Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Former Black Panther running for Green presidential nomination

Elaine BrownEarlier this week, Ga. Green Elaine Brown announced that she is running for president in the Green Party primary. From the national Green Party's newsletter:
Former Black Panther Party leader, noted author, community and prison justice activist Elaine Brown announced this week that she intends to seek the Green Party¹s nomination for a presidential bid in 2008. "The 2006 elections signified a mass rejection of Bush's policies--not a shift to the Democrats. We have arrived at a powerful moment when the majority of the country is seeking a political alternative, toward embracing progressive values and realizing a progressive agenda. I haven't seen this potential since the 1960s."

Brown, who ran as a Green in the 2005 Brunswick, Georgia, mayoral election where Republicans succeeded in illegally removing her name from both the ballot and the voter roll, intends to run on a platform that addresses the interests of poor and working families, in terms of living wages, free healthcare, decent housing and increased funding for public education and higher education; ending the war in Iraq; restoring the environment and bringing about economic parity. Strategically, she intends to target non-voters, specifically women under 30 and African Americans, constituencies she believes are not represented by the nearly identical agendas of the Democrat and Republican parties, stating these crucial constituencies "have the power to build up an alternative party to truly challenge the status quo."

"I believe I have the ability to raise consciousness among disaffected and disenfranchised poor and working people, women and blacks, to galvanize them to vote for a real second party. Such a broadening of the Green Party base will allow us to start winning big time, at the state level and nationally, so that we can overturn some of the most egregious policies and laws (like the three strikes crime bill which has so devastated black communities) and introduce progressive legislation. There are a lot of great community organizations working for change, performing Sisyphean tasks that cannot address the fundamental problems. I believe the time is right to use the ballot to make the kinds of changes we know must be made to serve the people we represent."

Brown stated she is running as a Green because: "Not only does the Green Party support reparations for slavery, but the party's ten key values represent the values and interests of poor and working people. Only the Green Party offers clear positions on the needs of the people, in terms of a living wage, decent housing, food, education, and medical care. The Democrats and Republicans offer black and poor people nothing."

When asked what she hopes to achieve with her run, Brown said: "I know the party can earn a significant increase in votes and membership, which will increase our viability to take congressional seats, state house seats, and local offices; so that we can really start changing the way government operates."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cynthia McKinney at the Green Party of Calif. strategy retreat

[Sorry it has taken a while to get this up. I would have posted from Sonoma, but we were in a no-wifi zone (below).]GPCA retreat siteThe Green Party of California has had a lot of issues since the 2000 election including accusations of spoiling, infighting in Los Angeles and on the state coordinating committee, fundraising problems, and a bitter split over the 2004 presidential nomination. At this GPCA strategy retreat, I felt like the party had climbed a tall mountain, and could finally see over the other side.

The speakers--Cynthia McKinney (former member, U.S. Congress [D-GA]); Ross Mirkarimi (member, San Francisco Board of Supervisors); Larry Robinson (member, Sabastapol City Council); and Brent McMillan (political director, GPUS)--all had insightful, encouraging and inspiring things to say. The possible presidential candidacy of McKinney is the most broadly interesting topic, so I'll focus on her in this post, and then discuss the other news in a separate post.

Cynthia McKinney and Michael RochmesMcKinney (above), is being courted as a potential Green Party presidential candidate. Her appearance at this event and at other Green Party gatherings around the country show that she is seriously considering a run (she is also promoting a film, American Blackout, about voter suppression). She hasn't publicly decided whether to run, however. I would expect a decision in the next couple of months. Some of the discussion and strategizing was off the record, but I can tell you that she said a lot of the right things, and the sense in the room was that most Greens would be ecstatic if she decides to run.

McKinney suggested she would stress the anti-war position and electoral reform in a presidential campaign. She would reach out to nonvoters and minorities with her campaign, and seek to broaden and expand the membership of the Green Party.

Despite her reputation in the media, Cynthia McKinney is extremely personable, down-to-earth, and unpretentious. I was impressed that she not only came to speak to us, she spent two nights at the camp with us. While Ralph Nader has continued to support Green candidates and the party, he never, to my knowledge, took the time to meet and talk to local Greens around the country like this. McKinney seems to see a potential presidential candidacy as a partnership with the party.

Friday, February 23, 2007

On my way to Sonoma

For the GPCA retreat. So check back in a little while for updates.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

From the slippery slope dept.

A federal appeals court agreed to strip allegedly foreign prisoners of their right to challenge their detention at Guantanamo Bay:
A divided federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a new law stripping federal judges of authority to review [alleged] foreign prisoners’ challenges to their detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba...

That law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, was signed by President Bush last October. Its enactment followed the Supreme Court’s rejection of his administration’s earlier arguments that the right of habeas corpus — the fundamental right, centuries old, to ask a judge for release from unjust imprisonment — did not apply to [alleged] foreigners being held outside the United States as enemy combatants.

The new law explicitly eliminated the federal courts’ jurisdiction over habeas challenges by such prisoners. It instead set up military panels to review the justification of detention in individual cases, with limited right of appeal to the courts afterward.
This blog will continue to uphold the principle of innocent until proven guilty, even if the three branches of the federal government do not. And I still think this opens the door to U.S. citizens being locked up in Gitmo. How do you prove you're a citizen if you can't dispute your detention in court? Paranoid? Just ask Jose Padilla.

L.A. angle? You could be next...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Free wireless internet in LA

This seems like an idea that was inevitable, but props to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for announcing the LA WiFi Initiative earlier this week. It will take a couple years to scope and build out the network, but then every kid with a wii will be able to participate in the national debate.

Congrats to Villaraigosa also for hanging out with Paris Hilton at a Grammy party, giving LA Observed the excuse for a very funny caption contest.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

LA progressive community gossip

The LA Times discusses the feud between two black activists trying to claim the title of Black Community Leader:
Long Beach was the latest stage for [Najee] Ali and [Eddie] Jones, who seem to turn up whenever issues of race or violence converge with reporters and television cameras.

When racial fights rocked Los Angeles schools, when a Mexican postage stamp was deemed insulting to blacks, when a Latino gang in Harbor Gateway was blamed for a black teenager's death, Jones and Ali were there to convey their outrage with sound bites tailor-made for TV.
The story puts both Ali and Jones in a bad light:
Ali makes no apologies for his in-your-face style. Charming and street-savvy, he's considered an ambulance chaser by some critics, a shameless self-promoter by others. Police Chief William J. Bratton once called him a "nitwit" on national television, then later apologized.

Ali has had public spats not just with Jones but also with Nation of Islam Minister Tony Muhammad and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters. After a confrontation in a church parking lot last fall, Waters and Ali obtained — then later dropped — temporary restraining orders against each other.
Jones' prominence seems to rest primarily on his role as president of the 3-year-old Los Angeles Civil Rights Assn. — a group that he admits has no membership roster, no website, no office.
But this sentence basically sums up the writers' perspective: "Their climb from relative obscurity to being described as 'black leaders' reflects an era of grass-roots activism that relies more on media savvy than intellect or moral stature."

Earlier, the LA Weekly accused grassroots group ACORN of selling out:
ACORN, a Louisiana-based group that leans considerably to the left on most issues, speaks in favor of new affordable-housing projects and against charter schools. Yet it had no problem taking money from Villaraigosa’s lobbying committee, which collected six-figure checks from Republican business executives, charter-school advocates and Westside developers like JMB Realty, which gave Villaraigosa $100,000 and won city approval to build two 47-story luxury condo towers in Century City.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

On Richard Branson's ridiculous prize and bicycling

bicycleAm I the only one who thinks Richard Branson's offer of $25 million dollars for an invention that would remove carbon from the atmosphere is a joke? (Apparently not: the folks at CarFreeUSA have a suggestion [above])

It's not that climate change isn't a serious problem. It's just that a technology that can "overcome what could be the biggest challenge faced by humankind" will be worth a lot more than $25 million dollars. If such a technology is developed, $25 million is going to be a particle in the tail pipe compared to those guys will make (especially if they can charge $3 a gallon for the stuff).

But on the subject of climate change prevention technology, I've been riding my bike to work almost every day this year. This isn't too hard, since I now only live a couple miles from work. I've been wanting to start commuting by bike for a while, but is only now that I'm doing it that I've begun to consider such questions as biking etiquette and laws.

It's so easy to jump on a bike and start riding--you don't need a license, after all--and then start thinking, how many laws am I braking right now? For instance, did you know it is legal to ride on the side walk in LA (as long as you do so without a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property), but not in Santa Monica? Another thing I've only started to notice since getting on the bike is how many other people are doing it, and how many bike-oriented websites there are. I'm still figuring out the details, but here are some resources I've found:

LADOT Bicycle Services: LA bike laws, safety tips, even how to put your bike on the bus.
BikeMetro: A mapquest for bicyclists
Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition: a membership based advocacy organization
Santa Monica Vehicle Code for Bicycles: Get out of the way!
Bike Commute Tips Blog: a blog by a bicycle activist in San Francisco

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Some hightlights from the web this week

World Changing LA: Prevent a massive CARonary: Critical Mass
WorldChanginLA covers the Santa Monica Critical Mass ride (which I was planning on doing, but... next time, for sure)

LAist: using google map mashups to improve your hood
This is a fun idea I'd like to try for my West LA neighborhood. I just wish wayfaring had a better search function.

Daniel Hernandez: Dying at Trader Joe's

LA Times: LA's Most Violent Gangs
The list is out. The debate over whether such a list emboldens the enemy continues.

Green LA Girl: Los Angeles: Structure of a City Government
Siel reviews the League of Women Voters' free guide to LA's government.

The Homicide Report
The LA Times new blog about "every homicide that occurs in Los Angeles County" makes overwhelmingly clear what many have ignored for a long time: minorities die in LA almost every day in random murders.

California Greening: Report from Monterey County
Interesting report, for Green Party activists, about what is working in another part of the state.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Last night in my neck of Los Angeles (that'd be Venice) there was a community meeting to discuss the planned installation of a homeless service center on the corner of Flower and Lincoln.

Hell waz a poppin'.

The neighborhood NIMBYs who've sprouted up in opposition to this service center (in the form of a blog called Living in Venice, and some affiliated organization calling itself Save Our Neighborhood Integrity Committee, or SONIC) has done a killer job of community organizing in the attempt to stop this center from going in, and they deserve kudos, if only for doing the hard, grassroots work that we used to call democracy. And those folks certainly did manage to get their troops out in full force. The meeting room, itself, was packed tight with about 400ish attendees... a crowd which seemed to oppose the homeless center by about 2-1. I was there, as was my wife, and when we told the homless center's P.R. rep that we may not be able to stay all the way 'til the public comment period, she remarked, "You're gonna miss all the punching."

Well, we did stay, and the crowd did give an earful to Bill Rosendahl and to Rhonda Meister, the former nun who is the Executive Director of the St. Joseph's Center--the agency opening the homeless service center on Lincoln Blvd., where its thrift store used to be. The NIMBY contention was that "our neighborhood" already contains more than its fair share of the homeless. Of course, it didn't help that the primary speaker voicing that opinion lives in Encino (he owns the California Chicken Cafe, a restaurant that opened here in Venice, like, two months ago). When he remarked that Venice has been singled out by LA's homeless population, many in the crowd shouted, "Then why don't you take 'em to Encino?!" He seemed to stumble a bit, stammering, "Uh... yeah, sure, we'll take some."

The NIMBY's corresponding contention is, obviously, that this homeless service center will attract additional homeless folks, on top of the ones already seen laying around Lincoln. But not just *any* homeless folks will come (this being Venice, we're not quite comfortable blasting the poor just for being poor). Rather, the service center will attract "service-averse" homeless folks: the "bad" kind of homeless people. Why, exactly, a center which provides services to the homeless would be an attraction to homeless people who decline services is a question that never got answered.

It was by no means the case, though, that there was any sort of unanimity against this center, and to my biased ear, the most eloquent comment was made by my own wife:
"I walk through the neighborhood with my two year-old, and everyday I cross paths with the homeless. We have had both negative and positive experiences--just as we have negative and positive experiences in the local businesses and in our owh home. It is not just that the homeless people are a significant presence in our community. They are members of our community... I do not want them to 'get help but somewhere else.' They are here."

I give credit to Bill Rosendahl for facing a great deal of political heat on this issue, and not running and hiding, as would many other politicians in similar circumstances. I give credit to St. Joseph's Center for helping people who can't currently help themselves. And I give credit to my wife, for saying, above, what needed to be said. Homeless people are people, and if we're not comfortable with quarrantining them into a 6-block stretch downtown, then we'd better get comfortable with living with them across our city, in every neighborhood. Even yours. Even mine.

I welcome the St. Joseph's Homeless Service Center to my neighborhood.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Nader on Daily Show Wed.: wild speculation

classic Nader for President posterRalph Nader (above) is going to be on the Daily Show tomorrow, presumably as part of the publicity tour for the film about him, An Unreasonable Man. He'll also be at the Nuart just blocks from my house for the opening this Friday.

But this is the Daily Show. Everybody knows what it means when a politician goes on the Daily Show. So...will he announce that he is running for President again?
Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Sunday left the door open for another possible White House bid in 2008 and criticized Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as “a panderer and a flatterer.”

Asked on CNN’s Late Edition news program if he would run in 2008, the lawyer and consumer activist said, “It’s really too early to say. ... I’ll consider it later in the year.”
If you read it quickly, it sounds like he is calling Hillary a philanderer (surprisingly, originally from the Greek phílandros, a woman who loves her husband).

Transit Porn...

I just came across this image today...

(click to see larger image)

...and it gave me a boner.

Hat tip to Ken Weiner, who unearthed it from a September, '06 posting at Metroblogging L.A. The map, itself, was created by L.A. transit activist, Damien Goodmon. If you wanna join Damien in making this dream a reality, why not hook yourself up with The Transit Coalition? They meet the last Tuesday night of every month (6:30-8:30) at Phillipe's, the Original (next meeting: February 27th). Have a French Dip and make the above happen. Please?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Community organizing in the Miracle Mile

still from the film Miracle MileLA Green Denise Munro Robb (the comedian and former City Council candidate) has been organizing in her Miracle Mile neighborhood on the basic issue of public safety. Because parking is so limited on the apartment-filled blocks, residents are often forced to park several blocks away. (I have the same problem where I live, in West LA; if I get home after 9 o'clock, most people seem to be settled in for the evening and all the spots are taken.)

It seems that in the Miracle Mile, criminals have started targeting these residents. So rather than go Jimmy Hollywood-style vigilante, Denise and her neighbors organized a community meeting at the El Rey. More than 100 people showed up, and they got the attention of City Councilman Tom LaBonge and local media (including this Fox 11 news story). Way to go, Denise!

*Photo from Miracle Mile, the movie*

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Living Wage Battle That Wasn't

By now the papers and the blogosphere are well alight over the Living Wage compromise, so there's no point rehashing the fine points now. There's also been no shortage of credit-taking for this victory, so why not follow suit and hand some to a generally-overlooked faction in this fight: the community leaders, clergy, and progressive organizations (including, yes, the L.A. Greens) who have been steadfastly behind the workers in their quest for a fair wage, health care, and decent working conditions. It's us that made 'em blink.

Look at the facts: the L.A. Chamber of Commerce spent $2M of their own money to put this on the ballot, and they had another $5M (at least) set aside to blanket voters with mailers. They had the California Association of Restaurants and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ready to hop in with more. They had every single major newspaper in the city on their side. And they had the "no" side of the ballot referrendum... considered by most to be the easiest side to defend in a ballot measure. With all these advantages on hand, why'd the Chamber chicken out? 'Cause they don't have anything like us: we thousands of Angelenos who've demonstrated our willingness to go to the mat on behalf of these workers, even if it means being arrested. Fun thought experiment: imagine the number of Angelenos willing to be arrested to demonstrate their support of the mega-hotels on Century, or the multinational corporations who own them.

What is the sound of zero hands clapping?

Okay, so the deal got made. Is labor happy with it? The buzz is thus: "eh."

While it's nice that the workers are getting most everything they wanted, this backroom deal short-circuits a conversation that L.A. desperately needed to have: do workers in Los Angeles deserve to be paid a decent wage, or don't they? All of Los Angeles would've been forced to mull that question for months before finally declaring an answer come May, had this election taken place. But now that it's back off the ballot, we Angelenos can go back to our lives, and the hundreds of thousands of poverty-wage workers in L.A. who don't work on Century Boulevard will continue to be as invisible as they are today. That's a bummer, and no mistake.

But don't be fooled by the Chamber's claim of a hermetic seal on any future living wage fights. "Living Wage is what we do," says my buddy in LAANE. "It's what put us on the map, and we're not going away from it."

And that is the best news I've heard all week.