you - you must expect us to expect things from you.

Grassroots Democrats are not paid professional political operatives. But those operatives have got to realize that they will not be able to win elections in 2010 and 2012 without us. If they continue to take us for granted and act in opposition to our party platform and the promises they made to rank and file Democrats and our constituency groups, they will find themselves out of power. The people with the money have no political party allegiance - they go with whomever makes them the most money. They are just using the Dems now to keep a little bit more of what they have than if they stuck with the GOP and had no influence with our party.

There is no reason why Progressive Democrats in our Democratic Party cannot be part of a movement within our own Party. There is no reason why the platform of the Democratic Party shouldn't be a way to measure how well or poorly our elected officials do the jobs we elected them to. We can exert our influence and make the politicians do what they promised. We just have to get some backbone and tell them we hold them accountable for what they do. And whenever possible - run someone in a primary against them.


Progressives Pay the Price for Confusing a Party With a Movement

by David Sirota

The difference between parties and movements is simple: Parties are loyal to their own power regardless of policy agenda; movements are loyal to their own policy agenda regardless of which party champions it. This is one of the few enduring political axioms, and it explains why the organizations purporting to lead an American progressive "movement" have yet to build a real movement, much less a successful one.

Though the 2006 and 2008 elections were billed as progressive movement successes, the story behind them highlights a longer-term failure. During those contests, most leaders of Washington's major labor, environmental, anti-war and anti-poverty groups spent millions of dollars on a party endeavor-specifically, on electing a Democratic president and Democratic Congress. In the process, many groups subverted their own movement agendas in the name of electoral unity.

The effort involved a sleight of hand. These groups begged their grass-roots members-janitors, soccer moms, veterans and other "regular folks"-to cough up small-dollar contributions in return for the promise of movement pressure on both parties' politicians. Simultaneously, these groups went to dot-com and Wall Street millionaires asking them to chip in big checks in exchange for advocacy that did not offend those fat cats' Democratic politician friends (or those millionaires' economic privilege).

This wasn't totally dishonest. Many groups sincerely believed that Democratic Party promotion was key to progressive movement causes. And anyway, during the Bush era, many of those causes automatically helped Democrats by indicting Republicans.

But after the 2008 election, the strategy's bankruptcy is undeniable.

As we now see, union dues underwrote Democratic leaders who today obstruct serious labor law reform and ignore past promises to fix NAFTA. Green groups' resources helped elect a government that pretends sham "cap and trade" bills represent environmental progress. Health care groups promising to push a single-payer system got a president not only dropping his own single-payer promises, but also backing off a "public option" to compete with private insurance. And anti-war funding delivered a Congress that refuses to stop financing the Iraq mess, and an administration preparing to escalate the Afghanistan conflict.

Of course, frustrated progressives might be able to forgive the groups that promised different results, had these postelection failures prompted course corrections.

For example, had the left's pre-eminent groups responded to Democrats' health care capitulations by immediately announcing campaigns against these Democrats, progressives could feel confident that these groups were back to prioritizing a movement agenda. Likewise, had the big anti-war organizations reacted to Obama's Afghanistan escalation plans with promises of electoral retribution, we would know those organizations were steadfastly loyal to their anti-war brand.

But that hasn't happened. Despite the president's health care retreat, most major progressive groups continue to cheer him on, afraid to lose their White House access and, thus, their Beltway status. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Moveon.org has "yet to take a clear position on Afghanistan" while VoteVets' leader all but genuflected to Obama, saying, "People [read: professional political operatives] do not want to take on the administration."

In this vacuum, movement building has been left to underfunded (but stunningly successful) projects like Firedoglake.com, Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and local organizations. And that's the lesson: True grass-roots movements that deliver concrete legislative results are not steered by marble-columned institutions, wealthy benefactors or celebrity politicians-and they are rarely ever run from Washington. They are almost always far-flung efforts by those organized around real-world results-those who don't care about party conventions, congressional cocktail parties or White House soirees they were never invited to in the first place.

Only when enough progressives realize that truism will any movement-and any change-finally commence.

David Sirota is a bestselling author whose newest book is "The Uprising." He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network-both nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at www.credoaction.com/sirota.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Single Payer Health Care WILL work - it works for fire fghters and police!

One thing that Senator Al Franked proved when he wrote "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" was that people who get their news from talk radio (and now Fox news) feel they are among the best informed people when they are really the least informed people. And their lemming-like repetitious spewing of the same health-care industry talking points that a single-payer or government option is bad socialism and can't work as well as private business is oh so wrong!

Want examples of that? Check out the article below -


Firefighting in the 1800’s: A Corrupt, Bloated, Private For-Profit Industry

July 30th, 2009 · Go on and comment

The loudest voice, piercing through the debate over health care is unquestionably sure “privatization is always better.” Because Republicans (who are in the government) will readily tell you - the government never does anything right. Which explains why the most popular people in their Grand Old Party no longer hold any personally “taxing” jobs in the government (Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and as of Sunday, Sarah Palin), opting (fittingly) for private political gigs.

Less government control is always good? The private sector is always first-rate? Free market capitalism is the cure-all? Even for health care?!
Let’s look at this reasonably: Firefighting used to be a private for-profit industry. In the 1800’s, the early days of urbanization, in cities like New York and Baltimore, there were private “clubs” or “gangs” who were in charge of putting out fires. The infamous Boss Tweed started his illustrious political career at a volunteer fire company. The way it functioned was the first club at the scene got money from the insurance company. So, they had an incentive to get there fast. They also had an incentive to sabotage competition. They also often ended up getting in fights over territory and many times buildings would burn down before the issue was resolved. They were glorified looters. It was corrupt, bloated and expensive - but at least it wasn’t the much maligned “government controlled.”

There was a scene in Martin Scorsesse's "Gangs of New York" which illustrated this perfectly!

Actual fire-fighting was rare in the Five Points, and the arson was often used by firefighting companies to settle territorial disputes. The crook William Tweed, of course, had his fingers into every pie, and chief among those pies was fire-fighting.


The territorial warfare extended to the firefighting as well. With more than 37 amateur fire-brigades in the Five Points, there was a lot of competition over who would get to quell the fire.

In the movie we see Tammany’s fire brigade arriving to the scene of a house set on fire, only to get into a fight with a rivalling fire brigade, the Black Joke. (the latter is famous for starting the Draft Riots[10]) While the two firefighting companies fight over who gets to extinguish the fire, the house is burning down in the background, and looters make their way in to steal any of what’s left of worth[11]. In a hilarious scene that is unfortunately true to history, we see the exchange between the victims of the fire and fire brigade chief Tweed:

FAMILY: For god’s sake. They’re taking everything!

TWEED: In your next time of trouble ma’m, call Tammany first! (handing a business card)

FAMILY: It’s not too late. You can still save my house!

Of course he can, but that’s not what he is here for. With the house still burning, the two fire ‘tribe’ leaders, Tammany and the Black Joke chief, quarrel casually over a territorial dispute:
BLACK JOKE CHIEF: May I point out that this building is burning to ashes?

TWEED: And may I point out that this area is the provenance of my own America’s firebrigade. And that you lot only belong in the Bowery.

BLACK JOKE CHIEF: May I point out that you are outmanned, outmanouvered, and at the moment outfought!


Upon which the reinforcements arrive on the scene, Bill the Butcher and his army of Natives. When Bill remarks that the fire has burnt near everything of value in the house, Tweed orders his firefighting ‘thugs’ to ransack the next house. “Mustn’t lead it [the fire] spread!”, he notes with a wink.
In other words, old-time private-enterprise fire fighters functioned a lot like modern-day health care corporations backed by Wall Street gamblers!

Around the time of the Civil War, firefighting in big cities was reformed and taken over by the government. Currently firefighters in most major metropolises are trained by the government, employed by the government and given health care - wait for it - by the government.

That's right - they became employees of the municipal governments and got standardized pay and benefits - all in exchange for risking their lives when they run into burning buildings and rescue people. Would you say that fire fighters themselves and the American people who they protect are better off under a government-run fire fighting system or do you want to go back to the bad old days?

Yet if we had to have the “conversation” about the firefighting industry today, we’d have socialism-phobic South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint on the TV every chance he could get saying things like, “Do you want a government bureaucrat between you and the safety of your home?”

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio would hold press conferences and ask, “Do you want your firefighting to be like going to the DMV? Do you want Uncle Sam to come breaking down your door every time some Washington fat cat says there’s a fire?”

There would be 30-second TV spots paid for by the powerful firefighting lobby featuring stars and stripes graphics and the national anthem playing softly in the background with a booming voice-over trumpeting, “Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were volunteer firefighters. Support traditional values and oppose government waste. Tell your representative you want a bi-partisan solution to fire reform.”

News programs would be interviewing sobbing people whose homes fell through the cracks and burned to the ground. “I don’t want to see the government take-over firefighting, but I sure miss Momma’s oil paintings.”

And President Barack Obama would relay his childhood experience with a fire then point out the failure of the for-profit firefighting industrial complex that “threatens to bankrupt this country.” And then those most in need of firefighting services would foam about his birth certificate and confuse Karl Marx with Charles Darwin on misspelled protest signs at events put on by covert firefighting lobbyists.

But instead, today firefighters are national heroes. They’re organized, quick, competent and with few exceptions pillars of the community. Their duty is to protect people and their property and they do it. They make no profits, are part of the government and they help people 24-hours a day. They even let seniors live. No debate necessary. What started out as a shady gaming of the system where the general public’s welfare was at risk is today something of national pride.

You're damn right they are national heroes. On 9/11, NYFD and NYPD members ran into buildings to rescue people, even though there was a chance the buildings might collapse on them. I was in NYC a few weeks after 9/11, and if they thought you were NYFD, or NYPD, or even fire or police from another part of the country - you couldn't buy yourself a drink in ANY bar in NYC.

Do you really think that private for-profit fire fighters of the Tweed era would have the training or the "testicular fortitude" to run into those buildings? No - they'd be fighting amongst themselves to see who would get the honor or sitting on a barrel over a hydrant. Maybe even trying to find a way to collect the insurance bounty for not doing any actual work - or looting nearby stores!

So government can do something right. It’s happened.

You're damn right it's happened!

Less government is not always good. The private sector is not always first-rate. And free market capitalism does not cure all.

Do I want my health care to be like the DMV? I’ve seen clinics that make the DMV look like destination spa. DMV is affordable and I can always get seen the same day (I have insurance and I can’t say the same about my doctor). So yeah, DMV-esque wouldn’t be too bad. What would be better is if doctors could be like firefighters.

This piece ran at the Huffington Post.