Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

LIVE from Detroit: NSA Surveillance Reform: Pitfalls and Opportunities

Panel description: A recently launched campaign in Europe calls on individuals to “vote for [their] digital rights.” However, no such movement has caught on in the United States, despite the upcoming election cycle. Rallies and events—including the Rally to End Mass Surveillance and the Day We Fight Back—have demonstrated wide support for surveillance reform. By educating the public about surveillance issues, digital rights activists can ensure voters understand where their elected leaders stand on defending our privacy and Constitutional rights. The election year also offers an opportunity to engage with Congress members directly on surveillance. This panel will discuss the political environment around surveillance reform, including grassroots engagement and the potential for leadership on the issues. The panel will conclude with a discussion of the ongoing challenges faced in communicating to the public audience on the so-called “balance” between national security and civil liberties.

This panel is moderated by Amie Stepanovich who is Senior Policy Counsel at Access. Amie is an expert in domestic surveillance, cybersecurity, and privacy law. At Access, Amie leads projects on digital due process and responds to threats at the intersection of human rights and communications surveillance.

Americans do get that surveillance is happening even though Obama says it’s not. However many Americans believe that it doesn’t directly affect them. The real problem in America is that many believe that “If I am not doing anything wrong, I should have nothing to worry about.” So there is work to be done in order to make NSA surveillance an election issue.

One success in fighting NSA Surveillance was an amendment, the Massie-Lofgren Amendment, added to an annual defense spending bill to end backdoor spying and sabotage commercial software with backdoor entry points. But more work needs to be done. The unfettered surveillance has a chilling effect on our democracy.

Since 9/11 there is a lot of sharing of this information going on. Your personal information that the NSA collects can go all the way down to the “bungling local cop”.

JTTF, or Joint Terrorism Task Force has secret contracts with local law enforcement which essentially draft local law enforcement into acting as part of the federal anti-terrorism force.

Fusion Centers were created by US DHS to facilitate sharing the collected personal data. All this data can be used to profile individuals. For example, a Muslim who makes many calls outside the US could be labeled as a terrorist suspect.

President Obama’s planned reform of data collection will immunize corporations. It is actually an expansion because not only will call metadata be collection, but cell phone connections will be logged. For instance, just cell phones being in the same room, being in range of each other will be logged.

One violation of the law that is currently happening is that if someone is being investigated, queries to the NSA database will return all information logged within the previous 5 years. This includes all indiscriminate data.

Another problem is that not all congressmen have access to what is going on in the intelligence agencies. Congressmen who don’t have access are told to just go along with those members who are on the Intelligence Committee, because “they are the ones who have the information”. However, those on the Intelligence Committee are not sharing much information with other congressional members.

Another problematic issue is that with Obama’s reform, secrets classifications can be awarded to those outside of the government, such as bankers. This would mean bankers and people in other corporations could have access to your personal information that the NSA has collected.

Executive order 12333 is also problematic because there is no oversight, either by congress or the courts. Even though the executive order involves collecting overseas data, a lot of domestic data is collected through this as well. Even Feinstein, who defends the collection of surveillance data including cell phone meta data, has said that there are no privacy protections built in.

NSA lost its push for the Clipper Chip in a previous battle to enable backdoors in encryption, however, the NSA is still working on putting backdoors into encryption standards. One driving force for this in a “surveillance state” is money. There is a lot of money to be made in surveillance technology.

Call to action: call your representatives out on the NSA Surveillance issues. Impress upon them on how important the issue is to you. It is essentially a virtual “stop and frisk” policy that violates your rights. Use tools to protect your own privacy from surveillance. There are many options, but to get started, you can check out “Reset the Net” Privacy Pack.

LIVE from Detroit: Turn on the water! Panel addresses city’s unconscionable shutoffs

Peter Hammer, a law professor from Wayne State University opens the discussion. He began by introducing the concept of the “three R’s of Detroit” which include “Race, Regionalism, and Reconciliation.” He spoke most about “Spacial Racism” and demonstrated by showing a map of Detroit areas color coded to indicate varying level of economic opportunities. Areas of black population is overlayed on the map showing that these areas lay in the low economic opportunity areas. Hammer said, “In southeast Michigan and so many other cities, the segregation of race is also the segregation of wealth.”

Over half the people in Detroit could not pay their property taxes. 6,000 properties were up for foreclosure due to taxes due. Another 4,200 are in danger of foreclosure.

The best you can say about Detroit Water and Sewage is there is an extreme lack of empathy. He stresses, that we need empathy when dealing with these problems. Work is being done to stop evictions and foreclosures.

Abayomi Azikiwe spoke representing Moratorium Now Coalition that was formed in 2008 in response to the tsunami of foreclosures in Detroit. Detroit has the highest rate of home ownership in the country. The crisis really began in the late 1950s because that is when the loss of jobs and the loss of population of Detroit began.

The retirees in Detroit are under attack in the restructuring process. Predatory lending and refinancing took its toll on Detroit’s residents. Resulting foreclosures hurt Detroit’s revenue. There was a call to make the responsible banks pay. Azikiwe stressed “We need a sustainable recovery plan in Detroit. It’s not going to be done through privatization… We can’t allow anyone to tell us that we don’t own the water.”

A sustainable recovery plan is needed in Detroit, not forced bankruptcy and “Emergency Managers”. Azikiwe: “We need real jobs. Therefore, we need a real jobs program.”

Monica Lewis-Patrick spoke on behalf of a coalition “We the People of Detroit” that was formed in 2008 to fight mayoral control of the education system. They are fighting against the draconian, reptilian law called “Emergency Management”.  Lewis-Patrick: “We need to work and re-invent ourselves in this moment because we are finding that we are fighting the same battles again that were fought 50 years ago… We need to become a community that supports each other through these hard times”.

Meredith Begin is with Food and Water Watch. They believe water is a human right and it is a violation of that right to be shutting off water to Detroit residents. Begin asserted that “Corporations across the globe see water as the next oil.” Begin: “Lack of access to water and sanitation poses a huge health crisis. We’ve called on President Obama to declare a public health emergency here in Detroit and turn the water back on. We all need water for survival.” Lack of water is a real health crisis. Not only is water essential for life, lack of water is the source of disease.

Joan Ross from National Nurses United also spoke: “Look at where you are in the country right now. 21% of the world’s fresh water is here: in the Great Lakes region. We can’t afford to waste that and not give it to people who need it.”

The panel session closed with Maureen Taylor from Michigan Welfare Rights. She referred to the people in Detroit who are suffering without water. Some have been without water for a year. “We can’t keep looking at these mothers who are crying… This is insane.”

Referring to the audience, Taylor said: “You gotta leave here changed. You gotta leave here different…. I want to leave you with this message: You can’t stay like you were two or three hours ago…. Whatever it is that got you here at 9:30 this morning, you can’t go on the same.”

Taylor concluded the session with a reference to Spock from Star Trek: “I’m so proud to be in a room full of activists and visionaries… We can’t just think about this. Water is a human right. The needs of the many must always outweigh the needs of the few.”

LIVE from Detroit: Keynote with Debbie Stabenow, Mark Schauer

Good Morning from Detroit! This is the last day of the conference and we are beginning the day with keynotes from Mark Schauer, candidate to replace Snyder as governor of Michigan, and Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Lisa Brown is Schauer’s running-mate. Schauer promises to repeal “Right-To-Work-For-Less” and to support unions. Schauer promises equal pay for equal work. Schauer will work for affordable health care and will work with Obama and Stabenow on strengthening the auto industry in Michigan.

Stabenow welcomes Netroots to Detroit and thanks them for choosing Detroit for the location of the conference. “Detroit is a great city with great hard-working people who are working to turn Detroit around”. Stabenow thanks Betty Wiggens for creating gardens in the public schools in Detroit.

Michigan is #1 on clean energy patents. Michigan has created 70,000 jobs, but still has work to do to get employment back to where it was. Stabenow says it is an outrage that thousands in Detroit are without water.

“The game is still rigged for the majority and only benefits the few at the top”, say Stabenow and makes reference to the Koch brothers. “What we need is to raise everyone up with good jobs, healthcare, Social Security”. Stabenow says that everyone deserves a fair shot at getting ahead in Michigan.

“If a fair shot can work 100 years ago, a fair shot can work today”, Stabenow said in reference to the beginnings of the auto industry when good wages were paid.

“Too many students are left with only one choice for education and are left with mounds and mounds of debt.”  Stabenow reinforces the need for “equal pay for equal work”, good healthcare and Social Security.

Stabenow has introduced the “Bring Jobs Home Act” and asked everyone in the audience to call their Senators and Congressmen and ask them to support this bill. Stabenow says that we need to bring back the jobs that were off-shored.

Stabenow: “I need Gary Peters in the Senate” in calling for people to help organize and campaign to help Peters win the election.

Stabenow closes by reinforcing the need to keep up the good fight for progressive values.

Live from Detroit: Detroit, Rocked City: How the Bankruptcy Led to Retirement Attacks that Could Spread Nationwide

This panel is moderated by David Sirota. Panelists include Gwendolyn Beasley, Reesa Kossoff, and Diane Oakley.

Public pension attacks are happening nationally and are being driven by the Koch Brothers.

401k plans have not proven to save tax payer money over a Defined Benefit plan, in fact there are cases where state liability has increased. Pension plans also encourage employees with experience, which is good for public sector jobs such as teachers, police, and firefighters.

There are interest groups that are interested in Defined Benefit plans to push the investments into more aggressive plans. 401k plans have other interest groups that want to push investments into certain mutual funds, etc. All of this is a move to benefit Wall Street.

In Detroit, 1 year ago today, bankruptcy was officially filed. Bankruptcy was eventually approved. It was ruled that bankruptcy law trumped the Michigan Constitution meaning that pensions were not protected from the bankruptcy. The average pension in Detroit is $19K per year.

In the “Grand Bargain”, not only would pensions would be cut, it meant that healthcare benefits would be cut as well.  $125 stipend was offered for retirees to pay for their healthcare, which was not enough. The new plans also had a high deductible which hurt retirees. Detroit also claimed that they didn’t have enough money for dental and eye care. Detroit promised that by 2028 they will try to restore the retirees’ benefits.

Pensions have become underfunded because state and local governments haven’t been paying the contributions to the plans. The Sanctity of pension contracts is not being respected which ironically, big banks claimed that executive pay could not be cut during the bailout because of the sanctity of the contracts that these executives had.

Even though state governments such as New Jersey say that they don’t have the money for pensions, the government spends billions on corporate subsidies. It is a wealth transfer from retirees to the corporations and the rich.

One of the problems with Detroit is that it entered an extremely complex interest rate swap. Wall Street won in the deal and Wall Street was first in line in the bankruptcy to get paid.

More information can be found at the National Institute on Retirement Security and the National Public Pension Coalition.

LIVE from Detroit: Why Net Neutrality is a Social Justice Issue

This panel is moderated by Marissa Valeri who is Common Cause’s digital strategies manager. Panelists include Kim Lehmkuhl, Lauren Wilson, and Andi Zeisler.

From the panel description:

Earlier this year, a court overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) common sense net neutrality rules, which guaranteed the right of users to connect to the websites, blogs, and social platforms of their choice. Now, corporate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are free to block anything online, for practically any reason at all. So there’s nothing stopping your ISPs from censoring your access to the blogs and organizing tools you rely on every day. Each organization represented on the panel organized to restore net neutrality, culminating in the delivery of 1.1 million signatures to the Federal Communications Commission in January.

The battle for Net Neutrality faces many obstacles. Once issue is getting the public to understand what Net Neutrality means. Essentially it means equal access to content, which prohibits providers for giving some sites the fast lane and other sites the slow lane according to who pays to be on the fast lane.

Big telecom companies always find it cheaper to hire lobbyists that work to improve the bottom line at the expense of Net Neutrality. To help fight this issue one should blog about it, write editorials, support candidates that support Net Neutrality, and push to get the right people on the FCC who are knowledgeable and supportive of Net Neutrality.

One member of the audience brought up the issue of potential content filtering using deep packet inspection. It seemed that the panelists didn’t understand what he was referring to. Deep packet inspection is the process of opening the chunks of data that are traveling over the internet and inspecting the data contents. This is a technology that is used for legitimate purposes such as load balancing. However, it could potentially be used by ISPs to slow down or block content, which would certainly be a Net Neutrality issue.

Another from the audience brought up an issue related to deep packet filtering and how it would affect private networks, particularly VPNs. VPN traffic is encrypted which would prevent deep packet inspection, so does this mean VPN traffic would always be put in the slow lane? Certainly a valid question if Net Neutrality is lost.

Another audience member asked the panelists about how the proposed trade agreements would impact Net Neutrality and what their position is on it. The panelists responded that they do not have a position on that yet and eluded to a battle that they are having internally regarding that issue.

LIVE from Detroit: The Rise of Janet Yellen: Why the Fed Matters

The Federal Reserve wields great economic power; it is often said that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is the second most powerful person in America. In 2013, a ragtag coalition came together to fight for economic justice and work on an unprecedented campaign: to influence who would become the Chair of the Federal Reserve. Now the challenge is how to work with the new leadership of the Federal Reserve to promote a progressive economic agenda.

The Federal Reserve had mainly ignores the mandate of trying to keep “full employment” in the American economy. Within the last couple of years the Fed has started to pay more attention to employment. The Fed is doing this by keeping short term rates low and by buying long term bonds to keep long term rates low.

The deregulation that the Fed was a contributor to helped make our economy for financially oriented. The Fed has essentially been a failure in keeping our economy healthy.

Larry Summers was being considered for the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. There were many concerns over this including concerns over his attitude towards women. Janet Yellen was an alternative choice who was seen as a much better candidate for the position. With President Obama leaning toward Summers, a grass roots movement began to push for Janet Yelllen.

Janet Yellen has said that we must keep interest rates low while unemployment is high. However, the solution to preventing bubbles is not putting on the brakes as the economy begins to improve. The solution is more bank regulation.

 

 

LIVE from Detroit: Netroots Nation 2015 will be in Phoenix, Arizona next July 16th – 19th

Continuing a tradition begun last year in San Jose, Netroots Nation executive director Raven Brooks has chosen to reveal the location of next year’s convention on opening night so that early-bird ticket sales can begin while this year’s convention is still underway. Netroots Nation 2015 will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, from July 16th – 19th, and immigration reform will be a major topic of discussion.

“We haven’t yet won on this legislatively and we haven’t yet won with the Obama administration,” noted Brooks. “We’re mindful that we’re about to launch into the 2016 presidential cycle and it’s time to step up as a movement on this issue.”

“We want everyone aspiring for office in 2016 — from the President to the Senate to Congress to local elected offices – to know that if you don’t support taking real action on immigration reform, then you won’t win our community’s support.”

Next year’s convention will be the fourth held west of the Rocky Mountains. Previous gatherings took place in Las Vegas (2006), Chicago (2007), Austin (2008), Pittsburgh (2009), Las Vegas (2010), Minneapolis (2011), Providence (2012), and San Jose (2013), prior to Detroit this year.

Interestingly, the convention has never been held in a city observing Mountain Time. Arizona falls within that zone, but the time there corresponds to the Pacific time zone in the summer, spring, and autumn because the state doesn’t bother with daylight savings time like most of the country.

The average high in Phoenix in July is one hundred and three degrees Fahrenheit, so it will be plenty hot outside, but the convention will, for the most part, be in an air-conditioned building. Netroots Nation organizers have not yet announced the host hotels or official venue, but presumably it’s the Phoenix Convention Center.

LIVE from Detroit: Netroots Nation 2014′s opening night, in photos

Good evening from the Motor City, where the first day of Netroots Nation 2014 has just concluded! The team at NPI is unwinding after a long day of panels, trainings, and finally, keynotes, capped by an incredibly inspirational speech from Reverend Dr. William Barber II of North Carolina.

When we have more time, we’ll be sharing more highlights and perhaps even transcripts of tonight’s speeches. For the time being, we’ve put together a photo collage of tonight’s speakers for your enjoyment. We hope you enjoy these pictures. As you can see, Netroots Nation is a gathering of Americans who look like America. All of these photos were taken by Rennie and myself.

Chris Savage

Chris Savage of Electablog welcomes attendees of Netroots Nation to Detroit

Cristina Jiménez

United We Dream cofounder Cristina Jiménez explains that families torn apart by deportations can’t wait any longer for justice.

Joel Silberman

Joel Silberman of Media Talent 2.0 talks about the problems that stem from concentrated media ownership.

Ilyse Hogue

Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, explains what progressives are doing to overturn the Supreme Court’s awful Hobby Lobby decision.

Chuck Schumer

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer implores Netroots Nation to put pressure on House Republicans to demand a vote on comprehensive immigration reform this year.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia

National Education Association President-elect Lily Eskelsen Garcia denounces the education industry and its attempt to privatize schools and force standardized testing on parents, teachers, and students.

Representative Stacey Adams

Representative Stacey Adams, the Democratic Leader in the Georgia General Assembly, explains what needs to be done to turn states in the Deep South blue (educate, activate, and agitate!)

Reverend William Barber

The Reverend Dr. William Barber II provides a history of civil rights advances throughout American history, beginning with the first reconstruction in the wake of the Civil War, and a powerful, eloquent pitch for bold progressive action to address injustice and poverty.

A quick programming note: Tomorrow, the great Senator Elizabeth Warren will be the featured speaker at the morning general session, which begins around 7 AM Pacific Time. We’ll be bringing you live coverage and you can also watch the speech online from home on UStream if your Internet connection supports streaming.

LIVE from Detroit: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addresses Netroots Nation 2014

Welcome to our continuing coverage of Netroots Nation 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. This afternoon, for the first time in the history of the convention (which began in 2006), the Vice President of the United States will be speaking to the thousands of activists who reunite every year to coordinate the building of a stronger progressive movement in the United States and around the world.

The speech is Biden’s third stop of the day. Previously he attended an event for the Michigan Democratic Coordinated Campaign Committee at the Westin Book Cadillac. He then visited the Step IT Up America program at Wayne County Community College with Mayor Michael Duggan. His speech at Netroots Nation will be his last official event of the day before returning to the District of Columbia.

We are currently waiting for Biden to arrive. He’s late, but there’s apparently a very good reason for that. Most attendees have at least a smartphone or tablet to keep them occupied, if not table companions.

UPDATE, 4:15 PM: The motorcade has arrived and we should be getting started in a few minutes. What follows will be a recap of the Vice President’s speech.

Biden was introduced by ProgressNow’s Arshad Hasan, who repeatedly praised the vice president for his candor and determination, before asking the convention to give the vice president a roaring welcome. And the crowd certainly did.

A jovial Biden made his way to the podium as he received a raucous standing ovation. Thanking Hasan for his introduction, he joked that he could “almost hear the press salivating.” Addressing his remarks on Meet the Press supporting marriage equality, which Hasan had referred to and which preempted President Obama’s ABC News interview on the subject, he said his comments were not planned, but he likes to be direct when he gets questions.

Biden told attendees that what he loves about the netroots is our passion. Discussing the recent advances made by advocates for LGBT civil rights, Biden said he didn’t free the LGBT community, they and many decent straight people deserved the credit for the forward momentum on marriage equality and civil rights.

Biden explained that he was nearly an hour late arriving for his speech because he had been dealing with the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which went down in Ukraine today. Some three hundred lives were lost, and the plane was apparently deliberately shot down. Biden explained that he had been on the phone with the Ukrainian President regarding the tragedy. A passenger manifest has not confirmed yet, but plane may have been carrying American citizens.

Joe Biden studies the audience at Netroots Nation during his Thursday afternoon keynote. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Joe Biden studies the audience at Netroots Nation during his Thursday afternoon keynote. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Shifting gears, Biden said that one thing he has learned in his many years in politics that showing up is half the battle. He thanked the netroots for showing up and making change, and for reframing the debate… for example, helping Americans recognize that healthcare is a basic right and not a privilege. “We share a commitment to the values that made this country exceptional,” Biden told the audience. He added that when he gets asked abroad what makes America great, he responds that it is our sense of fairness and caring for others.

In a rebuke to former Vice President Dick Cheney, Biden proceeded to declare that he takes a back seat to no one on national defense. But he says that it is just as important to feed people in our country as it is to defend America.

Biden compared himself to Mikey from the Life cereal commercials when it comes his role brokering deals in Congress, which brought laughter from the crowd. He stressed the need for the progressive movement to define what is for and what it wants to accomplish both in the short and long term.

“We have to state without apology what we are for and why. If everything is equally important to you, then nothing is important to you… We have to be crystal clear on what the fundamental principles that this democracy is built on and stick to those fundamentals. Which includes LGBT rights [and] equal pay.”

“The abuse of power is the worst sin that can be committed. And the worst is for a man raising his hand to a woman including sexual assault on college campuses.”

Biden also told the convention that it is important for Americans to have unfettered access to the ballot box. “This is a fight that may not be on top of everyone’s agenda, but it is a very important fight,” he said.

Touching on the need for environmental protection, Biden emphatically stated, “Climate change is real… if we don’t control it we will be mortgaging the future of humanity.” He expressed confidence that America could lead on tackling the crisis. The people with the courage to move are the ones who are fueling America’s dynamism, giving the U.S. credibility on the world stage.

Commenting on income inequality, Biden reaffirmed his belief that every American deserves a fair shot at a job. Biden told Netroots Nation he believes in a nation of earned income as well as unearned income. Workers need to be respected as much as Wall Street investors. However, many employers are not respecting their workers, who have become the most productive workers in the world. They are not sharing in the wealth created by that productivity. The bargain between worker and employer is broken today, Biden lamented. He added that fixing that bargain is the President’s top priority, as well as his.

“When the middle class loses its faith in the system, we lose the glue that keeps the political and economic systems stable,” Biden said. “When we act as one America, we succeed. The middle class needs to know that when they put in they get included in the deal and not cut out. The poor need to know that when they try, there is a chance they can succeed.”

“In a country as big and as diverse as America there will be divisions. How do you define an American other than by a set of principles they believe in?”

“But our politics have become so cynical, so corrosive, that the American people are sick and tired of politics today.”

Nevertheless, Biden said we cannot give up.

“We can rise to what the American people demand. We can debate without being demeaning. We can make sure we are heard and demonstrate that we are willing to listen. The American people aren’t divided [and didn't create the divisions that are portrayed in our media]; American politics have divided America.”

Joe Biden waves

Joe Biden waves to the crowd at Netroots Nation after finishing his speech. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Biden said he has always been an optimist and that won’t change.

“It is within our power to innovate new energy technologies. Imagine not calling abuse ‘domestic’. Imagine a country that not only leads by example of power, but by power of our example. Your energy and passion will continue to be the force that drives debate. The American people have always been ahead (civil rights, for example). We need you. The country needs you.”

Biden’s closing thought was an appeal to the convention to believe in America and the American people. “Ordinary people, hardworking people are smart,” Biden said. “Do not condescend that they do not know what they need.”

LIVE from Detroit: Corporate Welfare and Tax Loopholes vs. Public Services: Who’s Winning?

This session is moderated by Mesha Williams, social media coordinator for the International Association of Fire Fighters. Panelist/speaker is Greg LeRoy from Good Jobs First.

About $70 Billion is spent per year on subsidizing business development. Taxes amount to only about 2% of the cost of doing business on average, so tax breaks have minimal effect on businesses.

The number of “megadeals” is high due to the demand from politicians for creating more jobs. Yet there is only a small amount of development being done that increases jobs. These megadeals pull money away from infrastructure investment and other state obligations.

As an example, Detroit has a revenue problem that began with automotive factory shutdowns. Michigan MEGA Deals were concentrated in outlying areas and ignored Detroit city itself, which contributed to the fall in tax revenues. Schools are the biggest losers with revenue shortfalls.

Taxpayers/workers win with transparency and full disclosure behind taxes and subsidy money spent on business development.

Good Jobs First has an “Accountable USA” page that shows, state by state, essential information on subsidy practices and controversies. Good Jobs First also tracks and aggregates subsidy data that can otherwise be difficult to find.

LIVE from Detroit: Workers Organizing Online: What We’ve Learned and What We’re Learning

This session at Netroots Nation is led by Elana Levin who is Director of Online Organizing at Make the Road Action Fund.

Kenzo Shibata began by speaking about the battle he led against Rahm Emanuel’s tactics in attempting to bust the teachers’ union in Chicago. Shibata created a video associating Emanuel with the Tea Party in an attempt to embarrass Emanuel over his anti-union tactics. The video cost very little but made a big impact.

Sara Steffens is speaking about working in social media for an organization. Many involved in social media within an organization many times find themselves becoming overwhelmed by requests. Typically only one person ends up handling all the social media for smaller organizations. The key is to try to spread the responsibility and train others on it so that efforts do not become bottlenecked, particularly if the responsible person is unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances.

Build social networking capacity by holding training sessions to teach others in your organization about hash tag activism (Twitter) and other useful social media activities. Take advantage of those in your organization who are active on Facebook and other social media platforms to utilize their skills for the organization.

When running campaigns or developing a new website, include money in the budget for training others in the skills to help support the effort.

Levin brought up an example of organizing low-wage bank workers. Online organizing, particularly on Facebook, was much more effective than traditional methods, such as doorbelling and phone banking. It is easier to find who works for a particular employer on Facebook because many share where they work on Facebook. Facebook pages created around a cause are still very effective even though recent Facebook changes limit the posts that the page fans see on their news feed. Facebook photos with memes are also very eye catching and effective.

Emailing platforms such as Salsa are very useful because they include tracking of emails and records who opens the emails. You can easily see how well your email posts are being read.

LIVE from Detroit: Making smart investments to build progressive power in 2014 & beyond

Good morning from Detroit! Today marks the first day of Netroots Nation, the ninth annual gathering of progressive activists from across the United States and beyond, which NPI has been sending staff and board members to for its entire history. Three of us are here on NPI’s behalf and committed to bringing you live coverage of the convention’s happenings throughout the next few days.

NPI President Robert Cruickshank and I are kicking off the convention with a panel called Progressives and the Midterms: Making Smart Investments to Build Progressive Power in 2014 and Beyond. Moderated by Amanda Terkel of The Huffington Post, this panel consists of representatives from three great national progressive organizations, all founded in the wake of the rise of the Internet, and a candidate for U.S. Senate, Shenna Bellows.

Terkel launched the discussion by asking the panelists to talk about their focus for the cycle. For Shenna, it’s all about crossing the finish line first on November 5th.

Shenna Bellows

Shenna Bellows speaks at Netroots Nation in Detroit, Michigan, on the first day of the convention (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“I think it’s a really exciting year for progressives… Races like mine and Rick Weiland’s are test cases,” Bellows said, explaining that candidates like her are up against a lot of money and don’t have the enthusiastic backing of the party establishment in the District of Columbia. (The conventional wisdom in D.C. is that Democrats have almost no pickup opportunities this cycle, except for maybe in Kentucky and Georgia – but of course, that’s nonsense.)

Stephanie Taylor, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (which I worked with last year as an organizing fellow) announced to hearty applause that PCCC has so far raised $1 million for progressive candidates like Bellows this cycle. That’s a lot of money!

How does PCCC choose which candidates to support? It doesn’t come down to an ideological laundry list. “We’re really looking for those candidates who are going to be organizers and fighters inside Congress on the issues we care about,” Taylor told attendees, citing some of PCCC’s polling on Social Security and Medicare. “Progressive policy and progressive positions are winning positions.”

Nick Berning of MoveOn said that his organization’s top 2014 priority is ensuring that Democrats hold the Senate, because otherwise, the Obama administration’s ability to fill judicial and executive vacancies will be diminished (because Republicans will refuse to confirm the President’s nominees). Priority candidates for MoveOn include Brian Schatz in Hawaii and Mike Honda in California.

The panel then delved into primary strategy.

Stephanie Taylor explained that PCCC has been keeping an eye out for open seats in bright blue districts, with the objective of finding strong progressive Democrats to run and win. She cited Pat Murphy in Iowa as example.

“Primaries are healthy for our democracy… They make campaigns more accountable to the grassroots,” said DFA’s Annie Weinberg. She spoke to the need to reward bold Democrats like Mark Takano who have been championing progressive causes like the expansion of Social Security.

MoveOn’s Berning said that his organization is focused on 2014, but is already looking ahead to 2015, 2016, and beyond. He mentioned that MoveOn recently surveyed its members in Chicago and found that more than 85% want to see a strong progressive challenger to Rahm Emanuel in 2015.

Moderator Amanda Terkel asked Bellows to talk about her race and delve into the difficulties she’s faced building support for her campaign. (Many large, D.C.-oriented progressive organizations that ought to be supporting Bellows – like the League of Conservation Voters – have endorsed Susan Collins for reelection because there are almost no other Republicans who will engage with them at all.)

“Maine is the only state in the country where Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012 that has a Republican senator up for election,” Bellows said. “Our strategy is to be completely true to all of our progressive values.”

She emphasized the need for an authentic Democratic candidate who could present a clear and compelling alternative to Susan Collins.

One of her biggest obstacles is a lack of name recognition; her campaign’s polling has showed that many Mainers have not heard of her. But she has a plan to introduce herself. She announced that her campaign be going up on the air shortly with its first television ad across the state. The last thing her fellow Mainers need in their next senator is “bipartisanship in the name of bipartisanship, where everybody loses,” she said, alluding to Collins’ lousy voting record.

Questions posed to the panelists by the audience ranged from how national progressive organizations can support candidates at the state and local level to the impact that the implementation of the Patient Protection Act has had on the political landscape. The panelists emphasized the need to support bold progressive candidates running all over the country, even in areas that might not be bright blue, in accordance with Howard Dean’s fifty-state strategy.

Bellows delivered a particularly compelling response, making a point that is part of our philosophy and credo at NPI: We can either work to determine our own destiny or allow it to be determined for us by others. “We need to stop saying [that's] impossible and stop saying never,” Bellows said.

Vice President Joe Biden to speak at Netroots Nation 2014 in Detroit, Michigan

Organizers of Netroots Nation, America’s largest annual gathering of progressive activists, took the wraps off of a major and welcome surprise this afternoon with the announcement that Vice President Joe Biden would be coming to Detroit to speak to the convention during a special Thursday afternoon general session.

Landing Biden is a big coup for Netroots Nation. The convention has been addressed by former presidents and presidents, as well as congressional leaders and members of Congress, but this will be the first time that the sitting Vice President of the United States will have spoken.

It will also be Biden’s first appearance at Netroots Nation. He was invited to participate in the Presidential Leadership Forum held in Netroots Nation’s second year, in Chicago (back then, the convention was known as YearlyKos), but declined to attend due to his desire to participate in another event. The other contenders for the Democratic nomination – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel – all showed up.

Raven Brooks, the executive director of Netroots Nation, touted Biden’s forthcoming keynote address in a blog post also emailed to attendees.

As you may know, Netroots Nation came from humble beginnings: a group of activists simply wanted to come out from behind their screens and meet up in real life. Since that first meeting nine years ago, this conference has grown into the largest gathering of progressives in the nation, bringing the brightest organizers, innovators and thinkers together with leading elected officials from up and down the ballot.

Some of our attendees will run this cycle’s hottest campaigns; others have started or will start game-changing organizations within the next year. And everyone who attends does important work within their own communities after the conference ends.

So it makes perfect sense that Vice President Biden would address the folks who will knock on doors, make phone calls and raise awareness for the issues that are most important to our country.

From his longtime support of labor unions to speaking out on important issues like LGBT equality, Vice President Biden has in many ways given heart and soul to this administration. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome him to Netroots Nation for the first time.

We hope you’ll be there too.

We’ve been planning to be in Detroit since NN ’14 was announced, and we’re very excited that Joe Biden has agreed to join us, even if his participation means the day’s schedule has to be rearranged, and even if it means having to wait in lines to go through metal detectors. Only President Obama would arguably be a bigger get.
Ever since he and Obama took office, we’ve been hoping that Joe Biden would speak at Netroots Nation. This year, that wish is being fulfilled. We’re looking forward to a rousing address from Biden next week, and will be covering it live right here on the Cascadia Advocate a week from tomorrow at half past noon.

The Declaration of Independence, two hundred and thirty-eight years later

In accordance with tradition, we are posting the text of the Declaration of Independence here on The Cascadia Advocate for your enjoyment. The Declaration was primarily authored by our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who drew heavily on the thinking of Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke to persuasively lay out the case for the independence of the United States.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

The Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull

The famous painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee presenting their work to Congress (John Trumbull/U.S. Congress)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren.

We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.

We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare…

… That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

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