A Primer on Social Media Bots And Their Malicious Use In U.S. Politics

MoCo member Tim Chambers recently published a white paper with the progressive think tank NDN.  If you are interested in understanding social media bots, and the threats they pose, this is a great source!  

From the NDN website:  "To help those in the political arena better understand this new phenomenon, NDN is proud to release a new paper, "A Primer on Social Media Bots and Their Malicious Use in US Politics." Written by our long time collaborator Tim Chambers, this paper lays out in plain, simple English what bots are, how they are being used, and some ways we can together combat their impact in the days ahead.
Especially as we approach the 2018 and 2020 elections, it is critical that we understand and counteract this threat now, or we will lose this new form of information war. We must develop more and better technological defenses. We must demand that our social networks build for the good of the countries they act in, not just for their own profits. And we must adopt laws and policies that protect our democracy while safeguarding social media’s enormous potential to enhance the democratic process. This compelling new paper offers some early thinking on how we may want to approach taking on the bots. Please let us know what you think of it, and feel free to share with others you think might be interested."
 

Guide to Resisting the Trump De-Regulatory Agenda

Save EPA, a volunteer organization of former Environmental Policy Agency staffers, has released a guide for activists who wish to counter attempts by the Trump administration to roll back public protections issued by any federal agency. The guide is inspired by the Indivisible project, which began as a guide for activist engagement with Congress by former Hill staffers.

Trump has made systematic deregulation, a longtime priority of the Koch brothers and other corporate-right leaders, a top priority. A January executive order of questionable Constitutional legitimacy called for the elimination of two federal regulations whenever a new regulation is issued.

The first draft of “A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump De-Regulatory Agenda” explains:

Fortunately, no president can roll back regulations by fiat. The Trump Administration must go through the same process that’s used for making regulations, and that process gives everyone the opportunity to participate. Regulated businesses are sure to participate, since they are directly affected and may save money if regulations are delayed, watered down or repealed. Public interest groups are likely to participate, too, but they can’t be expected to save regulations all on their own. As members of the public that the regulations are designed to protect, we need to be loud and clear that the regulations are important to us. We can’t afford to be silent while President Trump tries to take away our protections.

Click here to read the rest of the article. 

Click here to view "A Practical Guide to Resisting the Trump De-Regulatory Agenda".

A link to the guide is also available in our Helpful Resources section. 

Resist, Retreat, Resign? A Workshop for Federal Employees

DATE: Sunday, June 25, 2017

LOCATION: Georgetown Public Library Meeting Room

3260 R St. NW

Washington,  D.C.  20007

TIME: 2:00-4:30pm

This is a workshop with and for federal employees who are concerned about their rights as citizens and about their roles in the workplace under the new administration. Through discussions with experts and an interactive action planning session, attendees will 1) learn more about their rights as a private citizen and in the workplace, 2) strategize about ways to build solidarity in the workplace, and 3) build a local network across agencies.

All workshops are "Chatham House" rules - off the record and what is said in the room stays in the room. We do not discuss civil disobedience or any kind of illegal action. For more about the content of the workshop and for general resources on the rights, obligations, and strategies of federal employees, see: https://goo.gl/bKTzRq

Requested donation at the door: $10

Registration is required: https://goo.gl/forms/eKmwqnETPzYOhrbM2

-Takoma Park Mobilization Education & Training Group. 

MAY 31st Phone Bank in Bethesda MD

Shabnam Afsah has volunteered to host Phone Banks in her Bethesda home for members of Indivisible MoCo.  The first of several will be on Wednesday May 31, from 6:30 – 9:30pm. 

If you are interested please email Shabnam directly to get her address information.

Shabnam's email: shabnamarora.afsah@gmail.com 

Do The Most Good Montgomery is assisting in the effort and has asked everyone to bring the following:

1. Cell Phone and charger

2. Laptop/tablet and charger 

3. A pair of headsets or ear buds with mic (sometimes, the phone banks get noisy because so many people are talking simultaneously in close proximity of each other).

Currently the plan is to call South Carolina's 5th District (the seat vacated by Mick Mulvney) in support of the candidacy of the Democrat Archie Parnell (more info at https://archieparnell.com/). 

Shabnam will provide drinks and snacks during the evening.  If you would like to contribute to the bounty on the table, it is much appreciated.

TRAINING: Tips & Techniques for Contacting MoCs

Why We Call, and How to Make it Fun and Easy

We know, we keep telling you to call your legislators, but you're the kind of person who hates making phone calls.  Several of your friends in Indivisible MoCo are in the same boat. 

We're offering a short coaching session on how to make your weekly calls fun and easy, with tips on how to be effective in your calling.  This 20-minute session will take place right after the regular monthly meeting on May 23.  Plan to stay, meet others, and get energized for the upcoming weeks!

Stuck in the Swamp: A Survival Guide for Civil Servants

We’re your neighbors.  We are here to uphold the country’s laws and the Constitution.  We serve US taxpayers and citizens.  And that’s a problem for Donald Trump.

Trump and his loyalists have declared war on America’s public servants.  This affects all of us.  In other countries, political leaders stack the deck in favor of their family, friends and cronies throughout government offices.  In this country, public servants have long been insulated from political pressure by laws and policies.  In return, public servants are constrained from using their positions to influence voters or elections.  This system serves the public interest, and prevents misuse of power.  But now it’s under fresh and daily assault.  In addition to pressures on the job, civil servants are facing public and online harassment (Breitbart News is in the forefront of this, sharing hit lists of bureaucrats). So Indivisible groups around the area are providing tools, resources and workshops to help our friends in the public service continue to do their jobs with integrity.

We were grateful for this article on the importance of civil service, in Foreign Policy Magazine which departed from the magazine’s usual subject area.  We’re just going to quote from it and encourage readers who don’t work for government to please read the whole article, and think about the importance of showing your support for your neighbors in public service!

From the FP article:

“The United States civil service can be an enormous asset for presidential administrations regardless of party, and undermining it belies a misunderstanding of what public servants actually do. These good folks, the vast majority of whom do not live in Washington, get up in the morning to cut social security checks, maintain aircraft carriers, treat veterans, guard the border, find Osama bin Laden, and yes, work hard to protect the president and make his policies look good. Many of them earn less than they would in the private sector and are deeply committed to serving the American people. Any effort to undercut them is irrational on its face. . .

“Pulling qualified people from important civil service postings or otherwise preventing them from doing their jobs will undermine the government’s ability to perform basic functions in support of the American people and their interests . . . In reality, most the individuals serving the U.S. government (including those in more arcane and cobwebbed corners) exist to keep the trains, roads, planes, and hospitals running (somewhat) on time, or even running at all.”

Some of the area’s Indivisible groups, including Takoma Park Mobilization and Indivisible MoCo, have organized “know-your-rights” workshops for federal employees.  For those who want more information, we are distributing this list of key resources.

Given the particular attention to climate research and other scientific data, we’re also sharing the following resources from the Union of Concerned Scientists that are especially for researchers and scientists in government.

Finally, we recommend the Project on Government Oversight as a resource for those who are concerned about behavior that seems to go beyond what’s legal and ethical.  POGO is going to be hosting a series of webinars for those who want more information about whistleblower protections. 

Being a public servant and upholding our laws shouldn’t be an act of resistance!  Donald Trump is calling us the swamp- he’s even threatening us in his latest fundraising video, claiming “there are people in our unelected bureaucracy trying to sabotage us.”  Help keep us beat back swamp-politicians who would abuse their positions to undermine our integrity, independence, and ultimately our responsibility to all our taxpayers must be held to account.

(The author is a federal employee).

 

SWAMPED: 100 Ways in 100 Days

Congressman John Sarbanes (MD, 3rd) leads the Democracy Reform Task Force which is an effort in the House of Representatives to build a government that puts public interest ahead special interests.

On April 27th, the Democracy Reform Task Force unveiled a new report that illustrates the numerous and unprecedented ways that the Trump Administration – after only 100 days in office – has tested the extreme limits of ethics laws and standards.

Read more about SWAMPED: 100 Ways in 100 Days.  How The Trump Administration Has Flooded The Swamp In Washington

 

 

Capitol Hill Visit

A group of five people representing Indivisible/Takoma Park Mobilization and Indivisible MoCo visited Maryland Congressional delegation offices to thank Senators and Representatives for participating in the February 26 Town Hall, and to pass along questions from constituents that were not addressed during the Town Hall. We provided each office with an envelope with the yellow cards containing questions from the constituents.

How it worked:  One of the TPM folks had the names of one or two staffers from each office, and had e-mailed them in advance to let them know we'd be stopping by on Tuesday afternoon.  When we reached the office, we asked if the staffer was available.  We also asked if the Congressman was in and if we could thank him personally.  If no one was available we simply left the notecards with the reception desk, and asked that the office e-mail replies to the questions to the Indivisible TPM mailbox.  Indivisible TPM will be responsible for distributing any responses they receive to the other Indivisibles.

Highlights:  we were able to meet directly with Senator Van Hollen and with Representative Sarbanes. We also had a good exchange with Congressman Raskin's staffer.

What the Congresspeople said:  Senator Van Hollen asked that our group remember that for the moment, the main thing that Democrats can do is to block, it's hard for them to be proactive.  He was very appreciative of the Town Hall and took our envelope with questions for his staff.

Representative Sarbanes spent about 20 minutes with us.  He appreciated all the Indivisible groups' efforts and he said he also had meeting with Indivisible Howard County and Indivisible Baltimore.  His staffer also spent another 15minutes describing the office's main focus and issues.  Rep. Sarbanes stressed the need for the Indivisibles to stay engaged for the long haul and particularly around 2018 elections and get out the vote efforts.  

His staffer provided us with a letter that Rep. Sarbanes had sent to Governor Hogan, requesting information about the effect of ACA repeal on Marylanders.  The office particularly encouraged all of us to look for Rep. Sarbanes' efforts with respect to the House Democracy Reform Task Force.  This task force may be an important focal point for the Indivisibles, as it works on transparency, ethics reform and getting special interests out of politics.  We recommend our group and other Indivisibles 'follow' the Task Force for opportunities for specific direct actions.

Overall:  We have some lessons learned. Even for a simple Hill drop, it's good to give folks a little coaching in advance.  We could have been smoother in delivering our message when we had the opportunity to talk to offices, whether to Congresspeople or their staffs.

Also:  SHOWING UP IS IMPORTANT.  The offices all took note of the fact that we had made the effort to come by personally to thank them.  We got name cards for a few staffers and we can follow up with them again when we have specific concerns, and if we need to get through with more than a simple phone call.  We have shown them we can mobilize th

Photos from Town Hall Forum

Several Indivisible MoCo members were part of the "Maryland Coalition Photo Team" responsible for documenting the Town Hall Forum held last Sunday evening at the Silver Spring Civic Center.

We had a fantastic turnout of elected officials including US Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and US Representatives Brown, Delaney, Raskin and Sarbanes.  There were also Maryland state delegates and senators and Montgomery County Councilmembers in attendance.  

Here is a selection of photos made by Melissa Clark, Patricia Lake, Kent Mason, Sarah Salomon, Roy Sewall and Alan Sislen.  

Town Hall Forum: Great Turnout! Huge Success!

A huge shout-out to the many volunteers that made last night’s sold-out Town Hall event such a success!

Many of you may not be aware that the Town Hall event was conceived very recently, during an impromptu meeting on February 12, 2017.  Over the next two weeks the newly formed Maryland Coalition (a small group of grassroots community organizations), came together to plan, organize and execute the event.  The number of volunteers, who stepped up and committed serious time and effort to the cause, is truly amazing. 

Indivisible MoCo (I/MoCo) had several key volunteers helping out in a number of ways:

Meg Edson was the key liaison between I/MoCo volunteers and the overall Town Hall leadership team. 

Tim Chambers played a central role on the Town Hall Social Media team, helping set direction and maximize media coverage.

Alan Sislen pulled together a crack team of photographers to document the evening’s events (photos coming soon to your favorite Indivisible MoCo website!)

There were many other I/MoCo members (I/MoCo had one of the larger volunteer turnouts – good job to all that pitched in, you make us proud!)  that gave generously of their time and talent.  Here are the ones I know of:

Sean Oberle,  Holly Seltzer,  Bama Athreya,  Jj Biel-Goebel,  Kate Monzo,  Kerstyn Bryce, Ann Lui,  Patricia Lake,  Melissa Clark,  Kent Mason,  Sarah Salomon,  & Roy Sewall. 

PLEASE – it you were part of the effort and you are not listed above, let us know.  We are so very grateful for everyone’s efforts and we want to acknowledge all who took part. 

We are making plans for another Town Hall event during the April recess, so I hope everyone that helped with last night’s event is “Fired up, Ready to go” again!  And that many others will decide it’s time to take on a more active role and join the ranks of the volunteers.  We need your help, plus it's a lot of fun! 

We will have volunteer signup sheets at our next I/MoCo meeting on March 14, 2017, or send us an email and we will add you to the list of volunteers to contact when needs arise. (indivisiblemontgomerycounty@gmail.com)

For some of the media coverage of the event look here: 

http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/2017/Democrats-Fire-Up-Base-at-Town-Hall-Meeting-in-Silver-Spring/

http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/silver-spring/md-democrats-meet-with-hundreds-at-town-hall/415160597

http://www.fox5dc.com/news/238304293-story

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Hundreds-of-People-Attend-Democrats_-Town-Hall-in-Silver-Spring_Washington-DC-414831573.html

 

 

 

Join our 3rd In-Person Organizing Meeting, March 14th!

Come join in: Our third in-person Indivisible MoCo Meeting!

March 14th at 7:30p EST, Bethesda Elementary School, 7600 Arlington Rd, Bethesda.  And bring friends!

The meeting is in the All Purpose Room
Parking available in the school lot

The general meeting runs from 7:30-8:30pm. From 8:30-9:00pm the Working Group members will be available to answer questions and signup new volunteers!  

Donations of $1 at door welcome (to help defray cost of room rental)