12 February 2010

Initial State: 4 Castes, Many Tribes, A Wonk's View

For anyone trying to positively influence U.S. foreign policy, knowing the "caste" of the person you're talking to can make all the difference.  It also explains the why the State Department section of your rolodex changes so insanely often.  (more after the jump)

08 February 2010

Good News: It was a great year for transparency (video)

I think it's important to remember how far we've come in the past year.  The Sunlight Foundation does a great job at pushing transparency reforms on the national level, and assisting with local groups' efforts.  Here's a neat, short video listing last year's accomplishments.

05 February 2010

Grade Inflation Means the Terrorists Have Already Won. Performance Evaluations Matter.

Despite repeated unprofessional behavior documented by his bosses, those same bosses rated Hasan "outstanding" and "best qualified" just before graduating him and sending him to work at Walter Reed.  Just when you thought grade inflation was a victimless crime, there are 13 bodies at Fort Hood to prove you wrong... (more after the jump)

04 February 2010

See Jerry Run. See Jerry Win. See Jerry Govern. See Jerry Hide His Records. See Jerry Run Again.

Jerry BrownCalifornia is electing a new governor, this year.  Jerry Brown used to be governor of California.  The records of California governors are sealed for 50 years.  Jerry Brown helped pass and uphold that law.  Jerry Brown is running for governor, again, 25 years later.

Now, we can't get access to records of what Jerry Brown did the last time he was governor, without his written permission.

To put this in perspective, U.S. Presidents can seal parts of their records for at most 12 years after they leave office.

If Brown wins the Democratic nomination, I will likely vote for him and campaign for him, unless by some miracle we adopt instant-runoff voting.

See my head explode.

02 February 2010

Public records, you say? (delete) What public records?

San José officials have taken a definite step forward by opening up their personal phones and email accounts to scrutiny. But fear not, my lobbyist friends! They left themselves a tiny loophole just big enough to slip a delete button through.

San Jose City HallSan José's City Council has moved a step toward adopting regulations that require the mayor, the council members, and their staffs to "make messages about public matters that council members send or receive on such personal devices subject to disclosure, just like other official records." This is a real advance for local government, and local public officials elsewhere may be feeling a bit nervous. Personally, I would like to see regulations like this apply to all government officials.

But there's one big loophole that the City Council left for itself:

It does not require them to retain messages sent via a personal e-mail account or device for any length of time.

So, if you're in San José government, and you get an inconvenient text message from a lobbyist promising you a campaign donation in exchange for a particular vote, you can just hit •delete•, and your problems have disappeared. Legally.

The fact that this reform is novel just shows how dire the conditions are at the local level for the public's right to know.

[Edited for clarity.]