Monday, December 11, 2006, 10:18 PM - Travels, Sex, Politics, Dancing, Snow, George, Friends, Food, Books, Technology, Art, Los Angeles
I've been terribly neglectful of this little enterprise post-election - mostly because the last thing I wanted to do was spend a single additional second looking at a screen. (I've read three novels and am reveling in Against the Day now, which will slow down my book-devouring rate considerably). The beginning of November was a frenzied adventure- although we were better prepared than in 2004, things as always slid just under the wire (on election day people were making 40 calls a second with our tools - it was amazing to watch people swarm through our lists)...then election night was blissful, and the morning after even better. It felt wonderfully fulfilling on 11/9 to come back from a run along the Seattle waterfront (the first sunny day since I'd arrived) and see Rumsfeld getting the axe. I'm sure that our program turned out more votes than the margin of victory in key races (MT senate, several house contests, probably VA Senate as well) - of course we were only part of a larger progressive effort, but it's exciting to know we had such an impact. I've been on an extended episodic victory tour - multiple DC parties, and little celebration cocktail evenings in SF and NY, which were all great fun. I've been to one disjointed, we-were-still-too-tired-to-think official debrief, and one enervating multidisciplinary free-for-all that was loads of fun. I'm back in LA, wrapping up my work at GCI - getting ready to dig into all the data from Call for Change as part of a team of people working for MoveOn to make sure we understand what we did and learn as much as possible for next time. It's always a little hard to go from being so thoroughly consumed by a project back to a more balanced life, and I'm a little nostalgic for that laserlike focus, but this is infinitely more sustainable. Dad came out and Angela and Erik and Aurora came down for Thanksgiving and we all had our first Angeleno holiday - lots of sitting in the sun and as many revisionist recipes as George would let us get away with. I've been rediscovering the pleasures of cooking and reading the New Yorker and spending whole afternoons with friends. It's nice to remember that I like to eat in fancy restaurants (have had tasty dinners at Frankie's 457 in Brooklyn and Joe's in Venice and Lucques in LA) and go see art. I have done some dancing, but I need more of that. There are, as always, intriguing new and resurfacing romantic possibilities, which will at minimum be interesting to explore. I hope to get into some of that abundant early-season snow soon, too. What I'm not particularly motivated to do is keep writing this - it's been quite enjoyable, but I'm going to keep my personal ramblings a little more closely held. I think it'll be healthy, although probably less entertaining for many of you. I'll likley start some sort of painfully geeky political data diatribe after the holidays, that only I'll read. And I'm sure there will be the occasional tidbit I won't be able to resist posting...we'll see. Love and mounds of appreciation for everyone who helped with Call for Change and let us all find out what winning an election feels like. I'll try and make sure we get used to it.

campaign update 
Sunday, November 5, 2006, 06:33 PM - Politics
this program is bigger than any of our projections...I don't even feel like I need to send last-ditch emails to get on the phone to my personal email list...I'm more worried we won't be able to keep up with the enthusiasm we've generated.
Did you see the NYT piece about the program? Jenn talks up our dorky voter team:

- And Jennifer Lindenauer, communications director of, said the jewel in their get-out-the-vote crown is the “Call for Change” program that uses microtargeting in key races to allow MoveOn’s 3.2 million members to call from home or their cell phones to encourage people to vote.

“With the touch of a keystroke, we can change our target list,” Lindenauer said of the program, which was just launched this year. “On a Monday we could see new data on races, and by Wednesday, they could have hundreds of thousands of calls into that district.”

She estimated that MoveOn’s members alone will contact more than 6 million voters by Election Day. -

I have spent the last couple days in discussions about what races to add to make sure we don't run out of voters to call...and then scrambling to process voters from the places we selected and get them set up. In true MoveOn fashion we are reevaluating and recalibrating as we go, which means ongoing testing and checking of new code and new strategies (and the occasional technical oversight and mid-course correction). We started with more than a million phone numbers Friday morning, and it's very good we found more to add in; turned out that wasn't enough for the capacity this program is generating. (The west gets bluer all the time, it seems - almost everything we've added are western races where Democratic candidates are gaining fast...)
It is frenzied and intense but phenomenal to be in the middle of something of such scale - we're making about 15 calls a second at our peak times. We have entered the realm of ridiculous running jokes and mini-rituals, as our cumulative lack of sleep creeps up on us. It's still infinitely more manageable than it was in 2004, and so heartening to see how much we've learned since then.
I'm exploring hiterto untapped realms of geekiness and will never be happy with just one monitor again. And despite the joy of being in the middle of it all, am seriously looking forward to Tuesday night when the last West coast poll closes. And more sleep. And a trip to the Korean spa, or three.

Astounding generalist or scattershot waste of talent?  
Wednesday, October 25, 2006, 07:19 PM - Sex, Politics
Really, what am I? Sometimes I look at people who've been in the same career since college (Leslie/ Amy) and I'm so envious - they've built up a level of professional accomplishment and reputation that I haven't. I mean, it's my own fault for jumping ship from public health just as I was starting to set myself up with an academic rep, and I don't regret that in the slightest - this is a million times harder but much more engaging (and hopefully impactful). I guess there's starting to be a part of me that wishes I had been a little more directed, sooner - although I wouldn't trade my random raver Latin American 20s, now that I think about it- and several people seem to think my current gig is a dream job. I can't complain about being part of a project that just might reshape progressive national political engagement by leveraging a combination of technological innovation and traditional organizing. When I have 2 minutes to think about it, it's kind of amazing. Today I edited an op-ed that Eli/dhp and assorted others of us underlings are writing, and then I ran far too many queries and got WA08, NH02, and 3 MN districts through the various stages of processing that are needed to get them into our calling tools. I guess I should be proud that there likely aren't many people who'd be good at both those things, and they were both definitely needed today. Perhaps I'm inching towards being able to focus all this random capacity into a more coherent project.... and then of course I started thinking about how the whole generalist thing kind of applies to me as far as relationships, too (lots of breadth, not nearly the depth I like to think I'd be capable of). Do you think I'll ever be a specialist? As always, I'm doubtful with a stubborn core of optimism. When will I ever learn?

Campaign Update 
Saturday, October 21, 2006, 01:59 PM - Politics, Technology, Los Angeles
We had a huge night of phonebanking in LA on Thursday - more than 80 people in the office, so big we spilled out into the parking lot. There's nothing like processing a juicy voter file (I think it was CA_04) in the balmy night air. Rigging the random outdoor lighting system was the closest I got to Burning Man this year. It's been a very labile week - you'll notice the shameless product placement for my spiffy new core duo Vaio (good) but I have it because my old one fried on Tuesday (very very bad - thank god for ibackup). I lost about 6 hours, and a fair amount of composure and focus, which resulted in a (fixble) fuckup in part of our Ohio file, but hopefully no lasting damage. Happily, the project's made more than 1.5 million calls to voters in competitive senate and house races to date - how many calls have you made?? Call for Change.
Come down to the phonebank in LA (4929 Wilshire @ Highland, Suite 1060), SF (1366 Mission Street @ 9th), or Brooklyn (102 1st Place - first floor), but I can't promise you the picnic table unless you live in LA.

(btw, comments are off again for the time being, I don't have time to deal with the spam comments that have started popping up again).

Life on hold... 
Sunday, October 15, 2006, 11:52 PM - Politics, Friends, Los Angeles
I am not living a normal life these days - back in campaign mode: all work and little sleep. It's disturbing to dream about database queries and to have no real idea what day it is, only how many days remain until the election. I can't believe how well-positioned our project is to have an impact - something that is flexible, phone-based, and virtual is perfect for this opportunity, where more and more races are becoming competitive every day, and many will be decided by very thin margins. We were able to start calling into FL16 literally within a day of the scandal breaking (I downloaded the voters, ran our selection queries, sent them off to the academics to be treatment-grouped, and then off to the Walkers to get loaded into the online system, all within about 6 hours)... really quite astonishing. The project is far from perfect but it's remarkable to be part of shifting the way political participation can happen for progressives, and developing volunteer-driven GOTV work for the left.
I did, however, sneak off last night for a quick game of mid-October midnight naked water polo in the Hollywood Hills (and if that's not enough to make a girl realize she lives in Los Angeles, I don't know what is) (and no, it's not a euphemism for anything, it was a serious cutthroat game, and kicked my ass). Case hosted this unexpected romp and I guess we're both adapting well to this strange southern lifestyle. We may start plotting another round of Capricorn birthday world domination soon.

Weditorial Successfully Delivered! Lizbet and Louise en route to Bora Bora!! 
Monday, October 9, 2006, 12:27 AM - Sex, Politics, Dancing, Friends

By all accounts it was quite well-received. I managed to make at least 3 straight (or at least married) men cry, as well as all the NC Republicans laugh (twice, and only once at my own expense). Even the guys in the band liked it! (Yes, we did second line up from the garden after the ceremony, parasols in hand, dancing behind the brass band and the beautiful brides.) The wedding was amazing, I feel so lucky to have been part of it. Rosie (the minister) who has officiated at >30 weddings, thinks I may have contributed "weditorial" to the lexicon, so I thought I should get it up on the blog. A couple of people asked me to post the text, and although I spoke from an outline, I think I've written out more or less what I said. I wish more straight couples had weditorials, but then I guess we'd be closer to not needing them... In case you missed it:

Thank you for participating in Lizbet and Louise’s wedding. I want to talk to you briefly about four aspects of marriage:
- Legal and political
- Linguistic
- Emotional
- Celebratory

Although it’s tempting to want to ignore the political context in which this ceremony occurs, it’s important to acknowledge the legal realities for Lizbet and Louise. When we were discussing their plans for the wedding, Lizbet said she was happiest when she could forget that their marriage was any different from any other. Last night, at dinner, surrounded by so much love and support from friends and family, we were all wonderfully able to forget that there were any obstacles to Lizbet and Louise as a couple. Today, though, we must acknowledge that they cannot legally marry in California. We are in the middle of a profound social change – we’ve had legal setbacks this week, but we are moving in the right direction. It may take a while for us to reach a condition of full equality, but I wanted to remind you of what is possible.

I’m going to read an edited excerpt from Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the decision allowing people of the same sex to legally marry.

“Marriage is a vital social institution. It nurtures love and mutual support, and brings stability to our society. The benefits accessible by way of marriage are enormous, touching nearly every aspect of life and death. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. The Massachusetts constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. A person who enters into an intimate, exclusive relationship with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community’s most rewarding and cherished institutions. That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under the law.”

I saw one of the greatest concentrations of happy people in one place on February 14, 2004, at San Francisco City Hall - the city had begun issuing marriage licenses regardless of the gender of applicants. I heard people call their families, and I remember one woman in particular, and the wonder and joy in her voice telling people “we got married.”

We’re about to witness a transformative linguistic event – through the words they’ll pronounce, Lizbet and Louise will bring themselves into a new state. The importance of language to this marriage is paramount – and not just because the brides are such accomplished academics. Because Lizbet and Louise don’t yet have the legal underpinnings of marriage, the language we use as we participate in and describe this ceremony is incredibly important. Through referring to them as wife and wife, we help make their marriage real. Please think carefully about this when you’re home, and describe this experience as what it is – a wedding. A marriage.

In our culture, marriage has evolved to celebrate profound emotional connection. One of the reasons I support marriage rights for everyone is that I can’t imagine a better couple to be married than Lizbet and Louise (of course, that might just be because I’m single and still profoundly idealistic about marriage). They’re the couple whose relationship I admire the most. They have an amazing level of mutual respect; they’re intellectually well matched; they provide each other with unquestioning support, but have fundamental autonomy. They are full of love, joy, sensuality, desire and integrity. They are with each other through the saddest and happiest of times.

This is one of the happiest of times! We’re all lucky to share in this beautiful afternoon. Marriage functions because our community supports and acknowledges the union between two people. Especially in the absence of legal recognition, Lizbet and Louise’s marriage is brought into being by our participation in it, as much as by their love and commitment. I want to thank all of the family and friends who are here to be part of the wedding, and who are showing the brides so much support. Through the physicality of our participation, we’re bearing witness to their marriage. We’re privileged to be part of these women’s lives – but just like with marriage, this benefit comes with responsibilities and obligations.

I think we have two responsibilities - first, to work to make marriage possible for everyone. That involves not only the way you talk about this weekend when you go home, and how you refer to Lizbet and Louise from here on out, but also in the way you vote and who you give money to. (Remember, there’s a very competitive House race in North Carolina this year).

Our second responsibility is to celebrate their marriage as fully as possible. Just as Lizbet and Louise are engaged with each other through intellect, heart, and body, we should celebrate their union with our emotions and participation. If people don’t dance at your wedding, you’re not really married. Soon we’ll have the opportunity to dance Lizbet and Louise into their new life, and I encourage you to do that as fully and joyously as they will....

(Yes, I really did start with an outline, and although it was kind of an inside joke, it made it feel formal and deliberate, just like I wanted it to be. And I think everyone could tell what a huge fan I am of their relationship, which was the thing I most wanted to come through. I'm not quite sure why a perenially unboyfriended person like me should be speaking publicly about marriage and relationships, but I'm claiming the title of best strapless-dress weditorialist in Boonville...)

Secretary of State Project 
Saturday, September 16, 2006, 03:30 PM - Politics
Michael and Becky from Working Assets along with James Rucker (MoveOn '04 and Color of Change) have set up a new fundraising/ information project for Secretary of State candidates across the country - Secretary of State Project. It's designed to funnel contributions to people who will work to make sure state elections are accurate and unbiased - who will support voting rights and resist technologies and legislative strategies that limit the precious franchise. (I'm not holding my breath for HAVA or anything else federal to make things right without responsible leadership at the state level.) Send in some cash, and you too can get a sweet little thank you note from Michael Mauro in Iowa. I've set up an Act Blue Fundraising Page here, so all you shadowy readers can have a chance to step up. Thank you!!

Activism, Inc. 
Friday, September 8, 2006, 11:50 PM - Politics
So, am I part of the canvass-driven octopus that is 'strangling' the lifeblood of progressive politics, or do I work for organizations that are the best hope for reinvigorating the Democratic party and creating a national network of engaged progressives? GCI (and more pointedly the Fund for Public Interest Research - whence all of the senior GCI staff other than myself have sprung) are called out in a new book - Activism, Inc. - it argues that paid canvass operations undermine true civic participation, chew relentlessly through young idealists, and result in a dearth of employment opportunities for young progressives. The book (which I read a couple of nights ago - read a review from the Chronicle of Higher Education here) ) has accurate descriptions of how canvass offices run, including the high turnover, 'sink or swim' attitude, and demanding hours of the positions, and raises some concerning points about labor practices and compensation structure. I've certainly seen some negative consequences (both organizationally and on the individual level) of the management principles that have built these organizations, but the policies and legislation enacted and the amount of money funnelled into progressive causes through the canvass programs is phenomenal (and not acknowledged in the book). GCI's work in 2004 for the DNC added hundreds of thousands of new small donors to the party base, allowing Howard Dean to implement his 50-state strategy- which would have been impossible in a DNC built around large donors' priorities. The lack of the '04 canvass' coordination with local and state party efforts (in my opinion, since I didn't work on that project at all) was as much a reflection of the internal disorganization of the party as it was the single-minded fundraising focus of the canvasses. The regimented, rote nature of PIRG-driven canvasses is not for everyone, and definitely does not gibe with many leftists' ideals of bottom-up shared decision-making - but the goal-oriented, outcome-driven, rigorous implementation of a model is something other parts of the progressive movement would do well to emulate (even if they'd prefer to implement something entirely different than a canvass).
Our work with MoveOn in '04 (which the author loves and apparently doesn't realize was also done by GCI) was the kind of citizen participation, volunteer-based electoral work she argues for - she doesn't get that a program on that scale and timeline would be challenging to run without a seasoned organizer staff to recruit, train, and manage volunteers. Our current "Call for Change" program is a more infrastructure-driven evolution of our 2004 project - involving a broader set of MoveOn members and developing a core of progressive leadership in communities across the country.
Many of the points made about the movement's failings are a stretch to pin on canvass operations - the alienation of the progressive base can be attributed as much to over-reliance on judicial strategies (in feminist and environmental movements), the move toward checkbook-based 'membership' organizations, and the fractures between single-issue organizations, labor, and other supposed allies. Canvasses that emphasized civic engagement over fundraising would be amazing tools for citizen outreach, but it seems highly unlikley that they'd be self-sustaining financially... and while reaching like-minded progressives through electronic communications is efficient, we're a ways off from technology that allows for the kind of intensity and engagement that in-person contact affords.
I canvassed for ConnPIRG one summer in college, and while I thought that the people running the office then (and some of the canvass directors I know now) were too blindly invested in canvassing as a model, I also know we did a significant amount of public education on critical environmental issues. I fully agree that Democratic field operations are pathetic and badly organized, and still am fuming about the lack of infrastructure that remained in the wake of all the money spend on paid GOTV workers by ACT. I think MoveOn and GCI together are learning and perfecting ways to motivate and develop leadership among a group of committed electoral volunteers - necessary conditions for an effective civic engagement strategy.
The researcher in me sees many holes in the logical structure of the book - she did a reasonable job at an ethnography of the canvass, and recontacted a decent percentage of her 115 interview subjects - but the conclusions she draws about the long-term impact of canvassing on individuals and on the progressive movement are just not well-substantiated. Without a larger survey or a longer follow-up timeframe, it seems impossible to conclude much about the impact on canvassers. Her strongest points are those drawn directly from participant-observation and from readily available facts. While she raises valid criticisms of the progressive movement, it's not the kind of deep evaluation we need to create positive and sustainable change and grow our institutions, nor are they correctly attributable to the canvass activities of the Fund or GCI.

Bridgeport Ho! (what do you think - is that a better name for my blog than Fierce Piece?) 
Thursday, August 10, 2006, 01:20 PM - Sex, Politics
This Connecticut girl wanted to post about the Lamont victory last night, but I was too exhausted - now I'm glad I waited until this morning, since the outlook is much rosier since the establishment Dems are lining up behind his campaign. I'm profoundly relieved that they're forced to acknowledge the power of an antiwar candidate/ message. (Now we need Bill to get Joe to drop out - most importantly so that he doesn't screw up the Dem challengers' chances in the 3 CT house races that are up for grabs.) I hope candidates learn what they should from the Lamont victory - that a strong progressive stance on a key issue will be essential to winning this fall. (interesting article from the Greenberg camp on how issue motivation and candidate selection should play into messaging decisions). The Dems need to acknowledge that the anti-war left is the best source for energized volunteers and leadership now - they're our answer to the religiously-motivated right. 78% of CT dem primary voters were anti-war (Times exit poll) - what pushed primary turnout to unprecedented levels, and what we need to tap into this fall. Lamont's task will be to make sure that enough of the CT electorate sees Iraq as the primary issue to put himself over the top (and it's our job with Project Red-Handed to make sure that incumbent Republicans are seen as bought and paid for by corporate interests). MoveOn members made about 80K calls into CT for the primary, helping put Lamont ahead.
(and yes, the post title IS what the snobby boys from Greenwich used to call me in high school - but that didn't stop me from contributing to Lamont's campaign - it shouldn't stop you either.)
(Gossipy update: Leslie tells me Becca Lieberman got married today - very small ceremony (Sunday 8/13). Can you imagine the things that got said on THAT receiving line?)

Minimum Wage 
Sunday, July 30, 2006, 08:33 PM - Politics
Here's the kind of non-selfindulgent post I write for sneaky of those damned Republicans to tie minimum wage increase to the estate tax repeal - they've been salivating to get that passed since '94, I'd imagine, and I'm hoping that they realize that this fall is their LAST CHANCE to get it though - their majority status is definitely not assured for the next Congress. Did I mention you should be making some phone calls??? MR post:

Just before leaving for their summer recess, the House passed a bill that would raise the federal hourly minimum wage from $5.25 to $7.25 over three years - but the other provisions in the bill make it very unlikely that it will pass the Senate. House Republicans were leery that Democrats would make the languishing minimum wage (untouched since 1997) a campaign issue this fall; they scrambled and passed the bill after 1AM Saturday morning. It couples the minimum wage increase with a cut in the estate tax, a tactic that might doom the bill in the Senate - it's estimated that the estate tax cut would leave a $258 billion hole in the federal budget, with wealthy families keeping most of that money. 34 Democrats joined the Republican House majority to pass the bill.

Now isn't that better than some long ramble about who reads my blog? At least you learned something from this post...