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January 16, 2006


Liz Herbert is the Editorial Director of the Rapid Response Network. The Rapid Response Network offers guest commentary at Democracy for America every Monday.

On Sunday morning, the morning that would have been the 77th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, I spent some time in church. It's been decades since I was there much, allowing political extremes to define a religion I had been born into, one I had once found, then lost. But I've been on a search of late, a search Reverend King's birthday brings a fitting opportunity to recount.

So my feet brought me to this particular church on this particular Sunday, it turns out to hear a sermon preached by a clergyman originally from Birmingham, Alabama, one to whom Rev. King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail was written. He had grown up a son of the South, comfortable with the way it treated black men and women. But he spoke of how that changed, in his life and in his church. Speaking with deep humility, he said he had read King's letter again the night before and that he was appalled at the man he had been.

He was so clearly a different man standing before us. He spoke of prejudice and how his church had since steadfastly opposed it, first based on race, then gender, now sexual preference. He got a standing ovation. And, as he spoke, I remembered my church. I went home and re-read King's letter, at once all about God and all about America:

One day the South will recognize its real heroes... They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest."

...One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Perhaps on this day, to honor Dr. King, we should each examine our own prejudices—prejudices against others because of the color of their skin, prejudices against others because of who they love. And, just perhaps, some prejudices on the left side of the aisle about what one might hear in a church on a Sunday morning. And, rather than giving into the temptation of returning a vengeful monologue when one has been launched at us, we must steadfastly seek the dialogue... the same dialogue Dr. King managed to maintain with every syllable he penned from the Birmingham Jail.

Can our conditions be any more extreme than his? Can we really justify having any less patience? Perhaps we too can strive to walk King's fine line between the necessary insistence and the required civility:

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

With tired feet, a soul at rest, I'm just now in a sitting sort of mood. So you'll imagine my delight when I read CrossLeft's Jarrod Cochran, someone I recently heard from in my Rapid Response job, as he blogged about progressive Christianity at the DFA community's My Vote is My Voice: "Pull up a chair and let the dialogue begin."


Liz Herbert (FL)
Speak up. Join Rapid Response.

Categories: Blogs

January 15, 2006


Nancy Tronaas is a member of Sacramento for Democracy.

On Saturday, January 7, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, author David Dionisi, 4th Congressional District candidate Charles Brown, and surprise guests--academy-award winning Sean Penn and author Norman Solomon spoke to a packed SEIU hall in Sacramento, California. With nearly 200 people inside and a large overflow crowd gathered out on the sidewalk listening to loudspeakers, Sacramentans demonstrated their impatience and frustration with U.S. involvement in Iraq. The event was part of a national campaign sponsored by After Downing Street, Progressive Democrats ofAmerica, Backbone Campaign and many others. As California for Democracy is an ADS coalition member, Sacramento for Democracy has taken a proactive role in promoting a public dialogue about the need to exit Iraq, with the intention of strengthening a higher visibility of public support for the idea.

Dave Dionisi, author of American Hiroshima and former U.S. military intelligence officer, provided insight on pre-9-11 intelligence. This information should have been utilized to prevent the attacks on the World Trade Center. He also discussed U.S. foreign policy driven by the combination of controlling oil reserves in the Middle East in league with the U.S. military-industrial machine that has promoted war to support corporate profits.

The next speaker was Charles Brown, USAF Retired Lt. Colonel, and Democratic candidate for the 4th Congressional District in California. He is running against incumbent Republican John Doolittle. Charles expressed concerns about George W. Bush's efforts to erode the Constitution and the administration's usurpation of Congressional power. Brown stressed as voters, we must continue to support candidates who will effect changes in Congress in order to take back our country and restore the rule of law

Welcomed with a standing ovation, Cindy Sheehan and co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace gave a rousing talk. She stressed the need to impeach this administration as war criminals who continue to lie to the American public about pre-war Iraq intelligence. She also contends that Pres. Bush's assertions about pulling the U.S. troops out of Iraq would lead to chaos are a part of a calculated strategy to mislead the American public. Cindy reminded the audience that we all need to take responsibility for Iraq—as we elected the officials who ultimately allowed the invasion and occupation. We have the power to remove them from office. Cindy emphasized we must exit Iraq now to save precious lives. After expressing her support for a Dept. of Peace, Cindy concluded that she'd like to create a U.S. Dept. of History, with herself as the first secretary.

Author and media critic Norman Solomon,
mother/activist Cindy Sheehan,
and actor Sean Penn
Photo by Bill Lackemacher IV

Actor Sean Penn added to the enthusiasm of the day by stressing that all of the nation's anti-war activism was taking hold and was starting to work—while admitting that the stress of living under the current administration was making it tough for him to quit smoking. Stating that he "was not a pacifist on the inside", he was moved to be one on the outside for the sake of his children and grandchildren’s future. He said we have to fight for everything we have.

A Q & A session followed a brief summary of current pending legislation authored by Bush opponents. The invited speakers deftly fielded questions on the economics of war, the politics of foreign policy, and the power of resistance.

Perhaps the most unforgettable moment occurred when Jesse Dyen, Camp Casey's beloved sound technician and songwriter, played his guitar and sang "Sons and Daughters", the beautiful and plaintive anthem born in Crawford during those hot August nights. Before he sang, Jesse asked the audience to point in the direction that would be southeast. He explained that they always faced Bush’s ranch whenever it was sung at Camp Casey. The emotion in his song was reflected and magnified by the packed hall, which was aching and palpable.

The program was moderated by Bill Durston, President of the Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Bill wrapped up the meeting by telling the audience ideas for how they can get involved in resisting the war. He encouraged everyone to take part in the National Call In Day for January 9th. We can't imagine anyone in attendance wasn't motivated to keep the energy going!

This Sacramento Out of Iraq Town Hall meeting was sponsored by Sacramento for Democracy, the Sacramento Coalition to End the War, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Progressive Democrats of America, and Peace in the Precincts.

For more photos and related articles, see:

—Nancy Tronaas

Categories: Blogs

Larry Dudley is the Host/Coordinator for Democracy For the Greater Glens Falls Area.

DFA members in New York State's 20th Congressional District started out almost three years ago to Take Back America by taking back the White House with Governor Dean. We're the Governor's neighbors along the Vermont border here in eastern New York, so we were early and big Dean supporters.

NY's 20th Congressional District has an unusually large number of DFA groups—six right now with more to come. I am pretty certain this is the largest number in any congressional district that is not also a state.

We are still working to take back the people's house, only now it is a different house, the House of Representatives instead of the White House. Last night all our groups jointly endorsed Democratic congressional candidate Kirsten Gillibrand for Congress. My fellow hosts in Saratoga Springs, the Capital District, Columbia County, Dutchess County and Otsego/Delaware counties will be joining me with messages about how their night went, too.

Democracy For the Greater Glens Falls Area first hosted Kirsten publicly at our second anniversary meetup last year. She had just begun exploring running for Congress and we were all enormously taken with her idealism, intelligence, grace, skill, decency and determination to win. There was little doubt we were looking at a future star of the Democratic Party.

Kirsten Gillibrand is an attorney with David Boies' law firm. (I am sure we all remember David Boies from Bush vs. Gore in 2000.) She was a special counsel for HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo during the Clinton administration, a successful Democratic fundraiser and a wife and mother.

Among the themes her campaign will stress are accountability, ethics, fighting for the interests of working Americans, energy independence and rebuilding American industries and jobs. Her campaign website is at

We believe this will be one of the most important congressional races in the country next November.

First, the 20th CD, which could be viewed as the West Vermont or West New England region of New York, is in transition. Readers of the blog will know that last November, DFA supported candidates in Saratoga Springs, New York, lead by DFA Training Academy graduate Val Keehn (now her honor Mayor Keehn), swept the Saratoga Springs races, the most important in the district, 7-0. It was a huge shock to the GOP. Saratoga had been a Republican bastion since the Civil War. That's happening all over the district.

The other reason this race matters so much is Kirsten Gillibrand's opponent: Republican Representative John Sweeney. We all should remember Sweeney from the Florida fiasco in 2000. It was Sweeney who lead the infamous so-called "white collar riot" of Republican staffers that halted the counting of American's votes in the Miami Board of Elections. Sweeney gave the word—"shut it down," which became one of his nicknames, "Shut It Down Sweeney." George Bush has a different, fonder nickname for him, as well he should; Congressman Kickass. Bush knows he's in the White House because of John Sweeney. They all know if the vote had gone ahead, things might be very different—the "White Collar Riot" changed the tenor of the recount, and American history. Amazingly enough, Sweeney has even boasted on radio programs here about his order to shut down the legal and legitimate counting of American's votes.

The "White Collar Riot" was the American Reichstag Fire, a moment in time where we may someday look back and either say "that is where American Democracy began to die" or a moment when American Democracy proved it's resilience, as it has so many times in the past. Which option becomes true is up to all of us.

That's why in Glens Falls we voted unanimously to endorse Kirsten Gillibrand. We are already forming teams to work for her. It's going to be a tough race and nothing is guaranteed. If you want to do something today, you can go to her website at and help her financially.

Finally, all of us DFA supporters in NY's 20th CD want to challenge our fellow DFA members across the country; we don't want to be the only Congressional District with so many DFA groups! We challenge you all to get going and get more DFA-Link groups and more DFA members in your districts. Match us! Beat us! We challenge you to catch us by doing your best.

Many thanks,
Larry Dudley

Categories: Blogs

This Week (ABC) - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter(R-PA) will be on "This Week" to talk exclusively about the Alito confirmation hearings and the upcoming hearings on domestic spying. Also on the program: Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Time Magazine Washington bureau chief Jay Carney, and ABC News' Claire Shipman and George Will.

Face the Nation (CBS) - CBS Evening News Anchor Bob Schieffer will be discussing the Iran, the Alito Hearings and eavesdropping on Americans with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Armed Services Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Judiciary Committee, Select Intelligence Committee and Jan Crawford Greenburg, Legal Analyst at the Chicago Tribune.

Meet the Press (NBC) - This week on "Meet the Press," Ambassador Paul Bremer will speak to Tim Russert about the status of the war in Iraq, as well as plug his new book, "My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope." Then, Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the new book, "At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years (1965-68);" Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund; and Dr. John McWhorter, author of "Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America" will come together to discuss the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Chris Matthews Show (NBC) - Chris will be discussing the Democratic effect on the Alito hearings, as well as the effect that President Bush has had on African-American voting habits with Norah O'Donnell from MSNBC, Michael Duffy from Time Magazine, Cynthia Tucker from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Andrew Sullivan of Time Magazine and New Republic Magazine.

Fox News Sunday (Fox News) Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) will talk about the revelations uncovered during the questioning of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Reps. Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boehner (R-OH), and John Shadegg (R-AZ) will be on to discuss Tom DeLay's successor as House Majority Leader.

Late Edition (CNN) will be discussing what lies ahead for Iraq and when the United States will leave the region. Guests include: Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN); Armed Services Committee; Select Intelligence Committee, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS); Select Intelligence Committee, Steve Forbes, Former Republican presidential candidate; president & CEO, Forbes, Inc., Gene Sperling: Senior fellow, Center for American Progress; Former Clinton White House economic adviser, Faisal al-Istrabadi: Iraq's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Peter Bergen: CNN terrorism analyst; author, "The Osama Bin Laden I Know," Steve Coll: New Yorker Magazine; author, "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan” and “Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001," and James Risen: New York Times; author: "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."

60 Minutes (CBS) This week will feature highlights from past episodes; Mike Wallace interviews Rep. John Murtha (D-PA). Dan Rather reports from inside the reclusive communist dictatorship of North Korea. Lesley Stahl profiles veteran actress Felicity Huffman.

Categories: Blogs

January 14, 2006


The latest poem on beltway nepotism from Mike Silverstein.

The Congressman's a family man,
He heads a public service clan,
While others give but of themselves,
His clannish ways, the good work swells.
He serves as a committee chair,
His wife consults on elder care,
His son does work for lobbyists,
His daughter markets mailing lists.
And it is no coincidence,
A sister thrives on think tank stints;
A brother who some thought was dense,
Runs agents for homeland defense.
A campaign worker twice indicted,
Has on this statesman¹s staff alighted;
An intern who once shared his bed,
Is now a cable talking head.
God bless this Rep and all his clan.
Their selfless deeds, their grand élan;
And fie on those who heap derision,
On such extended patriotism.

—Mike Silverstein

Categories: Blogs

Democracy for America features highlights from DFA-Link groups around the country each week. Dave Reiter is a member of DFA Miami-Dade. You can see more local DFA actions going on at

DFA groups throughout the south continue to hold candidate forums to decide which prospective office holders they will support. The Coastal Empire DFA decided to endorse the 1st District Congressional candidate, Dr. Jim Nelson, who is running against a Republican incumbent. Group members look forward to working closely with Nelson's campaign, and the candidate promises to be available for any speaking or fundraising events that Coastal Empire DFA may coordinate.

In Virginia, Central VA DFA has scheduled a forum with the two democratic candidates that are vying for the opportunity to unseat a 5 term Republican. Virginians are eager to decide which candidate they will support for the 5th US Congressional District, and hope they will hear what they need to hear in order to make an endorsement decision.

After Murtha spoke last week at an Iraq Forum, Virginians were able to see some backbone in the spine of the democratic party. Murtha professed some fresh ideas and outlined his philosophy of an Iraqi pullout plan. Arlington/Alexandria DFA is following up this week by inviting members to attend an "out of Iraq" forum and networking opportunity.

After the Nevada State legislature approved a law that sets up a state run web-pharmacy to connect with foreign nations, their Attorney General threw a wrench in the works. AG Chanos, has been vocal about his opposition to affordable prescription drugs. Las Vegas DFAers have responded by joining in a coalition petition process to send the message to their pharmacy board that we, and especially seniors, need affordable medication.

Along with many other DFA groups, Orange County DFA is helping out in their community by helping to raise resources for a charity project. They are supporting the Eli House Shelter for Women and Children by providing the essentials of living... everything from shampoo to toilet paper, and everything in between. The group is urging others to give what they can to help provide the necessities of the shelter.

DFA's charitable activities continue to show the heart, strength, and empowerment of community organizing. Our involvement in campaigns will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on the outcome of 2006 elections. There are many candidate forums going on around the country and DFAers are picking their way through the field... one candidate at a time.

—Dave Reiter

Categories: Blogs

January 13, 2006


SWAT Team Member Shoots Student

In Longwood, Florida an eighth grader brought a handgun into class today and briefly held another child hostage. Sheriff Don Eslinger said the 15 year old boy brought the gun to school in his backpack. He then ran away from his classroom and was chased by police into the restroom. There he raised the firearm and an officer used lethal force, Eslinger said. The boy was taken to the hospital, his condition is unknown.

Alito Hearings Conclude

The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Samuel Alito came to an end today. The final day's witnesses reflected the divide between the two party's opinions of Judge Alito. A number of witnesses came before the committee expressing concern that Judge Alito would favor rulings undermining the Roe v. Wade decision. Other witnesses came before the committee to praise Judge Alito for being a fair and intelligent man. Democrats have said that a filibuster is unlikely, but they will meet next week to make a final decision.

Bush Meets With German Chancellor

President Bush met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss international affairs, especially Iran. Bush said that the world needs to "send a common message to Iran that their behavior... is unacceptable." Merkel expressed a similar view saying, "We will not be intimidated by a country such as Iran." There was a point of disagreement between the two leaders over the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Merkel called for the prison to be shut down. Bush, however, said it was necessary for "protecting the American people."

—Chris Broadfoot

Categories: Blogs

I just want to follow-up Elly's great post from last night.

Yesterday afternoon, the Maryland legislature voted to override the Governor's veto of the Fair Share Health Care Bill. The Fair Share Health Care Act will level the playing field in Maryland by forcing any employer with more than 10,000 employees to pay its fair share for health care. There are only four companies in Maryland that large, and only Wal-Mart fails to cover an acceptable amount of health care coverage for its employees.

We won yesterday's vote by just a handful of votes in both the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate. Democracy for America members in Maryland were on the front lines.

- DFA members made dozens of phone calls to their legislators asking them to support the override.
- We worked with WakeUp Wal-Mart, SEIU, Wal-Mart Watch, and Maryland for Health Care to organize customized appeals to individual legislators. In addition, we phone banked and canvassed in targeted districts.
- On Wednesday, over a dozen DFA members from around the state rallied at the capital with Maryland for Health Care and lobbied their Senators and Delegates.

In the end, Wal-Mart pulled out the big guns. They hired the biggest cadre of lobbyists in recent history to try to influence this legislation. But we showed that good 'ol fashioned shoe leather can overcome the special interests.

In the months ahead, Democracy for America is going to continue to work with our progressive allies to pass Fair Share Health Care legislation in other states. We have an opportunity to continue the momentum that DFA members in Maryland started and pass Fair Share legislation in at least 20 more states.

Thank you for all you do. Today is a good day for working people in Maryland and across the country.

—Tom Hughes

Categories: Blogs

Lali Watt, Donna Marcus, Kent Wilson and Nalani McClendon are a part of Democracy for Illinois.

2000 Population: 5.4 million
2006 Budget: $3.1 billion
19th largest government in the US
Largest unified court system in the world with over 6 million cases in 1990
Second largest public healthcare system in the nation

So, do you know where this is?

Answer—it's Cook County, Illinois with over 40% of Illinois' total population!

Cook County government is firmly in Democratic hands. However, this year we have a contested primary for County Board President, a position that wields considerable power, perks and prestige. The Democratic primary in March is the election for all practical purposes as we all know the Republican challenger has about a snowball's chance [...] come November.

The local pundits are all abuzz about this race between incumbent Board President John Stroger who has been a Commissioner since 1970 and challenger Forrest Claypool who was only elected two years ago. Mr. Claypool is no political neophyte himself having twice served as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's Chief of Staff and also having headed up the huge and complex Chicago Park District, another hotbed of intrigue and politics. A big question was whether Mr. Stroger would agree to debate Mr. Claypool. Would he? Wouldn't he? When? Where? How?

Well, DFA Evanston-North Shore decided that the only way to find out was to invite the two contenders to an informal debate and see what happened. Audacious? Yes. Impossible to pull off? Most people thought so. Except for your intrepid DFAers of course!

Co-host "donna in evanston" introduces the candidates

Co-host "Lali in IL" hands the special Question Hat to an attendee to pass along to the back. Illinois Gubernatorial candidate Edwin Eisendrath and Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley are seated at the right of the picture facing the camera.

Co-hosts Donna Marcus (aka donna in evanston,) and Lali Watt (aka Lali in IL) as well as steering committee members Kent Wilson and Nalani McClendon all thought it just might work. The tenacious and determined Nalani went to work on breaking through the barricades of campaign coordinators and advisors and schedulers...until the walls came tumbling down.

John Stroger (L) and Forrest Claypool (R) in front of a great big DFA banner

Many phone calls, discussions and lots of hard work later everything was in place! What happened next? Read all about it in the Chicago Tribune! (Don't you love the headline? It's so Windy City)!

Steering committee members Nalani McClendon (in tan) and Kent Wilson (in red) prepare to ask a question

Stroger meets Claypool in back of pub
By Mickey Ciokajlo
Tribune staff reporter, January 10, 2006

The setting was classic old-school Chicago politics: the backroom of an Irish pub.

But the circumstances were anything but conventional Monday when John Stroger and Forrest Claypool kicked off the Democratic primary race for Cook County Board president with a debate in front of about 60 people in Evanston.

Categories: Blogs

Teri Mills is a longtime Democracy For America community member. Her guest column on health care appears on Blog for America on Fridays and she blogs at

Let's face it; all of our blood pressures are going up. These next few weeks are not going to be easy if you are of a progressive mind. We watch helplessly as the war in Iraq rages on with no apparent end in sight. On Blog For America, wowser lets us know on a daily basis how many troops have being senselessly killed. The Republican majority in the Senate is ready to vote in another conservative judge to the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito. Many in New Orleans and Biloxi remain homeless and without electricity. There is so much corruption in Congress taking place among our elected officials that it seems to have come to a screeching halt. We can't even get a bill introduced that would improve the nation's healthcare, which should be bipartisan since cancer or germs don't seem to mind invading a blue or a red body and cost the same amount of money to cure.

Watching our country continue to flounder will definitely make your blood pressure rise, as stress is a major contributing factor. Blood pressure is the result of blood pushing against your blood vessels, and when it is higher than normal, your heart has to work even harder to pump blood through the body. High blood pressure is known as a "silent" killer, because there are no visible symptoms. The normal range has been readjusted and is now defined as 130/85 or less by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. If you go into your local pharmacy, there are often blood pressure machines where you can test yourself. Be aware that these don't always work properly, but still if your blood pressure is higher than this normal range, you need to see your health care provider for further evaluation. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney problems, eye problems, and even death.

Here are some ways you can maintain a normal blood pressure during these upcoming stressful months. First, make every effort to maintain a healthy weight. Start by cutting out those sugary drinks and deep fried foods. Be more active every day. Take a thirty-minute walk and dream about all that will be accomplished with a Blue Congress. Eat fewer foods high in salt and sodium. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Cut back on the number of alcoholic beverages, if you drink. Have blood pressure checked. Take medicine the way the doctor says. Above all, do not stop taking your blood pressure medicine without the supervision of your health care provider as this can cause one of the above mentioned health conditions.

Finally, think again about signing the petition for a National Nurse. A representative from nursing teaching the nation about ways to live healthy may be just what is needed to save lives and dollars in our country.

—Teri Mills, RN, MS, ANP
Democracy for Oregon

Categories: Blogs

January 12, 2006


Elly Shaw-Belblidia joins us from Democracy for Montgomery County (Maryland).

Fair Share Health Care Bill wins on veto over-rides in the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates Today!

Wal-Mart lobbyists took a beating from citizen lobbyists on the Fair Share Health Care Bill in the Maryland legislature, and Democracy for Maryland was on the front lines.

Democracy for Maryland members lobby for Fair Share Health Care.
Pictured with DFM are Kim Nelson and Ezekiel Jackson
of Maryland for Health Care, a project of SEIU.

The Fair Share Health Care Bill, often referred to as the "Wal-Mart Bill," requires private businesses with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care benefits, or contribute the difference to a state health care fund.

The bill passed in 2005, but Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich vetoed it after the session ended. Veto over-rides take place at the beginning of the new session. Bill supporters were not sure that every legislator who voted for the bill last year was still on board.

Wal-Mart had been on my mind, especially after seeing Robert Greenwald's documentary "The High Cost of Low Price." But shortly before Christmas, a call from Chris Warshaw at DFA Burlington jump-started our action on this legislation.

In Montgomery County, we grouped our email contact list according to state legislative districts. We asked members to contact their Senators and Delegates, individualizing the emails for each of the eight districts. Our main message was that taxpayers are footing the bill for Wal-Mart employees whose medical costs aren't covered by insurance.

We hooked up with Maryland for Health Care, a project of SEIU (Service Employees International Union). For those legislators who were questionable supporters, we followed up with more appeals and passed out informational leaflets in their districts.

On the opening day of the session, January 11, we joined other Maryland for Health Care volunteers, put on "I'm a Maryland Health Care Voter" purple stickers, and set out to lobby our Senators and Delegates and do visibility at the State House.

Wal-Mart pulled out the big guns. House Speaker Mike Busch, quoted in the November 17 Washington Post, said "'They've hired the largest cadre of lobbyists in recent history in Annapolis to try to influence this legislation…..It really comes down to whether the legislature is going to succumb to the money and the special interests.'"

Wal-Mart casts itself as a victim here, the lone target of the legislation. In fact, other private employers have more than 10,000 employees, but they already pay at least 8% of payroll in health benefits—their fair share. Those others are Giant grocery stores, Johns Hopkins University, and Northrop Grumman.

We don't know how much Wal-Mart costs Maryland taxpayers. According to the Washington Post (January 12), the AFL-CIO sued to get this information without success. The Maryland legislation gives these examples: A Georgia survey found that children of Wal-Mart employees cost the state almost $10 million per year from CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program). A North Carolina hospital found that of 1900 patients who were Wal-Mart employees, 31% were on Medicaid and 16% had no coverage of any kind.

In the end, Wal-Mart couldn't buy off Maryland legislators. Winning this victory is so sweet. The press says that 29 other states have similar legislation in the works. Let's hope Maryland starts the ball rolling.

—Elly Shaw-Belblidia

Categories: Blogs

Hundreds Killed in Stampede on the Last Day of Hajj

Thousands of Muslim pilgrims rushing to complete a symbolic stoning ritual tripped over articles of luggage and trampled those who fell. An emergency services worker said at least 345 people were killed and more than 1,000 people injured. The site has been the scene of deadly stampedes in the past, including one in 1990 that killed 1,426 people.

Padilla Pleads Not Guilty

Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen who was held as an "enemy combatant" for over three years, pleaded not guilty today to criminal charges alleging that he was part of a secret network of Muslim extremists. Padilla, who was transferred from military to civilian custody last week, was refused bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber. Garber sided with the prosecutors who said that Padilla was likely to flee and avoid the trial.

Democrats Remain Troubled by Alito

Democrats pushed Alito on right-to-die cases, presidential power, affirmative action, and ethics on the final day of questioning, but they failed to elicit more personal observations. Although Alito's answers "troubled" many Democratic Senators, Senator Dianne Feinstein has indicated that a filibuster is unlikely. In order to filibuster the Democrats would have to unite, 41 votes are required to sustain a filibuster.

—Chris Broadfoot

Categories: Blogs

Fred Sowder joins us today from the Gainesville, FL DFA group.

...and kicks off 2006 with a bang!

North Florida has not taken the events of 2004 lightly in the past year. After supporting sucessful progressive candidates such as Gainesville City Commissioner Jack Donovan and Alachua County School Board member Eileen Roy, Gainesville DFA wrapped up a highly active year with throng of delegates at the Florida Democratic Party Convention last month in Orlando.

DFA Gainesville members (L-R) Susan Mickelberry, Jack Price, Elizabeth Mixon,
Chiara Carmolli-Anderson, Brenda Bayne, Fred Sowder, and Connie Amidei
participate in the 2005 Florida Democratic Convention in Orlando

While taking in inspiration from such speakers as Gov. Howard Dean and Sen. Barack Obama, Gainesville DFA spread the word on efforts to oppose Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court and to redistrict Florida's congressional districts for fair elections. After hosting a highly successful DFA Training Academy session late last year, Gainesville DFA also brought in reknowned strategist Steve Ybarra for an intensive one-day training session on how to get the most out of the Florida voter file. The year is young and Gainesville DFA is leading the charge in the effort to turn Florida blue.

For more information on the activities of Gainesville DFA, please visit:

—Fred Sowder

Categories: Blogs

There have been many changes in the technology behind Democracy for America this year. Some are visible, like the addition of new tools. Some are (hopefully) invisible, like the migration of our servers to a new host.

The two members of the DFA IT Team are responsible for minutae like keeping the drivers up to date on Jim Dean's laptop to large-scale online projects like creating the first generation grassroots organizing software for our membership.

The highlight of 2005, and the focus of 2006, is DFA-Link—where Democracy for America members and organizers can find online tools to facilitate offline action. We're proud of DFA-Link and we hope it becomes an indispensible part of your progressive action toolkit. We hope to integrate the local group blog infrastructure on DFA-Link with Blog for America, creating a dynamic, interactive blog that truly lives up to its name.

Come discuss the progress we've made so far, as well as the goals we hope to achieve in the coming year.

—Tara & Luigi

Categories: Blogs

January 11, 2006


Submitted by Marian Harris and Mandy Miller of Ohio.

Last week showed a spectacular turnout at our Columbus, Ohio DFA-Link meeting. More than 60 people attended, more than a dozen newbies among them. The packed room at Scottie MacBean's, along with the folks stuck in the hallway peering in, were introduced to the new Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, Chris Redfern, soon to be former minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives (he is resigning so he can put all his considerable energy into the State Chair's job).

Chris shared with us his vision for the party and answered questions from the crowd. We also heard from C.J. Prentiss, minority leader of the Ohio Senate, who told group about the importance of the petition drive to get an increased minimum wage issue on November's ballot. Ohio is one of only two states with a minimum wage below the federal level! (If you're a registered voter in Ohio and will help us with petition circulation--and we hope you will--contact Senator Prentiss' office at 614-466-4857 or [email protected]).

We rounded out the evening by hearing a few words from several of our local candidates: Jean Herendeen Ackerman, Dean Hernandez, Jan Fleming and Jimmy Stewart, all running for Ohio House seats; Emily Kreider, running for the Ohio Senate; and Mary Jo Kilroy, our Dean Dozen Franklin County Commissioner who is taking on US Congresswoman Deborah Pryce.

People left energized and enthusiastic about the months to come - Hopefully, we will continue to build our membership and our support for good progressive candidates and be ready to clean up Ohio in November, 2006.

We're looking forward to February when we'll be hosting a local candidates forum at our DFA-Link meeting, on Feb 1 followed by a statewide candidate forum on Feb. 4, co-sponsored with Ohio's Blue 88.

—Marian & Mandy

Categories: Blogs

Commission Releases Recommendations for Rebuilding New Orleans

A commission created by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, released a report Wednesday that suggests rebuilding occur naturally. The report says that homeowners in New Orleans should be free to rebuild in every neighborhood. A debate has been ongoing since November concerning whether residents should be allowed to return to flood-prone areas. Jeanne Nathan, a member of a commission subcommittee said, "This is not in the city's hands. No one is going to make decisions for anyone else. Decisions will be made jointly by residents, by business owners, and by neighborhoods."

U.S. and Britain Call on U.N. to Consider Iran Sanctions

Britain called on the U.N. Security Council to consider action against Iran for resuming its nuclear research. Prime Minister Blair told parliament that his goal was to bring together the international community and bring Iran before the Security Council. White House spokesman Scott McClellan also expressed concern over Iran. "The Iranian regime has made another serious miscalculation by their latest actions, and we are engaged in some intensive diplomacy right now." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded by saying that, "the Iranian nation will continue its way decisively and wisely to obtain and use nuclear technology for civilian ends and has no fear at all of the fuss created by the big powers."

Senators Try to get to Alito's View

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed unease with Judge Alito's answers while Republicans were quick to defend him. Senator Leahy, the committee's ranking Democrat, said that a number of Democrats "are troubled by what we see as inconsistencies in some of the answers." There was some drama during the hearings between Senators Kennedy and Specter involving paperwork about Judge Alito's association with a controversial Princeton University alumni group. After the angry exchange the hearings went on with Democrats continuing to push Alito on abortion.

—Chris Broadfoot

Categories: Blogs

Last night, I spoke with DFA activists across the country about our "2006 Plan for Victory," and the one recurring theme I heard over and over again is: it's time to move America back in the right direction. It's time for Democrats to lead.

The Republican Party's culture of corruption has begun to crumble—and you helped make it happen by never letting up. Remember the billboards that you created and paid for in Tom DeLay's district? Or calling attention to the Downing Street Memos and having meetings with your Member of Congress? The national Social Security stories and the bilingual radio ads that you paid for?

Let's keep the pressure on high this year. Contribute to DFA today:

In just the first two weeks of 2006, Republican super lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is on his way to jail for at least ten years. Tom DeLay has permanently abandoned his leadership post in the U.S. House of Representatives. And GOP leaders from President Bush to Speaker Hastert are panicking over what to do with the dirty money they accepted.

Last year we rocked the Republican boat by exposing their true values—corruption, cronyism and corporate interests. This year we'll show them the power of the grassroots by electing Democratic governors, mayors and state legislators throughout the country—and regain the majority. But we need your support.

Over the course of the past few years, the values of our government and integrity of our democracy have diminished. It's time for us as American citizens to hold Republicans accountable for their lies, deception, failed policies and continued corruption. The only way to do this is by working for change from the ground up and electing candidates who share our values.

We have the opportunity to take our country back in 2006, but we need your support. You can make the difference by getting involved with your local DFA-Link group, by volunteering for local DFA candidates, and by becoming a monthly donor to Democracy for America.

Please donate to DFA today and help us take our country back in 2006.


Jim Dean
Democracy for America

Categories: Blogs

2006 is going to be a big year for grassroots politics in this country. The DFA Training Academy is gearing up for its most ambitious year ever. We will hold major trainings in at least 13 cities before half the year is over. We're able to be in so many places entirely because of how we run the program—all our trainings are organized on the ground by the grassroots. Over here at HQ, I'm just responsible for the curriculum, the trainers, and the budget.

Our trainees successes last year—from building entire precinct networks to sweeping municipal offices in GOP cities to winning local issue referenda—are just a taste of what's ahead in 2006. Our mission is to network, focus, and train the grassroots. The Training Academy of 2006 will equip the grassroots with the tools, tactics, and strategies needed to take back our country in this very important election year.

In the words of one very special former Vermont governor, "You have the power." Now get the skills.

My intern, Heidi Summerlin, and I will take your questions on the program, the skills, the curriculum or anything else you can think of. related to the DFA Training Academy!


Categories: Blogs

January 10, 2006


Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear and of Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. See for more information.

Remember the "nuclear option" compromise? When the group of 14 Senators reached their agreement last May, they said they'd support a filibuster only under "extraordinary circumstances," presumably if Bush nominated Attila the Hun. I'd suggest these circumstances apply not only to Samuel Alito's track record but also to his nomination's entire political context.

In threatening to end the Senate's ability to filibuster judges, Republican leaders talk much about high principle, the right of Presidents to have their nominees accepted or rejected without parliamentary obstructions. But the sole principle behind this proposed change is that of the power grab. The Republicans control the White House and Senate. They're attempting to consolidate control in every way they can, including trying to obliterate 200 years of Senate tradition on the filibuster. This threat isn't a moral stand: Republicans have filibustered nominees themselves. It's just one more in series of attacks on individuals and institutions that they've viewed as political obstacles, like Tom DeLay's mid-census gerrymandering, the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, the jamming of Democratic phone banks, and the branding of political opponents as unpatriotic. Honorable conservatives used to warn against the raw power of the state. But the love of power has now become the political right's prime gospel, making the slightest notion of checks or balances heretical treason. Republican leaders work to end the filibuster not because they believe it violates some deep constitutional mandate, but because they believe they can get away with it.

But maybe they can't anymore. When Republicans first floated the "nuclear option" threat in early 2005, Bush's polling numbers were as high as 57 percent. His support has dropped steadily since, in the wake of the Katrina disaster, the legal problems of DeLay, Bill Frist, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and Duke Cunningham, and an Iraqi quagmire that's inspired powerful challenges by Cindy Sheehan and Congressman John Murtha. Republicans have lost key electoral battles in Virginia, New Jersey and California. Bush's polls have dropped as low as 37 percent. With once-solid Republican Senate and House seats now seemingly vulnerable, those who vote to eliminate the filibuster and confirm Alito will be taking far more of a political risk than they would have just a year ago.

Categories: Blogs

Join DFA Chair Jim Dean on a conference call tonight to review DFA's "2006 Plan for Victory" and learn more about how you can help us meet our goals for candidate support, organizing, training and coalition building. Jim will also be available to answer any questions you have.

We're holding two calls to ensure that people on both coasts can participate. So please choose whichever is more convenient for you.

7:00pm EST Call:
Dial-in Number: 1-712-432-2323 (Long-Distance call)
Participant Entry Code: 05403

9:00pm EST Call:
Dial-in Number: 1-641-297-5900 (Long-Distance call)
Participant Entry Code: 05403

Talk to you soon!

Categories: Blogs