« May 2004 | Main | July 2004 »

Hope Died Last Night

Hope died last night.

We hear every day about the need for health care for all Americans. We hear statistics and proposals. We hear how it's not possible, or too hard. We hear the excuses of those afraid to try, or incapable of trying, or indifferent because it doesn't affect them.

While the excuses flowed, Hope died. And a family was devastated.

Hope was born at 21 weeks gestation. A tiny little girl.

For hour upon agonizing hour, knowing that something was very wrong, her mother fought to be seen in the hospital, due to an unpaid medical bill, because she had no insurance. She had not been able to afford prenatal care, literally having to make a choice between going to a doctor and feeding her other two children.

My friend lost her baby because she had no health insurance. Please don't let it have been for nothing.

Posted by Jessica Falker on June 24, 2004 at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Illegal US Cotton Subsidies

Will the June 18th World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that determined US cotton subsidies were illegal really stand? We know how the current administration reacts to any other authority telling them what to do. Therefore, the duty falls upon us to make sure that the US acts moral until a new leadership is in place in the United States.

What's the problem:
According to Oxfam, in 2001-02, US farmers received about $3.9 billion of subsidies. In 2001, 10 farms received subsidies equivalent to $17 million, then they produced so much cotton that the price fell on the world market. One of the biggest recievers of the subsidy money is Tyler Farms, an Arkansas-based corp that controls 40,000 acres of land.

As a result, 10 million West African cotton farmers are suffering through unfair cotton pricing. Africans rely on agricultural income. Current foreign aid programs cannot possibly make up for the agricultural losses they are suffering because of US cotton subsidies.

What can you do?
Use your powers of persuasion to alert others and declare that you want to see the US implement the recommendations within the WTO ruling. Send information to friends and family via email, write blogs, write or call your representatives, and don't forget to let the media know what subjects are important to you by writing Letters to the Editor.

For more information on this, the crisis in Sudan, and Certified Fair Trade: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/art1716.html

Posted by Charlene Johnston on June 21, 2004 at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change

Here's another take back our country tool that should be in all of our tool boxes. Last week, an unprecedented statement was made by a bipartisan coalition of 27 retired high-level diplomats and military officials. The coalition, Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, spoke out against the current administration's foreign policy and defense strategies.

The statement concluded with, "The Bush Administration has shown that it does not grasp these circumstances of the new era, and is not able to rise to the responsibilities of world leadership in either style or substance. It is time for a change."

I've attached their statement and the list of signatories for your use. Please distribute widely!

The Official Statement:

The undersigned have held positions of responsibility for the planning and execution of American foreign and defense policy. Collectively, we have served every president since Harry S. Truman. Some of us are Democrats, some are Republicans or Independents, many voted for George W. Bush. But we all believe that current Administration policies have failed in the primary responsibilities of preserving national security and providing world leadership. Serious issues are at stake. We need a change.

From the outset, President George W. Bush adopted an overbearing approach to America’s role in the world, relying upon military might and righteousness, insensitive to the concerns of traditional friends and allies, and disdainful of the United Nations. Instead of building upon America’s great economic and moral strength to lead other nations in a coordinated campaign to address the causes of terrorism and to stifle its resources, the Administration, motivated more by ideology than by reasoned analysis, struck out on its own. It led the United States into an ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain. It justified the invasion of Iraq by manipulation of uncertain intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, and by a cynical campaign to persuade the public that Saddam Hussein was linked to Al Qaeda and the attacks of September 11. The evidence did not support this argument.

Our security has been weakened. While American airmen and women, marines, soldiers and sailors have performed gallantly, our armed forces were not prepared for military occupation and nation building. Public opinion polls throughout the world report hostility toward us. Muslim youth are turning to anti-American terrorism. Never in the two and a quarter centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated among the nations, so broadly feared and distrusted. No loyal American would question our ultimate right to act alone in our national interest; but responsible leadership would not turn to unilateral military action before diplomacy had been thoroughly explored.

The United States suffers from close identification with autocratic regimes in the Muslim world, and from the perception of unquestioning support for the policies and actions of the present Israeli Government. To enhance credibility with Islamic peoples we must pursue courageous, energetic and balanced efforts to establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and policies that encourage responsible democratic reforms.

We face profound challenges in the 21st Century: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, unequal distribution of wealth and the fruits of globalization, terrorism, environmental degradation, population growth in the developing world, HIV/AIDS, ethnic and religious confrontations. Such problems can not be resolved by military force, nor by the sole remaining superpower alone; they demand patient, coordinated global effort under the leadership of the United States.

The Bush Administration has shown that it does not grasp these circumstances of the new era, and is not able to rise to the responsibilities of world leadership in either style or substance. It is time for a change.

The Signatories:

The Honorable Avis T. Bohlen
Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, 1999
Ambassador to Bulgaria, 1996
District of Columbia

Admiral William J. Crowe, USN, Ret.
Chairman, President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Committee, 1993
Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, 1993
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1985
Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Command

The Honorable Jeffrey S. Davidow
Ambassador to Mexico, 1998
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, 1996
Ambassador to Venezuela, 1993
Ambassador to Zambia, 1988

The Honorable William A. DePree
Ambassador to Bangladesh, 1987
Director of State Department Management Operations, 1983
Ambassador to Mozambique, 1976

The Honorable Donald B. Easum
Ambassador to Nigeria, 1975
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, 1974
Ambassador to Upper Volta, 1971

The Honorable Charles W. Freeman, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs, 1993
Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1989
Rhode Island

The Honorable William C. Harrop
Ambassador to Israel, 1991
Ambassador to Zaire, 1987
Inspector General of the State Department and Foreign Service, 1983
Ambassador to Kenya and Seychelles, 1980
Ambassador to Guinea, 1975
New Jersey

The Honorable Arthur A. Hartman
Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1981
Ambassador to France, 1977
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, 1973
New Jersey

General Joseph P. Hoar, USMC, Ret.
Commander in Chief, United States Central Command, 1991
Deputy Chief of Staff, Marine Corps, 1990
Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, 1987

The Honorable H. Allen Holmes
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, 1993
Ambassador at Large for Burdensharing, 1989
Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs, 1986
Ambassador to Portugal, 1982

The Honorable Robert V. Keeley
Ambassador to Greece, 1985
Ambassador to Zimbabwe, 1980
Ambassador to Mauritius, 1976

The Honorable Samuel W. Lewis
Director of State Department Policy and Planning, 1993
Ambassador to Israel, 1977
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, 1975

The Honorable Princeton N. Lyman
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, 1997
Ambassador to South Africa, 1992
Director, Bureau of Refugee Programs, 1989
Ambassador to Nigeria, 1986

The Honorable Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1987
Director for European and Soviet Affairs, National Security Council, 1983
Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, 1981

The Honorable Donald F. McHenry
Ambassador and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1979

General Merrill A. (Tony) McPeak, USAF, Ret.
Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, 1990
Commander in Chief, Pacific Air Forces, 1988
Commander, 12th Air Force and U.S. Southern Command Air Forces, 1987

The Honorable George E. Moose
Representative, United Nations European Office, 1997
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, 1993
Ambassador to Senegal, 1988
Director, State Department Bureau of Management Operations, 1987
Ambassador to Benin, 1983

The Honorable David D. Newsom
Secretary of State ad interim, 1981
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, 1978
Ambassador to the Philippines, 1977
Ambassador to Indonesia, 1973
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, 1969
Ambassador to Libya, 1965

The Honorable Phyllis E. Oakley
Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, 1997
Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, 1994

The Honorable Robert Oakley
Special Envoy for Somalia, 1992
Ambassador to Pakistan, 1988
Ambassador to Somalia.1982
Ambassador to Zaire, 1979

The Honorable James D. Phillips
Diplomat-in-Residence, the Carter Center of Emory University, 1994
Ambassador to the Republic of Congo, 1990
Ambassador to Burundi, 1986

The Honorable John E. Reinhardt
Director of the United States Information Agency, 1977
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, 1975
Ambassador to Nigeria, 1971

General William Y. Smith, USAF, Ret.
Chief of Staff for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, 1979
Assistant to the Chairman, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1975
Director of National Security Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, 1974

The Honorable Ronald I. Spiers
Under Secretary General of the United Nations for Political Affairs, 1989
Under Secretary of State for Management, 1983
Ambassador to Pakistan, 1981
Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, 1980
Ambassador to Turkey, 1977
Ambassador to The Bahamas, 1973
Director, State Department Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, 1969

The Honorable Michael E. Sterner
Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, 1974
New York

Admiral Stansfield Turner, USN, Ret.
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1977
Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (NATO), 1975
Commander, U.S. Second Fleet, 1974

The Honorable Alexander F. Watson
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, 1993
Ambassador to Brazil, 1992
Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1989
Ambassador to Peru, 1986

Posted by Charlene Johnston on June 20, 2004 at 11:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Volunteer's Value

Recently, Kate Donaghue, a former Dean for America supporter, offered valuable advise on how to get the most value out of a volunteer's offer of service. She was kind enough to allow me to post it here. While I had her ear, I asked how a candidate could utilize an out-of-state volunteer. Her suggestions are included here (below Kate's Five Guidelines).

Please add your ideas in our comment section here.

"Kate's Five Guidelines"

I am an experienced volunteer, both in the political and nonprofit areas. Over the years I have developed five guidelines for staff working with volunteers. They are simple, but important.

1) Welcome us.
2) Give us meaningful and achievable tasks - don't waste our time.
3) Treat us with respect.
4) Feed us.
5) Thank us.

1) WELCOME US. Greet people, make us feel welcome. Introduce yourself when a volunteer comes into your office. Ensure that both the office and phones are configured and staffed to ensure that people are greeted and welcomed. A simple way to begin to accomplish this is to put a big sign that says "WELCOME VOLUNTEERS!" at the entrance. Part of the "welcome us" rule includes making sure that new people are introduced to other volunteers. Pair up experienced volunteers with newcomers.

Skipping number two, for now and on to rule three,

3) TREAT US WITH RESPECT. It is important to respect the fact that we are giving up time from our families and paying jobs to volunteer. It includes giving us the respect of responding to our phone calls and e-mail. Respect includes something as basic as asking us what kind of work we want to do. Volunteers understand that what we want to do may not be what best meets the campaign needs. Ask us what we want to do and tell us what you need. Most volunteers understand "campaign chaos" and the last minute nature of campaigns; but we still want the respect of giving us appropriate notice when asking us to help. One additional facet of point three is to tell volunteers what our specific task is geared to accomplish - - what the goals are. Part of treating us with respect is to not make people feel like failures, especially when dealing with forces beyond our control. Respect our experience and our knowledge of our community.

4) FEED US. This can be as simple as offering us a cup of coffee during a cold standout or a bottle of water to bring with us on a hot canvass. Granola bars and raisins are easy to manage food. Some of us might find providing homemade snacks to be an enjoyable way to help. There are great cooks and bakers in the volunteer ranks. It saves money and adds a nice atmosphere. A little sustenance will make us more efficient, obviating the need for breaks to buy food.

5) THANKS US. Make sure we know that our work is appreciated. It is key for staff to ensure that the candidate (or senior staff) knows who is volunteering. Thanking includes everything from e-mails to snail mail to phone calls. The occasional "thank you gathering" is never out of place. Even if we do not attend a thank you event, we appreciate the invitation. Thanking is so important that it needs to have a system in place. The system should include a mechanism for local volunteers to communicate to staff, in a structured way, the names of people who are volunteering in the community and are out of sight/out of mind for the office staff.

Rule number two is the most challenging. Some suggestions:
- Plan ahead. Have a job file of tasks that need to be done. These can include photocopying, responding to written requests, filing, data entry, writing thank you notes. Avoid a situation when a volunteer walks in to help and is told that there is nothing to do or a volunteer calls and is told don't bother coming in.
- Be creative. Every time staff thinks, "This is important, but I don't have the time," think of how the task could be tailored to allow a volunteer to own it.
- Look at what staff is doing and think, "Can a volunteer do this task?

Ideally campaigns should have available a variety of tasks. In some cases campaigns offer very little in between "Go hold a sign" and "Go organize a senate district." If a campaign wants us to do more than we can achieve, give us the priorities. Example: Phone banks are a higher priority than lawn signs, if that is the campaign's strategy.

The corollary, "don't waste our time," includes good concise training. Don't consider volunteer time to be an expendable resource. Some campaigns may consider it more efficient to do one big training, even if it means volunteers who are ready to go are waiting. Train volunteers in small groups, and then get us going. If we are coming to phone bank, have us go straight to the actual location. Going to headquarters to get assigned to a different location can waste time. Let us call on our way to our shift and give us our assigned site.

CONCLUSION: Campaigns are challenging and exciting. Volunteers can and should be an important complement to staff. Below are real examples of how to succeed in following these guidelines. A campaign that consistently follows "Kate's Five Guidelines" will succeed with volunteer recruitment. Thanks to John Walsh, Ginny Allan, Chuck Anastas and Catherine Bayliss for their assistance with this article.

CAMPAIGN STARS: Submitted by John Walsh. Good campaigns are made up of many stars (the volunteers). When a volunteer does something for the campaign, create a star with the volunteer's name. A digital photo can be included. On the star note the date and the activity, such as "6/8 - phone bank". The star is posted on the wall of the HQ and each time the volunteer does something for the campaign, it is notes on the star, "6/10 - visibility." Once the star has ten activities, they get a silver star. At twenty activities the star becomes gold and the volunteer receives a more substantial reward, like an embroidered shirt. The specifics can vary and it requires an advocate to be sure that the volunteers and staff keep it up to date. The candidate and senior campaign staff should make a point of checking on the stars

SAMPLE INTRODUCTION TO PHONE SCRIPT: The themes of both respect and thanks are woven into the text. Good written instructions are an integral part of the "Don't waste our time." corollary." The explanation of the purpose shows respect for us as volunteers.

"Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to help. Your support means a lot to the candidate. A few notes:
The goals of the Phone Bank are:
-Contact VERY LIKELY voters so they know we're working early,
-Determine if these voters have made a decision about the race.
-That's it. We're NOT trying to convince undecided voters tonight.
-Don't mention the name of any other candidate.
This suggested script is a guideline. If you feel comfortable reading it - go ahead and do so. As you work with it, you may find you need to make adjustments to reflect your personal style or comfort level. Make it your own! First, get comfortable. Read the script over a few times so you are familiar. Now - PICK UP THE PHONE and make a call!! Thanks again."

For Out of Staters:
With e-mail and phones an out of state volunteer can be very helpful.

1) Fundraising can be done very effectively out of state. Follow up calls from a targeted mailing sent out by the Party. My pitch was simple, "Hi I'm a volunteer for the Vermont Democratic Party, working with Mary Jones." As always I believe in truth in fundraising and politics. I never volunteered the information that I was working from out of state, but answered truthfully when asked.

2) Checking e-mail and voice mails. Staff can partner with an out of state volunteer. Obviously this needs someone who is knowledgeable, but a volunteer can go through the campaign's inbox, answer the questions that are routine and distribute the others to the appropriate person. Most voice mails can be accessed remotely. A volunteer can dial into the number and review the calls, answering those that can be answered and creating an e-mail for the appropriate staff. This is a great solution in conjunction with my guideline #3 in which I say answer people's phone calls. The staff could alternatively e-mail a response to the out of state volunteer who does the actual return phone call.

3) Any list that can be called by an in-state volunteer can be called by an out-of-state volunteer. Traditional voter ID calls are probably best done either by instate people, unless technology is provided so that the volunteer can input the information online. Calling through supporter lists for crowd building or volunteer activities lends itself well for that.

4) Media watch and press assistance: Assign to monitor the local news on line for mentions of the candidate. Write press releases to make sure that the candidate's name stays in the paper. Campaigns seldom have time to make sure that a press release is going out every day, but a volunteer can do the press releases that may or may not get published and might not be a high priority for the campaign staff.

Posted by Jessica Falker on June 19, 2004 at 04:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Federal Marriage Amendment

Word is that a Senate vote is expected in early July on the Federal Marriage Amendment. As a married woman, I fully support civil marriage as an institution to be defended by our government. My husband and I believe that to insert any kind of additional discrimination into our Constitution is to do injustice to us all.

As we move forward, we should remember that our Constitution has been misused by those in power in the past. We have an embarassing history that nobody likes to talk about. Like when our own U.S. Supreme Court upheld the institution of slavery by stating that slaves were not “citizens” but only “property” lacking any constitutional protection or when the Supreme Court invalidated the Civil Rights Act of 1875 claiming “there must be some stage in the progress of his [a former slave’s] elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen, and ceases to be a special favorite of the law.” These were just a few of the times when America allowed its people to be relegated to the ranks of “second-class citizen.”

Unfortunately, there is a long history of people believing that they are superior to “other” segments of our population, and these same people have always had “reasons” for denying equal rights to the “others.” I implore you to fight these people; do not let them use our Constitution as a tool for discrimination. By prohibiting same-sex marriage, you declare that homosexuals are not afforded the “dignity and equality of all individuals," and you relegate them to the ranks of “second-class citizens.”

Please oppose any attempt to build discrimination into our Constitution. Tell your Senators that you oppose amending the Constitution to discrimate against any citizen.

Posted by Charlene Johnston on June 18, 2004 at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What do you Want the Democratic Platform to Be?

Here's a chance to let the Democratic Party know what YOU believe deserves to be on the Party's National Platform.

Honestly, it may just be a marketing tool to get your name & address so they can request money; but, heck....if they've already found you with their many requests for funds, why not at least get your viewpoint expressed. Since it's database oriented, it might actually be counted. Unlike when you send them an email and they never respond. Hmmm, that sounds a little bitter. ; )


Posted by Charlene Johnston on June 16, 2004 at 10:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Getting Young Women To Vote.

62% of females between the ages of 18 and 25 didn't vote during the 2000 presidential election.

Their reasons are no different than what we hear from others: alienated from the political process and uninformed on current events. Hopefully, you and the internet are helping them feel informed and organizations like DFA, MoveOn, True Majority, GFA, LFA and MViMV will help them feel involved in the political process. Let us know if there's anything we can do through MViMV and/or Deanfest to initiate your demographic in the political process.

Here's an article from the Village Voice which covers the latest reasons why young women don't vote:

A New Voting Age for Women: 26
by Cathy Hong
June 15th, 2004 10:00 AM

Even shopping at an Urban Outfitters, a retail chain that caused a small scandal this year when it created a T-shirt with the phrase "Voting is for Old People," 25-year-old Hunter College student Judy Denby hardly fits the mold of the sheltered and indifferent slacker. To earn money for tuition, she spent two years in Kosovo, working in the U.S. Army's payroll department. She says being in the military was "not a good experience," and she strongly believes high-ranking officials have abused their power in Iraq.

But Denby has other strong beliefs. "I'm not voting," she says. "It's out of our hands. There's nothing we can do."

Women like Denby help to account for the 62 percent of females between the ages of 18 and 25 who didn't show up for the last presidential election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. "There is a huge number of women who are on the sidelines of democracy, and young women are on the top of those bleachers," says Page Gardner, project co-director of the nonpartisan Women's Voices, Women's Vote.

Historically, younger women of all races and classes have been less likely to vote than their older counterparts, but they have at least edged out their male peers. Then a study funded in 2002 by the Pew Charitable Trust for People and Press painted a gloomier picture. It showed that only 22 percent of 20- to 25-year-old women vote regularly, versus 28 percent of men in that age group. Could it be that young women are giving up on the game?

Reasons abound for why young women don't vote. They're alienated from the political process. Politicians don't connect with them personally. College life disengages them from the real world. "They are concerned," says Brandon Holley, editor of Elle Girl, "but they’re uprooted, disorganized. Things don't occur to them until the last minute."

Many young women report feeling too uninformed on current events to be confident about voting. Despite her military experience, Denby doesn't watch the news and says she doesn’t know enough. "Maybe it is ignorance, but I think there’s no difference between the two candidates," she says.

Taylor Mitchell, 21, is working on a magazine article in which she interviewed young women from all walks of life about their opinions on the upcoming election. "I was disappointed, because anytime a girl was with someone else, they were weak with their responses, especially when they were with guys," she says. "They would hesitate and ask their boyfriends, 'What do I think?' "

This year, activists on both sides hope to spark a surge in turnout by young female voters. Working with the Dixie Chicks, Rock the Vote has launched "Chicks Rock, Chicks Vote," a campaign that’s sending volunteers to malls, concerts, and college campuses to teach young women about voting. Bands like Sleater-Kinney, a feminist rock band, are joining with Music for America to sign voters up at their concerts. "Onstage, we sometimes encourage them to vote Bush off," guitarist Carrie Brownstein says. "But usually we just let them know the registration stands are there. It's better than being didactic."

V-Day has begun its own campaign, called V is for Vote: "We have something called 'Get your Pussy Posses to the Polls.' Each girl is responsible for bringing friends to the voter polls," says founder and playwright Eve Ensler.

The concerns of younger women seem to differ from those of older women only with regard to perspective. "For education, young women are concerned about mortgage-sized college debts. For older women, they’re preoccupied with education for their children," says Christina Desser, co-director of Women's Voices, Women's Vote.

Desser says she expects a huge increase in voting by young women, because she's meeting so many who are registering for the first time. Her optimism is shared by young activists like Molly Kuwachi, 19, who staged a production of The Vagina Monologues at her school and donated the proceeds to a local women's shelter. "Look, so many of the things we took for granted are in danger, like abortion rights," says the Connecticut College student. "Look at the March [for Women's Lives] in Washington. Organizers didn't think many young women would show up, but out of the million, a third ended up being 18- to 24-year-olds."

Despite the optimism, it's all conjecture until November. Says Brownstein, "The older generation is riled up, so I worry that there is some projection. Eighteen-year-olds hardly have urgency about anything, let alone voting, so you never know. But I hope they’re right."

Posted by Jessica Falker on June 15, 2004 at 11:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)