I have been a VERY busy beaver for the past few days.
One of the reasons why is http://billofrightsday.com, a new site I just launched. I'll let you in on a little secret: It's awesome! I don't usually like to brag (it's an involuntary reflex), but BillofRightsDay.com has the makings of a really cool activism site. It's one of my proudest, and most complete online projects -- and it was nothing but a wad of ideas a few days ago.
I've had billofrightsday.com (and .org) for about a year now, and making up something like what I made has been on my mind on and off that whole time. Specifically, I wanted to put up a kit to help people hold a Funeral for the Bill of Rights, which was a sweet event I helped put together last year around this time.
And for most of the year that idea swam around with the other 50 or so things I'd like to do that orbit my mind on a regular basis. And in the meantime, I tried to get a hold of the too-many projects I already have going, and tried to keep myself from starting too many new ones.
But for the past couple weeks, there has been a looming opportunity which has been begging for my time. Bill of Rights Day is on the horizon -- it's December 15th. And rather than have the idea buzz around my head for another 11 months, I just dedicated most of the weekend to it, and cranked out what I think is going to become a major powerhouse of single-day-based activism in the years to come. This year is the debut, the "beta" test. But now that all the tools and components are in place, it will be easy to promote a major amount of Bill of Rights Day activity for 2004. I want to have at least a thousand Bill of Rights Day-related events around the country posted on the site next year. And I think that will be pretty easy, actually. Maybe I should make 10,000 the goal. :-)
The motto of the site is "Bill of Rights Day is December 15th. What are you going to do about it?" That's that looming, begging opportunity I mentioned. And (part of) my answer is http://billofrightsday.com . It looks like there will also be a couple events, a meeting, some petitioning, and a TV appearance -- all related to local Bill of Rights day stuff here.
So what are you going to do about it? Take your pick from about 15 choices at that new site.
And spread the word. Just send all your friends a quick e-mail:
Bill of Rights Day is December 15th. What are you going to do about it?
Remember how I said a month or so ago that I wanted to switch from consumption to output? Well, I switched for a bit, and a whole website came out.
I learned alot about making a good activism site while making that one, and I'll be applying that to my other projects/sites over the next month or two. Including this one.
Most people who know me consider me a nice guy. But not people who I've decided to come out against and challenge. Most of them probably consider me a pain in the ass.
Which brings me to Principal Mark Cerutti. He's the Wisconsin principal who suspended Sashwat Singh for the self-produced rap CD that Singh brought to school. Specifically, he suspended him for one song -- a song about none other than Principal Mark Cerutti. The news flurry probably left many people thinking the song was about threatetning the principal with violence, but it wasn't. It was about frustration with the (new this year) principal's perceived authoritarian methods, especially his tendency to call the police in to the school too frequently (in the opinion of Sashwat).
In other words, Sashwat's song, the one that got him suspended, was a protest song. The claims of "threatening lyrics" and the "zero tolerance" argument were just convenient tools in what was ultimately an exercise in silencing dissent, and punishing thought.
The principal's effort to lash out and punish this student for speaking out against him through musical expression has so far been successful, at least on the surface: The family was pressured and intimidated (by threat of Sashwat's possible expulsion) into agreeing not to pursue reversing the suspension; Sashwat has been barred from passing his CD out at school; and the main local paper editorialized in support of suspension, but not expulsion -- and that's exactly what happened.
In a "case closed"-type story on the episode, Sashwat's lawyer declared a funny-if-it-wasn't-so-sad "victory for free speech," and that was that.
Except that's not that at all. First of all, a student should not get a 5-day suspension for the content of a rap song, and an administration should not get away with doling out such a punishment. Secondly, Sashwat's frustration, which was expressed so profanely in "Mista Cer-fruity (A Song for our Principal)", is a frustration that is shared by many of his fellow students, and by parents in the district as well. It appears that this new principal has earned himself plenty of new anti-fans, and for a reason. To quote one Brookfield Central student:
Every single day a police car carries at least 1 kid from our school. We aren't bad kids but Mr.Cerutti decides that he can't handle it and needs police involvment. That causes way too much controversy. What can I do to take action?
Well, Student Who Shall Remain Anonymous, I'm glad you asked.
Introducing "30 days of Raps about Principal Mark Cerutti", a new online focus area -- a vehicle for creatively exploring the issues surrounding Principal Cerutti, his administrative methods, and his decision to suspend a certain rapping honors student. The aim is primarily to help facilitate and energize the discussion that needs to take place surrounding the issues involved in this, whether it be the "zero tolerance" movement, free expression, violence in schools, or how many kids Principal Cerutti is in fact calling the cops on, and for what reasons.
First and foremost, I hope to help the citizens of the Elmbrook School District thoroughly flesh out exactly what is going on in Brookfield Central High School, and in figuring out what they would like to do about it. In that sense, the "30 Days of Raps" can be seen to mean "30 days of open and frank discussion".
In another sense, it can be seen to mean that I am going to post a rap a day about Principal Cerutti and this situation, for 30 days -- and that is indeed the case. The first of those raps, "The Principal Cerutti Beat Down Rap", gives a sort of overview of the situation. Subsequent raps will examine different aspects of the case, including violence in language, student rights, and others.
I'm also encouraging Brookfield Central students, faculty, and parents to post or send in stories about Mr. C's methods, and I'm inviting everyone (including you) to submit your own raps or poems about the principal and his conduct, the bigger issues involved in the case, or anything else relating to the situation. It promises to be fun and informative, and with luck, purposeful and constructive.
If the community of Brookfield, Wisconsin is able to have a full, open, and detailed conversation about the merits and demerits of Principal Mark Cerutti as their school administrator, and make a fully-informed decision based on that conversation; and if the students of Brookfield Central are able to give voice to their frustrations in a non-violent and constructive way; and if the movement called "zero tolerance" takes a small step backwards, then 30 Days of Raps about Principal Mark Cerutti will have been successful, in spite of its awkwardly long title. ;-)
I hope you'll check it out. You can read through some more background there (or more ranting by me), and with any luck, you'll join in the conversation too!
These issues go far beyond Brookfield Central High School and Principal Cerutti, as I'm sure you're aware. So don't be afraid to join in, whether you're from southeastern Wisconsin or not. And check back there often, as new raps and other items will be posted on a daily basis.
And spread the word, yo! The shizzle is hittin' the fizzle, right over here.
I'm working on a couple of fairly substantial entries -- one about the FTC's Do Not Call Registry, and another about the unique position of being neither a liberal nor a conservative (while sort of being both) -- but in the meantime I haven't had a good chance to pop out anything else here. However, you can dabble in the fruits of my labor (mixed with the labor of others) over at the Nevada County Libertarian Party website.
The most recent entry there has some more pictures from the booth at the county fair that I taked about a while ago.
The entry before that has a bunch of links to info about the "Good Law, Bad Law, and Scary Law" from the NCLP newsletter (that's a regular column we have in our newsletters). FYI, the Good Law is the House defunding parts of the USA-PATRIOT Act, the Bad Law is CAPPS II, and the Scary Law is the "VICTORY Act". (Though, some extra reflection has led me to determine that we should have switched the Bad and Scary laws around. Sometimes we have a hard time distinguishing the two categories.)
Whew! What a week I had working at the Nevada County Fair! It was a lot of fun -- and a huge drain on my resources at the same time. The fun part makes up for the other part, though...and included in the "fun" rating is how beneficial it was for the local LP group (which, for the newbies, I'm Chairman of). We administered around 800 World's Smallest Political Quizzes, and about 10% of those folks gave us contact info so we can keep in touch with them. For a party as small as ours, that's a major boom.
We also got a number of folks from within the party, and even from neighboring counties, to help out with staffing the booth, and as far as I can tell, everybody enjoyed themselves and felt good about what we were getting done there. The response from fair visitors who came to the booth was almost universally positive, even though plenty of people didn't align themselves with our party. That World's Smallest Political Quiz is a superb outreach tool -- people really enjoy it. All week long, we had folks who had previously taken the quiz bringing their friend or spouse or sibling over to try it out. And there was plenty of "Thanks -- that was fun!", and "Thanks -- that was really interesting" going around too.
The Chairmen from two different local LP regions both worked the booth, and both lavished some praise on our local party's booth and efforts, which was very nice to hear.
It wasn't all about providing fuel for self-congratulatory back-slapping, though. This was an essential part of our local presence as a political force, and as a community organization. There hasn't been a county LP booth at the fair for about 10 years, and more than one person took the time to say they were glad to see that someone besides the Democrats and Republicans had set up shop there. Indeed, our two biggest rival parties were right down the lane from our booth. I get along pretty well with the leaders from both of those parties, as well as the Greens, so the rivalry consists mostly of good-natured ribbing.
In fact, here's a funny story: We had buttons available for a donation, and one of the buttons was an anti-USA-PATRIOT Act one. It had '"USA-PATRIOT" Act' in black letters, with a red circle around it and a line through it. I have a button-making kit, and I just printed the design up on my printer, and made a dozen or so. After introducing some of those in the morning, I returned later to find them all gone, and my party colleague Janet told me that the Democrats had bought them all up, because they had a petition against Patriot Act II over at their table. So, that was funny enough -- our biggest donation so far in the fair coming from the Democrats.
Then, on the last day, I was getting crafty, and I brought my laptop and printer to the fair -- the button-making stuff was already there. After a time, I came up with the idea of making "Recall Bush" buttons, to sell to the Democrats. They're trying to fight the recall of super-loser Gray Davis, and presumably they support the impeach Bush movement, so I figured it would be a sassy button they'd like. I printed a few up with RECALL BUSH in big letters, and www.VoteToImpeach.org in small letters, and brought them over to the Dems -- but I didn't know any of the folks that were there, and the folks who were there weren't really spicy and tuned-in enough to get excited about the buttons. So I went back to our booth, and just left the buttons I had made on the back table there. (Neither Janet nor I thought it would be good to put them on our own main table, especially since the impeachment of Bush has not been officially discussed by our group.) And I went home. When I came back, Janet told me that we sold out of the "Recall Bush" buttons -- that the Democrats (different ones) had eventually come over and seized upon them. :-) On top of that, when I went over to say hey to them, they expressed interest in getting ahold of a bunch more Recall Bush buttons, and came and got my contact info so we could get together after the fair.
I also made some LEGALIZE FREEDOM buttons, with the NCLP's website address on them, and some of the Democrats were wearing those too! Now all I have to do is figure out some buttons to make that the Republicans will want to buy, and I can facilitate local Bipartisan ill will, while making a bunch of money. ;-)
I kid, of course...sort of. Like I said, I'm on good terms with both of those parties locally, and I even joked at the GOP booth about the Recall Bush buttons I was making. The woman I mentioned it to had to choke in a little gasp, but in the end she smiled and said she'd forgive me my errors (I'm paraphrasing).
All in all, it was a good time, and we helped move the political brain-gears of quite a lot of people. I also learned a lot about running a booth -- some of which was put into practice as the week went along. I'm going to put together an entry of tips and sugestions on running a booth, with pictures of the various elements of our booth, and thoughts on what worked well and what didn't. I've also got some pictures and short (soundless) video clips, which I'm going to post over at the NCLP site, and link to from here, probably as part of that tips entry. I even got a fellow booth worker to take a couple pictures of me in some amount of action. Unfortunately I'm making unflattering faces in many of them due to the sun (and maybe a little due to sleep deprivation), and those are the best ones in terms of actually seeing me. These are two of the better ones I guess:
Here I'm getting ready to score this man's quiz.
Here I'm conversing with someone off to the left of the camera shot. (You can see I'm wearing one of our "Legalize Freedom" buttons in this one.)
There have been two reasons for the recent lull here. For a few days, I was spending a great deal of my spare time engrossed in following the ongoing developments in the zany California recall election that's coming up. There was a whole series of ups and downs for me in terms of the Libertarians who are running or might run, but I don't have time to get into the whole thing right now.
Which brings me to reason two for the recent lull -- The Nevada County Fair has begun, and it has swept me up like so many tsunamis of local political party organizing. Now, all the crazy jostling and booth preparation is mostly past, and all that's left is 13 hours a day of staffing the booth from today until Sunday. I'm not working all those hours, but I will be doing about 35 hours or so of booth staffing in this 5 days. Today has been pretty much go-go-go since 7 AM, which is crazy-early for a night worker like me (especially considering the night before was booth setup until almost midnight, and bedtime at 3). Now, I'm off to bed as quick as I can, since I'm opening the booth at 10 this morning, with much to do beforehand.
I've got one leg of my "Lights of Liberty Triathlon" done though -- in a big way. And I heard that one of our outer core members who worked the booth today was so impressed by how nice our setup was that he plans to donate some money toward the effort. (Which is especially sweet, since I bankrolled most of the cost for this, in hopes of fundraising my reimbursement...which still has a ways to go.)
I didn't have my camera on me during good photo-shooting hours today, so you'll have to wait to see the real deal, but I wanted to have something to show you to account for my absence, so I took a picture of the closed-up booth tonight right before I left. Here it is. It's just a tiny taste for you...though when I look at that picture I see about 150 details that had to come together to create what's in it. It only looks easy. :-)
With all the various forms of nuts-and-bolts activism I've done over the past 15 years or so -- rallies and petition drives and poster design and public forums and fundraising and letters and tables and protests and coffin-painting and sign-making and videotaping and interviews and newsletter writing and page pasting and postering and picketing...and so on -- I've never worked a booth before, or a county fair. It came together pretty well, though there's plenty that could have been done better. This was a first time for the party, so we had to get the first set of all the supplies. Now that we've got the whole rig figured out and bought, we're ready to rock with much greater ease in the future. And at next year's fair, the energy can be devoted mostly to upgrading, rather than creating.
I may unload some thoughts about this booth effort, and about active political effort in general, during this week. Or, I may collapse from exhaustion until my NCLP peers have to come by my house and rouse me. You'll just have to tune in to find out, I guess. ;-)
I had a fun night last Friday, working the table for the Nevada County Libertarian Party at the Friday Night Market in Grass Valley. It's a weekly street market thing, where all sorts of vendors put booths out, and the streets are closed to traffic. There's a band, and lots of families and other folks come to just be sociable, check out the vendors, etc. Political groups get to set up a booth for free, and we're aiming to have one every week this summer -- last Friday was the first one. About 75 people took The World's Smallest Political Quiz, which is our main attraction at the table. Folks take the quiz, then get scored, and their scores place them on this "political map" chart. People were really enthusiastic, and a healthy chunk of them scored in the libertarian quadrant on the chart. And there was lots of spirited debate, as usual. Here's a picture of our Vice-Chairman Bob Glassco posing next to the chart.
In other news, Janet Daglet Dagley finally got directly in touch with me, and invited me to be the guest on the debut episode of her new radio show "Radio Free Blogosphere." Very cool! And you may remember when her article came out a while back I mentioned that it was going to be part of AIRSPACE's newsletter. That newsletter's out now -- you can check it out here. The name of the article is "Do You Belong in the Blogosphere?" If you already saw the article, it's the same as it was, so no need to look again unless you want to.
Much of this month is going to be dedicated to planning and preparing for the Nevada County Libertarian Party's upcoming booth at the County Fair. It's the single biggest outreach opportunity of the year, and I'm hyper-interested in making the most of it for the party. I just had a meeting with the core group about it tonight, and we didn't get nearly as much done as I had hoped. We got a little of the groundwork out of the way, though.
While I'm updating you -- you may recall Blogarama, which was a new blog directory that lists things according to click-throughs and popularity. When I first mentioned it, this site was in the top 600 of their "Cool" section. A month later, it's #68 out of 2,671. And in their Politics/Government section, it's #4 of 141, showing up on the first screen of that section. Click on the Blogarama link above to help push it up higher, and post a review of the site here if you're so inclined. I appreciate your support, and while it may seem trivial, these things make a difference.
And of course there's the 'ol Top 25 Libertarian Sites list -- this site is now #11! Climbing up the ranks on that list is going to be much slower going from here on out, because the folks above have many, many clicks. But each step up that ladder increases the chances of the campaign raising eyebrows among the libertarian movement. So, click early, click often! ;-)
Lastly, I mentioned the other day that Tom Knapp from Rational Review had issued a call to libertarians, urging them to work to create the institutions that will support a free society. I had posted about his call over at The Little Brown Reader, and I made mention of Future Solutions, my organization whose very purpose is to create such institutions. Well, Tom saw what I said there, and he posted a comment:
I can't tell you how pleased I am to see you mention Future Solutions in the context of point 4 of Rational Review's program. Your project is one of several which have previously sparked this line of thinking with me, and which ultimately ended up inspiring the point in question!
There's little I enjoy more than helping to inspire, so his comment was very nice to read. :-)
I called in during C-Span's Washington Journal on the 4th of July, when they were taking calls about the U.S.'s planned military tribunals. I'm heartily against the tribunals, which is what I said, along with making the point that it's a pretty sad statement on our existing federal justice system, if it's not sufficient to handle certain types of cases. It's basically saying that sometimes we need to make exceptions to the rights of the accused as outlined in the Bill of Rights. Why? What's wrong with the Bill of Rights?
I learned one thing from my call-in -- don't ask questions. The hosts at C-Span never state opinions, so when you ask a question (even a rhetorical one, as mine were), it makes for a dead spot in the conversation. The hostess helped me out the second time, by coming back with "What do you think?" in response to my question.
Your best bet on C-Span is to either just have a short simple statement, say it, and sign off, or to write down your points as fully as you can while you're on hold. In my experience, you get a minute or two of waiting before you go on, and instead of just pacing around getting nervous, it's better to at least bullet-point the main things you want to say. It's even better to write out the sentences, because if you stall or get off-track, you could stumble, and they usually keep the most articulate (and verbose) people on the longest. There's a maximum time for all callers, but whether you get that whole time or not depends on whether you fill it up well. I only did OK with my time, and my on-air stint was correspondingly short. But some callers get on for a few minutes or more.
People who watch C-Span are generally people who take public affairs pretty seriously. They are a good audience to persuade. I don't know how many people watch it on any given morning, but it's more than just a couple.
So call in! They have call-in periods at other times, like during important votes, after important speeches, and other times. You can e-mail (and fax I think) in too, but calls get the most attention, and make for better persuasion. (Although with textual comments you can be careful to say exactly what you want.) The phone number isn't always the same (often there are different lines for different sides of a debate), and you should know what they're talking about currently before calling in, so I won't post a phone number here. Just tune in. C-Span often isn't as boring as you'd think. The live coverage of Congress usually is, but most of the rest of their programming is really interesting, if you care about the topic. They show all sorts of different forums by various organizations, and you'll see lots of frank and critical stuff -- critical of anything and everything, depending on the forum in question. C-Span is one of my favorite networks, and one of the most educational channels on television. I watch something on C-Span nearly every day, and it's always one of my stops when channel surfing -- because you never know what might be on.
Don't have cable? Go to C-span.org, and dig through their massive archives. Or watch it live online -- that way you can still call in. :-)
I'm going to post another short entry about my article at LibertyForAll, because the two items don't blend well into one post.
I appeared again tonight as one of the anchors on the local cable access news, Nevada County News Hour. It's pretty cool -- my role on the show has evolved to where I'm basically the Libertarian pundit, and the main host brings me on for shows where he thinks there are big political or philosophical issues to be discussed. The way it works is that there is one main guy, Eric Tomb, and he rotates co-hosts, usually having two other people make up a panel of hosts. That goes for a half hour or more, and then usually Eric interviews another guest or two one-on-one.
Generally, they discuss local news items and the whos, whats, and wheres of it all, but when Eric has me on (once a month or so), we tend to end up talking political philosophy more often than not, and I get a pretty thorough opportunity to offer the libertarian perspective on a given issue, or a few. Eric is a thoughtful and knowledgeable guy, so he's a really good person to go back and forth with on various things.
The only problem with it, I suppose, is that we end up talking very little about the local news. ;-) This week, one issue ate up the whole half hour like it was genetically modified tomatoes. Actually, it was genetically modified tomatoes, and other Genetically Modified Organisms, that we mostly talked about, because there was a big agricultural expo/world convention thing in Sacramento recently, and the other co-host Richard Stockton had gone to it. There were big protests there, because people were concerned that this expo was going to lead to the weakening of restrictions on GMOs, and also I think there was a bit of anti-WTO flavor to it, because this was a meeting of the biggest of the big in world agriculture, and lots of world government folks.
We started talking about that, and then went to talking about genetically modified organisms and the issues around it, and the WTO and similar organizations, and then after a bit Richard started asking questions about libertarianism in general. He tripped me up a little, but all in all it went well. The Secretary of the NCLP, who usually tapes the show for me, said she thought this show was probably the best one yet. :-)
I'll have the video up on the site before too long. Sometime soon I'm going to do a video-capturing marathon, and make a library of video clips. I have quite a lot of various footage that will help people get a better feel for what I'm like "live".
A random collection of updates and notes:
I talked with George Bryant, the father of the "Homeschooling standoff in Waltham" family, about what people can do to help their cause. He says that people have been swamping the offices of the Department of Social Services and the Superintendent of Schools, and that it does appear to have had some effect. The DSS have said (and written) to him that they do not plan to seek removal of the children. Apparently, the DSS only got involved in this at the behest of the school district, after they filed a complaint. George says that the best thing to do now would probably be to contact the Mayor of Waltham, who has some authority over the School Board, and who could potentially be persuaded to pressure them to stand down, and leave the Bryants alone.
Another interesting thing George told me is that the court refused to give them a jury trial in the dispute over their children, claiming that in Juvenile Court jury trials are only held for serious and violent crimes, and that there was no precedent for having a jury trial in a trial such as theirs. Which is weird, because the 6th and 7th Amendments appear to say that both the accused in criminal trials, and the participants in "Suits at common law" have the right to trial by jury.
I've posted a "Help the Bryants" action item over at E-Actions for Freedom, with the contact info for the Mayor and the local paper there.
Late addition: Here's a recent article about the national firestorm that has erupted over this case.
Also, I added a significant update to the story about Stan Pike and his battle with his local Historical Preservation Commission. The situation has been resolved, and I posted a couple news articles about it. I also posted my response to a comment about the story that was posted at my "Contact Me" page. And by strange coincidence, I recently met someone who just moved into Stan's neighborhood, and I added a note about that too. The fully updated post is here.
I'm announcing tonight to the LPCampusActivist e-mail list that I am offering free weblogs to any libertarian campus activist out there, hosted at CampusLP.org. With the base blog software set up there, adding new blogs amounts to just a few clicks and a couple other steps. I'm considering upgarding the free site hosting software that's installed there -- the current software is freeware, and it's pretty weak. There's a really robust program called HomeFree, which costs $299 (discounted because I have a friend with a coupon). I want to see if there's much demand for something like that, and if any campus groups would be willing to kick in for some of the cost, before I go ahead with it. With the old setup, only a large handful of clubs took me up on the offer, but there were also a lot less clubs on the list back then. I've been mulling over the HomeFree upgrade for a long time now, but 300 bucks is a significant outlay.
The free blogs are a go either way, though. And hopefully we can put together a good group blog for the front page, which I've tentatively named Campus Freedom Patrol.
This came up on the LPCampusActivist list, and I think it's funny. It came as a comment on a discussion about whether there's a difference between Democrats and Republicans. I haven't had a chance to research it, so I'll just include it as it was posted:
To paraphrase a great quote from former US Senator Malcolm Wallop, Republican from WY: 'if the Democrats introduced a bill to burn down the Congress, Whitehouse and Supreme Court all in one day, the Republicans would introduce a compromise bill to do it over the course of three days'
If you follow my site PNAC.info, you probably noticed a long stoppage of new entries there. Well, it's been over for a while, in part thanks to David Lynch (not the director, as far as I know), who kept poking me with e-mails begging me to get back on the ball with it. I had gotten away from it during my mother's long visit, and then got swept into a mass influx of new members at PeoplesForum.com before I was able to get back to it. David was very persistent in his urgings for new content there, and it's to his credit that he was. New articles have been flowing at PNAC.info for a while now, and I've got a big pile of other ones waiting in the wings.
If I can take a moment to pat myself on the back, I think the editorial selection and commentary on PNAC.info has made it into a very credible resource on neoconservativism and the Project for the New American Century, and the ramifications of their policy agenda. I read a LOT of articles that are relevant to that issue, and a great deal of them never make it onto that site because they are too overtly left-wing, or anti-Bush, or otherwise slanted or tainted. On the occasions that I've posted less-objective materials, I've generally been careful to note why I felt it worthwhile to include a slanted article. But the real measure is how many articles I've turned down -- I'd say at least 3 out of every 4, and maybe more like 7 out of every 8. And I think the result has been the formation of one of the most rational and mainstream-friendly (in content, if not in form) sources of information on this topic on the Internet. The response -- in site traffic, in offers to help, and in letters of support -- has been really great.
And I want to thank everyone who has been helping this site's rating on the Top 25 Libertarian Sites page. It's working -- the site is moving right on up the ratings, likely to reach #13 by tomorrow, and well on the way to being in the top 10, possibly as soon as next month. The climb from there to #1 is a much steeper one than what it's been so far, but I'm confident that we will arrive there eventually. It's likely we'll do so soon enough so that the site will spend a few years at that position, making countless good impressions on Libertarians everywhere before 2008. I'm sure there's already some folks who have had the "Huh? Who's this guy?" reaction that I'm trying to spread around. (It's the only reaction I can really hope for upon first impression at this point, I think. It's not a bad one.)
And lastly for now, I bought 15,000 text ad impressions at the EatonWeb portal, a major portal site for weblogs. It's not as wild as you might think -- it was $5.25. Just a test run. It has barely started, so it's too early to say if it's paying off or not.
I've been working on techy stuff lately. I've converted two of my other sites into weblogs -- CampusLP.org and the Nevada County Bill of Rights Defense Committee. I intend to make both of them group blogs, where multiple authors can add entries. Both sites were growing stagnant and stale, and in both cases the multiple author thing can work to the site's advantage, and take some of the pressure off me in terms of making them robust sites. I'm probably going to go whole hog, and convert the rest of my remaining sites to blogs too. I find the weblog setup to be a really good way to make a well-organized and nice-looking site, and to manage it and keep it updated with new content.
I created a new Yahoo Group, in hopes of relieving some of the building pressure on the LPCampusActivist e-mail list. The list is supposed to be for activism news and tips and questions, with issue debating being strongly discouraged. But every now and then a debate on some subject comes up, and it spirals into a big debate-fest pretty quickly, radically increasing the volume of the list. Libertarians are often criticized (from within, mostly) for being a "debating society", focusing too much on talking political theory and ethics, and not enough on the nitty gritty of political action. We are generally very easy to draw into a long discussion about almost any topic relating to politics or philosophy, and that has been openly discouraged on this activist list.
So I started LPCampusIssues, a separate list intended to be the place where people can debate issues, without distracting the CampusActivist list. Hopefully it'll work. I think the list has too little nitty gritty as it is, and it seems like the debating thing has been a distraction.
I've also been checking out BlogShares, which is a fantasy stock market of weblogs. It's mostly just a diversion, but it's pretty interesting. The system is very complex and robust...very much like a real stock market. They give you 500 fake dollars for signing up, and they also give blog owners 1000 shares of their blog's stock, which has been much to my advantage. My 1000 shares of PNAC.info were worth like $270,000. :-) It might get me site traffic or recognition at some point, but mostly it's just a fun game to play around with.
And I tried digging in and cleaning up the format of the e-mail updates for this blog, but it was over my head and what I did kept producing errors, so I gave up for now. I'll try again soon on that.
They honor activists who have completed one of their three criteria -- writing 3 letters to the editor with "libertarian" in them, giving three libertarian speeches to primarily non-libertarian audiences, or working 3 "Operation Politically Homeless" booths. It was that last that I did. The OPH booth is basically an information table where you encourage people to take the World's Smallest Political Quiz, and map them on a big chart -- the one you see when you take the quiz (which you should do, if you haven't).
I feel like a Junior Light of Liberty, however, because I really should have completed all three criteria. I had one speech, and one op-ed piece, but that's not enough. It's not like I wasn't keeping busy, but I wasn't doing those things enough, and I should have been.
Which is why my hat's off to Aaron Biterman, a young Libertarian firebrand of the finest kind, who I've cyber-known (and known of) for quite a while. He was one of a double-handful of folks who completed the Lights of Liberty Triathlon, doing three of each of the requisite things. My hat's even more off (I'll lay it on the ground or something) to Jim Lark, former chair of the LP. He's done the triathlon a few years running now.
I'll be completing the triathlon each year from here on out, and I'm inviting you to too. If you don't consider yourself a libertarian, you can play along anyway. Just do three of those things expounding whatever view it is you have (as long as it's not foul and hateful), and I'll send you a Light of Activism award. How's that for a deal?
3 letters. 3 talks about what's important to you. 3 tables at the street fair or something. It's not so much...maybe 24 hours worth of your time, if you have to work a lot on your letters and speeches. Over the course of the year, that's not a whole lot to ask for, in terms of trying to make the world a better place.
And if you can handle embracing the libertarian philosophy, you can get your name on a roll of honor page like me, and get a cool certficate and other stuff. It's a little geeky, I suppose, but geeky is cool now, right? ;-)
Either way, consider this another episode in the Get Off Your Butt Chronicles. Just presenting another option for y'all.
Moti Silberstein wrote me an e-mail recently, saying:
Even if you win the 2008 nomination what will it help everyone? You are not going to win? Wouldn't it seem better to try to bring your local government under control or even your state. We need dedicated people but nationally as a Pres candidate is a waste of time and money?
It turns out that my long-winded reply didn't really answer what moti was trying to get at, and I may post more of our discussion tomorrow, but my repsonse ended up covering a lot of ground in terms of explaining myself and the campaign, including my thinking when I started it in 1994, and a bunch of other things.
Here's my reply:
At the very least, I think my campaign will help to advance the progress of the freedom movement. The LP is going to have a presidential nominee in 2008 whether I run or not -- I think I will be the best representative available for that position at that time. And the LP should have a presidential nominee, regardless of whether that person will win or not. It's the single best opportunity the party has to state its vision to the country at large. It also earns the party necessary (and justified) credibility in politics. The LP has had a presidential candidate on 50 ballots for three elections in a row -- no other third party in history has done that even twice in a row. That means something -- it means that the LP has historically unprecedented staying power as a national third party. And that matters, in terms of the respect the party gets from the media and other entities.
Changing a country this size -- and a government this size -- doesn't happen overnight. There are and will be short-term gains to be made, and there will also be long-term victories. I've decided to focus much of my energy toward long-term gains, and primarily at the national level. Everyone who cares has to focus on some thing or things to do to advance liberty in their own way, and one way I think I can add unique value to the movement is by dedicating a significant portion of my time, over a very long period of time, toward developing a presidential campaign that will shake the foundations of the modern political scene. I think most people who know me would say that I have many qualities that lend themselves well to potentially achieving that goal. I decided long ago that it was an achievable possibility, and I have allotted a great deal of time and energy in my life toward giving it a try. My view has long been that if I *am* capable of achieving that goal, and I didn't try, I'd be cheating myself -- and everyone who would benefit from being liberated from our corrupt and dysfunctional political system.
I reasoned that there must be a certain limited pool of people who could or would possibly be able to manage to break through in the necessarily-impactful way, and manage the situation well enough to get the job done if elected. I also reasoned that for each of those people, the odds of them successfully achieving that goal were astronomically low. Many people are resigned to the view that there will never be such a breakthrough opportunity, which gives an indication of how insurmountable-seeming a goal it is. Many of the folks who could be the president we need won't ever consider even trying, and many more who do try will never make it past the starting gate. Of those remaining, many will make a misstep, or have a weakness which renders them inoperative. And only a few, if any, of the people left will have the dedication or commitment to go through the entire trial by fire that getting elected (and serving as) President is.
Which I figured leaves America's chances of escaping the quicksand looking pretty bleak.
I determined that I was one of those people who could possibly do it, and decided that I was going to devote most of my life toward trying to be the one who didn't give up and didn't fail. I decided that almost ten years ago, and I am still on course. I still think I could be the one that successfully breaks through, and as long as I believe that is a possibility, I will work to pursue that goal.
While my broad focus is on that goal, my activities consist of a wide range of political and societal efforts on many different levels. I am Chairman of my county Libertarian Party group, and I spend a great deal of time working to advance liberty (and the party) locally. I have participated in over a hundred local events of that sort in the past few years -- from organizing multiple major public events, to tabling at street fairs, to attending other political party's meetings and Board of Supervisor's meetings and rallies, to appearing regularly on the local cable news, to holding a Candidate's Forum, and a Bill of Rights Essay Contest for high schoolers...I could go on -- a lot. In the past two years or so, I've been involved in a positive way with all but one of my county Supervisors (and the two who were defeated in 2002), the local DA, the police chiefs of all three cities, the county Sheriff, the head of the local CHP, the county librarian, Nevada City's mayor, the leadership of the local Greens, Republicans and Democrats, the Superintendent of Schools, both local radio stations and all local papers -- specifically, the Editor and Publisher at the major paper, the Editors of all the others, the News Director of one of the local radio stations and the Station Director at the other, and I'm on very good terms with the Director of the local community access TV station. I'm a certified broadcaster with the local community radio station, and a certified TV producer at the local cable station.
I'm involved with my state party as well -- I was a delegate at this year's state convention in fact -- and I have been involved with a wide range of efforts involving medical marijuana, which is very much a state-wide issue -- and I have worked closely with many of the most prominent people in that movement here, from Steve Kubby to Elvy Musikka, and many more. I'm helping the Recall Gray Davis effort, and I'm almost half-considering running for the job in the recall election. (Ballot access is relatively easy for the race, and there are likely to be many candidates, because it's not a one-per-party election. The winner doesn't need to get a majority of the votes, which means that someone could potentially win with less than 10% support.)
I also keep in touch with campus organizations, both locally and nationwide. I've attended at least 5 meetings of our (not directly libertarian) local campus action group this year, generally playing a primary role in the meetings. I was a major planner in their Books Not Bombs rally this March, at which I worked a table for my local LP, along with the Chairman of the party in the next county. It was there that I met the county's most prominent gun control advocates, with whom I am on very good terms now. I subscribe to the LPCampusActivist e-mail list, where I keep up on most of the libertarian groups around the country, and offer advice from my years of experience as a successful campus organizer when possible. In my upcoming road trip, I intend to make fostering local and campus efforts one of my primary focuses. I will help groups improve and advance their efforts in whatever way I can, and I will work with them to start new groups in unrepresented locations.
Not everything I do is overtly political though. For the past three years, I've lived on the grounds of a land stewardship project, and have worked hundreds of hours clearing the land for fire safety (and to help restore the pine tree population), building trails, and doing maintenance and cleanup work, while helping to pay off the mortgage on this protected property. I volunteered at the local radio station for a while, and helped produce a late-night music show there for a while too. I'm developing a project called the Free School on the Internet, which will aim to be a cost-free alternative for families who want to escape the public school system. I hope to have the school open and showing positive results before 2008. I am also setting my sights on running a series of job fairs for the homeless in the major cities around the country -- an idea I've had for a long time. Through my non-profit organization Future Solutions, I intend to create solutions to the problems that government is so often looked to to solve. There are a lot more projects on the list, but those two will be the likely first round. I plan to gradually phase out of my responsibilities (and pay) as CEO of PeoplesForum.com and into the role of Director of Future Solutions over the course of the rest of this year. I will seek foundation funding for my Free School project, and go from there. I am quite certain that I can obtain funding to further develop that project.
I have also created a number of websites dedicated to inspiring change or action in individuals in states and localities all over the globe, and many of them have done exactly that. I will continue to create more websites of that nature. I run CampusLP.org, which offers free websites to any campus libertarian club, and plan to launch CountyLP.org, which will be dedicated to information-sharing and coordination among the county libertarian groups around the country. One of my other websites Stopcarnivore.org has had hundreds of thousands of visitors from over 150 countries. One of my newest sites, PNAC.info, had almost 15,000 visits in its first month, and another site that I'm planning (coalitionoftheunwilling.net) has the potential to attract and affect millions of people.
All of which is to say that my presidential ambitions don't detract from my efforts to achieve short-term change, on every level, in a number of ways. I have "wasted" very little time or money in the past 9 years of running for president, and most of my plans for the next decades fit the same pattern. Very little of what I do is directly related to running for president -- but it's all part of becoming the presidential candidate I'll need to be. All that stuff (and enough more to bore you to tears) is my presidential campaign, in a way.
I acknowledged long ago that any non-bipartisan presidential candidate has the game stacked against them, and I concluded that my biggest asset (besides myself) was time. Time to develop a thorough and comprehensive strategy and time to bring it together. And time to develop a thorough and comprehensive character and system of ethics, and bring that together. I plan to continue running, if necessary, until 2024 -- every 8 years. I have a deep well of skills, strategies, and ideas devoted to increasing my chances of becoming the presidential candidate this country wants and needs, and I have the dedication and tenacity to see it through the whole way. If it can be done, I aim to do it -- and if it can't, then I will have spent 30 years doing a massive amount of work to help advance the ideas and practices of individual liberty, on every level from the personal to the global. Which is the best I could hope to do with my life.
(Note: Yes, there's been another two-day lag after I said I was getting back on the ball...but I don't have excuses this time. I've simply been plugging away at this enormous entry for two days, and I didn't want to back away from it and just post some filler news item. Hopefully you'll find it to have been worth the wait.)
Ever wondered where I get my news and information? Sure you have. Well, most of it comes to me via e-mail -- lots and lots of e-mail.
Following is a partial list of the e-mail update lists I'm subscribed to, with comments, descriptions, and sign-up info. I don't read all of these e-mails all the time -- I'm pretty sure that would be impossible, but I do my best to keep up with them as much as I can. They are listed in no particular order...maybe I'll prioritize or categorize them sometime if I can. Also, believe it or not, this list is incomplete. I'm going to make this a permanent link on the left somewhere, so feel free to check back and see if there are any changes or additions. Enjoy!
Small Government News -- Updates from Carla Howell, former candidate for U.S. Senate (2000) and Governor (2002) and Michael Cloud, 2002 candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, my birthplace. They were also behind the 2002 Small Government Act, a ballot initiative to end the income tax in Mass., which surprised everyone by almost passing, with 45% of the vote.
FreedomWire-- Updates and commentaries from Harry Browne, Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1996 and 2000. Harry's commentaries are always intelligent, well-written, and all-around worthwhile.
The Liberty Committee -- Founded by U.S. Representative Ron Paul, a Republican who's the closest thing to a libertarian that we have in Congress, The Liberty Committee is dedicated to bringing freedom into Congress in any way it can. Updates are usually either action items or new commentaries or speeches from Ron Paul.
Free-Market.net's monthly newsletter -- I've lavished praise on Free-Market.net many times in the past, and I will surely do so in the future. They are a libertarian portal, with a vast wealth of resources, information, and links related to liberty, as well as a bunch of valuable services like e-mail lists, monthly giveaways and more. Free-Market.net -- and just about everything they do -- kicks butt. There's a spot to subscribe in the middle column of their home page, a little ways down the page. Free-Market.net almost ran aground a few months back, and was saved by the International Society for Individual Liberty, a group that kicks a fair amount of butt as well.
Freedom News Daily (from Free-Market.net) -- This is simply the best daily news e-zine I've ever seen. Good and bad news about freedom from all over the Internet, every day. I can't read it every day, because I bury myself in news stories and commentaries when I do, but even just scanning their headlines and summaries provides a major dose of awareness about news and ideas around the world. If I had to pick just one e-zine to keep getting, this would be the one, without question. If I could think of more superlatives and praise to heap on it I would, but for now let's move on. Hopefully you get the point.
Rational Review News Digest -- When Free-Market.net was near the brink of disappearance, they laid everyone off and shut down many of their services, including Freedom News Daily, for a while. Tom Knapp and others from Free-Market.net quickly picked up the ball and started the Rational Review News Digest. Freedom News Daily is back, but RRND continues. I haven't had a chance to compare the two, but you can check out the listings on the home page for each and see for yourself. I can say that RRND did a good job of filling the void left by FND during its downtime. You'd do well to sign up for either, or both.
Future of Freedom Foundation Updates -- FFF is a think tank of serious libertarian thinkers and researchers, led by Jacob Hornberger. They work to "advance the libertarian philosophy by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government." (<--from their mission statement) Serious, intelligent, and uncompromising are the hallmark characteristics of their work -- though they have taken to including links to libertarian-themed cartoons...so maybe they're not so serious all the time. Anything written by the principals of FFF is bound to be unflinching, passionate, and hard to refute.
Jacob Hornberger -- Mentioned above, Jacob used to send out non-FFF e-mails for a while. He was a contender for the LP presidential nomination in 2000, and for a long while he maintained a relentless pursuit of allegations of impropriety on the part of Harry Browne and his associates, particularly Perry Willis. He was eventually proven at least partly right (you can see the LP's news on that here and here, and can see many links about the whole controversy via this Google search, but he did some damage to his standing within the LP in the course of his pursuit. I tried to go to his home page, JacobGHornberger.com, where all his writings about his were collected, but as you'll see if you click that, it now redirects to an FFF page featuring his many FFF writings over the years. I don't know if he'll be sending out more updates to his personal list, and I can't see a way to sign up for them, but I guess I'm subscribed to his list if it still exists.
Steve Kubby/Pot-TV -- There's so much I could say about Steve Kubby. Former LP candidate for Governor in California. Medical marijuana refugee in Canada. Major rabble-rouser and revolutionary. Co-host of online show Pot-TV News/The Kubby Files. Personal friend of mine. That's just scratching the surface. Visit Kubby.com to see lots more about Steve and his wife Michele, and subscribe to his updates (down at the bottom of the page) if you want to see how someone fights the system, again and again, in a truly remarkable way.
Reason Express -- Published by Reason Online, an extension of Reason magazine, one of the most popular and reputable libertarian publications in the world. There's always something worthwhile in Reason Express.
Liberator Online -- The Advocates for Self-Government focus mostly on preaching to the converted -- trying to help libertarians become more effective communicators of libertarian ideas. Their e-mail update, the Liberator Online includes (among other things) "Ask Dr. Ruwart", a Q & A feature with Mary Ruwart, author of the fabulous Healing Our World), "Persuasion Power Points" by the above-mentioned Michael Cloud, plus all sorts of libertarian movement news and other goodies. They claim the Liberator is the world's largest-circulation libertarian e-mail newsletter, and with 56,000+ subscribers, they are probably right. (The Advocates also host the World's Smallest Political Quiz, a semi-famous short quiz which places people on a four-axis political "map". If you've never tried the quiz, you should.)
Libertarian Clips -- Another publication from the Advocates for Self-Government, Libertarian Clips is a weekly or daily update which lists stories from all over which feature the word "libertarian" in them. It's a neat service.
Freedom Page of The Week -- This update, which is pretty self-explanatory, was put out by Free-Market.net. It seems to have gone idle since Free-Market.net's temporary shut-down of a few months ago, but hopefully it will rise again. You can check out the past editions at the link above, and apparently you can still subscribe to it, and join me in waiting with bated breath for its return.
Liberty Action of the Week -- This is another former Free-Market.net service that was picked up by one of the laid-off editors there (Mary Lou Seymour), now under the rubric of Rational Review. It's pretty obvious what it is...you can subscribe at the bottom of the page linked above.
MoveOn.org -- This liberal-leaning group sprouted up from the rubble of the Clinton impeachment hooha, and has grown into quite the massive e-force since. I'm not always (or even often) on the same page as them, but they are jammin' activists with increasing clout (claiming over 2 million (!) subscribers), so I stay tuned into what they are up to.
Ralph Nader/CitizenWorks -- I'd be surprised if Ralph Nader and I agree with each other on more than 50% of things, but he's a substantial anti-establishment force, and an expert rabble-rouser and organizer. There's a lot about Ralph Nader I like, and there's a lot I can learn from him. Plus, as you'll see as this list continues, I keep my eye on plenty of groups that aren't necessarily on my side.
NFRA Updates -- I couldn't tell you how I got on the National Federation of Republican Assemblies' e-mail updates list ("The Conservative Republican E-mail Newsletter"), and I can barely stand to read their e-mails, particularly now that GOP fever is sweeping the nation, but I poke my head in every now and then just to see what they're spreading. 9.5 times out of 10, it's stuff I want no part of.
ACLU Action Updates -- If you're conscious and over the age of 15 or so, you probably know who the ACLU is. Their action updates have been particularly important during the post-9/11 war on freedom. I've been subscribed to this list for almost 3 years now. You can sign up in the upper right corner of their home page.
LibertyWire -- Updates from the American Liberty Foundation. The ALF was founded by Harry Browne and Perry Willis, with the goal of marketing libertarian ideas through mass media -- primarily TV and radio. They raise money for individual ad campaigns on select issues. Their first foray was television ads about the 2nd Amendment and self-defense; those were followed up by radio ads on a similar theme, and more recently, radio ads against the war in Iraq. Their updates announce their campaigns as they come, and also feature frequent commentaries from Harry Browne and others in the ALF. You can sign up near the bottom of their home page.
Libertarian Party of California Updates -- These updates let me know of important California action items, LPC campaigns, etc.
Libertarian Party Updates-- The LP sends out a wide variety of items to their update list -- press releases, upcoming media appearances, fundraising appeals, action items -- basically this, that, and the other thing as relates to liberty on the national level. Which isn't meant to downplay the value of their updates -- I very much enjoy and would recommend them.
LPCampusActivist -- This is a moderated Yahoo Group list where college and high school Libertarian clubs share ideas, suggestions, and news about campus organizing. Philosophical and political discussion and bickering is kept to a minimum, so folks can focus on the actual mechanics of effective campus-based activism. Campus activism is near to my heart, and every now and then I blast out a nice beefy e-mail of tips and suggestions that I picked up from my experiences at UMass/Amherst. In between, I like to hear what everyone else is up to. I'll be spending a lot of time working with campus LP groups in the next few years-- much of my campaign will be focused on college campuses and helping out college clubs around the country.
Alliance for Separation of School and State -- This organization is dedicated to just what it sounds like -- breaking the ties between government and schooling. Personally, I find the idea of government being the primary provider of education not only nonsensical, but disturbing. Isn't that the kind of thing we would cite as evidence of a controlling dictatorship, like Saddam Hussein's or the former USSR? Seems so to me. The Alliance's founder Marshall Fritz has been having serious health problems, so communication from them has been less regular than it used to be, but I enjoy hearing from them when I do. You can sign up for their updates in the lower left of their home page. If you're down with their mission, also make sure to sign their "Proclamation for the Separation of School and State". You get a nice certificate if you do so. :-) I have mine hung up on the wall here in my office.
EducationalFreedom.com Weekly News -- This is a jam-packed weekly update of news relating to, well, educational freedom. Homeschooling news, outrageous bureaucracy news, 'Net education news, etc. You can see the latest update here, and this link will pop-up an e-mail you can send to subscribe.
iFeminists.com News -- Updates from "the home for individualist feminism on the net." This ain't your mother's feminism -- it's better. ;-) There's a subscribe box down a bit on the right of the home page.
Joe Banister/Freedom Above Fortune -- Joe Banister is a former IRS cop, who was converted into a fervent opponent of the IRS through research he did while working there, and due to the treatment he received when he tried to engage his superiors about his discoveries. It's hard to explain in short form, but basically he concluded that the IRS was conducting itself in a way that seemed to conflict with the Constitution and the law, and thus his service was in conflict with his otah of office. He was rebuked for his efforts, and consequently resigned and devoted himself to exposing and confronting the agency he once loved and respected. There are lots of links on the side of the mailing list signup page where you can learn more about Joe and his efforts.
We The People -- I've talked about Bob Schulz a few times in the past -- he's the hardcorest of hardcore anti-IRS crusaders. Through the We The People foundation, he relentlessly seeks answers to a long list of questions concerning the constitutionality of the income tax. I can't get into it all here, but there's plenty of information on his site. His updates are great to get, if only to see how a remarkably bold person goes about challenging one of the most powerful agencies on the planet. Sign up here.
Arianna Huffington's Column -- You've probably heard of columnist/pundit/author Arianna Huffington. I don't always agree with her solutions, but I almost always agree with her critiques of politicians, and her columns are amusing and well-researched. She's probably my favorite syndicated columnist, and the only major one whose columns I subscribe to by e-mail.
Michael Moore's List -- If you don't know who Michael Moore is, you might want to check your pulse. Bowling for Columbine, Stupid White Men, TV Nation/The Awful Truth, Roger & Me -- sounding familiar now? Michael and I are often pretty far apart when it comes to issues and solutions, but I love rabble rousers -- and few people rouse the rabble as impactfully as Michael Moore.
Butterfly Gardeners Association -- I'm not really a big butterfly fanatic, though my appreciation of them has grown through my contact with Alan Moore and the BGA. I don't recall how I first came in contact with Alan, but I've been on his list for years now. It's not all about butterflies. Check out the site and see what you think. There's a link there to e-mail Alan and get on his list.
Nevada County Green Party's GoWeGo list -- I get along well with the Nevada County Green Party, even though a lot of folks would say I should consider them rivals. I do consider them competition, but not rivals. We've worked together in the past, and I've worked with individual Greens on almost every major local event I've been involved in in the past couple years, including the Funeral for the Bill of Rights, the Public Forum on Law Enforcement and the War on Terror. Their "GoWeGo" e-mail discussion list (named after a chant Ralph Nader coined in response to an audience saying "Go, Ralph, Go!") is one of Nevada County's best forums for activism news, both local and national.
Peace Center of Nevada County list -- See above, more or less...except that Utah Phillips is a founder and major player in the Peace Center. Their list, activities, and crowd are frequently in concert with the local Greens, but they're distinct organizations with different leadership.
NRDC's Earth Action -- I don't always agree with the Natural Resources Defense Council's urges for action, but as I've mentioned, that's not always a prerequisite for me when it comes to e-mail subscriptions.
Libertarians for Peace lists -- Libs4Peace is the anti-war, non-interventionist conscience of the Libertarian Party. It's not an official LP group -- just a group of Libertarians (myself included) focused on making sure the LP strictly adheres to its principles in regard to war and defense policy. They have two lists -- a regular discussion list and an organizing list. There's a link at the top of their home page to the listserve signup info.
The Lighthouse - This weekly newsletter from the Independent Institute contains a few good stories about current events from a libertarian perspective, plus information about their excellent events and activities. You can subscribe from the Institute's home page, or The Lighthouse's subscribe page.
Self Improvement Newsletter from SelfGrowth.com -- Nothing political here, just self-help tips, inspirational quotes, book and product reviews, and the like. SelfGrowth.com offers a number of e-mail lists, which you can choose from here.
TruthOut -- I've talked about TruthOut before -- they serve up a healthy handful of dissident commentaries and news items that probably won't be on the nightly news. I just got on this list a few months ago, and I'll probably stay on it forever. I donated some money to them a while ago, and more recently signed up as a monthly pledger. Sign up here.
Burning Man updates -- Burning Man is an extraordinary annual event that takes place in the desert in northern Nevada for a week at the end of August. It's simply impossible to summarize properly, but let's say it's an experiment in temporary community based on self-expression and participation. There's nothing else quite like it on earth -- and that's an understatement. They send out e-mail updates weekly all year, leading up to the big week at the end of August. Check out the extensive web site here, and sign up for the e-mail updates here. Maybe I'll see you there!
GOP Team Leader -- I heard about the GOP Team Leader program a couple months ago when there was a semi-scandal due to team leaders submitting non-original letters to the editor, and I signed up so I can see what the Republicans are feeding their stalwart. Don't worry, I haven't been -- and won't be -- converted. File this one under the "know your enemy" column. And, for the sake of balance, I just signed up for...
Democratic National Committtee Updates -- See above. The more propaganda I'm aware of, the better!
E-The People's Newsletter -- E-ThePeople features political forums, as well as tools for starting petitions and writing letters to public officials. their e-newsletter provides an overview of what's going on at their site. To get their updates, sign up as a member.
NorCal Libertarians -- This is an e-mail list for Libertarians in Northern California.
SacLPS -- This is the e-mail list of the Libertarian Party of Sacramento County, near-neighbors of mine.
IGreens -- IGreens is an individualist environmentalist news service based in the UK. You can sign up a little ways down their home page.
Act For Change -- This is an action items e-mail list published by Working Assets, the liberal-cause-supporting phone company. They got on my bad side when they urged folks to pressure the Green candidate for Senate in Minnesota to drop out of the 2002 race so he wouldn't "steal" Walter Mondale's votes and cause him to lose. I often disagree with their action items, but that one really ticked me off. You can get their Democrat-shilling updates by signing up. (It's free -- you don't need to sign up for the phone service.)
PSR Security Alerts -- PSR is Physicians for Social Responsibility, a coalition of health professionals looking to combat nuclear proliferation and other manifestations of violence, in the name of protecting human life. Their site breaks down by topic, and I'm signed up for their alerts pertaining to national security issues. You can sign up here.
I'll continue to revise and extend this entry as I am reminded of other lists that I'm on. I know there are more, but not surprisingly it's hard for me to remember them all of the top of my head.
I'm sorry I haven't been posting as often, but I've been putting a lot of time into building PNAC.info. That site has had over 8,000 visits (and over 16,000 pageviews) since I launched it on April 1st, and around 300 or more places have linked to it already, with hardly any promotion on my part. Which is to say, there's a huge amount of interest in the Project for the New American Century.
The bulk of my time has been split between that and participating in a number of ongoing discussions at PeoplesForum.com -- about the war, and about the Drug War. I keep trying to walk away -- particularly from the Drug War discussion, which hasn't been terribly productive -- but it's hard for me to resist a chance to spout off about things I feel strongly about.
I came up with an idea for a new project -- not that I really need more projects, but when I think of a good one that no one's doing, which is relativelly easy with a low entry cost...well, I can't act on them all, but I have to act on some of them.
The working title of this new idea would be "No Drug War in Iraq". The goal would be to mount an effort to persuade the new government of Iraq to not start out with a Drug War like we have here. I have no doubt that U.S. government lobbyists a' plenty will be urging them to get right into replicating our failed "drug control" model. My plan would be to draw up a letter signed by tons of experts and dignitaries explaining how damaging the War on Drugs has been here, and urging Iraq to constitutionally forbid itself from having one. I'm only 1 or 2 degrees of separation away from most of the big names in the anti-Drug War movement, so it wouldn't be hard at all to reach out to that network of folks, which includes mayors, sheriffs, doctors, professors, and other experts. The letter would be sent to all the relevant incoming Iraqi officials, and maybe published in newspapers there, and made into a TV ad.
I haven't decided if it's a "go" or not, but I'm seriously thinking about it. I'll post some more thoughts on it soon, once I make a decision. It would mostly just involve a bunch of phone calls and e-mails, a pretty simple website, and some fundraising for the reprinting and/or promotion. I think a lot of people would hop on board if the plan looked sound.
Phew! I'm just now done settling back in after the big public forum tonight. It was really great. For the past two months or so, I've been putting together a public forum called "Law Enforcement and the War On Terror in Nevada County". And, like the Funeral for The Bill of Rights, it put a lot of my skills to the test. Not such a wide range of skills as the funeral, which involved a lot of craftwork and protest elements, but many instances of a smaller set of skills. Communication skills mostly -- writing, persuading, meetings, and phone calls.
This event involved a LOT of phone calls -- probably somewhere near 200 -- and it involved a lot of diplomacy. As someone who has always felt at odds with authority (just look at yesterday's post), it was quite a twist to be bringing together the top officers from 6 different law enforcement agencies. I met, on very friendly terms, with 7 different major law enforcement agents and officers tonight, and it was pretty cool. 3 police chiefs, a sheriff, a CHP Lieutenant Commander, and two FBI agents, including the head agent of the Sacramento Division of the FBI-- who, incidentally, seems like a really nice and earnest guy. They all seemed nice enough, some more than others. It was really refreshing that they were all eager to help share what they know with our community. Nevada County is really a great community, and the kind of community that can really do a public forum when we set our minds to it-- or in this case, when I set their minds to it. ;-)
I'll post a lot more about this event -- there will be a couple news stories tomorrow to link to, and I'll give a breakdown of how to put something like this together -- or at least how I put this one together. It wasn't all that hard really, but it did involve a ton of work. I'll lay it all out soon in case anyone else wants to try puttin' on a shindig like this. It was really worthwhile -- it wasn't perfect, but it was pretty damn sweet.
Regular readers have probably noticed a lag in my posts in the past couple days. It's because I've been getting ready for, going to, and attending the California Libertarian Party 2003 Convention. As the title of this post indicates, that's where I am right now as I write this. I'm in my hotel room at the Ontario (CA) Airport Marriott, typing on a laptop I borrowed for the trip. It's late at night after the first day of the convention.
Getting here ended up being a massive ordeal...all sorts of details and difficulties just kept cropping up and piling on top of each other. Considering that even the basic premise -- driving from Nevada City to San Francisco (3 hours) to drop off my dog, and then driving from San Fran to Ontario (7 hours+) -- is a decent haul by itself, having an array of extra little pains in the butt crop up at every turn made for quite a little endurance test. I finally got here at about 6:30 AM today (the 15th). After settling in, it was almost 7:30, and I had to crash for a few hours, else I would have been a zombie all day. So I missed the first few hours of the convention, which was lame, but I still got to soak up a lot of good stuff through the rest of the day.
(the next morning)
I was going to write some more, but it got late last night and I had to get to bed. Now I've got to get out of here and into day 2 of the convention...I'll have to write more when I get home, either late late tonight or tomorrow sometime.
I've got the audio from my radio appearance last week online now. It's a pretty hefty file -- 6.28 megs. I'll be breaking it up into smaller pieces soon. It's about 50 minutes long, and it's pretty solidly packed with stuff about the war on civil liberties. It's me and local Green activist Kent Smith on a local show called "Public Planet" on KVMR, hosted by Mike Thornton.
I was hoping the file would stream, but it seems you have to save it by right-clicking on the link and choosing "Save As" or whatever similar option your browser has. (Then play the file once it's loaded.)
Also, there are two video clips from the Funeral for the Bill of Rights online now here. Others will be added soon.
One thing that was nice about organizing this funeral is that it ran me through all my activist paces, and I felt pretty good about my range of skills as an activist. I've grown to the point where I can take a given event, easily assess the most effective way to make it happen in the available amount of time, and basically rattle off all the details of how to make it work without any trouble. And then -- and this is the kicker which was made clear to me through this event -- I can basically do all of the steps required to make it happen. My ability to do so was tested boot-camp-style in preparing for this funeral.
Now let me say that I'm not trying to brag here -- I'm just assessing myself as an activist and politician. And in no way am I claiming that I could have done this event alone. I depended on a great number of people in bringing this together, and I couldn't have done it without them. An activist alone is extraordinarily limited, no matter what his or her skillset is.
I just figure many of you come here thinking, "What's so special about this guy, that he thinks he can pull off this crazy presidential campaign thing?" I paraphrase, of course, but I assume you wonder what I bring to the table. One of the things I intend to bring to the table in the long run is to be a super-activist, the kind of activist that sends resounding ripples of activism around the country, and inspires people and stuff like that. And I've spent a long time developing a foundation of skills and knowledge in myself to make sure I'm up to the task.
I won't need all these skills in every situation, but I'm working to make it so that I have a functional level of knowledge and skill in almost every facet of politics and activism. Not only will it make it so I can play any role that might be needed -- from Emcee to poster designer to cameraman to spokesperson -- but it will mean I am more informed about the process, from the ground up. This will help in almost every decision I make as a politician, and as a campaigner.
Most importantly, it helps me help other people do activism, which is essential. I can help them first-hand, by making them a poster or writing a press release or outlining a strategy for them, and I can teach them what they need to do to make the change they hope for, so they can forge ahead on their own, hopefully a little wiser from my contribution.
One thing I want to work on is creating "carbon-copy events", and the Funeral for the Bill of Rights has great potential to be one of those. A carbon-copy event is a unique activist event which can be easily replicated in other places. Women in Black is an example of a very simple carbon-copy event turned into a movement. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is an example of a much more complex (and much more effective) carbon-copy event turned into a movement.
(I don't mean that as a diss to Women in Black...I think they are a great organization, and their chosen action -- standing in black in silent vigil to oppose violence and war -- is a good one. It's simple, and it's not going to create the kind of major political change that the BORDC will, but it's one of the base components that acts as a glue for the movement. Your average peace rally is like that too. They don't achieve easily measurable results, or reach definite landmarks, but they serve their movements nonetheless. If peace activists didn't have peace rallies, the energy of their movement would suffer. And if Women in Black weren't out being silent and in black, it would be a lot easier for people to forget about the violence of wars in distant lands. Every little bit counts...even the folks who just cut out a newspaper article and make copies to post around town are a key part of things.)
I intend to draw up a manual for holding a funeral for the Bill of Rights, which will lay out all the steps, and provide all the materials I can give from here, like press releases, web pages, posters, etc.. I'm also going to start calling local LP leaders and insist that they start Bill of Rights Defense Committees in their areas, and hold a BoR funeral while they're at it.
As usual, I went on more than I intended...and I didn't even get to what I was going to write about, which was all of the tasks I did in preparation for this event. Well...what the heck, let me try and bust that out real quick. Note that I wasn't flawless in all this, by any stretch of the imagination, but I was at least competent, and in most cases fairly proficient. The short timeline cramped things big-time, and toward the end lack of rest was starting to get to me. One of my big weaknesses is putting so much into things that I wear myself out, and often I'm almost too worn out to perform effectively on the actual day of the event. I was right on that line at the funeral Sunday, and the same effect impacted my TV and radio appearances. Not so much tiredness (except for this morning's interview, where tiredness was definitely a factor), but being too hectic with things, and thus not sufficiently prepared.
That said, here are the various activist skills that got a workout this past week:
Networking: I did a lot of phone and e-mail networking with the core group of the new NCBORDC, and lots of other folks. Really, that coalition took shape a lot this past week along with the funeral preparation.
Press release: I wrote a press release for the event. I found a typo in it afterward, which burned me up. I have little tolerance for errors on publicly released things. You can see the release here. My friend Mary Nelson added the last paragraph.
Op-ed piece: I wrote a pretty sweet op-ed piece for the local paper, and I have gotten a number of calls and e-mails thanking me for it. It was the most-read opinion piece at the paper's website yesterday, for what that's worth. It was my second annual Bill of Rights Day op-ed. Last year I talked about Carnivore and the brutalization of the Fourth Amendment.
Web site: I set up the basic intro web site for our new coalition, and got it up in two days, in time for my op-ed piece, which directed people to the site.
Radio appearances: I did two radio appearances: an hour-long one in-studio, and then a five-minute one this morning over the phone. (Audio from these will be online fairly soon).
TV appearance: I was on the local community TV news hour. I've been both a guest and a co-host of this show a few times. The video of that appearance is here.
Desktop publishing: I designed the literature that we handed out that during the procession and funeral. I took a shortcut and used a copy of my op-ed piece for a big part of one side of it, but it served the purpose well, and time was short. i spent a lot of hours putting that op-ed together, and I didn't have a lot more hours to come up with another version of what would have amounted to the same points.
Props: I made the gravestone, which came out really nice. That wasn't easy, because art isn't my strong suit. More the opposite of that, really. But no one stepped up to the plate to make it, so it fell to me. I was painstakingly careful about making it, because it was the central visual prop in the demonstration, and it came out pretty close to perfect. There are pictures of it on the NCBORDC site. I also did a ton of work restoring and preparing the coffin. It was already made -- it's a leftover prop that was donated by the local Greens -- but it was really worn out. It's made of cardboard, and since the forecast was for rain, rain, rain, I had to make sure it would hold up. I fixed all the sags, used a big roll of packing tape and sealed it all up, and then re-painted it. The cool plaques on the side weren't made by me, but I conceived them, found the person to do it and oversaw the design (plus brought them in to be laminated). And I duct-taped them on the coffin. I also cut up a pair of my black sweatpants to make armbands for folks who didn't come dressed in black.
Supplies and grunt work: I planned and bought all the supplies, and brought lots of stuff from home on event day that needed to be brought -- like posterboard, markers, a digital camera, black armbands, etc. I also reserved the TV equipment, picked it up, and brought it to the event.
E-mail appeals: I sent out a couple good e-mail appeals to some of the main activist lists in the county, asking for help and then encouraging attendance in spite of the rain. I think the latter e-mail got through to at least a few people...it was all dramatic and persuasive, talking about how people had given their lives to defend the Bill of Rights, and couldn't they give an hour in the rain to do the same? That kind of thing.
Overall planning: Aside from a little feedback along the way, I basically thought all of this stuff up, and I was pleasantly surprised that I pretty much didn't miss any of the pieces. As I mentioned, the timing of everything wasn't perfect, but it wasn't like I was forgetting a given step -- just that I wasn't able to get it all done in the ideal time frame. The biggest hit due to this was the lack of media coverage, which is a big one. The press release went out way too late, because the time prior to that was filled up with other things. If I had gotten it out two days earlier, we almost surely would have had TV coverage, but I wasn't at all certain that we were going to have a media-worthy event until near the end of the week, and even then that was way in doubt due to the weather forecast. Plus, I had all the steps laid out in front of me, and I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to get them all together in time for the event.
That's all I can recall right now, and I need to stop and go to bed anyway. I just wanted to share a little of what it is that I do. I had the equivalent of an activist fire drill this week, and I passed, with moderately flying colors. I reached thousands of people, changed some minds, built a coalition, inspired and motivated some other activists, and got some extremely favorable exposure for my local Libertarian Party.
Oh, I also laid the groundwork for the future of our local Bill of Rights Defense Committee -- among other things, the local radio station has agreed to broadcast my proposed public forum where law enforcement will be asked to report on the impact of the war on terror in Nevada County and answer questions from the people. That's pencilled in for next February. :-)
I've been super-busy. Super-duper busy really. I only have a moment to post.
What have I been so busy doing? Planning a funeral for the Bill of Rights, appearing on the radio, writing a kick-ass op-ed piece, and helping to form a Bill of Rights Defense Committee in Nevada County.
You can see some of the fruits of my labor at my latest web creation-- the website for the Nevada County Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
Now I've got to eat dinner, and get back to coffin repair and gravestone painting.