Aug 31, 2009

Same-sex marriage: it’s only a matter of time

In this video, folk rock singer Jill Sobule speaks about her experiences during the Prop 8 rallies in California. I can tell that Jill has a true Unite and Conquer spirit. She mentions that so many of the people that were against the very thing she stands for are, in fact, very nice people.

And since same-sex marriage is often met with opposition due to religious reasons, most of the opposition isn’t looking to start a fight. When someone is against something you are incredibly passionate about and something that deeply affects your life it is really hard not to get upset and angry.

At times like that, it is critical to keep your anger in check and instead of fighting with these people, start talking to them in a friendly way. Start talking to them about the values behind the issue, such as equality and compassion.

Aug 27, 2009

Olympia Snowe knows how to get past silos and how to Unite and Conquer

Esquire recently named Olympia Snowe one of the best members of Congress, and for good reason.

Instead of focusing on her party and their agenda, Snowe focuses on making things happen and solving problems. She has always been adamant against partisan bickering, she believes, “People don’t live by ideology alone. They live by solutions.” Snow has very centrist views and isn’t keeping track of partisan point scoring, and as TIME Magazine points out, this often leads her to the center of many policy debates in Washington.

Proving that it’s more about finding solutions than staying true to certain ideals, she’s very committed to her job. She didn’t miss a single one of the 657 votes during the 110th Congress. She was only one of eight senators who did not miss any votes. Want more proof that Snowe is truly committed to doing her job? She goes back to Maine almost every weekend to check in with her constituents and find out what concerns them and what they want to see happen. Keeping what these people say in mind, she returns to Washington looking for solutions to their problems. In 2006, she passed a bill that provided millions to pay the heating bills of low-income citizens—which was a huge concern of her constituents during the freezing Maine winters.

Through looking for solutions everyone can agree on and taking her job very seriously, Snowe has learned to Unite and Conquer. In fact, in March 2006 a poll done by Survey USA showed that Snowe had a 71 percent approval rating – which is pretty rare for any politician to ever achieve.

Aug 26, 2009

The importance behind health insurance reform

In this video, on MSNBC Live with Carlos Watson, Wendell Potter talks about the dirty tricks that the insurance companies use to keep profits up and costs down, in order to meet their shareholders expectations. As he states, many of these insurance companies will purge people, and even small businesses, if they are filing too many big claims and costing the insurance companies too much money. He says that these companies are more focused on “looking after the bottom line, more than they are looking after the people.”

Many people are arguing that the healthcare industry needs to be left alone because profits are what drives quality care. Unfortunately, as Potter points out profits often drive a focus on the bottom line, which doesn’t always lead to quality care. Making health insurance more accessible to everyone is incredibly important. Providing a lower cost option will force these insurance companies to start focusing less on their profits and more on their consumers.

There are a lot of people who oppose health insurance reform, most of whom are assuming the worst (that the government is trying to control the healthcare industry in it’s entirety). When talking to these people, aside from assuring them that's not the goal, it’s important to use communication that emphasizes values such as equality, quality and opportunity.

Aug 24, 2009

Report card for the National Recycling Coalition: B

The National Recycling Coalition helps consumers help mother earth, but they could do a better job of appealing to a wider audience. In today’s day and age, I think it would be hard to find a single person who’s never recycled – but still, I think it’s safe to assume there are many people out there who don’t recycle as well, or as much, as they could.

The National Recycling Coalition could do a better job of convincing people they need to do better if they focused more on values. They hint at the values of recycling, such as sustainability, innovation, opportunity and a thriving economy, but in order to really stress the importance of recycling, they would appeal to a larger audience if they focused their communication on values more frequently.

Aug 21, 2009

Kid Sister knows how to Unite and Conquer: Learn from people that are different than you

Often times, we run from the unknown. And if we’re not taking off in a full-on sprint, we’ll turn our cheek and ignore it. It’s disheartening that throughout our daily lives the moments that we truly embrace others differences are a rare commodity.

Kid Sister, an African American, Native American, and Caucasian rap artist from Obama’s last hometown, is enlightened enough at age 29 to understand that we gain a vast amount of knowledge and insight when we explore others' views. When working in a coalition or trying to work a law through the legislature, it’s important to seek out people that don’t always fit into the cookie cutter mold of what you would expect of people who are passionate about that issue. These people will not only open your eyes to new ideas, but they also can be a tremendous help with strategic communication. They say keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer for a reason. Working with someone who agrees with you on environmental issues, but doesn’t agree with you on abortion, LGBT rights and immigration can help craft a better message that will appeal to similar, like-minded people.

So they next time you’re working on legislation or putting a coalition together, run, don’t walk, towards those people with different views.

Aug 19, 2009

Senator Durbin knew that to Unite and Conquer open lines of communication were key, even if he agreed to disagree

In 2006, Time Magazine awarded U.S. Senator Dick Durbin as one of the greatest Senators of all time. I can see why.

Senator Durbin refuses to use notes when addressing issues on the Senate floor, as I’m sure a lot of us progressives are guilty of doing the exact opposite. He often will call people out, asking them the hard questions, which has garnered a lot of respect (especially from CNN viewers) since he is able to truly show how passionate he is about the issues. Because Senator Durbin had very open lines of communication – and was always willing to talk things out and listen to the other side (despite disagreeing) – he has been able to work with some very unlikely people.

During his career, he worked with Senator Santorum, a Pennsylvanian Republican, to push the government to give additional funds of $866 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In 2006, he also helped Democrats and Republicans reach a compromise in the USA Patriot Act, helping keep more personal information private without an order from a judge.

Keeping an open line of communication is crucial to working with people. It’s obvious that Senator Durbin knew how to put differences aside and focus on the greater good and accomplish a lot by working with very diverse people.

Aug 18, 2009

President Barack Obama knows how to Unite and Conquer through communicating values

It should come as no surprise that one of the current hot topics in the news and in politics is healthcare reform. Many Republicans have been using fear tactics to try and sway people to go against reforming our healthcare industry, often using extreme examples of people dying in Canada while on waitlists for treatment and stating that if the government takes over healthcare, all the other industries are next.

Now, aside from the faulty logic and their slippery slope arguments, this is a horrible strategy because the main thing that they are communicating is fear. While fear can be motivating, it’s an awful value to communicate because it’s hard to get most people to positively want to associate with fear. When using fear tactics that promote a destitute future, the majority of people are going to respond in anger. And as I’m sure you’ve noticed, past the age of five, screaming rarely wins you an argument.

On the other hand, in the video above, President Barack Obama does a phenomenal job of communicating values. In 2 minutes he touches on many values associated with health care reform that all Americans hold true, such as opportunity, equality, quality, the future, change and well being. He’s not shouting, “If we don’t do this, we’ll all die,” as many opponents have used as a primary strategy. He’s communicating hope for a better tomorrow. Using values and promoting hope, has helped President Obama create a powerful, but calm, force of support.

If you live in Arizona and wish to contribute to the discussion of healthcare reform, please join the Arizonans for Health Reform group on Facebook.

If you don’t live in Arizona and wish to be a part of this dialogue, you can visit to find an event near you.

Aug 13, 2009

As a group it’s important to unite and conquer, but individually, Senator Kent Conrad teaches us it’s better to divide

Senator Conrad, who was often referred to as chart man in the Senate, was taught by Democratic Party Leaders that one of the keys to success is to choose one area and master it. The reasoning behind this is that if every Democratic member of the senate has their own set of expertise and skills, it gives them clout and guarantees that someone knows what he or she is talking about.

Conrad took this advice to heart—and to the bank. For twenty years he was the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee. Throughout his career, he has made himself the go-to expert in the senate’s business—raising and allocating funds. Through study history, he quickly learned that the key to a country’s success was having a strong and healthy economy. And part of that equation is ensuring that runaway debts don’t threaten the success of America.

Conrad helped lead Democrats in the fight to prevent the Bush Administration from increasing the U.S. debt limit to $9 trillion and from passing a $2.8 trillion budget, but unfortunately they were unsuccessful.

According to Time Magazine, becoming an expert in budgeting came in handy. President Bush was, “pushing a plan for partially privatizing Social Security in 2005, put the hard sell on him. Bush first tried by flying with Conrad to Fargo, N.D., then, after they returned, kept the pressure on by inviting him to the White House, where he dropped hints about election-year vulnerability for red-state Democrats. But Conrad, whose honorary Sioux name translates as 'Never Turns Back,' stood firm in his opposition to the plan.” Conrad said, “I could never support something that added dramatically to the debt," Conrad says. “I told him, 'Count me out.'”

Aug 11, 2009

Report Card for the Center for Community Change: A+

The Center for Community Change fights for issues ranging from things as simple as viewing your community as, well, a community to fair immigration reform.

So, with fighting for many issues, one may wonder how they’ve managed to help ensure that almost 4.5 million children (including immigrant children) have health insurance and that 1 million children were kept out of poverty. The answer is simple. Every initiative they embark on relates back to one very common value: community. They outline how the community, whether it’s a national, global or local community, will be affected by certain issues and ask that people don’t just think about themselves, but think about the greater good.

As shown in the video above, their main goal is to get people to think about the people that surround them as their community. It may sound silly, but when you think about it, like in the Philippines, how often have you genuinely offered to help a neighbor move, without them asking for help? In America, it’s often the case that we get wrapped up in our own lives and forget about helping the people within our community, especially those that we don’t know well.

We all can agree that respect, efficiency, collaboration and kindness are all values that the majority of people can relate to—and that’s why attaching the value of community to these issues is so effective.

And for these reasons, the Center for Community Change gets a gold star.

Aug 6, 2009

Arizona G.O.P. Divided Over Budget

Original article from the New York Times:

PHOENIX — In theory, Republicans in Arizona should be the happiest Republicans in the nation. Democrats failed in their insurgent bid last November to flip the Legislature — even as Democrats in other states succeeded — and the governor’s office is now occupied by a Republican on a fluke when Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, left town for the Obama administration.

But hard fiscal realities can put a strain on any marriage, and the new governor, Jan Brewer, is finding that life with the Legislature and a $3.4 billion budget deficit is several feathers shy of paradise.

Republican lawmakers have insulted the governor in the local news media and rejected her budget proposals, and on Tuesday some even refused to vote on her latest budget. The governor’s plan includes tax increases for shoppers, cuts in the personal income tax and the corporate tax, and sharp reductions in state spending.

At the center of the conflict is the governor’s proposalthat the state dig out of its shortfall — equal to a third of Arizona’s operating budget — with a 1 cent sales tax increase, to be put before voters on the November ballot.

This request enraged Republican lawmakers, whose leaders have been unable to reach a budget deal with Ms. Brewer. She vetoed most of the bills in an earlier budget package, saying the cuts were too injurious to the poor. (The Democratic minority in the Legislature remains disenchanted with all of the budget proposals.)

The House passed a budget largely in line with the governor’s request, but the plan has stalled in the Senate, where four crucial lawmakers have refused to go along. One of them, Senator Carolyn S. Allen of Scottsdale, said she disliked the cut in the income and corporate tax that was negotiated by her fellow Republicans in the House in exchange for the sales tax increase.

“I think the governor has made a drastic error in judgment,” Ms. Allen said in a telephone interview. “I like her, but I think she is too desperate.”

On Tuesday, Senator Pamela Gorman resigned as majority whip, saying in an e-mail message to the Senate president, Robert Burns, that the tax battle was “taking on a life of its own that is not healthy for our caucus, nor our party.”

The entire budget process has been two parts pain and one part folly, including a moment in June when lawmakers, facing a midnight deadline, tried to metaphysically halt the fiscal year by taking the clock down from the Senate wall. They are also considering mortgaging the state Capitol as well as a historically significant limestone cave system owned by the state.

Ms. Brewer’s reputation as a conservative has been damaged by her proposal to raise the sales tax, and some of her colleagues in the party, which is dominated by conservatives, have whispered about challenging her in the 2010 Republican primary.

“The economic downturn has created a very difficult scenario for any elected official who is a fiscal conservative,” Paul Senseman, Ms. Brewer’s director of communications, said in an interview.

Arizona finds itself in a worst-case scenario among states that have been hammered by the foreclosure crisis. One of the fastest-growing areas in the country for years, the state has seen its population — and needs — explode over the last decade, and development has more than helped cover the costs.

The state’s principal revenue source is its 5.5 percent sales tax (with city tax added on, the average tax is about 9 percent), followed by the personal income tax and the corporate tax. Counties and school districts collect property taxes.

With the number of new building permits plummeting, revenues from the big-ticket items associated with new homes, which had fueled much of the state’s budget in recent years, also fell.

As secretary of state, Ms. Brewer was first in line to take over when Ms. Napolitano left to become homeland security secretary in January. Ten days after her ascension, Ms. Brewer had to face her first budget crisis, and she made it clear that big cuts to schools and health care were not going to fly, and that she thought the state would need to raise the sales tax.

Thinking they could avoid a governor’s veto of their plan, which had deep cuts, by running out the clock, Republicans wrangled over the budget for the 2010 fiscal year until the last minute. But the governor vetoed most parts of the budget except those needed to keep the state running, and then called legislators back for a special summer session to clean up the rest.

Ms. Brewer has found no succor among Democrats, whom she largely edged out of budget negotiations in the spring. They, too, are upset about her proposed cut to personal and corporate taxes, which they say will wipe out almost all the money gained with a three-year sales tax increase. Democrats say they are baffled by the inability of the majority party to make a deal with the Republican governor.

“They have shown complete and total failure to govern,” said Representative Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat and the assistant leader of the party’s caucus in the House. “They have had seven months, and they can’t get this done.”

If any of this spells trouble for the Republicans, their leaders are not saying so. “That just speaks to how diverse our state party is,” said Matt Roberts, a spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party.

Photo from the original article, taken by Ross D. Franklin (Associated Press). 

Aug 5, 2009

Report Card for GLADD: A

GLADD takes its name to heart.

The issues they are fighting for are incredibly serious, and when it’s called for, they always utilize that tone. But, they also know how to have fun—which, if you’ve been in the good graces of our community, you’re well aware that we get an A in social studies :)

And for their hard work and sense of humor, they get an A, as well.

Check out their blog and you’ll see that topics range from media favorites that are a part of the LGBTQ community and news about hate crimes. It’s important to have this sense of balance because it’s more attractive to others. No matter what the issue is, no one wants to work with someone that is somber all of the time. They want to work with someone that takes what they do seriously, but at the same time can dish about Ariel and Maria, the two bisexuals on Miami Social, and (the ever fabulous and adorable) Stephen on Paris Hilton’s My New BFF.

So, all in all, if you want to Unite and Conquer, you need to be GLADD.

Aug 3, 2009

The often forgotten key to coalition success: Have fun

Of course, every coalitions goal is to create change. And it’s often not an easy task.

So, how do you ensure that people remain excited and passionate about what you’re trying to accomplish? It’s simple: Have fun.

Encourage people to have a sense of humor, find people that work hard but also have class clown tendencies, make sure the people you’re working with have a good attitude and aren’t the type to stress everyone out. It’s good to have people with type A tactics, because, after all, you do want to get some work done, but don’t leave out those with type B attitudes because they’ll help keep a positive, approachable vibe.

If it’s all work and no play, people are going to get burnt out. It sounds cliché, but try and build your coalition with people that play as hard as they work.