“... It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges..."
[John Schwartz, "As Jurors Turn to Web, Mistrials Are Popping Up," New York Times (03.17.2009)]
Unless a court is willing to impose the expensive, unpopular, and rare sequestration option, where jurors may be effectively relieved of their blackberries, iPhones, and other Web ready handheld devices, the notion of justice being blind and jurors withdrawing from all forms of public information (as a monk might do) seems ever more obsolete in the 24/7 full access world we live in today ...
The "Fair Copyright in Research Works Act" (H.R. 801) back and forth between bill sponsor Representative John Conyers and bill opponent Lawrence Lessig continues ... LESSIG - A Reply to Representative Conyers, 03.09.2009:
"This bill is nothing more than a "publishers' protection act." It is an awful step backwards for science -- as 33 Nobel Prize winners, the current and former head of the NIH, the American Library Association, and the Alliance for Taxpayer Access have all said. And Mr. Conyers knows this. Practically the identical bill was introduced in the last Congress. Mr. Conyers' committee held hearings on that bill. The "open access" community rallied to demonstrate that this publishers' bill was bad for science. Even some of the cosponsors of the bill admitted the bill was flawed. Yet after that full and fair hearing on this flawed bill, like Jason in Friday the 13th, the bill returned -- unchanged, as if nothing in the hundreds of reasons for why this bill was flawed mattered to the sponsors..."
On 02.24.2009, FGI "wholeheartedly and without reservation" endorsed the YES WE SCAN campaign of Carl Malamud for Public Printer of the United States. Mother Jones unequivocally endorsed Malamud one week later: "President Obama, Appoint Carl Malamud!" (Jonathan Stein | Mon March 2, 2009):
"Carl Malamud is a badass. If you are a techie or a transparency geek, you probably already know who he is. If you've never heard of him, he is an internet pioneer who has worked for decades, at times using renegade means, to make government information public. He fought to make the information in the SEC's "EDGAR" database free and public (which it now is) and is currently leading a similar fight over the court records database PACER. Today, Malamud has another campaign. He wants to become the Public Printer of the United States, i.e. the head of the Government Printing Office (GPO)..."
The Lede Blog, NYTimes.com, looks at Malamud's campaign in "Yes He Scan" (03.04.2009): "To show that he’s the people’s choice, Mr. Malamud is asking for support in the form of links to his site. So far he says he’s got more than 700 endorsements, like these tweets, and this blog post by Lawrence Lessig, which says, in part:
'I can’t imagine a more exciting appointment. Sometimes an agency needs STASIS. Sometimes it needs CHANGE. Gov’t tech is certainly in the second category, and no one I know of could more effectively deliver on the commitment to open government than he.'" [Lessig Blog | 02.27.2009]
Recommended reading: O'Reilly Radar - Bulk Data Downloads: A Breakthrough in Government Transparency by Tim O'Reilly (March 4, 2009):
"What would it mean if all the bulk data from the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, Government Printing Office, and "the appropriate entities of the House of Representatives" were made available?"
Here's an excerpt from the appropriations bill that's the focus of the post - "*Public Access to Legislative Data* - There is support for enhancing public access to legislative documents, bill status, summary information, and other legislative data through more direct methods such as bulk data downloads and other means of no-charge digital access to legislative databases..."
O'Reilly was especially struck by the possibilities embedded in that final passage - "bulk data downloads and other means of no-charge digital access to legislative databases" and the specific reference to agencies ...
Read the full Radar post here!
The appointment of Vivek Kundra to become the White House's "first federal chief information officer" caught my eye in a NYT Caucus alert:
As reported by The Caucus, The Politics and Government Blog of the Times [New York Times, Thursday, March 5th], "[i]n a 25-minute conference call, Mr. Kundra discussed some of his plans and interests, including his intention to extend the use of “cloud computing” in the federal government and to create a data.gov web site that will put vast amounts of government information into the public domain..." [emphasis added]
Perhaps Mr. Kundra meant to say he would make public domain government information more accessible to the people by publishing it freely in an open access government site.
The post continues, Mr. Kundra "sketched out an ambition that is hardly modest: to shatter the assumption that government technology automatically must lag behind the private sector...[H]e will be expected to oversee a push to expand uses of cutting-edge technology. He will have wide powers over federal technology spending, over information sharing between agencies, over greater public access to government information and over questions of security and privacy..." [emphasis added]
"Mr. Kundra ... likes to refer to citizens as “co-creators.”
Infoworld has an informative, brief article on cloud computing: Galen Gruman, Eric Knorr. What cloud computing really means: The next big trend sounds nebulous, but it's not so fuzzy when you view the value proposition from the perspective of IT professionals. Infoworld (April 07, 2008).
One of our favorite rss feeds, docuticker, identifies an interesting gov doc in a recent update - Budget of the United States Government — Fiscal Year 2010: The Budget Documents, A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America's Promise (OMB).
A New Era of Responsibility "... [p]rovides a description of the Obama Administration’s fiscal policies and major budgetary initiatives. This document is an overview of the full Fiscal Year 2010 Budget expected to be released this spring."
It is comprehensible in the way a well written commercial outline can distill an impenetrable appellate decision. In it, the President's Message begins:
"Throughout America’s history, there have been some years that appeared to roll into the next without much notice or fanfare. Budgets are proposed that offer some new programs or eliminate an initiative, but by and large continuity reigns. Then there are the years that come along once in a generation, when we look at where the country has been and recognize that we need a break from a troubled past, that the problems we face demand that we begin charting a new path. This is one of those years..."
There is an obvious transboundary need for free flowing, current foreign / international government information. This transboundary need reflects the nature of our most critical 21st Century challenges -- climate change, crime, trade, labour rights, poverty, hunger, etc. -- they know few hard geo-political boundaries.
So how can we know what's going on in our extended community of nations, better known as the Western Hemisphere?
Supra national sources of information like the United Nations and it's subsidiary regional commission ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) do what some of our finest U.S. government agency publications do -- they track the statistical universe of nations.
One of my favorite sources of free flowing, current foreign / international government information is UNPULSE, "Connecting to UN Information" (A Service of the UN Library).
UNPULSE links to the 2008 edition of the ECLAC's Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean, "... one of the main sources of statistical information of the region."
The full text of the report, published in English and Spanish, is divided into four chapters: "(1) Demographic and social areas, with special attention to gender; (2) Economical statistics such as prices, international trade, balance of payments and national accounts; (3) Information on natural resources and the environment; and, (4) Methodological aspects and other data on sources, definitions and coverage of the statistics cited."
About ECLAC: "ECLAC is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations. It was founded with the purpose of contributing to the economic development of Latin America, coordinating actions directed towards this end, and reinforcing economic ties among countries and with other nations of the world. The promotion of the region's social development was later included among its primary objectives..."
~ Free government information flowing south to north.
ACLU Blog of Rights Post [Familiar Story: CIA Destroys More Tapes] (March 2, 2009):
"Back in December 2007, we learned that the CIA had destroyed two videotapes depicting the "harsh interrogation" of two detainees in U.S. custody. This morning, we learned ... the CIA has actually destroyed 92 tapes. Those tapes are directly responsive to the ACLU’s October 2003 Freedom of Information Act request asking the government to release all documents and information pertaining to the treatment of detainees held in U.S. custody overseas."
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a remarkable tool. On Wednesday, January 21st, President Obama published a memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on the broad topic of FOIA at the White House Briefing Room:
"A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike..."
Thanks so much to the editors of FGI for allowing me the extreme pleasure of blogging this month! I understand March has come in like a [don't say it] lion in many parts of the eastern United States.
Well, its baseball weather here in Los Angeles and Orange Counties -- 70 degree temps with perhaps the slightest chance of rain imaginable...
Throughout this wonderful month, as the Dodgers and A's toil in Spring Training, I'll do my level best to keep the FGI blog well stocked with stories of government information from across jurisdictional boundaries.
It’s my pleasure!