Saturday, March 13, 2010

Change And The Small World Problem

In the 1960's, Stanley Milgram asked the question: if you take two people at random and find the shortest path of connections linking them together, what is the average number of links? How connected are we to total strangers? It became known as the small world problem.
The mean number of intermediaries observed in this study was somewhat greater than five
So, five or six. Hence, the six degrees of separation. Since Milgram asked that question, the small world problem has become rather popular. No doubt you have played the Kevin Bacon game at some point in your life. It sparked an entirely new field of study, called network theory or social network analysis.

Network theory looks at the structure of specific networks and the patterns of paths connecting individuals in those networks. While Milgram analyzed how quickly individuals picked at random could be connected, network theorists take a step back and look at the make up of communities. What they are finding can radically change the world. And all because of one significant discovery: hubs.

Hubs are essentially connected individuals. Connected to many people, or just enough of the right people. When you look at the paths connecting individuals in a community, you find many paths crossed and high-traffic sections. As it turns out, many of us tend to be connected by a fairly small segment of the population.

One of the early discovered results was that these hubs have a greater ability to enact change in their network than individuals with few connections. Malcolm Gladwell calls it an 80/20 principal of economics. He described it as "the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the 'work' will be done by 20 percent of the participants." (The Tipping Point, p.19) This theory, that a very small segment of the community will be the ones responsible for the change, or lack of change, taking place in that community, has been confirmed repeatedly even in rather new networks.

This type of analysis has the ability to create great change, for better or worse. Companies already use this philosophy when reaching out to sponsor athletes. They choose how much that sponsorship is worth based on the number and quality of connections to potential customers that individual has. Yet there is potential beyond selling us stuff.

Network theory details how individuals are connected, and in doing so, explains the spread of information and disease. The famous Obama-is-a-Muslim emails are a perfect example of the former.

Chris Hayes detailed the origin of that rumor in an article about right-wing email forwards, and what we learn is that a fairly small number of people with the right set of connections set off a chain of events that changed an enormous community.
On August 10, 2004, just two weeks after Obama had given his much-heralded keynote speech at the DNC in Boston, a perennial Republican Senate candidate and self-described "independent contrarian columnist" named Andy Martin issued a press release. In it, he announced a press conference in which he would expose Obama for having "lied to the American people" and "misrepresent[ed] his own heritage."

Martin raised all kinds of strange allegations about Obama but focused on him attempting to hide his Muslim past. "It may well be that his concealment is meant to endanger Israel," read Martin's statement. "His Muslim religion would obviously raise serious questions in many Jewish circles where Obama now enjoys support."
That was the first hub. That individual was not significant for having numerous connections, although he did relative to most individuals, but he happened to have the right set of connections...
Within a few days of Martin's press conference, the conservative site Free Republic had picked it up, attracting a long comment thread, but after that small blip the specious "questions" about Obama's background disappeared. Then, in the fall of 2006, as word got out that Obama was considering a presidential run, murmurs on the Internet resumed. In October a conservative blog called Infidel Bloggers Alliance reposted the Andy Martin press release under the title "Is Barack Obama Lying About His Life Story?" A few days later the online RumorMillNews also reposted the Andy Martin press release in response to a reader's inquiry about whether Obama was a Muslim. Then in December fringe right-wing activist Ted Sampley posted a column on the web raising the possibility that Obama was a secret Muslim... On December 29, 2006, the very same day that Sampley posted his column, Snopes received its first copy of the e-mail forward, which contains an identical charge in strikingly similar language. Given the timing, it seems likely that it was a distillation of Sampley's work.
A handful of hubs, several of which likely had the slimmest of connection to each other, and the misinformation spread remarkably far. The same rule applies to disease. Disease does not have the internet to help it spread (although a computer virus is also a good example), but the pattern is all the same. We already consider the hubs when a bad flu is around. Schools, airports, malls, places with high numbers of people or close contact (quality of connections is often as important as number). Understanding the effect hubs have on the spread of disease helps us to fight it. Network theory opens up possibilities for coming up with new, creative, and effect methods of containing outbreaks.

Just as we can use network theory to better understand the spread of disease and develop methods of containing it, we can also use this knowledge to combat the spread of misinformation. Intellectual quarantine of potentially harmful and factually inaccurate smears.

The same principals apply to organizing for social justice. The community members you ask to host house meetings and actions or become leaders are ideally hubs, or connected to hubs (As far as my research has taken me, network theory has yet to touch on the creation of hubs and one thing a good organizer can do is help members of the community build new leaders, new hubs). The press you attract is intended to extend connections. The activist and supporter networks you build are hopefully established in a way where information can be disseminated quickly and efficiently. None of these things happen on accident. They happen because of the conscious planning of a small number of people.

As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Mathematically speaking, that is.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Yes, Sen Byrd Stopped Reconciliation For Clinton's Health Care Reform

So, there is a video that is getting a lot of attention amongst the right wing nuts:

And yes, the video is not made up, Senator Byrd did counsel President Clinton against using reconciliation to pass health care reform, claiming the reforms were far too massive for that process.

But there is a huge difference that our conservative friends are overlooking, Senator Byrd stopped President Clinton from using reconciliation to pass the entire health care package. That is, in no conceivable way, the same thing we are talking about today.

Today we are talking about having a massive health care reform bill passed in both the House and Senate (assuming the House passes it, and I absolutely agree with David Waldman that they should pass the fixes first but that is a subject for a different post). Reconciliation will only be used for small fixes. This is a completely different situation.

There is no shred of merit to claims that Sen Byrd's statement means anything in regards to the situation we find ourselves in today.

UPDATE: Oh, and thanks go out to zenbassoon for reminding me that Sen Byrd has openly stated that the proposed use of reconciliation is acceptable.

Green Thoughts: Moisture Control

Another issue that may homeowners may have after properly sealing their building shell, besides for a lack of air ventilation, is an excess of moisture. Vapor generates naturally within the home, whether from exterior sources, like ground water, or from internal sources, such as showers and water boiled for cooking. No matter the source, an excess of moisture is not a good thing for your home. It potentially can both deteriorate your air quality, through mold growth and other methods, and decay the materials that make up you home, such as the paint, walls, and interior floor joists and wall studs which don't react well to prolonged exposure to warm and moist air.

To solve these problems, Jason from Edge Energy ( is going to show us solutions for two major areas of moisture generation. First, he is going to take us under a client's house to demonstrate how to properly seal a crawl space. As Jason will point out, there are several different problem areas in crawl spaces underneath the home, but the multiple simultaneous solutions he introduces will comprehensively protect your home from the massive amount of ground water that can seep into your home. The second moisture production point Jason will address is an interior source, the shower. Here he will show you how a few cheap and simple solutions can dramatically improve the moisture load in your home (hint: use your bathroom fan when showering)

To see more Green Thoughts on Thursday posts, please go to

Full Disclosure: EDGE Energy hired us, as Sum of Change not individuals, to produce several videos for them including the ones in this post. We have not been hired to distribute, recommend, or advertise for EDGE Energy, rather we are using these videos to explain a vital service and we appreciate them letting us do so.

To learn more about the energy audit from Edge and see more of our videos, please go to and see Edge's youtube page

The Single Dumbest Excuse Ever

This is not hyperbole. If you have been following the case of a school spying on students using cameras on laptops given out to students, you too heard the single dumbest excuse ever.

Here is their excuse:
The district claims that it only did so to try to track down lost or stolen laptops.
If you are not sure, yes that is the single dumbest excuse I have ever heard. Let me tell you why.

A laptop camera is nowhere close to the most effective method of finding a lost laptop. First off, it is highly likely that using the camera will do nothing to help you find it. Unless the lap top is in an easily recognizable place, that laptop camera could be useless. And here is the kicker, if you are able to access the camera, you are able to access information that is 8 trillion times more effective, the IP address. With an IP address, you can locate the computer. Anyone capable of accessing the computer's camera would know this, absolutely. They turned on the computer cameras to see what was going on there. There is no other reasonable explanation. It is a blatant and intentional violation of individual privacy, and if there is any justice the Judge will laugh them out of the courtroom if they try to make that excuse during the trial.

Rachel Maddown on Health Care and Abortion

Okay folks, we have been saying this exact same stuff for some time now, but Rachel Maddow gave some great analysis of the health care and abortion debate last night.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Let me repeat, the Senate health care bill does not change the standard we have lived by for decades that no tax-payer dollars go towards abortion. It does not. This is not an opinion, it is a fact. Rachel Maddow gave great analysis, but I would love to see her ask some of these folks to come explain themselves. We can go blue in our face telling people these folks are wrong and have no clue what they are talking about, but we need to show it. I would like to see more people taking these anti-choice dimwits on, asking them three times to explain what in the Senate bill funds abortion.

We did it:
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

So, we are dealing with a bill that is by no means pro-choice. It does near everything possible to avoid touching reproductive health all together. Pro-choice folks should not be thrilled, but anti-choice folks are either lying, too lazy to fact check, or too incompetent to fact check if they are outraged by the bill.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DC Health Care Rally - March 9th 2010

Yesterday, we posted some quick interviews I did with some of the folks at the health care rally in Washington DC. Today we have some highlights of the day's events:

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Featuring Gov Howard Dean, Hilary Shelton of the NAACP, and Anna Burger of SEIU.

National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day

Today, March 10th, marks the National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day. The Nation did a great job covering the politics of this year's appreciation day, but no one captured the emotion of the day better than Alexis Zepeda:

For all abortion providers, clinic staff, volunteer escorts and local fund volunteers...

When she looks at the piece of paper with your phone number on it, she wonders who will watch her kids, will she have to travel to a different state, does her credit card have enough space on it, how much will she get when she pawns her TV, will he come through with the $300 he promised her…can she do this?

She walks through the gauntlet of protesters – the same people some of you walk past every day at work and at home – but remains resolute in her decision. This choice of hers is only a real possibility because of your dedication to the notion that as long as there are unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, there must be access to safe and legal abortion care.

Your work is revolutionary and empowering. Your goals are simple: value women, trust women, listen to women. By providing the compassionate and skilled abortion care that women and their families need, you save women’s lives. You are heroes. Thank you for all that you do. Hearing that every day would still never be enough. On March 10, 2010, know that you all play a critical role in our movement’s struggle to fight stigma, judgment and prejudice.

Thank you!!

Abortion is a matter of the heart: for until one understands the heart of a woman, nothing else about abortion makes any sense at all.
- Dr. George Tiller

Reproductive health care is under attack in America, but today we can celebrate that it is mostly safe and legal right now.

Where Have Our Dreamers Gone?

On the heals of black history month, and in an effort to not subject Black culture and history to one month of the year, I'd like bring you another piece from an anonymous author that speaks to the state of African-American culture. It is only one person’s (impassioned) opinion, but it is honest and insightful- constructively critical yet simultaneously inspiring- and I hope you enjoy it.

I write this letter with great dismay and concern for the state of our communities. It is out of utmost respect that I put these thoughts on paper, for action. Ultimately, change is imperative. Our people are in an identity crisis. We have forgotten where we have come from, who we are individually and collectively, and what needs to change. Due to the brazen violent attacks in our communities and lack of leadership, I have made it my mission to voice my opinions. I hope my ideas resonate, vibrate, and reach higher levels of consciousness never thought possible, for change is essential for the survival of our people.

Does it concern you that the Afro-American community is in a state of complete disarray and division? Where are our leaders? Are they afraid to step up to the plate and lead? Or is it that we have reached a point of lackluster complacency? How many people have to fall into the abyss of violence? How many times do we have to see the same violent pattern taking hold of brilliant minds? When is enough, enough?

Back in the 60’s and 70’s there were a group of Brothers and Sisters that saw a brighter future for our people. They were the dreamers. I call them the true “Dream Team”. These men and women risked their lives for change and progress. They founded, cradled, and coined the Revolution. They sparked the “Power to the People”, “Black Pride”, and “Black Nationalist” movements that not only revolutionized and made way for the young, but also these movements gave us an identity.

Identity is so important to advancement and purpose of a group of people. Throughout history our identity has been stripped, stolen, dehumanized, lost, altered, denied, and molded into something foreign – something apart from who we inherently are as a people. For this reason, we have never been able to maintain a strong central unified identity.

Afro-centricity has lost its flavor to a distasteful culture filled with more oxymorons than Enron. Our generation is growing up without any morals, or notions of what it means to struggle. They have forgotten the fight that lies within the belly of the beast! But is it completely their fault? Or, should some of this blame be directed at a lack of leadership from our political, civil, community servants?

My definition of a leader is someone who is an example; someone who listens, follows, and aspires to be; someone full of depth and aspiration for a brighter, better future- A light in darkness. A witness to the glories to come – for they are coming. A person of dependability, but most importantly character.

Dependability is an innate characteristic of pragmatic responsibility. Someone who is dependable is reliable in all areas of life, especially the political arena. They not only take responsibility for actions in the communities they represent, but also are trustworthy, impermeable, and strong in their value system. They fulfill promises, raise consciousness and set the standard. In essence they are dynamic – they reflect a unique kind.

Character, a profound word with deep meaning, is an inalienable quality one must possess to echo a true leader. Martin Luther King, Jr. sacrificed himself because he was a man of character. In his “I Have a Dream” speech, he highlights character as an essential right. He wanted his children to grow up with character and people to judge them by the content of that character.

This is to say, a man is defined, in essence by his character. His values are reflected through his character. His decisions are based on character. His leadership qualities emit these vibrations. Moreover, that’s what is missing in our communities on the local, national, and international levels, dignified leaders- Men of character and integrity.

These days, character and other values associated with positive attributes (integrity, honor, and respect) are replaced by violence, pessimism, and negativity. We are being miseducated but more so, in lack of guidance to make that correction. We are at a disenfranchisement, disadvantage- outside the box and below the bar. We are blind: for we can not see truth. We accept a lie as the truth and the truth as a lie. A backwardness caused by our contentment with mediocrity. We have accepted life “as is”. So I ask you, “Where have the dreamers gone”?

From as far back as I can remember, I was taught to hold on to my dreams. No one can ever go wrong with a dream. For to dream is to be free – without restraint. It is also an insightful, objective revolutionary concept. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Clinton to name a few was dreamers. They stood and pushed for their dreams.

The opportunity is here right now! There isn’t a better time than today to be a dreamer, build upon a new vision, and follow through for our communities, our children, and our people. Also, we have to stop looking for others to lead and take responsibility for leadership ourselves --- each and every one of us.

In essence, this vision has to be strong in identity and truth. A vision that fosters progress and does not tolerate mediocrity and violence, instead the dream rises above the status quo to deter violence and replaces it with peace. We have to unify to find a means to our glorious end! Quintessentially, we are byproducts of the “Dream Team”, so let’s come together and shine with endless gleam.

Thank you for your time. I hope this letter triggers something inherent in all of us, something that appears to be lost, but can be found. All we have to do is Dream.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How Health Care Impacts 2010?

This will be quick, because the answer is rather simple. At this point, there are two choices for the Democrats, finish reform or drop it. How does this impact 2010? No one is exactly sure. The proposed plan polls poorly, although the individual provisions poll well individually. One would imagine that if the provisions themselves are popular, then reform will overall be a boost for Democratic support. Yet none of that will have taken effect by the time folks begin making decisions for 2010 elections.

So how does health care impact 2010 elections? Could go either way. There is one question I can answer: will it play better for Democrats to get reform finished or drop it all together and start over? Guaranteed, at this point in the game you have "already paid for lunch, you might as well eat it" as Chris Hayes from The Nation said.

Whether or not passage of health reform will help the 2010 elections is unclear, but failure will clearly have a strongly negative impact.

Dean, Billionaires for Wealthcare, and a Public Option Superstar...

Today I dropped in on the health care rally in DC. Everyone who's anyone was there (not literally, but it certainly felt that way when I was there).

Howard Dean was there. We got to ask him if he thinks the Democratic leadership is prepared to move forward without Republicans and if he agrees with the statement that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer made at the health care summit that everyone shares the same goal of covering all Americans:

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Billionaire's for Wealthcare were there:

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

And, one of my personal favorites, Edward Kimmel, the man who braved hordes of teabaggers at the 9/12 tea party in DC (he had to be escorted out by police that day, the reception was much nicer today). Here's the 9/12 tea party footage of him:
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

And here's my interview with him today:

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Training Tuesday: Free/Cheep Stuff Part 2!

Okay folks, last week we posted part 1 from the Organizing 2.0 session on Free and Low Cost Online Tools. This week we have part 2 of that sessions with some great short clips. These are all great things for small organizations, campaigns, and individuals.

Easy Email Blasts and The Google Wave
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Get Free (or Cheap) Software for Your Organization or 501(c)3
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Cheap and Easy Donation Collecting Services
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Check back next week for another round of Training Tuesday!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Health Care Hysteria

As the health care fight drags on, folks on every side (and there are far more than two) have tended towards some hysteria. I just heard Sam Stein, of the Huffington Post, call Congressman Kucinich the "Ralph Nader of health care" because he refuses to vote for a health care bill without a public option.

Let us examine this and pretend, for a moment, that it has some shred of a correlation to reality.

Congressman Kucinich tends to represent to very left of the Democratic Party. He voted against the Patriot Act (every time):

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

And the Iraq war (authorization and funding).

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

We can go on and on, on every issue. On health care, he has pushed for single payer.

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

That is incredibly important to keep in mind.

When Congressman Kucinich supports reform with a modest, at best, public option, that is a compromise. That is a big compromise and demonstrates some realism, if you will. Several progressives have made that point, including folks you would not call radical lefties like Congresswoman Donna Edwards:

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

The Congresswoman makes the point that the public has embraced the public option. So when Congressman Dennis Kucinich holds out for the public option, he is holding out for the most popular section of the bill that has done more to energize the progressive base than any other section.

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

To come back to my original point, it is hysteria to call someone the "Ralph Nader of health care" because he chooses to hold strong for a public option. There are many reasons you could call Congressman Dennis Kucinich the "Ralph Nader" of any number of issues (although the "Kucinich of _____" is fitting enough), but this is so far from being one. Seriously folks, what do progressives have to do to convince people that the push for a public option is part of a very significant political philosophy? This is not some minor section of the bill to many folks, regardless of how often they are told by "more reasoned minds" that it is. And it is certainly far from extreme to hold out for the public option.

We're All Doomed...

cross-posted from Sum of Change

Fair warning, the video below contains crazy. Not cute, quirky crazy. We're talking crazy crazy.

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Get it, we are all doomed and it is all your fault! An earthquake could not possibly be explained scientifically, it must be vengeance!!!

These were interviews we held at the March for Life back at the end of January. We also spoke with several folks about abortion, or reproductive health, and the proposed health care legislation. You can view those videos here.

[Live Feed] President Obama and First Lady Speak at International Women's Day Reception

Streaming live online, thanks to the folks at the White House, is President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the International Women's Day Reception. We've got it streaming live at Sum Live Change as well.

MUSIC MONDAY: Fela Kuti and 'Fela!' on Broadway

If you are a fan of Hugh Masekela, whom I have written about previously, you will love the music of Fela Kuti, one of Masekela's friends and mentors. Kuti was a revolutionary, both musically and politically. Musically, he is generally considered as the first person to mix traditional jazz music with both James Brown inspired funk music and West African musical styles to create what is now called Afro beat. Politically, he created his own separatist commune within his home country of Nigeria (which was viciously attacked by the Nigerian Government) and was arrested over 200 times.

Though he recorded over 70 albums and gained international acclaim, Kuti's African identity always remained centrally important to him (which is evident in his music) and he chose to remain in or around Nigeria instead of moving to the west, where he could have become an international superstar. As a result, he became a local leader (he tried to run for president of Nigeria twice but was prevented by the government) but only maintained a small, but very strong, cult following in the United States and never received massive international success and popularity.

This is one reason why I am very happy that there is a (relatively) new broadway musical 'Fela!', which has enjoyed much critical and popular acclaim. I have not seen it (though I have seen the preview performed on The Colbert Report embedded below) but I very much hope to do so soon. The non-Colbert videos were posted by the the show's producers on Youtube. They briefly and succinctly explain more about Kuti's musical sound and personality. Enjoy!!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Fela! - Zombie
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

For tickets and more information of the musical, please go to

For more Music Monday articles, please go to

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Secret Video of Actual Politico Editorial Meeting

Hat-tip to Wonkette for this find. And this, of course, on top of this actual quote out of Politico:
There is nothing we like better than ass-kicking coverage of Congress. It's the one institution open enough, transparent enough to let enterprising reporters bring government figures and action to life almost every day. One of the main reasons we started POLITICO was because we knew in our guts - and from our experience - that there was a set of reporters who had the right moves, the right instincts, the right values to do just that. And we knew if we pulled it off, POLITICO would be indispensable reading for everyone who works in Congress - or cares about the institution.

We have been accused of hyperbole once or twice, but we can safely declare: we have officially pulled it off. We can not recall a more talented and relentless group of congressional reporters in all our years of Congress-watching. You guys rock - and the past few weeks amplify why.

Congressman Steny Hoyer at Grow the Hope's Economic Empowerment Meeting

Congressman Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, joined Grow the Hope at a meeting to discuss economic empowerment on February 27th, 2010.

Part 1 of 5:
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Part 2 of 5:
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Part 3 of 5:
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Part 4 of 5:
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Part 5 of 5:
<a href="">LinkedTube</a>