Why Every Party Organizing Unit Should have a "Community Press"

What is a Community Press?

A community press is a relatively simple concept, and setting one up is as simple as adding a blog to your party unit's website. In short, it is a news page you make available for anyone in the community to share information about the issues that are most important to them and to tell the stories of what is going on in their neighborhood. While you definitely want to curate and edit some of the content, it should be as accessible as possible, and you should actively seek out people who might have something to contribute. Ultimately your community press should be a website where people want to go to find the news they can’t get anywhere else. In a world where all politics seems to be national, a community press is how you can make things local again.

Why is a Community Press so Important?

A community press is an opportunity for local organizing units to reach out into their community and tell the stories of the people closest to them. The advantages are twofold. First the simple act of reaching out lets people know that you actually care about what they have to say, second people will want to share their stories on social media giving your organization a broader audience. Having a larger audience of people who in your community hearing the stories of their neighbors will strengthen your bonds with the community and make organizing during an election cycle a far easier task. People don't want to show up for you if you don't show up for them, and this is a great way to be there for the people who feel unheard.

Overall, a community press is a great way to show that your local organizing unit is dedicated to the people of your district. By showing up for people, telling their stories, and broadening your audience, you will build a base that is solid and ready for an election year. It also has the added bonus of helping you grow your email list by drawing traffic to your website. A community press has the potential to be a catalyst for change in your neighborhood, and because of that, it is a must-have for local organizers.

How to get started?

  1. Set up a website with a blog.

  2. Set up a committee of people responsible for curating and publishing content.

  3. Find a group of people willing to write 200-500 words every month.

  4. Reach out to people you know to see if they have topics they want to be covered, stories they want to be told, or things they would like to write themselves.

  5. Try to interview people in your community about problems they are dealing with and write articles about their concern.

  6. Share your posts on social media.

Minnesota has a surplus; It's time to Dream Big!

With the recent news that Minnesota is projected to have a surplus of $1.4 Billion, many have offered potential options for what we could with the extra cash. Everything from putting more into education all the way to expanding our public defender corps has been mentioned in the discussion of what to do. While they are all good ideas, we also need to think big about the future of Minnesota’s economy.

It is no secret that we are facing significant challenges as a nation. Our healthcare system is failing to support people in need, our public infrastructure has become the target of cybercriminals, and our climate is changing faster than ever. This surplus is an opportunity to dream big, to be a leader in the country and to set an example of how states can take the fight for change into their own hands.

We also need to shore up our position on some critical items the state is dealing with. We need to support the school districts that are over-levied, and we need to put real resources behind the fight against human trafficking in our state. That said, if we look forward to the tax gains we will see from the likely legalization of marijuana, this surplus might turn into a windfall that could cover those needed expenses and fuel investment into real job creating programs.

Now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Now is the time to push harder than ever for systemic changes to improve the lives of Minnesotans of all stripes. We can set an example for a Green New Deal, we can set the standard for public healthcare, and we can bring our government systems up to date. With the potential for a national recession looming, now is the time to invest in the long-term future of our state.

Facial Recognition and Good Governance.

With improvements in technology today we are faced with some serious concern about what governments should and should not be allowed to do. Especially when it comes to things like protecting civil liberties we need to be careful in the way things like facial recognition software is applied.

People should have a right to a certain degree on anonymity in a crowd, and the government shouldn’t be in the business of logging every action a given individual takes, that said, we should be smart about how we track down known criminals and ensure we are keeping the public safe. This balance can be made as long as we put in place some general rules about how this technology is applied.

There are two ways a facial recognition software can work. They can scan faces and then identify each one of them individually, creating a list of all the people in a given area, or they can store a list of known faces and scan a crowd for any matches. The latter is clearly the better option when it comes to protecting privacy. The U.S. government does not need a list of every single person who participates in a protest or goes to a concert, but they do need to be able to find known criminals.

It is time that we put into law a general rule that requires law enforcement agencies to only use facial recognition systems that identify people on lists of people who have active warrants. Anything else would be unreasonable and would allow for an unprecedented level of invasion of personal privacy, rivaled only by the unconstitutional phone surveillance program revealed a few years ago.

Internet Companies have Reinvented Copyright Laws on Their Own Terms.

Recently Nintendo updated is its “acceptable use” policy to allow for YouTube creators to monetize their videos that feature their games. This may seem like a relatively benign bit of news, but the reality that underlies this news it a bit concerning. You see, in the United States, our copyright laws that are on the books are pretty clear in allowing things like walkthroughs and game reviews to be monetized by content creators. This is because in the United States we have “fair use” which is defined as “any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work”.

So, while professional gamers are including some if the game company’s copyright material, they are still provided substantial content above and beyond the game itself. In fact, the core content is really the review of the game, its features, and playability, rather than the game itself (watching someone play Skyrim online is certainly not the same as playing it yourself).

So, why is Nintendo updating its policy if it was previously putting on theoretically unenforceable restrictions? Because internet companies, primarily Google, and YouTube have actively redefined fair use by leaning heavily in favor of large entertainment companies over small-scale producers. This certainly isn’t the fault of YouTube though, as they were the victim of constant barrages of bully lawsuits to try and shut down their platform. Now that their early days are past them and they are a media giant themselves, I think it is time to reevaluate their strategy. They still have to deal with lawsuits from large media companies, but I think it is time they push back a bit more.

We need to have a real public discussion about fair use and outline more direct examples of what qualifies because as it stands, it is nothing but a lawless landscape where the company with the most expensive legal team wins. As of now, we are in a position where a company’s freedom to sell its product, and the freedom of individuals to develop new enterprising business models are put in conflict. It is clear though that in our system today, large media industry leaders have a clear advantage and are capable of strong-arming platforms like Google into demonetizing creative content. It is well past time to put in place specific legal protections for content creators online who are trying to earn an honest living in the growing industry of video game reviews, and professional gaming.

Does the U.S. Still Have Rule of Law?

There has been some question in the media about what might happen to the rule of law as things in Washington continues. My answer: we have already lost it. As the situation in Washington becomes more chaotic every day and the news cycle is filled with ever evolving stories that, on their own, would otherwise be the controversy of the decade, it appears as though we have forgotten where we started. I posit, that there is serious doubt as to whether or not the rule of law even exists still in the U.S. and if it does, it is only in part.

Today, someone is acting as the attorney general who was not vetted or approved in any way by the U.S. Senate, this in and of itself is a clear demonstration that the constitution is no longer being upheld. To make things worse, there seems to be little effort going on to enforce it. People in the media keep asking whether or not this is even allowed when the answer is clear. No, an attorney general must be approved by the U.S. Senate. Attempting to put in place a man to a position he is not earned, and has not been approved for, is a clear misuse of public office. The fact that the seat he is attempting to occupy is that of the attorney general is even more concerning, as the role of the attorney general is to uphold and enforce the laws of the United States. Even the notion of someone standing in as attorney general who has not been approved by the Senate is a clear violation of the constitution.

Then there is the fact that Trump has directly ordered several blatantly unconstitutional acts onto his staff, everywhere from the violation of court orders all the way to trying to permit the military’s use of force on domestic soil. To add to that, it is arguable that the CBP’s use of tear gas on Mexican territory is a violation of the chemical weapons convention, which clearly restricts the use of tear gas to domestic purposes only. No attempt has even been made to address this concern, despite the calls from the Mexican government for an investigation. Not to mention the fact that the tear gas was being used as a tool to aid in an additional crime; denying asylum seekers access to a legal port of entry. Meanwhile the media talks about the content of the latest tweet, while ignoring the reality that the executive branch is actively disregarding court rulings.

It seems clear to me that any objective observer would see that the rule of law in the United States no longer applies within the circles closest to Washington. I believe that we need a serious public outcry in order to prevent the spread of lawlessness before it is too late for us to recover as a nation. The cool head of reason must not be too late in meeting the forces of impatient lawlessness. It is time the media begin pointing out the reality that laws have been broken before our eyes.

How Extremism Takes Root

How Extremism Spreads

The particular traits of anti-social hatred and racial tribalism spread most effectively and easily among groups that are lacking in stability and quintessentially fearful, in other words, people who are on the bottom tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Combined with the structure and hierarchy that exists within white supremacist groups, individuals are offered a quick path back up the hierarchy of needs by these extremist institutions. This structure also provides the long-term stability to ensure those susceptible populations are eventually exposed to these ideologies.  

As people feel like they are sinking on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs their conception of who is “us” and who is “them” begins to narrow. This narrowing of the circle of belonging creates an opening for ideologies to introduce a new “circle of us” for someone to latch onto. This can happen especially when people are fearful for their safety and belonging in society, meaning the messages that will hit hardest are ones that stoke fear of danger and create an emboldened sense of a narrow identity. Ideologies such as that of the klan or nazism utilize both of these tools to make people feel safety in numbers and reinforce a strong sense of militant brotherhood.

While there is no direct research on this (that I am personally aware of), I would suspect that the rigid hierarchy within the KKK is one of the reasons it has had a more stable presence in the U.S. than that of other white supremacist groups. The structure and hierarchy in the klan offers a pathway for accomplishment and self-development that brings people higher on the hierarchy of needs and thus creates less opportunity for other cultural norms to be adopted by members. The fact that similar institutions do not exist for young black men (with the notable exception of Islamic terror organizations) is one reason why I believe that extremist terror in the United States is a predominantly white male phenomenon.

What we can do about this.

There are two primary factors that can work to inoculate individuals from being infected by extreme right-wing & identity-based terror.

  • Meaningful employment: Work that is intellectually stimulating, facilitates personal growth, and provides economic stability gives people a sense of meaning and accomplishment that fulfills their need for security and develops self-esteem. In short, people have a need to be proud of something (men in particular) and meaningful labor offers a healthy pathway to attaining that.

  • Social cohesion: The notion of a band of brothers is certainly one that has resonated with men throughout history, and this is something that can’t be ignored. People as a whole need bonds within the community through family and friends. Men in particular though, tend to have a strong desire to be a member of a team with a unified purpose. This can be found in a workplace, volunteering with an organization, or even in a community of gamers. A feeling of belonging is critical in order to maintain attachment to civil society and fostering positive personal growth and social cohesion is central to developing that sense of belonging.

Together these two core facets of life need to be addressed in order to maintain a high degree of stability within any society and they play a critical role in preventing the spread of ideologies that fuel extremism globally. This is one reason why the growth of economically displaced males in any society can put an incredible strain on societal institutions. In order to curb the growth of extremism within the United States it is critical that we work to build a strong cohesive universalist national identity alongside significant programs to keep people engaged in intellectually stimulating labor. We also must make conscious efforts to facilitate community engagement and ensure a high degree of economic stability. The potential solutions to this problem are countless, and the most important thing we can do is to implement as many solutions as we can think of.

Book Review: "The War on Normal People" Andrew Yang

In this book, Andrew Yang takes on the immense feat of trying to encapsulate the current state of working people and the economic policies that might help them. The centerpiece of the book is the topic of a universal basic income, which it makes a solid case for by citing political leaders from the left and right throughout U.S. history. He also offers clear examples of past success and proposes a simple implementation that, on its face, seems very plausible.

The book paints a relatively bleak picture of what may come from the rise of automation and its impact on working Americans. He focuses on two major dimensions the first being the economic dimension of growing inequality, the second being the erosion of some social structures that keep people together as a community. In explaining all of this he goes everywhere from why the medical industry has been slow to adopt high efficiency technology to how the growing number of single parents is impacting the economy.

In particular, Yang focuses on the fact that automation is already disproportionately displacing young men in the workforce, driving them to social isolation and laying the groundwork for increased political turmoil. I think that this is more than a fair point given the clear rise in political extremism on the right, which is seemingly fueled by exactly the tension Yang highlights in his book. Economically displaced men have historically been a difficult demographic to manage and Yang uses that fact as a key point in his argument for why serious changes are needed.

While I may not agree with every point made in the book or every proposal offered by Yang, I definitely think that this is worth the read because it offers up some out of the box ideas for how we could kick-start our economy. It also brings forward some critical questions that need to be answered about the future of our economy. As the 2020 election cycle ramps up and Yang tries to make waves in a crowded field it will certainly be clear that he is not bringing the “standard wisdom” from Washington, instead, he offers the energetic hopefulness of silicon valley. Even if you don’t vote for him, the book is still certainly worth the read.

The Case for a Global Minimum Wage

Why a global Minimum Wage?

Our view of traditional economics today is one that was originally founded on the assumption that labor is fluid and can move from place to place far easier than capital. This was because, without large international banking institutions that rely on the internet, it was much easier for a labor force to simply move to another country where major economic opportunity was available. Today, the inverse is true. Crossing international borders is harder than ever, and capital is so fluid that international markets fluctuate daily based on even the slightest change in local policymaking.

This presents a significant challenge to legislators around the world. People who might seek higher wages or improved living standards for their people will often find themselves either at the hands of international courts or as the victim of extreme capital flight. No singular government (not even the United States) is capable of preventing severe economic collapse, due to capital flight, on its own.

Without significant international labor solidarity wages in the US and around the world will continue to decline simply due to the ability of multinational corporations to simply shift their capital into a different national market without warning. This has become a favored method of strike-breaking and influencing global labor policy. Large multinational corporations are building their foreign production capacity so that local strikes don’t impact their bottom line, and that is a very effective strategy of breaking labor unions and depressing wages.

The good news is, that because the United States is the primary global consumer, we are in a position to have a significant impact on how goods are produced. If we were to impose a global minimum wage of even just $1/hour we would see a resurgence in local development and an improvement in the quality of life worldwide.

Can we manage to afford this? Yes!

The current global GDP per capita is about $11,727 and the median wage per capita globally is about $2,292. This means that there is plenty of room to expand wages globally, and given the benefits to the United States Economy as a whole, there is really no reason not to. To add another layer of context; in the US wages being at around 42.6% of GDP is a 100 year low. If we were to follow that standard then the global median wage should be around $5,000/year. A global minimum wage of about $1,920 annually is well within the range of possibility and would work to bring global labor standards up significantly.

Given all these factors, the fact that a global minimum wage would greatly improve the lives of working people globally and the fact that working people in the U.S. would see huge benefits in their pocketbooks, I think it is time we have a serious conversation about a global minimum wage. For starters, simply putting a tariff on companies that don't apply this wage would be a step in the right direction, and would greatly improve U.S. labor's bargaining power. Its time we realized our economic structure has changed since the time of classical economics.

What to do about MNIT?

In the state of Minnesota we have a program that is supposed to provide technical services to the state executive branch and to local governments. In theory this is a really great idea, and such a centralized service could do a lot for the state of Minnesota, there is only one problem. MNIT is simply not capable of doing the job. 

The structure of an organization is very crucial in determining how successful it will be in delivering on its promises, and MNIT is not structured in a way that would allow it to succeed. MNIT also seems to be lacking the real technical skills that would allow it to actually succeed. Within the over-sized body of executive leadership technical experience seems to be the exception and not the rule. The organization seems to be filled with people who have management experience, but sparse on people who know the inns and outs of building software, securing networks, and engineering systems. In fact, some of my colleagues have openly laughed at what their website markets as "app development". 

This is not to say that there is any malicious waste going on, only that the people in charge do not know what to ask for or even what questions to ask. In reality if the organization was far less top heavy, removed almost all of the middle management, and hired more dynamically then the issues would go away. 

Development environments work best when you have crafted teams of subject matter experts who work in tandem to complete a project. Because the projects are largely coming from the needs that state organizations have, there is not really any need for anyone in between the executive leadership and these teams. 

To go one step further, if the requirements for a development project are known, there is no reason to not open that project to the public, and offer a "bounty" for completion. Under that model, the MNLARS program probably could have been completed for about $2 million, because in all reality a hard working team of 5 subject matter experts could probably put together a solid application in a relatively short period of time. 

Website is Live

I am proud to announce that my website is now officially live. This will be the place where I post all of the details about my campaign and what we are doing, and it will also be where I post all of the issues that I want front and center in my campaign. What you see on this website is what you will see from me in the state house.