Monthly Archives: January 2011

Why I Won’t Be At NTC (And Why You Should Be)


As a happy, active member of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), I’ve made a difficult decision: family and work commitments are too high this year to afford a trip to DC and NTEN’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC). Since most of my family and pretty much all of my wife’s family live 1,000 to 3,000 miles away from us, visiting takes up a lot of the vacation time I get. NTC is, to my mind, a marginally work-related activity, in it that I do bring resources and knowledge back to my employer every year, but the bulk of what I get out of and go to NTC for isn’t all that work-related. Because, let’s face it: NTC is the best party of the year, hands down. And I’m far more likely to be imparting info there, and engaging in what I call my “extra-curricular activities” than focusing on Earthjustice-related topics.

What am I going to miss? Oh my word.

      For me, the fun begins about a day before the conference does, with the annual

NTC Beer Bash

      (that Carie Lewis will be organizing in my absence) kicking the conference off. Established two years ago, we get 30 to 50 of the early arrivers together at the brewpub with the best selection of craft beers we can find together and kick off the socializing early.

Day of Service. Another pre-conference tradition, the Day of Service links nptech professionals with local charities for four hours of expertise sharing and volunteer activities. There’s usually some big project, like installing wireless at a community center, and many opportunities for smal consulting sessions.

The Tech Track. Started last year, the Tech Track is a selection of breakout sessions designed for the people that do what i do for a living — install and support the technology that, in turn, supports the mission. NTC is a great place to develop a social media strategy or learn the latest online fundraising techniques, and it’s now also a reliable source for solid advice on how to virtualize your server room or move the whole thing to the cloud.

Holly Ross and the NTEN Staff. Simply put, Holly + Co are to nonprofit technology conference planning as Buffy and the Scoopy Gang are to vampire slaying. They not only nail it, but they do it all with wit, humanity and style. NTC is the best tech conference. Period. And that’s completely attributable to the brilliant work NTEN does combining awesome people, great knowledge, and a wealth of activities into three days of absolute fun. As I always say. you can’t go to NTC and not meet people. I make new friends every time.

Sadly, my ambitious agenda at work and some family matters have left no room for my favorite annual event this year. I’ve made the last six and I intend to be at the next six. So go and have a great time for me!

How Glenn Beck Incites Violence

The above clip is one of the more succinct examples of what Glenn Beck spends just about every day doing: taking historical facts, arranging them in a shady jigsaw puzzle of innuendo, and then identifying individuals that he claims are diabolically plotting to destroy America. It’s the equivalent of taking the noodles out of your bowl of alphabet soup, arranging them into a death threat, and then attributing the threat to someone you’ve never met.

Frances Fox Piven is a Professor of Political Studies and Social Science who, like many patriotic Americans, was a radical in the sixties.  How radical?  She co-authored a paper suggesting that, were the welfare system to be taxed to the point of failure, it might result in a government-backed mandatory wage for all citizens.  If that sounds like socialism, it’s only because it is socialism.

However, Ms. Piven’s greatest accomplishment was not the destruction of the welfare system or the end of capitalism.  Instead, she is best credited for introducing the tie-in between voter registration and the DMV.  So, the woman who made it easier for Americans to vote is Beck’s poster child for the forces that are out to destroy our country.

So, it comes out that, in the last two years, since Beck started his prime time crusade to malign her, Ms. Piven has received a steady stream of nasty death threats.  Really nasty:

“I got e-mails that said, ‘Die You Cunt’, and ‘May cancer find you soon'”, she tells The Progressive. “And people are posting my address on the Internet with their messages that are really crude and ugly and violent.”

Piven’s politics were radical, but not as radical as suggesting that the founding of the U.N. and the abolishment of slavery were merely pieces of an anarchist/communist plot to destroy America.  But Mr. Beck and his blackboard are perfectly willing to float that hypothesis as if it were fact. And, once floated, he’s happy to then single out Ms. Piven as a key architect of this attack on America. Frances Fox Piven, a woman who cared deeply about all Americans and devoted her life to ending poverty, is a radical anarchist out to destroy our way of life.  Glenn Beck isn’t trying to protect us — he’s just making sure that we know that the plot to destroy our country exists, and Piven is one of the people responsible.

Beck’s acolytes believe him to be sincere, and they’re willing to take his word that Piven poses a threat to their security.  As I’ve been blogging here, Beck fans have loaded up their cars and set off to kill people that Beck identified similarly before.

It’s tempting to equate what Beck does to yelling fire in a crowded theater.  But what he does is far more insidious.  Imagine what your life would be like if you were the constant recipient of nasty, sometimes obscene death threats.  There should be laws against this type of malicious maligning of people whose politics don’t agree with his; there should certainly be human decency that says, “I’m not going to inspire this type of behavior”.  Beck has no such decency, and he isn’t engaging in political debate.  What he’s doing is far more personal, sadistic, and cruel.  And it will likely result in murder soon. It’s kind of a miracle that it hasn’t yet.

Where There’s Smoke (And Bullets)

Three things about the recent, tragic Tucson shootings:

1. Clearly, shooter Jared Lee Loughner was not a Tea Party member or Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck acolyte. His political views, presumably inspired by such diverse thinkers as Ayn Rand, Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler, are not mainstream or cliched. He’s an independent thinker whose views aren’t neatly classified as “liberal” or “conservative”. Reports are that he had met Congressperson Giffords at a previous community meeting and wasn’t happy with the encounter. So the odds that his inspiration for the assault had anything to do with Sarah Palin’s crosshair graphic are unlikely.

2. Violent, paranoid political discourse inspires mass murderers. Maybe not Loughner, but Byron Williams was directly influenced by Glenn Beck when he set out with a car full of weaponry to murder workers at the ACLU and Tides Foundation. Kenneth Kimberly was arrested before he killed anyone, but he admits that he was directly inspired by Glenn Beck to start making and stockpiling grenades. And Giffords wasn’t present when the glass door to her Tucson office was either shot or kicked in, hours after her pro vote on health care. With all of the evidence that violent rhetoric absolutely inspires violent actions, how could people not assume that there was a connection in Tucson? I bet even Sarah Palin assumed that Loughlin had seen her crosshair chart when she first heard about the shooting.

3. So conservatives can pout about how unfair it is that MSNBC and all of their liberal critics are calling for more civil discourse in light of this mass murder. And they are technically accurate that Loughner was, most likely, not directly influenced by the cross hairs on Palin’s propaganda; Beck’s paranoid rantings about Obama planning to kill 10% of the population; Michelle Bachmann’s crazed fantasies about communists in the white house; Sharon Angle’s readiness to resort to “second amendment remedies”, et cetera, et cetra, et cetra. But there’s a lot of smoke here, and there’s a lot of ammunition. So the calls for calmer political discourse in light of the violent travesty in Tucson are well-warranted, because we don’t need to follow it up with the next Byron Williams succeeding in killing people that Beck highlights on his blackboard, or the next Kenneth Kimberly lobbing grenades at imagined communists. These people are directly inspired by the right wing rhetoric. There’s no denying that.