Oklahoma Tornado 05.20.13 May 21, 2013Posted by caradox in Life, Progressive Politics.
Tags: #lovegiveact, Oklahoma
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Some days the news breaks and takes your breath away. This was one of those days. A tornado that may rank with the worst in American history tore through a suburb of Oklahoma City this afternoon, devastating a community in ways that these first hours are only beginning to show. Two elementary schools were in the monster’s path, and as I write this crews are still trying to recover the children of Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore - knowing it is likely a recovery and not a rescue at this point and that the toll will be utterly heartbreaking.
So what can we do, from a distance, as this unfolds? We bear witness as best we can: To the first responders who will work themselves to the bone through the night in the hope of finding just one more alive, the teachers (too many times this year our hearts have burst at lengths to which teachers will go to protect these kids they love), those neighborhoods leveled to the concrete slab, the local journalists doing everything in their power to save lives ahead of the storm and then tell the stories of their own hometowns hour by hour in the aftermath, those children – oh mercy those poor children.
We can do more.
We are not powerless. No matter how far away you can pitch in. Over the coming days there will be many opportunities to do your part, and the needs on the ground will evolve. I’ll add the best verified ways to help as they pop-up. Here’s a start.
How to Help
1. Donate to the Red Cross – This is simple text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10 or text “DONATE” to 90999 to donate $25. You can donate online at Red Cross Disaster Relief or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767. To see the help in action you can follow @RedCrossOKC on Twitter.
2. Donate to the Oklahoma City Food Bank – Text “FOOD” to 32333 to donate $10. You can also donate online at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The OKC food bank is part of Feeding America – an org that I have supported for years.
3. Support Team Rubicon - This fantastic group empowers vets to get into our community and get to work doing relief and clean-up. They dove in after Sandy and are ready to get on the ground fast in Oklahoma. They have the backing of veterans that I am proud to call my friends. Donate online at Team Rubicon.
More great resources as they get geared up – I’m on the lookout in particular for pet / animal rescue and support groups (email me if you have a great one to recommend).
Komen backs down: What’s Next? February 3, 2012Posted by caradox in Progressive Politics.
Tags: Action, Breast Cancer, Healthcare, Komen, Planned Parenthood, Women
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I was in my car today when word broke that Komen for the Cure was sending up the white flag. I had to pull over to tweet my reaction (of course), then catch my breath. First the SOPA blackout and then this… I’m starting to think we might be onto something here.
I’m just delighted with the work that has been done these past 3 days. I have no doubt that this is a win.
Anytime you get a huge deeply corporate organization to stop what they are doing and acknowledge you’ve made them look really bad, and that they did something wrong, it’s a win.
We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.
Anytime you mobilize tens of thousands of people that fast and get them to focus on one specific problem for 3 days, you’ve won. Oh, the amazing amount of money that Planned Parenthood raised since Wednesday? Three. Million. Dollars. Yeah, that’s a win too.
Is Komen hoping today’s statement buys them room to quietly keep doing what they originally planned – pushing the reactionary political agenda of their current leadership? Perhaps. But the rock has been turned over. What they do next will be under serious scrutiny. For a full walkthrough of where things stand, Jennifer’s write up tonight covers much of the picture (and she saved me the the work of turning my whole day’s legal pad scribbles into coherent thought at a late hour, bless her.)
So what comes next:
- Komen needs to fire Karen Handel. Her hiring and the organizational direction they have taken are intertwined. As long as she and anyone she brought in to work with her on policy remains, the reactionary political culture the national office has developed will still exist.
- Komen’s next grant cycle will need to be watched, carefully. Their overall project choices need careful review and consideration before donors should feel comfortable handing over their charitable dollars. Their lobbying and advocacy needs to be made as transparent as possible so that all those who now recognize the potential problems can do a better job of acting as guardians of the public trust.
- There ARE amazing, effective groups working every day toward a cure. Also for prevention, compassionate support, and quality care. Donate to them. Show them your love. And give them a hand in the work they do. Two of my personal favorites are:
Prevent Cancer Foundation http://preventcancer.org/
CureSearch for Children’s Cancer http://www.curesearch.org/
- We don’t say it enough: Planned Parenthood provides a vital, often the only, lifeline for those who need it. And more women need, and use their services than you can imagine. There are places in this country were without Planned Parenthood women would have nowhere to go to ask questions about their health and family planning, to get affordable medical care, and to get referrals to treatment with financial help to get them through. The best way to connect with that reality is to learn from the women who know PP best. These are their stories.
- Whatever your reason for paying attention to this story – your passion for healthcare, your personal history with Komen or cancer, your general love of a good fight – the most important thing is to do something. If you sent one tweet, made one phone call, sent a 3 line email, dug up 5 bucks for Planned Parenthood, you were part of something that had an impact.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for doing. You matter.
Day One: Pink Ribbons in a twist February 1, 2012Posted by caradox in Progressive Politics.
Tags: Action, Breast Cancer, Healthcare, Komen, Planned Parenthood, Women
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What a day! The response everywhere to the decision of Komen for the Cure’s national office to drop Planned Parenthood from its grant program has been incredible. I’m so heartened by this community of people.
The big news is that donations have poured in to Planned Parenthood – over $400,000 in 24 hours. That’s a great start in not just closing the “Komen gap” but going right past it, giving Planned Parenthood the ability to deliver even more care services.
Meanwhile, Komen for the Cure is now under a microscope that will not go away any time soon. With people looking at Komen, deeper concerns are becoming public, like the amount of donor’s money spent in litigation against other small charities and how little money Komen actually puts toward research – rather than administrative and fundraising expenses as Alicia Staley describes here.
Pushback isn’t just coming from the outside community. Komen for the Cure’s Connecticut chapter told WaPo’s Ezra Klein how “frustrated” they are following the national office’s decision, while the Denver affiliate has already asked for and gotten an exemption to keep their grant program with Planned Parenthood.
24 hours in, the question is whether Komen for the Cure has irreparably damaged their brand, or will rethink and find a way to resolve their mounting PR crisis. It would now require fixing their Planned Parenthood relationship and addressing concerns about their leadership, mission and use of donor funds.
There’s a lot at play here. The most immediate is to put people first and make sure that access to screenings is preserved. Even better, with people paying attention, is to turn this into something that helps even more with greater support for the work that Planned Parenthood does through their screenings and prevention services.
Yes, there’s an even bigger problem: this ongoing battle for access to affordable healthcare in America and the siege — I’ve got no other word for it now that things have become a daily battle with personhood laws and candidates who think contraception is a crime — over reproductive care. That’s a post for another day. Right now, stay focused and stay fighting. This is day one.
Don’t forget to check out the list of actions. Make a call, send a note, make some noise. It’s having an impact.
Tags: Action, Breast Cancer, Healthcare, Komen, Planned Parenthood, Women
Update 2/1/2012 11 am ET: Since the news broke last night, the response has been passionate. One thing that Komen may not have expected is the secondary impact of this – a lot of people are now taking a deep look at Komen leadership’s political and corporate ties, the fundraising machine at Komen, and where donor’s money goes (hint: a lot less of it goes to actual research and care than many donors would think). People are starting to say – there are better organizations that are use less money for administrator salaries and get more money directly to research and care. More on this as the information develops. I’ve added more actions below that you can take, and more will be coming – some great ideas are cooking and will become events and channels for real impact.
This afternoon AP broke a story that Susan G. Komen for the Cure is stopping its partnership with Planned Parenthood.
A shockwave is now going through the internet among those who care intensely about the access of women to the kinds of medical care Planned Parenthood provides – cervical cancer screenings, breast cancer screenings, STD and reproductive planning education and care. For millions of America’s most vulnerable women, Planned Parenthood is a lifeline to care they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to and afford.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure provides significant grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer exams in support of their core mission. Without those grants, fewer women will have access to screenings that can save their lives.
Why did Komen for the Cure do this?
From the Washington Post AP story:
Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress — a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.
So Komen for the Cure is making this decision not because Planned Parenthood isn’t effective, or a good partner, and not because they aren’t doing work that saves women’s lives, but because conservative Republicans, who have unleashed unprecedented attacks on women’s rights all over this country at the local, state, and national level have scared them with Congressional investigations. Investigations that have not introduced fact-based information that would drive a rational decision, because they haven’t even happened yet.
I have so very many reactions to this news. None of them gentle.
My first reaction is to feel complete betrayal. How many times have I supported that pink ribbon? How many donations? How many times have I answered Komen for Cure’s call to be there for them? Komen has a very short window to make this right, or they will lose my support completely and that of tens of thousands of others. And with me goes my money.
My second reaction is: Elections have consequences. This is the price we are paying for the 2010 midterm elections – again. Only the bill will be paid by women in cities and rural communities, without access to quality care if Planned Parenthood doesn’t have the resources to help them get affordable mammograms and information on monthly self-exams. The cost will be measured in lives. If you sat out the midterms because you didn’t think it mattered, or because you had a fit of pique at the White House, or because you were under some weird misapprehension that the Tea Party wouldn’t drive a bus right over women in their blind anger at… well whatever it is they were told to be angry at… then you’ve got to wake up now and think about what happens when angry zealots get enough seats in Congress to take us all hostage.
My third reaction is — fight. Fight hard, fight fast, and don’t stop — until Komen for the Cure and everyone else with a role in funding and support of women’s health research and delivery, and the legislators who write policy around them, know that we see what is happening and we will not willingly be sent into the medical dark ages. And we absolutely will not tolerate a country in which those with power and financial means have access to care while millions of others are abandoned to fate. Fight. Now.
Here’s how you can join the fight to keep zealots from scaring women’s healthcare away from those who need it most (and keep checking because I will add actions as they come up, because feathers are flying now):
2 – Tweet: @komenforthecure and tell them that they have made the wrong choice and it will cost women’s lives.
3 – Call: 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) Right now. Tell them that fear won’t stop breast cancer, but breast exams at Planned Parenthood are a critical weapon in our battle.
4 – Post: A post on Komen’s Facebook wall would certainly get their attention.
5 - Go direct: Donate right to Planned Parenthood so those dollars get right to where they can help the next woman get a breast cancer or cervical cancer screening. <Thanks @bujeeboo> BONUS points: When you donate to PP, have then send the Thank You card to Karen Handel c/o Susan G. Komen Foundation. <Brilliant @MishaRN!>
6 (New!) – Rate: Join those who are registering their view that as an organization Komen for the Cure has stopped being true to their purported charitable mission. This will help people make more informed decisions with charitable dollars. They will be clear on the fact that Komen has become a political organization by their decision. <Thanks @21law>
7 (New!) – Speak up: Tell the corporate sponsors of Komen for the Cure that all women (and men!) are worth fighting for, and that Komen has made a political decision that does not reflect a charitable mission to save lives. <Thanks @Toby_Ziegler>
Susan G. Komen Sponsors: Million Dollar Elite: http://ww5.komen.org/MillionDollarCouncil.aspx?Elite=Elite
Susan G. Komen Sponsors: Million Dollar Council: http://ww5.komen.org/MillionDollarCouncil.aspx?Elite=No
Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Sponsors: http://ww5.komen.org/RacefortheCureSponsors.aspx
Susan G. Komen Corporate Partners: http://ww5.komen.org/CorporatePartners.aspx
Twitter accounts for many of Susan G. Komen’s corporate sponsors:
That’s the start. Now go – fight.
——- Related News and Posts ——-
Angry Black Lady as usual adds her fearless take on today’s developments.
Amanda Marcotte at Slate’s XX Factor lays it all out clearly.
Kaily Joy Gray at DailyKos gives a great call to action.
Jennifer @jhw2212 wins my award for most jawbusting response. Pricelessly honest.
Selling Change (Guest Post by Ben Donahower) August 31, 2011Posted by caradox in Progressive Politics.
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Somewhere between work, classes, and getting myself going with Progressive Congress News, I managed to wedge in a week at the shore – a very badly needed week. While working turning myself into a saltwater infused sun dried tomato, I got a note that made me very happy: A twitter pal had read my post on politics as marketing, and thought he could add to the topic with some of his own experiences from the campaign trail.
Trust me – when you blog in the wee hours of random odd weeks where you find time, having someone tell you that they actually read your blog is a delight. Having them tell you they’ve put thought into the topic you raised is downright grin-inducing.
Classes are done, all that work email is cleared out – so I’m finally able to catch up here as well. I’m very happy to share this guest post from Ben Donahower. Ben’s got some food for thought. I hope they spark some ideas you can use in your local grassroots activism – because we need a lot more people out there getting comfortable knocking on doors, making signs, showing up at town halls, and putting themselves up as candidates for local office. Wisconsin and Ohio can’t do this alone.
The better we understand marketing the more likely our candidates get elected and our causes get adopted. In fact, the similarities between marketing and campaigns and elections are striking. Campaigns and marketers might use different words but they name the same concepts. Ultimately, marketers and campaigns want people to say yes to their offer. One offers a product or service and the other ideas and representation. Let’s make voters and others an offer they can’t refuse!
To Get An Answer Add Scarcity
We’ve all seen offers for products and services where the price or the product was only good for a certain time. Act now because the first hundred customers will get this widget for three easy payments of $19.95! Fortunately, politics is a business of deadlines. Campaigns commonly use scarcity is to raise funds before a campaign finance deadline and to persuade undecided voters to make up their minds close to the election. Adding scarcity to your ask for financial support or to vote for the candidate will increase the percentage of people who give a straight answer and the number of people who will say yes. Look for other deadlines and take advantage of them! If you have an upcoming vote by mail deadline, for example, reach out to people who are likely to vote by mail, share with them the benefits of voting by mail and that the deadline is fast approaching.
It’s Give and Take: In That Order
Robert Cialdini in his book, 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, shared an experiment where researchers asked a group of homeowners to place a large “drive carefully” sign on their front lawns. Only 17% agreed. The researchers also went to another group of homeowners but instead of asking them to post a sign on their first visit, they were asked to display a small window sign. Now that the researchers had a mental foot in the door, the next time they visited those homeowners, 78% of them agreed to take the large “drive carefully” lawn sign.
The second group of homeowners easily agreed to a small window sign. After they had displayed the sign for some time they identified themselves as the kind of people that cared about whether others drove carefully or not. Since the small window signs helped them self-identify as that type of person, they easily agreed to take the much larger and less attractive yard sign.
This same marketing principle applies to political campaigns whether it’s yard signs, campaign contributions, or something in between.
The Power of Pricing Psychology
Marketers are very strategic in how much they ask for a product. A product price, for example, is $14.95 in a bricks and mortar retail or something like $27 online. Marketers also think about the structure of the price such as the three easy payments of $19.95.
Activists can use the same principles of pricing psychology to make it easier for undecided voters to vote for a candidate. Tell an undecided voter that they aren’t making a lifelong commitment but putting the candidate in office for one term. If they aren’t happy with their representation, their money back guarantee is that they can return the elected official to private life and elect someone else. More people will vote for the candidate because you have framed the ask for a vote in a way that is low cost and guaranteed.
When we market a candidate or an issue using these ideas and other marketing strategies, we are communicating ideas in a way that are accessible and compelling. We shouldn’t feel sleazy about our efforts unless we are making claims that we can’t deliver on. The reason why we think that marketing is sleazy comes from unethical marketers who make false promises about their products and candidates alike. If we market our issues and candidates ethically, we our doing ourselves and our causes a service.
Making it Work in Wisconsin June 2, 2011Posted by caradox in Progressive Politics.
Tags: Activism, Protest, Wisconsin
Yesterday I took a red pen to the Dancing protest at the Jefferson Memorial this past holiday weekend. It is just as important (actually more so) to speak of a great example of how to boldly, loudly, and effectively protest.
Political activism is marketing. I know, that makes you cringe. It wounds your rebel soul to hear. It’s too base, too commercial, too capitalist.
Get over it.
The world has a limited supply of resources, including attention to causes. If you have an issue important to you, you want as much public awareness and legitimacy as possible so that you get results from the work you put into it.
When Madison, Hamilton and Jay wrote The Federalist Papers, they were marketing. They were making their case for ratification of the Constitution and how a new federal government should be designed. They needed to reach an audience that would support ratification, and they had to knock down objections they were competing against in the marketplace. So they made their pitch, under the name “Publius”. Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, they all used the marketing channels of their day, letters to peers and supporters, signed and unsigned articles in the growing American press, and books to influence, inform, teach, and challenge.
Dr King was marketing too. Every word of the “I Have A Dream” speech was chosen carefully to evoke the right feelings, to resonate with varied American audiences. It was one of the most important sales pitches in American history. Buy this dream and take it home with you, you will find a greater value in it than the way we are living today. He chose his forum and used the media of his day masterfully. For that we can be grateful.
Political activism is marketing.
Right now, Wisconsin protests give us a fantastic model for handling a tough political battle. In the snow, day after day, they came out and rallied, looking just like the ordinary Americans they are. No matter how hard the right wing media machine tried to make them out to be union thugs or greedy overpaid teachers, to most people across the country, they looked just like us.
They chanted and sang. They held their signs. And, yes, they danced and danced and danced in that statehouse.
The effort, coordination, and communication it took, across multiple organizations was massive. It was also sustained over a long period of time and in the face of repeated counter events and tense legislative moments. I’m sure there were moments where things got hairy, and mistakes were made, but the overall positive public impression that came out of those weeks was no accident – it was the product of hard and effective work.
The moment I held my breath was the day of the planned Capital clearing. I watched as it streamed online (modern media!) knowing the whole story could go wrong in a handful of minutes. I was blown away by what I saw. The crowd inside the Capital was given detailed, clear, repeated instructions. Protesters were given a choice on whether to be arrested or not. Those who chose arrest were given a specific location to go and talked through how to go about being arrested. There was constant communication with police on who was where and how things would proceed. As I watched, my family coming in and out of the kitchen around me, I was pointing and hopping like a happy rabbit: “They are doing it the way we were taught!” “They know what to do!” “This could just work!”
Today, when you think of Wisconsin, who was the rock star in the statehouse rotunda that day? Can’t name them? Good. It wasn’t about one individual, it was – and stayed – a collective “people’s” view. Do you remember when the police got upset and wrangled with the protesters? No? Good. Because they were careful, on both sides, by the the quality of their behavior, to make make things go as smoothly as possible. So much so that when overblown and inaccurate reports of damage were publicized, it was “The Man” who backed up the protesters.
As of today, 6 Republican State Senators are now in line for recall votes. The bill was overturned for violation of process laws. The work goes on in Wisconsin. Rallies, events, organizing meetings are all still being held. The outcome is not certain and there may need to be more rallies. One thing is certain: Wisconsin protesters have fired up a conversation that has been successful enough that it keeps going, and they’ve done it without doing one ounce of harm to the ideals and goals of the movement they first learned from, and now lead. Their spirit and style are already being copied in other states. This is how new activists are born. They learn from our experience then take us to places we never thought of, using tools and messages that reflect to their gifts. Activism evolves. But the goal is always the same – to reach as many people we need to get the change we seek. Activists can’t just talk to themselves, they must reach a broad and diverse public that has a lot of other concerns on its mind.
There is no other way to end the inequality of gay, lesbian, and transgendered Americans. No other way to get Climate Change back on the table for real solutions. No other way to get the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, and the dark relationship between America and torture buried forever.
Those are worth learning how to sell.
Tags: Activism, Code Pink, Jefferson Memorial, Protest
I spent most of the weekend talking myself out of writing this. After I got the 400th tweet and status about how wonderful these activists are, and how the awful horrible terrible no-good police brutalized them, I just can’t hold my tongue.
I don’t want to be the cranky old pragmatist drag bitching about about these meddling kids. But I’m going to. The more I think about it, the more I have concerns about allowing this kind of “activism” to go on without any reflection on how and why it is done, and why it is counterproductive to true methods of civil change.
Here are my specific issues with the action that these people took at the Jefferson Memorial on Saturday, May 28th and why I believe that those celebrating and promoting them need to take a big step back and reflect before turning them into heroes:
1 – The most important thing you should know is that this action was not, and does not comport with peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience. Those who have never experienced it first hand likely do not know this, but a civil disobedience event is (and pardon the pun given the circumstances) a dance. It is a carefully orchestrated and methodical set of moves in which a group of organized resistors plan ahead, aware going in that they are knowingly acting in violation of the law, what the likely consequences of their action will be, and exactly how they are expect themselves to behave during every step of the event in order to achieve the goal of peaceful non-violent and civil (civil as in polite) disobedience. In our modern political environment, that means that the actors (the protestors) and the police often have full awareness and communication of what each side will do. There are several very specific ways in which this event did not meet the rules:
- This event was publicized as a celebratory flash mob and a civil disobedience – at no time in the invite video does Adam Kokesh tell viewers that if they participate they can expect to be arrested. What he does indicate is that they intend to not “cause a disturbance” for those visiting the memorial. If any viewers were drawn to have some fun, they were doing so without a clear understanding of what they would likely encounter – a police presence, arrests, and legal consequences. That kind of setup, with a wide open public invitation is a setup for trouble.
- At the event, the participants proceed to take a set of actions that are not typical of well organized civil disobedience. If you watch the long version video, you will see the lead police officer do what is expected and normal, he approaches the group and calmly lays out for them that they will be arrested, and that if they live outside the 50 mile radius they will be held over for the weekend. What he gets from the group is not normal. They should be communicating with him to work the dance – yes, Officer, we understand that you will do your job, yes we understand that we will be arrested, we will not allow ourselves to be arrested willingly but we will peacefully resist arrest – we will do that by sitting together or laying down on the ground and you will have to physically remove us. Instead they pepper him with questions that they should already know the answer to, they argue with him, they yell, they snark, they scream, they wander individually across a wide public space – all actions that connote no peaceful coordination, no civil respect for the officers or the public around them. Here’s a tip: If you find yourself yelling at a civil disobedience action, “I don’t understand! I didn’t even hear you!” or “You didn’t give me a warning!” — you are doing it wrong. The police officer did his job up front – he tried to communicate what was going to happen, he was providing a clear warning, the dance takes both sides to know the steps, and you didn’t want to hear him.
- Here’s a big one – and it comes at 2:28 in on the video. When the police officer tells one man to put his hands behind his back for arrest, a second protestor (in brown shirt) physically interferes by grabbing the arm of his pal and bodily pulling him in the opposite direction. One cop, two protestors, both physically in motion – bad idea, not proper technique at all.
I think you’ve got my point here – the method of peaceful non-violent civil disobedience is a well-honed process and this group had no interest in doing it right. That would have defeated the purpose. Which brings me to…
2 – The motives of those participating are not what they seem. The invitation, video and online promotion of what happened, and promotion of the exciting follow-on events now planned feature the “Adam versus The Man” logo. Yep, the centerpiece of this event is Adam Kokesh, host of “Adam versus The Man” online video show. I hope the people who showed up at the event knew that they were being used to help a online personality get some headlines. As my wise friend @dvnix notes in his take on the event (and I love him for calling it “Martyr Porn” by the way!), Kokesh “is a serial provocateur and self-promoter.” he also notes that a second participant and arrestee is none other than Medea Benjamin of Code Pink (she of the “I didn’t heeeear you!” objections). Want to learn more about Adam Kokesh? (I’m sure he’d love the attention) go watch his show, you’ll get to see his nice long friendly discussion with Grover Norquist, including the fond memory of their meeting at a Ron Paul event. I’m sorry, were you under the impression that Adam Kokesh is a Democrat? A Progressive? A believer in peace? Oooookay, umm, he’s not.
3 – But but but, the police were BRUTAL! Yes, yes, I know, a thousand tweets telling you there was “SHOCKING POLICE BRUTALITY” can’t be wrong. Actually I believe that they are self-serving and wrong. I watched that video repeatedly, and while I don’t love cops having to put a knee onto the upper back of a person to hold them down for arrest, and I don’t love watching a cop essentially sweep Adam Kokesh down to the ground, there is actually nothing brutal about it. It’s done by the book, right down to the carefully trained hand-holds.
Again, remember – there was no coordination on how this would go, no communication between the protestors and the police, and the protestors broke a number of standard practices that keep things calm, peaceful, and safe for both sides and the public bystanders.
Now widen your focus and consider this: In the 11 minute video, as protestors are dancing around the statue of the guy they so much revere, as they yell “This is a POLICE STATE!” and argue with the police and grab someones arm and pull, you should notice something else — there are families all around them. Look for the small children, the grandma with the scarf around her head. This was an open tourist space with people all around. If you had a group of yelling, wandering, lets face it, angry people in what was supposed to be the calm, thoughtful, respectful shrine to Jefferson how would YOU handle them if you were those police officers? Take a quiet moment and put your kids in that space, your grandma on those marble stairs, and you tell me how you would want this handled when we are not looking at organized, respectful, civil protest?
Want to know how much Adam Kokesh respects and wants to work with the police? His Facebook status just after being released should make it obvious:
I’ve been released from jail. Tragically, the officers involved still have to go home and be disgusting despicable people.
4 – But but but, civil disobedience is necessary when the law prohibits the First Amendment! Its just too important!
I’m sorry, this was a protest against what again? A law that makes it illegal to dance inside the Jefferson Memorial. Inside. Not a law that makes dancing illegal anywhere, or anywhere on the DC Mall, or even down out in front of the memorial. Inside.
Fine, it sounds like a stupid law. To prove this, I am going to go to a public school tomorrow, walk right in and dance to show I have the right to expression in any public space. What? You think it might be against the law for me, a person who doesn’t work or have kids at a school to just walk right into one? And what the hell is with these id cards and having to check-in as a visitor? I don’t care if you want your kids safe, I want to dance!
Maybe instead I’ll just take my dancing to marble and fresh-air type public structures. Check me out doing the watusi at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial! Woohoo! I can see my reflection in the wall! Oh, I’m sorry, did you want to leave a token to remember a friend you lost, a son? You wanted to do a rubbing of your uncle’s name? Step back! I’m doing the Dougie for freedom!
So let’s check ourselves a second here — this crisis of danceability is so severe, so restricting of the rights and health and the very lives of people that it calls for the ultimate step in protest, the civil disobedience step. This group is so concerned about the impact of not being able to DANCE in this very specific location that they skipped all of the necessary lead-up steps – they didn’t petition, make calls or visits to their officials, they went straight for public video capture? Please give me a break.
Ultimately, that’s what makes me most annoyed at having to even bother with this event. What a completely self-serving and insignificant agenda. I applaud people who want to get out there and be visible standing up for what they believe. They are the energy and motion that gets everyone else to care about issues that desperately need attention. I’ve done my share of dancing in protest, and holding signs, and marching for things like ending Apartheid, fighting AIDS, stopping death squads, protecting reproductive rights. It turns out we still have big things that need action, and we need really effective people out there doing something about them. So this noise just makes us look stupid, and misdirected, and disrespectful of police, the law, and our fellow citizens.
If you want to dance… dance on over to a food bank and help make sure that our unemployed families are getting the help they need. Dance over to a medical clinic and volunteer. Dance over to your Congressperson’s office and ask them why we are cutting services to our most needy instead of asking our most wealthy to chip in more.
You can make a difference today doing any one of those things, and it will have an immediate human effect. But it won’t get you advertisers for your website, get you bookings on MSNBC or fill your donations meter. If those are your priority – dance alone.
Matt Bai’s Happy Place May 17, 2011Posted by caradox in Progressive Politics.
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I’m not supposed to be getting all wound up about politics right now. I’ve been such a good patient taking my antibiotics and Vitamin C and those lovely lovely cough medicines. I’ve been good, I swear. So this isn’t a rant – it’s more like a therapeutic walk in the garden. I’m just bringing some pruning shears with meWe as I perambulate. Because really, it’s just too easy – like deadheading blooms – to thwack at Matt Bai’s NYT post today on the canker infested bush that is Newt Gingrich’s campaign messaging.
Take a short walk with me, will you?
Bai recapped what everyone has already heard about, Gingrich calling POTUS “the food stamp president”, then takes us into the discussions it raised among the assembled pundits both on camera and off camera. You can watch the whole thing here. I’m not going to rehash it. Honestly, it’s just another Sunday in the land where well-nourished people wax philosophical about their own navels. Peggy Noonan’s breathy tale of the green room moment of silence wins the prize in myopic analysis. She can tell you exactly what to think about Newt Gingrich based on what she saw happen 5 feet from her by the fruit tray. Genius wears Patagonia. Whatever… blah blah, have a cream cheese danish.
What Bai does in his follow-up post is use that Sunday chat as a jumping off point for his take on racism in our current political discourse. He may as well, because it’s going to be a running theme for the 2012 campaign season. If this is the start of the debate, it’s going to be a weak and passive one based Matt Bai’s voice in it.
“This is a debate that is likely to surface many more times in the next 18 months, no matter whom the Republicans nominate, and the truth seems to me a little more complex than partisans on either side might suggest.”
No, Matt, it’s not complex. There’s not the tiniest bit of complex to it. Candidates use the pre-planned short sentences that sell to their target voters. Calling Obama the “food-stamp President” is not a deep attempt to unpack our recent economic history and lay out a long-term vision to nudge our domestic marketplace in a direction that engages workers left behind without skills or resources– it’s sticking a big fat whistle to your lips and blowing so the angry middle-aged white guys know where to find you.
But, whatever, it’s complex. Thank heaven we have you to explain the nuances to us. If that’s gonna happen, let’s see where you come from in your understanding of our modern racial politics. Show me your garden of deep understanding:
Is there a racial element to some of the attacks on President Obama? It’s pretty hard to argue there isn’t, when a conservative writer like Dinesh D’Souza argues that Mr. Obama sees the world like an African nationalist (a theory Mr. Gingrich praised again in his interview Sunday), or when Donald J. Trump asserts that Mr. Obama isn’t smart enough to have gotten into Harvard or to have written his own books.
Yes “it’s pretty hard to argue”. Which means you’re about to try, aren’t ya Matt? You’re gonna look for some complexity! Oh goodie!
But here’s the thing: race and cultural otherness were powerful undercurrents in Republican politics long before the nation’s first black president came along. The infamous Willie Horton ad that George Bush deployed against Michael Dukakis in 1988, you may recall, was more overtly racist than anything Mr. Obama had to parry 20 years later. Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Al Gore were all portrayed as being well outside America’s white, Christian mainstream.
But here’s the thing: What the hell is your point? Republican politics has been racist forever, so they aren’t really being racist when they use racist rhetoric against the first black president because it’s not as OVERT? Oookay… but thank you for the reminder of the GOP’s charming history.
Mr. Gingrich’s “food stamp” line is an homage of sorts to Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens.” This business about turning America into Detroit is exactly the kind of thing Mr. Reagan would have said, if he hadn’t been so busy trying to win Michigan’s electoral votes.
Oh! It was an homage to Reagan. Well that makes it a little more understanda… wait, when Reagan said it, it was RACIST.
So to say that Mr. Obama is being cast as somehow alien to the white American experience simply because he is black really does miss the point. He would still be cast in this way if he were an urban, northern Democrat who happened to be white. The fact that Mr. Obama is black may even blunt the attack to some extent, because Republican challengers have to be more careful in how they raise these kinds of cultural issues than they would with your standard-issue white liberal.
In fact, there are tactical reasons for Republicans to consider scrapping the cultural argument altogether when it comes to Mr. Obama, or at least minimizing it.
I see. It isn’t because the President is black that the GOP and their propaganda machine is using racist rhetoric. It’s because they are just being themselves… Got it. Having a black President actually makes them LESS likely to use racist language and imagery. I should have realized that. I was clearly too busy trying to ignore how the President is really Kenyan, had a black nationalist pastor, invited a rapper (A RAPPER! The Horror!) to poetry night at the White House and really secretly hates white people. I must have missed the fact that those were all toned down and restrained versions of what the GOP would normally unleash if they let their flags really fly. Well how incredibly sensitive of them, and how good of you to seek out the subtle balancing energy that the GOP is putting out there into the world.
Now here comes my favorite part, because it’s just such a dead-on accurate reading of America today:
After all, we have now reached the point where a 45-year-old American voter has no memory of civil rights marches or the silent majority and grew up in a society where overt racism was uniformly stigmatized. [Emphasis mine.] In this new environment, you’re probably not well advised to make racial alienation a centerpiece of your campaign, unless you want to offend half the voting public, including most of the independent voters who decide the outcome of a general election.
We have reached the point where a 45-year old American has no memory of civil right marches or the silent majority? Really? I’m 40 tomorrow. I went to elementary school in an ex-urban district where you knew damn well why you were being bussed across town. I can chart my years at the Jersey Shore on 30 year mileposts from “remember when that family brought the black child to the beach?” to “Well, at least this beach isn’t public.” Are you freaking kidding me? I may have been born after Selma, but I certainly lived through the 2000 GOP primary when calls went out to voters in the South about John McCain’s secret interracial baby. I’m not sure what pretty pretty post-racial world you live in, but the rest of America, we’re still living out here where the racism is. We’re still living in a world where the “Southern Strategy” is a daily method of programming campaign messaging (I’d say GOP campaign messaging, but I’m honest enough to know we’ve got Dems who will use the same methods in the places where they still work). We’re still living in a society where communities are throwing up their hands and re-segregating their schools in full view. Do you need a field trip out into America to find out that there is a good reason Gingrich and the 2012 GOP Presidential dwarves are bringing out “homages” to 1980?
I’m picking a bone with how Matt Bai chose to approach what he witnessed on Sunday, and with his seemingly naive perception of how people outside the Beltway will respond to it. I think what Bai was trying to say is essentially true. The GOP is using rhetoric they have always used, it isn’t just a reflexive response to having a black President, it’s an institutional part of who they are. That rhetoric is a divisive and ultimately a losing strategy, and they should not give in to the impulse to use what won’t work. What is driving me batty about his post is he seems to be going out of his way to take the sting out of this essential truth, couching everything in an explanation that defends the GOP: Yes this is racist rhetoric — BUT it wasn’t really because we have a black president (take THAT left!), BUT it would have been used against whichever Democrat was out there, BUT it’s not OVERT, BUT it’s actually MUTED, BUT in my pundit wisdom I’m telling them it’s a bad idea to go down that road, BUT BUT BUT.
So this is how we’re gonna play the pundit game? Tell us the racism is there, then bury it in so much “context” we forget what the whole point was? It’s okay to just say it Matt — Gingrich used racist rhetoric that he consciously chose to attract the voters he wants to win the Primary. Those voters aren’t a big enough group to win the Presidency for him. See how simple that is?
Yes, I know, it sucks you are going to spend the next year having to explain racist crap from a band of GOP nominees and their supporting media that is both a losing strategy and demeans our society as it happens. You know, you could actually tell them that NOW and maybe move our political discourse in a new direction – or you could just save all of that brilliant truth for your post 2012 election book. You will say, “I saw it unfolding for the GOP starting in Spring with Newt Gingrich’s launch interviews…” and I will say, “But you did nothing about it, even though you had a prime space to make a difference.” Prove me wrong.
Yes, We Really Are. January 21, 2011Posted by caradox in Progressive Politics.
I forgot to believe it for a little while.
I’ve been riding out the past 2 months since the midterms on a wave of exhaustion. The next two years have been filling me with visions of slamming my head on a brick wall, battling just to hold onto the little patch of ground we’ve taken. Then, Tucson. I have literally sat on my hands for days trying not to say too much, or get too angry, or, worse, hope for something good to come out of this – because I’ve hoped before.
But – something has been happening. It started small and has built up, bit by bit. We really are having the conversations I hoped we would. The President really did give the speech he needed to in Tucson last week – the one a President is supposed to give. One by one, the media did turn from the initial breathless stories about specific quotes and web graphics to the more important discussions that needed to be had about mental health care, guns in America, and the tone of our political discourse. Some for just a little while, but many for much longer than I really expected.
That this Monday was America’s day to remember and honor the life of Dr. King seems even more of a blessing than usual this year. It came just at the moment when we most needed think about his words, his work, and the movement that he gave spirit to. We needed a day of reflection as much as we have needed it in a very long time.
We’ve had blessings these past two weeks. We needed the pictures of Gabby and Mark holding hands in the hospital. We needed to see the faces of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Nancy Pelosi as they spoke of seeing Gabby open her eyes. We needed to hear that the amazing Representative Gabrielle Giffords is outdoing even the most optimistic predictions for her recovery. It’s helping all of us.
For once, I am grateful for polls – yes I said that, polls. They are telling us something that we have also needed to hear: The American people have seen the anger and heard the yelling, they’ve given everyone a chance to make their case, and they’ve had enough of it. Right now, they don’t want another self-serving bit of it from anyone.
Senators of different parties are planning to sit with each other at the State of the Union. I know, it’s tiny. It’s meaningless in the grand scheme. It’s a throwaway gesture. It doesn’t change anything. And yet… it has never happened before. It has the opportunity to be the first time the cameras pan the gallery without us taking bets on which phrase tilts the room to the left or right. It certainly wouldn’t be a game-changer. But it’d be nice.
Once I start letting small, hopeful thoughts in, bigger ones started to pop open:
The House Republicans took their vote yesterday to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. They had their moment to give their closing statement on why it was wrong bad terrible horrible. But it is still the law of the land today. In two years it will still be the law of the land, and more of its benefits will be understood and appreciated by the people it was meant to help. We may nibble at provisions and amendments and funding aspects, but we will not be going back to square one, not ever.
The Mighty Duck Congress of December really did repeal DADT. After 17 years, it is on its way into the history books. And we will not be going back on that one, either. We will, in fact, be going forward – we will have Equal Marriage in this country. The changing opinions of Americans on gay rights have been tracked, and they are shifting exponentially now. It is not a matter of whether, but when.
Those things happened. In spite of our economic turmoil, in spite of two wars, in spite of a media juggernaut that is hell-bent on convincing us that we are standing on the precipice of disaster or civil war at every moment, we have moved forward.
The State of Union is coming up. The media is starting to talk about shifts in poll numbers for the President. The American people are showing positive reaction to people doing the right things – like working with each other – and turning away from people doing the wrong things – like making it all about themselves. Something is actually sneaking past the pundits and political gimmicks, it’s the sound of rational people talking to each other.
And if that’s not enough for you – pitchers and catchers report on February 13th.
So when I look at the calendar today, and I remember that 2 years ago I was out there in the cold for a purpose, I can say tonight what I was much too down recently to say. We really are doing fine. We’re getting through the hard stuff, and we have done a whole lot of things that our kids are going to one day think were so obviously right.
Yes, we have challenges. Some are big, hairy, ugly deals like Afghanistan, closing Gitmo, getting more jobs created faster, fixing our educational inequities, and the pernicious role of corporate money in our political system. But we’ve got a lot of good people out there trying to get something done. And we are only 2 years into our opportunity to be the kind of citizens and leaders that we wanted to be. We’re in this for the long haul. And we ARE making a difference.
For the record: Non-spiracy Theories October 10, 2010Posted by caradox in Progressive Politics.
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This has been a wacky week. I’ve been sitting on most of what I had to say. Didn’t want to make it worse. But now that Gawker has done their story, I’m feeling a little more able to talk about it because when I say how bizarre it all was, people will actually understand a little. I do think there are a couple of lessons in it worth remembering.
It goes like this:
On Thursday after a long day of work and school, I came home to find that someone had posted a YouTube video in which I had a bit role. I’m not going to embed the video here, or even link to it. It is 13 minutes long, with godawful music and tells a sordid tale about a vast conspiracy of Twitter accounts, funded by the Democrats (of course!), on a quest to destroy the Tea Party through, apparently, middle-school potty humor. In weaving their web of connections, like CSI: Camp Wallawoo, the video makers grabbed screenshots of anyone they even remotely thought involved.
And so I got to see my own mug and phone number somewhere 12 or 13 minutes into the slide show.
Like a whole lot of other people who found themselves in the video, my first reaction was What The…? Then it was laughter at the absurdity. Then a wee bit of concern at the idea of having to warn my hubby in case we got hate mail or phone calls (he took it in stride). I basically made jokes about it and told the other baffled parties not to worry too much, we might get some nasty tweets but it’ll blow over, they’ll move on when they realize there’s no there there.
Gawker made it all a lot better this morning by running their story explaining some of the mystery – like who the cussing, obnoxious Twitter accounts were that had created much of the drama. And within hours, things melted into a ridiculous tale of grown men who have way too much time on their hands.
But here’s the thing — this story, even before the video made it more colorful, included some behaviors that folks haven’t seen if they’ve only seen the video and the Gawker article. There were blog posts well before then that attacked some good people. Two friends were essentially harassed day after day for weeks by people who sought to embarrass them, destroy their business, and hurt Democratic candidates. That was decidedly not so funny.
I don’t do conspiracy theories. I don’t extrapolate this into a big coordinated effort by Tea Party members to tie up progressive activists in a circus during the month before the election (I’m sure some will). I think the simplest explanation is usually the right one. A small group of people who felt harassed and abused on Twitter (and by the way, they clearly were to some extent, just not by the people they thought) then convinced themselves and each other that something more sinister was afoot. I understand how powerless they must have felt, having someone harangue them with disgusting messages. Somewhere amidst the social isolation and access to way too much information on the intertubes (like a hypochondriac having access to Web MD) they cobbled together a story bigger than gravity can hold together.
So that’s the gist of the tale. And here’s what I want to say from my perspective – I earned that right when they included me in their little video:
- It is not okay for people to harass others. Period. I don’t care what political, religious, national, or sports team loyalties one has. Get a life.
- I and many mentioned in that video were completely uninvolved in anything. We weren’t participants in or even cheerleaders for any of the obnoxious behaviors that either did or were alleged to have taken place. We literally had no idea what all that insanity was.
- If you do receive a link to a big shocking story, consider the source. A couple of well-known right wing personalities – Andrew Breitbart, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck’s The Blaze website posted the video and related information without even a thought. Even if parts of it had any truth to them, a big chunk of it was provably untrue and involved completely provably innocent parties. I’m willing to bet that the left has had a few of those kinds of stories as well, so I’ll call it a draw for today, and we’ll see who keeps doing it.
So here’s the good news: For all the bluster and “We Are The Mob” mentality out there in the world, even though I was braced for a lot of really nasty tweets, calls, whatever – I got almost none. I got a couple of tweets and even those were pretty mild. I got not one phone call. From that I take a bit of comfort in the fact that even the folks who re-tweeted and chorused and trumpeted the story are generally too busy or lazy to actually do much.
And now I get to go back to my real life.