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When To Talk And When To Shut Up

I've been following the "Pizzagate" (a.k.a. "Pedogate") scandal since it broke late last year. Of all the public crises I've seen over the years, this is easily the most sickening. If anything positive can be said it is that many people have defied a whole range of threats in order to keep investigating it, and to tell others about what has been found. 
An outgrowth of the citizen investigation is infighting between some of its researchers and others. Part of the conflict no doubt has to do with paid "shills" infiltrating research forums and intentionally creating contention. But part of it is also the natural course of events when different people seek to serve as spokespeople for a cause.
I don't want to get into the weeds of this particular case, but rather it seems important to extract a few key nuggets from its unfolding. And there are only a few, but they are important. 
  • First, if you have taken on a very serious issue that threatens the reputation of others, it is critical that you cleanse your personal and professional slate of any conflicts of interest. In this case, one of the researchers was promoting a product while also making videos about the issue. This naturally led people to question his credibility, and in order to restore that he severed those financial ties. Fair or not fair, you will be held to a higher standard if you take this kind of thing on.
  • Second, if you engage with other spokespeople who have been victimized by the outcome of the cause, it is very important not to exploit (or appear to exploit) their suffering. In other words, it is one thing to join forces; it is another to engage a victims' name for the sake of advancing your own personal brand.
  • Third, if you take on a high-profile controversy, understand that your every word and every move will be scrutinized closely. You aren't necessarily going to like that - of course. But if you take on the mantle of a citizen crusader, expect that you yourself will be targeted and criticized harshly. That is just the way it is.
  • Finally, and most importantly, if your name and involvement becomes a distraction in the campaign, then it may be worth considering whether to back off and let others take over the fight. Only you can make that determination, but if the cause is truly more important to you, and you can't shed the baggage that's leading people to focus on attacking you in particular, it is counterproductive to keep on putting your name out there only to divert attention.
I am suffering in my heart from the information that is out there. It's evil and it's too much for me to take sometimes. 
But I am heartened at the courage of the citizen researchers who have put their names, their voices and their time toward bringing forth evidence for law enforcement to consider. They see the same thing I see, and it is no doubt incredibly difficult to work with this kind of subject matter every day. But they are putting their pain to good purpose.
Thank you not only to the citizen researchers, but also to the nonprofits who stand up for victims of child sex trafficking, our men and women in law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies, Ivanka Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and of course Donald Trump, the President of the United States. 
All of you make me proud to be an American.
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All opinions my own.

613 and Human Trafficking

Introduction: Isaiah 61:3 - God Will Replace Joy For Misery

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness: that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”

As many of you know, I've been seeing the number 613 repeatedly for more than two years now, since approximately December 2014. Today, after many months of soul-searching and much time spent researching the problem of human trafficking, I believe I understand what God is trying to tell me with this number. Essentially, it is a promise and a warning.
  • There are 613 commandments in the Torah. When we bind ourselves to them, and do our best to keep them, God saves us. When we abandon the Torah, and God's teaching, then we see (God forbid) the reverse happening in the world.
  • The number 316, the obverse, is associated with the rebellion against God: When we rebel, God punishes us by letting evil proliferate. Those who traffic in children believe they can attain power in this world while denying God Himself. And when the world follows them and denies the existence of God, human slaves suffer the untold horrors of such animals.
The reversal of 316 to 613 -- this is the transformation of evil to good -- human trafficking to freeing the slaves. As humanity is waking up to the need to cleanse the planet of this evil,  He is reversing 316 to its opposite -- 613, a state of Godliness.
Here is some evidence to substantiate my theory about 613 and human trafficking.
316 - Human Trafficking BEFORE It Is Resolved

Suffering of Victims


Involvement of Law Enforcement

Legal Prohibitions

Outreach to Prevent and Recognize

Academic Research to Help Stop The Problem

316 is the page number of many articles about human trafficking - either starting or ending:
613 - Human Trafficking AFTER It Is Resolved

Restitution

Recovery

Resettlement

Permission is granted to redistribute this article freely - it is public domain.

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By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. Public domain. Photo by sammisreachers via Pixabay.

A Listening Session With Federal Communicators

On February 15, 2017 the Federal Communicators Network (FCN) Professional Standards Working Group held a discussion of issues related to federal communication standards. These notes are public domain; what follows is an edited version that highlights key issues.

The Importance of Standards
  • Cost Savings: When asked if agencies had a lot of independent efforts underway without clear standards and lack of coordination, many hands were raised – “money goes one way and efficiency goes another way” 
  • Quality: The issue is quality of our work. If you're going to do a communication plan, the ideal one has these components. Budgets not expected to go up. Many have contractors, but no standards. 
What Standards Are & Are Not
  • Standards are not just nice things 
  • Standards are not “thou shalts” 
  • Standards are common starting points to tell you where you are starting from, and then you fill in the blanks 
What Happens Without Standards (2016 FCN Survey)
  • Vast majority don't have anything consistent going on from agency to agency. 
  • Most said they don't know what their career path is. 
  • Most said metrics, we don't use that. 
  • Most said they don't have tools and standards that would help them do better job. 
Without Standards, Communication Is Not A Well-Managed Function
  • One of the hallmarks of effective communications is a “seat at the table” - part of decision making and sharing responsibility for results. Right now communicators in the civil service do not have a seat at the table. 
  • There are a huge variety of people charged with doing communications – federal employees (full- and part-time), term employees, contractors (onsite and offsite). 
  • The function is usually decentralized across agencies. 
Government vs. Private-Sector Communication: Much More Complex
  • More power struggles 
  • More pressure to respond to publics 
  • More legal constraints 
  • More media coverage 
Typical Problems Government Communicators Face
  • Expertise dismissed; being told by leaders that they aren't going to “dictate how I do my job” 
  • Poor enforcement of existing standards within an agency 
  • Unclear standards from agency to agency 
  • Absent a code of conduct, subject to arbitrary orders from senior leadership and the threat of being called “insubordinate” if they refuse to do something unethical 
  • Backlash over bad news; e.g. news clips that are deemed “offensive” 
  • Communicators not seen as urgently needed as versus other professionals (e.g. lawyers) 
  • Internal audiences don't take seriously the need to know your audience through fact-based analysis rather than by personal impressions, gut instinct, etc. 
  • Substituting a newsletter for real communication strategy 
  • Professional development path as a government communicator unclear 
  • Trust issues stemming from politics (e.g. having the TV channels changed from CNN to FOX and back; put the agency TV on C-SPAN instead) 
Standards or No Standards, These Approaches Work
  • Neutral, fact-based information distribution 
  • Communication vehicles that target users, not leadership talking to themselves 
  • Hiring dedicated communicators 
  • Centralizing the communications function – not allowing individual offices to “do their own thing” 
  • Communication standards placed in individual performance plans 
Communication Mechanisms Currently Known To Be Effective
  • Email delivery services for reaching a like-minded audience 
  • Social media for audience engagement 
  • Crowdsourcing and collaboration platforms 
  • Simple messages, broadcast widely with a link to more information (e.g. plasma TV monitors by the elevator with a link to fuller articles on the intranet) 
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All opinions my own.

The Antithesis Of "Spin Doctors"

The fact that government communications is ripe for abuse has undoubtedly contributed to trust levels in government that are at their lowest ever. While it is true that political corruption is chiefly responsible for public disillusionment (e.g. "Vietnam: The Loss Of American Innocence?") it is also true that outsized spending on federal public relations contracts, as well as propagandistic agency communications play a role. Though the Government Accountability Office has long recognized that appropriately used communication is one of the government's top five internal controls, the way in which federal communications has been abused is not just wrong, but has also turned its dedicated practitioners into a public joke.

At this time, fortunately, there are a number of efforts underway to remedy this situation. In the U.S. military, the nature and scope of the public affairs function has been codified. In the U.K., civil service communicators now have clear guidance as well. In the U.S., federal agencies and employees, including the Federal Communicators Network of which I am a part, are working to update and implement proper standards and prevent manipulation of statutory requirements that prohibit self-promotion and propaganda.

To give just one example, the General Services Administration has developed a short list of questions to be considered before requirements are written for advertising and marketing contracts. (Considering that we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, this is not a small advance.) These questions force the person writing the requirements to consider not only whether the proposed contract will violate the law, but also this crucial question: “Is the statement of work so broadly written that it could be interpreted to condone or encourage any of the activities described above? If the answer is yes, the statement of work/Request for Quotations is not yet ready for issuance.”

It is easy to be pessimistic about government; as citizens we are regularly cautioned not to trust it. As former British ambassador Craig Murray, who lost his job for speaking out about human rights abuses, once put it: "As a rule of thumb, if the government wants you to know it, it probably isn't true."

You can argue, as well, that a healthy distrust of government is not just good, but patriotic; with that I tend to agree.

But it is also true that we should not rest our laurels on the inevitability of alienation.

The fact of the matter is that we do have a country, a country needs a government, and as civil servants in particular we have a responsibility to help see to it that the government functions well.

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All opinions my own.