the latest from Joebloggers

Open Government, Illegals, FIS, Twitter & Astronomical Gas Prices

By Eric Margulies, VoterWatch Staff

This week’s edition of the Transparency Recap commences with the
implementation of a major step in the arena of governmental transparency. On
August 1st, The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of
2007
saw its first act of realization take place as information pertaining
to lawmakers’ assets, liabilities and lobby-related-expenditures and gifts were
posted on the House Clerk’s website.

However, a quick perusal of the disclosure database proves slow and somewhat
difficult to navigate given its complex interface. In addition, the files can
only be viewed in .PDF format meaning that for many who are without the software
required to open .PDF files, the information is lost. Dan Auble at the Capital
Eye Blog writes about the current flaws with the system of disclosure and how
the Center for Responsive Politics is already seeking to remedy them:

credit dolts

From one of citizenJoe's readers. Thought it was posting for all to see:

I'm sitting at a small used car dealership in North Carolina and it probably seems as far distant from the hustle and bustle of financial markets and Washington D.C. as one could get. Good! It is my personal belief that we have heard every story, from nearly every angle, every perspective and every political point of view out there until we quite frankly have had our fill. What about real people, real life, and actual experience to at least get a distant glance of real world life for the "common Joe?" I know that the polls and reviews are out there trying to do just that, but really now, how much can we really glean from them?

Here then, my current wonderings and comments. Today I am amazed by the young couple that just left my office. Here are there top three questions they asked that left my head aching:

#1 If we don't make our payments you're saying the bank can take our car?

#2 If we are late on our payments does it count against us?

#3 Nobody cares if we pay those credit cards do they?

More on Private Contracting

There has been a lot of recent concern about private contracting in Iraq; I have commented on it myself. While browsing the New York Times site a few days ago, I came across more, and not entirely what I was expecting. I don't know about you, but when I think about private contracting, I think of security agencies like Blackwater USA. But no: the subject of scrutiny is this time electrical contractors.

According to this article, there have been, "... at least 283 electrical fires [that] destroyed or damaged American military facilities," and this is just in the past six months; back in 2006, a fire at a base close to Tikrit resulted in the deaths of two soldiers. Soldiers have a lot to fear if they go to Iraq - they should have to worry about electrical outlets.

Nonpartisan Endorsements, an Unsafe Embassy, and the Ideological Divide

This week’s Transparency Recap opens with a Corruption Chronicles blog entry entitled “‘Nonpartisan’ La Raza Council Endorses Obama.” The National Council of La Raza was founded in 1968 in Washington D.C. as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. While the organization touts nonpartisan status, Judicial Watch (via its blog, the Corruption Chronicles) is charging partisan support for the presumed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. According to Corruption Chronicles:

“...La Raza President Janet Murguia stood by as Los Angeles’ renowned Chicano mayor (Antonio Villaraigosa) praised the Illinois senator during the group’s annual convention in San Diego. A former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman, Villaraigosa assured the crowd of thousands that Obama is Latinos’ best hope for reforming the nation’s federal immigration policies.”

the New Yorker's not offensive, but it is mindbogglingly daft

With the New Yorker's website crashing under the rage of liberals apopleptic over its current cover (for the two readers who haven't heard: Michelle and Barack dressed in Muslim terrorist garb), many Democrats and other Obama supporters will want to talk about how offensive the New Yorker is being - but rather than harping on its insensitivity, liberals should focus on the New Yorker's flat out half-brained idiocy.

The cover may be offensive, but saying so is not in the liberal tradition, which encourages freedom of expression, even - or especially - in the form of political satire.

What liberals are probably intuiting - if not saying outright - is that the cover is just plain stupid - that is, if the New Yorker has any desire to see Obama elected president, which presumably it does.

Any Republican strategist - and a growing number of Democratic political consultants - will tell you two things about campaigns: fear makes voters vote conservative and nothing evokes fear more than a picture (no matter what clever commentary it comes with).*

an election future's market?

If you think Wall Street knows how to bet on the future (and you'd have good reason this year to think not), you might be curious to see where it's putting its money in the current election cycle.

Open Secrets keeps track of how much candidates and their parties pull in from different industries each year (from individuals working in those industries, industry "PACs" that bundle money and - before 2002 - corporate and union "soft money"). Some industries are historically wedded to one party - lawyers love Dems and the oil industry can't get enough of Republicans - but Wall Street, it turns out, tends to vote for the winners.

Smart that; while it's good to keep in the good graces of all politicians and it is wise to get "your guys" in office, smartest yet is to always have the winners like you just a little more.

taxing internet's heavy users

Kevin Martin, the FCC Chairman who I have the smallest of crushes on - no, not because of his boyish good looks (which don't hurt), but because of his ability to partially satisfy and disatisfy the left and right at all times (the sign of a true moderate) - has done it again: proposed a lukewarm intervention that has no one thrilled or particularly upset.

He's going after Comcast, one of the internet's "pipelines," for intentionally slowing down customers from sharing mega-digital files - but with no guns ablaring (he's not proposing a fine). It looks like Comcast even knows that it did a no-no and has already pretty much caved.

Martin's cautious approach gives hope to "net neutrality" folk who think the web should remain an open highway - with users and providers freely exchanging digital bits without any interference of tolls or priviliged "fast lanes." 

do we really want democracy anyway?

As those readers who hastled cJ to annotate our "hey, it's your democracy too" line (see above right) will probably know, our founding fathers never had it in mind to turn the US into a democracy.

Indeed, the idea kind of scared them. Among the problems with pure democracy, "tyranny of the majority" - where 51% of us could vote to take away the rights of 49% of us or just generally drive the nation into a ditch - ranked high. Yet, today it's almost a default belief that "the more democracy the better."

Rick Shenkman, author of the at times lambasting but mostly just fun "Just How Stupid Are We?", tries to remind us that more democracy is not necessarily a good thing - especially when its people are easily taken in by political soundbytes and theatrics.

Telling "The People" that they're not smart enough to run the country (which, with the power of polling, we kind of do today) should be unpopular, but Shenkman's book is 19th on Amazon's political books' list, which suggests that some of us are willing to take a bracing look at our own ignorance.

you know it's hard out here for a record producer

That's not exactly the line from the improbably awesome film Hustle & Flow - a somewhat disneyfied story about a pimp and his, um, girls - but it's what came to mind when reading about the building battle between record producers and AM and FM radio stations.

After years of playing songs royalty-free, radio may have to start paying for the privilege - if the music makers can push their bill through Congress (which looks likely - if not this year then next).

There's a lot of silly talk about "fairness" and "closing loopholes" - but to this simple girl, it seems pretty obvious what's going on.

Once upon a time the music industry made their dough selling records - and advertising their songs over the radio. Rather than charge stations for playing their tunes, they often paid FM and AM to put their records on the air to boost sales (citation: Hustle & Flow and Ray, another darned good flic).

it's official: Mandela no longer a terrorist

If you're part of a group or political movement, word to the wise: try very hard to not get yourself list of terrorist organizations.

'Cause if you do, even showing the world you're really just trying to do some good by - like - ending apartheid in South Africa is no guarantee you'll get off any time soon.

Last week the president signed a bill, HR 5690, taking the African National Congress - the party that, yes, ended apartheid - off the US's official list of terrorist groups. You could say it's about time; the ANC has been the ruling party in South Africa since 1994 and, in spite of some of its funky ideas about AIDS, has been a role model of humanity and sound leadership for nations making the transition to democratic governance.