Joanne Dixon

Another Week Off

 Posted by at 6:39 am  Politics
Jan 202018
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage. These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that. Even though there are many more which I can’t include. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

But I’ll have to give them another week off. I have been having such problems with browsers this week I have run out of time just trying to keep up routine. I think I have one now that will work, but it will require more setup time than I have to give today.

I don’t want to leave my friends here high and dry altogether though. I want to address the imminent State of the Union word salad.

Many Congressional Dems are already planning to boycott this non-event. Here are short statement from just two, made available by CREDO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CREDO is suggesting that all Democrats in Congress should boycott the SotU, and I won’t fight with anyone who agrees and chooses to encourage their own representation to boycott. But there is one Congresswoman who, it seems to me, has come up with the perfect alternative to a boycott.

Rep. Dingell invites wife of deported Michigan dad as her State of the Union guest

When Donald Trump looks out over the audience of his State of the Union address at the end of this month, he’ll see the face of Cindy Garcia, an American whose life and family has been torn apart due to his cruel mass deportation policies:

Rep. Debbie Dingell has invited the wife of Jorge Garcia, 39-year-old father deported to Mexico after living in US for 30 years, as her guest for State of the Union.

 

If you’re going to go, that’s how you should do it, all right.

That’s almost all I have, but as probably everyone knows, Colorado will elect a new Governor this year, and I am trying to learn about all the Democratic candidates, one of whom is Jared Polis. He copied his whole mailing list on an open letter to his daughter, which I will quote without comment on this day of the Second National Women’s March, since it’s self-explanatory:

Cora,

It’s already been one year — and almost a third of your life so far! — since we participated in the big Women’s March in Washington D.C. I’m excited to have the opportunity to march with you again this year in Denver!

I know at the age of three, you’re only just beginning to sense the importance of the fellowship we shared with millions of civic activists around the country last year, and that we will share again tomorrow. And while I’m sad that the first President you will know is not only an unacceptable role model but in many ways a representative of the past that we thought we’d left behind, I am heartened by how our community is responding and resisting.

I hope that as you grow up, you look back on these marches the same way I look back on the equal rights and anti-war rallies I attended with your grandparents when I was a kid. I hope tomorrow’s march helps open the door for you to a lifetime of joining with others to fight for a better, kinder, more equal world.

For all the great things about the world you were born into, there is still a lot of work to do. We still live in a state where a woman earns 81 cents to a man’s dollar. We still live in a nation where a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is under attack. We still live in a place where sexual harassment and assault happen, and people blame the victim.
I entered public office because I believe in the power of public policy, changing the laws to reflect our values and create a better future. But policy is not the only thing that matters. Many of the problems we face today will not be solved through legislation or by politicians. They’ll be solved by people from all walks of life coming together to break stereotypes, break cultural barriers, and break glass ceilings.

That’s why we marched last year. That’s why we’re planning on marching tomorrow.

Despite the challenges and uncertainty of this moment in our history, there are reasons for hope all around you. From Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks to Dolores Huerta, to Colorado’s own Florence Sabin, we’re inspired by the strong women before you that have paved the path toward equality and justice. I’m proud you can look to your own family including your “Gramma” Susan Polis Schutz, who shattered the societal norms of her time to become a successful business woman and bestselling poet, even if she does feed you ice cream when she’s not supposed to.

This is just the start for you. I look forward to you living your life and building the future you desire. Hopefully the glass ceilings will be shattered by the time you get there. But if not bring a hammer.

Love,

Dad

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE

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Everyday Erinyes #108

 Posted by at 9:11 am  Politics
Jan 132018
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

I wrote last week about impersonation trolls and how “well” they are doing – for Nazis.  But it turns out that impersonation trolls are not JUST for Nazis.  Corporations are doing them too.

I know, I know, the line between corporations and Nazis is a pretty thin one, especially what with Citizens United and all.  But it seems to me that the goal of Nazis is to steal freedom, and lives, and livelihood from certain individuals, and when this involves stealing money, that’s just a fringe benefit.  Whereas with corporations, it’s just the opposite – the goal is to steal money (they are not so particular as to from whom), and any loss of life, or livelihood, or freedom is just a fringe benefit.

So we have a regime which wants generally to limit or eliminate regulations – you know, regulations, the things that keep us safe and keep our playing ground kinda sorta halfway level.  And, we have a bunch of wealthy corporations that just want to get wealthier, and those darned regulations are expensive to comply with.  Stir into the mix a sprinkling of people who know how to hack, and what do you get?  You get –

Hundreds of thousands of comments, purportedly made by Americans, have come in over the electronic transom to at least five different federal agencies calling for an end to Obama-era consumer protections and other regulations that impede profits, a series of investigative reports by the Wall Street Journal found. Except, the people who supposedly sent these comments never did.

Further,

“The Journal previously found fraudulent postings under names and email addresses at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission,” it continued. “The Journal’s findings were cited by calls from Congress to delay the repeal of the FCC’s net-neutrality rule.”

Well, we know what happened to that.

Posting a fraudulent comment on a Federal website is a felony, and the departments who have been defrauded will remove such comments when notified.  But most agencies make it a bit difficult to check the authenticity of comments independently.  Only a few, for instance, publish the email address with the comment.  And I find that reasonable.  When I post a comment, or sign a petition or a letter sponsored by an organization, I don’t mind the agency having my email address, nor do I have a problem with the organization having my email address (that’s probably how I found out about the petition.)  But I really don’t want my email posted by my name on the agency website – for exactly this reason.

I would, however, want my email address provided to any government attorney who is investigating comment fraud – and that’s just what is NOT happening.

The day before the FCC vote in late November, the Verge reported, “A search of the duplicated text found more than 58,000 results as of press time, with 17,000 of those posted in the last 24 hours alone.”

At that time, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, had been stonewalled by the FCC for six months in his office’s efforts to investigate the falsified public comments. (Verge first reported the fake comments in May 2017.)

I would certainly have trusted Eric Schneiderman with my email address (which, I suspect, is exactly why Ajit Pai wouldn’t.)   And we did hear a little bit about this, at the last minute, before the FCC threw us to the wolves – but it all happened pretty fast.  And it was just the tip of the iceberg anyway, as you see from the agencies we KNOW were targeted..

Furthermore, the impersonating software was able to insert subtle differences in the messages so that they would not be dismissed as identical.  It was even able to insert some phony comments on the side opposite the side that was being pushed!  Not so many as to distract from its main point, though.  Just enough to make unsuspecting agencies think there was an actual dialogue and real interest – on issues where there wasn’t.  Probably surprising no one, those whose identities were used without their permission were just as furious if they agreed with the comment as they were if they didn’t.

If you have a subscription to the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, you can read the full report – it’s linked from AlterNet.  (I don’t.)

But there’s one thing missing from it:

[T]hey didn’t explore the most obvious question: who is behind these moves? While there is likely to be more than one answer and one culprit, only one category of special interest has the means and motives to thwart government regulators: that’s the targeted industries, professional trade association and lobbyists and the biggest corporate players.

Instead the Journal’s investigative reports leave readers with small-scale indignation and not the bigger pattern that private sector interests have found a new way to steal and use personal data for their bottom-line battles with government.

Yes, other things happened last week.  But many of them we know about, thanks to TC and Sam and Stephen and Rachel and all the others.  And I think this is important enough to stand alone and receive the attention of all three Furies (and all their nameless sisters – you never know – there could be thousands – even millions.)

AlectoMegaeraTisiphone – it’s a deceptively simple problem.  Corporations have plenty of money to produce huge fakes (which make them more money).  Regulators do not have the resources (money, but also adequate staffing, adequate training, adequate time) to tear them down.  And, even if they did, the corporations would just have the Republicans steamroll over them.  So  it all comes down to getting them out.

We are trying our best to have candidates everywhere – and to get out the vote everywhere – and to deliver our true message well enough to get more people involved everywhere.  But – help us.  Please.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE.

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Everyday Erinyes #107

 Posted by at 10:47 am  Politics
Jan 062018
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

Some truly terrible things have happened or become public this week, but tough to keep resisting when a story is so awful it sends you to pray at the porcelain altar.  So I won’t go into any detail about the woman in Russia who died this week of internal injuries after surviving for two years in a coma induced by the violent rape.  That may be the kind of incident that makes us feel life would be a lot better if there were more women running things  But let’s not get carried away:  the wrong women in power are just as bad as men, often worse.

For instance, let’s hope God tells Michele Bachman in no uncertain terms NOT to run for the Republican nomination for Senate.  But she is far from the only nut-job-ette out there, I’m sorry to say.  Take Arkansas (please, with apologies to Lenny Bruce).

In Arkansas, a – person – named Jan Morgan has been drumming up support from the right wing – the far right wing – looking toward the May Republican primary for Governor.  Here is how she, according to her website, think the state should keep people safe:

Crime has continued to rise in parts of the state. We must ensure we have the resources to protect the public.  This means prioritizing funding for our prisons, courts, and law enforcement over welfare programs and non-essential functions of government. We cannot fail on keeping our people safe. That is one of the primary purposes of state government.

She also supports gun rights and cutting taxes, and opposes Sharia law.  You can see that in the video at Mother Jones (click through) if you can stand to watch.  One of her objections to the current Republican Governor, Asa Hutchinson, is that he failed to sign a bill which would have outlawed Sharia Law in Arkansas’s court system.  Part of me wishes that he had signed it – if only we had the resources to challenge all the things that Fox Evangelicals want the law to say which are just like Sharia.  But we don’t.  We have bigger things to resist.

Alecto, would it be asking too much of you to monitor all the women candidates for public office and try to weed out the nut jobs?  Not that the male candidate bench isn’t also hip deep in nut jobs, but that really is too big to ask you.

And then there’s Twitter.  It has become a major harassment tool.  Among others, white nationalists and Nazi trolls love to play there.  Twitter has suspended many white nationalists, and decertified leaders of the “alt right,” but there is more work to do.

Yair Rosenberg was, according to the Anti Defamation League, the second most harassed Jesish journalist on Twitter during the 2016 election cycle.  That cycle is over, but the harassment of Rosenberg is not.  He decided to help do something about it.

And so last November, in the wake of Trump’s victory, I decided to turn the tables on them. My target? Impersonator trolls.

You probably haven’t heard of these trolls, but that is precisely why they are so pernicious. These bigots are not content to harass Jews and other minorities on Twitter; they seek to assume their identities and then defame them.

How does an impersonator troll work?  Well, he (or she) creates a new account that like the person they target, get and use the person’s own avatar, and then get into Twitter conversations and say things which – let’s just say the victim would never say – to make the victim look bad.

What would you think if suddenly TomCat started talking like Roy Moore, just to take a far out example?  PRetty scary?  Well, Rosenberg got assistance to create a bot to smoke them out.

Using a crowdsourced database of impersonator accounts, carefully curated by us to avoid any false positives, the bot patrolled Twitter and interjected whenever impostors tried to insinuate themselves into a discussion. Within days, our golem for the digital age had become a runaway success, garnering thousands of followers and numerous press write-ups. Most important, we received countless thank-yous from alerted would-be victims.

The impersonator trolls seethed. Some tried changing their user names to evade the bot (it didn’t work). Others simply reverted to their openly neo-Nazi personas. A few even tried to impersonate the bot, which was vastly preferable from our perspective and rather amusing.”

So guess who got banned?

You got it.  The bot.  The Nazis won.  Why???

This month, Twitter suspended the bot again, and this time refused to revive it. The company’s justifications were both entirely accurate and utterly absurd. “A large number of people have blocked you in response to high volumes of untargeted, unsolicited, or duplicative content or engagements from your account,” we were informed. This was true; Impostor Buster had been blocked by many neo-Nazis. “A large number of spam complaints have been filed against you.” Yes, by neo-Nazis. “You send large numbers of unsolicited replies or mentions.” Yes, to neo-Nazis.

The real threat, apparently, was not these trolls — who today continue to roam the platform unchallenged — but our effort to combat them.

Megaera, maybe you would look into this?

Finally, it is, I fear, time for more news on the 2020 Census and what the current regime is doing to destroy it.

Civil rights advocates have raised alarms because the Department of Justice has asked the U.S. Census to include a question about citizenship in its 2020 national survey. But the way the Trump administration has framed this request also shows it’s poised to make proof of citizenship the latest voter suppression tool.

As many civil rights groups have noted, asking immigrant families to disclose undocumented relatives will push people to evade Census takers or simply lie, causing an undercount and diverting federal funds away from locales with immigrant populations.

I feel pretty confident in saying there has NEVER been a question about citizenship on the Census “short form.”  One of the rights groups contesting this only went back to 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was enacted, to prove there has not been one since then – but I can’t imagine there having been one at ANY time before that.

Alabama already requires citizens to produce paper proof of citizenship when they register to vote in state elections, as do a handful of others.  But Federal voter registration is set up so that “every person who registers must declare they are a citizen and that their signature is a sworn legal oath.”

Republicans are interested in proof of citizenship to vote because they have noticed who is least likely to have it – minorities, the poor, the elderly, married women who changed their name upon marriage.  As many as a third of voting-age women may not have proof of citizenship that reflects their current name.

Speaking as a married woman who uses her married name, I can prove my citizenship, I think.  I cannot do it with a single document.  I have a contemporary copy of my birth certificate (a copy from 1945).  I think I have my first Social Security card in my maiden name – but, if I don’t, it’s on my DD214 with my maiden name.  I have my original marriage certificate, and I have my current Social Security card, showing the same number that was attached to me in my maiden name.  I have no idea whether THIS Department of Justice would accept that collection of documents.  I had a passport once, but I fear it’s been lost – and, in any case, it was in my maiden name too.

The Catch-22 here is that I believe if we VOTE in a new Congress we can win this.  But we need to be able to vote.  It might not hurt for all of us to check our files and be sure we have whatever documents we need in order to satisfy Big Brother.  Now.  Additionally, all our GOTV efforts need to address this issue in the communities they are working in.

Tisiphone, please educate and assist all our campaign staff and all our volunteers to be aware how important this is … including that we may need additional campaign funds to help people get their documents.  It seems to me like a poor use of campaign funds – but it might well turn out to be an extremely good investment.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE.

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Everyday Erinyes #106

 Posted by at 3:01 pm  Politics
Dec 292017
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

I know we have a number of people who follow Politics Plus who have backgrounds in health care.  I’m not sure how many are still active, or how many of those work with surgical patients or chemotherapy patients or any other specialty that works with intravenous fluid delivery.  So this may or may not be news to you.  It was news to me.  Let me start with a quote from a Tweet:

My wife’s nurse had to stand for 30 mins & administer a drug slowly through a syringe because there are almost no IV bags in the continental U.S. anymore. See, they were all manufactured in a Puerto Rican factory which still isn’t fixed. Meanwhile that stupid swollen prick golfs  11:09 AM – Dec 28, 2017

The firm, owned by Baxter, also manufactures surgical equipment and other medical supplies.  The FDA understands the problem, but under this regime has very limited power indeed.  Here, from an FDA press release of 11/17:

Most significantly to date, hospitals across the country are reporting shortages of IV fluids, particularly sodium chloride 0.9% injection bags – a type of saline bag. Saline IV fluids, which are used to inject drugs intravenously in hospital and outpatient settings, have been intermittently in shortage dating back to 2014. However, despite our best efforts, the situation in Puerto Rico has greatly exacerbated this supply issue. The FDA understands the concerns and impact of the ongoing shortages of IV solutions. These products have been on the list of approximately 90 medical products (which includes biologics, devices and drugs) that the FDA has been monitoring since the storm hit, and the FDA is actively working to address the shortage. Among the steps the FDA is taking, in conjunction with manufacturers of these products:
•temporarily allowing the importation of IV saline products from facilities outside of the U.S.;
•encouraging the expansion of production at existing facilities to meet shortfalls; and
•expediting our review of new product applications that will help address this shortage.

“[T]emporarily allowing the importation of IV saline products” and “expediting the review of new roduct applications” both make me nervious with regard to the products to be used meeting existing Federal standards.  I am not a huge fan of the FDA in many ways, but “meeting existing Federal standards” still has to be more desirable than “falling below existing Federal standards.”  If you click through to the article and read the comments, you will learn some things about the uses of IVs which you may not have known unless you actually work with them.  This is truly scary.

Alecto, once again I am giving you an assignment that has so many things slipping through the cracks that you may feel scattered.  But I believe you can handle it.

And another problem involving the Orange Regime is rearing its ugly head.  I will just let John Soltz, an Iraqi War veteran and the founder of VoteVets, explain it clerly and concisely:

Every summer, hundreds of veterans head to Bristol Bay, Alaska to earn a living as commercial fishermen.

It’s not easy work and it separates them from their families — again — but in this tough economy it pays well and takes care of things back home.

A few years ago, we ran a massive campaign mobilizing support for these veterans when a Canadian Company attempted to build a mine to extract gold beneath the fishery.

And we won. The Environmental Protection Agency found that the damaged caused by Pebble Mine would be “irreversible” and results in the “complete loss of fish habitat due to elimination, dewatering and fragmentation of streams, wetlands and other aquatic resources.”

Well, now there’s a new man at the head of the EPA, and after Scott Pruitt met with the head of the Pebble Mine project, he ordered the regulations be scrapped and that the mining company could begin acquiring permits.

VoteVets has started a petition on this, and I hope it will be widely signed and shared.  But I’m confident other action will be needed as well.  Megaera, can you be sure to keep us up to speed on what else we can do?

Finally, I know I have written before about the practice by municipalities of giving one-way bus tickets to the homeless.  If I recall correctly, the last time was about a homeless person in Nevada who was given a ticket to Los Angeles, which was no more able to support the person’s mental health issues than Nevada was, and in some ways less.  But, in fact, many places have been doing this, some for as long as thirty years.

Now, the Guardian has published a new report just on this practice, and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now has published an interview with the editor responsible for this report.  Some interesting trends have emerged … and some of these were probably predictable.

Fact:  Most people who are homeless in any given city are actually from that city.  The myth of homeless people being drawn to certain cities by weather or services is just that – a myth.

Fact:  The cities which have and administer these programs have pretty much zero idea of whether their own programs are actually working.  “[F]or instance, for a 5-year period, between 2010 and 2015, when the city offered thousands of people bus tickets and thousands of people left the city, the city could only provide us records showing that it had been able to follow up with only three of those people to find out if their situation at the other end had improved.”

Fact:  Many of the tickets are given out through shelters, and acceptance of the ticket bans the recipient from ever receiving services from the shelter in the future.  And many people who accept tickets are not aware of that condition.  (Not all shelters do this, of course.  The one in Key WEst, FL, however, is notorious for it.)

I can’t help feeling that the lack of good data on this subject is because people don’t WANT to know – they just don’t want to see homeless people.  Anything that takes the homeless away from their sight is fine with them.  Tisiphone, what would you suggest?

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE.

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A Christmas Cat

 Posted by at 8:24 am  Politics
Dec 252017
 

The author of this story, the “Kossack” (user of Daily Kos) who goes by B52D, has graciously given me permission to reprint this story in full.  (I realize some have already seen it there, but I’m confident not all have.)  I do recommend you consider having a hanky or a tissue handy.

Two years ago, life for an old tabby cat turned ominous. One day she was fat and happy, at home with her doting human. Then the old lady, a neighbor, succumbed to a mix of maladies. The heirs emptied the house, locked the doors and left. Fortunately, across the fence was another kindly lady, who fed the cat and let her bunk on the back porch lounge chairs. But nothing, as the cat knew first hand, is forever. Lady #2 went ill, and then died. That locked house, too, awaits a new life, but at least the lawn chairs stayed in place. No food though.

Two separate neighbors saw the cat parked out front of its old home, looking lost and hungry. Food was bought and brought,  and we fed her nightly. The tabby wanted the food, but not the humans. So, for about a year, that is what she got. Then, gradually, she realized that these folks might be OK. And maybe their brief touch could be tolerated, if followed by her hearty hiss. Many brief touches and hisses followed over several months. Meanwhile, the house was bought by a realtor, whose team busied itself with renovations. The cat stayed invisible during the workday. She reappeared in the dusky shadows, ears cocked for the sound of her caterers. We came, we fed, we went.

A For Sale sign went up. Furniture went in to make the newly-painted house look homey, at the Open House. People came. The cat hid.

Today, the house still awaits new owners. The cat didn’t wait.

She decided to find her own new home.

That seems to be our house two doors down. She began coming to our front door about two weeks ago. Just sitting. Waiting in the cold for her food to be delivered to her old dining spot. She happily, but at a distance, walked back with us, and warily ate her dinner there. Hissed, then disappeared until the next night.

Slowly, the dining area came to be our front step. Invitations to step inside were declined, as Bryce, our Australian Shepherd peeked out the door occasionally. He is cat tolerant, to a point. He now knows the plan, and cooperates by tiptoeing about, avoiding eye contact, being very quiet.

Today is the cat’s fourth sleepover in our laundry room, our traditional cat bedroom. Probably the first nights in a house in two years…and the first cat to spend the night since our old tabby, Kate died a year ago. We uncovered Kate’s old carpeted cat perch, the feeding dishes, the litter box. All were installed that first night, as the cat cuddled in my wife’s arms in the recliner. The tabby still spends her day outdoors, probably on that lawn furniture several doors down. But if I’m outside in front, she comes over to explore the garage, and just to hang out. She is still very suspicious of the dog, and declined his attempt to sniff noses. He got a hiss for it, so he knows she is not to be messed with. But they are OK with one another.

Update: It is now a few days before Christmas. The new cat has been sleeping at our place for about 10 days now, and some days doesn’t even go back to her old backyard. Just as well, it is hectic there, as a nice and new young family are busily moving in. Good that we still had the toys, beds and tools. All are being purred over again, as if new.

I did buy “Greta” a new toy, stuffed with catnip. It is being batted across the living room now.

Merry Christmas for all.

And from me, a serene Christmas or other holiday, and a New Year 2018 filled with more good things than you thought possible.  This is my wish for everyone who (as a friend puts it) thinks here.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE

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Dec 192017
 

(This article was written by, and is printed with permission from, Freya H., a regular commenter here, and a regular commenter and poster on Care2, and highly valued at both places.)

I attended the Women’s Congress in Detroit, MI, in late October, and I am glad that I went. I
learned a lot about numerous issues, as well as what citizens can do to make their voices
heard, and did some serious networking. Now is a dark time for women – indeed, for everybody
who is not a white, straight, rich male U.S. citizen – in this country thanks to the Trump regime
and a Republican-dominated Congress. Conservative forces seek to divide and conquer by
separating the struggles of women, blacks, unions, Latinos, the LGBTQ community,
immigrants and so on. The purpose of the Women’s Congress was, obviously, to focus on what
issues affect women, and how to handle them; however, much of what was discussed applies
to everybody who does not benefit from this country’s current regime.

Each morning featured inspiring speakers, followed by breakout sessions focusing on different
issues: immigration, reproductive rights, mass incarceration, police brutality, how to get more
women elected to office, fighting sexual assault, opposing the gun lobby, getting youth
involved, et cetera. I attended several sessions that I felt would expose me to people with
whom I could network, and give me information and ideas I could bring back to Atlanta.

Michigan, like Georgia, has a major problem with gerrymandering. Fortunately, I met several
women who are deeply involved in that fight. I talked with many women, some leaders and
organizers, some rank-and-file activists, all involved in various issues. From both presenters
and those I met I gathered not just contacts and names of organizations but also tips and
suggestions. I contributed to a couple of the sessions, and even got a couple ideas that may
work. Meanwhile, the crock pot of my mind is still simmering and mixing what I took away from
the convention, so my role is just getting started.

Even before the Congress was over, many attendees were looking forward to the next one.
Indeed, this Congress was merely a beginning, a springboard to get activism and action going,
to make nationwide connections between local organizations so we can share ideas and
experiences. We are in for a long, hard fight that will take the efforts of many. Perseverance
always pays off in the end.

One strategy mentioned in several talks is storytelling. This makes an important issue personal
because people will think about how some law or policy could affect them, or their loved ones,
or their friends, or their neighborhood. Realizing that one has a personal stake in who
represents us in government at all levels, and what sort of laws get passed, motivates people
to contact their legislators, promote petitions, take part in demonstrations, and most
importantly, to vote. Doug Jones’ upset victory in Alabama shows just what happens when
progressives go to the polls in large numbers.

Another thing I learned is, regardless of the issue, you need to get face-to-face with people.
Social media are helpful, but they don’t work by themselves because you need to get personal
in order to build relationships. You should surround yourself with subject matter experts and let
them guide you. Don’t assume that the people around you know all these problems you are
fighting exist. Listen to others in order to lead, build creative solutions, and “lean in.”
Here is what else I took away from presentations at the convention:

Hyperlocal Activism: How to Create Successful Neighborhood Groups

Political activism should focus as much on local as on national races; indeed, it is better to start
small. If you have 10 interested people, you can probably get a meeting with your state
representative or senator. Find out where your legislators stand on issues so you can can
prepare your questions. When you have a meeting with a legislator, focus on just one issue and
ask for just one task.

Have Post-It brainstorming sessions. The Action Network has a helpful tool for planning events, letter campaigns and fundraisers. You can sign up for a free account, then click on the “Start Organizing” button in the right top corner.

Attend the meetings of other activist groups to get ideas and contacts. Tell your contacts about
upcoming actions so you can get more people involved. If you are on Meetup, use the hashtag
#Resist to find out if there is a group near you, or a Huddle from the Women’s March. If you
have a Facebook account, use it to keep in touch with people and organizations. Yahoo Groups
and GroupsIO are useful too. Once you get an action network established, it will grow.

To get youth involved, talk to civics clubs at high schools. Learn what progressive-minded clubs
are at your local colleges. Parents in your network may have kids who are approaching, or have
reached, voting age. Make activism a family affair by getting the next generation involved.

This is What Democracy Looks Like! Engaging New Voters in 2018

New voters are not just young, white, middle class Millennials. They include blacks, Hispanics/
Latinos/Chicanos, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and new citizens. Let young
people lead their way by asking what issues concern them. Explain why it’s restrictive to have a
picture ID, and work on breaking down other barriers to voting. Close the disconnects between
population segments. Coalitions cross many divides, including race, age, religion, gender
identity and immigration status.

Millennials consume information on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other on-line sources. The
Internet has rewritten the rules of political engagement. To get more people voting, we need to
communicate in a way that resonates with our intended audience. Focus on issues that concern
them: technology, student debt, self employment, gig economy, net neutrality. Tell stories to
engage the imagination and make issues personal. Such stories are sometimes known as
“anecdata.” Encourage people to imagine the better future we can effect by getting politically
active and actually voting.

Know what goes on with candidates. During the 2016 election, Democrats did not target black
voters in red states, and that bit them in the arse. To return Democrats to their Progressive
roots, get involved in the party. We need the totality of the Progressive base.

Go to trusted sources and find out what their issues are. Campaign headquarters should hire
local community organizers to their staffs because these people know the area better than the
usual consultant cadre. Democrats need to hire better and more diverse people if they really
want to win. After all, the winners are the ones who make policy.

An example issue is the fight for the ERA. Right now this amendment needs only two more states to pass it. The deadline is not in the law – we still have time to make it part of the Constitution.

The Power of Networking

Look for supporting forces outside of your normal zone. Don’t just sympathize with other
organizations – equalize with them. Food is a great organizer, so host potlucks as activities to
facilitate connection-making and cross-pollination. Have business cards to give out. Listening is
more important than talking – good listeners make great leaders.

High-impact organizations partner with other organizations through collaboration, coalition
building and making partnerships. An effective organization works outside itself for more impact.
Put flexibility in the organization and its message – tailor message to different groups and sorts
of groups. Communicate frequently, offer supportive messages for other organizations, and
cooperate on projects. Share leadership by consulting and learning from each other. Joint
programs can often get government or NGO grants together.

Barriers to coalition building include egos and leaders. Remember that it’s about the CAUSE,
not you. Some non-profits want to hold on to vision of their founder(s), who may actually have
been interested in joining coalitions.

Some coalitions like to have a Memorandum of Understanding. This is a legal document
between organizations, and is not necessary but nice to have. Because it is binding, not all
groups will be willing to sign one.

Civic Engagement with Legislature

You can find your state representatives and senators on-line. Look for town hall meetings and
coffee hours when they are willing to meet with constituents. Do not focus on just state
representatives – include county and city officials, as well as school boards.

Many legislators have Facebook accounts, so you can find them that way; however, beware of
“Fakebook” pages that purport to be from these people but have incorrect information. Doublecheck
with your targeted official what is his/her actual site. Some reps post upcoming events on
their Facebook pages. When you learn of such an event, get the word out so others will attend –
the more, the merrier.

Call and schedule a meeting; be aware that you may meet with staff rather than the actual rep.
Write down your questions ahead of time while thinking about what is your main point. Follow up
after the meeting, and don’t get frustrated by a lack of response. The best way to communicate
is the means you prefer. When writing a response or follow-up note, though, remember that
perfect is the enemy of good enough. Your message doesn’t have to be over-polished in order
for you to make your point.

Look up current bills for your state, city or county to see if any of them pique your interest. Seek
organizations in your state that do this on their websites. Double-check bill numbers, as these
can change.

Organizations are good for getting large numbers of people to respond. A caucus is really just a
club, so it does not have any real power; however, there is strength in numbers, and members
of a caucus are interested in political activism. One activity to get people involved and bring
attention to an issue is a postcard-writing party. Use eye-catching postcards, especially ones
that are specific to a district, city or state – or the specific issue. Don’t use mass e-mails, as they
tend to be ignored.

Testifying at Committee, for or against a bill, is a great way to get your voice heard. Become a
regular observer of such hearings before testifying so you can get a feel for what goes on and
get some ideas about the proper way to present your side. You may be able to watch such
committees on-line. One need not be an expert on the subject matter, just someone with a story
germane to the bill. Remember, ordinary citizens are the strongest lobbying group!

Contact members of the committee the bill is in if you have a story. Find at least one person who
is interested in your cause, and look for true progressives. Work with groups of legislators to
add depth to legislation – this provides a wider venue to share your story. Visit the legislature’s
website and contact reps to learn best way to access legislative info for political entity.
Committee chairs have a lot of power in some states, so research whether this is true for yours.

Find out if you can get alerts by text messages or Twitter so you can jump on an issue quickly.
Learn what your state’s legislative hashtags are. Bills can mutate into something very different
from what they originally were, so be vigilant! Watch out for lame-duck legislation in states that
have term limits.

Red State Organizing

You need to be under the radar by design because you are working in dangerous areas. Don’t
lead with radical ideas – instead, start out with your more moderate positions. For example,
instead of talking about abortion or even birth control, talk about miscarriage management.

Listen to find your place of commonality in communities. Get to know people and keep your
radical isms hidden. Informal gatherings are great for networking. The value of social capital in
rural America is hard to replace. When a local government issues a list of agenda items, find
some that resonate with you and sit with conservatives on those matters. Words that describe a
successful campaign include: sufficient, timely, strategic, compelling, economic, accessible,
inspiring, creative, empowering, inclusive, necessary, fun and sustainable.

Activist Kits are activism made easy and digestible. Have a different theme each month: climate
change, public breast feeding, etc. Get the disaffected registered to vote. Write letters to the
editor. Have a feminine hygiene drive for the homeless. If you can, link a science fair to the
March for Science in order to engage students. Many people are afraid to speak up, but may
feel safer if they know others feel as they do.

Research people you want to connect with via networking. Be careful how you frame yourself to
reach others so you don’t turn off potential allies. People from blue areas can help progressives
in red areas. We need to stop the trickle of bad ideas, so we must NEVER get complacent.

We have to start talking to others. There is always place of commonality, so find it and stay
there. It is more important to be heard than to be right. Social change takes a long time – as the
old saw goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so dig in and be patient. Start with humor if you can,
and never lead with any heavy stuff. Don’t have changing someone as the goal, instead aim to
connect. Don’t put yourself in any situation where you feel threatened.

Reach out to people who are not on the top of your traditional ally list. Identify an action in a red
state that may get Progressives to come out of the woodwork. You can get action kits from
ActivateUs. Photograph an appropriate ActivateUs action kit, then send it to five non-active people and ask them to join.

Divest from the War Economy

Currently the US is actively bombing seven countries. 60% of the US budget is for defense; one
estimate says we will spend $2 billion every day on war in 2018. The #1 US export is weapons,
and Saudi Arabia is the #1 importer of American-made weapons, which they are using to kill
civilians in Yemen and Syria. Lockheed Martin supports the Gaza genocide by arming Zionist
extremists. A lot of so-called foreign aid doesn’t really help countries devastated by war or
disaster. Destabilization from the US causes corruption and facilitates the rise of dictators.

The war economy is a culture of slavery, exploitation, colonialism and territorial dispossession,
with no institutional accountability. The infamous Military Industrial Complex is a legacy of all
this. While defense contractor CEOs get richer and richer, numerous veterans have difficulty
getting access to physical and psychological therapy they desperately need. Thousands of them
are homeless, and on average, 23 veterans commit suicide every day.

Some 30,000 private contractors are doing the work of the military. One dirty trick defense
contractors use is to scatter the production of their weapons over many communities. This
makes more city and county governments beholden to them, and easier for them to sway voters
and legislators to support more defense spending.

So – how do we divest from the killers and transition to a local peace economy? We need to shift
values to cooperation, reciprocity and accountability. We do this with intersectional coalition
building. We regard other people and organizations as accomplices rather than allies. We make
space instead of taking it up. We rebuild the anti-war movement by encouraging universities,
churches and foundations to divest from defense contractors. We push for more spending on
Americore, FEMAcore and Seniorcore. We figure out how to hold Blackwater and their ilk
accountable for their actions. We ask veterans what military service did to them and how it
continues to affect them. Never underestimate the power of testimony and tribunals – remember
that personal stories have more sway than statistics.

Sustainable Publishing: Giving Voice to Women Writers Who Will Make the World a Better Place

Women writers are often overlooked by the major presses, but not by the small ones. One
example is Green Writers Press. M. Jackson and Janisse Ray are among its authors.

Unlike the big houses, small presses collaborate with authors. If you want to write, start local.
Nonfiction can be easier to promote than fiction. The media need to make more noise against
fossil fuels, racism, and other problems we face. We need fact-based media to counter “fake
news” and propaganda.

Editor’s can’t publish what they can’t see, so get your stuff in the pipeline. Put it out there and
keep calling.

The Role of Cities in Protecting Reproductive Freedom

Local action makes tangible progress. The election of Trump has encouraged more anti-choice
violence because antis are emboldened.

Clinics are fighting every day, and need help from communities. Ask clinic personnel what is
most beneficial to them. Talk with police officers, tell them to protect clinics and truly represent
the community. Contact city councils and demand that laws protecting clinics be enforced. Tell
them that anti-choice activists bother both people and businesses in the neighborhood by
disrupting the peace and creating a hostile environment. Psychologists say that the presence of
anti-choice protesters is stressful and harms both care providers and patients. Point out that
there are ordinances against noise outside all medical facilities.

Many phony “clinics” are receiving government funds. Harp on the fact that they provide
inaccurate information, which may harm the health of girls and women. Get wise to the dirty
tricks that faux clinics use, such as hiring retired nurses, to look legitimate.

Support women who have had abortions – assure them that having the procedure is not the end
of the world. In the telling of abortion stories, antis have rhetoric, but defenders of reproductive
freedom have truth. Create a safe space and find your allies in organizations and local
governments. Find, or help create, a council of women health providers.

The state of Colorado and the city of St. Louis give all who ask long-term birth control. Show
how this saves cities and states money by reducing dependence on welfare and food stamps,
and allowing women to work so they can pay taxes instead of having to take from taxpayers.

Building a New Vision for Safety to Overcome Mass Incarceration

Every year this country spends 80 billion dollars on incarceration. Of the 100 million who have
records, half are women. The incarceration rate for women is increasing. Mass incarceration
results in community instability, and depletes resources that communities need for public safety.
If incarceration depletes resources, why is it done? Why are there so many legal barriers to
reintegrating convicts?

The broader the movement against mass incarceration, the more likely it will meet with success.
The law can become a weapon to establish freedom and justice. We need to put public safety
first and reach out to victims of crime. Communities that are most harmed are least helped
because victims have little or no resources or support for their trauma. This undermines public
safety. All should be seen and heard. Ordinary people can make a difference – for example,
California Propositions 47 and 57 came from the voters, not the legislature.

What if prosecutors were concerned with public safety, and cops listened to crime victims? We
need to invest in healing, education, job training and mental health. Our current punitive system
is harmful. We need to counter the traditional “Tough on Crime” rhetoric and show how three-strikes
laws and mandatory minimums do more harm than good.

The majority of prisoners are people of color, but most guards are white and most prisons are in
“white” areas. Inhumane treatment and racism are rampant, but residents nearby don’t know
this. We should gather stories from inmates on the brutality they suffered, and make it clear that
most people are locked up for minor, non-violent offenses.

We need to provide released convicts with the resources they need to recover, including drug
treatment and diversions. Those who have loved ones locked up are less likely to be civically
engaged and more likely to be depressed, so we need to let them know they are not forgotten.
We must address the concerns and needs of all involved in order to mobilize them and find
common ground.

Freya’s Care2 news page is HERE.  After she gets the article up there, I’ll update with a direct link.

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