transparency

Transparency is the New Objectivity

Posted by E!! on July 22, 2009
blogosphere, Media Bias, New Media, transparency / No Comments
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For all you online media and blog and journalism geeks, this is an interesting post.

It resonates with me because I always click source links, read the “About,” and check to see who is paying the bills before I assess the “objectivity” of something I read online.

Do you?

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Compromise and Corruption

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In re: to this, the always-on-the-ball Victor Joecks at NPRI dropped us a comment with a link to a 2003 National Review story about David Keene, the ACU, and political advocacy groups trying to moonlight as lobbyists. (See here for my earlier post on the current ACU dust-up due to a leaked letter from FedEx.)

It is a sobering piece, and has me thinking about whether people and/or organizations can “do” both effective issues advocacy and paid lobbying while still maintaining philosophical-political integrity.

I suppose it is possible, but it seems to me they are best kept separate and that people ought to make a choice.  The temptation to bend and accept lobby money on a “lesser” issue while (rationalizing that) you are still right on all the “core” issues can be great and should not be underestimated. As is often said at round-table meetings where political purity is challenged by the need for operating cash, “You can’t change the world if you can’t pay the rent.”

Unfortunately, once one accepts even a little money for not-quite pure reasons, one has begun to compromise, which makes it that much more likely that the next time a trade-off presents itself, one will do it again.  And again.

The next thing you know, you end up like David Keene and the ACU:  wealthy, powerful, and part of the problem with politics and public policy debates in this country.  You no longer consistently stand on principle, and everything is for sale.

God forbid I ever find myself there.

We must resist the alluring song of those enchanting twin sirens, Money and Power, or in the end suffer our good ship to veer off course or be smashed to pieces on the rocks. The siren song is beautiful; but its end is always death.

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One, Two, Three, Four, Seven, Eight, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Twenty…

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Ernest Istook @ Heritage’s Foundry blog has a good post stating concerns about Obama’s new Census Czar and his methods.  Seems that Robert Groves supports “statistical sampling” even though the administration (officially, at least) does not.  This practice attempts to make “adjustments” for under-counted people by creating fictitious profiles and assigning them a zip code, gender, race, and so on.  And then it counts them, just as if they were being counted by a census worker.

The argument in favor of the method is that poor minorities and illegal immigrants are usually under-counted so census results are skewed.  The argument against is that assumptions and formulas can be wrong.  And that data can be manipulated.

Though I think this needs watching, it is good to note that the Supreme Court ruled (in 1999) that the census has to be an actual count, so there is current protection under the law on this issue.  Any attempt to incorporate statistical sampling into the census could be legally challenged.  And I assume would be.

Istook’s closing lines are winners:

As Joseph Stalin said, “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.”

And so could those who count the voters.

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Nevada + Transparency = Fail

Posted by E!! on June 26, 2009
transparency / No Comments
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Nevada is ranked 42nd and has an “F” in the Center for Public Integrity’s (CPI) legislative financial disclosure rankings.  You can read a summary here and see the state’s report card on legislative financial disclosure here.

(H/T:  Geoff Lawrence at the Nevada Policy Research Institute blog)

But transparency is about far more than elections bureau stats.  If you want to learn more about all the different ways government can be transparent from organizations who are already doing good work, go here for a list or go to the Sam Adams’ Alliance Sunshine site here.

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A Slow but Successful Public Records Search

Posted by E!! on April 10, 2009
transparency / No Comments
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Thomas Mitchell @ the LVRJ reports on his experience with an open records request down at the County.  He got what he wanted, but it’s a good thing he didn’t have a deadline.

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What He Said

Posted by E!! on April 10, 2009
transparency / No Comments
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Las Vegas Sun political analyst Jon Ralston nails one, but good.

I challenge you to read every single word.  Then, if you live in Nevada, take a moment to feel some deep-seated disgust at the passing of a neutered campaign finance disclosure bill that won’t even kick in until 2011.  Then contact your Assembly representative to demand that they give the bill’s balls back (and perhaps lend a pair to GOP Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, whose objections against the measure seem pretty wimpy).

And while you’re at it, contact Sec. of State Ross Miller’s office to suggest that they make online filing easier.  Chuck Muth said the following about the process as it exists now:

I have a PAC (political action committee) and once tried filing my [financial report] online.  And I gotta tell you, it was a royal pain in the you-know-what.  The process set up by the Secretary of State’s office is decidedly not user-friendly and is unduly complicated to navigate and complete.  No wonder so many candidates, PACs, and ballot advocacy groups opt to simply fill out the forms by hand.

Miller is on the right track pushing for online reporting, but he also needs to get his own house in order. It shouldn’t be too difficult to allow campaigns using, say, Quickbooks, to import the required information directly into the campaign reporting system at the SoS’s office instead of having to type it out separately a second time.

Timely online transparency should be a requirement not only for campaign finance reporting, but for all publicly funded agencies and organizations.  It’s something we can all agree on – or should.

Subject link:  Check out the Nevada Project at Sunshine Review.

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Sunshine Review Transparency Rankings

Posted by E!! on April 01, 2009
transparency / No Comments
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Sunshine Review, a wiki project that empowers citizens to share information with one another about their local government(s), has given every state a “transparency rating.”  The rating  is based on whether or not they have websites that provide transparency and how much information the website provides. 

Categories are:  budgets, public meeting minutes, permits and zoning, elected officials, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records, and taxes.

Arizona was #1.  Vermont was #50.  Nevada is #31.  Here are all the rankings:

http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/County_websites%2C_state-by-state_rankings#Comparison_of_county_websites_by_state

This and other similar projects are part of a grassroots push for full online transparency in every county across the nation.  I fully support the cause.

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