Thursday, March 01, 2007

Progressive Update--03/01/2007--Time to get back to work!

You may have thought that I dropped off the face of the earth, as I haven’t issued a progressive update for almost four months. It took awhile for me to return from cloud nine. Progressives had a slew of victories last November, however it is time to get back to work.

I asked two friends to share some information on the presidential candidates that they are helping, with their reasons, and with an invitation for how you can help:

Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is the most progressive candidate campaigning for the Presidency. More important, he is the only candidate so far to respond with definitive answers to the crisis that America and the world face today. He is the only candidate with the courage to favor an American single-payer health system despite opposition from powerful special interest groups. He is the only candidate with a realistic and comprehensive plan to end the war in Iraq. He is the only candidate with a vision for a world in peace - without war, poverty and hunger - taking the first step by establishing a federal department of peace to promote human rights, social justice, humanitarian aid. All of this could be done by proposing new policies and a change in direction for America. And this is not just campaign jargon -- it is evidence-based. To learn more and why we need your help and support, please contact Dr. Philip Pollner at or the Kucinich campaign at

In the middle of the recent snowstorm, two dozen hardy souls gathered at the first Delaware For Obama meeting. The immediate goals of Delaware For Obama are to publicize the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama for president, to connect with the national campaign, and to begin fundraising. For more information about Senator Obama and his innovative approaches to the challenges facing our nation, visit To find out about Obama events in our area, Sign Up and join in!

There are a host of top issues in Delaware state politics. One leading one is the resignation this week of the House Majority Leader, Wayne Smith. He plans to resign on March 12th and start work as a lobbyist on March 13th. That’s how Republicans work in this state. There will be a special election for his Brandywine Hundred district (the 7th RD) as soon as March 22nd, an extremely short timeline. As such, volunteers and contributions are needed quickly and desperately. To volunteer, call the DE Democratic Party at 328-9036, email Checks should be made out to New Castle County Democratic Committee, and mailed to DE Democratic Party, PO Box 2065, Wilmington, DE 19899—you know that the Republicans are shoveling money into this race. We picked up three seats in the House from the Republicans last November, and we could really use this seat to get progress on issues such as healthcare in DE. The challenge is large, as the gerrymandering makes this district Republican-heavy, so your help is necessary.

Wind Power—Protests of ‘skeptic’ state climatologist notwithstanding, Delawareans know that global climate change threatens the planet, and we can make a giant step forward, with the possibility of approving a large wind-power farm off the DE seashore rather than yet another natural gas or coal plant. A public hearing is set for 7pm on Thursday the 8th at the Carvel office building (and also 7pm on Tuesday the 6th at Legislative Hall) for the Public Service Commission to discuss the three proposals. The decision is in the hands of three state agencies, and this could be your last chance to be heard on the issue before the decision is made.

Open Government—As a supporter of John Kowalko, I feel the need to respond to the accusations that John opposed open government by voting against House Bill 4. Knowing John, when I heard that he voted against an open government bill, I concluded that either 1) John lost his mind, or 2) the bill is not an open government bill. Looking at the details, I was comforted that John is still on the top of his game, and that HB 4 is what Republicans call an open government bill, just as President Bush has provided Clean Air and Iraqi Freedom and an act for patriots—yeah, right. House Bill 4 does not open a single meeting to the public—it is a feel-good bill, not a do-good bill. John voted against it to maintain the pressure on the legislature to pass real open government laws. Shame on the media, and most especially shame on a few blogging progressives for falling for the Republican spin—just because Republicans call HB4 ‘open government’ doesn’t mean that it is, and recognize that if HB4 was passed in January, it would enable the Republicans to resist any true open government legislation later this year..

Yesterday the House Republicans introduced House Bill 60, which rambles for four pages of legalese, and is supported by fewer than half of the House Republicans. Of course the House Democrats wrote the one-sentence House Bill 70 weeks earlier. This wonderful bill simply removes the exemption that the General Assembly has from the Freedom of Information Act. This is true open government bill, and is sponsored by two Democratic state senators and every single House Democrat, but not a single Republican. Please urge your state representative and senator to push for the passage of House Bill 70.

Lobbying Reform—The Wilmington News Journal has been reporting on the egregious state of lobbying in Delaware, with state Republicans monopolizing the wall of shame. Then just as John Kowalko introduces a House Bill 68 bill that, if passed, will bar a retiring state legislator from lobbying for one year, Republican state Representative (and Majority Leader) Wayne Smith retires and avoids the restriction. Of course John is not getting much help from fellow legislators in his efforts to restrict lobbying. At this point there are only two co-sponsors, state senators Peterson and Still. Please urge your state representative and senator to push for the passage of House Bill 68.

Equality—Senate Bill 10 would provide health and retirement benefits to domestic partners of state employees. Given that Delaware prevents committed same-sex couples from marrying, this is a necessary step towards equality. Please urge your state representative and senator to push for the passage of Senate Bill 10. Senate Bill 9 is still being worked on before its introduction. It is designed to make it unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation. It is astounding that it isn’t already illegal to fire someone in Delaware based on their orientation, and so this bill is necessary. Please urge your state representative and senator to co-sponsor, and push for the passage of Senate Bill 9.

Prison Reform—House Bill 71 today emerged from the House Judiciary Committee, and is designed to return the discretion of proper sentencing to the sentencing judge, repealing mandatory sentencing for drug law offenders. Mandatory sentencing was well-intentioned, however it has resulted in prison overcrowding, and the inability of the system to direct the best solution for each person (some need to go to prison, some to substance abuse programs, etc). For more information, go to Please urge your state representative and senator to push for the passage of House Bill 71.

Holding Elected Leaders AccountableRebecca Young of the Progressive Democrats of Delaware shared the following. “DFA is offering another in their series of training programs, this one aimed at holding our elected officials accountable. I've taken several of these courses and I find them very worthwhile. You only need to spend an hour of your time, at home, in front of your computer. It's fun and you will learn something. So here's your invitation to Holding Elected Leaders Accountable: and the session is Tuesday the 6th at 8:30pm.”

I’ll close with comments from Villanova professor Matt Kerbel, who offered the following comments to me after January’s State of the Union speech (he gets points for being able to watch Bush speak for so long without vomiting): Hi, Paul. Good to hear from you again! If Bush didn't have to speak last night, I'm sure he would have avoided it. He had nothing new to say about the one issue people are most concerned about and no accomplishments to flaunt. His speech, like his administration, was fundamentally dishonest. How can you talk about the state of the union in 2007 without putting Iraq front and center? Yet he waited until two-thirds of his speech was over, until he had plowed through a laundry list of domestic themes, before even mentioning the war. And when he finally got around to mentioning it he had nothing new to say, apart from acknowledging that this wasn't the war he wanted but we have no choice other than to see it through. There was no acceptance of responsibility for mistakes, no acknowledgment of the message of the last election -- that the public has given up on his war leadership. He ended by saying the state of the union is strong. An honest president would have acknowledged what people know anyway: that close to 70 percent of the country feels we are on the wrong track and that we have to change course. If people tuned in they would have immediately tuned out. But I suspect that many people stayed away, because the country has stopped listening to him.

I thought Jim Webb's response was on point. He essentially said the Republican Party has lost its bearings and if Bush doesn't change course, the Democrats will do it for him. It was a nice contrast to Bush's unrealistic statement that the state of the union is strong, and it foreshadows strong Democratic leadership in the months ahead. The new political balance of power was on display last night, and -- although we're about to enter a dangerous and difficult period -- it bodes well for a progressive future.