Camping with Rachel

You get to make some choices about how you grow old.  If you work a soulless job, don’t get much exercise because you are either commuting to work or sitting in front of a computer all day, and are not excited about the people you spend your free time with – you will, i am guessing, age hard and fast.

Alternatively, if you love what you do, if you are active – running around doing errands or construction or child care, if you love the people who you are spending time with and they inspire you, then you run a better chance of aging gracefully.

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Another one of my reckless theories is that if you are living ruggedly your body will adapt and be stronger longer.  And that if you create a comfortable easy situation, you will become accustomed to comfortable circumstances and then require them.

I spend most nights at Cambia rather than Twin Oaks.  Cambia is still working on its winterization and my room in the main house is heated at night by space heaters and electric blankets.

Or it isn’t.

For the last few weeks (when i have not been in Florida) i have been sleeping in my room without the aid of heating equipment.  It is a bit brisk, i have heaps of quilts and blankets, and it is fine.

Most weekday evenings i watch youtube recordings of Rachel Maddow’s storytelling on the big screen in my Cambia room.  I think she is very clever and i am quite excited about the current national news.

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When i was explaining my peculiar anti–heater stance to my Cambia clan, Mar responded “It is like you are camping out with Rachel Maddow.”

 

GivingTuesday – Rustling Roots

First things first, we are running a crowdfunding campaign for Rustling Roots, which is the sustainability education project of my favorite small community and part time home Cambia Community.  Please donate generously if you can.  And so we know it came from this source please donate a dollar amount with a single penny added (so $35.01 and the like).  Here is the link.

This is the lovely promotional video for the project which was made with some of my favorite kids (From Twin Oaks, Cambia and Mimosa communities).

These communities are all different and important models of sustainability.  They have tiny carbon footprints, home schooling programs and a vision of a better world.  In an often insane world, these places and projects are a ray of hope.

Please support us if you are able.

 

 

Mega development in Louisa

A couple of months back I learned of the shadowy plan in which the Louisa county supervisors had purchased options for several large tracks of land within the county for a proposed mega development.

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Over 1000 acres of proposed development – now stopped

Local citizens from across the county (not just the ones from the affected areas) started organizing, specifically bringing people to the supervisors meeting and demanding public input on this proposed plan.  It was clear that the supervisors were expecting this proposal to not get much public attention and that they could simply pass it while no one was paying much attention.  The supervisors, who normally have little public interest in their work, were surprised to find over 100 locals at their meeting upset about their proposal and decision making.

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Louisa Board of Supervisors – Photo Credit: CBS19 – News

When pressed about why they were advancing this proposal, the answers the supervisors gave were contradictory and thin.  They promised jobs, they promised the $50 million city funded water and sewage system would not raise taxes, they promised this would not be like the several other Louisa industrial park development projects.

These contradictory promises hurt the case for this development and the locals continued to organize and opposition to the development grew.  At the same time the supervisor position on it seemed to harden.  At the first vote on the project, 3 of the 7 supervisors voted in favor of the development and 3 against, and one was not in attendance that evening, but appeared to be in favor of the plan.

 

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Cambia and some of the other local communities got involved.  Cambia set up the Facebook page and made calls to the supervisors.  One supervisor got 347 different people calling them and only 7 were in favor of the project.

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Protesters at Louisa Supervisor Meeting – Nov 20 – Photo Credit: Me

This time, despite the odds, the good guys won.  The county supervisors hearing for the fourth straight meeting how locals were furious about this proposal reversed themselves and voted unanimously to kill their own project.  Now it is time to get locals together to talk about what type of development we do want, to help the supervisors do the right thing.

 

7000 Doors

Bringing 10 people, all from out of state to Florida, to work on an ambitious political campaign for 3 weeks is a rich logistical tapestry.  On the day after the election, GPaul (who was the flawless finance minster for the team) reminded me by text that I needed to send thank-you letters to our donors.

Shortly after this my cell phone started buzzing like crazy.  “We are heading for a recount. We need to contact all the people who submitted votes by mail or provisional ballots and confirm these were received,” was the message we got from Organize Florida, the organization for which we had been volunteering.

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Now it was not just Senator Nelson facing a close election needing a recount, but the Gillum/DeSantes governor’s race as well.  And we were back to phone-banking.  Our team, now spread across the country, were phone-banking from airports in California and collectives in Oregon, and folks at the Virginia communes also started calling.  We helped burn through two lists of over 7,000 people in a few hours.

Normally, one would not know who had voted by mail, because one would not have their phone numbers.   Hard Knocks was the group we canvassed with and it was set up by the very politically active labor-union SEIU.  In the Tampa Bay area our canvass knocked on over 1.5 million doors.  We helped thousands of people get their vote by mail ballots.  We brought people to the polls for early voting and educated  them on a number of down-ballot items, including those for the State Senator Janet Cruz and the initiative to restore felon voting rights.  In the end our 10 volunteers, mostly from income sharing intentional communities, hit more than 7000 doors.

At each door that answered, we gathered information about whom they were planning to vote for, including what method they would use.  When the recall became imminent that same database gathered in the months leading up to the midterms could now be employed to reach back to those voters and see if they were actually being counted.

At this writing both the Senate and Governor elections are being recounted.   There is some chance that either of these Democrats will win, and if either does it will be further proof that we made the right choice to go to Florida to work on these elections.  A couple of my anarchist comrades have written long essays about how it is wrong to be involved in these or any elections.  Most of the crew in Florida self identifies as anarchists and is doing this work because the threat of staying on the sidelines is too large.

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Titanium Feather

What of course would be grand would be for us to be the titanium feather which tips the balance.  But even if we don’t I certainly feel good about trying.

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November is “Gov. Gillum”

There is something especially reckless about making forecasts on close elections.

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What could go wrong?

Florida has better than average voter suppression techniques.  Current Governor Rick Scott has been an effective advocate of blocking poor people and especially people of color from being able to vote.

Thus betting that a charismatic young black first term mayor of the seventh largest city in the state would become Governor instead of the Trump protégé is especially dicey.  But if Tampa is any indication the enthusiasm with Andrew Gillum is impressive.  Every neighborhood I visit has Gillum signs up.  Suspicious faces break into smiles when I mention I am campaigning  door to door for him.  And then I ask “And Democrats all the way down?”

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Neighborhood Gillum Office in Old Town Tampa

And they often concur, democrats all the way down.  And this maybe the most important legacy of the Gillum run.  Bill Nelson is the current effective three term (that is 18 years) Democratic Senator from Florida.  Why have you never heard of him (unless you are one of the wonk/political hack readers of this blog)?  Because he is deathly boring.

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League of Extraordinary Gentleman

Due to term limits, current Governor Rick Scott is making a bid for Bill Nelson’s Senate seat and it is quite close (FiveThirtyEight.Com predicts shows Nelson up 51.3% to 48.7).  If Nelson prevails quite some credit should go to Gillum who has helped breaking early voting turn out records, overwhelming both the states racist history and powerful voter suppression techniques.

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Tens of thousands of voters have already been blocked in Florida

When I lived in Czechoslovakia I learned of the Slavic month naming convention that is different from the English language one.    This has been hybridized by a number of people I know into a personalized month naming convention, either on a regular basis, or where an extraordinary event  determines the month name.

We are pulling out all the stops to make true the month name “Governor Gillum,” and I am recklessly predicting a Gillum win.

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Canvassers of Team Tampa: Photo Credit: Calico

 

 

 

 

 

Want to Phone Bank?

People keep asking us how to volunteer to phone bank.

Schedule to Phone Bank for Florida  

This will hook you up to the collection for group we are working with on Florida’s critical candidates and referendums.

Nationally, these are the groups we think are doing some of the more accessible organizing for phone banking:

After weeks of being asked to take pictures with inspired citizens getting out to vote, Thumbs had only compiled a photo collage of garden gnomes and copulating dragon flies.  However, when Karen challenged him to put this tiny hat on a stray neighborhood cat, he delivered with this Fred Astaire feline putting on the ritz.

Yesterdays challenge action was Karen asked Thumbs to put this tiny hat on a stray cat and take a picture.  Our man was up to the challenge

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i never said i was beneath using cat pictures 

 

Come to Tampa and Sing

Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis are running for Governor of Florida and had a debate last night.  Gillum pointed out that his Republican challenger DeSantis was attending racists groups meetings to drum up support for his campaign.

“I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” Gillum added. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

When he said this our team of organizers laughed because it was such a good zinger.

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We are canvassing or phone banking or both everyday.  Mostly door to door canvassing, since that is what is most desired by the local organizers.  While the heat is breaking a bit, it is still hot on the streets of Tampa Florida.

Here is a quick Canvassers Flow Chart:

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We have better buttons, but not better images.

It is an amazing group assembled here in Tampa.  Almost all of us have commune experience, which makes a number of things flow easier: meetings, meals and logistics specifically.  And while there have been some bumpy spots, overwhelmingly everyone gets along with everyone else and is pretty excited to be here.  We have created a temporary autonomous magical zone.

We also compare notes.  We track the number of doors we knock on and the number of people we talk to.  A high success rate for most canvassers is talking to 20% of the doors we knock on.  I  knocked on 83 doors this evening and was pretty stoked to get 17 real conversations out of them.

But Thumbs does better.  Much better.  Every day he has canvassed so far he has been getting over 50% of people whose doors he knocks on to answer.  We wanted to know his secret.  He shared it with us and fortunately Jenny caught it on video.

He sings.  It is brilliant.  It also proves that there are many more people home than we think and just this novel and clever approach will get us connected with them.  We will see how many canvassers can pull this off.  I am certainly willing to try.

But what i love most is that Thumbs developed it in the first place and the thought that in the next election canvass organizers will be asking their volunteers if they are willing to sing.

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Our group is expanding.  Kelpie and Skylar from Twin Oaks arrive on Friday to join Thumbs, Karen, GPaul, Jenny, Calico, Carlos and myself.

Want to come and join this merry band?  Here is the check list:

  • Can you drop everything right now ?
  • Can you walk 5 hours a day for 6 days in a week?
  • Can you live in a tight highly collective house?
  • Can you get to Tampa?
  • Can you sing?

Then drop me an email.

But what likely makes far more sense than you coming all the way to Tampa is for you to phone bank from where you are. Here is a link you can go to on competitive races across the country.

And if you don’t have a favorite group to phone bank with (Indivisible is a good one, MoveOn will help you set up a phone banking party) we can hook you up.

If you can’t come, you can still support this group, we are still actively seeking donations through our  GoFundMe campaign.  And please feel encouraged to follow our adventures on Facebook.

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Team Tampa: After our morning meeting, before volunteering for phone banking

 

 

Why Florida?

“Are you sure Florida is the best place for us to be campaigning?” GPaul understandably asked me several weeks ago.

“No.”  I replied honestly.  “But I do believe it is the best place stop Trump in 2020.”

Some months ago I learned about Amendment 4.  There are 1.5 million adult Florida citizens who can not vote because they were in prison. Florida is unusual for blocking citizens who have paid their debt to society from voting.  Only 4 states (sadly including Virginia) maintain this racist policy, because a disproportionate number of incarcerated persons are people of color, especially African Americans.  Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution would restore these voting rights.

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Practicing Canvassing with Carlos at the Tampa Hard Knocks Office

We trained yesterday with the Hard Knocks/SEIU crew in Tampa.  Kevin lived in Venezuela until 18 months ago and had not spoken English in his life.  Now he is a trainer and office manager for SEIU, getting crews ready to hit the streets or phone bank for these elections as needed.  Clearly a quick study, his English was certainly strong enough to train us on the script, throw some curve balls at us, teach us how to use our tablets and the MiniVan program and get us dressed in our bright blue canvass shirts.

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Kevin, Carlos, Jenny and my scruffy self with our bright blue shirts.

While I was not sure two months ago Florida was the best place to campaign, now I am.

While we are fairly confident the Democrats can wrestle control of the US House of Representatives from the Republicans, flipping the Senate is much less likely.  The Florida race for the US Senate this year is one of the most critical ones.  Dems flip house.jpg

One of the most contentious Senate races pits incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson against outgoing Florida Governor Rick Scott. While the most recent polls show Nelson’s lead shrinking, increased spending and GOTV efforts appear to be holding Nelson’s thin lead. While this race does not bring the Democrats closer to taking control, because it is already held, losing this seat would virtually guarantee the Republicans would maintain control. Scott is a kleptocratic Trump Republican, famous for slashing VA benefits while enriching himself.  He reversed his campaign promise and cut 750K people from Medicaid and then privatized it for significant profit for himself and his friends.

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Andrew Gillum populist underdog running for governor.

Gillum was elected Mayor of Tallahassee in 2014, at the age of 35.  This summer, he won an upset victory where he was seriously outspent in the Democratic primary for Governor this year and is narrowly favored to beat Trump Republican DeSantos.  He is a self-described progressive and has a platform similar to that of Bernie Sanders. Sanders has campaigned for Gillum.

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While we were canvassing, Gillum was clearly the most popular personality we spoke with voters about.  Charismatic, progressive, young, and good looking, Gillum has drawn support from many corners of this diverse state.  He holds a narrow lead in the state polls for this race.

With a referendum which may well decide the 2020 presidential election, a hotly contested must-win Senate seat for the Democrats and a Sanders Governor’s candidate running against a terrible Trump clone, Florida is the place to be right now!

We are trying to grow our team and your generous contribution would make that be possible.  If you think these races and rights are important, but can’t make it to Florida, please help these gifted organizers and activists be the hands knocking on doors for you.

 

 

 

Communards to Florida for Voter Rights

“You live in a bubble, I could never do it.  I need to be more connected to the real world.”  People visiting the communes often say things like this.  Often with praise for what they perceive as our prosaic and even idyllic life style.  It is a completely understandable criticism and it still rubs me the wrong way.

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But communards are often quite connected to the “real world” and some are working actively to influence local and national politics.  I am proud to say many more communards have stepped up during the time of Trump.

I am happy to be traveling with a group of capable organizers all of who hail from intentional communities from across the country which are supporting this campaign to restore ex-con voting rights in Florida, to help maintain the Democratic Senate seat and elect the states first black Governor.  Here is some of the key information:second chances banner florida.png

If Florida Amendment 4 passes, it will restore voting rights to 1.5 million Florida residents.  This represents over 10% of the states total population and over 20% of the African American voters.  As a voting group, ex-cons are most commonly Democratic, African American voters are overwhelmingly Democratic voters.  If this amendment passes it becomes extremely difficult for Trump to take Florida in the 2020 election. Without Florida, it is extremely difficult for the Republicans to win the Electoral College. Florida is one of only 4 states which basically permanently restricts ex-cons from voting.

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 (1) Dark Green–convicted felons always retained the right to vote; (2) Medium Green–right to vote after prison term completed; (3) Light Green–right to vote after prison term and parole completed; (4) Light Red–right to vote after prison, parole, and probation completed; (5) Medium Red–certain felons never regain right to vote; (6) Dark Red–no felons regain right to vote

If you want to support such an effort, please visit our GoFundMe page and donate to help cover our travel and living costs.  Stay tuned to this blog for regular reports from Tampa and Orlando.

Surprising Discoveries – Riot Bayit

Just when you think you know all about your “area of expertise” something new surprises you.

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Riot Bayit at dinner circa 2017

During a recent visit to Crafts House at Tufts someone said, “You should go visit Riot Bayit; they are an income sharing community, right here in Somerville.” I was surprised to hear of an income sharing community we did not know about in an urban region in the North East. What a surprise!

As it turns out, this ambitious group of former Tufts students created a collective house a couple of years back. And after living together that way, they decided they could practice their anti-capitalist politics and support each other better through income sharing. What a reasonable thing to do, which very few folks do in the US.

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handknit hanukkah socks! 15 socks for 14 feet

We spent a lovely evening chatting with them, listening to their origin story and what they were working on as a group.  Like most start up income sharing communities, they are not currently participating in a cottage industry.  Instead, like Compersia in DC, they all have day jobs and pool their income to cover their expenses and give each member some personal savings each month.

The word Bayit in their name comes from the Hebrew word for “home” and they like the rhyme that Riot Bayit creates. Most of the members identify themselves as Jewish but it is not a requirement.  There is a desire to observe Jewish practices such as shabat, and the holidays and celebrations which are not observed in the mainstream are much more actively a part of the life and discussions here.  Some members more actively study Jewish history and philosophy and bring their discoveries back the the larger group.  As with the name of the house, some Hebrew words are part of the regular vocabulary.

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Portraits of members on the wall

They are activists, organizers, fundraisers, and public advocates.  Their politics are on both sides of the front door: at home and in their workplaces.  Posters on the stair well wall invite refugees, while conversations recognize their relative privilege.  It is also clear that they are already doing things about this unfairness and have intention and momentum to do more.

One of the core values of the collective is addressing income inequality with redistribution.  To this end, they give 1/10th of the collective income to organizations who are doing political and cultural work they support. This tithing money is not going to religious organizations; it goes to political non-profit organizations which align with their greater values.

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Building the new commons in Somerville

Riot Bayit enjoyed the Point A propaganda and stories and when they encouraged us to return to do workshops with them in the future.  My surprise quickly shifted to joy.

Photo Credits: Riot_Bayit@instagram