Thursday, February 23, 2012

Commitments for progressive candidates

Commitments for progressive candidates
running for office on a progressive platform

Winning elections is important and much good can come of it.  More good will come of it if we keep our values and ethics once in office.  Cesar Chavez refused any outside help to form his farm worker’s union.  We should learn from that union’s history that if the community is to have progressive representation, it is best to develop it from within and have the deep support and trust of the people.  Our ethics and values are as important as our political ideas, if not more.  

Commitment to social solidarity
We advocate universal education, health care, employment, housing etc from a deep sense of community and an understanding that all of us has a responsibility for the health of the community.  We advocate economic justice. 

Commitment to movement solidarity
We see ourselves as part of the larger progressive movement.  We honor, respect and nourish all the other honest efforts that are being made.  We see our campaigns as a way to advocate community solutions to community problems.  We see our own election as part of widening the scope and strengthening the whole of this movement.  

Commitment to having the support of the people
As movement builders, the support of the public is the core of our strength.  Together with the people we find empowerment through shared experiences.  Public support is the only basis for an honest mandate of an elected official.  

Commitment to community service
Running for office, and holding office if elected, is part of an overall personal dedication to be a positive contributor to the community.  We should honor the opportunity to do public service by fully serving to all of the constituents and treating offices held as a public trust.  We commit to doing all jobs honestly, openly, for all of the members of the represented community and above all with care and professionalism.  We are committed to a high quality of governance.  

Commitment to keeping our freedom of action
We keep ourselves free to act on our values and beliefs.  We will be free to act on behalf of the office we hold and the people and government we represent. When there are differences dealing with other levels of government, we should be free to advocate change and reform in how all of us are being treated.  

Commitment to democracy
We believe in having all the voices heard and all the people’s views represented fairly.  We believe in grass roots democracy.  We want a city government close to the people and far from big money politics.  

Commitment to peace
We maintain ourselves as advocates of peace, and as opponents of our current wars.  

Commitment to fighting repression
We stand against police violence.  We stand against any acts to intimidate people from exercising their right to free speech, to protest, to go on strike or any other action of the public to advocate for their rights.  We stand up against all forms of discrimination, be it racial, sexual, sexual orientation, linguistic, religious or any other. 

Commitment to fight corruption
We are opposed to the legal corruption that surrounds our electoral process and do not participate in it.  We will not accept big money, will not leverage influential people or accept the monopoly of the media gate keepers.  We will keep ourselves free of conflict of interest involving any person or business, including non-profit, that accepts government money.  We are not part of money politics and will fight for transparency and public trust. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Kaiser Convention Center should be occupied.

How many cities have a boarded up convention center? 

I know a lot of cities in the USA are just like Oakland and have boarded up businesses, boarded up homes and abandoned properties in them. The new American Gothic includes the homeless encampment in the freeway landscaping and the mentally ill on the sidewalks.  But a whole convention center?  

How do we categorize this problem?  

Mismanagement and neglect would be a good category.  That would lump the convention center in with the rotting Victorian mansions, concessions stands and bathrooms in our parks.  Has anyone from the public seen the inside recently?  Is it OK?  It may not be given the way the old gymnasium in North Oakland was allowed to rot with roof leakage so badly that a million dollar wooden floor is now worthless.  I am very serious, when was the last time that building was inspected or open to a press visit?  This building belongs to us, our city is known for neglect.  IS IT OK?  

Under and miss utilization would be another good category.  Back when the Kaiser Center was ostensibly open it was never really getting the attention and bookings it needed.  This is from the same city government that ropes off downtown and builds fences so that it can charge the public for its Art and Soul Festival but cannot find any events for a major convention center on a lake with a Museum, Junior College and a BART station for direct neighbors.  What I was told by those “in the know” at the time of the closure was that we were going to focus on the Fox Theater.  Is that development?  Build one multimillion dollar facility while we throw another away?  

Fiscal fiasco should also be considered as a category.  Who owns the Kaiser Convention Center now?  Who could sell it?  Who could rent it out?  During the circus that passed for a budget debate 6 months ago we “sold” the building from the City to “Redevelopment”.  The building was used as collateral for some loans that got “transferred to the City Hall building”.  That would mean if we did not pay the debts, we would have to sell City Hall to pay it!  Of course that NEVER happens, but jeez.  A lot of things that “never happen” have been happening in state, county and city budgeting recently.   Did they really go through with that plan or was it just still a plan when the State of California shut down the redevelopment agencies?  If they did, who owns the building now?  There is supposed to be a “successor agency” if I understand it right.  Who is that?

Selling a major asset to pay day-to-day bills is not a secure budget plan.  In fact it is about the worst budget plan.  Things like this make me want to raise the bar on the Council selling off public property.  It just should not be so easy to do.  

So now we have a multimillion dollar, historical convention center boarded up in the middle of our city.  The Occupy protestors who wanted to “Occupy” it would have in effect opened it back up.  We all missed a golden opportunity in a cloud of stubbornness and teargas.  All that Occupy energy could help our city at the Kaiser Convention Center. 

The public should insist that the building be put back into use.  If civic groups can turn it into some kind of civic center and pay the utilities, then the city should allow them to do it.  Right now it is just a scandal.  

One of the things that the occupy encampment showed was how much energy was available for this kind of civic center activity.  That little encampment was feeding and housing homeless people.  They had a free health clinic.  There was a series of art programs.  There was a children’s village.  There were library groups, free school, theater etc.  And the list goes on and on from a media center to community gardens.  

Our convention center is a vacant property.  It needs an occupant and we have a volunteer.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Not news.

This is what media bias looks like.

Today The Oakland Green Party was not news.

It was NOT NEWS that 4 Oakland Greens with a group of 40 supporters backed by 5,000 registered voters announced our slate to run in 3 council, and one school board race this November.

I was not news, as I am one of those four and I announced that I will run in the 1st District Council race.

The people who asked questions were not news.  The answers were not news. 
The only place you will hear about our press conference will be in the Indy News and on line. 

After our press conference two of us candidates went across town with lots of friends and fellow Greens and other activists to see a review of police activities around the Occupy Protests. This event was supposed to be hosted by our Citizen’s Police Review Board, but they canceled at the last moment.  The Grand Lake Theater offered a location and Occupy hosted.  We heard reports from experts and saw a 45 min presentation on what the police have really been doing. The chief of police was invited to speak.

All of that was also NOT NEWS. A couple hundred people, including prominent civil rights lawyers, political activists and many Occupy protestors were there.  They might as well join us in the Green Party because together we are all NOT NEWS.

So what is news?

Well according to the Examiner quoting the Tribune:

Occupiers marched from a courthouse to Frank H. Ogawa Plaza for a noon rally only to find about 40 people protesting them.
The group, calling itself Stand for Oakland, was organized by several neighborhood leaders to show public opposition to Occupy Oakland's recent costly demonstrations and its focus on Oakland police, rather than the travails of the poor and middle class.
"I think this will make them see that the citizens are concerned and that the citizens are tired of the actions that they are taking," said Angela Haller, a Neighborhood Watch leader who helped organize the rally.
Among those participating in Stand for Oakland was Councilwoman Desley Brooks, several neighborhood leaders, developer Phil Tagami and Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce official Paul Junge.
When something like this is done in Cuba or Syria we call it a stage managed pro-government demonstration with few, if any, followers not on a public salary.

So, an established political movement and an established civil rights movement are not news, but an astro-turf group invented on the fly by the local wealthy and a politician is headlines? 

A few years ago Amy Goodman, the voice of Democracy Now, spoke at Berkeley High where my son was going to school.  She asked a question that I have not had an answer for:

“If we had state controlled media in America,
how would it be any different than what we have now?” 

We should all ask ourselves some quick questions:
•    Where do all those demo-republicans spend all those campaign adverting dollars? 
•    Ever hear of a company that does not cater to its owners and its clients?
•    What else are we not being told because it does not meet the advertisers’ wishes?

When the same kind of pro system media domination comes to play in Russia, our corporate press talks about how their elections are not free and fair. I agree they do not have free and fair elections in Russia.  Can we call our system where the two official political marketing companies hold all but one of the congressional seats free and fair?  Russia has more political diversity than we do.  

So here is some information that the Greens can share that is also probably not news too:
We are not going to just go away.  Neither is Occupy for that matter. 
We are finding ways to speak directly to the people in this election. 
So has Occupy for that matter.
That is how 5,000 people decided to register Green in the first place. 
And that is why the theater was full, despite the lack of news coverage.

A  suggestion:
Support independent media as if your democracy depended on it because it does.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Occupy is a movement, not an organization

Occupy is a movement, not an organization 

The “straw man” is one of the mainstays of dishonest argument.  It is the art of making your opponent out to be something that he or she is not, and then arguing against that “straw man” depiction instead of arguing against what your opponent is really saying.  This is what is being done to the Occupy movement.  It is being made out to be an organization, and an extreme one at that, and then accused of being an irresponsible organization.  

This whole thing did start with some extreme behavior.  

There was the extreme loss of trillions of dollars worth of real estate and stock value around the world in 2008.  The blurred line between mortgages, banks, securities and ratings agencies was extreme. There was some extreme damage to people’s personal lives, their retirements, their home values and for many many many Americans, there was the foreclosures of them homes and no accommodation of the extreme conditions in employment caused by this housing value collapse.  

The tax break offered to the wealthy, while giving the common people a hard shaft of cutbacks was extreme. It started before this securitized mortgages fiasco under Bush and continued to the letter under Obama.  To combine it with the largest income disparity in US post slavery history makes it all the more extreme.  The only thing that caused us to miss how radical it was the slow build up of the effects.  

The bailouts were very extreme.  The excessiveness of it was reckless as was the lack of accountability.  That we did it without a reform of the banking and investment system showed us who our government works for.  To say that the banks paid it all back is to deal in another type of dishonesty and in case you missed it, to hand the biggest failures in financial history since the crash of 29 enough money to consolidate their banks and holdings even more at a time when the peoples government should have been breaking them up is daring and extreme.  

So extreme in fact that it finally provoked a reaction.  That reaction is Occupy.  

Occupy is a movement against economic injustice.  It is an injustice how the rich own our country and its politicians.  It is an injustice to have so much wealth and so little responsibility for it.  It is an injustice to help out those who profit and force cutbacks on those of us who really make the system work.  

The resistance to the war in Vietnam was also a movement, as was the struggle against segregation and for civil rights.  No one group marked it.  At the time all those who headed it up were slandered and hated by our officialdom.  People fought hard and broke the law to stop those injustices.  

And they are doing so now in the Occupy movement.  

Some were camping, that was illegal or was quickly made so.  Some were feeding the homeless, and that has been illegal for a while already.  Some housed the homeless and thus were slandered with whatever the homeless people were doing that could be pointed to as “wrong”.  And some tried to occupy the Kaiser Convention Center with a march.  These groups of Occupy protestors number in the thousands.  

Others call for strikes, picket banks, hand out flyers, setup mobile libraries, feed the homeless too and all kinds of less publicized actions.  Are these actions less publicized because we are non-violent and that does not fit the straw man the opponents of Occupy want to portray?  You will have to ask the army of spin doctors, think tank pundits and PR agents that work directly for the 1%.  Only they know what the plans are.  The rest of us just get to hear the endless repetition of the talking points.  

Right now the talking points say that our straw man had a good idea, but is going about things the wrong, violent way and that they should go home and the problem should be dealt with in the more civilized manner prescribed by the two official political parties.  

Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez and all the war resistors did not buy that line of bull and we should not either.  The last thing we need is advice from the rich and powerful or the enfranchised bureaucrats on how we should oppose their fiscal policies.  We do not need the master’s permission to cry freedom. 
This movement will not go away, not even the “extreme” part of it.  

That Saturday something between two and three thousand young people marched on the Kaiser Center.  After a couple rounds of tear gas and other forms of police force about a third of them gathered back at the plaza.  At a call they got back on the street to try it again somewhere else.  

The powers that be should take pause and realize that those kinds of numbers and that kind of determination is not some fringe phenomena.  Occupy is organized in 1400 locations across the USA because there is a problem and it is not fixed.  This is another fracture in our overall relationship with our nation’s youth.  We have other fractures with other parts of our youth.

Hint to the Mayor and the Chief of Police:  These young people do not believe you.  They do not trust you.  They do not respect you.  They think you are sold out and on the payroll. 
Why should they think otherwise?

And the rest of us?  Well, you know we do not believe you either.  You have had decades to address these economic fairness and general well being issues. What have you done?  From the S and L Crisis to the latest tax give away you had done what the rich want, when they want it, as they want it.  

There are tens of thousands of us who demonstrate peacefully as Occupy.  There are tens of millions of us who sympathize with the Occupy movement for good reasons that stem from what we see with our own eyes in our own lives.  One American in six is officially poor.  Many more are only a paycheck away.  

We are not the priority, the banks are, and everyone knows it. 

Nothing has been done to fix the problems.  Nothing has been done for those losing their homes.  Nothing has been done to pull one in six Americans out of poverty and nothing is being done to keep our governments out of poverty.  We call it cutbacks, other nations call it austerity.  The bailout has been “for-rich-only” as obscenely as things were once “for-white-only.”  As long as this goes on people will be in the streets protesting and demanding justice. 

And I will be one of them.