The TU's Rob Gavin did a good job covering this afternoon's demo outside the Capitol, though I think he low-balled the crowd some (I'd put it at 200). The event was introduced by NYSUT reps, who before that explained to two state troopers (with one of whom they had previously been in contact) that they were not representing Occupy Albany, although some people were around who were. Most everyone was in support of the movement that has sprung up around the country (maybe the world) from Occupy Wall Street. Also present in Albany was a smorgasbord of other leftist groups from the Socialist Equality Party to anti-frackers, along with lots of antiwar demonstrators (one with a handwritten addition to his printed banner referring to "Barack O'Bombing"). There, too, was the Muslim Solidarity Alliance, which carried a large banner with pictures of the convicted and imprisoned (unjustly in my opinion) faux terrorists from Albany, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain.
NYSUT's Andrew Pallotta decried the imminent demise of the state millionaire's tax, which is certainly a reasonable position. But the time to stand up and save the tax was in March, when the budget was being negotiated, and what actually happened then was that Democrats joined Republicans to prove they are both in Wall Street's pocket -- along with the independent mayor of NYC. (National Democrats have a somewhat better position on taxes.)
One of the dilemmas facing the Occupy movement is whether to go along with every fringe group, some of which make a lot more sense than others, or to stick with kinda boring agendas like NYSUT's. Nor is boring obviously the way to go. Anyone even partly sympathetic can get behind the millionaire's tax, but NYSUT cares a lot more about stopping education vouchers (just as Assembly Democrats cared more about protecting trial lawyers), and the result is that the interest of the "99 percent" is routinely sold out by both parties to special interests.
On the way to the demo, we wandered past the beautiful brownstone former school that is one of the oldest buildings in Albany and the centerpiece of Academy Park. Now the HQ of the hard-pressed city school system, you could see through the basement windows cardboard boxes stacked five-high with decades-old files that nobody -- as said my schoolteacher wife (who would borrow a "NYSUT in solidarity" sign at the rally) -- will ever read. (You can check out the wife's blog post.)
It reminds me of that Elizabeth Warren quote seen all over the liberal Internet, about how no-one gets rich by themselves because we all need public roads, police protection, etc. Fair enough, but it is blindingly obvious that government, even when well intentioned, is not just routinely inefficient but often far from benign -- as can be seen in the spheres of education, welfare, housing, etc., and in the debt-burdened public finances all over the civilized world. The Occupiers recognize governmental failings when it comes to Wall Street and war. But I think the Tea Party's critique remains at least as relevant. While we do need politicians willing to work with each other across party lines, to do sensible things like raise the debt ceiling when to do otherwise invites crisis, that doesn't alter the fact that all those centrist pols seem to have driven the world economy off a cliff.