Climate Changes Everything

“… Global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient, and barrier-free that ‘earth-human systems’ are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When a journalist pressed [Brad] Werner for a clear answer on the ‘Is Earth f**ked’ question, he set the jargon aside and replied, ‘More or less.’ — From Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything

this-changes-everything-commdiginews dot com

Photo: Naomi Klein, http://www.commdiginews.com

Most people – and scientists – believe that the climate change we’re experiencing is man-made. (There are the inevitable deniers, of course.) However, it’s going to take more than just believing and changing a few lightbulbs to reduce the erosion of the ice caps and rising ocean levels, or degree increases in average temperatures and extensive drought conditions. It’s going to take massive change in the way we live and respond to the environment. And that’s going to require sacrifice; not what anyone wants to hear let alone politicians want to say anything about.

There is hope. Democracy Now reports that a fossil fuel free world is possible. “Is a 100% renewable energy future possible? According to Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, the answer is yes. Jacobson has developed plans for all 50 states to transform their power infrastructure to rely on wind, water and solar power.”

In Naomi Klein’s most recent book This Changes Everything, she outlines the road we’re heading down with our capitalist system profiting from climate disasters and our politicians helping them along their merry way. It’s not a pretty picture. Tune into TVSet’s June 7 show (Comcast Channel 11 at 6 p.m. in Portland, Oregon) to learn more. It’s the topic of the show this week. A free and legal download of the book can be found on www.archive.com.

The ray of hope exists for counteracting capitalism’s assault on the Earth’s resources, our consumption-hungry lifestyle, and the resulting impact on global climate change. It comes down to this, according to Brad Werner, University of California, San Diego professor of geophysics and complex systems (as noted in the last chapter of This Changes Everything): Environmental direct action, resistance, and a mass uprising of people will provide the likeliest source of friction to slow down the economic machine.

Voices and communities are crying out against fracking. There is a growing movement to divest from fossil fuels. In parts of the world, there is a green energy revolution and 100 percent renewable energy-driven economies are viable (sadly, without the political will demonstrated by Europe, the U.S. lags far behind).

Ms. Klein makes it clear: “Only mass social movements can save us now. If that happens, well, it changes everything.”

Can We the People, force a radical, transformational economic shift in a relatively peaceful, democratic manner, when our leaders have abdicated their responsibilities? This is what Ms. Klein asks.

Disruptive human rights movements have been led by the People and fought by legal and cultural battles. But transformational, disruptive economic change with a necessary redistribution of wealth? That’s another matter altogether with little, if any, precedence.

Ms. Klein surmises that climate change is an opportunity to galvanize and converge all the latent liberation social movements, albeit on a scale previously unimagined. But the lives of our grandchildren and the Earth depends upon our will to become activists, to raise our voices, mend our ways, and to vote with our dollars.

How much land area does it take to support your lifestyle? Take this quiz from Global Footprint Network to find out your Ecological Footprint, discover your biggest areas of resource consumption, and learn what you can do to tread more lightly on the earth.

Let’s be the catalyst!

Will the U.S. Ever Abolish the Death Penalty?

“We simply cannot say we live in a country that offers equal justice to all Americans when racial disparities plague the system by which our society imposes the ultimate punishment.”      – Senator Russ Feingold, 2003

Death Sentences

The Washington Post Map: How the world executed people in 2014

Examination of the death penalty in the U.S., is percolating (let’s hope it’s more like fomenting) to the surface again as the Boston jury voted on May 15 to execute Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Disagreeing with the verdict, more than 60% of Boston residence believe he should have been sentenced to life in prison instead. At age 21, he will be the youngest person on federal death row. There’s no question that the bombing was horrific and despicable. But how is murder for murder justifiable?

Over the decades, the needle has moved very little on how Americans feel about sentencing convicted criminals to death. Yet the international community, with a few notable exceptions, is increasingly embracing abolition of the death penalty. As the Map: How the world executed people in 2014 shows, the U.S. is in dubious – and downright frightful – company.

Why is it that U.S. public opinion so far behind our international neighbors?

Alba Morales (@albaHRW) wrote for HumanRightsWatch.org: “At last Monday’s Universal Periodic Review, a process through which each United Nations member country has its human rights record periodically reviewed by other member countries, 36 countries called for the US to reconsider its use of capital punishment. The US, a country that carried out among the greatest number of executions in 2014, is one of a dwindling number of countries that use the death penalty.” The U.S. delegation responded (and I’m paraphrasing), “No federal defendant has been killed in the last decade.” Of course, only 18 states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty (Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin abolished it before the turn of the 19th century; Connecticut is the most recent, abolishing it in 2012). Oregon is one of the states with the death penalty, though Governor Kate Brown extended former Governor John Kitzhaber’s ban on executions.

Even if juries got it right 100% of the time (and they don’t), is capital punishment a just punishment for a crime? Most of the world and 33% of Americans don’t agree, instead believing the death penalty should be abolished. The UN General Assembly has endorsed a worldwide moratorium on the use of the death penalty. (According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 153 death-row inmates have been exonerated since 1973.)

Amnesty International, an advocacy group that opposes the death penalty, estimates that, after China, the largest number of executions occurred in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the U.S. And the U.S. government wears the warrior’s mantle for international human rights…

According to the Gallup Poll, “International death penalty trends are unmistakably towards abolition. Use of the death penalty worldwide has continued to shrink, and use of the death penalty has also been increasingly curtailed in international law. Since 1990, an average of three countries each year have abolished the death penalty, and today over two-thirds of the world’s nations have ended capital punishment in law or practice.”

When asked why they favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, the reason most often stated is “An eye for an eye” (37%, a decline from 50% in 1991). “Save taxpayers money” and “They deserve it” were tied for the second most frequently stated reason (14%; “they deserve it” has gained momentum since 2001). The number one reason to oppose the death penalty by a large margin is: “Wrong to take a life” (40%). “Persons may be wrongly convicted” and “Punishment should be left to God” tied at 17%,

And when asked if they believe the death penalty is applied fairly or unfairly in the U.S., 51% said fairly, the same percentage as in 2000 (51% is the lowest percentage recorded; in the intervening years it got has high as 61% in 2005). There are slightly more death-row inmates that are white than black (as of 2009). However, in 1990 a report from the General Accounting Office concluded that “in 82 percent of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e. those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks.” [Source: DeathPenalty.org]

What and how long will it take for the U.S. to abolish the death penalty? Let us know if your opinion about capital punishment has changed?

Civil Liberties – Know Your Rights

Once the government has the power to violate one person’s rights, it can use that power against everyone.” ACLU

Protest_Demotix_com_portland-joins-global-protests-against-monsanto-gmos

 Photo: Demotix.com

Civil liberties are individual rights protected by law from unjust governmental or other interference, including freedom of speech or assembly, without unwarranted or arbitrary interference by the government. In the U.S., civil liberties are protected by the Bill of Rights.

To protect your rights, you needs to know what your rights are, and you need to speak up and take a stand (and/or support the American Civil Liberties Union). Keep reading. We’ve posted your Bill of Rights in this blog.

As we’ve seen all too frequently, when rational debate flies out the window and fear rules, civil liberties often pay the price. A group of civil libertarians took a stand when, following World War I, the U.S. feared the Communist Revolution would spread to the U.S. “In November 1919 and January 1920, in what notoriously became known as the ‘Palmer Raids,’ Attorney General Mitchell Palmer began rounding up and deporting so-called radicals. Thousands of people were arrested without warrants and without regard to constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure.” [All quotes in this blog are sourced from the ACLU Website]

And thus was born the ACLU. As late as the 1920s, “the individual freedoms enumerated in the Constitution had never been fully tested in the courts, making them largely meaningless for ordinary people.”

The ACLU vigorously defends our freedoms. They spoke out when 110,000 Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps. With the NAACP, they challenged racial segregation in public schools. And they were involved in Roe v. Wade protecting woman’s reproductive rights. Their work exposed the extent of the Bush torture program. To protect our freedom of speech and right to assembly, they defended a Nazi group that wanted to march through a Chicago suburb. It certainly wasn’t a popular stand to take, but by doing so they preserved the right for everyone.

“Since the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11, the ACLU has been working vigorously to oppose policies that sacrifice our fundamental freedoms in the name of national security. From opposing the Patriot Act to challenging warrantless spying to challenging the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without charge or trial, the ACLU is committed to restoring fundamental freedoms lost as a result of policies that expand the government’s power to invade privacy, imprison people without due process and punish dissent.”

The ACLU makes it easy for us to know our rights. Click on this link and learn what your rights are in various situations. Here are a few examples:

Demonstrations and Protests

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/demonstrations-and-protests

What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police, Immigration Agents or the FBI

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-if-youre-stopped-police-immigration-agents-or-fbi

When Encountering Law Enforcement – Searches and Warrants

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/when-encountering-law-enforcement-searches-and-warrants

When Encountering Law Enforcement – Stops and Arrests

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/when-encountering-law-enforcement-stops-and-arrests

When Encountering Law Enforcement – Questioning

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/when-encountering-law-enforcement-questioning

Additional Resources:

ACLU of Oregon: info@aclu-or.org, (503) 227-3186, www.aclu-or.org

Click to see key congressional votes via ACLU’s legislative scorecard.

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. And here they are:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Should We Uber? Or Shouldn’t We Uber?

That’s the question that will be discussed on the next live TVSet on Sunday, May 3, starting at 6 p.m.

Uber is a non-union Smartphone App-enabled taxi service that is currently in some kind of ‘test mode’ here in Portland, our fair city. Is it a glittering example of the “Sharing Economy,” or is it another example of technology being used to enrich the few, while leading others to disadvantage?

It will be a lively show, with co-hosts Jim Wrathall and John Kellerman, and guest Delilah Jones (spokes-person for cabbies). Once again, John has created an original musical composition addressing the concerns surrounding Uber and its business model. He’ll debut it live on the show. In fact, here are the clever lyrics:

Taken for a Ride
© 2015 John Kellermann

I went drinkin’ with my buddies, we was feelin’ fine,
‘Til the bartender said, “It’s closin’ time.”
I called a cab, ’cause I was feeling tipsy, They said,
“Might be a while, ’cause it’s really busy.”

My buddy said, hey, here’s a clever trick,
Download this app, they’ll get you home real quick.
I took his advice and got a big surprise:
Paid 99 dollars for a 3 mile ride!

I got taken, I got taken, I got taken,
Taken for a ride.

When there’s plenty of drivers, they’re Uber-cheap,
Then when it gets real busy, they’re Uber-steep.
“This is outrageous!” was my first reaction,
My next was, “How can I get in on the action?”

They said, “You can be a ‘partner’. You can be your own boss!”
They took twenty percent, I got the overhead cost.
Yet I made good money, so it seemed at first,
‘Til they hired more drivers, and things got worse.

I got taken, I got taken, I got taken,
Taken for a ride.

Now you can see me coming in my Radio Cab.
You can hail us, you can call us, you can use our app.
You know we’re insured, you know we’re safe,
And you know what’s on the meter is the price you’ll pay.

Don’t get taken. Don’t be mistaken. Don’t get taken.
On a super-duper, Uber-expensive ride.

Now a little about Uber

To get an Uber ride, consumers submit a trip request via the app, which is routed to crowd-sourced taxi drivers. According to Wikipedia, as of March 26, 2015, “the service was available in 55 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide. The company has raised $2.8 billion in total funding [Google and Goldman Sachs are investors]. Many governments and taxi companies have protested against Uber, alleging that its use of unlicensed, crowd-sourced drivers was unsafe and illegal. It is estimated that Uber will generate 10 billion dollars in revenue by the end of 2015.”

It’s a good thing they have lots of money ’cause it looks like they are frequent court visitors, forced to defend their practices. And that money allows them to aggressively expand their service options:

  • Package Delivery called Uber Rush (it’s being tested in Manhattan).
  • Uber Essentials allows online ordering and delivery of about 100 items (it’s being tested in Washington D.C.).
  • The first project from Uber Garage gives users the option to hire a regular taxi driver, or an Uber driver.
  • Uber Pool is a carpool service. It matches riders with another rider who is traveling in the same direction (if a match isn’t found, riders are offered a discount on a regular Uber trip).
  • They are working on a research project with a university that involves driverless cars.

Uber’s pricing model will be discussed on the show, including their “surge pricing,” which means prices are raised when demand is high, one of the most controversial aspects of Uber. (The company applied for a patent on surge pricing in 2013.)

Unrestrained capitalism? Misuse of customer data? Love it, or hate it (Uber has an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau)? Does it benefit markets with an under supply of taxis? Does it prompt an over regulation of transportation services? Are its drivers safe or unsavory? Does it drive down prices, a consumer benefit?

Have you, or will you call Uber?

Kellerman took the lead on this topic. Here is a host of links that he used to research the issue, and which he’s likely to refer during the broadcast.

Links

Transportation Fairness Alliance
“Portland deserves transportation options that are safe and fair.”
http://tfapdx.org/

Videos:
Riding Dirty: How Uber Takes Drivers and Passengers for a Ride:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXt0lG3IRZQ

Uber’s $18 billion valuation is all the buzz in the world of tech startups and transportation, but is there something more sinister going on underneath the hood?

The reason this disruptive tech startup can double revenue every six months will shock and amaze you. Find out how Uber packages the American Dream, monetizes your safety and greases the wheels of local politics.

This video reveals how they skirt regulations, how their deal with drivers is bait and switch, their inadequate “background checks”, inadequate insurance, dirty tricks on their competition, and their wheelin’ and dealin’ with local authorities.

Surge pricing: Woman charged $92 for 2.7-mile Uber ride
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgnuirDOjkU

Articles:
The hidden costs of being an Uber driver
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2015/02/20/the-hidden-costs-of-being-an-uber-driver/

Lawsuit brought by Uber drivers to recover the tips they should have received and reimbursement for expenses:
http://uberlawsuit.com/

Background:

Uber to Portland: We’re Here. Deal With It.
By Conor Dougherty and Mike Isaac New York Times December 5, 2014
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/05/uber-to-portland-were-here-deal-with-it

Uber promises it’s done defying Portland taxi laws:
http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2015/04/uber_wont_defy_portland_taxi_r.html

Portland taxi board prepares for Uber’s return by approving 64 percent increase in cab permits
http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2015/02/uber_more_portland_taxis_lyft.html

Portland may allow Uber to return with ‘surge pricing,’ special rules
http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2015/04/portland_allow_uber_surge_pric.html

Ride or Die: Six Things You Need to Know About Tuesday’s Pivotal Vote on Uber
http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-33095-ride_or_die_six_things_you_need_to_know_about_tuesdays_pivotal_vote_on_uber.html

Uber, Lyft back in Portland on 120-day pilot program
http://www.katu.com/news/local/Portland-council-to-vote-on-120-day-pilot-program-for-Uber-Lyft-300821701.html

Portland leaders’ foolish rush to accommodate Uber (OPINION) By Amanda Fritz http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/04/proposed_portland_ride-share_r.html

Our Itemized Social Contract of Democratic Philosophy – The U.S. Constitution

Signing the Constitution by Louis S. Glanzman

Signing the Constitution by Louis S. Glanzman

As many of the nations involved in the Arab Spring struggle to establish governments, we perceive them to be mired in chaos and tend to judge them harshly.

But not so fast. The United States in its infancy also struggled. Under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the precursor to the U.S. Constitution, the government did not have the right to raise revenues so it could not pay its bills. In fact it defaulted on most of its debts. It could not pay its army. It could not bring errant states back in line, making it a struggle to establish validity as a nation before foreign governments.

The Confederate Congress could make decisions, but it could not enforce them. And implementing decisions required unanimous approval by all 13 states. Congress could print money, but it was worthless. Congress could borrow money, but it could not pay it back. No interest was paid on debt owed to foreign governments and by 1786, a mere five years after ratification, it was defaulting on those debts as they became due. Spain closed New Orleans to American commerce.

Something needed to change before the vision of a representational government faded—or fell apart—completely. Most state delegates agreed that an “effective central government with a wide range of enforceable powers” was needed. “All agreed to a republican form of government grounded in representing the people in the states.”

In 1787, the Articles of Confederation were reexamined and in only four months birthed the U.S. Constitution. A handwritten document five pages long established the governance of the United States of America. Can you imagine in our political climate something so miraculous happening so quickly?

While not unanimously approved, it was a great compromise. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, one of 39 signers of the constitution: “There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them.” He would accept the Constitution, “because I expect no better and because I am not sure that it is not the best.” In the end, it was approved by all that remained: eleven state delegations and the lone delegate from New York. Enacted in 1788, it was ratified by ten of the 13 states (nine were required for enactment). Ultimately it was ratified by all 13 states in 1790.

“Since the Constitution came into force in 1789, it has been amended twenty-seven times. In general, the first ten amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, offer specific protections of individual liberty and justice and place restrictions on the powers of government. [These were added to the Constitution in 1791.] The majority of the seventeen later amendments expand individual civil rights. Others address issues related to federal authority or modify government processes and procedures. Amendments to the United States Constitution, unlike ones made to many constitutions world-wide, are appended to the end of the document. At seven articles and twenty-seven amendments, it is the shortest written constitution in force.

“The Constitution is interpreted, supplemented, and implemented by a large body of constitutional law. The Constitution of the United States is the first constitution of its kind, and has influenced the constitutions of other nations.” [Source: Wikipedia] As Benjamin Franklin prophesied, the Constitution is not perfect and there are differing interpretations of its intent. It is viewed by some as a living document requiring adjustment as culture and times change, and by others (ahem, Justice Scalia) in only the strictest sense as it was written in the 18th century. It has taken 227 years to get to this point, and amendments are still likely to be considered on into the future.

The countries around the globe that are struggling to create new governing bodies and law under the duress of violence and clashing cultures deserve the time to envision the government that can embody stability for their people. Impatience on our part is impertinent, unrealistic and undeserved.

Making Your Voice Heard – Write a Letter to Congress!

Letter to congress_Wikihowdotcom

Below are recommendations on how to write an effective letter to your congressional delegation (and at the bottom of the blog, a suggestion that you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper).

As we heard on the April 19 live broadcast of TVSet, writing Congress about your stance on fast tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement is critical. TVSet highly recommends stopping the fast track process.

Here are your tips to effective congressional letter writing. Of course a phone call to the office is also always appropriate, but not necessarily as effective.

And to make it that much easier for you to write about TPP, here is Ron Wyden’s contact information.

http://www.wyden.senate.gov/contact
Portland office:

911 NE 11th Ave., Suite 630
Portland, OR, 97232
tel (503) 326-7525
Washington D.C. office:
221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C., 20510
tel (202) 224-5244
fax (202) 228-2717

All federal congressional delegates for Oregon can be found here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/OR

Now on to letter writing.

How to Write Letters to Congress – Real Letters Are Still the Best Way to Be Heard by Lawmakers (http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/letterscongress.htm)

By Robert Longley

So, you’re going to write a letter to Congress? Good idea. Make it a good letter.

People who think members of Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail, are plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing law-makers. But, members of Congress get hundreds of letters and emails every day. Whether you choose to use the Postal Service or email, here are some tips that will help your letter to Congress have impact.

Think Locally

It’s usually best to send letters to the representative from your local Congressional District or the senators from your state. Your vote helps elect them — or not — and that fact alone carries a lot of weight. It also helps personalize your letter. Sending the same “cookie-cutter” message to every member of Congress may grab attention but rarely much consideration.

Keep it Simple

Your letter should address a single topic or issue. Typed, one-page letters are best. Many PACs (Political Action Committees) recommend a three-paragraph letter structured like this:

  1. Say why you are writing and who you are. List your “credentials.” (If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.)
  2. Provide more detail. Be factual not emotional. Provide specific rather than general information about how the topic affects you and others. If a certain bill is involved, cite the correct title or number whenever possible.
  3. Close by requesting the action you want taken: a vote for or against a bill, or change in general policy.

The best letters are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.

Addressing Members of Congress

To Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator:

To Your Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative:

The above addresses should be used in email messages, as well as those sent through the Postal Service.

Here are some key things you should always and never do in writing to your elected representatives.

  1. Be courteous and respectful without “gushing.”
  2. Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it’s about a certain bill, identify it correctly. If you need help in finding the number of a bill, use the Thomas Legislative Information System.
  3. Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don’t include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
  4. State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.
  5. Keep your letter short — one page is best.
  6. Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.
  7. State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.
  8. Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.

Never

  1. Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don’t let your passion get in the way of making your point,
  2. Fail to include your name and address, even in email letters.
  3. Demand a response.

Identifying Legislation

Cite these legislation identifiers when writing to members of Congress:

House Bills: “H.R._____”
House Resolutions: “H.RES._____”
House Joint Resolutions: “H.J.RES._____”
Senate Bills: “S._____”
Senate Resolutions: “S.RES._____”
Senate Joint Resolutions: “S.J.RES._____”

How to Write a Letter to Your United States Senator (http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Letter-to-Your-United-States-Senator)

Writing to your senator can help solve issues in your state. It is a good way to get their attention, and can make your voice heard. There are a few steps to getting your voice heard correctly, however.

Write the issue on the envelope. If the letter is about an issue currently in front of the Senate, note the issue or the bill number in the bottom left hand corner of the envelope. The staff will handle mail that is relevant to the current session first.

Be sure to include your name, address and phone number, and email address, so that the senator can respond to you and so that they know they are hearing from someone who lives in their district. Ensure that everything you write, particularly your contact information, is legible.

Start with the correct form of address. The appropriate form of address is: Dear Senator (last name).

Introduce yourself in the first paragraph.

Explain the purpose of the letter in the following paragraph. Share the facts that support the purpose.

Stick to one issue and one issue only when you write. The message comes across more effectively this way. Mentioning too many matters will only confuse the main issue.

Make a request for a reply. Be thankful for the senator’s time and for taking your issue seriously. Even if your politician is not of your political preferences, you must still be thankful as this person is still taking valuable time reading this letter.

Use a business-like tone. However, don’t be afraid to tell your personal story as to why this issue matters to you.

  • Avoid the use of slang vocabulary. A professional tone is important for your letter to be taken seriously.
  • Try to use persuasive vocabulary.
  • Bear in mind that the more hysterical, emotional or paranoid your writing comes across, the less seriously your letter is taken.

Use a computer if you can, for neatness counts. Make sure you keep the letter as brief as possible.

Use standard English and do pay some attention to spelling and grammar, but don’t fret over this. You can have someone capable proof-read the letter for you, if you really want to, but the main thing is to be clear in your idea.

Tips

  • Senators do not reply personally to mail. Interns and staff assistants normally sort mail by issue, whereupon replies are written by legislative correspondents and more interns. A Senator will never see a standard piece of mail, but due note will be taken of the concerns expressed in the letter, and it will help inform the Senator’s decision making.
  • Be wary of affiliating yourself with a specific group (a pressure group, club, union, etc.) in writing a letter; this will diminish the impact of your letter, particularly if the whole of a group is writing. Instead, provide a pithy personal example of a piece of legislation’s impact on your life.
  • Do not send form letters or copy the text of another letter. Such letters are almost always ignored.
  • Many states have a sharp difference between Senators in terms of responsiveness, etc. If you have a pressing personal issue speak to both, and follow through with whichever staff seems most supportive. Less popular Senators often focus more on constituent services.
  • Senators cannot, and will not, address correspondence from non-constituents. Some Senators will reply indicating that; others will forward your letter to the appropriate Senator(s); others will simply ignore your letter. Ensure that you are writing to your own Senators regardless of the issue, even if the matter concerns something that happened in another state.
  • Do not get upset if you do not get a reply right away. Remember a senator is usually busy, and receives many letters every day.
  • If you are writing about a casework issue you should address the letter to the district office of the Senator closest to your home, and not the Washington DC office. A privacy release form is necessary for a Senator to intercede on your behalf; these can normally be printed online from the Senator’s website, and should be mailed with the description of the casework issue.
  • Other countries than the United States have senators too. The basics of this article still apply in terms of the letter writing and things to be aware of.
  • If you are writing about your political feelings on an issue, a response may not be necessary and you may or may not get one. Just be satisfied at least that you wrote, and that someone in the Senator’s office has read your comments. If, on the other hand, you need a response on a matter you need immediate personal assistance with, don’t be afraid to make a follow up phone call if you don’t hear from the Senator’s office within a reasonable period of time.

Warnings

  • Referring to your history as a loyal voter/sending tea bags/suggesting that you’ll vote someone out of office/etc. are generally unhelpful.
  • Avoid any kind of threatening tone as this will not help your case, and may trigger a visit from Capitol Police or the Secret Service.

How to Write a Sample Letter to a Senator (http://www.ehow.com/how_8560429_write-sample-letter-senator.html)

By Steve Bradley, eHow Contributor

One of the best way to get the attention of your senator, be it of the state or federal variety, is to write a professional letter. All government officials take this kind of correspondence seriously as it represents a voter’s interests. If congressmen do not listen to and respond appropriately to voters’ concerns, they are less likely to receive the electoral support needed for re-election. There are three keys to writing a letter to a senator. Keep it focused. Keep it professional. Give your Senator an action item.

  • Write your letter using proper business letter format. Most word processing programs will have letter templates that are quick and easy to use. In general the format is as follows:

Starting in the upper left-hand corner list your name and contact information. Under this put the date followed by the senator’s address. Then write a brief salutation and begin the text of your letter. Finally, write a closing and sign your name at the bottom.

  • Introduce yourself and your credentials, if these are appropriate to the issue. State precisely for what reason you are writing to your senator. Keep it factual not emotional. Provide as much specific information as possible detailing how your issue effects both yourself and others. If a particular bill is involved be sure to list it by name and number.
  • Present your senator with an action item. Having something concrete that you are looking for will help focus his attention and better the chances of your letter getting the appropriate reply. Ask your senator for a specific response. Thank him for taking the time to read your letter and ask that he either consider voting a certain way or ask that his office get back to you with a particular piece of information.

How to get your senators’ and representatives’ attention on any issue without being a wealthy donor | Protip from a former Senate intern (http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/1os8rz/)

This is an exerpt:

An email to your senator or representative may result in a form letter response and a phone call to the office may amount to a tally mark on an administrative assistant’s notepad. But, for any given policy concern, if you want to get their attention a letter to the editor in one of your state’s 5-10 biggest newspapers that mentions them specifically BY NAME is the way to go. If your message is directed to your representative, pick a newspaper that is popular in your district.

Links to TVSet topics from April 19 Live Show

TVSet’s live April 19th show will start in just over two hours at 6 p.m. on Comcast Portland Channel 11. Topics on the show are often wide ranging and this evening is no exception.

On the cultural, and Latin American history side of the equation, delve into the life of Eduardo Galeano. [Look for an earlier blog post on his life and how he straightened out revisionist history].

Here are some links of interest:

Link to a legal, free PDF of “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent”, the book President Hugo Chavez gave to President Obama at the 2009 Summit of the Americas (the copyright has expired on the work).  https://ia700708.us.archive.org/25/items/fp_Open_Veins_of_Latin_America/Open_Veins_of_Latin_America.pdf

Online sources offer glimpses of Eduardo Galeano’s life:

Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduardo_Galeano

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=eduardo+galeano

The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/17/my-hero-eduardo-galeano-by-tariq-ali

The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/15/eduardo-galeano

Victor Jara, a political activist and folk singer, was one of thousands of people rounded up at a stadium in the capital Santiago after the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. His killer is being brought to justice. You’ll learn a more about him on the show and here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Víctor_Jara

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Victor+Jara

BBC News http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32328555

Al Jazerra http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/4/16/killer-of-chilean-victor-jara-to-face-us-justice.html

And lots of information on the important Congressional “Fast Track” vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP):

Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Pacific_Partnership

Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_track_%28trade%29

Public Citizen www.citizen.org/TPP

Electronic Frontier Foundation https://www.eff.org/issues/tpp‎

New York Times, Joseph E. Stiglitz “On the Wrong Side of Globalization” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/on-the-wrong-side-of-globalization/

Tune in!