Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wrong About the Right

Wrong About the Right
by Jean Hardisty and Deepak Bhargava

The now dominant narrative about the right's rise to power holds that
conservatives invested huge amounts of money in a number of think tanks
over the past thirty years and brilliantly framed their messages in ways
that were simple and resonated deeply with much of the American public.
By embracing a top-down, hierarchical movement structure and relentless
message discipline, the right was able not only to triumph at the ballot
box but also to change the very terms of political
discussion--demonizing "big government" and celebrating "tax relief,"
"personal responsibility" and "free-market capitalism."

This account of conservative strategy has piqued the interest of a
growing number of progressive groups, who argue that the left should
adopt a similar strategy. And it is currently driving the activities of
many major progressive donors.

The difficulty here is that, as an explanation of the right's
ascendancy, it is at best incomplete and at worst misleading. What's
more, it is not clear that progressives should emulate all of the
right's tactics, or that we will succeed by doing so. There are
certainly lessons to be learned from the right--but for the most part
they are different from those commonly assumed. Here is an alternative
view of the insights progressives should take away from three decades of
conservative domination.

Secrets of Their Success

(1) Ideological Diversity. There is no monolithic "conservative"
movement but rather a plethora of ideologies successfully harnessed
together in a grand coalition. In the 1970s, as the New Right emerged
from the discredited old right, a fragile truce was drawn among
libertarians, economic conservatives, social conservatives and
neoconservatives. Under the leadership of William F. Buckley Jr., editor
of the influential National Review magazine and host of TV's Firing
Line, tensions were negotiated and a "fusion politics" emerged that
allowed for cooperation across differences. Such a truce is more easily
maintained when a movement is winning, as the New Right was under
President Ronald Reagan. Now, in George W. Bush's second term, the fault
lines are reappearing.

The implication for progressives is that we ought to tolerate a
diversity of views and think strategically about how to align them to
common purpose rather than seek a homogeneity we falsely ascribe to
conservatives. Conservatives also found that it's not always the most
mainstream or moderate voices who win. Likewise, progressives with a
more radical vision, while working collaboratively in the larger
movement, must not let themselves be sidelined.

(2) Ideas, Not Messages. To the extent that conservatives were
serious about ideas--and to be sure they were and are--they started not
with "messaging" or "framing," two strategies currently in vogue among
progressives, but rather with inquiry into core beliefs about race,
government, family, markets and global economic and military domination.
These core beliefs were at first far outside the mainstream of accepted
political discourse. But by carefully constructing an ideological
blueprint for their movement (despite lack of complete buy-in from
every sector), the right has been working for more than twenty-five
years with a set of unifying ideological principles to which their
strategists and activists return time and again. Support for "family
values," limited government, a strong military, white domination and the
primacy of Christianity over other religions, when combined with a will
to power, have served the right well.

On the left many intellectual projects are more tactical in nature and
avoid asking fundamental questions--not about how we talk but about what
we actually believe. For instance, we are at our best when fighting a
reactionary policy or program, such as tax cuts for the wealthy or
attacks on voting rights. But progressives are not unified, or even
clear, about what we affirmatively want in terms of a role for
government, a just economy or rights for individuals and groups.

(3) Active Listening. It is often noted that the structure of the
conservative movement is hierarchical and that because the leadership
has such a high level of control, conservative campaigns have always
been well coordinated and executed with great precision. Less often
noted is that their masterstroke was not that they went off in a room
and decided on a few cornerstone values and then aligned their work and
campaigns to speak to those values. Their genius was that they first
engaged in a practice of active listening and found a core of resentment
among large numbers of Americans--about race, class, gender and
sexuality--that could provide the emotional base for a new intellectual
paradigm. They did this in the 1970s, at precisely the time when
liberals stopped listening, presuming that the reactionary
ideas of the old right were so far out of favor that only the most
uninformed and backward voters supported them. Today, liberals rely
heavily on polling--a shallow kind of listening--or push ideas at the
country without deeply engaging with people first.

(4) The Importance of Recruitment. Think tanks and their output of
ideas, analysis and information are a necessary but not sufficient
component of any effective social movement. Conservatives focused on
building powerful mass-based institutions that could provide muscle for
a conservative agenda, such as the National Rifle Association, the Moral
Majority, the American Family Association and, later, Focus on the
Family, Concerned Women for America and the Christian Coalition of
America. Many of these mass-based organizations were explicitly
Christian and played a vital role in recruiting evangelical and
fundamentalist Christians to the New Right of
the 1980s.

Further, the right's core leadership showed extraordinary creativity in
exploiting new technologies. For example, Richard Viguerie pioneered the
use of direct mail; Ralph Reed Jr. of the Christian Coalition developed
"stealth" methods of campaigning for political office without revealing
the candidates' actual right-wing agenda and used churches to mobilize
voters. The right's strategists focused not only on ideas and policies
but also on organizing a base and developing recruitment techniques to
build the base. The contemporary right has always been clear about the
importance of recruiting greater numbers to its movement. An examination
of right-wing campaigns reveals that, in nearly every case, the
opportunity for recruitment plays a central role in their
conceptualization and execution. Progressives would make a
tragic mistake by neglecting base-building in the current period.

(5) Electoral Politics as Means, Not End. The architects of the
right's rise to power did not view their project as the election of
Republicans to state and federal office. They perceived the Republican
Party as a tool to achieve certain ends, rather than as the end in
itself; the takeover of the party was important because it would turn
the country toward a reactionary agenda. That the takeover occurred is a
reflection of the potency of the strategy. This is crucially important
because some progressives tend to conflate the project of building a
just world with the project of electing Democrats to office. Winning
people over is our central task. After all, progressive advances do not
always come under Democratic administrations. It was Richard Nixon,
after all, who proposed a guaranteed annual income for the poor, while
Bill Clinton approved time limits on welfare benefits.

It's also important to remember that the right worked at the federal,
state and local levels and used both "inside" and "outside" strategies
to influence the realm of political office-holding and the terrain of
public opinion. No one aspect of movement-building was emphasized at the
expense of others. It is that strength--approaching movement-building as
a whole package--that explains much of the right's growth and

(6) Fearless Politics. The right has not been afraid to propose
extreme positions, knowing they will be pushed back to more moderate
ones still well to the right of the status quo. We've seen this in
almost every policy fight since 1980. By boldly taking stands that are
far outside the mainstream, the right has managed to pull the mainstream
to the right, which is why it is now perceived as speaking for the
majority. For progressives, meanwhile, timidity, ambiguity and constant
compromise have not proved successful strategies; projecting a clear,
principled and uncompromising voice of progressive values and policies
is not only morally compelling but strategically smart.

Learning From Our Own History

Historically, left and liberal agendas--the New Deal, civil rights laws,
the Great Society, women's advancement--have made progress when mass
movements have forced change. To be sure, the ideas of John Maynard
Keynes were crucial in legitimizing and pointing the way to a new form
of capitalism and FDR was the right leader for the times, but the New
Deal wasn't won by economic experts. It was won by ordinary people who
organized to create a sense of crisis and a mandate for change.

While there is no formula for a social movement, we know that successful
ones share some things in common. First, people become mobilized around
issues they hold dear; at some level they share a powerful vision about
what is wrong with society and how it must be improved; and they engage
in lots of diverse activities not under any one leader's direct control.
The resulting political motion and its effect lead to a change in
attitudes, practices and public policy.

Our current infatuation with the strategies and structures of the right
has led some progressives to call for a more streamlined, hierarchical
movement, but this is not how we've won in the past. Progressive
movements have been successful when they have not had a top-down
organizational structure. Also, this analysis fails to appreciate the
comprehensiveness of the right's movement-building style. And it does
not reflect progressive democratic principles. Consider, for example,
the civil rights movement. Despite the popular perception of the Rev.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s singular importance, the movement had many
sectors under many leaders, with different ideologies and different
priorities--people like Septima Clark, Ella Baker and Bob Moses, all of
whom believed in the centrality of developing ordinary people as agents
of change rather than in charismatic leadership or coalitions of elites.
The same could be said of the women's movement and the environmental
movement. Progressive movements certainly need a generally agreed-upon
critique of society and vision for change, as well as mechanisms for
coordination. But letting a thousand flowers bloom can prove a strength,
so long as power does not collect around the most "achievable" social
change as opposed to the most just social change.

Race and Social Change

A movement must have a dynamic leading edge before its positions become
majority positions. Many of the progressive gains in American history
were not majority agendas--ending slavery, civil rights, disability
rights, AIDS advocacy and farmworker boycotts succeeded as struggles led
by minorities. In some cases they were struggles led by people who
weren't even enfranchised. How is that possible?

Often, deeply felt issues raised by groups whose numbers are in the
minority have the power to convert, while issues that theoretically
should be in everyone's interest never take hold. A necessary (though
not sufficient) condition for an issue to attain broad majoritarian
support is vibrant, well-organized submovements. Many of our
submovements, such as the women's, environmental, LGBT and civil rights
submovements, are demoralized, underfunded and increasingly influenced
by their own more conservative wings. Further, the progressive
movement's tendency to downplay racial issues and concerns consistently
blocks our process of building from submovements' success to an
effective broad progressive movement. For instance, even though
African-Americans have been the core of progressive politics, it is
often African-Americans who have been taken for granted and neglected by
the progressive movement, which is too often white dominated and focused
on issues of concern to white activists. As long as the movement fails
to become more inclusive and democratic, it will continue to limp along
without access to the wisdom and insight of the most vital part of its
base. Race today is not simply a matter of black and white: Many other
groups and movements of immigrants--Latinos, Asian/Pacific
Island-Americans, Arab-Americans and Native Americans--must also have a
full seat at the table. Conservatives are avidly courting these groups.
When people of color look for allies to advance their issues, there is
no reason to assume they will support the larger progressive movement
when their issues receive only lip service and they are not widely
represented in the movement's leadership and decision-making structures.

This is not only about "credibility" or "diversity." It is actually
about effectiveness. The whiteness of our leadership has played out, for
example, in a tendency to write off large parts of the
country--including the South, the Southwest and the High Plains--which
has proved politically disastrous. Further, a predominantly white
leadership tends to neglect issues like immigrant rights and criminal
justice because they are not pressing concerns of the "majority" of
voters. The perception that an issue can't galvanize a wide majority or
appeal to at least 51 percent of the electorate can sink the issue in
the current climate of poll-driven strategizing. Certainly the
progressive movement needs to pursue programs that knit together diverse
constituencies, but even very broad issues such as healthcare or the
environment will look different when they reflect the concerns of all

The Role of Organizing

Some progressives consider grassroots organizing a remnant of an old
style of politics no longer relevant to our media- and money-saturated
times. Others think of it as an actual obstacle to the efficient,
hierarchical infrastructure they idealize. But conservatives have
nurtured their grassroots constituencies in civic institutions,
evangelical churches and gun clubs. Organizing is central to any
effective strategy for revitalizing the progressive movement.

Organizing, not to be confused with mobilizing, is ultimately what
changes people's minds. Whereas mobilizing is about moving people to
take certain actions (voting, lobbying policy-makers, coming out to an
event or calling your Congress member on an issue pre-selected by
someone else), organizing is about developing the skills, confidence and
practice among ordinary people to speak out in their own voice.

What ultimately forces change is human beings seeing fellow human beings
act from a place of deep conviction. That moment of recognition can
occur only when people who are living with an injustice bring their
experience to the public square. Of course, solidarity efforts are
crucial to social change. It's hard to imagine the farmworkers, or the
civil rights workers in the South, succeeding if they had failed to
rouse broader sympathy throughout the country. But they were able to do
this only because they spoke with an authenticity that transcended walls
of race and class prejudice. No policy paper or slick message will ever
replace the power of organizing.

Major changes in the social order require a leap of "nonconsent" by the
governed. That might be millions of people refusing the draft, or
thousands boycotting buses in Montgomery, or hundreds "dying in" to
protest delays in AIDS research. While the tidal wave of conservative
successes at the federal level is obvious, the less-obvious victories
progressives have had in recent years are largely attributable to
organizing: major new investments in affordable housing through housing
trust funds, new money for transit, living- and minimum-wage laws,
expansions in health coverage at the state level, more income supports
for low-wage workers, education access, driver's licenses for immigrants
and limits on natural resource extraction.

Organizing is, as George W. Bush might say, "hard work"--never more so
than in current circumstances. Memories of successful collective
struggle are fading fast among a new generation not raised with the
1960s as a backdrop. Market culture has penetrated all spheres of life,
and it has reinforced deeply individualistic strains in American
society. Also, pervasive economic insecurity, increasing work demands
and a shredded safety net have heightened the personal costs involved.

Organizing has always had an uneasy place not only in the broader
culture but also in progressive circles. It has frequently been
sidelined by expert-driven advocacy or by charismatic figures who lead
short-lived protest movements, and today it is at risk of being
displaced by a focus on think tanks and communications strategies.
Perhaps more alarming, however, is the relative decline of organizing as
a strategy relative to mobilization. The work of many 527 organizations
prominent in the Bush and Kerry campaigns of 2004 (America Coming
Together and the Media Fund, for example) seemed to be about parachuting
into communities and soliciting votes, with little thought about what
would be left behind.

For all the difficulties, progressives are engaging in some exciting
experimentation with new methods of base-building appropriate to our
times. Organized labor is in the throes of a debate about how to rebuild
membership. There has been an explosion in community-based "worker
centers" and in immigrant community organizations. And in a few states,
groups are beginning to work together across issue and constituency
lines to develop common long-term strategies. This success is very
fragile and tentative, however, and it is still the case that organizing
tends not to get the respect, attention or resources it needs from the
larger progressive community.

A problem closely related to the neglect of organizing is the failure of
many progressive organizations to recruit and encourage leadership from
young people, especially young people of color. Young people have
political, social and economic perspectives that differ from those of
older (usually Baby Boomer) activists, who were shaped by the events of
the 1960s and '70s. Younger activists, organizers and intellectuals will
enrich the movement and take it in new directions, if given the freedom
and the power to do so.

Clarifying Basic Principles

While the focus of progressive movement-building is now on creating
large organizations "to scale," yet another of the movement's greatest
challenges is being neglected: We are undecided on the larger principles
that underlie our work for social justice. Many people don't like to do
this "big picture" thinking. They prefer results-oriented activism
and practical solutions. And they are correct that larger
principles must be tied to people's everyday concerns and identifiable,
attainable goals.

But to be successful, mass organizing must be informed by visionary
principles as well as nuts-and-bolts techniques. Most bold new policy
proposals grow out of the everyday work that activists in submovements
do on various issues. These proposals--for example, national
healthcare, full rights and services for immigrants, or replacing
the racist criminal justice system--are not the polished, poll-tested,
slightly left-of-center ones increasingly attractive to
Democratic Party centrists. Indeed, they may seem fringe and far out of
the mainstream. But they have their roots in real material conditions.

What we lack are the overarching principles to tie these proposals
together. In the 1960s and '70s progressives generally agreed that
government had a responsibility to defend the weak or temporarily weak,
protect individual rights, provide a reasonable standard of living and
regulate private enterprise to protect the public from rampant greed and
criminal behavior. Battered by the right's relentless assaults on these
core principles, progressive movement activists today do not have a
coherent vision. Instead, we are driven by a vague sense of what a
better society would look like, a recognition of how times have changed
and persistent despair as we fight one defensive battle after another.

It is therefore essential that we address several fundamental questions
right now: What is the role and responsibility of government? How
can the racial imbalance of our movement's leadership be corrected? What
role should religion play in public life? How should progressives
respond to globalization? And what social issues should we identify as
"bottom line"? As principles that respond to these questions
emerge, we must not allow political expediency to trump creativity. The
voices of people of color, and young people and women of all races must
be explicitly sought out. Funding may facilitate this discussion, but it
will not in itself produce a dynamic vision. Think tanks alone will not
develop these principles, and framing and messaging will not substitute
for them. The process of drawing out larger principles must be an
organic one: a step-by-step process of slowly creating broad consensus.
Here, we can learn from the right's success with active listening.

While the challenges we face are considerable, they are not
insurmountable. But we must get moving so that when the tide of public
opinion turns in our direction, we are not caught flatfooted, with
a movement badly in need of reform and lacking the very basics needed to
seize the moment and go forward. The right was ready for the backlash of
the late 1970s. We must be ready for the coming backlash against the
outrages of the past twenty-five years.

This article can be found on the web at:


Monday, October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks. Rest in Peace

Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Pioneer, Dies at 92
By Elaine Woo
Times Staff Writer

8:09 PM PDT, October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks, the Alabama seamstress whose simple act of defiance on a segregated Montgomery bus in 1955 stirred the nonviolent protests of the modern civil rights movement and catapulted an unknown minister named Martin Luther King Jr. to international prominence, died Monday of natural causes at her home in Detroit. She was 92.

Often called the mother of the movement that led to the dismantling of institutionalized segregation in the South, Parks became a symbol of human dignity when she was jailed for refusing to relinquish her bus seat to a white person when she was riding home from work on the evening of Dec. 1, 1955.

Her arrest for violating Alabama's bus segregation laws galvanized Montgomery's blacks, who boycotted the city's buses for 381 days until the U.S. Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional.

Memorialized in poetry, dance and song, Parks was, by most accounts, both simpler and more complex than the mythology that grew around her.

She was born Feb. 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Ala., to Leona Edwards, a teacher, and James McCauley, a carpenter and builder. Her parents split up when she was 5, causing her mother to move Rosa and her younger brother Sylvester to live with family in Pine Level, a small town near Montgomery.

Some of her early memories were of white people who treated blacks kindly, particularly a Yankee soldier who said she was cute and "treated me like I was just another little girl, not a little black girl," Parks wrote in her 1992 autobiography, " Rosa Parks: My Story".

But she also remembered an old black man named Gus Vaughn who refused to work for whites. And she remembered how her grandfather kept a gun by his side to protect the family against raids by the Ku Klux Klan.

The earliest hint of the fortitude that would bolt her to a bus seat years later may have come when she 10. She had encountered on the road near home a white boy named Franklin, who uttered some offensive words and threatened to hit her. Young Rosa picked up a brick and dared him to strike. Franklin, she recalled, "thought better of the idea and went away."

Her grandmother was horrified by Rosa's behavior. You'll be lynched before you turn 20 if you keep standing up to whites, she scolded.

Parks once speculated that the urge to stand up to oppressors may have come from protecting her little brother from bullies. Whatever the cause, "I do know," she wrote, "that I had a very strong sense of what was fair."

Her mother was her only teacher until she was 11, when she was sent to the Montgomery Industrial School. Founded and staffed by whites to educate black children, the school was burned down twice by arsonists and the faculty was ostracized by the white community.

Parks took academic classes there, as well as some vocational training. But she said the most important lesson she learned "was that I was a person with dignity and self-respect, and I should not set my sights lower than anybody else just because I was black."

She went to high school at a laboratory school run by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes, but was forced to drop out to care for her grandmother and later for her mother. She went back to school for her degree in 1933, after she married Raymond Parks, a Montgomery barber.

Raymond Parks was also an activist in the local NAACP and helped raise money to defend the nine black men accused in the Scottsboro rape case, one of the most sensational racial trials of the Depression era. He was the first man aside from her grandfather with whom Parks could discuss racial conditions, and it impressed her that he was not afraid of whites.

After her marriage, Parks held a succession of jobs, from domestic worker to hospital aide. To get to work, she rode the bus, as the majority of blacks did. But black bus passengers had to follow certain rules. The first 10 seats were reserved for whites, even if no whites got on the bus. Blacks had to sit in the back rows or, if those were filled, stand up. If the white section filled up, some drivers ordered blacks to give up their seats.

The rules often varied according to the bus driver. Some drivers made black passengers board through the front door to pay their fare, then reenter through the back door to find a seat. If they were unlucky, the bus would take off before they had a chance to get back on.

One day in 1943, Parks boarded a bus to register to vote. But the back of the bus was standing room only, even on the back steps. Instead of stepping off to go to the back door after paying her fare in front, Parks just walked down the aisle.

The driver, James Blake, demanded that she disembark and reenter through the back door. Parks got off, but instead of reboarding she waited for the next bus. She swore to herself never to ride with that driver again.

But on a winter evening 12 years later, after a long day at work, Parks got on a bus to go home, forgetting to check who was behind the wheel.

She was by then an active member of the NAACP and a recent graduate of Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, a training ground for civil rights workers where whites served her meals and studied side by side with her as herequal.

When she got off work on that December evening. she was preoccupied with final arrangements for an upcoming NAACP workshop. She paid her fare before she noticed that the driver was Blake.

She saw an empty seat in the middle of the bus--"no man's land"-- and took it. At the next stop, the white section filled up and one white passenger was left standing. Blake turned around and said to Parks and the other three blacks in the front rows of the black section, "Let me have those front seats."

They all balked, at first. Then, after Blake ordered them up again, three complied. Parks refused to budge.

The only words she spoke were "No" when he asked her if she was going to stand up, and "You may do that" when he said he would have her arrested. The police were summoned, and she was taken away in a squad car.

She was not the first black to be arrested for defying the segregation rules; at least two other women that year had been jailed for the same offense. The NAACP wanted to challenge the law and had been on the lookout for someone who would make a good test case, but both of the first two women had something unsavory in their backgrounds which made them unsuitable plaintiffs.

Parks, however, was secretary of the Montgomery NAACP. She was, as Pulitzer Prize winning historian Taylor Branch noted in "Parting the Waters," an account of the early days of the civil rights movement, a "tireless worker and churchgoer, of working-class station and middle-class demeanor."

She was, in other words, the ideal plaintiff.

Several hours after her arrest she was bailed out of jail by NAACP activist E.D. Nixon, civil rights lawyer Clifford Durr and his activist-wife Virginia. That night they all gathered at Parks' home. Nixon asked if she would be willing to be the plaintiff in a test case against the bus segregation law. Although her husband feared that lending her name to the cause would get her killed, she said yes.

She had plenty of opportunity for forethought, but Parks said she never intended to get arrested.

Nor did she refuse to give up her seat because she was tired, as many in her legion of admirers told the story. She was not any more weary that day than usual.

"No," she said, "the only tired I was, was tired of giving in." The little girl of 10 who refused to take guff from a white boy had grown into a 42-year-old woman who couldn't see why she should stand up so a white person could sit down. Years later, that December day when Parks said no would be remembered by "Soul on Ice" author Eldridge Cleaver as the moment when "a gear in the machinery shifted," changing race relations in America.

On Dec. 5, she was found guilty of violating the state segregation law and was fined $10 plus a $4 court fee, which Nixon paid. Civil rights activists and a group of black women laid plans to launch a bus boycott.

King, the 26-year-old minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and a newcomer to Montgomery, was chosen to run the boycott. He and the other black leaders were full of trepidation about the success of the planned action. But for blacks it was a hopeful time: Just the year before, in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned school segregation in Brown vs. the Board of Education.

The Montgomery boycott succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its planners: What was planned as a one-day action stretched to a year and two weeks.

The boycott nearly bankrupted Montgomery's public transit system, which depended on black riders for as much as two-thirds of its revenues. It also sorely tested the ingenuity and tenacity of black Montgomery residents, few of whom owned cars. Those who did own them were pressed into service to power an elaborate, ad-hoc system of carpooling and private cabs; Parks, who had lost her seamstress job, served as a dispatcher.

King launched the boycott with a speech at a mass meeting held at the Holt Street Baptist Church on the night of Parks' conviction. Giving his first political address, he roused the thousands of Montgomery blacks who packed the church and jammed streets for blocks around it with fiery eloquence:

"...there comes a time," he intoned in the sonorous voice that soon would stir millions, "when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression....We are here," he said, "we are here because we are tired now...."

Over the next year, boycotters endured firebombings, hate calls, police harassment and trials for conspiracy. They convened weekly in churches for mass meetings where old hymns were turned into freedom songs. Parks received death threats. Although an icon in the budding civil rights movement, she became a notorious public enemy in the eyes of many others. She was "labeled 'nigger traitor' by half of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate from south of the Mason-Dixon line," historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in his recent biography, "Rosa Parks."

On Nov. 13, 1956, segregation on buses in Montgomery was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The boycott ended a week later in that city, but sprang anew in Birmingham and other cities in the South. Years of tumult over equality for blacks had only just begun.

Shootings of blacks boarding buses and bombings of black churches greeted the court decision. Parks' husband was driven to what biographer Brinkley called "near-suicidal despair" by the the death threats targeting them. In 1957, Parks reluctantly left Montgomery and moved with Raymond to Detroit, where she had family.

She continued to participate in the movement, marching at Selma and in the 1963 March on Washington. Eventually, she found a job as a receptionist and case worker in the Detroit office of Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). She retired in 1988 after 14 years.

Raymond Parks died in 1977. They had no children.

In 1987, Parks founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute to help black children excel and improve their sense of self worth.

Decades after her revolt on the Montgomery bus, her name was invoked by revolutionaries across the globe, from Vaclav Havel of the former Czech republic, to Nelson Mandela of South Africa. When a lone Chinese student faced down an army tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989, Mandela characterized it as "a Rosa Parks moment."

In her 80s, she amassed honors--a lifetime achievement award from the American Public Transit Assn., the International Freedom Conductor Award from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. In 1996 President Clinton bestowed the Medal of Freedom and in 1999 Congress awarded her the Congressional Gold Medal. She also was blessed by Pope John Paul II during one of his last visits to the U.S.

When she was 81, Parks was mugged in her modest, rented home in Detroit; the crime apparently was committed by a black man. Parks suffered bruises on her face and was robbed of a sum less than $10O.

The incident was discouraging to her--"So many of our children are going astray," she commented at the time--but her spirit appeared unbroken. She continued to make appearances around the country, often for the purpose of cutting the ribbon at a school or health center named in her honor.

Last year a library and museum was dedicated in her name on the very spot in Montgomery where she was arrested five decades earlier. Missouri also named a portion of Interstate 55 south of St. Louis the Rosa Parks Highway--the same stretch of highway sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan.

"There is something divine about her," the Rev. Jesse Jackson once said. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the prominent black scholar, called her "the Harriet Tubman of our time." Recognizing her contribution to humanity, she was blessed by Pope John Paul II on one of his last trips to the U.S.

But Parks never thought herself a saint. In a 1995 interview with the Washington Post, she said she was "just a person who wanted to be seated on the bus. . . .

"I want everyone to remember me as a person who wanted to be free."

Monday, October 17, 2005

Latino Leaders oppose California Props 74, 75 & 76

Nunez, Padilla, Latino Leaders Unite Against Governor’s Agenda, Urge Community to Vote No on Propositions 74, 75, 76 and 77

Monterey Park, CA – Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and L.A. City Council President Alex Padilla gathered with other California Latino elected officials and community leaders for a press conference today in order to show that they are united in opposition to the Governor’s agenda, which takes California in the wrong direction and hurts Latino families, and instead are working to support good schools, affordable health care, safe communities and a better quality of life.

“The Governor’s so-called reform agenda – which was dreamt up by Pete Wilson and his staffers who now work for Arnold – hurts our public schools, threatens quality health care and cuts funding to local law enforcement,” Speaker Núñez said. “The Governor’s people have said outright that they are counting on us to not turn out to vote. But we’re here to show the Governor that the Latino voters cannot be taken for granted, cannot be brushed aside, and cannot be silenced.”

“We are opposed to these phony reforms because they hurt our public schools, threaten quality health care and cut funding to local government and law enforcement,” said L.A. City Council President Alex Padilla. “These initiatives are designed to shift power to the Governor and make things worse for the average Californian.”

“This weekend, we will be walking precincts in East L.A. in the name of my late husband, Miguel Contreras,” said Maria Elena Durazo, UNITE/HERE Local 11 President. “I ask the Latino community and all hardworking Californians to get out there and show the Governor that we won’t be silenced, and we won’t be ignored.”

L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, a native of Los Angeles, said, “The neighborhood where I grew up in East L.A. was tough. And now the Governor is trying to cut funding from the essentail services that make our streets safer, such as the police and fire departments. I know that the Latino community will not accept the Governor’s dangerous agenda.”

“As a Latina woman, I can tell you that the Governor’s ideas are wrong for California and wrong for women,” added Assemblymember Cindy Montañez (D-San Fernando).

“His agenda is being backed by the same right-wing extremists who want to roll back Roe v. Wade and women’s rights. He may underestimate us, but Latina woman no longer trust this Governor to keep his word and we will reject his agenda on November 8th.”

Participants in the press conference, held at the East Los Angeles Community College, consisted of elected officials as well as Los Angeles community leaders, including Congresswoman Hilda Solis, State Senator Richard Alarcon (D-Sun Valley), Assemblymember Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), L.A. City Councilman Ed Reyes, SEIU Local 660 President Annelle Grajeda, SEIU Local 1877 President Mike Garcia, Salvadoran Legal and Education Fund executive director Carlos Vaquerano, Silvia Beltran of Homies Unidos, and President of Latino Movement USA Juan José Gutierrez.

The Alliance for a Better California is a coalition of nearly 2.5 million firefighters, nurses, teachers, police officers, and other working Californians and community members who oppose Propositions 74-78.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tragedy in Guatemala

Se teme que haya más de 2.000 muertos en Guatemala por deslizamiento de tierras
Mientras tanto, continúan los esfuerzos de rescate al otro lado del mundo, en Guatemala, donde deslizamientos de tierra dejaron pueblos enteros sepultados por hasta seis metros de barro. Se confirmaron más de 650 muertes, pero 1.400 personas permanecen desaparecidas y se cree que fueron enterradas vivas. El gobierno considera declarar que ciertas áreas son cementerios colectivos. Un bombero dijo: “Si hubiera sido un terremoto, habría esperanzas de encontrar sobrevivientes, pero aquí en el barro, no lo creo. Podría tardar un mes en secarse”. Los habitantes de Panabaj, uno de los pueblos mas afectados, se negaron a permitir el ingreso del ejercito, debido al recuerdo de una masacre cometida por esa fuerza militar en 1990.

Devastated by Mudslides, Guatemalan Villagers Refuse Military Aid Remembering 1990 Army Massacre
Tuesday, October 11th, 2005
The death toll in Central America following Hurricane Stan is still climbing after torrential rains caused deadly floods and mudslides. We go to Guatamala City to speak with Paul Menchu, brother of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Rigoberta Menchu Tum. [includes rush transcript]

More than 650 are confirmed dead in Guatemala and 1,400 more listed as missing. At least 100 others have died in Mexico and neighboring Central American countries. In the central highlands of Guatemala, whole villages were wiped out by mudslides, burying thousands alive and displacing tens of thousands of people.
Guatemalan President Oscar Berger's government has been widely criticized for responding too slowly to the tragedy. Hardly any federal aid has arrived in Panabaj or the surrounding area, where the death toll could be as much as 1,500. On Monday rescuers gave up after five days of searching the village for bodies under the mud. Officials will likely declare the area a mass grave. Rescuers have had to use boats and helicopters to bring in food and medicine because thousands of miles of roads and dozens of bridges have been burid under mudslides.
In Panabaj, villagers were reportedly refusing to allow the Guatemalan army in because of haunting memories of a 1990 massacre by the military. At the time, 2,000 to 3,000 villagers were protesting a military raid when the army raked the the crowd, of mostly indigenous descent, with machine-gun fire. At least 11 civilians were gunned down. Much of the region remains fearful of the military after 36 years of fighting that ended in 1996. During that time more than 100,000 Guatemalans died, the majority at the hands of the Guatamalan military.

-1. Paul Menchu, Director of the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation, brother of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Rigoberta Menchu Tum.
-1. Beatrice Manz, Anthropologist and professor at the University of California Berkeley.
Related Links:
-1. Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation
-1. Madre
AMY GOODMAN: From Guatemala, we're joined by Paul Menchu. He is the brother of Rigoberta Menchu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Paul heads the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation. We are also joined on the phone from Berkeley, California, by Beatrice Manz, anthropologist and professor at UC Berkeley. Her newest book is called Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope. She, Guatemalan. First, let us turn to Paul Menchu. On the ground, what do you know has happened? (And he will be translated.)
PAUL MENCHU: [translated] Good morning. Starting with the passing of Hurricane Stan, which affected Central America and Mexico, the worst damages have been in Guatemala. Among the population, there are problems of lack of supplies, great death, and a loss of hope, because this storm hit the ground in a very populated region. This happened on the south coast and in the mountains of Guatemala, where most of the indigenous population lives. The main problem has been on the south coast where we have flooding and also mudslides and avalanches in the mountains, which have buried entire villages.
Another problem that we're facing is that we have lost a lot of our farms, and this is going to mean in the short term that we're going to have hunger problems in Guatemala. There is also the situation of health, because in some places where the dead have not been able to be removed, we're afraid of epidemics and health problems that will happen because of the lack of water. So this is a big problem for many villages who will need to be entirely reconstructed and are also having lack of food problems.
AMY GOODMAN: Paul Menchu is on the line with us from Guatemala, the brother of Rigoberta Menchu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Guatemala. She spoke and -- has spoken out against the Guatemalan military for many years, against the massacres in the highlands. On the phone with us also is a Guatemalan anthropologist, professor at University of California Berkeley, Beatrice Manz. We're getting reports that people, Professor Manz, are refusing to allow the military in at Panabaj because of memories of the 1990 Santiago Atitlan massacre. Can you describe what happened then and why they’d feel this way today?
BEATRICE MANZ: Well, it shouldn't be that surprising that the people in those villages and in villages throughout Guatemala would have this kind of reaction to the presence of the military. I mean, the people are facing a natural disaster right now, but for decades they faced a human-made tragedy; and the military's responsibility in, you know, hundreds of massacres, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and a genocide in that country creates, obviously, a mistrust and a very, very poor image, to say the least. I mean, the soldiers have a very bad reputation. People remember the fear, the terror that they lived through. These are the survivors, and I'm not that surprised, tragically, that people do not want to see the soldiers come in and provide aid in this instance.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you, Paul Menchu, getting these reports of these terribly afflicted victims not wanting the army in because they're afraid?
PAUL MENCHU: [translated] In the area of Santiago Atitlan there have been two communities that were lost to avalanches, and in these areas there’s a very organized indigenous population. And there is where the massacre happened in the last decade. And so these communities have resisted the soldiers coming in because there is a very strong memory of the terror that they brought to the communities in the past. So the things that have happened in the past in Guatemala and this memory of the terror has come back to the surface now.
AMY GOODMAN: [translated] We have to wrap up. But I do want to ask if people want to support, in the ways that they have Hurricane -- victims of Hurricane Katrina, where can they go? Who do they turn to if they want to support the victims in Guatemala?
PAUL MENCHU: One way is through already-organized organizations, such as the Red Cross. Another way is through NGOs that are working in the area, and in fact the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation is working in this area.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. We will certainly make the links. I want to thank Gretchen Begley for translating. Thank you, Paul Menchu for being with us, from the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation, and Beatrice Manz, author of Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Randall Robison on racism in U.S. : Haiti, and more

Randall Robinson Interview
By Amitabh Pal
October 2005 Issue of The Progressive


Randall Robinson is a disillusioned man. So much so
that he decided to leave the United States in 2001 and
settle down in St. Kitts, where his wife is from. He
has written a book, Quitting America: The Departure of
a Black Man from His Native Land, explaining the
reasons for his relocation. Robinson hasn't completely
quit the United States, though. He still maintains a
home in Virginia and comes back often for visits.

A lifelong activist, Robinson is best known as the
founder of TransAfrica Forum, an organization he
established in 1977 to push U.S. policy toward Africa
and the Caribbean in a more progressive direction. He
has also been in the forefront of the reparations
debate, having written The Debt: What America Owes to

Robinson was born in 1941 in segregated Richmond,
Virginia. His father was a schoolteacher and coach.
After dropping out of college for a brief stint in the
army, Robinson graduated from Virginia Union University
and then got accepted into Harvard Law School. When he
finished, he went to Africa to support the liberation
movements there. Upon returning, he worked for the next
few years as a legal aid lawyer and community organizer
in Boston. In September 1977, Robinson launched
TransAfrica in Washington, D.C. Through his
organization, Robinson lobbied against the white regime
in South Africa and sought to end U.S. support for
dictatorial governments elsewhere in Africa and the
Caribbean. Among his actions: Robinson organized a
sit-in of the South African embassy, went on a hunger
strike to urge U.S. intervention to restore democracy
in Haiti, and dumped a ton of bananas on the steps of
the U.S. trade representative's office to protest U.S.
trade policy toward the Caribbean. Robinson finally
announced his retirement from TransAfrica in December

I met Robinson in February at the Hyatt Regency in
Atlanta, where he had come to participate in a
conference on the role of the religious leadership in
the African American community. We sat down at the
hotel cafe and spoke for more than an hour.

Question: Why did you decide to leave the United

Randall Robinson: I was really worn down by an American
society that is racist, smugly blind to it, and hugely
self-satisfied. I wanted to live in a place where that
wasn't always a distorting weight. Black people in
America have to, for their own protection, develop a
defense mechanism, and I just grew terribly tired of
it. When you sustain that kind of affront, and sustain
it and sustain it and sustain it, something happens to
you. You try to steer a course in American society
that's not self-destructive. But America is a country
that inflicts injury. It does not like to see anything
that comes in response, and accuses one of anger as if
it were an unnatural response. For anyone who is not
white in America, the affronts are virtually across the

When we lived here, we accommodated ourselves to the
most extraordinary things. I just didn't think that was
the way to live. I wanted to be in another place.

We also have a daughter who was eleven at the time. We
wanted her to have a normal, fun adolescence, and it
was just undoable. When we lived here and went to a
shopping center or someplace, we'd tell our daughter,
do not get out of our line of sight. Now she's in a
place where she can walk around at night and we don't
even have to think about that sort of thing.

I got a chance to be in a society where the barriers
between classes--social and economic--are not
insuperable, where money is not everything all the
time. Americans have been manipulated into a space by
those who profit from the arrangements of that system.
People feel a conscious disease--a dis-ease or an
unease--but I don't think they know what causes it.
We've been taught in America that big is best. That's
why people have to believe that they must live in the
greatest country in the world, which is absolutely

Q: Would you offer similar advice to progressives who
feel beleaguered?

Robinson: A good many white Americans are leaving the
country, too, moving to Canada. My book provoked a lot
of mail, but it is the first time I have written a book
where at least half the mail came from white Americans.
So while the parts about race may not have resonated
with them, the diagnosis of the culture did. Something
is very, very wrong with American culture. The signs
are everywhere. I think the country is in almost
terminal descent. The business class is combined with
the evangelicals. And I think the evangelicals want to
provoke an immense global disaster to precipitate the
second coming of Christ. So they are very happy about
what we're doing to Iraq--and the menace we present now
for Syria and for Iran--because they think that the
apocalypse is an important thing to get into so that
they can see vindicated their most literal
interpretation of the Bible.

Q: What do you make of the Iraq War and occupation?

Robinson: This enterprise in Iraq is coming a-cropper.
This is an unwinnable situation. I don't know of any
situation except the Brits in Malaya--when they were
fighting an insurgency that had no local support--no
other event of an insurgency in the twentieth century
that was suppressed. You cannot do it. They have
learned to fight the giants, and they do it with a
self-belief that is more important than one's life. I
don't think this country was prepared for that because
Americans don't bother to notice anybody else in the
world. It's a part of this kind of arrogance that I was
talking about, and it will cost us. Bush has done more
to create passions for what they call terror than any
other Administration in this nation's history. I get
rather afraid when the most powerful man in the world
talks to, and gets answers back from, God.

At the same time, I think the business community knows
that half the world's oil reserves are gone. All the
low-hanging fruit has been picked, and now there's the
scramble for what remains, and they are willing to do
anything to take--as Henry Kissinger called it once--our
oil. What they don't talk about publicly is how they
are prepared to use up lives of white and black poor to
realize these ambitions. We are up against an
anti-democratic foe that is prepared to do anything to
preserve its position of avaricious privilege. I am not
hopeful that anything could happen one way or the other
without a good deal of tumult. And I'm aware that
because America is so powerful--with its tentacles
reaching out to the world--one doesn't escape it by
leaving. This is the most dangerous and disturbing time
in my life.

Q: More than during Reagan's or Nixon's time?

Robinson: Those were Republicans. This is a different
animal. Reagan was conservative, but he didn't approach
global management with an unbending religious zeal.
Fear the zealots. Survival is at stake.

In an interior way, I am not as bleak as I sound. I'm a
fairly happy human being. But am I in the short term
optimistic? No. I search for reasons to be, and I'd be
interested in you telling me what some might be, but I
haven't found anything in the short term. So I'm sorry,
but I'm just not hopeful. And then there's the
collaboration or the accommodation of prominent blacks
like Dorothy Haight and Andrew Young who stood up for
Condoleezza Rice. One asks the question: Well, doesn't
one have to be something more than black to elicit your

Q: What's your assessment of Rice and Powell?

Robinson: I think that they're both dangerous people.
What they did in Haiti is a good measure of it. They
destroyed a democracy. They squelched loans that had
been approved by the Inter-American Development Bank.
They did everything behind the scenes, including arming
the thugs that came to overrun the country. They're
frauds, every one of them. But Powell labored
relatively more successfully under the guise of charm.

Q: You personally know Aristide. In fact, you
accompanied him in his exile from the Central African
Republic to Jamaica. Has that compromised your ability
to objectively assess his record?

Robinson: I don't think so. I've always thought I had
pretty good instincts for people. There is a short list
of people I've worked with over my career with whom
I've not been able to distinguish easily between the
public persona and the real private person. [Former
Jamaican Prime Minister] Michael Manley was one case of
a man that I had an enormous personal high regard for.
I thought he was of impeccable integrity. Aristide is
another. I don't know many people I can say that about.

And I've never had any trouble opposing people I've
been close to. I've never worried about offending or
bothering people I feel strongly about. I've opposed
black regimes and white regimes, leftist regimes and
rightist regimes. I'm close to Aristide because I have
respect for him, but all that is beside the point.
There's only one point that counts: Democracy requires
that if you who don't like the outcome of elections you
have to tolerate it and then pursue your interest the
next time around. Aristide said simply that we must
learn in this nascent democracy to move from election
to election. It was as simple as that. These people
invaded and threw out 7,000 elected officials, and
replaced them with [Gerard] Latortue, who had been all
this time in Florida. A woefully unqualified fellow.
I'm not suggesting that Aristide didn't make mistakes.
But he was put in a place by the United States where it
was impossible for him to succeed. I don't know of any
situation where you're going to have an officeholder in
a country of eight million people who's cut off at the
knees by the most powerful force in this world and who
can still make it fly.

Q: So you don't buy the criticism that the 2000
elections in Haiti weren't completely free and fair.

Robinson: There were only, I think, four or five
disputed elections out of thousands, and Aristide's
party was willing to throw those out. It was a pretext.
That wasn't the issue. The issue was, the Bush people
didn't like him, and they never liked him. They didn't
like him because they don't like democracy. They like
you to have an election, but they like you to elect the
people they want you to elect.

Q: Moving on to the subject you've been most closely
associated with in the last few years: reparations for
slavery. Why do you think that's necessary?

Robinson: Let me give you some conditions that don't
get talked about. The U.S. has the largest prison
population in the world: two million people. The
country with one-twentieth of the world's population
has one-fourth of those in prison. One out of every
eight prisoners in the world is an African American. We
are warehousing people as a profit to shareholders or
for benefits to communities that get to host federal
prisons. It is modern slavery. The whole future of
America's black community is at risk. One out of every
three young black men in Washington, D.C., is under one
arm or the other of the criminal justice system. These
are the continuing consequences of slavery.

We have sustained so much psychic damage and so much
loss of memory. Every people, in order to remain
healthy and strong, has to have a grasp of its
foundation story. Culture is a chrysalis--it is
protective, it takes care of you. That's what cultures
are for. You cannot rob a people of language, culture,
mother, father, the value of their labor--all of
that--without doing vast damage to those people. People
need their history like they need air and food. You
deprive them of that for 246 years and follow that by
100 years of de jure discrimination, and then you say
with the Voting Rights Act: It's over, you just go take
care of yourself!

Average people do not survive that. You plant twenty
coconut trees over here, and twenty coconut trees over
there, and you water this batch and don't water that
batch. Of the batch you water, nineteen will survive
and one will die. Of the batch you don't water,
nineteen will die and one will survive. And then we
have somebody like George Bush. I can't think of a more
mediocre human talent than George Bush. He obviously is
a product of family advantage, and he's the worst
American President of all time.

Anyway, in my arguments for reparations, I'm not
talking about writing checks to people. The word
reparations means to repair. We've opened this gap in
society between the two races. Whites have more than
eleven times the net worth or wealth of African
Americans. They make greater salaries. Our unemployment
rate is twice theirs. You look at the prison system and
who that's chewing up. Now we've got the advent of
AIDS. Fifty-four percent of new infections are
inAfrican Americans. Many infected men are coming out
of prison and infecting their women. So when I talk
about reparations, I say there has to be a material
component. It has to have a component of education that
is compensatory. It has to have a component of economic
development that's compensatory. But in the last
analysis the greater damage is here [points to his
head]. So I'm not really talking about money. And I'm
not really talking about the concerns of people who
say, "I didn't benefit from slavery." Nobody said you

It's important for white America to be able to face up.
Far beyond its relations with the black community, it
is important for white Americans. It's important in
helping us in our approaches to the rest of the world,
and in being sensitive to Islam, and to look at the way
other cultures handle their management of themselves,
and to look at it with respect, with the possibility
that you even might learn something. We've got a
country that never takes any responsibility for
anything. It forgets its role and makes everybody else
forget what happened, too. And that it is not just
dangerous for the victim, but also for the perpetrator.

Q: What was the formative experience that made you
decide to become an activist?

Robinson: Segregation, surely. I never met a white
person till I was a grown man. I never went to school
with a white till I was twenty-six years old, at
Harvard Law School. The insult of segregation was
searing and unforgettable. It has left a great scar,
and will be with me for the rest of my life. It causes
you in terror to form reflexes of protection. It's
unnatural but necessary. So I decided a long time ago
to join the social justice movement. It was salvaging.
We all have to die, and I preferred to have just one
death. It seems to me that to suffer insult without
response is to die many deaths.

Q: Why did you turn down an honorary degree at
Georgetown in the summer of 2003?

Robinson: Well, I knew the moment I saw that George
Tenet had been given a similar honor just the day
before that I couldn't accept an honorary degree from
Georgetown. Rejecting it caused me a great degree of
discomfort. First, because the people who fought for
Georgetown to confer the degree on me were occasioned a
certain amount of discomfort by me. But I knew just no
other way out. So I explained my situation to the dean.
And if they were annoyed, they masked that. I think
they understood why I took that position. I wouldn't
have come that far to receive an honorary degree if I
didn't think that it wasn't an important thing. So I
was vastly disappointed to read about Tenet. But from
that point onward, the degree meant absolutely nothing.

Q: How involved are you with the day-to-day running of

Robinson: Not at all. Twenty-five years. I thought it
was time. I think people involved with institutions
find it harder to know the time to go than the time to
come. I thought it was time for me to go. I wanted to
do other things. I wanted to write and think. Activism
is a displacing kind of passion.

Amitabh Pal is the managing editor of The Progressive.
Source URL: http://progressive.org/mag_intv1005


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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Villaraigosa on Ballot Initiatives

LA Mayor denounces Schwarzenegger's ballot 'reforms'

By MICHAEL R. BLOOD, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, October 6, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) - At a news conference to discuss his first 100 days in office, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa instead turned his attention to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday, accusing him of misusing the state's ballot initiative process to force his political agenda on the state Legislature.
During his first few months in office, Villaraigosa, a Democrat and former state Assembly speaker, has appeared eager to cultivate a cordial relationship with the Republican governor. But his pointed remarks made it clear their relationship will have its limits.

Asked about four ballot measures the governor is supporting in a special "year of reform" election he has called for next month, Villaraigosa replied: "I'm opposed to all of his initiatives."

The measures Schwarzenegger is supporting are Proposition 74, which would extend from two to five years the time teachers must work to receive tenure; Proposition 75, which would require public employee unions to seek written permission from members before using their dues for political purposes; Proposition 76, which would enact a state spending cap; and Proposition 77, which would strip lawmakers of the power to draw political districts.

"In this instance it's very clear that the initiative process is being misused," Villaraigosa said. "These are matters that could and should be addressed by the Legislature."

Todd Harris, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger's campaign, said the governor took the issues before voters because the Legislature was unwilling to work with him.

"The governor could not agree with the mayor more that the Legislature should have worked with the governor to pass these reforms," Harris said. "Instead, the Legislature focused on its own priorities, things like gay marriage and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants."

Villaraigosa's comments, while not out of keeping with his political loyalties, carry particular resonance given his position as California's most prominent Hispanic officeholder and mayor of the state's largest city.

As he pushes his ballot agenda, Schwarzenegger has been trying to rebuild his standing with Hispanic voters who helped put him in office in 2003 but whose support has eroded in recent months.

Turning more to a reflection on his first 100 days in office, Villaraigosa restated his determination to place city schools under mayor control. He said his staff is working on various proposals that could extract city schools from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"We cannot allow 50 percent of our children to drop out," he said.

During his first 100 days, Villaraigosa has also proposed plans to reduce traffic congestion, to fight crime by hiring hundreds of additional police officers and to beautify the city by planting a million trees.

He has also established himself as an irrepressible city booster and salesman, maintaining a near constant presence at city events both large and small.

"I want people in the city to know I care," he said, noting he has traveled 24,000 miles in the Los Angeles area since taking office, an average of 240 miles a day.

"I said I'd be a hands-on mayor."