I had a disk crash and lost my MoveableType database... it's in the process of being restored from backups now but things may not be fully restored, since the disk had media errors that prevented successful daily backups for a few weeks, it looks like.
Let me know if you spot anything broken. Technology sucks.
First Clay Shirky suggests in an excellent piece that the Howard Dean campaign's exemplary use of the Internet (and social software) may have contributed to its disappointing showing in Iowa and New Hampshire. Then, Howard Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi, who was also the architect of Dean's Internet strategy, resigns (or is fired).
I guess political campaigns and the Internet have this much in common: instant feedback and near-instant reaction to that feedback. Let's just hope this doesn't diminish the perceived value of the kind of inclusive campaign Joe Trippi ran for Howard Dean.
The actions of al Qaida in its jihad against the United States
have measurably retarded the objectives that the organization
claims to pursue, as evidenced by the defeat of the Taliban
regime and continued U.S. military action in the region.
This assertion would be unremarkable, except that it is now
being advanced by leaders of the Egyptian Islamic Group,
al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, which itself is designated by the U.S.
State Department as a terrorist organization.
The Islamist critique of al Qaida appears in a new book,
reviewed and excerpted this week in the London Arabic newspaper
Asharq al Awsat.
See "Egyptian Islamist Leaders Fault Al Qaida's Strategy,"
Asharq al Awsat, January 11-12, 2004, translated by the CIA's
Foreign Broadcast Information Service, here:
This week Clark bares all and challenges other candidates to do the same. He chooses a rather unfortunate name: the "Online Reading Room." Like we're going to while away the time, with a cup of tea, reading financial records.
He also described his plan to reverse the trend toward closed, secret government. Here's a summary:
Establish an Openness Doctrine:
1. Restrict the assertion of executive privilege.
2. Eliminate secret task forces.
3. Disclose all meetings with special interests.
4. Require lobbyists to reveal more.
5. Use the Internet to make government transparent.
Reverse Bush Secrecy Policies:
1. End hiding of documents through classification extension and FOIA rollbacks.
2. End the stonewall of the investigation of September 11th and Bush's Energy Task Force.
The plan is here in more detail. Needless to say, this is a good thing.
Democratic Party members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee were surprised to learn that Republican Party staff members had been reading and sometimes leaking to the media their secret internal strategy memos. For over a year. (From the Boston Globe.)
A few months ago I wrote about Trust and Government. How do the people who work in our government expect their fellow citizens to trust their government, if they act unethically and show they can't even be trusted by their fellow staff?
Not only that, the people who thought this was ok were staff for senators who serve on the Judiciary Committee. Presumably these folks know a little bit about the law. Or at least they're supposed to. Even if their actions are not shown to be illegal once the investigation is complete, this behavior, for over a year, was clearly unethical.
And these are the people who are supposed to decide who gets appointed to federal courts. These are the people who choose our nation's most senior judges. Regardless of internal political struggles, these staffers should be setting a higher standard of ethics. They should be ashamed of themselves. And the United States Senators they work for, some of our most senior legislators, should also be ashamed.
Are they ashamed? Senator Orrin Hatch says he is "mortified." At least one staffer who may have been implicated is no longer with the Committee. That's the good news. The bad news? He got promoted: according to the article, he is now the "chief judicial nominee adviser in the Senate majority leader's office."
Now that's setting a higher standard for ethical behavior, and inspiring trust.
I've decided to support Wesley Clark for president. I'm registered as an independent, but I think Clark is the best candidate.
I'll probably have more to say about why I think we need a vigorous debate during this presidential campaign, and why I think our country needs a credible and effective challenger to President Bush. But for now, let me concentrate on why I think Clark is the best candidate.
Also last week, it emerged that the government ... has removed from the U.S. Agency for International Development Web site remarks by an administration official that had badly understated the cost of Iraqi reconstruction.
There are reasons why governments, including ours, should keep secrets. Obviously, clear interests of national security is a good reason. But the removal of previously public statements that turn out to be politically inconvenient doesn't sound like it's based on a good reason.
Our democracy depends on openness and equal access to information. If an official makes a mistake in a public statement, he should correct that mistake in a later statement. Going back and erasing the erroneous statement is absolutely the wrong thing to do. It reminds me of a scene from George Orwell's 1984 -- the government proclaiming, "Good news, the chocolate ration has increased this week," while in fact it had decreased -- but all record of the prior ration amount had been expunged.
It certainly doesn't enhance the credibility and trust that our government agencies need in order to operate effectively as our representatives.
The right thing to do in this case is for the agency to issue a statement explaining their action -- it could have been an innocent mistake. In that case, the agency should clarify its commitment to handling public statements in an appropriate, open manner.
This report from US News and World Report is worrisome. What do automotive tire safety ratings have to do with national security? Apparently someone thinks that they are related, since the tire safety data is now no longer available to the public. Neither is some public drinking water-quality data.
I haven't read the whole article yet, available here, but I will. Here's an excerpt from the summary:
New administrative initiatives have effectively placed off limits critical health and safety information potentially affecting millions of Americans. The information includes data on quality and vulnerability of drinking-water supplies, potential chemical hazards in communities, and safety of airline travel and others forms of transportation.
New administration policies have thwarted the ability of Congress to exercise its constitutional authority to monitor the executive branch and, in some cases, even to obtain basic information about its actions.
If true, this is what I would generally call "Not a Good Thing."