Archive for the 'ELECTION' Category

W.F.P. turns on Cuomo over ‘monopoly’ comment

via Capital NY



 Cuomo at a pro-charter schools rally earlier this year. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)

By Laura Nahmias and Jessica Bakeman 


ALBANY—The Working Families Party released a statement Wednesday criticizing Andrew Cuomo, the party’s candidate for governor, for his comments comparing the state’s public school system to a “public monopoly.”


“Governor Cuomo is wrong on this one,” the W.F.P.’s state director Bill Lipton said in a statement to Capital.


“His proposed policies on public education will weaken, not strengthen our public education system, and they would represent a step away from the principle of high quality public education for all students. High stakes testing and competition are not the answer. Investment in the future is the answer, and that means progressive taxation and adequate resources for our schools.”


Earlier this week Cuomo told the Daily News editorial board that, if he’s re-elected, he intends to “to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies,” vowing to challenge public school teachers by supporting stricter teacher evaluations and competition from charter schools.

Those comments drew some cautious criticism from the state teachers’ union.

Asked by Capital for comment Tuesday morning, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers addressed Cuomo’s comments about teacher evaluations but initially declined to comment on the governor’s likening of public education to a “monopoly.”

But the union later released a statement, in which president Karen Magee said: “Public education is for the public good. It is not a monopoly. It is the centerpiece of our democracy and what makes our nation great.”

A labor-backed advocacy group, Alliance for Quality Education, also criticized the governor’s comments, using harsher language.

“Gov. Cuomo has laid clear plans to expand his frontal assault on our public schools through high stakes testing, starving our public schools and privatization,” Billy Easton, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “It’s not that shocking when you look at the enormous pile of cash he has raked in from the Wall Street billionaires who are investing in charter schools. He is rewarding his financial backers at a devastating cost to our children.”

Teachers lashed at out Cuomo on Twitter throughout the day, using #CuoMonopoly.

The W.F.P. statement marks an unusual rebuke for a party of its own candidate, less than one week before the general election, and comes amid ongoing tensions between Cuomo and the left-leaning party.

The W.F.P. endorsed Cuomo earlier this year only after extracting significant concessions from him to support some key components of the party’s platform, including his promise to push for Democratic control of the state Senate, seek an increase in the minimum wage, and pass the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants access to public college tuition assistance.

But Cuomo and the party hold very different positions on education, and the governor, who has become a champion for charter schools, notably did not sign on to the party’s education platform as part of the terms of his endorsement deal.

Teachers have been a problem constituency for Cuomo, who has touted the state-mandated teacher evaluation system and a property-tax cap that limits school districts’ abilities to raise revenue as signature accomplishments of his first term. Magee was elected as NYSUT’s new leader in April partly because union members were frustrated that former president Richard Iannuzzi didn’t sufficiently oppose Cuomo’s policies.

Although NYSUT remained neutral in the gubernatorial race, some local teachers’ unions supported Cuomo’s Democratic opponent, Zephyr Teachout, in the primary, and are backing Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins in the general. Phil Rumore, an active Working Families Party member and president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, was particularly outspoken in his criticism of Cuomo.

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By Jack A. Smith, editor, Activist Newsletter

There are important differences, of course, between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney, but the long conservative trend in American politics will continue regardless of who wins the presidential election Nov. 6. Either candidate will move it right along.
From a left point of view, Obama is superior to Romney in the sense that the Democratic center right is politically preferable to the Republican right/far right. The Democrats will cause less social damage — though not less war damage or the pain of gross inequality or the harm done civil liberties — than their conservative cousins.
Indeed, both candidates are conservative. Obama is moderately so, judging by his first term in the White House, though liberal in his current campaign rhetoric and on two social issues — abortion and gay marriage. Romney is definitely so, though he shifts opportunistically from the extreme right to the right and back again. In the last weeks of the campaign, sensing his impending defeat, the former Massachusetts governor momentarily leaned to the center right.
The Republican Party has gravitated ever further to the right during the last few decades and is now securely in the hands of extremist politicians, symbolized by the ascendancy of the Tea Party and the many House and Senate members who follow its far right agenda. Jim Hightower, the well known liberal Texas columnist, wrote an article in AlterNet Oct. 8 that briefly described key programs in the GOP platform:
* Medicare must be replaced with a privatized “VoucherCare” (or, more accurately, “WeDon’tCare”) medical system;
• All poverty programs must be slashed or eliminated to “free” poor people from a crippling and shameful dependency on public aid;
• The government framework that sustains a middle class (from student loans to Social Security) must be turned over to Wall Street so individuals are free to “manage” their own fates through marketplace choice;
• Such worker protections as collective bargaining, minimum wage, and unemployment payments must be stripped away to remove artificial impediments to the “natural rationality” of free market forces;
• The corporate and moneyed elites (forgive a bit of redundancy there) must be freed from tax and regulatory burdens that impede their entrepreneurial creativity;
• The First Amendment must be interpreted to mean that unlimited political spending of corporate cash equals free speech; and
• Etcetera, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
The one thing Hightower left out is that if the Republicans insist on identifying corporate bosses as “Job Creators,” why then aren’t they creating jobs? Romney blames China, as do the Democrats, but that’s election politics.
China is a rising capitalist economy that only started to really take off about 15 years ago, and it is doing what all such rising economies do — adopting some measures to grow and protect their developing industries and trade. The U.S. did it too as a growing economy for many decades. That’s capitalism. It goes where it can make the most profit with little concern for the workers it leaves behind. Washington supports this concept but not when it might be disadvantageous to itself. Nothing prevents the U.S. government from investing in the creation of millions of American jobs except the prevailing conservative ideology.
Despite the seeming distance between the two parties on economic issues — emphasized by Republican proposals cribbed from the pages of “Atlas Shrugged”— economist Jared Bernstein, a Democrat, wrote on his blog Sept. 6 that he was going beyond “good Democrats and bad Republicans” to perceive “the ascendancy of a largely bipartisan vision that promotes individualist market-based solutions over solutions that recognize there are big problems that markets cannot effectively solve.” He’s on to something.
Bernstein, until this year Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economic adviser, then wrote: “We cannot, for example, constantly cut the federal government’s revenue stream without undermining its ability to meet pressing social needs. We know that more resources will be needed to meet the challenges of prospering in a global economy, keeping up with technological changes, funding health care and pension systems, helping individuals balance work and family life, improving the skills of our workforce, and reducing social and economic inequality. Yet discussion of this reality is off the table.”
There are a number of major policy areas of virtual agreement between the parties. Their most flagrant coupling is in the key area of foreign/military policy.
The Democrats — humiliated for years by right wing charges of being “soft on defense” — have become the war party led by a Commander-in-Chief who relishes his job to the extent of keeping his own individual kill list. What neoconservative would dare fault him for this? Imagine the liberal outcry had Bush been discovered with a kill list! This time the liberals didn’t kick up much fuss.
During the third presidential debate Romney had little choice but to align himself with Obama’s war policies in Afghanistan, the attacks on western Pakistan, the regime change undeclared war against Libya, the regime change war in Syria, the aggressive anti-China “pivot” to Asia and drone assaults against Yemen and Somalia with many more to come.
Virtually all liberals, progressives, some leftists and organized labor will vote for Obama. Many will do so with trepidation, given their disappointment about his performance in office, particularly his tilt toward the right, willingness to compromise more than half way with the Republicans, and his reluctance to wage a sharp struggle on behalf of supposed Democratic Party goals.
Many of these forces now view Obama as the “lesser evil,” but worry he will sell them out once again. According to the Washington publication The Hill on Oct. 24:
“Major labor unions and dozens of liberal groups working to elect President Obama are worried he could ‘betray’ them in the lame-duck session by agreeing to a deal to cut safety-net programs. While Obama is relying on labor unions and other organizations on the left to turn out Democratic voters in battleground states, some of his allies have lingering concerns about whether he will stand by them if elected….
“The AFL-CIO has planned a series of coordinated events around the country on Nov. 8, two days after Election Day, to pressure lawmakers not to sign onto any deficit-reduction deal that cuts Medicare and Social Security benefits by raising the Medicare eligibility age or changing the formula used for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments. ‘There’s going to be a major effort by lots of groups to make sure the people we vote for don’t sell us down the river,’ said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. “People, groups, organizations and networks are working very hard to get Obama and the Democrats elected, and yet we are worried that it is possible that we could be betrayed almost immediately,’ he said.”
One specific issue behind this distrust is the awareness that, if reelected, Obama has said he will seek a “grand bargain” with the Republicans intended to slash the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. During deficit talks with House leader John Boehner over a year ago Obama voluntarily declared that cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security were “on the table” for negotiation— the first time any any Democratic President ever offered to compromise on what amounts to the crowning legislative achievements of the New Deal and Great Society administrations.
At the time Obama envisioned reducing Medicare by $1 trillion and Medicaid by $360 billion over two decades. The exact amount from Social Security was not disclosed. During the campaign Obama promised to “protect” these three “entitlements.”
While denouncing Romney’s “plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program and increase health care costs for seniors,” AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka disclosed Oct. 23 that “a bipartisan group of senators who are not up for reelection is working behind closed doors in Washington to reach a so-called grand bargain that completely bypasses this debate and ignores the views of voters. What is the grand bargain? It boils down to lower tax rates for rich people — paid for by benefit cuts for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”
Another reason for a certain suspicion about what Obama will achieve in a second term is based on his unfulfilled promises from the 2008 election. Here are some of them from an Oct. 27 article titled “The Progressive Case Against Obama” by Matt Stoller:
“ A higher minimum wage, a ban on the replacement of striking workers, seven days of paid sick leave, a more diverse media ownership structure, renegotiation of NAFTA, letting bankruptcy judges write down mortgage debt, a ban on illegal wiretaps, an end to national security letters, stopping the war on whistle-blowers, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, restoring habeas corpus, and labor protections in the FAA bill.
“Each of these pledges would have tilted bargaining leverage to debtors, to labor, or to political dissidents. So Obama promised them to distinguish himself from Bush, and then went back on his word because these promises didn’t fit with the larger policy arc of shifting American society toward his vision.”
Many liberals and progressives seem convinced that the two-party system is the only viable battleground within which to contest for peace and social progress, even if the two ruling parties are right of center. This is one reason they shun progressive or left third parties.
This national electoral battleground, however, as has become evident to many Americans in recent years, is owned and operated by the wealthy ruling elite which has, through its control of the two-party system, stifled any social progress in the United States for 40 years.
Throughout these same four decades the Democrats have shifted from the center left to center right. The last center left Democratic presidential candidate was the recently departed former Sen. George McGovern, who was whipped by the Republicans in 1972. In tribute to this last antiwar and progressive presidential candidate, and as a contrast to the present center right standard bearer, we recall McGovern’s comment from the 1972 Democratic convention:
“As one whose heart has ached for the past 10 years over the agony of Vietnam, I will halt a senseless bombing of Indochina on Inaugural Day. There will be no more Asian children running ablaze from bombed-out schools. There will be no more talk of bombing the dikes or the cities of the North [Vietnam]. And within 90 days of my inauguration, every American soldier and every American prisoner will be out of the jungle and out of their cells and then home in America where they belong.”
There is more to America’s presidential and congressional elections than meets the eye of the average voter. The impending election, for instance, has two aspects. One has been in-your-face visible for over a year before Election Day. The other is usually concealed because, while critically important, it’s not a matter that entertains public debate or intervention.
The visible aspect — the campaign, slogans and speeches, the debates, arguments and rallies —is contained within the parameters of the political system which Obama and Romney meticulously observe. Those parameters, or limitations, are mainly established by that privileged elite sector of the citizenry lately identified as the 1% and its minions.
The concealed aspect of elections in the U.S. is that they are usually undemocratic in essence; and that the fundamental underlying issues of the day are rarely mentioned, much less contested.
Many of the major candidates are selected, groomed and financed by the elite, who then invest fortunes in the election campaigns for president, Congress and state legislatures (over $6 billion in this election). And after their representatives to all these offices are elected, they spend billions more on the federal and state level lobbying for influence, transferring cash for or against legislation affecting their financial and big business interests.
American electoral democracy is based on one person, one vote — and it’s true that the wealthy contributor of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to favored candidates is similarly restricted to a single ballot. But the big spenders influence multitudes of voters through financing mass advertising, which in effect multiplies the donor’s political clout by a huge factor.
Democracy is grossly undermined by the funding from rich individuals and corporations that determine the outcome of many, probably most, elections.  These are the wealthy with whom  a Romney can easily describe 47% of the  American people as scroungers dependant on government handouts, and they will chuckle and applaud. They are the same breed with whom an Obama can comfortably mock the “professional left” within his party and get knowing nods and smiles.
The most important of the major issues completely omitted from the elections and the national narrative is the obvious fact that the United States is an imperialist state and a militarist society. It rules the world, not just the seas as did Britannia, and the sun never sets on America’s worldwide military bases, an “empire of bases” as Chalmers Johnson insisted.
Most Americans, including the liberals, become discomforted or angered when their country is described as imperialist and militarist. But what else is a society that in effect controls the world through military power; that has been at war or planning for the next war for over 70 years without letup; that spends nearly $700 billion a year on its armed forces and an equal amount on various national security entities?
The American people never voted on whether to become or continue as an imperialist or militarist society any more than they voted to invade Iraq, or to deregulate the banks, or to vaporize the civilian city of Hiroshima.
In the main a big majority believe Washington’s foreign/military policies are defensive and humanitarian because that’s what the government, the schools, churches and commercial mass media drum into their heads throughout their lives. They have been misinformed and manipulated to accept the status quo on the basis of Washington’s fear-mongering, exaggerated national security needs, mythologies about American history, and a two-party political system primarily devoted to furthering the interests of big business, multinational corporations, too-big-to-fail banks and Wall Street.
Needless to say, both ruling parties have participated in all this and it is simply taken for granted they will continue to cultivate militarism and practice imperialism in order to remain the world’s dominant hegemon.
There are many ways to keep the voting population in line. The great majority of Americans are religious people, including many fundamentalists. Both candidates of the political duopoly have exploited religious beliefs by telling the people that God is on America’s side and that the deity supports America’s dominant role in the world, and its wars, too.
At the Democratic convention in September, Obama concluded his speech with these inspiring words: “Providence is with us, and we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.” The term Providence, in the sense intended, suggests that God “is with us,” guides America’s destiny and approves of the activities we have defined as imperialist and militarist.
Romney declared last month that “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world.”
Further along these lines, Obama said in the third debate that “America remains the one indispensable nation, and the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office.” Having God’s backing and being the only one of some 200 nation states in the world that cannot be dispensed with is what is meant by the expression “American Exceptionalism” — a designation that gives Washington a free pass to do anything it wants.
American “leadership” (i.e., global hegemony) has been a policy of the Democratic and Republican parties for several decades. A main reason the American foreign policy elite gathered behind Obama in 2007 was his continual emphasis upon maintaining Washington’s world leadership.
Many other key policies will not change whether Obama or Romney occupy the Oval Office.
• For instance, the U.S. is the most unequal society among the leading capitalist nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). About half its people are either low income or poor, and they receive lower benefits than families resident in other OECD countries. What will Obama and Romney do about this if elected to the White House? Nothing. Burgeoning inequality wasn’t even a topic during the three debates. And in Obama’s nearly four years in office he completely ignored this most important social problem plaguing America.
According to the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz: “Economic inequality begets political inequality and vice versa. Then the very vision that makes America special — upward mobility and opportunity for all — is undermined. One person, one vote becomes one dollar, one vote. That is not democracy.”
• Climate change caused by global warming is here. America has been wracked in recent years with devastating storms, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, as have other parts of the world. One of the worst of all storms decimated large parts of the eastern United States a few days ago. And what will Obama and Romney do about it? Nothing. This most important of international questions was not thought worthy of mention in all three debates. Bill McKibben got it right the other day when he said: “Corporate polluters have bought the silence of our elected leaders.”
Obama’s environmental comprehension and occasional rhetoric are an improvement over Romney’s current climate denial  (one more cynical reversal of his earlier views). But the president has done virtually nothing to fight climate change during his first term — and he simply can’t blame it all on the Republicans. He has a bully pulpit with which to galvanize public consciousness but doesn’t use it. Actually the Obama government has played a backward role in the annual UN climate talks — delaying everything, even though the U.S. is history’s most notorious emitter of the greenhouse gases that have brought the world to this sorry pass.
• The shameful erosion of civil liberties that swiftly increased during the Bush Administration has been continued and expanded during the Obama Administration. One cannot help but question the teacher training that goes into producing a Harvard Professor of Constitutional Law who blithely approves legislation containing a provision for indefinite detention that in effect suspends habeas corpus for some, a heretofore sacrosanct aspect of American democracy.
• The economic suffering of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans in the years since 2008, when the Great Recession began, is far worse than that of whites. Black family income and wealth is incomparably lower. Black unemployment is twice that of whites. The Obama White House has not brought forth one program to alleviate the conditions afflicting these three communities, and it’s hardly likely a Romney government would do any better.
On other visible election issues, such as the rights of labor unions, the Democrats are much  better than the Republicans, who despise the unions, but Obama has certainly been asleep at the switch, or maybe he just knows labor will support him come what may. Portraying himself as a friend of labor, Obama refused to fight hard enough — even when the Democrats controlled the House and Senate — to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, the one bill labor truly wanted from the White House in return for years of service. During his first term Obama presided over anti-union legislation and stood mute as the labor movement was pummeled mercilessly in several state legislatures, even losing collective bargaining rights in some states. With friends like this…
In rhetoric, Obama is far superior to the Republicans on such issues as social programs, the deficit, unemployment, foreclosures, tax policy, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. But in actual practice he has either done virtually nothing or has already made compromises. When he thinks he may lose he backs away instead of fighting on and at least educating people in the process. Look at it this way:
• The only social program to emerge from the Obama Administration is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a near duplicate of Romney’s Republican plan in Massachusetts. Obama wouldn’t even consider the long overdue and far better single payer/Medicare-for-all plan. Obamacare is an improvement over the present system, though it still leaves millions without healthcare. But it only came about after convincing Big Insurance and Big Pharma that it would greatly increase their profits. The big insurance and drug companies accumulate overhead costs of 30%. Government-provided Universal Medicare, based on today’s overhead, would only be about 3% because profit and excessive executive pay would be excluded.
• In his willingness to compromise, Obama largely accepted the Tea Party right wing emphasis on deficit reduction instead of investing in the economy and social programs, especially to recover from the Great Recession, continuing stagnation and high unemployment. This will mainly entail budget reductions and targeted tax increases focusing on finally ending the Bush tax cuts for people earning $250,000 or more a year.  These cuts were supposed to expire two years ago but were extended by Obama in a compromise tax deal with obstructionist Republicans Congress.
It’s an old Republican trick when in office to greatly increase the  deficit through tax breaks and war costs, then demand that the succeeding Democratic Administration focus on reducing the deficit by virtually eliminating social programs for the people. Reagan and Bush #1 did it successfully to President Bill Clinton (who spent eight years eliminating the deficit without sponsoring one significant social program), and Bush #2 has done it to Obama.
Almost as informative as what separates the two parties is what they agree upon. Bill Quigley, legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, compiled the following list, which was published on AlterNet Oct. 27:
1. Neither candidate is interested in stopping the use of the death penalty for federal or state crimes.
2. Neither candidate is interested in eliminating or reducing the 5,113 U.S. nuclear warheads.
3. Neither candidate is campaigning to close Guantanamo prison.
4. Neither candidate has called for arresting and prosecuting high ranking people on Wall Street for the subprime mortgage catastrophe.
5. Neither candidate is interested in holding anyone in the Bush administration accountable for the torture committed by U.S. personnel against prisoners in Guantanamo or in Iraq or Afghanistan.
6. Neither candidate is interested in stopping the use of drones to assassinate people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia.
7. Neither candidate is against warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention, or racial profiling in fighting “terrorism.’
8. Neither candidate is interested in fighting for a living wage.  In fact neither are really committed beyond lip service to raising the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour  — which, if it kept pace with inflation since the 1960s should be about $10 an hour.
9. Neither candidate was interested in arresting Osama bin Laden and having him tried in court.
10. Neither candidate will declare they refuse to bomb Iran.
11. Neither candidate is refusing to take huge campaign contributions from people and organizations.
12. Neither candidate proposes any significant specific steps to reverse global warming.
13. Neither candidate is talking about the over 2 million people in jails and prisons in the U.S..
14. Neither candidate proposes to create public jobs so everyone who wants to work can.
15. Neither candidate opposes the nuclear power industry.  In fact both support expansion.
Over the past several weeks, liberal and progressive groups have been seeking to convince disenchanted voters who share their politics to once again get behind Obama with renewed enthusiasm and hope for progress. These organizations fear such voters will not turn out on election day or instead vote for a progressive third party candidate such as the Green Party’s Jill Stein, or a socialist candidate, such as the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s Peta Lindsay, both of whom are on the New York State ballot.
It would be better for American working families if the Republicans were defeated, and Obama is preferable to right wing Romney. I will not vote for Obama because he is a war president comfortably leading an imperialist and militarist system — a man who ignores poor and low income families, who eviscerates our civil liberties and who knows the truth about global warming but does pathetically little about it.
I’ll vote for Peta Lindsay, a young African American women socialist. I totally agree with her 10-point election platform, the last point of which insists “Seize the banks, jail Wall Street criminals.” In this small way I’ll help to build socialism, the only real answer to the problems afflicting America and the world.

Jill Stein, Cheri Honkala arrested, call tonight’s debate a “mockumentary”

Jill-Stein-Cheri-Honkala-CPD-Debate-arrest.png(HEMPSTEAD, NY) – Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the Green presidential and vice-presidential nominees, were just now forcibly prevented from entering the grounds of tonight’s presidential debate organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). See a video here.

Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala will appear on 85% of ballots on Election Day, and recently polled 2-3% in four consecutive national polls. The Federal government recognizes Jill Stein as a qualified presidential candidate, having approved her campaign for federal matching funds. Yet the two women were arrested by local police when they tried to enter the grounds of Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York, where the debate is scheduled to take place. They are currently still in police custody.

Be-the-Debate.pngDr. Stein and Ms. Honkala walked with supporters toward the Hofstra campus at 2:00pm EST today. There they were met by three ranks of police officers in uniform and plainclothes. At this point, the Green Party candidates held an impromptu press conference in which Dr. Stein called the CPD debate a “mockumentary,” saying that, “We are here to bring the courage of those excluded from our politics to this mock debate, this mockery of democracy.”

Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala then turned and began walking onto the debate grounds, at which point the rank of police officers physically stopped them and pushed them back. The two women sat down and the police arrested them, saying that Stein and Honkala would be charged with “obstructing traffic,” a charge Jill Stein for President staffer and lawyer Alex Howard called “bogus” in that there was no through-traffic visible at any time during the incident. 

The presidential debates are the first opportunity for millions of voters to see the candidates themselves, not just their advertising campaigns. These debates are organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) – a supposedly “nonpartisan” entity which is a puppet of and serves the interests of the Democrats, Republicans and the big corporations that fund both of them. The CPD’s criteria to be included in these debates is designed to exclude independent presidential contenders who promote ideas that challenge those in power.

Over 14,000 have signed a statement calling on CPD to change its criteria, and repeated public calls for opening the CPD debates have been ignored by that corporation.

“The debates must include every candidate who is on enough ballots to win the White House and who has demonstrated a minimal level of support — meaning either 1% of the vote in a credible national poll, or qualification for federal matching funds, or both,” reads the statement. “In 2012, the Green and Libertarian party candidates both meet all of these criteria and are both contenders for the presidency…These debates belong to the people, not the politicians or Wall Street.”

In addition there have been protests all over the country about this issue including in Boston, home of the Romney headquarters, and in Denver and Kentucky – the sites of the two recent presidential and vice presidential debates.

Jill Stein will be participating in at least four debates coming up, during which the American people will be able to learn the real range of options available to them this election.  Below are the list of debates in which Jill Stein will be participating:

Leaked Debate Agreement Shows Both Obama and Romney are Sniveling Cowards

Time‘s Mark Halperin has made himself useful for once by obtaining, and publishing,a copy of the 21-page memorandum of understanding that the Obama and Romney campaigns negotiated with the Commission on Presidential Debates establishing the rules governing this month’s presidential and vice presidential face-offs. The upshot: Both campaigns are terrified at anything even remotely spontaneous happening.

They aren’t permitted to ask each other questions, propose pledges to each other, or walk outside a “predesignated area.” And for the town-hall-style debate tomorrow night, the audience members posing questions aren’t allowed to ask follow-ups (their mics will be cut off as soon as they get their questions out). Nor will moderator Candy Crowley.

Most bizarrely, given the way the debates have played out, the rules actually appear to forbid television coverage from showing reaction shots of the candidates: “To the best of the Commission’s abilities, there will be no TV cut-aways to any candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question or to a candidate who is not giving a closing statement while another candidate is doing so.” The “best of the Commission’s abilities” must be rather feable, seeing as how almost every moment of the two debates so far was televised in split-screen, clearly showing shots of a “candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question.”

Which means some of the rules below that both campaigns stipulated to in a desperate attempt to wring any serendipity out of the events may be honored in the breach:

  • “The candidates may not ask each other direct questions during any of the four debates.”
  • “The candidates shall not address each other with proposed pledges.”
  • “At no time during the October 3 First Presidential debate shall either candidate move from his designated area behing the respective podium.”
  • For the October 16 town-hall-style debate, “the moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate….”
  • “The audience members shall not ask follow-up questions or otherwise participate in the extended discussion, and the audience member’s microphone shall be turned off after he or she completes asking the questions.”
  • “[T]he Commission shall take appropriate steps to cut-off the microphone of any…audience member who attempts to pose any question or statement different than that previously posed to the moderator for review.”
  • “No candidate may reference or cite any specific individual sitting in a debate audience (other than family members) at any time during a debate.”
  • For the town-hall debate: “Each candidate may move about in a pre-designated area, as proposed by the Commission and approved by each campaign, and may not leave that area while the debate is underway.”

Here’s the full document:

The 2012 Debates – Memorandum of Understanding Between the Obama and Romney Campaigns

Jill Stein: “Turn the White House into a Green House.” (Video)

Being Green: Presidential hopeful Jill Stein aims to rebuild a broken system

By Greg Hanscom [Grist]

Lost amid the carnival of embarrassments that is the Republican presidential primary is the fact that there is another primary race underway: the Green Party’s. “What?” you say. “Those guys are still around?” Well yes, but they’re not guys.

The front-runner in the race is Jill Stein, a Boston physician and veteran activist and candidate with the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party. (Note to the good people of the Bay State: We get that you’re trying to be inclusive, but a name like that is NO WAY to win respect in the world.) She is currently trouncing the second-place runner, former sitcom starRoseanne Barr. (Note to the good people of the Green Party: Oh, never mind …)

Lest you think this is all rainbows and ponies, however, Stein is not messing around. She says she became involved in politics after witnessing firsthand the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, learning disorders, autism — problems that she traces to toxic chemicals, an industrial food system, and a society built around the automobile.

Stein’s presidential platform includes universal health care, tuition-free higher education, and forgiveness of student debt. And at the center of it all is a Green New Deal that she says will put millions of people to work, tackle the climate crisis, and address our failing health as well.

The Green Party will choose its candidate for president at a national convention in Baltimore in July. If things continue as they have been, Stein will win the spot handily. (She has won 10 of 10 state primaries, plus the District of Columbia.) I talked with her earlier this week.

Q. Your website today says Mitt Romney has invited you to debate him. It’s an April Fools’ joke, right?

A. Well, that part of it is a joke. He did not invite us. But the rest of it is actually true. I have debated him [during the 2002 race for Massachusetts governor], and I was declared winner by more than one objective source.

Q. Did someone really say you were the only adult in the room?

A. Yes, that was an editorial in the Boston Globe, and if you watch the debateyou’ll see why.

Q. Doesn’t a sense of humor automatically disqualify you from the presidency?

A. A sense of humor and lack of corporate funding are substantial obstacles. But I think that we’re part of a very large movement to change the way that politics works — so that the joke is no longer on us.

Q. Running for president under the Green Party banner, your motivations have to be something besides actually landing in the White House. I assume your campaign is largely an effort to change the system.

A. That’s right, and a journey begins with the first step. That said, no one in their right mind ever expected that young people in the streets were going to give the boot to an entrenched dictator, either in Egypt or in Tunisia. So remarkable things have been happening, likewise with the Occupy movement. There is enormous public will out there for substantive change.

The solutions that we are promoting — we don’t need to convince people that we need a climate we can live in, that we need health care as a human right, that we need to be creating jobs rather than just giving more tax breaks and giveaways to CEOs who just pocket the change — these are solutions that people already support. The question is whether we can actually harness our political system and move them forward.

Q. As disappointing as Obama has been, there’s a lot at stake in this election. Why should voters give you a vote when we could end up with a situation like we saw with Ralph Nader and Al Gore in 2000?

A. Progressives have been told we dare not vote for our values and our vision because dangerous things will happen — witness Ralph Nader. We have 10 years of experience with muzzling ourselves politically, and it’s very clear now that silence has not been an effective political strategy, and that the politics of fear in fact has delivered all those things that we were afraid of.

Obama has basically embraced most of Bush’s policies, including drill baby drill, pro-nuke, pro-coal, undermining the Durban [climate] accords. He’s celebrating the beginnings of the Keystone pipeline. We still have twice as many troops in Afghanistan as we had under George Bush. The only reason Obama withdrew from Iraq was because he was unable to negotiate immunity for the troops, so he wound up having to accept what was George Bush’s timeline for withdrawal.

So the point here is that by being quiet, we have essentially allowed corporations to run government whole hog. Obama has been very responsive to his corporate sponsors. So it’s really critical that we have an opposition voice.

Q. In how many states are you even on the ballot?

A. We’re currently on in 20 states. We expect to be on the ballot in 46, maybe 48 states. We do have some very difficult states — two that are impossible barring millions and millions of dollars.

Q. Is there any hope of getting you into a real debate?

A. Absolutely. The Commission on Presidential Debates has a standard, which is 15 percent [of the national electorate, as determined by public opinion polls]. If everybody who cared about the climate got on board and actually stood up and said that they’re supporting this campaign, that alone might be enough to get us into the debates. If all the students out there who are up to their eyeballs in debt stood up for this campaign, we would easily be at 15 percent.

If I can quote Alice Walker, “The biggest way people give up power is by not knowing they have it to start with.” And that’s true, for the environmental movement, the student movement, the antiwar movement, health-care-as-a-human-right movement — you put us all together, we have the potential for a Tahrir Square type event, and [to] turn the White House into a Green House in November.

Q. Is the Green Party itself something of a kiss of death in this country right now?

A. We ran a referendum here in Massachusetts — I’m talking about the Green Party along with some nonprofits. The referendum was non-binding. We basically proposed redefining economic development to be green, sustainable, re-localized, and healthy, and to create local small businesses and cooperatives in the green sectors of the economy, rather than just dishing out billions to multinational corporations that are part of the old fossil fuel economy.

We didn’t have money to spend on the referendum. We were hoping maybe we could get 10 or 15 percent [of the vote]. We actually got between 85 and 95 percent in every community — not just the treehuggers, but also the postindustrial, desperately poor urban communities as well. To me, it confirmed what I find in my everyday experience: People are into this. They get it.

Q. You’re using the same model for the Green New Deal you’re pushing on the national level. Tell us about that.

A. It’s an emergency solution that will put 25 million people back to work, end unemployment, jump-start the green economy for the 21st century, and substantively combat climate change. It would put communities in charge of defining what jobs they need. These jobs would be community-based, living-wage, full-time jobs, and would basically run the spectrum of jobs that make communities sustainable — clean manufacturing, local organic agriculture, public transportation, energy-efficient as well as active transportation, and of course clean renewable energy, conservation, weatherization, efficiency.

We would also include teachers, nurses, day care, violence prevention, drug rehabilitation, affordable housing construction, etc., so there would be a spectrum of jobs that make our communities environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. The cost would be on the order of the first stimulus package, but it would create a whole lot more jobs, because the first stimulus package was largely tax breaks and subsidies for large corporations.

Q. I think a lot of working people feel burned by the green economy because we didn’t see the jobs that people like Van Jones were promising — certainly not right away.

A. It’s not only the green jobs that failed. Obama’s promotion of additional free trade agreements has been devastating to working people. He has not delivered on the Employee Free Choice Act. He has not stood up to the so-called “right to work” states, which actually undermine not only worker pay but also safety on the job.

Obama’s first appointments were Larry Summers, who laid the foundation for Wall Street’s waste, fraud, and abuse. He then went on to appoint Timothy Geithner to be head of the Treasury, who had headed the New York Fed while all that was going on. And then he brought in Jeff Immelt, the king of layoffs and factory closures. The head of GE was brought in to head Obama’s jobs council — the guy who had off-shored more jobs than any single person in America was brought in to head the Obama jobs program.

So it’s no wonder that working people are very skeptical of whatever Obama’s going to propose. And I think vote for him only out of fear. And that’s where Alice Walker comes in again, that the biggest way people give up power is by not knowing they have it.

Q. Last question: How do you travel on the campaign trail? Humvee? Private jet?

A. My dream is to get a veggie-oil bus. I take the train whenever I can. When there’s no choice, I fly, and when we drive, we drive in a Prius. So we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk all the way.

Greg Hanscom is a senior editor at Grist. He tweets about cities, bikes, transportation, policy, and sustainability at @ghanscom.

Green Party Candidate for San Francisco Mayor Crashes Debate

[From: Ballot Access News]

San Francisco holds its non-partisan mayoral election on November 8, 2011. On August 8, nine candidates were invited to debate each other at the Castro Theater. Terry Baum, a registered Green who has the backing of the San Francisco Green Party, was not invited. She was told there wasn’t enough room on the stage for a ninth chair. But then the incumbent (appointed) Mayor decided to run, and the debate organizers made room for a chair for him. So Baum brought her own chair, and she was permitted to participate. Some of the other candidates ceded some of their time to her. See this story. Baum is one of only two persons running for Mayor who is a member of any minor party. The other is Wilma Pang, a member of the Peace & Freedom Party.


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