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Learn from How Italians Ultimately Defeated Silvio Berlusconi

This OTYCD entry originally posted in January 2017.


Trump has been likened to Hitler, Mussolini, and other 20th-century autocrats, but his closest analog is Silvio Berlusconi, the blustering, womanizing media mogul who served as Italy’s prime minister from 1994 to 2001.


In this November 2016 New York Times op-ed, Luigi Zingales shows us how to avoid the mistakes of Berlusconi opponents, which had the effect of prolonging his grip on power.

The key point to remember:


Attack what Trump does, not who he is. Yes, he’s morally bankrupt. Yes, he’s an awful human being. Yes, he’s unbelievably ignorant. Yes, his view of women is horrific. Yes, his twitter-squawkings are insane. Yes, he looks goddamn ridiculous.


If you need to complain about things like that, vent in a private Facebook group, or some other protected space. Empty it from your mind, then go out and shine a light on what he is doing, and explain why what he’s doing is bad.


You need to do it in a way that spotlights the consequences of his actions as president, and not on why Trump, the man, is repugnant. The instant you start attacking his character, you make him sympathetic. It’s not fair, but it’s what it is. The anti-Berlusconi crowd made that mistake and got seven years of his rule. Do you want eight years of Trump? Then lay off.


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Learn How to Intervene as a Bystander to Hateful Speech and Acts

This OTYCD entry originally posted in July 2017.

Learn or refresh yourself on strategies for how to diffuse hateful situations as a bystander.


The racist terrorist attack on public transit in Portland, Oregon in May that left two men dead and a third wounded raised awareness about bystander training. The passengers who became victims confronted the ranting man directly when he accosted two young women who appeared to be Muslim, and continued to do so after he made death threats against those who tried to de-escalate the situation.


Those who offer bystander training have said that the Portland men didn’t do anything wrong. It would be a shame if the incident scared people off from confronting people who spew hate in public spaces.


Here are a bundle of resources that will help you learn how to intervene when you witness hateful situations.



Start with Maeril’s now-classic cartoon on what to do if you witness Islamophobic harassment.



Hollaback, a movement devoted to stopping street harassment, offers digital bystander intervention training for a modest fee:



Read the text of a speech on Bystander Intervention Training given by folks at the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition of Maryland:



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See if Collective Action for Safe Spaces is doing a bystander intervention workshop near you, or request one:



For background, read a local news account of the Portland attack:



And read a Slate article about bystander training in the wake of the attack:


Call Your Members of Congress · Elections · Ethics · Stand Up for Civilization · Stand Up for Norms

Call Your MoCs and Support the Honest Ads Act, Which Requires Internet Companies to Reveal Who Paid for Election-Related Ads on Their Platforms

Support the Honest Ads Act, a bill that would require Internet companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, to reveal the names and identities of anyone who spends at least $500 on election-related ads on their platforms.


We are learning more and more about how ads on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms and Internet sites might have affected the outcome of the 2016 election.


Current finance campaign law requires television and radio stations to maintain lists of those who purchase a certain amount of political advertising time. Because the law dates to 2002, it does not cover social media platforms or websites.


Lack of mention of digital media permitted a loophole in the law that allowed Facebook to sell roughly $100,000 worth of political ads to Russian customers between 2015 and 2017 without having to maintain a list of buyers.


It should be noted that as of mid-February 2018, only Facebook has volunteered any information of this nature.


Requiring social media platforms and websites that have audiences of at least 50 million to keep public lists of people and organizations that buy at least $500 in political ads makes sense, and it makes campaign finance law apply equally to old media and new. The legal update will also help fight attempts by Russia and other bad actors who try to sow discord and undermine our democracy.


Two versions of the bill exist–one in the House (H.R. 4077, sponsored by Democrat Derek Kilmer of Washington state) and one in the Senate (S. 1989, sponsored by Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota). Both have the same name, and both were introduced in October 2017.


Right now, the Govtrack pages for each reflect a Skopos prognosis of a five percent chance that they will pass. Let’s do what we can to improve those odds.


Sample script for your MoCs: “Dear (Senator/House Rep Lastname), I am (Firstname Lastname from town, zipcode.) I am asking you to support (S. 1989/H.R. 4077), the Honest Ads Act. It would require any social media platform or website that has 50 million viewers or more to maintain public lists of people and organizations that buy at least $500 in political ads. This represents an update to existing campaign finance law that was enacted before the Internet became dominant, and makes the law apply equally to old media and new media. It will also help us fight foreign bad actors who want to manipulate our elections and undermine our democracy. The bill was introduced in October 2017 but hasn’t moved forward since. Please support this bill and help shepherd it through the legislative process.”



See the GovTrack pages for S. 1989 and H.R. 4077, the Honest Ads Act:



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Action Alerts · Call Your Senators · Senate Bills, Federal · Stand Up for Civilization · Stand Up for Norms

Call Your Senator to Support S. 2095, an Assault Weapons Ban Bill

Call your Senators to support S. 2095, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017 bill.


In 1994, Congress passed a law that banned 18 semi-automatic weapons, including the AR-15 rifle. Despite widespread public support for it, Congress let the law expire in 2004.


Since then, America has suffered several deadly shootings in which the killers used semi-automatics: Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, the attacks on the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2017, the especially deadly attack on concertgoers in Las Vegas in 2017, the incident a rural Texas church that same year, and most recently, the Valentine’s Day 2018 murders at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In most cases, the killers were legally free to buy the firearms they later used to destroy so many American lives.


In November 2017, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California introduced S. 2095, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017. It would outlaw ownership of numerous types and brands of semi-automatic firearms, including the AR-15.


Statistics show that gun massacres–attacks in which at least six people were killed–fell during the decade that the assault weapons ban was in place.


See this Washington Post story about experts’ call to reinstate the ban and scroll down for the graphic supporting this point. It reflects an 183 percent increase in gun massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths following the expiration of the law:


Feinstein’s bill hasn’t progressed since she introduced it last fall. The GovTrack page on the bill gives it a Skopos prognosis of 11 percent.


We at OTYCD recommend that you call your Senators and ask them to move the bill forward (also, scroll down to see our standing note about supporting gun safety laws).


Important: Do either of your Senators sit on the Judiciary Committee? Then it’s extra-important for you to call and voice your support for S. 2095. The Judiciary Committee will decide if the bill will proceed to the Senate floor.


See the list of Senate Judiciary Committee members (Feinstein is the Ranking Member):


Sample call script: “Dear Senator (Lastname), I am (Firstname Lastname from town, zip code). I am calling to ask you to support S. 2095, which would update and renew the assault weapons ban that Congress allowed to expire in 2004. Since then, the country has suffered most of the bloodiest attacks in its history–Sandy Hook, the Pulse nightclub attack, the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Las Vegas shooting, the church in rural Texas, and the tragedy that killed 17 at the high school in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day. Statistics show that after the ban lapsed, gun massacre events rose by 183 percent, and deaths in gun massacres rose by 239 percent. It’s time we reinstate the ban on these especially deadly weapons. Please look at Feinstein’s bill and support it.”



See the GovTrack entry on S. 2095, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017:



See a New York Times interactive story on how the perpetrators of several shootings obtained their weapons. It has been updated to reflect how the suspect in the Parkland, Florida incident got his weapons:


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A note: We at OTYCD intend to nurture and encourage the movement sparked by the Margory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by devoting one post at least every other week to gun safety-related issues.


The reason that the NRA has a death grip on Congress, and in particular, GOP Congressfolk, is that NRA members get off their asses and call if there’s a whisper of a muttering of a hint that a law might pass that could impose even the slightest restraint on ownership of guns in America.


That’s what the politicians are afraid of. It’s not just that some of them get metric buttloads of money for their campaigns from the NRA. Those who embrace the NRA’s outlook pounce on their phones and berate their representatives the instant they think their beloved guns are under threat.


So, yes, it’s on us to shout back.


We have to adopt the tactics of those who support the NRA.


We have to call our representatives often to make it damn clear that the status quo is unacceptable, and we want common-sense gun safety laws.


OTYCD will start out with one weekday post every two weeks, at minimum, that has to do with improving gun safety and pushing back against the NRA.


We do this in honor of the Parkland victims, and all victims of mass shootings in America, and everyone who has been fighting to change our laws on firearms all along.


If Trump finally bows to the will of Congress and imposes the sanctions against Russia for messing with the 2016 election, we will switch to devoting one post per week to these issues.


Honor the victims of the Parkland shooting, and all other shootings, by stepping up and calling your reps about common-sense gun safety laws, and by supporting politicians who have low grades from the NRA, and voting out those who do the NRA’s bidding.


#NeverAgain. For the love of all that is right and good, Never Again.


Action Alerts · Escape Your Bubble · Stand Up for Civilization · Stand Up for Norms

Escape Your Bubble: Support Republican Women for Progress

Escape your bubble by checking out and supporting Republican Women for Progress (RWFP).

RWFP is the successor organization to Republican Women for Hillary. Founded in May 2016 by Jennifer Pierotti Lim (who spoke on the closing night of the Democratic National Convention) and Meghan Milloy. It proves that liberal Republicans aren’t dead, and it’s devoted to supporting Republican women who share its decidedly unTrumpy, markedly saner vision for the party of Lincoln.

Obligatory warning, with apologies for bonking you over the head with this: RWFP is the creation of Republicans. Its founders hold at least some different political beliefs than you do. That means they’ll sometimes say things and do things that don’t match your beliefs, and might piss you off well and thoroughly. That’s ok. Really, it’s OK. You’re being asked to look at what they’re doing and support what you like, not endorse every last little everything they do. They understand the danger of Trump–that’s the key thing. One of the reasons this country is so borked right now is we’re fiercely polarized and, in avoiding jerks who disagree with us, we end up avoiding decent people who happen to disagree with us. That’s got to stop if we want to make things better.


Read assorted articles about the origin and the evolution of RWFP:



Visit the home page:



Follow RWFP on Twitter:



Like it on Facebook:


Donate to its Crowdpac page:

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Commit Now to Put Any Tax Benefits You Might Get from the GOP Tax Bill to Fighting Its Effects

This OTYCD entry originally appeared in December 2017.

If the GOP tax bill passes, will you benefit from it in the form of lower taxes? Commit now to put any extra money to the work of fighting its effects.


Yes, the GOP tax bill rewards the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor. Not too terribly many people who read this will belong to the group who will benefit if it becomes law.


Still. If you are one of those people, think about how you will use that money for good, and use it to fight the ill effects of the bill.


The bill treats waived graduate school tuition as taxable income. Fight this by talking to your alma mater, or a favorite public or private university, about how you can help relieve the burden the bill imposes on grad students. In particular, do what you can to assist grad students from marginalized communities, who will be hit hardest.


The bill removes a tax credit that employers received if they hired veterans. Look around your community, see which organizations are serving veterans and helping them find jobs, and see about pointing your gains in that direction.


The bill removes a tax credit for teachers who buy supplies for their classrooms. Find the neediest public school in your community and commit to underwriting those perpetual costs.


The variants are endless, but we should also mention yet again that in addition to what you choose to do, you should also support and elect candidates who will change the laws, fix the flaws, and help the people who will be hurt by the GOP tax bill.


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Read How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail

This OTYCD entry originally posted in March 2017.

Read this January 2017 Scientific American column by Michael Shermer on how to convince someone when facts fail.

Once upon a time, everyone agreed that you can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts. Sadly, companies such as Fox News learned to make mad profits off of selling people a set of facts that just plain feels better to them than the reality that the rest of the news media reflects.

Twenty-one years later, we’re in an ugly situation where Fox News finds itself beset by upstarts that pander even more blatantly to what a subset of people want to believe, regardless of whether it’s accurate or true.

Talking to true believers is tough, and maddening. Getting through to them is even harder. Shermer, a professional skeptic and publisher of Skeptic magazine, discusses the phenomenon and has good advice on how best to handle it.

Read his column on how to convince someone when facts fail:

*Full disclosure: One of us at OTYCD was active in the skeptic movement in the 1990s and met and worked with Shermer on several occasions.