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Concerns Mount Over Press Freedom in Hong Kong - Concerns over the erosion of press freedom in Hong Kong have grown in recent years, bolstered by a brutal attack on an editor of Ming Pao newspaper and the firing of another, threats against Sing Pao Daily News, and the sale of the South China Morning Post to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. According to a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, perceptions of press freedom in the territory have risen very slightly over the past year, while 72% of media workers feel press freedom conditions have worsened in that time. From Jeffie Lam at the South China Morning Post: The annual Press Freedom Index for journalists rose 1.2 points to 39.4 out of 100, while the index for the general public increased slightly by 0.6 points to 48. The index measures a group’s perception of media freedom in their society. The positive development however came despite 72 per cent of media workers surveyed in the poll saying that they felt overall press freedom in Hong Kong had worsened in the past year. “I believe one of the factors behind the mild increase is the rise of online media last year, which has diversified news coverage and the angles of reportage,” association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan said on Thursday. [Source] Financial difficulties are now threatening some of the new online media, which had helped to diversify Hong Kong’s media environment. Initium, a Chinese-language website that focuses on longform writing, is facing major cutbacks due to a lack of funding. i-Cable, a 24-hour Cantonese-language news network which has an investigative team in China, has also been threatened with closure after losing its funding. As a result of concerns over the status of the media and, more generally, encroaching Chinese political control, in Hong Kong, the French press freedom organization Reporters without Borders has announced that it will open its first Asia bureau in Taipei instead of Hong Kong as planned. Chris Horton at The New York Times reports: Mr. Deloire said that the Paris-based organization, also known as Reporters Sans Frontières, decided against Hong Kong because of “a lack of legal certainty for our entity and activities.” He also cited the possibility that staff members would be put under surveillance. The announcement is a reversal of fortune for both Hong Kong and Taiwan. When Reporters Without Borders was founded in 1985, Hong Kong was a British colony with a high degree of press freedom, while Taiwan was at the tail end of four decades of martial law. “I don’t blame Reporters Without Borders for jilting Hong Kong,” said Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong legislator who was a journalist before entering government. Ms. Mo said that before returning to Chinese control in 1997, Hong Kong had led Asia in press freedom, but that under Chinese sovereignty, “it’s been going downhill.” [Source] © Sophie Beach for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Hong Kong media, press freedom, RSF, Taiwan mediaDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 6
Minitrue: Delete Information on Sichuan Student’s Death - The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source. All websites, immediately delete information related to the death of a student in Taifu, Lu County. Only official reports may be published. (April 2) [Chinese] Zhao Xin, a 14-year-old middle school student, was found dead outside his middle school in Taifu, Sichuan on Saturday. Police claimed that evidence ruled out homicide, but rumors suggested that Zhao had been bullied to death by five classmates including children of powerful local figures, and that the bullying had previously been reported to police, who did nothing. The contradiction sparked protests by hundreds of local residents. The police’s alleged negligence has prompted comparisons with the similarly controversial case of Yu Huan, a 23-year-old Shandong man who killed a loan shark threatening his mother after police failed to intervene. Yu was given a life sentence which is now under review following a public outcry. Local authorities have taken a number of aggressive measures, in addition to the city-level directive above, to contain the unrest and stop it spreading. Radio Free Asia’s Chinese service cited a local source who said that Zhao’s relatives are under house arrest; that special police are stationed at the protest site in Lu County on high alert, frequently taking away protesters; and that local authorities are clamping down on news and social media. According to South China Morning Post, a local woman claimed that “local party officials had offered us 50 yuan each to become witnesses saying the boy had committed suicide.” Global Times reports that Lu County police are holding four people for “inciting the public and severely disturbing public order” by spreading “fake information” about the case. An update published by the prefectural public security bureau on Wednesday promised an investigation and autopsy, but also warned of a further crackdown on starting or spreading rumors, according to RFA. The network also highlighted what appears to be a leaked memo from the public security bureau in nearby Nanchong prefecture. The notice described an online call for further protests in Nanchong on April 15 under the slogan “Give justice back to the student, give rule-of-law society back to Sichuan, and stop corruption.” Two people named in the memo as the author and a respondent could not be reached by RFA, and are believed to have been detained. The two documents, RFA reports, sparked a fresh wave of protest online. Radio France Internationale’s Chinese service summed up some online reactions to the case in general: As public indignation mounted and the truth remained unclear, some people posted on Weibo: “The crucial thing is to dig out the truth of the matter, not to spend money blockading and pushing back public anger.” @Guohongkuidaoyan wrote, “He took a steel pipe to strike himself, beat himself half to death, then leapt to his death from a building. The news reports have already said that the public security organs have evidence to rule out murder. Stick with the Party, no matter what. Love the Party, support the Party; don’t believe, spread, or start rumors; listen to the Party and walk with the Party. If the Party says he fell to his death, he fell to his death. The unruly people shouldn’t bring trouble to the nation.” @Zhoupenshizhoulaoshi said: “The mass protests in Luzhou are not because of the death, but because of your approach to handling the case, joining forces with the school to cover it up … All the rumors were forced out by your information blockade. Temporarily withholding the cause of death and then suppressing us with police is also admirable … the reason the people don’t believe you is that you never planned to let us know about the school death at all.” Other users feel that the way to dampen public anger is with timely information transparency and news reports, and that blockading information and deleting and suppressing discussion inevitably breeds all kinds of rumors. To then round up the people who started and spread the rumors makes it suppression from start to finish. According to some analyses, if the authorities had released information from the beginning instead of resorting to pressure, intimidation, and censorship, things would never have got to this point. In another analysis, the relevant authorities’ credibility deficit, as in many similar cases, turned an ordinary case into a big one, and a local case into a national one. [Chinese] Even state media have been sharply critical of the local authorities. A Xinhua reporter claimed to have encountered the sort of obstruction more usually described by foreign media in China, and accused local officials of failing to fight rumors with facts and of violating the spirit of Xi Jinping’s landmark February 19, 2016 speech on the role of the news media: Upon arriving in Luzhou to investigate, this reporter realized that the case had gradually developed from its beginnings in the normal judicial channels into the current public assembly, police road blockade, and turbulent popular sentiment. Rumors arise on all sides, but the local authorities have not produced facts to dispel them. This makes me deeply anxious: how long will the people’s fear of the unknown continue? What difficult truths are being held back? These questions require clear-cut answers from the relevant local authorities. […] The explanation for the case still not having been filed for investigation has changed from “there is evidence that rules out homicide” to “there is no evidence to prove homicide.” This reporter feels that the change from “evidence” to “no evidence” places considerably less blame on local authorities. [… The local authorities’] close monitoring made me feel an intangible pressure: wherever I went, someone would “accompany” me. When I, as a journalist, proposed an interview with the victim’s mother, the county Political and Legal Committee secretary Li Chengchun said that she could not be found. When I asked for her telephone number, he said he didn’t have it; when I asked for her address, he mumbled in reply. When on April 4, this reporter broke with great difficulty through these restrictions to run more than 20km along country roads and interview the grandparents and classmates of the deceased, he attracted a “tail” of local cadres following him with all sorts of suggestions, threats, and other interference, leaving interviewees reluctant to tell the truth. The various kinds of harassment by telephone from local parties were even more intolerable. A source tells me that the police are actively working on the victim’s mother to inconvenience journalists, and perhaps for some other hidden reason. […] The words of General Secretary Xi’s February 19 speech are still fresh in the mind, emphasizing the successful completion of the Party’s news and public opinion work, and adherence to news and propaganda rules. First among these is to let the facts speak, let the details speak, and let the people have trust. But in this case, that’s all been completely disregarded. Do the local authorities think that this speech was aimed only at the media, and has nothing to do with them? I look forward to their proper recognition as soon as possible that they should take the initiative in cooperating with reporters to find out the truth of this situation. Only when the facts are allowed to speak will turbulent public feelings subside. [Chinese] Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011. © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: censorship, house arrest, Internet control, journalism, media conditions, police, protests, rumors, Sichuan, state media, XinhuaDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 6
Person of the Week: Wang Wusi - 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. 王五四 Wang Wusi. (Source: I don’t need to wake anyone up. Everyone’s already awake. They just don’t want to get out of bed. —Wang Wusi Wang Yongzhi (王永智) posts social commentary on his public WeChat account under the pen name Wang Wusi. Beloved by readers as much for his modesty as his savvy, internet censors are less enamored of him. His posts often vanish hours after they are first published, and he has been forced to reincarnate his account so often that one fan has dubbed him “the man most deeply hurt by WeChat” (被微信伤害最深的男人). Wang was born in Yantai, Shandong in 1982, and attended Shandong University. Upon graduation in 2005, he took a marketing job in Shenzhen, but left for Hangzhou just six months later to pursue his college girlfriend, and has stayed there ever since. He has been a screenwriter for a Hangzhou animation company and a media manager for Tencent and Phoenix Media. He is now COO of the produce delivery start-up Variety Market (花样菜场), which he also co-founded. While working full-time, Wang launched his first public WeChat account in 2014. He has since attracted hundreds of thousands of loyal followers, who have learned to scavenge for his essays and save what they can find. Wang’s work has even popped up on the adult forum Caoliu. Wang does not shy away from politically sensitive topics—usually, he rushes for them head-on. When a couple copied China’s constitution on their wedding night in 2016, Wang joked that “hostile foreign forces will certainly exploit this” and cautioned Communist Party members to “take a stand.” In a critique of the 2017 CCTV Spring Festival Gala, Wang began, “As I was writing this, I knew it would not be able to evade deletion, because they aren’t allowing any criticism of this year’s Gala. But I still had to write it. It is my destiny.” Wang started writing about social issues on his university BBS forum, where he went by his video game user name, Wang Xiaosan (王小三). Once xiaosan 小三, or “little third,” began to take on a less savory meaning, Wang renamed himself after the two numbers above three, five and four (wusi 五四), as he told Global People in October 2016. But “Five-four” also alludes to the May Fourth Movement, a time of radical political and cultural thought that began with a student protest in Beijing on May 4, 1919. 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: Big V, bloggers, Wang Wusi, WeChat, word of the weekDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 6
Trump Urged to Press Xi on Rights, but Credibility Questioned - Activists and others have urged U.S. President Donald Trump to raise human rights issues with China’s Xi Jinping during a two-day meeting this week, but some argue that he lacks credibility to do so. Human Rights Watch’s Sophie Richardson surveyed the rights context of the summit at USA Today on Wednesday: Xi has overseen China’s worst rights rollback since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Peaceful protesters, from feminists raising awareness about sexual harassment to the Tiananmen Mothers, have been met with detention and house arrest. When some Communist Party members wrote to Chinese leaders criticizing their authoritarian tendencies and urging that they resign, authorities responded by detaining 20 people thought to have been involved. Human rights lawyers taking politically sensitive cases to court have not only been blocked from doing so — they’ve also disappeared and been tortured. People campaigning independently, even on topics the authorities say they support, such as anti-corruption or inter-ethnic dialogue, now find themselves rewarded with life sentences. […] Despite talking tough on contentious questions such as Taiwan, trade and the South China Sea, when it comes to human rights, Trump administration officials have seemed unwilling to confront their Chinese counterparts. On his first trip to Beijing as secretary of State, Rex Tillerson said human rights are “embedded in everything we do,” but there was no concrete evidence that they were reflected in anything he did or said. The administration’s unwillingness to sign a letter to Beijing with 11 other countries condemning the torture of Chinese human rights lawyers suggests future timidity rather than toughness. And the similarity of views between U.S. and Chinese officials on human rights touchstones such as treatment of Muslims and press freedom is worrying. [Source] Human Rights Watch also offered a brief overview of rights abuses ahead of the summit on its own site, while the University of Notre Dame’s Michel Hockx further explored similarities between Trump and Xi in an op-ed at CNN on Wednesday. Read more on the 11-country letter, America’s non-participation, and its fueling of existing fears about the Trump administration’s human rights stance via CDT; and on the “extraordinary” reaction by “seriously rattled” Chinese authorities at China Change. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation revealed the latest apparent development in that response on Thursday: the abrupt cancellation two weeks ago of a planned visit to China by members of the federal parliament’s Law Enforcement Committee. Freedom House’s Michael J. Abramowitz encouraged Trump to take three concrete steps during the summit: meetings with representatives of Chinese civil society, condemnation of increased repression under Xi, and naming specific figures of concern, including detained lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Wang Quanzhang, and citizen journalist Huang Qi. The last U.S. administration played down human rights from its first encounters with Beijing and focused primarily on security and economic concerns. But public U.S. support for human rights in China actually protects America’s economic, political, and security interests. Chinese government restrictions on basic freedoms, such as Beijing’s policies of internet censorship and a recently adopted law restricting foreign non-governmental organizations, directly harm U.S. companies and cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars a year. The law was passed over strong objections from U.S. businesses. These same policies constrain ordinary Chinese citizens’ freedom of expression, access to information, and understanding of the United States. […] U.S. leadership on human rights issues is critical to protecting vital interests of the United States. The strongest bilateral relationships are the ones in which leaders can speak honestly and openly with one another. Speaking the truth is an asset to U.S. diplomatic relations and to freedom around the world. A government in China that respects the inherent rights and fundamental freedoms of all people will foster a sincerely cooperative U.S.-China relationship that benefits the people of both countries. Your ability to clearly and publicly communicate this message to President Xi will set the course for a new, more constructive bilateral relationship and stronger partnership between the American and Chinese people. [Source] At South China Morning Post, Orville Schell and Susan Shirk placed a selection of rights issues alongside North Korea, maritime disputes, trade, and climate change as the five priorities Trump should pursue: Trump needs to make clear that the harassment of foreign journalists, blockage of foreign media websites and the denial of visas to foreign correspondents and scholars; restrictions on US think tank activity; constriction of the activities of non-governmental organisations working in China; and the inability of US internet and IT companies to operate normally in China (while their Chinese counterparts operate with complete freedom in the US) are now drastically compromising the ability of China and the US to maintain a healthy relationship. […] What gets written on this blank sheet of paper of the Trump-Xi era when these two leaders meet at Mar-a-Lago will set the course for relations between these two powerful nations. Because there is no good alternative to the US and China working together, it is critical that Trump, even as he pushes back, which in many areas is now called for, must move deliberately, respectfully, and systematically to try to right the relationship and put it on a steady course. [Source] Following a similar call last month, the U.S. government’s Congressional-Executive Committee on China also sought to direct Trump’s attention towards rights issues in a statement on Monday: “As President Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi to Florida, we cannot forget the men and women who languish unjustly in prison, the family members who do not know the fate of their loved ones, and the professionals who have disappeared for simply doing their job,” said CECC Chair Marco Rubio. “These people are not statistics, they are booksellers and pastors, writers and Nobel Laureates, lawyers and rights defenders. While recognizing the broad scope of U.S.-China bilateral relations, it is unacceptable for President Xi to get a pass on human rights. Not only is there a moral imperative to press for dissidents’ immediate and unconditional release, it also aligns with our national interests. No nation that flouts the rule of law at home and disregards the basic rights and inherent dignity of its own citizens can be trusted to be a responsible stakeholder on economic and security issues.” “President Xi has overseen one of the most repressive periods in the post-Mao era. The men and women highlighted here are the human face of this repression. We too easily forget that behind the trade deficits and security concerns, real people pay a huge price for standing up for freedom. For this they are heroes and their unconditional release should be a prominent part of this week’s summit,” said CECC Cochair Chris Smith. “The President has the historic opportunity to change the failed policy assumptions of the past, increased trade and prosperity have not brought political liberalization to China. He should be consistent and strong on human rights protections and rule of law development because China’s failures in these areas critically impact economic relations and regional security. U.S. foreign policy must ensure that China plays by international rules so that our workers can compete on a level playing field; our food, investments, and cyberspace are safe and secure, and the men and women who suffer for freedom in China are protected.” [Source] The CECC’s database of Chinese political prisoners, and the shifting sensitivities it reveals, were the focus of a recent report by The World Post’s Peter Mellgard. At The Guardian, Tom Phillips reported on doubts that the U.S. can now act as a credible rights advocate: Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East Asia director, said Trump’s open contempt for the judiciary and support for policies “in absolute and complete contradiction of human rights obligations under international law”, such as his travel ban, meant the days when Washington could effectively lecture countries like China on human rights were over. “When a repressive government chooses to send someone to jail … they make political calculations about the benefits and costs of putting that person away,” he said. “The fact that the US seems to be abandoning any kind of role in maintaining a consistent message on human rights and protesting human rights violations affects the calculations of these governments. They are just going to think there is no price to pay for political repression. So it will embolden them and at the end of the line human rights defenders in China will pay a heavier price … It is not going to be pretty.” Bequelin said that with Trump in the White House, Beijing would feel “relief that there is no strong moral authority coming from the US anymore”. [Source] The New York Times’ Peter Baker wrote that Trump in any case shows little inclination towards public rights support. His administration has claimed to favor private talks, an approach towards which many activists and others are deeply skeptical. Mr. Trump has dispensed with what he considers pointless moralizing and preachy naïveté. He has taken foreign policy to its most realpolitik moment in generations, playing down issues of human rights or democracy that animated his predecessors, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His “America First” approach focuses not on how other nations treat their people but on what they can do for the United States. The past week has showcased the emerging philosophy. Even before Tuesday’s brutal chemical weapons attack in Syria, the Trump administration had said that pushing out Mr. Assad, Syria’s president, was not a priority, reversing Mr. Obama’s position. On Monday, Mr. Trump welcomed Egypt’s authoritarian leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to the White House with no public mention of the thousands of political opponents imprisoned there. […] […] Aides said human rights remained a concern for Mr. Trump. But, they added, he believes he will be more effective raising the issue in private. A senior White House official previewing this week’s visit of Mr. Xi of China on the condition of anonymity told reporters on Tuesday that human rights were integral to American foreign policy and would be brought up in the Chinese-American relationship. […] “While there have been strong statements made by senior people in the administration, we haven’t heard that echoed at the top, and that creates confusion about human rights and its place on the president’s foreign policy agenda,” said David J. Kramer, an assistant secretary of state for human rights under Mr. Bush and now a scholar at the McCain Institute for International Leadership. [Source] © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Amnesty International, CECC, diplomacy, donald Trump, human rights policy, human rights watch, Rex Tillerson, Xi JinpingDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 5
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Four Big Critiques - In June 2014, a senior inspector from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (the Party’s top graft watchdog) warned that the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) (an influential government think tank) had been “infiltrated” by “foreign forces.” This accusation came as two hallmark campaigns of the Xi Jinping administration were gaining momentum: Xi’s ongoing Party corruption cleanup, and a drive to enforce ideological orthodoxy throughout both the Party and society. The warning of infiltration at CASS came after a leaked internal Party memo known as “Document No. 9” exposed Xi’s ideological priorities: to resist “false ideological trends, positions, and activities,” including “Western constitutional democracy,” “universal values,” “Western ideas of journalism,” and “historical nihilism.” (Journalist Gao Yu was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2015 for allegedly leaking the document, but has since been granted medical release to serve the remainder of a reduced sentence under house arrest.) Earlier, as he was in the middle of his gradual accession to top Party and State leader, Xi had warned that a primary reason for the collapse of the USSR was due to “their ideals and beliefs having been shaken.” Since the revelation of Document No. 9, Xi has overseen many related campaigns aimed at preserving Party ideas and beliefs. Xi has reinforced Mao-era Party views on the role of the media, cracked down on liberal microbloggers, and subjected Chinese reporters to mandatory training in the “Marxist view of journalism.” Meanwhile, the nation’s institutes of higher learning have seen a campaign against “Western values,” and a series of legislation has been passed in effort to maintain “ideological security.” Since CASS saw its ranks questioned, the think tank has been hard at work promoting the ideological orthodoxy that Xi’s policies have aimed at. On Weibo last month, user @TongZongjin (@仝宗锦) shared images and prefaces to CASS essay anthologies rallying against some of the undesirable ideological trends outlined in Document No. 9. The first CASS volume, published in December 2015, focuses on essays critiquing “historical nihilism.” The term, which came into favor in China after the pro-democracy movement of 1989, essentially means any telling of history that could challenge the “inevitability” of Chinese socialism or China’s correct place along that trajectory. CDT has translated the preface: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Critical Essays on Historical Nihilism Edited by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Chinese Social Science Press Preface The leadership of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) places the highest degree of importance on the analysis, research, and critique of the current intellectual trend towards historical nihilism, and strives to actively engage in an unyielding struggle against this mistaken historical nihilist trend. Every year, in dealing with the problem of mistaken historical nihilism, my department takes the initiative on official media channels to make use of our willingness to speak out, and our aptitude for speaking out. At the same time, we make use of our full array of theoretical academic publishing and broadcasting platforms (newspapers, journals, websites, conferences and roundtables) to continue to put out a series of critical theoretical essays: This year alone we have completed more than one hundred works on this topic, setting the stage for a large-scale and influential public debate, and confirming our unequivocal opposition to mistaken historical nihilism. Using a critical approach, we have systematically exposed and profoundly explicated the fundamental character, danger, and means of expressing of historical nihilism, while establishing correct historical perspectives and ceaselessly strengthening the freedom of expression and freedom of influence of Marxist ideology and philosophy within the sphere of social science research. We have firmly asserted our right not only to engage in ideological work, but to manage and speak out on the work of others. These efforts have been met with widespread support from academic circles and individuals high and low, earning the overwhelming approval and praise of cadres of every rank. In the struggle against historical nihilism and many other mistaken intellectual trends, the leadership of my department places the highest degree of importance on the cultivation of Marxist ideology for our leading cadres, in addition to the political studies and theoretical ideological education for our researchers and staff. To this end, we have organized annual book clubs for local leading cadres; implemented education courses for management level and above cadres; required ideological studies and Marxist theory composition courses for our entire staff; ideological research think tanks; and Marxist internet armies. These efforts form the basis of a nascent vanguard of Marxist and Party ideological workers. Many of the essays in this collection were written and published by comrades from our organization or professional scholars from affiliated work units; others were composed by external scholars. Our goal in editing this book was to help strengthen our cadres’ grasp of historical materialism and make clear the fundamental character and danger of the intellectual trend, dispelling doubts and explaining away confusion, sorting sources, unifying our thinking, and improving our cognitive goals. End of preface.   [Name Unclear] Director and Party Secretary, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences December 8, 2015 [Chinese] A prominent development in the Party’s campaign against historical nihilism was the takeover last summer of the traditionally liberal journal Yanhuang Chunqiu. A former editor of the journal was also found guilty of defamation for questioning the orthodox account of one episode of revolutionary martyrdom, while blogger Sun Jie (aka Zuoyeben) was ordered to apologize and pay a symbolic one yuan in compensation for mocking two others. In February, two men were sentenced to three-and-a-half and five years in prison for distributing banned books including a history of the Party’s rise to power. The landmark unified civil code whose preamble was a centerpiece of last month’s National People’s Congress gathering seems set to institutionalize the war on historical nihilism: one controversial clause makes it a civil offense to harm “the name, likeness, reputation or glory of heroes and martyrs.” The three volumes “Critical Essays on Neoliberalism,” “Critical Essays on the Theory of ‘Universal Values’,” and “Critical Essays on the Concept of Western Constitutional Democracy,”  were each published in June 2016 with the identical preface, translated below: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Critical Essays on Neoliberalism/Critical Essays on the Theory of “Universal Values”/Critical Essays on the Concept of Western Constitutional Democracy Preface The actual progress of world history demonstrates that the eventual fate of a given nation or people is largely decided by whatever guiding ideology, social system, or path to development is chosen. Facing a new situation wherein our cultural ideology is undergoing a process of exchange, blending, and confrontation, the paramount task facing the frontlines of philosophical social science is not only to persist in upholding Marxism as our guiding ideology, but to engage in meaningful critiques of “universal values,” the concept of “constitutional democracy,” neoliberalism, historical nihilism, democratic socialism, and other mistaken ideologies from this position.  We must place unfailing faith in the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, matched with an equal degree of faith in our theories, and faith in our systems. After the Cold War ended, operating under the aegis of what the West calls “universal values,” one country after another was toyed with and torn apart, some falling into the flames of war, others to everyday chaos: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen are all classic examples. What is clear is that what the system of Western capitalist values brought to these countries was not the “gospel” or “salvation” but instead unmitigated unrest and disaster.  The cruel lesson learned by these countries and regions demonstrates that there are no such thing as eternal values which can be universally applied to all societies, all countries, and all peoples. Values have always been a product of the historical conditions of a specific social, economic, and political realities; and every value is specific, historical, transformative, and inseparable from certain socio-economic and political relationships. So-called abstract “universal values,” superseding social class and history alike, cannot independently exist in the real world.  The “universal values” advocated by certain individuals contain an implicit political position and definite attempt: they are an ideological trap, aimed at our nation, with the goal of destroying the status of Marxism and replacing it with the ideology of the Western bourgeoisie. They are a fundamental negation of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a negation of the guiding status of Marxism, a negation of the state system of the people’s democratic dictatorship, and a negation of the socialist system. In recent years, “constitutional democracy” has emerged in the ideological circles of our nation as another mistaken intellectual trend. Against the backdrop of the Party Central Committee’s comprehensive deployment of its rule by law strategy, certain individuals have seized this opportunity to intentionally confuse “rule by law,” “rule by constitution,” and “constitutional power” with the fundamentally different Western concept of “constitutional democracy.” The development of the political ideal of “constitutional democracy” accompanied the emergence of Western capitalism, gradually developing into the mainstream political and systematic position of the Western bourgeoisie class. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it defines the national ideology, political mode, and institutional design of Western bourgeoisie. But the “constitutional democracy” they advocate for in reality completely negates our nation’s socialist rule by law, our socialist system, our national system of a people’s democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the CCP, and replaces it with Western capitalist concepts and methods of rule by law, enacting a “tripartite separation of powers,” a “multiparty system,” and a “parliamentary system.” In other words, a capitalist system with a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. “Constitutional democracy” clearly does not represent some form of “universal democracy” or even a “universal value” because it cannot be used as the system of rule in every county. Our nation is a socialist nation with a specific history and unique realities. What system or methods are appropriate for our nation should be decided by the national circumstances of our nation. Simply copying the political system or political methods of another country would be pointless, and might even have dire consequences for the future of our nation. China is a socialist nation and a developing superpower. We must make use of the beneficial aspects of foreign political civilizations, but never at the cost of abandoning the fundamental political system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The intellectual trend of neo-liberalism entered our nation during the reform and opening period [of the 1980s]. At its most essential, neo-liberalism is the ideological position of the Western bourgeoisie, representing the core concerns and values of the global economic monopoly of capital. By advocating for complete privatization, total marketization, absolute liberalization, and global unification, it establishes a global arena of an international economic monopoly of capital headed by America. After economists in the Western economic capital monopolies of England and America were won over to neo-liberalism, what was once a purely economic system began to adopt a whole series of policies and behaviors advocating for specific ideological positions, concurrent with the rapid spread of neoliberalism across Latin America, Asia and Africa, and Eastern Europe. In the early 90s, the “side-effects” of neoliberalism first started to become apparent: serious harm was done to the economies of a series of neo-liberal countries, leading to social unrest and unspeakable hardship for the common people.  In 2007, the subprime mortgage crisis exploded in America, eventually cascading into a global economic crisis. For the past decade, wanting to kick start their economies while avoiding the developmental difficulties tied to economic deflation, major Western countries beginning with America have found themselves forced to approve ever larger government stimulus packages, infrastructure investments, and other interventionist policies. One might say that the global economic crisis, having its origin in America’s “economic disaster,” announced the complete bankruptcy of neoliberalism. This bankruptcy demonstrates that contemporary capitalism has not fundamentally solved the inherent contradiction which exists between socialized and private production. Periodic economic crises are an unavoidable product of this fundamental contradiction of capitalism. It is precisely because socialist market economics employs a different model, wherein the means of production are held communally, that economic crises are not only avoidable, but also predictable. The success of socialism with Chinese characteristics tells us that it is only the close integration of an allocation system based on communal ownership with market economics, making good use of the “visible hand” and “invisible hand,” that can express the true superiority of the socialist system. [Chinese] Translation by Nick. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, democracy, document 9, historical nihilism, ideology, neoliberalism, universal values, Western valuesDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 5
Detained Taiwanese Activist’s Wife to Seek Answers in Beijing - On March 19, Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che went missing after traveling to China via Macau. Some ten days later, a Chinese official confirmed his “understanding” that Lee had been detained on suspicion of endangering national security. The accusations against him may have involve his WeC postings to mainland friends on Taiwanese democracy, or his distribution of political books. On the other hand, his wife Lee Ching-yu has reportedly received unconfirmed word of potential charges involving Xinjiang separatism, terrorism, and seeking prostitutes. Lee’s whereabouts remain unknown. On Sunday, Chen Wei-han reports at the Taipei Times, a group of prominent Hong Kong and Taiwanese activists gathered in Taipei to highlight his case: New Power Party Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) and former Sunflower movement leaders Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) took part in a Taipei news conference where they condemned Lee’s detention and urged other nations, especially the US, to pay closer attention to China’s human rights violations. Their appeal came ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) scheduled meeting on Thursday with US President Donald Trump. […] Wong said that Lee’s detention and the Trump-Xi meeting were behind his decision to call yesterday’s news conference, because he fears that human rights issues might be pushed aside in the trade-focused talks. […] “The Lee Ming-che case is a touchstone of Beijing’s attitude toward [NGO] activities in China ahead of the Trump-Xi talks. It is yet to be seen whether China will continue to suppress such activities,” Lin said. “The US cannot excuse itself from China’s human rights violations if it wants to reassure its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.” [Source] Rights groups Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, and the U.S. government’s Congressional-Executive Commission on China, have also been among those calling on Trump to press Xi on human rights, but others argue that he lacks much credibility to do so. Further doubt surrounds Trump’s commitment to Taiwan after initial moves variously seen as either bold or reckless. Meanwhile, Lee Ching-yu has arranged to travel to China on April 10 with representatives of the Straits Exchange Foundation to seek information on her husband’s case. Lee says she reluctantly delayed the trip until after the Trump-Xi summit to avoid any “unnecessary associations and confusion.” China Change translated her announcement of the journey: I’ve been a historian of Taiwan’s period of political violence, the “White Terror,” for many years. Now that my own my loved one is detained, terror grips my heart. I’ve tried so hard to calm myself, to carefully compose my thoughts. I know from the history of the White Terror in Taiwan that when a country’s system of rule of law hasn’t risen to international standards, all attempts to offer defenses according to the law are useless. We can only offer a defense of humanity and human rights — but the legal systems in such countries aren’t built upon universal conceptions of human rights. It’s for this reason that I make this considered announcement: I am not going to hire a lawyer and thus engage in pointless legal wrangling. [Source] In comments translated by Oiwan Lam at Global Voices, Taiwanese media worker Tsai Yu-Ching asked what the situation says about current cross-strait relations, which have deteriorated sharply since the election of the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen last year. Lee Ming-cheh’s wife Lee Ching-Yu has given up assigning a lawyer and traveled to Beijing to rescue her husband. This shows that the communication between the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Mainland Affairs Council, and between the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of the PRC has been totally cut. There is no official channel to settle the incident, which is why Lee’s family has to give up on official channels and travel to Beijing to find another means to communicate… if the Taiwanese government does not have an effective strategy and continues to handle the case in a bureaucratic manner […] the DPP will not only miss the opportunity to save Lee Ming-cheh — people will lose confidence in the government’s ability to handle cross-strait relations. [Source] At The Los Angeles Times, Ralph Jennings also reported on the detention’s broader cross-strait context: A Taiwanese person gets detained in China less than once a year for political reasons, Straits Exchange Foundation Deputy Secretary-General Lee Li-chen said. But Lee Ming-che is the first case involving a Taiwanese human rights activist, she said. An unknown number of other Taiwanese do human rights work in China without incident, she said. “We feel pretty nervous now,” the foundation official said, adding that her organization had sent three letters and made calls to its counterpart foundation in China for more information. “If they can tell us what laws they’re using and the location of the arrest, we or the [Taiwan] government or his family members can do follow-up.” […] “This case might worsen the relations between the Taipei and Beijing governments,” said Wu Chung-li, a political science research fellow at Academia Sinica, a university in Taipei. “It’s a challenge to both governments: How can they both rationally deal with this case? And I’d say that’s pretty important.” [Source] A DPP statement last week said that “[Lee] Ming-che’s case is not a one-off. Similar events have been endless in formal cross-strait exchanges to date. For China to detain Taiwanese people based on the reason of national security will only increase doubts for Taiwanese people traveling to China and affect normal exchanges between people of both sides.” On Monday, the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union called for legislation to formalize responses to arbitrary arrests and other rights violations. Lee’s case has been widely linked to the new foreign NGO management law that took effect in January. Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin said in a statement last week that “Lee Ming-cheh’s detention on vague national security grounds will alarm all those that work with NGOs in China. […] The unchecked powers the authorities now have to target NGOs and their partners are frightening.” Amnesty’s Patrick Poon commented that Lee’s case “will have a chilling effect on other foreign NGO workers working with partners in China,” while Human Rights Watch’s Maya Wang noted that this chill would also extend to organizations in Hong Kong or Taiwan that work on China-related issues. Global Voices’ Oiwan Lam also translated a relevant comment from 1989 student protest leader Wang Dan: Based on all the available information, it is most likely that the arrest of Lee Ming-cheh by CCP’s security department is related to the foreign NGO management law passed in China last year. The law restricts NGOs activities with stipulations such as “cannot violate the country’s interest”. Those who have basic knowledge of China’s government know that such a framework can be used to restrict all kinds of activities. The [Chinese] government can assign the label “harmful to state interests” to anyone that it does not like. Lee Ming-cheh has followed China’s human rights closely and expressed his view on democracy and freedom openly on WeChat. All these activities can be viewed as “harmful to the the interest of the state” by the CCP. [Source] Last Thursday, a large group of NGOs including China Labour Bulletin, Human Rights in China, the International Campaign for Tibet, and a number of Taiwanese organizations issued a joint statement calling for Lee’s freedom: We believe that the arrest and detention of Li Ming-Che by the PRC government is not legitimate. Li Ming-Che, as an NGO worker, merely shared Taiwan’s experience of democratizationhis with his Chinese friends, who he met online in recent years. When his online Chinese friends were interested in knowing more about human rights issues or modern history, Li sent them books. In early 2016, Li urged his online Chinese friends to donate and to support the family of Chinese human rights activists, who have been detained by the PRC government. We believe that no one should be arrested and detained because of sharing ideas on the internet. Li simply exercised his freedom of speech, which is protected by international human rights laws. His actions have also facilitated mutual understandings between Taiwan and China. The PRC government has no legitimate causes to arrest and detain him. We are sorry to see that the PRC government is getting more and more hostile to foreign human rights activists. For example, it arrested and deported Swedish human rights worker Peter Dahlin in 2016. The renowned Chinese scholar Feng Chongyi, a permanent resident of Australia, was denied to leave China. China also repeatedly criminalizes regular civil activities as “color revolution” on national security grounds. The litigation and detention procedures are flawed, and violate fundamental human rights standards and principles. [Source] Read more on Feng’s case, including his return to Australia on Sunday, via CDT. © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: civil society, donald Trump, foreign ngos, lee ming-che, NGOs, Taiwan democracy, Taiwan relations, Xi JinpingDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 5
Professor Returns to Australia, Warns Chinese Lawyers at Risk - On Sunday, Sydney-based professor Feng Chongyi returned to Australia after a more than week-long confinement to China during which he was relentlessly questioned, though not detained. Feng, a Chinese citizen and Australian permanent resident, has been a vocal critic of China’s growing influence in Australia, and was in the country to conduct research on human rights lawyers. The obstruction of his return prompted intensive media coverage and a call for his release by more than 150 scholars around the world, and contributed to the mounting parliamentary opposition that derailed a vote on the ratification of a decade-old extradition treaty between Australia and China. Reuters’ Philip Wen reports: “If they wanted to scare me they failed miserably,” Feng, a well-known China Studies expert at the University of Technology Sydney, told Reuters via telephone. […] Feng said his case, as well as interviews he conducted before being interrupted, showed the space for government criticism or dissent had been tightened further. He said he had been unmolested when he met with what he described as “sensitive contacts” on a trip to China a year ago. “In terms of rule of law and human rights it’s getting worse and worse. It’s clear their control of Chinese citizens [has] become harder and harder,” he said. […] Feng said he was informed on Saturday morning by the state security officers who had been questioning him daily that he was free to leave. He was made to sign a statement pledging not to divulge details of his interrogation sessions as a condition of his release. [Source] UTS associate professor Chongyi Feng reunioned with his daughter Yunsi Feng at home in Sydney suburb this morning. — chen yonglin (@chen_yonglin) April 2, 2017 Though Feng has talked widely to the press, he has said little about his questioning, except that it was so wide-ranging that he was unable to determine its objectives beyond possible intimidation of himself and others, and that “I got bored. I hope they got bored, as well.” His compliance with the non-disclosure agreement is likely motivated by his hopes of returning to China to continue his research, but also by his concern for the Chinese lawyers who helped him pursue an official explanation for his treatment. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Andrew Greene reports: After arriving in Sydney, Dr Feng said he was not told why he was permitted to leave China, but acknowledged he was concerned about what might happen to the lawyers who had helped him there. “I did not do anything illegal, and the lawyers only performed their duty,” he told the ABC. International law expert Don Rothwell from ANU says whatever agreement Dr Feng signed as a condition of being allowed to leave China, it would not be enforceable before an Australian court, due to “principles of private international law and the doctrine of ‘foreign governmental interests’.” […] However he warns there remains a threat to Professor Feng’s legal team, his family, friends, and associates if he speaks in detail about his recent ordeal. [Source]’s Malcolm Farr attributed the release to “backroom maneuvering” by former foreign minister Bob Carr, who was in China last week and reportedly pressed officials on Feng’s case. “Certainly it was a long and undeserved week of harassment for Professor Feng,” Farr concluded, “but it might have lasted longer if protests had been louder.” Feng has acknowledged the role of the government’s work on his behalf, constrained though it was by his lack of Australian citizenship, but also gave credit to the media which threw a global spotlight on his case. From Damien Cave at The New York Times: “Until I got on the plane and got past border control, I was not sure it was real,” Professor Feng said in an interview on Sunday 20 minutes after his overnight flight landed. “The authorities yielded to international pressure — including yours, the media. The media played an essential role in pushing them across the line.” […] Professor Feng added that despite his confinement, he did not intend to stop traveling to China. “I’m free to come and go, and I will return,” he said. “As I said to my friends — I shall return.” Still he warned that the impact of his release should be seen as narrow in scope, as there are many others who are not as well known, and are more vulnerable to China’s restrictions and aggressive tactics. “For anyone who gets in trouble in China, the support of the international community, especially the international media, is essential,” he said. “That is the only thing that will make them care.” [Source] Feng has also welcomed the Australian government’s decision to postpone the vote on the extradition treaty. From The Australian’s Primrose Riordan: Speaking to The Australian back at home in Sydney with his daughter, Yunsi, Dr Feng said he was “absolutely” pleased the Turnbull government had withdrawn an instrument to ratify a China-Australia extradition treaty from parliament. He said cases such as his — he was interrogated, charged without any paperwork with “endangering state security” and pun­ished with a travel ban — showed the dangers of such a deal. “It would be a fatal mistake because­ it would give an excuse to the Chinese authorities to get anyone,” he said. “They can make up a charge to suit their purposes: ratifying the treaty would be a terribl­e, terrible thing to do.” In light of opposition from Labor, the crossbench and several Coalition MPs, Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said they would halt attempts to ratify the deal for now, suggesting they would bring it back when they had rebuilt support­. [Source] China has also pursued an extradition treaty with New Zealand, whose Prime Minister John Key expressed openness towards the idea last year. (Canada is also considering an agreement.) While no such deal is yet in place, the country’s High Court is currently deliberating its first ad hoc extradition to China, that of a South Korean national accused of a 2009 murder in Shanghai. Minister of Justice Amy Adams first approved his extradition in November 2015, but was rebuffed by the High Court last July, before repeating her original decision in September. From Radio New Zealand: In the second judicial review over the extradition, at the High Court in Wellington yesterday, Mr Kim’s lawyer Tony Ellis said recent comments by China’s Chief Justice Zhou Qiang showed his client would not be guaranteed a fair trial. He said Mr Zhou had argued that judicial independence was a western concept which did not apply in China. [See more via CDT.] “You can’t have a fair trial while that’s continuing in China,” Dr Elllis said. […] He also doubted New Zealand officials in China would be capable of monitoring whether or not Mr Kim had been tortured. […] Crown prosector Austin Powell told the court there would, however, be immediate consequences if China were to breach an assurance – something it had never done before. “It would be very difficult for China to extradite anyone from anywhere ever again,” he said. [Source] At The Australian, meanwhile, Alan Dupont wrote that the treaty’s rejection by a diverse coalition “should be a reality check for proponents of closer ties with a country that shares few of our core values”: Pragmatists assert that we have to look beyond this democratic deficit because we live in a China world, and shaping that world to our advantage ought to be a foreign policy priority. Australia’s first ambassador to China, Stephen Fitzgerald, in his recent Whitlam Oration assumes that getting closer to China would give us more influence over its policies, but that’s a dubious assumption. There are obvious limits to the influence a country of Australia’s small population and modest strategic weight can have on a state of almost 1.4 billion people, particularly one imbued with the notion of its own greatness and manifest destiny. Moving closer to China could have the reverse effect of limiting our independence of action and making us more ­susceptible to the kind of economic pressure recently applied to South Korea for daring to host a US anti-missile system in opposition to China’s wishes. Fitzgerald’s more telling point, on which China hawks and doves can surely agree, is that our knowledge of the Middle Kingdom is unacceptably poor for a nation that trumpets its Asia literacy. As ties deepen, and become more complex, we need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of China and how it leverages statecraft to advance its national interests. [Source] © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Australia relations, extradition, Feng Chongyi, foreign media, New Zealand, rights lawyersDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 3


Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 AM ET! - Spring Break! Wooooo! Yeah! Bikini contest! Woooooooooo! But enough about the weekend goings on at Mar-A-Loco. I don’t even know if the Chinese president brought a bikini for the competition, anyway. It is Spring Break at KITM World HQ, and that means we’re on the road—or more likely, struggling to get onto the road at “air” time. But we won’t leave you in the lurch on a Friday. No! It’s a fresh, all-new show for our KITM family this Friday. And because it’s Friday, that means we can get a little deep, and maybe even a little weird. So let’s dive into the very odd relationship between International Man of Mystery, Stephen K. Bannon, and his biggest benefactors, Robert and Rebekah Mercer. Listen NOT REALLY LIVE, BUT THE NEXT BEST THING, right here at 9:00 AM ET! Is the Kagro in the Morning show keeping you sane in these troubled times? Well, we’re pretty good in decent times, too! But the troubled ones are what we have now. If we’re helping you wake up and face the day, you could help do the same for us, with a monthly, sustaining contribution to our Patreon account! Or, if a one-time donation is the way you like to roll, try our brand-new Square Cash account. Not convinced? How about a FREE listen to our most recent live show? Ha ha, sucker! Now you’re trapped! Er, I mean… Enjoy! And welcome! x YouTube Video YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Support the show via Patreon or Square Cash Today’s KITM will go down as one of the great podcasts in the history of our country. But wait until you hear what David Waldman’s got for Friday’s show! It is the origin story of Stephen K. (G) Bannon, soon to go down in history… for going down in history. Bannon deserves to go away, getting rid of him is a wise choice, so of course that is not what is happening. Greg Dworkin continues to accessorize his handsome new microphone, providing his dulcet voice and that weird little beep sound to us with a pristine clarity. Greg also provides us with the Trump supporter story to end all Trump supporter stories (hopefully). A Kentucky coal mining museum mines a rich vein of irony by switching to solar power. Eh, maybe we should be nicer to those folks sometimes. Will Republicans soon join us in wishing Hillary won? We won’t have Devin Nunes to kick around anymore, for a while, sort of, while he decides if he’ll flip to the FBI. Don’t worry, they found worthy replacements for him. Armando calls in to talk about Greg’s wrongness on Nunes’ karma and fate so far. He is looking forward to future debates on Section 702. Can Republicans convince the Pottery Barn manager someone else dropped the Obamacare pot? Not if credible and poignant Democrats keep up the attack. Republicans love Obamacare too. And, most Americans oppose funding the border wall. Trump is scrambling to roll back as many Obama-era regulations as he can before time runs out. Time could run out for everything April 28. Trump blames Obama and Assad for the latest gas attack in Syria. Russia says “Oh yeah, you and whose army?” Meanwhile, the Senate goes nuclear. McConnell listens to the voices, McCain wishes he didn’t do what he did. Frustration and concern overflow. Thanks! So, This Guy has to turn over That Document. Milo and Katrina sit back and count their money. In all of the hubbub, Donald Trump always focuses on the big picture.  Just remember, he always seems to find a way. (Thanks again to Scott Anderson for the show summary!) Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold. 37 min
Abbreviated pundit roundup: Trump's chaotic presidency continues with abrupt change in Syria policy - We begin today’s roundup with Blake Hounshell at POLITICO and his analysis of Donald Trump’s decision to launch air strikes in Syria: In the span of one week, President Trump and his team have pirouetted from declaring that Syria’s murderous dictator could stay in power to launching airstrikes against his regime—and possibly committing the United States to a new military conflict whose scope and scale are unknown. It’s a dizzying turnabout for a man who complained endlessly during the presidential campaign about the trillions the United States had wasted on wars in the Middle East—and who urged his predecessor in 2013 not to launch “stupid” airstrikes to punish Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people. [...] With these strikes, Trump is taking an extraordinary gamble, one whose ramifications he or his administration can’t possibly have fully examined. The Syrian conflict is mind-bogglingly complicated, with dozens upon dozens of insurgent groups squaring off against the Syrian military and pro-regime sectarian militias along with forces from Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran and Russia. Some of the insurgent groups are aligned with al Qaeda; others with ISIS. The U.S. works closely with Kurdish groups that are mortal foes of Turkey, a problematic ally that is increasingly at odds with the United States. Has President Trump wrestled with all of this complexity? The guy who spent the morning he learned about the chemical-weapons attack riffing to reporters about Susan Rice, Bill O’Reilly and the last time he rode the subway? Aaron Blake at The Fix also highlights Trump’s complete change in position: Trump is reported to have been personally affected by the scenes of suffering and the information he has learned now that he's president — “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack,” he said late Thursday night in brief remarks, adding: “No child of God should ever suffer such horror” — but the barbarism and horror were there in 2013. Yet Trump took a firm line against intervention for years. It may seem trivial to focus on Trump's past words in the light of the suffering in Syria and the realities of actually being president. But the fact is that the United States elected a man who promised to use force in a very circumspect manner and spoke unequivocally about it. [...] Less than three months into his presidency, Trump has now responded to a not-unprecedented set of circumstances in Syria with an unprecedented degree of force and provocation. John Cassidy at The New Yorker: Assad’s brutality has been obvious for years. It was obvious in the summer of 2013, when President Obama considered a military strike in response to an earlier chemical-weapons attack by Syrian government forces. On that occasion, Trump, then a private citizen, urged caution, writing on Twitter, “The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!” A week, later, again on Twitter, Trump warned, “President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!” Assad’s disregard for human life was in evidence again late last year, when his forces surrounded and bombed eastern Aleppo, killing and injuring a large numbers of civilians who were trapped in the city. That bloodshed didn’t prompt any eagerness to oust Assad on Trump’s part: to the contrary. [...] What is the Trump Administration’s strategy on Syria going forward, and has it now endorsed regime change? What are the consequences for the war on isis, and for the military offensive against Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the terrorist group’s stronghold? Will Trump help alleviate the refugee crisis, which he referred to in his statement on Thursday, by admitting more displaced Syrians to the United States? And did Trump’s lowly poll ratings play any role in his decision to strike? In September, 2012, Trump tweeted, “Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in a tailspin–watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.” On the morning after, these questions, and others, demand answers. 4:59 AM
Open thread for night owls. Silverman: Foreign policy analysis MIA on one item—moral choices - At The Baffler, Jacob Silverman writes—The Security State Wags Its Tongue: IT HAS BEEN A GOOD YEAR for our national-security pundits, in case you haven’t heard. A fever to explain what’s really going on at the CIA and the State Department has gripped the media, and insiders are in high demand. Got sources among the spooks and suits, or even just an educated hunch? Go straight to the cable-news green room. Collect a bunch of Twitter followers. This rising tide of interest has lifted many boats, among them industry blogs like Lawfare, whose staid dissections of foreign policy now pass as fascinating reading. As Trump-induced upheavals rocked the security establishment, the Lawfare crowd—led by Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey—saw its January traffic surge more than 500 percent. A recent profile in the New York Times Magazine called the blog, which is published by the Brookings Institution, a “go-to bipartisan site for remarkably speedy and informed analysis.” As for what Lawfare likes to call itself—a forum for discussion of “hard national security choices”—well, that is something else entirely. Let’s face it: If new readers are flocking to Lawfare, it is probably because they hope to find some scrap of insight into the resistance that is supposedly gripping the intelligence community, which will soon, they fear or fondly dream, rise up against the president for colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election. But we can’t blame Russia-mania alone. The rise of the national-security commentariat has been a long time coming. It tracks the maturation of the security state’s managerial class. Over the past couple of decades, thousands of mid- and high-ranking national security officials, political appointees and longtime bureaucrats alike, have graduated to positions at think tanks, defense contractors, universities, federal judgeships, and media outlets. Sixteen years of constant warfare and bloated intelligence budgets have produced a surplus of well-credentialed experts who regularly appear on TV, op-ed pages, and Beltway panels to shill for their unacknowledged conflicts of interest or to debate which of the half-dozen Muslim nations we’re presently bombing poses the most urgent threat. What is it we want from these experts? The same things they implicitly promise us. They’re here to dispense sage counsel and shepherd us, with a firm hand, through the shadows of American power and the outskirts of American law. Their patriotism means they won’t stand for partisanship, and all the “former”s in front of their names (and the letters afterward) show us that they know exactly what they’re talking about. [...] In the Lawfare cosmology, there are strategic and policy choices, but there are no moral ones. Hence the only consequences for officials, like John Yoo, who write legal memos justifying torture should be a sinecure at a top law school and the honor of being quoted approvingly in Lawfare. Shame and public criticism, not to mention legal liability, is anathema. Democratic norms matter, but not democratic accountability. In the closing of the New York Times Magazine profile, Jack Goldsmith, one of Lawfare‘s founders and a former Bush Justice Department lawyer, shares his hope that the courts don’t act as too much of a check on Trump, so that future presidents can retain the same kind of authority wielded by Bush and Obama. “The checks and balances may be working so well that the presidency will emerge as too weak,” Goldsmith said. What should disturb us more: the minimization of the Trump threat or the ghoulish eagerness to return to business as usual after the system survives him? On that topic, at least, the natsec wonks are silent. An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES QUOTATION "As the old joke goes, I have all the sins together. I am a woman, socialist, separated, and agnostic."                     ~Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile, Newsweek interview, 2005 TWEET OF THE DAY xIf you're making fun of Barry Manilow for coming out at age 73, maybe you're the reason people wait so long.— Tim Federle (@TimFederle) April 6, 2017 BLAST FROM THE PAST At Daily Kos on this date in 2006—Shameless: Just a day after Tom DeLay has the chutzpah to threaten filing an ethics complaint against against Cynthia McKinney (yes, right on the heels of his resignation announcement) he sends out his attack dogs to disrupt a Nick Lampson press conference and assault little old ladies. Marsha Rovai, the 70-year-old victim, a retired CPS caseworker, describes the attack. "I can't believe my Congressman, Tom DeLay, would organize this type of assault," Rovai said. "I was assaulted by two different people. One of the men hit me and another shoved his sign into my face, and then when I pushed his sign away he violently pulled my hat down over my eyes and pushed me. I'm considering filing an assault charge. This is just very upsetting and I'm so disappointed in Tom Delay for organizing this attack." And organize this attack he did. Here's the e-mail attributed to Chris Homan, DeLay's campaign manager: We would meet tomorrow morning at 9:45 am on the first floor of the parking garage attached to the Marriott. Please get folks to call our campaign office 281.343.1333 and let us know they can do it—or e-mail Leonard Cash (in the cc field above) so that we can get some head count. Let's give Lampson a parting shot that wrecks his press conference. Yes, this is the same Tom DeLay who starred at the War on Christians conference, that poor persecuted soul who has been drummed out of Congress solely as a result of his taking "his faith seriously into public office, which made him a target for all those who despise the cause of Christ." On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin says polling says Americans hate the wall and love Obamacare. The Trump Country story to (hopefully) end all Trump Country stories. Armando notes Nunes nudged out; Bannon bounced. GOP goes nuclear. Why Congress may go silent on 4/28. x Embedded Content YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Support the show via Patreon or Square Cash Apr 6
U.S. Strategic Command tweets Breitbart article, possibly as a plea for Trump's attention - Hey, United States military guys responsible for carrying out a nuclear first strike or nuclear response, would it be too much to ask to not promote white nationalist, misogynistic and conspiracy-peddling website? xTop General: ‘Nearly All Elements of Nuclear Triad’ Outdated. Story:— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) April 5, 2017 Granted, the summer Nuclear Intern responsible for sending out tweets from the US Strategic Command probably has instructions to promote anything they find on Google that hews to the needs of the Top General being quoted is probably not versed on which outlets are or aren't white nationalist-promoting misogynistic conspiracy-peddlers, but it is something you could, ya know, check. That particular outlet being full of white-nationalist-promoting misogynistic conspiracy-peddlers is something that's been in the news quite a bit, recently, due to the elevation of a few specific of those conspiracy-peddlers being boosted into administration positions after, apparently, all the remotely qualified people ran for the hills. On the other hand, we may be misreading this. U.S. Strategic Command retweeting Breitbart articles may not be an act of sloppiness, but an intentional cry for help. Perhaps they believe promoting Breitbart stories is the only thing that might get the current White House's attention? Perhaps the president who famously did not know what the nuclear triad actually was is still, to this day, uninterested, and this is our own military's attempt to pique the interest of anybody else in the White House. Look! We're meeting you halfway! Even your preferred white-nationalist-promoting, misogynistic den of conspiracy-peddlers believes this to be an important thing! Hmm. Yes, that may be the more likely answer. The military minds in charge of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile are not tweeting out links to white nationalist-promoting, misogynistic conspiracy websites out of carelessness, but because it's the only damn way to get President Twitter's attention. Apr 6
Undocumented immigrants make New York great by fueling $40 billion in economic output - Look at undocumented immigrants keeping New York great: Undocumented immigrants contribute about $40 billion a year to New York state's gross domestic product, according to a new report. Unauthorized immigrants are about 5 percent of the labor force in the state, are responsible for 3 percent of the state's economic output and pay more than $1 billion a year in state and local taxes, the Fiscal Policy Institute research said. The director of the Institute's Immigration Research Initiative said that if undocumented immigrants were allowed to work legally, the state would stand to gain another $247 million in taxes a year: "That's partly because they would have better jobs," he said, "and it's partly because now, the estimate is about half of all undocumented immigrants are filing income tax returns. If they had legal status, all of them would file." Donald Trump has never had a problem with exploiting immigrant labor—the undocumented “Polish Brigade” helped construct his crown jewel, Trump Tower, in 1979—but he instead prefers to demonize immigrants as both job-stealers and welfare-moochers, depending on the day of the week (that kind of talk doesn’t go too well in an immigrant city—popular vote winner Hillary Clinton pummeled him 80 percent to 17 percent in NYC last November). The fact is that undocumented immigrants aren’t just part of the fabric of America—they help keep America running. In 2016, ITEP found that undocumented workers contribute nearly $12 billion a year in taxes. Apr 6
Levels of carbon are turning the atmosphere into a time machine—in the worst way possible - The Earth during the early Eocene was an alien planet. Massive crocodiles prowled the warm waters off Greenland, hundreds of miles above the Arctic Circle, while palm trees grew in what’s now Alaska. Long, slender whales swam through oceans that were almost 200 feet higher than they are today. It was a time of tiny mammals and snakes longer than a bus. It was the world where birds eat horses. And now, in a sense, that world is coming back. Continuing to burn fossil fuels at the current rate could bring atmospheric carbon dioxide to its highest concentration in 50 million years, jumping from about 400 parts per million now to more than 900 parts per million by the end of this century, a new study warns. While it’s beyond unlikely that Gastornis will be showing up to trot around suburban lawns in pursuit of pets, the temperatures and the shorelines that came with the Eocene’s extremely high temperatures are almost certainly on their way if emissions continue unchecked. The new study speaks to the power of human influence over the climate. It suggests that after millions of years of relative stability in the absence of human activity, just a few hundred years of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are on track to cause unprecedented warming. If matching 50 million years of change in a century seems severe, it’s small potatoes compared with where we could get if we fail to get our act together. If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated beyond that point, the climate could reach a warming state that hasn’t been seen in the past 420 million years. And 420 million years ago would land us near the end of the Silurian Period, a time when the world was dominated by warm, storm-wracked oceans and the most complex life on land was moss and millipedes.  Apr 6
What do you know: Ivanka still making clothes in China - "We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American," Donald Trump pledged during his January 20 inaugural address. "Except if you're in the family," he added. Okay, that last part wasn't actually spoken, it was just universally understood by anyone with a brain. Anyway, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, writes NBC News: Despite President Donald Trump's calls for American companies to manufacture their products in the U.S., shipments of his daughter's branded, Chinese-made dresses have continued to land on U.S. shores since he took office, documents reviewed by NBC News show. [...] Since Election Day, the apparel brand run by Trump's daughter has imported 56 shipments of Ivanka Trump products from China and Singapore, part of a total of 215 shipments from Asia since Jan. 1, 2016. [...] NBC News traced 53 of the 56 shipments to Chinese ports and three to Singapore. And thanks to Kellyanne Conway's "buy Ivanka" pitch from the White House in early February, sales of the line surged 207 percent that month over those in January, when sales where slumping. Remember the campaign trail? “Day one,” Trump was going to declare China a "currency manipulator." Now Trump's Commerce Department is quietly considering changing China's trade status away from it being a "Non-Market Economy." Escaping from this label is something China has sought for more than a decade and that Chinese leaders consider a matter of great national pride. Apr 6
Trump: Exposing the Shadow - Back in the 1970s, economically developing countries were looked upon as nests of corruption. . . The United States, on the other hand, was considered to be – and for the most part was – above such massive corruption. That has totally changed. Drastically. Activities that would have been viewed as immoral, unacceptable, and illegal in the United States in my EHM days are now standard practice. They may be covered in a patina of oblique rhetoric, but beneath that surface, the same old tools are applied at the highest levels of business and government. – The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, p 265 I published The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man last year, twelve years after the original, because things had gotten so much worse. The tools we EHMs used in developing countries – the corruption, the deceptions, the debt, the threats, the fear, and the false stories – had come back to haunt the US, Europe and the rest of the so-called developed world. In addition to updating the original book, I added fifteen new chapters to describe the ways contemporary EHMs have created a global Death Economy that is failing us – and also to provide a strategy each of us can use for turning that Death Economy into a Life Economy. The “patina of oblique rhetoric” I wrote about a year ago has been ripped off. During the first months of the Trump administration, corruption, deceptions, debt, threats, fear, and false stories have become overt. Over the years, I’ve often condemned the “revolving door” that’s been part of American politics. There is nothing new about presidents with close ties to Big Oil, like the Bushes and to Wall Street, like Clinton and Obama. There is nothing new about cabinet members and heads of agencies who hail from and return to the very businesses they are supposed to regulate. There is nothing new about elected officials who earn millions of dollars as lobbyists after leaving public office. There is nothing new about laws and court decisions, like Citizens United, that give increasing power to corporations – and legalize what once was considered as corruption and bribery. These things are wrong. They are contrary to the principles of a democracy. They should be changed. But they are not new in America. What is new is a president who makes no attempt to hide his immense personal commercial interests in businesses that are known to be hotbeds of corruption, such as casinos, and where US foreign policy is jeopardized, such as in dealings with Russia. What is new are the many politicians in our national and state capitols who openly advocate bigotry and policies that favor the rich at the expense of all the rest of us. What is new is the overt declaration that the US is an imperial power that needs to increase its already huge, offensive, and budget-breaking military presence around the world. What is new is the lack of even an attempt to sound as though our country wants to defend equality, fairness, and the democratic principles that most of us were raised to champion. Perhaps the great gift of the Trump administration is that it has ripped off the patina. Those who claimed that US business and politics were essentially “transparent,” those who argued that the US was a true democracy and that our political system “might not be perfect, but it is the best in the world,” those who sneered at the under-the-table dealings in “banana republics” and held the US out as a shining example of how to do it right – all of those people, all of us, have been forced to look at the dark shadow that lurked beneath that patina. How do you remove a shadow? You walk under the light. Now that the patina has been removed, we in the US can walk under the light. We can expose ourselves to the true weaknesses – and strengths – of who we are. By being forced to look at our shadow, we have been liberated from the platitudes that have blanketed us in self-deception. We are free to admit to our liabilities and assets. That is the first step to change. It is a step forward into revitalization – and along the path to realizing our true potential. Upcoming Events:  April 11, 2017Sounds True: Year of Ceremony Become a part of an online monthly shamanic group that brings together leading shamanic teachers and practitioners. May 30-June 20, 20174-Session Writer’s Webinar: How to Write a Bestseller in Times of Crises Join a small community of writers who intend to use their medium to accelerate change. Spots are limited to 24 and are filling up quickly. Book yours today. October 12-13, 2017The Love Summit 2017 LPK Brand Innovation Center, Cincinnati, OH Join me and my nonprofit organization, Dream Change, for our 2nd Love Summit business conference: a cutting-edge event designed to demonstrate how #BottomLineLove business practices can solve the most pressing social, environmental and economic issues of our time. Request an invite, here.Apr 4
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. Mar 2
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.Feb 9
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 HereJan 31

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Watch The Best Democracy… Movie Right now! - Right now, this minute, you can watch The Best Democracy Money Can Buy on Amazon from $2.99, or if you prefer get a lifetime stream from Vimeo. Or better yet, get a signed copy for a tax-deductible donation. See the Film that Jesse Jackson is bringing to 200 churches before election day. “Hilarious and heartbreaking. The most important movie — and the most entertaining. Standing ovation!” - John Perkins, author, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man Follow me as I bust the New Klux Klan – the billionaire bandits that are behind a scheme to purge one million voters of color on election day. The Hysteria Factory is in full effect. Trump says a million "aliens" are swimming the Rio Grande to vote for Hillary. Fox News —even NPR— are peddling stories about dead voters, ghost voters, double voters and other berserk claims of fraudulent voting. But it’s just the cover to STEAL THIS ELECTION, to swipe the Senate. Watch the Hysteria Factory Clip from the Movie  With the help of Willie Nelson, Rosario Dawson, and detectives Ice-T and Richard Belzer, I track down the secret billionaires behind Donald Trump and the guys who are gaming our voter rolls and funding this voter fraud Hysteria Factory. * * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Donate to the Palast Investigative Fund and get the signed DVD. Download the FREE Movie Comic Book. Rent or buy the film from Amazon or Vimeo. Check for Movie Screenings in your area. 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 Watch The Best Democracy… Movie Right now! appeared first on Greg Palast.Mar 20
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.Mar 7
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.Feb 22
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.Jan 17
U.S. Army War College Study: Regaining Strategic Initiative in the Gray Zone - INTO THE NEW GRAY ZONE U.S. competitors pursuing meaningful revision or rejection of the current U.S.-led status quo are employing a host of hybrid methods to advance and secure interests that are in many cases contrary to those of the United States. These challengers employ unique combinations of influence, intimidation, coercion, and aggression to incrementally crowd out effective resistance, establish local or regional advantages, and manipulate risk perceptions in their favor. So far, the United States has not come up with a coherent countervailing approach. It is in this “gray zone”—the awkward and uncomfortable space between traditional conceptions of war and peace—where the United States and its defense enterprise face systemic challenges to U.S. position and authority. As a result, gray zone competition and conflict should be pacers for defense strategy. DESCRIBING THE GRAY ZONE For defense and military strategists, the gray zone is a broad carrier concept for a universe of often-dissimilar strategic challenges. Defense-relevant gray zone threats lie between “classic” war and peace, legitimate and illegitimate motives and methods, universal and conditional norms, order and anarchy; and traditional, irregular, or unconventional means. All gray zone challenges are distinct or unique, yet nonetheless share three common characteristics: hybridity, menace to defense/military convention, and risk-confusion. First, all gray zone challenges are some hybrid combination of adverse methods and strategic effects. Second, they menace American defense and military convention because they simply do not conform neatly to a linear spectrum of conflict or equally linear military campaign models. Finally, they are profoundly risk-confused; as such, they disrupt strategic risk calculations by presenting a paralyzing choice between action and inaction. The hazards associated with either choice appear to be equally high and unpalatable. For Department of Defense (DoD) strategists and planners, gray zone competition and conflict persistently complicate military decision-making, deployment models, and force calculations. They often fall outside the defense conceptions of war, yet they can rapidly and unexpectedly fall into them via miscalculation and unintended escalation. In the end, whether emerging via purpose or implication, gray zone challenges increasingly exact warlike consequences on the United States and its partners. AN IMPERATIVE TO ADAPT U.S. defense strategists and planners must dispense with outdated strategic assumptions about the United States, its global position, and the rules that govern the exercise of contemporary power. In fact, the U.S. defense enterprise should rely on three new core assumptions. First, the United States and the U.S.-dominated status quo will encounter persistent, unmitigated resistance. Second, that resistance will take the form of gray zone competition and conflict. Finally, the gray zone will confound U.S. defense strategists and institutions until it is normalized and more fully accounted for by the DoD. These assumptions, combined with the gray zone’s vexing action-inaction risk dilemma, indicate there is an urgent necessity for U.S. defense adaptation. Without it, the United States introduces itself to enormous strategic risk. The consequences associated with such failure to adapt range from inadvertent escalation to general war, ceding control of U.S. interests, or gradual erosion of meaningful redlines in the face of determined competitors. These risks or losses could occur absent a declared or perceived state of war. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Examining the gray zone challenge through the lens of five archetypes—three state competitors (China, Russia, and Iran), one volatile environment (Middle East and North Africa), and the United States—this study arrived at six core findings and four recommendations. The findings and recommendations are statements of principle. The study team suggests that these principles will provide senior defense leadership with touchstones for deeper examination. The findings and recommendations are broken into two major categories: policy and strategy, and operational plans and military capabilities. The former provide judgments affecting high-level DoD decision-making, while the latter informs how the U.S. military might consider employing forces and assets. POLICY AND STRATEGY In the area of policy and strategy, this study found that there is no common perception of the nature, character, or hazard associated with the gray zone or its individual threats and challenges. Consequently, there are gaps in strategic design, deliberate plans, and defense capabilities as they apply to operating and succeeding in gray zone environments. This study further found that there is significant asymmetry in risk perceptions between the United States, its partners, and their principal gray zone adversaries and competitors. The results of this apparent asymmetry of risk-perception are predictable—loss of initiative, ceded control over interests or territory, and a position of general disadvantage in the face of aggressive gray zone competition. Finally, this study discovered that there is neither an animating grand strategy nor “campaign-like” charter guiding U.S. defense efforts against specific gray zone challenges. Because of this, U.S. gray zone responses are generally overly reactive, late, and ineffective. In response to these findings, this study recommends that the DoD develop a common, compelling, and adaptive strategic picture of the range of gray zone threats and their associated hazards. This new perspective should adequately assess the current gray zone landscape, the likeliest future trajectory of its constituent threats, and finally, the prospects for sharp deviations from current trends that might trigger a fundamental defense reorientation. It further recommends that the DoD “lead up” and develop actionable, classified strategic approaches to discrete gray zone challenges and challengers. Without a coherent approach to reasserting U.S. leadership, the United States risks losing control over the security of its core interests and increasing constraints on its global freedom of action. OPERATIONAL PLANS AND MILITARY CAPABILITIES In the area of operational plans and military capabilities, this study found that combatant commanders’ (CCDR) presumptive future gray zone responsibilities do not align with their current authorities. Combatant commands (CCMDs) need greater flexibility to adapt to their theater strategic conditions, and must act to gain and maintain the initiative within their areas of responsibility. It further found that the current U.S./North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) joint phasing model is inadequate to seize and maintain the initiative in the gray zone. Purposeful gray zone revisionist actors are successfully campaigning and achieving warlike objectives inside the steady state or deterrence phases of the U.S./NATO joint phasing model. Further, contextual forces of rejection are themselves accumulating warlike wins in the absence of a coherent non-linear U.S. approach. Finally, this study concluded that current U.S. concepts for campaign design, the employment of forces, and the use of force are not well-adapted to persistent gray zone competition and conflict. To contend effectively with the implications of these findings, this study recommends the following initiatives. First, CCDRs should be empowered to “operate” against active gray zone competition and conflict with new capabilities and agile, adaptive models for campaigning. This implies that CCDRs should possess the requisite responsibility, authority, and tools essential to achieve favorable outcomes that are in their purview. In addition, this study found that the DoD and the Joint Force should develop and employ new and adaptable concepts, capabilities, and organizational solutions to confront U.S. gray zone challenges. It recommends a number of specific actions to improve U.S. military performance in the areas of ground and special operations forces (SOF), air and maritime capabilities, cyber capabilities, exercises, and power projection. WAY AHEAD—ADAPTATION AND ACTIVISM Normalizing and accounting for the DoD’s burgeoning gray zone challenge relies on the socialization of two important concepts—adaptation and activism. The defense enterprise needs to adapt to how it sees its gray zone challenges; how it charters strategic action against them; and, finally, how it designs, prioritizes, and undertakes that strategic action. All of these require a robust and activist DoD response. To date, the United States favors approaches that are more conservative. This study suggests that continuing such approaches invites substantial and potentially irreversible strategic consequences.Apr 2
(U//FOUO) U. S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa Campaign Plan 2016-2020: Theater Crisis and Contingency Response Forces in Readiness - The U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa Campaign Plan 2016-2020 defines the organization’s desired baseline operating conditions and capabilities beyond a one-year planning and execution cycle and directs action to achieve desired end states. The Campaign Plan synthesizes strategic guidance provided by U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), and Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC); accounts for the Commanders’ priorities and vision; establishes a deliberate yet broadly-defined multi-year plan to achieve stated objectives; and provides a framework for implementation, periodic assessment, and refinement. The Campaign Plan will be supported by Fiscal Year Implementation Plans that will further refine the guidance of the multi-year Campaign Plan into detailed single-year Plans of Action and Milestones (POA&Ms) with specific tasking to MARFOREUR/AF staff sections and subordinate commands. … STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT While the most dangerous challenges facing MARFOREUR/AF are associated with USEUCOM contingencies, the most likely are associated with crises in USAFRICOM. Since World War II, European allies and partners have worked with the United States to achieve security and stability, and Europe continues to be critical to U.S. national security interests around the globe. Growing instability, however, is being fueled by aggressive Russian behavior and NATO is undergoing a profound historical change to address a diversity of European and global challenges. Africa remains an enduring interest for the United States and its importance will continue to increase as African economies, population, and influence grow. Our engagement now can assist our African partners in realizing their potential and gaining the capability to solve African problems. African solutions to African problems are in the best interest of Africans, Americans, and indeed the world. USEUCOM AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (AOR) After nearly a quarter century of relative geopolitical stability, Europe is entering a new strategic era that reflects a return to great superpower competition. The USEUCOM Theater Campaign Plan defines three threats in the AOR that drive the reframing of USEUCOM’s theater campaign: A revanchist Russian Federation coercing European states Terrorism stemming from the Syrian civil war and instability in North Africa providing safe haven and operating space to Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs), thereby generating foreign fighter flow to, from, and within Europe Continued threats to Israel USEUCOM is promoting a balanced approach and working with allies and partners to address these challenges. Key to this approach is being able to deter our most advanced competitors. To do so, we must have—and be seen to have—the ability to fight and win. Given our budget, our capabilities, our readiness, and our actions, U.S. Marines must and will be prepared for a high-end full-spectrum enemy. The European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) demonstrates U.S. commitment to the security of our allies and partners and to protecting our homeland through several lines of effort, including: (1) increased U.S. military presence in Europe; (2) additional bilateral and multilateral exercises and training with allies and partners; (3) improved infrastructure to allow for greater responsiveness; (4) enhanced prepositioning of U.S. equipment in Europe; and (5) intensified efforts to build partner capacity for newer NATO members and other partners. Russia and Eastern Europe: Russia poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and our allies and partners in Europe. Russian intimidation of the Baltic states, revitalization of its Arctic bases, and aggressive actions in the air, at sea and in cyberspace are the cause of much concern. Meanwhile, Russia continues to develop advanced military systems that seek to threaten our advantages in specific areas and, in some cases, they’re developing weapons and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) that seek to achieve their objectives rapidly, in an effort to deny our ability to respond. The Levant: The emergence of the Islamic State is a significant regional development as the group now controls substantial portions of Iraq and Syria through its rapid para-military expansion and growth in resources. Internal strife in Syria continues to fuel the group amid sectarian friction, at great cost to human life. Syria has become a magnet for global jihad; a situation that is likely to persist. Ongoing, severe spillover effects include a flood of refugees and an influx of foreign fighters into neighboring countries and throughout Europe. Israel is in a region of growing instability, surrounded by adversaries in the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai Peninsula, and southern Lebanon. Continued U.S. political and security guarantees have left our strategic partnership with Israel unshaken, as Israel will be a key ally with which to coordinate efforts to minimize extremist influence in the broader Levant. The Arctic: The Arctic is at a critical point in its transformation from a relatively isolated region to one where receding ice is enabling increased human access. As climate change and the variability of new energy sources shape the global environment, these shifts will affect our strategic outlook, especially in the Arctic. As more countries operate in the Arctic, more opportunities and challenges will arise. The United States is committed to working with allies and partners to keep the region stable and secure through this historic change. U.S. Naval forces are uniquely capable of conducting operations across the vast distances, remote outposts, scarce infrastructure, and seasonal challenges present in the Arctic.Apr 2
The 2017 Guide to Detecting Homegrown Violent Extremists - A graphic from the 2017 National Counterterrorism Center handbook on indicators of mobilization to violence among homegrown violent extremists depicts a man watching a video of Anwar al-Awlaki. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has released a 2017 version of their handbook for spotting indicators of mobilization to violence among homegrown violent extremists (HVEs).  The guide was originally intended for distribution among public safety personnel and is not intended for public release, but has since appeared on several publicly accessible law enforcement mailing lists and conference websites.  In 2014, the NCTC’s Office of National Intelligence Management formed an Interagency Analytic Focus Group with members from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, FBI, NSA, as well as representatives of state and local law enforcement.  The focus group “collaboratively developed the list of behavioral indicators and ranked them into three tiers of diagnosticity,” eventually developing a list to distribute to law enforcement personnel.  The 2017 handbook released by NCTC is a version of that list updated with new indicators observed since the handbook was last published. Intended to provide “a roadmap of observable behaviors that could inform whether individuals or groups are preparing to engage in violent extremist activities,” the handbook is a slick 36-page publication with colorful graphics depicting dozens of behavioral indicators that an HVE is mobilizing to violence.  These behaviors are divided into three groups based on their overall diagnostic capacity.  Group A includes indicators that are “very diagnostic on their own” and thus require little else to indicate mobilization to violence.  These indicators include “preparing or disseminating a last will or martyrdom video/statement” as well as “planning or attempting to travel to a conflict zone to fight with or support an FTO.”  Group B includes indicators that are “moderately diagnostic, more so when observed with other indicators.”  These include more common activities that may not directly indicate an imminent threat of violence, such as “posting terrorist icons/flags/prominent figures to social media” and “expressing acceptance of violence as a necessary means to achieve ideological goals.”  Group C includes indicators that are even more common and thus are “minimally diagnostic on their own,” requiring the “presence of other indicators to gain diagnosticity.”  This group includes “unusual purchase of military style tactical equipment” and “blaming external factors for failure in school, career, or relationships.” A graphic depicting the scale of threat levels assigned to various behavior indicators of mobilization to violence among HVEs. The guide also introduces a scale for evaluating the overall threat level of indicators by ranking: how diagnostic they are in positively identifying mobilization to violence; how dependent they are on other indicators to positively diagnose mobilization; how easily observable the indicators are; as well as whether the indicators present a long-term, near-term, or imminent concern.  For example, someone “disseminating a last will or martyrdom video/statement” is ranked as highly diagnostic, independent of other indicators, and observable, presenting an imminent concern.  An indicator like “surveilling potential targets” is moderately diagnostic and observable, but is highly dependent on other indicators and only presents a near-term concern. While some of the initial indicators in Group A seem plainly apparent as being indicators of mobilization towards violence, many indicators in the Group B and C are broad and at times confusing in their origin.  One indicator in Group C is “inappropriate use of what an individual perceives as ‘doctrine’ to manipulate the behavior of parents, co-workers, close friends and family.”  The guide offers examples of this indicator including “criticism of parents’ clothing choices, reading material choices, musical preferences, religious practices, interfaith friendships.”  Another broad indicator in Group B is “use of encrypted media applications to engage with unknown overseas individuals.”  Several indicators in Group C also relate to communications privacy, such as “utilizing communication security techniques” and “discussing operational security.”  Many of these indicators are rated as being dependent upon other evidence “pointing to terrorism and intent to take violent action” and the guide makes clear that “many of these signals or indicators—some of which might involve constitutionally protected activities—may be insignificant on their own.”  If any public safety personnel receiving the guide “reasonably believes” based on the information contained in the guide “that an individual may be mobilizing to violence “they are encouraged to “inform LE agencies with investigative authorities via mechanisms like E-Guardian or Suspicious Activity Reporting.” Mar 26
(U//FOUO) NCTC Homegrown Violent Extremist Mobilization Indicators for Public Safety Personnel 2017 Edition - (U//FOUO) The indicators of violent extremist mobilization described herein are intended to provide federal, state, local, territorial and tribal law enforcement a roadmap of observable behaviors that could inform whether individuals or groups are preparing to engage in violent extremist activities including potential travel overseas to join a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The indicators are grouped by their assessed levels of diagnosticity—meaning how clearly we judge the behavior demonstrates an individual’s trajectory towards terrorist activity. The list also includes additional information concerning what the behavior could indicate, identifies likely observers, and provides a probable timeframe between behavior and an ultimate violent act. Some of these activities might be constitutionally protected and may be insignificant on their own, but, when observed in combination with other suspicious behaviors, may constitute a basis for reporting. Law enforcement (LE) action should not be taken based solely on the exercise of constitutionally protected activities or on the apparent race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion of the subject. BACKGROUND (U//FOUO) By law, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) focuses on international terrorism. Senior Intelligence Community officials judge that violent extremists inspired or enabled by the self-proclaimed Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qa‘ida, including their allies and affiliates, are among the most lethal international terrorist threats to the Homeland. This product focuses on the threat from those actors. (U//FOUO) In 2014, NCTC’s Office of National Intelligence Management (NIM) formed an Interagency Analytic Focus Group, including experts from DCTC, DHS/I&A, DOE, FBI, NCTC, NSA, and cleared representatives of State and local law enforcement, who collaboratively developed the list of behavioral indicators and ranked them into three tiers of diagnosticity. The focus group created this list with law enforcement, homeland security, and public safety officials in mind. The focus group updated the list for 2017 based on new indicators observed since the publication of the original booklet. GROUP INDICATORS (U//FOUO) GROUP A Indicators are very diagnostic on their own. (U//FOUO) GROUP B Indicators are moderately diagnostic, more so when observed with other indicators. (U//FOUO) GROUP C Indicators are minimally diagnostic on their own and require the presence of other indicators to gain diagnosticity. (U//FOUO) Nothing in this list of indicators is intended to confer additional authorities to law enforcement beyond that which is provided by federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Officers who believe individuals are exhibiting significant mobilization indicators are encouraged to immediately contact the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. … (U//FOUO) WHAT IS A HOMEGROWN VIOLENT EXTREMIST? (U//FOUO) A Homegrown Violent Extremist (HVE) is a violent extremist of any citizenship who has lived and/or operated primarily in the United States or its territories, and who is acting independently of the direction of a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). Because HVEs are acting to further the goals of an FTO, they are considered foreign intelligence threats under the authorities of both the Intelligence Community and domestic public safety entities. (U//FOUO) WHY WAS THIS BOOKLET CREATED? (U//FOUO) We face a heightened threat environment in the United States as HVEs heed the call to violence from ISIL and other global jihadist groups. • (U//FOUO) The rise of ISIL and an uptick in extremist travel and unsophisticated attacks—inspired in part by ISIL—prompted us to reexamine a set of violent mobilization indicators originally published in 2011. • (U//FOUO) Recent HVE attacks in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas have added urgency to publishing this booklet. (U//FOUO) We published this booklet to inform our federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement (LE) and private sector partners about what signals—or indicators—we judge HVEs, particularly those inspired or enabled by ISIL or al-Qa‘ida, might display that could potentially be detected by first responder personnel and other people. We emphasize that many of these signals or indicators—some of which might involve constitutionally protected activities—may be insignificant on their own. However, when such signals or indicators are observed in combination with other suspicious behaviors, they may constitute a basis for reporting. LE action should not be taken solely based on the exercise of constitutionally protected activities or on the apparent race, ethnicity, national origin or religion of the subject, or on any combination of any such factors. (U//FOUO) WHO IS THE BOOKLET’S TARGET AUDIENCE? (U//FOUO) We tailored this booklet specifically for first responders, including LE, homeland security, and public safety officials. These officials are on the front line in their communities, are well positioned to notice suspicious behaviors outlined in the booklet, and have the potential to maintain regular engagement with members of their communities who may also witness indicators mentioned in the booklet. (U//FOUO) If members of the public suspect—based on these indicators—that an individual is mobilizing to violence, they should contact LE. (U//FOUO) HOW WAS THIS BOOKLET DEVELOPED? WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘DIAGNOSTICITY?’ (U//FOUO) NCTC conceptualized this booklet with the help of an interagency focus group, including officers from the FBI, the DHS, cleared representatives of state and local LE agencies, and subject matter experts. We decided to broadly publish it for public safety officials, to address the obvious need to inform those on the front lines of the effort to detect violent extremists in the United States. (U//FOUO) The group determined that the ideal manner of listing indicators would be by diagnosticity—the extent to which behaviors indicate violent mobilization – instead of by measuring how often the behaviors have been reported in past cases. The highest tier of behaviors would most likely indicate mobilization, behaviors in the middle tier would indicate mobilization when observed with other indicators, while the behaviors in the lowest tier would only  likely indicate violent mobilization when combined with multiple other behaviors. • (U//FOUO) An example of a Group A highest-tier behavior or hard indicator is the potential observation of an individual preparing and posting a last will or martyrdom video or statement to the Internet. The group judged that this behavior would be diagnostic on its own and may be observable if shared with or otherwise discovered by family, friends, and bystanders, and online and social media contacts. • (U//FOUO) Examples of Group C lowest-tier behaviors or soft indicators would be those that on their own do not suggest mobilization, but when taken together would become more diagnostic. None of those behaviors, by themselves, conclusively signal violent mobilization. • (U//FOUO) The behaviors noted in the booklet were based on a review of information derived from dozens of FBI terrorism investigations over the past three years and brainstorming sessions by focus group members.Mar 26
FBI Cyber Bulletin: Cyber Criminals Targeting FTP Servers to Compromise Protected Health Information - The FBI is aware of criminal actors who are actively targeting File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers operating in “anonymous” mode and associated with medical and dental facilities to access protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) in order to intimidate, harass, and blackmail business owners. Threat Research conducted by the University of Michigan in 2015 titled, “FTP: The Forgotten Cloud,” indicated over 1 million FTP servers were configured to allow anonymous access, potentially exposing sensitive data stored on the servers. The anonymous extension of FTP allows a user to authenticate to the FTP server with a common username such as “anonymous” or “ftp” without submitting a password or by submitting a generic password or e-mail address. While computer security researchers are actively seeking FTP servers in anonymous mode to conduct legitimate research, other individuals are making connections to these servers to compromise PHI and PII for the purposes of intimidating, harassing, and blackmailing business owners. Cyber criminals could also use an FTP server in anonymous mode and configured to allow “write” access to store malicious tools or launch targeted cyber attacks. In general, any misconfigured or unsecured server operating on a business network on which sensitive data is stored or processed exposes the business to data theft and compromise by cyber criminals who can use the data for criminal purposes such as blackmail, identity theft, or financial fraud. Recommendations The FBI recommends medical and dental healthcare entities request their respective IT services personnel to check networks for FTP servers running in anonymous mode. If businesses have a legitimate use for operating a FTP server in anonymous mode, administrators should ensure sensitive PHI or PII is not stored on the server.Mar 26
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. … Mar 11
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. … Mar 11
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.Mar 5
Today in OpenGov: Trump’s trust tweaks, Seattle’s open data reports, and more - In today's edition, we check in on Seattle's open data program, track tweaks to President Trump's trust, ask why NASA is making it harder to access information via FOIA, look for French campaign cash, and more states and cities   Seattle shows progress with new open data reports. "The Seattle Open Data Program has published its 2016 Annual Report and its 2017 Open Data Plan, giving the city a look into its recent past and upcoming future." The documents come on the heels of a new executive order that pushes city agencies to expand their use of data and analytics. (Government Technology) Sunlight's Alyssa Doom congratulated the city, noting that the program is exceeding its stated goals.  Looking to recruit tech talent to your city? Follow these steps. "Based on my experience in city government, as well as many conversations with mayors, department heads and chief data officers, I’ve learned that improving communications to job-seekers and creating a more tech-friendly city environment can go a long way toward appealing to the best of the IT world. Here are five steps cities can take to make their data and IT offices a hub for tech talent" (Data-Smart City Solutions) Tiny Washington newspaper sued by government agency following records request. The weekly Malheur Enterprise "was sued this past week by a state agency. Not because the paper did anything wrong, but because it’s pursuing public records in a horrific murder case of intense interest in the town. The government wants to shield the records, and make the paper pay its court costs…" (Seattle Times via NFOIC) around the world   Launching a new beneficial ownership registry in the wake of the Panama Papers. "This year, we – a group of civil society organizations and business(link is external) – are presenting a new project that will incite a culture shift toward corporate transparency. OpenOwnership(link is external)’s central goal is to build an open data register of global beneficial ownership in the public interest. The OpenOwnership Register will serve as a single platform from which to access data about who owns companies from around the world in a way that is easy to use, and totally free." (Open Government Partnership) French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen struggling to find financing at foreign banks. "Le Pen’s team has sent about a dozen requests to banks in Russia, the U.S., Italy, India, Indonesia and the U.K. on top of her applications to French financial institutions, according to her strategic adviser Louis Aliot." Le Pen reportedly needs around $15 million to fund her campaign plans. (Bloomberg) New book investigates financial links between Asian dictators, western power. "Weak, corrupt, and politically unstable, the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are dismissed as isolated and irrelevant to the outside world. But are they? Based on years of research and involvement in the region, Cooley and Heathershaw reveal how business networks, elite bank accounts, overseas courts, third-party brokers, and Western lawyers connect Central Asia’s supposedly isolated leaders with global power centers." (Open Society Foundations) trumpland Trump tweaks trust, can withdraw from businesses without disclosure. After revising his revocable trust, POTUS Donald J. Trump can now draw money from his businesses at any time, without public disclosure. (ProPublica) White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that the President could withdraw funds, "but he declined to say whether Trump would make such withdrawals public." (POLITICO) This latest shift to what was already a profoundly flawed arrangement brazenly flouts decades of precedent, in which a President held himself to the same ethical standards that Cabinet Secretaries do: disclosure, divestment, and use of a blind trust with an independent overseer. As we have said since November, so long as President Trump does not divest himself from his complex foreign and domestic business interests, both real and rumored corruption will cast a shadow over his presidency and everything he tries to do in government, whether right or wrong. All of Trump's Tweets will be preserved by the White House and the National Archives. "The White House has agreed preserve each of President Donald Trump's tweets, even deleted or amended ones, following the request of the National Archives and Records Administration…" (The Hill) House Oversight is investigating Flynn's foreign payments. "Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Monday his committee is looking into payments that former national security adviser Michael Flynn received from foreign governments." (The Hill) Elsewhere in washington   NASA aims to thwart FOIA service by requiring individual mailing addresses. "The National Aeronautics Space Administration has begun rejecting public records requests from users of FOIA request-filing service MuckRock, which doesn’t provide what the agency calls a 'personal mailing address,' even though the requirement appears to have no basis under the law."  (The Daily Dot) Senate, GAO keep eyes on DATA Act implementation. "Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent letters to 24 chief financial officer agencies on Friday, urging leadership to" keep DATA Act implementation as a high priority. Agencies face a major DATA Act deadline in early May. (Federal News Radio) We're glad to see the General Accountability Office & Congress overseeing implementation of the DATA Act by The White House and U.S. Department of the Treasury. Facing major budget changes, agencies must move beyond Excel spreadsheets. "Spreadsheets are ill equipped to process the myriad functions that exist in the current budget formulation process. Agencies must record, analyze, categorize, control and report thousands of changing budget data points back to stakeholders. This process is far more complex than simply plugging numbers into a table." (Federal Computer Week)   Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!   Apr 4
Today in OpenGov: White House financial disclosures, plugging public information loopholes and more - In today's edition, we dig into White House financial disclosure documents, shed light on Texas government contracts, look into Tom Price's potential stock improprieties, and more… Trumpland The White House made financial disclosure forms available late on Friday, but they didn't post them online. Instead, they required interested parties to fill out a form requesting specific documents, which where then distributed via email. This approach is far from optimal, as ProPublica explained: "the White House required a separate request for each staffer’s disclosure. And they didn’t give the names of the staffers, leaving us to guess who had filed disclosures, a kind of Transparency Bingo." ProPublica, the New York Times, and the Associated Press are teaming up to post all the files online in a public Google Drive folder. They are also encouraging their readers to dig through the files and share any interesting tidbits they notice. Among other information, the disclosures reveal that senior adviser Gary Cohn, formerly president of Goldman Sachs, is worth at least $250 million (Bloomberg), a number of staffers profited healthily from the flood of political cash unleashed following the 2010 Citizens United decision (New York Times), and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are holding on to real estate worth hundreds of millions of dollars despite their official White House Jobs (USA Today) GSA Inspector General pushed to review Trump hotel lease. "A group comprising 22 nonprofit organizations, liberal advocates, professors and ethical experts have written the inspector general of the General Services Administration — the agency that manages the lease for the Trump International hotel — asking that she review the recent decision by the agency to allow the president’s company to keep the lease while he is in office." (The Washington Post) Sunlight was happy to join other watchdogs and ethics experts in signing the letter, which you can read in full here. The sorry state of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "There’s still no leader at OSTP, a job that can double as the chief science adviser to the president…The other leadership jobs within OSTP — overseeing issues like energy policy, innovation and more — similarly remain unfilled." In fact, the office currently has only one staffer. (Recode) We hope that the President appoints a U.S. chief technology officer and a WhiteHouse Office of Science and Technology director. Putting scientists and technologists at the table where decisions are made is crucial for 21st century governance. Former Trump campaign staffers seek out foreign clients. "Some of President Donald Trump’s former campaign hands are rushing to sign lucrative deals with foreign clients, shrugging off their own pledges to avoid foreign lobbying and the president’s vow to 'drain the swamp.'" (POLITICO) It is time to review and reform how foreign lobbying is tracked. "Recent revelations have confirmed that former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn lobbied for foreign interests while he was working on the campaign without registering as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice (DOJ) as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This is only the latest example that shows a formal review of the effectiveness FARA is overdue." (Project on Government Oversight) Elsewhere in washington   Tom Price bought drug company stock while intervening to protect profits. "On the same day the stockbroker for then-Georgia Congressman Tom Price bought him up to $90,000 of stock in six pharmaceutical companies last year, Price arranged to call a top U.S. health official, seeking to scuttle a controversial rule that could have hurt the firms’ profits and driven down their share prices, records obtained by ProPublica show." (ProPublica) Contractors push back against proposed transparency legislation. "In a move intended to make it easier for the public to see what exactly federal contractors do for the taxpayer money they receive, two Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would require agencies to post the text of major contracts online. But contractors and contracting specialists are pushing back." (Government Executive) Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee's unexpected responsibility. The Atlantic took a deep look at the Utah Republican, with a particular focus on how he is handling the "responsibility of policing his own party’s administration—rooting out conflicts of interest, exposing abuses of power, and generally causing headaches for President Trump. It’s an awkward and unpleasant task, and one that he does not seem to savor." States and cities   Celebrating data and evidence at the 2017 What Works Cities Summit. Sunlight's Alex Howard pulled together some highlights from "the annual conference convened by What Works Cities, an initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that provides support for American cities to improve how they apply data and evidence with their communities. (Sunlight Foundation) Early data-driven governance programs are floundering in Maryland. Martin O'Malley focused heavily on improving government performance through data and statistics while serving in Maryland, but his "model is in trouble. His successor in Annapolis, Gov. Larry Hogan, has discontinued the program. Baltimore’s CitiStat hasn’t fared much better, languishing from inactivity for months, if not years, at a time. The celebrated innovation that inspired a movement of Stat-like programs from Jackson, Miss., to Washington state is struggling to stay alive on its home turf." (Governing) Texas Senate moves to reduce contract secrecy. "The Texas Senate cleared a pair of bills Tuesday aimed at plugging 'loopholes' in public records law that have left taxpayers in the dark about key details of some government contracts." (Texas Tribune) We hope that the State Senate follows suit quickly.    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!   Apr 3
Today in OpenGov: A California budget data upgrade, big donors boosting Trump, and more - In today's edition, we look at a potential upgrade to California's budget data, investigate the wealthy donors preparing to boost President Trump, find savings at the FEC, and more… States and cities   California may publish state budgets as downloadable spreadsheets. "A Senate committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would require future state budgets be available in a downloadable spreadsheet format — an effort to bring more public scrutiny to state expenditures." (Government Technology) Driving data innovation in small cities. "As cities like Syracuse have demonstrated, being able to leverage ideas from peers is a key component of driving innovation and adopting data-driven strategies." (Mark Headd) Carl Malamud took on Georgia over access to the state's laws. Ars Technica digs deep into the open-records activist's fight to improve access to Georgia's state code and related annotations. It's a complicated story, worth reading in full, but the story so far doesn't end well. "Now, the case has concluded with US District Judge Richard Story having published an opinion (PDF) that sides with the state of Georgia. The judge disagreed with Malamud's argument that the OCGA can't be copyrighted and also said Malamud's copying of the laws is not fair use."  (Ars Technica) money & politics & ethics & corruption   Wealthy donors are planning a media blitz to boost President Trump. In the wake of "the failed effort to repeal Obamacare a group of wealthy backers is launching a media blitz to pressure Democratic senators to support" the President. (Bloomberg) Gorsuch responds in writing to Citizens United question… and the answer did not impress Rick Hasen at the Election Law Blog. He writes: "Well Sen. Leahy followed up in a written question, and Judge Gorsuch continues to insist on spending limits being possible upon proof of quid pro quo corruption (which I think is essentially foreclosed by both Citizens United and the follow-up American Tradition Partnership)." (Election Law Blog) …while Democrats push for him to help find out who is behind dark money supporting his nomination. "Just in: Senate Dems write Gorsuch calling on him to help find out who donated $10m+ backing his nomination – currently secret" (Ari Melber) The Federal Elections Commission's new website will save $1.2 million annually. The FEC teamed up with 18F to launch the new site, which includes new features and increased scalability. Savings will come from internal systems that will be retired.  (Nextgov) Elsewhere in washington   Thinking of becoming a whistleblower? There's a lot to consider. "We all like to think that given the opportunity to blow the whistle on something illegal or immoral, we would do the right thing. But whistleblowing is rarely, if ever, black and white and often entails significant legal, ethical, financial, and personal challenges." (Government Executive) Intelligence agency hackathon targets food security. "A team of students from the University of Southern California won the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s most recent hackathon in Los Angeles for creating a different approach to facilitating food security in Morocco through a proposed solution that optimizes the transportation of fish. The hackathon is one of many ways the agency is trying to find new approaches to its complex problems — and recruit talent when competing with the fast-paced, high-paying tech industry." (FedScoop) Trump administration to pursue criminal charges against leakers? "Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated Thursday evening that the Trump administration would pursue criminal charges to end alleged leaks from U.S. agencies." (The Hill) Democrats in Congress not getting answers from the Administration. "The lack of response to congressional letters is part of a pattern. Virtually every day, Democrats write the Trump administration demanding answers on a range of issues. And every day they are met with the sounds of silence." (ProPublica)   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!   Mar 31
Today in OpenGov: New hope for open data, grim news for Internet privacy, and more - In today’s edition, we note Ivanka Trump’s new job title, take a look at France’s open government plans, celebrate new open data legislation, read the 28 counts against Steve Stockman, and more… A new hope for open data The OPEN Government Data Act is back in the House. We’re thrilled that it was reintroduced in a bipartisan manner and hope Congress moves forward with it soon. As we said last year when the Senate passed it, this legislation would codify an expectation into law that the Sunlight Foundation has been advocating for since we were founded a decade ago: Public data created with taxpayer dollars should be available to the public in open, machine-readable forms when doing so does not damage privacy or national security. Congress targets U.S. Code for much needed modernization. “Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Dave Brat (R-Va.) have reintroduced the Statutes at Large Modernization Act, a legislation reform bill that would make all federal laws ever passed available and publicly searchable on in an open, non-proprietary data format.” (Federal Computer Week) Acting U.S. CIO highlights reliance on legacy systems as a major problem. “As agencies look to free themselves from their dependencies to outdated, legacy systems, acting U.S. CIO Margie Graves wants to make sure the federal government doesn’t find itself in this predicament once again decades down the road.” The government should focus on developing more modular, portable, and flexible systems moving forward. (FedScoop) Around the world A new generation joins anti-corruption protests in Russia. “Not only did young people turn out in large numbers at the demonstrations last weekend, but they’ve also invigorated Navalny’s anti-corruption campaign by challenging educators in classrooms and sharing footage of teachers and administrators trying to indoctrinate students against political activism.” (Global Voices) France looks online to build next Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. “On March 15th, France released an online platform to initiate the development of its next national action plan. Open to public administrations, civil society organizations and other stakeholders, this platform will gather contributions in order to build up ambitious and transformative commitments to be endorsed by the next government.” (Open Government Partnership) Six key themes for digital democracy. “Last month NESTA published a paper called Digital Democracy: The tools for transforming political engagement.” The report highlighted six key themes including “don’t engage for engagement’s sake; be clear about who you are engaging and why; digital should always complement traditional engagement; digital should not be seen as a cheap and easy fix and use tools that are useful and useable for your users.” (The Democratic Society) money & politics & ethics & corruption Congress votes to roll back Internet privacy rules after heavy telecom lobbying and spending. “The vote to dismantle the rules is seen as one of the more brazen examples of pay-to-play politics in recent memory. It’s a massive win for giant ISPs; especially those like AT&T and Verizon that are pushing hard into the Millennial advertising business.” (DSL Reports) The Verge has a breakdown of Members of Congress who voted for the bill and how much money they have taken from the telecom industry in campaign donations. Former Rep. Steve Stockman indicted on 28 charges, accused of misusing up to $1.25 million. “Former Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman was formally indicted Tuesday evening on fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges, the Justice Department announced.”(Roll Call) State Department employee allegedly shared information with China in exchange for gifts. “A veteran State Department employee who held a Top Secret clearance and did three tours in China is facing criminal charges for allegedly covering up tens of thousands of dollars in gifts she and an associate took from Chinese agents.” (POLITICO) Trumpland Ivanka Trump will officially join White House staff after conflict of interest questions. “Ivanka Trump said she will become an official unpaid federal employee after Democratic lawmakers said her previously unspecified role advising her father, President Donald Trump, raised questions about how she’d avoid conflicts of interest.” (Bloomberg) Secretary of State brings two pool reporters on trip to Europe… “Two pool reporters are traveling with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his current trip to Turkey and Belgium after Tillerson blocked pool reporters from his first trip to Asia earlier this month.” Reporters from other outlets that want to cover the trip will fly commercial. (POLITICO) …while State Department briefing room goes dark amid spokesperson search. “For at least two weeks, officials at the State Department will not hold a public briefing, according to officials with the department. After that, it is unclear if briefings will resume immediately and what form they will take. In the meantime, the State Department have been briefing reporters on background only, which means officials cannot be quoted by name in any news stories.” Sunlight’s Deputy Director Alex Howard weighed in, calling the lack of briefings “an unfortunate continuation of what we’ve seen from the very top of this administration.”(ABC News) Air Force nominee’s contracting work under fire from ethics watchdogs. “Independent ethics watchdogs urged members of Congress this week to probe why President Trump’s Air Force secretary nominee, former Rep. Heather Wilson, was paid by nuclear weapon contractors to do consulting work for which she refused to provide a detailed accounting.” (Center for Public Integrity)   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! Mar 30
Today in OpenGov: Certifying What Works Cities, reviewing Mar-a-Lago, and more - In today's edition, we head to New York for the What Works Cities Summit, ask some questions about security at Mar-a-Lago, share a congressional wish list, and more… What works cities A number of Sunlighters are in New York for the 2017 What Works Cities Summit. The program, launched in 2015, now includes 77 cities. We are proud to have helped 50 of these cities open their data! The Summit is continuing today and you can follow along on Twitter at #WWCSummit17 Sunlight's Deputy Director Alex Howard shared our story, highlighting some of the work that we have done in cities ranging from San Jose, California to Buffalo, New York. You can view the slides from his presentation here. What Works Cities certification. "What Works designed its newly-announced Certification program to recognize high-performing cities across [a number of] criteria, to create an objective standard of success, and to help cities at any point in the data journey understand how they can improve their practices." The program looks at performance across areas including open data, governance, analytics, results-driven contracting, and more. (Data-Smart City Solutions) The road to open data in Des Moines, Iowa. On February 20th Des Moines, Iowa passed a resolution officially establishing the city's open data program. We were there to help them develop and implement an approach to open data that addresses the distinct challenges faced by city officials and the community they serve. Sunlight's Noel Isama shared the whole story on the Sunlight blog. Trumpland   No one knows who goes to Mar-a-Lago… Turns out there's a clear reason why the White House hasn't released visitor logs for Mar-a-Lago, the "Winter White House" that President Trump has visited regularly in his first few months in office: the Secret Service doesn't keep them and doesn't seem that interested in starting. "Former U.S. Secret Service officials tell POLITICO that the agency isn't equipped — with the time or money — to do the kind of legwork that would be required to produce logs for the president’s clubs. Agents don’t do it when the president goes to a hotel or other events away from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And they don’t see the benefit in chasing down the names of every person that a member or party host brings in and who they vouch for as a legitimate guest." (POLITICO) …But the GAO might start asking why. "The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will review how President Trump secures classified information when he visits his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., according to a Tuesday Reuters report…It will also look at how the Secret Service screens Mar-a-Lago guests and examine the expenses of government employees who travel to Florida with the president, according to a letter the agency sent to lawmakers on Friday." (The Hill) Trump's FDA nominee will recuse himself in cases involving former clients. "The Trump administration’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration plans to recuse himself for a year from FDA decisions on more than 20 companies, including some drug giants."  (Wall Street Journal) Major news organizations are increasing security amid increased tensions. "Some national news organizations have recently increased their security for employees as tensions continue to run hot toward the media." Newspapers like the Washington Post and McClatchy as well as broadcasters including CNN have begun to take security more seriously with a noted boost in efforts in recent months. (POLITICO) Investigative Reporters and Editors is saving, indexing data in anticipation of Trump tactics. "Under normal circumstances, IRE's database library is a repository for journalists and academics looking to flesh out their stories and research with solid facts. Lately, however, it's become a refuge for records experts who fear that officials in the Trump administration may delete or cease maintaining records." (Poynter) Elsewhere in Washington   National Archives rethinks presidential records for the social media era. "President Donald Trump may be the most prolific Twitter user the Oval Office has seen, but the National Archives and Records Administration is currently grappling with how best to store the vast number of social media postings, emails and digital documents produced by his predecessor's White House." (Nextgov) A legislative wishlist for the 115th Congress. The Project on Government Oversight released a "Baker's Dozen," worth of asks for the 115th Congress with a focus on protecting whistleblowers, reforming contracting and acquisition procedures, increased executive branch oversight, and more. (Project on Government Oversight) Oversight hears that agencies are struggling with IT reform. "Testifying before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Information Technology on March 28, [David] Powner [head of IT oversight at the GAO] pointed to the still-limited management authorities, limited partnering with industry and IT workforce deficiencies as recurring themes of failed IT projects." (Federal Computer Week)  Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!   Mar 29
An Iowan Path To Open Data In Des Moines - In a small room in Des Moines, a government worker quietly explained to us how opening up an internal database could improve public safety. Michele Bischof, the superintendent of technical services from the Fire Department of Des Moines, Iowa, said that she’d across a dataset which indicated that chronic diabetes was responsible for a significant number of 911 calls they received. If that data set was open to city workers and the public online, she suggested, it could both help with grant applications and improve public health decisions. It’s exactly the kind of connection between opening public data and improved public outcomes that Sunlight wants to see made in the world. I was in Des Moines to commemorate the passage of a resolution by the City Council on February 20th, which officially established the city’s open data program. During our time in Iowa, we met with the elected officials and the city staff who will be developing the program. We learned that, despite the challenges Des Moines faced in opening public data, like silos in individual departments, the city was determined to open up their data in their own deliberate, “Iowan” way. This program will provide the public and city staff with a powerful tool to exchange information. As Mayor Cownie noted in his remarks after the vote, the program also reflects Des Moines’ commitment to transparency. Confronting shared challenges Like many cities that have developed an open data program, Des Moines is facing a series of challenges. The first barrier was access. As is true of many cities, Des Moines uses several legacy systems that held data in inaccessible formats. Further, agencies were undergoing a significant update to these systems, which hindered their ability to gather data in an organized fashion. The second barrier was capacity. As a smaller city with older systems, Des Moines staff worried that they did not have enough space to store all the data that it collects in one place. While they recognized the value of open data, the means to that end — such as inventorying datasets — seemed daunting and some questioned if the goals associated with program were achievable. The third barrier was human capital. On open data, capacity didn’t just refer to servers, but the ability of city workers to implement the program, given limited resources. The city was anxious about the amount of staff time it would take to get the program up and running and to maintain it. The final barrier was fragmentation. Much of the city’s data was siloed in departments, making it difficult to share internally, let alone with the public. Meeting cities where they are A key part of Sunlight’s Open Cities work is to meet communities where they are to talk about transitioning to a culture of data-driven, evidence-based decisionmaking. Doing our work right means gaining a comprehensive understanding of a city’s resources and goals for open data, and then agreeing on realistic objectives for a given time frame. In Des Moines, this meant taking into account legacy systems, limited IT resources and staff capacity. The city decided to space out the development and implementation of the policy over of a year, beginning with creating an internal governance structure for the open data program. There are distinct advantages to taking this approach. First, it allowed the city to refine its practices around data management with open data in mind. As they update systems, develop new practices and educate staff, Des Moines can build buy-in for the open data program, nurturing a more open mindset toward proactive disclosure and adoption of best practices, like encouraging the use of open formats. Second, Des Moines could manage expectations in the program while working to build with stakeholders through community engagement. As a result, the city is not making promises it can’t keep while it looks for opportunities cultivate its future user base. At the end of our meetings, I left hopeful about Des Moines’ program. Despite some apprehension, city staff were excited about the possibilities open data presented when data is more accessible both internally and externally. We’re proud to have helped Des Moines develop and implement an approach to open data that addresses the distinct challenges faced by city officials and the community they serve. The city should continue to build capacity internally by developing guidance around open data and educate staff. They’re already on that path: Des Moines’ new data governance team is already holding meetings. We look forward to seeing how far they travel in the year ahead. Great day w/ @DesMoinesGov. Congrats for passing resolution establishing their #opendata program. #whatworkscities @SunFoundation — Noel N. Isama (@n_isama) February 21, 2017 Mar 28
Today in OpenGov: Open data in Riverside, transparency in D.C., Sunlight on the radio, and more - In today's edition, we talk transparency with Maine Sen. Angus King, highlight Riverside's open data efforts, see how Trump's new innovation office compares with previous efforts along the same lines, and more… States and cities   Sunlight's Katya Abazajian went to Riverside, CA to explore how the What Works Cities city is connecting communities through open data. Whether through apps, passing open data policies, or new channels for collaboration on systemic issues like homelessness, Riverside — which recently passed an open data proclamation — is taking meaningful steps to connect its people to their own data. (Sunlight Foundation) A predictive policing start up released its algorithm and data for analysis and criticism. "CivicScape has released its algorithm and data online for experts to scour" in an effort to avoid  known problems with predictive policing software including a tendency to "disproportionately target minorities." (Quartz) Facebook looks to boost civic engagement with new tools. "The social media company on Monday announced that it is rolling out three new products" to help users identify and connect with their representatives as well as remember to vote in local elections. (The Hill) New transparency bill introduced in Washington, DC City Council. David Grosso, a member of the Washington, D.C. City Council introduced a bill "on Tuesday to foster more open and responsive government by strengthening existing open government laws." The legislation tackles topics like freedom of information, open meetings, and open data. (David Grosso) Money & Politics & ethics & corruption   Sunlight's John Wonderlich discusses transparency with Maine Sen. Angus King. John joined Maine's Independent Senator on WGAN's Inside Maine podcast to discuss "dark money," campaign finance, and transparency. (WGAN) Where are the Executive Office of the President's financial disclosures? Last week, the "Center for Responsive Politics [released] new personal financial data for members of the Trump administration. Collected from reports that executive branch nominees are required to submit to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), the data gives the public an inside look at the financial interests of what is likely the wealthiest cabinet in modern history." However, as of Sunday they were still waiting on "legally required financial disclosures from members of the Executive Office of the President." ( Which official bodies oversee President Trump's ethics? Check out this handy list. "Of course, the media, whistleblowers and the courts are key elements of the accountability ecosystem. A number of agencies or government bodies also have a hand in holding presidents and appointees accountable on ethics and conflicts of interest. But a few play an outsize role — though only some of them have direct purview over the activities of the president." This list highlights congressional, executive branch, and state bodies with power. (NPR) Deutsche Bank in tricky situation over Trump debt. President Trump owes Deutsche Bank around $300 million. This, in and of itself, isn't necessarily a problem, but the bank is running into hurdles as they attempt to restructure some of that debt. "The issue is a personal guarantee Trump gave Deutsche Bank when the debt was negotiated from 2012 to 2015…Since Trump won the presidential election in November, bankers have tried to eliminate the awkward prospect of someday collecting from a sitting U.S. president. If the bank removes Trump’s personal guarantee, critics might accuse it of trying to curry favor with the president. If the interest rate rises as part of any restructuring, it could also risk the scorn of the Trump business organization." (Bloomberg) Billionaire Icahn's dual roles as regulatory adviser and energy investor raise ethics flags. "Since Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, was named by President Trump as a special adviser on regulatory matters, he has been busy working behind the scenes to try to revamp an obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline nationwide." The problem? Icahn is a majority investor in an oil refiner that stands to save hundreds of millions of dollars from the rule change. (New York Times)  Data and innovation in trumpland   Trump's shifting stance on official data is cause for real concern. "The danger is that a President who disparages the data might convince his followers that bad economic news is political propaganda, and offer numbers that have no statistical rigor behind them." (The New Yorker) Trump innovation office adds to uncertainty for USDS, 18F. "Right now, it’s unclear what the new group will mean for the federal tech and innovation groups created in the Obama administration, including the White House’s U.S. Digital Service—itself described as a tech troubleshooting SWAT team—and 18F, the digital consultancy housed within the General Services Administration." Jared Kushner, who will lead Trump's new team, has previously expressed support for both USDS and 18F. (Nextgov) Insiders encouraged by innovation office's proximity to Oval Office, potential focus on IT. Numerous federal IT insiders from both parties expressed optimism that the new White House Office of American Innovation could be well positioned to succeed. (Federal Computer Week) Reforming government is more complicated than it appears. "Many presidents have tried to reform government. At best, they have enjoyed only partial success, typically falling far short of highly ambitious goals. The road to changing government, as Trump’s predecessors learned, is filled with political landmines, but there are some guideposts the new administration should follow if it hopes to make headway." (Government Executive)   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!   Mar 28
Riverside connects communities to sustainable open data - On March 7, 2017, Riverside’s City Council passed an open data proclamation. The announcement formalized its commitment to an upcoming resolution to proactively release open data and provide free access to the public. Riverside, California is one of more than 50 What Works Cities working with the Sunlight Foundation to develop an open data policy. Thanks to strong support from Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, Riverside chief innovation officer Lea Deesing has improved the way data reaches Riverside’s residents by leading a team of developers and city administrative officials working side-by-side. Innovation runs strong in Riverside As the “City of Arts & Innovation,” Riverside had a strong foundation for innovating around open data prior to passing its proclamation, which formalized the City’s commitment. It’s no accident that GovTech named Riverside the 5th most digital city in America in 2016 among comparably-sized cities. Riverside is one of just a few cities nation-wide with a municipal apps page dedicated to hosting Android and iPhone apps developed by in-house technical staff. Many of these apps offer easy access to city datasets like 311 requests, geolocated landmarks around town, or public meeting agendas. While many cities use open data portals as a first avenue for disclosure, Riverside has used its technical capacity to go above and beyond. This proclamation and city council resolution to continue Riverside’s open data program will both enhance and prolong this work. In our work with Riverside, we found the city’s staff are dedicated to meeting residents where they are, especially through their Engage Riverside online portal. In conjunction with the recent release of an updated 311 app, Riverside promoted the new app on Facebook, receiving positive feedback, and linked to a YouTube tutorial (above). Today, residents have both improved access to 311 data and new resources to use it. Applying data to help people address problems works Two years ago, Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey accepted President Barack Obama’s call to American cities to take up the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness by the end of 2015. Bailey worked with Riverside County to become the first large community to reach “functional zero” for veteran homelessness. Over that time, the city of Riverside worked with a range of community partners, applying intensive human and administrative resources to reach a shared goal of providing housing for 86 homeless veterans over the course of six months. By the end of 2015, the City of Riverside had either housed or allocated resources for every homeless veteran in the city. National Guard Veteran David Oakley, who case managers helped house through the city’s effort, said having his own place was “kind of, to be honest, like a dream come true.” That dream didn’t come to pass on its own. Riverside County, as a partner and the convening organization for larger local efforts to end homelessness, convened meetings to connecting the city to local service providers, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations to improve collaboration across sectors. Volunteers who participated in the resulting efforts used maps generated from the city’s homelessness tracking data to find where homeless individuals were usually found to more efficiently match them with case managers and local resources. Now that Riverside’s open data policy is established, sharing data with volunteers will be more streamlined in the future. Riverside is now working on homelessness prevention as part of a five year plan. A central goal in this plan is to improve the way data on homeless residents is collected for better tracking and apply that data to evaluate prevention services. Cities need strong leadership to commit to collaboration Open data champions play an important role in influencing internal city culture around data and technology. In Riverside, the city’s innovation department is supported by a strong IT team. A dedicated innovation officer and leadership at the mayoral and at the county level ensured that city staff interacted with the right partners inside and outside of City Hall to connect residents and practitioners to municipal data. Riverside’s leadership — and the staff who support them — worked hard to ensure that those most affected by city outreach and service provision weren’t left behind. Residents of the Riverside now have continued, formalized access to city operations and data. Whether through fun apps or through new channels for collaboration on systemic issues like homelessness, Riverside is taking meaningful steps to connect its people to their own data.Mar 27
Today in OpenGov: Russian corruption protests, the importance of visitor logs, and more - In today's edition, we follow protests against official corruption in Russia, argue for the disclosure of visitor logs at the White House and Mar-a-Lago, ask for more contract disclosure, and more… Around the world   Journalists, opposition leader held in wake of anti-corruption protests in Russia. Hundreds of people — including opposition leader Alexei Navalny — were arrested in Russia over the weekend as protests erupted over allegations of corruption involving Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. (The Hill) "Sunday’s rallies appeared to be the largest since 2012, when tens of thousands came out against the Kremlin over allegations of widespread vote fraud." (Bloomberg) An American journalist covering the protests for The Guardian were apparently among those arrested on Sunday. (Twitter) The EU and U.S. State Department condemned the arrests and called on Russia to release detained protesters (POLITICO, The Hill). Korean prosecutors seek to detain ousted President Park. On Monday, "South Korean prosecutors sought to arrest former President Park Geun-hye over allegations that she abused her powers and colluded with her longtime friend and former aides to get bribes from the nation’s top businesses." (Bloomberg) Portugal takes participatory budgeting nation-wide. Portugal has announced the world’s first participatory budget on a national scale. The project will let people submit ideas for what the government should spend its money on, and then vote on which ideas are adopted.( via Nathanial Heller) Trumpland   Sunlight supports the MAR-A-LAGO Act, visitor log transparency. On Friday, "Sunlight announced its support for the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act. This bill would require the White House to publish the visitor logs that are collected by the Secret Service when members of the public are vetted to enter 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." (Sunlight Foundation) The bill has currently attracted only Democratic co-sponsors (The Hill), but as Sunlight's Alex Howard noted disclosure of White House visitor logs has been a bipartisan issue since the Obama era.  Trump could end FOIA fights, will probably support precedent instead. "President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) is fighting against Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits seeking politically-charged Obama-era documents like those linked to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s scandals." Trump could move to end existing secrecy, but he probably won't according to a number of transparency advocates including Sunlight's Alex Howard, who explained that "An administration, even in a change of party, inherits legal positions…It’s not uncommon for it to remain consistent." (The Daily Caller) Watchdogs urge Ivanka Trump to take on official position to avoid ethics issues. "A group of government watchdogs says the White House must give President Trump’s daughter Ivanka an official title or risk conflicts of interest with her business ventures."  (The Hill) Elsewhere in Washington   Bipartisan group urges reappointment of Obama-era Special Counsel. Last week, "Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., a longtime whistleblower advocate who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.," chairs of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus sent a letter to White House Counsel Don McGhan II urging him to reappoint Carolyn Lerner as head of the Office of Special Counsel. "The senators credited Lerner’s office with saving more than $200 million taxpayer dollars that otherwise would have been lost to fraud or mismanagement, and noted that the Judiciary Committee last year had approved her renomination."  (Government Executive) Legislation would provide needed contract transparency. "Last week, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced the “Contractor Accountability and Transparency Act of 2017” (S. 651)," the bill is supported by Sunlight, the Project on Government Oversight, and seven "other bipartisan groups…". It will "expand the contracting information available on (which now only offers summaries of contracts), make the contract information more accessible and readable, and help reduce Freedom of Information Act backlogs." (Project on Government Oversight) Sunlight and friends talk data on Federal News Radio. Tune in to hear Alex Howard's thoughts on the multiple meanings of accessibility, Hudson Hollister on data transparency & Robert Dolan on data visualization. We hope you'll download, comment and share.. (Federal News Radio) Kushner tapped to lead Trump innovation office. The new White House office will work with private sector partners, including "Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff" and is "expected to pull ideas from the business world and may consider privatizing some government functions." (The Hill)   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!   Mar 27

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