The Little (Activism) Engine that Could?

Thursday morning, I blogged about a new tool for activism being developed by one of my sons, a web designer and developer living in Manhattan. I explained the underlying premise of the  site and how it will work; I also noted that its utility is dependent upon the currency and accuracy of the information it will convey–information that will have to be provided by organizations working to protect Americans’ rights (ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc.) and by volunteers in each state.

After describing various features of the site–including ease of use–I made the following pitch for volunteers.

My son plans to roll out a beta test in Indiana later this month. BUT—and this is a big BUT—the usefulness of the tool he has worked so hard to create absolutely depends upon the information it will contain. In Indiana, that means that people who are knowledgeable about bills filed in the General Assembly need to insure that information is included and current; people aware of upcoming “direct actions” need to convey that information via the site.

This tool is free to use. The site will never have advertising, it is not an “organization” that will fundraise. It will never share private information about its users. It is meant to be an added “outreach” mechanism for organizations like Hoosier Environmental Council, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU—among many others. We hope–and expect–that those organizations will share information through the Activism Engine as well as their own websites.

As I mentioned, the plan is to “beta test” the site in Indiana, to see how it works, solicit feedback, and to fix any bugs before taking it national.

If this “one-stop-shop” for activism is to work, however, it needs dedicated volunteers who will post the necessary information. If you are interested in being one of those volunteers, or at least finding out what is involved, Please go to this url and fill out the form:

At last count, 157 people have signed up, and the volunteers keep coming. To say that this level of response–after one post to one small blog– is gratifying would be an understatement. It’s particularly significant, in my opinion, because it suggests that people aren’t just expressing negative opinions of Trump et al and then going back to their normal routines; it’s a sign that many of them really are willing to put time and effort into resisting the GOP’s incredibly destructive agenda.

My son is currently sorting the responses by what volunteers have signed up for, and everyone who has filled out one of the forms will receive an email from him shortly.

I just want to thank everyone who signed up, forwarded the information, or otherwise participated in the effort to prepare for the launch. Once the beta test “rolls out,” which should be very soon, I’ll let everyone know.

We can do this.


  1. “He also said that he has asked his staff to reach out to the mayor to make sure efforts are coordinated between state and local officials.

    “I think we’ll find out over the next 24 hours exactly how this happened and what motivated this individual,” Obama added.”

    Sheila; the quote above is part of President Obama’s response to the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale, FL airport on Friday. I had to Google to find this response which is part of an interview with George Stepanopolous which will air Sunday, but Facebook and MSNBC and local news has been filled with Trump’s Tweets…his usual empty vacuous blathering. Florida’s Gov. Scott contacted Trump and Pence and they have been messaging back and forth regarding another shooting tragedy in this country. No reason given for not contacting the current president of the United States who has contacted the Mayor of Ft. Lauderdale offering any and all help needed. No mention of this contact and offer from President Obama. We cannot rely on the media for information; making web sites we can trust more vital than ever. Trump has somehow already taken control of this country; where the hell are the Democrats and the media?

    “I also noted that its utility is dependent upon the currency and accuracy of the information it will convey–information that will have to be provided by organizations working to protect Americans’ rights (ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc.) and by volunteers in each state.”

    The above copied and pasted portion of your statement today, and your blog yesterday, gives me hope that we will have access to current and accurate information provided by the organizations which are, and those that will be, active on your son’s web site. Any organizations involved in aiding the victims and families can keep us informed of facts the media ignores, omits or is sidelined by Trump’s busy little fingers as he Tweets his edicts and premature control of this country.

  2. Sheila…please thank your son for us…and thank you for raising a socially responsive and respinsible son!

  3. JoAnn,

    “Trump has somehow already taken control of this country; where the hell are the Democrats and the media?”

    They’re where they always are when it really counts……NOWHERE.

  4. JoAnn,

    Trump is only carrying out what he feels is the RIGHT thing to do. This is a COUP from the RIGHT. He must be in total control of ALL INFORMATION by the 21st to succeed against the MOUNTING CRITICISM which could unmask the massive deception of his movement and lead to a meltdown of his insane plans and aspirations.

  5. That’s fine. Look into the “indivisible” website for a national outreach. Also, look at your local chapter to Progressive Democrats for America. We’re trying to re-capture the narrative and re-frame the debate so people will vote for those who will be best for ALL Americans, not just the rich.

  6. Marv; how much longer will we – the American public – have open access to Facebook, Google, fact check sites, etc., without cost? Does/will Trump haven or be given the power to require us to subscribe to Twitter so he can Tweet us directly; making that our only Internet connection? I do not Tweet, have no interest in it and am sick of his Tweets overloading the airwaves and the media.

    The lack of mental acuity of most of his supporters, who believe everything he says in those Tweets, is astounding. I replied to a Trump post on Facebook that I had followed his sexual and financial escapades for 30 years and was sick of him before he was the GOP nominee. One woman asked why I had followed Trump for 30 year and had I also followed Obama for 30 years. After considering ignoring that ignorant woman I decided to answer; told her that Trump had been in the news for 30 years so I was forced to follow him whether I wanted to or not. Also explained that President Obama had not been in politics for 30 years. She must be part and parcel of whatever faction it is who believes Obama had something to do with 9/11 and wants to know where he was when that happened. Now we have McConnell who is looking into President Obama’s connection to the Russian hacking…at least that is an ass-backward admission that the Russian hacking actually happened.

    Full access to Stephen’s web site cannot come too soon.

  7. “Everyone has heard of Hitler. Most know he was the dictator of Germany who caused the Second World War and the slaughter of millions of Jews. But how Hitler got power is another matter. Few understand the way in which his dictatorship came about. Because Germany was a republic [like the U.S.] when Hitler became chancellor, many assume he was democratically elected by a majority of the German people. Such was not, however the case [Hillary Clinton won the vote of the majority in the U.S.]. His rise to power was far more complicated and, above all, more chancy. It was, in fact, a very near thing that could have been thwarted at numerous points. [The next two weeks is an all important point].”

    “Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power” by Henry Ashby Turner, Jr. (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1996) p. xi.

    I’m aware that I discussed the above page, a few weeks ago, on this blog. I’ll say it again, Donald Trump is using a Nazi Playbook. And I hope that you’re not still counting on James Carvile, The New York Times or the Southern Poverty Law Center to do anything about it.

  8. Shelia – As a former Hoosier who left the area in 1970, I will not be directly participating in your son’s noble endeavor, but I will be resisting the Orange One’s attempts on the home front to subvert what is left of our democracy, having just blogged last night that I think he has been compromised and is a subject of blackmail by Putin with his many Russian connections with Russian banks and oligarchs, for instance, connections we do not know about as a result of his successful ability not to make his tax returns public, and now with the aid and comfort of our Secretary of State and a friend of Putin, one Tillerson, a most suspicious appointment. Kudos to your son!

  9. Vernon,

    I like your website. You’re on the right track. The Demoratic Party could use your mindset. I’m very much aware of your area of the county. I practiced law in Dallas for over 25 years. The Austin area has always been the location of strong, effective, democratic voices.

  10. Vernon,

    Hopefully, your efforts with the Democratic Party will make a difference in 2018, however, they don’t deal with the major problem facing us in the next two weeks…… the potential clamp-down on FREE SPEECH once Trump is inaugurated.

  11. Sheila,

    Many thanks to your son for doing this. He is a prime example of this saying – “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

  12. I believe the most important thing we should concentrate on now, is the establishment of a financially strong, nationally supported ACTIVISM ENGINE.

    It’s going to be very, very difficult for an individual to speak out after the inauguration. If he or she does, they will be facing potential harassment from the federal government. [I’ve already been warned along those lines]. And most, including myself, will be reluctant to do so because of the financial costs of adequate legal representation even if FALSELY arrested.

  13. Marv –
    “Strong, effective democratic voices” in the Austin area of Texas?
    Are you kidding? To me, all of Texas speaks with Republican voices.
    But, I want to concede to your always superior take on American politics.
    Because I’m convinced I can find fascist roots in Trump’s rhetoric, I am finally going to read “Mein Kampf” to find the roots there.
    And about the Democrats, I hope you’re endorsing what Sen. Schumer has up his sleeve. It’s pretty evident the GOP is trying to rouse support for dumping Obamacare and are failing miserably in that effort.
    Thank Heaven we have Justin Trudeau and the Canadian healthcare system on this Continent while oligarch madness rages all around.
    Thank you for your posts.

  14. OMG,

    Marv-Are you kidding? To me, all of Texas speaks with Republican voices.

    You’re pretty much right, but the Democratic District Attorney for Travis County (Austin) is the one who indicted one of the most important right-wing extremist in Congress.

    All of Texas is not made up of extremist Republicans even though it appears to be so. Don’t forget they have had a chance to see the Republican Party at its worst. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, they might be the ones who make the first move to change direction.

  15. OMG,

    You might also want to read “American Fascism + God” by Davidson Loehr (White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2005).

    Loehr was the senior minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, a 640-member congregation in Texas. My former minister here in Jacksonville took his place after he left. The book caused quite a stir in his church, as you can imagine.

  16. I’ve posted before the first three paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence because they have never been before so meaningful to me.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    The last time those words held urgent meaning the country’s founders knew too well both the costs of tyrannical government and the cost of changing it.

    Their choice has benefitted us to this day. Now it’s our choice.

    I hope as well as believe that the options available to them, revolution or subservience, are expanded for us today. We can change minds without bullets.

    Sheila and her family continue to present and maintain collaboration as an intellectual army as an option.

    I’m fully aboard. Are you?

  17. I signed up. A part of what must be accomplished is not let off the hook our local, county and state elected officials to what appears to be a clear plan by the GOP to sack and/or reform ACA, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Reforms in GOP talk is to some how sabotage these programs through various mechanisms of propaganda.

    At least from what I have been reading the GOP not only on the Federal Level but also at the State Level think they have a blank check: more right to work, union busting, de-funding environmental agencies or just as effective appoint people who have no intention of enforcing existing laws, etc.

    Now this little nugget: >>> Donald Trump was forced to say that Mexico would pay for his planned border wall “later” after Republican officials indicated Congress and US taxpayers would first foot the bill. <<<

  18. In re: Activism Engine

    “Power from the product”

    “‘Only when our office copying success has been repeated, not once, but several times,’ said the Xerox chairman early on in the company’s diversification game, ‘can we fairly reach the conclusion that this organization has the kind of power that can be relied upon again and again.’

    This is the classic mistake made by the leader. The illusion that the power of the product is derived from the power of the organization.

    It is just the reverse. The power of the organization is derived from the power of the product, the position that the product owns in the prospect’s mind.

    Coca-Cola has power. The Coca-Cola Company is merely a reflection of that power.

    Outside the cola field, the Coca-Cola Company has to earn its power the hard way–either by getting into the minds first [Activism Engine], by establishing a strong alternative position, or by repositioning the leader.

    So Coca-Cola’s Mr. Pibb runs a poor second to Dr. Pepper, and all the power of the Coca-Cola company can’t do much about it.

    So, too, with Xerox. The power is in the position that Xerox owns in the mind. Xerox means copier. Xerox owns the copier position because it got in the mind first and then exploited that copier position by a massive marketing program.

    But in computers, office duplicators, word processors, and other products, Xerox starts at ground zero. Xerox has obviously tried to duplicate its copier success in other fields. But it has apparently forgotten one essential element of the 914 program.

    It was the first to fly the plain-paper copier ocean.”

    “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind-How to be seen and heard in the overcrowded marketplace” by Al Reis and Jack Trout (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001) pp. 48-49.

    Sheila and Stephen are in there first with AE. Let’s do all we can to keep the momentum going.

  19. With your permission, I’d like to share this with Cory Heidelberger at Dakota Free Press blog. He is active in what Democrat party in South Dakota and maybe can find some volunteers for your cause. I will wait for permission. Thank you. mike from iowa

  20. Marv-Are you kidding? To me, all of Texas speaks with Republican voices.

    Better not let Juanita Jean from the World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon hear anyone say this. She might wash someone’s mouth out with soap or worse. 🙂

  21. Texas has the same problem of the rest of the country. The people in Houston and Austin who are liberal are outweighed by those outside the city areas of the state. Uneducated and racist southern white folks and the slick gerrymandering of the Republican party. All of Texas is not red.

  22. Maria,

    “All of Texas is not red.”

    At this point in time, does that make a difference? If there are answers to our predicament in America, it doesn’t lie in partisan politics right now. It’s too corrupted. We have to go deeper than RED or BLUE.

    The following is from the Authors Preface in “An American Dilemma” by Gunnar Myrdal (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1944) p. xviii:

    “The scope and direction of this book will be explained in the “Introduction.” There are, however, some few notes of a more personal character, for which the proper place is at the close of this preface. To invite a foreigner–someone “in a nonimperialistic country with no background of domination of one race over another” who, presumably “would approach the situation with an entirely fresh mind”; I am here again quoting Keppel’s first letter, August 12, 1937 [I was born 4 days later] –to review the most serious race problem in the country, is an idea singularly American. In any other country, such a proposal would have been defeated by afterthoughts of practical and political expediency. Many will deem it a foolish idea. But more fundamentally it is a new demonstration, in a minor matter, of American moralism, rationalism, and optimism–and a demonstration of America’s unfailing conviction of its basic soundness and strength. Early in the course of this work, when I found out the seriousness of the task before me, I proposed to Mr. Keppel [Board member of the Carnegie Corporation who funded the study] that a committee be formed of a Southern white, a Northern white, and a Negro. In such a group we could have allowed for political considerations and worked out a basis for practical understanding, to which each one could have subscribed, since the representation of different viewpoints would have accounted for the intellectual compromises involved. This was, however, not at all what he wanted. He told me that everyone would generously help and advise me–and there he proved me right–but that I would have to find out for myself, and upon my own responsibility, the truth in the matter without any side glances as to what was politically desirable and expedient.”

    No intelligent, ethical, rational, person in America can deny, at this point in time, the fact that Donald Trump is a racist and that he is replacing our democracy with a racist/theocratic, neo-fascist system. Do we need to publish another book to prove it? If that’s the case we’re doomed.

  23. I’m thinking that your son would do well to connect and perhaps collaborate with Mr. Polisner:
    “It’s a demonstration, a credible action as opposed to an expression of frustration,” he said. “Although from a personal economic perspective I’ve probably made better decisions!”

    “I thought I could either be a role model in terms of a path forward or a cautionary tale,” he joked.

    Polisner would not have resigned so publicly had Catz taken a leave of absence from Oracle to pursue the role with the Trump administration as a private citizen. “I would have been disappointed in her personally, but I would have respected her decision.” he said.

    “The Trump administration has been on record talking about creating a Muslim registry and doing a number of things that will cause profound societal damage to the most vulnerable and I wanted no part of that.”

    What’s Polisner planning to do with his newfound spare time?

    “Take a zen breath from all of this,” he said. The next challenge is to build tools to unite disparate groups of progressives to take political action that goes beyond “resisting bad policy”.

    “I would love to figure out how we can build a loosely coupled network for progressives, so people can have autonomy and freedom of thought but work together in a crisis.”

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