Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

First POST: How to Organize

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, January 23 2013

How to Organize for Action

  • Follow the money: After Sunday's kick-off event for Obama for America's successor organization it's clear the spirit is willing, but can the pocketbook deliver? Keepers of the Obama flame are gambling, for now, that former campaign volunteers have the gumption to organize local groups and raise money in those groups in order to pay for access to the Democratic voter file and maintain their own field offices. These groups will advocate for the president's agenda locally, putting pressure on their members of Congress.

    It's still unclear how much that local fundraising is expected to pay for. TechPresident doesn't have all the answers yet but we hear, just like everybody else seems to be hearing, that no final decisions have been revealed about which aspects of the Obama campaign's technological infrastructure will be maintained, who will keep it up to scratch and how exactly they'll pay for it. We reported yesterday that infrastructure will remain property of Obama for America and be leased out to whomever wants to license it, like Organizing for Action or the Democratic Party. And at least one volunteer we spoke to who attended the weekend event, the Obama Legacy Conference, seems to think that even the fundraising model on offer now might be tweaked in the days ahead.

    Nancy Scola wrote that Obama alumni are hoping to "rethink the mechanics of American politics one more time:"

    Campaigns traditionally scatter to the winds, whether the candidate wins or loses, after election day. That's wasteful, goes the thinking -- all the more so with a team that produced some 155 million door knocks and phone calls and 1.8 million new voter registrations, not to mention 332 Electoral College votes.

    So Organizing for Action wants to replicate those tactics now that they're done putting Barack Obama in office. "We will run ads" in districts where the data show Republicans out of step with constituents on gun control, Carson said. "We will be on their Facebook pages." And OFA will use well-honed campaign tactics to achieve policy goals, including a goal of registering 40 million people who are newly eligible for insurance under Obamacare.

    It's an ambitious plan that is creating some more low-tech worries for state parties, who are concerned that this organization will crowd them out in the competition for local activists and fundraising dollars. It's also, as Scola writes, a wholly untested, wholly new rethinking of the permanent campaign, one that might prompt a further evolution of campaign-trail tools and tactics.

We the Sheeple

  • POSTers see it first: As the White House's online petitions initiative, "We the People," gains popularity, it's been coming under fire. Should the White House, doubters ask, really be wasting their time with a petition calling for the creation of a Death Star? Yes, Micah Sifry writes — because it is finally an example of government engaging with citizens rather than trying and failing to gain traction elsewhere. Firstly, the White House will play communications judo with every petition to which it responds, trying to start a dialogue with critics, to keep supporters energized and to highlight its policy wins. It is not a tool for accountability, it is a tool for engagement, and on that front it has done quantitatively well. Secondly, journalists critiquing the subject matter of petitioners should first put their own house in order. In the past month, the White House press corps has asked the president's spokesman about Manti Te'o, Robert Griffin III, and Gerard Depardieu. Meanwhile, the White House used a We the People petition to signal a softening of its policy on marijuana. Which makes one wonder: If a handful of people can ask the White House a silly question multiple times a day, why are they so angry that any 100,000 people can ask the White House any question once?

Around the Web

  • New York State is launching a new transparency portal today.

  • So is New York City. TechPresident got an early look last week as a follow-up to the preview that officials at New York City Comptroller John Liu's office gave us when the project was announced last year.

    Checkbook 2.0, as it's called, takes a web portal initially designed to put the city's checkbook online and beefs it up considerably. In a demo last week, we were able to view spending citywide, by agency, and even by contract. We were also able to access information about individual vendors and track payroll information by title, if not by name.

    The New York City Comptroller's effort also offers up data in bulk format and through an API. An official in Liu's office told us that the entire package will be open-sourced in the months to come, but the work of open-sourcing the software — cleaning up the code, documenting it and so forth — was not yet complete. The software was designed to sit on top of what we were told is widely-used accounting software offered by the company CGI, which is what New York uses.

  • International

    • Newly elected Israeli lawmakers are turning to the task of forming a coalition government. On the fringes: a nascent Pirate Party movement.

    • Chinese GitHub users report their access to the site is in flux apparently because of state action.

    • Concerned with the implications of media regulations within countries, the Financial Times argues for a solution: Have the European Commission regulate the regulators. The Guardian (UK) flags the news.

    • The International Budget Survey is out, ranking the transparency and accountability of budgeting information in over 100 countries.

    News Briefs

    RSS Feed wednesday >

    Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

    On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


    The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

    The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


    tuesday >

    Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

    A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

    Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

    The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


    Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

    Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


    monday >

    Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

    In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.


    friday >

    In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

    thursday >

    In Pakistan, A Hypocritical Gov't Ignores Calls To End YouTube Ban

    YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan by executive order since September 2012, after the “blasphemous” video Innocence of Muslims started riots in the Middle East. Since then, civil society organizations and Internet rights advocacy groups like Bolo Bhi and Bytes for All have been working to lift the ban. Last August the return of YouTube seemed imminent—the then-new IT Minister Anusha Rehman spoke optimistically and her party, which had won the majority a few months before, was said to be “seriously contemplating” ending the ban. And yet since then, Rehman and her party, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), have done everything in their power to maintain the status quo.


    The #NotABugSplat Campaign Aims to Give Drone Operators Pause Before They Strike

    In the #NotABugSplat campaign that launched this week, a group of American, French and Pakistani artists sought to raise awareness of the effects of drone strikes by placing a field-sized image of a young girl, orphaned when a drone strike killed her family, in a heavily targeted region of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Its giant size is visible to those who operate drone strikes as well as in satellite imagery. GO

    Boston and Cambridge Move Towards More Open Data

    The Boston City Council is now considering an ordinance which would require Boston city agencies and departments to make government data available online using open standards. Boston City Councilor At Large Michelle Wu, who introduced the legislation Wednesday, officially announced her proposal Monday, the same day Boston Mayor Martin Walsh issued an executive order establishing an open data policy under which all city departments are directed to publish appropriate data sets under established accessibility, API and format standards. GO

    YouTube Still Blocked In Turkey, Even After Courts Rule It Violates Human Rights, Infringes on Free Speech

    Reuters reports that even after a Turkish court ruled to lift the ban on YouTube, Turkey's telecommunications companies continue to block the video sharing site.