Saturday, March 11, 2017

11 March - Netvibes - oldephartteintraining

The 'Only' Profession to 'Celebrate What It Means to Live a Life' - Yesterday I praised Viola Davis’s Oscars speech for being memorable without being explicitly political—for simply talking about her job in a moving and well-written way. Twitter quickly let me know I missed something. On social media and conservative-leaning news sites, Davis’s speech had in fact sparked outrage. After explaining that she felt her mission was to “exhume … the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost,” Davis said this: I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. This claim has become one of the discussion items of the right-wing internet following the Oscars ceremony. “Art is wonderful; art is enriching; art can connect us with each other,” writes Ben Shapiro at Daily Wire. “But the utter arrogance of stating that artists are ‘the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life’ is astounding. How about doctors? How about stay-at-home mothers, who help shape lives rather than pursuing their own career interests? How about morticians? How about pretty much everybody in a free market economy, giving of themselves to others to improve lives?” Variants of that sentiment have ricocheted online, with Davis sometimes misquoted as though she’d said only “actors” celebrate what it means to live a life, or, worse, are the only ones who “know” what it means to live a life. Are people right to be offended? Did she say artists are better than anyone else? Reading her words literally, within the context of her speech, and extending her the slightest benefit of the doubt, it’s hard to see backlash against Davis as anything other than a symptom of our overblown culture wars. Anyone might “celebrate what it means to live a life” in their own personal ways, but for whom is that a primary function of their profession? Artists, definitely. Clergy, maybe. Doctors save lives rather than celebrating them, and it doesn’t denigrate them to say so. Stay-at-home parents help others, and Davis might even agree that that’s more noble, important, and essential than “celebrating” the meaning of life. Her point was simply that artists serve a specific role in telling stories about the human experience, and that she’s glad she’s a part of that. Certainly, she could have edited herself to make a less controversial, though arguably less interesting, statement. If she’d simply said, “I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we celebrate what it means to live a life,” complaints may have been harder to come by. The “only” highlights a specific way that artists are special, but it also is a dogwhistle to anyone holding strong resentment about Hollywood elitism and condescension. And there’s rarely been a better time to air such resentment than right now. Artists are now treated like candidates—expected to choose their words not for truth but for politics.On the right, reflexive disgust for the entertainment industry has taken on new fervor under Donald Trump. During the Fox and Friends after the Oscars, the snafu whereby La La Land mistakenly was announced as Best Picture was spun by Steve Doocy as, “Hollywood got the election wrong, and last night Hollywood got the Oscars wrong.” Guest Tucker Carlson agreed but added that Moonlight “had to win” because the moralizing, politically correct establishment willed it to. Yes, the Oscars were both an out-of-touch catastrophe and an insidiously rigged game. Donald Trump has given his own interpretation of the Academy’s screwup: “I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,” he told Breitbart, as if the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant who handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope did so because he’d been cackling too hard at Kimmel tweeting the president “u up?”   Liberals may groan at Trump taking credit for his critics making a logistical mistake. But, of course, both sides see a lot of politics in entertainment these days: See all the takes making like Doocy and comparing the end of the Oscars to election night. To many viewers on Sunday, Davis’s speech seemed remarkable for how it nearly transcended partisan fray and just passionately talked about acting. But one word—“only”—was enough to make her a culture-war litmus test. Maybe she wanted to pick a fight about art’s place in society, or maybe she was simply portraying her profession as she genuinely sees it. Either way, it was a defiant move in an era where artists are increasingly held to the same standards as candidates for office: expected to choose their words not for truth but for politics.28 Feb
Corinne Found the Perfect Way to Rebel Against The Bachelor - This post reveals “plot” points of episode 10 of The Bachelor season 21. According to the fabricated lexicon of The Bachelor, the show’s characters do not participate in a mere televised dating competition. They have been brought together, instead, on an emotional adventure that the show refers to, infallibly, as “a journey.” The Bachelor’s insistence on its own vague Campbelliness is ironic for several reasons. The biggest is that, while the show does offer a kind of momentum—things proceed week after week, Rose Ceremony after Rose Ceremony, with romantic tensions inevitably mounting—its participants, for the most part, do very little in the way of their own development. There are characters, yes, but very few arcs. The Bachelor or Bachelorette in question might learn some things as the season proceeds, sure; for the most part, though, the contestants are who they are, and they stay who they are. The tensions come not as those contestants grow and change, but instead as their different facets are systematically revealed to the Bachelor(ette). Different sides of their personalities are glimpsed; people are kept around or kicked to the curb based on the facets of themselves that manifest as the Journey continues apace. The Bachelor, basically, is a show that offers a lot of movement, but very little evolution. Related Story In Praise of Corinne, The Bachelor’s Human Conspiracy Theory Which made Monday’s episode especially striking. First, because, at the Rose Ceremony at the episode’s outset, Nick “said goodbye” (another term of Bachelor art) to Corinne Olympios, the season’s appointed villain. Corinne, who is dramatic and zany and materialistic and Good TV in human form, had long been a front-runner both despite and because of her antics (as SB Nation summed it up earlier this month, “Oh God, Corinne’s gonna win this whole dang thing, isn’t she?”). Her ouster on Monday, right before the Fantasy Suite dates, was a shock—to viewers of the show including, but definitely not limited to, Corinne herself. What was doubly striking about Corinne’s departure, though, was that she used the show’s elaborate farewell ritual to contradict The Bachelor’s dynamic stasis: While being broken up with by Nick and, by extension, Bachelor Nation, Corinne demonstrated that, against all odds, she had grown. As a person! Sort of! (I’d use another Bachelorism here, but of course, for this kind of thing, there is none.) The Bachelor’s traditional departure scene—Woman, Weeping Alone in a Limo—typically involves the said-goodbye-to contestant crying, wiping away mascara-tears, and discussing how much she wants—really, how ready she is—to “find love.” Not so Corinne. The woman who had spend the season defying the show’s long-established norms had one more trick up her faux-fur-covered sleeve. Corinne, Weeping Alone in a Limo, told the show’s invisible cameras not about how sad she was, but instead about … how changed she was. The season’s villain and cipher and punchline and living, breathing conspiracy theory used her final moments within the Bachelor spotlight to talk about what she had taken away from her experience on the show. She used them to talk not about The Journey, but about her own. Corinne, in the end, did something that is rare and almost rebellious within The Bachelor’s gauzy confines: She learned a lesson.It went like this: Nick did not call Corinne’s name at the New York City-based Rose Ceremony. He walked her out to the limo. “I’m sorry,” she told him, as they embraced. “I’m sorry if I ever did anything to make you upset.” He replied: “You never did! Listen, you never did anything wrong. Ever. You have nothing to regret. You have nothing to second guess. Look at me—nothing. Not a thing. You need to know that. Okay?” Corinne stepped into the limo. The traditional departure ritual began. She wept, as plaintive piano notes surrounded her. “Saying goodbye to Nick,” she told the camera, “is like, I feel like my heart is like, literally like—it’s never going to be repaired. I just want to feel loved—the way it’s supposed to be, like the normal way.” It was all standard-issue Bachelor stuff, right down to the invocation of “the normal way” … until things—as they so often will when Corinne is involved—took a turn. “I’m trying to, you know, say things that men think are appropriate,” she said, as her tears gave way to a slow smile. “And you know what? I’m done. Done trying to show my men how much I worship them and I love them and I care for them and I support them. I need that! So if someone feels that way about me? They can come and tell me. And they can bring a ring to go along with it.” It was … feminist? Sort of? It was also inflected with Corinne’s characteristic self-absorption and materialism, yes—and the probable result of some liberal editing, with that quick shift from weeping to grinning—but still. Corinne, with this, was rejecting the stuff of all those Cosmo stories offering advice on How to Please Your Man—and the stuff, for that matter, of a culture that tends to assume that women, and women alone, should do the work of making sure that men feel supported, and cherished, and, indeed, “worshipped.” Corinne had spend her season of The Bachelor myopically—even maniacally—focused on Nick. She had been, in Bachelorese, There for Nick and There for the Right Reasons and Not There to Make Friends. And in the end, if the aim is to be the woman before whom Nick “gets down on one knee,” it had all failed. Corinne took all that and then did something that is rare and almost rebellious within The Bachelor’s gauzy confines: She learned a lesson. She took the show’s truisms about coupledom and transformed them into other clichés: Corinne will, she suggested, from here on out, Focus on Herself and Do It for Herself. Corinne will do Corinne. She will Make Corinne Great Again. “I’m going to be me,” Corinne told the show’s invisible camera, as its invisible piano played her off. “And whatever happens, happens. But I will never kiss up to a man again in my entire life.”28 Feb
Viola Davis's Urgent Call to 'Exhume the Ordinary' - Viola Davis’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress began with a thanks to the Academy and this observation: “You know, there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered.” Pause. Some viewers may have felt a queasy pang. Was the Fences actress about to give a sequel to Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech? Was the next line going to be “this room,” so as to stand up for the presidentially denounced entertainment industry, so as to preach for truth and inclusion, so as to spark another skirmish about whether Hollywood is too self-regarding? No. The next line: “One place, and that’s the graveyard.” Whew. Davis’s speech quickly went viral and received wide acclaim for a lot of reasons, and prime among them was simply good writing. She opened with a question and gave an answer few would have guessed. She exploited the power of surprise, a power demonstrated amply elsewhere at the Oscars. Viola Davis' #Oscars acceptance speech was AMAZING. Watch it here — The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) February 27, 2017 The speech also made self-evident why Davis deserves an Oscar. She seemed to be heaving with emotion, almost out of breath, and yet her words were clear and her sentences deftly paced. She gestured with the precision of her How to Get Away With Murder character Annalise Keating in law lecture, yet she showed the rawness of feeling that Mrs. Miller had in Doubt. But this was not acting. Or if it was, it was so good as to not seem like it. Which is, as Leonardo DiCaprio said from the stage elsewhere in the night, the definition of great acting. Most remarkable: the speech’s content. Typically, memorable Oscar acceptances make explicit political points, feature gaffes, or mark milestones. But Davis’s commanded attention through the mere discussion of art, as well as through specific, heartfelt shoutouts to colleagues and loved ones. “People ask me all the time: ‘What kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?’” she said. “And I say, exhume those bodies, exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost. I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” The resonance with Davis’s work was obvious: Fences is based on August Wilson’s play about a 1950s black working-class family whose members aren’t famous, who simply strive and spar against the backdrop of society and history. Wilson “exhumed and exalted the ordinary people,” Davis said; his story was “about people, and words, and life, and forgiveness, and grace.” But the resonance with other themes of the night, and the era, was also unmissable. The Best Picture nominees included many tales of the culturally invisible and frustrated: post-recession Texans bereft of opportunity in Hell or High Water, low-level NASA mathematicians mostly forgotten by history in Hidden Figures, orphans and destitute families in India in Lion. Most notably, Best Picture winner Moonlight unspooled the tale of a poor black gay man simply surviving, an ordinary life of the sort that is portrayed so infrequently as to seem extraordinary. So there is, in fact, politics here, though subtle. In the context of conversations about diversity and inclusion at the Oscars and in America more generally, Davis’s praise of stories about common people of thwarted dreams necessarily has a political meaning: Portraying previously unportrayed struggles means that lives other than white, straight, well-off, and/or male matter. The point was reinforced, lightly, as she thanked her sisters, remembering, “We were rich white women in the tea party games.” They played as white and wealthy, perhaps, because that was what society had told them to fantasize about. Davis has shown the power of offering alternatives.27 Feb
What Moonlight’s Win Says About the Oscars’ Future - The manner of Moonlight’s Best Picture win at the Oscars may have been bizarre and shocking, but in toppling expected favorite La La Land, Barry Jenkins’s film set a number of milestones. It’s the lowest-budgeted film to win the prize since Delbert Mann’s Marty in 1955; if adjusting for inflation, it’s the lowest ever. It’s the first movie centered on an LGBTQ character to be named Best Picture, and the first whose cast is entirely people of color. Beyond that, it’s incredible that Moonlight beat La La Land simply because the latter seemed like a film aimed at Academy voters—a well-made original musical about artistry and Hollywood dreams, shot through with nostalgia for the industry’s Golden Age. But maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that Moonlight took Best Picture. It’s a stunning film, but also in some ways one that fits a mold the Academy has been leaning toward in recent years. For decades, it was very unusual for the movie with the most awards of the night to lose the Best Picture race. But in recent years, that’s been the norm. For decades, splits between Best Picture and Best Director (as happened at last night’s Oscars) were a relative rarity; in the last 20 years, it’s happened 8 times. Moonlight is a unique film, and one that tells the kind of story the Academy Awards have largely ignored through its history—but it’s also the kind of smaller, more intimate tale that voters have started warming to. Moonlight won three Academy Awards this year: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Best Adapted Screenplay for Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney. Last year’s Best Picture winner Spotlight took only two trophies, and in 2015, Birdman won four. The year before that, 12 Years a Slave won three, as did Argo in 2013. In every case, there was another more opulent production that won at least as many trophies, if not more: The Revenant, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Gravity, and Life of Pi, respectively (with all but Budapest winning Best Director but not Best Picture). La La Land seems to belong to this new ticket-splitting norm, where voters chalk up a bunch of technical wins for the glitzy frontrunner, but give Best Picture to the more critically acclaimed, smaller production. Again, this is not to discount Moonlight’s game-changing triumph. Though movies like Spotlight and Birdman were independent works, they were made on a much bigger budget and distributed by more established indie wings of major studios (Moonlight’s distributor was A24, a company founded only five years ago that has quickly become one of the most respected names in American art cinema). Still, only one major studio has won Best Picture in the last decade—Warner Bros. (for Argo and The Departed). As Hollywood’s major production companies have tilted away from prestige films to focus more heavily on big tentpole franchises, the Best Picture nominations list is mostly filled with indie and “mid-major” companies, (with streaming service Amazon making its own breakthrough this year for Manchester by the Sea). If things had been already edging in this direction, then Moonlight might be the beginning of an even bigger sea change. Of this year’s nine Best Picture nominees, it is the lowest-grossing (having made $22 million in the fourth months since its release, behind the next lowest Hell or High Water with $27 million). The Oscars used to have a certain reverence for perfectly well reviewed films that broke out in a major way. It’s how consensus choices like A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator, Braveheart, and Forrest Gump took the prize over more acclaimed movies. La La Land fits that mold well—but that mold may have been broken. It helps that Moonlight was universally heralded, getting the kind of rapturous critical raves that come once in a generation, rather than once a year. It was also a beautifully made film on every level, attracting support from a wider swath of Academy branches (it was nominated for its music, cinematography, and editing along with the expected writing, acting, and directing nods). That’s crucial for a Best Picture win, because people from every Academy branch get to vote on the winners, and it’s what had kept smaller, less technically impressive indie movies from winning in the past. Perhaps next year the trophy will go to some big epic that hits at the box office, like Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, and this recent pattern will be upended. Either way, Moonlight’s win is shocking enough to be remembered forever. The thing to watch for now is if it’s a magical Oscars anomaly, or a sign of profound change for the Academy.27 Feb
Five Ways of Seeing Five Minutes of 'Real People' at the Oscars - If the last-minute twist at the Oscars was seen to echo all the last-minute twists in American culture lately—the Super Bowl, the election—a silly five-minute segment earlier in the night should be noted for what it captured about the country’s ongoing tensions and tastes in iPhone peripherals. Host Jimmy Kimmel’s team arranged for a sightseeing bus of supposedly “real” tourists to walk into the room, expecting a museum exhibit about the Oscars but instead finding themselves in the middle of the actual thing. “Welcome to the Dolby Theater,” Kimmel announced. “This is the home of the Academy Awards, which are, in fact, happening right now.” The greatest Hollywood tour bus trip EVER ... @StarLineTours #Oscars — Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) February 27, 2017 The bit was both amusing and squirmy: a weird microcosm of Hollywood’s relationship with America, America’s relationship with the media, and Jimmy Kimmel’s ability to make everything a little more awkward than it needs to be. The Hunger for Folk Heroes (and Memes) At the front of the pack was the man who would be the moment’s breakout star, “Gary from Chicago.” In a room of tuxes, he wore basketball shorts, a baseball cap, and a “Hollywood” sweatshirt, with the gender-progressive touches of a purple phone case and a bag that might have been his fiancee’s purse. If the glitz ambush intimidated him, he showed no signs of it, happily introducing himself to stars and snappily replying to Kimmel’s jokes. On social media, pop culture’s craving for quirky symbolic everymen—see: Ken Bone, Joe the Plumber—quickly made itself known. So did the cravings of various corporate marketing teams. Our Collective Phone Addiction The dozen or so tourists seemed to realize what was happening at different rates, and with different emotions—fear, elation, nonchalance—but were united in keeping their phones in front of their faces. “You know we’re on TV so you don’t need to do that,” Kimmel said as Gary kept filming the room. His reply: “I know but I want to. I want to.” The phone accessories themselves could make for a post-show fashion column: one woman had a sparkling jeweled case, another wielded a selfie stick as if it were a talisman. Devices in hand, the group pulled celebs in for selfies; Gary even handed his phone to Mahershala Ali as he posed with the actor’s Oscar. For the tourists, it was a rare chance to see in the flesh people normally only ever seen on a screen. Yet they still insisted on having a screen between them. Piercing the Hollywood Bubble… In an era when Americans have become sharply aware of how isolated its various niches are—politically, socially, geographically—workaday citizens from around the country were literally bussed in for cultural exchange with the cultural elite. The stars received them warmly: Ryan Gosling offered up some sort of present to Gary, Jennifer Anniston handed over her sunglasses, Meryl and Mahershala and others grinned and hugged. Denzel Washington even “married” Gary and his fiancee Vicky, though it must be said this particular cinematic icon seemed in a bit of a hurry to return to his seat. … or Reinforcing It The alternate political reading of the moment was that the regular folks were treated patronizingly, expected to react with gratitude and awe at the mere fact of breathing the same air as famous people. Kimmel seemed a little too insistent that the tourists be wowed, and an awkward image was set when Gary started kissing actresses’ hands: He wanted to do it, but it looked a lot like royalty receiving a supplicant. “Well that was the most condescending moment in Oscars history,” the writer Walter Kirn tweeted. “Real people on parade. Weren’t they cute?” Lucy Nicholson / ReutersOscars (Host) So White The tourists were a mix of white and black and brown men and women. But Kimmel made the diversity seem anything but normal by using tired humor about “funny” names—which is to say, names unusual to white Americans. As the tourists entered the room, he had the crowd shout out “MAHERSHALA!,” the name of Moonlight’s Best Supporting Actor winner. Later, Kimmel reacted with horror when a woman of Asian descent told Kimmel her name rhymed with “jewelry.” When her husband said his name was Patrick, Kimmel replied with mock relief, “See, that’s a name.” At an event that has recently been accused of white supremacy, this was a pretty tone-deaf shtick. But Gary, of course, helped deflate it. “I feel like you’re ignoring the white celebrities,” Kimmel said. Gary: “Because I am, though!” The Insanity of Live TV My stress reflexes were in full effect watching the segment, and judging from the cringing reactions on Twitter, I wasn’t alone. It’s definitely possible the tourists were just actors, or that they’d at least been coached to a greater extent than we were led to believe. But still, the spectacle of chaos in a space as highly choreographed, as widely watched, and as culturally fraught as the Oscars was riveting. At the very end of the night, viewers would be reminded of what makes live TV like this so electrifying—the potential for disaster, and miracles.27 Feb
'Moonlight, Best Picture': The Oscars and the Rare Power of Shock - Last year, the comedian Marc Maron brought the author Chuck Klosterman on as a guest on his WTF podcast. The two discussed many things (including Klosterman’s then-new book, But What If We’re Wrong?, which he was there to promote), but one of them was sports—and the particular thrill that they offer to audiences. Sporting events, Klosterman argued, promise that most dramatic of things: an unknown outcome. Unlike other widely watched events—the Super Bowl halftime show, the Grammys, the Oscars—the primary selling point of sporting events is that their endings are, by definition, unpredictable. Within them, anything can happen. Well. While you can say a lot about the Oscars on Sunday, you can’t say that the glitzy awards show was boringly predictable. The 89th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, right at its conclusion, brought a mixture of confusion and shock and full, deep delight to its viewers as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway teamed up to announce the Best Picture winner and proceeded to, because of a backstage flub, announce the wrong movie. Chaos—and really, really good TV—ensued. Tired East Coasters were summoned back to their living rooms from their bedrooms, on the grounds that “ohmyGodyou’veGOTtoseethis.” Twitter erupted with jokes—about Bonnie and Clyde being at it again, about Schrödinger’s envelope, about “Dewey Defeats Truman” getting an Oscars-friendly update. It was late on a Sunday evening, and the unexpected had happened in the most unexpected of ways, and the whole thing was, as my colleague Adam Serwer perfectly summed it up, Moon-lit. During a time when Google has made so much information attainable, knowingness has become a default presence in American cultural life.The whole thing was also, however, a reminder of how rare it has become for audiences to witness, collectively, something that is truly Unexpected. This was live TV, with all the potential human error that live TV can bring—chaos, correction, drama, grace—at its depths but also its heights. What happened on Sunday hewed to roughly the same mechanics that gave the world all those Left Shark memes, and those “Nevertheless, She Persisted” tattoos, and the term “wardrobe malfunction”: The Oscars evoked caring by way of surprise. The Best Picture flub has become infamous overnight for roughly the same reason its predecessors did: It is exceedingly rare, in the highly produced world of mass media, for expectations to be thwarted. We know so much, nowadays. We are, in fact, sure of so much—about politics and human psychology and Hollywood awards shows and the correct ingredients of guacamole. During a time when Google has made so much information instantly attainable, knowingness has become a default presence in American cultural life. Oooh, that show is supposed to be excellent. That movie is supposed to be terrible. Poke bowls are the thing now. Big cultural events, the stuff of the Grammys and the Emmys and the Oscars, are in many ways the culmination of that posture: We know precisely what to expect of them. We can report, as they play out, that everything went according to plan, because we knew from the beginning what they were supposed to be; we can do that reporting, as well, with a note of disappointment. There are few things duller, after all, than met expectations. There are few things duller than met expectations.In that context, the Beatty-Dunaway-Oscars flub was a gift to audiences (and perhaps to ABC’s future live-audience ratings). It was also Chuck Klosterman’s point to Maron, at once proven and proven wrong. Here was the anything-can-happen logic of the live sporting event, applied to Hollywood’s highest, most ceremonialized, and most expectation-driven, of rituals. That was a powerful thing: During a moment in the United States that so often takes for granted that “reality” is something that can be produced as well as experienced, the Best Picture Oscars flub was a powerful reminder that reality, still, has its own production values. Yes, the flub was many other things, too: a shame for Moonlight, which so richly deserved to win Best Picture and whose victory threatens to be overshadowed by the mistake and its ensuing dramas. A shame for La La Land, whose producers delivered their full acceptance speeches before learning that their “win” had been announced in error. A field day for photographers both professional and non-, who snapped reaction shots onstage and backstage and among the celebrity audience. A moment of grace, as La La Land’s producer, Jordan Horowitz, met Jimmy Kimmel’s cheeky suggestion that everyone should get an Oscar with a politely defiant “I’m going to be really thrilled to hand this to my friends from Moonlight.” And also, sure: a metaphor for the slings and arrows of the 2016 election. A ratification of pop culture's current obsession with alternate realities. A vehicle for many, many jokes at the expense of Steve Harvey. Mostly, though, it was a twist ending that arrived, by the looks of things, in the twistiest of ways: a shock that came not at the hands of a savvy producer, but at the hands of quirky reality. Twist endings may have been a defining feature of the events of 2016 and early 2017—the reality show that was the 2016 presidential campaign found its pundit-ratified frontrunner vanquished in the final episode; the 2016 World Series featured another victorious underdog; Super Bowl LI found the expected winners winning, but only after its game went into nail-biting overtime. Their twists, however, took place within events whose endings were, by definition, unknown. The Oscars was a ceremony, shockingly interrupted. It was expectation, compellingly thwarted. And so: It was powerful in a way that few things can be, anymore, in a world that knows so much and expects, in the end, so little. In an essay for Screen Crush last year, Erin Whitney argued that “ours is a culture built on anticipation, where movies end with scenes teasing the next installment in the franchise, never allowing a moment’s rest to absorb what we just saw. We talk about movies years before they debut, we analyze TV plot twists, and anticipate albums for years before hearing a single song.” This whole process has led, Whitney argued, to “the slow death of surprise.” The best evidence for that may be the fact that marketers have recently been focused on surprising consumers—capitalism doing its best to keep that particular kind of magic alive. The dropped album. The surprise TV show. The secretly produced trailer. The live-aired, anything-could-happen TV musical. They are trying to capture what Klosterman was conveying to Maron in that WTF interview: “Sports is a connection to authentic aliveness,” the author put it to the comedian. “This is not something that anybody can control or script. It’s this unknown thing.” He added: “There’s something real interesting about ‘nobody knows,’ because you just don’t experience that anymore.” You don’t, until you do—until that mistake makes its way onto the glitziest and scriptiest of all of Hollywood’s stages. Sunday’s Best Picture flub is not only already iconic; it is also already the subject of conspiracy theories from a wide range of Oscar truthers who suggest that, among other things, the mistake was the result of President Trump exacting revenge on Jimmy Kimmel; or a prank pulled by Kimmel himself; or the dark dealings of Leonardo DiCaprio. They may have a point; it is unclear, for now, how the wrong card got into Warren Beatty’s hands. What they forget, though, is what Klosterman knows, and what all those delighted audiences, on Sunday, knew along with him: that the best conspirator is often people’s great capacity to make big, and dramatic, mistakes.27 Feb
The Shadow of Trump at the Oscars - President Donald Trump was 3,000 miles away from the Academy Awards on Sunday night, but his presence loomed larger in the Dolby Theatre than anyone else in the room. From Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue to acceptance speeches to the ads punctuating the ceremony, it felt at times like the Oscars were more focused on delivering an extremely public rebuke to Trump than they were on celebrating the art of filmmaking. The question is how effective such forms of protest are, in a media environment in which more than half of Americans think the press is too critical of the current president. Kimmel was one of the few personalities in the room who mentioned Trump; others largely chose to subtweet, without saying his name. While jabs about the president and his Twitter fixation made for easy punchlines, the most cutting and memorable moments of the night were the ones that elected to show, not tell—to reveal how Trump’s policies stand in direct opposition to the spirit of art in general and film in particular. Trump was an irresistible target for Kimmel, who laid into the one-time Oscar presenter right from the start. “This broadcast is being watched live by millions of Americans,” he quipped, “and around the world in more than 225 countries that now hate us.” He was briefly earnest, compelling everyone watching to reach out to one person they disagree with and have “a positive, considerate conversation, not as liberals or conservatives”—something that, he affirmed, could truly make America great again. But then it was back to business as usual: thanking Homeland Security for letting the French actress Isabelle Huppert into the country, pointing to Andrew Garfield’s drastic weight loss for a role as proof that Hollywood discriminates not against nationality, but against age and weight. An extended gag lampooning Meryl Streep’s “uninspiring and overrated performances” seemed directly ripped from Trump’s own critique of the actress after the Golden Globes. The second award presented, for makeup and hairstyling, went to Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson for Suicide Squad. “I’m an immigrant. I come from Italy,” Bertolazzi said, accepting the award. “I work around the world and this is for all the immigrants.” His sentiments were echoed in more specific terms by the Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who won best foreign-language film for The Salesman, but elected not to attend the ceremony in protest of Trump’s immigration ban on seven majority-Muslim countries. His award was accepted by the Iranian American astronaut Anousheh Ansari, who read Farhadi’s statement aloud. “Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fears,” she read, with Farhadi calling out the “inhumane” immigration law earlier this year. “Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy which we need today more than ever.” One presenter, too, took the opportunity to put a human face on Trump’s policies. The actor Gael Garcia Bernal, co-presenting the award for best animated feature, slipped in a quick statement, saying, “As a Mexican, as a Latin-American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that separates us.” And last year’s winner for best supporting actor, Mark Rylance, briefly pondered how actors and filmmakers might work to unite Americans. “Opposition’s great in film and stories, it’s wonderful in sport, it’s really good in society,” he said. “The things these films made me remember and think about was the difficulty—something women seem to be better at than men—of opposing without hatred.” But Kimmel’s well of Trump jokes never ran dry. The Marvel movie Doctor Strange wasn’t just nominated for visual effects, it was also “named secretary of housing and urban development.” Introducing the Academy’s president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Kimmel noted how refreshing it was to have “a president who believes in arts and sciences.” At one point, noting Trump’s Twitter silence during the ceremony, Kimmel had his phone projected onto a screen at the back of the stage, and tweeted, “Hey @RealDonaldTrump u up?” at the president, followed by the hashtag “#merylsayshi.” This was trolling on an expert level, with its purpose solely to belittle Trump, and to remind him that he’s more in disrepute in Hollywood than ever before. It’s cathartic, perhaps, but it comes from a place of power—there’s not much the president can do that directly threatens the film industry. But he can, for instance, defund the NEA, which has a long history of helping projects (such as the 2012 drama Beasts of the Southern Wild) and artists who later ascend to Academy glory. Pointing out the president’s personal failings will almost certainly lead to viral tweets, but pinpointing how his policies damage the arts and entertainment industries might have a more profound impact in the long run. The most powerful moments of the ceremony, in the end, were the ones that illuminated the people excluded by the president’s policies. Accepting the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Moonlight, also the best-picture winner, Barry Jenkins had a message for the people the movie was made for. “For all you people out there who feel there is no mirror for you,” he said, “that you feel your life is not reflected, the Academy has your back, the ACLU has your back, we have your back, and for the next four years ... we will not forget you.” In one of the most remarkable Oscar acceptance speeches of all time, Viola Davis explained her mission for making art. “You know, there is one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered and that’s the graveyard,” she said. “People ask me all the time—what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories—the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost.” It’s this kind of message that seems poised to have the most impact over the next four years. For one thing, President Trump—for once—seemed remarkably resistant to all the trolling happening onstage. “Some of you will get to come up here on this stage tonight and give a speech that the president of the United States will tweet about in all caps during his 5 a.m. bowel movement tomorrow,” Kimmel said at one point. As yet, though, there’s been no such response.27 Feb
The Magnificent Harmony of Sunday In the Park With George - Sunday In the Park With George, currently playing in a limited run at New York’s Hudson Theatre starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is blissfully free of politics—a two-and-a-half hour respite from contemporary anxieties, a holiday on the banks of the Seine, bathed in sunlight and glorious harmony. And yet, without ever straining to, it makes one of the most persuasive cases imaginable for the power of artists, and how deeply integral their work is to a well-ordered society. Art shows us, as Gyllenhaal’s George demonstrates to his mother in one of the first act’s most moving songs, how life can be beautiful. But rather than simply celebrating the fruits of creative labor, Sunday In the Park is a testament to the process of making art; a substantial peek inside the mind of someone wrestling with their own genius. When the show—with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine—debuted in 1984, it was interpreted as one of Sondheim’s most personal expressions, coming on the heels of his critical and financial bomb, Merrily We Roll Along. George, the show’s hero, is obsessed with his paintings, to the detriment of everything else in his life. But as the show unfolds, moving from 19th-century France to 1980s Chicago, it explores the reasoning behind his single-minded fixation, and how George’s role as an observer lets everyone else see the world differently, too. That’s largely because this revival, directed by Sarna Lapine (James Lapine’s niece), is so magnificent and so emotionally rich, anchored by performances by Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford as George’s mistress and artist’s model, Dot. The show is based around Georges Seurat’s 1884 pointillist masterwork, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and George is a loose version of Seurat, with his life broadly fictionalized. As he sketches studies of Dot, who grumbles about the discomfort, the heat, and George’s fierce focus on his work, projections of his sketches appear on a backdrop onstage, rendered for the audience to witness in real time. All the while George narrates his thought process: the challenge of bringing order and harmony to a blank canvas. Gyllenhaal’s gifts as an actor are well-documented by now, so it’s his vocal talents that may come as a surprise (observe, if you haven’t already, Cary Fukunaga’s short video of Gyllenhaal singing George’s “Finishing the Hat” at the Hudson). His voice is rich, measured, and emphatic. But it’s the acting behind it that really cuts deep, in a remarkable fusion of technical accomplishment and intense absorption in a role. When he sings about mapping out a sky, sensing voices outside but being totally lost in focus, “dizzy from the height” of falling back to earth, you’re tempted, like Dot, to forgive him everything. Ashford, who won a Tony for the 2014 revival of the daffy comedy You Can’t Take It With You, is George’s perfect foil as Dot: sassy, practical, and infinitely charming. But she also conveys the exquisite pain of loving someone so inaccessible, and her chemistry with Gyllenhaal is pure. Toward the end of the first act, when George directs the many elements and characters to come together in a synergy of music and visuals, he places Dot at the front of the “painting,” as if to keep her close. But the supporting cast, too, are adept at bringing comic relief, and balancing the harmony of the show: Robert Sean Leonard as Jules, an accomplished artist; Penny Fuller as George’s mother, lost in nostalgia; Phillip Boykin as a foulmouthed and obstreperous boatman. The peripheral characters by their nature are fleeting archetypes, included to provide contrast with the more textured portrayals of George and Dot. The second act of Sunday In the Park, which leaps ahead to 1984—with Gyllenhaal playing another artist named George and Ashford his grandmother, Marie, Dot’s daughter—has often seemed jarring after the perfection of the first act, but Lapine manages to make the two halves more symbiotic by emphasizing how George’s art is tied to his great-grandfather’s. Just as Seurat used pointillism and the science of light to create new colors and impressions, 1984 George debuts a light installation called a “chromolume” at the Art Institute of Chicago. The work, created by the scenic designer Beowulf Boritt, looms above the audience in a dazzling display of illuminations, weaving and undulating overhead. Ashford, seamlessly segueing into playing a 90-year-old southern grandmother, spells out George’s isolation and creative frustration in “Children and Art,” a song addressed to her mother in the painting. The cracks in her vocals, and the deliberate weakness of Marie’s voice, make it one of the most moving numbers in the show. Modern George’s frustrations are different but rooted in the same fears—unlike his great-grandfather, he has to fundraise for his expensive, technologically advanced works, and respond to the criticism it inevitably receives. But in the song “Move On,” it becomes clear that the two are one and the same, straining to make art that counts, and to do something new. The resolution in the show comes from realizing that just doing the work is enough—everything else is out of an artist’s hands. This production, so deftly directed, emphasizes both the value in the struggle, and the timelessness of great art. It’s powerful indeed to have the experience, even briefly, of seeing the world through the eyes of a visionary.26 Feb
Andy Warhol and Get Out: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing - 30 Years After His Death, Andy Warhol’s Spirit Is Still Very Much Alive R.C. Baker | The Village Voice “How much responsibility does a mirror bear for whatever beauty or ugliness it beholds? Warhol loved both the heights and depths of American culture, and reflected it back at us through his work, which remains resonant to this day. Here is the spin he put on the concept of American exceptionalism in the 1985 America book: ‘Maybe you think it's so special that certain people shouldn't be allowed to live [here], or if they do live [here] that they shouldn't say certain things or have certain ideas.’” The Rise of Roxane Gay Molly McArdle | Brooklyn Magazine “Gay has been persistent and precise when so many others have not: She believes in a substantial variety of writers and writing that includes not only race and gender and sexuality but also class, ability, geography. She also takes as long and hard a look at herself as she does anyone else. When considering, in her 2010 HTMLGiant essay ‘A Profound Sense of Absence,’ whether or not she read diversely, Gay concludes: ‘I don’t, nor do I know how to.’” The Age of Rudeness Rachel Cusk | The New York Times Magazine “Are people rude because they are unhappy? Is rudeness like nakedness, a state deserving the tact and mercy of the clothed? If we are polite to rude people, perhaps we give them back their dignity; yet the obsessiveness of the rude presents certain challenges to the proponents of civilized behavior. It is an act of disinhibition: Like a narcotic, it offers a sensation of glorious release from jailers no one else can see.” In Get Out, Racism Is the Horror Story Black People Try to Survive Frederick McKindra | BuzzFeed “Horror films constantly reinforced the concept of the white body’s vulnerability, and subtly advised their audiences to treat only those bodies with concern. Meanwhile, for black characters, and by extension, black people, if no one ever saw you scream, tremble, or bleed, they never learned to see you as human. In the aughts, black characters in horror films were either disposable, not worth depicting at all, or rendered racial amnesiacs when it came to issues that would concern any black person in real life.” Remembering Seijun Suzuki, an Absurdist Auteur in Hired-Gun Clothing Emily Yoshida | Vulture “The Japanese film-production world was a kind of temporary Wild West, no longer locked into the hierarchical promotion system that brought up Ozu and Kurosawa. Suzuki rose up through the reshuffling almost by accident, but once he became a director, he made sure nobody forgot his name.”Harry Belafonte and the Social Power of a Song Amanda Petrusich | The New Yorker “Belafonte was strikingly prescient about the ways in which taste could and would be politicized, and especially about how treacherous it is to confuse consumption with action. This seems, to me, to be an unspoken but profound hindrance to all popular rebellions: If a person reads the right authors, and buys the right records, and vouches for those preferences loudly and repeatedly, it can feel like all the necessary work has been done to align oneself with the proper causes.”Jackie Kennedy’s Strange, Elegant Accent, Explained by Linguists Alex Abad-Santos | Vox “Merely reading that line doesn’t do justice to the voice Portman adopted for the role. If you’re not aware of how Jackie Kennedy spoke, listening to Portman’s Jackie is like the tingle of soda in your throat. It often feels familiar, but in certain spots it pops and jumps. The way she lops off the end of ‘bitter,’ the funny hop in ‘artifact,’ the way she rolls through ‘remembered’—it’s like she’s invented her own unique way of speaking English.” Moonlight’s Forgotten Frequencies Dave Tompkins | MTV News “Moonlight's score is part of this allowed emotional space, internalizing the Miami environment. (In terms of pressing bass to vinyl, wider spaces between the grooves make room for longer wavelengths and lower frequencies.) According to [Nicholas] Britell, the composer, everything in Moonlight’s score has at some point been pitched down and lived an alternate bass life before reaching your ears, whether you hear it or not.”25 Feb
Girls's Powerful Insight on Trauma - Why do the girls of Girls act that way? That’s the question underlying five years of baffled cultural responses to Lena Dunham’s epic of questionable decisions, cruelty, narcissism, and grace. Girls has never given a straightforward answer to the question. Despite unflinching confessional dialogue and occasional backstory development and sharp cultural satire, Hannah Horvath and her friends still have an air of Athena, sprung into existence fully formed. Asking why these girls spill drinks and impulsively marry and vomit off of bunkbeds is like asking why anyone exists at all. This has made Girls unusual in a cultural landscape where the tragic flashback is the go-to decoder of individual motivation. To take two recent examples from HBO, The Young Pope connected Pope Pious’s childhood abandonment to his adult torment, and Westworld’s so-called “key insight” was that to be human is to remember suffering. In society more broadly, ongoing dialogues about trauma, triggering, and privilege—dialogues that Dunham often wades into as a public figure—insist that personal history needs to be taken as seriously as present conduct does. On Girls, parental issues occasionally surface—Jessa’s flaky dad, Hannah’s closeted one, Marnie’s controlling mom—and brain chemistry came to the fore in Hannah’s OCD plot line. But sometimes it has seemed like the show wants to satirize the notion of explaining character through trauma. Once, Hannah recalled telling her mom that her babysitter touched her vagina at age 3—but added that she had probably been lying at it. At the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, her peers insisted her short story about violent sex must have been non-fiction from an abusive past; the joke was that it actually reflected her adventuresome present: “the time that I took a couple Quaaludes and asked my boyfriend to punch me in the chest.” This week’s sure-to-be-provocative episode “American Bitch”—posted to online platforms now and airing on HBO Sunday night—sharpened the show’s point of view on psychological cause and effect. In it, Hannah visits with a famous author, Chuck Palmer (Matthew Rhys), after writing an essay about accusations that he’d serially preyed on college-aged female fans. Chuck makes his case for innocence, Hannah relates some details from her past, and the two seem to come to an understanding—and then Chuck takes his penis out and presses it against Hannah. It’s a story of personal monstrousness and trauma, but it’s also a story about a system: a gender dynamic that ensures a common experience of degradation for women, whether in their pasts or in the present. Chuck Palmer has a surprising amount in common with Hannah. His fussiness hints at OCD. He proposes that writers need stories more than anything else, echoing Hannah’s experiences-at-all-cost outlook throughout Girls. The two bond over their love of Philip Roth, agreeing that “you can’t let politics dictate what you read or who you fuck” (Chuck’s words). And most tellingly, Chuck professes to want to understand the person he’s talking to but constantly interrupts with his own observations—perhaps a sexist tic, but also a narcissistic one plenty familiar to Girls viewers. In all of these things, Dunham may be sketching some ideas about the intrinsic traits that make a writer. But most of their conversation is a clash of biographies. Chuck emphasizes his loneliness, his daughter’s depression, his ex-wife’s hostility, and the sadness of book-tour life. When Hannah suggests an inappropriate power balance in him hooking up with girls on the road, Chuck shoots back that the real imbalance is that “she looks like a Victoria’s Secret model and I didn’t lose my virginity till I was 25 and on Acutane.” He is the victim in this reading. The women complaining online are exploiting his fame and desperation as well as the power of the internet to amplify harmful claims. It appears that this version of events nearly persuades Hannah, who apologizes for having written something that upset Chuck. But the apology is colored by all the buttering-up that has come before. Chuck repeatedly tells her how smart he thinks she is. He gives her a signed copy of Roth’s When She Was Good. And he claims that he invited her over to try and correct his true error with his accusers: not “pushing” enough to get to know them as people. When he then asks questions about her life, Hannah giggles and blithely answers. But during an earlier, tenser point in the conversation, Hannah relates a less happy bit of her history. In fifth grade, her English teacher Mr. Lasky took a liking to her based on her talent as a writer: He liked me, he was impressed with me, I did like special creative writing, I wrote like a little novel or whatever. Sometimes when he was talking to the class he would stand behind me and he’d rub my neck. Sometimes he’d rub my head, rustle my hair. And I didn’t mind. It made me feel special. It made me feel like someone saw me and they knew that I was going to grow up and be really, really particular. It also made kids hate me and put lasagna in my fucking backpack, but that’s a different story. Anyway last year I’m at a warehouse party in Bushwick and this guy comes up to me and he’s like, “Horvath, we went to middle school together, East Lansing!” And I’m like, “Oh my god, remember how crazy Mr. Lasky’s class was? He was basically trying to molest me.” You know what this kid said? He looks at me in the middle of this fucking party like he’s a judge, and he goes, “That’s a very serious accusation Hannah.” And he walked away. And there I am and I’m just 11 again and I’m just getting my fucking neck rubbed. Because that stuff never goes away. If this is Hannah Horvath’s long-awaited revelation about her past, it’s a relatively mild one: no rape, no violence, just some neck rubbing in class. But the insidiousness of it is in how it fits a pattern of warped gender relations. Chuck is like Mr. Lanksy: an older, powerful man praising a younger woman’s intellectual talents—but also tying that praise to flesh. Hannah’s value as a writer and her value as a body were long ago swirled together by a gatekeeper, and Chuck did something very similar to the young would-be authors he had sex with. If they consented, what were they consenting to? A validation of their mind, or the notion that what really matters is their body? The trauma here is not merely what happened, either. It’s in how honest expressions of discomfort by women are met with hostility and invalidation by men on legalistic pretenses. Consent is hugely important, but the issue isn’t entirely a legal one in this case. It is a moral one, a social one, and an emotional one. Hannah doesn’t seem to want either Chuck or Mr. Lasky in jail. She just wants to tell the truth about a troubling, degrading dynamic, and she is told—both by the guy at the Bushwick party and by Chuck—that she is wrong to do so. The earlier trauma itself didn’t create the new one.The sick twist is that the trauma has now been amplified and reenacted on Hannah for speaking out. Chuck flatters her, convinces her he’s no monster, and then unzips and thrusts against her without warning. For a moment, Hannah seems confused; for another moment, she seems to consider going along with it—she grabs him. Then she freaks out and screams at him. He gives her an evil grin. All the respect he had previously paid her has been rendered a joke. His praise of her mind was foreplay to the reminder that what he really liked was her body. And in Hannah’s moment of her considering whether to give in—for the rush, the faux validation, and the avoidance of conflict that would come with saying “yes”—she was in the same impossible situation as so many women before her. As a public figure, Lena Dunham has written a lot about trauma, especially about how a rape in early adulthood has had a concrete effect on her life over the years. But she also, recently, apologized for saying she “wished” she had had an abortion so as to help destigmatize the practice—a very inartful expression of the idea that a person and their worldview is not merely a result of biography. Girls seems to be trying to reconcile the need to honor the past's influence on the present while recognizing that no individual's history is an island. Did the Mr. Lasky experience change Hannah forever? Maybe. He could be the reason why she wants “to write stories that make people feel less alone than [she] did,” the exact kind of story that brought her to Chuck’s apartment. But that earlier trauma, in itself, didn’t create the new one she experienced in this episode. Nor was it, theoretically, necessary for Hannah to have gone through what she went through in order to care about Chuck's accusers. Why is Chuck such a creep? Girls doesn’t say that it’s because of any specific circumstance in his past. It’s not just because he’s what he calls a “horny motherfucker.” It’s simply because he can be this way. Because he is successful and male, he can put women in spots like the one he put Hannah in. He can expect them to often consent, queasily or not. He can even expect that other men will tell the women not to complain about it later. What he can’t expect anymore, Girls suggests, is for the women to actually remain silent. In the final moments of the episode, Hannah watches Chuck’s daughter play flute. She alternates her gaze between the girl and her father, perhaps weighing the implications of what just happened and what she should do about it. If Hannah writes about his actions, she may hurt him in a way that harms his daughter. But she keeps staring at the girl. She may well be one day put in a situation like the one Hannah was just put in. She may already have been. As Hannah leaves, we see a handful of women walking the opposite direction up the sidewalk, and then turning to enter his building. It reads as symbolism: a nod to all of the women past and future who can relate to what Hannah just went through, as different as their individual backstories may be.25 Feb

CBC News

Censored Proposal to Ease Internet Control - Ahead of the recent Two Sessions meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, CPPCC vice-chair Luo Fuhe raised a proposal on improving the speed of access to foreign websites. Propaganda authorities ordered websites to immediately find and delete coverage of Luo’s proposal, which framed an argument for liberalization of China’s intense internet controls in terms of scientific progress and economic development. The full text of Luo Fuhe’s proposal, as archived on CDT Chinese, is translated below: Proposal to Improve and Increase Speed of Access to Foreign Websites The Fifth Plenary Session of the CCP’s 18th Central Committee systematically discussed “Five Great Development Concepts.” Included among these was the important topic of Open Development. In his 2015 Government Work Report, Premier Li Keqiang debuted the concept of “Internet Plus,” emphasizing its importance in the context of Open Development, and expressing hope to use the internet, the internet of things, 24-hour design and other means to drive traditional industries to create a new economic growth point. Normal State Council meetings also focused on the construction of high-speed broadband internet, proposing that “increased speed and reduced fees can improve people’s lives and also reduce the cost of entrepreneurial innovation, and provide strong support for ‘Internet Plus’.” We wholeheartedly endorse this development concept, and recognize that the establishment of fast, efficient, and free-flowing international and domestic network environments will become an important method to better implement the concept of Open Development, and to promote the economic and social development of the nation. However, the current trend is that the speed of accessing foreign websites from within China is becoming increasingly slow. This will have an enormous impact on China’s social and economic development, and on scientific research, and so we need to elevate our concern. For example, connections to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations or many foreign university websites are all very slow, opening a single page needing a minimum of 10-20 seconds. Some foreign university websites require a half hour or longer before finally loading. The research needs of many domestic expert scholars and graduate students require them to purchase circumvention software in order to access foreign websites. Some international students visiting family back in China are unable to complete and file required forms because they are unable to open their foreign university websites. Some expert scholars working in China must use their weekends or vacations to go to Hong Kong or other places to visit sites required for their research. Firms in China who visit foreign sites and find it very slow also have complaints:  in September 2016 the German Chamber of Commerce in China conducted its annual confidence survey of German businesses in China, which showed network supervision, slow access to overseas sites, and a lack of intellectual property protection to be unfavorable restricting factors. This year, Taiwanese delegates to the CPPCC and major leaders of the forum also reported in an informal discussion that many sites couldn’t be accessed normally from the mainland. Additionally, some well-known foreign search engines do not operate normally in China. The following factors lead to slow domestic access of overseas sites: 1) China’s outbound internet bandwidth is not sufficient. China’s access to the global internet has bandwidth restrictions, known as international gateway. The greater the bandwidth, the faster the connection to foreign websites. With the steadily increasing number of internet users, China’s present international internet gateway bandwidth is clearly insufficient. According to CNNIC data, by the end of 2015, China’s backbone international export bandwidth was 5,392,116Mb/second, an increase of 30.9% from 2014; but, the per capita bandwidth was only 4.04Kb/sec. This data is only 1/12 of the world’s per capita main bandwidth, and only ½ of Africa’s. 2) Internet supplier restrictions. Currently, there are very few providers of international network acceleration services, and they cannot meet network access needs. At the same time, mobile internet users are increasing rapidly. Ministry of Industry and Information Technology statistics show that at the end of 2015 China had reached 946 million mobile internet users, of which over 900 million were cellphone internet users. As a result, many network providers have switched their service focus to mobile terminals, making computer network speed improvement more of a challenge. 3) Strict internet supervision. According to provisions related to the State Council’s “Regulation on Internet Information Service Management,” and “Regulation on Telecommunications of the PRC,” China inspects and blocks certain foreign websites, mainly targeting search engines which refuse to filter results in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations; social networking sites which allow illegal domestic organizations to publicize their activities; as well as propaganda sites for hostile forces and terrorist groups. While we agree that the monitoring and blocking of foreign websites cannot be neglected as part of government efforts to protect the nation’s peace and stability,  we must also note that many foreign sites are not political, such as common websites for research, education, news, etc. In the interest of domestic scientific research, these foreign sites are a preferred source for obtaining the latest and most accurate information. If these sources cannot be accessed smoothly, the accuracy and timeliness of studies cannot be guaranteed. At present, there are many influential foreign news channels among the sites that have been checked and blocked, sites that are key for both retrieving and publishing information. It is worth debating the fact that all of this information is cut off simply because some of it is contested. For these reasons, I raise the following suggestions: 1) Increase the outbound internet bandwidth. Increase investment and efforts in network service hardware infrastructure construction, accelerate submarine fiber optic cable construction, and take another step towards raising the outbound internet bandwidth. This would also encourage China’s telecommunications companies and IT service firms to build networks and servers overseas, and to provide network infrastructure and acceleration services. 2) Encourage operators to increase attention to computer terminal speed upgrades. Rapidly develop the supply of international network acceleration services, encourage network operators to consider computer terminal speed, increase the use of computer network bandwidth, and raise the speed of accessing foreign sites.    3) Establish an authoritative list of negative foreign sites. Websites that contain content in violation of the “Regulation on Internet Information Service Management,” and “Regulation on Telecommunications of the PRC,” and other relevant laws and regulations should be on the list; they need to  be strictly regulated and blocked from access; regarding non-political websites, especially foreign university and research sites frequently visited by expert researchers and scholars, lift access restrictions and inspect them regularly; regarding neutral websites including search engines, news, technology, etc., filter sensitive content and carry out regular inspections in order to increase the efficiency of utilizing foreign internet resources. At the same time, websites with content that varies from page to page should be treated differently. Narrow down the negative list to specific webpages for more precise control over content access. [Chinese] Even Fang Bingxing, often called the “Father of the Great Firewall” for his role in building what has become the world standard in authoritarian internet censorship infrastructure, has been known to publicly use VPN circumvention software. VPNs have become less reliable in China in recent years, and authorities early this year rolled out new rules likely to further complicate connections. Last November, Freedom House labeled China “the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom.” © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Great Firewall, Internet connections, Internet management, two sessions, VPNsDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall10 Mar
Steps Toward New Civil Code Bring Skepticism, Debate - This year’s gathering of the Two Sessions in Beijing brought early steps towards the long-awaited goal of a unified civil code, legally enshrining a huge range of citizens’ rights and responsibilities. The current effort, which follows unsuccessful attempts in 1954, 1962, 1979, and 2001, is due for completion by 2020. A set of guiding principles has been discussed in recent days by the legislative National People’s Congress and advisory Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, following three readings by the NPC’s Standing Committee last year. From Cao Yin at China Daily: The code would unify laws related to non-criminal and non-administrative areas of the legal framework under a single piece of legislation. [… Sun Xianzhong, an NPC deputy and research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ law institute] is hopeful that the current two sessions will signal another step forward. “Our country has a number of laws to protect people’s civil rights, such as those related to property and contracts, but there is no unified legislation to integrate them. Also, some older laws need to be revised,” he said. “There are two steps, and the first is the draft currently under discussion, which aims to clarify general civil rights, duties and principles. These general provisions are difficult to draft, because they will guide the parts that follow.” The second step will involve special provisions, such as enacting new laws and amending a number of existing pieces of legislation related to specific activities and industrial sectors. [Source] The draft preamble covers topics from privacy and virtual property rights to protections for the elderly, “left behind” children, and “Good Samaritans.” It even, according to a Tsinghua law professor quoted by China Daily, promises to eradicate excessive mooncake packaging. At The Wall Street Journal, however, Josh Chin reports some skepticism about the new code’s effectiveness: Steve Dickinson, an attorney at Seattle-based law firm Harris Bricken who worked for years in China, said that some of the world’s most influential civil codes were adopted by autocrats: France’s was put in place by Napoleon, Germany’s by Otto von Bismarck and Japan’s under the Meiji emperor. “Civil codes tend to be gifts to the people from brutal dictators,” Mr. Dickinson said. “A government can write in a code that citizens have certain rights. If they cannot exercise those rights, who cares what is written?” [… The promise of “fair, reasonable compensation” in property disputes] will be difficult to interpret, likely leaving the problem unresolved, said Yu-Jie Chen, a legal expert and visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Civil code aside, plaintiffs remain at a disadvantage, according to Ms. Chen, since lawyers are sometimes jailed and intimidated for fighting for their client’s property rights. “As long as China doesn’t allow the legal profession to robustly represent their clients to fight for ‘fair and reasonable’ compensation, how this legal change is going to help the evictee remains a mystery to me,” she said. [Source] Read more on recent reprisals against lawyers via CDT. China’s own constitution offers examples of rights that have failed to translate from paper to reality, as Reuters’ Christian Shepherd noted on Tuesday. He also described disagreement over the new code’s handling of “personality rights”: Health, reputation, image, name and freedom are included, but the term is significantly narrower and de-politicized compared to human rights, according to Chinese academics. Proponents of individual rights have called for a dedicated section of the code, while others worry granting too many private rights could lead to revolution. […] “First, the list of rights is incomplete; second, the number of rights is insufficient; third, the civil rights system is curtailed,” [National People’s Legal Association deputy chairman Xu Xianming] wrote last year in an essay for the official magazine of China’s parliament. As China’s constitution cannot be cited in court, rights must be passed by parliament before can they be protected, Xu argued. China’s constitution on paper promises freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly among others. In practice, however, such provisions are not considered legally actionable and the party’s right to govern as it sees fit takes precedent. [Source] In a later report, Shepherd further outlined the contentious debates expected over the three year’s of the code’s development: “The hardest and most difficult part of the (civil code) compilation is handling everyone’s suggestions,” said Zhang Rongshun, deputy head of the NPC’s legal advisory body, adding that they had received over 70,000 recommendations during the preamble drafting. “The basic principles are easier, relatively speaking, but in the future (the law) will touch on all sorts of different things and there will be more suggestions,” Zhang said, speaking at a press conference on the general rules of the code. China’s laws go through a public consultation process, where early drafts are released to the public for comment. The volume of public input does not necessarily mean more changes to the final provisions, but fierce pushback on issues like property rights has in the past delayed laws from being passed on time. [Source] For more on the public consultation process, see CDT’s Q&A with George Washington University’s Steven Balla. © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: civil code, constitution, CPPCC, draft law, legal reform, legal system, National people's congress, privacy, property rights, two sessionsDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall9 Mar
China Criticizes U.S. Human Rights Record in 2016 - China’s State Council Information Office has issued the “Human Rights Record of the United States in 2016,” its now traditional response to the U.S. State Department’s annual reports on human rights conditions around the world. Beijing had already dismissed the China section of the latest U.S. report, released last week, as “unfounded and full of bias,” insisting that China “attaches great importance to protecting and promoting human rights.” Xinhua reports on this year’s criticism of America’s rights protection and hypocrisy: China’s report says that the United States poses once again as “the judge of human rights”. “Wielding ‘the baton of human rights,’ it pointed fingers and cast blame on the human rights situation in many countries while paying no attention to its own terrible human rights problems,” it says. “With the gunshots lingering in people’s ears behind the Statue of Liberty, worsening racial discrimination and the election farce dominated by money politics, the self-proclaimed human rights defender has exposed its human rights ‘myth’ with its own deeds,” it added. Concrete facts show that the United States saw continued deterioration in some key aspects of its existent human rights issues last year, according to the report. The United States had the second highest prisoner rate, with 693 prisoners per 100,000 of the national population, the report says. […] [Source] The SCIO has released a report on U.S. human rights each year since 1998. While this year’s SCIO document is largely consistent with previous years’, Reuters’ Michael Martina notes that it comes amid heightened global criticism of the rights situation under President Trump: On Wednesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about migrants, Mexicans and Muslims were “harmful and fuel xenophobic abuses” and that his immigration policies could lead to breaches of international law. Trump’s derogatory campaign rhetoric against Muslims and Mexican immigrants won enthusiastic backing from prominent white supremacists who embrace anti-Jewish, anti-black and anti-Muslim ideologies, though the president has disavowed their support. […] [Source] At the Hong Kong Free Press, Elson Tong notes that the 2016 election and Donald Trump’s campaign remarks appear to have inspired some of the points that made it into the SCIO report, which quotes the president directly at one point: On one occasion, the report directly cited President Trump as having said during his election campaign that “crime is out of control, and rapidly getting worse” – a claim which was disputed by some major US publications. […] The State Council’s criticism of political rights in the US was reduced from seven paragraphs in its 2015 report, to just four paragraphs in the 2016 edition. Nevertheless, numerous references were made to the November election, which saw the victory of Republican candidate Trump. “Voter turnout and support rate reached new low[s],” it read. “A growing number of Americans were disappointed or even angry about the election.” […] The State Council accused the US media of providing biased election coverage: “The media clearly chose their side in covering the election. [Source] The vast majority of media coverage of this year’s State Department reports focused not on their content, but on their uncommonly low-key launch. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to be present at the release, and an anonymous department official answered questions only by phone. Both preceding and following Trump’s electoral win last November, some China-focused experts suggested that the Trump administration’s expected downgrading of human rights as a priority could have a chilling effect on progress in China. Since his inauguration, others have found comparisons to be made between his White House and Zhongnanhai. Last year, in addition to a 2015 SCIO report, China’s state broadcaster CCTV also pushed back against U.S. criticism by airing a 45-minute documentary on U.S. rights abuses. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: diplomacy, donald Trump, SCIO, State Council, State Department, U.S. election 2016, U.S. human rightsDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall9 Mar
Person of the Week: Tang Danhong - CDT is expanding its wiki beyond the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon to include short biographies of public intellectuals, cartoonists, human rights activists, and other people pushing for change in China. The wiki is a work in progress. 唐丹红 Tang Danhong. (Source: Xin Nü Bao) Mercy to my lungs blowing white gales,Always the anxious prisoner. –Tang Danhong, “You Might Have Been My Brother“ Tang Danhong is a feminist poet, avant-garde filmmaker, and ally of the Tibetan people. She has written extensively about Tibetan history and culture, especially the conflict between Tibet and China. She boldly confronts her own relationship to the Tibetan people as a Han Chinese woman. Tang was born in 1965 in Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan. Her parents’ abuse when she was a child is a major theme of her controversial 2000 documentary, “Nightingale, Not the Only Voice.” Before Tang became a filmmaker, she studied Library Science at Sichuan University, then went on to become an important poet in the 1980s. She won the Liu Li’an Poetry Prize in 1995. She also opened the Kafka Bookshop in 1994, which quickly became a gathering place for Chengdu intellectuals. Tang started traveling to Tibet and befriended Tibetan writer and activist Tsering Woeser. Tang’s first documentary, “At Tsurphu Monastery” (在楚布寺), came out in 1998. She has made several films about Tibet, including “Nima Incarnate” (降神者尼玛), “At Samsara’s Door” (在轮回之门), and “Zhaxika” (扎西卡). More recently, Tang traveled to India with exiled writer Sangjey Kep to collect oral histories from elderly Tibetan exiles who had fled Tibet as the People’s Liberation Army entered and tightened control of the region in the 1950s. Kep and Tang published 11 interviews in the book “Troubled Times: Voices of Tibetan Refugees,” released in 2014 in Taiwan by Snowland Publishing House. (CDT translated four of the interviews into English.) Tang argues that hostility toward Tibetans and institutional repression of the Tibetan people only push more Tibetans to favor independence over autonomy within the Chinese state, and to protest their repression in brutal ways, like self-immolation. In response to the March 2008 riots in Lhasa, Tang wrote: Tibet is disappearing. The spirit which makes her beautiful and peaceful is disappearing. She is becoming us, becoming what she does not want to become. What other choice does she have when facing the anxiety of being alienated? To hold onto her tradition and culture, and revive her ancient civilization? Or to commit suicidal acts which will only add to Han nationalists’ bloody, shameful glory? [Source] Tang currently lives in Israel, where she teaches Chinese at Tel Aviv University. She blogs at Moments of Samsara and tweets @DanHongTang. Entry written by Anne Henochowicz. Can’t get enough of subversive Chinese netspeak? Check out our latest ebook, “Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang.” Includes dozens of new terms and classic catchphrases, presented in a new, image-rich format. Available for pay-what-you-want (including nothing). All proceeds support CDT. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: feminism, Han, human rights activists, Tang Danhong, Tibetan culture, Tibetans, word of the weekDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall9 Mar
Women’s Day and the Fight for Gender Equality in China - International Women’s Day was first celebrated by the Socialist Party of America and later in Europe to call for women’s equal rights, suffrage, and right to strike, but is now celebrated in China by giving women half a day off work and incentivizing them to shop. Official celebrations often tend toward showcasing women’s physical attributes and fashion sense. This year, the official People’s Daily newspaper honored the day with a photo shoot of women construction workers “transformed into elegant ladies,” in glamorous dresses and full makeup. In a separate editorial, People’s Daily announced that China is “quietly stepping into the ‘She’ era,” while lauding women’s accomplishments. Several tweets from state media accounts showed how far attitudes toward the holiday have strayed from its origins: Females at #twosessions. #HappyWomensDay — China SCIO (@chinascio) March 8, 2017 Just in case @globaltimesnews deletes that #internationalwomensday tweet, here it is for permanent posterity: — Jerome Taylor (@JeromeTaylor) March 8, 2017 This — Yuen Chan (@xinwenxiaojie) March 8, 2017 China’s feminist activists are fighting against the commercialization of the holiday to try to return to its roots. At the Washington Post, Emily Rauhala and Xin Jin profile Wei Tingting as one of “five women changing their world for the better”: In China, International Women’s Day has for the most part been commercialized — it’s about buying flowers, not building a movement. This year, Wei hopes people will take the day to reflect on the fight for gender equality. The day is “not for sales in shops, not for roses, not for vacations,” she said, “It’s for women’s rights and human rights. [Source] Wei was one of five women detained two years ago while launching a public campaign against sexual harassment. One of her associates, Li Maizi (also known as Li Tingting), writes in The Guardian about the status of the women’s movement in China since their detention and release: Two years later, is there any hope for the Chinese feminist movement? Definitely, yes. Since my arrest, there has been both progress and a backlash against women’s rights. On the one hand, the first legislation against domestic violence was passed in December 2015, an event of huge significance. Women who have been beaten by their husbands or partners now have the law on their side. On the other hand, state surveillance of NGOs and feminist activists is increasing, and those who have tried to hold the government to account on human rights abuses have faced crackdowns. […] However, despite the pushback against grassroots organisations, and thanks to women’s issues becoming more prominent on social media, women are becoming more active in the fight against gender discrimination. When I was released from detention, I faced a tough decision: should I continue my activism, or give up? I chose to continue. What I do is for the rights of women all over the world. But I can’t help but be especially concerned about China. My own experiences, and the experiences of my friends in China, have had a profound effect on me. [Source] For SupChina, Jiayun Feng writes about many of the challenges faced by China’s feminists, stemming from both prejudice from the general public and interference from the government. Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch writes about the government’s tactic “to silence independent women’s voices and replace them with tame ones trumpeting the government’s achievements,” including the recent shuttering of the Feminist Voices Weibo account. The closure of the account has been both applauded by anti-feminist critics and condemned by its supporters. Both subtle and overt discrimination against women is still rampant in the workplace as well, according to a recent study from the Zhaopin online employment platform. Yet according to a report from China Labour Bulletin, women are increasingly using the courts to fight back: According to the study, 22 percent of women report severe or very severe discrimination when seeking employment, while 14 percent of men raised the issue. Employers across China often state a gender preference in job postings, even indirectly as in Xiao Zhou’s case, and women are sometimes asked about family planning when applying for jobs. White-collar, college-educated female job hunters like Xiao Zhou don’t seem to have an advantage, survey respondents say. Compared to men, higher-level graduates are more than twice as likely to be discriminated against when they applied for jobs, with 43 percent of female graduates encountering severe discrimination, according to the Zhaopin report. […] Such explicit discrimination has faced pushback from courts in recent years. Xiao’s complaints, like earlier, more high profile cases, tend to deal exclusively with overt discrimination faced by women, glossing over other, more subtle ways in which discrimination shows up. [Source] Some of those more subtle manifestations of discrimination were made apparent in a survey from Sixth Tone: On #InternationalWomensDay, we look at attitudes towards #GenderEquality in China — Sixth Tone (@SixthTone) March 8, 2017 When it comes to work, how equal are men and women in China? #InternationalWomensDay — Sixth Tone (@SixthTone) March 8, 2017 For IAPS Dialogue, Séagh Kehoe writes about progress in China’s women’s movement in recent years but questions why ethnicity isn’t more widely discussed among Chinese feminists: How might we account for the absence of attention for ethnicity in an otherwise highly intersectional Chinese feminism? Might it be that delving into the question of ethnicity could simply have been considered too politically sensitive given the Party-state’s heavy crackdowns across Tibet and Xinjiang in the past decade? Could it be that Han feminists were practicing a strategic silence of sorts, making occasional mention of racial injustices in the US and elsewhere, but avoiding a more detailed examination of the domestic situation for fear of attracting more negative attention from authorities than they already have? When put to some Chinese feminist friends, I was told quite explicitly that this was not the case. The problem, they noted, was that Han feminists lack knowledge about the situation Uyghurs and Tibetans face. Given the heavy censorship and distorted media coverage about protests in Tibet and Xinjiang, the punishments faced by Tibetans and Uyghurs for dissent, the constant stream of propaganda about the Han state so generously developing both regions and dishing out subsidies to help ethnic minorities, it is perhaps not surprising that the issues of Tibetan and Uyghur women could easily become a blind spot in intersectional practice among Chinese feminists. The absence of engagement with specific issues faced by Tibetan and Uyghur women in many ways simply reflects the wider culture of Han normativity that pervades Chinese officialdom, education, and media. [Source] © Sophie Beach for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: activism, feminism, Free the Five, International Women's Day, Li Tingting, women labor, women's rightsDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall9 Mar
Minitrue: Delete Reports on Call to Ease Internet Control - The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source. All websites, please find and delete reports and posts on Luo Fuhe’s “Proposal to Improve and Increase Speed of Access to Foreign Websites” as soon as possible. (March 4, 2017) [Chinese] The annual Two Sessions of the legislative National People’s Congress and advisory Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference have been held in Beijing over the past few days. While the central leadership’s voice dominates the proceedings, individual delegates are also able to put forward their own pet causes and proposals. Among this year’s was a call to rein in internet restrictions, described by The Guardian’s Benjamin Haas: China’s sprawling internet censorship regime is harming the country’s economic and scientific progress, a senior official has said in a rare public rebuke of longstanding Communist party policy. Internet restrictions had also cooled enthusiasm among overseas investors and should be relaxed for politically innocuous content, said Luo Fuhe, vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body to China’s rubber-stamp parliament. […] “From within China, attempting to visit to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization or a lot of foreign university website is very slow,” Luo said. “Opening each page takes at least 10-20 seconds and some foreign university sites need more than half an hour to open.” […] “Some researches rely on software to climb over the firewall to complete their own research tasks. This is not normal,” Luo added. Luo, a former scientific development official, said he hoped to work with others to introduce legislation lifting the ban on websites that are not politically sensitive and are necessary for scientific purposes. [Source] In November, Freedom House described China as “the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom,” while a Washington Post editorial accused it of building “the world’s largest online thought prison.” Other delegates’ proposals this year include organ donation reform, the introduction of criminal responsibility for negligent parents, lowering the legal marriage age to 18 and abolishing remaining limits on the number of children couples can have, and cracking down on illegal immigration from Africa. Last year’s suggestions included calls for an end to televised confessions and steps to prevent abuses of prisoners in pre-trial detention. Amid fears of repercussions for those raising such potentially sensitive suggestions, Amnesty International’s Joshua Rosenzweig told The Financial Times that “to the extent that the Two Meetings have any importance, it’s as a moment where the bounds of free expression and reporting become more elastic. If you’re left with few other options, this is the one chance you get.” This freedom does not extend to non-members pushing sensitive causes, who are routinely detained or removed from the capital. The AP’s Louise Watt and Isolda Morillo describe one such case this year, that of a prominent advocate for sex workers and HIV patients: Far from the pomp of the 10-day gathering at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Ye is among those caught up in an annual roundup of people the ruling Communist Party considers threats to the state, all to ensure the session passes without incident. Known critics are placed under tightened restrictions and ordinary people coming to Beijing with grievances are prevented from traveling or snatched off the streets of the capital. This year’s meetings also come amid China’s broadest and most intense assault on civil society since nongovernmental groups were grudgingly allowed more freedom to operate more than a decade ago. […] Ye reluctantly left her studio in the village of Songzhuang last week on the orders of police. An officer reached at the local Public Security Bureau on Monday declined to comment on the case. Ye said she went to stay with friends in the nearby village of Beisi and within days again ran into pressure to leave. “The Communist Party secretary of the village told local residents not to rent to me because I’ve long been on the blacklist,” Ye said. [Source] Thousands of petitioners, who are often drawn to the capital during major political events to present local grievances to central authorities, have also been targeted, as Radio Free Asia reported last week. A BBC team planning to record one petitioner’s journey to Beijing was assaulted in Hunan and forced to sign a confession to trying to conduct an “illegal interview” and other “behavior causing a bad impact.” Other topics at the Two Sessions have included a modest increase in military spending, despite recent calls for a bigger jump; a new “declaration of rights” and responsibilities for the public; elections in Hong Kong; pledges to fight pollution and poverty; tax and currency policy; a “Greater Bay Area” scheme to boost integration between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau, and the proposed transformation of Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone into a “comprehensive reform experiment zone” and “a bridgehead for the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative.” The key document from the event is Premier Li Keqiang’s annual Report on the Work of the Government, available in both Chinese and English at The Wall Street Journal. For those lacking the appetite for the full 16,000-word text, China’s State Council Information Office offers some highlights, while South China Morning Post’s Jun Mai suggests some reading tips including “skip the first half” and “flip to the second-last page.” Former South China Morning Post editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei noted “two issues which are not on the agenda but are most likely to be at the forefront of attendees’s minds”: the partial leadership transition anticipated at the Party’s 19th Congress later this year, and the political and economic uncertainties presented by Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States, to which Premier Li Keqiang may have alluded in his keynote address on Sunday. The proceedings have emphasized the Party’s central role and particularly Xi’s status as “core leader” or, less formally, “Chairman of Everything.” Xi’s consolidation of power, which critics suggest has distracted from significant reform elsewhere during his first term, is likely to continue at the 19th Congress with the strategic promotion of his allies and protégés. Conventionally, Xi and Li would be the only current members of the Politburo’s Standing Committee to continue to the next five-year term. But suspicions linger that Party disciplinary chief Wang Qishan will break the Committee’s unofficial retirement protocol as the head of a new unified disciplinary organ for both Party and state. This departure could pave the way for a rumored extension of Xi’s own rule beyond 2022. Three prominent contenders to join the Standing Committee this year have made cautious appearances at the Two Sessions. Read more recent updates on the 19th Congress shuffle via CDT. Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011. © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: 19th Party Congress, activists, ccp leadership, CPPCC, Directives from the Ministry of Truth, donald Trump, Internet censorship, Internet control, leadership transition, National people's congress, NPC 2017, petitioners, two sessions, Xi Jinping, Ye HaiyanDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall7 Mar
Beijing Targets South Korean Economy After Antimissile Deployment - Following the United States’ deployment of an antimissile system in South Korea—which began yesterday after another missile test from North Korea—Beijing has expressed strong opposition towards both Washington and Seoul. The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system was agreed upon between the Obama and Park administrations last July, and Beijing quickly voiced concern that the system could use its surveillance capabilities against China in the event of military conflict between the two superpowers. The New York Times’ Camilla Schick and Robin Lindsay provide a video report on Beijing’s official response to the deployment: The New York Times’ Gerry Mullany and Michael R. Gordon further report on Beijing’s anger, noting that state media had encouraged boycotts and street protest against South Korean conglomerate Lotte, who had agreed to give up land for the THAAD storage facility: Yang Xiyu, a former senior Chinese official who once oversaw talks with North Korea, said China was worried that the deployment of the system would open the door to a broader American network of antimissile systems in the region, possibly in places like Japan and the Philippines, to counter a growing Chinese military. “China can see benefits only for a U.S. regional plan, not for South Korea’s national security interest,” he said. The state media recently encouraged Chinese citizens to boycott South Korean products and companies over the Thaad issue. The Chinese authorities recently forced the closing of 23 stores owned by Lotte, a South Korean conglomerate that agreed to turn over land that it owned for use in the Thaad deployment. Hundreds of Chinese protested at Lotte stores over the weekend, some holding banners that read, “Get out of China.” [Source] Following Lotte’s announcement of the land deal late last month, The Global Times reported on netizen anger coming from China, and other Chinese companies’ efforts to hit the Korean conglomerate: As of Tuesday, the latest post on Lotte duty free store’s official weibo account had received more than 20,000 comments, almost all of which called for a boycott against the South Korea brand. “China did not welcome you, please get the hell out of here and go back home,” a commenter named JUSTGO wrote. The comment received 533 likes. “It’s a very simple logic…Lotte is making lucrative profit from Chinese consumers yet they are standing against us and supporting the South Korean government. In other words, the group is actually using our money to put us in danger. How can Chinese tolerate that? Another Weibo users named Ranlins said. A topic entitled “Lotte to provide land for THAAD” on Weibohas been read 8.56 million times, where popular items under the brand as well as the location of theLotte Mart supermarket in China have been listed so Chinese can stay away from them. Some Chinese companies are also joining the boycott. Domestic e-commerce giant, which announced a strategic partnership with in September 2015,postponed the opening of its Lotte Mart online store on Tuesday morning. [Source] For more on the government’s cultivation of nationalistic online protest, and impatience with it among some Chinese, see previous coverage via CDT. Chinese netizens weren’t unanimous in directing anger towards South Korea. Global Voices Oiwan Lam translates Chinese-language tweets and weibo criticizing the official backlash: “With the government’s failure in diplomacy, it incites people to protest. The intention is similar to the Boxer Rebellion during the Qing Dynasty. Now there is a centralized authority which hand outs internal notices to all government and party branches, asking members of the youth league to participate in anti-Korea and anti-Lotte protests. Lotte is a Korean corporation and it has to serve the country’s interest. You can’t change its nature. The protest will only do harm to Lotte’s Chinese partner.” […] “Assisting the tiger. China cannot welcome Lotte. Which is more destructive, South Korea’s THAAD or North Korea’s nuclear bomb? North Korea has VX nerve agent and nuclear bombs, aren’t these more threatening? Kim III keeps slamming China to its face, but the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t even dare to fart back but keep cursing South Korea, inciting hatred, boycotting Korean corporations, such a government is so low.” […] “Follow the call and boycott this and that. Follow the call and crush a few Korean vehicles. All these actions only make our enemy happy. The enemy hasn’t launched the attack and we are attacking our own people. The vehicles you crushed belong to your people, right?” [Source] CDT resident cartoonist Badiucao also saw a comparison to be made between the anti-Lotte protests and the anti-imperialist, nationalist Boxer Rebellion of 1899. The Boxer-inspired protester below is carrying a banner that reads “Support the Party, Extinguish Korea”: “New Boxer Rebellion,” by Badiucao. Bloomberg notes that Lotte Shopping Co. shares have fallen 8.4 percent since the land deal was announced, and also reports on further efforts by Beijing to exert economic pressure by discouraging Chinese tourism to South Korea. From Bruce Einhorn, Sohee Kim, and Kyunghee Park: […B]efore South Korea decided to host the U.S.’ Thaad missile-defense system [, Chinese tourists made up 85 percent of foreign visitors to the resort island of Jeju]. China views the deployment as a security threat and is discouraging tourists from taking Korean vacations. “We’ve seen about a 20 percent decline in Chinese tourists so far this year,” said Byun Chang-sik, a general manager at the Jeju Teddy Bear Museum, where the stuffed animals strike poses resembling The Beatles and Mona Lisa. “There’s nothing we can fix on our own.” […] Worse is to come. The China National Tourism Administration ordered travel agents to stop selling tour packages to South Korea starting March 15, according to the state-run Korea Tourism Organization. Jeju received almost 3.1 million Chinese visitors last year. […] Government pressure could eventually hurt sales of Korean cars, mobile phones and chemicals, said Kim Kyung-hwan, a strategist at Hana Financial Investment Co. in Seoul. China is the largest market for Hyundai Motor Co., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. [Source] A more recent report from the Global Times on the continuation of  “China’s cultural cold war” against South Korea notes that popular Korean dramas have been pulled from Chinese streaming sites, while Chinese adaptations of Korean shows are attempting to distance themselves from the originals: “I’m bored. I don’t know what to do with myself,” avid TV fan Stephanie Shi told the Global Times. Before last week, watching Korean TV series was a major part of her daily routine. Changes haven’t just been limited to the removal of South Korea programming. Chinese TV programs adapted from South Korean shows have also undergone some changes to distance themselves from their South Korean sister shows. The Chinese version of popular celebrity game show Running Man, which is now in its fifth season, changed its name to Keep Running a few weeks ago. I am a Singer, also in its fifth season this year, is now Singer. These changes are just a part of China’s informal sanctions against South Korea, along with Chinese travel agencies suspension of travel packages to South Korea and Chinese citizens boycotting South Korea’s Lotte conglomerate, the company that agreed to provide land for the deployment of  THAAD. [Source] While South Korea considers filing a formal WTO complaint against China for violation of trade deals, an op-ed from English-language paper The Korea Times asks Beijing to “grow up,” attempting to situate the government-fed anti-Korea sentiment into the history of Chinese nationalism and incompetence: China often acts like a spoiled child, doing whatever it takes to get what it wants. […] This state-sponsored backlash against a chosen target is typical for China. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong marshaled hundreds of thousands of “Red Guards” to weed out his political rivals and get the nation back under his control. Millions of Chinese died, the entire nation turned into re-education gulags and society was upended. Toward the end of Qing Dynasty at the start of the 20th century, rebellious Boxers arose, encouraged by Empress Dowager Cixi. Foreigners were trapped in Beijing under siege by the Boxers and the Chinese imperial army for 55 days. The city was “liberated” by foreign expeditionary forces, signaling the end of the last Chinese dynasty and bringing foreign imperial powers in to take pieces of the Middle Kingdom. What these two historic events and the latest Korean bashing have in common are the presence of incompetent leaders that pander to the population’s nationalistic sentiments. [Source] The spat comes as South Korea is mired in political uncertainty, with suspended President Park Geun-hye awaiting a decision regarding her impeachment over a Samsung bribery conspiracy. The THAAD system is controversial in South Korea: thousands in the rural region where the system is being deployed protested against it in July, and Moon Jae-in, the candidate set to be the front-runner in the likely presidential replacement election, earlier expressed concern that THAAD deployment could harm relations with China and Russia. Meanwhile, with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson set to have talks with President Xi next week, The Washington Post’s Emily Rauhala reports that the THAAD deployment could push Beijing to adopt a harder line towards the Trump administration: China’s foreign ministry did not specify any actions against the United States Tuesday, but Beijing’s displeasure over the antimissile system marked an abrupt change in tone after a generally cautious approach until now toward the new American president. Though some Chinese initially welcomed the idea of a Trump presidency, convinced a seasoned businessman would take a practical approach to politics, Trump’s early moves on Taiwan spooked Beijing. Since the inauguration, Chinese officials have taken a careful approach, playing up the positive and downplaying areas of disagreement, including Trump administration comments on the South China Sea. That is, until Geng’s statement on Tuesday. Plans to deploy the THAAD system, which predates the Trump presidency, have long been a source of tension between Seoul and Beijing.  [Source] Rauhala also notes the contradiction between Beijing’s politically motivated attacks against Korean businesses and Xi Jinping’s stated willingness to take up the role of free trade and globalization cheerleader amid the global order uncertainty of Trump’s election. At Bloomberg, David Tweed reports on how the mounting tensions between the Koreas and China are raising Trump’s geopolitical stakes in Asia: While Trump initially signaled he’d be open to talks [with Pyongyang], more recently he’s indicated he could follow Barack Obama’s lead in insisting North Korea abandon its nuclear program before negotiations can occur. The stakes for Trump are potentially higher than Obama, given Pyongyang’s progress in developing an intercontinental missile capable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear warhead. The recent events are probably Kim’s way — after a hiatus in his provocations — to try and force Trump to the table with concessions, analysts said. […] “Efforts over the past eight years to slow the North down and prevent it from achieving this goal, relying on a mix of puny sticks and carrots plus otherwise trying to ignore the problem, have been unsuccessful,” Joel Wit, a former state department official who met North Korean diplomats in Geneva, wrote in The Atlantic in November after the meeting. Yet at the start of the year, Trump signaled he’d revert to Obama’s policy. He vowed to prevent Pyongyang from developing the capability to strike the U.S. with a missile — without saying how — and harangued China for not doing enough to deal with North Korea. [Source] For more geopolitical analysis of the THAAD standoff, see Q&As from Bloomberg and The Washington Post. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: badiucao, Barack Obama, diplomacy, donald Trump, foreign trade, missile test, nationalism, North Korea, political cartoons, south korea, South Korea relations, trade barriers, U.S. relations, United StatesDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall7 Mar


Health Secretary Tom Price has his own plan to start destroying Medicare - Because Trumpcare isn't going to do enough to destroy Medicare, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is doing his bit to hasten it along. HHS Secretary Tom Price is backing legislation that will allow physicians to bill seniors for charges that are more than the rates approved by Medicare. He claims the move would draw more physicians to enroll in the program. [...] Current law does not allow physicians participating in Medicare to bill patients more than the program's payment rate for any service. Doctors not in the Medicare program can balance. But in response to a query from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) during his confirmation process, Price said he favored changing the law to let doctors recoup unreimbursed Medicare costs, a practice known as balance billing. Price's argument is that you'll get more doctors willing to see Medicare patients if they get full reimbursement—even if it has to come from their patients rather than the program. This, supposedly, will make it easier for Medicare enrollees to find doctors. Except that's not really a problem: "according to the March 2016 Medicare Payment Advisory Commission report, 'most beneficiaries report they are able to obtain timely appointments for routine care, illness, or injury, and most beneficiaries are able to find a new doctor without a problem.'" This isn't about making sure seniors get healthcare. It's also not about saving Medicare dollars and strengthening the program. It's about undermining Medicare—making it cover less of people's care and therefore making it less helpful, and less popular, thereby easier to do away with eventually. These guys are playing a long game—one that will leave us without the guarantee of Medicare.13 min
Opposition to Trump continues to grow—and from some unlikely sources - How much does Donald Trump suck? Donald Trump sucks so much that he may be altering the face of American religion itself. For decades, the Mennonites’ objection to war was the most notable intersection of their community and politics. But that might be changing now as a result of Trump’s executive order on immigration, a policy he reissued Monday after an earlier version was rebuffed by the courts. Assisting immigrants, especially refugees, is a central tenant of the Mennonite faith. The plight of immigrants and refugees is especially resonant for many Mennonites, who fled from Europe to the New World hundreds of years ago in the face of religious persecution. All right, so perhaps Trump's core platform of racism and paranoia is not shifting the foundations of American religious belief—though if we’re to be honest about it, it probably should. But that quote is from a very nice McClatchy profile of Mennonite protesters, a phrase that didn't exist a few years ago. Mennonites, like several other conservative-leaning Christian groups, give politics a wide berth as a matter of religious principle. The Trump team's overt hostility toward refugees, though, is too far. [Lindsey Martin Corbo]'s outlook changed in January, the Saturday morning after Trump first issued his executive order on immigration. The news devastated Corbo. “I cried. I cried a lot,” Corbo said. “We had guests there. I scared my husband because I was not coherent because I was crying. I just thought it was so incredibly mean, the way we were speaking about people who are in a really terrible situation.” [...] Their anger compelled them to take action. They attended the Women’s March on Washington in January before participating in what Corbo described as “every sort of organization and meeting we could attend.” She's now founded her own group to research immigration issues and groups. So there's a bit of positive news, after weeks of bad. No, the opposition to Trump's cruel acts isn't going away. If anything it's still growing, as his blatantly racist and mean-spirited policies convince more and more Americans that they have a moral duty to oppose those acts.48 min
North Carolina cops tell driver it's illegal to record police, except that's a lie - Back in January, BuzzFeed news released a story in which they reviewed 62 examples of video footage in which a cop’s statement in a police record or testimony directly contradicted the video evidence. They discovered that in almost every case, the officer lied to retroactively justify their actions. While we know that clearly not all cops are liars, Justice Department reports from places like Ferguson, Chicago, Baltimore, and Cleveland (to name a few) offer evidence that there is certainly a problem within the institution of policing—whether it’s individual officers who lie or a culture within some police departments that inadvertently, or worse, actively encourage lying.  A recent incident which took place in Wilmington, North Carolina, on February 26 offers further proof. Jesse Bright, a criminal defense lawyer who also drives Uber to cut down on his student loans, was pulled over after picking up a passenger. The passenger allegedly was leaving from a suspected drug house that police had been watching. When Bright’s passenger was asked to exit the car, Bright began filming the incident on his cell phone. That’s when an officer told him to stop recording because it is illegal to film an officer on duty. Except that’s a blatant lie. It is a person’s legal right to film and take photos of any person who is in legal sight, according to Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous.  Here’s part of what transpires in the video, which you can see below. In one of three videos Bright posted on Facebook, the following exchange occurs: Officer: “Hey bud, turn that off, OK?” Bright: “No, I’ll keep recording, thank you. It’s my right.” Officer: “Don’t record me. You got me?” Bright: “Look, you’re a police officer on duty. I can record you.” Officer: “Be careful because there is a new law. Turn it off or I’ll take you to jail.” Bright: “For recording you? What is the law?” Officer: “Step out of the car.” Bright: “What are you arresting me for? I’m sitting here in my car. I’m just recording in case anything happens. I’m surrounded by five police officers.” Officer: “You’re being a jerk.”08:35
Trump's plans for NASA are not exactly rocket science - Modern-day Republicans don’t care for science, or anything else that challenges authoritarian propaganda with plausible inferences built on observable facts. High on that list is environmental research, particularly climate science, where the findings might conceivably someday force global fossil fuel entities—and foreign oligarchs like Putin—to trim a few pennies off their earnings. So they’ve come up with a fairly sleazy scheme to starve climate science while pretending to give a crap about it. Step one is to cut it away from NASA, because that’s an organization with residual moon-shot credibility even in the most fevered wing nut swamps, and pretend NOAA will take up the slack: At a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing yesterday, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he wants a “rebalancing” of NASA’s mission. The lawmaker told E&E News he wants the agency to reprioritize its mission because the Obama administration cut space exploration funds. Specifically, that could mean NASA’s work on climate change would go to another agency, with or without funding, or possibly would get cut. Gosh, if only Lamar Smith had influence with some sort of funding agency, a body of legislators perhaps, one that could increase funding and thus offset the stingy, dastardly actions of the detested anti-NASA Obama … then step two, strangle climate science over at NOAA, will it will be less visible:  The administration is seeking a nearly 20 percent cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's budget, including to its satellite division, The Washington Post reported. That includes significant cuts to the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which has produced research that disproved the notion of a global warming pause. NOAA's satellites provide invaluable data on climate change that are used by researchers throughout the world. The NOAA cuts target the Office of Ocean and Atmospheric Research, which conducts the bulk of the agency's climate research. Not exactly rocket science, nor is it anything new. This is standard operating procedure for the anti-science wing. Bait, switch, and murder.08:00
Voting Rights Roundup: New Mexico House Democrat sides with GOP to kill automatic voter registration - Leading Off ● New Mexico: Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and New Mexico Democrats recently introduced a plan to automatically register every eligible voter when they obtain a driver’s license, unless they affirmatively opt out. Despite Democratic majorities in both chambers of the legislature, the bill nonetheless died a stunning death in committee late last month when Democratic state Reps. Debbie Rodella and Daymon Ely sided with Republicans to block it. Campaign Action Ely claimed that he voted against the bill because doing so would allow him to re-introduce an amended version, which he later did. However, the revised bill was so watered-down that it effectively was no longer an automatic registration measure whatsoever. This new version, which unanimously passed committee, would simply ask eligible voters if they would like to register when obtaining a driver’s license rather than automatically doing so unless the person opts out. The New Mexico Senate also approved a bill that would change the voter registration deadline from 28 days before Election Day to just three days prior. Moving the date would allow voters to register and cast a ballot on the same day during early voting, which could lead to higher turnout. However, Rodella once again sided with the Republicans on the House elections committee to kill that bill, too, before the full chamber could vote on it. Automatic and same-day registration always faced the possibility of a veto from Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, but had Democrats successfully demonstrated that the legislature could pass these bills, that would have been encouraging for 2018. Martinez faces term limits next year and Democrats could regain the governor’s office—and with it, unified control over state government. However, as these recent votes reveal, Republican opposition isn’t the only thing preventing New Mexico Democrats from passing laws designed to make voting easier. Democrats need to get their own house in order, and that starts with a primary challenge to Rodella, who sits in an overwhelmingly blue district that Barack Obama won by a 74-22 margin and that Hillary Clinton undoubtedly carried easily as well. A strong progressive could assuredly win in this seat. What’s more, most of the residents of Rodella’s district are Latino, an often under-represented community that would benefit strongly from automatic voter registration and more generous registration deadlines. Unfortunately, this sort of behavior is nothing new from Rodella, who in 2013 voted with the GOP to bottle up a same-sex marriage law in committee. It’s long past time for her to go.07:04
Open thread for night owls: Joe Maxwell urges Democrats not to give up on rural America - Zach Carter writes—While Trump Was Dominating In Deep-Red Oklahoma, This Democrat Won A Landslide:  As precinct data rolled into his war room at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City last November, Joe Maxwell realized his team had a landslide on its hands. He saw no need to delay the victory speeches, having been up since before daybreak orchestrating a statewide get-out-the-vote operation for what was expected to be a close contest. His team took the elevator to the rooftop bar, where about 50 small farmers gathered anxiously to watch the returns and, they hoped, celebrate. For the previous 14 months, they had battled a so-called “right to farm” ballot initiative, with Maxwell serving as “the general” (to quote his friends) of that campaign. Corporate agricultural interests in Oklahoma hoped the measure would protect factory farming from environmental, food safety and humanitarian regulations. The deep-red state’s Republican governor and every member of its all-GOP congressional delegation backed it. In response, Maxwell, who works for the Humane Society, had helped assemble an opposition force of animal welfare activists, environmental groups, Native American tribes and family farmers. Few political strategists would have picked that coalition to overcome the influence of the state’s dominant industry. But there Maxwell was, quietly enjoying a beer as he listened to former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson (D) deliver the news of their crushing victory to a cheering audience. The “no” vote had carried every congressional district in the state and defeated Big Ag by more than 20 points. [...] Running up the score in population centers isn’t helping much with down-ballot contests either. As culturally liberal people move away from suburban and rural communities and concentrate themselves in cities, they’ve increased the Democratic Party’s margins in already blue areas — but decreased them in swing suburban, exurban and rural districts. At the same time, Republicans have aggressively gerrymandered many previously competitive districts, redrawing them to neutralize Democratic votes. Those two factors make it extremely difficult going forward for Democrats to win the U.S. House of Representatives, where they’ve shed 69 seats since 2008, or state legislatures, where they’ve ceded more than 900 seats over the same stretch, without revitalizing their position in exurban and rural America. After the 2016 disaster, Democrats tasked Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) with performing an independent “autopsy” of the party’s disappointing performance in House races across the country. His team conjured a 350-variable mathematical model, studying hundreds of districts. The massive resulting equation predicts doom for Democrats in districts with few college-educated voters, but sees promise in wealthier, diversifying suburbs. It suggests a strategy that effectively writes off all of rural America. “They’re just wrong,” Maxwell said. “They can’t do that, and they don’t have to.” Maxwell’s brand of politics looks beyond the poll-tested analytics that dominate Washington. Even the best mathematical models — tools like Maloney’s current project — are only useful at a particular snapshot in time. They treat voters as static data points, rather than human beings capable of changing their minds. A model might focus on the number of Democrats registered in a district to predict the party’s performance in an upcoming race. But models can’t explain how to create more Democrats in that district. [...] A Calendar of Resistance Events QUOTATION OF THE DAY ”We can either have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.”                     ~ Louis Brandeis, Other People's Money And How The Bankers Use It, 1914 TWEET OF THE DAY xnever forget how republicans cheered for bad economic numbers because they thought it would hurt obama.never.forget.— Oliver Willis (@owillis) March 10, 2017 BLAST FROM THE PAST At Daily Kos on this date in 2011—Wisconsin legislator files complaint over Walker's stealthy union-busting vote: Madison's Cap Times: Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, filed a complaint Thursday morning with the Dane County district attorney charging that the Joint Conference Committee that convened at 6 p.m. Wednesday and passed an amended version of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill is in violation of the open meetings law Earlier, former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, who now represents AFSCME, said it was "clear...on it's face" that the conference committee meeting was violated Wisconsin's open meetings law which requires twenty-four hours public notice. The meeting last night was held after less than two hours of notice, far short of the statutory requirement. Even if courts conclude that the meeting was held in violation of the law, it isn't a guarantee that their action will be voided. But at the very least, it gives opponents of the legislation a cause of action to keep the the fight against the legislation alive even as recall efforts pick up steam. HIGH IMPACT STORIES • TOP COMMENTS On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: Gop doesn’t know how insurance works, how health care works, or how Congress works. But here’s a new health care insurance bill, anyway! Trump rewards loyalty with demands for more; blames Dems for holding up nominations, but it’s really Republicans. x Embedded Content YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Support the show via Patreon or Square Cash10 Mar
DC restaurant files suit against Trump and his hotel for 'unfair competition' - And away we go: Cork Wine Bar owners Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross filed an unfair competition lawsuit against Donald Trump and the Trump International Hotel in DC Wednesday night, alleging that the president’s continued affiliation with the government-owned property puts competing businesses at a disadvantage. At issue: Donald Trump has not divested himself from his hotel. Donald Trump continues, in fact, to visit his hotel. Donald Trump will walk away from the presidency to pocket a large chunk of money from a hotel that touts Donald Trump's status as president as a lure for diners and guests. Even if House and Senate Republicans don't give a flying damn about either the corruption or the, ahem, seemingly obvious violation of the Constitution, other Washington business owners can make the case that Donald Trump is profiting off his government office in ways that damage them directly. Scott Rome, one of Cork Wine Bar’s attorneys, says government officials, lobbyists, foreign dignitaries, and others seeking political influence—part of the restaurant’s clientele—now “feel pressure” or an “obligation” to frequent the hotel. “If they have a party to book, they’re going to book it there first, whether to gain influence with the president, to gain influence with the administration,” Rome says. “And he shows up there on weekends, so you get personal face time by going there. It seems to us to be a clear situation in which he’s using his office of the president to get a financial gain at the expense of local businesses.” Indeed it does. So here come the lawsuits; the lawyers taking on the case say they are "actively talking" to other possible plaintiffs as well.10 Mar
House GOP pushes bill letting companies force workers to undergo genetic testing - Nothing says "freedom" like being forced to hand over your genetic code to your employer. That's exactly what a bill that the GOP is shepherding through Congress would do. Sharon Begley writes: A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information. Giving employers such power is now prohibited by legislation including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a “workplace wellness” program. The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. The legislation would completely undermine privacy protections already in place at the federal level through GINA and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. As if that's not bad enough, Republicans are expected to stealthily roll it into the second phase of the GOP's health care repeal effort. Both [privacy] measures, according to congressional testimony last week by the American Benefits Council, “put at risk the availability and effectiveness of workplace wellness programs,” depriving employees of benefits like “improved health and productivity.” The council represents Fortune 500 companies and other large employers that provide employee benefits. It did not immediately respond to questions about how lack of access to genetic information hampers wellness programs.10 Mar
You As Creator - Join me this spring for my 4-session live webinar series for writers. More information at the bottom of this email. The power of our perceptions to alter reality is a theme that runs through lectures I’ve given at Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and more than 50 other universities and to over 3,000 executives at various conferences and summits, ranging from investment bankers and CEOs of communications conglomerates to heads of human resource departments. Religion, culture, legal and economic systems, countries, and corporations are determined by perceived reality. When enough people accept these perceptions or when they are codified into laws, they have immense impact on objective reality. Breakthroughs in modern science indicate that changes in human perceptions not only govern human behavior; they govern – everything. This past month (February) I was teaching at Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas. My time there overlapped with two highly respected scientists who had just published a book about the powers of perception. Dr. Deepak Chopra is a cardiologist by training who has gained world-wide fame as a deep thinker, philosopher, and advocate of new ways to look at medicine and the world. Dr. Menas Kafatas is a physicist who specializes in cosmology (the science of the origin and development of the universe), quantum mechanics, and climate change. As we sat at meals together, we had many fascinating discussions about the impact of human consciousness on economics, politics, life in general – and the entire universe. In my lectures at the ashram, I discussed the relationship between perceived and objective realities and the idea that consciousness involves an awareness of the ways these impact each other, all of us, and our entire planet. Deepak and Menas gave lectures that were based on their newly released book You Are the Universe. They explored the idea that the very universe itself is a function of human perceptions. In the Preface to their book, they state: The most distant star, billions of light-years away, has no reality without you, because everything that makes a star real – its heat, light, and mass, its position in space and the velocity that carries it away at enormous speed – requires a human observer with a human nervous system. If no one existed to experience heat, light, mass, and so on, nothing could be real as we know it . . . [T]his is a participatory universe that depends for its very existence on human beings. There is a growing body of cosmologists – the scientists who explain the origin of the cosmos – developing theories of a completely new universe, one that is living, conscious, and evolving. Such a universe fits no existing standard model. A conscious universe responds to how we think and feel. It gains its shape, color, sound, and texture from us. Therefore, we feel the best name for it is the human universe, and it is the real universe, the only one we have. As pointed out in their book, scientists have discovered that when photons, electrons, and other sub-atomic particles are not observed by humans they act like waves that are constantly moving. However, once they are observed, they act like particles in a pinpointed location. This phenomenon, known as the “observer effect,” which seems to defy common sense suggests that the tiniest particles respond to human observation. In other words, those particles have consciousness about what is happening around them. You Are the Universe takes this idea to another level. It says that the entire universe responds to – in fact is created through – consciousness. Whether or not human consciousness creates the universe, there is no doubt that it has created the current crises that threaten life as we know it on this planet. Or that we humans are waking up to the realization that, in order to survive, we must rise to a higher level of consciousness. As I’ve written many times in previous newsletters, we are at the frontier of a revolution that may turn out to be the most important one in our species’ history – a Consciousness Revolution that will redefine relationships between perceived and objective reality and the impact we humans have on both. By way of example: As most of you know by now, one of the nonprofits I founded, Dream Change organizes “Love Summits”. These are – perhaps to your surprise – conferences aimed at instilling in business leaders the need to change their perception of what it means to be successful. The goal of the Love Summit is to bring to light why love is good business—how acting from a place of compassion not only benefits society and the environment, but also our businesses and other institutions. Love can be the motivation behind business planning and work relationships, instead of fear and scarcity, the current underpinnings of a suffering economy and environment. The Love Summit demonstrates how we can: Build purposeful, heart-centered business models that contribute to the greatest interest of people and the planet. Use individual and collective action to transform our economic system into one that is based on a life economy instead of a death economy. Inspire a global culture of love in business and throughout the world. The Love Summit is just one example of actions we can take to change reality by altering perceptions. Whether or not you help create the universe, there is no doubt that you create your universe, your life and you play a big role in creating the world we will pass on to future generations. Upcoming Event: May 30 – June 20, 2017 How to Write a Bestseller in Times of Crises: Using the Power of Story to Accelerate Change If you are a writer, you have an incredible opportunity to spread important messages, share thought-provoking ideas, and inspire revolutionary change through the power of story. Join me this spring in my exclusive 4-session webinar for writers, where I will help you improve your skills, get published and reach large audiences. Limited to just 24 participants, this webinar will be both intimate and participatory. Secure your spot today.2 Mar
This Spring: A Special Webinar for Writers - How to Write a Bestseller in Times of Crises: Using the Power of Story to Accelerate Change By John Perkins We’ve entered the greatest revolution in history: The Consciousness Revolution. People around the world are waking up to the fact that we are facing huge crises. We must change. What is your role in this revolution? If you are a writer, you have an incredible opportunity to spread important messages, share thought-provoking ideas, and inspire revolutionary change through the power of story. Fiction and non-fiction. In addition to doing my own writing, I decided to create a small community of writers who intend to use their medium to accelerate change. We will come together in this Spring’s webinar: How to Write a Bestseller in Times of Crises: Using the Power of Story to Accelerate Change. Limited to just 2 dozen participants, this course is uniquely designed to help you hone your skills through writing exercises and discussions in an intimate salon. As a New York Times bestselling author, I will share my experiences of decades of writing bestsellers to help you improve your skills, get published, and reach large audiences. The webinar will take place every Tuesday evening over the course of one month, making it easy for you to journey into this portal of writing your bestseller. You will learn how to: Hone your skills to inspire, entertain, and motivate audiences; Open your heart and soul to the muses of writing; Utilize effective techniques to captivate audiences – as well as agents and publishers; Learn the pros and cons of marketing tools, including the use of publicists and social networking; Work with an intimate salon of talented writers; and Much more. You will have the option of breaking into smaller groups to discuss and critique each other’s work and spend an additional hour-long session with me. At the end of the course, you will also have the opportunity to arrange to join me in private mentoring sessions. Session Dates & Times: Session 1: Tuesday May 30 – 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM EST Session 2: Tuesday June 6 – 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM EST Session 3: Tuesday June 13 – 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM EST Session 4: Tuesday June 20 – 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM EST This webinar is for people who want to be part of a powerful salon of writers and who intend to channel their passions and skills into articles, books, and blogs that will inspire transformation. If you are such a person, please sign up now. Space is limited. Cost:  $780 for all 4 sessions. To see the course syllabus and purchase your tickets, click here.9 Feb
How to Be a Democracy Under Trump - I watched President Trump’s inauguration from an airport TV in Guatemala. I’d just finished leading 22 people on a pilgrimage to live, study and participate in ceremonies with Mayan shamans at sacred sites. For me, it was the first leg of a two-month working-journey. I am still in Latin America, teaching and speaking at a variety of venues. In the days since that inauguration, I, like so many, have felt the horror of the emerging Trump policies. Latin Americans cannot understand why so few of us voted in the last election and why so many who did, voted for Trump. A larger percentage of people vote in most Latin American countries than in the US; in several countries, voter turnout exceeds 90%. Many of these countries have a history of brutal dictatorships. Once free of these dictatorships, they revel in their rights to hold democratic elections; they see their ability to vote for their leaders as both a responsibility and a privilege. They wonder why such a relatively small percentage of voters would elect a potential dictator. And moreover, why those non-voters did not vote against him. The participants on the Guatemala trip ranged from successful business executives to community organizers and healers – with lots of other professions in between. They came from Canada, Ecuador, England, France, Indonesia, Italy, the United States, and Guatemala. Many – especially those from the US – arrived in Guatemala feeling disenfranchised, disempowered, depressed, and – yes, horrified – by the election. However, as we moved through the shamanic ceremonies, they grew increasingly convinced that the election is a wakeup call for Americans. We have been lethargic and allowed our country to continue with policies that hurt so many people and destroy environments around the world (including Washington’s involvement in the genocidal Guatemalan Civil War against the Mayas that raged for more than three decades). This election exposed a shadow side. It stepped us out of the closet. Many people expressed the realization that Americans had failed to demand that President Obama fight harder to end the wars in the Middle East, vacate Guantánamo, reign in Wall Street, confront a global economic system where eight men have as much wealth as half the world’s population, and honor so many of the other promises he had made. They recognized that he was up against strong Republican opposition and yet it was he who continued to send more troops and mercenaries to the Middle East and Africa, brought Wall Street insiders into his inner circle, and failed to inspire his party to rally voters to defeat Trump and what is now a Republican majority in both houses. We talked about how throughout the world, the US is seen as history’s first truly global empire. Scholars point out that it meets the basic definition of empire: a nation 1) whose currency reigns supreme, 2) whose language is the language of diplomacy and commerce everywhere, 3) whose economic expansions and values are enforced through military actions or threats of action, and 4) whose armies are stationed in many nations. The message became clear: we must end this radical form of global feudalism and imperialism. Those who had arrived in Guatemala disillusioned and depressed now found themselves committed to transforming their sense of disempowerment into actions. At the end of WWII, Prime Minister Churchill told his people that England could choose the course of empire or democracy, but not both.  We in the US are at such a crossroads today. For far too long we have allowed our leaders to take us down the path of empire. President Franklin Roosevelt ended a meeting with union leaders by telling them that now they knew he agreed with them, it was their job to get their members to force him to do the right thing. FDR understood that democracy depends on We the People insisting that our leaders do what they promise to do. We failed with our last president. Let’s not repeat that mistake with the new one. It is extremely important that We the People force Trump and his band of corporatocracy henchmen to keep the promises we heard in his inaugural address.  Let us hear “making America great” as “making America a true democracy!”  Let us hear “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People” and “we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow” as an echo of Prime Minister Churchill’s contention that a country cannot be both a democracy and an empire. It is up to us to insist upon democracy. It is essential that we continue to demonstrate and march, to bombard Trump and our other elected officials with tweets, posts, phone calls, and emails; to rally, clamor, and shout; and in every way to get out the word that we must end the wars, feudalism, economic and social inequality, and environmental destruction; we must become the model democracy the world expects of us. When General George Washington was hunkered down with extremely depressed troops at Valley Forge in the bleak winter of 1777, he ordered that an essay by Thomas Paine be read to all his men. Some of the most famous lines are as applicable today as they were then: These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he who stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.  .  . A generous parent should say, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace” . . .I love the man who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.  By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious future. We have arrived at such a time again. We must each do our part. Let’s here and now commit to taking positive actions. I commit to writing and speaking out at a wide variety of venues. I commit to supporting the Love Summit business conference, a powerful event that is committed to bringing love and compassion into business and politics, to transforming a Death Economy into a Life (Love) Economy. What are your commitments? We have arrived at a time that tries our souls. We must gather strength from distress, grow brave by reflection, and know that by perseverance and fortitude we can achieve a glorious future. Let’s make sure that the combined legacies of Presidents Obama and Trump will create the opportunity – indeed the mandate – to show the world how a country can be a true democracy. These are the times. . . Featured Event: Writing a Bestseller: How to Tell & Sell Your Story with John Perkins 4 Sessions | May 30-June 20, 2017 | Limited to 24 Participants | Register Here31 Jan
What Will 2017 Bring? - It’s a question on many minds as we begin this new year. It is perhaps asked more now than ever before in my life-time – and that spans 7 decades. All we can say for sure is that we are in for big changes . . . on many fronts. Each of us is faced with the decision: Will we sit back and accept changes imposed by Washington, Moscow, Beijing, and Big Business? Or will we take actions that guide humanity to a saner world? I’ve had the opportunity to travel across this magnificent planet, speaking at a wide variety of events and talking with individuals from a multitude of jobs and lifestyles. Everywhere, I encounter more and more people who are committed to taking actions that will change consciousness. They realize that consciousness change is the key to altering what we call objective reality. They know that the big events in this world are molded by the ways we perceive ourselves and our relationship to all that is around us. By changing perceptions, we change the world. In a few days, I leave for a two-month journey that will take me to venues in the United States, Guatemala, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, and Ecuador. I will be speaking at the Conscious Life Expo, the Heartbeat Summit, and many other places. Every one of these is oriented toward using changes in our perceived reality to influence the way human beings impact each other and the world. What will 2017 bring? That depends on you. I encourage each and every one of you to make a New Year’s resolution right now that will commit you to taking the path that leads to action. The events of this past year, including those in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and the US serve as wakeup calls. One of the facts we awaken to is that business is the driving force behind politics and governments. Whether a leader’s name is Trump or Putin, Merkel or Xi Jinping, he or she serves at the pleasure of banks and other global corporations. And those banks and corporations depend on us – you and me – to buy their goods and services, work for, manage, and invest in them. Without us, they go the way of Woolworth’s, Polaroid, Pan Am, Bethlehem Steel, and so many others that have become corporate dinosaurs. However you feel about the new Oval Office occupant, know that his power base is the business community. However you feel about climate change, pipelines, vanishing forests, urban violence, wars, and just about every other issue, know that the twists and turns of that issue are shaped by business. However you feel about Monsanto, Exxon, Nike or any other business know that that business depends on its customers, workers, managers, and investors – us. Consumer movements work. They ended apartheid, installed seat belts, cleaned up polluted rivers, labelled fats, sugars, calories, and proteins in our foods, opened corporate doors wider to women and minorities, and so much more. In each of these areas we need to go further and we also need to expend these movements. We must insist that every company we support in any way be committed to serving us, the public, the world, future generations – not simply the bottom line. We must change the perception of what it means to be successful. That is our job and our pleasure. You have the power. Social networking makes it easier – and more fun – than ever to launch campaigns that will change the perception of what it means to be “successful.” It’s time for you and me to use all the tools at our disposal to show those who would drive us down a path of distraction, lethargy, depression, and mayhem that we simply will not stand for it. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for and we are here now. 2017 is our year! It will bring what we demand. Best wishes, John The Love Summit organized by the nonprofit Dream Change that John founded nearly 30 years ago is a powerful example of a movement that is going global to change businesses.1 Jan
Message from the Legendary Elder Siblings - I write this in-flight, returning from a magical trip to the Kogi of Colombia. I write this having seen and heard the airport TV reports of the trauma that continues to dominate US politics, as well as those in many other countries. Last year my Ecuadorian partner, Daniel Koupermann, and I took a group to the amazing lands of the Kogi – people who have a message for us all. They came down from their mountain hideaways to meet us and to spread their message of the need for change. They were so impressed by the deep spirituality and commitment of that 2015 group that they invited us to bring another similar group – and this time to be the first ever to live among them, to sleep in their community, and to sit in their sacred ceremonial lodges. For the 19 of us it was a life-changing trip. We were surrounded by breathtaking scenes: the emerald Caribbean and palm-fringed beaches, the Sierra Nevada mountains that rise 18,000 feet up from the ocean to glacier-covered peaks, the rain forests, and the sparkling rivers that cascade from the glaciers into the Caribbean. But most of all it was the Kogi who impressed us! I have to admit that I was shocked – ecstatically – by the extent to which the Kogi invited us to share their lives and ceremonies. These up-til-now illusive people totally opened the doors to their homes and hearts to us. They invited us to come and learn from their Mamos (wise elders/teachers/shamans/spiritual leaders), to answer a call that dates back to a time when their forefathers retreated from the onslaught of Spanish conquistadors and the destructive nature of European cultures. Their Mamos told us of how their ancestors had fled up the valleys of the glacial rivers into the mountains. Choosing to remain isolated for centuries, they developed a new dream of the Earth, a revelation that balances the brilliant potential of the human mind, heart and spirit with all the forces of nature. To this day they remain true to their ancient laws and traditions—the moral, ecological, and spiritual dictates of a force they identify as “the Mother”—and are still led by sacred rituals. In the late 1900s, their Mamos understood that they are the Elder Siblings and that they had to come down and share that powerful message with the modern world, the people they call the Younger Siblings – us. They have shared their history with others. What was unique this time was their enthusiasm for embracing this group on very personal levels. I write this while flying home and it is all too close to me to be able to express in detail at this moment (a book to come, I think!) but I will say that the bonding we all felt is symbolized by a ceremony when a Mamo and his wife in whose community we had spent the night invited us to witness their 5-year-old son training to become a Mamo. We traveled many miles down from their community and stood with them on the bank of a glacial river where it meets the Caribbean while the young man gently offered the river the commitments we had all made and blown into tiny pieces of cotton from a local plant. The Kogi message, although similar to the one I received more than 40 years ago when I was a Peace Corps volunteer living with the Shuar in the Amazon and then again 20 years later from the Achuar, is more urgent now than ever. It is the message that birthed nonprofits, including Dream Change and the Pachamama Alliance. It is the message of the North American indigenous people and all those who join them at Standing Rock. It is a message that now has issued forth from indigenous cultures and organizations around the world. It is a message of hope, one that says we can transformer ourselves from societies that adhere to systems that threaten to destroy us to ones that will sustain us and future generations. I’ve written many times about the necessity to move from a Death Economy, based on warfare and ravaging the very resources upon which it depends, to a Life Economy, based on cleaning up pollution, regenerating destroyed environments, and developing new technologies that recycle and life-styles that give back more than they take from our Living Earth. Now, flying back from the Kogi, I feel rejuvenated and recommitted to spreading the message that is the underlying principle behind that economic shapeshift that needs to happen. We know we are facing severe crises. We know the climate is changing and that we humans are devastating the air, water, and land that support all life on this planet. We know that our government is incapable or unwilling to turn things around. It is easy to be discouraged. EXCEPT we also now know what our Elder Siblings understood long ago, that We the People must transform ourselves and our institutions. That is the message of the Kogi. It is the message of the Shuar, the Achuar, the people at Standing Rock and all our brothers and sisters around the globe. It is the message of the rising oceans, flooding rivers, melting glaciers, the hurricanes, the political traumas, and all the other crises. We are blessed to be hearing this message, to be inhabitants of this incredible organism that is our Living Earth and to be able to understand that the crises are themselves the message that it is time for us to come out of our isolation and create the change we want and know in our hearts, minds, and souls is necessary.13 Dec 16

National Post

March 15 Fundraiserto support Greg Palast’s new investigation of Trump’s Billionaires - Join Jackson Browne to honor Greg Palast and his team’s new investigations of Trump’s billionaires and the plan to fix the vote of 2018 With discussion of the attack on voting rights by Joy Reid of MSNBC and the need for investigative reporting    WHEN: Wednesday, March 15 at  6:00pm PTWHERE:  Santa Monica, CA Wine and Buffet Performance by Jackson BrowneRock & Roll Hall of Fame "Lives in the Balance" | "Running on Empty" We are facing a democratic emergency: Our purpose is to expose and prevent the theft of the election of 2018—and the billionaires who have turned The White House into a profit center.  $100 per person or $175 per couple Very limited space. Get your TICKETS now. All proceeds are tax-deductible and benefit the Palast Investigative Fund (checks and credit cards accepted) If you are unable to attend but wish to support our work, and have your support acknowledged by Greg and Jackson, you can donate here. Trump has claimed that millions of Americans vote illegally.  The Palast team's investigation for Rolling Stone, Al Jazeera, and BBC TV proved that this claim was the excuse for "anti-fraud" measures that, in fact, blocked 1.1 million citizens of color from casting their votes in the swing states of Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida in the last election. No, Trump did not win – and Palast has showed how, in cruel detail. Palast says, "While our work has been lauded and applauded for exposing mass vote suppression, our goal now is to expand our research and investigations while also coordinating with the Civil Rights Law Center of Washington to insure that this information is in the hands of voting rights litigators, progressive legislators, church and front-line organizations to prevent the theft of the 2018 election.'' Our film on the suppression of the vote in 2016 The Best Democracy Money Can Buy has been viewed by more than one million Americans and has become the source of fighting facts from People For the American Way to Rainbow-PUSH Coalition to the Potomac Coalition. "What Greg Palast has done is heroic, invaluable, and must be seen by every voting rights advocate in America." - Voting rights attorney Barbara Arnwine Help us win this next battle for democracy * * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Rent or buy the film from Amazon Vimeo. Support The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive. Or support us by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Sustainable Markets Foundation for the benefit of The Palast Investigative Fund and you get a tax-deduction!More info. The post March 15 Fundraiserto support Greg Palast’s new investigation of Trump’s Billionaires appeared first on Greg Palast.7 Mar
Millions of fraudulent voters, my a**! Palast follows The Donald’s money - A Facebook Event  Get the non-fake info with investigative reporter Greg Palast. Palast says, "It’s no joke—and it’s far more sinister than a mere "lie." "The US press has done a good job exposing President Trump’s looney-toons claim that millions of votes were cast against him. "But what’s missing is what’s behind Trump’s claim — and it’s not just his cranky, whining ego looking to erase the embarrassment of losing the popular vote. "We are witnessing the crafting of a systematic plan to steal the 2018 midterm election." And that’s not all: Did anyone notice that in the middle of Trump’s psycho-drama of a press conference, he said, "…I want to thank Paul Singer for being here and coming up to the Oval Office." Those are the most dangerous words Trump has uttered since Inauguration Day. Get the facts (and watch the cartoon!) during this special Facebook Live event. And Palast lets you in on the follow-up to his Rolling Stone investigation. He’s digging, and the worms are crawling up the shovel. And we’ll talk about how YOU can take part in the investigation. We have a lot to talk about, and a lot to expose. * * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Rent or buy the film from Amazon Vimeo. Support The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive. Or support us by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Sustainable Markets Foundation for the benefit of The Palast Investigative Fund and you get a tax-deduction!More info. The post Millions of fraudulent voters, my a**! Palast follows The Donald’s money appeared first on Greg Palast.22 Feb
Join NAACP Voter Fund for Facebook LIVE broadcast of my film on How Trump Stole It - I have a simple request. I’m asking that, this Thursday, at 8pm ET/5pm PT, you join the NAACP-National Voter Fund, Rainbow/PUSH, Josh Fox of Climate Revolution and many, many more–and “share” the Facebook LIVE broadcast of my documentary–the film that exposes exactly how Trump and his cronies attacked the voting rights of a million minority voters to steal the White House. That’s all we are asking: Between 8pm and 9pm Eastern, on Inauguration Eve, you “share” the live-stream with your Facebook followers. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, follows my crew’s undercover investigations for Rolling Stone and BBC-TV. "...Mainstream journalism has often struggled to cover the manipulation of data and the distortion of reality driven by billionaires like the Koch brothers or even Donald Trump... Palast slices through all the B.S.”- The Village Voice Pass this on to your friends, your organizations, and anyone who wants to get un-stupid about the theft of the 2016 election. I’ll be leading an online discussion right after the broadcast: What do we do now? Starting now you can share the trailer on Facebook: And share the trailer on Twitter simply by retweeting this tweet: Please also indicate that you are "going" to our virtual event on Facebook — and share it with your friends: On Thursday, January 19 at 8pm ET, go to (If you’re late, you can scroll back to the beginning.) The film (with the help of my friends Rosario Dawson, Shailene Woodley Ice-T, Willie Nelson and more), tells the story of the GOP’s weapon of mass vote destruction – and exposes the billionaires behind Trump and the vote trickery. The film was updated just this week. I guarantee: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll get revved up to resist. Trump didn’t win––his billionaire backers swiped it. We can take it back. Will you join me? - Greg Palast and the investigations team Make a tax-deductible donation to our Stolen Election Investigation *  *  *  *  * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie.Rent or buy the film from Amazon or Vimeo. Support The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive. Or support us by shopping with Amazon Smile.AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Sustainable Markets Foundation for the benefit of The Palast Investigative Fund and you get a tax-deduction! More info. The post Join NAACP Voter Fund for Facebook LIVE broadcast of my film on How Trump Stole It appeared first on Greg Palast.17 Jan
A note in the snow - Last week, I flew to Detroit with my team at the request of a major west coast publication. When I landed, they got cold feet; assignment cancelled. Without funding to continue, I should have headed home. But I was getting tips of nasty doings with the ballots in Motown. I could get the evidence that Trump’s victory was as real as his tan. So I tucked my long-johns under my suit, put on my fedora, and headed out to meet the witnesses, see the evidence and film an investigative report on the Theft of Michigan. With almost no sleep (and no pay), my producer David Ambrose and I put together an investigative film—and donated it, no charge, to Democracy Now! and several other outlets. As to the airfares, hotels, cars, camera batteries, sound equipment, local assistants and the rest, the bills have piled high as the snow and uncounted ballots. So, here I was, literally out in the cold, hoping you'd see the value of top-flight investigative reporting. So, buddy, can you spare a dime? Or $100 or so? For that, I’ll send you my new film, the one that, back in September, told you exactly how Trump would steal it. Or a signed copy of the book that goes with it: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, a tale of billionaires and ballot bandits. I want to thank all of you who donated to get me to Washington DC to testify at the ad hoc Congressional hearing and to speak with the Justice Department about the suppression of minority votes. (On Monday, I was joined at the Washington Press Club by the nation’s top voting rights attorney, Barbara Arnwine; civil rights legend Ruby Sales; Muslim activist Sameera Khan. They announced plans to take legal and political action against Crosscheck, the Trumpistas’ latest Jim Crow tactic, the one our team uncovered for Rolling Stone. Khan joined me at Justice to present them 50,000 signatures (we unloaded reams of paper on them) gathered by 18 Million Rising, the Asian American advocacy group, to light a fire under Justice. On Tuesday, I joined the presidents of the NAACP chapters of Michigan and Wisconsin and other front-line voting rights leaders, to plan next steps for this week, for this year, for this decade. My presentation to Justice, to Congressmen and rights advocates, to the press, was so much more powerful because I arrived in DC with the goods, the evidence, the film, the facts from Michigan, from the scene of the electoral crime. So, in the end, my assignment wasn’t cancelled: I went to work for YOU. Because I have faith that my readers agree that this work is important, that I’m not on some fool’s errand. The US media doesn’t want to cover the vote theft—because, hey, the count is over—and we should get over it. I am not over it. I am standing my ground. Let me know if you think I’ve made the right decision. Feed the team. I have nothing to offer you in return except some signed discs and books (or the Combo)— and the facts. Continue Supporting the 2016 Stolen Election Investigation because it ain’t over and we’re not done. – Greg Palast   * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Rent or buy the film from Amazon or Vimeo. Visit the Palast Investigative Fund store or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive!  Or support the The Palast Investigative Fund (a project of The Sustainable Markets Foundation) by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Palast Fund and you get a tax-deduction! More info.   The post A note in the snow appeared first on Greg Palast.18 Dec 16
The Republican Sabotage of the Vote Recounts in Michigan and Wisconsin - By Greg Palast for Truthout Photo of Michigan ballot with bubble. (Image courtesy of Palast Investigative Fund, 2016)Michigan officials declared in late November that Trump won the state's count by 10,704 votes. But hold on – a record 75,355 ballots were not counted. The uncounted ballots came mostly from Detroit and Flint, majority-Black cities that vote Democratic. According to the machines that read their ballots, these voters waited in line, sometimes for hours, yet did not choose a president. Really? This week, I drove through a snowstorm to Lansing to hear the official explanation from Ruth Johnson, the Republican secretary of state. I was directed to official flack-catcher Fred Woodhams who told me, "You know, I think when you look at the unfavorability ratings that were reported for both major-party candidates, it's probably not that surprising." Sleuthing about in Detroit, I found another explanation: bubbles. Bubbles? Michigan votes on paper ballots. If you don't fill the bubble completely, the machine records that you didn't vote for president. Susan, a systems analyst who took part in the hand recount initiated by Jill Stein, told me, "I saw a lot of red ink. I saw a lot of checkmarks. We saw a lot of ballots that weren't originally counted, because those don't scan into the machine." (I can only use her first name because she's terrified of retribution from Trump followers in the white suburb where she lives.) Other ballots were not counted because the machines thought the voter chose two presidential candidates. How come more ballots were uncounted in Detroit and Flint than in the white 'burbs and rural counties? Are the machines themselves racist? No, but they are old, and in some cases, busted. An astonishing 87 machines broke down in Detroit, responsible for counting tens of thousands of ballots. Many more were simply faulty and uncalibrated. I met with Carlos Garcia, University of Michigan multimedia specialist, who, on Election Day, joined a crowd waiting over two hours for the busted machine to be fixed. Some voters left; others filled out ballots that were chucked, uncounted, into the bottom of machine. When the machine was fixed, Carlos explained, "Any new scanned ballots were falling in on top of the old ones." It would not be possible to recount those dumped ballots. This is not an unheard of phenomenon: I know two voters who lost their vote in another state (California) because they didn't fill in the bubble – my parents! Meet mom and dad in my film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: How did Detroit end up with the crap machines? Detroit is bankrupt, so every expenditure must be approved by "emergency" overlords appointed by the Republican governor. The GOP operatives refused the city's pre-election pleas to fix and replace the busted machines. "We had the rollout [of new machines] in our budget," Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said. "No money was appropriated by the state." Same in Flint. GOP state officials cut the budget for water service there, resulting in the contamination of the city's water supply with lead. The budget cuts also poisoned the presidential race. The Human Eye Count There is, however, an extraordinary machine that can read the ballots, whether the bubbles are filled or checked, whether in black ink or red, to determine the voters' intent: the human eye. That's why Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, paid millions of dollars for a human eyeball count of the uncounted votes. While labeled a "recount," its real purpose is to count the 75,355 votes never counted in the first place. Count those ballots, mostly in Detroit and Flint, and Trump's victory could vanish. Adding to the pile of uncounted ballots are the large numbers of invalidated straight-ticket votes in Detroit. In Michigan, you can choose to make one mark that casts your vote for every Democrat (or Republican) for every office. Voters know that they can vote the Democratic ballot but write in a protest name – popular were "Bernie Sanders" and "Mickey Mouse" – but their ballot, they knew, would count for Clinton. However, the Detroit machines simply invalidated the ballots with protest write-ins because the old Opti-Scans wrongly tallied these as "over-votes" (i.e., voting for two candidates). The human eye would catch this mistake. But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette stymied Stein's human eye count. The Republican pol issued an order saying that no one could look at the ballots cast in precincts where the number of votes and voters did not match – exactly the places where you'd want to look for the missing votes. He also ordered a ban on counting ballots from precincts where the seals on the machines had been broken – in other words, where there is evidence of tampering. Again, those are the machines that most need investigating. The result: The recount crews were denied access to more than half of all Detroit precincts (59 percent). I met with Stein, who told me she was stunned by this overt sabotage of the recount. "It's shocking to think that the discounting of these votes may be making the critical difference in the outcome of the election," she said. This story was repeated in Wisconsin, which uses the same Opti-Scan system as Michigan. There, the uncounted votes, sometimes called "spoiled" or "invalidated" ballots, were concentrated in Black-majority Milwaukee. Stein put up over $3 million of donated funds for the human eye review in Wisconsin, but GOP state officials authorized Milwaukee County to recount simply by running the ballots through the same blind machines. Not surprisingly, this instant replay produced the same questionable result. Adding Un-Votes to the Uncounted Stein was also disturbed by the number of voters who never got to cast ballots. "Whether it's because of the chaos [because] some polling centers are closed, and then some are moved, and there's all kinds of mix-ups," she said. "So, a lot of people are filling out provisional ballots, or they were being tossed off the voter rolls by Interstate Crosscheck." Interstate Crosscheck is a list that was created by Donald Trump supporter and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to hunt down and imprison voters who illegally voted or registered in two states in one election. An eye-popping 449,092 Michiganders are on the Crosscheck suspect list. The list, which my team uncovered in an investigation for Rolling Stone, cost at least 50,000 of the state's voters their registrations. Disproportionately, the purged voters were Blacks, Latinos and that other solid Democratic demographic, Muslim Americans. (Dearborn, Michigan, has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the US.) The Michigan Secretary of State's spokesman Woodhams told me the purpose of the mass purge was, "to clean our voter lists and ensure that there's no vulnerability for fraud. We've been very aggressive in closing vulnerabilities and loopholes to fraud." While Woodhams did not know of a single conviction for double-voting in Michigan, the "aggression" in purging the lists was clear. I showed him part of the Michigan purge list that he thought was confidential. The "double voters" are found by simply matching first and last names. Michael Bernard Brown is supposed to be the same voter as Michael Anthony Brown. Michael Timothy Brown is supposed to be the same voter as Michael Johnnie Brown. Woodhams assured me the GOP used the Trump-Kobach list with care, more or less. He said, "I'm sure that there are some false positives. But we go through it thoroughly, and we're not just canceling people." As to the racial profiling inherent in the list? Did he agree with our experts that by tagging thousands of voters named Jose Garcia and Michael Brown there would be a bias in his purge list? The GOP spokesman replied, "I've known a lot of white Browns." Jill Stein didn't buy it. Responding to both Michigan's and Trump's claim that voter rolls are loaded with fraudulent double voters, Stein said, "It's the opposite of what he is saying: not people who are voting fraudulently and illegally, but actually legitimate voters who have had their right to vote taken away from them by Kris Kobach and by Donald Trump." Crosscheck likely cost tens of thousands their vote in Pennsylvania as well. "It is a Jim Crow system, and it all needs to be fixed," Stein concluded. "It's not rocket science. This is just plain, basic democracy." * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Support the 2016 Stolen Election Investigation After investigating the REAL story of the recount, we stopped by the Department of Justice and handed them our Crosscheck petition, signed by 50,000 people. We have a lot more work to do and thankfully, our efforts are starting to get notice. We're not done... Join us bySupporting the Stolen Election Investigation Rent or buy the film from Amazon or Vimeo. Visit the Palast Investigative Fund store or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive!  Or support the The Palast Investigative Fund (a project of The Sustainable Markets Foundation) by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Palast Fund and you get a tax-deduction! More info.   The post The Republican Sabotage of the Vote Recounts in Michigan and Wisconsin appeared first on Greg Palast.18 Dec 16
Palast Report for Democracy Now!:By Rejecting Recount, Is Michigan Covering up 75,000 Ballots Never Counted? - Investigative reporter Greg Palast has just returned from Michigan, where he went to probe the state’s closely contested election. Trump won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes out of nearly 4.8 million votes cast. Green Party presidential contender Dr. Jill Stein attempted to force Michigan to hold a recount, but a federal judge ordered Michigan’s Board of Elections to stop the state’s electoral recount. One big question remains: Why did 75,335 ballots go uncounted? Support the 2016 Stolen Election Investigation My team and I just returned from Michigan to report the REAL story of the recount. I’ve also been responding to urgent requests in the recount states for our technical files and analysis. We're in Washington and stopped by the Department of Justice yesterday and handed them our Crosscheck petition, signed by 50,000 people. Join us by Supporting the Stolen Election Investigation Last stop for Democracy • PLEASE, say, "Count me in to count the votes" by supporting the 2016 Stolen Election Investigation for a donation of any size no matter how small or large • Stay informed and get a signed DVD of my film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, a signed copy of the book with the same title or better still - get the Book & DVD combo  • Be listed as a producer ($1,000) or co-producer ($500) in the credits of the broadcast version of the updated, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy:  THE THEFT OF 2016. * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Donate to the Palast Investigative Fund and get the signed DVD. Download the FREE Movie Comic Book. Rent or buy the film from Amazon or Vimeo. Visit the Palast Investigative Fund store or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive!  Or support the The Palast Investigative Fund (a project of The Sustainable Markets Foundation) by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Palast Fund and you get a tax-deduction! More info.   The post Palast Report for Democracy Now!:By Rejecting Recount, Is Michigan Covering up 75,000 Ballots Never Counted? appeared first on Greg Palast.13 Dec 16
Joint Staff Strategic Assessment: Options to Facilitate Socio-Political Stability in Syria and Iraq - Key Observations There was consensus among SMA researchers and observers that: • Da’esh represents a compound threat: it is both the organization and the violent extremist idea it represents. • Da’esh battlefield loss in Iraq/Syria theater will not bring about an end to the salience of the extremist ideology that it represents. Rather, the “ideological battle” is likely to continue over the coming years with potentially unacceptable tolls on Western societies. • The effort to mitigate the threat should be compound and comprehensive: addressing the regional conflict as a whole, not Da’esh only, using targeted kinetic options along with complementary messaging and other non-kinetic options. The observations, research findings and implications presented below summarize the contributions of the separate research efforts included in this paper. They represent a three-pronged approach for encouraging support for regional stability by: • diminishing the global allure of the jihadist ideology that Da’esh presents; • attending to the underlying and persistent drivers of regional conflict; • shaping and influencing narratives to minimize Da’esh appeal. Analytic Findings and Recommendations Diminish Allure, Stem Spread of Ideology OBSERVATION: There are at least eight inter-related militarized conflicts in the region. US focus on Da’esh in Iraq and Syria has weakened Da’esh but, by not addressing other regional conflicts, has allowed extremist ideology to become further entrenched. OBSERVATION: Da’esh’s caliphate-state concept, the appeal of jihadism, and terrorist tactics are unlikely to disappear in the near term. However, we may be able to impact their appeal to aggrieved populations and diminish their lethality. RESEARCH FINDING: Violent and repressive counter VEO efforts increase the incidence and lethality of VEO responses; non-violent approaches appear to make groups less lethal (See Asal, Rethemeyer and Young, page 22). IMPLICATIONS: • Defeating Da’esh the organization with overt kinetic and violent means will at best diminish a portion of the threat and leave the region in persistent turmoil. • Efforts to neutralize Da’esh should be done in a way that reduces the possibility of AQ resurgence or emergence of other VEOs, including: • separating references to Islamist/ caliphist political thought in US narratives and strategic communications from the violent means associated with it; • addressing and working to mitigate the negative psycho-social dynamics in Iraq and Syria that impact both civilians and combatants many of whom are living with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); • building trust with elite/ leader networks in secret, over time, using rewards, and withholding punishments in order to accommodate acceptable elements of the larger movement of which Da’esh is part. Underlying and Persistent Drivers: Shift Emphasis to Avoiding Civil War in Iraq RESEARCH FINDING: Based on the range of interests (i.e., economic, social, domestic, etc.) of regional actors, Da’esh eventually will be defeated regardless of US efforts in Syria. The interests of regional actors that possess the relevant capabilities to impact the fight against Da’esh show high resolve for defeatist defeat in Syria and even more so for Da’esh defeat in Iraq. RESEARCH FINDING: Whether Iraqi tribal elites and Sunni factions perceive that there range of interests are better served b the Government if Iraq (GoI) or living under Da’esh/jihadist rule is determined by what they believe about the security conditions that each would bring. RESEARCH FINDING: Given their range if interests, the benefit Kurdish groups derive from continued civil conflict in Syria and Iraq (e.g., wealth, prestige, territory) can be countered with economic arrangements, and enhanced international and domestic influence. RESEARCH FINDING: GoI and Shi’a hardliners in Iraq have high resolve (political will) to avoid making substantive post-conflict political reforms that increase the stature of Sunni voices in the Iraqi government. Two conditions however change the decision calculus of each groups to preferring to make these reforms: 1) outbreak of full-scale civil warfare in Iraq; or 2) Iranian backing for such reforms. IMPLICATIONS: Now is the opportune time to shift policy towards conflict transformation – avoiding civil war in Iraq; begin engaging all parties in publically visible dialogue regarding their views and requirements for post-Da’esh governance and security. • Engage Sunni factions on security guarantees and requirements for political inclusion/power; • Engage Kurds on economic and international and domestic political influence requirements; • Incentivize Iran to back off on proxy funding, diminish stridency of Shi’a hardline easing way for GoI to make substantive overtures, open governance reform talks. Underlying and Persistent Drivers: Restabilize Saudi-Iranian Competition for Dominance; Use of Proxy Forces RESEARCH FINDING: The regional system will remain unstable; defeat of Da’esh decreases system conflict only marginally. RESEARCH FINDING: Saudi, Iranian use of proxy forces can quickly reignite hostilities in the region. Although direct confrontation is very costly for each, the chances of unwanted escalation are high. RESEARCH FINDING: Iran may be incentivized to limit proxy support by international efforts to 1) recognize Iran as a regional partner, 2) mitigate perceived threat from Saudi Arabia and Israel, and 3) expand trade relations with Europe. RESEARCH FINDING: There are few potential levers incentivizing Saudi Arabia to limit proxyism, although it may respond to warning of restrictions on US support if not curtailed. IMPLICATIONS: To be effective, efforts to address the underlying sources of regional instability should include a shift from a narrow focus on Da’esh toward the multiple active and latent conflicts in the region, most notably the Saudi-Iranian, Sunni-Shi’a rivalry. Activities should include open dialogue with Iran, Saudi Arabia and regional actors to quell the intensity of Saudi-Iran rivalry and mutual threat perceptions. Underlying and Persistent Drivers: Address Disaffected Populations OBSERVATION: The regional population is traumatized and wrought with PTSD. Both civilians and combatants are physically and psychologically wounded. OBSERVATION: Regional actors are using the fight against Da’esh as an excuse to fight others with whom they have long-standing animosities. OBSERVATION: As populations continue to be disaffected, Da’esh gains empathy, nationstates find avenues to either directly assault or use proxies to undermine adversaries, and US interests are curtailed. IMPLICATIONS: Address population grievances, not jihadist ideology independent of context. Sincerely addressing disaffection of regional populations – physical, social and political — makes conditions unfavorable for both the Da’esh organization and the ideology. It also sets the context for diminishing the allure of violent extremist ideology, civil conflict, and ultimately regional stability. Activities should include instituting immediate humanitarian relief for disaffected population will help ease trauma and facilitate overdue care for those wounded by all warring parties in this conflict, and development of long-term plans for dealing with IDPs, refugees and returnees.5 Mar
(U//FOUO) DHS-FBI-USSS Joint Threat Assessment 2017 Presidential Address to a Joint Session of Congress - (U//FOUO) This Joint Threat Assessment (JTA) addresses threats to the 2017 Presidential Address to a Joint Session of Congress (the Presidential Address) at the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on 28 February 2017. This assessment does not consider nonviolent civil disobedience tactics (for example, protests without a permit) that are outside the scope of federal law enforcement jurisdiction; however, civil disobedience tactics designed to cause a hazard to public safety and/or law enforcement fall within the scope of this assessment. (U//FOUO) This product is intended to support federal, state, and local government agencies and authorities in identifying priorities for protective and support measures against terrorism and other existing or emerging threats to Homeland security. Information in this assessment is current and accurate as of 10 February 2017. (U) Key Findings (U//FOUO) As of 10 February 2017, the FBI, DHS, and the United States Secret Service (USSS) have no information to indicate a specific, credible threat to the Presidential Address or related activities within the National Capital Region (NCR). We assess the Presidential Address is an attractive target for violent extremists, as there will be a large gathering of senior US Government officials and members of Congress. There will also be a large presence of global media outlets, making it likely that any significant incident would garner widespread international media coverage, which is a common objective in terrorist attacks. We remain concerned about unaffiliated lone offenders, homegrown violent extremists (HVEs), and domestic extremists targeting the Presidential Address, as well as the sustained interest of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) in attacking gatherings, landmarks, and critical infrastructure within the NCR. (U//FOUO) Although the FBI, DHS, and the USSS lack reporting to show a specific interest by FTOs in the Presidential Address itself, we remain concerned about the sustained interest of some terrorist groups—such as core al-Qa’ida, the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS), and their affiliates—in targeting gatherings and public locations within the NCR, given its status as the nation’s capital. In addition, these groups continue to call on individuals to conduct independent attacks in the United States using vehicle ramming, edged weapons, improvised explosive devices, and small arms.27 Feb
Multinational Capability Development Campaign Military Strategic Communication Handbook Draft - Cell phones, smart phones, the Internet, and GPS are increasingly available and are changing the nature of conflict, even in remote areas. Information can now reach out in new ways to global audiences because of the revolution in Information Technology (IT), particularly using cell phones and smart phones. The revival of hybrid warfare manifested in recent developments in the international security environment – such as the Arab Spring, the Ukrainian crisis, the rise of Jihadist-Salafist terrorism, and the European migrant crisis – demonstrates the power of communication, broadly based on IT advantages: messages and perceptions become predominant of physical engagements and strongly impact the behaviour of people. Orchestrated activities carry messages and have a crucial effect on 55 public opinions, decision-making processes, and domestic support. From a communication perspective, military operations are part of a vicious circle (see Figure 1): they  result from political decisions, are part of state-funded activity, and are under constant observation of the media who strongly affect public opinion, which in turn influences political discussion and decision-making. Military success can be either directly aided or challenged by activities in the Information Environment. Military communicators need to convey the message that operations are in line with political decisions and serve the interest of the involved nations and their populace. In this respect, they may act as guardians of the political Narrative, ensuring that political will is reflected in words and deeds throughout operations planning and execution. Today’s military operations are also challenged with a fragmentation of communication capabilities and insufficient integration of communication with operations planning, resulting in fragmented Information Activities by multinational partners, insufficiently harmonised for achieving objectives in the Information Environment that support common strategic objectives. In the last decades the multinational community of communication practitioners struggled to overcome this challenge by introducing coordination mechanisms. For instance, the military Info Ops function and later StratCom were designed to provide an analysis, advice, coordination and oversight capacity for communication capabilities at various levels. However, relying solely on the coordination of capabilities and actions treats the symptom more than it constitutes a solution to the underlying problem. In addition, there is still a lack of consideration of the comprehensive scope of non-media activities that may help to create desired effects from a communication perspective. Coalition partners need to be able to gain enhanced situation awareness in the Information Environment; develop and issue timely, relevant and feasible communication guidance; implement communication plans in a consistent, transparent and flexible manner; and take emerging communication practices and technology into account. All this finally led to the concept of integrated communication and communication management – an approach to adequately respond to and shape developments in the Information Environment from a multinational coalition and comprehensive approach perspective. …25 Feb
(U//FOUO) DHS-FBI-NCTC Bulletin: Terrorists Call for Attacks on Hospitals, Healthcare Facilities - (U//FOUO) Recent calls over the past year for attacks on hospitals in the West by media outlets sympathetic to the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) highlight terrorists’ perception of hospitals as viable targets for attack. Targeting hospitals and healthcare facilities is consistent with ISIS’s tactics in Iraq and Syria, its previous calls for attacks on hospitals in the West, and the group’s calls for attacks in the West using “all available means.” While we have not seen any specific, credible threat against hospitals and healthcare facilities in the United States, we remain concerned that calls for such attacks may resonate with some violent extremists and lone offenders in the Homeland because of their likely perceived vulnerabilities and value as targets. » (U//FOUO) The pro-ISIS Nashir Media Foundation released a series of messages on 29 December 2016 encouraging lone offenders in the West to conduct attacks on hospitals, cinemas, and malls. In early June 2016, ISIS called for a “month of calamity,” encouraging followers in Europe and the United States to attack schools and hospitals in an audio message released via Twitter. Additionally, in its January 2016 issue of Rumiyah magazine, ISIS provided tactical guidance and encouraged lone offenders to conduct arson attacks on hospitals. » (U) ISIS, through its Amaq news agency in November 2016, took credit for an attack on a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan that resulted in at least 74 deaths and 100 injuries. Aid organizations and coalition governments have alleged since early 2015 that ISIS has systematically targeted hospitals, healthcare facilities, patients, and healthcare workers in Iraq and Syria, resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries and reducing the overall capacity of healthcare delivery infrastructure. (U) Possible Indicators of the Targeting of Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities (U//FOUO) Some of these activities may be constitutionally protected, and any determination of possible illicit intent should be supported by additional facts justifying reasonable suspicion. These activities are general in nature and any one may be insignificant on its own, but when observed in combination with other suspicious behaviors—particularly advocacy of violence—they may constitute a basis for reporting. » (U//FOUO) Consumption and sharing of media glorifying violent extremist acts in attempting to mobilize others to violence; » (U//FOUO) Loitering, parking, standing, or unattended vehicles in the same area over multiple days with no reasonable explanation, particularly in concealed locations with optimal visibility of potential targets or in conjunction with multiple visits; » (U//FOUO) Photography or videography focused on security features, including cameras, security personnel, gates, and barriers; » (U//FOUO) Unusual or prolonged interest in or attempts to gain sensitive information about security measures of personnel, entry points, peak days and hours of operation, and access controls such as alarms or locks; » (U//FOUO) Individuals wearing bulky clothing or clothing inconsistent with the weather or season, or wearing official uniforms or being in unauthorized areas without official credentials; » (U//FOUO) Individuals presenting injuries consistent with the use of explosives or explosive material without a reasonable explanation; and » (U//FOUO) Unattended packages, bags, and suitcases. (U) Possible Mitigation Strategies » (U//FOUO) Limit access in restricted areas and require employees to wear clearly visible identifications at all times; » (U//FOUO) Ensure personnel receive training and briefings on active shooter preparedness, lockdown procedures, improvised explosive device (IED) and vehicle-borne IED awareness and recognition, and suspicious activity reporting procedures; and » (U//FOUO) Conduct law enforcement and security officer patrols in loading, waiting, and patient triage areas, and around drop-off and pick-up points where there are large numbers of people concentrated in restricted spaces.20 Feb
U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office: Russia’s Military Strategy Impacting 21st Century Reform and Geopolitics - Russia is a nation that has always been blessed with creative minds, whether it be literary giants like Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy, artists such as Peter Carl Faberge, composers such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, or the military genius of an Aleksander Svechin or Aleksander Suvorov. Russia also has been blessed with the work of innovators in military equipment, such as Mikhail Kalashnikov, who created the world-renowned AK-47. Today’s military innovators are the modern-day scientists and engineers who assist in the creation of contemporary and new concept weaponry; and the military theorists who study changes in the character of war. Digital specialists understand how to develop and employ the capabilities of electronic warfare equipment, satellite technology, and fiber optic cables. While Kalashnikov’s fame is imbedded in Russia’s culture, it may be harder to find a current digital entrepreneur whose legacy will endure as long as his: there are simply too many of them, and their time in the spotlight appears to be quite short, since even now we are about to pass from the age of cyber to that of quantum. It is difficult to predict whose discoveries will be the most coveted by tomorrow’s military-industrial complex, not to mention the decision-making apparatus of the Kremlin and General Staff. Military theorists are playing an important role as well. They are studying how new weaponry has changed the correlation of forces in the world, the nature of war, and the impact of weaponry on both forecasting and the initial period of war. Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov noted in March 2015 that the military’s main tasks are to maintain the combat readiness of the Armed Forces and to ensure the Russian Federation’s defensive capability. Russia’s military heritage will assist this process tremendously. Combat readiness includes updated strategic thought, new equipment revelations, and future-war projections. Defensive capability includes not just protecting Russia’s territory, but also the security of the nation’s national interests and conduct of geopolitics. Capturing the essence of these developments is the goal of this book. In the process a few templates for understanding Russian military thought and actions are offered for further consideration and use. The work is divided into three parts. They address Russian methods of approaching strategy, future war (focusing on new weapons and organizations), and geopolitics. All three are important for foreign analysts to consider when attempting to predict the vector (s) in which Russian military capabilities and actions are heading. It is vital to remember that events that have transpired over the past 25 years have greatly affected Russia’s view of the world today and its strategic thought. Both the military and President Vladimir Putin’s colleagues in the Russian security complex are keen to overcome what they perceive as feelings of national humiliation and insecurity that they say were imposed upon them by the West. Part One of this book contains three chapters. They are focused on the personality of President Vladimir Putin, the development of Russian strategic thought over the past several decades, and contemporary military thought on the use or non-use of force, to include how Russian military officers think. Chapter One provides details on how Putin thinks and how he has been affected by specific issues. Ideology, politics, and military issues affecting his decision-making are discussed. Included in the assessment are several thoughts from some US and Russian specialists with key insights into political thought in Moscow. Chapter Two represents a detailed look at the development of Soviet and now Russian military strategy. The chapter examines strategic thought from the time of Svechin to the present, highlighting, in particular, those elements of strategic thought that continue to influence how forces will be used even today. Chapter Three offers a look at how Russia utilizes indirect, asymmetric, and nonmilitary operations, as well as how this differs from most Western interpretations of the General Staff’s use of strategy. In particular, the chapter examines how Russian military officers think and offers commentary on cross-domain deterrence thinking in Russia, which is a topic usually discussed only as a nuclear issue. Here several other potential adaptations of deterrence theory are reviewed. The chapter offers a differing view than some on the issue of hybrid war as a Russian concept and ends with a look at Russian reflexive control theory. Part Two examines Russia’s preparation for future wars. Included in the discussion are new military equipment and aerospace developments, future-war organizations, and digital expertise. Chapter Four deals with several new items of equipment that are now in the Russian inventory, including an extensive look at Russian unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare equipment. Chapter Five is dedicated to the new Aerospace Force and the Strategic Rocket Forces. Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has stated, “Their creation was prompted by a shift of the ‘center of gravity’ in combat struggle to the aerospace sphere.” The discussion includes the rationale behind Russia’s decision to integrate the Air Force, Air Defense Forces, and Space Forces into an Aerospace Force and to declare aerospace a new theater of military operations. The continued development of the Strategic Rocket Forces is covered, since it has found new impetus from the strategic guidance of President Putin. Chapter Six considers several organizational aspects of future-war thought, including equipment under development, organizational and doctrinal changes, and future-war thinking. Equipment under development includes robotics and laser research. Organizationally there is a look at Russia’s new science companies and the Advanced Research Foundation (the Russian military’s DARPA equivalent), followed by a summary of several articles discussing the future contours of conflict and the changing character or war. Chapter Seven discusses Russia’s cyber thinking and organizational development. This includes a review of a Russian-authored cyber book, recent cyber developments in Russia, treaties that Russia has made with other nations, and several policy efforts directed by the Kremlin and the Federal Security Service (FSB) to monitor cyber compliance. A section on military thinking on cyber issues is included, along with Russian efforts to control the international cyber environment. China is a main partner of Russia in this regard. Part Three is an examination of the application of military power and strategy to Putin’s geopolitical goals, specifically as applied to military operations in the Arctic and Ukraine. Chapter Eight investigates the ongoing militarization of the Arctic. The two goals of the military in the region appear to be to establish an overarching monitoring capability and a quick response, powerful military deterrent. Russia has continued to improve its military presence and infrastructure in the region. The buildup includes two light brigades, two airborne divisions that are on-call, new Borei- and Yasen-class nuclear missile submarines, rebuilt airfields, and new aerospace defense units. Meanwhile, Russian administration officials are working feverishly with the United Nations and other organizations to establish legal claims to the Arctic. Putin has made the Arctic a region of his personal interest, noting that the Arctic has been under “our sovereignty for several years. This is how this will be in the future.” This does not bode well for the future of the Arctic’s peaceful development. Chapter Nine discusses how and why Russia became engaged in the conflict in Ukraine, to include the interventions into both Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Russia’s strategy and use of new concepts (new reality, self-determination, use of surrogates, nonmilitary issues, indirect and asymmetric thinking, etc.) are examined. The end of the chapter focuses on Russian actions in Crimea, as it appears Russia is doing one of two things there with its massive military buildup: either it is ensuring that Crimea can never be given back to Ukraine due to all of the military equipment it now has stationed there; or it is preparing a bridgehead from which it can launch a pincer operation against Mariupol or advance quickly on Odessa or Transdniester. Chapter Ten provides conclusions drawn from this study. …12 Feb
(U//FOUO) DHS-FBI Intelligence Assessment: Baseline Comparison of US and Foreign Anarchist Extremist Movements - (U//FOUO) This joint DHS and FBI Assessment examines the possible reasons why anarchist extremist attacks in certain countries abroad and in the United States differ in the frequency of incidents and degree of lethality employed in order to determine ways US anarchist extremists actions might become more lethal in the future. This Assessment is intended to establish a baseline comparison of the US and foreign anarchist extremist movements and create new lines of research; follow-on assessments will update the findings identified in the paper, to include the breadth of data after the end of the reporting period (as warranted by new information), and identify new areas for DHS and FBI collaboration on the topic. This Assessment is also produced in anticipation of a heightened threat of anarchist extremist violence in 2016 related to the upcoming Democratic and Republican National Conventions—events historically associated with violence from the movement. By comparing violence in the United States with Greece, Italy, and Mexico—countries historically exhibiting anarchist extremist violence targeting persons—from January 2010–July 2014, we identified factors that could explain differences in targeting and tactics by selected foreign anarchist extremists and United States. The study examines 110 anarchist extremist incidents occurring within the United States and these selected foreign countries. Only those incidents determined to be violent (i.e., involving threats of bodily harm) were included in the dataset. Our ability to analyze relevant details of attacks depended heavily on the quality of sourcing for these incidents—which almost solely derived from the media. Additionally, although US anarchist extremist attacks noted in this study occurred in multiple states, the majority of incidents occurred in the Pacific Northwest region. (U//FOUO) This Assessment was produced to assist federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies and private sector infrastructure and security officers in the deterrence, prevention, preemption of, or response to terrorist attacks against the United States conducted by anarchist extremists. Some of the activities described in the study may involve activities that are, by themselves, lawful or constitutionally protected, and the study’s findings should be considered within the existing framework of laws, regulations, and operating procedures that govern a particular enforcement entity. Additionally, conduct deemed potentially suspicious and indicative of terrorist activity should be taken in conjunction with other indicators and possible preoperational activity. (U) Key Judgments (U//FOUO) Our examination of anarchist extremist violence in the United States and in Greece, Italy, and Mexico revealed several prominent features that may inform strategies to counter domestic terrorism: » (U//FOUO) DHS and FBI assess the primary factor explaining the difference in targets between foreign and US anarchist extremists is foreign anarchist extremists’ focus on specific economic and governance issues relative to their geographic area, while US anarchist extremists tend to focus on symbols of capitalism. We assess the likely primary factor explaining foreign anarchist extremists’ greater willingness to use more violent tactics than their US counterparts is that these foreign anarchist extremist movements are often more organized—allowing for more complex attacks—and have a well-established tradition of lethal violence not currently seen in the United States. » (U//FOUO) The vast majority of US anarchist extremist attacks targeted property likely due to the location’s accessibility and as a symbol of capitalism and globalization. Most foreign anarchist extremist attacks targeted persons likely because of the cohesiveness of the movement and greater emphasis on issues that can be blamed on local, individual targets. US anarchist extremists targeted the banking/finance sector most often, as these perceived soft targets of capitalism are possible to attack with tactics that are non-lethal yet cause significant economic damage and pose significant public safety risks. Foreign anarchist extremists most often targeted government entities, likely due to the emphasis placed on local domestic issues by foreign anarchist extremists and their capabilities to commit attacks against hardened targets. » (U//FOUO) Arson was the most common violent tactic used by US anarchist extremists—approximately 70 percent (19 of 27) of attacks—while foreign anarchist extremists used arson in only a third of their attacks. US anarchist extremists likely use this tactic based on their intention to cause economic and property damage, which can be accomplished by arson with relatively limited resources and specialized skills. Unlike US anarchist extremists, foreign anarchist extremists frequently used explosives, likely due to their capability to develop more advanced explosive devices as a result of their more organized structure, having a history of using such tactics, and because their targets are hardened. … (U) Social Justice (U//FOUO) Social justice issues––specifically opposition to gentrification and opposition to perceived racism and fascism––were the second most common driver of violence for US anarchist extremists, as they accounted for 26 percent (7 of 27) of attacks. Social justice issues accounted for 12 percent of violent foreign anarchist extremist attacks, although these incidents occurred only in Greece and were all against perceived fascism. Although social justice issues can motivate anarchist extremists to violence, they are often a driver for violence if a social justice issue occurs within a location that also has an anarchist extremist presence. (U//FOUO) Social justice issues often result in legal protest activities, and historically, in both the United States and abroad, anarchist extremists have been known to co-opt legal protests as a cover to commit violence against their targets. However, a review of data in this study indicated in the seven social-justice motivated violent incidents committed by US anarchist extremists, only one of those incidents exploited otherwise legal protest activity. The reasons for this finding are currently a reporting gap. … (U//FOUO) Signposts of Change—How US Anarchist Extremists Could Become More Lethal (U//FOUO) We assess the following future occurrences could potentially lead US anarchist extremists to adopt more violent tactics: » (U//FOUO) Fascist, nationalist, racist, or anti-immigrant parties obtain greater prominence or local political power in the United States, leading to anti-racist violent backlash from anarchist extremists. » (U//FOUO) A charismatic leader emerges among US anarchist extremists advocating criminal activity and unifies the movement, possibly increasing motivation to commit violence. » (U//FOUO) Incendiary or explosive devices constructed by anarchist extremist(s) become more sophisticated. » (U//FOUO) Anarchist extremist(s) retaliate violently to a violent act by a white supremacist extremist or group. » (U//FOUO) Anarchist extremist(s) retaliate to a perceived act of violence or lethal action by law enforcement during routine duties, creating a martyr for the movement. » (U//FOUO) Anarchist extremist(s) with financial means travel abroad where they learn and acquire more violent tactics and return to teach others and/or conduct actions on their own. » (U//FOUO) Anarchist extremists acquire or arm themselves with legal and/or illegal weapons. » (U//FOUO) Multinational corporation or bank becomes involved in public scandal, leading to focused targeting campaign by US anarchist extremists against the entity. » (U//FOUO) A successful US or foreign anarchist extremist event disruption such as at the 1999 Seattle WTO riots motivates copycat and/or follow-on actions domestically. » (U//FOUO) A foreign intelligence service attempts to foment US unrest by facilitating anarchist extremist violence domestically. …4 Feb
(U//FOUO) U.S. Army FM 2-22.2 Counterintelligence - This manual provides doctrinal guidance, techniques, and procedures for the employment of counterintelligence (CI) special agents in the Army. It outlines— • CI investigations and operations. • The CI special agent’s role within the intelligence warfighting function. • The importance of aggressively countering foreign intelligence and security services (FISS) and international terrorist organizations (ITO). • The roles and responsibilities of those providing command, control, and technical support to CI investigations and operations. • The need for effective dissemination of CI reports and products and the importance of cross-cueing other intelligence disciplines. • The significance of cultural awareness as a consideration to counter the foreign intelligence threat. This manual expands upon the information in FM 2-0 and supersedes FM 34-60. It is consistent with doctrine in FM 3-0, FM 5-0, FM 100-15, and JP 2-0. When published, FM 2-22.2 will provide further information on CI activities when Army forces are employed in tactical operations. … ARMY COUNTERINTELLIGENCE 1-1. CI focuses on negating, mitigating, or degrading the foreign intelligence and security services (FISS) and international terrorist organizations (ITO) collection threat that targets Army interests through the conduct of investigations, operations, collection, analysis, production, and technical services and support. 1-2. CI analyzes the threats posed by FISS and the intelligence activities of nonstate actors such as organized crime, terrorist groups, and drug traffickers. CI analysis incorporates all-source information and the results of CI investigations and operations to support a multidiscipline analysis of the force protection threat. COUNTERINTELLIGENCE SPECIAL AGENT 1-3. The CI special agent has the distinct mission of detecting, identifying, countering, and neutralizing FISS and ITO threats directed towards the Army through the execution of all CI functions. CI special agents should not be confused with human intelligence (HUMINT) collectors, military occupational specialty (MOS) 35M, and warrant officer (WO) area of concentration (AOC) 351M. They are specifically trained and certified for, tasked with, and engage in the collection of information from individuals (HUMINT sources) for the purpose of answering HUMINT-specific requirements. Although CI and HUMINT personnel may use similar methods, their missions are separate and distinct. Commanders should not use them interchangeably. Using CI personnel for HUMINT missions degrades the Army’s ability to protect its forces, information, and critical technology that provides the Army operational and technological superiority over existing and future adversaries. … COUNTERINTELLIGENCE MISSION 1-17. The mission of Army CI is to conduct aggressive, comprehensive, and coordinated operations, investigations, collection, analysis and production, and technical services. This CI mission is conducted worldwide to detect, identify, assess, counter, exploit, or neutralize the FISS and ITO collection threat to the Army and DOD to protect the lives, property, or security of Army forces. Army CI has four primary mission areas: • Counterespionage (CE). • Support to protection. • Support to research and technology protection (RTP). • Cyber CI. COUNTERESPIONAGE 1-18. CE detects, identifies, counters, exploits, or neutralizes the FISS and ITO collection threat targeting Army and DOD equities or U.S. interests. CE programs use both investigations and collection operations to conduct long-term operations to undermine, mitigate, or negate the ability of FISS and ITO to collect effectively on Army equities. CE programs also affect the adversarial visualization and decisionmaking concerning the plans, intentions, and capabilities of U.S. policy, goals, and objectives. The goal of CE is to— • Limit the adversary’s knowledge of U.S. forces, plans, intentions, and capabilities through information denial. • Limit the adversary’s ability to target effectively U.S. forces by disrupting their collection capability. COUNTERINTELLIGENCE SUPPORT TO PROTECTION 1-19. CI support to protection ensures the survivability and mission accomplishment of Army and DOD forces. 1-20. CI’s objective in supporting protection is to— • Limit the compromise and exploitation of personnel, facilities, operations, command and control (C2), and operational execution of U.S. forces. • Negate, mitigate, or degrade adversarial planning and targeting of U.S. forces for exploitation or attack. • Support the war on terrorism. SUPPORT TO RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY PROTECTION 1-21. Support to RTP is focused on preventing the illegal diversion or loss of critical technology essential to the strategic advantage of the U.S. 1-22. CI’s objective in supporting RTP is to— • Protect critical technology information from adversarial countermeasures development. • Ensure U.S. technological overmatch against existing and future adversaries. CYBER COUNTERINTELLIGENCE 1-23. Cyber CI protects information networks and provides an offensive exploitation capability against adversarial networks to ensure information superiority of U.S. forces. 1-24. CI’s objective in conducting cyber CI activities is to— • Maintain U.S. forces information dominance and superiority over existing and future adversaries. • Protect critical information networks from adversarial attack or exploitation. • Undermine adversarial information operations, systems, and networks. … COUNTERINTELLIGENCE INVESTIGATION OBJECTIVES 2-4. CI investigations are essential to counter threat collection efforts targeting Army equities. CI places emphasis on investigative activity to support force and technology protection, homeland defense, information assurance, and security programs. CI investigations focus on resolving allegations of known or suspected acts that may constitute national security crimes under U.S. law or the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). 2-5. The initial objective of CI investigations is to identify people, organizations, and other entities engaging in national security crimes and to determine the full nature and extent of damage to national security. The intent is to develop information of sufficient value to permit its use in the appropriate civil or military court. However, investigations should not be limited to the production of evidence. Investigative reports should include all relevant information as it pertains to the person or incident involved in the investigation. CI investigations are conducted to— • Identify people, organizations, and other entities engaging in national security crimes that impact Army equities. • Determine the full nature of national security crimes within the authority and jurisdiction of Army CI. • Prove or disprove allegations or indications that person or persons are engaged in national security crimes or incidents of CI interest. • Prevent the loss, control, or compromise of sensitive or classified defense information and technology. • Protect the security of Army personnel, information, operations, installations, and technology. • Acquire and preserve evidence used to support exploitation, prosecution, or any other legal proceedings or punitive measures resulting from CI investigations. • Detect and identify terrorist activities that may present a threat to Army, DOD, and national security. 2-6. CI investigations must conform to applicable U.S. laws and DOD and DA regulations. CI special agents must report information accurately and completely. They maintain files and records to allow transfer of an investigation without loss of control or efficiency. Coordination with other CI or law enforcement organizations ensures that investigations are conducted as rapidly as possible. It also reduces duplication and assists in resolving conflicts when jurisdictional lines are unclear or overlap. CI investigative activity must be discreet, ensuring the rights and privacy of individuals involved, as well as the preservation of all investigative prerogatives. This is required to protect the rights of individuals and to preserve the security of investigative techniques. 2-7. CI special agents need to have a thorough understanding of all investigative techniques and planning, approval processes, and legal requirements before requesting and initiating any type of CI investigative activity. A lack of understanding in any one of these areas may potentially invalidate any investigation from a prosecutorial standard and may jeopardize the ability to exploit a threat to the United States. … PRIMARY AUTHORITY 2-12. Army CI has investigative primacy for the national security crimes and incidents of CI interest listed below when they are committed by persons identified as subjects. If either the subject, potential subject, incident, or crime falls outside Army CI jurisdiction, Army CI may still retain joint investigative responsibilities. • Sedition. • Aiding the enemy by providing intelligence to the enemy. • Spying. • Espionage. • Subversion. • Treason. • Terrorism activities or materiel support to a known or suspected terrorist organization or person (DCS G-2, G-2 Memorandum (S//NF), 24 August 2005). • Incidents of CI interest. … INCIDENTS OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE INTEREST 2-17. The following is not an all-inclusive list of incidents of CI interest: • The activities of ITO or material support to an ITO or person. Terrorist organizations are specified in DCS, G-2 Memorandum (S//NF), dated 13 February 2007, Operational Planning List (OPL) 2005 (U), as revised. • Unreported contact with foreign government personnel, persons or groups involved in foreign terrorism or intelligence, or unauthorized requests for classified or sensitive unclassified information. • Unauthorized disclosure of classified information or material. Not all incidents in this category may meet the threshold for a CI investigation. However, those that do will often include other indicators of espionage that are identified associated with the incident or when there are acts which are known methods of operations of FISS and ITO entities. Investigations are conducted to ascertain those entities involvement. CI special agents may also act to secure classified material and to determine if the actions of the subject were an act of omission or commission. The command requirements to report compromises or conduct inquiries as specified in AR 380-5, chapter VI, may also apply to these incidents. • Matters developed as a result of counterintelligence scope polygraph (CSP) examination as specified in AR 381-20. • Military personnel or DAC employees who perform unofficial travel to those countries designated in the operational planning list, who have unauthorized contact with official representatives of foreign countries, or who contact or visit foreign diplomatic facilities without authorization. • Attempts by authorized users of information systems to gain unauthorized access. • Known, suspected or attempted intrusions into classified or unclassified information systems when there is reasonable suspicion of foreign involvement or it has not been ruled out. • Unauthorized removal of classified material or possession of classified material in unauthorized locations. • Special category absentees (SCAs), which include those absent without leave (AWOL), deserters defectors, and military absentees who have had access to TS, SCI, SAP information, or TS cryptographic access or an assignment to a special mission unit within the year preceding the absence. CI special agents will conduct investigations of the circumstances surrounding the absences of SCA personnel using the guidelines presented in this manual. • Army military, civilian, or overseas contractor personnel declared AWOL and deserters who had access within the preceding year to TS, SCI, critical military technology as defined in AR 381-20, chapter 7, SAPs; personnel who were assigned to a special mission unit; personnel in the DA Cryptographic Access Program (DACAP); and personnel with access to critical nuclear weapons design technology. • Army military, civilian, or overseas contractor personnel who go absent without authority, AWOL, or deserters who do not have assignments or access; however, there are indications of FISS and ITO contact or involvement in their absence. • DA military and civilian personnel who defect and those persons who are absent without authorization and travel to or through a foreign country other than the one in which they were stationed or assigned. • DA military and civilian personnel detained or captured by a government, group, or adversary with interests inimical to those of the United States. Such personnel will be debriefed upon return to U.S. control. • Attempted or actual suicide or suspicious death of a DA member if they have an intelligence background, were assigned to an SMU, or had access to classified information within the year preceding the incident, or where there are indications of FISS and ITO involvement. • Suspected or actual unauthorized acquisition or illegal diversion of military critical technology, research and development information, or information concerning an Army acquisition program. If required, Army CI will ensure all appropriate military and civilian intelligence and LEAs are notified. Army CI will also ensure Army equities are articulated and either monitor the status of the agency with primary jurisdiction or coordinate for joint investigative authority. • Impersonation of intelligence personnel or unlawful possession or use of Army intelligence identification, such as badge and credentials. • Communications security (COMSEC) insecurities, except those which are administrative in nature. (See AR 380-40, chapter 7.) • Suspected electronic intrusions or eavesdropping devices in secure areas which could be used for technical surveillance. DA personnel discovering such a device will not disturb it or discuss the discovery in the area where the device is located. • Willful compromise of clandestine intelligence personnel and CI activities. … DECEPTION IDENTIFICATION AND DETECTION (BIOMETRICS) 6-38. Biometrics as a characteristic is a measurable biological and behavioral characteristic that can be used for automated recognition. Biometrics as a process is an automated method of recognizing a person based on a physiological or behavioral characteristic. Among the features measured are face, fingerprints, hand geometry, handwriting, iris, retinal, vein, and voice. Biometric technologies are becoming the foundation of an extensive array of highly secure identification and personal verification solutions. As the level of security breaches and transaction fraud increases, the need for highly secure identification and personal verification technologies is becoming apparent. 6-39. Identification specific mission areas that CI detection and identification processes and technologies support include, but are not limited to, the following: • Countering foreign intelligence through the detection, identification, and neutralization of espionage activities. • Support to military readiness and conduct of military operations through protection, including— • Surveillance of air, land, or sea areas adjacent to deployed U.S. forces, sufficient to provide maximum warning of impending attack. • Indication of hostile intelligence penetration or attempts at penetration. • Support to law enforcement efforts to suppress CT. • Identification and affiliation of terrorist groups. • Assessment of group capabilities, including strengths and weaknesses. • Locations of terrorist training camps or bases of operations. • Weapons and technologies associated with identified terrorist elements. … COMPUTER FORENSICS 6-43. Computer forensics is conducted to— • Discover and recover evidence related to espionage, terrorism, or subversion against the Army. • Develop CI investigative leads. • Collect and report intelligence. • Support exploitation efforts. 6-44. Processing and examining digital media evidence is a tedious and time-consuming process which requires specialized training and equipment. Failure to properly process and examine digital media evidence could corrupt the evidence or yield the evidence inadmissible during future legal proceedings. Due to the complexities of cyber investigations, computer forensics support to CI investigations will only be conducted by specially trained and qualified personnel assigned to cyber CI elements in each theater. 6-45. Requests for computer forensic support will be made through the appropriate ATCICA. Requests for assistance will include detailed descriptions of the digital media evidence to be seized and examined and will be germane to the approved CI investigative objectives. 6-46. Every CI special agent is responsible for identifying the need for computer forensics support to their investigations. Computer forensics examinations involve a methodical process which, depending on the size and complexity of the digital media evidence, may take a significant amount of time to complete. Computer forensic operations cannot be rushed and therefore investigative time lines may need to be adjusted to accommodate the time required to complete the support. If a CI special agent is in doubt about the capabilities of, or when to leverage, cyber CI units, the agent should contact his ATCICA for guidance. … COUNTERINTELLIGENCE NETWORK INTRUSION INVESTIGATIONS 7-10. CI network intrusion investigations involve collecting, processing, and analyzing evidence related to adversarial penetrations of Army information systems. These specialized CI investigations are generally conducted independently of other traditional CI investigations. However, given the jurisdictional issues which involve the Internet, network intrusion investigations may require coordination with other U.S. and foreign government intelligence and law enforcement entities. 7-11. Threats to Army information systems can range from exploitation of vulnerabilities in information systems which allow adversaries to penetrate Army computers and collect critical information, to trusted insiders who either willingly or unwittingly enable adversarial forces to exploit these critical infrastructure resources. Any adversary with the motive, means, opportunity, and intent to do harm poses a potential threat. Threats to Army information resources may include disruption, denial degradation, ex-filtration, destruction, corruption, exploitation, or unauthorized access to computer networks and information systems and data. Cyber CI units are uniquely qualified to investigate and counter these threats. 7-12. All CI network intrusion investigations will be coordinated, to the extent necessary, with the USACIDC, specifically the Cyber Criminal Investigations Unit (CCIU). This coordination is necessary to ensure that investigative activities are not duplicated and that each organization does not impede or disrupt each other’s investigative or prosecutorial options. 7-13. A CI network intrusion investigation may be initiated under, but not necessarily be limited to, the following circumstances: • Known, suspected, or attempted intrusions into classified or unclassified information systems by unauthorized persons. • Incidents which involve intrusions into systems containing or processing data on critical military technologies, export controlled technology, or other weapons systems related RDT&E data. • Intrusions which replicate methods associated with foreign intelligence or adversary collection or which involve targeting that parallels known foreign intelligence or adversary collection requirements. 7-14. The purpose for conducting a CI network intrusion investigation will be to— • Fully identify the FISS and ITO entity involved. • Determine the FISS and ITO objectives. • Determine the FISS and ITO tools, techniques, and procedures used. • Assist the appropriate authorities with determining the extent of damage to Army and Department of Defense equities. … 7-32. The trusted insider is the most serious threat to DOD information systems security. The following list of indicators that could be associated with an insider threat should be addressed during threat briefings to CI customers: • Unauthorized attempts to elevate privileges. • Unauthorized sniffers. • Suspicious downloads of sensitive data. • Unauthorized modems. • Unexplained storage of encrypted data. • Anomalous work hours and/or network activity. • Unexplained modification of network security-related operating system settings. • Unexplained modification of network security devices such as routers and firewalls. • Malicious code that attempts to establish communication with systems other than the one which the code resides. • Unexplained external physical network or computer connection. • Unexplained modifications to network hardware. • Unexplained file transfer protocol (FTP) servers on the inside of the security perimeter. • Unexplained hardware or software found on internal networks. • Network interface cards that are set in a “promiscuous” or “sniffer” mode. • Unexpected open maintenance ports on network components. • Any unusual activity associated with network-enabled peripheral devices, such as printers and copiers.29 Jan
U.S. Army War College Strategic Cyberspace Operations Guide - 1. This publication provides a guide for U.S. Army War College students to understand design, planning, and execution of cyberspace operations at combatant commands (CCMDs), joint task forces (JTFs), and joint functional component commands. It combines existing U.S. Government Unclassified and “Releasable to the Public” documents into a single guide. … 1. This guide follows the operational design methodology and the joint operation planning process (JOPP) and applies these principles to the cyberspace domain. Cyberspace is a global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent networks of information technology infrastructures and resident data, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers. Cyberspace operations (CO) are the employment of cyberspace capabilities where the primary purpose is to achieve objectives in or through cyberspace. Commanders must develop the capability to direct operations in the cyber domain since strategic mission success increasingly depends on freedom of maneuver in cyberspace (see Figure 1-1). 2. The President and the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) provide strategic guidance to the joint force. This guidance is the common thread that integrates and synchronizes the planning activities and operations. It provides purpose and focus to the planning for employment of military force. 3. The commander and staff develop plans and orders through the application of the operational design methodology and by using JOPP. Operational design results in the commander’s operational approach, which broadly describes the actions the joint force needs to take to reach the end state. The commander and staff translate the broad operational approach into detailed plans and orders using JOPP.5 Planning continues during execution, with an initial emphasis on refining the existing plan and producing the operations order and refining the force flow utilizing employed assigned and allocated forces. 4. Commanders integrate cyberspace capabilities at all levels and in all military operations. Plans should address how to effectively integrate cyberspace capabilities, counter an adversary’s use of cyberspace, secure mission critical networks, operate in a degraded environment, efficiently use limited cyberspace assets, and consolidate operational requirements for cyberspace capabilities. While it is possible that some military objectives can be achieved by CO alone, CO capabilities should be integrated into the joint force commander’s plan and synchronized with other operations during execution. …29 Jan
Department of State International Security Advisory Board Report on Gray Zone Conflict - The study addresses the challenges facing the United States from the increasing use by rivals and adversaries – state and non-state alike – of what have come to be called “Gray Zone” techniques. The term Gray Zone (“GZ”) denotes the use of techniques to achieve a nation’s goals and frustrate those of its rivals by employing instruments of power – often asymmetric and ambiguous in character – that are not direct use of acknowledged regular military forces. The report is organized according to the specific subjects the ISAB was directed to consider by the Terms of Reference (TOR) – Characteristics of GZ Operations, Policy Options and Concepts, and Deterrence/Dissuasion. I. Characteristics of GZ Conflict Perhaps the most widely used definition of Gray Zone conflict is that established by the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM): “gray zone challenges are defined as competitive interaction among and within state and non-state actors that fall between the traditional war and peace duality. They are characterized by ambiguity about the nature of the conflict, opacity of the parties involved, or uncertainty about the relevant policy and legal frameworks.” Read too broadly, this definition would embrace practically all international interaction, most of which is directed in some degree at affecting the actions or view of other countries. However, it is possible to describe the problem without seeking a universal and precise definition. The term “Gray Zone” may be new; the phenomenon is not. Although many of the techniques used now are based on modern technology, notably cyber and networked communication, many are as old as history. What are now being called GZ methods have been conducted in the past under such names as “political warfare,” “covert operations,” “irregular or guerrilla warfare,” “active measures,” and the like. In some sense, the Cold War was one protracted GZ campaign on both sides on a global scale. The Trojan Horse exploited many of the instruments of a GZ operation – creating confusion and division in enemy opinion, extending ostensible inducements, implanting hidden military forces, deception, and clandestine infiltration of enemy territory. The central characteristic of GZ operations is that they involve the use of instruments beyond normal international interactions yet short of overt military force. They occupy a space between normal diplomacy and commercial competition and open military conflict, and while often employing diplomacy and commercial actions, GZ attacks go beyond the forms of political and social action and military operations with which liberal democracies are familiar, to make deliberate use of instruments of violence, terrorism, and dissembling. Moreover, they often involve asymmetry in magnitude of national interests or capabilities between the adversaries. GZ techniques include: Cyber, information operations, efforts to undermine public/allied/local/ regional resistance, and information/propaganda in support of other hybrid instruments; Covert operations under state control, espionage, infiltration, and subversion; Special Operations Forces (SOF) and other state-controlled armed units, and unacknowledged military personnel; Support – logistical, political, and financial – for insurgent and terrorist movements; Enlistment of non-governmental actors, including organized criminal groups, terrorists, and extremist political, religious, and ethnic or sectarian organizations; Assistance to irregular military and paramilitary forces; Economic pressures that go beyond normal economic competition; Manipulation and discrediting of democratic institutions, including electoral system and the judiciary; Calculated ambiguity, use of /covert/unacknowledged operations, and deception and denial; and Explicit or implicit threat use, or threats of use of armed force, terrorism, and abuse of civilian populations and of escalation. Currently, the United States can reasonably be said to face GZ campaigns in a range of theaters: Russia has mounted a variety of GZ operations, not only in Ukraine where it actually employed thinly disguised military force and support for local militias as well as other instruments, but also targeting the Baltics, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the United States, and a range of European countries with a massive campaign (including expansive use of cyber) to spread its narratives, undermine confidence in legal, economic, and electoral systems, and manipulate political action, exemplified by the FSB/GRU cyber operation that hacked into networks used by U.S. political figures and organizations in what is assessed by the U.S. intelligence community and the FBI as an effort intended to influence the recent U.S. presidential election. China is aggressively advancing its disputed maritime claims in the South and East China Seas, by both incremental establishment of “facts on the ground,” by construction and occupation of disputed features, providing material incentives to accommodate to Chinese desires, and undermining confidence in U.S. credibility by an extensive media effort. Iran in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, and from Daesh and other radical Islamist groups in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere using terror, exploiting sectarian and ethnic divisions, and otherwise seeking to disrupt the established order in the region. North Korea has over the years, repeatedly used ostensibly deniable violence, political infiltration, intimidation by threats of massive escalation, and hostage-taking to divide the Republic of Korea and the United States and protect its failing system.28 Jan
The biggest risks to open government data are political - Over the past two months, Sunlight has been quietly tracking whether open government data has been removed from the Internet under the Trump administration, responding to widespread fears of its removal. We joined the Transparency Caucus in Congress this winter to talk about bipartisan efforts to restore public trust and the importance of preserving open government data. You can watch the event in the video embedded below: We also are supporting efforts like DataRefuge and participated in them. You can watch our panel discussion on open data from the Georgetown Library from February in the video embedded below: We have received dozens of media inquiries and emails from the public about the present and future of open government data since last year’s election. The ways that the Trump administration could mess with government data remains the same: budget cuts that could reduce quality, frequency of release or even collection, and purposeful alteration or miscommunication of research or statistical information. Despite the fears that it would become “open season on open data” in the United States, however, we’ve been pleased to have only reported the removal of animal welfare data during that time period. While Obama-era White House visitor records were made less accessible when the National Archives took over their maintenance, the data itself remains available for download — not “deleted” as some media reports suggested. That does not mean that we or the public should be complacent about the continued availability of data online or the future of open government in the Trump administration. This White House’s actions and silence about transparency norms are raising fears. Instead of defending the essential role of journalism in a democracy, the president has attacked and attempted to delegitimize the American free press. When asked about open government, the Trump administration has declined to comment. There hasn’t been a public statement about what open government means to this administration or making taxpayer-funded information open and accessible to the public online, despite that fundamentally good idea enjoying support from bipartisan majorities in Congress. While we wish that the National Archives, the White House and Congress were clearly communicating to the public that open government data isn’t going anywhere, universities and libraries stepping up to ensure the public retains access to public information represent a strong bulwark against any reductions in our national knowledge commons. We see the greatest risk to open government data as political, not technical, as is true with broader threats to democracy around the world. Consider: Reducing public knowledge about flooding risks is unwise, and yet funding for flood plain maps could be cut. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration produces climate data relevant to the resilience of cities and the safety of marine vessels, and yet funding for the science agency could be cut. The federal government is charged with overseeing and enforcing anti-discrimination laws, and yet a bill in Congress would curb open data collection on differences in access to affordable housing on the basis of race. The future of open government data is in your hands — and those of our elected representatives in Congress, who have the power of the purse. As with other issues that are fundamental to our democracy, what happens next will depend upon all of us to protect and defend the data. We’ve done it together before. We’ll be with you in the days and weeks ahead.10 Mar
How to invite feedback on an open data policy -  During his time as the Director of Technology Innovation with D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), Matt Bailey’s Draft Open Data Policy on received more online comments and contributions than any other draft open data policy that Sunlight has seen posted online for collaborative feedback. As Sunlight continues to research, track, and support cities’ use of the practice of “open data crowdlaw,” we wanted to learn more about Matt’s process in DC and capture the ingredients for the kind of dialogue he was able to generate, in hopes that other cities might learn from his experience. Last month, Matt spoke to us in his personal capacity about his experience. A transcript of that conversation, lightly edited for clarity, appears below. Sunlight Foundation: So, Matt, set the scene for us. Give us some background on your role with OCTO and your focus on open data. Matt Bailey: When I came into the role of Director of Tech Innovation in 2015, we immediately recognized the need to do something related to open data. One of the first tasks that landed on my desk was to draft an open data policy. Fortunately, there was top-down support for open data and some history, with D.C. being the first US city to share its data catalog online as open data. At the time, the Mayor wanted to do something big and harmonize it with some of President Obama’s open data initiatives. So rather than advocating up for why we should take on this project, I was empowered to write something and go big on it, which was really exciting. SF: And part of what you did to go big was to develop this draft policy collaboratively, in the open, on the Madison online platform. Was Madison a tool that the city had already been using or was this something your team dove headfirst into as part of the open data policy? MB: Part of the reason we decided to go really big on soliciting public feedback is because it was something the city had been doing a poor job of in the past. There was a Mayoral Order issued under the previous administration that contained a public feedback period and was posted on the city’s website, but it hadn’t really engendered much of a dialogue. There was some great stuff in there, but also a lot that could have benefited from public feedback. Ultimately, the draft open data policy was a great opportunity to teach the city another way to think about community engagement and about the policy drafting process with a new online platform. Given that we didn’t have much of a budget, and had very few people to do outreach, we wanted to use a platform that was as inclusive and as intuitive as possible. We wanted to ensure it was very easy for the public to provide feedback. At first we considered putting it up on Github and using Github comments, but eventually we landed on the Madison platform which is a product of the OpenGov Foundation. (an instance of Madison) was created as a part of this effort. Madison was better for us because it meant people who care about government data but may not be technologists (think reporters, or people who file a lot of FOIA requests) don’t have to create a Github account or figure out what a pull request is in order to weigh in. Madison was also already in use in DC. Councilmember Grosso’s office had piloted and it was gracious to allow us to port their copy of Madison to the domain so we could build off their efforts. SF: As you’ve said, DC had some existing open data practices and a mayoral order on the books. So was this new effort about re-legitimizing these existing practices with a new administration? Was it about revisiting it and improving the policy? Or both? MB: Both. It was at the time a very young administration, wanting to do big things. We were encouraged to look at it and potentially pull provisions forward, but really think about it in terms of “what would be the best version of this policy?” The basic idea for doing it via was this this: It would be the completely wrong approach if I, a person who knows some stuff about open data, wrote a policy and then shared it with people in the administration who know probably more about policy but less about open data, and then we all agree what a good policy looks like. That’s not a way to reach an ideal policy, especially when there are people who have been working on open data for nearly twenty years outside of city hall. We also wanted to take advantage of outside expertise, beyond what was inside city government. We already had a civic hacking community who had advocated for the policy. We considered hosting virtual townhalls so that people across the country, or those who had time constraints, such as childcare, could have the opportunity to weigh in. SF: Were you concerned at all about not getting any feedback once you put the draft up? MB: Frankly, we weren’t too worried, given the policy’s nature. And as it turned out, just a little Twitter push was helpful to get a lot of people to jump on and start weighing in immediately. SF: How else did you invite participation? And how did you know who to invite? MB: One thing to ask yourself is, who do you need to get feedback from in order to ensure you’re representing all voices, and where is that need most extreme? For example, if you’re putting up a tech-driven platform and you’re writing policy that is affecting affordable housing, you risk magnifying the voice of the people who are already most likely to be in the conversation and minimizing the voices of the people whose perspectives are needed most. In this case, I was lucky because me and some of my colleagues already knew the landscape of interested groups so we didn’t have to do a lot of research. We were also lucky to be already connected to them via Twitter, and through various Slack [channels] and community events. Most of our outreach was online. We did attend a couple of events, such as Code for DC, where we spoke about the draft and made sure people were aware, but ultimately we found that digital outreach was most effective. For example, we posted on the Code for DC Slack, where we reached a lot of people who are very interested in open data but don’t necessarily come to all of the meetings. It was important that we weren’t just reaching out once to check a box, but were actually regularly reaching out, almost treating it like a campaign. We tweeted regularly from our personal accounts, as well as the OCTO and Mayor’s accounts.  We’d tweet when we reached particular milestones, even just in terms of the number of comments received. We’d tweet at groups that might be relevant, making sure to cast a wide net. So in DC, we’d reach out to local groups, like the Open Government Coalition and a variety of local hacking groups, but also those people or groups who care about technology more generally. These folks have a lot more followers than us, and also had the ability to reach into some of the community networks we may have missed. It was also really important to make sure that people felt it was real. We didn’t just put up a website and say, “Okay we’ll be back at the end of this process to see your feedback.” We were on Madison reading the comments at least once a day, going through each comment, moderating the conversation in a light way. There were quite a few cases where there was a spirited debate back and forth and at least one person in the conversation kind of got a fact wrong or needed a bit of additional context, for example, to understand the definition of a particular word.    SF: Do you think when commenters saw your response it made it more real and showed that the District was actually listening to contributions?   MB: Unrestricted to the open data or open government community, people fault the government for not doing a very good job at active listening. And so people rightly come to a public comment period and kind of think nobody’s going to read what they have to say. What we tried to do, relatively successfully, is to be very non-editorial, non-defensive, very factual and very grateful for the engagement. We would literally say “thank you” to people who provided feedback. SF: What was your experience dealing with comments that you felt were unproductive, misinformed, or critical? MB: There’s always the risk that somebody’s going to be unproductive or anti-administration, but the harm compared to the benefit of crowdsourcing wisdom about how to make the policy as good as possible — in this case, people commenting globally on a city-level open data policy — that’s so much more important than if somebody’s on there typing in all caps. In this case we really didn’t see much of that at all. There were a handful of comments that had a negative tone, but that’s understandable. And criticism gave us an opportunity to say, “we may have gotten it wrong, and here’s how we got to this point.” These conversations added value to the end result. And it wasn’t like we were in there all of the time commenting; it was a lot more useful to have residents creating a discourse among each other. SF: Did you have to get any sort of permissions from the DC communications office or anyone in PR in order to have this direct communication with public commenters, or were you given more free reign? MB: One of the things we did to mitigate communications concerns was to hold a meeting within the team to discuss our editorial strategy: what our voice would be and how we’d respond to comments. This helped with consistency. We then shared our editorial guidelines with our comms people to help them understand that there wasn’t much risk. We weren’t speaking as the mayor, we were limiting our interactions as much as possible, and we were being purely factual. SF: What methods did you use for deciding which feedback you’d incorporate? How did you respond to situations where you received conflicting feedback from your audience? Situations where we received conflicting feedback were the most useful. The single best thing about this public feedback process is, as compared with a standard “send us an essay and we’ll consider it all” process, is that people were disagreeing with each other. “What’s the right definition of data?” is the perfect example. There’s no right answer and there’s a lot of really interesting perspectives. In some cases it wasn’t a matter of accepting or rejecting a comment, it was about refining an approach based off of the collective input. So what we did to adjudicate comments is export comments to make a big spreadsheet and literally went through every single comment, both in a stand-alone fashion and then in the dialogue in which it was written. Then we assigned them dispositions: is this something we want to immediately accept, and we should make the change now? Is it something we need to address, but can’t incorporate directly in its own fashion? Should we run this issue up the flagpole? We made up that list of dispositions in 5 minutes. It wasn’t rocket science. It took hours to go through, but it was worth every minute. SF: How important was having public-facing documentation to explain how you were, or were not, incorporating specific comments? MB: We had originally planned to put that spreadsheet online, but didn’t get around to it. What I’d really like to see is a documented process for adjudicating comments that includes transparency into what was accepted, what wasn’t, and why. Even if no one reads that spreadsheet, putting it online is symbolically important. For a city, it would illustrate the comments are taken seriously, which could help drive engagement in future policymaking. SF: How did you decide when you’d received enough feedback and could stop soliciting comments? MB: We wanted to to make the comment period generous, but not open ended. I think we left it open for 4 weeks and in our outreach we communicated that specific window. SF: How was the process received by the Mayor’s office or others “up the flagpole”? MB: They were very excited about it, and I think If anything, they wanted it to be bigger. There was a member if the administration who was very supportive but at one point said, “this is great, but you’re talking about 300 comments for a city 650 thousand people”. It’s very impressive and it’s way more comments than we usually get, and it’s way more robust, but we’re still talking about a tiny drop in the bucket. So I think that’s the question, and I don’t think it’s one that can be answered for this type of engagement, which is “how do you scale it?” The platform will support it, but how do you actually get a meaningful cross-section, and how do you know that you actually got a meaningful cross-section that’s not demographically skewed? SF: It sounds like you and your team were very connected to relevant community stakeholders with an interest in open data. Any advice for city staff who might not have those connections? MB: Talk to your peers and learn from them. Pull up examples from other cities who have done this and see who you’re missing. Find out who’s commented previously and reach out to them. In particular, find the people who have been examining these issues coming from civil society or academia. They’re going to be excited to hear from you.They took time to comment on something as esoteric as your open data policy. Why wouldn’t you email them and solicit their feedback directly? The other aspect of this is the in-facing relationship building, not only within the Mayor’s office but also the data stewards within DC government. I had a lot of meetings with directors of agencies, people who were running programs, or people who were collecting data, to talk through what we were thinking about putting out and spots where there might be problems. We were asking questions like: Who runs your permitting systems, how many are there? Are there more than one person running it? Do they actually work together? Who else works with data like that? Do they talk to each other? It was an immense opportunity to connect the dots on the graph inside of government.   SF: So in a way, did the public dialogue explicitly help you have the internal conversations? MB: Yes. If everybody just agrees with the draft policy, then we’ll have to issue it.Some of the most interesting conversations i had were with people who were running programs to help out survivors of domestic abuse. They were holding a bunch of really sensitive data. They told us that about data collected by a different agency that wasn’t directly related to their operation, but may not be appropriate to release alongside their data because it could increase risks to victims.   It was useful not only from the standpoint of getting the tentacles of open government expanded across city agencies, but also for making the conversation about data, open data, and data stewardship much more robust within DC government because a lot of those people were people who had never been invited into the room. SF: So did you get feedback on the draft policy from government employees on the online platform? MB: Yes. One thing we did in our conversations — and I think this is something everyone should do — is actively push people to the public channel. To the extent we were receiving emails or people were finding us in the hallways and providing feedback, we directed them to Madison. And it was okay if they did it as an official DC government employee. We wanted that. We wanted all of the perspectives in one place so that everyone could talk to each other. At the same time, it was also important for us to go and do the sort of “open data roadshow” internally of the policy to provide a non-public deliberative space in order to have these conversations. By the time it gets to the public comment period, you should be debating specifics of words or ideas rather than the overall principles, and you should feel strongly that the draft you put out is feasible. SF: Cities undertaking a crowdlaw effort often wonder what the right starting point is for public collaboration on a policy draft. What do you consider the right point along the spectrum between blank slate/early ideas to fully fleshed out draft? MB: My basic view is that you need to fit that to the topic at hand. So if it’s a question that is new and we don’t understand what a good response to it is from a governance or policy perspective, maybe a blank slate or doing some ideation sessions or brainstorming session with members of the community is the right approach, because you may not even know how to articulate the problem. In the case of open data, though, I think we basically understand the problem fairly well. It’s hard. We’ve failed in certain experiments and we may need to try again, but it’s not as if globally with open data we haven’t tried a whole lot of open data policies. So my basic view is in cases where the problem is kind of understood and has been tried before, it’s actually disrespectful to the public to come forward with a blank slate. The flip side of it is the idea of remixing policy. It would have been the wrong approach in this case, for DC in particular with open data, to come put something up blank. In this case, people were so knowledgeable about open data that it was important to bring forward a thing that looks like an actual policy that might be issued. That it had very specific language, it was worthwhile to debate the content. It was very reasonable that the administration might just put it out. SF: Were there times where you needed to communicate or did communicate from the beginning that there were certain parts you didn’t plan to change, to discourage people from focusing their attention on items where feedback was not valuable? MB: We didn’t in this case, but I think it’s something we should have been doing — such as directing people to parts of the policy we thought were not as good or were much more open for debate. In order to get it out the door for public comment, it’s already less up for grabs because it’s been through the attorneys and it’s been negotiated up or down. SF: Did you bring it back to the attorneys afterward? MB: Absolutely. SF: One of the things you did was include dates to be filled in. It almost seems like it was an invitation for people to give input on these. MB: That was actually a really important strategic choice. I would do it again. Those “XX’s” — any time there was a deadline in the policy, we X’d it out because it was not up for grabs. Those were areas where public debate probably wouldn’t have been helpful because it wouldn’t change the logistical reality inside the agencies. So it’s tough because in some cases the public rightly would want to push on as fast a deadline as possible. But we didn’t want to attach a fictitious date and commit one way or the other. SF: Any final pointers for cities hoping to replicate this process? MB: It was really important to involve as many practitioners inside the government as possible, including in deciding how to adjudicate comments, encouraging comments online, because a lot of what we’re doing was about culture change. Getting individual civil servants, and at the agency level getting agencies comfortable with and accustomed to co-creation with residents. It’s a really invaluable thing that it happens. Getting members of the actual data teams opportunities to debate or discuss draft public policy — and not just managers, but people who actually work on the day-to-day inside agencies — just openly talking about what the policy should or shouldn’t be. That was one of the most important parts of the approach. Matt is a technology strategist and organizer working at the intersection of open government, civic engagement, and public policy. A passionate generalist, his work has ranged from information security to open data and from crowdfunding to service design. As a co-founder of Code for DC, he helps build the capacity of DC’s technology community for social good. By day he serves at the White House Office of the Chief Information Officer as a Digital Services Expert, focusing on all the open things. Matt has also served as the Director of Technology Innovation for DC Government and as a User Experience Manager for the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he focused on closing the loop from financial complaints by citizens to the marketplace using open data. He’s an English major and thinks you should be too.10 Mar
Today in OpenGov: Impeached - In today’s edition we travel the globe to cover some major stories, check in on the President’s latest conflicts, highlight a new open data portal in Maryland, and more… Around the World South Korea officially ousted its president amid a corruption probe. “A South Korean court unanimously affirmed parliament’s impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, removing her from office and opening the door for her to face jail time in one of the most stunning political downfalls in the nation’s history.” An election will be held within 60 days to replace Park, who was impeached in December amid a corruption investigation. (Bloomberg) A new database visualizes nearly 300 billion Euros worth of EU subsidies. “Open Knowledge Germany and Open Knowledge International launched a database containing all recipients of EU Structural Funds” which account for 44% of the European Union’s spending over a 7 year budget cycle. (Open Knowledge) Despite a national push towards open government most Brazilian cities still have a long way to go. Many Brazilian cities lack the human, technological, and financial capacity to “pursue real transparency and public participation.” The WRI Brazil ROSS Center for Sustainable Cities is working with the OGP Subnational Pilot city of São Paulo to “to bring attention to OGP principles” to municipalities across Brazil. (Open Government Partnership) The fragile coalition governing Spain is threatened by a corruption fight. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised a series of anti-corruption actions as part of a deal that gave his party a governing majority late last year. Now, the leader of the second most powerful party in the coalition claims Rajoy “is refusing to implement the anti-corruption measures that he promised.” (POLITICO) Ethics in Trumpland House Oversight wants details about the White House’s compliance with record-keeping laws. “In letters to the White House and to the agencies, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) raised questions about reports that federal employees — and White House staff — may be circumventing federal laws by using unofficial electronic communications, such as private e-mail and encrypted messaging apps.” (FedScoop) The Office of Government Ethics has concerns about Conway’s actions. “Walter M. Shaub Jr., who runs the Office of Government Ethics, said he remained concerned about comments last month by Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Donald Trump, encouraging Fox News viewers to purchase Ivanka Trump-branded products after some retailers announced they were discontinuing the presidential daughter’s line.” Shaub’s concerns were outlined in a letter to the Chaffetz and Cummings, who had previously “had asked Shaub to look into the Conway matter, which, experts agreed, appeared to be a textbook example of an ethics violation — using her official White House position to endorse products.” (Roll Call) The grass has never been greener at Trump golf courses. The Trump brand is as hot as ever, according to Eric Trump. What he didn’t mention is the convenient product placement that comes with the family patriarch’s new role as President of the United States. (New York Times) Is President Trump a walking ethics violation? That’s likely for the courts to decide. ” A lot of people — New York’s attorney general, law professors, Washington restaurant owners — think President Donald Trump is breaking laws by holding onto his businesses. The trouble is, a month and a half into his presidency, they’re still searching for a successful courtroom strategy to force him to divest.” (POLITICO) Trump Vs. The Media: As we argued on Facebook, the Secretary of State’s decision to leave behind the press corps on his trip to Asia is a step backwards for open government at the U.S. Department of State and an invitation for other nations to restrict media access when the United States visits. We urge the State Department to acknowledge the mistake and include the press on this occasion and future trips. For more, see the story on Poynter. Independent Budget Analysis: As President Trump gears up to support House GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act he has taken aim at the Congressional Budget Office. The nonpartisan agency staffed by economists and statisticians is just the latest “example of Mr. Trump’s team casting doubt on benchmarks accepted as trustworthy for decades.” (New York Times) Transparency? The Trump administration has declined to comment on stories questioning his commitment to open government, while his allies claim he believes in transparency. We believe that if he is serious about the principals of open government, the President should go on the record when asked about it. For more see The Spokesman-Review. State of the cities Prince George’s County, MD rolled out a major update to their open data website this week. The relaunched website, Data Prince George’s, is powered by Socrata’s platform and “gives the public the power to probe, download and search data sets about everything from building permits to crime.” (Washington Post via NFOIC) Power imbalances in Detroit housing data highlight the need for “information justice”. “The reality in Detroit undermines one of the most deeply held beliefs of open-access evangelists: that more transparency is better than less. At its best, open data can hold the powerful accountable. But it can also expose the weak and the powerful alike, with mixed results.”  (Civicist) Four questions to kick start data driven governance. What Work’s Cities — of which Sunlight is a part — is helping mid-sized cities “leverage the power of data and evidence to improve outcomes such as increased public safety and a healthier fiscal bottom line.” (Data-Smart City Solutions) Sunshine week One last reminder that next week is Sunshine Week with events on the books all across the country. You can celebrate with Sunlight on the 16th. Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!10 Mar
Today in OpenGov: Defending the Free Press - In today’s edition, we defend the free press, highlight emolumental issues, praise Cambridge, take a look at the beachhead teams, and explore the state of digital government… AMERICAN JOURNALISTS ARE NEVER THE PUBLIC’s ENEMY The White House should protect and defend the essential role of journalism in democracy. Sunlight joined over 80 free speech, civil liberties and press associations signing an open letter decrying the Trump administration’s attacks upon the free press as a threat to our democracy. “Our Constitution enshrines the press as an independent watchdog and bulwark against tyranny and official misconduct. Its function is to monitor and report on the actions of public officials so that the public can hold them accountable.  The effort to delegitimize the press undermines democracy, and officials who challenge the value of an independent press or question its legitimacy betray the country’s most cherished values and undercut one of its most significant strengths.” (READ THE LETTER) While Vice President Mike Pence’s record on open government includes support for a free press and the First Amendment as a talk show host, Member of Congress and Governor of Indiana, his stances on the public’s right to know have become less clear. (Washington Post) Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of the public’s right to access government information, is next week. (CELEBRATE WITH SUNLIGHT) States and Cities The City of Cambridge is encouraging residents to help solve problems using open data. As Stephen Larrick noted, this is a great way to connect meta data with real-world issues.  [Civic Innovation Challenge] San Diego, CA unveiled their new open data website last month. The portal is based on JKAN, open which was built in 2016 by City of Philadelphia Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski.” ( Philly) Indiana public records laws need reform. “The revelation that Vice President Mike Pence used a private email address to conduct state business during his tenure as the governor of Indiana prompted swift condemnations and a rush of coverage,” reported Jackie Spinner. The IndyStar’s investigation “exposed gaps in the state’s public records laws and ways that officials can use those gaps to manipulate access to information.” (Columbia Journalism Review) UNRAVELING THE FEC The San Francisco Chronicle looked at Ann Ravel’s rocky tenure at the Federal Election Commission and the partisan gridlock that goes beyond any one member.  After Ravel arrived from a previous position leading California’s Fair Political Practices Commission many were optimistic that she could shake up the agency.“After all she had done in California, we were really excited to see someone who was clearly a champion for disclosure and transparency appointed to FEC,” Sunlight Foundation Executive Director John Wonderlich told the Chronicle. “The hope was that maybe it would help with the FEC’s increasing dysfunction and deadlocks and paralysis.”Unfortunately, that was not to be, as Joe Garofoli observed: “The agency’s business ground to a halt. With three members nominated by each party, the commission couldn’t agree on anything except the most routine matters. The panel that is supposed to protect Americans by shining a light on how wealthy interests are trying to manipulate the system couldn’t even get four votes to investigate when they think somebody is doing something wrong.” The enforcement of federal lobbying disclosure laws needs work. “President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who was fired from his prominent White House job last month, has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for $530,000 worth of lobbying work before Election Day that may have aided the Turkish government.” (Associated Press) While the White House has not to sent hundreds of key appointments to the Senate for confirmation, the Trump administration has hired at least 400 staffers at every major federal agency. Members of the so-called “beachhead teams” include “obscure campaign staffers, contributors to Breitbart and others who have embraced conspiracy theories, as well as dozens of Washington insiders who could be reasonably characterized as part of the “swamp” Trump pledged to drain.”  (ProPublica) BONFIRE OF THE CONFLICTS Trump trademarks in China are highlighting potential foreign emoluments for the president. Senate Democrats are concerned that “China’s preliminary approval of dozens of new trademarks for businesses and products owned by President Donald Trump and his family” could represent a conflict of interest. (Bloomberg) Advocates are calling the Department of Justice’s attention to domestic emoluments issues. “With Congress showing no signs of taking action, a group of ethics watchdogs is turning to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to look into whether President Trump’s many business interests violate the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.” The group, including representatives from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Democracy 21, and Campaign Legal Center as well as former Obama and Bush ethics advisers Norm Eisen and Richard Painter sent a letter to Bharara yesterday. (NPR) Financial disclosures by President Trump’s nominee to head up the Securities and Exchange Commission offer the public an unusual look at his client list and wealth. The filings may “reinforce a view among consumer groups and Democratic lawmakers that he could have conflicting interests as a Wall Street Regulator.” (New York Times) ON THE ROAD TO digital government Good news: people are using digital services more and feeling more satisfied, according to a new report by Forrester Research. (NextGov) Bad news: citizens are still running into difficulties using government websites and finding the information that they need, sometimes at higher rates than in previous years. (FedScoop) Best news: Members of Congress from both parties have introduced bills that aim to “keep electronic government records from being altered or disappearing outright.” The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will consider separate bills with similar goals from Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD). (Federal Computer Week) Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!9 Mar
The White House should protect and defend the essential role of journalism in democracy - On International Women’s Day, we remember the life and career of Ida Tarbell, above, one of the great investigative journalists in American history. From our founding in 2006 to today, journalism has been a core pillar of the Sunlight Foundation’s mission and approach to making government and politics more open, transparent and accountable to the public. We’ve published investigations,  trained thousands of journalists, and defended freedom of the press. Journalism and the people who produce it act as the immune system of democracy, speaking truth to power and informing the public of what is being done in our name, with our tax dollars. If sunlight is the best disinfectant, journalists are often the ones who direct that light upon corruption and secrecy. This week, we were heartened to hear Vice President Mike Pence say that he and the President support press freedom at this year’s Gridiron Dinner. When the President of the United States doesn’t retract his statements calling journalists the “enemy of the people” and subsequently uses an official White House account to delegitimize news outlets as “fake news,” however, he widened tears in the fabric of American society that will not be mended by jokes and conciliatory rhetoric at any Washington roast. As Sunshine Week draws near, we join over 80 different free speech, civil liberties and press associations signing an open letter decrying the Trump administration’s attacks upon the free press as a threat to our democracy.  We are publishing the open letter below to amplify its message and emphasize our support for the role that journalists and journalism. We call on the White House and President Donald J. Trump to protect and defend the role of the free press in our democracy and countries around the world. Statement in Support of Freedom of the Press “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government.” – United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, 1971 As organizations committed to the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the press, we are alarmed by the efforts of the President and his administration to demonize and marginalize the media and to undermine their ability to inform the public about official actions and policies. Such efforts include the President’s refusal to answer questions posed by a reporter from CNN because the President asserts it promotes “fake news”; charges that the media “manipulated” images of the inauguration; false accusations that the media has covered up terrorist attacks; and repeated claims that the media is “failing” and “dishonest.”  All of this recently culminated in the President calling the New York Times, CBS, CNN, ABC, and NBC News “the enemy of the American People!” and in the exclusion of representatives of various media outlets from a press briefing.  In these and other examples, the President and his designees have attempted to villainize and discredit the press for any reporting he dislikes.  However, the job of the press is not to please the President but to inform the public, a function that is essential to democracy. The expressions of disdain for the press and its role in democracy by federal officials send a signal to state and local officials.  In the aftermath of an election season that witnessed outright intimidation of journalists in communities around the country, there is a compelling need for highly placed federal officials to acknowledge the crucial role of a free press under our Constitution and the responsibility of government officials at all levels to respect it. In one chilling example, multiple individuals who identified themselves as journalists were arrested, detained, and charged with felonies while simply doing their job: reporting on Inauguration Day protests in Washington, D.C. Those arrests were made by local police and pursued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, both of which displayed an alarming lack of concern for fundamental constitutional rights.  The fact that those charges have since been dropped suggests that the arrests were unwarranted and highlights the need for our nation’s leaders to set national policy that unequivocally supports a free and independent press and the public’s right to know. Our Constitution enshrines the press as an independent watchdog and bulwark against tyranny and official misconduct. Its function is to monitor and report on the actions of public officials so that the public can hold them accountable.  The effort to delegitimize the press undermines democracy, and officials who challenge the value of an independent press or question its legitimacy betray the country’s most cherished values and undercut one of its most significant strengths. The First Amendment protects the right to protest, dissent, and petition government for a redress of grievances, but these rights cannot be exercised without a free press that provides information to the public.  Together, these rights represent the constitutionally sanctioned method for the public to oppose government policies and activities and to seek change.  The wisdom of this system can be seen in parts of the world where such a right does not exist, or is not honored, and violent opposition is the only available avenue to express opposition or remedy injustice. We condemn in the strongest possible terms all efforts by elected and appointed officials to penalize, delegitimize, or intimidate members of the press. March 2, 2017 Endorsed by: Alliance for Community Media Alliance for Media Arts + Culture American Association of Law Libraries American Booksellers Association American Civil Liberties Union American Civil Liberties of the District of Columbia American Copy Editors Society American Library Association American Society of Business Publication Editors American Society of Journalists and Authors American Society of Magazine Editors American Society of Media Photographers American Society of News Editors Arizona Press Club Asian American Journalists Association Associated Collegiate Press Associated Press Media Editors Associated Press Photo Managers Association of Alternative Newsmedia Association of American Editorial Cartoonists Association of American University Presses Association of Food Journalists Association of Health Care Journalists Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Association of Research Libraries Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication Authors Guild Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation CCTV Center for Media & Democracy Center for Media and Democracy Center for Responsive Politics Center for Scholastic Journalism City and Regional Magazine Association Community of Literary Magazines and Presses College Media Association Colorado Press Women Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Committee to Protect Journalists Demand Progress Education Writers Association Freedom of the Press Foundation Freedom to Read Foundation Free Press Free Speech Coalition Electronic Frontier Foundation Institute for Nonprofit News’ Investigative Reporters and Editors Journalism and Women Symposium Journalism Education Association Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library Local Independent Online News Publishers Media Freedom Foundation Media Law Resource Center Military Reporters and Editors National Association of Black Journalists National Association of Hispanic Journalists National Association of Science Writers National Coalition Against Censorship National Federation of Community Broadcasters National Press Foundation National Press Photographers Association National Scholastic Press Association National Society of Newspaper Columnists National Writers Union Native American Journalists Association New England First Amendment Coalition New York Financial Writers’ Association North American Agricultural Journalists Online News Association Overseas Press Club PEN America People For the American Way Foundation Project Censored Radio Television Digital News Association Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Reporters Without Borders Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law Small Press Distribution Student Press Law Center Sunlight Foundation The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute The Media Consortium The NewsGuild-CWA Tully Center for Free Speech Unity: Journalists For Diversity Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts Washington-Baltimore News Guild Women’s Media Center Woodhull Freedom Foundation  8 Mar
Today in OpenGov: Let the Sunshine In - In today’s edition we help prepare you for Sunshine Week, explore the latest Wikileaks revelations, keep our eye on the influence industry, and more… Sunshine Week From the Sunlight blog: “Next week is Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of open government around the United States started over a decade ago by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Transparency and accountability are understandably on the minds of many Americans today, with continued secrecy, overclassification and public officials evading accountability.” “This year, we unfortunately…have to confront attacks on the legitimacy of free press and journalists head on. It’s a pivotal moment in our country’s history for defending the important of access to information and shared facts.” Sunlight is celebrating with a discussion on the past, present, and future of open government that will feature some of the nation’s leading experts on transparency from the Project on Government Oversight, the Federation of American Scientists, and the American Society of News Editors. The discussion is free and so is the pizza, wine, and beer! There are a ton of other events happening in Washington, DC and around the country. For a complete list head on over the the main Sunshine Week event page. MuckRock is celebrating Sunshine Week by honoring “the activists, the watchdogs, and everyday concerned citizens that make an impact…” on the public’s right to know. Do you know someone who is making a heroic impact with FOIA? Let them know! Nothing but net neutrality Sunlight joined 170 other organizations on a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission and the Senate to protect net neutrality rules first passed in 2015. “Arguing that the rules support competition, innovation, free speech and equal access on the internet, the letter urges the officials to oppose any new regulatory or legislative action that would undermine net neutrality.” (The Hill) Given our decade of advocacy for making public information available and equally accessible to the public online, we are not neutral ourselves on this issue. We have supported net neutrality in the past and will continue to do so in the future. states and cities Yesterday, New York City celebrated the 5th anniversary of its landmark open data law with a refresh of its municipal data website. If you’re unfamiliar, Local Law 11 of 2012 mandated that all public data be published online by the end of 2018. “Open data is a window into what’s happening in every neighborhood in our city, bringing our dedication to transparency and accountability to life,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This is information that belongs to New Yorkers, and through the new homepage, it’s easier than ever to find, understand, and use it. We’re proud to be doing our part putting this information up – now, we want even more New Yorkers to discover, benefit and build from it.” In a statement, the city highlighted that it has now published over 1,600 open data sets, “including 311 complaints to crime incidents by neighborhood to the location of every street tree in the city,” As we told the city, we’re glad to see the Big Apple’s progress. “While the work of open government is never done, the commitment that New York City has shown to learning from its own experiences, from the evolution of the BigApps contest to upgrades of its open data platform and the data on it, provide a global example for a metropolis in the 21st century, said Alex Howard, Deputy Director at Sunlight Foundation. “Over the last decade, New York City has shown that improving public access to public information using modern technologies is not a Republican or Democratic idea: it’s an American one, based upon shared democratic principles. In the year ahead, we will look to New York to continue to demonstrate the importance of evidence-based policies in good governance, based upon shared facts grounded in trustworthy open data disclosed directly to the public online.” “Increasingly, cities are realizing that technical access on its own is not enough when it comes to open data,” said Stephen Larrick, Open Data Lead at Sunlight Foundation. “To meet resident needs and ensure impact on the ground, addressing the issue of “data poverty” that the city has rightly prioritized, open data releases must connect to community dialogue, civic engagement and user feedback. 5 years ago, New York City set a precedent for cities everywhere with Local Law 11. Today, we continue to see New York at the leading edge of civic technology through connecting open data to people using human-centered design.” Brian Purchia details “a new generation of civic-minded tech entrepreneurs [who are] are taking center stage — helping empower people with modern online tools and working to fix structural problems to make our government more transparent and accountable.” (GovFresh) Leaked; hacked? Yesterday WikiLeaks posted more than 8,000 documents purported to be from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence. The documents claim to detail CIA efforts to “hack into devices, from Apple Inc.’s iPhones and phones based on Google’s Android system to Samsung “smart” televisions, in order to monitor conversations and messages.” (Bloomberg) The Atlantic took a look at reporting on yesterday’s leaks in the context of the U.S. Media’s ongoing “hard look at its tumultuous love affair with WikiLeaks…” in the wake of revelations that documents leaked during the campaign “were stolen by Russian hackers and passed along to WikiLeaks for publication”. Despite efforts to rethink their participating in amplifying information released by WikiLeaks “the new…reporting didn’t look much different than the old…reporting.” President Trump was a big fan of WikiLeaks during the 2016 election campaign, but he has changed his tune on leaks more generally since taking his chair in the Oval Office. “Trump is having to confront the threat of hacking, along with leaks from within his own administration — and, suddenly, he is not a fan.” (Washington Post) Influence: The industry that never sleeps Republicans in the House of Representatives are looking to bring back earmarks after a long hiatus on the pet-projects. Members of their party in the Senate aren’t too pleased by the idea. Six GOP Senators “urged President Donald Trump to commit to vetoing any bill that includes earmarks, pushing back against a nascent House GOP bid to restore the congressional pet projects.” The list included Libertarian leaning Senators like Rand Paul as well as more moderate members of the party like John McCain. (POLITICO) “K Street’s most generous political donors paid out a record sum during the 2016 campaign cycle, and many of them say they are already opening their wallets for next year’s elections despite fatigue at the pace of fundraising requests.” (Roll Call) Public Citizen is asking the secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House to investigate allegations that Carl Icahn — a billionaire friend of President Trump — violated “lobbying rules by pushing the White House to change the federal ethanol regulations.” (POLITICO) Around the World A Pakistani perspective on tax transparency for elected officials: “it may seem strange that Pakistan – a country so often associated with corruption – is in one respect the benchmark for transparency. When it comes to the disclosure of politicians’ tax affairs, the likes of Philip Hammond and Donald Trump have something to learn from my country.” (The Guardian) Official corruption is being uncovered all over Brazil. “A three-year-old nationwide corruption probe, dubbed Car Wash, is inspiring a frenzy of similar operations by local prosecutors and police, who are uncovering a staggering degree of corruption and sparking turmoil across the country.” (Wall Street Journal)   Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!8 Mar
Celebrate open government with Sunlight during Sunshine Week 2017 - Next week is Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of open government around the United States started over a decade ago by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Transparency and accountability are understandably on the minds of many Americans today, with continued secrecy, overclassification and public officials evading accountability. As in past years, we’re participating in Sunshine Week events. In 2015, the Freedom of Information Act needed your help. In 2016, we passed reforms to the Freedom of Information Act, together. In 2017, will be working with you to hold the Trump administration accountable for implementing those reforms, including the new This year, we unfortunately also have to confront attacks on the legitimacy of free press and journalists head on. It’s a pivotal moment in our country’s history for defending the important of access to information and shared facts. Please join the Sunlight Foundation in our new offices at WeWork White House for a frank and open discussion about where transparency and accountability stand around the country in 2017, followed by our annual Sunshine Happy Hour. We’re honored to host some of the nation’s foremost experts in open government, including: Danielle Brian, Executive Director at the Project On Government Oversight Steven Aftergood, the Director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists Kevin Goldberg, Legal Counsel of the American Society of News Editors Bring questions, ideas and comments on where we’ve been and where the nation needs to go next. We’ll collect and share them, as in past years. You can expect Sunlight’s team to share rays of hope from the state and local level, along with a reminder of how far the arc of openness has bent over the past decade. Following our discussion, we’ll be mixing and mingle over pizza, wine and beer during our annual Sunshine Happy Hour. If the weather cooperates, we might even be able to invite you out on the balcony for some White House “oversight.” We strongly encourage you to attend other Sunshine Week events in DC, including: Sunshine Week at the National Archives, featuring a conversation between David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress (March 13) Sunshine Week Kickoff at the Department of Commerce (March 14) 2017 D.C. Open Government Summit and Reception at the National Press Club (March 14) Accessing Information in the Age of Trump: Advice for Journalists and Watchdogs, at the Newseum (March 15) If you’re not in DC, make sure to check out for open government events in your area. REGISTER TODAY and come on over to 1440 G Street NW to celebrate open government around the United States!7 Mar
Today in OpenGov: Off-Camera - In today’s edition we knock on Sean Spicer’s door, find an open road to Utah, and more… Save the data “A top Republican economist is lending a bipartisan note to concerns that the Trump administration will degrade the quality of the nation’s economic data…” through budget cuts and continued public skepticism about the quality of key federal data. (Bloomberg) The 2020 Census is one of the programs most at risk, given that it has already been deemed “high risk” by the GAO. Wade Henderson makes a strong argument for fully funding it in The Hill. The New York Times checked in on the “data rescue” efforts aimed at archiving and ensuring continued access to potentially vulnerable federal science data. One major problem? Knowing what data the government even holds.  around the world Some bad news out of Budapest: “The Hungarian government is moving to limit the influence of nongovernmental organizations that promote democracy and the rule of law, seemingly buoyed by Donald Trump’s election victory and the ascendance of the alt-right in Washington.” The Hungarian parliament is expected to introduce legislation that would restrict NGO’s that receive foreign funding. “The government argues that the law is intended to counter foreign meddling in the country’s politics. Critics contend it is just the latest move to restrict political freedom in a country where the ruling party already controls much of the media and judiciary.” (POLITICO) “Finance Minister Xiao Jie affirmed China’s commitment to transparency in its 19.5 trillion yuan ($2.8 trillion) budget, after excluding defense expenditures and other big items from a key fiscal report for the first time in almost four decades.” (Bloomberg) Oh Spicer where art thou? The White House is relying less on Sean Spicer’s televised press briefings “after two flayings on Saturday Night Live, sustained mockings on late-night shows, and a series of televised confrontations with reporters…” In fact, Spicer went at least seven days between televised briefings. Instead, the press secretary has been holding off camera “gaggles” while other administration officials have announced news at scripted press conferences. Yesterday Spicer talked to reporters off-camera for over an hour despite efforts by the White House Correspondents Association to get the session televised. (POLITICO) Despite the camera ban, PBS Newshour was able to live-stream audio of the session via Periscope. Tracking trumps conflicts Yesterday President Trump sat down with his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for a meeting in the oval office. Just a few hours later the White House released “an official statement congratulating Exxon Mobil Corp. on its plan to invest $20 billion expanding its manufacturing capabilities along the Gulf Coast.” The statement closely echoed Exxon Mobil’s press release on the plan, even going so far as to copy an entire “paragraph on the program’s background nearly word-for-word.” Rex Tillerson stepped down as the CEO of Exxon Mobil on January 1st. His parting gift? A $180 million retirement package. (Wall Street Journal) Pressure may be building for President Trump to continue the Obama-era practice of releasing White House visitor logs. “Seven Democratic senators sent a letter on Monday to President Trump and William Callahan, the Secret Service deputy director, asking that they continue the Obama-era practice and extend it to the Florida resort [Mar-a-Lago], which Trump has referred to as his “winter White House.” The White House Website currently indicates that the visitor logs are being updated and will be posted when they become available. (The Hill) states and cities We love this experiment in community engagement around open data in Philadelphia that aims to identify datasets that could be immediately useful if made open:   “Thanks to a program initiated in 2011 to begin surveys of state-owned roadways using light detection and ranging (lidar), the state now has a comprehensive list of all major roadway assets,” like stop signs, guardrails, shoulders, and more. (Government Technology) events This year’s Personal Democracy Forum, slated for June 8-9, will focus on What We Do Now in the face of threats to “Constitutional principles of free speech and assembly; basic democratic values of tolerance, inclusiveness, and human rights for all; and fundamental assumptions about government’s accountability to the people.” Josh Tauberer explained why he took a step back from his long term role organizing Open Data Day this year, outlining three main reasons. He’s also brainstorming a civic tech event for later this year and wants to know who is interested. Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!7 Mar

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