Field Hands: It's About the Organizing

By Al Giordano

I’m convinced after having watched the bad-to-pathetic behavior over the past week by the former aspiring Mall Cops of the Ex-Field that much more threatening to them than my innocuous mention of deceased community organizers and journalists was the creation – five days prior to the censorship – of an independent platform for the living organizers and communicators over at the independent Field Hands site.

It now counts with 399 members (who will be Field Hand number 400?) in 15 Field Hand Locals each with 10 members or more, plus many more regions rolling toward that threshold. We’ll update here when Field Hand 400 arrives!

Update: Julie of Norman, Oklahoma is Field Hand #400! Congrats to her and to Peter Bratt (Field Hand #401) of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and Randy H (Field Hand #402) of Reno, Nevada, who have signed up in the past few minutes.

If it was sadly too much of an opportunity for politically-retarded control-freaks to suffer the collapse of an illusion that they could wield control or veto power over what I wrote, it must have been a nightmare to suddenly find themselves unable to imagine control over the autonomous words and activities of hundreds of you now able to meet each other and organize together without going through them or anyone else.

But I know greatness when I see it, and know that a self-organizing sensation that grows this fast deserves all the support and attention that I can muster.

So, sign up there, meet your fellow and sister Field Hands in person (we already have one wedding to report, see below), and here is a round-up of the first days of activity over there…

The Denver Field Hands Posse is organizing to find places to stay in Denver during the Democratic National Convention in August.

Twin Cities Field Hands are organizing to report from the Republican National Convention there in early September.

New York City Field Hands are organizing their first face-to-face meeting. 

(Note: Any Field Hands Local that sets a meeting date and wants it publicized here, please send me the info at narconews@gmail.com )

Field Hands Abroad are organizing to get refunds for its members contributions from the host of the Ex-Field, with very different results reported by individual members.

Some Chicago Field Hands are organizing an “Interactive Video Webcast” for the November elections in the US. 

As the Chicago Field Hands (Local #1) is organizing voter registration.

Bluegrass Field Hands has launched in Kentucky.

And congratulations to Allan Brauer and Norberto Laboy-Brauer who were married on Tuesday in Sacramento, California!

Finally, would those Field Hands that have not yet uploaded a photo or an image to represent them please do so (if you don’t know how, post a message there or here and other Field Hands will help guide you through the simple steps).

As always, Field Hands is self-organized and independently so. Any activity its members or groups engage in is autonomous and requires no permission or approval from The Field or from me, and neither The Field nor I are necessarily responsible for them. Likewise, Field Hands are not necessarily responsible for anything I say or do.

Meanwhile, if you want instant commenting privileges here at The Field, you can apply for your co-publisher account – the backstage pass that comes with some other very neat whistles and bells - at this link.

Also: That very handsome Field Hands banner up top was designed by Susan Kitchens.

Update: Here’s an interesting analysis of The Field’s sudden change of location by DKos diarist TheWurx

Update II: San Diego Field Hands has now qualified as Local #16!

Update III: Field Hands site founder Susan is asking for help and feedback. Specifically, she could use a few more hands on deck to welcome newcomers and keep the site humming along. Please read her words at this thread and volunteer.

A Message from John Scagliotti

Dear Al : thanks for the kind words of support for Andy's journalism. Is this woman, Debra Kozikowski, losing funders because of Andy Kopkind? I am bit confused how Andy is involved with any of her concerns.

But does that mean we who run the Kopkind Colony are getting a bum rap from those who give money to good causes like ours because people think Andy is a weatherman? Not sure if I understand her argument but thanks for clearing it up a bit. Kind of ironic that she seems to be a supporter of Obama who is being falsely smeared as a Muslim.

I do know, as you point out, there are many facts wrong in her thinking. But it is true that Andy was not a member of SDS or the Weather Organization. Like many journalists in that time he covered them but then he covered Conrad Hilton for the cover of Time Magazine too and he never was party of the Hilton Hotels and never received any money or support from Mr. Hilton or his fine granddaughter Paris. Do you think this tangential connection to Paris Hilton would be more damaging for this woman than his journalism covering radicals in the 60's?

warm regards,

John Scagliotti

Kopkind Administrator

Also: Barry Crimmins receives a "joking" offer to cross a picket line and give up his press freedom.

The Dangers of "Synchronized Flip-Flopping"

By Al Giordano

“Synchronized Flip-Flopping.”

That’s the phrase that Jonathan Alter of Newsweek used on Keith Olbermann’s program to describe the simultaneous change in stances on offshore drilling by Senator John McCain and Florida Governor Charlie Crist:

Olbermann also pointed out in that broadcast that the synchronization between the presumptive Republican nominee’s flip from opposing offshore drilling to now favoring it and President George W. Bush’s press conference yesterday to push that stance trips up another big theme that McCain has been trying very hard to promote: that he is somehow independent from the unpopular US president of his party.

Not all Republicans on coastal states threatened by offshore oil drilling are signing up for duty, though.

The Press of Atlantic City, New Jersey, reports:

“New Jersey lawmakers and candidates from both parties Tuesday criticized Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's proposal to lift the federal ban on offshore oil and gas drilling. U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, R-2nd, was among those who suggested shifting the focus to the nation's 68 million acres leased for drilling that hasn't happened. ‘We must not gamble with our beaches and tourism industry,’ LoBiondo said. He and fellow Rep. Jim Saxton, R-3rd, last year voted against an unsuccessful attempt in the House of Representatives to allow natural-gas drilling offshore…"

 

The Asbury Park Press reports that former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Republican and former director of the US Environmental Protection Agency, is likewise “cool to McCain’s plan.”

The Newark Star-Ledger notes that Republican US Senate candidate in New Jersey, Dick Zimmer, put out a hurried press release to disassociate himself from the synchronized flip-flop:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dick Zimmer issued a statement this afternoon saying he opposes Bush's effort and is "strongly against any drilling or exploration off the New Jersey coast or in any area that poses a risk to our beaches."

 

The South Jersey Courier-Post chronicles Republicans distancing themselves from McCain on the offshore drilling issue:

Several New Jersey Republicans also have expressed opposition, including Reps. Chris Smith, R-Hamilton; Jim Saxton, R-Mount Holly, and Frank LoBiondo, R-Ventnor. 

They argue that exploring for oil and natural gas fewer than 100 miles from New Jersey’s southernmost point could wreak environmental havoc in case of an oil spill.

 

McCain has not only undercut, with this gambit, his previous efforsts to distance himself from Bush, but he’s provoked downticket Republicans to begin to distance themselves from him.

As for some of the “Chicken Littling” that going on in some corners about polls that show Americans are suddenly in favor of offshore drilling due to high gas prices, such clucking reveals an especially shallow reading of polling data and what it means.

People vote all the time for candidates with whom they may disagree on an issue. Almost no voter agrees with either candidate on every matter of policy. The real question is which voters see a particular issue as “outcome determinative” for their votes, and that usually involves intense self-interest or ideological passion. For property owners along the shores of some traditionally Republican presidential swing states like Virginia, Florida and North Carolina, where the Democrat Obama is playing to steal the ball, and also in some traditionally Democratic swing states where the Republican McCain needs to pull off a surprise or two in order to win the Electoral College majority - New Jersey, Oregon and Washington (not to mention California) – the matter of offshore drilling is more outcome determinative in that those voters have home, vacation home, and business interests in preserving the shoreline and the tourism and other industries that depend on it. Many of them are Independents and Republicans. In his attempt to pander on gas prices with a proposal that won’t lower them one penny (nor create new oil productions for at least five years), McCain risks pushing away sectors of voters that might otherwise cast their ballots for him.

And since coastal dwellers and business owners are easily targeted and reachable through zip-code based direct mail campaigns, door-to-door volunteer canvassing, and telephone phone-banking, the campaign with superior organization and funding will have the advantage in pulling these swing voters into his camp.

Update: Perhaps this is related: Readers here from Florida have now reached the threshold strength of membership to become Field Hands Local #15. ¡Salud!

"Lessons" Is a Seven Letter Word

By Al Giordano

I was playing Scrabble on Wednesday evening – a half-day after posting The Narrative Is Not a Story of Technology to what is now the ex-Field, the blog from where I reported on the US presidential elections for the last six months - when this email arrived in my mailbox from the boss there, RuralVotes’ Debra Kozikowski:

 

From: DebbySKoz@cs.com
To: narconews@gmail.com
Date: Wed, June 11, 2008 at 8:00 p.m.
Subject: What Are You Doing?
Rules for radicals? Give me a break. We have a meeting with Farm Aid and other interested parties in the next two weeks -- what do you think you are doing? This is not helpful -- do you WANT Barack Obama to lose? Talk about creating the petrii dish for beautiful loser syndrome. I am including Matt in this conversation b/c w/o an understanding The Field goes fallow. I mean it, Al. I cannot allow you to rule this roost to the detriment of the overall mission. I'll take the hit if you refuse to be a team player and quit. An Obama funder I have been courting is horrified. That makes three -- two in the last week. You are wrong headed. This has NOTHING to do with rural at all and this particular hero of yours according to Time Magazine in 1970 -- "SAUL ALINSKY has possibly antagonized more people—regardless of race, color or creed—than any other living American."
It is NOT 1970, it is 2008 I am NOT ARMING A REVOLUTION. I have now LOST two major funders this week alone and I have defended you to the hilt -- so what do you do? You go purposefully more left and i was blinsided by a phone call b/c I hadn't seen it. The ultimate lack of respect. I am uninterested in the defense of Saul Alinsky and his worthiness -- we are not a debating society ... it doesn't matter what you think is right or wrong headed -- it is what it is -- and funders are running away as will the Obama campaign -- who has informed me it wants nothing to do with this sort of propaganda. How could you? How could you? This is NOT rainmaking, it is a destructo force tornado. And for what?
Do you have a reasonable solution? As for The Field, without a reasonable agreement it goes dark and is archived with a big thank you to the readers for their participation. End of story. The next move is yours.

 

Had I seen it I would have first thought that the mention of a “meeting with Farm Aid” as an excuse for the complaint was pretty funny. I remember when Farm Aid was started in the 1980s by country-western singer Willie Nelson, who made no secret even back then of his, uh, botanical preferences. Big time politicians and presidential candidates beat a path to Nelson’s trailer backstage at the group’s benefit concerts. There, they would typically try to pretend they didn’t notice the pungent herb that Nelson would be openly smoking as he held court and advocated on behalf of legalizing hemp crops to save the American family farm. One who said he was there told me at the time of a particularly funny scene when Nation of Islam bodyguards stood awkwardly outside the trailer door while their charge was visiting inside, as billows of Nelson’s smoke wafted by their noses. But, okay, according to Democratic National Committee member Ms. Kozikowski, my mention of Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” would be too, er, something for that organization, or so she apparently thinks.

At this point in the otherwise enjoyable evening, my partner was racking up her first seven-letter Scrabble word, gaining her another fifty points. So I still had no idea what was going on in my email box, to which this missive arrived, 19 minutes later:

 

From: DebbySKoz@cs.com
To: narconews@gmail.com
Date: Wed, June 11, 2008 at 8:19 p.m.
Subject: Andrew Kopkind?
In the same post? I have just recieved call number two, this time directly from an Obama steering committee member ... a lavender man himself from San Fran who has just asked me if I've lost my mind? Good Lord. Andrew Kopkind? The Weathermen? They are trying not to talk about Bill Ayers and this is on MY website?
What are you thinking???? What point are you trying to make if any?

 

Had I been near the Internet when that question arrived, I would have answered that I had written the words “I met Micah Sifry, now at TechPresident, during Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign (both of us studied political journalism at the feet of the late, great Andrew Kopkind),” well, because they were true and helped introduce Sifry and our common and proud association with Kopkind, editor of The Nation, reporter for The Washington Post, Time, and so many other national publications before he died in 1994, to our readers. (And just to make sure that a lie doesn’t fly around the world before the truth can put its pants on, let me say that Kopkind was not a “Weatherman.” I don’t know where she got that crazy idea or the lack of judgment to repeat it. He was and is widely recognized as a legendary journalist and a writer of such enormous talent that she would do well to study him rather than make false posthumous claims about him.)

Anyway, by now my partner was racking up her second seven-letter Scrabble word of the night, and more emails were flying into my box, unbeknownst to me:

 

From: DebbySKoz@cs.com
To: narconews@gmail.com
Date: Wed, June 11, 2008 at 8:37 p.m.
Subject: All the good stuff is getting buried under that one post. What in the world possessed you?

 

And fifty minutes later, when I was playing the rematch, the news of the censorship arrived:

 

From: DebbySKoz@cs.com
To: narconews@gmail.com
Date: Wed, June 11, 2008 at 9:27 p.m.
Subject: All the good stuff
No sense editing the OK parts out -- it's your work, I simply pulled the entire thing.
It was the reaction from San Fran that made it clear the immediate solution. It's a sensitive phase this month, though HRC says she's out many of her people are festering ... last night at state party mtg Cranky Women for Hillary were hanging hopes on a disaster to bring her back -- and these are party people talking openly.
It's the same everywhere. So no comparing Obama organizing to radical organizing techniques from thirty years ago. No stoking that radical connect. This organization will not be made a fringe element that needs to be marginalized on my watch. On to the next funder, hoping tonight's calms down but if not what can I do? What I am asking you to do is recognize what doesn't help in the year 2008.

 

When, later in the evening, I finally logged on and read those four hysterical (in my opinion) emails – keep in mind that all four of those emails, which appear uncensored and unedited here, were sent before I had said a single word in response - it was clear that I had to disassociate myself from such people.

I wrote back, “You are out of your mind. There is no working with you any more,” adding my own opinions about the $7,400 raised to “Send Al to Denver” and to “Keep Al Writing” by her organization since April 30. (Only $1,000 from those funds were paid to me, and that was a month ago, and yesterday they dropped off a check for $773 to our counsel as owed for my labors in the first 11 days of June.). I can do the math: $7,400 minus $1,773 leaves $5,627 that was not spent for the purpose it was solicited.

The part that I keep asking myself questions about is Ms. Kozikowski’s repeatedly stated obsession in those emails with donors and “funders” (who, after all, to some people, are more important than writers or readers or anything or anyone).

So when Ms. Kozikowski wrote, “An Obama funder I have been courting is horrified. That makes three -- two in the last week,” I wondered: Which of that candidate’s 1.5 million donors could she possibly be so worried about? Is the pursuit of money for an institution – whose mission, after six months of working for it, I still haven’t heard stated in a manner coherent enough to explain – that much more important than the thousands of people that read it and the hundreds that donate their comments to it?

And when she wrote about the complaints of an, “Obama steering committee member... a from San Fran,” again I was dumbfounded, for two reasons: I had thought that as a pending 501c4 organization that her group, RuralVotes, was strictly nonpartisan (I know that I’d never advocated on those pages on behalf of voting or supporting any candidate or party; I thought those were the rules). And I also thought it would be naïve to think that the opinions of one or two members of a (fundraising, I presume) “steering committee” (a title given out like candy to hundreds of volunteers, not spokespersons or staffers) in any way spoke for anyone but themselves anyway.

I was struck that, when speaking about that individual, she wrote:

 

It was the reaction from San Fran that made it clear the immediate solution. It's a sensitive phase this month, though HRC says she's out many of her people are festering ... last night at state party mtg Cranky Women for Hillary were hanging hopes on a disaster to bring her back -- and these are party people talking openly.

 

I had to wonder what the worry was: Could it be that in the week when that same State Democratic Committee Meeting in Massachusetts purged Democratic National Committeewoman (and my old friend) Mardee Xifaras in part as revenge for her having supported Barack Obama for president, that Ms. Kozikowski, vice chair of that committee, was suddenly worried about her own fate and continued position as vice chair of that group? If those people are upset with the famously polite Mardee X, they must be really angry with me. Was my freedom of speech being offered up in ritual human sacrifice to the gods she calls “Cranky Women for Hillary” by someone trying to save her own hide?

I don’t claim to know the answers to those questions. Nor to the question of why most of the money raised for two purposes – “Send Al to Denver” and “Keep Al Writing” – has not been spent on either.

And so, the more things change the more they stay the same: an honest working man has lost some much-needed resources, it seems, and a valuable convention press credential, that were only obtained because it was claimed they were for his use. But I’m not the victim here. I still have my integrity and the trust of thousands of readers, maybe including you.

And here’s a clue: It wasn’t association with late journalists or community organizers that lost elections for frontrunners this year. Just ask Senator Clinton: It was association with the kinds of wealthy donors and influence peddlers that try to throw their weight around and force feed their famously poor political, strategic and tactical judgment on others based only on the size of their potential donations.

If Ms. Kozikowski and her organization are, as her own words suggested in those emails, letting wealthy individuals dictate what can and can’t be said on their website based on the simple fact that they have money and might give it to her group, it is they that have not yet entered 2008, much less learned the lessons – hey, that’s a seven letter word, too! - of this precise moment in history.

Update: A great many of the small donors to RuralVotes whose intentions would be violated if RuralVotes used their dollars not in support of my work have asked for refunds (and I give warm thanks to those that have then donated it to support my work via The Fund for Authentic Journalism), but they only found out they could get a refund on their own initiative. Not surprisingly, the website of the Ex-Field maintains radio silence on the matter. Others are simply calling their credit card companies and canceling the payments. I would do the same in their shoes.

If any other donors to “Send Al to Denver” or to “Keep Al Writing” were not aware of the option of demanding a refund, Ms. Kozikowski has been corresponding with others via her email address of debbyskoz@cs.com. Please use the comments section here to inform the rest of us if your contribution has been returned and if so how much: It will be interesting to track how much money the organization will keep.

And as for those potential big donors that are apparently so much more important than all of you, I have to wonder: Who, in their right mind, would donate to support a project of an organization that has already shown that it may not use funds for the specific project for which they were solicited?

The Electoral Equivalent of an Oil Spill

By Al Giordano

I was trying to nap with the TV on this afternoon but the following story came on CNN's Situation Room about Senator John McCain's latest flip-flop, in which he now seeks to lift the federal ban on offshore drilling for oil...

And I thought, that's not only bad policy, but it's pretty damn stupid in terms of getting elected president. In a word: Florida, where 27 electoral votes will be determined.

More amazing was seeing, in that CNN clip, Florida politicians like US Senator Mel Martinez and Governor Charlie Crist suddenly flipping over, who, like McCain, had previously opposed offshore drilling.

As the Environmental Defense Fund notes:

If you live in Florida, you live near the ocean — no point in the state is more than 80 miles away from either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. More than three quarters of the state's population — over 13 million people — live in coastal counties...

Coastal communities have grown by nearly 6.3 percent since 1999 and nearly 32 percent since 1990, one of the highest rates of growth in the country...

So many Floridians love the beach, the ocean, and the 8,426 total miles of shoreline where so many have moved to be near and look out upon the open seas. And there are economic interests, too, that don't want to see oil slicks and other environmental damage there from offshore drilling in the Atlantic or the Gulf:

Beach tourism brought in $41.6 billion in 2000 and supported 442,000 jobs... For example, the coral reefs of the Keys generate over $1 billion in tourism dollars each year...

Recent presidential elections in Florida have been close. McCain has just handed Senator Obama and his newly trained band of Organizing Fellows a golden issue with which to recruit and convince a lot of otherwise conservative Floridians to defend their self interest by stopping a McCain presidency.

Watch how this plays out in the Sunshine State. This may be the stupidest move yet on the part of the presumptive Republican nominee and his surrogates.

Judging from the ways in which the Obama organization pounced on errors by his chief primary rival and then organized around them at the precinct level, my guess is that they'll pound away on this policy difference up and down the Florida coastline. Remember these words when Florida's results roll in come November.

Update: Comments on The Field are now sequential (no longer "nested") as we return to the format that built this community. That way you can revisit a story and read what all the Field Hands wrote in chronological order.

Update II: As Longroad suggested in the comments section, this new position has the fingerprints of an orchestrated attempt to make offshore drilling a big electoral issue nationwide. President George Bush, AP reports, will call on Congress tomorrow to lift the moratorium.

Update III: Mathesian and Mark, over on Politico, think McCain is "playing with fire" on this one:

By calling for an end to the federal ban on offshore oil drilling,John McCain is placing a risky bet. He is wagering that skyrocketing gas prices have finally reached a tipping point, a threshold moment that has led voters to rethink their strong and long-held opinions against coastal oil exploration.

The stakes couldn’t be higher: If he is wrong, McCain will have seriously damaged his chances in two key states with thousands of miles of coastline — California and Florida — and where opposition to offshore oil drilling has been unwavering. And he will have undermined some of his closest political allies in those states and others, including potential fall battlegrounds such as Virginia and North Carolina.

“Before $4.25-per-gallon gas, this would have been like pulling a pin on a grenade and rolling it into the state,” said David Johnson, the former executive director of the Florida Republican Party. “It would have been a fool’s errand to recommend it. It was never, ever a thing that a smart politician would have done in Florida.”

Update IV: Senator McCain's new position was also of the cash-and-carry variety as, on the same day he announced it, picked up at least two million dollars from Oil Town fat cats, according to the Houston Chronicle:

Larry Nichols, CEO of Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, which is second only to Chevron Corp. in holding the most Gulf of Mexico leases, called McCain's proposals a "truly honest assessment of what our energy policies have been and need to be."

Update V: This is interesting. The NY Times reminds that it was President George H.W. Bush that first put the offshore drilling moratorium in place:

Mr. Bush’s father, the first President Bush, signed an executive order in 1990 banning coastal oil exploration, and Mr. Bush’s brother Jeb was an outspoken opponent of offshore drilling when he was governor of Florida.

And since the moratorium is in fact an executive order (which presumably can be repealed with the stroke of a pen by the current occupant of the White House), and Bush II hasn't so far said he's doing that, the only point of "going to Congress" with this is for publicity and grandstanding. Interesting.

Update VI: President Bush will do a live statement and/or press conference at 10:35 a.m. ET on the matter. Fox News is plugging it, typically, as "urgent" and "breaking." Cable networks likely to give it roadblock coverage. Maybe he'll just begin drilling right there in the White House Rose Garden.

Gotta Love The Welcome Wagon In This Neighborhood

By Al Giordano

Thank you to...

Barry Crimmins.

The Jed Report.

Markos Moulitsas.

James Wolcott.

And One Million Strong.

(And, yes, I haven't forgotten the full story of how we got here in all its gory details that I had promised for today, just, please, indulge me while we cause a couple more shoes to drop, first.)

I also plead your patience on the slowness in approving comments you've all made here this afternoon (there are many in the queue already): it's caused by a technical glitch in the software here when confronted with a deluge of readers flooding the site. We've now tripled the number of tech personnel working overtime to fix it, and expect to be back to our regularly scheduled programming shortly.

Update: The new Iron Man suit is nearing perfection. We can now queue comments again. More than 50 have been added, so type away, kind Field Hands, and stress the system with as much as you have to say. The "icing problem" may be solved.

Update II: We have now switched to a "sequential" comments section (like the one where we all met) and away from the "nested" format. Thanks to everyone who opined on both sides of that discussion. In the end, I'm a big fan of the axiom "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and the comments section that grew up with The Field is among the finest on the Internet in part because people's comments are directed to everyone visiting rather than to side conversations between two or more commenters.

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