Friday, March 17, 2017

17 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

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Person of the Week: Tang Yinghong - 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. 唐映红 Tang Yinghong. (Source: Weibo) Columnist and pop-psychologist Tang Yinghong employs his wide-ranging knowledge—and his public WeChat account—to analyze a host of social phenomenon in China: the mass appeal of the pollution documentary “Under the Dome,”public “indifference over the switch to a Two-Child Policy,” and foreign fast food companies’ many scandals in China, to name a few. He is a prolific critic of China’s social and political situation. Tang is a native of Leshan, Sichuan Province, a prefecture-level city and home to the largest Buddha in the world. He studied engineering at Chongqing University, then went on to earn his master’s degree in psychology from Beijing Normal University. He has worked at the National Institute of Education Sciences and in the private sector. The author of several educational texts, Tang is currently on faculty in the School of Education Sciences at Leshan Normal University, as well as a columnist for Tencent’s online magazine Dajia. A prolific producer of “self-media” (自媒体), Tang brings the perspectives of psychology and history to current affairs. He explains the virality of Chai Jing‘s exposé on air pollution “Under the Dome” as an instance of the “liberating effect of conformity” (also known as behavioral contagion). The patriotic girl band 56 Flowers, Tang writes, exemplifies the power of positive association and the totemization of “innocent young girls,” a practice familiar from the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. He calls out the Chinese government’s hypocrisy in combating smog by quoting reports on capitalist-fueled pollution from People’s Daily in 1971. “We will only be able to ameliorate smog by reining in greed,” Tang warns. Archives of Tang’s public WeChat posts are available from CDT Chinese and 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: psychology, social media, Tang Yinghong, word of the weekDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall17:19
Mixed Fears for Rights Protections in New Civil Code - On Wednesday, the National People’s Congress took a step towards the creation of China’s first unified civil code. The project, due to be completed in 2020, has stirred fears in some quarters that individual rights will be inadequately protected, and in others that they may be dangerously indulged. From Xinhua: The General Provisions were adopted at the closing meeting of the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), with 2,782 of the 2,838 deputies present voting in favor. It takes effect on Oct. 1 this year. Compiling a civil code, a decision made by the central leadership in 2014, has been deemed as a “must-do” to promote the country’s rule of law and modernize state governance, and as a crucial move in building China into a moderately prosperous society by 2020. […] “With the General Provisions, 1.3 billion Chinese will feel more secure and enjoy more equal opportunities and dignity,” said Sun Xianzhong, a national lawmaker and deputy head of the China Civil Law Society. […] Last year, the draft went through three readings at the bi-monthly sessions of the NPC Standing Committee. Public opinions were solicited multiple times and symposia held to gather suggestions. More than 70,000 opinions were collected. [Source] For more on the public consultation process in general, see CDT’s Q&A with George Washington University’s Steven Balla. The Economist provides some background on the current undertaking: China has a civil-law system, which means that statutes are essential reference for judges. (In common-law countries such as Britain and America, verdicts are also decided according to precedent: ie, previous rulings by courts.) But under Communist rule, China has muddled through without a unified civil code. It has bits of one. It passed an inheritance law in 1985, a contract law in 1999 and a property law in 2007. But there are big gaps and inconsistencies. The Supreme People’s Court, the highest judicial authority, issues directives in an attempt to sort these out. The country has been trying to write a civil code since 1954. But China’s then ruler, Mao Zedong, was lukewarm about it—he did not want any law that might restrict his power. China’s current leaders are far keener to have one. They hope it will provide a stable legal framework for a rapidly evolving society racked by increasingly complex disputes. In 2014 they decided to try again, aiming to write one by 2020. This week’s approval of the code’s general principles is the first fruit. It covers everything from individual rights and the statute of limitations to whether fetuses can own property (they can). […] A civil code—embracing laws of property, contract, inheritance, family and marriage—will not guarantee fairness. The Communist Party will continue to ignore the law when it wants to. But for all the legal system’s flaws, many people still use it. The code may make it less opaque and outdated, and judges’ lives easier. [Source] NYU law professor Jerome Cohen offers a similarly mixed assessment on his blog. He acknowledges that a new code would be an “important step” in China’s legal, economic, and social development. Yet those who say it is window dressing are also correct because, while all this drafting, enacting and implementing of civil law-related subjects has been going on, aspirations toward what is popularly understood to be the “rule of law” have obviously been frustrated by Xi Jinping’s increasing oppression of political and civil rights and the arbitrary actions of a police state that has returned fear to the daily lives of many Chinese. The most fundamental aspect of the rule of law is protection against arbitrary detention and imprisonment and other official actions that restrict basic personal freedoms. Here, despite some legislative progress in this area, is where the current regime has ostentatiously failed to respect the rule of law in practice. Many courageous legal reformers in China today, unable to combat the severe repression, have focused their energies on drafting better pieces of paper – legal rules – especially in the civil area where it has been possible to make progress in practice. […] [Source] At The Wall Street Journal, Josh Chin focuses on one clause that has sparked particular concern: one that makes damage to “the name, likeness, reputation or glory of heroes and martyrs” a civil offense. Its inclusion follows a series of steps to enforce the Party’s version of history and combat the so-called “historical nihilism” that challenges it: the takeover of traditionally liberal journal Yanhuang Chunqiu last summer; court decisions against its former editor, Hong Zhenkuai, for questioning details of a legendary act of revolutionary heroism, and blogger Sun Jie or Zuoyeben for mocking the deaths of two other Communist martyrs; and the imprisonment of two men for distributing books including “How The Red Sun Rose,” an uncomplimentary account of the Party’s rise to power. Calling the new clause “unacceptable,” Peking University legal scholar He Weifang argued Monday that there was no accepted legal standard for deciding who qualifies as a hero. He also noted that doubts over the historical reliability of some of China’s martyr stories were widespread. “To uncover the true face of history in the spirit of seeking truth from facts, but to instead face accusations of malicious slander, that is horrifying,” Mr. He wrote in a social-media post, whose authenticity he later verified to China Real Time. “Real gold fears no fire, true martyrs have no need to worry about ‘being smeared.’ All their defenders need to do is present definitive evidence to back their claims. What are they afraid of?” [… Hong Zhenkuai] wrote an open letter to NPC delegates on the WeChat messaging platform on Sunday night, protesting inclusion of the Langya Mountain in the courts’ report. The letter was removed by censors within an hour, he said. “In the future, historical research will be impossible,” he said. “If you point out the contradictions or holes in what they say, they can use the law to proclaim you guilty.” [Source] One less controversial provision offers new protections for “Good Samaritans.” From Catherine Lai at Hong Kong Free Press: After deliberation on Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers changed the Good Samaritan article in the draft provisions, removing a caveat that allows those who accidentally cause injury while helping strangers in an emergency to be held liable for damages, according to Communist Youth League paper China Youth Daily. “Those who willingly take action in an emergency to save or help others, causing harm to the victim, will not bear civil liability,” the provision now says. […] There has been a long-running debate over the need for a Good Samaritan law in China. In a notable 2011 case that horrified the world, a two-year old child, Wang Yue, was run over by two separate trucks as more than a dozen people passed by without helping. She was finally rescued by an elderly garbage collector but died a few days later. Onlookers are often reluctant to help, partially as a result of the lack of legal protection and cases of extortion by injured parties or some pretending to be injured. [Source] Read more on these cases via CDT. As previous coverage has noted, the final code’s formulation is expected to be a long and contentious process. At The New York Times, Javier C. Hernández and Owen Guo report that while some critics fear that the code will erode or fail to protect individual rights, others are unconcerned, or are pulling in precisely the opposite direction: China’s government often tries to present the image of a unified and efficient bureaucracy marching in step. But the struggle over the civil code is a reminder that it remains divided on a range of ideological and policy issues, complicating the leadership’s efforts to meet rising public expectations. […] One prominent legal scholar, Liang Huixing of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, has raised the possibility of revolution if China were to guarantee expansive personal freedoms like property rights and free speech in the civil code, as some lawmakers and scholars have suggested. He has drawn comparisons to the 2014 uprising in Ukraine, warning of the threat posed by “unchecked freedom.” [This has also been a frequent reference point in a recent series of videos accusing the West of trying to foment unrest in China, which have been shared by several officially-linked social media accounts.] Zhou Guangquan, a lawmaker and a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, dismissed concerns that the government was not interested in protecting individual rights. He said it was essential to update China’s civil law, which has its roots in German law and was last significantly revised in the 1980s, before economic and social transformations. “There are a lot of overlaps and contradictions,” Mr. Zhou wrote in an email. “The passing of civil code will erase these problems.” [Source] © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: civil code, Good Samaritan, He Weifang, historical nihilism, history, Hong Zhenkuai, Jerome cohen, laws, legal system, marriage, National people's congress, property rights, rule of law, social stabilityDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall11:54
Activists Decry Chief Justice Comments on Activists - In an annual report during the recently concluded annual session of the National People’s Congress, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang proclaimed that the jailing of rights lawyers and activists, notably Zhou Shifeng and Hu Shigen, was one of the court’s major achievements of the year. From the South China Morning Post: The prosecutions of Zhou and Hu Shigen, another rights activist, were also among the Supreme People’s Procuratorate’s most prominent achievements last year, according to its report. The supreme court ranked “safeguarding state security” first among its list of achievements over the past year – even ahead of its fight against terrorism and religious cults. Zhou, a graduate from Peking University’s law school, was the founder of the prominent Beijing-based Fengrui law firm. He was sentenced to seven years’ jail on subversion charges last August after a Tianjin court found him guilty of organising protests and sending associates to attend human rights forums overseas. [Source] Almost 300 rights lawyers and activists were jailed over the summer of 2015 in what became known as the “709” or “Black Friday” crackdown. Many have since been released; some were first paraded on television giving scripted “confessions.” Four have been sentenced on charges of subversion, including Zhou Shifeng and Hu Shigen. Several of those detained have offered accounts of torture and other mistreatment in detention. Official media have declared reports from lawyer Xie Yang about his torture in prison “fake news,” while officials have further penalized Xie: #XieYang's lawyer reportedly will be blocked from handling cases for 6 months in reprisal for exposing torture — CHRD人权捍卫者 (@CHRDnet) March 17, 2017 Authorities refusing to allow XieYang's lawyer visit him since state media "fake news" smear campaign began — CHRD人权捍卫者 (@CHRDnet) March 17, 2017 Rights activists have responded to Zhou Qiang’s comments by pointing out that the defendants’ legal rights were often violated. From VOA: “The rhetoric in which they are saying that the crackdown of [human rights] activists is an achievement, I think it’s an alarming indication that this is going to continue to be a major part of the Chinese government policies in the near future,” said Maya Wang, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong. Expressing similar worries, Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group also said in a press release that China’s national security is so vaguely-defined that it is often used as a tool to suppress dissents and deprive them of their legal rights. The group also called the top judge’s vision of enhancing oversight on lawsuit procedures and safeguarding the legal rights of defendants “fat lies” because the government has yet to admit its law-violating behavior in its legal actions against rights lawyers. [Source] © Sophie Beach for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: activists, Black Friday 2015, Hu Shigen, rights lawyers, Supreme People's Court, Zhou Qiang, Zhou ShifengDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall16 Mar
Secretary Tillerson Pressed to Talk Human Rights on Asia Trip - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson embarked on his first diplomatic trip to Asia this week, where he will attend meetings in Japan, South Korea, and finally China. The infamously elusive secretary and former Exxon CEO was criticized for his recent absence at the launch of the State Department’s annual Reports on Human Rights, adding to questions about the apparent low priority the Trump administration has placed on rights promotion—historically a cornerstone of U.S. diplomatic engagement spearheaded by the State Department. Ahead of the trip, Tillerson attracted further critique for choosing not to travel with the traditional pool of journalists. Tillerson did in the end extend one last minute invite to Erin McPike of the conservative Independent Journal Review, but concerns linger over the message that his snubbing of the media could send regarding the administration’s commitment to press freedom. At The Washington Post, David Nakamura and Carol Morello report: For the nation’s top diplomat, the approach cuts sharply against the practice of his predecessors, in Republican and Democratic administrations, who have allowed reporters on their planes as an expression of American values — and as a tool to help pressure authoritarian regimes toward greater openness. […] The Trump administration’s posture also has been noted in Beijing, where Communist Party leaders have appropriated Trump’s [“fake news”] rhetoric as they continue a years-long effort to tighten government control of news and information. That effort has included restricting public access to the Internet, jailing Chinese journalists and denying visas to American reporters. […] “We’re in a period where Chinese government pressure on journalists is as great as it’s been since the 1980s, so having a secretary who raises the importance of a free press and the treatment of journalists is important,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, a former journalist based in Beijing who oversees a project at the New America think tank that examines digital privacy rights and free expression. “It’s been a key part of our foreign policy for decades for Republicans and Democrats,” MacKinnon said. “If that changes or if the message is not conveyed . . . that sends a message not just to the world and the Chinese government but also to Chinese journalists, human rights lawyers and activists.” […] [Source] As the University of Hong Kong’s China Media Project has documented, Beijing has been using the term “fake news” for a decade, but Trump’s comments do appear to have reinvigorated state media’s use of the term. Earlier this month, Chinese state media dismissed reports of the mistreatment of detained rights lawyers and activists as “fake news.” On the other hand, Quartz reports that Trump’s denunciation of mainstream American media outlets as “enemies of the people” may have inspired top Chinese leaders to appear more conciliatory to the very organizations that Trump fingered as examples, taking advantage of “an opportunity […] to offer up a contrasting, seemingly more open style.” With questions lingering over what Tillerson’s Asia tour could signal concerning U.S. devotion to press freedom and the promotion of universal human rights, Foreign Policy reports on his threat to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council if the body doesn’t enact “considerable reform”. From Colum Lynch and John Hudson: A move to pull out of the Council is strongly opposed by humanitarian advocates and activists, who are concerned that it would diminish the U.S. role on human rights in the Trump era. Tillerson, in his letter to the U.N. advocates and human rights groups, said that while the United States “continues to evaluate the effectiveness” of the Council, it remains skeptical about the virtues of membership in a human rights organization that includes states with troubled human rights records such as China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. “We may not share a common view on this, given the makeup of the membership,” Tillerson told the organizations, who have urged continued U.S. membership. “While it may be the only such organization devoted to human rights, the Human Rights Council requires considerable reform in order for us to continue to participate.” The nine groups advocating continued U.S. membership — which include the Better World Campaign, Freedom House, the Committee For Human Rights in North Korea, and the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights — argued in a February 9 letter to Tillerson that the United States can more easily shield Israel from unfair attacks if it has a seat at the table. The Council, they say, has also provided a venue for holding the world’s worst rights abusers, including Syria and North Korea, accountable for their crimes. [Source] As Freedom House contributes to the chorus urging Tillerson that remaining in the UNHRC will be their best bet for desired reform, the organization’s Sarah Cook and Annie Boyajian also explain why he should raise the issue of human rights while meeting with Chinese state leaders. After laying out four rights issues that the secretary should bring up in Beijing (internet censorship, religious persecution, the crackdown on rights lawyers and advocates, and the new law on foreign NGOs), Cook and Boyajian describe the need for continued U.S. examples of commitment to universal human rights and press freedom. From The Diplomat: The symbolism of the U.S. secretary of state’s first visit to China is consequential. Foreign governments, including China’s, closely observe the actions of such high-ranking U.S. figures, looking for signs of strength or weakness. U.S. policy is most effective when it demonstrates moral leadership and firm adherence to core principles. If U.S. officials fail to raise human rights with their Chinese counterparts, it wrongly signals to Beijing and the rest of the world that human rights do not matter. The United States should also set an example in matters of transparency. Tillerson’s decision to embark on his first trip to Asia without the usual presence of the full press corps is unfortunate, forfeits reporting on his meetings to Chinese state media, and indirectly legitimizes the Chinese government’s own information controls. Rather than mimicking the Chinese leadership’s aversion to media scrutiny, U.S. envoys should push Beijing toward democratic standards. A government in China that respects the inherent rights and fundamental freedoms of all people would strengthen Chinese society and foster a sincerely cooperative U.S.-China relationship that benefits both countries. [Source] At Human Rights Watch, Asia Advocacy Director John Sifton argues that the secretary should put priority on addressing human rights abuses in North Korea on his Asia trip, both to repair his own battered public image and to increase global security: Tillerson should state clearly during the trip that Pyongyang’s crimes are not just a disaster for the people of North Korea: they also pose a threat to international peace and security. He should be enunciating clearly that the United States and international community want Pyongyang to disarm, but they also want the government to stop committing crimes against humanity against its own people. The goal is not one outcome or the other, but both. On the practical front, Tillerson should be discussing with his counterparts in Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing how U.N. sanctions can be augmented to include individuals and entities that may be complicit in human rights abuses. After a timid start, Tillerson’s Asia trip is a chance for him to gain a new footing and raise his profile. Being bold and candid about human rights and regional geopolitics in Asia is as good a way as any. After all, this is part of his job as secretary of state. Given the growing questions about his role in the administration, he certainly doesn’t have anything to lose. [Source] After his first meetings in Japan yesterday, Tillerson held a press conference (his first since taking office) in which he called for a “new approach” to North Korea, but laid out few details. From Reuters’ Elaine Lies and Kiyoshi Takenaka: Two decades of diplomatic and other efforts, including U.S. aid for North Korea, had failed to achieve the goal of denuclearizing Pyongyang, said Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, at the start of his first trip to Asia as secretary of state. “So we have 20 years of failed approach,” Tillerson said. “That includes a period where the United States has provided $1.35 billion in assistance to North Korea as an encouragement to take a different pathway.” “In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required. Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach,” he said. A Japanese foreign ministry official said U.S. officials had discussed potential new approaches regarding North Korea, but he declined to elaborate. […] [Source] The secretary did however signal U.S. plans to press Beijing harder on working to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat in meetings with Xi Jinping this weekend. Washington recently began the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, to which Beijing answered with suspicion over the true intent of the system and launched measures to hurt the South Korean economy. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: diplomacy, donald Trump, Freedom House, human rights watch, Japan, North Korea, North Korea nuclear, Rex Tillerson, rights defense, south korea, State Department, United NationsDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall16 Mar
The Long View on China’s Foreign NGO Law - More than two months after China’s new Foreign NGO Management Law took effect, Chinese civil society expert Shawn Shieh surveys recent accounts of its implementation, including a previously featured blog post of his own, an article at The Diplomat by MERICS’ Kristin Shi-Kupfer and Bertram Lang, and a Southern Weekly article by Tsinghua’s Jia Xijin which was translated at China Development Brief. Together, Shieh writes, these pieces offer some perspective on the law that undermines “the easy conclusion […] that a crackdown on NGOs in imminent.” I think we should resist the temptation to draw that conclusion without first seeking more information and analysis, and to keep the long view in mind, which is why these articles serve an important purpose. The Overseas NGO Law does not mean the end of an independent civil society in China. It does mean another period of adaptation in which both foreign and Chinese NGOs will have to figure out how to operate in this new environment. Moreover, we should remember that the long view cuts both ways. It is not just about NGOs adapting, it is also about Chinese authorities adapting to the new law and finding a way to make it workable. As my article, and Professor Jia’s, both point out, we need to remember that the law is part and parcel of a larger, ambitious, long-term project announced in the 4th Plenum in 2014 to build a socialist rule of law in China. This “rule of law” is not the rule of law that we know in liberal democracies; rather as various commentators note,[1] it is an instrument that Chinese leaders see as necessary if they want to reduce local government discretion, push through reforms and strengthen governance with the goal of maintaining sustainable growth and social stability. In other words, Chinese leaders will take the implementation of this law and other laws seriously because they see building a socialist rule of law as the path to a more prosperous, just and stable society. [Source] Shieh goes on to praise NGOs’ adaptability, and cautions that reported office closures and broken partnerships are not necessarily “the end of the story.” But Shi-Kupfer and Lang’s Diplomat article describes formidable challenges for FNGOs beyond the few dozen organizations already registered: Many other foreign NGOs, especially those working in political sensitive areas like legal advocacy or political education, are left in legal limbo – and suddenly find themselves unable to pay their Chinese employees, access their Chinese bank accounts, or secure visa extensions for their foreign staff. […] The haphazard and fragmented way the new law is implemented seems to suggest a deliberate attempt to make life difficult for at least some international organizations operating in China. In fact, many foreign NGOs that operated in a legal grey area before the new law took effect are now being pushed into outright illegality. Whether the bureaucratic inertia is by chance or by design, one rationale for the Chinese approach is undeniable: The “Overseas NGO Management Law” was initiated at the highest political level to counter what the Communist Party of China (CPC) calls Western infiltration. The party deeply distrusts foreign organizations and fears that their influence could undermine the legitimacy of its own leadership and the stability of the one-party system. The alleged role of “Western” NGOs in the so-called “color revolutions” alarmed many in the Chinese leadership. [Source] This distrust, reflecting a broader attitude towards national security and foreign influence under Xi, has left some in the NGO sector feeling that they are regarded as “enemies of the state.” Foreign funding has been revealed as a key factor in sensitive cases like those of Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin and prominent Chinese rights lawyers, labor activists, and citizen journalists. While Beijing is keen to continue to harness NGOs when their activities are seen as supportive, the Foreign NGO Management Law and its companion regulations offer potent tools to help counter those perceived as threats—a judgment which can fall quickly and without warning even on ostensibly apolitical groups. Jia Xijin’s article similarly highlights the national security concerns underpinning the new law. He recaps the introduction and proliferation of foreign NGOs in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and the laissez-faire “‘Three Nos Policy’ […] (no recognition, no banning, no contact), which in practice handed over policy-making authority and judgement to regional departments.” He then outlines authorities’ growing wariness and tentative steps toward regulation since the mid-2000s, followed by a more thorough account and analysis of the formulation and implementation of the new law. There is a relationship between the way that official Chinese attitudes towards overseas NGOs are once again becoming more sensitive and the 2005 Colour Revolutions. There were changes of regime in the Commonwealth of Independent States and in North African and Middle Eastern countries, and some attributed this to the evolution of Western strategy, and called for vigilance regarding the role overseas NGOs had played. In 2009, the State Administration of Exchange Control sent out an “announcement regarding domestic institutions’ management of foreign exchange donations”, which reinforced the management of inbound and outbound funds. There was also a gradual reduction of the overseas NGO programs on democracy, reform, legislation and public policy that had been numerous in the nineties. […] The background to the formulation of the “Overseas NGO Law” on the one hand shows us that China’s level of consideration towards national security cannot be compromised. Feedback from the public was sought for the second review of the law’s second draft and for the second review of the draft of the “National Security Act” at around the same time. As the “Overseas NGO Law” was announced during the National People’s Congress’s press conference, the National Standing Committee’s Deputy Director of Law, Zhang Yongdan, stated that “certainly there is a very small number of overseas NGOs who have attempted or have even already done things that threaten the stability of Chinese society or security”. The head of the Ministry of Public Security’s administrative office for NGOs, Hao Yunhong, pointed out that having a welcoming attitude towards overseas NGOs has a positive effect, but we have to strengthen the management of “a very small number of overseas NGOs” engaging in “illegal activities that damage China’s national security and interests”. In the realm of national security it is not only China that has increased its management of overseas NGOs, for Vietnam, India, Russia, Egypt and other countries have successively strengthened their management and laws surrounding overseas funds and organizations. [Source] As part of a collection of articles on the new law at University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute Analysis blog late last month, the University of the South’s Scott Wilson argues that it is “the latest in a series of actions to drive a wedge between foreign actors and Chinese civil society.” His post, which focuses on AIDS support and environmental groups, also describes how organizations in apolitical fields can come into conflict with the authorities when their recommendations challenge government policy. Citizen activism in many domains is on the rise, but the state is attempting to limit activism through legal regulations in the name of regime stabilization. China’s Overseas NGO Law exemplifies such an approach, just as the SAFE Circular did in 2009. China’s approach to managing civil society is three-pronged: (1) cut ties between international and domestic NGOs in areas that the regime deems potentially destabilizing while permitting cooperation in areas that supplement the state; (2) increase NGOs’ dependence on China’s state through the registration process and for funding from the state, often through state contracting of NGOs’ services; and (3) selectively use the new formalized legal framework for civil society to selectively target NGOs and civil society activists who challenge the regime’s ideological hegemony. [Source] Also at CPI Analysis, the University of Alberta’s Jennifer Y. J. Hsu and Reza Hasmath suggest that China’s policies towards NGOs at home deprive it of potential benefits abroad: […] Can Chinese NGOs contribute to international development and global civil society given the tight political environment that governs NGOs in China? […] The use of NGOs as a form of a nation’s soft power, conducting development projects and giving aid, to sway and influence others is one that is not new and is widely used by traditional donors like the US and UK. Using NGOs thus presents a possible strategy for the Chinese to increase its global influence. However, given the domestic environment we question whether the political constraints will permit Chinese NGOs, and thus China to step into the foreground as a leader in global development and advocate for the liberal values that are associated with global civil society. [Source] Relatedly, a China Development Brief summary of a recent panel on Chinese NGOs abroad highlighted their potential to smoothe the overseas operations of Chinese businesses, providing “much needed services to improve mutual trust and cooperation between Chinese enterprises and the local communities in a joint effort to promote ethical and sustainable Chinese overseas investment.” At the same time, Hsu and Hasmath sum up the view of NGOs that is surely responsible for much of Beijing’s wariness: […] Western NGOs have traditionally been viewed as “agents of export” in terms of best practices and norms. They are seen as builders of capacity in host nations, alternative social service providers, and advocates of liberal democracy. In seeking to fulfil these functions, Western NGOs have worked to train and socialise local NGOs in developing nations. They have taught a “Western model” of state-society relations, whereby NGOs act as a watchdog and sometimes antagonist to the government. This presents NGOs as countervailing forces vis-à-vis the state, and sees their proliferation as a basis for future democratisation. NGOs possess a range of resources and power—ranging from material to moral—and have been put forward as agents of socio-political change by the NGOs themselves, by multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and IMF, and by national governments through their development agencies. [Source] CPI Analysis’ Martin Thorley gave an overview of the rest of the series in an introductory blog post: Shui-yan Tang offers historical perspective, discussing significant differences between organisations in the West, where the institution itself was typically the dominant feature, and in China, where traditionally the fate of civic associations was much more closely tied to the individuals involved. Carolyn L. Hsu examines in detail the relationship between the Chinese authorities and NGOs, warning against the contention that it is simply a zero-sum game. […] Finally, Yongshun Cai offers a broad overview of the new law and its context in order to better identify the reasoning behind the law’s creation. [Source] © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: civil society, foreign hostile forces, foreign ngos, laws, legal system, national security, NGOsDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall15 Mar
China’s Panchen Lama Urges Monks to Love the Party - Addressing annual meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress in Beijing last weekend,China’s controversial choice of the 11th Panchen Lama called patriotism the “historic mission” of religion, and castigated the commercialization of Buddhism. Gyaltsen Norbu was chosen by Beijing to fill the role of the second highest ranking cleric in Tibetan Buddhism in 1995 after Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the reincarnation identified by the exiled 14th Dalai Lama, disappeared. The Dalai Lama-sanctioned Panchen Lama has not again been seen in public, and Party officials have attempted to ease lingering concerns about his unknown whereabouts by insisting he is “living a normal life and does not wish to be disturbed.” Reuters’ Christian Shepherd reports on the remarks from China’s Panchen Lama, who is also a CPPCC delegate: Speaking at the yearly meeting of the advisory Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on Saturday, China’s Panchen Lama said that “as the retail economy grows, Buddhism has come under attack from commercialization”. “Some places use monasteries as money trees, turn them into family temples, turn them into shopping malls; while some fake living Buddhas and fake monks use dubious Buddhist teachings to swindle believers,” he said, according to state media. “The historic mission for religion at this time is: to love the nation and love faith… and to contribute to achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people,” he said, referring to a political goal of the ruling Communist Party. […] [Source] Shepherd continues to note that the remarks came amid continuing concerns over the expulsion of monastics amid the “reconstruction” of Larung Gar monastery in Sichuan; if China’s Panchen Lama did make reference to the situation at Larung Gar, state media chose not to cover it. Reuters reported last month that he had pledged to uphold the “glorious tradition” of patriotism historically associated with his role. At Quartz, Zheping Huang notes that this was Gyaltsen Norbu’s first time addressing the CPPCC despite attending the gathering several times previously, and provides further background on current Tibet-related political tensions in China: The talk came amid growing concerns in Beijing over calls for Tibetan separatism. On March 10, protesters demonstrated in cities worldwideto mark the anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against the Chinese regime in 1959. Ahead of the rallies Tibet’s governor, Che Dalha, vowed to “resolutely strike” against separatist activities led by the “Dalai Lama clique.” Meanwhile China’s foreign ministry denounced the Dalai Lama as a “deceptive actor,” after the religious leader in exile said China’s leaders are not “using the human brain properly” during an interview that aired March 5 on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. […] China’s Communist Party has for decades suppressed unauthorized religious activities in the country for fear of any disobedience against it. In the meantime it’s tried to reinforce solidarity among official religious groups. [Source] Beijing has made moves to situate its Panchen Lama in a higher profile over the past year. Last summer, China’s Panchen Lama oversaw a four-day Kalachakra initiation in Shigatse, the first time the tantric ritual had been held in Tibet since the Dalai Lama fled in 1959, and state media paid close attention. The rising profile of the controversial cleric has led some to speculate Beijing may be preparing him to fill the traditional political role of the Dalai Lama after the aging and exiled 14th Dalai Lama dies. Since 2014, the Dalai Lama has repeatedly suggested he could be the last reincarnation, which Beijing has answered with castigation and insistence that China has the right to name his successor. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama, patriotism, reincarnation, religion, tibetan buddhismDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall14 Mar
Education Minister Calls for “Trendy” Ideology Classes - On the sidelines of the annual Two Sessions meetings of the legislative National People’s Congress and the advisory Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, China’s Minister of Education Chen Baosheng made a rare admission of hurdles facing key central policies on political education. At Reuters, Ben Blanchard reports on Chen’s comments: Speaking on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament, Education Minister Chen Baosheng said Xi had made “important comments” on political education for students in December, but that there were problems on the ground. “When we go and investigate at colleges and universities, attention levels at thought and political theory classes are not high. People are there in body but not in spirit,” Chen said. “Why is this? The contents do not suit their needs. Perhaps mainly the formula is rather outdated, the tools are rather crude and the packaging is not that fashionable,” he added. Students need to be led by the core values of Chinese socialism to ensure their healthy moral growth, and they should also study traditional Chinese culture, revolutionary culture and “advanced socialist culture”, Chen said. […] [Source] The South China Morning Post’s Zhuang Pinghui further reports that Chen also called on the nation’s universities to make ideological education classes more “trendy”  and appealing to young students. Ideological propaganda strategies have also been updated under the Xi administration to keep up with modern media trends: see for example the 2014-launched state media startup The Paper, or any of a series of cartoons and music videos brimming with “positive energy” as they promote the Party line. Chen’s comment comes months after President Xi Jinping called for postsecondary educational institutions to serve as communist “strongholds that adhere to party leadership” and “correct political orientation” last December, and amid an ongoing central government campaign against “Western values” in education. Last month, anti-graft watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, announced on their website plans to send inspection teams to top universities to ensure that the Party line is being correctly taught, using Xi’s December speech as a rubric. From The South China Morning Post’s Nectar Gan: Graft busters will investigate 29 of the best universities across the mainland in the coming months, including the prestigious Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on its website on Wednesday night. […] The anticorruption watchdog said inspectors should use Xi’s speech as a benchmark to check if the universities were following the right direction. The checklist includes whether colleges have strong “political awareness”, the understanding to safeguard Xi’s status as “core” leader and recognition of the need to toe the party line. Universities also need to check whether the party’s guiding principles for education have been fully implemented and whether colleges were run in the “correct direction”. Universities’ party committee members, as well as other cadres, will be placed under special scrutiny, the discipline commission said. [Source] Beijing’s new education initiative for Hong Kong schools also made its way into the spotlight this week. Hong Kong education secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim defended the initiative after it was criticized by a Hong Kong lawmaker for being too political. This comes years after Beijing’s plans to universally rollout patriotic curriculum in Hong Kong were scrapped after giving rise to protest. Ng said it was not an attempt at “brainwashing,” despite opposition from the pro-democracy education sector lawmaker, who said it represents more political interference in schools. It came after an addition to the annual working report of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on Monday, which voiced “firm opposition to Hong Kong independence” in addition to vowing to “assist Hong Kong CPPCC delegates to enter schools to promote national education.” Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said it was “a political decision and a political mission.” “It is very likely to be a biased [education programme], focusing on a certain angle – the positive angle – this is not an appropriate education in our view,” Ip, of the 90,000-member Professional Teachers’ Union, said. […] [Source] Earlier in the Two Sessions, Beijing asserted its right to intercede in the upcoming elections for Hong Kong chief executive if the election process didn’t go as planned, and Premier Li Keqiang criticized calls for Hong Kong independence. Political tensions have been on the rise in Hong Kong in recent years over Beijing’s increasing influence in the region. Months of street protests erupted in 2014 after Beijing decided to require all chief executive candidates be vetted by a panel of Beijing loyalists. Silent protesters filled the streets last year after two newly elected Legislative Council members were barred from their seats for altering words of an oath to Beijing while holding banners saying “Hong Kong is not China.” © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Chen Baosheng, education, ideology, Ministry of Education, NPC 2017, patriotic education, two sessions, Western valuesDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great Firewall14 Mar

Daily Kos

Trump disciple is bringing hate to the Virginia governor's race - Here’s the kind of campaign Donald Trump is inspiring in Virginia, which will elect a new governor this year: [Corey] Stewart joined a group railing against the planned removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park in downtown Charlottesville. “We’ve got to defend our culture; we’ve got to defend our heritage,” Stewart barked before supporters that included men holding Confederate flags, according to a video on his Twitter page. With a ravenous appetite for rhetorical bombast, Stewart is campaigning as an unapologetic disciple of President Trump, echoing the president’s populist diatribes against the Republican establishment, undocumented immigrants, political correctness and the media. [...] Hoping to raise his profile, Stewart, 48, has adopted Lee’s statue as a cause celebre and deployed showman-like antics such as raffling off a semiautomatic weapon to raise campaign cash. On Twitter, he lacerates Gillespie with Trumpian flourish, referring to the former chairman of the Republican National Committee as “Establishment Ed.” The good news is that Stewart isn’t getting a whole lot of traction—he’s doing attention-grabbing things without actually grabbing much attention. But this is the chair of the board of supervisors of Virginia’s second-most-populous county, not just Some Dude. And unless Trump starts losing the affections of the Republican base—which is holding strong for him so far—we’re likely to see this kind of campaign repeated around the country in Republican primaries. Which means vile, bigoted opinions being normalized as part of Republican political discourse. 3 min
Four Republican governors tell Ryan, McConnell to nix House Trumpcare bill as-is - Four Republican governors have written to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to register their opposition to Trumpcare, as written in the current House bill. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval argue that the bill as-is "shifts significant new costs to states" and should focus on "stabilizing the private insurance market" rather than Medicaid cuts, even though they're Republicans and really do think Medicaid needs "fundamental reform." We were encouraged by the President’s Joint Address to Congress when he established his principle that “we should give our great state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.” We also appreciate the outreach from the Administration, and Secretary Price’s commitment to a partnership between federal and state governments to “design programs that meet the spectrum of diverse needs of their Medicaid population.” We agree and share in these important objectives. Unfortunately, the current version of the House bill does not meet this test. It provides almost no new flexibility for states, does not ensure the resources necessary to make sure no one is left out, and shifts significant new costs to states. We support fundamental reform of the Medicaid entitlement. We have worked to develop a proposal (attached) that accomplishes this and addresses issues of equity for expansion and non-expansion states. Additionally, we believe Congress should focus first on stabilizing the private insurance market, where the greatest disruption from Obamacare has occurred. That proposal includes some ideas that might be included in the new version of the bill Trump worked out with House conservatives. The governors want a choice between per-capita caps or block grants, not just per-capita caps in the Medicaid reforms, the option to keep the current structure of Medicaid, but with less money, and more flexibility to run their programs differently. Note that when Rick "let them drink lead" Snyder has a problem with the current Medicaid cuts, Republicans have a big problem. Not with the conservatives, but with the moderates. The fact that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has registered his opposition gives the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate in 2018 room to oppose as well. And that's just what Dean Heller is doing, as the bill stands now, that is. Trumpcare is a travesty: It cuts taxes for the rich, kills Medicaid expansion for the poor and defunds Planned Parenthood. We can defeat it in the Senate, if you call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and contact your senators. 19:05
Another Trumpian monster: Tom Price blows off a cancer patient's concern about losing Medicaid - The Trump regime has plans for dealing with the sick, the elderly, the hungry, pretty much everyone who isn't rich, one that's less humanitarian than the old myth of sending them out on an ice floe. And if you really want to see a monster in action, watch his Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's bullshit in the face of Brian Kline, a working-class guy who has cancer, and who's life is being saved by Medicaid expansion. Kline tells Price he's working at a retail job, $11.66/hour, and is being kept alive because he has Medicaid. "Medicaid expansion gives me the economic security in knowing that funding is always going to be there for my cancer care," he told Price. "So my question for you Secretary Price is pretty straightforward—why do you want to take away my Medicaid expansion?" Price just sits there through his story with a shit-eating smile and then starts the lies. First that he "took care of a lot of patients with cancer" in his two decades as a physician, which would be kind of a strange thing for an orthopedic surgeon to do. But here's where the lies really kick in. "We don't want to take care away from anybody," he tells Kline. "What we want to make certain, though, is that every single American has access to the kind of coverage and care that they want for themselves." Right because access to cancer doctors will always be there for everyone. It's just that issue with affording it that Price glosses over. But then he attacks Medicaid, the program that this man just told him saved his life. "You look at the Medicaid program right now, we have one third of the physicians in this nation, Brian, who are not seeing Medicaid patients. […] Let me just suggest it's because the Medicaid program itself has real problem in it." Clearly, that wasn't an issue for Kline—he got treatment on Medicaid! Lifesaving treatment. He's standing there, alive, to tell Price that Medicaid made it possible for him to continue to in that state, and Price tells him the system that saved him is broken. Then this: "So what we want to do is, one, reform the Medicaid system, make certain that individuals who are currently on Medicaid or are on the expansion are either able to retain that or move to a system that might be much more responsive to them through a series of advanceable, refundable credits—a way to get coverage that they choose for themselves and for their family, not that the government forces on them." Seems like Mr. Kline doesn't feel that his choice or his liberty has been curtailed by having Medicaid doctors save his life. 18:35
New information in Michael Brown's murder raises more infuriating questions - It’s a story that has grown incredibly tiresome. A unarmed black person is killed by a police officer. That same black person is maligned in the media and portrayed as a thug and criminal (regardless of gender) who is at fault for his or her own death. The police officer is either not charged or found not guilty. Black America is traumatized—again. Outrage is sparked but, in the endless news cycle, the story fades from our memory until another person is killed.  One fatal story that continues to linger in our memories is the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked protests in Ferguson and all over the country. You may remember that soon after Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown on August 9, 2014, Ferguson police released a video of what supposedly showed Brown participating in a robbery in which he pushed a convenience store clerk and stole a box of cigarillos earlier in the day. Well, it turns out that story and video is only one version of what happened. New video has emerged which shows what looks like a different story.  The new footage shows Brown entering Ferguson Market and Liquor shortly after 1 a.m. on the day he died. He approaches the counter, hands over what looks to be a small bag, and takes a shopping bag filled with cigarillos. Brown is then seen shown walking toward the door with the merchandise, then turning around and handing the cigarillos back across the counter before exiting the store. Jason Pollock, a documentary filmmaker who acquired the new footage, says the tape challenges the police narrative that Brown committed a strong-armed robbery when he returned to the store around noon that day. While we don’t know the truth of what happened that day, the video does look like it shows Brown passing a package to the clerk before receiving the cigarillos. But, of course, this footage wasn’t released to the press by the Ferguson Police Department. No need to wonder why—the cops in Ferguson aren’t exactly known for their honesty and transparency. 18:05
Trump promises three phases of Trumpcare, while Republicans can't get off starting blocks - That "three prongs" of Trumpcare popular vote loser Donald Trump cooked up last week to save Obamacare repeal is now official Republican policy. Which would be great, if phase one wasn't a total Republican clusterfuck.   "We're doing it a different way, a complex way, it's fine," Trump said. "The end result is when you have phase one, phase two, phase three, it's going to be great." […] The Republicans' "American Health Care Act" is only "Phase One" of their plan. In "Phase Two," the White House will lower premiums with tweaks to regulations. In "Phase Three," they'll pass new legislation to fill in gaps that can't be addressed through the budget process. […] But Republican critics of the bill are skeptical it can be salvaged with vague promises of future action. [...] As [Sen. Tom] Cotton noted, the "Phase Three" bill is far-fetched since it would need significant Democratic backing to pass with the needed 60 votes in the Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called the idea of passing a second bill with Trump's wish list a "fantasy" in a "TODAY" interview on Wednesday. "Anything placed in so-called bucket three will never pass," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told reporters, according to The Hill. First there's the problem with deep divisions within the House GOP over phase one. As of now, there are 15 decided "no" votes on the thing, mostly Freedom Caucus types—Ryan can only lose 22 and still sneak it through. After the exceedingly bad CBO score of the bill, Ryan can't count on moderates to stay the course. Why should they? Their potential vote to destroy people's health care—on top of the draconian budget Trump just released—is already enraging voters. Why should they remain loyal to a clearly insane party and risk their jobs? TrumpCare is a travesty: It cuts taxes for the rich, kills Medicaid expansion for the poor and defunds Planned Parenthood. We can defeat it in the Senate, if you call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and contact your senators. 17:35
Steve Bannon expresses 'admiration' for ideas of notorious anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator - Another day, another link between Donald Trump's White House advisers and actual Nazi collaborators. Stephen Bannon, President Donald Trump's chief strategist, recently spoke approvingly of the ideas of an anti-Semitic French intellectual who was sentenced to life in prison for cooperating with the Nazis during World War II. Because sure, that's exactly what you'd expect from Donald Trump’s top White House adviser—singing the praises of virulently anti-Semitic Nazi collaborators. In an article on Bannon's interactions with European right-wing nationalists who want to break apart the European Union, Politico reported last week that Bannon has "expressed admiration for the reactionary French philosopher Charles Maurras, according to French media reports confirmed by Politico." [...] Maurras blamed World War II on the Jews, faulting them for the German occupation of France. "The barbarous occupation of 1940 would not have taken place without the Jews of 1939, without their filthy war, the war they undertook and they declared: our occupiers were introduced by them, it was the Jews who launched us into catastrophe," he wrote, according to 2001 article by Callil in the New Statesman. Callil also noted that Maurras' newspaper supported the Nazis and "named names, hunted down enemies, and called for hostages, resistants, Jews and Gaullists to be shot." For collaborating with the Nazis, Maurras was sentenced to life in prison. That Steve Bannon expresses admiration for the ideas of yet another notorious anti-Semite has ceased to be even a little surprising. That the White House is now crafting budget ideas that dabble in eugenics-based notions of why we ought to stop feeding the elderly and providing healthcare to the sick (under the all-too-familiar banner of military strength and renewed national greatness) is at this point unsurprising as well. Yes, the occupants of the current White House are crafting polices taken from fascist movements and fascist "thinkers." All while praising Nazi collaborators, or in some cases while sporting the military medals of those collaborators during public events. And it's all right to say this out loud. They're not attempting to hide it. 17:00
Steve King: My GOP colleagues have 'been coming by and patting me on the back' - Iowa Congressman Steve King says that some of his Republican colleagues have not only quietly encouraged him behind the scenes, but that a number of them also agree with his view that there’s just too many brown and black babies in America. King refused to spill the beans and name names, but he did admit “that his unnamed colleagues know that he is under fire from the media and want to reassure him that they are on his side,” notes TPM: “My colleagues have generally been coming by and patting me on the back. And a surprising number have said that they pray for me. And, meaning they support me and they agree with me, a surprising number,” King told the newspaper. “I don’t often have members come up and say at the end of the day, 'I prayed for you this morning.' So they must think I’ve got a lot of arrows in my back," he said. Or maybe they just leave you to say what everybody else is thinking but won’t say out loud? We know none of those arrows came from the top House Republican. Despite the fact that King’s tweet earned praise from former KKK leader David Duke (and later on, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer), Paul Ryan at first ignored King’s white nationalism, then tried to give him a pass by saying that perhaps King “misspoke.” Ryan was finally forced to issue a weaksauce statement after King doubled-down, saying that he “clearly disagrees” with King while taking zero steps to censure or expel him from the House. About some of his Republican critics in the House, Steve said that we “should take a look on their position on immigration and see where they stand.” For once, Steve maybe has a point. When Republican House leadership gave him a vote to gut DACA back in 2013, only seven members of his caucus voted against him. Seven. But King doesn’t represent their views, right? 16:34
After incessant talk about sending feds to Chicago, guess what Trump actually plans to do? Nothing - For years now, Trump and his law and order friends have been saying that if we put them in charge they will clean up the inner cities and, because things are so out of control, use the federal government to intervene. They are big fans of pointing to Chicago as the leading exemplar for their philosophy and they love to blame Obama for the violence plaguing the city. As recently as January, Trump tweeted this about the city: "If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible 'carnage' going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds." Except, as with everything we’ve come to expect from him, it’s nothing but a lie. On Thursday, the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, Eddie Johnson, traveled to Washington to meet with Jeff Sessions and ask for increased federal financial help for the city. Sessions’ answer? Meh.  Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson went to Washington on Thursday seeking increased federal financial help at a time of runaway violence, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions was noncommittal, saying he didn't want to make promises he couldn't keep at a time of proposed cuts to the Justice Department budget, according to one participant. Seriously? All that bravado and bluster about fixing the carnage in Obama’s hometown and when the police (whom Sessions has pledged unequivocal support for) ask for funds, it was met with “Well actually, I’m not sure I’m going to have any money in my budget to help you.” What a joke! And there’s more. Johnson also asked for more federal prosecutors to help get illegal handguns off the street. 15:44
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

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
U.S. Army Worldwide Equipment Guide 2015 Update - Volume 1: Ground Systems 658 pages 15,550,306  bytes  FD2C566BB002FD5D7CAE1754AE11619A803B90AECEE1890DBA8BC8450535DB27 Volume 2: Air and Air Defense Systems 490 pages 8,633,454  bytes  957E099E8E63975DB197EBD1FDEF27B70AA9BB61B09A923E85096091FE7AE769 Volume 3: Naval Systems 69 pages 2,781,746  bytes  46972E3456364C4F010F139283801A6A1A7B676D3DDC47E2084539EB100712DA 1. In today’s complicated and uncertain world, it is impossible to predict the exact nature of the next conflict that may involve U.S. joint forces. We must be ready to meet the challenges of any type of conflict, in all kinds of places, and against all types of threats in all Complex Operational Environments. As a training tool, the opposing force (OPFOR) must be a challenging, uncooperative sparring partner capable of stressing any or all warfighting functions and mission-essential tasks of the U.S. force. 2. The Army Training Circular 7-100 series describes the doctrine, organizations, TTP, and equipment of such an OPFOR and how to combine it with other operational variables to portray the qualities of a full range of conditions appropriate to Army training environments. 3. The WEG was developed to support the TC 7- 100 series and all OPFOR portrayal in training simulations (live, virtual, constructive, and gaming). The equipment portrayed in the WEG represents military systems, variants, and upgrades that US forces may encounter now and in the foreseeable future. The authors continually analyze realworld developments, capabilities, and trends to guarantee the OPFOR remains relevant. 4. Published in three volumes, (Ground; Airspace & Air Defense Systems; and Naval & Littoral Systems) the WEG is the approved document for OPFOR equipment data used in U.S. Army training. Annual updates are posted on the ATN website. Therefore it is available for downloading and local distribution. Distribution restriction is unlimited. This issue replaces all previous issues. … 11 Mar
U.S. Army Threat Tactics Report: Boko Haram - Boko Haram is a relatively new organization, having begun serious military operations against the Nigerian government in 2009. Abubakar Shekau leads a confederation of sub organizations with commanders who mostly control their own day-to-day operations. Shekau’s legitimacy comes from his position as deputy to the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. Boko Haram primarily conducts offensive raids, assaults, and ambushes against thinly-stretched and poorly-resourced Nigerian security elements and civilians in northeastern Nigeria. Influence from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), to whom Boko Haram recently swore allegiance, can be seen in an improved and increasing Boko Haram social media presence. The Nigerian military counterinsurgency campaign begun in 2013 has reduced Boko Haram’s freedom of maneuver within Nigeria, causing it to setup safe havens in Niger, Chad, and Cameroon utilizing hundreds of unguarded border transit points. Due to a campaign of violence against civilians and businesses, Boko Haram has lost both Nigerian civilian support and recruits, causing it to look to disaffected and poverty-ridden areas in border countries, particularly Cameroon. Boko Haram’s violent attacks have alienated it from much of the Nigerian population. … The primary goal of Boko Haram is to institute an Islamic state throughout Nigeria based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law with an inevitable regional expansion. The founder and spiritual leader of Boko Haram, Muhammed Yusuf, and his followers originally believed in a peaceful transition and made what the current Boko Haram leadership considered illegitimate concessions to and compromises with secular and government leaders. The group has since adopted a takfirist ideology—the belief that less than a strict adherence to Salafist Islam makes a Muslim an “apostate” equal to infidels and, therefore, a legitimate target. Boko Haram has targeted and killed a number of prominent Muslim leaders who have been critical of the organization. Boko Haram considers any support of Western or secular ideas, such as schools based on Western influence, heretical and worthy of attack. The movement is not without provocations which have contributed to the escalation of its use of violence in pursuit of its goals. Decades of resentment against corruption, poverty, and perceived inequality have given Boko Haram its trajectory toward becoming an ever more violent organization. The reintroduction of sharia criminal courts in northern Islamic states failed because of the general perception of unfairness by the population. Police brutality, extrajudicial killings by security forces, and disappearances of people taken into custody have bred general distrust, animosity, and resistance to the Nigerian government that has not fully investigated and prosecuted offenses. Despite being Africa’s largest economy with great natural resource wealth, it has one of the poorest populations with a large percent of people living on less than $1 a day. The disparity in distribution of that wealth is stark in its inequitable concentration with 72 percent of the North’s population living in poverty compared with 27 percent in the South and 35 percent in the Niger Delta. The population in the North is caught between two violent and contesting forces, Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces. … 11 Mar
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
Today in OpenGov: How to connect communities to their data - In today’s edition, we share our new “Tactical Data Engagement” guide, catch up on the latest Sunshine Week news,  talk about Trump and transparency with C-SPAN, and much more… CONNECTING DATA TO COMMUNITIES The Sunlight Foundation published a new, comprehensive guide for cities to engage their residents to improve their communities with public data. In “Tactical Data Engagement,” local elected officials, government workers and the public will find practical steps that go beyond just publishing open government data online, including a strategic process, cases studies that reflect real impact, and simple tactics to move from ideas to action. The resource was developed as part of Sunlight’s ongoing work with dozens of cities across the United States through the What Works Cities initiative, which seeks to improve how data, evidence and technology are applied to improve the business of government and lives of residents. As Sunlight has advocated for over a decade, public access to government information in the 21st century should be free, open and online — but that’s not enough to meet cities’ goals to improve outcomes for  local communities. “We shouldn’t just be proactive about data access, but about facilitating use and reuse,” said Stephen Christopher Larrick, Open Cities Director at the Sunlight Foundation. “What we’ve seen is that cities that connect open data to the unique needs of their residents are able to achieve impact and demonstrate its worth” These gains don’t happen without the investment of time and expertise by city leaders and partnerships within and outside of government. “As Sunlight celebrates the progress that has been made publishing public information online in recent decades, we’re also mindful of all of the work yet to be done during Sunshine Week,” said Alexander B. Howard, Deputy Director at Sunlight Foundation. “Opening data isn’t enough on its own to deliver the transparency, accountability and tangible improvements to city life that mayors and residents want and need to see from the investment of time and resources. ‘Tactical Data Engagement’ provides useful case studies of cities and proven strategies that we hope every city will adopt and adapt, meeting their communities where they are to solve shared problems, together.” The guide is still a work in progress and we’d love it if you told us what you think by reaching out to or posting a comment in the public google doc. (Sunlight Foundation) IF IT’S PUBLIC, PUT IT ONLINE   Yesterday, the American Library Association presented Senator Jon Tester of Montana with the James Madison Award for his work promoting open access to government information and transparency. While accepting the award, Senator Tester announced that he is forming a bipartisan transparency caucus in the Senate. (Newseum)   Tester reintroduces the Public Online Information Act. “All Montanans know we cannot hold folks accountable without sunshine, and in the 21st century we have no excuse not to be as transparent as possible,” Tester said.  “We need more sunshine in our government and this legislation will make it easier for Montanans to keep folks honest.”The POIA “will make all public records from the Executive Branch permanently available on the Internet in a searchable database at no cost to constituents.”(Senator Tester)We are thrilled to see it reintroduced. Sunlight has supported POIA since 2010, when Rep. Israel and Sen. Jon Tester, first introduced this important transparency reform. If enacted, the bill would enshrine into law the simple, transformative principle that in the 21st century, public means online.  We hope Congress moves forward with much-needed open government reforms. Celebrating Sunshine Who uses FOIA and why? FOIA Mapper attempted to answer those questions based on an analysis of 229,000 requests spread across 85 federal agencies. (FOIA Mapper) Sunspots: “Still, there are bright spots around the country: court decisions, laws, bills, and other efforts breathing life into FOI principles. And it’s important to recognize those successes where we get them, because it’s all too easy to feel discouraged by the persistence and scale of FOI challenges. Progress, however fitful, is being made.” (Columbia Journalism Review) A new report endorses police body camera programs. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers released the report, Policing Body Cameras: Policies and Procedures to Safeguard the Rights of the Accused, after two years of research. The report “endorses the continued and wider use of body cameras as long as they are implemented with NACDL’s policy recommendations,” which are also laid out in the paper. (NACDL) Data analytics are worth the work they entail for local governments. “Cities worldwide are having a data and analytics-driven moment, and it’s one that is likely here to stay. Thanks to advances in computing, code-sharing, and mindsets around accessing government data, it has never been a more affordable, accessible or effective time to start harnessing analytics capabilities to improve local government services.” (Data-Smart City Solutions) One last chance to celebrate Sunshine Week with the Sunlight Foundation. Don’t forget that our event is happening tonight at 5:30 at our office in Washington, DC. Sign up to attend here. Transparency in Trumpland Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project on Government Oversight wrote an open letter to the President. In it, she urged President Trump to make transparency and openness a cornerstone of his administration, noting areas where President Obama fell short of his transparency promises that the Trump administration can tackle. (POGO) Sunlight’s executive director John Wonderlich went on C-SPAN to talk about the state of open government. “C-SPAN asked John for our views on the Trump administration’s approach to date on open government.” He responded with a number of examples from the campaign and first few months of Trump’s presidency.  You can read more and watch the full video here. Former Bush and Obama ethics counsels keep up the good fight. Norm Eisen and Richard Painter, former ethics advisers to Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively, “have teamed up to become two of the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest. They not only sued the president within days of his inauguration, they have also appeared regularly on TV news and testified on Capitol Hill on all manner of legal minutiae.” (Roll Call)   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! 16 Mar
Sunlight joins C-SPAN to make sense of the state of open government - This morning, Sunlight’s John Wonderlich joined Greta Wodele Brawner on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal to discuss Sunshine Week, transparency and accountability in the United States. You can watch the segment in the video embedded below: C-SPAN asked John for our views on the Trump administration’s approach to date on open government. Following is a short list of examples that we think offer some insight. How candidates conduct campaigns and transitions carries into office. After making himself available to the press through July, Trump set a bar as the least transparent modern presidential candidate in modern history. He held no press conference until January, no tax returns, no proactive disclosures around transition or inauguration. Ethics: Lack of disclosure of tax returns and divestment in accordance with decades of tradition sets up the Trump presidency for ongoing appearance of corruption, with an unknown number of conflicts of interest around the world No affirmative vision for open government. No public statements on the Freedom of Information Act, open government, open data, transparency, nor this year’s Sunshine Week. No comment on White House visitor logs, followed by the Press Secretary responding that they are “considering” whether to disclose them at all. Congress voted to remove an anti-corruption rule, which President Trump signed with fanfare, abandoning U.S. leadership on transparency of payments by the extractive industries to government Secret gag orders to agencies began the Trump administration Historic attacks on the role of the free press in democracy While is still missing policy documents, executive orders are now posted in a timely fashion No US chief technology officer, nor any evidence of plans for one, along with hundreds of key appointees not submitted to the Senate, including the US chief information officer, chief science advisor The President claimed to have made the most transparent selection of a nominee to be a Supreme Court Justice, given the campaign disclose of lists of potential nominees. When it came to announce his nominee, however, the White House tried to mislead out the press with another choice. Antagonism to government statistics and evidence: President Trump repeatedly said federal jobs numbers were “phony” but now aren’t Levied attacks on the independent judiciary after judges struck down his executive order as unconstitutional Moved drones for counterterrorism back to CIA, away from accountability and transparency at Department of Defense Please send us your stories of more positive or negative examples of transparency and accountability under President Trump.15 Mar
Connect open data to residents’ lives with our Tactical Data Engagement guide - Check out Sunlight’s new guide, “Tactical Data Engagement”, and help us improve the guide by annotating the Google Doc here. United States cities face a critical challenge when it comes to fulfilling the potential of open data: that of moving beyond the mere provision of access to data toward the active facilitation of stakeholder use of data in ways that bring about community impact. Sunlight has been researching innovative projects and strategies that have helped cities tackle this challenge head on. Today we’re excited to share a guide for our new approach to open data in U.S. cities–an approach we’re calling “Tactical Data Engagement,” designed to drive community impact by connecting the dots between open data, public stakeholders, and collaborative action. Access is critical but we have more work to do Many city leaders have realized that open data is a valuable innovation to bring to city hall, and have invoked the promise of a new kind of relationship between government and the people: one where government works with the public in new collaborative ways. City mayors, managers, council members, and other leaders are making commitments to this idea in the US, with over 60 US cities having adopted open data reforms since 2006, nearly 20 in 2016 alone–many with the help of the Sunlight team as part of our support of the What Works Cities initiative. While cities are building the public policy infrastructure for open data, they are also making technical advancements as municipal IT and innovation departments build or procure new open data portals and release more and more government datasets proactively online. These developments are all positive–they represent a sea change in our societal norms and expectations about the public right to government information online–and Sunlight is proud of the work we’ve done to advance access to open data through legal and technical reforms. However, we’re writing now to say is that these developments alone are not enough. Portals and policies are critical infrastructure for the data-driven open government needed in the 21st century; but there has been and continues to be a disconnect between the rhetoric and promise of open data when compared to what it has meant in terms of practical reform. Let us be clear: the promise of open data is not about data on a website. The promise is for a new kind of relationship between government and the governed, one that brings about collaborative opportunities for impact. While many reforms have been successful in building an infrastructure of access, many have fallen short in leveraging that infrastructure for empowering residents and driving community change. Announcing Tactical Data Engagement In order to formulate an approach to help cities go further with their open data programs, Sunlight has been conducting an extensive review of the relevant literature on open data impact, and of the literature on approaches to community stakeholder engagement and co-creation (both civic-tech or open-data driven as well as more traditional). We drew key inspiration from the field of urban planning, where low-cost, and often temporary physical interventions in the built environment have helped reimagine a more participatory and iteratively co-created conception of the city, as well as from the field of design, where human-centered approaches have long been recognized as critical. We’ve been evaluating case studies at the local level and have even learned from efforts in the federal government like the The Opportunity Project or the Center for Open Data Enterprise’s Open Data Roundtables. We’ve been conducting interviews with experts and drawing from our own direct work supporting cities with open data. The result so far is our “Tactical Data Engagement” Guide (still in beta) designed to address what we see as the the most critical challenge currently facing the open data movement: helping city open data programs build on a new infrastructure of access to facilitate the collaborative use of open data to empower residents and create tangible community impact. And we’re not done yet. In the spirit of the collaborative approaches we recommend, we’ll be continuing to speak to experts and public officials in city government for the next few months to learn how to better adapt Tactical Data Engagement to fit cities’ needs. Let us know what you think by reaching out to or by leaving a comment in the public Google Doc here. To fully meet their goals, cities need to turn their sights beyond access alone. Most open data initiatives, after all, aim for public stakeholders to use data productively. Cities want to do more with their data by enlisting the help of community actors, and, most importantly, they want open data to have an impact. An open data policy or portal on its own won’t necessarily bring out these goals. It’s clear cities need to go further. With Tactical Data Engagement we’ve laid out a process and begun to compile tactics that we hope will help them do just that. Check out the guide below.   15 Mar
Today in OpenGov: Trump’s Tax Tease - In today’s edition we get another peak at President Trump’s taxes, explore the idea of a congressional digital service, and celebrate Sunshine Week in the states… Sunshine in the states Thanks to Candace DiLavore for reaching out and sharing Reclaim New York’s new Online Transparency Index! “This platform, a new feature of The New York Transparency Project, allows citizens and elected officials to evaluate their local governments based on a list of indicators we developed to track how transparent and accessible their governments are online,” she explained. Open government is advancing in Rhode Island.  “When Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island and members of the state’s House of Representatives recently demanded that records relating to one of the biggest and most publicized loan investigations in the state be made public, it was an early Sunshine Week gift for the public and especially for advocates of open government.” (New England First Amendment Coalition via NFOIC) Bipartisan effort pushes Mississippi police to report civil asset forfeiture. “Facing growing bipartisan scrutiny over its unchecked civil asset forfeiture program, Mississippi will now require police to report how much property they seize from citizens under a bill signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant Monday.” (Reason)   Sunshine week rolls on Which federal agency will win this year’s FOIA March Madness? For the second year in a row MuckRock is asking 64 federal agencies to process an identical FOIA request for standard materials in an effort to crown the Most Responsive Agency. (MuckRock) Congress needs a digital service to modernize and restore public trust. Seamus Kraft, Executive Director of the OpenGov Foundation, made the case for a congressional digital service at a Sunshine Week event on Monday. According to Kraft, “a congressional digital service team…[could] help Congress identify their tech problems and take advantage of…[existing tools] to reverse declining public trust by improving congressional business processes and civic engagement.” (Federal Computer Week) Trump’s Tax tease President Trump’s 2005 taxes leaked last night. The leak, and subsequent confirmation by the White House, adds a small piece to the picture of Trump’s overall tax record. During the campaign, Trump became the first major party candidate since the 1970’s to refuse to release tax information, despite initially pledging to do so. (POLITICO) Trump’s team has argued that his taxes couldn’t be released because of an IRS audit, but their confirmation of details in this case suggest that any audit is not a real barrier to disclosure. elsewhere A new report predicts $10 billion in compliance savings from data based reporting. The report by the Data Foundation and PricewaterhouseCoopers encourages replacing document based reporting with standardized open data reporting or Standardized Business Reporting and cites $10 billion as an early-stage estimate. (fedscoop) Top White House aide accused of violating ethics rules. “The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is accusing a top White House official of potentially violating criminal conflict of interest laws by playing a role in meetings with major companies in which he also appeared to have held millions of dollars in stock.” The group filed a complaint against Christopher Liddell who currently serves as an assistant to the president and director of strategic initiatives. (POLITICO) Rex Tillerson used an email alias to discuss climate change while at the head of Exxon Mobil. The office of New York’s attorney general “said in court documents that Exxon hadn’t disclosed that Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive, used an alias email address to discuss risk-management issues related to climate change. Mr. Tillerson, now the U.S. secretary of state, used the pseudonym “Wayne Tracker” from at least 2008 to 2015, according to the attorney general.” (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! 15 Mar
Today in OpenGov: Can’t Stop the Sunshine - It may be snowing on the east coast, but we are here to make sure the sunshine breaks through. In today’s edition, we share a fresh batch of Sunshine Week news, look at the costs of ignoring transparency requirements, and more… Sunshine week A one stop shop to learn about the federal FOIA. Interested in the federal Freedom of Information Act? Looking for information about the law or a specific agency? Check out FOIA Wiki, a “free and collaborative resource on the U.S. Freedom of Information Act…provided by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, with contributions from The FOIA Project at TRAC, MuckRock, The National Security Archive, FOIA Mapper, and users like you.” (FOIA Wiki) FOIA Audit finds 3 out of 5 agencies failing to follow the latest updates to law. According to a new report from the National Security Archive released this week only 33 out of 98 agencies have updated their rules to comply with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. (National Security Archive) How can we solve challenges to FOIA? “But the things people build — be they bridges, roads or freedom of information laws — wear out without regular maintenance. That’s why Sunshine Week exists, to remind us that it takes effort to keep freedom working.” (David Cuillier and Eric Newton via RCFP)  A new way to explore foreign influence. The Center for Responsive Politics is celebrating Sunshine Week with a new tool called Foreign Lobby Watch. The tool, a descendent of Sunlight’s Foreign Influence Explorer project, provides an easy way to “search filings required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).” CRP plans to add additional functionality in the future, making the tool even more powerful. ( The Department of Justice’s digital disclosure of foreign lobbying makes progress. For the first time, DOJ will be proactively posting “informational materials” filed by foreign lobbyists online. The materials, previously available only in hardcopy, “include things like draft legislation, speeches, and press releases, and show how the lobbyists, in their own words, attempt to wield influence on behalf of their foreign clients.” (Project on Government Oversight) sunshine in the states Avoiding compliance with open government laws is expensive for states and citizens. Government organizations need a new approach to dealing with rapid technology change and increased expectations of openness. “Circling the wagons is not a bad idea. However, it should be done around the inadequate laws, policies and practices, and not around the content in which the public has a right to access.” (National Freedom of Information Coalition) Minnesota faces a growing list of exemptions to its transparency law. “Exceptions to government transparency are growing in Minnesota as lobbyists for local officials, law enforcement and businesses gain exemptions under the state’s public records law.” The law, which was 29 pages when passed in 1982, has ballooned to 176 pages. (The News Tribune) Liberating data from legacy systems. Municipal governments around the country are trying to figure out how to best “liberate operational data from” legacy systems and “there are some common lessons that can be derived from cities that have gone down this road already for those that are still trying to figure out the right approach.” (Mark Headd) Ethics in trumpland   Trump’s “Winter White House” poses espionage, transparency risks. “President Donald Trump relishes the comforts of his Mar-a-Lago estate for repeated weekends away from Washington, but former Secret Service and intelligence officials say the resort is a security nightmare,” noting the lack of background checks for visitors among other issues. It’s not possible to disclose visitor logs if the Secret Service doesn’t do background checks for people visiting the “Winter White House” in the first place. The Trump administration appears not to be doing due diligence the public can and should expect of securing Mar-a-Lago, given that the president has  gone there four times and is planning to travel there again this weekend. Espionage and influence concerns aside, we still don’t know how much each trip itself costs the public, with estimates ranging from $800-$3 million each trip, as the White House is not disclosing travel. (POLITICO) Fast Company goes deep on President Trump’s ties to the embattled ex-president of Panama. “Ricardo Martinelli, the ex-president of Panama facing extradition on corruption charges, helped [Trump] launch his first international property.” Sonny Perdue’s history of conflict. “President Donald Trump’s nominee for Agriculture secretary, agribusiness tycoon and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, has long mixed personal and political business to benefit his friends and business associates — and he’s on track to do it again, even before he’s confirmed to the Cabinet post.” (POLITICO) Meanwhile, after a long delay, Purdue has submitted ethics forms detailing how he plans to avoid conflicts of interest in his new job. (The Hill) American Oversight will track Trump administration conflicts of interest.  The new 501(c)(3) organization led by the co-founder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a former State Department lawyer,  “will primarily use litigation and open records laws” in its mission. (The Hill) Elsewhere Biden talks health data at South By Southwest. Former vice president Joe Biden echoed a common theme at this year’s South By Southwest conference with a speech that touched on “data transparency, especially for digital interactions between, and within, government agencies and the private sector.” (Ars Techinca) Lobbyists search for new approaches to influence in China. “Multinational companies have spent decades mastering the art of government relations in China. Now, as President Xi Jinping extends the Communist Party’s reach over policy making, they are starting to shift course.” (Bloomberg)   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! 14 Mar
Today in OpenGov: Sunshine Week Dawns - In today's edition we kick off our Sunshine Week celebrations, find open data on the Daily Show, help share feedback on local policies, and more… Sunshine week   Sunshine Week kicks off today and continues throughout the week. We will be doing our best to keep up with all the news and events as we spend the week celebrating access to public information and the importance of a vibrant free press! A pessimistic outlook for Freedom of Information around America… A new report from James Cuillier at the University of Arizona School of Journalism found "dissatisfaction, uncertainty, and worry" among more than 300 FOI experts across the country. The report highlights a number of solutions to the problems it identifies. (Knight Foundation) …and reasons for hope. There are ways to improve the FOI outlook including new technological approaches and an increased focus on the public's understanding of their right to know. "One of the most effective weapons is for the public to understand its right to know and why it is important for us to fight for access to government information. One of the ideas outlined in the report includes finding ways to expand Sunshine Week because the right to access  information belongs to everyone, not just journalists." (Knight Foundation) The Project on Government Oversight powers up for Sunshine Week. Our friends at POGO have a full week of events planned to celebrate Sunshine Week including a discussion at the Newseum and a "live chat" with the New York Times. Check out their whole schedule here. Celebrate with Sunlight. Join us on Thursday for a discussion with open government experts from the Project on Government Oversight, the Federation of American Scientists, and the American Society of News Editors. Stick around afterwards for our annual Sunshine Happy Hour.  States and cities   An open data policy feedback success story. Matt Bailey, formerly the Director of Technology Innovation with Washington, DC's Office of the Chief Technology Officer, sat down with Sunlight's Stephen Larrick and Alyssa Doom to discuss the successful efforts to encourage public feedback on  DC's draft open data policy. (Sunlight Foundation) Data invades the C-suite… CIO and CTOs are still dominant in many organiations, but in a growing number of cities, an emerging set of 3 new C-suite executives is working closely to collect, release and apply open data: chief data officer, chief performance officer, chief accountability officer. (Government Technology) …But its public face needs improvement. Open data platforms must be improved to ensure that government information is actually useful to the public. (Scientific American) Open data takes a bite out of the Big Apple. New York's embrace of open data has already started changing how the city operates, but leaders are angling for more citizen involvement. To that end they are "working on ways to make [NYC's open data] more user-friendly. Part of that is a new website that packages the information in less of an intimidating spreadsheet-design, plus outreach to community boards who can use the data to guide decisions about local policy." (am New York) around the world   Transparency in the face of rising populism. Helen Darbishire argues forcefully in favor of transparency's ability to strengthen democracy. "And so this is my answer to doubters who are concerned that high profile transparency campaigns might have a negative impact: if we are ever to address the democratic deficit in Europe, if we are ever to root out corruption and achieve acceptable levels of integrity in political life, then we need much more rather than less transparency, and we need much stronger mechanisms to ensure that information enters the public domain – mechanisms that must include both strong access to information laws and solid whistleblower protection – so that we can have a proper debate about how to address the issues." (Access Info) The power of partnership. A trans-Atlantic partnership between the Mexican government, the Open Data Institute, and DEMOS is helping support Mexican open data as well as the local startup community. (The Open Data Institute) Trying to shake off the graft in South Korea. "South Korea is turning to a daunting yet familiar task in the aftermath of Park Geun-hye’s ouster: Rooting out corruption among political and business leaders." (Bloomberg) to preserve, protect, and defend open data   Open Data on the Daily Show. The Daily Show took note of efforts to save federal climate change data from potential threats, marking a major mainstream breakthrough for the ongoing "data rescue" efforts to archive potentially vulnerable federal data on a range of subjects.  (The Daily Show) Who's afraid of federal data going dark? As it turns out, historians, librarians, journalists, climate scientists, internet activists, and more. According to our own Alex Howard the "networking and connectivity of groups working on [archiving federal data], and the degree it is being driven by librarians and scientists and professors,” is unprecedented. (McClatchy DC) What's been saved so far. As of last week nearly 160 data sets had been saved in their entirety on (Quartz) The biggest risks to open government data are political. Sunlight has been tracking the state of federal open data throughout the year. Currently we see the greatest risk to open government data as political, not technical. "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." (Sunlight Foundation)   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!   13 Mar
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? 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