Popular Tags:

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]

The great tax shift: How politicians promise tax cuts, then shift the costs onto you

April 5, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Politicians make a lot of promises about taxes.

Ted Cruz claims:

As Washington pads Wall Street’s pockets, hard-working Americans get left behind. My tax plan will change that.

Donald Trump claims he’ll “make America great again” with his tax plan. Others have similar plans. Flat taxes, “fair” taxes, etc.

We’ve been hearing these same claims for 40 years. What actually happens is that politicians lower taxes, primarily for the wealthy, and then they do one of two things: 1) shift the costs onto you, or 2) run deficits.

When you hear pundits and politicians talk about taxes, forget what they say. The truth is simple: You’re going to pay more, and the wealthy are going to pay less.

As tax day approaches, here’s a story you won’t hear in the corporate media.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC (Gage Skidmore/CC-BY-SA 3.0) Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC (Gage Skidmore/CC-BY-SA 3.0)

‘All for each and each for all:’ Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal

March 22, 2016 at 10:47 am

Corporate special interest groups in our country such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have figured out that they can sway government in their favor if they market themselves as “good” and paint certain people as “evil.”

This is why today we live in a world where our richest businessmen and businesses are marketed as “good,” capable of doing no wrong, and all government is marketed as “bad.” In this world, government exists only for the purpose of business owners and we’re told we should just sit back and let the benefits trickle down. Only they haven’t. In fact, the opposite has happened. The rich have gotten richer and more powerful at the expense of everyone else.

We’ve seen this before. The late 1800s and early 1900s saw the rise of rich monopolies that hurt the average person. Railroads favored certain large trusts over small farmers.Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in 1906 exposing the health violations, labor abuses, and unsanitary conditions of the meatpacking industry. Foods and drugs were mislabeled and consumers deliberately misled.

As a result, Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive Republican, introduced a platform based on a few simple ideas that would become known as the Square Deal. On April 5, 1905, he delivered his Square Deal speech in Dallas, Texas, where he laid out his philosophy:

It is all-essential to the continuance of our healthy national life that we should recognize this community of interest among our people. The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life that man is the best representative of each of us who seeks to do good to each by doing good to all; in other words, whose endeavor it is not to represent any special class and promote merely that class’s selfish interests, but to represent all true and honest men of all sections and all classes and to work for their interests by working for our common country.

This is what everyone wants: A square deal for all.

[caption id="attachment_2018" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Theodore Roosevelt speaking from the balcony of the Hotel Allen, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1914 (Lehigh County Historical Society). Theodore Roosevelt speaking from the balcony of the Hotel Allen, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1914 (Lehigh County Historical Society).[/caption]

One million leaders

March 15, 2016 at 10:16 am

Tuesday was not my best day. I fumbled through a job interview in the afternoon, and my 14-year-old car’s transmission died.

One bright spot was seeing the following post online from Daily Kos’ own Paul Hogarth (with his permission):

I am not the same person I was 20 years ago—and after years of working on campaigns and building for progressive change have learned that politics is much, much harder than what the thrill of tonight’s victory may seem. I also have my doubts about a campaign like Bernie Sanders really making change in this country.

But tonight is a cautionary tale for people like me to not let your “wise skepticism” give way to cynical despair. Always keep the fire burning for young, idealistic causes—because progressive change requires people who demand the unreasonable.

We just need to remember that the impossible may take a while, and that—win or lose—a positive, idealistic campaign that brings new people into politics must figure out how to outlast an election.

Here’s a reality-check for Bernie supporters: Yes, he beat the odds tonight with Michigan. But Hillary’s landslide victory in Mississippi means that, on balance, the gap in delegates has likely widened.

So be happy tonight, celebrate. You deserve it. But figure out a way to make sure this victory lasts beyond the Michigan primary, and that even if Bernie fails to win the nomination you can channel that movement into a political infrastructure that will improve America.

Paul’s post is brilliant.

It bridges the gap between a couple of groups who may be currently aligned against each other. It doesn’t pit idealism vs. pragmatism. Instead, it says, “We need both.”

It brings people together rather than dividing them, and it immediately picked me up. I shared it with my small group of Bernie supporters to say, “Congratulations!” after the Michigan win—and also to remind us that even Bernie is saying this is bigger than him.

I think real change is going to take one million leaders. One million people like Paul who understand the game being played against us, and know how to bring people together from many tribes.

Here are a few thoughts on why this is so crucial, and what this might look like.

[caption id="attachment_2010" align="aligncenter" width="550"]A hose-team leader instructs the team to relieve the nozzleman during a general quarters (GQ) drill aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (U.S. Navy/Wikimedia). A hose-team leader instructs the team to relieve the nozzleman during a general quarters (GQ) drill aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (U.S. Navy/Wikimedia).[/caption]

Twelve questions for Bruce Bartlett, economic historian and former Reagan adviser

March 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

Bruce Bartlett is a historian and former Reagan adviser who describes himself as a lifelong conservative that believes the current GOP panders to fools. He’s written for the Economix blog at the New York Times and has authored several books including The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform – Why We Need It and What It Will Take. I’m a longtime fan of Bruce’s work and when he contacted me about a post, I asked him if I could pick his brain about economics and economic myths.

Bruce Bartlett in a 2012 interview with Bill Moyers. Bruce Bartlett in a 2012 interview with Bill Moyers.[/caption]

No amount of hard work is going to pull people up if they don’t get paid for working hard

February 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

back_in_my_day_650
One of the things corporate special interest group marketing takes advantage of is differences between the generations and their understanding of the economy.

You’ve seen the memes. The most famous example was Mitt Romney characterizing 47 percent of Americans as lazy.

Typically, I see posts like this on the Internet:

A Baby Boomer friend of mine explaining how hard he’s worked. A Baby Boomer friend of mine explaining how hard he’s worked.

Implicit in my friend’s post is the idea that anyone can pull themselves up if they just work hard.

The problem is that things today are very different. There are no more paper boys. Or pensions. Hell, newspapers may not even be around much longer.

What my Baby Boomer friend experienced was very different than today’s reality. Because of these life experiences, it’s often difficult for Baby Boomers to understand just how different today’s economy is from the economy of the 1950s and 1960s.

How can you help people like this (especially in your own family) understand the realities of today’s economy?