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Politics is a natural and neutral activity.  Whether or not you like it or get anything from it partially depends on your level of engagement and skill in politicking.

That’s what I learned through studying Cervero and Wilson’s theory of program planning.  Essentially, they say that program planning is a political activity because educational events and activities are always planned with other people.  Therefore, all of the planning must be negotiated with others.  I used their theory in undertaking a real-life program planning activity at work.

Cervero and Wilson destigmatize and normalize the word “politics.”  Most workers believe it’s good to shun office politics, because they think only people with wrong motives engage in politics.  I used to think that way, too.  Now I realize that to the extent that I refuse to engage in the political process, I limit my own success in changing things for the good of my students.  If good guys walk away from the process, the only people advancing their goals are people who are only looking out for themselves.  It’s important to engage in politics professionally.

It’s also important to engage in politics nationally.  At work, I get to voice my opinions at meetings, through e-mail, individually, etc..  My opinions get “heard” when I get the ear of the right people.  Nationally, my voice gets heard when I vote.

Years ago, when I first registered to vote, the Board of Elections sent out an Election Guide telling citizens when to vote and who and what we were voting for.  Now, there’s nothing.  Also, in non-presidential election years, it seemed like there were plentiful debates to attend so that you could decide how to cast your vote.  I feel like those things have vanished.  Fortunately CUNY is launching its own campaign to help us out.  Check out Voice Your Choice to see more.

Until then, keep these dates in mind:

  • March 25 – Voter registration deadline
  • April 19 – New York primaries
  • November 8 – General election

Rhonda Harrison has just completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” So states the First Amendment. What has happened to the right to peaceful protest? Has the Occupy Wall Street movement terrified the powers in charge so much that they will do anything to prevent opposition?

Police in riot gear, swinging batons and using teargas, have arrested noisy but generally peaceful protesters. Even in Berkeley, of places! Encampments across the country have been bulldozed. After a two-month occupation, over 1,000 police descended on Zuccotti Park in NY in the early morning hours of 11/15 to clear out the protesters. Granted, Zuccotti Park is private property, but was a surprise and overly aggressive raid at 1am by so many cops warranted? Should personal property have been confiscated or destroyed? Within hours after the eviction, OWS protesters got a court order allowing them to return and to re-erect tents. As of this writing, that decision was overturned and protesters cannot set up camp.

What has happened to freedom of the press? Journalists covering the OWS events across the country including writer/activist Naomi Wolf have been arrested for doing their jobs, even though they were wearing press badges at the time. Arrests have occurred at New York City, Chapel Hill, NC, Atlanta, Nashville, Milwaukee and Richmond, VA. The Society of Professional Journalists and the New York Press Club have condemned the arrests and issued formal protests.

Besides arrests, reporters have been prevented by police from getting “too close” and filming evidence of abuse of power. Police brass are preventing the witnessing of massive shows of force and violence against the protesters. Isn’t this what is done in third world countries and dictatorships? The New York Police Commissioner is a Special Forces wannabe who has secretly built an incredible operation since 9/11.

In addition to journalists, noted educators and politicians have been arrested including Professor Cornel West of Princeton and Ydanis Rodriguez, a New York City Council Member. Mr. Rodriguez was hit in the head during the 11/14 raid and claimed that he was held without access to legal counsel.

The same pundits who call the Tea Party protesters patriots, emulators of the Founding Fathers and true Americans consider the OWS protesters to be rabble, Socialists, leftist losers and much worse. Most of these pundits are members of the 1% and they have convinced a majority of their viewers and readers that the main ideals of OWS (end corporatism, tax the wealthiest of Americans on a fairer basis, create jobs) are somehow not in their best interests. Real Americans should be afraid of those lazy, dirty Commies. It’s their own fault they don’t have jobs.

The Occupy Wall Street movement includes drum banging idealists and opportunistic troublemakers. However, the majority is comprised of the 99% of us – average people who are struggling with earning enough to pay the bills, those who have lost jobs and homes, and others who have never had enough. Even capitalist tool The Economist recognizes the lopsided inequity between the top 1% and everyone else and the danger of it. (http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/10/income-inequality-america)

To go back to the beginning, what has happened to the right to peaceful protest and freedom of the press? The First Amendment Center documents the free speech issues and marked increase in journalist arrests during the Occupy Wall Street movement. Free speech is hard and sometimes painful. It must be protected and witnessed.

Mary Casey is a student in the MS in Business Leadership and Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies and is an alumna of Lehman College. She is an administrator for a university in NYC. She loves to travel and wants to see as much of the world as possible. Mary has more comments on the SPS blog than she received on the community/political blog that she created and maintained from 2002 to 2004.

With all the mayhem that’s been going on in Washington, D.C. and across the United States, you’d think politicos would use some measure of wisdom.  I’ve been reading articles, watching news reports and tweeting stories, which I feel has some semblance, contrary to all the madness.

Yesterday was Halloween and I read an article on the New York Daily News’ website, which said a “Virginia county GOP sent out a mass email depicting an ugly and disturbing image of our president of the United States.”

A 2006, copyrighted AP image of Obama was created by Virginia GOP committee, which showed him as a skeletal, one-eyed man with a bullet piercing his head.

Now, I’m all for free speech in this country and abroad, but I do believe there are certain actions, which cannot be tolerated nor endorsed.  Any image portraying a sitting president of the United States in a derogatory manner, whether one agrees or not with their policies, is just unacceptable.  No one will ever totally agree with every policy a president or political figure believes in.  But the blatant disrespect of the highest office on earth is unfathomable.

There were policies that our 43rd president didn’t seem to have much wisdom in, but I certainly wouldn’t revert to name calling of any sort for his lack thereof.

Democracy is one of our country’s crown jewels, but relegating to such childish antics only chip away at the very fabric most Americans hold dear to.  Our right to free speech should never be used as a buffeting force as a means to dishonor any citizen – especially our President of the United States of America.

Poking fun at or using convoluted imagery to assault the commander-in-chief’s character only reveals how un-American one can be.

Here’s what I mean.

As a class assignment in my Digital Information in the Contemporary World, we were asked to address images and visual literacy.  One aspect of the assignment challenged us to “briefly check out one of five (assigned) sites listed, all of which use (and/or talk about) images and visualizations in different ways.  My group was given the charge of observing and critiquing the Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal.  I’ll submit two questions my professor posed to the class as a whole.

What is the source of the image or visualization? What do you know about how it was created and why? (Do you know enough?)

The sources of the images are from various photographers.  Ocean Portal either has the rights to use these images with permission from the owners or they’re the sole owners of these images.  I would gather these images were created to support the writer’s view on coral reefs and how they thrive in the ocean or not.

Question two: Have the images been manipulated or modified in any way? (Can you tell?) Does the modification, if any, enhance or distort? (Can you tell?

Yes, the images were manipulated to a degree to show the negative impact coral reefs can experience. For instance, the images show coral reefs in their highlight of vibrancy and full of color thriving in an ocean untouched by humans.  But in another screen shot,  high temperatures cause corals to lose the microscopic algae need to produce food, which feed other animals.  The high temperatures experienced in our oceans were due to global warming which shows our carbon footprint.

I also pointed out that, “the images were “distorted” to a degree with the magnification and added colors, used by the popular program photo shop.  This is the exact method that was used to distort the AP photo of our 44th President, Barack Obama.

How does my assignment have any connection to this article?

Well, as I stated earlier, visualization is one form of communication, which allows the artist, author, or blogger to get their point across.  In a book my classmate Fayola C. mentioned in her analysis of, Readings in Information Visualization: Using vision to think  she added “people think in images as much as they do in words.”

I’d have to whole-heartedly agree to that!

The derogatory image was immediately condemned by Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell and the Democratic Party of Virgina Spokesman, Brian Coy after which, the committee issued a public apology.

“The controversial image was first reported on the northern Virginia blog, Too Conservative.”

Even though the apology was issued, this group of free speech citizens wanted to justify their acts by declaring this in their statement, “[t]he Loudoun County Republican Committee yesterday sent an email to its members that represented a light-hearted attempt to inject satire into the Halloween holiday.”

I hardly call that humor.

Miranda A. Walker is currently in her freshman year in the B.A. in Communication & Culture program at CUNY School of Professional Studies.  She works in the multi-media industry as an Executive Assistant at the New York Daily News.  In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her children and reading immensely.  Her dream is to one day run her own company.

A friend and I decided to go to the Occupy Wall Street protest the first Sunday in October. We made the plans after the infamous pepper spraying incident but before the 700 arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge. We didn’t know what to expect.

The last time I participated in a group protest was in August 2004 against the RNC Convention in New York. It was a family affair – my then husband and our two eye-rolling kids who were in high school. (The family that protests together . . .) It was a very festive and diverse atmosphere, with babies being pushed in strollers and grandmas being pushed in wheelchairs. Multi-generations of families and people of all races and colors marched together.

As we marched up 7th Avenue, we were penned in by police barricades. It was hot in the sun and no one was allowed to climb under or over the barricades to buy water in any of the stores along the route. Only at certain cross streets were people allowed to enter or leave the procession. There was a major police presence with few incidents during the march. As we passed Madison Square Garden (the site of the convention) and the Fox News studio, we were met counter-protesters and the volume “words were exchanged”, but the police forced the marchers to keep moving. Funny, but the pro-Bush protesters were allowed to stake out their positions and not coerced to move.

Although the march appeared very orderly and it was far-removed from 1968 style demonstrations, it was later revealed that over 1,800 people were arrested that weekend and held in a pen on the West Side nicknamed “Guantanamo on the Hudson”. Although the NYC Police Department lost millions in civil suits overs the arrests, they were not required to release data used in leading up to those arrests. Surveillance and intelligence gathering methods were kept secret “in the interests of national security”. (http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/nypd-can-keep-its-secrets-2004-convention-arrests-remain-mysterious/)

Well, the Occupy Wall Street protests sure need some invigorating. It looked more like a tourist attraction last weekend, with out-of-towners gawking at a patchwork of humanity temporarily living in Zuccotti Park. Where are the major media outlets? Where are the thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of actual participants? Where is the outrage? Are we so beaten down and defeated that we have no fight left?

There was certainly no absence of police presence. The number of police vans filled with cops just sitting there, squad cars, unmarked cars (so obvious), uniformed police, inspectors, detectives and undercover officers was astounding to the point of being laughable. Who was protecting the rest of the city? Police barricades were set up everywhere, making walking in the area difficult. No one was allowed to use a bullhorn. Taking pictures made the police very nervous. I overheard a few of them talking among each other (if he takes a picture of me . . .). Terrorism threats and national security are the buzzwords used to keep from upsetting the status quo.

Unions such as the United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, Workers United, and Transport Workers Union Local 100 and well known people (Michael Moore, Joseph Stiglitz) and organizations (MoveOn) are joining in support of the protests against the greed and corruption that are causing the collapse of our economy and destruction of the middle class.  This will help to legitimize and publicize the movement. Isn’t it time to speak out?

Mary Casey is a student in the MS in Business Leadership and Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies and is an alumna of Lehman College. She is an administrator for a university in NYC. She loves to travel and wants to see as much of the world as possible. Mary almost has more comments on the SPS blog than she received on the community/political blog that she created and maintained from 2002 to 2004.

9/11 has become one of those dates that is etched in the minds of Americans, an event that has come to represent many things other than just the date of a terrible and devastating terrorist attack.  As the ten-year anniversary quickly approaches, I have tried to make a point to separate that event from all of the other associations I have come to have with it.  No matter how anyone feels about the wars we have been involved in since that day, the unfortunate racist reactions it sparked in some, our current political situation, or the ways in which our country has handled the War on Terror, 9/11 was a day where we all felt unified, protective of our fellow Americans.

For my mother’s generation the assassination of JFK was the event for which everyone has a clear memory of where they were when they heard, the event that changed things.  (And after this, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy.)  For my generation, 9/11 is the defining event that everyone can remember with that clarity.  I was at the beginning of my first semester at Rutgers University and lived in a tiny, shabby basement apartment with a close friend from high school.  I remember waking up that morning to a phone call from my mom on my cell phone.  I was groggy and barely aware of what she was worked up about, something about one of the trade center buildings collapsed, or blew up, or was hit by a plane or something.  I think, at 19, I was probably likely to have gone back to sleep had she not urged me to get out of bed and turn on the news.  I rolled out of bed, and stumbled out of my room to wake up my roommate Nina, and my friend Pilar who had stayed over the night before.  We were all half asleep and I remember feeling sort of ridiculous for waking them up, thinking my mom was just worked up, overly worried about safety as usual.

Nina and I had not gotten it together to order cable yet.  I don’t remember why, we probably didn’t have the money.  We tried to adjust the tv antenna enough to get a picture on a local news channel, but unfortunately our basement apartment was not conducive to good reception.  Nothing would come in.  I still felt like all of this was unnecessary, but we turned on the radio, just to see what was going on.  We found a news channel just in time to hear the second tower fall.  Huddled around the radio like that, the three of us wrapped in blankets, listening to earth changing news instead of watching it, felt like something out of the World War II era.  I didn’t know what to think, what could have happened, whether to be scared, or angry, or sad, I just remember a keen awareness that whatever was happening was big, and that it would change things.

Pilar was freaking out because her dad worked at The World Trade Center.  She was trying to call him, to call her mom to see if she had heard from him, but by now cell phone reception was spotty, and soon our phones would stop working all together.  She headed home to be with her mom, and Nina and I got dressed and headed to the student center where they had the news playing live on a huge monitor.  We stood around drinking coffee with about two hundred other students watching the news, barely anyone speaking.  Because we were in New Brunswick, not all that far from New York, many students had family members and friends who either worked or lived in the city.  The news was repeatedly showing footage of the towers imploding, or falling, or exploding, there were horror stories of people jumping out of windows.  I think we both had goosebumps.  I was worried about Pilar’s dad, other friends’ parents.  (It turned out Pilar’s dad was fine- he’d had a meeting across town that morning, but we didn’t hear this until later that night.)  We tried to call home, but cell phone providers were overrun and we couldn’t get through to our parents.  I think that may have been the last time I remember using a pay phone.  (I have tried since then, but they never work anymore.)  We got in my car and headed home to Princeton to be with our families.

The worst part about that day was not just what happened, the people who lost their lives, the unexpectedness of it, the destruction of one of the most iconic parts of the New York City skyline, it was the uncertainty, the anxiety, the palpable vulnerability.  At this point we did not know who was responsible, Osama Bin Laden was not yet a household name, and we had no idea what else was coming.  A plane went down in Pennsylvania, something hit the Pentagon.  We were under some sort of attack, but no one knew who was responsible and when it would end.  I was glued to the television for a couple of days.  The most recent election had been the first I could vote in, and I had been staunchly anti-Bush and had felt disheartened that our country had elected someone like that.  But in the days following 9/11 I remember watching him speak and trusting him, because he was our leader, and this was a bi-partisan thing, this was something that we were indisputably in together.  I felt intensely patriotic and American.  Of course as time passed and the shock wore off, as varying opinions emerged as to what should happen next, these feelings subsided somewhat, but it broke the bubble.  The sense of impenetrable safety I had felt growing up had dissipated, and that was something that would never be the same again.

Ten years later, I am a resident of New York City.  I am in my second year here, and I love New York.  The skyline I am familiar with does not have the twin towers, and it doesn’t feel impenetrable.  Osama bin Laden is not on this earth to witness the ten-year anniversary of his atrocious act.  But as this ten-year anniversary looms right around the corner, I am trying to remember and recall the only good thing that came from that day, that connectedness I felt with my fellow Americans, with my fellow humans.  The feeling that political differences were just differences of opinion, the feeling that all differences came second to the most important thing, that we were all, in one the ways that really mattered, one and the same.

 

Ann Eggers is in her senior year as a communication and culture major at CUNY SPS. She is an ex bartender turned full time student who lives in Brooklyn, NY. She loves cooking, trying new restaurants, good bourbon, The New York Times, books (to read and collect,) flea markets, outdoor movies and traveling. She recently completed a cross-country trek and is looking forward to a little down time at home before finding the next adventure.

Questionable financial protagonist Moody’s is once again in the cross-hairs, only this time, the antagonist comes with an Italian name, Michele Ruggiero. The conflict? Market manipulation.

In spring of this year, Greece’s economy hit rock bottom, striking fear in the hearts of euro investors who were primed to react irrationally at the slightest news of doom.

Enter Moody’s, international rating agency giant.

On 6 May 2010 at 11:15am, Moody’s circulated a report that rated the Italian banking and economic systems to be “at risk”. In a matter of hours the value of the Italian financial market turned into a figurative picture of a Christmas tree after New Years: thrown to the sidewalk with only a few remnants of cheap tinsel hanging off a deadened pine needle. Unlike the unfortunate tree however, the walk of shame only lasted for one day. Prime minister and part-time political scandal spotlight-stealer Silvio Berlusconi, who interestingly holds the opinion for rating agencies that much of the Italian public holds of him – lost credibility – came to the rescue, stating that the “Italian public accounts are solid [and] the country is not at risk”. Other powerful figures in politics, finance and the banking industry also intervened to debunk Moody’s claims and sustain that Italy was not at risk of default. Fitch, another international rating agency, affirmed the same and the next day Moody’s decided to change its position.

Nevertheless, the misleading information and resulting freefall, however brief, prompted the main consumer associations of Adusbef and Federconsumatori to file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office of Trani. Carlo Maria Capristo, head of the office, passed the case to Michele Ruggiero, the deputy public prosecutor who was already investigating charges against American Express regarding a fraud scandal involving revolving credit cards. Ruggiero was also part of the prosecution team investigating allegations of pressure from Berlusconi on Agcom, the Italian Communications Authority, to shut down Annozero, a political talk show whose guests frequently roast the prime minister.

At the center of the market rigging investigation is Ross Abercromby, the senior analyst who backed the statements made by Moody’s in its report. Abercromby has been issued a cautionary warrant by the prosecutor’s office of Treni; charges include manipulation of the finance market and disclosure of false information, among others. The prosecution is looking for evidence that Moody’s engaged in market rigging at the cost of investors by issuing the detrimental report that resulted in a severe alteration in the value of Italian securities. If found guilty, Moody’s could be forced to make retribution payments.

This is not the first time Moody’s has come under scrutiny. The first drama happened in 1976 when Moody’s dropped the rating of NYC MAC bonds from A to B after the state of New York had issued a moratorium on payment of principal for city notes that were outstanding, causing a huge drop in the sale of bonds and prompting allegations against Moody’s of political bias as reasons for the rating drop. In 2007 Moody’s, along with Standard and Poor’s and Fitch, came under fire for failing to predict the housing bubble crash, allowing the bubble to grow to the size it did and failing to properly adjust its ratings until the last minute when it was already too late for many investors. In April of this year Moody’s was issued a subpoena from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission for its role in assigning misleading credit ratings for toxic assets, which ultimately helped to contribute to the financial crisis of 2008.

Whether or not Moody’s did intentionally manipulate the market or whether they simply made an overly negative judgment call remains to be seen. Italy, like the rest of the world, has had its struggles since the 2008 global financial disaster. It has certainly seemed to hold its own in comparison to Greece, Portugal and Ireland as of late, although last month, Citi economist Willem Buiter cited his pessimism for the future of Italy’s risk ratings as a result of continued political instability and high debt levels. The recent Parisian-worthy mob riot in Piazza del Popolo in Rome after Berlusconi won the confidence vote by 314 to 311, in addition to the many student riots (see photos) that have taken place throughout Italy in response to University reforms, can attest to a severely divided government and angry citizens, two things that can certainly give investors reason to shudder.

Nevertheless, risk or no risk, one thing is sure; Italy will not be devaluated without a fight!

Nina Michael is in her junior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently  lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.

Sometime last year, David Mazzerelli, a 28 year-old advertising executive from Prato, Italy, developed something that makes liberals on this side of the pond cringe; a fascination for Sarah Palin’s Tea Party Ideology.

Inspired by the cries for lower taxes and less government, Mazzerelli had an epiphany; within a year, Tea Party Italia was born.

There are some substantial differences between the US Tea Party movement and that of Italy. For starters, the US tea partiers consider themselves conservatives while Italian tea partiers consider themselves liberals. Secondly, Mazzerelli’s Tea Party actually faintly resembles what one might expect a 1776-American-Revolution-Tea-Party-inspired movement to embody.

While he may have been inspired by Sarah Palin and her devotees, Mazzerelli certainly follows a different path of action. US tea partiers, aside from complaining about taxes and pontificating as to the damaging effects of the involvement of government in just about anything, like to skirt the edge of relevance by taking up issues such as abortion, gay rights, evolution, creationism and other such issues that are hardly germane to any economic related issue. Italian Tea Partiers on the other hand, restrict themselves to issues of the state. Mazzerelli says; “Before everything we refrain from taking positions on ethical, moral and religious themes. We’re interested in economic themes: less taxes, less public spending and less government.”

In a country that actually does have reality-fueled reasons for feeling skittish about skewed governmental priorities, schoolyard-like ethical mud-throwing takes a back burner with the Italian Tea Party on issues that surprisingly made it into the 21st century. Frankly, who needs Christine O’Donnell when you’ve got Pope Benedict XVI? The chances that he knows what’s in the first amendment might actually be greater.

Mazzerelli asserts that Italian tea partiers work together despite moral or ethical differences to focus on what the real issues are; “We have those that are pro-choice and those that are pro-life, those that are for the war in Iraq and those that are against it, but what unites us is the battle to have less government and more liberty.”

What the Italian Tea Party does not have are big names followed by throngs of people infatuated with conservative ideals that have nothing to do with the current state of affairs in the economy. In this respect, they have far surpassed the American Tea Party in terms of honest approbation, and relevancy. Furthermore, they have no plans for governmental affairs, nor do they seek affiliation with any party or any political figure; they are simply “by the people, for the people”, sending a message to the Italian government that Italy needs a change.

The Italian media has not dished out to the Italian Tea Party the same incessant limelight that the American Tea Party has gorged itself on, certainly no one has paid 2000 euros to see David Mazzerelli speak and so far, there has been no Italian Glenn Beck prototype spewing out melodramatic soliloquies on national television. In fact, Italian tea partiers consist mostly of educated young people, organizing meetings and protests that address the two issues that they stand for; less government, lower taxes.

Considering these two issues, which party has more reason to howl? I often suspect that many Americans simply cannot fathom how much they take for granted in the world. For the sake of time and space, I’ve erased the comparisons that I previously slathered across two pages of Microsoft’s cyber office monopoly. Let’s compare the bare minimum. [The following figures are taken from the CIA world factbook, http://www.worldwide-tax.com, http://www.taxrates.cc].

Imagine you make $50,000 dollars a year in the United States, what would your income tax rate be? Well, if you were filing as single or married and filing separately, it would be 25%, if married and filing jointly it would be 15%. What about in Italy? The current equivalent of $50,000 in euros is  38,162, which brings a standard tax rate of 38% whether single or married. By the way, the average GDP per capita in Italy is $29,000 (which would be  22,135 and taxed at 27%); in the US it’s $46,000 (with the same tax rate as $50,000). Click on the links above for further information or to compare corporate tax rates.

What about government spending? In 2009, US revenues were $2.104 trillion and expenditures were $3.52 trillion while public debt accounted for 53.5% of GDP; this is in a country with a population of 310,232,863 mind you, and a labor force of 154.2 million. In Italy, a country the size of California with a population of 58,090,681 and a labor force of 25 million, revenues totaled $987 billion in 2009 while expenditures were $1.099 trillion and public debt accounted for 115.8% of the GDP.

Before you accuse me of running a preferred narrative, let me digress: Yes, economies are bad all over the world. Yes we are all in a recession. But whilst republicans and democrats throw ostentatious stones at each other, O’Donnell and Palin ironically campaign for Intelligent design, and Berlusconi declares “Hey at least I’m not gay!” on national television, the world is once again manifesting those fun little side effects of human society that occur when the going gets tough: pissed off groups of people that demand change, some more relevant than others.

So what will become of these tea parties? Nothing, we might argue, and we may be right. Nevertheless, the Italian spawn of the American headline grabbers certainly make the latter seem like much ado about nothing.

Nina Michael is in her junior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently  lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.

Today is Election Day, and we could quite possibly see many changes in Congress and in governships. It’s just not the kind of change that President Obama and his supporters were hoping for. See, the Democrats are on track to lose seats in both the House and the Senate, with a very good chance of losing control of one or both of them.   The writing has been on the wall for months, as unemployment continues to remain high and foreclosures hit record numbers.  This has made people angry, very angry, and they are targeting their anger at the party in power—the Democrats.

The most visible, and I stress visible, example of citizen outrage has been the Tea Party.  Some have argued that their size and strength are not as massive as the media has made it out to be.  Regardless, their message has received immense media coverage. Tea Party supporters not only call for a reduction in government spending and tower taxes but also accuse the President of being a socialist. The latter, and of course the former, are most vocally expressed by Fox News personalities like Bill O’Reilly and Glen Beck.

The first casualty of voter backlash happened in January, in Massachusetts, when Republican Scott Brown, in a special election, won the vacant U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy—a hero among liberal Democrats.  Brown campaigned on a platform that railed against the healthcare bill and decried the woes of government spending.  Now enter organized labor.

The very next day, the president of the AFL-CIO, Rich Trumka, released a video discussing the results in Massachusetts.  He rightfully pointed out that pundits in the corporate media were going to attribute the outcome to voters punishing the Democrats for overreaching in policy-making, when the opposite is true.  For example, on issues like healthcare, many Americans feel that the bill did not go far enough!  Trumka stressed that working people feel like Wall Street and the bankers are being taken care of but working people are not.  He said that Scott Brown’s victory should be a wake-up call to both Democrats and Labor.  It signaled that people want action and not excuses.  It was an excellent address.   However, what kind of action would Labor take as part of their wake-up call?

Well, even before the Brown victory, Trumka threatened to cut support for Democrats who didn’t push for a more comprehensive healthcare bill and who didn’t back the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).  Specifically concerning healthcare, Trumka issued a threat:

Well, we need to send them a special message: it’s that you may have forgotten what the labor movement did to get you elected; but, by God, we never will! And if you stab us in the back on health care this year don’t you dare ask us for our support next year!

Fast forward to the present. What has happened? Healthcare passed without a public option, EFCA is not even being talked about, and the government is not taking adequate measures to spur job creation—like something along the lines of a public works project of some sort.  Then, don’t forget that we have two wars going on and something called climate change. Oh, boy! Watch out! Labor must be planning to run more progressive candidates against Democratic incumbents who did not follow through, right? Wrong.

Instead, all of the blame is being put only on Republicans and Fox News.  Labor is scrambling, at the tune of millions of dollars, to get the very same Democrats who should be on the chopping block re-elected.  Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this situation?  Didn’t these people betray us?

I am in no way advocating that Labor throw their support behind the Republicans as a way to smite the Democrats. I am saying that if Labor truly wants to fight on behalf of working-class people, it needs to be able to flex its muscle and make good on its promises (and threats).  Otherwise, our elected officials have no reason to listen to us.  As Trumka, himself, noted, Americans truly want change in a progressive direction.  The labor movement should be at the forefront of providing a vehicle for that change, and to get on that path, the unions out there might want to question their relationship to the Democratic Party.

I would also like to make a suggestion to labor leaders and rank-and-file workers, alike.  We should always work to get the most pro-labor candidates in office, but time after time, we see politicians fall very short on their promises. There is a way, however, to increase the chances that our voices are heard and our demands met. And that way is to mobilize the power we have as workers outside of the ballot box.  Sometimes we need to vote with our feet in the streets.  We could definitely learn from our fellow workers in France about that.

John Cronan Jr is a restaurant worker, organizer, and a masters student at the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies.  Currently, he is a volunteer organizer for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY). John is also an avid Boston sports fan.