#501 A real fix to big money in politics

Nerd time! Saw a great segment on Nerding Out about campaign finance reform, which zeroed in on one possible alternative: a multiple matching model. Here’s what that means. You want to support a candidate running for Mayor, but you can only give $5. Your $5 will be matched – for example, in NYC right now, it would be matched 6 times so your contribution would be $35 instead of just $5. Same thing if you could give a $100, it would be matched 6 times to be $700. Donations up to $175 are matched in NYC. Which means people without lots of money (or wealthy friends/backers) can actually compete (and win) against candidates backed by big money.

It’s more than a model, it’s a real solution! What I described above is the public financing system which candidates running for city office in NYC can participate in (they opt in). New York City’s public financing system began in 1988 in the wake of a corruption scandal, but wasn’t that great until 2009 (when they 6:1 match was enacted). Now it’s held up as a model for other cities, states, and for the national level (source). “Multiple matching” amplifies the power of small donations so money from ordinary people matters more. The results are numerous:

It widens the focus of candidates and elected officials. It changes who runs. More women run, more people of color run, more working class people run (source). It changes how (and whom) candidates listen to, from just wealthy donors to their constituents. It also increases voter participation and diversity. It shifts some power back to the people, which has significant benefits later. It also helps breaks up concentrated power. It increases responsiveness and accountability, and benefits average citizens by enabling elections to actually be democratic.

And it doesn’t take changing the Constitution to implement it. What it takes is passing a law – on the city, state, or national level. Right now, 15 states have some alternative to the big dollar donor system. Connecticut, Maine, and Arizona are a few examples of states with multiple matching systems, similar to NYC. There’s already a national proposal before Congress too (source).

If you want to learn more, I recommend watching this MHP Show segment with Dorian Warren and Zaphyr Teachout. It’s an excellent conversation. “MSNBC contributor Dorian Warren breaks down the complicated and controversial issues around money in politics. Fordham law professor and Democratic candidate for New York governor, Zaphyr Teachout, explains the nuances of campaign finance reform, specifically how to counterbalance the influence of big money donors.” – Excerpt from The MHP Show

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Taking the Brunt of a Child’s Anger… And Still Finding Connection

What do you do in the face of a child’s upset or anger? Kate Russell describes a beautiful way to respond. Acceptance, presence, patience, connection, love.
I love this alternative approach.

Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Taking the Brunt of a Child's Anger ~ Peaceful parents, Confident Kids

When I arrived home from work the other day, I was greeted with the sounds of children in distress and a husband at the end of his tether. It had been a long, sick week for the family and being the only healthy body in the house, my husband had been on night wake-up and child minding duty all week.

As he began reluctantly to make his way towards his screaming youngest child, I told him to stop, sit down, relax, have a drink; I would get this. I was feeling good. I missed spending time with my girls and this was my opportunity to reconnect with them.

I walked into the bedroom and found my youngest sitting on the floor, trying to get her clothes off and my eldest, also half undressed, beside her. Both were upset but it was my youngest who was particularly so. I greeted both of them and…

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When we work together, we can do this

Have you seen this story yet? A man’s leg falls between a subway car and the platform. He is stuck. Really stuck. A group of people gather and eventually push the train over enough to free him. Watch:

Groups are so powerful!

This happened in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia. Perth is the most isolated city in the world and is also the fastest growing city in Australia with close to 2 million people. It has one of the largest city parks in the world with almost 1,000 acres.

It reminds me of another story like this, I saw a year or two ago. In this one, a group of people (without direction it looks like), lift a burning car … because a motorcyclist is stuck underneath it. They lift the car, pull the man out, and save his life.

Amazing. Person after person rushes to help. Students, construction workers, bystanders. We can do so much, especially when we work together.

The second story happened in Logan, Utah. Home to around 50,000 people, Utah State University, the Utah Festival Opera, and Logan Canyon, a 40 mile community park.

A dream becomes a reality as 100 events unfold across the nation

Something pretty amazing happened this week. I’ve been immersed in Twitter and was surprised when I spoke to friends and co-workers (who pay attention) and who didn’t know what was happening. No local TV coverage last night, one person told me on Friday morning. I was surprised for there were several news cameras at the rally I attended. And via Twitter, I saw loads of people* in the street in Times Square. I didn’t fully realize how quiet the media was on the story, unfolding all across the the country. (To their credit, some did cover the story). In New York City alone, there were at least five rallies in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens, Union Square, and Times Square. There were huge actions everywhere (see partial list here)!

In response to something terrible, tens of thousands of people took to sidewalks, parks, and streets to stand in solidarity together against violence and honor the memory of victims of police brutality. The protest planning began on social media (#NMOS14), led by Black feminist activist and social worker Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones). As Dream Hampton said on Twitter, Jones had a “dream to gather us for a moment of silence.” Jones and fellow organizers mobilized quickly and as people all over the country joined, her dream became a reality on Thursday evening. 100 cities and towns gathered together at 7:00pm to observe the National Moment of Silence 2014 in response the the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and many others killed by police officers.

The protests were peaceful, powerful, and some were filled with debate and planning for further local organizing. From a USA Today article by Lindsay Deutsch that interviewed Jones:

The social media movement has sturdily moved offline in preparation for the national moment of silence Thursday. Jones held a conference call with more than 75 organizers Wednesday night, and says when she went to sleep, more than 90 communities had committed to hosting the silent vigil.

Her inbox was flooded Thursday morning.

Jones, whose real name is Michelle but chose not to give her last name, references the Boston concert James Brown put on the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, providing a peaceful way for people to “show resistance and protest while also stopping the risk of loss of life.”

“I wanted to have a moment of peace and self reflection for those who have the same feelings, a massive group therapy moment we can use moving forward to figure out the next steps to improve relations on a community level and stop these acts,” she said.

“We must mourn the loss of people who have become victims, and give them a place to find healing with people who care,” she said.

From there, Jones hopes activists will “take the next steps at their local level.”

As people were joining together in solidarity, the situation in Ferguson changed dramatically. The police were demilitarized and a local leader, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, transformed the tone on the ground.

Feminista Jones is also the organizer behind #YouOkSis, a campaign that is confronting street harassment and misogynoir, which I had to look up. Moya Bailey, a queer Black feminist scholar, created the term when she was in grad school. Misoynoir is anti-Black sexism against Black women. I learned this here, here, and here (this one is Bailey’s original 2010 piece).

#YouOkSis is many things, as I understand it, it’s a discussion and support space for Black women and it encourages bystanders to stand up for women being harassed on the street. But their words describe it best:

#YouOkSis: Black Women Speak Up About The Violence of Street Harassment and Solutions

#YouOkSis is a dialogue on: 1) Street harassment from *any* men in general, and how misogynoir complicates this for Black women. 2) Black women’s (or other Black femme/feminine presenting persons) experiences with street harassment from *Black men* with potential intracommunity solutions.

If you want to learn more about Jones and her work, I recommend you go straight to the source, her blog introduction. You can also read this interview of Jones by Suzanna on Feministing.

In related news, Peru just added street harassment to their criminal code, which makes it an official crime.

And to end on an inspiring note, check out Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s street art project entitled Stop Telling Women to Smile, which addresses gender based street harassment. From her description:

STWTS started in Brooklyn in the fall of 2012. It is an on-going, traveling series and will gradually include many cities and many women participants.

There are so many ways to confront and change the problems we face today. There are alternatives to violence. I was inspired by the number of people out last night, standing up and standing together in solidarity, in New York and across the country. The pictures on Twitter are numerous, beautiful, and inspiring.

Stand By Me – Playing for Change

When I was down recently, my friend texted me, encouraging me to watch Playing for Change’s “Stand By Me” video. I had seen many of their videos, including that one with him, so I asked if there was a new one. He replied, I just read your email about reading a bunch of depressing news and that video always brings me tears of joy. I smiled and realized it was a good idea. I told him I would, and when I got home, I watched it. Although I had seen it many times, the people, the song, the rhythm, the musician’s voices – they brought joy through my chest and up to my breath.

If you haven’t seen it, or have, I hope it will bring you joy too.

I didn’t stop there. I watched a few more, and especially liked What a Wonderful World with the kids dancing.

Have you heard of Playing for Change? It started out as a small project in the United States, then traveled the world, and grew into a movement. From their website:

Born in 2002, Playing for Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. Co-founded by Whitney Kroenke and Mark Johnson, the idea for the project came from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.

In 2005, Mark Johnson was walking in Santa Monica, California, when he heard the voice of Roger Ridley singing “Stand By Me.” Roger had so much soul and conviction in his voice, and Mark approached him about performing Stand By Me as a Song Around the World. Roger agreed, and when Mark returned with his recording equipment and cameras he asked Roger, “With a voice like yours, why are you singing on the streets? Roger replied, “Man I’m in the Joy business, I come out to be with the people.” Ever since that day Playing for Change crew has traveled the world recording and filming musicians, creating Songs Around the World, and building a global family.

Read another chapter in their story on the foundation’s website. Playing for Change established a non-profit organization in 2007 with a mission to create positive change through music and arts education. Local teachers in South Africa, Ghana, Mali, Rwanda, Nepal, and Thailand teach free dance and music classes to more than 600 kids. From their website:

As one of our students in Nepal stated, “Music is an indispensable part of life -‐ you cannot live without music.” We couldn’t agree more.

Neither can I.

Happy Monday, y’all. Hope you inspire yourself today.

Also, a little history before you go…

The version of “Standy By Me” I grew up hearing was originally performed by Ben King, a U.S. singer-songwriter. Songwriting credits are held by Ben King, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller.

From SongFacts:

Ben E. King recorded “Stand Be Me” shortly after leaving The Drifters in 1960. It gave him a solid reputation as a solo artist.

“Stand By Me” was the name of a Gospel hymn written by the Philadelphia minister Charles Albert Tindley in 1905. His hymn became popular in churches throughout the American south and was recorded by various Gospel acts in the 1950s. The most popular adaptation was by The Staples Singers, who recorded it in 1955. It was this version that Ben E. King heard; he pushed The Drifters to record it, but the group’s manager rejected it.

Read more about the song’s history.