Sunday, December 27, 2009

Seyyed Ali Mousavi Killed in Iran Protest

Over the weekend, and grossly underreported, Seyyed Ali Mousavi, the nephew of the former Presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was killed during protests in Iran. It is reported that he was shot by Iranian Security officials. This comes amidst numerous reports of fatalities during demonstrations.

It has yet to be reported whether he was targeted intentionally or shot randomly.

The Gulf Daily News is reporting:
Video footage showed an enraged crowd carrying away one of the casualties chanting, "I'll kill, I'll kill the one who killed my brother." Witnesses said one victim was an elderly man who had a gunshot wound to the forehead. He was carried away by opposition supporters with blood covering his face.

All the while, our main stream media cannot find anything to talk about other than a man who spent too long in the bathroom on an airplane.

The video below apparently shows Seyyed Ali lying in the streets:

Saturday, December 26, 2009 Against Filibuster Before They Were For It

Over at, they have a front page post up titled, The Filibuster is Essential For Democracy, where they argue:
The filibuster is essential for democracy, because it protects Americans from a tyranny of the majority, whether that majority be Democrats or Republicans.
What is hilarious, is that they did not even bother to do a quick google search to see what they might have said about the filibuster before:
The magic number is 51. It takes 51 votes to change the rule to ensure that the President's judicial nominations can be confirmed with a majority of 51 votes. From Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO's The Corner comes word that he has heard "that Republicans now have at least 50 votes to change the rules--which means at least 51 if you add Cheney."


If Frist doesn't go through with the rule change, though, I'm going to stop accepting his telephone calls.
I mean, seriously. When on earth will mainstream conservatives learn how to use "teh google"?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lefties Win Against Whole Foods

I am taking a quick break from my Christmas dinner with the family. Today, liberals all across the country got a great Christmas present. The chairman of Whole Foods is stepping down voluntarily as the result of lefty rabble-rousers (we should add that he does still retain his seat on the board and is still a major player at Whole Foods, but we celebrate the message the company is sending):
[Mackey] attempted to capitalize on the brand reputation of Whole Foods to champion his personal political views but has instead deeply offended a key segment of Whole Foods consumer base.
I have not shopped at Whole Foods in months. My entire family began shopping elsewhere after I came across the calls to boycott online. As a somewhat young man, I have not taken part in many nation-wide boycotts, and cannot remember any specific victories before this.

So today, this Christmas, is a day that I did not expect to remember forever as a significant organizing milestone for me. This boycott brought no health care to the uninsured, it did not make the health care bill stronger, and it had no direct impact on my life or my friends' and family's. It did, however, send a message to anyone who would dare to use their corporate position to further corporate political philosophy: your customers are listening and have no problem shopping accordingly.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Medicare for Environmental Health Hazards?

UPDATE: Hat tip goes out to Jeremy Koulish, of Carrots and Sticks, for running down the CBO numbers and giving us a rough estimate of how many people would likely be covered by this provision of the bill. That number is in the thousands, a few thousand or so. As Jeremy said, "Yeah, not particularly earth-shattering, but obviously great for those 3,000 people." We will be doing some more analysis of this, and should it pass, we will check back to see how this provision is being implemented.

There is something interesting in the new health care amendment, Section 1881A.
We have still got a lot of reading left to do on this section of the amendment, but it has raised some very interesting questions.

I will start with what, as my reading leads me to believe, this section of the amendment does. This section allows for certain individuals, deemed affected by environmental health hazards, to be eligible for Medicare in the event that the individual is not eligible for necessary care under other public or private programs. It also allows for the creation of a pilot program to determine eligibility and to provide necessary benefits.

First and foremost, this is not restrictive by age. Meaning, regardless of how old you are, if you are deemed affected by environmental health hazards, you may be eligible for Medicare.

The first question this raises, who is considered an "environmental exposure affected individual"
(1) IN GENERAL.—For purposes of this section, the term ‘environmental exposure affected individual’ means—
(A) an individual described in paragraph (2); and
(B) an individual described in paragraph (3).
(A) IN GENERAL.—An individual described in this paragraph is any individual who—
(i) is diagnosed with 1 or more conditions described in subparagraph (B);
(ii) as demonstrated in such manner as the Secretary determines appropriate, has been present for an aggregate total of 6 months in the geographic area subject to an emergency declaration specified in sub- section (b)(2)(A), during a period ending—
(I) not less than 10 years prior to such diagnosis; and
(II) prior to the implementation of all the remedial and removal actions specified in the Record of Decision for Operating Unit 4 and the Record of Decision for Operating Unit 7;
(iii) files an application for benefits under this title (or has an application filed on behalf of the individual), including pursuant to this section; and
(iv) is determined under this section to meet the criteria in this subparagraph.
(B) CONDITIONS DESCRIBED.— For purposes of subparagraph (A), the following condi- 13 tions are described in this subparagraph:
(i) Asbestosis, pleural thickening, or pleural plaques as established by—
(I) interpretation by a ‘B Read-er’ qualified physician of a plain chest x-ray or interpretation of a computed tomographic radiograph of the chest by a qualified physician, as determined by the Secretary; or
(II) such other diagnostic standards as the Secretary specifies, except that this clause shall not apply to pleural thickening or pleural plaques unless there are symptoms or conditions requiring medical treatment as a result of these diagnoses.
(ii) Mesothelioma, or malignancies of the lung, colon, rectum, larynx, stomach, esophagus, pharynx, or ovary, as established by—
(I) pathologic examination of bi- opsy tissue;
(II) cytology from bronchioalveolar lavage; or
(III) such other diagnostic standards as the Secretary specifies.
(iii) Any other diagnosis which the Secretary, in consultation with the Com- missioner of Social Security, determines is an asbestos-related medical condition, as established by such diagnostic standards as the Secretary specifies.

(3) OTHER INDIVIDUAL DESCRIBED.—An individual described in this paragraph is any individual who—
(A) is not an individual described in paragraph (2);
(B) is diagnosed with a medical condition caused by the exposure of the individual to a public health hazard to which an emergency declaration applies, based on such medical conditions, diagnostic standards, and other criteria as the Secretary specifies;
(C) as demonstrated in such manner as the Secretary determines appropriate, has been present for an aggregate total of 6 months in the geographic area subject to the emergency declaration involved, during a period deter- mined appropriate by the Secretary;
(D) files an application for benefits under this title (or has an application filed on behalf of the individual), including pursuant to this section; and
(E) is determined under this section to meet the criteria in this paragraph.
That is a lot of language to say that, essentially, an "environmental exposure affected individual" is someone affected by asbestos or someone in the geographic area where an "emergency declaration aplies."

I am going to ignore the part about asbestos, for now (it comes back up at the end). How do we define whether or not an "emergency declaration applies?"
(2) EMERGENCY DECLARATION.—The term emergency declaration’ means a declaration of a public health emergency under section 104(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980.
In other words, a Superfund site that has been deemed an emergency. So this amendment would make it so anyone affected by a health hazard, who lives in an area designated a Superfund site under an emergency declaration, would be eligible for Medicare if they are not already eligible for the needed care through other public or private entities.

Not a huge deal. Especially considering how rarely a Superfund site is deemed an emergency.

But there was one part that caught my eye, when I came across the section on pilot programs:
(A) PRIMARY PILOT PROGRAM.—The Secretary shall establish a pilot program in accordance with this subsection to provide innovative approaches to furnishing comprehensive, coordinated, and cost-effective care under this title to individuals described in paragraph (2)(A).
(B) OPTIONAL PILOT PROGRAMS.—The Secretary may establish a separate pilot program, in accordance with this subsection, with respect to each geographic area subject to an emergency declaration (other than the declaration of June 17, 2009), in order to furnish such comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective care to individuals described in subparagraph 15 (2)(B) who reside in each such area.
"Other than the declaration of June 17, 2009." What declaration was that? None other than the first, and only, emergency declaration by the EPA under the Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980.

And now is when I will bring back the asbestos stuff that I chose to ignore at the beginning. This emergency declaration happens to revolved around problems with, you guessed it, asbestos. So, now I am confused.

Does this bit about excluding the declaration of June 17th exclude all these people from being eligible for Medicare, or are they included by the bits about asbestos?

We are working on getting in touch with Senator Baucus's office (given that it is the weekend, and a crazy one at that, we may have to wait for Monday) to help us tackle some of these questions. I hope you will join us in trying to figure out this peculiar section of the amendment. Check back for updates.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Deanna Zandt on New Media, Race Relations, and the Power of Storytelling

There was a moment in Deanna Zandt's speech at the Organizing 2.0 conference that I wanted to highlight:

The power of storytelling must not be underestimated. I will use the Obama campaign as an example, since storytelling played a larger role than anything else, I would argue, in their message strategy.

The campaign had introduced a rather different candidate to the world, an improbable campaign. They clearly recognized that he would not be able to win on issue statements alone, he had to reach out to people who agreed with him on policy but were questioning, "Who is this different looking guy with a funny name?" Through telling his story, he was able to bridge whatever divides existed between himself and millions of Americans.

Although the campaign officially began years later, we can really trace the 2008 Presidential campaign all the way back to the 2004 Democratic National Convention when, then a candidate for U.S. Senate, Barack Obama was introduced to the country when he gave the keynote address. What he did in that speech, more than talk about issues, was that he told his story. He told where he came from, and through that we learned why it was that he was supporting Senator Kerry for President. Without question, it was the most memorable moment in the 2004 Presidential campaign. And that is exactly what President Obama trained his volunteers to do. As an organizer for the campaign, I told my story 8 trillion times. I repeatedly told volunteers, "You may not be an expert on every issue, or on any, but you are an expert on who you are and why you support Barack Obama, and that is what you need share with your neighbors."

What anyone working the campaign will tell you, we would not have won without storytelling. The polls showed that President Obama was right on the issues, but everyone knows that is not enough when it comes to politics. People need to be able to trust their President. And trust, as Deanna Zandt mentions in her speech, is developed through sharing stories with one another. What the campaign realized is that it was not enough to have President Obama's story out there, he needed to expand the reach exponentially by turning every volunteer into a little storytelling machine themselves. President Obama's story is "uniquely American," and it was not enough. What the campaign demonstrated, and what sounds obvious, is that your neighbor's story is more likely to impact you than a candidate's.

They had members of the community talking with their neighbors, sharing struggles of a failing economy and failing health care system, together. And this made all the difference. During President Obama's speech on race, back in PA during the primary, he ended his speech on the power of storytelling:
There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Really Operation Rescue?

Do you get the same reaction when you read this paragraph from an email Operation Rescue sent out? It was an email announcing that Operation Rescue is honoring the life of James Pouillon as OR's 2009 person of the year. (emphasis mine)
Mr. Pouillon was a long-time pro-life street activist from Owosso, Michigan, who was gunned down on September 11, 2009, as he protested abortion outside Owosso High School. A local man, Harlan Drake, has admitted to targeting Mr. Pouillon for death because he did not agree with his views on abortion.

Wait, what? "Admitted to targeting Mr. Pouillon for death because he did not agree with his views on abortion"? Seriously? For those of you that are not completely familiar with this story. Harlan Drake was the man who recently gunned down two people, and planned to go after a third. They were based on grudges, all having a different motive.

Harlan Drake has admitted that he was "offended" by James Pouillon's anti-choice demonstrations, but the admission had little to do with Mr. Pouillon's views. Harlan Drake said he was offended by "the fact that [Mr. Pouillon] was outside the high school with his signs in front of children going to school," according to the county's chief assistant prosecutor, Sara Edwards. Let me repeat that, the chief assistant prosecutor, you know, the person arguing against Mr. Drake, not some pro-choice activist, said that he was offended that Mr. Pouillon was outside a school with his signs.

And what were these signs? "Graphic fetus images".

Keep this in mind. Harlan Drake has said nothing about being offended by anti-choice beliefs, he has admitted to being offended by someone holding up huge "graphic fetus images" outside a school. Definitely not an excuse for murder. But murder is no excuse for OR to go around lying in order to drum up political support.

Now, before some anti-choice nuts yell at me, I am not saying that James Pouillon should not be OR's person of the year (I am in no position to make any judgement on who they choose as their person of the year). However, I will not keep silent when they send a blatant lie to my inbox.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Training Tuesday with #org20: Getting Through the Bureaucracy

This week, we have something new for our Training Tuesday series. We still have plenty of videos left to come from Democracy for America's Campaign Academy, but a couple weekends back, we attended the Organizing 2.0 conference in New York. This conference was a unique opportunity for activists to learn about new media and online organizing from some of the greatest online organizers around.

Today, we present the first session we attended on navigating the bureaucracy of organizations and figuring out how to fit new media into existing organizational structures. Our panelists today are Charlie Albanetti of Citizen Action of New York, Elana Levin of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), and Michael Whitney of Fire Dog Lake. A lot of their advice today boils down to one thing: you need to have a policy for this. That is, you cannot just plop your organization online and expect everything to run efficiently. You will need to sit down with the leadership and anyone else involved online and build a policy for online engagement. This is a process over time, not a Friday meeting over lunch.

Today's training is all bout opening the door. How do you maneuver through the bureaucracy of well entrenched community organizations to provide the conditions necessary to succeed with new media? Not everyone gets to be the Obama campaign with a boss that gets and appreciates online activism (and even they had to fight through a lot of bureaucracy to build their online organization).

Our panelists will provide us with some helpful tips on how to manage your organization's transition into the new media world. There are all these fun and powerful tools available online, but they are useless to you if your organization is not prepared to accept or understand them.

One of the more significant changes you will encounter as you transition your organization from 1.0 to 2.0 is that what was once primarily one-way communication is now heavily two-way (or three, four, five, six thousand.... etc)

Now that you have made it clear that what happens online is very different from traditional forms of organizing, you need to figure out how to include something so overarching and so necessarily flexible into the rigid structure of an organization:

An interesting conversation was sparked by a question about what to do with a boss that not only accepts online activism, but wants to play a large role, maybe too large a role...

And our last video for today, certainly not our least, is about when to train other staff to use online tools and when not to:

That's all for today. Check back next Tuesday at 6:00pm EST for another session of Training Tuesday!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Music Monday: Ezra Furman & the Harpoons

Sum of Change made the long trek to Baltimore last Tuesday for some brew, billiards and of course, music.

We were attracted to Ottobar, a hip and happening venue in the Charles Village area, by Ezra Furman & the Harpoons, a young band on the road full-time for the first time.

The four lads met during their undergrad years at Tufts University and made the decision to tour after graduating in 2008. They're a dedicated bunch, putting on a spirited show for the somewhat sparsely attended gig. But despite the fact that Tuesday nights in a city far from Boston don't make for the liveliest of crowds, those in attendance were quick to get into the groove.

Transitioning from university students to rough and ready musicians can't be easy, but Ezra Furman & the Harpoons seem to enjoy it. These boys may just make it big some day.

2549 North Howard Street
Baltimore, MD 21218-4506
(410) 662-0069

Boozing it up at the State of the Alcohol Industry Briefing

This post is featured on Plight of the Pumpernickel.

Last Thursday, I finagled an invite to the first annual State of the Alcohol Industry Briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Actually, 'finagled' is a bit of a misnomer. Went to their website, registered myself and then printed out a free ticket is a more apt description. It was pretty easy to get in.

Once inside, the scene was a bit like a room in Willy Wonka's factory. Except everything was alcoholic. As the man says, candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.

Set up along the walls were a myriad of alcohol stations. Custom martinis with Kahlua liqueur and pumpkin spices, flights of variously aged Hennessy, drinks mixed with top shelf vodka and gin, and more types of wine and beer than I could count. It was glorious.

A prime rib carving station, a chef making custom risotto dishes and countless hors d'oeuvres were also available for our enjoyment.

Incredibly, the entire event was free. Not to say the evening came without a price; my gaggle of friends and I found ourselves in the obvious minority as the youngest patrons in attendance. And perhaps the only liberals. Big surprise, the alcohol industry is comprised of lots of old conservatives. Who knew.

This didn't seem like such a bad thing until a particularly sleazy one began chatting up a friend. Let's just say the old guy's comments were less than PC. Here is a truncated version of the conversation that ensued:
Old guy: I like that snazzy shirt you're wearing. (Points to my male friend's red shirt) I bet you're popular with the ladies.

Friend: Um, well. I dunno. I'm here with my girlfriend.

Old guy: Because there are a lot of tasty young things here. (Points to me and my two female friends).

Friend: Um...

Old guy: That one of the right is cute. (Nodding at my friend) But she's a redhead. You never know what you're getting with those.

Friend: Yeah, uh. Well...

Old guy: The one in the middle is nice looking. (Pointing to me) She kind of has the cute Washington thing going on. Only good for one night, though.

Friend: I don't think I could feel more uncomfortable...

Old guy: Now, that girl on the left. (Points to African American friend) I've never had one of those. I'd really like to sink my teeth into that.

Friend: ...and there we are!
Ah, yes. My first taste of truly creepy, old, conservative Washington.

Interestingly enough, none of the six people in my early to mid 20s aged crowd were carded. I don't think I need to tell you that I could easily pass for 20 years old. Just saying.

All things aside, it was an extraordinarily fun evening. So much fun, in fact, that I would happily endure again a stream of come-ons spouted by a man old enough to be my father. A small price to pay for such enjoyment.

Tell Us

Over the holidays, we at Sum of Change will be hard at work redesigning the web site. I should really say "recreating" the web site, as it will look and feel very different from our current design. We are coming out with a new logo based on the DC flag as well. Before we sit down to completely revolutionize how our web site looks, we want your input.

Please send an email to info at sum of change dot com, or just use our contact page and answer these 5 questions:

1) How did you find out about

2) When you visit, what are you looking for? What brings you to the website?

3) When you visit, are you able to find what you are looking for easily? If not, please tell us why and how we might be able to make things easier to find.

4) What do you like least about our current site design?

5) What do you like best about our current site design?

Please do take a minute send us an email and answer those 5 questions. We have a laundry list of things we would like to change, but your input is vitally important to us since our web site is designed for you.

Szakos' a Free Man

A while back, we covered a somewhat unique story. Joe Szako, the Executive Director of the Virginia Organizing Project, had been arrested while attempting to contact Anthem Insurance during a demonstration at their headquarters. We were there when Mr. Szako appeared in court, Tuesday September 22nd 2009, in Henrico, VA. You can read more about the arrest and watch video footage of the arrest here.

At the end of November, the case ended with Mr. Szako a free man, for the most part. He will have to stay out of trouble for six months (and yes, that includes any visits to Anthem's headquarters):

Trespassing charges against Virginia Organizing Project Executive Director Joe Szakos are to be dismissed after six months with no incident and no visits to Anthem’s property.
Evidence showed that customers are permitted in the main entrance where Szakos attempted to enter Anthem’s Richmond headquarters in July. Evidence also showed that Szakos was connected by cell phone at the time of arrest-waiting for an Anthem representative-following the instructions Anthem security had given him. Judge Neil Steverson chose not to convict Szakos for trespassing on his own insurance company’s property.

After the trial, Mr. Szakos released this statement:
I am relieved that Judge Steverson recognized that I was well within my rights to visit my own insurance company and ask them a question. I look forward to the official dismissal of these charges in six months so that we can all move on. Until that six months is up, I am barred from visiting Anthem’s property. This is not a problem since they rarely listen to their customers concerns anyway. Being officially barred is perhaps a more formal exemplification of Anthem’s existing customer service policy: ‘Don’t ask questions, just pay your bill.’

Anthem has succeeded in wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars on this charade. Anthem has used the time and resources of the Henrico County Police to arrest a paying customer who visited their building during normal business hours. Today, an hour of the court’s time was spent providing no real benefit to the County. Instead, the court’s time was spent deliberating on whether or not it is legal for a paying customer to walk up to their own health insurance company and ask to speak to a live person. It is absolutely absurd that this has gone this far.

Virginians are already paying outrageous health insurance premiums through Anthem. They should not be forced to pay for the court costs involved with Anthem’s crackdown on customers who question their business practices. I think that Anthem should apologize to the people of Henrico County for making them foot the bill for this nonsense. And then Anthem should apologize to the Virginia Organizing Project for taking up our time and resources with this trial.

The private health insurance industry has given us a health care system where customers have to deal with skyrocketing premiums, denied claims, and even trespassing charges for asking to speak to a representative in person. I am glad that Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb voted Saturday to begin debate on health care legislation that will force insurance companies like Anthem to be competitive and improve their service. We all deserve better than this.

So, in conclusion, it apparently is not illegal to visit your health insurance company and try to ask them a question. Now if only we could visit our insurance company and expect some type of health care too. Yes, I am a dreamer.

Will 2010 Look Like 2008?

As we studied the numbers after the 2009 election, one thing stood out glaringly: the Obama voters had stayed home. Nate Silver showed us that the electorate that came out that day in Virginia had voted for McCain by 51-43, a stark difference from 2008's actual VA results.

Who knows whether or not this election was a sign of things to come, or just a reinforcement of the trend that when a new President takes over, the party suffers in the next election.

But if Democrats want 2010 to look anything like 2008, they better take a cue from this recent bombshell of a poll:
A new national poll finds that fully one third of Democratic voters say that they’re “less likely” to vote in 2010 if Congress doesn’t pass a public option, underscoring the possibility that dropping the provision seriously risks dampening the Dem base’s enthusiasm.

Why am I so sure that Republicans and Blue Dogs will find a way to say that this poll shows that the President should run to the center on health care? All I can say is, polls have shown that for the last several years health care has been the most important issue amongst liberal voters, so I am not shocked in the slightest bit by the results of this poll.

Friday, December 11, 2009

© = No

After we covered the Stop Stupak rally and lobby day, we were shocked to find our pictures being used by the anti-choice Jill Stanek blog. Now, our pictures are copyrighted. And Jill Stanek had neglected to ask our permission to reprint them. What was even more "fun," was what we found on the contact page at her blog:
Reprinting WND Columns:

If you would like to reprint one of my columns, please request permission from, which owns the copyright, at

So people have to ask her permission to use her copyrighted material, but she is free to use others'?

We wrote to Jill Stanek, quoted her contact page, and asked her to remove our photos. She replied:
Dear Will,

Thank you for writing.

Please note first of all that I provided attribution and a link to your photos.

I have removed the first photo, per your request.

I am leaving the second photo of Congressperson Jan Schakowsky in place. In legal terms, this photo is “fair use” of a public figure at a public event for purposes of social commentary, which my post certainly makes.

Let me know if you have any further questions.


Jill Stanek

First off, she is right that she attributed the photo to us, and we do appreciate being given the credit. As for her removing the first photo, we are thankful that she did without any fight.

As for the second photo. Here, Jill is dead wrong. Yes, you have the right to publish photos of public figures. You do not have the right to publish another individual's copyrighted photo of a public figure. And I have precedent to make that statement. We have requested precedent to the contrary and await Jill Stanek's reply.

But what about the substance of her post? Our pictures were used to make the argument that the crowd was small.
Sum of Change Productions posted pictures on Flickr (bottom photo via SoC), and you'll notice there are no photos of the crowd.

And yes, we did not post photos of the entire crowd. This was the only lens I had for my camera that day. Not exactly capable of taking a nice wide crowd shot in a packed room. But here is the widest shot we were able to get with our video camera:
Sequence 22

The room goes farther back, this shot is from up in the press box. The room was packed, and the overflow room was, at one point, overflowing. It is simply a non-sequitur to argue that because we did not post a shot of the entire crowd that the crowd must have been small.

How about we use that same logic, against, say, the St Michael Society, who "infiltrated" this open-to-the-public event? They are openly anti-choice. They did not post a single shot of the entire crowd. By Jill's logic, they must be hiding how large the crowd was!

Jill's whole point of the article was that the pro-choice rally and lobby day had a small turnout. What Jill misses, is that this was a lobby day, and the indoor rally was truly the secondary objective. The Coalition to Stop Stupak had meetings scheduled in advance between Senators and the activists that attended the rally. That requires a lot of planning, and pulling it off for almost one thousand people from across the country is an enormous feat.

This may not have been a 9/12 rally with hundreds of thousands of people, but then again, it did not get billions of dollars of free advertising from a major, national news network.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

@Organizing 2.0

Last weekend, I attended the Organizing 2.0 conference in New York, put together by Charles Lenchner of the Working Families Party. This conference brought people together to hear from some of the greatest minds in the online organizing world. I came out of it with lots of great footage, and today we are previewing some of it. The majority of the footage, however, will be featured in our Training Tuesday series. So check back Tuesday at 6:00pm for more Organizing 2.0 footage. We are also collecting all our Organizing 2.0 footage onto one page here. But if you are reading this, then you really should find the time to watch these videos.

Whether you've been actively engaged in fighting the good fights online for years, or you are simply a lurker who visits from time to time to read, your intimate knowledge of the workings of the blogosphere makes you a valuable resource for candidates and organizations. This is a quality that is rather unique. As deeply entrenched as the online world may feel, online organizing is still brand new. You can think of it like this, Organizing 2.0 is still in beta format, and it is open source so people all over the world can develop new and exciting features.

The people you will hear from in the videos below, and the many to come over the coming Training Tuesdays, are about as experienced as we can get. They will provide you with many helpful tips and share some of their best practices.

Ari Melber, of The Nation, gave the opening speech:

That was followed by a conversation between Ari Melber and Nancy Scola, of the Personal Democracy Forum:

The last two videos we have for you today are the closing remarks. First, we have Dan Cantor, the Executive Director of the Working Families Party:

And the closing speech, or keynote address if you will, was given by Deanna Zandt, the author of "Share This!":

That's all for today, but check back at 6:00pm Tuesday for our running series of Training Tuesdays when we will introduce our first round of Organizing 2.0 panel coverage!

If you want to read more about the Organizing 2.0 Conference, check out these links: Talk: How Sharing and Storytelling Will Change the World Labor & community activists coverge @Organizing2.0 (the inspiration for my title, credit where credit is due)
Sum of Change: Musings on Ari Melber's Speech and the State of TV News
Ari Melber: Obama Campaign Organizing & New Media: Presentation to Organizing 2.0 Summit Writing for your Digital Audience

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Musings on Ari Melber's Speech and the State of TV News

There was a point that Ari Melber made at the Organizing 2.0 Conference that really struck a chord with me, and has been churning over in my head for the last couple days. It was the point in his opening speech when he brought up slide 6 in this slideshow:

We all knew this was happening, but seeing the actual numbers, that is a powerful thing. And this graph is a bad thing. Make no mistake about it, it is bad for society to be so sheltered from any subject matter of real substance. And yet, it gets worse. We expect this type of treatment. We treat it as the norm, and, in effect, we accept it as an unavoidable reality.

So that should raise this question: why can we not expect substantive soundbites? The most common answer I have heard throughout my life is, the ratings. They are giving us what we want. Right? I mean, if substantive news brought in ratings, they would give it to us? Right?

I spoke on similar grounds in previous postings about the death of newspapers. We hear from traditional news experts that the death of newspapers brings with it the death of investigative journalism. To which, I always wondered why it is that we cannot possibly expect television journalists to do investigative reporting.

It is the ratings. That is what we always hear. But there was another moment in Ari Melber's speech which made me seriously question whether or not that claim is accurate.

It was when he popped up slide number 12:

There are two things we need to see here:
1) This graph represents statistics regarding a full speech, not a sound bite.
2) The media clearly failed to make the most of it.

Youtube experienced more viewers than all the networks combined. Let us, for an instant, treat Youtube as a main stream news network (we could easily fill a book detailing whether or not it actually is). But if we treat it as a network, then Youtube, frankly, kicked the competition's ass. I mean, whooped the ever living crap out of the competition. CNN, FOX, MSNBC missed out on a large swath of the population that was clearly interested in viewing this substantive, 37 minute soundbite.

What happened with the major networks' ratings? (we're back to excluding Youtube from this category) By their ratings, the speech was successful. However, when you include the Youtube ratings, the speech is no longer successful, it is powerful. So why-oh-why were the television networks (with their powerful control over a major distribution venue) wholly incapable of matching the ratings of Youtube on this speech? I would argue that either:
1) Television itself is not designed to provide its audience with substance, or...

2) The networks are simply failing to figure out how to successfully distribute substantive coverage.

(and I would argue that the latter is more likely).

Regardless, I think Ari's speech demonstrates that the internet is clearly lacking whatever trait it is that prevents the television networks from giving us more than seven second soundbites.

We should ask why the television networks have been unwilling or incapable of providing substantive coverage. We should ask in what world it is possible. We should ask what influence caused the average soundbite length to drop so drastically. We should ask what responsibility the networks have, and we should ask what responsibility we have. In what way have we failed to hold television networks responsible? We should ask these questions (especially those of us in the media). We should understand how this history of dramatically decreasing soundbite lengths came to be, should we hope to reverse the trend.

And I will end with yet another question. If it actually is an unavoidable truth that television networks cannot achieve ratings with substantive material, should we consider abandoning television networks all together?

I pose this question for one reason only. The charts that Ari showed demonstrate that people are indeed interested in substance, when substance is available to them. And his charts demonstrate that the internet (social networking sites in specific, and yes Youtube is a social networking site) is succeeding in distributing substance, or can be used successfully to distribute substance.

We know these things are happening. We know that the television news outlets are not providing us with substance on anywhere close to the same level that the internet is. We have a ways to go before we understand why entirely.

Training Tuesday with the DFA: Fun Budget Tips

Last week, we covered the basics of managing and organizing a campaign budget. If you know little-to-nothing about campaign finance but would like to, or if you are just about to start putting together the budget for a campaign, you should definitely check out last week's Training Tuesday. Today is not for the basics. Instead, we are using this Training Tuesday to share with you four very important tips that will help you out along the way:

I hope you enjoyed those useful tips. Don't forget to check back next Tuesday at 6:00pm for another round of Training Tuesday when we will introduce our first round of panel videos from the Organizing 2.0 Conference in New York last Saturday. We posted clips from the opening and closing speeches of that conference.

Cantor predicts Republican future at The Economist summit

Originally featured on JTA's Capital J blog.

Predictions for what 2010 will bring were aplenty yesterday at The Economist’s summit in Washington, DC celebrating the release of its World in 2010 edition. The event featured several influential speakers who gave their two cents on issues of economic, political and cultural significance.

Among them was House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va), who stressed that one of the most talked about topics of next year will be the “progress or lack thereof on the jobs front.”

Cantor also predicted that Democrats would lose control of the House, largely due to what he called a disconnect between the rhetoric and the actions of the White House.

“People in this country have a real sense of pessimism right now,” explained Cantor. A “very grumpy electorate,” he feels, will oust Democrats from power.

World in 2010 editor Daniel Franklin questioned Cantor’s forecast of Republican triumph in the House, asking “do you foresee it, or do you want it?”

Franklin also asked the nature of the Republicans’ game plan.

“What is the idea? ‘Jobs’ is not an idea.”

Cantor rebuffed the notion that Republicans were all talk, saying that he and his colleagues had brought several ideas to the table.

“[It’s] not that sexy of a story for the media to cover our ideas,” said Cantor.

Cantor also said that if implemented in 2010, cap and trade would cut jobs. He also expressed concern that the temporary TARP funds allocated this year would prove to be slush fund.

As for future players of the Republican Party in 2010, Cantor broke into a wide smile when fellow panelist and Meet the Press host David Gregory mentioned Sarah Palin.

He was mum on the subject, but was adamant that Republican gubernatorial successes in New Jersey and Virginia were signs of things to come.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stop Stupak Rally/Lobby Day

Last week, we joined pro-choice activists from all across the country on Capitol Hill. They came to support health care reform and the public option, and they came to fight against the Stupak amendment and any bans on women's reproductive health coverage. The program began with rally, after which, the groups headed to scheduled meetings with their legislators. We tagged along with a group from Sister Song in New Orleans and joined them for the visit with Senator Mary Landrieu's office.

We have extensive coverage of the day's events, with plenty of full speeches.

And please enjoy this picture slideshow:

Lastly for folks that enjoyed this coverage, please check out this information on our upcoming documentary about abortion clinic escorts, tentatively titled Clinic Defense: Best When Boring.

MUSIC MONDAY: The DNA of Music: Interview with Pandora Founder Tim Westergren

A few months ago, I did an interview with Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora and the Music Genome Project, live via Skype from his office on the West Coast. Since this was before our Music Monday feature and the current encarnation of our site, I wanted to re-post the interview and accompanying blog for all to see.

The Music Genome Project is exactly what the name describes, a focused effort to break down songs into hundreds of individual musical aspects (genes), everything from tempo and rhythm to the instrumentation and the amount of distortion used. They then catalog these 'genes', creating an accurate objective description (like a genome) of every musical aspect of the song. Collectively, the genomes build a 'musical taxonomy', an empirical explanation of the entire spectrum of music. So far, the project has cataloged over 700,000 songs of all sorts of varieties, with more songs being analyzed and added to the library daily.

After several years of cataloging, the Music Genome Project released Pandora Internet Radio as a way of bringing their research to the public. Pandora reinvents radio. Instead of having many people tune into one station and listen to whatever a single DJ decides, Pandora creates a station, or several stations for each individual user based on what the user want's to listen to. The user inputs a song or artist and Pandora searches the Music Genome Project for songs with matching musical genes. It then builds a station or personalized playlist of songs similar to the desired song or artist and streams that customized station over the internet for free.

I personally am a big Pandora fan, mainly because it allows me to easily discover and listen to new artists similar to the ones I love. It gives me many more options to listen to the kind of music that I feel like listening to at any given time. I can keep my interests broad and put in a single song or artist and listen to a wide variety of tunes. Alternatively, I can keep adding artists and songs to my station to isolate a particular aspect of music that I want to hear. It combines my two methods of listening to music. I usually either listen to an album or MP3 or tune into a traditional radio station but Pandora combines the best aspects of both. I simultaneously get to choose what I listen to, like I would listening to a recording that I own, and listen to new material, like I would hear on traditional radio.

I very much enjoyed speaking with Mr. Westergren and learning about how he helped to craft Pandora and the Music Genome Project into what they are today. For more info about Pandora and to try it out, please go to And, as Mr Westergren mentions, they are very interested in user feedback so please try it out and let them know what you think!!

You can find this and all our earlier Music Monday posts at

Connecticut for Lieberman Explains Opposition to the Public Option

This is just too good. I absolutely love the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. If you want to know more about them, you can read an old story of mine from September.

Anyways, they put out this hilarious health care video explaining Senator Lieberman's opposition to the public option:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

“Eating Animals” author Jonathan Safran Foer takes a stand for ethical eating

Originally featured on JTA's Capital J blog:

Award-winning author Jonathan Safran Foer took the stage at 6th & I Synagogue in Washington, DC Tuesday night to discuss his latest book and first work of non-fiction, Eating Animals.

The book addresses the ethics of animal agriculture and the mainstream American diet from a personal and often emotional perspective. A vegetarian since childhood, Foer discussed the morality of eating meat prepared by what many consider a warped and environmentally destructive system.

Foer often relies on his Jewish upbringing to articulate how tradition and family enter the equation (his grandmother, who is the subject the book’s first chapter, was even sitting in the audience). Despite the book’s strong narrative elements and the author’s background in fiction, Foer adamantly stressed that “as far as nonfiction goes, this is very nonfictional.”

In classic Jewish fashion, the event was kicked off by Foer‘s unmistakably proud mother, Esther Safran Foer. But it wasn’t just a chance for her to kvell; the elder Foer serves as the executive director of 6th & I, a synagogue that has gained cross-cultural appeal by holding a wide range of events in its sanctuary, including rock concerts, comedy tours and of course, book talks.

“I knew Jonathan before he was a reader and before he was a writer,” she said to two floors of jam-packed pews. “I even knew him when he was a vegetarian for the very first time at 9. And as many of you know, I’m his mother, so I can say these things.”

Foer was then introduced by Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic, blogger and Foer admirer. Sullivan cited his esteem for Eating Animals, noting that the book had touched upon concerns with which he himself grappled.

“To see what is in front of one’s nose is a constant struggle,” Sullivan admitted before ceding the stage to Foer amid loud applause.

Despite the touchy nature of his chosen subject, Foer laid off the sermonizing. The issue of ethical eating is best broached “not by a lecture, not by a reading and certainly not by an argument.” Rather, Foer spent his hour and change at the podium by taking questions from what seemed to be a veggie-friendly audience.

Though he did not advocate vegetarianism (“We don’t have to become vegetarians . . . [that] implies that we have to do everything or nothing.”), Foer emphatically emphasized the necessity of reforming the meat industry and consumer awareness. Knowing where your meat comes from, said Foer, is essential.

In addition to citing the prevalence of animal cruelty, Foer noted that according to recently released figures by a World Bank affiliated magazine World Watch, animal food production is responsible for about 51% of all Greenhouse Gas emissions.

One question addressed the place of hunting in the ethical eating debate, highlighting the argument that hunters are closer to their food source and therefore present an ethical alternative to buying store bought meat.

Foer dismissed this assertion, saying “I don’t think that’s why people hunt.” He stressed that people who choose to hunt are not hunting to eat – they eat what they hunt, an important distinction.

“These are people who I’m sure have access to supermarkets . . . it thrills them to kill things,” said Foer. “Any other explanation is disingenuous, it’s not true.”

The mood took a more lighthearted turn when Foer was asked his thoughts on where Judaism stands on hunting. To this, he responded, “Jews don’t recoil from hunting for ethical reasons, but more that, like, it’s feh.”

The loud guffaws heard across the sanctuary suggested this was an audience familiar with the Yiddish exclamation.

Whether or not audience members were convinced by Foer’s argument, it seemed as though he had given them food for thought. Regardless of their opinion of Eating Animals, Foer asked them to “act on [their] values, even when it’s not convenient, when it’s more expensive, when it’s socially awkward.”

The event, which was co-sponsored by 6th & I and local DC independent bookstore Politics & Prose, concluded with a book signing and light vegetarian desserts.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is the Jewish Fetish a Two-Way Street?

Originally featured on Plight of the Pumpernickel.

Stop the presses! The hot Jewish girl is the new Catholic schoolgirl.

My personal Jewish network has been all a'twitter (pun intended) over an article published in Details Magazine's December issue titled "The Rise of the Hot Jewish Girl: Why American men are lusting after women of the tribe."

While tasty Jewish girls have been on the scene for quite a while now (Natalie Portman, anyone?), this article is the first I've seen which suggests that the quest for a Star of David clad sexpot isn't just limited to nice Jewish boys from Long Island.

According to Details, desire for the JILF (Jew I'd Like to F*ck) is more widespread than ever. Hell, apparently 'frum porn' is even a thing, boasting a devout non-Jewish following. And don't think it isn't lost on me that the article in question was written by one Mr. CHRIST-opher Noxon.

While the existence of Jewish-themed pornography disturbs me on a deep emotional level (bagels are for eating!), it does bring up an interesting question. Could the gentile attraction to girls of the hot and Jewish variety be due to its inverse? Do Jewish girls have a fetish for goyishe boys?

Of course, this question stems from personal experience. Despite my best efforts to date Jews, as chronicled in my piece for Washington Jewish Week, nearly every one of my major emotional relationships have been with shaygitzes. Much to my mother's dismay, I assure you.

What is that? My Judaism is extremely important to me and plays perhaps an intimidatingly large role in my life, both personally and professionally. I agree with Jewish community leaders who warn that intermarriage is an alarming and problematic trend. Why then can't I just settle down with a Jew?

Perhaps it's the thrill of going after something I'm not supposed to go after. Maybe Jews seem too familiar and unexciting. Maybe I have a thing for that Anglo look. It's probably a combination of the three.

Or, as Details would have us believe, those non-Jews have just been going after me especially. It's their fault, Ma.

Those Jewish boys had better step up their game; there's a lot of competition for us Jewish girls these days.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Training Tuesday with the DFA: The Big Scary Budget

Every political campaign and organization must spend money to maintain serious levels of activity. Increasingly, campaigns must raise significant amounts of money to become and remain competitive. Although we can protest the growing costs of campaigning, the reality for any campaign is that without these funds, there can be no staff, no office, no phones, no computers, no signs, no media coverage - no campaign.
-From the Democracy for America Campaign Academy Training Manual
Consider the list of things you need to run a campaign. The quote above touched on some of them. From a birds eye view, a full campaign budget is alike to a vast stretch of canyons, almost too much to take in at once. In these videos, Selene Hoffer-Shall will share some insight on how to break the budget down, how to make it manageable, and how to meet the goals. Selene's advice comes from experience:
A former crisis counselor, Selene joined the Dean for America Operations Team in 2003, helping to compile the largest FEC reports in Presidential Campaign History. Selene was one of the 12 original staffers of Democracy for America working as the assistant to the Finance Director. She left DFA to become Finance Director for Peter Welch in his successful race for Congress in a race where she broke all previous fundraising records for the district. Following the 2006 election, Selene worked in San Antonio, TX as the Finance Director for Ciro Rodriguez in the TX-23 run-off election, raising over $600,000 in less than three weeks to successfully oust an 7-term Republican incumbent. Selene currently works as freelance finance consultant.
We join the training just after the group compiled an enormous list of what you need to run a campaign. In this first video, the group takes a large weight off the back of campaign finance directors by establishing what things can be donated:

After you have built the list of thins you can get contributed, you are, sadly, still left with a lot of money to raise. You will need a plan to raise this money, and no, you cannot rely on your opponent to make a fool of himself and raise you one million dollars. But there are tested strategies at your disposal to raise funds. In this next video, Selene breaks down some metrics for us:

So now you have your big scary list of things you need, and you have a reasonable basis to understand the tactics you are going to use to get all this stuff. Now it is time to set your benchmarks:

With benchmarks in front of you, this next video will go over meeting your first month goal:

That is all for today. Next week we will have round two of The Big Scary Budget, where Selene will talk about your campaign's three budgets, the importance of the Union Bug, and more! So check back next Tuesday at 6:00pm (Eastern Standard Time) or sign up to receive email alerts from Sum of Change.

Monday, November 30, 2009

MUSIC MONDAY: Hugh Masekela- A Brief History

Hugh Masekela’s career has been going strong for nearly 50 years, so it is hard to talk about him in such a small format. The South African trumpeter and flugelhornist (yes, the instrument does exist) has traveled the world and incorporated styles of music he picked up in his travels into his music. There aren’t many constants in his music- his style is constantly changing depending on the circumstances. No matter his style, Masekela has constantly been true to himself and his experiences and expresses a part of himself in everything he does.

He was born in Witbank, South Africa in 1939. His father, a coal miner, had a wind-up gramophone and several records of American jazz musicians, which young Hugh became very fond of. He quickly took to music, learning how to play trumpet under Father Trevor Huddleson, an anti-apartheid activist, where he learned to play music on a trumpet donated by Louis Armstrong. He soon formed the ‘Jazz Epistles’, the first African group to record and LP in South Africa , who played an African hybrid of Be Bop music called ‘township bop’. After the deportation of Father Huddleston and the 1960 Sharpville Massacre, where 69 peaceful protesters were gunned down, Masekela left South Africa in 1960 for more than 30 years on a self-appointed exile from his racially divided homeland.

He first moved to London, where he backed artists such as the Byrds and Bob Marley, before he got a record deal in America, thanks in large part to the help of Miriam Makeba. Makeba, who he later briefly married, was another South African immigrant with whom he had performed in South Africa who had become a successful singer in America. After releasing several Albums in America, including his most famous, Grazing in the Grass, he re-found his roots and moved back to Africa.

After a pilgrimage to Zaire, he spent time with Fela Kuti in Nigeria, which is where he met Hedzoleh Soundz, a Ghanan band with whom he recorded 5 albums (check out the song Languta for a great example). After, he set up a school of music in Botswana, a country nearby to his homeland of South Africa, which helped and trained musicians who, like Masekela, had fled Apartheid for better opportunities. Later, his song Mandela (Bring Him Back Home) turned into an anthem for Nelson Mandela’s return to South Africa and the end of Apartheid.

With that, he could end his 30 year exile and finally return home. Since doing so, he has continued to record and tour all over the world, but he has also made a strong effort to improve the world around him. He has written songs about addiction and substance issues, something which troubled him during his exile, and has done a lot of work to help others who have had similar problems.

His home country of South Africa, however, has been Masekela’s main cause. He feels that there have been lasting social ramifications of the Apartheid regime, “It sort of limited our adventurism into who we are, into ourselves and what we have here. It does not disturb me, but the element that I’m most obsessed with, is the element that I wish every creative person to try and extract that.” Masekela has fought to explain the world from an African, specifically South African view. By doing so, he was not only boosting South African morale but explaining the cultural differences to the rest of the world.

The song Mace and Grenades from the album Still Grazing is a good example of this type of song. As the title infers, the song is about the rampant violence in South Africa. He sees everyday life and life in jail on the same level and wonders if the punishment is living in jail or living with Aperteid in South Africa. With all the dangers- he mentions .45s, bazookas, machine guns, bombs in addition to the ‘Mace & Grenades' - there is more danger and repression on the streets than behind bars. He hammers the point home by repeating, “I’m in jail out here, I’m in jail in there” highlighting how only in this unique country could such a choice be even considered, much less preferred.

Many of his songs, especially more recently, are more uplifting than eye-awakening, but as with the rest of his music, his songs on South Africa vary widely. To further demonstrate the range of his style, I would like to bring to your attention a song from his 1966 Album Grrr called, Zulu and the Mexican. In this time period, Masekela was just beginning his career in America. He spent a lot of time with artists like Miles Davis and Harry Belafonte who encouraged him to merge his jazz practices with his South African musical styles, such as the township bop. Those sentiments influenced him to create a hybrid of African, Jazz an Pop music.

In Zulu and the Mexian, you can hear the sharp, yet smooth tone of his flugelhorn. It has been described as “a charismatic blend of striking upper register lines, half valve effects, repetitive figures and phrases, with some note bending, slurs and tonal colors”. It is a very simple arrangement and the song maintains a light and airy attitude. However, his complicated, but logical solo is very expressive as well. He emits a tone that is simultaneously muted and radiant. It is nasally and understated but clear, beautiful, and inspiring at the same time.

I hope that you have enjoyed this little exploration into Hugh Masekela’s career and I hope that you continue the exploration into his music. All songs and albums are hyperlinked to Itunes store for purchasing or listening (though I suggest or to listen to the entire songs).

Please email me at with questions/comments/citations/etc and check back next week for the next Music Monday from Sum of Change.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Training Tuesday: Voter Contact Methods

This week, we decided to change our plans a little bit and post about the best way to contact voters...

Reaching your potential voters is (obviously) vitally important to any campaign. But what is the best way to reach this crucial audience? This week, Kendra Sue Derby from Democracy for America's Campaign Academy is going to speak about four methods of reaching voters, some of which you should try and some you should avoid. First, she'll talk about direct voter contact, such as canvassing (which she favors) and mailings, which allow to personally speak with, and listen to, your potential voters. Next, she'll talk about online resources, such as websites, Facebook, youtube, blogs, etc, which can be great for your supporters, but might not sway the opinion of an undecided. The last two videos are about items that some volunteers love, but aren't going to win you any elections, lawn signs and chum (promotional items such as hats, frisbees, wooden nickels, and anything else you can print you name on).

--Canvasing and Mail

--Online Resources

--Yard Signs


Learn more about Democracy For America's Campaign

See more 'Training Tuesday'

Vigorous Student Protests at UCLA over UC Tuition Hike

News of a steep hike in tuition fees at University of California public schools have students riled up at campuses across the UC system.

The UC’s Board of Regents met at UCLA on Wednesday to approve a plan which will raise next year’s undergraduate fees by an astounding 32%. UC President Mark Yudof told The New York Times that the fee increase was the university’s only choice in light of significant state budget cuts in the last decade. Yudof explained that the university system currently receives half as much, per student, as it did about twenty years ago.

Despite current measures in place which have slashed staff salaries, laid off teaching assistants, eliminated free printing for students and cut library hours, the board insisted that the university will be unable to maintain the same level of academic excellence without raising tuition.

Anger within the student body was most acutely felt at UCLA, where students from across the university system rallied outside the board’s meeting. Protests at times turned nasty, leading to the arrests of several students and accusations of police brutality.

Darlene Tran, a sophomore at UCLA, received bruises to her chest and wrist courtesy of officers responding to protests outside the meeting. Tran said she was chanting with a mass of students blocking the board members’ exit from a university building. She explained that she and others were demonstrating peacefully, but officers used unnecessary force when they pushed through the crowd to clear an exit path.

“From my perspective, I understand why they did it,” admitted Tran. “But I don’t think they needed to have been so aggressive. It was almost brutal, in a way.”

Tran noted that the Board of Regent’s meeting had originally been scheduled to take place on a day earlier on Thursday. She believes that the rescheduling was a deliberate attempt to thwart students’ plans to assemble. Students representing every institution in the UC system planned to bus to rallies at UCLA, but arrived a day late.

“We thought it was very sketchy,” said Tran.

In a last ditch attempt to convince the board to reverse its decision, some students stormed Campbell Hall, a building on UCLA’s campus, and occupied it from 2 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday in protest.

Tran noted that the protests had hit a particularly sensitive chord with students.

"We’re students, we can not handle this fee increase," said an exasperated Tran. She believes many students will be forced to drop out of school because of the increased fees. "We’re smart and we’re knowledgeable. We know there are other ways, there are other solutions, but we want to be protesting.”

Senior Sharya de Silva said the vigorous demonstration was a unique display of a particularly emotional student body.

“It was more students than I have seen in a long time. When it first started on campus, I would say at least 300 kids [were protesting],” explained Silva. “But then when we walked down Westwood Blvd…another group of students showed up. I think while marching we had around 600 kids.”

She described the scene outside Covel Hall, a building on UCLA’s campus, as “a mad house,” and said she believes about 1000 were protesting there.

Silva echoed sentiments of undue police force against what she described as passionate but nonviolent protest.

“I saw one officer swinging a baton around to try and clear room,” she said. “In the process he hit two guys and almost hit me. This one girl was actually trying to help the cops by calming the crowd down, and they got her. It was sad, she just hit the ground.”

Silva believes the police “didn't know how to handle the volume of students with that much passion,” and their actions were preemptive measures taken in fear that protests would turn violent.

Despite the widespread discontentment in regard to increased fees and the fervor demonstrated by protesters, some students questioned the effectiveness of such displays.

“Everyone is unified in their opinion about it, well, sucking, but not everyone supports the protests,” said junior Nathan Stein. He said the demonstrations are “causing a lot of disturbance to people living in the dorms and not accomplishing much.”

Both Tran and Silva confessed that they believed the decision made by the Board of Regents will likely stick.

Protests have currently died down, though students continue to stew over the possible implications the increase.

For now though, students must turn their thoughts to another problem: finals. Exams for the fall semester will begin taking place in a matter of days. Little time, said Stein, to worry about tuition.

“I think most students are spending their time studying,” he said.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Music Monday: The AFI Recording Ban & The Birth of Bebop

This week, I'm going to write about a crucial point in Jazz history. You can learn more about this era in "Come In and Hear the Truth: Jazz and Race on 52nd Street" by Patrick Burke, a professor of mine at Wash U and a knowledgeable and insightful expert on the culture of Jazz (an opinion and shout out that is unsolicited, but much deserved). This week is part one, about the cultural occurrences that led to the beginning of Bebop. The next installment will be about the musicians and their personal inspirations for new musical expression.

Jazz music, along with all art forms, has developed expansively over time. During the World War II era however, Jazz went through its largest and most drastic advancements. The music had never changed so much as it did from Swing to Bebop. The Jazz scene was due for change, however. Swing had been the popular form for quite some time. But World War II hit the big band swing scene hard and made it difficult for bands to make enough money to continue. Because of supply rationing and the draft, everything, from sidemen to shellac for records, was in short supply. Finally, a ban by the American Federation of Musicians on the recording of instrumental music and an entertainment tax against the same instrumental music in 1944-45 made it nearly impossible for bands to survive. Many musicians went unemployed or into the army. The only bands left became desperate for audiences, since they could only perform live and could not record. These bands became bigger and heavier, and featured over-complicated, under-fulfilling arrangements. Jazz fans were losing their attachment to the increasingly poppy swing and were primed for something, anything, new.

A population of jazz fans, generally the older and whiter ones, took to the old New Orleans style and heralded characters such as Bunk Johnson and Sydney Bechet. They felt that Jazz had grown beyond it's means and intentions and should revert back to earlier styles. But a whole different generation of Jazz musicians, generally, young, black, and well educated, were out of organized groups and created the jam session, a nightly all-night rehearsal/performance in underground bars and clubs in New York City on 52nd street and in Harlem. These musicians were frustrated by the Jazz scene and the general state of America and needed to just be themselves. The early 40s presented the perfect breeding ground for what would come to be called Bebop.

These nightly jam sessions were more for the players than the audience, only a few recordings of any of these sessions exist. The musicians got the chance to play whatever they wanted, with whomever they wanted, for however long they wanted, without any restrictions from the public or record companies. Feeding off of each other, they broke musical boundaries and began to conceive of Jazz in a new way. No longer would they play strictly arranged, pleasing popular pieces. Instead they create their own style, highly sophisticated, extremely complicated, and very expressive.

I'll get more into the musical stylistic details in part 2, but I'm going to use two different recordings of the song After You've Gone, to highlight some of the differences in Jazz brought forth by the change in performance scenarios.

Benny Goodman was know as the 'King of Swing' and the reason why is immediately obvious as you hear the beginning of Goodman's recording of After You've Gone- the song has got a rhythm that makes you wanna move. It is, however, very organized. With the exception of the band leader, Benny Goodman, each individual musician operates as part of a section and always plays at the same time as his section mates, with the lone exception being the odd solo not taken by Goodman. The drums, bass, and piano form the rhythm section and retain a solely rhythmic function throughout the song. They pretty much maintain the swing beat, while the horn and wind sections either accompany a soloist or trade off playing the melody and harmony. Besides for the instrumentation, the song's arrangement is very strict and leaves very little room for individuality. The solos are all a prescribed number of measures and the horns and winds often play in a call-and-response pattern which leaves no room for alterations. The song is very pleasant and poppy, but doesn't have much depth or complication to it.

The second version of After You've Gone, by Charlie Parker, sounds immediately different from the first. This is a small group not a big band, so individual musicians took the role sections used to hold. The lone exception is the rhythm, which is still comprised of two members, a drum set and bass, but has lost the piano, which is now allowed to express its melodic side and play solos and accompaniments. The rhythm itself is driving and relentless, not made for dancing but instead to challenge the musicians' skill. Similarly, the solos are long and very difficult. The solos are split pretty evenly between the horn and wind players, who now solo exclusively and rarely accompany each other. They go on for a seemingly indeterminate amount of time- until the the soloist has said what he is going to say and is ready to move on. The rehearsal atmosphere of the jam session was largely responsible for this change in the approach to soloing. In big bands, musicians would have to compete with at least a dozen band mates for just 8 measures of soloing time in a song that was no longer than 4 minutes at a concert. But in a small group jam session, there were a lot more opportunities to solo, since there were only a few other soloists with whom you could split time and the all night the jam sessions meant that songs could go on for as long as the artists wanted.

This increased opportunity for expression combined with an increased influence to be expressive led the musicians to re-imagine how they played the music and lead to this drastic shift in the playing and conceiving of Jazz music. Before Bebop, Jazz was a thought of as a low-brow art form, an inferior style of dance music that was only for the poor and uneducated. But with the sophisticated shift in philosophy that accompanied bebop, Jazz became considered the cultured, heady, and hi-brow art it is thought of today.

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