July 30, 2013 |
IT WAS JANUARY 2009, and the stars seemed to have aligned over Philadelphia, signaling what should have been a Golden Age of government transparency in our erstwhile corrupt-and-contented city. Pennsylvania's new Right-to-Know Law - with its key clause that all government records are presumed to be public - had just gone into effect. No longer must citizens prove why records should be available to the public. Under the strengthened law, government agencies must prove why not . And Philly had elected as mayor a reform-minded councilman, Michael Nutter, who was wrapping up his first year in Room 215. Open government is his thing.
July 15, 2013 |
When Houston was competing with a Brazilian city to be the site of a Japanese-owned plant, Houston could provide pertinent information about the educational attainments and other qualities of its workforce and the number of Japanese speakers in the area. The plant is in Texas partly because Houston had superior statistics, thanks to an inexpensive federal program currently under attack from some conservatives. They may not know that its pedigree traces to the Constitution's framers. These Enlightenment figures - rational, empirical, inquisitive - believed in the possibility of evidence-based improvements.
July 12, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - How much are your private conversations worth to the government? Turns out that it can be a lot, depending on the technology. In the era of intense government surveillance and secret court orders, a murky multimillion-dollar market has emerged. Paid for by U.S. tax dollars but with little public scrutiny, surveillance fees charged in secret by technology and phone companies can vary wildly. AT&T, for example, imposes a $325 "activation fee" for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge only about $250 per wiretap.
July 5, 2013
It's the Fourth of July, the day we celebrate our government's birth and those who made it possible - even as organizations with patriotic-sounding names urge Americans to treat that government as an enemy to be fought at every turn. Remember the right-wing credo "America, love it or leave it"? Today's tea-party conservatives heap so much criticism on Washington that you could be excused for thinking they're all booking passage to anywhere but the United States. Jul Thompson, a cofounder of Tea New York, quotes the Declaration of Independence's pronouncement that "it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish" any government destructive of "certain unalienable Rights," among them "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
June 27, 2013 |
Former President Bill Clinton called Tuesday for state governments to use the recent economic crisis as a teachable moment and consider overhauling their budgeting processes. Clinton gave the keynote address at a symposium on federalism at the National Constitution Center on Tuesday afternoon. Drawing on his 12-year tenure as governor of Arkansas, Clinton argued that budget shortfalls in capitals across the country highlight the need to question the fiscal relationship among the federal, state, and local governments.
June 26, 2013 |
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney is pushing to abolish the Rutgers University board of trustees, the larger of two boards that oversee the state university. A bill sponsored by Sweeney would transfer the powers of the 59 voting trustees to the university's 11-member board of governors. In an interview Monday, Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said the governing structure "is outdated and doesn't work. " He gave no examples of what had gone wrong under the two-board system - rare among universities, he said.
June 25, 2013 |
More signs of distress in China's economy and rising bond yields led to a broad sell-off in stocks Monday, leaving the market down 5.7 percent from its all-time high last month. It's the first pullback of 5 percent or more since November. U.S. trading started with a slump Monday. The market recovered much of its loss, then fell back toward steeper losses again. By the close of trading, the big stock indexes were clinging to modest gains for the second quarter. The last day of trading for the quarter is Friday.
June 19, 2013 |
THE FLURRY of revelations over the past few weeks by whistle-blower Edward Snowden about massive spying by the National Security Agency on American phone calls and some email traffic has done something many thought impossible - it exploded the partisan divide in U.S. politics. It's an issue that unites the likes of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and right-tilting libertarian Rand Paul as critics of the government, but joins conservative House Speaker John Boehner and liberal Dianne Feinstein as defenders of the established order, who believe that Snowden should be returned from Hong Kong and tried as "a traitor.
June 19, 2013
I SPENT SEVERAL days reading everything I could on the National Security Agency collecting phone records (not listening to calls, we think ), the Prism program plucking emails from servers (but only from overseas sources, we think ) and the noble or ignoble efforts of gender-confused Pfc. Manning Bradley and high-school dropout Edward Snowden to safeguard American rights ( we think ). I asked a lot of people what they thought - left, right, middle of the road - because privacy vs. security is a paramount issue of the day. It goes to how we define ourselves, how far we are willing to go to protect ourselves against our most dangerous enemy - radical Islam and the sharia-loving jihadis it spawns, foreign and domestic.
June 17, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - Current and former top U.S. officials yesterday defended the government's collection of phone and Internet data following new revelations about the secret surveillance programs, saying the operations were essential in disrupting terrorist plots and did not infringe on Americans' civil liberties. In interviews on Sunday talk shows, guests ranging from White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to former Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA and National Security Agency head Michael Hayden said the government's reliance on data collection from both Americans and foreign nationals was constitutional and carefully overseen by executive, legislative and court authorities.