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How to get to Planet X, the change we desire

July 5, 2016 at 8:29 am

planet_x650Planet X is that place liberals want to be. The planet people like Bernie Sanders talk about. Where we believe Elizabeth Warren lives. It’s where people understand climate change and don’t think it’s the government testing secret weather machine weapons. It’s where racism is understood as a problem, as well as a key driving factor in economic inequality. It’s where reason and fairness and mutual responsibility live and where democracy once grew.

Here’s the rub. You can’t teleport to Planet X.

So how do you get there?

Big businesses are hurting small businesses

June 29, 2016 at 6:39 pm
[caption id="attachment_2112" align="aligncenter" width="650"]'The Big Fish Eat the Little Fish,' satire on the fall of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, 1619. ‘The Big Fish Eat the Little Fish,’ satire on the fall of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, 1619.[/caption]

We often hear that taxes and regulation are hurting small businesses. As a small business owner and someone who talks to a lot of conservatives, I hear this all the time.

Though it has a small kernel of truth to it (a key to most successful marketing), this ignores the larger part of what’s really happening.

What’s hurting small businesses? Big businesses. A few ways they do this are through consolidation, market leverage, technology, temporary jobs, corporate special interests, media, and globalization. They also do this through tax evasion, government capture, and lobbying for regulations that create barriers to entry.

Here’s a closer look at how big businesses are hurting small businesses.

7 questions for John Schaffer, autism advocacy film director

June 28, 2016 at 6:05 pm
[caption id="attachment_2106" align="aligncenter" width="650"]John Schaffer filming Laura Nadine for The Shadow Listener. John Schaffer filming Laura Nadine for The Shadow Listener.[/caption]

John Schaffer is a filmmaker who specializes in movies about people with autism. He is also one of my oldest friends. I’ve admired his work with the autistic for years and have had many late night conversations with him over a few beers. Movies he’s directed include Vectors of Autism: a documentary about Laura Nagle, My Hiccups are Gone,and premiering online on July 1st, The Shadow Listener: A Voice for Autism.

I thought his work in film making and autism advocacy might be interesting to folks here so I thought I’d ask him a few questions.

Why we have a progressive income tax

June 7, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Pictures are a really powerful way to tell a story. If you can find an easy way to explain something through pictures, you can often make great strides in a very short period of time.

One of the things that often gets brought up in conversations with conservatives is this idea of a flat tax. Many conservatives think this is somehow “fair.”

progressive_tax012

Here’s a simple drawing to illustrate why we have a progressive tax and to show how the flat tax is really just a loophole for the wealthy.

Economists discover people don’t behave rationally

May 30, 2016 at 1:28 pm

“Contrary to our original thinking, I’ve come to believe that people don’t behave like the economic textbooks say they should behave,” wrote Dr. Paul Wingfield, an economist at Cato University. “People don’t behave rationally.” Wingfield and his colleague, Dr. Summer Redaction, recently published an article inHigher Economics titled “Outside our corporate […]

Seven things you can do to do fund change

May 27, 2016 at 8:29 am

This election season has been a great time to talk about change and how change happens. Most progressives will agree that we need professionals fighting for change. This means activists have to be able to make a living. When having conversations with people about spending money to influence change, the […]

The people with the least amount of power are the people most likely to use it

May 10, 2016 at 10:42 pm
[caption id="attachment_2080" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Two agents in a contact center (Diana Varisova/Wikimedia). Two agents in a contact center (Diana Varisova/Wikimedia).[/caption]

One of my first jobs was at a call center. It was a while back but something one of the trainers said to us during onboarding stuck with me:

The people with the least amount of power are the people most likely to use it.

What he meant was that people who feel powerless seem to be more likely to try to exert the little power they have. For example, when someone is calling you and their computer is broken, they feel powerless. For this reason, they’re often quite angry and “demandy,” to coin a term. They’ll often demand that you do something immediately, as if somehow this is going to fix things faster.

Perhaps this lesson has stuck with me because of how often I’ve observed it to be true. Why care? Because I think this has a lot to do with the current state of politics. And if you recognize it, it can help you have better political conversations.

The cultural revolution you’ve probably never heard of

May 6, 2016 at 10:03 pm
[caption id="attachment_2070" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Pair programming, an agile development technique used by XP (Extreme programming). Pair programming, an agile development technique used by XP (Lisamarie Babik/Wikimedia).[/caption]

In the 1990s and early 2000s something happened in the software development world, something that wasn’t good. Software development fell victim to the bean counters and micromanagers of the world and followed a project management script known as the “waterfall method.” The waterfall method was fine for projects that were simple and well-defined, but many many software projects fell out of this realm with either changing requirements, or trying to understand new technology—or sometimes both at the same time.

As a result, many software development projects in the ‘90s were organizational nightmares. Much of the purpose of developing software to begin with (i.e., why are we building this?) was lost as organizations devolved into procedural nightmares and territory fights.

This is the short story of the agile revolution—a term you may have heard of. But you probably didn’t realize was a cultural revolution.

How to win against ‘political correctness’

May 1, 2016 at 10:16 pm

Those of you who know me know that I like to hang out in conservative forums. I do this for a couple of reasons. One, because I’m generally interested in talking with people of different backgrounds. And two, because it’s a fascinating anthropological experiment to explore the depths of corporate special interest group marketing. This post is more about the latter than the former.

I know I’m not going to convince the most extreme. So I just try to understand and expose them to an actual liberal—unlike the people they’re told are “liberals.” One of the things that comes up a lot is “political correctness.” They are really angry about political correctness. So I wanted to hear what they had to say about PC. Instead of arguing, I asked, “What is it that you want to say but don’t feel you can?”

[caption id="attachment_2044" align="aligncenter" width="550"]No PC (DeeMusil/Wikimedia). No PC (DeeMusil/Wikimedia).[/caption]

6,000 interfaith congregations come together to help homeless families regain their independence

April 10, 2016 at 8:47 pm

One of the things that drives me is working together to solve problems that affect us all. In the wealthiest country in the world, we shouldn’t have homelessness. Yet this year 2.5 million children will experience homelessness.

Recently, a group I’m involved with, The Tri-State Freethinkers(TSF) connected with the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) of Cincinnati (known nationally as Family Promise) to help host homeless families. Family Promise is a national organization that works to help people gain “sustainable independence” including permanent housing. Various congregations in Cincinnati host families overnight with help from local volunteers who help prepare food and entertain. TSF hosted a group overnight at Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church.

[caption id="attachment_2037" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Family Promise volunteers strive to make parents and children feel at home. Family Promise volunteers strive to make parents and children feel at home.[/caption]