Thursday, March 24, 2011

03-24-11 Activist Calendar

March 24, 2011, Issue #660
Send event announcements to
Dedicated to Helping Build  Activist
Movements  in  the  Hudson  Valley

Thursday, March 24, NEW YORK CITY: A "Day of Rage" against the proposed New York State budget cuts will take place in Manhattan this afternoon. There are two segments.
#1 — Starting at 5 p.m. there will be a large "Student-Labor-Community rally against the cuts," sponsored by over 50 organizations, followed at 6 p.m. by a march to Wall St. Here are the demands: Jobs, Not Layoffs!,  Affordable Housing Now!, No Cuts to Social Services!, No Union-Busting or Privatization!, Stop the School Closings!, End Mayoral Control and Fire Cathleen Black!, Extend the Millionaire’s Tax!, Close Corporate Tax Loopholes!, Bring Back the Stock Transfer Tax! Information,
#2 — A group of Mid-Hudson residents and others will demonstrate against Gov. Cuomo's budget cuts in front of the New York Stock Exchange, 11 Wall St., starting at 3 p.m., then will join the 5 p.m. rally at City Hall. Information, Transportation from the Hudson Valley, (845) 255-5482.

Thursday, March 24, ALBANY: A rally against fracking (hydraulic fracturing to obtain natural gas) will take place at 12 noon at the  State Capitol (West Capitol Park, Swan St. Steps). Specifically the demonstrators will call upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expand the scope of the Marcellus Shale Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS). We are told: "This is a crucial requirement for fulfilling Executive Order No. 41's mandate to 'analyze comprehensively the environmental impacts associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling...' as well as 'ensure that such impacts are appropriately avoided or mitigated.'" Cuomo needs to hear loud and clear that we expect him to protect all New Yorkers and not allow fracking for natural gas, which will not only poison the people in drilling areas but also permanently ruin our precious water supplies, turn a large and beautiful area of our state into a toxic wasteland, and degrade land values where drilling takes place. Information,

Thursday, March 24, NEW PALTZ: A public forum on financing education through income taxes will be held 7-9 p.m. at New Paltz High School, 130 South Putt Corners Rd. Assemblyman Kevin Cahill 101st A.D. (Kingston) will discuss his proposed education legislation, Assembly Bill A447. These experts will be responding to Cahill’s bill: C. Frank Mauro, executive director, Fiscal Policy Institute; Martin Reid, deputy director of government relations, NYS School Boards Association; Gerald Benjamin, director, CRREO @ SUNY New Paltz. Sponsored by New Paltz Central School District Board Legislative Action Committee, SUNY New Paltz School of Education, Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO). Childcare will be provided in Room 174 by the Duzine-Lenape PTA. Information, (845) 257-2901,

Saturday, March 26, NATIONWIDE: ANSWER and other peace and left organizations have been calling for demonstrations all week in opposition the U.S.-NATO bombardment of Libya. More will be taking place today — including in Washington, Boston and Seattle — and probably next week. The organizing groups involved support the democratic uprisings in the Arab world, but maintain that the responsibility belongs to the people of each nation, not to the U.S. which is already fighting in four Muslim countries, or Britain and France, two imperialist states with horrendous colonial history in the Arab countries. If the U.S. is so interested in aiding people in rebellion why did it wait until the last minute before turning on its pet dictators in Egypt and Tunisia? Why does it support  exceptionally repressive Saudi Arabia against oppositional forces in that country? Why does the Obama Administration turn its back to the extraordinary and brave uprising in Bahrain, where the royal family — backed by thousands of Saudi troops — mercilessly murders demonstrators? What has Washington said about Yemen, where another pet  dictator has killed hundreds of unarmed protestors? It is noteworthy that none of the rebel masses in these countries have called in NATO bombers. Today's "humanitarian intervention" in Libya is no better than the cruel U.S. bombings of Yugoslavia in 1999 or the "shock and awe" lesson Bush taught Iraq. But once again a sector of the U.S. antiwar movement is dithering —  either remaining silent or in fact supporting this blatant act of imperial aggression that is intended to bring about regime change in Libya. Does anyone in the peace movement still think — after Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe two dozen other examples — that the world's  military superpower has the "humanitarian" duty to bomb or invade yet another small country in order to put a government in power that will follow Washington's orders? We wonder what they would think if Bush did it. Or suppose China, Russia, India, and Brazil decided to bomb royalist forces and their Saudi allies in Bahrain, and to bring a leader of their choice to power, in the name of protecting the civilian population. What would our movement's pro-interventionists have to say about that?

Sunday, March 27, ALBANY (SUNY Campus): A "Summit for a Statewide Ban on Fracking" will take place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on campus, 1400 Washington Ave., at the lecture center. The event is in preparation for a scheduled May 2 anti-fracking march in the state capital. From the organizers: "With only a few months until the moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing is lifted — and with vertical fracking already causing problems across Western N.Y. — we need to seize current momentum and widespread public concern to advocate loud and clear for what we all know we need: a BAN! We know that when the public hears the truth about fracking, the vast majority of the population will stand with us in calling for a ban. If you're ready to take a step towards organizing your communities this summit was made for you. Goals of the day-long meeting include: Establish coordinated People's Advocacy Network; Share advice on effective advocacy; Create a plan for building coalitions in our communities; Establish regional organizing networks for gathering statewide ban petition signatures; Help to coordinate logistics for mobilizing people to come to Albany on May 2nd." Sponsored by Frack Action, More information on the Summit:
To register:
Carpool & caravans leaving New Paltz Village Hall at 7:45 a.m. returning at 8 p.m. contact Rosalyn Cherry
For Kingston Park and Ride near circle 8 a.m. contact Alexander Lines (845) 810-0205.

Sunday, March 27, WOODSTOCK: A benefit for the people of Haiti will be held 2-6 p.m. at the Harmony Café, 52 Mill Hill Rd. Several musical groups will perform, including Half Naked, N.Y. Funk Alliance and the Flash Band, Princes of Serendip, Gaiawolf,  Parrots for Peace, and the One Sky family dance band with Mighty Xee and T.G. Vanini. Sponsored by the Haitian People's Support Project, Information, (845) 688-5012.

Tuesday, March 29, POUGHKEEPSIE (Marist Campus): The socially conscious and worthwhile Indian film "Pink Saris" will be screened at 7:30 p.m. in the Henry Hudson Room, Fontaine Hall, on campus. This 2010 endeavor from director Kim Longinotto tells the story of a pregnant, homeless 14-year-old untouchable child in India abandoned by her husband. She seeks out her only hope — an Indian women's vigilante group known as the Pink Gang. A British reviewer wrote: "Just one of the catchy aphorisms uttered by the formidable Sampat Pal Devi, leader of the Gulabi Gang (Pink Gang), the center of this stirring film, is 'If you’re shy, you’ll die.' Her base is northern India’s state of Uttar Pradesh, where entrenched tradition continues to condone child marriages, dowry deaths and abuse inflicted upon wives by husbands and in-laws. The Gulabi Gang seeks to help women from the lowest caste, known as dalits or 'untouchables.' The female gang members assert their presence by wearing bright pink saris and make good on Sampat Pal’s assertion that 'there is no higher power than a woman.' We see Sampat Pal’s more vulnerable side, as she endures family pressures and struggles to support her growing circle of dependents. Still, Pink Saris reverberates with feelings of hope and empowerment against the odds. We should all be so fortunate to have a gang of pink saris on our side." Free, public event.  Audience discussion to follow. Presented by the Marist College Public Praxis Program, with the help of Women Make Movies and Dutchess Peace. Campus map Information,

Tuesday, March 29, WHITE PLAINS: The Lower Hudson Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union will meet for a panel discussion with community members at 7 p.m. on attempts to alter the 14th Amendment to revoke birthright citizenship. The keynote speaker is NYCLU Advocacy Director Udi Ofer. The event at the Ethical Cultural Society, 7 Saxon Wood Rd.
Free and public. Information,, (914) 997-7479.

Wednesday, March 30, ALBANY: As of this writing, a demonstration by students, faculty and others from various parts of the state will take place in the State Capital today — two days before Gov. Cuomo's cutback budget is supposed to be decided — including a march and two rallies. Exact plans are still being decided. The event is being sponsored by student groups at the City University of New York (CUNY), Albany University, and SUNY New Paltz, as well as the CUNY Professional Staff Council, CUNY Communications Workers of America, Community Voices Heard (NYC), Save Our SUNY, and groups of K12 students and teachers. Tentatively there will be a rally 12:30-1 p.m. at Albany U, followed by a march arriving at the Capitol building around 2 p.m. This will be followed by a press conference, then a speak out and teach-in. According to one of the organizers, Caitlin Ryan: "While this schedule is for the earlier parts of the day, we are strongly encouraging people to come at any time. We plan on staying into the night and would love the support of community members and faculty. If you have any questions please feel free to hit me up. You can call (917) 607 6178 or email"

Wednesday, March 30, ALBANY: A discussion entitled "Solitary Confinement and Isolation in Federal Prisons: Cruel and Inhuman, or Necessary?" will be held at 7 p.m. at Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Ave., Rochester Moot Court Room 209 in the Main Building. Featured speakers are Aysha Ghandi of Muslims for Justice, and Rachel Meeropol from Center for Constitutional Rights.  Sponsored by The Center for Constitutional Rights, Project SALAM/Muslim Solidarity Committee, N.Y. Civil Liberties Union (Capitol District Chapter), Masjid As-Salam, Dr. Dhafir Support Committee. Information,,

Thursday, March 31, NEW PALTZ (SUNY campus): A public performance of "City That Drinks the Mountain Sky" by the Arm-of-the-Sea Theater's Mask and Puppet Theater troupe will start at 8 p.m. in the Student Union Building. The event is sponsored by the New Paltz chapter of Students for Fresh Water in Developing Nations, a group working towards providing "the inalienable right of water to all who lack it." Their goal this year is to raise $5,000 that will cover the cost of drilling a well in an African village of about 250 people. (More info about the project is at We're told: "The performance is about the epic story of New York City's water supply told in the elemental beauty of puppet theater. Heralded as one of the wonders of the world, the city's ingenious system of aqueducts and reservoirs provides clear mountain water from the Catskills to nine million downstate residents. And though the struggle over these water resources has, at times, bitterly divided city managers and watershed residents, it has also irrevocably united them." Information,

Thursday, March 31, TROY (Russell Sage Campus): "Saving Civilization: The Global Fight Against Devastating Climate Change" will be presented at 7 30 p.m. at 45 Ferry St. (and Congress St.) in Bush Memorial Hall. The speaker is Steven A. Leibo, professor of international  history and politics at the Sage Colleges. Sponsored by Sage Climate Crisis Center.  Information, (518) 244-2330,,

Sunday, April 3, NEW PALTZ: What is the situation in Haiti a year after the earthquake and days following the return of former President Aristide and the new election? This is the topic of a 6 p.m. talk by Dahoud Andre, co-host of  the of the daily Haitian community radio program Lakou New York. This free event will be in New Paltz Village Hall, 25 Plattekill Ave., a block south of Main St. (Rt. 299). Sponsored by the Caribbean and Latin America Support Project (CLASP), the evening begins with an optional potluck starting at 5 p.m. Information, (845) 255-0113.

Monday, April 4, ROCK TAVERN: A meeting on "The Complete Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. — A Community Gathering," will be held 7-9 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, 9 Vance Rd. (off Rt. 207, a half-mile west of Rt. 747, Drury Lane). The gathering is being convened "to remember, revisit and rededicate  ourselves to the creation of the just and peaceful world Dr. King  envisioned." The program will include the spoken word, video, music, and readings. Speakers include Dr. Zelbert Moore, professor of  Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz; Marge Bell, social worker for the  Newburgh School District and a Newburgh City Councilwoman; Rae Lainer and Brenda  McPhail, organizers from Community Voices Heard; and Rabbi Michael Laxmeter of Temple Agudas Israel in Newburgh. (Snow date April 5.) Information, Verne M. Bell (845) 569-8965, Alison P. Fornes (845) 231-3592, Bennett Weiss (845) 569-8662.

Tuesday, April 5, POUGHKEEPSIE (Marist Campus): The new documentary, "Mrs. Goundo's Daughter," will have a free public screening at 7:30 p.m. in the Henry Hudson Room of Fontaine Hall. The movie depicts Mrs. Goundo's fight to remain in the U.S. after being threatened with deportation. We're told: "Bridging two worlds, this film tells the moving story of one Malian mother’s fight for asylum in the U.S. to protect her two-year-old daughter from female genital cutting in their African homeland. Expertly interweaving scenes from Mali of girls preparing for an excision ceremony and scenes from Philadelphia where those who have survived the ceremony share their stories, the film demonstrates precisely why and how Mrs. Goundo fights for her daughter and her future." Presented by the Marist College Public Praxis Program, with the help of Women Make Movies and Dutchess Peace.  Information, Campus map

Thursday, April 7, WHITE PLAINS: The Westchester Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace  invites you to a discussion and book signing of "The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict" — 7 p.m. at Memorial United Methodist Church, 250 Bryant Ave. Goldstone, a well-known South African judge (who is Jewish) criticized Hamas but put the greater blame on Israel for the winter 2008-09 invasion of Gaza that took 1,400 Palestinian lives (mostly civilians and children), while losing 14 of its own soldiers, several by friendly fire. The Israeli government denounced the UN report. Two of the book's editors will field questions about the report and its reception around the globe. Lizzy Ratner has written for the New York Times, the Nation, the New York Observer, and other publications. Philip Weiss is the coeditor of the web site Mondoweiss. Thomas G. Weiss, Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Affairs at the CUNY Graduate Center, will moderate. RSVP,

Thursday, April 7, MILLBROOK: One year after the great Gulf oil spill, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council will discuss whether the U.S. has made headway in preventing another oil spill.  Frances Beinecke will speak at the Cary Institute auditorium, 2801 Sharon Turnpike, (Rt. 44) at 7 p.m. Space is limited for this free and public event; doors open at 6:30 p.m. Information, (845) 677-7600, ext. 121,

Saturday, April 9, NEW YORK CITY: "Rally Against the Wars at Home and Abroad," 12 noon- 3 p.m. at Union Square, 14th St. and Broadway in Manhattan.  This event is being organized by the United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC) with many co-sponsors. From the organizers: "Who are the Warmakers? They are the government, corporate, and financial powers that wage war, ravage the environment and the economy and trample on our democratic rights and liberties. Who are the Peacemakers? We are the vast majority of humanity who want peace, a healthy planet and a society that prioritizes human needs, democracy and civil liberties for all." Protest issues: Bring U.S. troops home now: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan; End the sanctions and stop the threats of war against the people of Iran, North Korea and Yemen; No to war and plunder of the people of Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa; End U.S. aid to Israel; End U.S. support to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the siege of Gaza; Trillions for jobs, education, social services; End to all foreclosures; Quality single-payer healthcare for all; A massive conversion to sustainable and planet-saving energy systems and public transportation; Reparations to the victims of U.S. terror at home and abroad; End FBI raids on antiwar, social justice, and international solidarity activists; End the racist persecution and prosecutions that ravage Muslim comminutes; End to police terror in Black, Latino and Native American communities; Full rights and legality for immigrants; End all efforts to repress and punish Wikileaks and its contributors and founders; and an immediate end to torture, rendition, secret trials, drone bombings and death squads. Information, (518) 965-2935,, Information about buses from Albany: $30 round trip transport available, and travelers can register at

Sunday, April 10, NEW PALTZ: "Communities in Transition: Exploring the Issues of Peak Oil, Climate Change and How We Can Create a Locally Based Resilient Future" is the title of a 3-6 p.m. public forum at Mohonk Mountain House, 1000 Mountain Rest Rd. There will be a panel presentation and group discussion. The sponsor is Mohonk Consultations. Suggested donation, $10, $5 students/seniors. Reservations required, (845) 256-2726.

Tuesday, April 12, WORLDWIDE: The Institute for Policy Studies (U.S.), and the International Peace Bureau (Switzerland) is calling today a Global Day of Action on Military spending — a day to protest the trillions of dollars wasted on wars and preparations for wars around the world. Protests are taking place today in dozens of countries, including the U.S. In the Valley, Upper Hudson Peace Action has scheduled a 12 noon vigil outside the State Capitol building on the next day, April 13. This project has been endorsed by Peace Action, Religions for Peace, Code Pink, Fellowship of Reconciliation, War Resisters International, Food Not Bombs, Pax Christi International, and other organizations.. A list of actions, and information for groups that wish to organize protests is

Tuesday, April 12, POUGHKEEPSIE (Marist Campus): The 2010 documentary "Countdown to Zero" will be screened at 7:30 p.m. in the Henry Hudson Room of Fontaine Hall on campus. We are told this 90-minute film "traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the present state of global affairs where nine nations possess nuclear weapons capabilities with others seeking to join them. Written and directed by acclaimed documentarian Lucy Walker, the film makes a compelling case for worldwide nuclear disarmament." Free and public, and an audience discussion follows the show. Presented by the Marist College Public Praxis Program, with the help of Women Make Movies and Dutchess Peace. Campus map Information,

Thursday, April 14, WOODSTOCK: The Middle East Crisis Response group of Hudson Valley residents opposed to Israeli and U.S. policies toward the Palestinians meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month 7-8:30 p.m. at the Library, 5 Library Lane, just off Tinker St. All welcome. Information, (845) 876-7906,,

Thursday, April 14, TROY (Russell Sage Campus): A lecture entitled "Reparations and the Armenian Genocide" will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Art Wing B, Schacht Fine Arts Center, 7 Division St. The speaker is Prof. Henry Theriault of the Worcester State University Philosophy Department and chair of the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group. Information,,

Friday, April 22, MATTYDALE: A protest against the war in Afghanistan will take place in this suburb of Syracuse at the Hancock Air National Guard Base from 2:30-5:30 p.m. Hancock is a particular target of antiwar actions because it is one of several venues in the U.S. where military employees handle remotely controlled pilotless Reaper drones over the western Pakistan extension of the stalemated Bush-Obama Afghan war. The ACLU and Amnesty International condemn drone attacks for violating the rules of war by illegally killing noncombatants and others in places where war has not been formally declared. Sen. Schumer has proposed making Hancock Field a test site which would involve flying drones over the Adirondacks. The event is sponsored by Syracuse Peace Council, Brooklyn For Peace, Buffalo Interfaith Peace Network, Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, The Peace Education Project, Peace Action of Central New York, Western NY Peace Center, The Upstate Antiwar Network, Rochester Against War, The Gandhi Institute, Broome County Peace Action, Ithaca Catholic Worker, Peace Now Ithaca , Veterans for Peace (Buffalo Chapter 128 & Ithaca Chapter) Vietnam Veterans Against the War (Ithaca Chapter), Military Families Speak Out, and others. We do not yet have a reliable schedule of events but one should become available soon. Information, Syracuse Peace Council (315) 472-5478,,,

Friday, March 18, 2011

03-18-11 Activist Calendar

March 17, 2011, Issue #659
Send event announcements to
Dedicated to Helping Build  Activist
Movements  in  the  Hudson  Valley
Editor's Note:  Our late March and April Activist Calendar will be emailed next week. Below are some new events in the next few days.... We've noted the March 19 Washington protest before but we list the full schedule for the March 19-20 weekend below, whether you are going or just have an interest in what's on the agenda.

The right wing assault on workers, unions and just about everything else, combined with Egypt, Tunisia and struggles against repression, dictatorship and monarchies throughout the Arab world have obviously energized progressive and left movements in the Hudson Valley and throughout the U.S.

The MoveOn protests March 15 in support of the Wisconsin workers drew good numbers in several Hudson Valley Locations. For instance, in New Paltz, 100 turned out. In Hastings, 50. Our own March 15 public event at SUNY New Paltz on the democratic rebellions in the Arab countries and America's continuing wars was extremely successful, drawing 182 people to a highly-regarded meeting supporting the uprisings, and opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (There will be a report on this event in the Activist Newsletter next week). The March 16 labor rally in Yonkers against budget cutbacks was attended by 1,000 people.


Saturday-Sunday, March 19-20, WASHINGTON: On March 19, 2011, a broad coalition of U.S. military veterans consisting of members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, March Forward!, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace will gather at the White House in solidarity to demand peace. The veteran-led action will be supported by a large array of activist groups including ANSWER Coalition (which called for the nationwide protests on the 19th), Fellowship of Reconciliation, CODEPINK, Voters for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, World Can’t Wait, Peace Action, United National Antiwar Committee, and the War Resisters League. On March 20, the veterans will gather to support Bradley Manning in Virginia. They say: "He should be treated as a hero instead of being incarcerated under conditions amounting to torture. We call for an immediate end to the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of PFC Bradley Manning during his military confinement." Following are details of the action from

Here are details on Saturday, March 19, in Washington, DC
12 p.m., Rally in Lafayette Park, H and 16th Streets NW. Speakers: Elliott Adams, Chantelle Bateman, Brian Becker, Medea Benjamin, Zachary Choate, Ryan Endicott, Ayesha Fleary, Chris Hedges, Kathy Kelly, Mike Malloy, Michael McPhearson, Caneisha Mills, Ralph Nader, Debra Sweet, Ann Wright, Kevin Zeese.

1 p.m., Civil Resistance at the White House.
Housing will be available Saturday night at St. Stephen’s Church, 1525 Newton Street NW (corner of 16th Street). You must leave the church by 7 am Sunday morning. Anyone staying at the church must be respectful of whatever else may be going on there at the time.

Detils on Sunday, March  20
2 p.m., Rally and March to Quantico for Bradley Manning, Main St. and Rt. 1 (Jeff Davis Hwy.), Quantico, VA. See for more information.
Two 56-person buses have been reserved for five hours. Board buses in front of Union Station, 2 Massachusetts Avenue NE, in Washington, D.C., at 12:30 p.m.
Buses will be boarding to return from Triangle/Quantico at 4:30 p.m.
To reserve tickets for the bus ($10 round-trip):
Housing will be available Sunday night at St. Stephen’s Church, 1525 Newton Street NW (corner of 16th Street), AFTER 9 p.m. Please do not go to the church before 9 p.m. Anyone staying at the church must be respectful of whatever else may be going on there at the time.

—Additional information, including a listing of ANSWER's March 19 protests in 46 different cities and towns throughout the U.S. is at

Monday, March 21, HUDSON: "Civil Liberties and the FBI: How local Activists and Groups Can Respond," is the title of a 7-9 p.m. public meeting at Time and Space Limited, 434 Columbia St. A panel of four attorneys (Steve Downs, Valeria Gheorghiu, Kathy Manley and Michael Sussman) will speak about our rights as individuals and discuss ways that local peace and justice groups engaged in nonviolent activism can prepare for and respond to federal interference, raids and subpoenas. A question and answer session will follow. According to the organizers: "Last September, the FBI raided homes and antiwar offices in Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan and North Carolina. Fourteen activists were handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury.  Among those targeted were members of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, and the Colombia Action Network. Who is the next target?" This meeting is sponsored by Middle East Crisis Response, Dutchess Peace Coalition and Palestinian Rights Committee, and recommended by the Activist Newsletter. Information, (518) 966-5366, (845) 255-5779,

Monday, March 21, ALBANY (College of St. Rose): An expert on the subject will be the speaker at an event titled, "Geopolitics, Global Oil Depletion and Very High Oil Prices: What Does This Mean for New York State?" He is William Reinhardt, recently retired senior project manager in the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority. The sponsor is the Capital Region Energy Forum. Information, (607) 282-0220,, Campus map:

Tuesday, March 22, ALBANY: New York State United Teachers is conducting an "Educate New York State Rally" 12 noon-1 p.m. on the steps of the Capitol Building. The rally is for full funding for the state's public school system. Information,
Tuesday, March 22, KINGSTON: A 12 noon vigil will be held on Rt. 9W in front of the Hudson Valley Mall. We're told it is "to grieve the recent tragic suicide of Jill Conner’s daughter, April, by a weapon purchased illegally at Dick’s Sporting Goods. All people who grieve with thousands of other families and friends who have lost loved ones due to weapon sales and abuses, please make your voices known. Come to our vigil for safety and security and to prevent the illegal sale of weapons. Bring placards or hold ours." Information,

Sunday, March 27, ALBANY (SUNY Campus): A "Summit for a Statewide Ban on Fracking" will take place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on campus, 1400 Washington Ave., at the lecture center. The event is in preparation for a scheduled May 2 anti-fracking march in the state capital. From the organizers: "With only a few months until the moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing is lifted — and with vertical fracking already causing problems across Western N.Y. — we need to seize current momentum and widespread public concern to advocate loud and clear for what we all know we need: a BAN! We know that when the public hears the truth about fracking, the vast majority of the population will stand with us in calling for a ban. If you're ready to take a step towards organizing your communities this summit was made for you. Goals of the day-long meeting include: Establish coordinated People's Advocacy Network; Share advice on effective advocacy Create a plan for building coalitions in our communities; Establish regional organizing networks for gathering statewide ban petition signatures; Helping to coordinate logistics for mobilizing people to come to Albany on May 2nd." Sponsored by Frack Action, More information on the Summit:
To register:
Carpools to Summit meeting: Carpool & caravans leaving New Paltz Village Hall at 7:45 a.m. returning at 8 p.m. contact Rosalynn Cherry
Kingston Park-and-Ride near circle 8 a.m. contact Alexander Lines (845) 810-0205.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Unite to Fight the Right!

Unite to Fight the Right:
 Stop the Republican Attacks!

By Jack A. Smith — editor of Activist Newsletter

Republican politicians in Washington and the nation's state houses are virtually wilding in the streets. It's as though they are drunk with power, even though the Democrats actually are stronger by virtue of controlling the White House and Senate.

The actions by Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker to crush the public unions in the name of closing the budget deficit — after first gifting state businesses with tax breaks and programs amounting to $117 million — are just the leading edge of a broad national assault on worker rights, union rights, women's rights, abortion rights, minority rights, and civil liberties.

The ultra-conservatives enthusiastically attack all government programs that benefit working people, oppose environmental protection, fight against measures to halt climate change, and cater exclusively to the forces that actually guide America's destiny — big money, big business, big finance and big military, all the while whining about big government.

Why are they acting like feudal Crusaders besieging a Muslim fortress? They won the House and account for 29 governorships, but that's hardly a mandate to implement their most extreme proposals — and they know it.

But they also know something else: the Obama Administration, which sets the pace for the Democrats,  would always rather compromise than fight. The Wisconsin public unions were encouraged by Democratic supporters to agree to substantial pay and benefit cuts to ward off stiffer punishments, but the Republican Senate voted last night to  strip them of most collective bargaining rights, and the Assembly is set to do more damage today.

Having miniaturized their moderate wing and neutered the neoconservatives, the Republican high command evidently believes the time has finally come to overturn some of the social advances gained through the struggles of the Sixties and the Great Depression. They are taking a page out of Naomi Klein's book — "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" — by cynically exploiting the economic disaster to implement regressive economic and social policies.

Right wing politicians are now fallaciously claiming that the federal government is "going broke," or "facing bankruptcy" due to the high federal deficit, and therefore "deep cuts are required" in spending programs intended to benefit working people and the poor. This is an old GOP canard, which the New York Times defined March 2 as "obfuscating nonsense."

The sky-high deficit is largely the product of three things: the Bush Administration's huge tax reductions, especially for the rich ($1 trillion extra to the richest 2% in the last 10 years), the economic recession (caused by the banks, Wall St. greed and government deregulation) and vast increases in military and national security spending during the last decade.

The unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for instance, are paid for by borrowing money. The amount spent just on these two wars this year alone could easily wipe out all the state budget deficits in America. (We remind our Hudson Valley readers of  the March 15 public meeting on the wars and the Middle East uprisings organized by the Activist Newsletter at SUNY New Paltz. See item below, and join us.)

President Bush knew exactly what he was doing by increasing the deficit because President Reagan before him did the same thing: they railed against taxes while boosting spending, the outcome of which inevitably leads to demands to cut programs for the people. One difference between the Reagan era and today is that many Congressional Republicans in the 1980s were not willing to trash the social safety net. This time that's the target, along with the unions.

Now the emboldened conservatives preposterously blame public service workers and their unions for state deficits. For example, private sector workers in Wisconsin earn 4.8% more per hour than comparable public employees.

The real point is that Big Business has been trying to destroy the union movement for well over 100 years, and now their minions in government are trying to finish the job in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Florida and Tennessee by adopting or planning anti-union legislation.
The GOP governors and members of Congress claim they are "doing what the voters want," but that's nonsense.

The March 1 New York Times/CBS Poll, among others, shows that the public opposes weakening public service union bargaining rights by a margin of 60%-33%. Polls show that majorities favor hiking taxes on the rich to lower the deficit. For instance, in New Jersey, which has a budget-cutting Republican governor, a March 1 Rutgers-Eagleton poll showed that voters supported a tax surcharge on “very high income residents” by 72%-26%.

It has reached the point where Tea Party-backed Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) declared that "collective bargaining has no place in representative democracy." This is an attack timed to coincide with high unemployment and the effects of recession upon the relatively weakened American union movement of 15.3 million workers, and scores of millions more non-union workers whose wages are higher because of comparative union standards and organizing efforts. 

The right wing is out to win the class war in America. Its every move is intended to deprive the working class and middle class while privileging wealth and power. However, the attack isn't so much because of the Republican Party's strength but of the Democratic Party's political weakness, despite its great power and financing. This is an important factor impelling the conservative politicians to go for broke. It adds to their strength.

Right wing populist Tea Party nationalists, reactionary take-no-prisoners freshmen Republicans in Congress, and ultra-conservative icons such as Palin, Beck and Limbaugh intimidate the old line GOP establishment, which both embraces and fears the upstarts. They and their followers — including the far right and loony fringe — are infuriated by the presence of a "foreigner" (i.e., African American) and a "socialist" (i.e., Democrat) in the White House — an incentive to keep propelling the Republican Party ever further to the political right.

And sure enough, the Democratic Party — acting the part of a helpless giant — is dutifully trudging 10 steps behind and one small step to the left, just enough to retain the dubious honorific of The Lesser Evil.

This two-party shift toward the right has been taking place for decades, but it's been accelerating since the Obama Administration made it clear that it would govern from the center-right and compromise with the opposition. The White House conciliated on everything even when it had large majorities in both Congressional chambers. For instance, the Democrats had the power to overturn Bush's shameful millionaire tax cuts two years earlier during President Obama's first few "honeymoon" months in office, but he allowed them to expire as intended in two years, then compromised to extend them an additional two years.

The GOP knows it can gain political ground by aggressively attempting to obstruct legislation and fighting dirty. But the right wing's unstinting combativeness is only partially based on its own limited power. The other part is lodged in awareness of the Democratic Party's spineless passivity and vacillation combined with a political perspective resembling what was once termed moderate Republicanism, not the liberalism of yesteryear.

Here's a current example: In the midst of the most assertive right wing assault in modern history, the New York Times reported that President Obama was "road-testing his new message of bipartisan cooperation" in Miami March 4 "with Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor, and then used his first stump speech of the 2012 season to call on Democrats to 'find common ground'" with the GOP.

At the "risk" of sounding partisan, we must ask: When the center-right searches for common ground with the right-far right, isn't it likely to be discovered equidistant between the two polarities, that is, clearly closer to the right than the center, much less to the left?

There are, however, two hopeful signs in this bleak political picture.

One is that the Republicans and their Tea Party vanguard are foolishly overreaching. If this continues much longer, public revulsion toward right wing fanaticism probably will punish the conservatives in the 2012 elections. But there's a downside. The conservative Supreme Court's Citizens United decision now permits corporations to invest limitless funds in election campaigns, and that kind of money not only talks but it screams, perhaps loudly enough to buy the election for the conservatives despite the shenanigans of the rabid right.

Another sign, the most hopeful of all, is that the Wisconsin public workers and the union movement — supported by tens of millions of Americans throughout the country — are shouting their opposition to those who degrade democracy by attacking working families. They recognize the impending devastation implicit in this assault by corporate wealth being carried out by the politicians.

The big question is will this combative spirit take hold and spread? The more there are mass struggles and strikes for people's rights — in the workplaces and at the seats of power, in the streets and at public meetings — the more the rights of working Americans will be upheld and extended.

The best response to this sharp turn to the political right in America is a sharp turn to the left. It's time to unite, get organized behind a determined leadership willing to wage a true struggle, and fight back.



A public meeting will be held in SUNY New Paltz Lecture Center 102 Tuesday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m., on the topic "What Next for the Middle East — More U.S. Wars in the Region or Peace at Last?"

The democratic uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa against dictatorships and repressive monarchies — in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman and other Arab countries — are of historic consequence and will ultimately transform the region politically and socially.

But what comes next? What will be the impact on Washington, which supported most of these regimes for decades before switching sides in the final days? And also what about Israel and Iran?

Meanwhile, the 8th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq falls on March 19 — a day of worldwide protests — and the 10th anniversary of the Afghan war is in a few  months. Both these wars are stalemated and have cost the U.S. trillions of dollars needed for jobs and social programs for the American people.

Here are the speakers at the March 15:

•  Brian Becker, the leader  of the ANSWER peace and justice coalition, will discuss the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
•  Jack A. Smith, editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, will talk about the ongoing U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, western Pakistan, and Yemen.
•  Donna Goodman, New Paltz activist and union representative, will survey the costs of the wars and the uses to which this mountain of money could have been better spent.  She'll also mention union involvement in peace actions.
•  Michael Sussman, the well-known civil liberties attorney from Orange county, will focus on the erosions of civil liberties in the U.S. since 9/11.
• Barbara Upton will tell us about the weekly peace vigil she organized in New Paltz Nov. 10, 2001, which has continued Saturday after Saturday all these years, and is still going strong.
•  Claire Papell, SUNY student and activist, will underscore the importance of student peace and justice activism.
• Tarak Kauff, a Woodstock activist and member of Veterans for Peace, will speak about the importance of civil resistance, and also touch on the March 19 veterans actions in D.C.

The event is sponsored by the Activist Newsletter, and the New Paltz group Peace & Social Progress Now. Endorsers of the event include: ANSWER Coalition, Arts for Peace, CLASP, Dutchess Greens, Dutchess Peace, Middle East Crisis Response, MoveOn Council (Ulster), New Paltz Feminist Collective (SUNY-SA recognized), Orange County Democratic Alliance, Orange County Peace & Justice, Veterans for Peace, Woodstock Peace Economy, Zeitgeist Movement (SUNY-SA recognized).

Campus map:
Campus directions:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

03-09-11 Geopolitics of Libya 'No-fly Zone'

[The geopolitical implications of a possible "no-fly zone" over Libya will undoubtedly give the U.S. pause, but will it be enough to prevent this equivalent of an act of war? If it doesn't, the U.S. may have  a lot to lose. The following article by former Indian ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar, a regular correspondent for Asia Times, appeared on that publication's website today, datelined March 10 Asia time ( He suggests that the uprisings have already had a serious impact on world politics.]

By M. K. Bhadrakumar

India, Brazil and South Africa have put a spoke in the American wheel, which seemed up until March 8 inexorably moving, turning and turning in the direction of imposing a "no-fly" zone over Libya.

Arguably, the United States can still impose a zone, but then President Barack Obama will have to drink from the poisoned chalice and resurrect his predecessor's controversial post-Cold War doctrine of "unilateralism" and the "coalition of the willing" to do that. If he does so, Obama will have no place to hide and all he has done in his presidency to neutralize America's image as a "bully" will come unstuck.

New Delhi hosted a foreign minister-level meeting with Brazil and South Africa on Tuesday, which was to have been an innocuous occasion for some rhetorical "South-South" cooperation. On the contrary, the event soared into the realm of the troubled world order and shaky contemporary international system. The meeting took a clear-cut position of nyet vis-a-vis the growing Western design to impose a "no-fly" zone over Libya.

All indications are that the U.S. and its allies who are assisting the Libyan rebels politically, militarily and financially have been hoping to extract a "request" from the Libyan people within a day or two at the most as a fig-leaf to approach the United Nations Security Council for a mandate to impose sanctions under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Libyan rebels are a divided house: nationalist elements staunchly oppose outside intervention and the Islamists among them are against any form of Western intervention.

NATO defense ministers held a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to give practical touches to a possible intervention by the alliance in Libya. That the meeting was attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was indicative of the importance attached to the run-up to the alliance's proposed intervention in Libya. Gates missed an earlier informal NATO defense ministers' meeting on Libya held on the outskirts of Budapest a fortnight ago.

United States-British diplomacy was moving on a parallel track drumming up a unified position by the Libyan rebels to seek an international intervention in their country and specifically in the form of a "no-fly" zone. The Arab League and the African Union also maintain an ambiguous stance on the issue of such a zone.

Obama's calculation is that if only a Libyan "people's request" could be generated, that would in historical terms absolve him and the West of the blame of invading a sovereign member country of the United Nations - from a moral and political angle, at least - as well as push the Arab League and African Union into the enterprise.

Being a famously cerebral intellectual also, Obama is a politician with a difference and can be trusted to have an acute sense of history. His predecessor George W Bush would have acted in similar circumstances with "audacity," an idiom that is ironically associated with Obama.

Obama's tryst with history is indeed bugging him in his decision-making over Libya. Robert Fisk, the well-known chronicler of Middle Eastern affairs for the Independent newspaper of London, wrote a sensational dispatch on Monday that the Obama administration had sought help from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for secretly ferrying American weapons to the Libyan rebels in Benghazi, for which Riyadh would pick up the tab so that the White House would need no accountability to the U.S. Congress and leave no traceable trail to Washington.

The moral depravity of the move - chartering the services of an au,ocrat to further the frontiers of democracy - underscores Obama's obsessive desire to camouflage any U.S. unilateral intervention in Libya with "deniability" at all costs.

Now comes the body blow from the Delhi meeting. The three foreign ministers belonging to the forum that is known by the cute acronym IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) thwarted Obama's best-laid plans by issuing a joint communique on Tuesday in which they "underscored that a 'no-fly' zone on the Libyan air space or any coercive measures additional to those foreseen in Resolution 1970 can only be legitimately contemplated in full compliance with the UN Charter and within the Security Council of the United Nations."

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota told the media in Delhi that the IBSA statement was an "important measure" of what the non-Western world was thinking." He said, "The resort to a 'no-fly' zone is seen as expedient when adopted by a country but it weakens the system of collective security and provokes indirect consequences prejudicial to the objective we have been trying to achieve." Patriota added:

    It is very problematic to intervene militarily in a situation of internal turmoil, Any decision to adopt military intervention needs to be considered within the UN framework and in close coordination with the African Union and the Arab League. It is very important to keep in touch with them and identify with their perception of the situation.

He explained that measures like a no-fly zone might make a bad situation worse by giving fillip to anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiments "that have not been present so far."

Equally significant was the fact that the trio of foreign ministers also penned a joint statement on the overall situation in the Middle East. Dubbed as the "IBSA Declaration," it reiterated the three countries' expectation that the changes sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa should "follow a peaceful course" and expressed their confidence in a "positive outcome in harmony with the aspirations of the people."

A highly significant part of the statement was its recognition right at the outset that the Palestinian problem lay at the very core of the great Middle Eastern alienation and the "recent developments in the Region may offer a chance for a comprehensive peace ... This process should include the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ... that will lead to a two-state solution, with the creation of a sovereign, independent, united and viable Palestinian State, coexisting peacefully alongside Israel, with secure, pre-1967 borders, and with East Jerusalem as its capital."

Israel will be hopping mad over the declaration. That apart, does it matter to Obama and NATO if three countries from three faraway continents stand up with a common stance on a "no-fly" zone? Who are these countries anyway? But, it does matter. Put simply, the three countries also happen to be currently serving as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council and their stance happens to have high visibility in the world's pecking order on Libya.

The indications in Delhi are that at least one more non-permanent member of the Security Council is their "fellow-traveler" - Lebanon. Which means the "Arab voice" in the Security Council. In short, what we hear is an Afro-Asian, Arab and Latin American collective voice and it cannot be easily dismissed. More importantly, the IBSA stance puts at least two permanent veto-wielding great powers within the Security Council on the horns of an acute dilemma.

Russia claims to have a foreign policy that opposes the U.S.'s "unilateralism" and which strictly abides by the canons of international law and the UN charter. China insists that it represents developing countries. Now, the IBSA stance makes it virtually impossible for them to enter into any Faustian deal with the U.S. and Western powers over Libya within the sequestered caucus of the veto-holding powers of the Security Council - commonly known as the P-5.

Therefore, the IBSA joint statement, much like the Turkish-Brazilian move on the Iran nuclear problem, is virtually mocking at the moral hypocrisy of the P-5 and their secretive ways.

Ironically, Delhi adopted the IBSA communiqué even as U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden was winging his way to Moscow for wide-ranging discussions on the future trajectory of the U.S.-Russia reset. Any U.S.-Russian tradeoff over Libya within the ambit of the reset would now get badly exposed as an act of unprincipled political opportunism.

China's predicament will be no less acute if it resorts to realpolitik. China is hosting the summit meeting of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in Beijing in April. Three "brics" out of BRICS come from IBSA. Can the BRICS afford to water down the IBSA joint communiqué on Libya? Can China go against the stance of three prominent "developing countries"?

On balance, however, China may heave a sigh of relief. The IBSA position may let the U.S. pressure off China and delist the Libyan "no-fly" zone issue from morphing into a bilateral Sino-American issue. China cooperated with last week's Security Council resolution on Libya. It was an unusual move for China to vote for a resolution that smacked of "intervention" in the internal affairs of a sovereign country.

Western commentators were euphoric over the shift in Chinese behavior at the high table of world politics and were egging on the leadership at Beijing to finally shape up as a responsible world power that is willing to work with the West as a "stakeholder" in the international system - like Russia does.

Clearly, China is being cajoled to go a step further and jettison its other red line regarding a "no-fly" zone. There is no indication that China is about to concede its red line by succumbing to flattery. But, now, if China indeed does, it will be in broad daylight under the gaze of the developing countries. And it will be very difficult for Beijing to cover up such "pragmatism" with the veneer of principles. In a way, therefore, pressure is off China on the "no-fly" zone issue.

An interesting thought occurs: Is India forcing China's hand? Delhi has certainly taken note that the Libyan crisis provided China with a great opportunity to work with the U.S. in a cooperative spirit that would have much positive spin-offs for the overall Sino-American relationship. The "no-fly" zone issue would have been turf where China and the U.S. could have created an entirely new alchemy in their relationship. Beijing knows that Obama's presidency critically depends on how he acquits in the Middle East crisis.

All the same, Delhi's move cannot be dismissed as merely "China-centric." In geopolitical terms, it constitutes a highly visible slap on the American face. And there will be a price to pay in terms of Obama's wrath. That Delhi is willing to pay such a price - when so much is at stake in its bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council - makes the IBSA move highly significant. Indeed, it is after a very long time that Delhi will be refusing to stand up and be counted on a major American foreign policy front.

It is much more than a coincidence, too, that the declaration vociferously supported the Palestinian cause. India has taken the calculated risk of incurring the displeasure of Israel and the Israel lobby in the U.S.. Besides, there are other signs, too, that Delhi has embarked on a major overhaul of its Middle East policies and the IBSA is only one template of the policy rethink - and, possibly not even the most far-reaching in the geopolitics of the region.

Even as the IBSA adopted its stance on Libya and the Middle East situation staunchly favoring Arab nationalism, India's National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, a key policymaker of high reputation as a consummate diplomat and who works directly under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was engaged in an engrossing and meaningful conversation elsewhere in the Middle East - with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Away from the glare of television cameras, Menon handed over a letter from Manmohan to Ahmadinejad. According to the statement issued by Ahmadinejad's office, the Iranian leader told Menon:

    "Iran and India are both independent countries and they will play significant roles in shaping up the future of the international developments .... The relations between Iran and India are historic and sustainable. Iran and India due to being [sic] benefited from humanitarian viewpoints towards the international relations, should try to shape up the future world system in a way that justice and friendship would rule.

    "The ruling world is coming to its end and is on the verge of collapse. Under the current conditions, it is very important how the future world order will take shape and care should be taken that those who have imposed the oppressive world order against the mankind would not succeed in imposing it in a new frame anew ... Iran and India will be playing significant roles in the future developments in the world. Our two nations' cultures and origins are what the world needs today."

Menon reportedly told Ahmadinejad:

    "New Delhi is for the establishment of comprehensive relations with Iran, including strategic ties ... many of the predictions you [Ahmadinejad] had about the political and economic developments in the world have come to reality today and the world order is going under basic alterations [sic], which has necessitated ever-increasing relations between Iran and India .... The relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of India are beyond the current political relations, having their roots in the cultures and the civilizations and the two nations and both countries have great potentials for improvement of bilateral, regional and international relations. "

Nothing needs to be added. Nothing needs to be said further. In sum, this sort of Iran-India high-level political exchange was unthinkable until very recently and it highlights how much the Middle East has changed and Iran's role in it, and Delhi's perceptions and the Indian thinking regarding both.

Most important, Menon's arrival in Tehran at the present tumultuous juncture on a major path-breaking political and diplomatic mission to energize India-Iran strategic understanding also underscores the growing recognition in the region that the era of Western dominance of the Middle East is inexorably passing into history and the world order is not going to be the same again.

— Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.å

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two Notable Valley Actions

Two demonstrations took place in the Hudson Valley in the past few days in Rock Tavern (Orange County) and Albany. They follow:
Mid-Hudson's workers rally for labor rights
By Michael Randall

ROCK TAVERN (Times Herald-Record, 3-4-11)  — An estimated 850 Hudson Valley union members vowed March 3 to stand beside their fellow workers in Wisconsin and anywhere else the right to collective bargaining is challenged.

"An injury to one is an injury to all," proclaimed Lucille Sollazzo of the New York State Nurses Association, one of more than a dozen speakers at the rally outside Teamsters Local 445's union hall.

Multiple speakers said the right to negotiate a contract is a basic right of all workers.

Adrian Huff, head of Local 445, said renegotiating a contract when an employer experiences a genuine financial crisis is one thing, but, "When it comes to the right to negotiate, we draw the line."

Paul Ellis-Graham, president of Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation, said the rally showed union workers in Wisconsin, Indiana and other states where collective bargaining is coming under fire that, "New York's Hudson Valley is standing with you."

"The workers of America did not cause this (financial) crisis," said Ellis-Graham. "It was caused by greedy Wall Street bankers and investors."

Political figures who added their support at the rally included state Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-C-Forestburgh, who noted she's both the daughter and mother of union workers.

"I know where you're coming from," she said.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, was stuck in Washington, but Chris White from his staff told the crowd the congressman is behind them.

"Wisconsin is just the first battle," White predicted. "We have to thank Wisconsin for sending us a wake-up call."

Support also came in musical form.

Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, with Local 445 organizer Jerry Ebert, led the crowd in a rousing rendition of "Solidarity Forever," with some new lyrics reflecting the current struggle in Wisconsin.

Noting Seeger had to leave for another engagement after the performance, Ebert told the crowd, "He's 91 years old and still standing strong for the labor movement."
Capitol protest ends in 17 arrests
By Rick Karlin

ALBANY (Albany Times Union, 3-3-11) -- The battle over New York's budget went into high gear March 2 as a protest against cuts and the end of a "millionaires' tax" blockaded an entrance to the Capitol for almost an hour. Seventeen demonstrators were arrested and hauled off in a State Police van.

Bearing signs saying "Don't balance the budget on the backs of the poor" and shouting "Hey hey, ho ho, the funding cuts have got to go," the roughly 150 demonstrators, largely from New York City, represented progressive activist groups pushing for rent reductions for people with HIV, homeless services, low-income housing, health care and other issues.

Among the organizers were Community Voices Heard, Picture the Homeless, Queers for Economic Justice and VOCAL-NY.

"We're here to demand that the millionaires pay their fair share," said Wanda Hernandez, of the Bronx, who explained the main objective was to slow down social service funding cuts in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed $132.9 billion 2011-12 budget. To avert cuts, the critics want an extension of the so-called "millionaires tax," which is actually an income tax surcharge on those earning more than $200,000, which is set to expire at the end of the year.

Some of the protesters said they voted for Cuomo but were disappointed by what they view as his catering to New York's wealthiest residents with his insistence on no new taxes. In addition to extending the income tax surcharge, the group is also calling for an unspecified "bankers' bonus tax."

"I voted for him, and I expect to get a return on my vote just like the committees that donated to him," said Robert Tolbert of the Bronx, referring to the Committee to Save NY, a group of wealthy business and civic leaders that supports the governor's agenda.

The protest might be viewed as a wake-up call for the governor regarding how some of the cuts in his budget proposal might go over with the general public.

And it illustrated the deep support among some voter segments -- shared by many Assembly Democrats -- for a continuation of the millionaires' tax.

The demonstration came a day after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said his Democratic conference would push for renewal of the tax.

On Wednesday, 21 Senate Democrats sent a letter to Cuomo calling for extension of the millionaires' tax as well. Keeping the surcharge would generate $1 billion in the coming fiscal year and up to $5 billion in 2012-13, they said.

Wednesday's demonstration, which observers said marked the first time since the Pataki era that there had been numerous arrests, appeared to be well-planned and was kept under wraps until around noon when reporters got word of it.

Scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m., it was delayed about 20 minutes as the marchers found themselves in the lengthy line for the metal-detector/security screening that Capitol visitors must pass. The group had gotten stuck behind a class of school children there for a tour.

Protesters and police alike recorded the events on video cameras and those who were arrested went peacefully.

Demonstrators were charged with disorderly conduct and were arraigned in city court before their release, authorities said. They must return later this month.

While public employee unions such as SEIU and teachers unions were not involved in the protest, some of those present repeatedly said they opposed cuts to the schools and teacher layoffs as well as health care cuts in the governor's budget.

"A lot of my friends are teachers," said Larry Gadsen, an audio engineer from the Bronx. He said he comes to the Capitol about three times a year to demonstrate for human service funding.