Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

The Yes Men Fix the World

It’s time for Lubbock DFA Movie Night:

Who: Lubbock Democracy for America
What: “The Yes Men Fix the World” free screening with refreshments and
When: Thursday, October 29, 2009 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Where: Lubbock County Democratic Party HQ, 2809A 74th St
Why: Because the Yes Men pull hilarious pranks on irresponsible corporations!

The Yes Men are a comedians who infiltrate corporate events and make fake announcements designed to draw attention to important global issues that the business world has a history of ignoring or handling poorly (e.g. climate change, pollution, globalization).

Here are some of my favorite Yes Men hijinks:

I think we could use the Yes Men in Lubbock, where people take themselves too seriously sometimes.

Rally and Response

Wednesday’s lunchtime rally at Senator Cornyn’s Lubbock office was a success. The A-J covered it fairly, and four TV news stations also covered it (e.g. KCBD coverage, KLBK coverage). The rally was coordinated by and attended by about 40 local citizens willing to use their lunch break to let Senator Cornyn know that Texans want a public option.

I want to show you the statement, in full, that Senator Cornyn’s office responded with:

“Sen. Cornyn fully supports the rights of all Texans to free speech and peaceful assembly, but it is obvious that today’s protests were orchestrated by the extreme left wing who is out of touch with the priorities and concerns of the majority of Texans. Sen. Cornyn must represent all 24 million Texans, the overwhelming majority of whom are vehemently opposed to a government takeover of health care. We need health care reform that makes insurance more affordable and accessible to all, but we can’t fund it by raising taxes on middle class families and small businesses and stealing a half trillion dollars from a Medicare program that is already $38 trillion in the red. Nor can we afford to make historic expansion to Medicaid and add millions of Texans to this program that already has severe access problems and is wrought with fraud, waste, and abuse. Sen. Cornyn stands for real choice and competition, but a competitor that takes the field as it sets the rules of the game isn’t fair competition.”
Jessica Sandlin, Spokesperson for Senator John Cornyn

There are so many problems with that statement. There are the typical right-wing red herrings like “government takeover,” and “raising taxes,” that have no basis in reality. And there are a few more that stand out to me:

Medicare … is already $38 trillion in the red.”

That’s some crazy math right there, since $38 trillion is nearly 3 times the GDP of the USA (and approaching the GDP of the entire world). This $38 trillion remark is more likely based on a flawed projection of the future of Medicare, in which case the world “already” makes the statement a lie (in case the $38 trillion number didn’t red-flag it for you).

Medicaid … has severe access problems and is wrought with fraud, waste, and abuse.

The thing about a government program is that the people have recourse to get in there and fix it. If Medicaid is as bad as Cornyn thinks, then fixing it should be a top priority of his. With private industry, citizens don’t have as much recourse, and there is plenty of evidence that the private industry has much more fraud, waste, and abuse.

Sen. Cornyn must represent all 24 million Texans, the overwhelming majority of whom are vehemently opposed to a government takeover of health care.

Also irritating is the Senator’s attempt to find the right words to claim that Texans don’t care about health care or the public option. A few months back, I delivered a DFA petition to Sen. Cornyn’s Lubbock office that listed tens of thousands of Texan supporters of a public option (they signed the online petition at including hundreds from Lubbock and the surrounding counties. Either he’s not listening, or we’re not making our voices heard enough. I suspect the problem is both! We can do our part by calling Sen. Cornyn’s Lubbock office at 806-472-7533 (or fax him at 472-7536). We can’t let him get away with claiming that Texans are fine with health care the way it is.

Overall, the rally was a boost for me personally and (hopefully) a good shot in the arm for a movement that has been building for decades and needs to push on through the finish line.

The Least of These

This Thursday at 7pm, Lubbock Democracy for America will show “The Least of These,” a brand new 2009 movie about the so-called “family detention center” in Hutto, TX.

From the film’s description:

Detention of immigrant children in a former medium-security prison in Texas leads to controversy when three activist attorneys discover troubling conditions at the facility. This compelling documentary film explores the role - and limits - of community activism, and considers how American rights and values apply to the least powerful among us.

Here are the event details:

Event Date: Sep 24, 2009
Event Time: 7:00 PM
Venue Name: Lubbock County Democratic Party HQ
Address: 2809A 74th St
City: Lubbock
State: TX
Zip Code: 79423
Phone: 806-749-8683

DFA Movie nights are always free and open to the public. Refreshments are provided, and a discussion will follow the film.

See you there!
Lubbock DFA site
Lubbock Democrats

Food Activism

A friend of mine is a graduate student (MFA), and his latest project involves making plastic out of milk (like this adorable kid here and these nice ladies here). Related to that, he’s come upon some exciting new developments in the world of food activism that I want to share with y’all tonight.

My friend sent this thorough and fascinating talk by Jeffrey M. Smith:

Expert Jeffrey M. Smith, author of the #1 GMO bestseller Seeds of Deception, and Genetic Roulette, entertains a wildly appreciative audience with shocking facts about how genetically modified organisms (GMOs) entered our lives. Smith links GMO to toxins, allergies, infertility, infant mortality, immune dysfunction, stunted growth, and death. Whistleblowers were fired, threatened, and gagged, and warnings by FDA scientists were ignored. Start today to protect yourself by joining the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America— a plan that gives the consumer the power to end the genetic engineering of our food supply.

We need better food labeling in many ways, including whether a food is genetically modified. We need more research on the effects of GM food — the correlations that are out there suggest all kinds of possible problems with it. We need public scrutiny and appropriate enforcement of food safety laws when it comes to big agra and our industrialized food delivery system.

Foodies (and there are plenty of foodies in Lubbock!) can make a difference too. Of course we need the systematic changes mentioned above, but food activism can be as simple as talking to your friends about healthy eating and making informed choices. As with consumer safety, informed and empowered food buying is an essential part of progress.

Check out this document from the Campaign for Healthy Eating In America for more information.

Toxic Purses?

I found a cool resource yesterday, courtesy of, an action group focused on issues important to mothers and children. tests common family items — purses, booster seats, cars/minivans, pet toys, and so forth — for high levels of lead and toxic chemicals. There are a surprising number of items with a high level of concern.

Consumer protection groups are only effective if consumers actually pay attention to the disseminated results of their research. The advantage we have in the internet age is that this research can be outsourced and distributed (”crowdsourced” if you like new words) and then collected and circulated online. The database has a mobile-friendly version too, so you can check to see if the product you are about to purchase is dangerous right there while you are shopping in the store. There’s also a blog widget for it, which I include at the end of this post.

We may be beyond the age of consumer safety giants like Ralph Nader if we all do our part to chip in and get the word out. Distributed activism is more potent than individual activism, because an individual can be silenced while a group cannot.

The other half of effective consumer protection is appropriate government regulation of industry, which Nader and others realized, and which I believe will never disappear as a necessary component for consumer protection. Given the number of dangerous / toxic products that you can search for yourself in the database, I think it’s pretty obvious that our nation’s chemicals policy needs to be reformed so that known, dangerous chemicals will not be found in the products we buy everyday for our families.

Learn more:

The widget:

Alan Turing Apology

I love it when a plan comes together. Or, in this case, an online petition accomplishes something.

(Honestly, I don’t want to see statistics on what percentage of online petitions result in action… I bet it’s a low number.)

Today, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for the British Government’s treatment of science hero Alan Turing in the 1950s. From Gordon Brown’s statement:

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ - in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence - and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

AlanTuringThis news is exciting not only because a war hero and scientific giant (you’ve probably heard of the “Turing Test,” for example) has finally been exonerated, but also because of the manner in which it was done. The British government maintains an online petition system as part of its website, and 10,000+ British citizens signed this one, moving it up the list quite rapidly. I first found out about it via Facebook last week.

Online activism is still evolving a great deal, but I believe that this is a successful form of it. It used social networking sites in conjunction with an established infrastructure for online petitions that someone somewhere with some amount of authority or influence looked at. It’s great that the UK government has embraced online petitions in this way. Given the overture toward online openness for which the Obama administration is already known, maybe we’ll see something like this soon in the States.

For now, as someone who spent a significant amount of undergraduate classroom time proving that this-or-that algorithm is reducible to a Turing machine, and as someone who wants to see an end to homophobia, I call today a good day.

Neugebauer Town Hall Part 3: Now with video!

Here are the video clips from Randy Neugebauer’s Lubbock Town Hall meeting 8/25/2009:

Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 1
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 2
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 3
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 4
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 5
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 6
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 7

Thanks to my friend Daniel for actually capturing the video. Note that my flip cam only holds an hour of video, so there is a chunk near the end of the town hall that is missing. I’m new to the whole world of posting online video, so I apologize for lack of editing and polish (and the delay while I figure this stuff out). I hope to post many more videos in my blogging career.

There are some real gems in there that didn’t make it onto the evening news or even onto talk radio — coon-tree-bark guy and chemtrail lady come to mind, as well as the introduction from that AFIIG guy (and come on now, how “grassroots” is an LLC, anyway?).

You know those nights where you lie awake thinking, “If only I had said ______ things would be different!” Well, footage of Randy’s town hall meeting keeps putting me in that mindset. Example. As a couple of commenters have noted, the missing part of Randy’s explanation for why he supports farm subsidies but not national health care is that, as with farm subsidies, national health care levels the playing field internationally by reducing the cost to employers of providing health care. Japanese and European automakers don’t have to pay for health care for their employees, but American automakers do, for example. It would have been nice to point that out to our Congressman and hear his reaction.

Anyway, there it is. Now on to a bazillion rude comments, probably.

Neugebauer Town Hall Trip Report: Part 2

Still waiting on video — I’ve got it in one big chunk but need to edit it down.

In the meantime, I’d like to share with you the questions that the Lubbock County Democratic Party who attended the town hall decided to ask Congressman Neugebauer. These were voted on Monday night by those planning to attend the town hall the next day.

Here they are:

  1. You cosponsored the recent farm subsidies bill, which is actually government run. But in the A-J you opposed health insurance reform because you said it “would be government run.” Can you explain this contradiction?
  2. Almost 75% of the nation’s uninsured have jobs, but do not have health care benefits. Can you explain how they can afford health care insurance without a low cost public option, or do you want to leave them uninsured?
  3. One in five people in Lubbock county are uninsured. Figures show emergency care is more expensive than preventative medicine, which a public option would provide. Currently Lubbock County taxes fund uninsured trips to the county’s ER.
    Why do you support wasting tax payer money?
  4. 50 thousand Lubbockites do not have health insurance. Last year you received nearly $50,000 from insurance companies. Did this money influence your decision to oppose health insurance reform that would cover 50,000 of your uninsured constituents?
  5. Would you please make a statement affirming that Barak Obama is a natural born citizen and the legitimately elected president of the Unites States.

I am happy to say that most of these were asked in some form or another, and not necessarily by our group who prepared the night before.

This is an example of real grassroots organizing, not astroturf like what’s been happening at some of these town halls. We are all citizens of Lubbock County and therefore Randy’s constituents. We did not get paid to do this, get bused in from another town (or another district — look for Randy’s folks to meddle in Eastern New Mexico politics next year), or follow the instructions/talking points of a national media personality. We did not plan to be disruptive, but we did organize to make sure our voice was heard.

And, attention KFYO radio personalities: it is consistently right-wingers who are showing up to these town halls with pictures of the President looking like Hitler and calling those on the left Nazis, not the other way around.

Another aside: DFA movie night is today, Thursday 8/27/09 at 7pm at Lubbock County Democratic Party HQ (2809A 74th St). We will show the documentary “Life. Support. Music.” Admission is free, refreshments are provided, and a discussion will follow the film.

I’ve been caught up in all this town hall stuff and forgot to announce it earlier in the week. :)

Neugebauer Town Hall Trip Report: Part 1

Except for the couple of jerks who insulted my girlfriend, the Randy Neugebauer town hall was very civil — not like the clips of town halls crashed by right-wing shouters or poster-rippers. It was an hour and a half of brisk Q+A from audience members lined up at 2 mics. People mostly showed how they felt by clapping/cheering or remaining silent, though there was some whooping and hollering now and then. One dude with an opposite view from mine took the time to shake my hand afterward to thank my friends and me for being decent, and I said the same to him. That was a very nice moment.

The Congressman’s staff were very pleasant and helpful as usual.

Oh, but there was the one gentleman who, during his turn at the mic, literally said, “When you’ve got a coon up a tree, bark!” in reference to the President. A very unfortunate choice of words at the least. A fellow Lubbock blogger I met at the town hall chronicled this line (and the event in general) very well.

It will take me several posts to present all the material from the town hall. A friend of mine took video of most of it, which we will clean up, put on YouTube, and link here. In the meantime, the hilarious-but-tired GOP health care chart (scary! confusing! colors! ugly fonts! boo!) made another appearance in giant poster and handout form.

Local media coverage of the town hall meeting was OK, though the number of people at the meeting varied widely among different media outlets. I’ll say that the hall was packed to standing-room-only, and there were 1,000 chairs in the room. Also, certain media outlets (KAMC and KLBK, for example) did not acknowledge that the questions were basically evenly divided between those who were in favor of a public option (or other health care reform at the federal level), those who were against, and those who had other things to talk about. To lump people into broad categories, there may have been more “conservatives” in attendance, but the questions and comments were hardly dominated by “conservative” opinions.

I did come to the conclusion that our Congressman is sucking up to the we-hate-government wing of his Party’s base. The person who introduced Congressman Neugebauer was from AFIIG, and Randy spent a whole lot of time painting our government as a boogeyman.

At any rate, I’ll soon post links to video of basically the whole event, so you can see for yourself. For now, here are a few pictures I’ve received from friends-with-cameras so far:

Some friends arriving early to get good seats by the mics.

Dana Neugebauer visits with LCRP Precinct 47 Chair Mikel Ward.

The hall starts to fill up.

More tomorrow!

And oh dear, as I am about to post this, I just saw news that Senator Ted Kennedy has died:

RIP “The Lion of the Senate”

Friday Rally: Photos and Video

I did not attend the Friday rally on the courthouse lawn to protest the controversial courthouse postings of County Judge Tom Head, but my friend Leo Flores attended and took some pictures and video, which I present here.

Here is a video of some of the speakers:

This is easily my favorite photo of the event:


Other photos of those attending the rally or speaking:










Tom Head supporters counter-protesting:








And that’s all I have. If you have additional photos of the event, contact me and I’ll put them up as well.

A-J coverage of the rally is here.

E-mail It