Monday, March 29, 2010

Soundpolitic Sundays: Coffee Table Book Edition

I know, I know…I’m a day late on this.  Allow me to explain:

Sometimes, I need to take a break from politics.  And sometimes, even when I try to take a break, like in last weeks edition, I still end up writing a freakin' book about the stuff.  Last week, I felt like Monty Python.

This week, I feel a little more like Kramer.

So in this weeks' edition, I won't get into too much detail about the Coffee Party I hosted or the other two I attended, even if they were part of over 400 National Coffee Party Issues Summits this weekend.  Instead, I'll just take a quick look at some of the books I haven't written that inspire me to get involved to the point where I just need to take a break and be a day late on all this.

Mindful Politics
Edited by Melvin McLeod

I try my best to take a break from everything each day by practicing Zen meditation.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.  I really go into it through books like Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner and Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo. 

In any case, I can't remember which one of the many Buddhism books on my bookshelfs said this or made me realize it, but I feel that the Buddha was not so much a religious leader as he was a political activist.

Silly, I know.  But this Mindful Politics book is one that I use at my Coffee Party meetings.  The last chapter has Four Truths and Ten Laws of Breakthrough by a Zen calligrapher by the name Kaz Tanahashi.  Here's one of them, in, um, no particular order:

9. The chance for breakthrough increases when more attention is directed to the process than to the goal.

Reading these, I see very much the same goals as the Coffee Party.  It's more of a process movement than an issues movement.  Kind of like how the American Revolution and Constitutional Convention were really process-oriented to accomplish something that seemed impossible to change.

Here's a book that takes a look at one of the guys who was around that time who also wrote some quaint Zen bits of wisdom:

Wit And Wisdom From Poor Richard's Almanac
By Benjamin Franklin

This is a good book to have on your coffee table.  Franklin put out a lot of his alamacs back in the day, so I'm sure you can find one just the right size at just the right price.

Mine's less than a quarter-inch thick with only 57 pages of stuff like this:

"As we must account for every idle word, so we must for every idle silence."
- Ben Franklin

Of course, there's tons of quotes from this kite-flying prophet.  Your Poor Richard's coffee table book could be big enough to be...a whole table!

I spend more time on these blogs and being active than reading a lot of Franlin.  This caught my eye because it also clearly defines the spirit of the Coffee Party: we're sick of idle words from the politicians and the partisans and we'll just have to get talking again to fix it up - we'll stop bein idle in our silence.

See, politics is all about language to me.  This is why I like writing.  This next little book pointed it out to me:

Don't Think of an Elephant
George Lakoff

It's kind of brainy, but still a brainlessly quick read.  I ate up it.  Not only did it make me realize that all politics is is "just words" but that those words meant an incredibly good deal more than I'd imagined before.

"Because language activtes frames, new language is required for new frames.  Thinking differently requires speking differently."- Georege Lakoff

You don't need to know much about "frames" or the rest of the books linguistics verbiage to understand the basic point:  The way we speak deeply affects our politics.

So if we want our politics to change, we need to change the way we speak.  And sometimes that means just changing the tone of our voice - changing the sound.  That's all the Coffee Party does is get civil conversation going again.  Compare that to the racous and ever-more-violent Tea Party movement.  This makes whether or not the Coffee Party is a good idea or "progressive" enough a moot point.

In other words, if you don't like the sound, get a different drummer.

As a bass player, I like to take the whole "politics is language" thing much further.  While it may seem contrary to arguing that silent Zen zoning-out is also very political, I'll still say that I believe firmly that language is music.

When I attended some music courses, the definition of music was given to me a guy with a white beard, a piano in his office, and a freakin' doctorate on the stuff.

One day, I even rememebr this guy coming to class completely zoned out.  He hadn't had his morning coffee.  He tried to teach for about five minutes, then rumbled furiously that he'd be back in a minute.  He returned with a large, black brew in his hand, and we watched his gulp it down instantly.

He growled a triumphant, satisfied, and relieved "Aaaaaah!"

Anyway, the definition of music was "sound organized in time."  So our laughter at this many's display of caffine addiction was just as musical as his roar of morning, erm, wakefulness.

Just as much as the rest of the lesson was.  He continued to organize the sound of his voice by shaping words through language and the tone of his voice, the rhythm and the dynamics of the key points being emphasized throughout the lesson's compostion.

Hyperbolic?  I'm not sure.  I'll seek an English major next.

But I still love little books that confirm this, and none is smaller I think than this one:

Of Grunge and Government

By Krist Novoselic

This guy played bass in a little band with a Buddhist name you might remember from about twenty years ago:

Spring is here again.  And I'm once again sifting through books, reorganizing my shelf to take a little break from politics.

And I still can't help sifting thorugh my favorites for quotes like this:

"Independence in the U.S. gurantees individals the right to speak.  But independence must also speak to us."
-Krist Novoselic.

I think that's what's really wrong with the country.  Not some parliamentary rule or debate over some specific issue.

Our democracy isn't speaking to us.  Yet we are the democracy!  All you can reason from there is that it's time to get a conversation started.

So just sit back and relax while I go put on a pot of coffee.  Just relax with one of my books while you wait.  I, uh, won't be long...

...tune in next week's edition for why maybe why it takes so long to brew this stuff up.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Coffee Party Takes Next Step in New York

Two weeks after the National Coffee Party Kickoff, which I personally participated in by organizing the Albany County chapter, the Coffee Party USA movement is preparing to get together in another national volunteer-coordinated event this coming weekend.  It is the National Coffee Party Issues Summit in preparation for the National Coffee With Congress in the coming Congressional Recess.

Not sure what all this means or what this is about?  Well, I blogged about my own experience during the Kickoff.  Ours was only one of over 350 Coffee Parties held nationwide at the time when a mere 150,000 fans of the movement had signed onto the Facebook Group.  Today, there are over 180,000 and the movement is growing fast.  But not "furiously."  That's pretty against our core values.

Still not sure what all this means?  Check out the latest videos from, or visit their heavily trafficked YouTube channel for even more information about the movement that could very well save American politics from itself:



You can experience this new technology right here.  Try it with a friend or an enemy to see just how close together you truly are!

And if you're a New Yorker, you can experience what the Coffee Party is like at any of the many events taking place in our Great State listed below the fold.


One of the key points of the Coffee Party is that leadership positions are temporary by design.  Speaking for myself, this means that the role of "leader" must be temporary.  It also means that the unit of geography, in terms of where these "come togethers" take place is not Albany County or even the City of Albany or even the Third Ward of the city.

It is one coffeeshop.  And the ideal group size is far less than the over 40 people my first gathering attracted.  Instead of seeking to grow in power by getting more and more people behind fewer and fewer leaders (this is how the "real" political parties work), we in the Coffee Party movement intend to grow our numbers by getting a reasonable number of people, ideally no more than a dozen, in every single coffee shop in America.

So far, New York State has seen the number of locations nearly double.  Below is a list of all the Coffee Party Issues Summits that will be taking place this weekend in the lead-up to the National Coffee With Congress effort.  I know that my Albany County meeting inspired the Schenectady, Troy, and Saratoga chapters to form.  At my meeting, I intend to both inspire even more, even smaller groups to form...

...and to step down as the "leader" of the Albany County Coffee Party - indeed, to dissolve the group entirely.  I shall reconvene it when the number of Coffee Parties in cafe's throughout Albany County (also known as SD-46) grows to become even longer than the list of current Coffee Parties in the whole Empire State.

There's lots of coffee shops in Albany County.  And even more in New York.  I have no doubt that the next blog I write on this subject will show even more even greater strength in numbers.  Check them out and see what the Coffee Party is like in your "Teaneck" of the woods :-)

Western New York
Coffee Party (Jamestown, NY)
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Labyrinth Press Company
12 East 4th Street
Jamestown, NY 14701
Coffee Party Northern Chautauqua County
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Central Station Restaurant
332 Central Avenue
Dunkirk, NY 14048

Central New York
Coffee Party USA, Ithaca N.Y.
Sun, Mar 28, 2010
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
The Ithaca Bakery in Triphammer Mall
Ithaca, NY 14850
Coffee Party Fayetteville, NY
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Freedom of Espresso
128 W Genesee St
Fayetteville, NY 13066

Capital Region
Coffee Party showing 'Capitalism: A Love Story'
Sun, Mar 28, 2010
1:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Saratoga Springs Public Library
49 Henry St.
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Schenectady Coffee Party
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Ambition Cafe
154 Jay St.
Schenectady, NY 12305
Coffee Party - Troy, NY
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Waltja Center
157 First Street
Troy, NY 12180
Albany County Coffee Party
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Emack & Bolio's
1704 Western Avenue
Guilderland, NY 12203

Hudson Valley
Coffee Party in Red Hook NY at Taste Budd's
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Taste Budd's
40 West Market Street
Hudson Valley Coffee Party (New Paltz)
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Muddy Cup
58 Main Street
New Paltz, NY 12561

Soundpolitic Blogger's Note: These guys win the Soundpolitic Best Coffee Party description award:

"We will be countering Congressman Maurice Hinchey's "espresso" variety of Coffee Party, which has tried to hijack our efforts and is charging $30-$90 to attend their event in Kingston"

Coffee Party USA - Ellenville, NY
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM
The Coffee Shop
Ellenville Town Plaza
37 North Main Street
Ellenville, NY 12428
Coffee Party Hudson Valley, NY (Poughkeepsie)
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Crafted Kup
44 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603

NYC Metropolitan Area
Rockland County,NY Coffee Party Movement
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
24A Rockland Plaza
Nanuet, NY 10954
Coffee Party of Westchester and Fairfield Cties
Sun, Mar 28, 2010
11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
10 Westchester Avenue
Portchester, NY 10573
Coffee Party (Bronx/Lw Westchester)
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
11:30 AM - 1:30 PM
216 West 238th Street
(Between Bailey Avenue & Broadway)
Bronx, NY 10463
Coffee Party - Midtown NYC
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Le Monde Gourmet Deli (mezzanine)
38 West 48th St.
New York, NY 10036

Soundpolitic Blogger's Note: This next one isn't this weekend.  But given the fact that my handle is based on my love of both music AND politics, I feel the need to let folks know about this ASAP:
Coffee Party Music Event New York City
Starting April 05, 2010 07:00 PM
Ending April 06, 2010 12:00 AM
Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street
New York, NY 10009-3347
National Coffee Party Day
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Bleeker Street Bar
Bleeker Street cnr. Cosby Street, next to Lafayette St. where train #6 leaves you.
New York, NY 10012
Coffee Party (Brooklyn)
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Gorilla Coffee Inc
97 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 230-3244?
Coffee Party (Mineola, NY)
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
O'Carroll's Recover Room
214 Station Plz N
Mineola, NY 11501
Coffee Party (Suffolk County)
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
1250 Middle Country rd.
Selden, NY 11784

See you there.  And remember: you can drink tea, too!

Friday, March 26, 2010

SD-46: Martland Holds Sen. "Pay to Play" Breslin to Account

There's been quite a lot of talk here on The Albany Project this week about the Democratic "pay to play" fundraising scandal. I believe we are upset for good reasons, all of which are expressed in the linked-to diaries.

But we're just bloggers. We aren't the ones running for office. What we should be looking for is condemnation from these Senators primary challengers. Something like what SD-46 primary candidate Luke Martland has just released to the press today:

Martland Blasts Breslin, Senate Leaders on Pay to Play Scheme

(Albany) - State Senate candidate Luke Martland today blasted State Senator Neil Breslin (D-46th) and State Senate leaders for soliciting $50,000 payments from labor leaders and $25,000 payments from business leaders to join an “advisory council” and participate in “policy discussions.”

“Neil Breslin is assistant majority leader in the State Senate. He is a part of the Senate Leadership team. Why isn’t he standing up and saying no to this type of pay to play corruption,” said Martland.

“I think people have a right to know if Neil Breslin knew about these solicitations, did he approve these solicitations or did he just stand by and let these solicitations go out?” questions Martland.

“Ordinary people don’t have $50,000 to give to the State Senate so their voices can be heard,” added Martland. “This is politics as usual in Albany and that’s why we need new leadership in the State Senate.”

“Until we clean up Albany and clean out the professional politicians who think it’s fair to sell access, the State Senate will never do what’s right for average New Yorkers. Only then will the Senate stop being for sale and start making the tough decisions to get New York back on track, lowering taxes and fixing the problems that years of corruption, borrowing and wasteful spending have created,” added Martland.

Luke Martland's stands on issues can be found at

Emphasis mine - SP
Sound political analysis below the fold that any Democrat and any blogger should understand...

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)

One of today's diaries linked to above suggests that RebootNY might be a good vehicle to get rid of this kind of thing and elect "more and better" Democrats like Luke Martland. They are asking for your help with the upcoming elections in November.

The analogy, I'm guessing, is that the New York State Senate is similar to a computer, and that this kind of money-grubbing is akin to a virus, so the analogy seems like it means the General Election will be like a "reboot" to the whole system.

But we bloggers should know a little about the way PCs and laptops work... we should be the ones who understand that if you just restart a machine with a self-replicating virus on it, you've only just allowed the virus to reboot itself.

So instead of just "rebooting" our government in November, why not check out some primary challengers like

In other words, why not run some anti-virus software in September?

I think last cycle's primary challenger, David Weiss said it best after he lost his challenge against Sen. Breslin...the first primary challenge Breslin ever faced since being elected because he has the same name as the County Executive and County Judge in the same exact voting district, Albany County, in 1995. David Weiss pointed out something that should be very obvious to us Democrats as we seek to change this poor excuse of a Senate while still keeping a Democratic majority:

Sage advice, says I.

But will we follow it when decided who to support this primary season?

That's the big one we must ask ourselves if there's ever going to be any real change.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SD-46: Luke Martland Calls Out Sen. "Flip Flop" Breslin on Budget, Education

Cross-posted to the front-page of

A week ago, I reported that State Senator Neil D. Breslin (D-Albany County) would face his second primary challenge in as many years from the same number of opponents.

Today, one of his opponents, Luke Martland, has sent out the first press release recieved by this blogger since signing up to recieve notifactions from Senator Breslin  himself, candidate Martland, and the other guy running, Tim Carney.

The release, quoted in it's entirety below, calls out Senator Breslin for both flip-flopping on his promise to not cut education and for making the actual cuts to education spending.  The only changes I make are hard returns for ease of reading and adding some italics for emphasis where appropriate:

Martland Blasts Breslin for Flip Flopping on Education Budget Cuts

(Albany)  -  State Senate candidate Luke Martland today blasted State Senator Neil Breslin (D-46th) for “Flip Flopping” on a commitment Breslin made to stop cuts to school aid. 

On March 8th Breslin signed a letter to Governor Paterson stating that he would not vote for any cuts to education.  Only two weeks later, on March 22nd, he voted for a budget that cut school aid by $1.4 billion.

When asked by CBS 6 News “what changed” he responded “…ahhh, I’m on a team, and the team is the Democratic Conference and uh … there needs to be cuts in education and I think that was the starting point of me saying no cuts.”  He also said his letter was merely an “overstatement” designed to establish a “bargaining position.”

New York Post State Editor and CBS6 commentator Fred Dicker said that Breslin’s Flip Flop is an outright lie. Dicker said Breslin apparently thinks “…that he can just lie outright, and that’s just a political strategy .... In fact that is what is going on we are being lied to all the time..”

“Neil Breslin voted for devastating cuts in school aid because his bosses in New York City told him to,” said Martland, who graduated from Albany High School and is challenging Breslin in the Democratic primary. “The party bosses say “flip” and Breslin flips, they say “flop” and he flops. This shows why Neil Breslin is one of the reasons that New York State government is dysfunctional and ethically corrupt. It is time for a change in Albany.”

“If I had signed a letter saying I could not support massive cuts to school aid, I would not have broken my promise and then voted for the cuts,” said Martland, whose mother taught at the Academy of the Holy Names and whose father was a professor at UAlbany.  “I’m not a flip flopper, I’m a fighter,” said Martland, who has spent his career in criminal justice as an assistant district attorney, assistant attorney general and working for the Department of Criminal Justice Services.  

Luke Martland’s stand on issues can be found at

The presser actually links to Martland's main page; here's the link to the issues page itself.  Martland has broken things down to four issues (Ethics, State Debt, Jobs, and Taxes) as well as Nine Promises all relating to reforming the way the Senate operates (none of which mention having to change any rules in order to do so).

To be fair, you can check out Breslin's campaign site as well.   But at the time of this writing, it's just a patriotic banner with the simplistic slogan "Our community, our values, our voice, our Senator" that says "Thank you" below.

This Democratic primary voter says "Thanks, but no thanks" here, and is glad to see at least one primary opponent getting things started this heavy, this early.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Soundpolitic Sundays: Don't Tread On Python Edition

After blogging for the past two weeks’ editions about the Tea Party and the Coffee Party, I decided the other day that I really needed to take a break from politics.  It was time to stop talking at the TV, making phone calls, and speaking at political organizations, and use my vocals chords for personal healing.

They say laughter is the best medicine.  But I still yearned for some political stimulation.  So I popped into the videocassette player my favorite silly film, which also happens to be one of the best political satires that still has relevance today. 

An obvious clip:

So in this edition of Soundpolitic Sundays, I’m inspired to examine some less-obvious clips from this masterpiece of cinema as they relate to our current political situation.  There’s something completely different below the fold…

Now the “Bloody Peasant” sequence of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the most obvious reference to politics.  It’s pretty much self-explanatory and I’m wasting words synopsizing it.  You can see for yourself (if your connection is good enough!) that we have a very obvious and very comical treatise on the powers of self-government, the ridiculousness of monarchy, and the sometimes silliness of class-war rhetoric.

But the whole film is filled with political references.  If you haven’t seen it, then first of all where have you been?  Hiding under a shrubbery all these years?  But if you haven’t seen the 1975 film, then very briefly:  the film was produced by the revolutionary British sketch comedy troupe Monty Python, and Wikipedia’s description of the genius and influence is most appropriate:

The group's influence on comedy has been compared to The Beatles’ influence on music.

Monty Python influenced everything, from Saturday Night Live to South Park, from George Carlin to Larry the Cable Guy.  If you refuse to recognize this, than I’ll have no choice but to condemn you as knowing absolutely nothing about comedy and tell you that you probably aren’t very funny yourself.

In any case, a brief synopsis of the film is an order for you poor unadulterated souls who have yet to experience it:

In 1974, between production on the third and fourth series, the group decided to embark on their first "proper" feature film, containing entirely new material. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was based on Arthurian Legend and was directed by Jones and Gilliam. Again, the latter also contributed linking animations (and put together the opening credits). Along with the rest of the Pythons, Jones and Gilliam performed several roles in the film, but it was Chapman, considered by far the best "straight" actor of the group, who took the lead as King Arthur. Holy Grail was filmed on location, in picturesque rural areas of Scotland, with a budget of only £229,000; the money was raised in part with investments from rock groups such as Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin—and UK music industry entrepreneur Tony Stratton-Smith (founder/owner of the Charisma Records label, for which the Pythons recorded their comedy albums).

John Cleese noted in an interview with Jian Ghomeshi (host of the cultural radio program Q on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) that the backers of the film wanted to cut the famous Black Knight scene (in which the Black Knight loses his limbs in a duel), which arguably ended up being the funniest and the most quoted scene in the film by cult followers.

The synopsis proves itself an excellent segue!

And now we get down to the business of finding political allegory for the present political situation of Tea Party conservative obstructionism versus reality-based Coffee Party progressivism.  Here, the Black Knight himself is the metaphor for the Tea Party and conservative mentality and King Arthur represents reasoned questioning.

The Black Knight’s first response when asked to join in common cause with King Arthur is to not respond at all.  This is the first step of conservative obstructionism: non-participation and silence on the issues.  Then, Arthur simply makes his discontent known as informs the Black Knight that he’ll have to move on without him.

Great….now the Black Knight speaks up.  He makes his obstructionist intent expressly known (“None shall pass!  I move for no man!”).  King Arthur then makes an attempt to reason with the Black Knight (“I have no quarrel with you, but I must cross this bridge.”)  The Black Knight’s response is to initiate a fight to the death rather than compromise.

The fight that ensues is, of course, slapstick comedic genius.  But it’s also a fantastic example of the fight that conservatives have been fighting since the dawn of time.  While they appear to be evenly matched with progressives, it’s the same thing that occurs in the fight scene that always ends up happening in real life: 

The conservatives inevitably lose, but then keep on fighting, refusing to acknowledge defeat (“’Tis but a scratch!”).  The progressives then inform them that they’ve lost the battle, but now conservative denial takes hold.  (Arthur:  “A scratch?  Your arms off!”  The Black Knight: “No it isn’t.”)  Then progressive truth is reiterated (Arthur: “Well, what’s that then?”).  The conservative reaction is cite an imagined history, brushing off the current situation by say that they’ve won even tougher battles (“I’ve had worse.”).  This is seen in the very name of the Tea Party and the historical event they take their name from.  They would have us believe that fighting back the oppressors of today will be a piece of cake because our ancestors were able to fight off British colonial rule.

And this is as hilarious in the film as it is in real life.  The Black Knight continues to fight despite the loss of one limb…and then insists he’s still winning the greater war after losing the next.  King Arthur tries his best at first to be nice while stating the obvious (“You are indeed brave, Sir Knight, but the fight is mine.”)  The conservative reaction is to immediately make childish taunting a part of the continued futility (“Oh, had enough, eh? Chicken! Chicken!”).

So the progressive has no choice but to continue wasting his time on this silliness and take off another limb, this time going after the very principles upon which the conservative stands (In other words, “I’ll have you leg.”).  The process continues, the progressive chops an even more vital piece of the argument off the body politic.  And incredibly, the conservative become even more desperate!  He vows to fight on in a shaken voice and declares that victory is still imminent by their very nature (“I’m invincible! The Black Knight always triumphs!”).

Arthur gives the only appropriate response (“You’re a loony,” he scoffs) and then takes the final swing.  Just think of the number of calories he’s wasted and the amount of blood his adversary has lost when you see the incapacitated Black Knight reduced to only a torso….

….and you have no choice but to laugh at his warped assessment of the situation.  He thinks he’s actually broke even! (“All right, we’ll call it a draw.”) And as the bridge is finally crossed, even this offer to be friends is thrown out the window.  Having been discredited completely and incapacitated entirely, the name calling and empty threats of vengeance continue to be shouted (“Running away!  You yellow bastards!  Come back here and get what’s coming to you!  I’ll bite your legs off!”).

My friends, this is exactly the way it’s always happened when progressive principles are pitted against conservative ones.  First, they stand in our way and refuse to even start a conversation.  Then, they insist that we’ll never get anywhere.  Then they fight until they’re beaten.  And then they keep on fighting until they’re beaten even more.  Finally, they fight until they don’t even have the ability to fight.  And in the end, we’re left with nothing but noise, but at least they can’t do much damage with that.

Or can they?  They next clip from “Holy Grail” indicates the present-day problem we have with the damage that can still be done with the right-wing noise machine.


This portion of “Holy Grail” is a fantastic allegory for several elements of the Tea Party.  First, we have a mass of common folk, all riled up that a threat to their way of life is living amongst them.  They run out of their homes yelling and screaming that there’s trouble afoot (“A witch!  We found a witch!”) without having first taken care of their own business – see the guy who’s still got shaving cream on? 

Then they present tampered evidence to an authority figure (here, the village Alchemist, Sir Bedevere) who they are certain will confirm their suspicions.  This authority figure then even seems to challenge the view of the mob:  After a bit of investigation, the authority figure points out that perhaps the evidence has been tampered with or entirely created (“Did you dress her up like this?”) by the very mass of commoners now pointing out the threat.  The mob even acknowledges that they did so, but only after vehemently denying it (“Well we did do the nose…and the hat…”) yet still they insist that there is still a threat (“She has got a wort!”) and, in the end, despite the evidence, they still want to the same desired outcome (“Burn her anyway!”).

Then the authority figure informs them that there really is a methodology for confirming the viewpoint that will lead to this outcome.  He asks questions of the mob in order to give the illusion of reasoned debate built upon constituent interaction (“What do you burn apart from witches?  So, why do witches burn?”).  Then, the masses display their genuine lack of intelligence with both their answers and the time it takes for them to reach them (The long pause before one member finally guesses “Because…they’re…made of wood?”).

Now, having created the illusion of logical reasoning and informed debate, the audience still cannot reach the next step. (“What else floats in water?” asks Bedevere, and the mob’s answers include cider, gravy, churches, and very small rocks!)  It’s up to another authority figure (here, King Arthur) to inject the right answer  (“A Duck!”) which provides the first authority figure with all the corroboration he needs to guide the audience along the twisted logic: If the witch weighs the same as a duck, she will also float if thrown into a pond, which means she made of wood, and therefore, she’s a witch.

That sounds an awful lot like those of right-wing authority figures on the talk radio circuit these days:  In the morning there’s Glenn Beck saying that health care reform is going to take away every freedom we have; in the very next time slot, Rush Limbaugh is telling us that the bill is being rammed down our throats instead of actually voted on; coming up next we have Sean Hannity calling any form of government health care socialistic-communistic; then Michael Savage gets even more specific by saying health care reform will lead to taking away guns and free speech.

So you see, this Tea Party thing is nothing new.  It’s been happening since the Middle Ages.  But we are making progress.  Modern technology first gave us the motion picture with which to mock this political theater in the greatest tradition of Greek comedic theater.

Today, it is brought to even wider distribution through the wonder of the Internet, the same vehicle that has given birth to the Coffee Party movement, now nearly 180,000 members strong on Facebook, where it began.  In last week’s edition, I reported that the movement was nearly 150,000 thousand; and the week before I noted that had just passed the 100K benchmark.

Keep your eye on that movement and keep your eye out for next week’s edition.  Perhaps a movement that’s growing this fast and is so grounded (I’m such a pundit) in reality might just become as influential in our politics as the Pythons were in comedy.  Just don’t forget to take a break from such wishful thinking to laugh to yourself every once in a while. 

In fact, try laughting at yourself, too.  You might just find exactly what you were looking for! 

Until next week, thanks for reading and keep up the good work!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SD-46: Two To Primary Deadbeat Sen. “Gavel Drop” Breslin

Cross-posted on The Albany Project.

In 2008, when I first came to The Albany Project (and ever since then) my own personal project has been to make sure that State Senator Neil Breslin’s term in office as Albany’s representative ends with all due haste.  I volunteered incessantly that year for a fantastic man named David Weiss, who was the first person ever to primary Breslin, the only person who ever had the guts to do so.

The video below shows the major role my state Senator, Neil D. Breslin, D-Albany County, played in the June  2009 State Senate coup that he’s never, ever been held accountable for.

The video shows Sen. Breslin serving as Temporary President.  He first appears in the top left corner of the video at 0:17.  He’s bobbing back and forth and doesn’t seem to know what’s going on.  Around 0:24, he can be heard stuttering “I...I...”  At 0:32, he appears in the center of the frame, addressing Sen. Libous.  At 0:44, he reaches for the gavel and stammers, “Senna…senna libba...wouldju be quiet!”  At 0:51, Sen. Breslin raps the gavel.  A second later he growls “We adjourn!” At 0:59, he can be seen walking away from the podium.

Let me ask you:  does that look and sound like an experienced, effective State Senator to you?

Now for the real kicker:  the 46th State Senate District is just Albany County, nothing more and nothing less.  Sounds like there’s no gerrymandering to speak of, right?

Perhaps not:  His brother, Mike Breslin, is the County Executive, and has been for two years longer than his brother’s been sitting in the Senate.  And their other brother?  His name is Tom, and he serves as the County Judge, and was the first of them to enter public “service.”

So you see, we have a very big problem here in Albany County that has caused a very big problem for all of New York State.  But still, people here tend to focus their energies on “the other party” or “the turncoats,” and the media either ignores Breslin's ineffectiveness entirely or only shows him on television when he’s flipping burgers at a picnic.

It’s time for that to change.  It was only in the last election cycle that Sen. Breslin faced his first ever primary challenge since first being elected in 1996.  He faced two challengers, one of whom, David Weiss, I volunteered for like crazy, knocking on over 3,000 doors in addition to his 11,000 knuckle-raps. 

But everyone else was caught up in Obamamania, or was digging in their heels in the Democratic Primary to replace Congressman Mike McNulty in NY-21.  I volunteered and blogged about both efforts, yes....but I knew one thing: if all we do is concentrate on Washington, then Albany will remain as dysfunctional as it always has and could very well get worse.

So I hate to say this, but I feel rather vindicated from the video above.  If David Weiss had won, Breslin wouldn’t have been Temporary President and perhaps the entire Senate coup wouldn’t have happened.

And now I’m glad to report that Senator Breslin will once again have to defend his seat and that the challenges are mounting.  Recently, the Albany Times Union has reported that Breslin will face two challengers in a Democratic Primary this fall.

These will come from Tim Carney and from Luke Martland.  Both make statements available on the web, Marland in the form of a YouTube video and Carney in the form of a written statement:

Luke Martland

Tim Carney

City of Albany Resident, Businessman, Community Activist and Political Consultant, Tim Carney has filed the necessary papers with the New York State Board of Elections, and has opened his website as he begins his run for the office of State Senator from the 46th District in New York State.

The 48 year old Carney was born in Hudson and is the son of the former Supervisor of the Town of Taghkanic, New York in Columbia County. He has been a resident of Albany County and the city of Albany for over 20 years.

Carney says that he is running “To improve the quality of life of the people of the County of Albany, especially those people that have been negatively affected by the dysfunction of our State Government, which is and has been controlled by Lawyers and by many self serving part-timers, who care more about the special interests of the big lobbying groups that donate hundreds of millions of dollars for votes that go their way.”

“I am running as a citizen who will work full-time for the people that elect me. I will never pretend to know all of the answers, but I will find them and I will communicate them back to my constituents, something that our current State Senator has not done. I am running to improve the reputation that our legislators have and to bring some sense to Capitol Hill.”
Carney continued, “I began this campaign months ago and have crossed the County attending functions and Town, Village and City Board and Council meetings, asking the people for their ideas and views. The overwhelming majority of the people that I have spoken to have made it clear that the time has come to start putting the People before Politics. Our current State Senator has been in the Legislature for 14 years, he has not been part of any solution, but has been a big part of the problem. He is virtually invisible outside of his office, he is a part-time Legislator and has a reputation of being inaccessible to his constituents. I hope that all Candidates will join me in a frank and open discussion of  the issues that have practically ruined our State, including the ridiculous taxes we levy, economic development and most importantly, the corruption and the lack of ethics in our State Legislature”
Taken from TU Local Politics Blog

Both candidates are gunning squarely for Breslin’s easily visible ineptitude:  Tim Carney also features the Senate Coup video featured above the fold on his own website

But Luke Martland takes things one step further in a full page rightfully attacking the incumbent:

Neil Breslin: Part of the Problem!

A Few Words About Neil Breslin:  Did You Know?

Your Senator gets over $100,000 in salary, paid by your taxes, yet the Senate only works 6 months a year?   $100,000 for 6 months work?  A disgrace. I will be a full-time Senator and work year round to fix the problems we face.

Neil Breslin holds a second job at a large law firm, but will not reveal how much he is paid, who his clients are or what they pay him for.  Secret clients and secret pay must end. I will not have a second job – period. I will fight to require that all legislators reveal all sources of outside income and all clients.

Neil Breslin recently voted for an "ethics reform" bill that was reform in name only. That bill would have allowed the legislature to police itself and Senators who are lawyers (like him) to keep their clients from their outside jobs secret.  The legislature police itself?  That’s a joke.  I will fight for full transparency and real ethics reform, including independent oversight of the legislature.

Most incumbents believe they are guaranteed re-election.  That is why they ignore what the people want and fight against reform.  I believe we constantly need new energy and ideas in Albany and will propose term limits for all legislators.  I also commit to term-limiting myself out of office.

Our Senators put partisan politics ahead of what matters -- spending more time on the June “coup” and political games than on dealing with the crisis that New Yorkers face. I will be an independent Senator who will work with both Democrats and Republicans and will stand up to the party bosses and leaders.

While New Yorkers struggle through the Great Recession, our legislature has one of the largest staffs in the country (2,700 people) and spends millions of dollars a year on photographers and TV and radio studios.  I will fight to eliminate this kind of ridiculous waste and cut unnecessary spending – starting with the legislature.

Empahsis mine – SP

The emphasized passages are exactly what David Weiss and I were talking to people about at thousands of doors and on this very site in 2008.  I really wish David would run again...

...but if Breslin is facing a sustained, well-financed and, well publicized challenge this year, then I’m ready to consider supporting either Tim Carney or Luke Martland.  The fact that the press is already paying attention in March of 2010 with the primary way off in September is a good sign.

Last go-round, they didn’t print David Weiss’s name until four freakin’ days before the election.  Let’s hope the Times Union keeps up the good work this year.

Man, it was hard to type the words “Times Union” and “good work” in the same sentence.  Just think of what kind of circus the State Senate would have been last year if they had had the gavel in their hands?

Let’s not let this happen again.  Let’s break the nepotistic stranglehold the Breslins have placed on the throats of Albany County constituents, which played a direct role in cutting the air off for all New Yorkers last year… making 2010 Senator Breslin’s last year in office.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Soundpolitic Sundays: Lucky Irish Coffee Edition

Saturday, March 13th, 2010, isn't quite St. Patrick's Day. This matters not to the people of the City of Albany. They hold not two parades each year.

As luck would have it, the parade coincided with the Coffee Party's National Kickoff this year. I don't doubt them for not seeing this one coming. In fact, nobody saw this movement coming. From a single Facebook comment in to nearly 150,000 members in just a month, the Coffee Party was kicking off in over 300 meetings yesterday thanks to dedicated grassroots organizers...

...such as myself. I organized the Albany County Coffee Party that met at Uncommon Grounds nearby the SUNY Albany campus. Navigating the parade traffic from the Noon meeting of the Downtown Coffee Party meeting earlier, I found that luck was on my side...on our side as the Coffee Party kicked off in our state's historic capital.

Below the fold, this edition of Soundpolitic Sundays gives the whole scoop for those of you who wish to go beyond the media coverage of National Coffee House Day and get to story straight from the horses mouth...
To bring you up to speed, dear reader, I would first direct you to my last few blogs, all with regard to my organization of the Coffee Party in Albany. These include a blog about a prime-time radio interview the day before the movement kicked off nationally as well as last week's edition of Soundpolitic Sundays. These should bring you up to speed with anything that flies over your head in this week's report.

The day began early for a Saturday. I woke up about eight, sat zazen for the standard twenty minutes, then raced over my local library in Berne to check e-mails. The past week has been a flurry of racing about to public terminals due to my lack of a home internet connection (due to my lack of gainful employment for the past 14 months).

Each time I logged on, however, those problems melted away. I found more and more people interested in the new movement to change the tone in America's politics at the personal level, and found each new blog from myself and folks like Jake Goad on DailyKos making greater impact with each passing day.

By 10:30, I was ready to go. My generous mother made one last donation to the movement by filling my bumper-stickered Subaru's tank; the night before, she proved her sainthood by picking up some sign-making materials. Without the generosity of friends and family in this harsh recession, many of us young folks would be much worse off.

I parked without paying on State Street at 11:45, in the shadow of the New York State Capitol, and hopped down the block to catch up with the Downtown Albany Coffee Party meeting at the North Pearl Street Starbucks. There I met the organizer, Valerie St. Joseph. I was the first to arrive, and we exchanged smiles and stories. She and I are both artistic types and interested in making sure that this new national movement has a local impact here in Albany county and it's seat.

Soon enough, folks started to pop in. There were no signs to direct the Coffee Partiers that began to appear, but they were drawn to us by our, I dunno, aura of civility emanating from our conversation. By noon, about a dozen people of all walks of life had appeared and signed in. Valerie's group was a bit more informal, at her own behest. While the Coffee Party is incredibly organized on a national level, especially considering it's shoestring budget bolstered by amazing technological donations, she said she put together the meeting "out of sheer laziness."

Despite what she says, her hard work paid off. I was only able to stick around for a few minutes, but was able to snap a digital photo or two of the participants.

Downtown Albany Coffee Party Kickoff

Downtown Albany Coffee Party Sign

By quarter after twelve, we began going around and introducing ourselves. Already, this diverse group was coming to a consensus. One of the members pointed out that he believed very strongly that the true middle of America was being ignored by the media, which tends to focus on the animosity between right-and-left-wing fringes so as to craft an entertaining storyline focused on conflict.

When the circle got to me, I gave my name and handle on TAP and Kos. There was another Kossack there as well, and though she was easily twice my age and four shades darker, we were definitely one and the same this day. I made sure to note that this was another step forward in Albany's history, building on the Albany Plan of Union, the first ever plan to unite the colonies to break from British oppression, as well as the Tin Horns & Calico movement that occurred in my beloved Helderberg Mountains to finally break free of fuedal Patroons, the first ever grassroots "third" party movement in America.

I gave them my signature statements ("We the people means you the person" and "Keep up the good work!") and then excused myself so I could get to own gathering in time. Valerie was good enough to bum me a dollar and change so I could actually get some coffee in my system, demonstrating the true spirit of helping each other out in times of need.

As I walked out the door and looked up the street, the Irish were gathering all over. Green shirts and hats were already everywhere and merchants selling shamrocks and Guiness logos set up on the corners. But the colors that caught my eye were the inspiring primaries of red, white, and blue...

...a parking enforcement officer! I ran up the slope of Capitol Hill and got to my Obamamobile in the knick of time. I wished the officer good luck with the revelry that day and headed uptown to Uncommon Grounds, not knowing exactly what would happen next.

As I arrived, it was just turing to 1 pm. As an aside, don't forget to spring your clocks an hour ahead this evening! Dead broke, I got a free cup of water as I started to get my laptop going in safe mode. Unfortunately, there was no WiFi. So I tapped out the first half of this blog, finishing by 1:30...

...and at this point I began to notice a roundtable in the center of the cafe's floor begin to murmer about the Coffee Party. I stepped up to introduce myself to the five or so early birds before stepping out for a smoke.

By the time I came back in, our numbers had easily tripled.

By the end of the event, about forty citizens from all over the Capital Region were in attendance.

The meeting got off to a slightly late start at 2:07 as I was interviewing with a reporter from the New York State Legislative Gazette. Keep your eye out for the story.

I then got the meeting started since the attendees had moved the tables together themselves and created a perimeter around them. I introduced the meeting by going over a few things provided by the good folks at Coffee Party USA. Keep in mind that anybody can organize one of these things and it doesn't matter if four or forty people show up. With one exception, I started things off by directly following the Coffee Party USA's Local Facilitator's Guide. I'll quote these instead of what I said verbatim as they are exactly what will be made available to you should you decide to start your own chapter:

The Coffee Party Movement's Mission Statement

The Coffe Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see coooperation in governemnt to create positive solutions. We recognize that the government is not the enemy of the people, but a vehicle for our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions that benefit all Americans, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

Ground Rules for Common Ground

1. Respect everyone. Even if we disagree, listen to understand. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Check party affiliations at the door.

2. Big tent. We need all kinds of people coming together to create solutions.

3. This isn't a debate. Don't waste time arguing or proving you're right. The answer is usually "Both/And." We are here as a community

Soundpolitic Blogger's note: I added that in improv comedy, the way to keep the sketch going is to not "block" your fellow performer by saying "no," but to instead say, "Yes. And..." in order to keep the sketch going wherever it may go. Isn't poltics funny?

4. This isn't a pity party. Don't spend too much time complaining. Focus on common ground solutions and what each of us can do.

5. Step up/Step back. Step up if you're shy, step back if you usually talk.

6. Take initiative! Speak up, volunteer for things, jump in with both feet.

7. Respect people's space. No inappropriate financial/personal solitications.

Soundpolitic Blogger's note: While I made no such thing, the Coffee Partiers passed around a plate to tip the employees of Uncommon Grounds for their hard work in dealing with a surprise group of 40 political activists! Way to go, guys!

8. Act like your mama raised you right! If someone is being blatantly disruptive or disrespectful, the facilitator should inform that peson respectfully: "if you continue to be disruptive, I'll need to ask you to leave."

9. Support the facilitator. It's good for one person to be empowered to guide the group. Support that person! Don't undermine them! If you don't like their style, cool! Vote with your feet and start your own coffee shop!

10. We are here as a community to advance the common good.

Six Purposes of March 13 National Coffee Party Day

* Come together to build community as people who care about our country.

* Make our voices heard in the media through our photos, video, and signs.

* Model community to replicate every coffee shop in America.

* Change our national narrative to cooperating on solutions.

* Plan Coffee Day 2 (March 27) and "Coffee With Congress" (March 29-April 11)

Soundpolitic Blogger's Note: While we took all the first five steps quite well, with such a large group it was difficult to get a second gathering set in stone. However, multiple Coffee Partiers left expressing their intentions to form their own groups in Schenectady, Saratoga, and Rensseleaer Counties! So...great success!

Five Phases of the Coffee Party Movement's Plan

1. Listening and organizing in as many coffee shops as possible (Spring 2010) on national tone, process and solutions (Spring 2010) via gatherings, possibly a march on Washington (Summer 2010) via non-partisan voter mobilization (Fall 2010) our next steps together (Winter 2010)

2. Making our voices heard

3. Show our power

Soundpolitic Blogger's Note: I suggested that a march on Albany might well be added to our agenda given our Legislature's infamous dysfunction. On this, there was resounding consensus!

4. Hold elected officials accountable

5. Debrief our first year and envision

I followed these up with a couple of lists that I'd discovered myself in a book called Mindful Politics: A Buddhist Guide to Making the World a Better Place. The final chapter of the book contains some "pithy statements" by Zen Master Kazuaki Tanahashi:

Four Commonplace Truths of Politics

1. No situation is impossible to change.

2. A communal vision, outstanding strategy, and sustained effort can bring forth positive changes.

3. Everyone can help make a difference.

4. No one is free from responsibility.

Ten Laws of Political Breakthrough

1. Breakthrough may or may not occur. The result is unpredicatble and how it happens is mysterious. All we can do is work towards breakthrough.

2. Some breakthroughs are life-affirming and others destructive.

3. The chance for breakthrough increases when the objective and the process are clearly stated.

4. The chance for breakthrough increases when the blocks are clearly identified.

5. The smaller the objective is, the greater the chance for breakthrough.

6. An effective, intense, and continuous effort builds a foundation for breakthrough.

7. The more forces combine, the greater the chance for breakthrough.

8. The greater the objective is, the easier it is to bring together force for breakthrough.

9. The chance for breakthrough increases when more attention is directed to the process than the goal.

10. Nonattachment is a crucial element for breakthrough

Emphasis added to passages most relative to the Coffee Party Movement's mission. All four truths and all ten laws are equally important. -SP

After this (and a round of applause!) I passed around my tape recorder as a kind of Native American talking stick so that everybody could introduce themselves, share a little bit about themselves, and get started coming to a consensus on the biggest of issues. After this, we all agreed to make some signs, all while I juggled the role of photographer and media interviewee.

I'll let the Capital News 9 coverage and the photos I took speak louder than words since I'm already way over budget:

Albany County Coffee Partiers Introductions

Albany County Coffee Partiers Forming Consensus

Albany County Coffee Party Signmaking

Albany County Coffee Party First Signs

Albany County Coffee Party Our Country Our Conversation

Albany County Coffee Party Common Ground for Common Good

Albany County Coffee Party Signs

By 4 pm, that was it. The Coffee Party Movement had officially kicked off in Albany as it had across America. I'll tell you what: it was great to be a part of it. I hope you take the initiative to capture that feeling as well. Because while the luck of the Irish is something good to have, indeed, this was an example of true Americans coming together...

...and making their own luck.

This concludes the three-or-four part series on the transition from the Tea Party to the Coffee Party on Soundpolitic Sundays. Tune in next week for something completely different and, as always, thanks for reading and keep up the good work!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Coffee Party Hits Albany County Airwaves

Blogger Colin Abele, aka Soundpolitic organizer of the Albany County Coffee Party is interviewed on the highest-rated morning radio show in the Capital Region

This morning, I appeared on the Don Weeks Show on News Talk Radio 810 WGY to talk a little bit about the Coffee Party.  The movement has grown from a small Facebook comment to nearly 120,000 members as of tonight.

Tomorrow, the movement will have it's National Coffee House Day as the nationwide kick-off to reboot our democracy through citizen initiated civil discourse, with the mission of getting our democracy out of gridlock and back on track to express the collective will of the people.

But enough extra typing.  You can listen to the interview right here in streaming MP3.  Or, you can  read the transcript below!

You know, it was kind of funny transcribing my own interview.  I feel kind of like Hunter Thompson, just without all the alcohol and guns.  Here's what I said if you couldn't get your computer to listen.  You'll have to imagine the opening riff to U2's "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" for the audio intro bed (an excellent choice, Justin!)
Don Weeks:  I'm Don Weeks WGY morning news.  You've probably heard about the Tea Party.  Oh, they've been generating all kinds of headlines over the past couple of years.  And now there is a new party called the Coffee Party.  And they have a national kickoff day scheduled for, oh, lemme see here, this coming uh, it looks like, uh, tomorrow as a matter of fact.  Well, the man who would know would be Colin Abele.  Good morning!

Colin Abele (aka Soundpolitic):  Good morning Don! How are you?

DW:  Doin' terrific!  I'm kinda curious about the Coffee Party.  First of all, how did it start.

CA/SP:  It actually started based off of one accidental comment on FAcebook and it has since grown to - I'll betcha it's about 110,000  Facebook members now today because it's been growing and growing exponentially since this lady from Washington, Anabell Park, just posted a Facebook comment.  She was a little bit upset with the Tea Party and said that it didn't really represent her.  She saw a lot of anger and animosity and adversity there.  But still a kind of, definitely a love for America and a need to be engaged.  So she was frustrated that, you know, there really wasn't a place for someone of her viewpoint to take the same kind of action that the Tea Party is taking in getting civicly engaged. she just posted a little rant on FAcebook and said we need to do something to counter this.  Let's start a coffee party or a latte or chai party or a Red Bull party.

DW:  Okay...

CA/SP:  Then one person said yeah lets do that then another one did then a whole bunch of people did.  And they now have a website,, and there's over, I think there's over 300 of these things gonna be happening tomorrow.

DW:  How do, now, how do you differ from the Tea Party?

CA/SP:  Well, you know,  the more I speak with - because I went to a Tea Party a couple of weeks ago.  And I've actually got a letter to the editor in the Altamont Enterprise this week...

DW:  Uh-huh.

CA/SP:  ...on respectable newstands all over the capital district.  Um...and I said to myself, "You know, I...the more I talk with these Tea Party people, the more I realize we have a lot in common."   Because I"m very progressive and the Tea Party, of course, is very conservative.  But the way the media portrays it is there's two different camps and we really are, you know, I think it's time to realize that we're one nation on a person to person level.  Because, my little saying is that "We The People?"

DW:  Mm-hmm.

CA/SP:  It means "You the Person."  And what I"ve noticed with the Tea Party is that there's a lot of anger at government, there's a lot of fear about big government and even a hatred of the idea of the government doing things for people.  But the government, in a democratic republic, it's an expression of our collective will.  And if you're angry at the government or fearful of the government, since you're the government, you're really hating on yourself right there.

DW: How do you see, now...what kind of feedback are you getting from folks from the Tea Party?  Do you find that theres...You kind of mentioned that you thought there was, like, you know, common ground here where you could both find, hey look, I disagree with you on this but I agree with you on that, y'know, where's the common ground between these two different groups?

CA/SP:'s hard to say.  It's on so many issues.  And that's all we're going to do at this Coffee Party at Uncommon Grounds at 2 pm tomorrow.  And there's one at Starbucks at noon on North Pearl Street, I believe.  Um, we're just going to talk with people of all different stripes, whoever shows up, over coffee, nice and civil.  But we're finding common ground on, like, basically the gridlock in Washington.  Y'know, these people are our representatives.  And we are their employers.  The thing is...we have to take responsibility for that ourselves, Don.  We can't just sit back and say, y'know, why isn't Washington doing anything?  It's kind of reflection of, y' ever been in a coffee house and you see one guy who's really off the right and another guy who's really off the the left...

DW:  Yup! [Laughs]

CA/SP:  ...and they're just yelling and hooting and hollering at each other...

DW:  [Laughs]  Yeah... [Laughs]

CA/SP:  ...nobody leaves getting anything done.  But the more I talk with the Tea Party folks that I met in nice calm conversation, instead of, you know.  A lot of these Tea Parties have speakers that talk at you...

DW:  Yeah.

CA/SP:  ...instead of speaking with you. Y'know, if the Constitutional Convention was just George Washington presiding and talking at all those other guys, nothing would have gotten done.

DW:  Wouldn't have got very far.

CA/SP:  It was all based on compromise.  And these guys, back in 1787, they had a lot of very, very different opinions.  Read the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers and you'll see this.  But, they set some ground rules for civil discourse and they said, okay, I'm gonna give this up if you give that up.  And I think if we start doing that as citizens - and also if we start voting as citizens because this is off-year election and...

DW:  Might get...

CA/SP:  ...turnout's really really low...

DW:  ...might get something done.  Might get somewhere.

CA/SP:  I think that will finally be represented for us in Congress.  And so we're going to organize...

DW:  Colin, Colin, I gotta jump in here cuz we're running out of time. Where's the Coffee Party USA here locally?

CA/SP:  Uh, here locally I've started the Albany County chapter and we will meet at 2 pm tomorrow at Uncommon Grounds on Western Avenue in Albany.

DW:  I wish you well in finding, uh, common grounds.

CA/SP:  [Laughs]

DW:  Thanks so much for being with us this morning!

CA/SP:  Thank you very much Don.  Good luck to you.

DW:  Thank you, Colin Abele.  6:56, Don Weeks, WGY Morning News.

I have to thank Don Weeks and the producer, Justin Fiet, at WGY once again for this incredible experience.  I've called in to local talk radio shows before (btw, they just fired my favorite local DJ, Al Roney and replaced him with Glenn Beck...guess which one I liked better and accepted my calls regardless of my opposing views?) but this was the first time the radio station actually called me, a lowly 26-year old unemployed paralegal and political blogger.

I think that just goes to show how big the Coffee Party Movment is going to prove itself to be tomorrow afternoon.  See you there!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Coffee Party Letter to the Editor

Today, I had a Letter to the Editor appear in my local newspaper, the Altamont Enterprise regarding my organization of the Albany County Coffee Party as part of the National Coffee Party Kickoff to take place this Saturday, March 13.

I feel compelled to re-post the the letter in its entirety here for two reasons.  First, because the Enterprise never puts its Letters to the Editor on it's website.

Second, because the final few paragraphs of my 1,776 word letter were cut off, along with any byline to attribute the letter to me.  You can discern it was written by me in a small story deeper in the paper.  I don't hold it against them; the Enterprise is a top-notch, independently owned local paper that gives a huge forum to letter writers every week, so a mistake here and there is forgivable.

Without further adieu, here's what I wrote, along with the headline:

The Coffee Party is about people of all kinds engaging in civil discourse

I was pleased to see full coverage of the Hilltowns' chapter of the Tea Party meeting in your February 25, 2010 issue.  I went there myself out of sheer curiosity with regard to what they truly speak for and because I'd really like to say something about the state of our union myself.  So I can say from personal experience that the story told exactly what happened, right down to what I said at the end.
 The sad thing is that more space couldn't be given to this story.  The space constraints of a newspaper being fully understood, I'll quickly lay out my motives for this feeling.

First, I feel there's a lot more to the Tea Party than all media are reporting; in fact, the crux is very simple and universal.

Second, I'm egotistical.  I would have liked to see my entire speech printed.  Might as well be honest, right?

But space constraints being considered, I'll simply point out what I'd hoped would have been quoted instead in order to fully explain what the Tea Party really is about (or rather, should be about) and to introduce an incredible new movement very similar to the Tea Party at its core, yet fundamentally different in its approach.

I had also said:  "We the people means you the person...So do the organizing, but remember: you are the government and the government is you.  So if you just blame the government for everything, you are asking the government to take responsibility for you."

I was amazed I got it out; I'd asked the event's organizers to speak a little bit since I ran a write-in campaign the previous year and had volunteered on several campaigns before.  But they denied me.  I had to wait to be recognized by the final speaker.

So my statement presented the two major problems of the Tea Party.  The first is that it doesn't appear to be an actual conversation.  This is the vehicle of the political process at the grass roots level as well as in the halls of power: civil discussion between fellow citizens.

At the Tea Party, I got the impression that the regular folks in attendance were being talked at instead of spoken with.  The ideology and agenda were already set in stone, and the goal of the organizers seemed to be to chisel away at the minds of the audience.  This is not the way to bring the change our country truly needs.

Second, the viewpoints being expressed there pretty much boiled down to an us versus them mentality of the government being the enemy of the people.  And this view was grounded in the very damaging emotions of fear, anger, and hatred: Fear that the government was "stealing freedoms," anger over "taxing and spending," and, yes, a hatred of "big government."

Daniel Smith, the event organizer expressed these very words in his letter to the editor in the same issue the story ran.  That is to say, he didn't use the word "hate," itself.  Yet hate is the only thing that ever comes when following through on fear and anger precisely because this is a law of cause and effect that is beyond our control:  Lose control of fear and anger, and you lose more than control of the debate - you lose control of the consequences.

These have already manifested themselves.  While I won't insinuate any direct connection to the Tea Party movement, I find no coincidence in the difference between the way we're talking about planes flying into buildings in 2001 and 2010.  Last time, it was international terrorists who were afraid, angry, and hateful of our entire culture.  This year, it was a man who was angry at his government and afraid that there was nothing to be done about but be angry, and this made him hateful enough to fly his plane into an IRS building after posting a rant online that basically paraphrased many of the same ideals being discussed within the Tea Party movement.

So while Dan Smith and the Tea Party movement might say they want to stand up and start an awakening, I see America taking one step forward...and two steps backward, essentially sleepwalking toward the same nightmare.

Yet the desire to wake up is still there.  Not all of the Tea Party's position are disagreeable.  In fact, the more I speak with some in the movement, the more I find common ground between their mostly conservative views and my mostly progressive ones.

But the biggest thing I find in common is the gut-level feeling that something is very, very wrong in America and it is up to nobody but ourselves to make things right again.  This is why the majority of Americas are still disengaged by both the Democratic-Republican Party (we've determined the two parties truly are one and the same) and by the Tea Party.

As I left the Tea Party, I thought of how I just wanted to sit down with a couple friends, have a cup of coffee and talk amongst each other about what is wrong with this new two party system... it turns out, I wasn't alone.

Late last month, somebody posted their thoughts about the Tea Party on Facebook and how something should be formed to counter it.  Something that truly speaks to our common ground as Americans to find consensus on the issues that really affect us based on the factual conditions on the ground.  "Let's form a Coffee Party!" she posted.  And somebody responded, "Yes!  Let's do it."

And then somebody else said that.  Then a few more people.  Then they actually got together and did it while even more people chimed in.  And in a few short weeks, over 100,000 people joined the new website and organized a National Coffee Party Kickoff Day for Saturday, March 13th, 2010.

I was one of them.  I saw that the City of Albany didn't have a chapter organized yet.  So I called up Uncommon Grounds on Western Avenue and asked if 2:00 pm would be okay to host.  The manager said he'd be a fool not to (we'll be drinking his coffee and we're all free-market capitalists after all).  There's another one that popped up Downtown at Noon as well.

In fact, there's over 300 Coffee Parties that have organized across America.  And they're being put together by regular people to bring regular people together.

This is not a big anti-or-pro-anything movement being pushed by a political party or media organization.  This is not a platform for conservative or liberal politicians of ambition or philosophers of doom.  And this is not a place for dug-in-heels, head-in-the-sand ideological activists to get people worked up to scream "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

The Coffee Party is only pro-democratic-republicanism (with a small "d" and little "r") because and pro-people we are a democratic republic of the people.  And since in this form of rule the government and the people are one in the same, we have to start being active employers if we want our representatives to be good employees.  That is, if we want to change our government, then what we really have to change is ourselves.

The Coffee Party is about all people getting to work and engaging in the civil discourse that this form of government requires of us, regardless of party affiliation or ideological preference.

It's simple math really: The words "Democrat" or "Republican" and "liberal" or "conservative" are merely labels that have been pushed on us by the media and politicians to divide us, subtracting from the common good.  We don't want the government to go to one party or the other or move to the right or left; we just want them to start adding to the solutions column.

But they haven't been doing that, so the Coffee Party is multiplying.  In this way, the Coffee Party has more of a "Gotta Prob'm? Let's Git'r Done!" attitude when compared to the Tea Party.

I think this explains why the Tea Party seems to have run its course and why the Coffee Party has grown so quickly; it's why the Tea Party has become yet another vehicle which divides us and why the Coffee Party seeks to find common ground with all Americans, including Tea Partiers, and then translate what we find out about each other - in simple conversation over a cuppa joe at our favorite coffee shops - into direct action.

You know...there's been a lot of talk about "change" these past few years.  In 2006 we had to "change" parties in Congress.  Then we had to "change" parties in the White House and in the State Senate in 2008.  Now this year, the Tea Party seems to be saying we need to "change" back.

I'm not buying it.  I'm tired of the pendulum swinging back and forth.  America must replace this grandfather clock and get with the times and go digital.  Heck, the world entered the digital age long ago.  It's time to get back to get with the program...and wake up and smell the coffee.

That's why I like what Gandhi said about change the best:  "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

In other words, democracy isn't about just sitting back and watching politicians not work together toward the common good.  And it's not about the people boiling over from the frying pan and into the fire, either.

America is about we the people ordaining and establishing a framework of government to serve as a manifestation of our collective will.  That can only work if we lead by example, set the tone ourselves, and participate in the process we created (Soundpolitic Blogger's Note: Here is where the printed version of the letter ends.) and have defended since the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

That convention would have never been successful if there hadn't been a willingness to compromise, a dedication to cooperate, and a pledge to remain civil.  That's what the Coffee Party is about: we seek to empower each other as founding fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters of liberty ourselves.

And that's all we'll be doing this Saturday at 2:00 pm at Uncommon Grounds at the Albany Coffee Party as the movement gets started nationwide:  Just talking about our problems to look for solutions and decided what to do next about them so we can git'r done, once and for all, all for one, e pluribus unum.  Well, that and we'll be drinking coffee!  For more information, head to or if you really, really liked the way I put it, read more at my blog at

Colin Abele
Berne, NY
Thus ends my letter on page six.  And so begins my work on turning the page this coming Saturday.  Stay tuned for a report on how things went in the next edition of Soundpolitic Sundays.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coffee Party Brewing in the Empire State

In less than two months, the Coffee Party movement has grown to over 100,000 members nationwide. And in three days, National Coffee House Day will officially kick off the movement to reform our political culture in all fifty states.

New York is playing its part in about a dozen fledgling organizations that will meet in the afternoon of Saturday, March 13, 2010. From Downstate to Upstate, the Empire State is set to become one of the hot spots of the movement to cool down the rhetoric so we can once again speak to our common goals as Americans.

I organized the Albany County Coffee Party to make sure Albany itself wasn't left out; within a matter of days, one for the city of Albany sprouted up as well.

But this movement is about more than just one blogger, or one city. A complete list of all the New York Coffee Parties are linked to below the fold. And since this movement is bigger than just one state as well, then if you've just heard of the Coffee Party Movement or are not really sure what we'll be doing on Saturday or what we're about, the video directly below makes it clear and simple:

Looks like fun, huh? Click "There's more" to see if there's a New York Coffee Party organizing in your neck of the woods.

(Cross-posted on the front-page of The Albany Project and to the diaries on  Daily Kos.)

The Coffee Party is currently in start-up phase as a truly bottom-up grassroots, non-partisan, non-affilliated movement. It's an organization that seeks to be more than the sum of its parts by the time the Kickoff Coffee Houses are done with and the March 27 (or earlier!)follow-up meetings are planned in even more locations.

So while there isn't a statewide New York Coffee Party yet, part of the goal is to go super-local as well as super-national. Part of what we'll talk about at all the Coffee Parties linked to below will be how we get more conversations started in smaller towns and neighborhoods as well as how to link them up into multi-town-county-and-state levels of organization.

This is how we will later be able to take the common ground we discover on Saturday in our own favorite coffee houses directly to Congress to talk some common sense into our representatives in preparation for a Coffee With Congress from March 27 to April 11.

But here's where you, fellow New Yorker, can join us on the ground floor this very weekend on Saturday, March 13th, and in the days to come:

All Coffee Parties to take place Saturday, March 13th, 2010 unless otherwise specified.


Coffee Party near Times Square at Le Monde Gourmet Deli, 38 West 48th St., Manhattan at 12 Noon. Questions? -or- 617-421-0100.

Coffee Party in Union Square at 7:30 PM Tuesday, March 16 at Food Depot, 138 5th Ave at 19th St., upstairs in seating area.

Coffee Party in SoHo at the Bleeker Bar next to NoHo Star at 333 Lafayette Street at 12 Noon.

Coffee Party in Forest Hills, Queens at Manor Oktoberfest, 7311 Yellowstone Blvd., Forest Hills, NY, at 12 Noon.

Coffee Party in Mineola at Mo'joe, 95 Mineola Boulevard at 12 Noon.

Coffee Party in Westeshter County at 191 North Highland Avenue, Ossining, at 2:00 PM.


Coffee Party in Albany County at Uncommon Grounds, 1235 Western Avenue, Albany at 2:00 PM.

Coffee Party in Downtown Albany at the Starbucks, 10 North Pearl Street at 12 Noon.

Coffee Party in Red Hook at Taste Budd's on 40 West Market Street at 9:00 AM.

Fair Trade Coffee in Poughkeepsie at Woman's Work, 2600 South Road at 12 Noon.

Coffee Party in the Hudson Valley at the Crafted Kup, 44 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie at 10:00 AM.


Coffee Party in Rochester at the Bagel Bin Cafe, 2600 Elmwood Avenue at 12 Noon.

Coffee Party in Amherst on Friday, March 12 at 6:00 PM at Tim Hortons, 3394 Sheridan Drive.

Coffee Party in Jamestown at 2:00 PM at Labyrinth Press Company, 12 East 4th Street.

Coffee Party of Northen Chautauqua County at Central Station Restaurant at 332 Central Avenue, Dunkirk at 10 AM.

The events above are just a handful of the over 250 Coffee Parties that will be taking place across the country. So if you're of the Jersey or Connecticut part of the Tri-State Area, or if you're a Green Mountain Boy, you can just head to Coffee Party USA to find out where these are going on closets to you. There you can join the thousands of ordinary Americans taking the first step to stop being fed up with politics and take charge of our government.

All this from one Facebook comment in January. This is democracy in action.

See you there!