Netroots Nation

Netroots Nation 14 – My First Protest!

On Friday the 18th in Detroit, the Netroots Nation attendees added their voices to a planned protest against the water shut offs in Detroit. I joined in to what was my first ever march or protest. I didn’t carry a sign because I wanted to take pictures, but I did chant “Fight! Fight! Fight! Water is a Human Right!” Here’s some of my pictures:

20140727-192729-70049816.jpg

This was also the first protest march for my buddy Bill – he was INTO it!

20140727-192729-70049259.jpg

Hey, when The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) tells you to march, you MARCH! Also, yes, I was that close and yes, he was looking right at me (swoon!) 🙂

20140727-192728-70048788.jpg

The atmosphere was really fun.

20140727-192731-70051837.jpg

20140727-192731-70051426.jpg

We wound up at the base of this obelisk in Hart Plaza – there was supposed to be a stage but the police took it away – so the organizers improvised.

20140727-192730-70050584.jpg

Some of my NN family – Vicki, Pam & Norm.

20140727-192731-70051006.jpg

 

 

The best part is that the protest made a difference. Because so many of us went out there, the march got much more widespread media coverage and the water official who had previously refused to meet with the leaders of the movement promised a meeting the following Monday. And then they put a 15 day hold on water shut offs! Apparently they conceded that the programs available to low income households were not well known so they stopped the process to allow the folks in danger of losing their water to make payment arrangements. Basically they were shutting off water without properly offering up any other options. In the meantime a really cool thing happened on twitter when two folks wondered if they could find a way to connect generous donors with needy households – yes, they could (more protest information & photos at that link)! Click here to help out!

I get that services need to be paid. But, I also believe that water is perhaps more basic than anything to people and one would hope that a balance between need and sustainability can be found. It’s pretty disgraceful when the UN declares a humanitarian crisis in one of the largest cities in the wealthiest country in the world.

Advertisements

NN13 Day Two – Moms and Storytelling

Reference links – Mother Talkers and MomsRising (session 1) and Kate Stayman-London (session 2)

Friday dawned with a schedule that promised to be more about socializing than sessions. I’ll write a separate post just on the parties and Pub Quiz 🙂

Session 1 – Parenting Caucus hosted by MomsRising

When I go to Netroots (originally Yearly Kos), I always attend the Parenting Caucus. Run by Elisa Batista who is a founder of the Mother Talkers blog which I joined when it first launched, the parenting group is a small but active group of progressive minded parents. No, it’s not just moms – in fact once year Elisa insisted that her husband participate too (Markos of Daily Kos) along with a bunch of other dads. We’ve had a few “off campus” gatherings but recently it’s been a regular session, and she’s been inviting some great speakers to join in. Now she works for Moms Rising so this was technically their event, but it was still relaxed and fun. Elisa always hands out some great swag such as a sweet MomsRising supermom t-shirt! Oh, plus they fed us what was probably the healthiest food I had the whole weekend! A fabulous array of fresh fruits and vegetables and Naked Juice to drink. I always go in saying I am just going to be there to listen and support Elisa (and eat of course!) and then I always end up joining the conversation no matter what 🙂 We do tend to focus heavily on education of course, but also on issues like women’s access to health care – which allows us to control how many kids (if any!) we have – and also family and sick leave time for working parents. It really does boggle my mind that in a country supposedly as “wealthy” as we are that we have the *least* amount of paid family leave. Whether it’s to be home when a new baby is born or adopted, or to care for an elderly parent, working people struggle trying to balance those needs and remain financially stable in the U.S.

Session 2 – Why Screenwriters Make the Best Organizers: Using Storytelling to Build Empathy

I targeted this session because I thought it would help me with my developing writing skills and I must say I took some awesome notes!

The speaker was Kate Stayman-London – here is snippet from her NN13 bio:

You may know her writing from that one video with the cast of The West Wing, that other video with Cher and Kathy Griffin, or all those emails you get from Change.org (among other organizations). Kate worked for many organizations in the progressive movement (AFL-CIO, CREDO, etc.) before heading to Hollywood to get her MFA in screenwriting from USC.

Kate opened up by making us cry. Lovely! But really, when you watch that 6 minute silent montage at the beginning of Pixar’s UP, you probably start sobbing like a small child too. Why? Because great storytellers know how to build up empathy between characters and an audience. Here is the one sentence Kate told us all to write down to sum up that premise:

“Somebody wants something badly and is having difficulty getting it.”

The idea is to create a character people can relate to who is trying to achieve a goal or solve a problem. There are stakes involved of course. Either the high of reaching the goal or the drama and foreboding of what could happen if they fail. In that opener for UP, the initial sense you are left with is failure. The characters who you want to achieve their dreams are thwarted. First, it is the loss of their dream of having a child, then it is their inability to go on the dream adventure trip (which replaces the dreams of a baby) before Ellie dies. (dear gawd how I both HATE that movie for pulling on my heartstrings so much and also ADMIRE it for what it accomplished)

ANYWAY….(sniffle)

After she ripped us apart with that video, she went on to show how storytelling like that can translate into activism. When you are trying to motivate people to organize and support a cause, you definitely want to tell real life stories that pull people in like a movie, but the difference is you want to end the video with a sense of hope – your target audience needs to believe that they can change the ending. That their efforts will pay off to make life better for themselves and/or the people in the tale.

And that makes total sense doesn’t it? Given that the way you grab the attention of people right now is through images and, particularly, video, you can see how this screenwriter’s strategy would work. Six minutes is all it could take to move you deeply enough to say “I’ve got to DO something about this!”

Huh – look at that – 3 weeks removed from that session and just glancing at my notes brought all those thoughts/feelings/ideas back to me. Well done Kate!

More to come….including a picture of me with…a hip hop artist? Yep. Seriously.

#NN13 Day 1 – Blogging and Climate

The first thing that happened when I got to the convention center was a delightful encounter with a young man named Henry Burner.

Here is his site: http://henryburner.com/

Here is the result of that encounter: http://treesflowersbirds.com/2013/06/30/video-interview-from-san-jose/

I arrived in San Jose early enough to kidnap my friend for an off campus lunch outing to In n Out so that he could have his first taste of a Double Double. That, of course, is one of the highlights of my weekend since any one on one talking time I can get with Stormy is rare, but so much more satisfying than our usual 140 character twitter conversations or texts and emails. (OK, we don’t text in 140 or email like that, but you know what I mean!)

Anyway…that all meant that my first sessions were not until the afternoon, and I was able to attend two. As usual, I picked my targeted panels a few days earlier basically based on a combination of either topic, panelists or both.

The first one was right up my alley in terms of topic + panelists, and I chose it since I knew the one it conflicted with was being recorded for later (Mansplaining panel which I will watch right after I hit post on this!)

“Getting Paid to Blog” was the title and with Chris Savage, Digby & Katherine Haenschen on the panel, I couldn’t miss it.

First off – links to their blogs:

Chris Savage – http://www.eclectablog.com/

Digby – http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/

Katherine – http://www.burntorangereport.com/ – this one is particularly prescient right now given the recent activity in the Texas state senate and the monumental filibuster by Wendy Davis.

As someone who has been learning about online marketing for the last two years, it was really interesting to hear them pretty much outline the same strategies to make money online as any non-political business would need to enact. They didn’t necessarily focus on SEO, but they did talk about the importance of excellent content, content worth reading and sharing, and using guest blogging as primary tactics. All of that has to be used to create an audience (website visits) large enough over a sustained period of time, to attract the attention of the blog ad networks. With a politically focused site, they discussed the opportunities for using pop up paid petitions, sponsored content widgets, holding fundraising events, and approaching campaigns early for advertising opportunities.

*As a side note, while my blogs have never meant to be sources of income, I did like the idea of using sponsored or affiliate link widgets on the side as long as they are product or companies that I can personally support. That was a particularly well timed note for me to take – see session #2!*

“Getting Real on Climate” – with my long time twitter friend RL Miller (Climatehawk) & Darcy Burner (mom to Henry). Those two were my reason for attending 🙂

Links to the sites relevant to this panel:

Darcy’s up and coming business: http://terraheating.com/

A company I wish was in CA – but that will be on my blog soon: https://ethicalelectric.com/

It’s easy to assume when you go to a climate change session that you will hear all sorts of depressing statistics on how we human beings are killing the planet. Well, we are, but thankfully, these panelists knew that we didn’t need to be convinced. We were, as it is, the choir, and we didn’t need preaching! What we wanted, and what they provided, were answers.

First of all, there are the two companies listed above. Different approaches to how energy is provided that will move the country away from fossil fuels and will only invest in other companies that support the same. The continuing explosion in solar electricity has shown that consumers are completely willing to switch to alternative methods of utility deliverance – PARTICULARLY if it saves them money! As always, hit them in their wallets, right?  As someone whose next big home project is to figure out the best way to switch to solar, I get it. An electric car (hey, a Tesla perhaps?!!) would make me giddy. Of course, I need to gather up some money up front in order to save that money over the long haul, but I would happily do it. Since I am getting closer to that being a reality for me, I am going to be exploring every option I can. This session opened my eyes to more possibilites. Including the fact that Ethical Electric has an affiliate sale offer for people willing to list them on their websites. Yes, a widget will be coming to my blog very soon (See?  Tie in to panel #1!)

Also, if the climate is important to you, then please do follow @ClimateHawkVote on twitter and sign up with your email for updates on ways you can help elect politicians who are true climate hawks.

So that was Day 1 – I’ll be back later with more panel write ups and tales of parties and TWiB!

NN11 was what you made of it

Heading out to Minneapolis a not insignificant number of my progressive twitter pals started scoffing at the whole notion of the conference. They painted NN11 with the broad brush of Angry Professional Lefties determined to whine & moan about Obama and discuss potential primary opponents. I got just a smidge of some scolding from some of them for going.

Now, to be fair, I have, like them, largely left the Big Liberal Blog sites (yes, even Daily Kos) due to just what they were describing. For me though, the Daily Kos front page (or editorial writers..ie paid writers many of them) still occupy my RSS feed and I scan the posts every day and read maybe 3-5 per week, Not counting Cheers & Jeers of course which I almost think of separately from DK. That’s Bill who is my dear friend and I will always read his posts. But it’s also comedic political commentary sprinkled with fart jokes so who can resist? 🙂 Anyhow, given that Netroots Nation was born out of Yearly KOS, the Big Orange is certainly still the main influence. I’ve long since tired of the drama and angst that goes on in comment sections and side bar (community) diaries and abandoned them completely. Frankly, the only blog I read these days is The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen. So yes, I understood my friend’s categorizations of the conference.

However, those who talked quite a bit about the uselessness of the conference and chided me for attending have also never been to one. Their judgements were passed based on what they saw reported in the media year after year and..well….while they of all people should know better than to rely on the MEDIA as a true reflection of an event (ahem)..it really was all they had to go on. Again, I understand that.

But I am a veteran of every one of these gatherings and no matter what I leave each one trying to figure out a way to financially make it to the next one.

Why?

Well, of course the biggest reason is the people. I highlighted that on my other site. Blog friends who became real life friends who are now as close to me as family. But if it were just friends then I would simply go to attend the parties in the evening and never drop into a session or listen to a speaker. So, it is not JUST that.

The thing is – as someone is decidedly NOT angry at Obama and is 100% supportive of his re-election, it was plenty easy for me to be around like minded people and/or to avoid the Angry Left. Now, I know my earlier post on NN11 was about just the opposite. But I purposely went into that lions den of a session to see just what the worst of the angry left might say. As I already mentioned, they were pretty mellow as far as anti-Obama attacks. Sure, there was some drama with Lt Choi ripping up that flyer handed to him symbolizing his distaste for the Obama ’12 campaign, but..other than within any media covering the conference & what I saw on twitter that afternoon, it was pretty much a non-event within the conference itself.

The next morning was the highly charged Q&A session with WH Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer and that cause much more of an in conference buzz (and Andrew Breitbart arrived that is). Discussion of the Q&A usually started off with praise for Kaili Joy Gray’s bulldog style of using sharp, short follow up questions (the kind we scream at the mainstream media for NEVER using), but then just about everyone conceded that she pushed that style too far and eventually her own body language (some eye rolls & heavy sighs in response to heavily spun non answers) got to be obviously disrespectful. I know at one point I clapped for Pfieffer because Gray was pushing for a yes or no answer that was simply not there to be given and he managed a decent enough response that I felt he needed SOME encouragement. Now, he was, yes, absolutely not ready for this and often not IN a position to make any news on a topic and on his own he certainly could have handled things better, BUT, the interviewer also bears some responsibility for how things go and she did NOTHING to help him out. Contrast that with last year’s Q&A between Joan McCarter & Senator Harry Reid when Reid turned a truly hostile crowd who so desperately wanted to boo him into a pretty big fans. He’s a pro at handling tough questions, and Joan knew when to ease up and smile and nod before moving on to the next topic. Was I in the minority in my overall take of the Q&A this year? Probably.

However, I went on from that to a full day of sessions that had nothing at all to do with Presidential politics and was much more focused on state & local government issues as I followed the parenting and education tract. Honestly it was almost a truly apolitical day. Sure there was quite a bit of demonizing of the current crop of governors attempting to weaken Teacher’s Unions (heck, ALL unions) and slash funding to public schools, but there was much more overall discussion on public school budgets across the country and how the formulas have changed so drastically over the years. We talked testing & achievement and per student spending & school board makeup. One session on bullying was completely void of political party identification and just a lesson on how projects like It Gets Better can spring up organically to help support minority youth. I came away from that day feeling energized and knowing that this year I really want to focus on learning more about groups like Moms Rising & the K-12 News Network and to hear more from Lily Eskelsen who has the passion and energy & communication skills of well, of a damn good teacher!

There was also the parties. Oh, the parties! The Pub Quiz is technically not a party of course, but it was THE highlight of the weekend for me and for everyone in the room that night from what I can tell. Now, I knew full well that there were many in that room who ARE part of the Angry Professional Left but that night it didn’t matter one hoot. All that mattered was that you could rattle off the names of all the living former Senators from Minnesota. Or write a limerick using a Minnesota sports figure as the topic (we chose Brett Favre, just about every other team went with Kirby Puckett…you may be able to figure out why..!) We laughed, we argued, we protested – oh did we PROTEST! You see there was a team from Wisconsin…specifically folks who had BEEN in Madison during the protests there…and they led the chants which will be engraved in my brain forever “Tell me what Democracy looks like…THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” By the end of the Quiz many were sore from laughing and voices were raw from chanting & screaming. The Daily Kos hosted party on Saturday night which is essentially the final Grand Hoorah of the weekend was also a complete blast. I’m pretty sure I was on the dance floor for 2-3 hours straight and at one point I was on stage dancing with Congresswoman Donna Edwards. I got a kick out of that 🙂

Like last year I also participated in the Netroots For the Troops project helping to put together boxes for our soldiers serving abroad. I’ll put up a separate picture post on that later, but naturally that is a total community effort that completely fills you with compassion even if you are adamantly against any of the wars/overseas operations.

I finished up my weekend by staying an extra day to participate in the Day of Service event which this year took place in a Bird & Flower Sanctuary. Um, can you say heaven to me? It was so damn unbelievable green there and we spent an hour exploring the trails, then we had a picnic lunch and then we donned gloves & spent another hour pulling out invasive weeds. It was quiet & peaceful and fulfilling and just the perfect end toNN11.

My overall point is – Netroots Nation is what you make of it. They offer SO MUCH that anyone within the progressive movement can find something & plenty of someone’s within your area of interest & focus. I am sure that the Angry Pro Left also had a great time and that they had plenty of like minded folks there and sessions that could feed into their angst. I know the media, those bastions of relaying as much drama and angst as they can possibly dig up were more than happy to cover that faction resulting again in most of my Doubting Thomas twitter friends to scoff away and claim “I told you so!” A couple of times I intentionally put myself in a place where those types of folks would BE out of curiosity and because I really did want to ask one of them just who they WOULD support (never got the chance other than a quick conversation with John Aravosis sitting on the sofa in the Daily Kos booth one evening by himself and he kind of stumbled a bit and then said he’d probably end up voting Obama begrudgingly) But other than that I was able to completely avoid them and certainly I didn’t let any of my encounters with them dampen my own opinions and enthusiasm. Mostly I came away more determined than ever to make sure, not only that Obama is re-elected, but also that we DO continue to recruit & support more and BETTER Democrats. That starts at the local level and hey now, coincidentally a friend of mine from the local football league board just stepped up to run our community Democratic Club & he immediately called me for help. I’m in!

Congressman Eric Massa – I knew ye, & yet clearly I did not!

Now, I know most folks wont know who I am talking about here, but this is all so surreal I had to write about it.

I first met candidate Massa in Las Vegas at the innaugural Yearly Kos gathering which has since evolved into the Netroots Nation convention. He attended a candidate mixer at the event and I chatted with him for quite awhile about his campaign, but also about diaries he’d written on Daily Kos. He was what we called a “Clarkie” – a General Wesley Clark supporter. More than that, he had served in the navy under the general which was where they met. Both former Republicans who had turned to the left over the Iraq war, General Clark maintained a more centrist position but Mr Massa’s Daily Kos postings and the conversation we had indicated a much more leftward drift.  In fact, he was viewed by the net roots as a great Progressive, ex-military candidate to rally behind. He lost in ’06, but squeaked out a victory in the Democratic/Obama wave of ’08. After that I didn’t hear much about him since he was a freshman legislator and therefore didn’t have a ton of visibility or committee power. I did know he had voted against the health care reform in congress the first time through ostensibly because it was not progressive *enough*. He had been a single payer advocate and was not happy with the watered down version of the bill. Knowing it would pass, his vote was a classic ‘protest’ vote so that he could still claim his progressive bonafides as a supporter of single payer along with a few other’s like him on the Dem side who voted no.

Flash forward to last week and suddenly his name is in the news because he is announcing he is not running for re-election. An odd move given he just made it to office and relatively young (52 this year). However, he had battled non-hodgkins lymphoma in the past (twice) and while he’d been clear of any cancer for several years, it would not be unrealistic to cite health reasons. Sure enough, that was his statement. A well concealed December hospital visit which resulted in the discovery of new cancer cells. That was Wednesday. Underneath his official statement – in fact, within the final paragraph of his official statement were references to untrue allegations that may be coming out. Turned out there was an ethics investigation pending for reports of office misconduct with a male staffer. That was reported on Feb 8 and an investigation was pending.

In the middle of these odd rumblings my long time co-worker points out to me that were at his wedding (she, in fact was a bridesmaid!). Um…say what? Then my long sleeping memory cells wake up and I literally said “Wait, he’s THAT Eric Massa?? *Beverly’s* Eric??!” Well, crap. Of course his wife had not attended the netroots conventions – family didn’t do that, just the candidates. Plus they have school aged kids. Heck, I held one of them! Beverly was my original manager when I started working. She met Eric while I was working with her and continued working until after their frist child was born. This was when Eric was still an officer in the navy. Once she stopped working, I would still see her from time to time or hear of her from the other co-worker. Then, clearly, they moved out of town and communication drifted away.

So NOW I am viewing this scandal with fresh eyes because I feel extra horrible for his wife and kids and what they must be dealing with. Now, it feels personal.

And then it just got weird.

The allegations because sexual in nature. He denied that, but did admit to ‘salty language’. This was Friday. On Saturday he admitted to most likely creating a stressful environment in his office with his temper and language and apologized. Meanwhile a local New York radio host and blogger posted about some previously buried allegations of sexual misconduct during Massa’s navy tours. Uh oh. Sunday he goes ON a radio show and makes a lengthy statement detailing what he thought was the original complaint – an incident at a wedding that quite frankly sounded to me like he was just being a smart ass. At least, I could certainly picture it that way, but yes, it was certainly inappropriate behavior for a Congressman. Then he admitted to a couple of the navy encounters, one of which well…I frankly just cannot spin in ANY positive way for him! Military raunchiness & overall frat boy atmosphere doesn’t even excuse it. On top of regaling everyone with these tales, he then goes on to accuse the Democratic leaders of forcing him to resign right away vs serving out his term all under the guise of his ‘no’ vote on health care! Oh boy – imagination is now stretched beyond belief when he starts with the conspiracy stuff.

So as of today he is out and tomorrow what is he doing? Spending an hour on the Glenn Beck show and also on Larry King!!

Oh lord. Someone then digs out the origins of why he left the Republican party in 2003. As he went out THAT door he was claiming a conspiracy to get rid of him (then in his role as a congressional aide to a GOP congressman) because he was questioning the motives for the war in Iraq.There was also an issue with his original campaign chief of staff back in 2006 that had to be settled out of court.

I’m sensing a pattern here now. Clearly nothing is ever his fault eh? Sigh….

I don’t care which party you belong to – if you don’t conduct yourself properly, you gotta face the music. You can’t keep blaming the accusers.

And with all this I cannot forget that it really could be that his health is an issue and if so then it was the right thing for him to walk away from another campaign and term, but man…unfortunately it looks like cancer is the *least* of his worries now!

Something tells me this story is just developing..and it makes me very sad.