Why “Popularity Contest” Surveys are Useless

Found this list of 25 “Greenest Brands in America“—but frankly, I’m skeptical.

It’s based on reader votes. In any kind of reader popularity contest, the votes go to companies the most people are familiar with—or those whose marketers actively campaign and tell their fans to go vote for them.

Certainly, all these corporations have major environmental achievements; by now, every major corporation does. In fact, I attended a conference last month that focused on the profitability case for green action. Several of these 25 had speakers. I even moderated a panel that included Coca-Cola.

But this kind of survey pushes away the small companies with smaller followings but very green practices (Interface, Timberland, Patagonia, etc.) Only two such companies made the list: Tom’s of Maine and Ben & Jerry’s, and both are owned by much larger companies.

Patagonia's fish/mountain range-shaped logo

Patagonia’s fish/mountain range-shaped logo

I was also struck by three absences I would have expected to be there: Walmart, which has done more to green the supply chain and its own operations than any other player, but whose demographic doesn’t typically participate in sustainability surveys (and which has serious issues on other parts of the social entrepreneurship spectrum, especially on labor and supplier policies), Starbucks, which talks a great line to the right demographic, but whose practices don’t always mirror its rhetoric, and Whole Foods, whose entire mission intersects so well with green practices. Also kind of surprised to see Apple included. Either they’ve cleaned up their act or people give them more kudos than justified because their products are so cool and their fan base is so strong. To go from the Foxconn scandal to being named on a Top 25 list for green practices in just over two years is quite remarkable.

Even in surveys based on research, what you measure influences your conclusions. For example, Monsanto often wins data-driven corporate responsibility awards (and loves to brag about them), yet to many food activists, its policies are anything but responsible; they would call this award greenwashing.


Posted in Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Eco-friendly, Energy & Sustainability, Environment, Green Business, Greenwashing, language, Marketing Trends/News, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Role Can Nonstrategic Mass Movements Play in Social Change?

Are big protests a waste of time unless they’re part of an overall strategic plan? Nonviolent social change theorist George Lakey and I have been discussing this.

After my February post about Lakey’s idea that DT is creating enormous opportunities for social change workers, I got an interesting response from George (which I only just saw, thanks to a quirk in the WordPress interface). Please go read the original post and his response.

I believe my settings close comments after two weeks, and I couldn’t find a way to turn that off temporarily for this one post). So just to make sure there’s a way to keep the dialogue going, I’m posting my response here, as a new post, starting just below:

Marching at the Women's March on Washington with my wife and children

Marching at the Women’s March on Washington with my wife and children (from left: son-in-law Bobby, daughter Alana, wife Dina, me, son Rafael)

I agree with most of what you’d laid out here, George and certainly the key kernel that mass action makes the most sense as part of a well-thought-out and multidimensional campaign. And yet, I’m more optimistic than you about the power of a one-off mass action to build momentum for change. It has to be sustained, of course—but it can play a key role.

  • My own involvement with the Movement began because I attended a mass rally about Vietnam, at age 12 (1969). One of the speakers said something that was life-changing for me. But it was not until I was in high school that I began to realize that the real work of social change happened in the meetings to plan those marches, more than the marches themselves—and to participate as other than a drone showing up to other people’s events.
  • The reason all those no-nuke Alliances sprang up was because of what we did at Seabrook, a mass action.We inspired many other groups around the country to borrow our strategy, process, tactics, and even nomenclature, to organize affinity groups as we did, to educate about the issues around nuclear power and the safe-energy alternatives, and to be trained in nonviolent civil disobedience. And the reason we heard about Three Mile Island in the news two years later when we hadn’t heard about the earlier accidents at Enrico Fermi, Browns Ferry, and elsewhere was because of this national/international mass movement that started at Seabrook. It was having thousands at the site and 1414 arrested that pushed the issue into America’s consciousness. The first two Seabrook occupations almost a year earlier, much tinier, had almost no impact outside the local area.
  • Occupy could have been much stronger with leadership and goals, I agree. But still the movement had a great deal of impact. Like Clam, some of its process innovations have become part of the Movement. You talk about those turned off by Occupy, but what I saw was a generation of young people who moved from inaction, maybe even apathy, to deep, personal, and highly inconvenient action. They made sacrifices for social change. And I think a lot of them moved into actual organizing after the camps closed.
  • The recent Women’s March had very little strategy behind it but sparked the immediate and clear message that resistance is mainstream, that DT does not represent normal, and that oh yes, there was something we could do. And of course, it provided yet another opportunity for DT to make a fool of himself saying ridiculous things about the protests. I don’t remember another time when nonviolent protests unscrewed the legs of legitimacy from a government less than one day old. And again, a lot of folks who had never done anything political went from the march to the meetings. The thousands of hives of the resistance were enormously strengthened by that unstrategic mass event.

I’m glad you brought up the business community. This is where I have very strategically placed most of my own organizing in recent years: showing that business can create meaningful social change, not out of guilt and shame but out of enlightened self-interest: the profit motive. This is the subject of my 10th book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, as well as my “Impossible is a Dare” talks. It’s the opposite of mass organizing: small groups and even one-to-one conversations.

So yes, let’s incorporate big protests into a wider strategic view, as the Civil Rights organizers did. Let’s read Alinsky and Gene Sharp, MLK and Gandhi, Barbara Deming and Dorothy Day, and of course, George Lakey. Let’s study the successes AND weaknesses of all these movements including Occupy, BLM, and the current resistance. And lets create strategies that keep the needle moving, both publicly and behind the scenes, toward the world we want. Outside of my social change work through my business, I’ve been focusing my own parts of the resistance on the amazing opportunity to get people who haven’t been talking to each other not just talking but supporting and acting in solidarity. I see this work—and especially the chances for Jews and Muslims to work together in solidarity—as deeply strategic based on seizing the moment where a conversation is much easier to have under the lens of both groups being under threat.

PS: George, I apologize for the late reply. WordPress only showed me your waiting comment last night. I approved it immediately but wanted to bring my much clearer early-morning thinking to my response. [end of my quoted response]

Posted in Activism, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, Politics, Protests and Crackdowns, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How I Reinvented a 36-Year-Old Business

For the past 3-1/2 years, I’ve been not just thinking but taking steps to change the entire direction of my business from basic marketing consulting for green businesses to shaping profitable ventures that directly turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance. In other words, showing how social entrepreneurship is a business success strategy that increases revenues and decreases costs. Obviously, more revenue plus lower expenses = higher profits.
Yeah, thinking big. Big enough so it took some serious time to get ready (far more than I thought it would. Here are some of the steps I’ve taken:
  • Hired a remarkable business coach, Oshana Himot, who helped me see that I didn’t have to wait until certain metrics were in place before dong this work that’s been in my heart for decades—and that if I did wait, I’d never get there. She has also worked with me on role-playing sales conversations, etc., to the point where now I really am ready.
  • Launched several new talk topics, including “‘Impossible’ is a Dare”—which I first gave as a TEDx in 2014; I’ve done it several times since, in longer (and once, shorter) formats. You can get a nice taste of it in my 4-minute demo video, if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tooSVbHQ5Ik&feature=youtu.be
  • Wrote and found a publisher for my 10th book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, and went to press (a year ago) with about 50 endorsements, Chris among them—alongside Seth Godin, Jack Canfield, and guest essayists Cynthia Kersey (“Unstoppable”) and Frances Moore Lappé (Diet for a Small Planet). The book has won two small awards so far.

    Cover of Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World by Jay Conrad Levinson and Shel Horowitz

    Cover of Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World by Jay Conrad Levinson and Shel Horowitz

  • Organized a very ambitious telesummit (also in 2014) that flopped utterly and made me realize I was NOT ready to go after clients in this new niche—and began to do more work to get myself ready.
  • Put up several websites to help me figure out where to put my energy: I had to develop http://transformpreneur.com and http://impactwithprofit.com before I figured out what I really wanted to say and to whom. The result is http://goingbeyondsustainability.com
  • Determined that small businesses were probably my most likely clients, but that they were not likely to have the budget freedom. Thus, I chose to go after larger companies who might sponsor me to work with their clients, suppliers, NGO partners, etc. Bought a program on how to get sponsors and created a fabulous proposal, driven by benefits to the sponsoring company, that (hopefully) will get my hired to speak and consult.
  • Created a list of ~200 companies I mention favorably in the book and hired someone to research the contact info.
  • Hired a designer to develop a log.
And now I’m finally at the point where it makes sense to reach out to those companies and see if I can get traction. I only need about three to say yes to a medium-to-large project to have a full pipeline.
To me, this is true sustainability; business has to survive—and thrive—in order to make that difference. But the business world often defines sustainability much more narrowly: as simply going green. In positioning my services, I wanted to make a statement that “sustainability,” under that definition, is not enough. It’s keeping things from getting worse, where I think we can make things better. Thus, the name, “Going Beyond Sustainability. And this logo:

http://goingbeyondsustainability.com logo and tagline

Going Beyond Sustainability logo and tagline

This, I believe, is the future of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): fundamentally reinventing society to better serve the needs of its planet and its people, self-funding through profitable products and services.

Posted in Abundance and Prosperity, Corporate Social Responsibility, Eco-friendly, Energy & Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Green Business, Green Marketing, Innovation, Marketing Trends/News, Shel's Personal Life Tagged with: , , , ,

Why Did Pepsi Get Attacked As “Tone-Deaf” On This Ad?

Have you seen the infamous Pepsi ad that’s been called “tone-deaf” by progressives, and which Pepsi pulled quickly? Before you read the rest of this post, please write your impression of it in the comments.

I watched the part of it shown on this segment of The View.

Protestor calls for unity

Protestor calls for unity



And I agree with Whoopi: the message is about inclusion.

Yes, it is co-opting the movement. Advertisements have always co-opted cultural memes. If you wear $60 torn jeans, you can thank the hippies and grunge-punks who wore their clothes to rattiness. For that matter, Bud commercials and Wheaties cereal boxes have been co-opting sports culture for decades (it feels like millennia).

I’m old enough to remember when hijab-wearing women and people of color and same-sex couples would not have been allowed anywhere near a commercial. What I see most of all is a message to DT that we are united in our diversity (and that includes the cops, who are actually our allies most of the time–and which the movement made a big mistake in automatically trashing in the 1960s).

I also agree with Whoopi that water is my preferred drink over any kind of soda.

That Pepsi was attacked to the point where they pulled the ad is much more shocking to me than the ad itself.

But I guess I shouldn’t be shocked. Here in the Blue Bubble, behind the “Tofu Curtain” (not a phrase I invented) in Massachusetts’ Hampshire/Franklin Counties—one of the bluest parts of a very liberal state—those accusations of “tone deaf” are all-too-familiar. Two among many examples:

  • A program in which cops in the schools did something sociable with the kids was kiboshed and the very progressive police chief (an out lesbian who was seen at Pride Day marches long before she became chief) was trashed as tone-deaf
  • Two towns over, several years ago, a production of “West Side Story” was canceled because some people thought the whole idea of the play was racist. I don’t know if they read the script or saw the movie, but to me, that movie makes a statement against racism, just like Twain’s Huckleberry Finn (which has also been criticized for racism, because it uses the N-word—even though it was written in the 19th century when that was the term used and the whole premise of the story is to show the absurdity and cruelty of racism)

It reminds me of the days when the left (my teenage self included) would practically canonize any extreme statement that happened to be made by a person of color or one who identified as any shade of LGBTQ, even if that statement incited violence against innocent people who happened to be white and straight. I should have spoken out against those outrages 45 years ago, but I was just as hoodwinked.

I’m not talk about any false unity of sweeping real grievances under the rug. But I am objecting to the shrill side of political correctness that demonizes the Other without even listening, even when the Other is mere steps away on the political spectrum, dividing instead of uniting and leaving us all at risk when the real forces of repression sweep in.

Posted in Activism, censorship, Corporate Social Responsibility, Democracy, Diversity, Ethics: General, language, Marketing Trends/News, Media Ethics, media-general, Politics, propaganda, Protests and Crackdowns, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Hard News Tie-Ins: The Right Way, The Wrong Way

Here are two press releases from two different NGOs responding to the same major news event (and the graphic that one of them included). I’m giving you the headline and first paragraph, and a link in each headline to read the whole thing—and then I’ll dissect them for you. Neither of these is a client and I had nothing to do with writing them—so this is purely about the lessons we can draw.

Example #1:

Empty podium with Presidential Seal in Yosemite National Park—included in the BSR press release

Empty podium with Presidential Seal in Yosemite National Park—included in the BSR press release

BSR regrets today’s executive order from U.S. President Donald Trump to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, a set of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies that are intended to reduce the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels and cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent by 2030. In combination with the administration’s dramatic cuts to climate programs at the EPA and U.S. State Department, this announcement undermines policies that have stimulated economic growth, consumer savings, job creation, infrastructure investment, private-sector competitiveness, and public health.

Example #2:

The Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle the U.S. Climate Action Plan, including withdrawing support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, “is completely misguided and ignores the irreversible clean energy economy that is already underway, creating good-paying jobs and economic vitality in communities across the country,” Ceres President Mindy Lubber said in a statement today. Lubber served as the EPA Administrator for the New England Region in 2000.

Which did you find more effective?

Ask yourself just two questions: which worked better for you, and why? Then scroll down to see what I felt worked well and poorly about each.

If you’d like me to include your results in a summary (you won’t be identified), please drop me a note with your answers.


 Shel’s Analysis:

While the BSR release did a better job understanding the need for rich content, with numerous links and a picture, the copy was pathetically weak. This press release:

  1. Used a wimpy headline that doesn’t take a position
  2. Chose a stock photo that doesn’t add anything to the reader’s understanding—why not a photo of demonstrators thanking a company for providing clean energy and good jobs?
  3. Made a terrible verb choice in “regrets”—which makes it sound like an accident that was BSR’s faults—rather than a much more appropriate verb, like “condemns”
  4. Buried the real story in the second paragraph, which has hard-hitting facts to make a clear case against the Executive Order:
Just 18 months ago, the U.S. federal government estimated the net economic benefits of the CPP at US$26-45 billion, with consumers set to save US$155 billion from 2020 to 2030. In addition, the CPP provides regulatory support to the clean energy economy, which, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy and Employment Report, supported more than 3 million U.S. jobs in 2016. The public health benefits are also significant. Research suggests the Clean Power Plan could prevent 3,600 premature deaths and more than 300,000 missed work and school days by cutting pollutants that contribute to soot and smog. – See more at: http://3blmedia.com/News/BSRs-Statement-US-Administration-Executive-Order-Climate-Change#sthash.qUNCeiiF.dpuf
I would have used a headline like “BSR: Trump’s Short-sighted Reversal of US Climate Change Leadership Could Cost Consumers $45 Billion and Kill 3600″—and then moved right into a bulleted list of the facts. I also would break up BSR’s long paragraphs.
This very long press release has enormous amounts of juicy content, but you’d never know it from the headline and lead. Even further down, it notes that companies investing in carbon mitigation are seeing 27% return on investment, 29% revenue increases, and 26% reduction in carbon emissions. Isn’t that a lot more newsworthy than “BSR regrets…”?
The Ceres release, while also flawed, is much better. It starts with a headline expressing a strong point of view (although we don’t know who is stating this point of view), moves into a sound bite, and finishes the first paragraph with a significant and highly relevant credential.
So what are the flaws in the Ceres document?
  1. The release itself is pretty much all rhetoric, without the facts to back it up. BSR had the facts, but didn’t call attention to them.
  2. There’s no link to Lubber’s complete statement (and only two links in the whole release).
  3. The important point about losing competitive advantage to China is all the way down at the bottom of the release.
  4. No graphics at all.
Posted in Branding, Copywriting, Environment, language, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, media-general, Politics, Protests and Crackdowns Tagged with: , , ,

With an Abundance Mentality, We Can Solve Hunger, Poverty, War & Climate Change

Why do we continue to let ourselves get bound up in thinking that we can’t do anything about the biggest challenges of our time?

I say in my “Impossible is a Dare” talks that we have enough abundance for all, but big kinks in the distribution—which we can fix. Hunger, poverty, war, and catastrophic climate change are all resource issues. And when we see them that way, they are all fixable.

  • Hunger and poverty about not having enough to cover basic necessities; the resource issues are obvious
  • Wars usually start because of a chain of events that begins with one country’s perception that a different country is taking something that belongs to the first country: land, water, energy sources, minerals, labor ,shipping access,  etc. Even religious and ethnic wars trace back to resource conflicts, if we go deep enough.
  • Catastrophic climate change is a bit different, but it’s still about resources. Instead of being about one country having too much or too little, it’s about using the wrong kinds of resources, or using them in environmentally destructive, socially harmful ways.

In fact, climate solutions require solutions based in abundance. We have to shift from finite, expensive, polluting energy sources such as petroleum products and uranium—whose extraction and refining as well as burning for fuel cause environmental destruction—to infinite, inexpensive, and clean sources such as solar, wind, small-scale hydro, magnetic, geothermal, and designing for conservation, deployed at or near the point of use. When we allow ourselves to think abundantly, problems have a way of turning into solutions. Turn loose the socially conscious, environmentally aware engineers!

When companies start thinking about solutions based in abundance, they have even greater incentive to solve these problems—because they can see the profit in it. But too often, we “should” them with guilt and shame—very ineffective tools. Instead of nagging them about how the world is suffering because of their actions, let’s show them how acting differently can address these problems not out of guilt and shame but in creating and marketing profitable products and services.

The creativity of business can create markets where none existed, using technologies we’ve never harvested. Think about how a small-space indoor vertical garden can provide fresh veggies in urban food deserts…how green lighting options such as solar-powered LEDs that replace toxic and flammable kerosene can better the environment, health, safety, and the local economy all at once…how studying nature’s amazing engineering—”biomimimcry”—can create new products like adhesives modeled after gecko feet or a fuel-sipping plane designed to mimic the most aerodynamic birds.

If you’d like to know more about this, my award-winning 10th book Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World

Cover of Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World by Jay Conrad Levinson and Shel Horowitz

Cover of Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World by Jay Conrad Levinson and Shel Horowitz

offers lots of examples.

Posted in Abundance and Prosperity, Activism, Business-general, Corporate Social Responsibility, Eco-friendly, Energy & Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Green Business, Green Marketing Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Secret of the Fulcrum Principle

Yesterday, I posted something on Facebook about reaching a real, and sympathetic, human being on the White House Comment Line. Since the US election last November, I’ve called my elected officials a lot more than in the past. Someone wrote back, saying I was “like the Energizer Bunny” with my consistent activism.

My reply revealed the secret:

Actually, [his name], it’s less Energizer Bunny and more a matter of what I call “the fulcrum principle”: doing not all that much but doing in ways that leverage and multiply the impact…I use my time strategically so the 10 to 15 hours or so I spend on activism per week has a big ripple. Of course I never know when a meeting or demonstration is going to be worthwhile and when it will be a waste of time. I have guessed wrong on a few meetings lately—but then I go to one that’s so energizing and activating and inspiring that it actually recharges me. I went to one like that Saturday and hope the ones I plan to attend Wednesday and Thursday (and the socially responsible business conference next week where I’m MCing two sessions) will be just as awesome.

A fulcrum is the bump underneath a lever that allows that lever to magnify its force—to quite literally create leverage. This concept inspired Archimedes to say, more than 2200 years ago, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”

Three men on river structures with ladders and levers. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/06e13eb0-8a8e-0131-0778-58d385a7bbd0

Three men on river structures with ladders and levers ” New York Public Library Digital Collection.

I’ve played with this metaphor for a long time. I was able to find rejection letters I received for my original The Fulcrum Principle: Practical Tools for Social Change, Community Building, and Restructuring Society book proposal as far back as 1992—and a printout of the proposal itself, though not the electronic file.

Looking at this proposal 25 years later, it would have been a big, ambitious, world-changing book. And other than

  1. Adding in recent developments such as the Arab Spring, Climate Change activism, Black Lives Matter, and of course the massive resistance to the new US president, and
  2. Technology shifts including the Internet and social media, smartphones, 3D printing, and the amazing breakthroughs in green design,

The proposal is still remarkably relevant. Let me share a few highlights:

  • The Fulcrum Principle lets us “achieve the greatest result with the least amount of effort,” including finding others to do some of the work
  • Change happens as fast as possible, but as slow as necessary
  • Why we need both “shock troops” and “put-it-back-togethers”
  • We build momentum for change by presenting the possibility (and manageability) of positive change, finding points of agreement with our opponents—and then expanding those points, changing enemies into allies
  • This momentum can change the world—and it has, many times
  • It’s accomplished more easily when you remember to have fun
  • Grassroots organizers can learn a lot from business (and with 25 years of hindsight, I’d add that business can learn a lot from grassroots organizers); similarly, Left and Right activists have lessons to share with each other
  • Economic and environmental goals can work in tandem (did I really understand that all the way back in 1992? I’ve gone on to write five books that explore this idea)
  • Organizers have quietly developed lots of tools we can harness to make this journey easier: new approaches to everything from how to facilitate productive meetings to how to get the most information in the least time by dividing up a book among different readers who report their insights

The proposal also touched on a raft of social issues, among them:

  • Nonviolent alternatives to the military
  • The role of multinational corporations
  • True democracy going far beyond elections
  • Does it even make sense for change organizations to chase after funding?
  • New ways of looking at drugs and crime, housing, healthcare, transportation, parenting, world distribution of resources, and even sexuality

Interestingly, without revisiting this proposal, I essentially put it into practice when I founded the movement that saved our local mountain in 1999-2000. And I think that’s a lot of why we won in 13 months flat. The “experts” thought we couldn’t win at all. I felt sure that we would succeed, but even I thought it would take five years. I didn’t realize at the time that I had already created the roadmap years earlier.

Perhaps I should dust off this proposal, update, and resubmit.

Posted in Activism, Business-general, Corporate Social Responsibility, Democracy, Energy & Sustainability, Environment, General Commentary, Innovation, People Helping People, Politics, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

ACLU Turns Activist: Notes From a Training Livestreamed to 200,000 People

With a full auditorium in Miami, and 2000 livestream sites reaching 200,000 people (according to ACLU’s Executive Director, Anthony Romero, who opened the March 11 session), the American Civil Liberties Union moved beyond the courtroom and into community organizing. While ACLU lawyers have often been present (and advising) at actions in the streets, I personally don’t remember a time when the group—founded in 1919 in resistance to the notorious Palmer Raids, rounding up activists at the behest of the Attorney General of the time—actively worked to create a mass movement of resistance.

While it also covered the Republicans’ proposed replacement for Obamacare and attacks on Planned Parenthood, The training—really, more of a presentation, other than Lee Rowland’s remarks—focused largely on the administration’s attacks on Muslims and immigrants and ACLU’s Freedom Cities initiative developed in response—working to gain local law enforcement officials to adopt a nine-point platform of non-cooperation with federal ICE anti-immigration actions.

Following are the notes I took. I didn’t take notes for the first couple of speakers, which included Romero, ACLU National Political Director Faiz Shakir, and I believe there may have been one other.

ACLU's PeoplePower.org screenshot

ACLU’s PeoplePower.org screenshot

Lee Rowland, Senior Staff Attorney: Your Rights in Protesting

We will stick up for controversial, even abhorrent points of view. We believe none of us should be silenced. There are people who think Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization.

Public forum spaces: streets, sidewalks, parks—you have the right to protest. But in the street, you do not have the right to block traffic unless you have a permit specifying that. A permit gives you a bunch more rights, and you can work with government to work out a parade route, use amplification.

1/21/17 was the single largest day of protest in American history. Let’s give that a run for its money!

The sidewalks outside Trump Tower have become a very popular place. Sidewalk protests are automatically legal as long as you don’t block access to doorways.

Parks. You can sing, pray, dance. But each park has a trigger number for attendees. Exceeding that number requires a permit. Know that number. Breaking news is an exception. Spontaneous protests in response are not restricted by number.

Other government property that aren’t designed as public spaces. The general rule is that the government has more ability to shut you down if they can argue that your presence is disruptive. Airports can stop you from disrupting but not from expressing speech (including sign holding). The farther from the core of facility’s purpose, the more rights. So you won’t have a lot of rights at the departure gate, but maybe at arrivals…or outside. [Editor’s note: I participated in protesting the immigration ban at Bradley (Hartford) Airport just after the first Executive Order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations. We had about 3000 people in the baggage claim area.] If you’re organizing at an airport, get a liaison from the airport staff if you can.

Congressional Town Halls. They can’t shut down buttons, small signs. They can regulate the size but not the content.

The government can’t censor you just because it disagrees with your opinion.

But these high-fallutin’ rights on paper don’t always translate to the streets.

Watch your surroundings. Being armed with your rights empowers you. You can yell to demonstrators being arrested about their rights including right to remain silent and to refuse a search. You have the right to photo/video anything in public view. Officers will lie, but make notes and tell the ACLU.

We as Americans have to go out and grab that moral arc and turn it toward justice.


Louise Milling, Deputy Director

Health Care: Affordable Care Act is the most significant civil rights/civil liberties legislation in this century. It has saved and changed people’s lives. 20 million were lifted out of the ranks of uninsured. It bars discrimination on preexisting, gender, transgender. Gave us no-cost birth control. More services for people with disability. To live out the civil right of not being in an institution.

The Republican replacement bill attacks the structure, the financing. It kicks the legs out from underneath of the stool. American Medical Association, AARP, hospitals have come out against it. This bill jeopardizes millions of us and the people we care about. We’re going to step up for this one.

Planned Parenthood: This bill says Planned Parenthood can’t be part of the Medicaid program. And that people on Medicaid can no longer go to Planned Parenthood for cancer screening, birth control. 1 of 5 women turn to Planned Parenthood for health care at some part of their lives. Planned Parenthood is targeted because Planned Parenthood provides abortions. But not through the Medicaid program. Their vision is that Planned Parenthood should be stripped of participation in Medicaid because it provides a constitutionally protected service that allows women to protect our lives. Is that what decency looks like?

Medicaid: It’s an entitlement program. The federal government promises it will contribute money to pay for the services it covers. It’s going to take care of you. This bill would be a radical transformation. It says we are going to cap the money we will give toward any particular person. That means fewer dollars, fewer services for the most vulnerable, for the most essential thing—our health. The harm will be felt most acutely by people with disabilities. Medicare provides payment for support to go to work and live independently.

This was unveiled on Monday. By Wednesday it was already in committee for markup. They want it for a full vote in March and on the president’s desk n April. Less than two months for a program that would deny health coverage for millions? To totally radically restructure a program that’s been in place for six decades?

We saw four senators change their responses (AK, OH, CO, one other). We need you to tell your reps why this matters, the values that motivate you to come forward. It matters to the members of Congress, to the woman on Medicaid who goes to Planned Parenthood, to the man in a wheelchair who is able to go to work, to the rural woman who’s able to get insurance. This is for the people, by the people. I’m asking you to pledge to come together and stand up in the name of decency, care, dignity, fairness for all. Game on!


Andre Segura, staff attorney in national office

Trump administration is launching an assault on immigrants and people of color. In his first week, he released really bad Eos (executive orders), calling for the border wall, more ICE agents, and the Muslim ban. This hit home. We are immigrants and children of immigrants, people of color, of different faiths, with accents. That’s what makes our country great and we’re seeing this assault. I think of my two boys. Are they going to be called racist names? My parents with their beautiful Columbian-American accents?

3 Issues

  1. Muslim ban. Friday afternoon after he took office, and there was immediate chaos. ACLU and partners worked overnight to challenge that. We filed at 5 a.m. the next morning. We filed to put a stop to that order. I drove to JFK in the morning. There was a small but loud protest, and a dozen attorneys inside. Over the next few hours, more and more attorneys came. And I looked out the window and saw a sea of protestors. And that’s what became the story. Regular people came out and said this is not the country I want to live in and I’m going to go protest. We now have the second ban. Trump rescinded that first ban after numerous lawsuits. But the second one suffers from the same flaws and it needs to fail. We need you to come out and voice your support.
  2. President Trump is trying to bully cities and states to become part of his deportation force, by threatening to withdraw their funding. So this means when a police officer pulls someone over or knocks on a door, they have to think, is there some issue with their immigration status. This is damaging to local law enforcement. We need to stand up so people don’t fear going to the police to report crimes. All the best law enforcement departments are saying this. We are bringing criminal charges against Joe Arpayo [extreme right-wing/anti-immigrant former sheriff in Arizona]. The lesson is that when local law enforcement takes immigration into their own hands, you will see more profiling and more discrimination. So we’re asking you to push more cities not to roll over and give up good policies. We need to demand that they protect our immigrant neighbors.
  3. Immigration/deportation raids. ICE comes in wearing helmets and bullet-proof vests, it’s like a military operation. Trump wants to add 10,000 ICE agents to the 5-6000 already there. They will not be accountable or transparent. You will not know what they are up to in your town. But we’ve seen excessive force, guns drawn, children scared. Trump is saying we’re going after only the most violent. But we’ve seen the reality. It’s parents, Dreamers [undocumented people brought to the US at a very young age], domestic violence victims. People are being questioned coming off domestic flights. We have to stop it.

We can do some things. We have know-your-rights materials if ICE shows up at your door. They need to have a judicial warrant. Otherwise, don’t open the door. Get out and educate people about their rights. We do not want you engaging with ICE and their raids. If you hear of a raid, go out, document, film it. We need that information.


Padma Laxmi, immigrant from age 4

Joined her mother two years after her mother arrived in America in search for a better future, with $100 in her pocket. “She sculpted the mist, willing a life into existence. And I love this country for allowing that to be possible. America has shaped our dreams, values, and insecurities for three generations. There is no story of ours that is disconnected from the American story. But lately I’ve begun to feel like an outsider.” I grew up in NYC, our neighbors were Peruvian and Filipino, doctors and cab drivers. Seeing all those faces from around the world is what kept me from feeling I didn’t belong. Through my work on Top Chef, I’ve met people from all over America, meeting people in Charleston, New Orleans, Miami. What makes these cities great is the diversity of the people living in them—and that makes the food delicious. I am so grateful I ended up here. And that I can pay it forward by mentoring and employing other young women and starting a health foundation.

What makes America great is our culture of inclusion. We all are a superpower because we’ve managed to create the best of each immigrant culture and create our own uniquely American culture. For all its faults and felonies, our country has been, until now, admired world over. We’re squandering that good will and reputation globally and here and home. What happened to ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses’? I am standing here in defense of liberty, freedom, and true equality.

My mom came here in the ’70s inspired by the feminist movement. She wanted a better life for me than she had, equal opportunity. Today, we have a state of emergency. Rights and freedoms we’ve taken for granted are being eroded daily. I am alarmed by the rising hatred and violence. But even before, I’ve been horrified by images of black and Latino boys being bludgeoned to death by the very system we were told would protect us. Our system is two systems: one for the white establishment, and one for those unlucky enough to be born brown, gay, trans… I want my daughter Krishna to live in a country governed not by fear but by compassion.

I didn’t see my mother for two whole years. I know that pain of separation. Tearing undocumented parents from their children doesn’t help anyone. Giving refuge to a Syrian family teaches the very American principles of empathy and tolerance.

I don’t have to be Muslim or Mexican to be offended. We should all be offended. We shouldn’t have to walk in someone else’s shows to see that those shoes hurt terribly. This January at the Women’s March, I protested for the very first time. I was holding my little girl’s hand, she’s 6. It felt wonderful. I realized we are all powerful and we must exercise our power now. There’s a sign in the NYC subway, ‘if you see something, say something.’ I’m saying something now—to all of you. Providing shelter to refugees in need is not a partisan issue. It is a human rights issues. Letting folks use what ever bathroom they want, as we do in our own home, is just common decency.

I watch Krishna play with her African American friend Cassius. She’s biracial and can pass for white. When our kids, a few years from now, go to the store for butter, they will surely be treated differently. That’s not right. They are equal in the sandbox. Shouldn’t our policies reflect this too? Now is not the time to close our eyes and think ‘this, too, shall pass.’ We must do more than march. We must consistently resist discrimination of any kind. We must not tolerate the intolerance. To do nothing is a crime against our nation. We owe it to those suffragettes, those who refused to sit at the back of the bus, to our fallen soldiers to preserve what they fought so hard to defend.

Democracy isn’t a static thing. It’s an ever-evolving organism and we must not let it or ourselves devolve. Yes, we are brown. And we too are American And yes, we are Muslim, Hindus, Jews. That Sikh father shot in his own driveway, he was American too. And over half of us are women, and we deserve equal pay. And the right to choose what we want to do with our own bodies. We too are the United States of America. Let’s remember that first word in our country’s name. Let’s not forget who we are.


Faiz Shakir

ACLU’s National Political Director  came back on stage for a quick recap of the action plan:

  1. Request a meeting with local law enforcement officials, put it on PeoplePower.org. Some of them just need a pat on the back and great job. Some need more persuasion.
  2. Let’s live our values.
Posted in Activism, Democracy, Diversity, Politics, Protests and Crackdowns, Socially Responsible Investing Tagged with: , , , ,

How Thailand Looks at Environmental Issues

By Shel Horowitz

During a trip to Thailand, I kept my radar up to see how this small but sophisticated country deals with a number of environmental issues.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an in-depth look. It’s based on just two weeks in the country, much of it with an escorted tour—so I’m not pretending to be an authority. But still, I’m trained as a journalist, and with a combination of observations and interviews, I was able to get a pretty good sense of both the good and the bad. Here they are, in no particular order.

Forest Conservation and Biodiversity

The Thai government was a pioneer in forest conservation, outlawing the harvest of most teak all the way back in 1938, when the US and Europe hadn’t given the matter much thought at all. And even though much of the land has been cleared either for rice paddies and other agriculture or for construction, I didn’t see a single commercial lumber truck. I did see one pickup filled with thin branches (no trunks), but that might well have belonged to a tree pruner.

The older teak houses and temples show some signs of deterioration, and there are apparently some ways around the harvest prohibition. We met with the owners of a teak mansion built in 1999, now housing a cooking school as well as several family members. They told us that the house used new wood, legally obtained; they had purchased licenses for each individual teak tree in the project.

Quite a bit of rainforest habitat remains, with its wonderful biodiversity of palms, bananas, fruit trees (especially mangos), strangler figs, and epiphytes, and birds happily enjoy this ecosystem. Much of this is part of the various national parks, one of which we visited (and had a great hike).

Most farms are small. Some are quite diverse, with many types of fruits, vegetables, and staples like tapioca and sugar cane. However, monocropping of rice (and sometimes other crops) across multiple neighboring fields is common. In rural areas, it’s more common to see homes built of natural materials such as bamboo and thatch.

Roof made of traditional bamboo and thatch in the multi-tribe hill village. Photo by Shel Horowitz.

Roof made of traditional bamboo and thatch in the multi-tribe hill village. Photo by Shel Horowitz.

Smog and Noise

Thailand gets a C+ here, and Bangkok gets an F. Many areas are choked with traffic and with fumes spewing untreated from two-stroke motorbikes and tuk-tuks. Four-stroke gasoline-powered cars and diesel truck and bus engines run cleaner, but not clean enough. Many “long tail” tourist boats are powered by old V8 automotive engines with neither smog control nor muffler. Thailand’s cities have very poor air quality, and they are LOUD. Hybrid vehicles are relatively rare, though they do exist. While not nearly as common as Beijing or Shanghai, many people wear surgical masks when they’re out and about (and in Bangkok, we wished we had them—though everyplace else we went, even the metropolis of Chiang Mai, smog was not a noticeable problem).

In Bangkok, smoking is common, which doesn’t help the air quality; smoking was much less popular in the north. We didn’t pass many factories, but those we did encounter seemed relatively clean. I can’t remember seeing any belching smokestacks.

Still, there’s a lot more work to be done. Pollution control on the two-stroke engines would be an excellent place to start.

Organic Agriculture, Crafts, and Natural Foods

To our surprise and delight, there seems to be a substantial movement toward organic agriculture, some of it driven by the late King Rama IX. Several of the rural hotels we stayed at grew many of their own vegetables, all of them organic. In the cities, it’s easy to find organic food in the larger supermarkets. In the north, we ate at several organic restaurants out in the country, some part of resorts and others all by themselves. Thailand has a rich and diverse cuisine that we’ve been enjoying since the 1970s, and Thais put enormous value on freshness. This trip was the first time I’ve ever experienced bamboo shoots or baby corn fresh. In the US, they’re usually canned (and awful), though I’ve occasionally found dried or pickled bamboo shoots.

Most restaurants were willing to accommodate vegetarians and many offered vegan options. When our tour stopped to eat as a group, our tour leader would always make arrangements and the restaurant would prepare close equivalents to the food everyone else was eating—even special soups with vegan bases. Much of Thai cuisine, including several wonderful curries, is based on rice and noodles (made from wheat, rice, or beans) with fish sauce, meat or fish, and vegetables added, so it was easy enough for restaurants to pull some aside before adding the parts we didn’t want.

When we were on our own, though, we avoided the curries unless we were in vegetarian restaurants, since pretty much any prepackaged curry paste is going to contain fish sauce. But we were able to find choices both at sit-down restaurants and in the stalls lining the alleys of the local markets, where we easily found healthy snacks like buns filled with taro, pumpkin, or sweet potato…coconut pancakes…terrific fresh fruits and smoothies…tofu dishes…and quite a bit more.

Local crafters are everywhere, though it takes an experienced eye to steer visitors to the right places. Our tour leader was very good at this, and took us to many crafters, including an organic coconut farm, a 76-year-old woman who showed us how to dye fabric naturally with indigo (she sells to Japan Air Lines’ duty-free stores), and various other cottage industries. Our leader also let us sample many of the local snacks, including a stop at a shop that sold about two dozen varieties of banana, taro, and sweet potato chips.

As a visitor, I feel some obligation to support these types of places as much as possible, and not buy much from the big malls that are beginning to crowd out the independents. And as a shopper, I found the prices low and the quality high. So everybody wins.

Water Conservation

Although water is ample (sometimes too ample, as flooding is a problem in many areas), Thais seem to have high awareness of just how precious water is. Many toilets are dual flush, taps are designed to be workable with low flow, and water-saving showerheads were very much in evidence. One four-star hotel not only displayed the usual sign about washing sheets and towels but another one explaining that water is precious and suggesting turning the water off while shaving and brushing teeth—yay!


Thailand has 22 operating hydroelectric plants with capacities ranging from 0.13 to 749 megawatts —four of them 500 MW or above (and several more in the planning stages). I saw almost no solar or wind. The solar I saw was all very decentralized, powering one building or part of one. I may have seen one wind farm but it could have been something else. Interestingly, one area that did use more solar was the village in far-northern Thailand where members of several different hill tribes live together and sell beautiful crafts to travelers. This is one of the late king’s numerous social betterment projects, and features running water and other amenities, while allowing the tribespeople to live a more traditional life than they could in a city.

I understand that commercial solar panels are expensive. But given Thailand’s subtropical to tropical climate, solar would be a natural, and some technologies (including solar water heating) can be done quite cheaply. Insulating more of those cheap houses and stores might be another good step. It wouldn’t make much of a difference in the energy picture because most of those homes, at least, aren’t air conditioned. But it would make a lot of difference in people’s comfort.

Despite the paucity of hybrid cars (I think I saw three Priuses and one Honda Insight), the vehicle fleet is dominated by small, high-MPG cars. As in much of Europe and Latin America, most of the trucks are also much smaller than the US fleet. However, there’s clearly an influx of new money, and one of the ways it shows is the rapidly increasing number of luxury and sports cars. I noticed several BMWs, a couple of Porsches, one Ferrari, and lots of Lexuses, as well as quite a number of Japanese-made SUVs and minivans. But the vast majority were small or mid-size Japanese and Korean sedans.

Bangkok has two separate rapid transit systems plus several kinds of city buses. Everywhere else, we saw no buses at all, just collective taxis: either converted pickup trucks with a bench along each side and one up the middle (called song thaew), or tuk-tuk minivans, called etans. We saw bus stops in Chiang Mai, but never saw a bus. Of course, there were thousands of regular tuk-tuks (which hold three passengers if you squeeze) and hundreds of metered taxis.

Trash and Recycling

Separation stations for glass and plastic bottles show up occasionally, but aren’t widespread. We saw no paper recycling at all—but we did see employees hand-sorting trash and removing and crushing plastic bottles, several times. Many of the farmers and gardeners compost, and we even visited an elephant refuge that collected the poop not only on land, but even while the animals were bathing in the river—crew members were stationed a hundred yards downstream, with nets and pails. They sold some of it as fertilizer and used some to manufacture paper. The fiber content is high enough, and the paper doesn’t smell. I actually know someone in the US who sells a line of specialty gift papers made largely of elephant poop, and they’re lovely.

Litter exists and in some areas is considerable, but much less than in many other countries we’ve traveled through.

Urban Oases

Every city we visited had plenty of parks, some of them stunningly beautiful. But even more than the parks, many of the thousands of Buddhist temples are urban oases, places where you can relax, distress, and meditate in front of the Buddha. Sometimes the plazas inside the gates are lively and noisy, but always, the temple interiors provide respite. And often the courtyards and gardens do as well.

Other Urban Planning

If Thailand has zoning, it doesn’t seem to be much enforced. Towns and cities grow in a tangled sprawl, using cheap construction materials and without regard for infrastructure. This leads to massively overcrowded roads and a sense of loss as the very beautiful indigenous architecture gives way to “anywhere” buildings.

As an example, during World War II, the area around Kanchanaburi—where the bridge over the River Kwai was built—was jungle wilderness. Now the main road is strip mall central, all the way from Bangkok.

Posted in Demographics/Psychographics, Energy & Sustainability, Environment, travel Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

If You Kick the Press Out, It’s Not a Press Conference!

A reality check for Mr. Trump:

If you have a press conference, you have to let the press in to cover it. Otherwise, it’s not a press conference.

Blocking CNN, the New York Times, Politico and the Los Angeles Times from attending only serves to shred the thin slivers of credibility you have remaining. It gives the mainstream media permission to call you out for your totalitarian tendencies—or to not cover you at all. Oh, and don’t think it’s going to get in any serious reporter’s way of covering the event.

New York Times logo

New York Times logo

Here’s the New York Times article on this action, which cites a younger-and-wiser Sean Spicer last December:

In December, he told Politico that the Trump White House would never ban a news outlet. “Conservative, liberal or otherwise, I think that’s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship,” he said.

Posted in Democracy, Ethics in Government, media-general, propaganda, Publishing Tagged with: , ,

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