Sunday, December 31, 2006

Our Founding Fathers Gift to Us

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Founding Fathers laid out for us exactly why we have a government. This is why. These 52 words, the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America says it all. And that is their greatest gift to us all.

Happy New Year

We the People

This government is being formed by the people of the United States of America. The Declaration of Independence states it clearly:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

This government was not some charter granted to us a foreign potentate. This government is a compact by of and for the people who consented to be governed by it.

in Order to form a more perfect Union

We had, of course, already secured our independence form Great Britian through the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War. The original compact beteween the thirteen original states was the Articles of Confederation . After the Revolution, the myriad problems with the Articles quickly made themselves manifest. The result was a call for a Constitutional Convention to create a govenmental compact to form a more perfect union.

establish Justice

After the who (We the People) and the what (to form a more perfect Union), the first why is to establish justice. It is important to note that the founding fathers found the idea of justice so compelling that it would be first i the list of they why's for creating this government. Perhaps it is especially noteworthy in a time when we have just so callously dumped habeus corpus.

insure domestic Tranquility

It was also clearly important to the Founding Fathers that our citizens be able to live in peace, free from domestic strife. We are agreeing here to bind ourselves together under a set of rules so that we may live in "domestic tranquility" or peace.

provide for the common defence

The Founding Fathers also recognized that it was a dangerous world out there. It was seen by bitter expererience that the most effective form of defense was a"common defence" as opposed to 13 seperate secretaries of defense. Maybe with Rumsfeld in there, 50 secretaries of defence slowing things down might not have been a bad idea.

It really is important to point out to my progressive friends that defense of the Constitution of the United States is one of the paramount jobs of government. It is not to carry a big stick, or to throw our weight around. But the sad fact is, there are people out there who reject everything our Constitution stands for and would kill enough of us to thow it onto the trash heap of history if they could. If the ideas represented here are not worth defending then you might as well kill me right now.

promote the general Welfare

I think this is the one that our Conservative friends seem to forget most about. Let's read this again:

promote the general Welfare

Imagine that. The government exists to promote the general welfare? Not the welfare of the multinational corporations or the large campaign contributors? The general welfare? Yeah, that one sort of baffles them. Kinda goes against the grain of their "government is bad" meme, doesn't it.

and last, but certainly not least,

secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

The government was formed to secure the blessings of liberty? How can that be? Government is anti-liberty. Less government is liberty. Well, not according to our Founding Fathers. They recognized that in order to secure the blessings of liberty, there must be a government in existence to ensure that those blessings are not given, sold or otherwise seduced away from us. So, when Newt Gingrich suggests that we ought to give up our First Ammendment Rights for a little security, be sure and point he and his friends towards the ultimate reason we have a government:

to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and ourPosterity

Friday, December 29, 2006

2007 Que Sera Sera 2nd Quarter Picks

In the 1st Quarter of 2007, we looked ahead to the high (low?) lights coming up to start the New Year.

Now for the 2nd Quarter...

The Major League Baseball season begins. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays lose their first 11 games, but team officials say not to worry, we're just getting started.

The Florida Gators win their second straight NCAA Final Four Championship, beating UCLA in the finals. The Governator pays off his bet with Florida Governor Charlie Crist by sending Maria to Tallahassee to serve as Charlie's First Babe.

The House Government Oversight Committee questions Vice President Dick Cheney under oath in public. The Vice President testifies that he did nothing illegal in his private meetings with energy companies when setting the Bush Administration energy policy. Four oil company executives then testify that Cheney made them funnel ill gotten profits to the Carlyle Group.

The House Judiciary Committee begins investigating Cheney for perjury. Cheney vows never to pull a Spiro Agnew and resign.

No one files their Federal Income Tax return on paper this year. The first ever 100% automated filing season causes communication hubs to crash at 11:55 PM on April 15th. 25 million tax returns are lost when IRS workers try to record their arrival on their touch screen tax review machines. Congress is investigating.

Speaking of touch screen machines, the plaintiffs in the FL-13, the computer ate 18,000 vote lawsuits, reported that the ES&S software they examined turned out to have been riddled with bugs - real bugs - tiny mites who ate holes in the disks that the source code was stored on, creating an 18 1/2 minute gap of what sounded a lot like Alice's Restaurant.

The House Judiciary Committee votes 18-2 to impeach Dick Cheney. Cheney says Sprio Agnew should never have resigned and pledges he will not. "No way I'm going to let them replace me with Tom Tancredo."

US troops mark the half way point in their pull out from Iraq. John McCain wants to send the other half back in a surge to gain control of the Green Zone.

George W Bush tells Iran they have weeks, not months to comply with a 5 month old UN Resolution ordering them to halt uranium enrichment. Iranian President AShmajdbhghfjj or whoever he is, sends a letter to Bill Bennet explaining why Bush's actions are immoral. Bennet responds, "I wouldn't bet on it."

Al Gore wins the Oscar for Best Documentary for his film An Inconvenient Truth. In his acceptance speech Gore thanks George Bush for giving him time off to make the film, and oh, by the way, I'm running for President.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

John Edwards 2008 ???

John Edwards announced his candidacy for President of the United States in New Orleans today. To paraphrase a line from my favorite movie, Casablanca, "I'm shocked, shocked to hear there is campaigning going on here. And here are your delegates, Senator." Edwards has been practicallyliving in Iowa for the past two years. It has been paying off for him. He has been leading the polls there until being tied by Barack Obamain the most recent poll.

The line up of Democratic primaries in 2008 is very much in John Edwards favor. He is well positioned to win Iowa and Nevada. He need not worry so much about New Hampshire, but must do well in South Carolina. Winning 3 out of the 4 first contests in 2008 would make Edwards the clear favorite for the 2008 nomination. That kind of success potential should give Edwards a real leg up in the money primary as well.

The Edwards message is one that he has been honing for the past 3 years. His "two Americas" message has been reinforced by his One America PAC. He has already put a video up on >YouTubeand live blogged at DailyKostoday. He is doing a Live on Line Town Hall Meeting tonight, from, you guessed it, Des Moines,Iowa. If this is not a nod to Time Magazine's Person of the Year, you, I don't think we'll ever see one.

I was leaning towards former Virginia Governor Mark Warner until he took himself out of the running before the 2006 mid term elections. Since then, I have been sitting back trying to see if someone will really grab my attention. In 2003, I was intensely curious about Howard Dean. But when it became clear that Bob Graham was going to run, there was no question in my mind who I was going to support.

There are still a few more days in 2006 left. The question now is, do I become a 2006 supporter of (fill in the blank), or do I stay on the sidelines watching the game unfold? It had been my intention to wait a while to see what developed. But I have submitted a question to the Edwards Town Hall meeting tonight. I asked the same question of John Kerry in March of 2003. There is no way that Edwards can fail to give a better answer than Kerry gave, but I am going to reserve judgement until I get an answer to my question:

Senator, the Republicans win because they win a solid South. How do you
plan to win in the South?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2007: Que Sera Sera Ist Quarter Picks

Cheers to Bill in Portland Maine for taking a look back at 2006 in his Cheers and Jeers Diary on DailyKos. At this time last year, who' a thunk it?

But as 2006 draws to a close, I find myself looking ahead to what 2007 will bring. So, I am dusting off my cracked and off center crystal ball and taking a swing and probably more than a few misses. But as the old song goes:

Que sera, sera,

whatever will be, will be,

the future's not ours to see,

Que sera, sera.

So, here goes ...

Cross posted from Florida Kossacks

January 2007

Barack Obama will announce his candidacy for President of the United States on Oprah.

Hillary Clinton will go on Oprah and Oprah will tell her not to run.

The Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers win their conference championships and will meet in Super Bowl XLI.

The Florida Gators beat Ohio state University and secure their second national championship in the last 12 months to go along with their NCAA hoops championship.

The House of Representatives will refuse to seat either candidate from FL-13 and a special election will have to be held to fill the seat.

February 2007

Nancy Pelosi is named Valentine of the Decade as the first female speaker of the House. And oh BTW, her 100 hour program sails thorough Congress and is signed into law by the President.

The Chicago Bears led by a strong performance by former Gator QB Rex Grossman win the Super Bowl in a thrilling over time game.

Kathleen Sebelius announces her candidacy for President of the United States on The Daly Show.

March 2007

Spring Training begins in Florida. The special election in FL-13 has more money spent than in any other House election ever. Jennings wins going away. All the votes are cast by paper absentee ballots.

The first Army brigade of US troops withdraws from Iraq to mark the beginning of the phased withdrawal of all US troops.

Nude dance king Joe Redner is elected Mayor of Tampa, pledging to run a completely transparent government.

OK, that's the first quarter of 2007. I think that's enough for now. All snarky comments are welcome, if I can snark back. Also, suggestions for the 2nd quarter of 2007 greatly appreciated.

Monday, December 25, 2006

How to Talk to Small Business People

Today we are back on track. The last two weeks have been spent on How to Talk to the Main Stream Media. While I personally thought they would be very useful, they did not get overwhelming responses. That's OK though, it was good exercise for me to run through my own personal do's and don'ts when dealing with the media.

How to Talk to Small Business People has a more "traditional" goal. Once again we will be trying to convince people who should be agreeing with us that we have the better ideas, and that our candidates are the better ones because they espouse these ideas and values. We need to do this in such a way as that our subjects will not be immediately turned off to our arguments before we even get started.

Speaking of getting started....

Cross Posted at Florida Kossacks

Small businesses create more jobs and are the sources of more innovations than any other segment of our society. They have a very strong sense of self reliance and personal accountability. Community is highly valued by Small Business People. The operate their businesses and employ people in our communities. They raise their families and worship together with us in our communities. They give back to their communities by serving in Kiwanis, Optimists, and all other manner of civic organizations, both international and local in scope.

Small Business People also vote overwhelmingly Republican. They are mistaken in their understanding of what the Republican Party stands for (by its deeds, not by its words). Most Small Business People are moderate by nature - they want their products and services to be sought out by the widest range of potential customers possible. Time and again, that has been shown to be in the "broad middle".

Define the Overarching Strategy

What is the best strategy to use when deciding How to Talk to Small Business People? It is not much different than in talking to any other segment of society you wish to persuade. The first thing to do is to identify which among your values is most applicable to this subject. Emphasize those values that are shared by the subjects, in this case Small Business People. Any facilitator of conflict resolution worth his or her own salt will first seek to identify areas of common agreement. We should view this exercise no differently.

Small Business People value personal accountability. They know full well that given an even chance, they and they alone, are responsible for their own success or failure. Small business people value community. They raise their families, worship and run their businesses in their communities. They are the backbone of the Kiwanis, the Optimists and other civic organizations. They run for City Council, belong to the Chamber of Commerce and support their churches and local charities.

Small Business People value independence and freedom from over burdensome governmental regulations. Their trade group is the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The issues that are important to them include competition, government and regulatory reform and tax relief. The NFIB website proudly proclaims:
Advocacy is a top priority for NFIB.

Their list of legislative accomplishments includes tax relief and "tort reform" amongst others.

Define the Terminology

Small Business People tend to self identify as Republicans because they believe the Republican Party is the party of business. They are only partially correct. The Republican Party is the party of big business. The Gopers give a lot of lip service to small business but that's about all they really give them. All the major legislative efforts of the Republicans have been centered on benefiting big business. Very little is actually done with small business people as the major focus.

Tax rollbacks on the very wealthy are a good example. The Republicans claimed that rolling back the tax cuts for the very wealthy would negatively impact small business people, and therefore hurt job creation, the economy, mother hood and apple pie. The truth of the matter is that most small business people are able to arrange their financial affairs in such a way as to not show very high taxable incomes. Where they are running into real problems is with the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) . This is a tax scheme that was devised to keep the super rich from avoiding paying taxes at all. It has not been modified to keep up with the times, however. So now it is going to ensnare people it was never meant to cover. We can go a long way to getting small business people on our side by making AMT reform a priority.

Fair competition is another area that small business people are getting lied to by the Republicans. I am going to use Wal Mart as an example only here. Small business people don't like the idea of welfare or government subsidies. Because of their sense of community, most of them want to provide and many do, health and other benefits for their employees. What they don't realize is that companies that hire primarily part time employees and pay them no benefits and low wages are getting subsidized by the government. These part time employees get free health care from the government when they get sick. Many of them are on food stamps and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Even though they are working, many work 2 or more jobs, their incomes are still low enough to qualify for government assistance.

When you explain to a small business person that the big company he is competing with is getting these subsidies from the government, they tend to get very unhappy. Usually when they think about welfare, they only think about the Welfare Queens ripping off the government. They don't stop to think that their competition is benefiting from the welfare system by having the government pick up the spread between a living wage and what they are actually paying their employees. When you explain that to a small business person, the idea of a living wage begins to look a whole lot more reasonable to them.

The other argument that Republican use against raising the minimum wage or a living wage is that it will cost jobs and put small business people out of business. Many states have a higher minimum wage than the Federal Minimum Wage. In Florida, we passed a State Constitutional Amendment raising the minimum wage and indexing it for inflation. Florida is still leading the nation in job creation. Scratch that argument. Small business people understand economics. After they get that the government is subsidizing below living wage paying employers, they are susceptible to another argument. That is that if you can't afford to pay a living wage ( not get the government to subsidize you), economically you should not be in that business. A truly free market would force you out of business without the government subsidies. Small Business People really get that argument.

Mangle the Memes

You are not going to get through to Small business People unless you can get past the memes that they have bee indoctrinated on since birth. Use examples to show them that the Republican Party is not the party of rugged individualists, but is instead the party of corporate welfare.

Small Business People tend to be on the patriotic side. Be ready to show them that Dems are competent to keep us safe from terrorists and will otherwise protect our national security. After all, most people now get that Dumbya did not make us safer by invading Iraq.

Don't let them get away with calling us "tax and spend" Dems. Remind them that it was a Dem President who balanced the budget and left office with a surplus. Also, it is the Dems in Congress who are bringing back pay - go budgeting. That's something small business people really understand.

We have more in common with the Small business community than most people think. We have a lot more in common with them than the Republicans really do. The Gopers have just done a better job of convincing the small business community that they share their values. In fact, we share more values in practice than the Gopers do.

If you can remember to speak to small business people in terms of our shared values, you have a very good chance to get them away from the Dark Side. You will at least have made them think about it.

And that's a start.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Iraq: What We Should Really Do

I have stayed away from diarying about Iraq. Lots of very bright people have been writing about it. I have been focused on the 2006 elections, nationally and here in Florida. I just didn't want to do it.

The elections are over now. WE WON!!! Unfortunately, we didn't win everything we wanted. I dearly wanted Jim Davis to win in FL-Gov. It was not to be. But, we did win a giant referendum on Iraq. Now the President is acting like he is leading a different country than the one that just soundly rejected his vision for Iraq.

So, here I am. I have no excuses for not writing this. Some of you are not going to like what I have to say. Others might. In any event, here is my two cents worth...

First thing, I ought to tell you a little about me. I am old enough to have spent 4 years in the Marine Corps and 13 months in South East Asia. (Viet Nam mostly, but also some other places in that general neck of the woods.) Up until the last few years, I thought this country had actually learned some lessons from Viet Nam. Until ole George W got into his mach0 act.

I long ago came to my own terms with Viet Nam. It was a mistake to have gone there in the first place. We didn't fight the war in a way that would give us a chance to "win". But the men and women who served there did so honorably and felt they were serving the best interests of their country at the time. It was not until several years later that I saw how wrong it was for us to have gotten involved there. But our involvement there did figure into the larger scheme of events and in its own way contributed to the eventual freedom of Eastern Europe. All part of history.

I was not in favor of this war from the beginning. I did not believe that Iraq was an imminent threat to the national security of the United States, and couldn't fathom why Dumbya did. But neither am I a pacifist. There are people out there who want to harm us. I have no problem whatsoever doing it to them before they can do it to us. I would just prefer we focus on the real bad guys out there. There are certainly enough of them. We didn't need to invent any new ones.

On that score, I was in complete agreement with Senator Bob Graham. During the debate for the Authorization of Use of Military Force in Iraq (AUMF), Senator Graham introduced a substitute amendment. The Graham amendment left the Iraq request intact. It added other trouble makers such as Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Syria etc. Graham, who was Chair of the Senate Intelligence committee at the time, urged his colleagues to approve his amendment because there were other bad actors out there who had in fact already killed Americans and wanted to kill some more.

Well, the Graham amendment was defeated. The Bush administration did not want the focus on Iraq to be diluted. Senator Graham's speech the next day on the resolution that ultimately passed should be required reading for every critic of the war.

tonight I am going to vote no on this resolution. The reason is this
resolution is too timid. It is too limiting. It is too weak. This resolution
fails to recognize the new reality of the era of terrorism. And that reality is
that war abroad will, without assertive security actions, increase the prospects
of terrorist attacks here at home. In fact, war on Iraq alone leaves
Americans more vulnerable to the No. 1 threat facing us today, those
international terrorist organizations that have the capability to inflict upon
us a repeat of the tragedy of September 11.

Graham closed his speech with this:

Of all the issues we care about, and those issues over which we have
some capability to determine the outcome, in my judgment, the No. 1
priority should be the war on terrorism and its threat to the people of
the United States in our homeland. Our top targets should be those
groups that have the greatest potential to repeat what happened on
September 11, killing thousands of Americans. Passing this timid resolution, I fear, will only increase the chances of Americans
again being killed. That is not a burden of probability I am prepared
to accept. Therefore, I will vote no.
I close with the words spoken in one of the darkest periods of the
history of the Western World. In 1941, Winston Churchill said:

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and
easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can
measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.
The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that
once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of
policy, but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable

Now to the nub of it. What should we be doing now? There are all these dire predictions of the region falling into chaos if we withdraw precipitously. Sounds a lot like the old "domino theory" to me. We all now that didn't come to pass. , But maybe we just got lucky that time. Maybe this is a different set of circumstances.

Here is my proposal. I don't want to lose a single more American life refereeing the civil war going on in Iraq right now. Neither do I want to risk that the bad actors adjacent to Iraq will use our absence to their advantage. My proposal is that we immediately inform the Iraqis that they are responsible for their own internal security. We will pull our forces back to the Iraqi borders or into Kuwait and / or Turkey. We will provide external security to Iraq for a limited time period.

This should deter Iraq's neighbors from making mischief in the area. At the same time we should be talking to all of Iraq's neighbors to get them to buy into a solution for Iraq's external security that will allow us to remove all our combat forces from Iraqi soil. This should begin immediately.

So there you have it. It has some elements of the Murtha plan. It has some elements of the ISG report. And it has ideas borrowed from elsewhere. If I were in a position to advise the President, that's what I would be telling him we ought to do. I am not, so I am suggesting this alternative to you.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How to Talk to the Main Stream Media - Part 2

Authors' Note: This is the fourth in a series of "How to Talk to..." diaries.

Last week in "How to Talk to the Main Street Media" we laid out some general parameters about the media as a whole. We then proceeded to apply them only to the daily print media. This week we are going to apply these general parameters to two extreme ends of the news media.

Periodicals and Television are polar opposites in terms of the length of the news cycle and the immediacy of impact.However, the one that is more important just might surprise you...

Defining the Overarching Strategy

Last week we revealed a slightly different goal than is usual for this series. We are not trying to persuade an individual of the rightness of our position on an issue, or the worthiness of a candidate. In talking to the MSM, our goal is to use them to help us achieve those objectives.

According to the top rated TV show on broadcast television drew in 23 million viewers last week. 60Minutes, the top rated TV news magazine attracted 15.8 million viewers. These are still very sizable portions of the American populace.On cable, top rated (non sports) shows and movies draw over 6 million viewers. Still nothing to sneeze at. Queen of syndicated talk shows, Oprah Winfrey, draws over 8 million viewers per day. With those kinds of audiences, television is not going away any time soon either.

The draw of television is its immediacy of impact. The proverbial gathering around the water cooler discussions of last night's TV shows do in fact occur. High impact TV events are reported on in the print media and on the internet. Television reports on print media happenings. It's all a very symbiotic relationship. Still, the key to television is its immediacy of impact.

On the other side of the coin are print periodicals. These include everything from obscure quarterly technical journals to weekly alternative magazines. They are about as far removed from immediacy of impact as you can imagine. That does not mean they do not have a very important role to play in molding public opinion. In fact, one could argue that print periodicals are both the most important media for influencing public opinion, and the easiest to influence. A perfect opportunity to influence change, if you have a mind to do so.

Define the Terminology

In college, lo so many years ago, I took a course on identifying change and tracking emerging trends. I just spent a fruitless hour searching for useful links on the subject without any luck. So, here's what is still floating around in my old and graying brain cells. If you want to spot emerging trends and changes, there is a method to do it. If you have a long term view about influencing change, you can use the change identification methods to actually influence that change.

So, what does all this have to do with print periodicals, you ask? Here's what. One of the first places you see new ideas discussed is in trade and academic journals and technical publications. You can get the ball rolling about changes you would like to see happen by suggesting a topic, or writing an article for one of these publications; or seeking out and building relationships with the editors of these publications. The next places that change is talked about is in the back pages of general circulation periodicals, or in alternative magazines. Then they will show up as featured articles in general circulation periodicals. Finally, they will make their way into the newspapers and television news reports. By then, the change has arrived. And you may have started it by a purposeful conversation with the editor of a trade or academic journal.That is why I believe that print periodicals are both the easiest to influence and the most important ways to introduce change into society, or in political thought, or whatever it is you want to influence. However, this requires patience and persistence.

On the other end of the spectrum is television news. If you want to get something out in the Main Stream Media right now, the place to go is television. Local television news is also much easier to influence than you might think possible. Most of the same methodology that applies to daily print media also applies to television. There are some important differences to consider.

Remember that TV is both an audio and a visual medium. If you are planning an event that you want to have covered by the local TV news, don't forget to think about the visuals. Visuals are a powerful tool to reinforce the message of your event. Just think about those hokey backdrops the Gopers use for their events. Even if you have the sound off, the backdrop tells you what their message of the day is.

Go to your local TV stations web sites. They all provide you with contact information to get word of your events to them. Get them in your address book and tag them press or something else so you can readily get at your list of press contacts.

TV news generally runs on a 24 hour cycle. Local news casts usually have their editorial / scheduling meetings in the mornings for the next 24 hour cycle. So, if you are having an event today, you should have had your press release to the TV station yesterday at the latest.

TV stations like email more and more as the preferred method of receiving press releases. It makes it that much easier for the gatekeeper at the TV station to distribute your press release to the right people.

Like daily print, nothing works better than developing a personal relationship with the reporters and producers at the station. TV people are even easier to spot at events than print media types. They actually appreciate folks who can help them with their story. If you develop a good relationship with a TV reporter, and you get them to care about an issue you are supporting, they can be your ally in those editorial meetings. They will actually fight to get your issue on their air.

It is all about relationships. Nowhere is this more true than dealing with periodicals. This is actually the area that is the easiest to influence, if you are patient and persistent. You must also be aware of the deadlines that apply to this sector of the media. The major difference here is that these deadlines come up much earlier for weekly and monthly or even quarterly publications. Most of these publications will provide contact information, and perhaps even submission deadlines. Plan accordingly. Study these periodicals and get a feel for what types of stories appeal particularly to them. Use this to your advantage by providing them story ideas or events that fit the bill for them.

The most intriguing aspect of periodicals to me is that you can actually plant seeds of change here and watch them grow. Of course, like any other thing that grows, it needs care and feeding. I can kill anything live that grows, but I have been able to use my ink stained thumb (no green thumb here) to plant seeds of change and I can actually see the physical results. That's a pretty cool feeling!

Mangling the Memes

The same themes apply here as with the print media. Avoid the "spin" and "talking points" traps. Be ready to defend your "spin" or "talking points", and be wiling to concede their weak points. Credibility is a bankable asset. Being known as only a spinner or a talking points spouter causes considerable withdrawals from the credibility bank account. Your influence with the media is directly proportional to the credibility in your account. Don't just parrot what the official line of your candidate or your cause. Be creative.

One of the most useful things you can provide to the MSM is background and context. This is particularly important in this age of budget constraints at the MSM. In the bad old days, MSM types developed some level of expertise in the subject matter they covered. They either came in with that background, or they stayed on that beat long enough to gain an understanding of the subject matter. These days, almost everyone is a generalist, particularly at newspapers and TV stations. They probably don't know jack about the subject matter. If you can become their trusted "expert" for background information, you will become incredibly more effective in getting your message out through the MSM.

Relationship building with MSM types can not be over emphasized. Remember, these are mostly just folks trying to do their jobs. Like any other group of individuals, some do it well, others not so well. The other major thing to remember is to work with the MSM types on the deadline pressures they are under. Get your news releases to them in a timely manner. Do your relationship building when they are not bumping up against their deadlines. Get them to think of you as an asset to them, not as an insufferable pain in the ass.

Go out there and make the story better.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Orlando Homeless Documentary

Jackie Dowd posted this video. She is also a lawyer and homeless activist. Go check her site out.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Gatordem On Talking to the Media

Gatordem has a post on how activists should talk to the media. (Note: I don't use MSM.) I have no major points to add. Except that it's harder then it sounds. Just getting bloggers to discuss my David Caton Challenge was frustrating enough. Shakes and Mustang Bobby helped greatly by linking to it. It still didn't go nowhere. I don't have the resources and blogging clout to take on Caton. It was a good lesson in how online activism works.

The truth is you are not going to win every fight. The lefty bloggers fought against the bankruptcy bill and lost. Badly. Democrats in both houses caved. But if you believe in what you are doing is right then you should continue to try and make improvements in this country. It's the right thing to do. That sounds cheesy, but many people are too apathetic to care.

That kind of disregard helps the self-serving and callous. Imagine if the Left didn't fight to regain both Houses. We would have Speaker Hastert again. Or perhaps Speaker Delay. Ponder that last sentence for a moment.

How to Talk to the Main Stream Media

Authors Note: This is the second in a weekly series of "How to talk to Diaries".

Last week, in "How to Talk to Fear Mongers", we discussed terminology and tactics for conversations with our friends who believe that Republicans do a better job handling terrorism than Democrats would do. We also talked about how to counter their memes.

From some comments I have received, both here and elsewhere, it appears that I didn't do a good job explaining the goal of this series, and perhaps used not the best examples to get my point across. Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. I shall take them to heart as we proceed in this series.

Today we are going to do something a little bit different in this series. In talking to the Main Stream Media, our goal is a little bit different than it will be for most of the rest of this series. The goal here is to persuade the MSM to publish articles that you want to see published, or to cover stories that you want to see covered. You may ask questions that you want to see asked, or to get the MSM to use words that you have suggested to them. Does this sound like a tall order? Well, it really is not as difficult as it might seem. But, you have to know the rules of the game...

Defining the Overarching Strategy

Here our goal is slightly different than in other conversations we are going to have. We are not trying to persuade the MSM that our party has the better candidate or the better ideas. Here we are going to try to get the MSM to do that for us. They will not do it because they believe that we have the better candidate or the better ideas. They will do it if you can get them to think it is what they ought to do.

If this appears manipulative, well, that's because it is. The MSM is manipulated by others on a daily basis. On DailyKos, we see complaints literally daily about the MSM this, or the MSM that. Instead of just complaining about it, we are going to do something about it. We are going to do this because we value Community and Honesty.

As much as we like to think that the MSM is becoming less and less relevant, the fact remains that the MSM still has tremendous influence in our society. Here is but one example. In an AP story published on the web last week , Media company E.W. Scripps Co. reported

it anticipates 2007 newspaper revenue growth in the low single digits, with most
of the growth coming from newspaper internet enterprises.Revenue from the
Scripps Networks unit is seen gaining between 10 percent and 13 percent for the
year. Scripps Interactive Media, which includes Shopzilla and uSwitch, is
expected to show a 2007 profit between $80 million and $85 million.Revenue at
the company's television station group is expected to decline between 3 percent
and 5 percent next year due to significantly less political advertising revenue.

Scripps newspaper revenue is still growing at greater then the rate of inflation. Its online enterprises are expected to add $80 million in revenues next year and its television stations revenues are growing at a double digit rate. This is but one media conglomerate. With this kind of cash flow, the MSM is not going away anytime soon.

Define the Terminology

This section is also different than other parts of this series. Here we must learn to play on the other guy's turf. Once we become proficient at that, we can maneuver them onto our battlefield. First, though, we must engage them on their own playing field. I order to do this effectively, we have to understand the rules of their game.

The first lesson you must learn is to understand the pressures on the different parts of the media. A daily newspaper has a different news horizon than a weekly magazine, which is different still from a television station or a network news operation. Cable news operations have different news cycles as well.

Some of your better media companies will hold public seminars on this topic from time to time. They do not do this for purely philanthropic reasons. As they have struggled to compete in this electronic age, they are relying more and more on community input for their original news sources. There is no reason that you can not be an active member of this community input group. There is every reason that you should.

In order to keep this brief, here is a quick rundown on the different ways you can influence newspaper coverage:

· Daily newspapers, as their name implies, have a one day horizon for news events. Columnists, editorial boards and investigative reports are not so tied in to this cycle except when they come up on deadline for publication.
· If you have a press release announcing an event you want to see publicized in advance and then covered as a news event, there are some things to keep in mind:
· You must get your press release to the paper in time for the editors to consider including your announcement on a timely basis. It does you no good for your release to reach the paper after it has been "put to bed" the day before your event.
· You must find a way for your release to stand out from the many others received at the larger newspapers every day.
· You should write your press release in the form of a news story. Get familiar with the style of the newspaper where you are sending your release. Attempt to follow that style in your release. Newspapers are operating with less and less staff resources than ever before. The less work the paper has to do with your release to get it ready for print in their paper, the greater the likelihood that your release gets published.
· If you want your event to get press coverage, you must organize your event in such a way as to distinguish it from the everyday "dog bites man" story. Try to understand the newspapers theory of what news is. If you can have a celebrity participate in your event, so much the better. If you want to put a celebrity or public official on the hot seat, that works as well.
· If you wish to influence news coverage, here are some other things to keep in mind:
· Develop relationships with the reporters.
· Provide them with insights into the story that you know and they may not.
· Introduce them to people who would be of interest to them.
· Never lie to or mislead a reporter. This will destroy any credibility you have built up with them. Credibility is like a savings account. Providing useful information to reporters increases your credibility account balance. Being less than honest with a reporter is the quickest way to overdraw your credibility account.
· Provide them frames you would like to see in print.
· There are many ways to develop relationships with reporters.
· Most newspapers will publish the email address and phone number of the author of a news story or column. Send an email complimenting the good work of a reporter or columnist. If you can, try to include some piece of information relative to the subject that the piece did not mention, and the author may have been unaware of. Do not start off a relationship with a critical email or phone call.
· When you go to events, try to strike up a conversation with a reporter. They are usually pretty easy to spot. They will be the people in the back of the room with their notebooks and / or tape recorders in hand. Often they will be wearing their credentials. If you don't spot them right away, look for the gaggle of folks surrounding the news maker after the event. Chances are there will be reporters among them.
· Be mindful of the daily work cycle of the newspapers.
· Editorial Boards meet in the mornings to consider what stories they will assign to reporters that day for publication in tomorrow's paper. If you want something reported on, make sure you get the information to the newspaper at least one day before.
· Late afternoon Editorial Board meetings decide what will be in the paper the next day, and where they will be placed.
· Late afternoon and early evening is when reporters are bumping up against their deadlines. Don't call reporters for relationship building between 4 and 7 P.M. Interrupting them when they are trying to meet their deadline is not a way to endear yourself to a reporter.

For the sake of brevity, dealing with TV stations and weekly news magazines will be left to part II of How to talk to the MSM.

Mangling the Memes

MSM types are not universally stupid. In fact, there are some very bright, if skeptical people, working in the MSM. At some point in your relationship with them, they will accuse you of two very common memes. These are the "spin" and the "talking points" memes. You must be prepared to defend yourself from these accusatory memes.

To counter the "spin" meme:
· Make sure that your "spin" is fact based.
· Be ready to refute the "counter spin".
· Do not become known as a hopeless spinner. Be willing to concede the weak points in your side of a story.

To counter the "talking points" meme:
· As with the "spin" meme, make sure your talking points are reality based.
· Be ready to refute the other sides talking points on the issue.
· Try to avoid becoming known as a talking point spouter. Re-word or paraphrase the talking points. Try to paint them in a new light, instead of the same old, tired talking points on a subject.

The MSM is still an important player in the development of attitudes and policies in this country. In fact, many diaries here often are sparked by some event reported in the MSM. The MSM is manipulated all the time. They expect to be manipulated. If you can make yourself reliable and useful to them, they will end up calling or emailing you for your take on a story. Good communications people are always trying to "make the story better" for the view point or candidate.

Be careful to avoid being known solely as a "spinner" or a "talking points spouter". Your usefulness to the reporter will be greatly diminished if that becomes the perception of the reporter. They expect those things from official spokespeople. Your value to them is going to come from your "non-official" take on people and events.

Go out there and make the story better.

Charlie's Inauguration Donors

After the PR fallout, Charlie Crist has released the list of donors to his inauguration committee.

The list of donors includes private prison contractor The Geo Group, which gave $50,000, while U.S. Sugar also kicked in $50,000. Boca Raton aviation company Trigeant Air gave $100,000. Powerhouse Fort Lauderdale law firm Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky Abate donated $25,000 while Tallahassee law firm Bryant Miller & Olive gave $10,000. Oviedo agriculture giant A. Duda & Sons donated $25,000.

That's some party that Charlie almost threw. He had a keen enough political ear to admit, "I made a mistake, and, yes, it was a doozy." That's rare in politics and I'll give him credit for that. I'm wondering why he wanted such a lavish inauguration.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Friday Morning Group

Friday Morning Group
There was an interesting meeting this morning in Downtown St. Petersburg. A rather eclectic group gathered at 8 ish to talk about artists and the arts in St. Petersburg. Included in this group:

Former Director of a theatre foundation
An attorney who is also a singer and actor
A gallery owner
A volunteer public art docent
A poet and promoter
An art gallery marketing director
A travel writer
An executive from the Pinells County Cultural Council
A Political and governmental relations consultant (guess who)

These were all members of a group that had met regularly for about 2 years until it sort of dwindled away. The group is fairly loosely organized, as befits the varied nature of its participants. There is no formal agenda. There is no chair person. People come and go as necessary. Nonetheless, the group has had a measurable impact on many things in St. Petersburg in the past few years.

The Manhattan Casino restoration was one of the first projects the group took on. The groups' efforts helped set the tone and feel for how the old ballroom upstairs was refurbished. If only we could get the soul food restaurant on the ground floor that we supported. Oh, well. Maybe someday in the not too distant future.

Also, the idea and practice of artists being able to live and work in the same location was spearheaded by the Friday Morning Group. A pair of very well known artists had moved to town and wanted to have their studio on the ground floor and live upstairs in an abondoned garment factory in the Old South East, Well, the city codes inspectors were really scratching their heads over that one. After much effort and consulatation, the city finally figured it out and our artist couple is now well ensconced in the old bra factory. (They hate it when I call it that.)

The Studio@620 is something that came directly out of the Friday Morning Group. The co-art directors were both charter members of the group. The group also put a lot of time in discussing the Florida Orchestra. The new, more casual look of the Orchestra's catolog is a direct result of the groups' conversation with the Orchetra. The Florida Orchestra is moving its headquarters to St.Pete due in no small measure to the efforts of the group.

A couple of years ago, a reporter from Creative Loafing sat in on one of the meetings of the group. We were discussing the Chamber of commerce brochure that proclaimed on its cover that St. Petersburg was the "City of the Arts". Well, our artists particularly thought that was just pretentious as hell and were pretty contemptible of the whole idea. Yes St. Petersburg is a good place for artists. It could be better. But to proclaim St. Pete as The City of the Arts? Hello.So we were discussing this foolishness and kicking around ideas. One of our memebers came up with this:

St. Petersburg is not the City of the Arts, the city is the art.

That comment wound up in print. I think that's a pretty good explanation of the Friday Morning Group. The beautiful City of St. Petersburg is the canvas that is our art work in progress. We continue to put more creative touches on it all the time.

It is a never ending project of love.

Monday, December 4, 2006

How to Talk to Fear Mongers

Authors Note: This is planned to be the first of a series of "How To Talk To" diaries.

A lot has been written lately about Newt Gingrich. He has been making a lot of news with his speech in New Hampshire where he suggested that in order to be free, we would have to give up some of our freedom. But KO raised an interesting question the other night. He was asking whether what Newt was really doing was getting ready to recycle the fear card. The fear card didn't really work for the Gopers this cycle. That's because it was overwhelmed by the fiasco that is Iraq and the corruption of Congressional Gopers.

That doesn't mean that the fear card is dead. It isn't. Whoever the Goper nominee is, he will attempt to play the fear card yet again. If we are going to get our guy or gal into the White House in 2008, we are going to have to learn how to trump the fear card.

Defining the Overarching Strategy

In talking to fear mongers, our goal is to show that our party and our nominees are better suited and have better ideas to deal with the challenges posed by the current state of affairs vis a vis terrorism. Our strategy will be shaped by this goal and the basic value of Community. It is incumbent upon us to provide security for our Community, to protect it from those who would do us harm, and thus harm our Community.

The perception on the part of Community members that this security is being provided enhances the well being of the community. Conversely, the perception that this security is deficient detracts from the well being of the community. To restate our goal, it is our goal is for the Community to perceive that the level of security that our party can provide is an acceptable level.

The ideas we will use to develop the message used to achieve our goal must be delivered in a way that the community can relate to. The community must receive our message in a way that resonates with them on a personal level. This can best by done by research and real world examples. First, some research.

Democracy Corps conducted a poll October 29 through November 1, 2006 that fairly predicted that the Democrats were going to win control of the House of Representatives in a big way. The poll was conducted in the 50 most competitive Republican held districts. This poll confirmed the work of DKos poll analyst supreme Steve Singiser in his diary HOUSE ANALYSIS--Why Red Districts May Matter More published on September 16, 2006. The most telling quote from this superb analysis is this:

In this case, I am starting to wonder if the numbers are trying to tell us something. The blue-purple districts matter, because they are on our natural terrain, and we have some awesome candidates there.

I think it would be prudent for the DCCC and the DNC, however, to give some serious love to the "flyover states."

Ironically, if an electoral tsunami develops in this election year, it might come from regions that are nowhere near an ocean

Who would have believed that the Democrats would pick up three seats in Indiana?

That's what first Steve Singiser and then Democracy Corps told us through research. Some key points relative to this discussion from the Democracy Corps poll:

• Terrorism and National Security was the third highest ranked issue, coming in behind only the War in Iraq and the Economy and Jobs . Defeating the fear card still matters.

Democrats trailed Republicans by 18 points on the question of who would do a better job on National Security.

This underscores the importance of being able to deal with the fear card. It is a very important issue, and the perception is that Republicans can do a better job at it then Democrats. The Iraq War was the number one issue this election cycle. I think we all hope and pray that it will not be the number one issue in the 2008 election cycle. However, with Iraq and Republican corruption out of the way, we must close the National Security gap on the Republicans. We must learn how to trump the fear card.

Define the Terminology

Defining the terminology in a war of wards is synonymous with choosing the battlefield. The first key tactic in trumping the fear card is refusing to play on the fear mongers’ battlefield. Their battlefield is littered with such discredited terms as “stay the course” and “cut and run”. Fear mongers are stubborn folks though, and they think the voters have short memories. Even if they abandon these terms temporarily, they will come back to them and their ideological cousins. Do not get trapped on the fear mongers’ battlefield. Our discussion on defeating the fear mongers’ is going to take place on the terms that we define.

The first term to define is the very conflict itself. We are always going to talk about the Conflict with Islamic Extremists. We should also refer to this as the Long Term Conflict with Islamic Extremists.

We are going to define the Main Battlefront in the Long Term Conflict with Islamic Extremists as the Battle of Ideas. Ultimately, this conflict will not be won on any physical battlefield, but on the metaphysical battlefield. This is going to be accomplished by working with the Moderate Elements in the Islamic World. In order to win the Conflict with Islamic Extremists, and the Battle of Ideas, our plans have to be Tough and Smart.

We have already seen the Bush Administrations’ ideas on how to fight this conflict. The voters have already, at least in their own minds, named this Tough and Stupid, and rejected that idea. The war in Iraq is a perfect example of this administrations’ pursuit of the Tough and Stupid battle plan. Cutting and Running in Afghanistan is another example of actually Not so Tough and Stupid.

The Bushies have also abandoned the Powell Doctrine. The Powell Doctrine speaks to the use of Overwhelming Force. What good is having the Finest Military in the World if we do not use our Conventional Superiority with Overwhelming Force? A perfect example of the Powell Doctrine is the 1991 Gulf War. There we took our time, built up our forces, engaged in a prolonged bombing campaign to debilitate the enemy, and proceeded to invade with Overwhelming Force and won the war in 96 hours. A perfect example of the abandonment of the Powell Doctrine in favor of the Tough and Stupid battle plan is the current Fiasco in Iraq.

In summary, the base of our terminology in describing the Long Term Conflict with Islamic Extremists is talking about the Conflict with Islamic Extremists as the Battle of Ideas. Our battle plan is to be Tough and Smart, and we will work with the Moderate Elements in the Islamic World. We are going to avoid the Failed Policy of Tough and Stupid that the Bushies have followed. We are not going to Cut and Run as the Bush Administration did in Afghanistan, leaving Osama bin Laden as Osama Been Forgotten.

Mangle the Memes

The final weapon in our inventory for Trumping the Fear Card is to Mangle the Memes. What this refers to is our Counter Attack Strategy. This Counter Attack Strategy is for us to reject every meme that the Bushies and their ideological successors lob at us.

We have already alluded to one such meme above, Cut and Run. Never let Cut and Run go unchallenged. Here are some counter attack lines to mangle this meme:

• The only cutting and running we have seen is this administrations cutting and running in Afghanistan.

• When the Bush Administration Cut and Ran in Afghanistan, they let Osama bin laden become Osama Been Forgotten.

• If the Bush Administration hadn’t Cut and Run in Afghanistan, they would not still be quoting Osama bin Laden. (This is actually a two-fer because it combines mangling Cut and Run with Bushies quoting Osama bin Laden.

Newt Gingrich was warming up the fear card with talk about Losing a City. Never let Losing a City go unchallenged. Here are some counter attack lines to mangle this meme:

• We have already lost a city under this Administration, its’ name is New Orleans.

• Condoleeza Rice talked about the Mushroom Cloud over a city to scare us into Iraq. I’m a lot more concerned about the Mushrooms they are eating.

• While the Bush administration had us Bogged Down in Iraq, the Real Mushroom Cloud Danger has been developing unhindered in Iran and North Korea.

The basic rule in mangling the meme is to never let a meme go unchallenged. The other side can only get away with this if you let them. So don’t let them.

In order to Trump the Fear Card, we determined which of our values applied to this problem. We defined our overarching strategy. We chose the battlefield by defining the terminology. And we counter attacked by mangling the memes.

Happy Hunting.

How to Talk to the Other Side

I plan to begin a series of “How to Talk to Diaries” tomorrow. The goal of the “How to Talk to Diary” series is to give you a foundation for talking to people who probably will agree with you, if you approach the subject in a manner that will not automatically cause them to reject your message before you have a chance to get to the meat of the matter. It is also to show that you can bring the other side around to your way of thinking without compromising your values. Another way of saying this is that you can be pragmatic and yet uncompromising.

As a starting point, we need to discuss values based decision making. This is how I try to approach every challenge or opportunity that I face. First and foremost, I cling to my values. Values are never compromised. From this starting point, decisions are made on how best to achieve the goals that stem from your values. Without getting into a long discussion about values, let me just give you what is, in my case, the root of all values:

Love thy neighbor as thyself
Every other value is derived from this root value. It is why I am a Democrat, because I have made a determination that this is the party that best suits my values.

Here is the framework we are going to use to Talk to the Other Side:

Define the Overarching Strategy
Define the Terminology
Mangle the Memes

Define the Overarching Strategy

Defining the overall strategy is the key to the entire process of Talking to the Other Side. When you talk to the other side, you should start with your goal in mind. So first, you need to define your goal. The next step is to determine which of your values apply to this goal. Only then can you determine the best overarching strategy to achieve your goal without compromising your values.

Define the Terminology

Defining the terminology is akin to choosing the battlefield. If you let the other side define the terminology, you will be fighting your battle on the other guys’ battlefield. Any tactician will tell you that he who determines the battlefield has the much better chance of winning the battle.

Mangle the Memes

The other side is not going to take all this lying down. They are going to counter attack you with their favorite memes. You are going to counter attack them by never letting a meme go unchallenged. You have already defined your terminology. You can mix up your counterattacks by using your predefined terminology in response to their memes, or you can turn their own memes back on them. Use either of these tactics, or both. You will confound your opposition and carry the day.

See you tomorrow with the first of the “How to Talk to” diaries.