Steelworkers Tell Gov. Palin to Stop Using Them as a Prop

Gov. Sarah Palin's has tried to puff up her populist, blue-collar credentials by bringing up her husband's membership in the United Steelworkers union, but Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard isn't buying it.

 Ms. Palin needs to stop trotting out her husband as an exhibit until she explains her positions on workers' issues. Just exactly where does she stand on the Employee Free Choice Act?

Her family has benefitted from her husband's ability to be part of a labor union. Workers in labor organizations earn higher wages and are more likely to have pensions and health insurance. Because he works for BP and is a member of the USW, which collectively bargained a good contract for workers at BP, Todd Palin earns a good wage and has good health insurance. The Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier for other Americans to join unions and earn better money and obtain health insurance. Polling shows that 70 percent of Americans support for the Employee Free Choice Act.

Inquiring minds want to know, Ms. Palin. Where do you stand on Employee Free Choice? Where do you stand on privatization of social security? Where do you stand on job-killing free trade?

Read it here

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Building Trades Endorse Obama

The Building & Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, an alliance of 13 national and international unions of skilled craft workers in the United States and Canada, voted to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president today.

According to their statement:

"Our endorsement today of Senator Obama marks the beginning of the fight to return the reins of power to a presidential administration that places high value on the interests of America's working families," said Building Trades President Mark H. Ayers. "We have pledged to Senator Obama our determination to engage our members in detailed conversations concerning the stark differences between his view of America and that of Senator John McCain - whose candidacy, in our minds, is simply a warmed-over version of the anti-worker, anti-union tenure of George W. Bush."


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Tim Russert Dead of Heart Attack

According to the New York Times, Meet the Press host Tim Russert died of a heart attack today.

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Obama "Open" to Privatizing Public Education

Barack Obama has a solid progressive legislative record, which is enough to make me think his occasional use of right-wing talking points when talking about domestic programs like social security and health-care is an electoral ploy. But then he comes out with this.

Senator Obama said this week that he is open to supporting private school vouchers if research shows they work.
"I will not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn," Mr. Obama, who has previously said he opposes vouchers, said in a meeting with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "We're losing several generations of kids, and something has to be done."

Education analysts said Mr. Obama's statement is the closest they have ever seen a Democratic presidential candidate come to embracing the idea of vouchers.

Vouchers, taxpayer-funded scholarships that allow families to opt out of public school and use their government-allotted education dollars to attend a private school instead, has been a major right-wing policy objective for years. From the National Education Association:

Despite desperate efforts to make the voucher debate about "school choice" and improving opportunities for low-income students, vouchers remain an elitist strategy. From Milton Friedman's first proposals, through the tuition tax credit proposals of Ronald Reagan, through the voucher proposals on ballots in California, Colorado, and elsewhere, privatization strategies are about subsidizing tuition for students in private schools, not expanding opportunities for low-income children....In the words of political strategist, Grover Norquist, "We win just by debating school choice, because the alternative is to discuss the need to spend more money..."

Bush has been a particularly strong advocate of vouchers, pushing a federally funded voucher program on the citizens of the District of Columbia and in his 2009 budget proposal proposed $300 million for national private school vouchers.

Obama would likely argue in his defense that he is only considering vouchers, and that his openness on the issue will be popular with independents and moderates who are frustrated with the pace of change in our public schools. But as Ruy Teixeira pointed out in a survey of voters' attitudes about public schools:

Despite criticisms of its current performance, the public's views on educational reform start with strong support of the public school system--particularly as it functions for low-income students. The public wants that performance improved, starting with higher standards, and is willing to tolerate fairly strict guidelines and testing regimes to accomplish this goal...The data also indicates that the public is far more interested in implementing more accountability in public schools and providing more resources to the public school system than in moving to a voucher-based system. Indeed, vouchers tend to lose badly today when in political propositions precisely because they are perceived to be in conflict with the public's commitment to adequate resources for public schools.

In 2006, voters in the reddest of red states, Utah, delivered this message loudly when they defeated by a 62% to 38% margin, a referendum which would have confirmed a law passed by the legislature to create the most comprehensive education voucher program in the nation.

The question is why Obama, who is now the Democratic frontrunner, decided to flirt with a program that is not only unpopular with the party's base, but with the nation at large and whose biggest proponents are to be found working for the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

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Behind Obama's D.C. Landslide

From the moment that Barack Obama won Iowa, proving that he was serious competitor for the nomination, it was clear that Hillary Clinton was going to have a hard time in the District of Columbia's February 12th primary. As a majority African-American city, with a large contingent of highly-educated, progressive leaning voters - plus an early endorsement from D.C.'s popular Mayor Adrian Fenty - it was obvious that D.C. was prime Obama-country. The Illinois Senator ended up winning every single precinct in the city.

While no one was surprised by Obama's victory, today's Washington Post shows some revealing contrasts between the two campaigns.

Clinton's campaign, which has its own historic dynamic, stumbled early on in the District, said Thomas M. Smith, a Clinton supporter and chairman of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee. "Frankly, what I really think is that the Clinton strategy was really wrong," he said.
The New York senator's team assembled a who's who of supporters -- five seated D.C. Council members, at least five former council members and a host of the city's Democratic elite -- to endorse her or work on her steering committee, Smith said.
"It was focused on elected officials instead of grass-roots," Smith said. "They just started a network two weeks ago. By then, it was too late."

Compare this with the Obama campaign.
Obama's presence was felt in every corner of the city.
About 500 people, including 150 students from Howard University, fanned out into every ward to encourage Obama supporters to vote after a meeting in the parking lot of Home Depot in Northeast on Tuesday afternoon. An additional 500 volunteers stood outside polling places, waved to voters at Metro stops and served as drivers, Falcicchio said.
Much of the organizing was done through e-mails, with DC for Obama assembling an e-mail list of 4,000 supporters, (senior Fenty adviser John) Falcicchio said.
He said volunteers were working with a list of nearly 90,000 likely Obama supporters to target for their votes. The pre-certified election results show 88,232 votes cast for Obama.

One interesting aspect of Obama's D.C. operation was how it tied into previously existing grassroots organizations of D.C. Democrats, particularly the D.C. chapter of Democracy for America which endorsed Obama in October and became very active in leading his D.C.'s efforts, helping organize his delegate slate and doing outreach to activists and voters.

Only three candidates responded to D.C. for Democracy's candidate questionnaire, sent out last summer: Edwards, Gravel and Obama. It's unlikely that Clinton would have received their endorsement even if her campaign had bothered to respond, but it does indicate how much her campaign was really betting on her inevitability - as Joshua Green reiterate - at that point in 2007, that she didn't even bother to try to work for every possible endorsement she could get.

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Clinton's Blue Collar Boost

Super Tuesday's results were largely inconclusive on the Democratic side, but when the results are broken down, they reveal a hidden strength for Clinton and a potential weakness for Obama in the coming months.

From Ari Melber at the Nation:

In a majority of Tuesday's primaries, Clinton beat Obama decisively among working class voters...

Set aside the candidates' home states and the six caucuses, where Obama ran up huge margins, and Clinton drew more lower and middle class voters in eight of fourteen primaries. That even includes three states that Obama won.

New Mexico was settled by less than a point, for example, but voters diverged sharply by income. Those making under $50,000 went for Clinton, while Obama did better among higher income voters. He won Connecticut by four points, again buoyed by voters making over $50,000, while Clinton bested him among less affluent voters by nearly ten points. Obama won Delaware by a decisive 11 points, but Clinton still drew more voters there earning between $15,000 and $30,000.

Melber points out that Obama still shows some potential to reach out to working-class voters:

These gaps were not uniform, of course. Obama posted solid numbers across income groups in many states, even when trailing Clinton. They largely split the working class vote in Arizona and Missouri, a pivotal bellwether for the general election. He won all income groups in Georgia, Utah and Alabama. And while caucus states are hard to compare, given very different turnout dynamics, Obama's organization mobilized and won across income levels in several of the six caucus states as well.

But the results do show a weakness that Obama needs to pay attention to, not only in the up-coming contests - Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin in particular - but in the general election. White working class voters are still the ultimate swing group; no President has been elected in the last thirty-years without winning a majority of them, and Super Tuesday showed that Clinton has so far found a better way to reach them than Obama.  

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Who Really Stands for Change: A My DD Quiz

Who stands for real change in 2008? See if you can correctly attribute the following speech.

My fellow citizens: Today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth of winter. But the words we speak and the faces we show the world, we force the spring. A spring reborn in the world's oldest democracy, that brings forth the vision and courage to reinvent America.

When our founders boldly declared America's independence to the world and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew that America, to endure, would have to change. Not change for change's sake, but change to preserve America's ideals? life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.

Though we march to the music of our time, our mission is timeless. Each generation of Americans must define what it means to be an American.

Today, a generation ... assumes new responsibilities in a world warmed by the sunshine of freedom but threatened still by ancient hatreds and new plagues. Raised in unrivaled prosperity, we inherit an economy that is still the world's strongest, but is weakened by business failures, stagnant wages, increasing inequality, and deep divisions among our people.

Communications and commerce are global; investment is mobile; technology is almost magical; and ambition for a better life is now universal. We earn our livelihood in peaceful competition with people all across the earth. Profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking our world, and the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy.

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Ralph Nader Wins California Green Primary

Whatever its worth, perpetual candidate Ralph Nader beat former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in the California Green Party primary by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.  

President Green 94.2% ( 21785 of 23109 ) precincts reporting as of Feb 6, 2008, at 6:09 a.m.

Candidate Votes Percent
  Kent Mesplay (Grn) 561 2.0 %  
  Jared Ball (Grn) 442 1.6 %  
  Jesse Johnson (Grn) 500 1.8 %  
  Kat Swift (Grn) 839 3.0 %  
  Ralph Nader (Grn) 16,676 61.0 %  
  Elaine Brown (Grn) 1,246 4.6 %  
  Cynthia McKinney (Grn) 7,084 26.0 %


California is one of the few state Green primary that Nader competed in - he has stand ins in other states - but it represents the motherlode of delegates to the Green Party convention so Nader could possibly win their nomination, meaning his name would appear automaticly on dozens of ballots in November.

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NBC calls Minnesota and North Dakota for Romney

Mitt ain't dead yet and looks like the GOP contest will keep on going 'till spring if the results from Minnesota and North Dakota indicate how the rest of the west will go.

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Senate Finance Committee Puts Working Families At the Back of the Line

The GOP may have lost control of the Senate, but Wall Street is still in charge. The Senate Finance Committee - chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)- has been holding hearings on an economic stimulus package, and while organized labor proved to be key to the Democrats victory in 06, it's the Wall Street wing of party that has the ear of most committee members.  

From the Washington Post:

Some union leaders are worried that they are not being heard, particularly in the Senate, and that a group of Wall Street Democrats led by former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin is getting more attention.

Case in point, labor leaders say, are the two initial hearings by the Senate Finance Committee on the stimulus bill. One will feature Jason Furman, director of the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, a group heavy with Wall Street backers such as Rubin. The other will feature Peter R. Orszag, the head of the Congressional Budget Office, who is a former director of the Hamilton Project.

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