The role of cell phone text messaging in state legislative advocacy

The use of cellphone text messaging (aka SMS, for short messsage service) in activism contexts has already been well documented by [Howard Rheingold](, among many others. But most of the celebrated examples have been drawn from the contexts of international national-elections and associated mass protests: the recent elections in Spain, the Phillippines, Korea, etc. A [recent AP story]( noted that newspaper editors are starting to feel threatened by the ability of text messaging to provide instant news, opinion, and rumors far faster than traditional print & television media.

I’ve been thinking a bit about how this technology could best be applied in the context of Northwest environmental activism. Of course there’s the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, but was really an international-scale protest event, rather than a local/regional-scale environmental campaign.

The challenge is that most Northwest environmental issues are neither top-of-mind, a source of mass public outrage or particularly fast-moving. I’m also wondering how cell-phone text messaging could be most effectively used outside of a protest-organizing context. How can it be more of a news & information service?

One thing I’m thinking is that it might be worthwhile to set up an instant messaging network to connect environmental lobbyists in Olympia with each other and with their colleagues back in the main offices in Seattle and elsewhere. While this is not a very “public-facing” kind of application, I think it may be very high-value. Why? Well, critical moments in legislation often happen very quickly, and require quick coordination among a bunch of busy people who are often hard to reach. These people already carry cell phones, but it’s often not practical to provide quick information updates via conversation.

What I imagine is the text-message equivalent of an email listserv… where lobbyists can instantly post quick updates on conversations, deals, etc. to their collleagues. A way to improve our “operational intelligence” if you will. Also, this will help the lobbyists improve communication with their more distant collegauges — Executive Directors, Communications Directors and Field Organizers — back in Seattle and elsewhere.

A service like this would be easy to get going — nearly all of the principles already have cellphones — although some might require upgrades to SMS-capable phones. The only other piece would be to establish a centralized list to manage the updates.

Matching the Scenery

Matching the Scenery: Journalism’s Duty to the American West is an intriguing study from the Wallace Stegner Initiative at the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources in Missoula, MT. Written by journalists, for journalists, it paints the broad picture of how western newspapers are failing in their duty to help their readers understand growth, development and the environment, and lays out some recommendations for how they could do better.

Here are their chapter intros:

>1 Journalism’s Duty
>Daily newspapers in the North American West have an obligation to explain the large-scale changes in population, economy and environment that are transforming the character of the region and its communities.

>2 The Tumultuous West
>The transformation under way throughout the North American West is unmatched in pace, intensity and sheer magnitude. Keeping up with this phenomenon has become a serious challenge for the West’s daily newspapers.

>3 Inadequate Resources
>A large majority of Western dailies need to commit greater resources to gathering news about growth, development and the environment.

>4 Valuable Veterans
>Competent veteran reporters have the skills, experience, news judgment and sources to cover environment issues effectively. Yet at many dailies in the West, high rates of turnover on the beat are accepted as unavoidable.

>5 Stale Formulas
>Reporters and editors who shape environment news coverage of the vast majority of Western dailies rely too heavily on stale, predictable formulas of storytelling that usually shed more heat than light.

>6 Reporting and Bias
>A journalist’s personal attitudes should never distort coverage, but neither should readers mistake a reporter’s honest, independent judgment for bias.

>7 Profits and Paychecks
Corporate-chain owners of Western newspapers insist on high profit margins. For meeting financial targets, publishers and their corporate bosses reap handsome rewards, but often at the expense of the quality of coverage.

>8 Leaving the Family
>Corporate chains have bought more than 100 of the West’s 285 dailies since 1994, leaving about 30 still owned by families or independents.

>9 Understanding Geographies
>At most daily newspapers in the West, coverage of growth, development and the environment should be grounded in deeper understanding of natural traits and conditions of the places that these papers are supposed to serve.

>10 Choices for Newsrooms
>Daily newspapers in the North American West have the freedom to choose how to allocate people, time, space and other resources to coverage of growth, development and the environment. At most Western dailies, reallocating these resources could result in better coverage.

A well-deserved victory for BC forests

As the people of BC suffer through one of the worst fire seasons on record, we
get the good news of a major victory for the forests of BC. The Liberal govern
ment of BC has dropped its “Working Forests” proposal that could have opened op
ened nearly half of BC’s forests to industrial logging on an unprecdented scale.

The good folks at Western Canada Wilderness Committee provide [the skinny](http

>Under the previous Working Forest proposal (BC Governments Working Forest Discussion Paper, Jan. 2003), the government would have:

>* Rescinded the Provincial Forest. This would have eliminated the Ministry of
Forests from most decisions regarding Crown land sell-offs to private real estate developers (ie. streamlined the sell-off of public lands), and also nullified the legislative barrier in the Forest Act which forbids the sale of Crown lands for forestry purposes.

>* Established a Cabinet order in council which would legally designate the Working Forest in the place of the Provincial Forest. This order in council would define the purpose of the Working Forest as to provide landbase certainty for the forestry sector and ensure all landuse decisions included economic assessments of the highest and best use of the land (a proposition that could undermine endangered species and water quality protection in many parts of the province).

>* Establish guaranteed logging zones, known as Timber Targets, through Cabinet
orders in councils.

>Under the current plan:

>* The Provincial Forest will remain.

>* There will be no Working Forest order in council. ie. it will not have any legal implementation.

>* Timber Targets that arise from regional land-use plans will remain policy. There are no current plans to make them legally-binding through Cabinet orders in councils, although the government reserves the right to implement the Timber Targets in the future.

A couple of thoughts:

1) Like so many “victories” these days, this is a win on defense. But still w
orthy of celebrating.

2) The BC Liberals give “liberalism” a bad name. They’re neither liberal, nor p

3) Western Canada Wilderness Committee is doing a nice job of publishing news s
tories instead of press releases. In fact, most of the lead content on their s
ite now consists of bylined news stories, presented in blog-like format.

Environment in the Democratic platform

Even though the Democratic Party platform is pretty much a meaningless formalit
y, Amanda Griscom of Grist offer
s some insightful analysis
about the environment’s role in the platform —
and in the just-finished convention.

My favorite bit: Amanda’s neat debunking of William Safire’s [claim](http://www that the environment got short s
hrift in the platform, because the platform doesn’t mention “global warming.”
It’s true — the platform doesn’t talk about global warming — it talks about
“climate change.” Apparently Safire doesn’t realize that they’re synonyms —
and that environmentalists tend to prefer the latter in any case.

PS… and speaking of the role of energy issues in the political process… som
ebody tell the [Apollo Alliance]( folks to updat
e their website — the latest “news” is dated April 29th.

Oregonians win DNC video contest

Blue Oregon reports that Oregonians Jefferson Smith and Adam Klugman have won a DNC ad contest. Their ad, [America’s Party](, is well worth a quick peek. Hopefully it will be on TV screens across the nation soon.

Another post at BlueOregon has some [interesting discussion]( on the ad’s tagline “Not Left. Not Right. Forward.” My $0.02 — I think it’s a great framing that “the opposition” (
not “the Right” anymore!) will have a hard time countering.

Poetry in Wartime

*The words of the poets used to distill the emotional essence of war. A viscera
l film experience: eloquent poetry, a cascade of images, painful and moving sto
ries, an extraordinary soundtrack. An exploration of the perverse attraction an
d terrible reality of war, the lasting personal and collective damage done by w
ar, and how we might imagine and create a world less prone to war.*

Poetry in Wartime is a documentary film that “looks a
t war through images and the words of poets.” It also happens to be produced b
y two friends of mine, Andrew Himes and Jonathan King.

The film will be released in late September, and previewed in libraries across
the nation on September 11. They could [use your help](http://www.voicesinwart to get in
into as many libraries as possible.

The film team is working in partnership with Voices in Wartime, an online commu
nity where you can [publish your own writing and images](http://www.voicesinwar about war and peace.

What is blogging?

Professional journalist-and-blogger Matthew Yglesias offers a few nice observations about the what blogging is, and who bloggers are. I think it offers conside
rable insight into the future of activists-as-bloggers, and more importantly, a
n argument for *why* activists should write blogs.

>At the end of the day, blogging is just a mode of presenting text (and, to som
e extent, images) and a set of computer programs that make it easy to present t
ext in that way. It’s not a method of doing things. The result, I think, is tha
t the phenomenon of the “blogger” has no real future, though the phenomenon of
the blog does. At the end of the day, Brad DeLong is an economist, Lawrence Sol
um is a legal theorist, I’m a commentator, Jeralyn is a criminal justice expert
, Laura Rozen is a national security reporter, etc. These are trades — areas o
f competence, whatever — that we can all ply in a variety of media, print, web
articles, blogs, academic papers (where appropriate), live or taped radio or t
elevision interviews, etc. None of us are “bloggers” except in the sense that w
e all write weblogs. But we also talk about this stuff to people and that doesn
‘t make us “talkers,” it’s a thing you do not a thing you are and, increasingly
, it will be done by more-or-less the exact same group of people who are produc
ing text in other formats.

End of the light bulb?

Metafilter links to and discusses to an interestin
g article in EE Times about a researcher at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute wh
o claims to have [invented a 99%-efficient omnidirectional reflector that will
allow LEDs to replace light bulbs](
jhtml?articleID=25600144). Since lighting accounts for about 25% of US energy
use, efficiency gains here can have a huge impact. NSF and ARPA are bankrolli
ng the research, and the research team hopes to commercialize the technology in
three to five years.

Wikipedia has a [nice general background article on LED technology](http://en.w

Core American values

I’m pleased to see “values” popping up repeatedly in this year’s election cycle
. Because the fact is that most Americans vote based on values and identity, n
ot on specific issues.

A while back, I saw a presentation by public opnion researcher John Russonello,
who who has advised many progressive organizations on messaging and framing.
Russonello makes a powerful argument about how progressives have failed to unde
rstand and center their arguments in core American values.

Russonello lists only a few core values, and divides them into two tiers.

**Primary values**
* individual responsibility
* family security
* honesty
* fairness
* freedom
* work
* spirituality

**Secondary values**
* responsibility to help others
* compassion
* personal fulfillment
* respect for authority
* love of country

Russonello argues that if you tie your issues and arguments only to second tier
values, you are in danger of being trumped by an opponent who can tie his argu
ment to first tier values.

BlueOregon launches

Kari Chisholm and (a hell of a lot of) friends have launched BlueOregon.

>BlueOregon is a place for progressive Oregonians to gather ’round the water co
oler and share news, commentary, and gossip.

This is exactly the kind of funny, smart, high-quality, *local-scale* grassroot
s journalism that we need to see *lots* more of. (Also see Ruby Sinreich’s [Or
ange Politics]( which covers the North Carolina s

Where’s BlueWashington?

Reaching Out With Respect

Heath Packard directed me to “Reaching out with Respect: Environmental Education with Underserved Co
” by Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer and Shamu Fenyvesi. In in, they off
er 15 tips for working with diverse communities, and their advice is applicable
far beyond the relatively narrow domain of environmental education — this is
solid advice for organizers of all stripes.
Continue reading Reaching Out With Respect

AdvoKit is out!

AdvoKit is an open source, web-based Voter ID/GOTV and volunteer
management database that is designed to power large-scale distributed grassroo
ts voter identification & GOTV campaigns.

Anybody who is working on such a campaign really needs to tak e a good close lo
ok at this to figure out whether/how best to use it in your organizing efforts
this fall.

Great job, Dan, Pat et al.! I know it was very difficult to get this out the d
oor, but I’m sure it will be worth the fight.


The Seattle Times’ James Vesely writes that Seattle needs to start thinki
ng regionally
if we’re going to address big issues like transportation, gro
wth and the economy. This is nothing new to the [environmental community] (htt
p://, but it’s nice to see these ideas being expressed s
trongly by so-called opinion leaders like Vesely.

>States count in the Electoral College and in the U.S. Senate but not in the re
al world. Places such as California, New York and Florida are multiregional. Ea
ch has a common license plate but don’t work as single job, cultural or educati
on centers.

>Counties, which are declining around here, are an oddity of another century. C
ounty government should be small, nonpartisan and focused on the plumbing of go
vernment rather than the neon of politics. That’s especially true in rural Wash
ington, where seven contiguous counties have a combined population of only 149,
000 people, according to an examination of county government…. I would make a
… case that counties are only a rural stop sign slowing regional solutions.

>Regions count more than cities and more than states. While state government st
ill controls the levers of taxes and regulation, new industry or new ideas don’
t move to a state, they move to a region. That was certainly true for the locat
ion of the new Boeing 7E7 assembly. The state led the drive but it had the Seat
tle region to sell.

>Regions create their economies, not cities or states. That’s why the Puget Sou
nd region, even in a slow recession, differs dramatically from the rest of the
state. It’s no longer the case that cities drive their regions, it’s the other
way around.

Bill Moyers takes the gloves off (again)

Bill Moyers is truly one of the most important leaders of our age. Once again
he speaks the truth with passion and authenticity.

>THIS IS A TIME of testing – for people of faith and for people who believe in
democracy. How do we nurture the healing side of religion over the killing side
? How do we protect the soul of democracy against the contagion of a triumphali
st theology in the service of an imperial state? At stake is America’s role in
the world. At stake is the very character of the American Experiment – whether
“we, the people” is the political incarnation of a spiritual truth – one nation
, indivisible – or a stupendous fraud.

Go [read the whole article](
le&issue=soj0408&article=040810) which is adapted from a keynote speech Moyers
gave at Call to Renewal’s Pentecost 2004 conference this May in Washington, D.C

New photo gallery software

I just updated my photo gallery to [Gallery 2](htt
p:// While the software’s still in alpha, it’s looking re
ally nice, and I think it will be fine for casual use. (The current release, 1
.4.4, is also a solid product.)

I’m really enjoying it so far, and I can’t wait to see it continue to develop.
My only issue is that Gallery is strongly based on a metaphor of albums ; it d
oesn’t allow you to easily build dynamic groups of photos based on metadata. Su
re, there are ways to “fake” this using search tools, but there’s no way to rou
te around the fact that each photo must be placed in exactly one album. The de
velopers have already said that they’re not going to change this, and I can liv
e with that. But it’s too bad — it’s the one big thing that I think will keep
Gallery stuck at the level of “very good” rather than “amazing.”

UPDATE: I moved back to Gallery 1.4.4 after reading the fine print in the Gallery 2 Alpha, where they said something to the effect of “we still might change the database schema, so test away, but don’t use this as your production gallery.” Or, “make no wine before it’s time.”

UPDATE ON UPDATE: I have a [test install of Gallery 2]( running again, alongside my old Gallery gallery.

A “green” computer gaming tournament — what a great idea!

Alex over at [WorldChanging](
takes approving note of Steve Crandall’s idea for a green co
mputer gaming tournament
where all the power for the computers would have t
o be generated by the players themselves.

I think this would be a neat way for the environmental community to approach th
e gaming community where they’re at — and, as Steve points out, this could be
a neat contest.

Another way to approach this would be for a game tournament sponsor to power an
entire tournament with solar/wind or other renewable energy source.

CivicSpace is out

Zack and his team have launched CivicSpace into the world.

Can’t wait to check it out — CivicSpace is an open-source content management s
ystem based on Drupal and designed specifically for grassroots political campai
gn websites. It’s based on the work that the CivicSpace team originally did f
or the Howard Dean campaign.

What I like about this approach:

* Leverage of a solid open-source content management system, rather than rebuil
ding yet another CMS core from scratch.

* Focus on empowering other developers and consultants to install and extend Ci
vicSpace sites.

* Field-tested knowledge of cutting-edge Internet organizing.