Cheri Honkala’s Green campaign for Sheriff of Philadelphia

[Originally posted at IndependentPoliticalReport.com, hence the somewhat dry tone about a campaign I actually have been slightly involved in.  The Green Party of Philadelphia will also be nominating candidates for other offices this Thursday, and we’ve been keeping busy with fracking protests, a May Day event, a monthly dinner, among other things.]

The Green Party of Philadelphia’s candidate for Sheriff, long-time activist Cheri Honkala, recently opened an official campaign office.  Other news from the campaign is also below, including a protest against the current Sheriff of Philadelphia resuming sheriff’s sales.

From the Daily Record, on the subject of her campaign’s office:

In celebration of the office opening, the campaign has released the first in a series of tracks contributed by artists from all over the country inspired by Cheri Honkala’s bid for Sheriff of Philadelphia and her promise of “Keeping Families In Their Homes” by halting all evictions based in foreclosure. The song entitled “My Name is Cheri Honkala” can be found at the campaign’s BandCamp page, www.cheri4sheriff.bandcamp.com, and can be downloaded for a $1 donation.

A slideshow to accompany the song featuring photographs from famous documentary photographer Harvey Finkle can be found at the campaign’s YouTube channel located at YouTube.com/Cheri4Sheriff,, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbbFJdZSQc8.

Supporters of the campaign can receive a print of one of the celebrated photog’s images that have documented Philadelphia’s activist community for decades with a $50 donation. Harvey Finkle was honored by the Bread and Roses Community Fund in 2009 and is actively documenting the Cheri Honkala for Philadelphia Sheriff Campaign.

From Philadelphia Weekly, regarding the sheriff’s sale protests:

Around 4:30 Monday afternoon, anti-poverty activist and Sheriff candidate Cheri Honkala stands outside Acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley’s Center City office. The veteran protester is joined by her son, Guillermo Santos, and a handful of supporters. She tells members of the press, some onlookers and passers-by that some day, she hopes we’ll all “live in a country that will make it against the law to throw families out on the streets, where people will stand up and say something.” She points at the office and tells the crowd that although 2,000 homes will be sold in sheriff’s sale the next day, “they haven’t even dealt with the corruption yet, in this office,” referring to $53 million the Sheriff’s Office hasn’t been able to account for.

Honkala has also been challenging the position of one of the several Democratic candidates running in a May 15 primary.  The candidate is generally seen as a reformer, and he would like to eliminate the office of sheriff entirely.  However,

Some critics of elimination, such as candidate Cheri Honkala say many sheriff responsibilities will be shifted to the courts if the office is eliminated, making it worse for those hardest hit by the mortgage crisis.

Finally, in a show of support from her hometown, a fundraiser is being held on April 29th in Minneapolis to benefit Honkala’s campaign:

Minneapolis – Artists Support Cheri Honkala for the “People’s Sheriff
Evictions and Sheriff’s-sale auctions of foreclosed properties are core issues for Cheri Honkala, this year’s Green Party candidate for Sheriff of Philadelphia. Originally from the Twin Cities, the two years that Cheri spent in Minneapolis between 2007 and 2009 strengthened her already firm resolve to struggle for the rights of homeowners during the onset of the foreclosure crisis.

The April 29th benefit at The Blue Nile in Minneapolis is one of many being held to support the Green Party candidate for Philadelphia Sheriff across the nation. Honkala is calling for people all over the country to run for Sheriff and put an end to evictions based in foreclosure in their communities. The candidate has received an outpouring of support from artists across the U.S., including the donation and dedication of original music to the campaign from artists Sir Ben Marx (NC), Shamako Noble (CA), Mic Crenshaw (OR) and many others. The election for Philadelphia Sheriff takes place in November, 2011.

Wisconsin unions have a choice: militancy or death

Wisconsin unions can now either give it all they’ve got, or they’re done for.

Right now, after Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Senate Republicans have pushed through this step in the decades-long corporate assault on labor, the unions really have their backs against a wall.  Membership has declined, manufacturing has gone oversees, the national Democratic Party has abandoned them, and the cancer of the corporation has metastasized over not just government, but society.  If the unions don’t rediscover their past, if they don’t turn around their more recent history of capitulation and infighting, they’ll die soon enough anyway.  It’s their choice:  militancy or death.

At solidarity rallies and on blogs and in Madison itself, people are fond of saying that because of the unions we have weekends and eight hour workdays, and we don’t have child labor, and so on.  And they’re 100 percent right.  Most of the greatest gains of labor came in the early 20th century, when they knew that it wasn’t the Democrats who they must support, but themselves, and when militants like the Wobblies would come out by the hundreds of thousands, and solidarity meant putting your body in the way of the bosses, not just signing an online petition.

Now, I’m no labor historian, and I’m not even a union member, and ultimately the people of Wisconsin must be the ones to decide what to do.  This is a suggestion, friendly and urgent.  But I do believe in that great maxim of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a fight.”  And man, has it been great to see labor get back some of its fighting spirit in the past few weeks!  But, to quote another great dissident, Thomas Paine, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Many people in leadership positions in the labor movement – and this has been seen in the environmental movement, civil libertarian groups, and generally in politics, this is not an attack – since its heyday have been too quick to place their own well-being over the well-being of the movement.  That either has to end or these leaders must realize that, in the long term, those two goals are one and the same.

Scott Walker’s attack on labor has, for the moment, been successful.  It is just one more nail in the coffin of the movement.  It is one more step to complete domination for the corporate bosses.  And so, given that situation, the unions can either choose to give half-hearted resistance or to go all-out.

What would militant resistance look like?  Perhaps a general strike.  Many people in Wisconsin, including labor leaders, have been talking about it and some have officially endorsed the idea.  Whatever form it comes in, it is sorely needed.  Not just for Wisconsin, but for anyone who is not in the top of the economic pyramid.

The unions could fight and lose.  But if they don’t fight, if they don’t give it their all, they will surely lose.

Happy-faced IndependentVoting.org really ‘pressure group working to limit choices on the ballot’

Reprinted in full, with permission, from Ballot Access News, the newsletter of highly respected ballot access expert Richard Winger.

Government-printed ballots in the United States were first created in 1888, and almost from the start, opponents of new and minor political parties started manipulating the ballot access laws to keep certain parties off the ballot.  The first such instance was in Nevada, when the 1893 legislature increased the petition requirement for new parties and independent candidates to 10% of the last vote cast, in a vain attempt to keep the Peoples (Populist) Party off the ballot.

But in over a century of struggle to avoid monopolization of the general election ballot to just the two major parties, there has never been a pressure group that worked in favor of restrictive ballot access laws, until very recently.  Leaders of the former New Alliance Party, who have renamed themselves several times, now call themselves IndependentVoting.org.  They hold themselves out as the leaders of independent voters, but they have become a pressure group working to limit choices on the general election ballot to just Democrats and Republicans.

IndependentVoting fund-raising pitches say that the organization’s goal is to enable independent voters to vote in major party primaries.  However, the bulk of IndependentVoting’s activity during 2010 has been to advance the goal of switching California to the top-two system.  This is ironic, because California had already been a state (ever since 2001) in which independent voters were already able to vote in all major party primaries for Congress and state office.

Compared to Republican and Democratic voters, independent voters are the most supportive voters for minor party candidates.  For example, see this poll taken in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race in 2010, which shows that Libertarian Party nominee Michael Beitler received the support of 12% of independent voters, whereas he received the votes of only 3% of the major party voters.  Other polls that give this much detail, from other states in 2010, showed similar results; see this example fromCalifornia.  Thus, when a new election system appears that removes minor party candidates from the general election ballot, that new system disproportionately injures independent voters more than it injures any other voters.

The California top-two proposal does more harm than just removing minor party candidates from the general election ballot.  It says write-ins can’t be counted in November for Congress and state office; it makes it far more difficult for a minor party to remain on the ballot for President; it discriminates against independent candidates by not letting themselves use the label “independent” on any ballot; and it vastly increases the number of signatures to get on the primary ballot for minor party candidates who don’t pay the filing fee.  Notwithstanding all these harms done to voting rights, IndependentVoting enthusiastically supports the top-two law in California, and expresses open hostility toward minor parties.  For example, see this cartoon, carried on a blog associated with IndependentVoting.

IndependentVoting communications have been dishonest.  IndependentVoting has repeatedly asserted that independents were not permitted to vote in major party primaries in California before the adoption of the top-two system.  IndependentVoting has also recently inaccurately claimed that the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 14, when the truth is that the court merely declined to expedite the case.  IndependentVoting also fosters confusion, by constantly referring to the California top-two system as an “open primary”.

Members of the New Alliance Party were once defenders of voter choice in the general election.  The New Alliance Party won ballot access lawsuits in Alabama, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington.  Activists from the New Alliance Party wrote the first bill in Congress to outlaw restrictive ballot access laws, introduced by Congressman John Conyers in 1985.  They worked hard for that bill, which was re-introduced in 1987 and 1989.  In 1990, the Rainbow Lobby, associated with the New Alliance Party, managed to get 40 co-sponsors for the bill, although it did not pass.  The New Alliance Party also filed many lawsuits against the Commission on Presidential Debates, trying to end the Democratic-Republican monopoly on presidential debates.  These cases did not win, but they came closer to winning than any other lawsuits on this subject, and one of the New Alliance debates lawsuits won a procedural victory on standing to file such lawsuits.

Minor parties are hoping to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to hear cases against the Georgia and Hawaii ballot access laws, and are also hoping to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case against Connecticut’s discriminatory law on public funding of candidates, which requires independent candidates to submit a petition of 20% of the last vote cast (in addition to raising the same number of small campaign contributions that major party candidates must raise).  IndependentVoting has shown no interest in supporting these efforts, and judging from the cartoon, supports the Connecticut discrimination against independent candidates in the matter of public funding.

Reader Randy Miller, who is active in IndependentVoting, recently and coincidentally sent this cartoon highlighting the other side of the debate.

Let’s us know what you think about Top 2 and the issues here. Please keep it friendly and focused on the issues.

Get out of the echo chamber!

If you’re trapped in the beltway echo chamber, whether in DC itself or you’ve just been watching too much CNN since you got snowed in, read this.  Maybe it will wake you up.  Read the whole thing here.

The wars? I was talking to the father of a warrior the other day. I dutifully expressed my respect for his son’s service and my sympathy for his father’s combination of pride and worry. But, coming from Dumb City, I had to ask myself silently and secretly during the conversation: why would anyone with half a brain coming from a well-to-do family have anything to do with these wars, that play like obscure passages from Gibbon? (A homeless guy here in town sold me all three volumes of Gibbon for $10 — what was I gonna do, turn the guy down?) We may be stupid here but we try to read stuff. We keep trying to understand WWI too because some of us down at the donut shop have the feeling that has something to do with this.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there are unincorporated towns in this county that will hit over 90 percent unemployment again this year. But most of those people are Mexicans and a lot of those Mexicans are not what people call Mexican-Americans. Congress and the Obama administration gave them a Christmas present this year: non-passage of the DREAM Act. So, there wasn’t much celebrating in the Bola Negra bars and pool halls around the Valley; but it sure was Christmas in the Castro District of San Francisco when the Senate repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” But that was a middle-class issue, and to listen to the Democrats, there are only two classes, the upper and the middle. The rest of us are so “under” it is evidently politically incorrect to even mention us.

‘Don’t Go, Don’t Kill’

In the past few weeks a series of reforms have been passed which some are saying justify President Obama’s, the Democratic Party’s, and American liberals’ extreme moderation and corporatism (or, in some cases, a mere subservience to, if not an outright embrace of, this horribly corrupt form of capitalism).

However, I would advise you to consider these words which Malcolm X uttered in another terribly corrupt and unequal world which, as the US continues its decline as an empire and omnipotent economic presence, even many liberals and radicals are starting to get nostalgic for:

You don’t stick a knife into a man’s back nine inches, pull it out six inches, and call it progress.

That is, if you ignore the context in which these mild reforms are taking place, you are ignoring the fundamental problems which need to be solved.  This is particularly apparent in the case of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The social critic Fran Lebowitz received a decent amount of criticism for her remarks on the gay rights movement, but – and as much as they are said tongue in cheek – they provoke a reaction, I think, because there is a degree of truth in them:

I was, of course, surprised that gay people want to get married or go into the Army because those things are so, I don’t know, dull. They’re so confining. The two most confining institutions are probably marriage and the military. I would pay to get out of either one.

Of course, the reason for these goals is understood.  A ban on gay marriage and the now-repealed policy for gay soldiers are forms of discrimination.  It is in no way a bad thing that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is no longer the way things work.

However, the benefits of it are really very questionable, as well as expending so much energy on a goal which, in the end, will just allow more people to play their part in oppressing others.  Cindy Sheehan writes in a piece on Al Jazeera English called “Don’t Go, Don’t Kill,”

It is hard to separate this issue from the activities of the military…

…Face it, gays are now and have been in the military since before Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War.

The only difference being one can now admit their orientation without fear of official recrimination – a major boon for the equal rights movement! The capacity for increased carnage should not be celebrated as a victory!

I cannot help but think about those that are on the receiving end of US military aggression. So a minor change has occurred at the input juncture of the war machine, but the output remains the same: we dismantle systems of indigenous governance, support disingenuous often criminal overlords, commit endless acts of brutality, and worst of all leave entire nations rudderless, spiraling downwards into the same abyss that engulfs the US military’s lack of accountability.

I wonder what the response towards don’t ask, don’t will be overseas? I wonder if mothers across the Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan are cheering the repeal of the act (most likely not), gathering in the streets to celebrate a victory in the global pursuit of human equality, only to be forced to take cover as yet another hellfire-laden drone appears on the horizon…

Don’t equal human rights extend to those that the Empire has mislabeled as the “enemy”? Or do we now have to ignore the fact that innocent people are being slaughtered by the thousands

I can see how one could view the repeal as a step forward, framed in the context dictated by the political elites of the Washington beltway. I can imagine much displeasure amongst the military brass – but I cannot reiterate enough how this is not a progressive moment in the social history of the United States.

The US military is not a human rights organisation and nowhere near a healthy place to earn a living or raise a family. My email box is filled with stories of mostly straight soldiers and their families who were deeply harmed by life in the military.

Add to this the fact that a lot of activist energy was directed toward this repeal, and the question of, “Was it worth it?” emerges.  That is a hard question to answer, though, and the process of answering it would probably create more division than the answer is worth.  After all, there is now less discrimination against gays in the world – the activism is done, that specific goal has been reached.

There is a solution to this conundrum of what to do with our energy, how to make ourselves most effective and to work toward goals that are unquestionably worth our energy.  Laura Flanders of GRITtv has this one:

Manning may have acted alone, but he’s not alone.  Militant action helped change Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—and militant action is needed to get him out of solitary. And then, it’s time to take a tip from those LGBT service members. As they came out for their rights openly to serve in our wars, are wars’ opponents as willing to come out, loud and proud—leaving no-one to stand alone—against our nation’s waging of them?

And Sheehan’s frequent ally Medea Benjamin has a complementary perspective in her piece “To the Gay Community: Now That You Can Join the Military, Please Don’t:”

We know that the military is one of the only ways many young people can afford a college education these days and that the financial crisis severely limits this generation’s career options. But we still encourage young men and women to look for other opportunities that don’t involved killing or being killed in wars we shouldn’t be fighting.

It might seem contradictory, then, that CODEPINK was an enthusiastic supporter of the rights for gays and lesbians to join and serve openly in the military…

We understand that allowing gay soldiers to openly serve in the military is a crack in the armor of bigotry…

We also understand the potential for a powerful alliance between the gay and anti-war communities. We can work together to help young people — gay and straight — find careers that won’t kill them, maim them, destroy them psychologically, or cause them to do harm to others. We can jointly reach out to those already in the military to speak out against the violations of the rights of peoples whose land we occupy. We can ask gay veterans to join groups like Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War. And we can work together to turn our military from an aggressive force to one that truly defends us here at home.

The knife has been pulled out six inches.  Now, let’s work together on the difficult task of pulling it out completely, getting the patient to the emergency room, treating the wound, and stitching it up.  Stopping the military industrial complex’s steamrolling of this nation, and many other nations, means no one of any sexual orientation would have to die for wars that serve no purpose but to save face for politicians and increase corporate profits.