Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

If You Believe in Parliaments

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

If you believe in parliaments, other than as examples of how governments don’t “get it,” then the The Law Library of Congress, Global Legal Research Center has a treat for you!

Fifty (50) countries and seventy websites surveyed in: Features of (70)Parliamentary Websites in Selected Jurisdictions.

From the summary:

In recent years, parliaments around the world have enhanced their websites in order to improve access to legislative information and other parliamentary resources. Innovative features allow constituents and researchers to locate and utilize detailed information on laws and lawmaking in various ways. These include tracking tools and alerts, apps, the use of open data technology, and different search functions. In order to demonstrate some of the developments in this area, staff from the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress surveyed the official parliamentary websites of fifty countries from all regions of the world, plus the website of the European Parliament. In some cases, information on more than one website is provided where separate sites have been established for different chambers of the national parliament, bringing the total number of individual websites surveyed to seventy.

While the information on the parliamentary websites is primarily in the national language of the particular country, around forty of the individual websites surveyed were found to provide at least limited information in one or more other languages. The European Parliament website can be translated into any of the twenty-four official languages of the members of the European Union.

All of the parliamentary websites included in the survey have at least basic browse tools that allow users to view legislation in a list format, and that may allow for viewing in, for example, date or title order. All of the substantive websites also enable searching, often providing a general search box for the whole site at the top of each page as well as more advanced search options for different types of documents. Some sites provide various facets that can be used to further narrow searches.

Around thirty-nine of the individual websites surveyed provide users with some form of tracking or alert function to receive updates on certain documents (including proposed legislation), parliamentary news, committee activities, or other aspects of the website. This includes the ability to subscribe to different RSS feeds and/or email alerts.

The ability to watch live or recorded proceedings of different parliaments, including debates within the relevant chamber as well as committee hearings, is a common feature of the parliamentary websites surveyed. Fifty-eight of the websites surveyed featured some form of video, including links to dedicated YouTube channels, specific pages where users can browse and search for embedded videos, and separate video services or portals that are linked to or viewable from the main site. Some countries also make videos available on dedicated mobile-friendly sites or apps, including Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

In total, apps containing parliamentary information are provided in just fourteen of the countries surveyed. In comparison, the parliamentary websites of thirty countries are available in mobile-friendly formats, enabling easy access to information and different functionalities using smartphones and tablets.

The table also provides information on some of the additional special features available on the surveyed websites. Examples include dedicated sites or pages that provide educational information about the parliament for children (Argentina, El Salvador, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey); calendar functions, including those that allow users to save information to their personal calendars or otherwise view information about different types of proceedings or events (available on at least twenty websites); and open data portals or other features that allow information to be downloaded in bulk for reuse or analysis, including through the use of APIs (application programming interfaces) (at least six countries).

With differing legal vocabularies and local personification of multi-nationals, this is a starting point for transparency based upon topic maps.

I first saw this in a tweet by the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN).

Locate Your Representative/Senator In Hell

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Mapping Dante’s Inferno, One Circle of Hell at a Time by Anika Burgess.

From the post:

I found myself, in truth, on the brink of the valley of the sad abyss that gathers the thunder of an infinite howling. It was so dark, and deep, and clouded, that I could see nothing by staring into its depths.”

This is the vision that greets the author and narrator upon entry the first circle of Hell—Limbo, home to honorable pagans—in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the first part of his 14th-century epic poem, Divine Comedy. Before Dante and his guide, the classical poet Virgil, encounter Purgatorio and Paradiso, they must first journey through a multilayered hellscape of sinners—from the lustful and gluttonous of the early circles to the heretics and traitors that dwell below. This first leg of their journey culminates, at Earth’s very core, with Satan, encased in ice up to his waist, eternally gnawing on Judas, Brutus, and Cassius (traitors to God) in his three mouths. In addition to being among the greatest Italian literary works, Divine Comedy also heralded a craze for “infernal cartography,” or mapping the Hell that Dante had created.
… (emphasis in original)

Burgess has collected seven (7) traditional maps of the Inferno. I take them to be early essays in the art of visualization. They are by no means, individually or collectively, the definitive visualizations of the Inferno.

The chief deficit of all seven, to me, is the narrowness of the circles/ledges. As I read the Inferno, Dante and Virgil are not pressed for space. Expanding and populating the circles more realistically is one starting point.

The Inferno has no shortage of characters in each circle, Dante predicting the fate of Pope Boniface VIII, to place him in the eight circle of Hell (simoniacs A subclass of fraud.). (Use the online Britannica with caution. It’s entry for Boniface VIII doesn’t even mention the Inferno. (As of July 13, 2017.)

I would like to think being condemned to Hell by no less than Dante would rate at least a mention in my biography!

Sadly, Dante is no longer around to add to the populace of the Inferno but new visualizations could take the opportunity to update the resident list for Hell!

It’s an exercise in visualization, mapping, 14th century literature, and, an excuse to learn the name of your representative and senators.

Enjoy!

New York Times, Fact Checking and Dacosta’s First OpEd

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Cutbacks on editors/fact-checking at the New York Times came at an unfortunate time for Marc Dacosta‘s first OpEd, The President Wants to Keep Us in the Dark (New York Times, 28 June 2017).

DaCosta decries the lack of TV cameras at several recent White House press briefings. Any proof the lack of TV cameras altered the information available to reporters covering the briefings? Here’s DaCosta on that point:


But the truth is that the decision to prevent the press secretary’s comments on the day’s most pressing matters from being televised is an affront to the spirit of an open and participatory government. It’s especially chilling in a country governed by a Constitution whose very First Amendment protects the freedom of the press.

Unfortunately, the slow death of the daily press briefing is only part of a larger assault by the Trump administration on a precious public resource: information.

DaCosta’s implied answer is no, a lack of TV cameras resulted in no diminishing of information from the press conference. But, his hyperbole gland kicks in, then he cites disjointed events claimed to diminish public access to information.

For example, Trump’s non-publication of visitor records:


Immediately after Mr. Trump took office, the administration stopped publishing daily White House visitor records, reversing a practice established by President Obama detailing the six million appointments he and administration officials took at the White House during his eight years in office. Who is Mr. Trump meeting with today? What about Mr. Bannon? Good luck finding out.

Really? Mark J. Rozell summarizes the “detailing the six million appointments he and administration officials took…” this way:


Obama’s action clearly violated his own pledge of transparency and an outpouring of criticism of his action somewhat made a difference. He later reversed his position when he announced that indeed the White House visitor logs would be made public after all.

Unfortunately, the president decided only to release lengthy lists of names, with no mention of the purpose of White House visits or even differentiation between tourists and people consulted on policy development.

This action enabled the Obama White House to appear to be promoting openness while providing no substantively useful information. If the visitor log listed “Michael Jordan,” there was no way to tell if the basketball great or a same-named industry lobbyist was the person at the White House that day and the layers of inquiry required to get that information were onerous. But largely because the president had appeared to have reversed himself in reaction to criticism for lack of transparency, the controversy died down, though it should not have.

Much of the current reaction to President Trump’s decision has contrasted that with the action of his predecessor, and claimed that Obama had set the proper standard by opening the books. The reality is different though, as Obama’s action set no standard at all for transparency.
…(Trump should open White House visitor logs, but don’t flatter Obama, The Hill, 18 April 2017)

That last line on White House visitor records under Obama is worth repeating:

The reality is different though, as Obama’s action set no standard at all for transparency.

Obama-style opaqueness would not answer the questions:

Who is Mr. Trump meeting with today? What about Mr. Bannon? [Questions by DaCosta.]

A fact-checker and/or editor at the New York Times knew that answer (hint to NYT management).

Even more disappointing is the failure of DaCosta, as the co-founder of Engima, to bring any data to a claim that White House press briefings are of value.

One way to test the value of White House press briefings is to extract the “facts” announced during the briefing and compare those to media reports in the prior twenty-four hours.

If DaCosta thought of such a test, the reason it went unperformed isn’t hard to guess:


The Senate had just released details of a health care plan that would deprive 22 million Americans of health insurance, and President Trump announced that he did not, as he had previously hinted, surreptitiously record his conversations with James Comey, the former F.B.I. director.
… (DaCosta)

First, a presidential press briefing isn’t an organ for the US Senate and second, Trump had already tweeted the news about not recording his conversations with James Comey. None of those “facts” broke at the presidential press briefing.

DaCosta is 0 for 2 for new facts at that press conference.

I offer no defense for the current administration’s lack of transparency, but fact-free and factually wrong claims against it don’t advance DaCosta’s cause:


Differences of belief and opinion are inseparable from the democratic process, but when the facts are in dispute or, worse, erased altogether, public debate risks breaking down. To have a free and democratic society we all need a common and shared context of facts to draw from. Facts or data will themselves never solve any problem. But without them, finding solutions to our common problems is impossible.

We should all expect better of President Trump, the New York Times and Marc DaCosta (@marc_dacosta).

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget.

In the best pay-to-play tradition, the Government Printing Office (GPO) has these volumes for sale:

America First: A Budget Blueprint To Make America Great Again By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. GPO Stock # 041-001-00719-9 ISBN: 9780160937620. Price: $10.00.

Budget of the United States Government, FY 2018 (Paperback Book) By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. GPO Stock # 041-001-00723-7 ISBN: 9780160939228. Price: $38.00.

Appendix, Budget of the United States Government, FY 2018 By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget GPO Stock # 041-001-00720-2 ISBN: 9780160939334. Price: $79.00.

Budget of the United States Government, FY 2018 (CD-ROM) By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget GPO Stock # 041-001-00722-9 ISBN: 9780160939358. Price: $29.00.

Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government, FY 2018 By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. GPO Stock # 041-001-00721-1 ISBN: 9780160939341. Price: $56.00.

Major Savings and Reforms: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2018 By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. GPO Stock # 041-001-00724-5 ISBN: 9780160939457. Price: $35.00.

If someone doesn’t beat me to it (very likely), I will be either uploading the CD-ROM and/or pointing you to a location with the contents of the CD-ROM.

As citizens, whether you voted or not, you should have the opportunity to verify news accounts, charges and counter-charges with regard to the budget.

Python for Data Journalists: Analyzing Money in Politics

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Python for Data Journalists: Analyzing Money in Politics by Knight Center.

From the webpage:

Data journalists are the newest rock stars of the newsroom. Using computer programming and data journalism techniques, they have the power to cull through big data to find original and important stories.

Learn these techniques and some savvy computer programming to produce your own bombshell investigations in the latest massive open online course (MOOC) from the Knight Center, “Python for Data Journalists: Analyzing Money in Politics.”

Instructor Ben Welsh, editor of the Los Angeles Times Data Desk and co-founder of the California Civic Data Coalition, will show students how to turn big data into great journalism with speed and veracity. The course takes place from June 12 to July 9, 2017, so register now.

A high priority for your summer because:

  1. You will learn techniques for data analysis
  2. Learning #1 enables you to perform data analysis
  3. Learning #1 enables you to better question data analysis

I skimmed the post and did not see any coverage of obtaining concealed information.

Perhaps that will be the subject of a wholly anonymous MOOC. 😉

Do register! This looks like useful and fun!

PS: Developing a relationship with a credit bureau or bank staffer should be an early career goal. No one is capable of obtaining “extra” money and just sitting on it forever.

March 25th – Anniversary Of Triangle Fire – The Names Map

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

The Names Map

From the website:

The Names Map displays the name, home address, likely age, country of origin, and final resting place of all known Triangle Fire victims.

(map and list of 146 victims)

The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition connects individuals and organizations with the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire — one of the pivotal events in US history and a turning point in labor’s struggle to achieve fair wages, dignity at work and safe working conditions. Outrage at the deaths of 146 mostly young, female immigrants inspired the union movement and helped to institute worker protections and fire safety laws. Today, basic rights and benefits in the workplace are not a guarantee in the United States or across the world. We believe it is more vital than ever that these issues are defended.

The “not guilty” verdict on all counts of manslaughter for Triangle Factory owners Max Blanck and Issac Harris:

is often overlooked in anniversary celebrations. (Image from Cornell University, ILR School, Kheel Center’s Remembering The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire, Transcript of Criminal Trial)

That verdict is a forerunner to the present day decisions to not prosecute police shootings/abuse of unarmed civilians.

Celebrate the progress made since the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire while mindful exploitation and abuse continue to this very day.

The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition has assembled a large number of resources, many of which are collections of other resources, including primary materials.

Politics For Your Twitter Feed

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Hungry for more political tweets?

GovTrack created the Members of Congress Twitter list.

Barometer of congressional mood?

Enjoy!

Congress API Update

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

Congress API Update by Derek Willis.

From the post:

When we took over projects from the Sunlight Foundation last year, we inherited an Application Programming Interface, or API, that overlapped with one of our own.

Sunlight’s Congress API and ProPublica’s Congress API are similar enough that we decided to try to merge them together rather than run them separately, and to do so in a way that makes as few users change their code as possible.

Today we’ve got an update on our progress.

Users of the ProPublica Congress API can now access additional fields in responses for Members, Bills, Votes and Nominations. We’ve updated our documentation to provide examples of those responses. These aren’t new responses but existing ones that now include some new attributes brought over from the Sunlight API. Details on those fields are here.

We plan to fold in Sunlight fields and responses for Committees, Hearings, Floor Updates and Amendments, though that work isn’t finished yet.

The daily waves of bad information on congressional legislation will not be stopped by good information.

However, good information can be used to pick meaningful fights, rather than debating 140 character or less brain farts.

Your choice.

Creating A Social Media ‘Botnet’ To Skew A Debate

Friday, March 10th, 2017

New Research Shows How Common Core Critics Built Social Media ‘Botnets’ to Skew the Education Debate by Kevin Mahnken.

From the post:

Anyone following education news on Twitter between 2013 and 2016 would have been hard-pressed to ignore the gradual curdling of Americans’ attitudes toward the Common Core State Standards. Once seen as an innocuous effort to lift performance in classrooms, they slowly came to be denounced as “Dirty Commie agenda trash” and a “Liberal/Islam indoctrination curriculum.”

After years of social media attacks, the damage is impressive to behold: In 2013, 83 percent of respondents in Education Next’s annual poll of Americans’ education attitudes felt favorably about the Common Core, including 82 percent of Republicans. But by the summer of 2016, support had eroded, with those numbers measuring only 50 percent and 39 percent, respectively. The uproar reached such heights, and so quickly, that it seemed to reflect a spontaneous populist rebellion against the most visible education reform in a decade.

Not so, say researchers with the University of Pennsylvania’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Last week, they released the #commoncore project, a study that suggests that public animosity toward Common Core was manipulated — and exaggerated — by organized online communities using cutting-edge social media strategies.

As the project’s authors write, the effect of these strategies was “the illusion of a vociferous Twitter conversation waged by a spontaneous mass of disconnected peers, whereas in actuality the peers are the unified proxy voice of a single viewpoint.”

Translation: A small circle of Common Core critics were able to create and then conduct their own echo chambers, skewing the Twitter debate in the process.

The most successful of these coordinated campaigns originated with the Patriot Journalist Network, a for-profit group that can be tied to almost one-quarter of all Twitter activity around the issue; on certain days, its PJNET hashtag has appeared in 69 percent of Common Core–related tweets.

The team of authors tracked nearly a million tweets sent during four half-year spans between September 2013 and April 2016, studying both how the online conversation about the standards grew (more than 50 percent between the first phase, September 2013 through February 2014, and the third, May 2015 through October 2015) and how its interlocutors changed over time.

Mahnken talks as though creating a ‘botnet’ to defeat adoption of the Common Core State Standards is a bad thing.

I never cared for #commoncore because testing makes money for large and small testing vendors. It has no other demonstrated impact on the educational process.

Let’s assume you want to build a championship high school baseball team. To do that, various officious intermeddlers, who have no experience with baseball, fund creation of the Common Core Baseball Standards.

Every three years, every child is tested against the Common Core Baseball Standards and their performance recorded. No funds are allocated for additional training for gifted performers, equipment, baseball fields, etc.

By the time these students reach high school, will you have the basis for a championship team? Perhaps, but if you do, it due to random chance and not the Common Core Baseball Standards.

If you want a championship high school baseball team, you fund training, equipment, baseball fields and equipment, in addition to spending money on the best facilities for your hoped for championship high school team. Consistently and over time you spend money.

The key to better education results isn’t testing, but funding based on the education results you hope to achieve.

I do commend the #commoncore project website for being an impressive presentation of Twitter data, even though it is clearly a propaganda machine for pro Common Core advocates.

The challenge here is to work backwards from what was observed by the project to both principles and tactics that made #stopcommoncore so successful. That is we know it has succeeded, at least to some degree, but how do we replicate that success on other issues?

Replication is how science demonstrates the reliability of a technique.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, suggestions, etc.

Enjoy!

Trump Tweets Strategically – You Respond (fill in the blank)

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

George Lakoff tweeted:

Here’s an example of a “strategic” tweet by Trump.

Donald J. Trump tweets:

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

For testing purposes, how would you characterize this sample of tweets that are a small part of the 35K replies to Trump’s tweet.


pourmecoffee‏Verified account @pourmecoffee
@realDonaldTrump Correct. Making allegations without evidence is the literal definition of McCarthyism.

FFT-Obama for Prison‏ @FemalesForTrump
.@pourmecoffee
when will the liars learn. Trump ALWAYS does his homework! The truth will support his tweet in 3, 2, 1 …
#saturdaymorning

Ignatz‏ @ignatzz
@FemalesForTrump @pourmecoffee Yes, I remember that proof that Obama was born in Kenya. And the Bowling Green Massacre.

FFT-Obama for Prison‏ @FemalesForTrump
@ignatzz @pourmecoffee he WAS born in Kenya. Hawaii b/c is a fake. #fact
He didn’t make the bowling green statement. Now go away

Lisa Armstrong‏Verified account @LisaArmstrong
@FemalesForTrump You people are still stuck on the lie that Obama was born in Kenya? Why? Where is the proof? #alternativefacts

Jet Black‏ @jetd69
@LisaArmstrong @FemalesForTrump There’s little point in arguing with her. She’s as off her chops as he is. Females for Trump indeed!

Lisa Armstrong‏Verified account @LisaArmstrong
@jetd69 @FemalesForTrump I know you’re right. It’s just that the willingness of #Trump supporters to believe flat out lies astounds me.

AngieStrader‏ @AngieStrader
@LisaArmstrong @jetd69 @FemalesForTrump this goes both ways. Dems want Trump on treason. Based on what facts? What verifiable sources?

Lisa Armstrong‏Verified account @LisaArmstrong
@AngieStrader The difference is there’s a long list of shady things Trump has actually done. These are facts. Obama being Kenyan is a lie.

Do you see any strategic tweets in that list or in the other 37K responses (as of Saturday afternoon, 4 March 2017)?

If the point of Trump’s tweet was diversion, I would have to say it succeeded beautifully.

You?

The strategic response to a Trump tweet is ignoring them in favor of propagating your theme.

#ProtectTheTruth [Reframing Opposition to Energy Transfer Partners]

Monday, February 27th, 2017

#ProtectTheTruth by George Lakoff.

From the post:

Journalists are bravely standing up to Trump’s attacks on the free press, as they should. Yet one way in which they’re expressing their solidarity and resistance shows how little most journalists know about political framing and messaging.

Case in point: Trump has labeled journalists as “enemies.” So, journalists have responded by labeling themselves “#NotTheEnemy.” This hashtag is currently trending on Twitter, which is unfortunate. Adopting this slogan is a big mistake that helps Trump.

Anyone who has read my books or taken my classes at Berkeley will immediately understand why. For those new to political framing and messaging, I’ll explain briefly here.

Quick: Don’t think of an elephant!

Now, what do you see? The bulkiness, the grayness, the trunkiness of an elephant. You can’t block the picture – the frame – from being accessed by your unconscious mind. As a professor in the cognitive and brain sciences, this is the first lesson in framing I have given my students for decades. It’s also the title of my book on the science of framing political debates.

The key lesson: when we negate a frame, we evoke the frame.

I don’t know current characters known to both children and parents, but what if instead of:

#NoDAPL

we said:

#SaveSmokeyTheBear

would that be a better framing?

Or even better:

#SaveBambi

What are some more current memes to swell support to stop the ecocide promised by Energy Transfer Partners?

Congressmen Counsel Potential Leakers!

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Federal Employees Guide to Sharing Key Information with the Public.

From the webpage:

On February 16, 2017, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) and Congressman Don Beyer (D | Virginia) released the following resource guide for federal employees who wish to break the Administration’s communications blackout on federal agencies. The guide explains how to safely and responsibly share information, and encourages employees to “Know Your Rights” and “Know Your Options.” In the “Know Your Rights” section, federal employees can learn about which federal laws apply to them. In the “Know Your Options” section, employees can learn about how to safely disseminate information to agency inspectors general and the press. The resource guide also includes links to an in-depth list of federal whistleblower statutes and information about agency inspectors general. The full press release can be found here.

Links to whistleblower resources, etc. follow.

Here’s a screen shot of the top of their guide:

The links for whistleblowers are great but rely upon the you take all the risk, media reaps all the glory model.

Better than no leaks at all but having news organization step up with cyberexpertise to safely extract data sounds like a better model.

Investigating A Cyberwar

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Investigating A Cyberwar by Juliana Ruhfus.

From the post:

Editor’s Note: As the Syrian civil war has played out on the battlefields with gunshots and mortars, a parallel conflict has been fought online. The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a pro-Assad government group of hackers, has wielded bytes and malware to obtain crucial information from opponents of the Assad regime. The extracted information has led to arrests and torture of dissidents. In this interview, GIJN’s Eunice Au talks to Al Jazeera’s Juliana Ruhfus about the methodology and challenges of her investigation into the SEA and the process of transforming the story into an online game.

How did the idea for a documentary on the SEA come about? Who was part of your investigative team and how long did it take?

I had the idea for the film when I came across a report called “Behind Syria’s Digital Frontline,” published by a company called FireEye, cybersecurity analysts who had come across a cache of 30,000 Skype conversations that pro-Assad hackers had stolen from anti-Assad fighters. The hack provided a unique insight into the strategic intelligence that had been obtained from the Skype conversations, including Google images plans that outlined the battle at Khirbet Ghazaleh and images of missiles which the rebels were trying to purchase.

The fascinating thing was, it also shed light on how the hack was carried out. Pro-Assad hackers had created female avatars who befriended fighters on the front line by telling them how much they admired them and eventually asked to exchange photos. These images were infected with malware which proved devastating once downloaded. Computers in the field are shared by many fighters, allowing the hackers to spy on a large number of targets at once.

When I read the report I had the Eureka moment that I wait for when I am looking for a new idea: I could visualize the “invisible” cyberwar story and, for the first time ever, I really understood the crucial role that social engineering plays in hacking, that is the hacker’s psychological skill to get someone to click on an infected link.

I then shot the film together with director Darius Bazargan. Ozgur Kizilatis and Alexander Niakaris both did camera work and Simon Thorne was the editor. We filmed in London, Turkey, and France, and all together the production took just under three months.
… (emphasis in original)

C-suite level material but quite good, if a bit heavy-handed in its support for rebel forces in Syria. I favor the foxes over the hounds as well but prefer a more balanced approach to the potential of cyberwarfare.

Cyberweapons have the potential to be great equalizers with conventional forces. Punishing the use or supplying of cyberweapons, as Juliana reports here, is more than a little short-sighted. True, the Assad regime may have the cyber advantage today, but what about tomorrow? Or other governments?

The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine by Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath.

From the post:

“This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go,” said professor Jonathan Albright.

Albright, an assistant professor and data scientist at Elon University, started digging into fake news sites after Donald Trump was elected president. Through extensive research and interviews with Albright and other key experts in the field, including Samuel Woolley, Head of Research at Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project, and Martin Moore, Director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at Kings College, it became clear to Scout that this phenomenon was about much more than just a few fake news stories. It was a piece of a much bigger and darker puzzle — a Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine being used to manipulate our opinions and behavior to advance specific political agendas.

By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion. Many of these technologies have been used individually to some effect before, but together they make up a nearly impenetrable voter manipulation machine that is quickly becoming the new deciding factor in elections around the world.

Before you get too panicked, remember the techniques attributed to Cambridge Analytica were in use in the 1960 Kennedy presidential campaign. And have been in use since then by marketeers for every known variety of product, including politicians.

It’s hard to know if Anderson and Horvath are trying to drum up more business for Cambridge Analytica or if they are genuinely concerned for the political process.

Granting that Cambridge Analytica has more data than was available in the 1960’s but many people, not just Cambridge Analytica have labored on manipulation of public opinion since then.

If people were as easy to sway, politically speaking, as Anderson and Horvath posit, then why is there any political diversity at all? Shouldn’t we all be marching in lock step by now?

Oh, it’s a fun read so long as you don’t take it too seriously.

Besides, if a “weaponized AI propaganda machine” is that dangerous, isn’t the best defense a good offense?

I’m all for cranking up a “demonized AI propaganda machine” if you have the funding.

Yes?

Open Science: Too Much Talk, Too Little Action [Lessons For Political Opposition]

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Open Science: Too Much Talk, Too Little Action by Björn Brembs.

From the post:

Starting this year, I will stop traveling to any speaking engagements on open science (or, more generally, infrastructure reform), as long as these events do not entail a clear goal for action. I have several reasons for this decision, most of them boil down to a cost/benefit estimate. The time spent traveling does not seem worth the hardly noticeable benefits any more.

I got involved in Open Science more than 10 years ago. Trying to document the point when it all started for me, I found posts about funding all over my blog, but the first blog posts on publishing were from 2005/2006, the announcement of me joining the editorial board of newly founded PLoS ONE late 2006 and my first post on the impact factor in 2007. That year also saw my first post on how our funding and publishing system may contribute to scientific misconduct.

In an interview on the occasion of PLoS ONE’s ten-year anniversary, PLoS mentioned that they thought the publishing landscape had changed a lot in these ten years. I replied that, looking back ten years, not a whole lot had actually changed:

  • Publishing is still dominated by the main publishers which keep increasing their profit margins, sucking the public teat dry
  • Most of our work is still behind paywalls
  • You won’t get a job unless you publish in high-ranking journals.
  • Higher ranking journals still publish less reliable science, contributing to potential replication issues
  • The increase in number of journals is still exponential
  • Libraries are still told by their faculty that subscriptions are important
  • The digital functionality of our literature is still laughable
  • There are no institutional solutions to sustainably archive and make accessible our narratives other than text, or our code or our data

The only difference in the last few years really lies in the fraction of available articles, but that remains a small minority, less than 30% total.

So the work that still needs to be done is exactly the same as it was at the time Stevan Harnad published his “Subversive Proposal” , 23 years ago: getting rid of paywalls. This goal won’t be reached until all institutions have stopped renewing their subscriptions. As I don’t know of a single institution without any subscriptions, that task remains just as big now as it was 23 years ago. Noticeable progress has only been on the margins and potentially in people’s heads. Indeed, now only few scholars haven’t heard of “Open Access”, yet, but apparently without grasping the issues, as my librarian colleagues keep reminding me that their faculty believe open access has already been achieved because they can access everything from the computer in their institute.

What needs to be said about our infrastructure has been said, both in person, and online, and in print, and on audio, and on video. Those competent individuals at our institutions who make infrastructure decisions hence know enough to be able to make their rational choices. Obviously, if after 23 years of talking about infrastructure reform, this is the state we’re in, our approach wasn’t very effective and my contribution is clearly completely negligible, if at all existent. There is absolutely no loss if I stop trying to tell people what they already should know. After all, the main content of my talks has barely changed in the last eight or so years. Only more recent evidence has been added and my conclusions have become more radical, i.e., trying to tackle the radix (Latin: root) of the problem, rather than palliatively care for some tangential symptoms.

The line:

What needs to be said about our infrastructure has been said, both in person, and online, and in print, and on audio, and on video.

is especially relevant in light of the 2016 presidential election and the fund raising efforts of organizations that form the “political opposition.”

You have seen the ads in email, on Facebook, Twitter, etc., all pleading for funding to oppose the current US President.

I agree the current US President should be opposed.

But the organizations seeking funding failed to stop his rise to power.

Whether their failure was due to organizational defects or poor strategies is really beside the point. They failed.

Why should I enable them to fail again?

One data point, the Women’s March on Washington was NOT organized by organizations with permanents staff and offices in Washington or elsewhere.

Is your contribution supporting staffs and offices of the self-righteous (the primary function of old line organizations) or investigation, research, reporting and support of boots on the ground?

Government excesses are not stopped by bewailing our losses but by making government agents bewail theirs.

The Power of Big Data and Psychographics [Fact Checking]

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

From the description:

In a 10 minute presentation at the 2016 Concordia Summit, Mr. Alexander Nix discusses the power of big data in global elections. Cambridge Analytica’s revolutionary approach to audience targeting, data modeling, and psychographic profiling has made them a leader in behavioral microtargeting for election processes around the world.

A highly entertaining but deceptive presentation on the state of the art for marketing political candidates.

Nix claims that most marketing companies base their advertising on demographics and geographics, sending the same message to all women, all African-Americans, etc.

Worse than a “straw man,” that’s simply false. If you know the work Selling Blue Elephants by Howard Moskowitz and Alex Gofman, then you know that marketers tweak their pitches to very small market slices.

But you don’t need to find a copy of Selling Blue Elephants or take my word for that. On your next visit to the grocery store see for yourself how many variations of a popular shampoo or spaghetti sauce are offered. Each one is calculated to attract a particular niche of the overall market.

Nix goes on to describe advertising in the 1960’s as “top down,” “hope messages resonant,” etc.

Not only is that another false claim, but the application described by Nix was pioneered for the 1960 presidential campaign.


Ithiel de Sola Pool, with others, developed the Simulmatics program for the computation of a great variety of factors thought to influence voting, for specific use in the 1960 presidential election. A multitude of influences can be introduced into the program, together with modifications of a strategic nature, and the results bear on both prediction and choice of strategy, much in the manner that elaborate market research influences business decision on manufacture and sale of a new product. The Simulmatics project assembled a basic matrix of voter types and “issue clusters” (480 of the former and 52 of the latter, making a total of 24,960 cells), consolidating as values the accumulated archives of polling on all kinds of questions. The records of the Roper Public Opinion Research Center at Williamstwon were used as source material. With no data later than 1958, the simulation achieved a correlation by states of .82 with the actual Kennedy vote.

(“The Mathematical Approach to Political Science” by Oliver Benson, in Contemporary Political Analysis, edited by James C. Charlesworth, The Free Press, 1967, at pp. 129-130)

I’ll grant that Nix has more data at his disposal and techniques have changed in the last fifty-seven (57) years, but there’s no legitimate reason to not credit prior researchers in the field.

PS: If you find a hard (or scanned) copy of The Simulmatics Project by Ithiel de Sola Pool, let me know.

Executive Orders (Bulk Data From Federal Register)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Executive Orders

From the webpage:

The President of the United States manages the operations of the Executive branch of Government through Executive orders. After the President signs an Executive order, the White House sends it to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR). The OFR numbers each order consecutively as part of a series, and publishes it in the daily Federal Register shortly after receipt.

Executive orders issued since 1994 are available as a single bulk download and as a bulk download by President, or you can browse by President and year from the list below. More details about our APIs and other developer tools can be found on our developer pages.

Don’t ignore the developer pages.

Whether friend or foe of the current regime in Washington, the FederalRegister.gov API enables access to all the regulatory material published in the Federal Register. Use it.

It should be especially useful in light of Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, which provides in part:


Sec. 2. Regulatory Cap for Fiscal Year 2017. (a) Unless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency (agency) publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed.

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to an executive order is purely coincidental:

Tracking DAPL Enablers – Barclays Bank PLC

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Continuing my list of co-conspirators financing in part the DAPL pipeline project. Number 3: Barclays Bank PLC.

Emily Fuller gives these contacts for Barclays:

Barclays

Chairman John McFarlane
john.mcfarlane@barclays.com
CEO Jes Staley

Corporate Office:
Barclays Bank PLC
1 Churchill Place
London E14 5HP, United Kingdom
44-20-7116-1000

U.S. Office:
Barclays
745 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10019
212-526-7000

Press Office:
212-526-7000
CorporateCommunicationsAmericas@barclays.com

Starting with Bloomberg’s Company Overview of Barclays Bank PLC, I think we can generate a few more contact points:

Mr. James E. Staley, Chief Executive Officer, Director, Chief Executive Officer of Barclays Plc and Director of Barclays Plc

Mr. Tushar Morzaria, Group Finance Director and Executive Director

Mr. Jonathan Moulds, Group Chief Operating Officer

Ms. Maria D. C. D. N. C. Ramos C.A.I.B, B.Com (Hons), M.Sc., Chief Executive of Barclays Africa

Mr. Ashok V. Vaswani, Chief Executive Officer of Personal and Corporate Banking

I don’t have enough time left today to extract the people and photos from the Our People section of the Barclays site.

I will fix that tomorrow and that will bump the Barclays list into the dozens.

Just an observation for now, but this is the third entity financing Energy Transfer Equity that has no mention of it on its website.

Is it the case that Energy Transfer Equity is too small to register on their corporate dashboards?

If that is the case, then pestering banks directly maybe fun but pestering their customers, who are even more unaware of their banks commercial lending activities, maybe more effective.

Thoughts?

Defeating New York Surveillance (with knitting)

Monday, January 30th, 2017

In Proposal to Reduce Privacy in New York City I pointed out pending plans to add surveillance cameras at seven tunnels and bridges in and out of the city.

I was describing the need to defeat the cameras for personal identity and my wife, a librarian and knitter, said what I was looking for a balaclava. She also said knitting sites, such as Ravelry are full of patterns, etc.

Imagine the chagrin of surveillance camera operators when they encounter:

balaclava-reg-460

Just add sun glasses and you’re set! Total identity concealment!

Don’t get too creative, as a balaclava like this one:

balaclava3-460

is distinctive enough to be recognized a second time and/or found in your apartment or car.

Lastly, there are some people who don’t “get” the idea of a balaclava being for concealment, such as Andrew Salomone, who has preserved his identity with:

balaclava-id-460

Andrew does beautiful work but I’m not inviting him to any op-sec meetings. 😉

Support your local librarians and/or knitters!

Geometry of Redistricting: Summer School (Apply Febuary 15 – March 31, 2017)

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Geometry of Redistricting: Summer School

From the webpage:

A 5-day summer school will be offered at Tufts University from August 7-11, 2017, with the principal purpose of training mathematicians to be expert witnesses for court cases on redistricting and gerrymandering.

Topics covered in the summer school will include:

  • the legal history of the Voting Rights Act and its subsequent renewals, extensions, and clarifications;
  • an explanation of “traditional districting principles,” especially compactness;
  • a course in metric geometry and mathematical ideas for perimeter-free compactness;
  • basic rudiments of GIS and the technical side of how shapefiles work;
  • training on being an expert witness;
  • ideas for incorporating voting and civil rights into mathematics teaching.

Some of the sessions in the summer school will be open to the public, and others will be limited to official participants. Partial funding for participants’ expenses will be available. The summer school is aimed at, but not limited to, people with doctoral training in mathematics. Preference will be given to those who can stay for the full week.

An application form will be posted on this website, and applications will be accepted from February 15 – March 31. Please contact gerrymandr@gmail.com to be added to the mailing list.

If you don’t have doctoral training in mathematics, consider the resources at: Gerrymandering and the shape of fairness, which self-describes as:

This site is devoted to the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group run by Moon Duchin on understanding apportionment, districting, and gerrymandering as problems at the intersection of law, civil rights, and mathematics (particularly metric geometry).

Do you need a reminder the mid-term congressional elections in 2018 aren’t far away?

Enjoy!

Tracking DAPL Enablers – Bank of America Rogues Gallery

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Continuing my list of co-conspirators financing in part the DAPL pipeline project. Number 2: Bank of America.

I was inspired to find more contacts by Emily Fuller’s How to Contact the 17 Banks Funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, which listed for Bank of America:

Bank of America

President, CEO, and Chairman Brian Moynihan

brian.t.moynihan@bankofamerica.com

Executive Relations, Office of the CEO:
Matthew Task
813-805-4873

Corporate Office:
100 N Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28255

(emphasis in original)

Bank of American maintains a rogues gallery of people to contact about its business and lending practices. Complete with photos should you happen to recognize one of them while shopping or in a crosswalk.

From Governance:

Biography Photo Brian Moynihan, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Bank of America Corporation
Biography Photo Jack O. Bovender, Jr., Lead Independent Director, Bank of America Corporation; Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, HCA, Inc.
Biography Photo Sharon L. Allen Former Chairman, Deloitte LLP
Biography Photo Susan S. Bies Former Member, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Biography Photo Frank P. Bramble, Sr. Former Executive Officer, MBNA Corporation
Biography Photo Pierre J. P. de Weck Former Chairman and Global Head of Private Wealth Management, Deutsche Bank AG
Biography Photo Arnold W. Donald President and Chief Executive Officer, Carnival Corporation & plc
Biography Photo Linda P. Hudson Chairman and CEO, The Cardea Group, and former President and CEO, BAE Systems Inc.
Biography Photo Monica C. Lozano Former Chairman, US Hispanic Media Inc.
Biography Photo Thomas J. May Chairman, Eversource Energy
Biography Photo Lionel L. Nowell, III Former Senior Vice President and Treasurer of PepsiCo, Inc.
Biography Photo Michael D. White Former Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of DIRECTV
Biography Photo Thomas D. Woods Former Vice Chairman and SEVP, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
Biography Photo R. David Yost Former Chief Executive Officer, AmerisourceBergen Corporation

In addition, the governance page notes:

Persons seeking to communicate with the Board of Directors, any director, non-management members of the Board as a group or any committee of the Board should send a letter to the Corporate Secretary at Bank of America Corporation, 214 N. Tryon St., NC1-027-20-05, Charlotte, NC 28255. The letter should indicate to whom the communication is intended. The Corporate Secretary or the secretary of the designated committee may sort or summarize the communications as appropriate. Communications that are commercial solicitations, customer complaints, incoherent or obscene will not be communicated to the Board or any director or committee of the Board.

Bank of America Executive:

From executive biographies:

Dean Athanasia Dean Athanasia, President of Preferred and Small Business Banking and Co-head of Consumer Banking, Bank of America
Cathy Bessant Catherine P. Bessant, Chief Operations and Technology Officer, Bank of America
Sheri Bronstein Sheri B. Bronstein, Global Human Resources Executive, Bank of America
Paul Donofrio Paul Donofrio, Chief Financial Officer, Bank of America
Anne Finucane Anne M. Finucane, Vice Chairman, Bank of America
Geoffrey Greener Geoffrey S. Greener, Chief Risk Officer, Bank of America
Christine Katziff Christine P. Katziff, Corporate General Auditor, Bank of America
Terry Laughlin Terry Laughlin, Vice Chairman and Head of Global Wealth and Investment Management, Bank of America
David Leitch David G. Leitch, Global General Counsel, Bank of America
Gary Lynch Gary G. Lynch, Vice Chairman, Bank of America
Tom Montag Thomas K. Montag, Chief Operating Officer, Bank of America
Thong Nguyen Thong M. Nguyen, President of Retail Banking and Co-head of Consumer Banking, Bank of America
Andrea Smith Andrea B. Smith, Chief Administrative Officer, Bank of America
Bruce Thompson Bruce R. Thompson, Vice Chairman, Bank of America

Searching the Bank of America website, I could find no mention of DAPL or Energy Transfer Equity, etc.

I have a dawning suspicion that the information wasn’t being hidden but that such crimes are so commonplace as to be unremarkable in the Bank of American worldview. More on that in a separate post.

Tracking DAPL Enablers – ABN Amro Capital USA LLC.

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

The Energy Trasfer Equity SEC 8-K filing lists the following co-conspirators who are financing, in part, the DAPL pipeline project:

  • ABN Amro Capital USA LLC.
  • Bank of America, N.A.
  • Barclays Bank PLC
  • The Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.
  • BNP Paribas
  • Citibank, N.A.
  • Compass Bank
  • Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank
  • Credit Suisse AG, Cayman Islands Branch
  • Deutsche Bank AG New York Branch
  • DNB Bank ASA, Grand Cayman Branch
  • Goldman Sachs Bank USA
  • HSBC Bank USA, National Association
  • ING Capital LLC
  • Intesa Sanpaolo S.P.A., New York Branch
  • JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
  • Mizuho Bank, Ltd.
  • Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, Inc.
  • Natixis, New York Branch
  • PNC Bank, National Association
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland PLC
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
  • SunTrust Bank
  • UBS AG, Stamford Branch
  • Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

How to Contact the 17 Banks Funding the Dakota Access Pipeline by Emily Fuller provides valuable contact information but much more can be had.

Starting from the top with ABN Amro Capital USA LLC., Bloomberg says (as of 28 January 2017):

ABN Amro Capital USA LLC offers commercial banking services. The company was incorporated in 2009 and is based in New York, New York. ABN Amro Capital USA LLC operates as a subsidiary of ABN AMRO Group N.V.

100 Park Avenue
Floor 17
New York, NY 10017
United States

Founded in 2009

Phone: 212-649-5100
Fax: 917-284-6697

Key Executives For ABN Amro Capital USA LLC

ABN Amro Capital USA LLC does not have any Key Executives recorded.

Turning to ABN AMRO Group N.V., Bloomberg reports in part:

ABN AMRO Group N.V.

January 28, 2017 1:42 PM ETBanks
Company Overview of ABN AMRO Group N.V.
Snapshot

Company Overview

ABN AMRO Group N.V. provides banking products and services for retail, private, and corporate banking customers in the Netherlands and internationally. […] ABN AMRO Group N.V. was incorporated in 2009 and is headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Gustav Mahlerlaan 10
Amsterdam, 1082 PP
Netherlands

Founded in 2009
21,809 Employees

Phone: 31 09 000 024
www.abnamro.com

People:

Key Executives For ABN AMRO Group N.V.

Mr. Kees C. van Dijkhuizen
Chairman of the Managing Board and Chief Executive Officer
(…)

Mr. Johan van Hall
Vice Chairman of the Managing Board and Chief Operating Officer
(…)

Mr. Wietze Reehoorn
Chief Risk Officer and Member of the Managing Board
(…)

Ms. Caroline E. Princen
Executive Officer
(…)

Mr. Chris F. H. H. Vogelzang
Member of the Managing Board
(…)

In addition to the identity of the chief officers of this miscreant, we now know of some 21,089 (as of 2015) employees who may be more environmentally conscious than their masters. Enabling poisoning of water along a 1,172-mile-long pipeline is no small thing.

The ABN AMRO Annual Report 2015 lists the managing board as:

  • Gerrit Zalm (chair)
  • Johan van Hall (vice-chair)
  • Kees van Dijkhuizen
  • Caroline Princen
  • Wietze Reehoorn
  • Chris Vogelzang
  • Joop Wijn

(at page 119)

Member of the supervisory board as:

  • Rik van Slingelandt (chair)
  • Hans de Haan
  • Bert Meerstadt
  • Annemieke Roobeek
  • Rik van Slingelandt
  • Steven ten Have
  • Olga Zoutendijk

(at page 281)

A presentation from May of 2016 reports the election of the following to the supervisory board:

A.C. Dorland

Ms F.J. Leeflang

J.S.T. Tiemstra

A presentation from August of 2016 reports Olga Zoutendijk is Chairman of the Supervisory Board and the appointment of: Mr. Jurgen Stegmann to the supervisory board.

The present composition of either board isn’t entirely clear from records on the company website but current member or no, the individuals listed no doubt have useful information/insight to share about the company.

For general contact purposes, the company website offers:

If you have questions about ABN AMRO Group’s financials, business activities, capital, funding, credit ratings or related issues, please contact our Investor Relations team.

E-mail investorrelations@nl.abnamro.com

Phone: +31 20 628 22 82

Dies Donker

Head of Investor Relations

+31 (0)20 383 05 17

Ruud Jaegers

Deputy Head of Investor Relations

+31 (0)20 383 58 36

Niels Farragher

Investor Relations

+31 (0)20 343 49 82

Anton Groenevelt

Investor Relations

+31 (0)20 628 25 86

Annedien Heilbron

Investor Relations

+31 (0)20 383 72 44

Jan-Willem Stokhuyzen

Investor Relations Analyst

+31 (0)20 343 94 88

Geeta Ramkhelawan

Secretary

+31 (0)20 383 32 35

Suggestions improving upon this starting point:

First, the company website claims a presence in Asia, Australia, Europe, North American and South American so you should have little difficulty finding one or more of those 21,089 employees (as of 2015) who can impact ABN Amro’s participation in this environmental outrage.

Second, I have kept copies of the various corporate documents should the links to resumes fall prey to link rot or other mishaps. Those may be useful in identifying specific individuals.

Third, this surface examination of ABN Amro and those of the other listed enablers to follow, are a prelude to exploring the recursive question: Who owns the enablers?

Contacting Bank Owners – Funding DAPL

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Yesterday I posted a useful list of banks funding DAPL, Contacting the 17 Banks Funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, created by Emily Fuller.

Emily points out some banks are dodging public comment on their investments.

Banks are toadies for their owners and if you can persuade their owners, the banks will dance another tune.

Discovering the owners of banks, human owners, isn’t a straight forward task.

Tables adapted from MorningStar provide a starting place, show the ownership of Wells Fargo (#1 on Emily’s list) by institutions and funds, as:

Institutions

Name Shares Held % Total
Shares Held
Berkshire Hathaway Inc 479,704,270 9.55
Vanguard Group Inc 293,529,151 5.84
BlackRock Fund Advisors 159,579,472 3.18
State Street Corp 144,304,075 2.87
Fidelity Management and Research Company 114,390,616 2.28
Wellington Management Company LLP 105,287,458 2.10
Columbia Insurance Company 74,533,819 1.46
Capital World Investors 87,714,669 1.75
J.P. Morgan Investment Management Inc 71,187,640 1.42
National Fire & Marine Insurance Co 55,776,330 1.10
Dodge & Cox 67,255,750 1.34
Northern Trust Investments N A 60,080,126 1.20
State Street Global Advisors (Aus) Ltd 50,252,360 1.00
State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins Co 55,039,014 1.10
MFS Investment Management KK 49,919,843 0.99
Geode Capital Management, LLC 39,689,832 0.79
Government Pension Fund of Norway – Global 38,048,678 0.72
Barrow Hanley Mewhinney & Strauss LLC 37,011,768 0.74
T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. 31,739,499 0.63
TIAA-CREF Investment Management LLC 27,710,384 0.55

Funds

Name Shares Held % Total
Shares Held
Vanguard Total Stock Mkt Idx 95,774,705 1.91
Vanguard 500 Index Inv 66,073,771 1.32
SPDR® S&P 500 ETF 50,880,290 1.01
Vanguard Institutional Index I 49,389,580 0.98
Fidelity® Contrafund® 48,971,538 0.98
Dodge & Cox Stock 43,253,341 0.86
Financial Select Sector SPDR® ETF 34,990,492 0.69
Vanguard Wellington™ Inv 34,242,007 0.68
VA CollegeAmerica WA Mutual 529B 26,217,100 0.52
MFS Value A 25,832,081 0.51
Fidelity Spartan® 500 Index Inv 25,067,450 0.50
VA CollegeAmerica Amercn Bal 529E 23,103,000 0.46
VA CollegeAmerica Inc Fund of Amer 529E 21,980,915 0.44
Vanguard Value Index Inv 21,264,834 0.42
Franklin Income A 20,000,000 0.40
CREF Stock R1 20,598,209 0.41
Vanguard Windsor™ II Inv 20,343,696 0.40
iShares Russell 1000 Value 14,316,510 0.28
Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF 13,351,361 0.27
Parnassus Core Equity Investor 13,218,831 0.26

If these ownership tables look like, appear to be, the sort of relationship information that can be captured by a graph, topic map, etc., you are right in one!

Moreover, the ownership information of other funding banks, such as SunTrust Banks Inc., shows a number of institutions and funds in common.

Meaning that if we pierce the corporate veil and get the names of people, as officers, board of directors, shareholders, etc. those will be valid for one or more of the other funding banks for DAPL as well.

A graph of human owners for a bank, will intersect and overlay other ownership graphs for other banks, enabling activists to focus on persuading the most influential human owners.

Discussion of identifiers for the owners you see listed in this post coming tomorrow!

PS: Consider this a continuation of: Refining The Dakota Access Pipeline Target List. I got distracted by a number of things. Sorry!

Contacting the 17 Banks Funding the Dakota Access Pipeline [Leaking Anyone?]

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

How to Contact the 17 Banks Funding the Dakota Access Pipeline by Emily Fuller.

A great article on contacting the banks funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, last updated November 30, 2016, which has this note:

The following bank information has been updated periodically, most recently Nov. 30, 2016. Some banks have disconnected phones and disabled email addresses since the start of the campaign. Contact us with adjustments.
(emphasis in original)

Isn’t that interesting? Banks apparently don’t appreciate public input into their decision making processes.

Management and shareholder lists are naturals for leaking from those 17 banks.

Yes?

Where would you advertise to alert potential leakers such lists are of interest?

Trump Inauguration Police Tactics/Blockades – 10:30 AM EST

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Unicorn Riot is live streaming protests, including checkpoint blockades, from Washington, D.C.

An interesting variation on the police formation I detailed in Defeating Police Formations – Parallel Distributed Protesting, the police are breaching the blockade single file to create a path for people who want to attend the inauguration.

An odd reverse of the “surge and arrest” tactic to “surge and enable passage.”

The inauguration is still two hours out.

Join Unicorn Riot, Democracy Now! or one of the other live streams covering protests.

Personally I have no interest in the “official” ceremonies and will be skipping those.

PS: A tweet as of 35 minutes ago reports (unconfirmed) that 6 of 12 inauguration entrances have been completely shut down and traffic at others slowed to a “trickle.”

Permitted Trump Protesters Will Be Ignored

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

I wish my headline was some of the “fake news” Democrats complain about but Alexandra Rosemann proves the truth of that headline in:

Ignoring anti-Trumpers: Why we can expect media blackout of protests against Trump’s inauguration.

Not ignored by just anybody, ignored by the media.

On Jan. 20 — 16 years ago — thousands of protesters lined the inauguration parade route of the incoming Republican president. “Not my president,” they chanted. But despite the enormity of the rally, it was largely ignored. Instead, pundits marveled over how George W. Bush “filled out the suit” and confirmed authority.

“The inauguration of George W. Bush was certainly a spectacle on Inauguration Day,” marvels Robin Andersen, the director of Peace and Justice studies at Fordham University, in the 2001 short documentary “Not My President: Voices From the Counter Coup.”

It’s nearly impossible not to anticipate the eerie parallels between George W. Bush’s inauguration and that of Donald Trump.

“Forty percent of the public still believed that Bush had not been legitimately elected, yet there’s almost no discussion of these electoral problems or the constitutional crisis,” Andersen explains in the film. “Instead, Bush undergoes a kind of transformation where he fills out the suit and becomes a leader. Forgotten are any of the questions about his ability, his experience or his mangling of the English language. His transformation is almost magical,” she adds.

Andersen estimated the inauguration protests, which occurred throughout the country, garnered approximately 10 minutes of total coverage on all the major networks.

“When we did see images of protesters, there was no explanation as to why. We were asked to be passive spectators in this ritual of legitimation when the real democratic issues that should have been being discussed were ignored,” Andersen says in the film, reflecting on the “real democracy” in the streets of Washington, D.C.

Your choice. Ten minutes of coverage out of over 24 hours of permitted protesting, or the media covering a 24 hour blockade of the DC Beltway.

fox5dc-map-460

Which one do you think draws more attention to your issues?

A new president will be inaugurated on January 20, 2017, but its your choice whether its him, his wife and a few cronies in attendance or hundreds of thousands.

See protests for more ideas on that possibility.

Empirical Analysis Of Social Media

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument by Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts. American Political Science Review, 2017. (Supplementary Appendix)

Abstract:

The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions of ordinary people. Many academics, and most journalists and activists, claim that these so-called “50c party” posts vociferously argue for the government’s side in political and policy debates. As we show, this is also true of the vast majority of posts openly accused on social media of being 50c. Yet, almost no systematic empirical evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime’s strategic objective in pursuing this activity. In the first large scale empirical analysis of this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime’s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We infer that the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to regularly distract the public and change the subject, as most of the these posts involve cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime. We discuss how these results fit with what is known about the Chinese censorship program, and suggest how they may change our broader theoretical understanding of “common knowledge” and information control in authoritarian regimes.

I differ from the authors on some of their conclusions but this is an excellent example of empirical as opposed to wishful analysis of social media.

Wishful analysis of social media includes the farcical claims that social media is an effective recruitment tool for terrorists. Too often claimed to dignify with a citation but never with empirical evidence, only an author’s repetition of the common “wisdom.”

In contrast, King et al. are careful to say what their analysis does and does not support, finding in a number of cases, the evidence contradicts commonly held thinking about the role of the Chinese government in social media.

One example I found telling was the lack of evidence that anyone is paid for pro-government social media comments.

In the authors’ words:


We also found no evidence that 50c party members were actually paid fifty cents or any other piecemeal amount. Indeed, no evidence exists that the authors of 50c posts are even paid extra for this work. We cannot be sure of current practices in the absence of evidence but, given that they already hold government and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) jobs, we would guess this activity is a requirement of their existing job or at least rewarded in performance reviews.
… (at pages 10-11)

Here I differ from the author’s “guess”

…this activity is a requirement of their existing job or at least rewarded in performance reviews.

Kudos to the authors for labeling this a “guess,” although one expects the mainstream press and members of Congress to take it as written in stone.

However, the authors presume positive posts about the government of China can only result from direct orders or pressure from superiors.

That’s a major weakness in this paper and similar analysis of social media postings.

The simpler explanation of pro-government posts is a poster is reporting the world as they see it. (Think Occam’s Razor.)

As for sharing them with the so-called “propaganda office,” perhaps they are attempting to curry favor. The small number of posters makes it difficult to credit their motives (unknown) and behavior (partially known) as representative for the estimated 2 million posters.

Moreover, out of a population that nears 1.4 billion, the existence of 2 million individuals with a positive view of the government isn’t difficult to credit.

This is an excellent paper that will repay a close reading several times over.

Take it also as a warning about ideologically based assumptions that can mar or even invalidate otherwise excellent empirical work.

PS:

Additional reading:

From the Gary King’s webpage on the article:

This paper follows up on our articles in Science, “Reverse-Engineering Censorship In China: Randomized Experimentation And Participant Observation”, and the American Political Science Review, “How Censorship In China Allows Government Criticism But Silences Collective Expression”.

Do You Have Big Brass Ones*? FOIA The President

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Join our project to FOIA the Trump administration by Michael Morisy.

From the post:

Since June 2015, MuckRock users have been filing FOIA requests regarding a possible Trump presidency. In fact, so far there’s been over 160 public Trump-related requests filed through the site, all of which you can browse here.

We’ve also put together a number of guides and articles on the upcoming administration, ranging from what you can and can’t file regarding Trump to deep dives into what’s already out there:

We’ve launched a new project page for users to showcase their requests, find new documents regarding the Trump administration, or get inspiration for their own requests, and we’ve created a special Slack channel for you to join in and strategize on future requests, or help share big league FOIA stories that shed light on the President Elect’s team.

We’ve had a few users join us there already and they’ve helped file some really fun requests, so we’re excited about what else the transparency community can come up with.

An effort worthy of both your time and support!

One answered, remember that availability isn’t the same thing as meaningful access.

OCR, indexing, entity extraction, in short any skill you have is important in this effort.

* No longer a gender specific reference as you well know.

PS: I’ve signed up and need suggestions on what to ask for? Suggestions?

The CIA’s Secret History Is Now Online [Indexing, Mapping, NLP Anyone?]

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

The CIA’s Secret History Is Now Online by Jason Leopold.

From the post:

Decades ago, the CIA declassified a 26-page secret document cryptically titled “clarifying statement to Fidel Castro concerning assassination.”

It was a step toward greater transparency for one of the most secretive of all federal agencies. But to find out what the document actually said, you had to trek to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and hope that one of only four computers designated by the CIA to access its archives would be available.

But today the CIA posted the Castro record on its website along with more than 12 million pages of the agency’s other declassified documents that have eluded the public, journalists, and historians for nearly two decades. You can view the documents here.

The title of the Castro document, as it turns out, was far more interesting than the contents. It includes a partial transcript of a 1977 transcript between Barbara Walters and Fidel Castro in which she asked the late Cuban dictator whether he had “proof” of the CIA’s last attempt to assassinate him. The transcript was sent to Adm. Stansfield Turner, the CIA director at the time, by a public affairs official at the agency with a note highlighting all references to CIA.

But that’s just one of the millions documents, which date from the 1940s to 1990s, are wide-ranging, covering everything from Nazi war crimes to mind-control experiments to the role the CIA played in overthrowing governments in Chile and Iran. There are also secret documents about a telepathy and precognition program known as Star Gate, files the CIA kept on certain media publications, such as Mother Jones, photographs, more than 100,000 pages of internal intelligence bulletins, policy papers, and memos written by former CIA directors.

Michael Best, @NatSecGeek has pointed out the “CIA de-OCRed at least some of the CREST files before they uploaded them.”

Spy agency class petty. Grant public access but force the restoration of text search.

The restoration of text search work is underway so next steps will be indexing, NLP, mapping, etc.

A great set of documents to get ready for future official and unofficial leaks of CIA documents.

Enjoy!

PS: Curious if any of the search engine vendors will use CREST as demonstration data? Non-trivial size, interesting search issues, etc.

Ask at the next search conference.

Resistance Manual / Indivisible

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Resistance Manual

An essential reference for the volatile politics of the Trump presidency.

Indivisible

Four former congressional staffers banded together to write: “A practical guide to resisting the Trump Agenda.”

Both are shaped by confidence in current political and social mechanisms, to say nothing of a faith in non-violence.

Education is seen as the key to curing bigotry/prejudice and moving towards a more just society.

You will not find links to:

Steal this Book or the Anarchist Cookbook, 2000 edition for example.

There are numerous examples cited as “successful” non-violent protests. The elimination of de jure segregation in the American South. (Resource includes oral histories of the time.)

But, de facto segregation in schools is larger than it was in the 1960’s.

How do you figure that into the “success” of non-violent protests?

Read both Resistance Manual and Indivisible for what may be effective techniques.

But ask yourself, do non-violent protests comfort the victims of violence?

Or just the non-violent protesters?