Tag Archives: Activism

How to develop a digital plan to make change

Rosa Parks wasn’t just some kid who decided to defy white authority and relinquish her seat on the bus.

For one thing, she was a bit older than a kid. For another, she carried out this defiant act as part of a larger strategy to cause necessary and urgent change in the rules of society.

When the 106th Congress awarded Parks a medal honoring her activism, they called her the “the mother of the freedom movement.” Never mind that today, one member of the Republican party, which again controls Congress, thinks it is “Time for another Kent State … One bullet stops a lot of thuggery.” We have in fact come a long way, and most of that progress can be attributed to acts of individual heroism, group action, the occasional moment of great oratory, all that, embedded in a less obvious but carefully constructed plan.

Without the plan, it doesn’t work. Random acts of unplanned activism can waste resources, and can even have negative consequences. In a simplified version of recent history, the #Occupy movement energized and invigorated a lot of people who were already energized and invigorated, and produced almost no change. From within that movement there emerged a more thought out plan, the “Draft Warren” movement, which made much more of a mark, and from that, more or less, came the Bernie Sanders bid for the presidency. Sanders didn’t get the nomination, but he could have; his was not a candidacy of conceit. One might conjecture, in fact, that if #Occupy was more purposefully organized and carefully planned out, with the idea in mind of eventually putting forward viable candidates for various offices, that Sanders would have gotten the nomination, or at least, somebody anointed by millennial progressives, and that the movement would have resulted in a very different situation than we have at the moment of this writing.

I know, that’s a pipe dream, but the point is real: organized activism produces results, having a plan matters. Not having a plan is little more than “raising awareness” and that is not a suitable objective. Raising awareness by itself can eventually lead to an inured population. That’s the last thing we need as we tweeter on the edge of civilization’s collapse.

I wonder what Rosa Parks would have tweeted when she was being carried off the bus? I wonder what the bus driver would have tweeted? I wonder what the blogosphere would have said about this? I wonder what the Change.org petitions would have looked like? The truth is, any and all of that digital yammering would have had little to no effect on the progress of the civil rights movement, at that time and that place.

Unless, of course, they had a plan.

Brad Schenck has a plan, or more exactly, is prepared to help you get your plan together, with this newly available book: The Digital Plan: A practical guide to creating a strategic digital plan. It is inexpensive as a soft bound volume, free as a Kindle Unlimited book.

I became interested in this book because of its use in political activism, but once I got a copy of it I realized that it has much broader uses, including general marketing or selling a product, perhaps a self published book, or a new technology project idea, or whatever.

The fundamental theory behind this book is first that without a plan you are very unlikely to make the change you want happen, so you need a plan. Believe it or not, regardless of how straightforward that sounds, it is very difficult to get people to accept that idea. The second key concept presented in the book is this: one you know you need a plan, don’t expect to just think up the ideal plan on your own. There is a long history of development of strategy in general and a somewhat less time-deep history of strategic digital planning. For the price of this book, you can access a healthy dose of that hard earned knowledge.

From total beginner to technical expert, you will be digitally empowered by engaging with The Digital Plan. Whether you’re the director of a digital communications department or you’re a member of any team wishing to wield or understand the power of digital, this book will provide you with the tools you need to plan and execute digital strategy with ease.

Using his many years of experience directing digital strategies for campaigns and organizations, Brad A Schenck outlines everything you want to know about digital planning, utilizing digital tools and making the most of your collaborative efforts.

In this book, you should expect to find: Expert guidance framed with thoughtful questions you should ask. Bullet points of the most up-to-date tips and lots of them. Templates that will help you frame your plan, whatever your goals may be. Stories and anecdotes from someone who has advised hundreds of digital plans at the highest level. From the very technical to the more artistic, The Digital Plan covers everything from design and social media to data and analytics. This book is a must-have for anyone wishing to make the most of their digital presence to create powerful impact by driving community action.

This book started as an Indiegogo campaign, which was fully funded.

Brad Schenck worked on the Obama campaign’s digital strategy (2012), the Digital strategy for Organizing for Action, oversaw the 2010 regional digital strategy for the DNC, and several other major projects of note. Most recently, he has worked with the Rainforest Action Network and Vote.org.

I highly recommend The Digital Plan: A practical guide to creating a strategic digital plan. for your digital organizing edification!

The website for the book is here.

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The #BlackLivesMatter Disruptive Activism

I have a few thoughts I want to float on the recent #BLM activism that involved, as of this writing, two takeovers of public events. One takeover was at a Netroots Nation event that included Bernie Sanders, the other at a Sanders rally.

First, I think it has to be understood that disruptive actions like this need to be carried out, and carried out more. Unless you can somehow convince me that there is a way to deal with violence in and against the African American community, widespread incarceration, habitual attacks by police on African Americans (and some others), etc. without civil disobedience, I’m going to stick with that. A disruptive action here and there will not leave much of a mark. It will be forgotten about. Sustained and well done disruptive activism is called for in the current situation. If it is only addressed to Bernie Sanders, it will fail, and if it doesn’t sustain through the entire election season, it will fail, in my opinion.

(Having said that, at some point security changes will make stage rushes impossible, and after that, it will all be protesting outside events. That has to be evaluated for effectiveness and a good strategy that works will have to develop. A small protest at every event will probably get ignored. A planned huge protest that does not end up being huge will backfire. A good number of very large outside protest will probably be effective.)

I don’t think either of the events, as far as I can tell, were done as well as one might like. At Netroots Nation, the #BLM activists gained the floor, and seem to have done well making key points. But they didn’t seem to have an exit strategy. An exit strategy would have gained them even more points and avoided some of the irrelevant conversations. An act of disruptive activism is always going to produce whinging and complaining about the act, but it is also good to try to have as much of the ensuing conversation as possible be about the point of the activism itself. It should be all about black lives, mattering, not about the #BLM movement’s tactics.

In the case of the Sanders rally, it appears to me that mistakes were made by both parties. The Sanders people tried to say that the #BLM protesters could take the mic after Sanders spoke. They should have just handed the mic over. On the other hand, it was not clear that the #BLM activists were prepared, both rhetorically and technically, to actually take over the rally.

In this sense, disruption may be a little like “awareness raising.” If either of those on its own is your goal, you won’t win. Those are only parts of a larger strategy, and both can actually have negative effects including the development of an inured public. In the case of going after an election campaign, the larger scale strategy might be to make sure that the problems we are seeing now, including racially motivated violence, mass incarceration, and the unthinkably horrible acts of an emerging police state, become part of the conversation for every campaign. Ideally a good percentage of votes will be gained or lost depending on a candidate’s, or a party’s, position on these issues.

Some people are complaining about the specific reactions of Sanders. I want to add an element to the conversation that I’ve not seen discussed. Normally this would be the kind of thing I’d bring up at an organizing meeting because it is a nuanced issue that a lot of people probably won’t react well to. But it is part of the reality of disrupting campaign events. But first a critically important digression.

The number one cause of death for African American males aged 15–34 is murder. Gun related deaths in the US are higher than anywhere else (not counting war zones, I assume) but for African Americans it is twice as high as white americans. If you are black and in America, your chance of being killed by some violent cause is 12 times higher than if you are black and living in some other developed country. And so on.

How often to cops brutalize, including shooting, African Americans? We don’t know. There are a number of reasons this is hard to figure out, not the least of which being that the US government has reduced, rather than increased, the quality and quantity of data collection, mainly since the NRA does not want easy access to information about gun injuries and deaths. Also the rate may be going up so available numbers may not reflect the present, or important trends. We know that African Americans are significantly overrepresented in the frequency of police shootings. That could be attributed to something other than racist police brutality. Poor communities may have a disproportionate number of African Americans as well as more crime, yadda yadda yadda. The real question is how much targeting do police do of African Americans, and how much more likely are police to shoot an African American rather than a non-African American (or a minority vs. a white person)? The answer to that is that police clearly target blacks, and are more likely to kill black Americans. We just don’t know the numbers. Frankly, the numbers don’t matter to the issue of whether this is something that has to be addressed.

This is nothing new. I first got involved in this issue when I was a teenager, and Keith Balou, 17, was shot in the back and killed by a state trooper in New York. Keith was one of several African Americans killed over the previous couple of years, and that instigated the rise of an organization called “Fight Back.” We had a huge conference in Chicago at which people related their own local stories. Obviously anti-black violence had been going on for centuries, this was just the new version of it. By the way, that was also at the time of one of the early first steps at militarizing the police. There used to be rules about how big a gun cops could carry. Keith was one of the first people, maybe the first, to be killed by a trooper using a .357 magnum, only recently issued to that particular police department.

My point here is that black lives have always mattered, of course, and have always been at risk. I think it is fair to say that this risk level has gone up in our post 9/11 terrified society, with the rise of an increasingly militarized police state. Things are getting worse.

So that’s the background, and that is why the #BLM movement exists, and why it is important.

But there is one detail about disrupting political rallies that should be remembered. I’m not saying don’t do it, but this is a factor that should be taken into account.

Several years ago I saw Jesse Jackson give a talk in Milwaukee. He was running for president. The talk was at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee student union. There had been rumors that someone was going to try to kill Jackson, so the security was tight. When Jessie went to shake everyone’s hand at the edge of the stage, a secret service agent stood next to him with machine pistol, thinly disguised as a handbag, pointed at the crowd. He was prepared to kill anyone who pulled out a gun. No one did, by the way.

Running for president is a bit dangerous. Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy, and George Wallace were shot while running for president. Franklin Roosevelt was attacked while president elect. Of the 44 individuals who have been president, four (nearly one in ten) have been killed, 16 have been seriously attacked, with, I think, ten attacked with guns or, in one case, a hand grenade. In other words, the chance of being attacked with a gun or explosive, credibly, with about a 50–50 mortality rate, if you are president, at least to one in four, depending on how you count each attack.

Over the last seven presidents, four or five, depending on how you count it, were credibly and dangerously attacked. Ford was shot at twice. Reagan was shot and seriously wounded. Clinton was fired upon in 1994, George W. Bush had a grenade tossed at him in Tblisi. There have been various attacks on Obama but I think that was mostly just people jumping over his fence.

What is the point of this? The point is NOT to say that we should feel sorry for presidential candidates, elected presidents, or ex presidents, at the expense of black lives mattering. This is where the nuance comes in. This is not zero-sum game. Too much ammunition for that to be the case. The point of saying all this is simple. If you are going to plan a disruption campaign against candidates, you have to assume that those you are going after will be freaked out. They were already freaked out. They’ve already had the conversation about whether or not to wear a bullet proof vest. They’ve already been held in the kitchen or some waiting room while tough looking scary people check to make sure their pistols are loaded and ready, their communications systems in place. If they were paying attention, they already know about the snipers positioned on nearby buildings, and they probably walked by the ambulance positioned near by to take them to the emergency room when the shot that changes their lives, or ends it, rings out.

As campaigns progress, Secret Service protection is eventually handed out, or increased. It may actually be impossible, as I mentioned above, to disrupt talks and rallies by going after the stage. Alternative strategies will have to be developed.

Meanwhile, be careful.

Added:

A Call To Arms about Climate Change

Tens of millions of red blooded Americans, Tea Partiers, were called to Washington DC the other day to overthrow the government. A few hundreds or so showed up.

Now, Bill McKibben, of 350.org, is calling Americans to New York City, not to overthrow the government but to talk some sense into it. I’ll bet more than a few hundred people show up!

McKibben wrote an item for Rolling Stones that you should read HERE.

This is an invitation, an invitation to come to New York City. An invitation to anyone who’d like to prove to themselves, and to their children, that they give a damn about the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced.

My guess is people will come by the tens of thousands, and it will be the largest demonstration yet of human resolve in the face of climate change. Sure, some of it will be exciting – who doesn’t like the chance to march and sing and carry a clever sign through the canyons of Manhattan? But this is dead-serious business, a signal moment in the gathering fight of human beings to do something about global warming before it’s too late to do anything but watch. You’ll tell your grandchildren, assuming we win. So circle September 20th and 21st on your calendar, and then I’ll explain.

350.org has a page devoted to the march, HERE. Please click through and get busy!

The Facebook Page is HERE.


The image above is from an earlier march, details here.

Energy Exodus: Rally to Build Cape Wind

Here is a press release for an upcoming event:

At the culminating event on the 66 mile Energy Exodus march, over 150 ralliers will call for the Town of Barnstable to withdraw its lawsuit against the Cape Wind offshore wind farm and begin negotiating in good faith with Cape Wind and federal and state agencies. They will demand that the Town stop taking money from local oil billionaire Bill Koch, who has put over $1.5 million into efforts to delay the wind farm.

Rally speakers will also highlight upcoming opportunities in New England for the marchers to continue advancing the global and regional transition to clean energy. A combination of speakers and performers will end the 66 mile march on a high and hopeful note.

Where: Aselton Memorial Park, Hyannis, MA (corner of South and Ocean Streets)

When: Monday, Sept 2, 1-3:30PM

Who: Speakers will include:

<li>Barbara Hill,former Executive Director of Clean Power Now</li>
<li>Craig Altemose, Executive Director of Better Future Project</li>
<li>Emily Edgerly, member of Students for a Just and Stable Future</li>
<li>Ben Thompson, member of Students for a Just and Stable Future and Energy Exodus co-lead organizer</li>

The band Melodeego will be performing.

Background: The Cape Wind Project will be the nation’s first offshore wind farm, built on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound. With 130 wind turbines, the project is expected to produce about 75% of the average electricity demand for the region. It could offset close to a million tons of carbon dioxide every year, and produce 1000 jobs for local residents during construction. However, those climate, health, and economic benefits have been held up by oil billionaire Bill Koch, who owns a vacation home on the Cape and has spent over $1.5 million on various efforts to delay the construction of the wind farm.

About Energy Exodus March: For six days across 66 miles, starting August 28th, dozens of citizens from all over New England have marched from the Brayton Point coal and gas plant outside Fall River to the future site of Cape Wind, the nation’s first offshore wind project.

Organized by Better Future Project and Students for a Just and Stable Future, the march highlights the need to transition from fossil fuel energy to clean renewable power like that the Cape Wind project will soon provide. Energy Exodus marchers aim to build political momentum to hasten the transition to renewable energy in Massachusetts, promoting healthier communities and a stable climate.

Energy Exodus Website is HERE.

Addressing Climate Change is Legacy Building Stuff. YOUR Legacy.

On Tuesday, President Obama will make a speech outlining his administration’s plans to address climate change. The Right Wing has already responded by calling those concerned with climate change “Terrorists.” How have the progressive and left wings responded? Badly. Very badly. Here is a selection, some paraphrased to ensure anonymity (though these are all public), of comments by people that I know are well meaning climate change activists or otherwise concerned about global warming and such.

  • Obama’s speeches and verbal plans make no difference. It’s what he DOES that counts.

  • He’ll say: “I will see to it that the State Dept. will approve the XL Pipeline so nothing else I’ve said means shit”

  • If his past proclamations are indicative don’t expect much action.

  • Don’t hold your breath. He wont do a thing that would make the Oil guys uphappy

  • Or these strong words and some targeted actions in the near term will allow him to OK Keystone XL

  • NOTHING will happen under Wbama’s “leadership”. He IS a shill for the CorpoRats.

  • politicians. They are parasites

Some of these statements, maybe all of them, express perfectly legitimate concerns. The thing is, of all the statements I’ve seen on public media in response to this announcement, almost all of them are of this type. Hardly anyone has said:

“Great, let’s find out what President Obama is going to push for, and make sure he understands that we activists will strongly support this, and work towards those goals.”

In fact, we need to do more than that. I assure you of the following: President Obama and his people both in the White House and in the political machine are watching. If they see strong and effective support for initiatives announced on Tuesday, this will give them a clue that if the administration ends up nixing Keystone XL, that they will get support for that as well.

Or, they could see a lot of belly aching and whining like we are seeing so far, and not gain the resolve they would need to have in order to do the right thing on Keystone.

Having said that, I don’t want to give you the impression that this is all about Keystone. It is about whatever it is that is announced. Regardless of Keystone, we want better and more effective regulations on coal burning plants, even if Ben Stein sees fit to call those of us who want that “terrorists.” Regardless of Keystone, we want far more effort put into developing alternatives and renewables. Regardless of Keystone, we want new efficiency standards. And so on.

It might be true that the Obama administration has done much less than we would like about climate change. I say “might” because I’m thinking that you’re thinking that the Obama administration has done nothing at all, and you’d be wrong. They’ve actually done things, and perhaps you just don’t know about them. It is also true (no qualification here) that we are concerned that the Obama administration will not nix Keystone XL. But, again (OK, so there is a qualification) you might be thinking that the delay in addressing Keystone means that they are just putting off the bad news, and Obama fully intends to support it. In that case, you would be wrong again; we simply do not know what is going to happen with Keystone, and the delay is not (necessarily) a political strategy, but rather, more or less, process. You can pretend there is no process but there is one.

Here’s the thing: In a couple of days from now, President Obama is going to announce some things. These will be good things. You might not think they are good enough, you might think they mean nothing if Keystone is not addressed, you might think all sorts of other things. But, if you are actually, truly, interested in addressing climate change and concerned about global warming and our planet’s future, not to mention our species’ future, then you will need to get over yourself.

This is not about you and your dissatisfaction with the government, politicians, Washington, or a particular president. So, please stop making this about you. Make this about the planet, and the future, and our children’s future. In order to prepare yourself for this, I offer the following evaluative quiz:

TODAY’S QUIZ. (Fill in the blank/multiple choice)

People interested in serious, effective climate change activism will take what happens on Tuesday and _________

Select only one answer to complete this statement:

  • a) whine and moan about Obama
  • b) carry out the most effective possible actions to increase the likelihood that pro-environment and pro-energy efficiency and anti-global warming initiatives come to fruition, which might involve fighting congress, will involve fighting the deniers, and will involve fighting the oil companies.

Correct answer: b

Listen: The right wing is already off the mark. They are running full steam down the field intent on intercepting this particular pass. Meanwhile, the progressives are sitting on the bench crying in their beers and feeling sorry for themselves. This is not good, and frankly, it is more than a little embarrassing.

Time to put on the big boy pants, people! When opportunity knocks, that is not a cue to complain about the door knocker.

You might consider signing this petition.

Breaking: Former Obama Campaign Staff’s Letter on Keystone XL

A letter signed by (so far) 145 former Obama campaign staff calls on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. There is no doubt that President Obama’s action on climate change will be a large part of his legacy, and at this point, President Obama’s position on Keystone XL is unclear. It is true that the Obama administration is doing some good things (like this) but building the Keystone Pipeline is one of the worst things he could allow to happen.

Frustrated with this situation, the people who helped put President Obama in the White House, twice, are speaking out. Here is the letter:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

On November 7th, the day after Election Day, we took a break from entering last-minute data or cleaning our OFA field offices and crowded around iPhones and laptops to listen to you talk.From strip malls, grungy basements, and non-descript headquarters in our adoptedcommunities of Petersburg, VA or Manchester, NH or Aurora, CO, we paused for five minutes tohear from the man who inspired us to leave our homes and give every last ounce of energy tore-elect our President, a leader so awe-inspiring that we’d tear up just knowing he’d be in our zip code. You told us on the phone that day, “When I was your age, I had this vague inklingabout making a difference, but I didn’t know how to do it…I ended up becoming a communityorganizer.” So did we.

It’s in that spirit that we write to ask you to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. We trust you tomake the right decision after you weigh all arguments, but one thing you taught us as organizersis that nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change. Mr. President, weare just a few of the millions of young people across the country who are frightened at theprospect of runaway climate change. One of the reasons we came to work for you in the firstplace is because we trust you understand how big this challenge is.

You can help cement your legacy as a climate champion by rejecting this pipeline. You alreadyknow all the reasons we can’t afford this pipeline — that it will lock in gigatons of carbon pollutionover the next four decades and that it could spill into our nation’s most valuable water sources –we’re just asking you to think of us when you make up your mind. Dozens of supporters acrossthe country told us they were casting their ballot for someone they could count on to make thetough calls when it came to our security and our health care and our climate. They voted for you,Mr. President, because we told them you’d be on the right side of history when you had to makethese calls. Because we knew you’d do the right thing and stop this pipeline.

You closed out our call on November 7th by saying to us, “Over the last four years when peopleask me how do you put up with the frustrations of Washington, I just look to you. I think aboutwhat you guys are going to do. That’s the source of my hope and my inspiration, and I know thatyou guys won’t disappoint me.” For so long you have been the source of our hope andinspiration. Please don’t disappoint us. Reject Keystone XL.

Sincerely,

Then there are 145 signatures (see this document)

If you are a former Obama campaign staffer, you can click here to add your name.

HERE is the press release from We Are Power Shift

The Takedown Of A Novel’s Page By Facebook Bullies

A friend of mine, Gareth Renowden, wrote a novel called The Aviator (The Burning World). It is a post-climate change story, set in the future, and it is a good one. I highly recommend it. Gareth is also an activist who puts considerable effort into climate change. Some time in the last few hours, the Facebook page Gareth had created to promote his novel was taken down by Facebook. From Gareth’s blog post on the matter:

Yesterday The Aviator‘s Facebook page disappeared. When I logged in to check the page I was greeted by a message that said the page was being removed because it had been identified as carrying material related to bullying. There was a button labelled “appeal”, so I pressed it. That’s all. No contact information, no detail of the complaint. Nothing. Except that I was also prevented from posting or sharing anything on Facebook for 12 hours. The page no longer exists, and I am annoyed.

So: why did this happen?

Gareth is well known to the science denialist community, and I strongly suspect that climate change denialists are behind this. This is what they do. They bully people. There are a lot of bullies on the Internet and they know no constraint and have no sense of ethics or responsibility to the Internet community. An overlapping and similar set of bullies attacked my my book as well which was meant to be a fundraiser for the Secular Student Alliance. And, they were successful. The attacks on me and my book were not especially effective and the bullies did not accomplish anything, but the level of support I saw from my own secular community when I was under attack was anemic at best, and made me realize that being part of a community of activists who don’t know how to activate was a waste of time. (This is why I now spend most of my activist time in the climate science area, and regional progressive politics.)

Anyway, Gareth is not at all certain as to what really happened to his facebook page. He suggests it might be a matter of Facebook being bad at what it does, but leaves open the possibility that this was a coordinated (and apparently successful) attack by science deniers on a piece of literature … a sort of vigil ante book burning … using Facebook as an unwitting pawn.

If that is the case, there is a lesson here. Never give Facebook any money. If this is how a “client” (a free unpaid user) is treated, is there any guarantee that a paid user, someone who buys facebook ads, would be treated any differently? Once again, Facebook has shown itself to be ineffective at what it does. Effort spent on Facebook, and money spent on Facebook, is effort and money at risk of being tossed aside because Facebook is unable to tell the difference between a page promoting a novel and a page that bullies, when actual bullies come along and lie.

I’m not sure what can be done about this at the present time. If Gareth comes up with a strategy other than ignoring Facebook henceforth (which is what I would recommend) I’ll let you know. In the mean time, show the bullies who burned this particular book that they can’t win, and get yourself a copy of The Aviator! It really is a good book.

Also, in the mean time, I’ve got something else for you to read. I’m working on a piece of fiction that is set in a post-apocalyptic utopian world, in which everything is fine, and that’s a huge problem. It is a climate change novel, so if you are one of the denialist bullies, this will be a future target for you, piece of literature you can burn along with your precious fossil fuels. Below, I’ve got a passage from an early draft to give you a flavor and hopefully amuse you a little. The scene takes place about 150 miles north of what is now Laramie Wyoming, in the Spring, in the year 2546. Enjoy.


The group was easy to locate from some distance owing to the toddler who frequently cried or screamed, and otherwise, was very loud. If there was an animal out there that habitually ate people, all the people would be eaten, Bale thought, owing to these toddlers. Bale approached the group the long way, allowing her to put several patches of vegetation between them, and watched for a while. The toddler was being taken care of by an older brother, just a few years older but acting very responsibly and trying to keep the little one from harming himself more than necessary on sharp rocks and thorny bushes. Then there were three girls, one half way in age between the toddler an the toddler’s caretaker, one older, just coming of age, and one full grown but young woman, and that is who Bale had come for.

Bale placed one of her arrows across the bow, and pulled enough to test the string and determine that she could fire the arrow full strength. With the arrow half cocked in this manner, she moved from her hiding place behind some bushes to the next clump of vegetation, a small mound of soil with a cowlick of tall grass on top of it. In order to not be seen, Bale had to push herself into the dirt and line her body up to be invisible from the direction of the people. She watched for a full ten minutes, and again, tested her arrow against the bow.

At one unlikely moment, all five of the people she was watching were preoccupied, although each with totally different thing. The toddler was sitting on the ground screaming with his eyes closed. The boy was looking for something to amuse the toddler with, facing away form Bale. The younger girl kid was hiding her face as part of a game she was playing with the teenager who was now looking in the opposite direction, and the young woman was taking a nap half in the shade of a creosote bush. Bale took the moment to move like a snake to the next place where she had cover, and now there was one large clump of vegetation between her and the woman under the creosote bush. Again, she tested her bow and arrow. She looked at the young sleeping woman, and she looked at her arrow, and decided to change ammo. She slipped this arrow between her belt and the small of her back where it would be handy and drew a different arrow out of a quiver, and tried that one. Good. Straighter, the fletching was in better shape. She would not miss with this one.

Then, Bale aimed. She took a careful bead and drew the arrow as tightly as it could be drawn and then held perfectly steady. She waited a full minute to make sure that everything was lined up right, her body still invisible to the group, her arrow, her quarry. Then, without moving a muscle in her body she let out a very loud shout.

“Zeta!!!”

And this caused the young woman to suddenly sit up underneath the creosote bush, striking her head on the thorny branch and getting her hair stuck. Cursing, rare among Gem Deva, ensued, and she pounded the ground with her foot. Suddenly, owing to the loud raucous coming from the creosote bush, a young peccary that had been hiding in that last clump of vegetation started, and began to take flight. But just as quickly as the peccary stood to run, it was impaled by Bale’s first arrow, and just as the Peccary started to turn its direction out of fear, Bale’s second arrow had it in the throat and it went down in the dust.

Zeta, the girl in the bush, had extracted herself from the killer vegetation and sat, still somewhat stunned by hearing her name coming from a direction in which there seemed to be no person. At this point, Bale stood, and shouldered her bow. She walked briskly towards Zeta, and half way there bent down to pick up her prey by it’s hind feet, and dragged it the rest of the way to where Zeta sat. By this time the two of them were grinning from ear to ear.

“This is for your father,” Bale told the young woman. “I hope your siblings can carry it to his camp, so you and I can take a walk.”

In Gem Devan culture, “taking a walk” was a euphemism. In a society where everyone slept in a minimalistic hut within a few feet of the next hut, certain things were done not so much at home, but … well, while taking a walk.

The two boys and two girls were also grinning, and each of them came over to Bale and gave her a long and strong hug, and exchanged words of greeting. Except the toddler, he was busy eating some ants.

“I love you, brothers and sisters,” Bale told them, as they turned, sharing the job of carrying the peccary, to deliver the gift to Zeta’s father. She looked at Zeta. Like An Yon, Zeta was the same age as Bale. Unlike An Yon, she was Devan. In fact, the one time prior that Zeta accompanied Bale to West Village, she was mistaken for Bale a number of times. They were the same height, build, had the same overall looks, but really, Zeta was less muscular and had a thinner face and her hair was a shade darker. Or perhaps dirtier.

In fact, at the moment, Bale was the one that was inappropriately dressed and not properly adorned. She was wearing shorts, a skirt, a waistcoat and tunic, all made for her by Lizzie. She wore her old billed hat and googles and two belts, one low over her hips one tight on her waist. She also donned a bandoleer, a small backpack, and several utility satchels attached to these various leather straps and belts.

Zeta, on the other hand, was mostly just wearing her smile. Well, as modest as the next Devan, she wore a loin cloth. But she was covered by a layer of brown dirt and bear grease, which was mostly winter wear but these early summer days had been cool so many of the Deva were wearing the grease-dirt mixture. Underneath, her skin would be very light. Once summer got going, Deva browned nicely and never burned in the sun, and their skin was not affected by the ravages of sunlight as one might expect, considering that they were pale people who lived outdoors and wore little clothing. This could have been partly because the skies were usually cloudy in this region, and partly because of the bear grease and dirt, but was probably just because they had been living in this setting for enough generations to adjust.

Bale took Zeta’s hand and they took a walk. For real. Bale did not tell Zeta at this point what she had come for, but filled her in on the other important things in her life. Zeta did the same, enumerating which cousins were living in their camp now, and which cousins were staying elsewhere, relating who had died recently (no one Bale knew well) and listing off the new babies. The Gem Deva were thinly dispersed on the landscape and often on the move, but in fact, they used the same exact camping spots again and again, and every feature of the landscape they lived on had a name every one knew. So, as Zeta related the recent comings and goings, she referred repeatedly to places that Bale would know, and if a location was mentioned that did not seem familiar to Bale, Zeta would fill in the blank.

“Uncle’s rock? You know, that big rock sticking out of the ground where Zim, my mother’s sister’s son, left that mess after butchering the dead deer he found that nobody could eat because it was too rotten, about a half day’s walk beyond…”

“Oh, right, that rock, just south of Rattler’s Gully.”

“Right. Anyway, that’s were Cousin Zoe-Lan and her family are staying now…”

And so on and so forth for an hour until everybody was caught up with everything.

And by this time they had come to a place where they could sit and watch the sunset, and hold each other to stay warm against the chilling night air, and restore their intimacy. They had not seen each other in two years. They were not betrothed, or a couple in any way. They were just occasional lovers, and had been so since the very day they met many miles east of this spot when they ran into each other on a bounty hunt. Zeta, like Bale, was a hunter. In fact, there were many things they both liked. There were things they both liked to do, and there were things they both liked to have done. So as the red sun slid below the horizon, and the shadows lengthened and softened and finally became one with the night, they did. Those things. A few times.

The walk back to the camp was quiet and comfortable, and lit by a full moon two hours up. Their welcome by the cousins was warm and loving. The peccary was excellent, served with a half a dozen other food items brought into the camp during the day. This group had just moved to this camp, and Zeta should have built a hut for herself and her sister that afternoon, but distracted by Bale’s arrival she never did, so her sister stayed with the toddler and his mom, the toddler’s brother and his two friends who shared a young man’s hut went off to the bush to sleep under the stars, and so the cousins gave Bale and Zeta a hut to share, a fire already built at its entrance and a couple of blankets tossed inside.

“Tomorrow morning,” Bale said to Zeta before they fell asleep. “I’m going to ask you to do something you won’t want to do.”

“That’s OK, sister,” Zeta replied. This was actually a standard Devan way of saying good night, and Zeta gave the standard response. “I hope you let me touch you with my gift.”

“I hope so too,” Bale added, which was not part of the standard good night ritual. “Because I’m actually going to ask you to do something you won’t want to do.” But she said this too quietly for Zeta to hear. Really, she just said it in her own mind. But it was true.

Blockading A Coal Plant in Massachusetts (Breaking news)

Environmental activists have just taken up a position off shore of the Brayton Point coal plant, near Fall River Massachusetts, in an effort to block access by a ship attempting to deliver coal there.

This is the boat.
This is the boat.
THIS is their web site, where there is a live Ustream.

One of the activists, Jay O’Hara, is tweeting from here: @oharjo and using the hashtag #coalisstupid

Here is a press release related to this event:

BREAKING NEWS: ACTIVISTS BLOCKING COAL SHIP “ENERGY ENTERPRISE” AT BRAYTON POINT COAL PLANT IN MASSACHUSETTS

Activists have begun a blockade of an incoming coal ship at the Brayton Point Power plant, outside Fall River, Massachusetts.

At 9 am this morning, environmental activists Ken Ward, 57 of Jamaica Plain, MA, and Jay O’Hara, 31, of Bourne,MA, anchored their 32’ lobster boat, the Henry David T, in the channel opposite the Brayton Point coal power plant.

They intend to block the “Energy Enterprise,” a coal tanker en route to deliver fuel to the power plant. The boat is transporting “mountain top removal coal” from Hampton, Roads, Virginia –and is expected to arrive later today.

Activists are calling for the immediate closure of BraytonPoint Power Station in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

“The world is teetering on the brink of climate chaos from which there will be no retreat,” said Jay O’Hara, captain of the Henry David T, a 1965 wooden lobster boat. “We know exactly what must be done to avoid the very worst. And the single most important action is to stop burning coal.”

The Brayton Point plant is the single largest coal polluter in New England.

In a separate announcement, members of 350 New Jersey and 350 Massachusetts today released a letter that was hand delivered to Dominion President and CEO, Thomas F. Farrell II and New Jersey-based Energy Capital Partners founder and Senior Partner Doug Kimmelman, opposing the sale of Brayton Point and calling on Dominion Energy to work with Massachuetts Governor Deval Patrick to close the plan.”

At 9:30 am, Ken Ward called the Somerset police to inform them, “We are conducting a peaceful nonviolent protest against the use of coal. We have anchored near the pier atBrayton Point.”

The men were inspired to take action by 350.org co-founder Bill Mckibben’s call for a summer of climate action, and galvanized by the proposed sale of the BraytonPoint Power Station by Dominion Energy to Energy Capital Partners.


Image from the power station’s web site.

Emacs Mail Amusements

Apropos this, cribbed from the GNU Emacs manual by (originally) Richard Stallman:

35.6 Mail Amusements
====================

`M-x spook’ adds a line of randomly chosen keywords to an outgoing mail
message. The keywords are chosen from a list of words that suggest you
are discussing something subversive.

The idea behind this feature is the suspicion that the NSA(1) and
other intelligence agencies snoop on all electronic mail messages that
contain keywords suggesting they might find them interesting. (The
agencies say that they don’t, but that’s what they _would_ say.) The
idea is that if lots of people add suspicious words to their messages,
the agencies will get so busy with spurious input that they will have
to give up reading it all. Whether or not this is true, it at least
amuses some people.

You can use the `fortune’ program to put a “fortune cookie” message
into outgoing mail. To do this, add `fortune-to-signature’ to
`mail-setup-hook’:

(add-hook ‘mail-setup-hook ‘fortune-to-signature)

You will probably need to set the variable `fortune-file’ before using
this.

———- Footnotes ———-

(1) The US National Security Agency.

___________
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Copyright © 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301, USA
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Updated: $Date: 2007/06/10 18:26:22 $ $Author: cyd $

Free Thought Blogger Meetup: A Conversation about Activist Blogging

Atheist Talk Radio on Sunday was a conversation with (in order of appearance in the photo) Phil Ferguson (Skeptic Money), Moi (X Blog), Jen McCreight (Blag Hag) – that’s Biodork – and Stephanie Zvan (Almost Diamonds). We talked about blogging and stuff.

Minnesota Atheist Talk Radio ... Phil Ferguson, Greg Laden, Jen McCreight, Biodork and Stephanie Zvan

You can download the podcast here.

Later that day, Jen gave her talk on “God’s Lady Problem.” Biodork has a few brief comments on the talk, it will be written up for the Minnesota Atheists newsletter, and I may make a few comments later. It was a great talk, well received, and it was great to meet Jennifer as well as Phil who just happened to be in town checking out schools with his offspring.