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]

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]

The importance of fighting with someone on something

February 8, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Students from Texas Tech University build a house for Habitat for Humanity in 2010. Students from Texas Tech University build a house for Habitat for Humanity in 2010. (

In 1954, social psychologist Muzafer Sherif ran an experiment that could not be repeated today. Sherif was investigating prejudice and contesting Freud’s model of prejudice as an acting out of unresolved childhood conflicts.

At the Robbers Cave Boy Scout camp, Sherif wanted to test whether he could take a group of people, without any inherently hostile attitudes towards each other, and create conflict by introducing competition.

What Sherif found was not only that he could, but that he could also resolve the conflict if he introduced a shared goal. As I talk to people about politics and work for change, I always try to remember the importance of fighting with someone on something.

The case for Bernie Sanders: Is it time to get rid of the prevent defense?

January 27, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Screenshot from Bernie Sanders rally in Portland, OR.

On January 18, New York Magazine published Jonathan Chait’s article titled “The Case Against Bernie Sanders.”

After reading this piece, the entire premise is that Hillary is more likely to win because she’s more likely to win.

For the record, I’m a Bernie leaner. What’s bothersome about Chait’s piece is that he’s completely ignoring several significant trends, and this same surface analysis is appearing again (Michael Cohen in the Boston Globe) and again (Greg Sargent in The Washington Post) and again (Jonathan Martin in the New York Times).

Whether you’re a Bernie supporter or not, there are at least four critical trends that insiders aren’t writing about. Here are the four trends and why they’re important not just to Bernie, but to Hillary, to the Democratic Party, and to anyone interested in change in our country.

How $7,500 defeated a $1 million Cincinnati loophole

December 9, 2015 at 10:06 am

I’d like to tell this story for a couple of reasons. One, to talk about what I learned. And two, to encourage people to get involved in politics – a small group of dedicated people can make a difference.

The story is about defeating Issue 22, a proposed charter amendment in Cincinnati that wasn’t what it seemed on the surface.

election_eve_campaigning_550

Who framed George Lakoff?

November 30, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Not long ago, a good friend and I had an e-mail thread about framing. He took issue with one of my definitions of framing as “genuinely communicating your beliefs.”

In his words:

“Framing” is when you successfully communicate your beliefs in the language that appeals to your intended audience.  For example: tailoring your language and metaphors to veterans (“honor” and “duty”) or to union members (“solidarity” or “standing shoulder to shoulder”) or to soccer moms (“our children are our future!”).  Framing means using the reference points which already exist within your audience’s mind to explain how your political issue fits into their preconceived notions.”

His view is that framing is using language to explain something to someone in a way that makes sense to how they already think. Framing is simply using the right language. This view goes something like this: We just need to use the right language or words. We just need to develop the right message.

Here’s Bill Maher expressing a similar view:

Democrats need to stop despairing about the gloomy midterm predictions, and realize there’s actually a glimmer of hope, and it has to do with suicide. Let me finish. For decades now, liberals pushed the issue of assisted suicide, and it got nowhere. Then, they started to call it ”aid in dying”, and its approval shot up 20 points and it’s now legal in 5 states. That’s the power of language.

While I believe this gets part of it, I’ve come to believe that framing is about more than just language.

George Lakoff delivers a lecture George Lakoff. Photo CC2.0 courtesy of Pop!Tech

Recently, George Lakoff spoke about this misconception:

So people never got that idea. They thought I was talking about language, about messaging. They thought that there were magic words, that if I gave the right words, immediately everybody would get it and be persuaded. They didn’t understand how any of this works. And I, coming into this, didn’t understand what the problem was. It took me a while to figure it out.

What is framing then?

How to get the most bang for our activist buck

April 8, 2015 at 12:40 pm

A number of recent comments and posts have talked about how we can become more active. One of the things I’ve heard is that we need to hit the streets and that people here are more interested in blogging than in organizing.

I agree that we should be looking to do more, to run for office, to work with different campaigns, to look for opportunities to get involved, and think this conversation is great.

I also believe that the most important thing we can do is write. Here’s why.

script_550

Case Studies in Activism #67: Battling Big Pharma and Rehumanizing Mental Health Treatment

March 5, 2014 at 8:20 pm

A few weeks back I had the random pleasure of meeting Bruce Levine, clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up and Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic.

 photo combined_photo_zps38799855.jpg

As we introduced ourselves and he talked about his activism in the field of mental health, I was struck by something he said: “Making a difference was easier than I thought.”

I wanted to know more. He was kind enough to respond to a few questions.

Because I’m tired of explaining a conservative health care law to conservatives

December 6, 2013 at 11:30 am

If you haven’t noticed yet, the conservative wedge issue for 2014 is going to be health care.

Democratic Senators like Mary Landrieu have noticed.

mary-landrieu-sm

They simply don’t appear to have much of a strategy to date: 1) apologize for the horrible website, 2) focus on the economy, and 3) keep explaining to conservatives why a conservative solution is not such a bad thing.

If we can’t do better, well before November, expect to lose the Senate.