The Canadian Government’s Translation Bureau recently made its French/English/Spanish technical terminology database, Termium, free to access after over a decade as a subscription-based service. While off-the-cuff translations are often available from free services like BabelFish, Termium focuses on technical terminology such as scientific, medical and legal terms. [more inside]
Against Transparency. "How could anyone be against transparency? Its virtues and its utilities seem so crushingly obvious. But I have increasingly come to worry that there is an error at the core of this unquestioned goodness. We are not thinking critically enough about where and when transparency works, and where and when it may lead to confusion, or to worse. And I fear that the inevitable success of this movement--if pursued alone, without any sensitivity to the full complexity of the idea of perfect openness--will inspire not reform, but disgust. The 'naked transparency movement,' as I will call it here, is not going to inspire change. It will simply push any faith in our political system over the cliff." [Via]
Missouri's lack of conflict of interest rules for its teachers' pension funds creates predictable problems [more inside]
What kind of health insurance would you have as a federal government employee? The Office of Personnel Management would like to help you decide among the gazillion plan choices you have. Perhaps you are a Congress member? Then head on down to the Attending Physician of the United States, "It's one of the, quote, benefits of being in Congress," Kagen said. "They have physicians and nurses that will see you on the spot, on the beck and call." (link to single page print version). [more inside]
Get This Rat a Lawyer! A recent target of right wing anger has been Obama administration "czars", a term used to denote appointed presidential advisers not subject to Senate approval. Opponents of "czars" were recently emboldened by the resignation of Anthony "Van" Jones, who served from March 16 to September 5, 2009 as Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. An additional target of the hunt for Obama's czars is Cass Sunstein, a constitutional-law professor at Harvard University, who was confirmed Thursday as the director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. [more inside]
Know Thy Congressman (an Apps for America Project of Sunlight Labs) provides a handy bookmarklet that lets you get a quick overview of Congresscritters that you might not be familiar with. The winners for Round Two of Apps for America (focusing on data.gov) were announced yesterday. [more inside]
Conservative Republican California State Assemblyman Michael Duvall (Orange County) didn't realize his mic was live, moments before the start of a legislative hearing this past July. So when the 54-year-old married father of two began describing his ongoing affairs with two different women in very graphic detail for the benefit of a colleague seated next to him, he had no idea that he was being recorded. The story was picked up by KCAL, who cited unnamed sources that said Duvall was describing affairs with two married lobbyists. [more inside]
How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? - The Great Recession was the result not only of lax regulation in Washington and reckless risk-taking on Wall Street but also of faulty theorizing in academia. Can economists learn from their mistakes? (via mr & ev) [more inside]
Japan -- Media Environment Open; State Looms Large (August 2009, PDF) [more inside]
Tax authorities using social networks to find tax cheats Yet another reason to be careful who you accept a friend request from.
Ever wanted a visual tally of the computers, personal data, and other property lost by or stolen from the US federal government? Presenting the Government Lost & Found Map, via OhMyGov!.
Healthcare reform has agitated right-wing extremists and moneyed interests in the United States for some time — during the presidencies of FDR and Truman as well as Clinton and Obama, most recently — but where do the objections originate from, and particularly those which are known to be based on complete untruths? Some of these lies start with or are repeated by well-known right-wing media personalities, but there are other people who get the ball rolling, who are perhaps less well-known. Elizabeth "Betsy" McCaughey originated one of the current myths more commonly known as "death panels", but despite her attempts to market herself as a folksy voice fighting for the well-being of senior citizens, she has been an effective advocate for the interests of private health insurance companies since the early 1990s. [more inside]
How American Health Care Killed My Father After the needless death of his father, the author, a business executive, began a personal exploration of a health-care industry that for years has delivered poor service and irregular quality at astonishingly high cost. It is a system, he argues, that is not worth preserving in anything like its current form. And the health-care reform now being contemplated will not fix it. Here’s a radical solution to an agonizing problem. (via mr) [more inside]
Abdelrahman Zeitoun is a Syrian American businessman who spent the days after Katrina paddling around New Orleans in a canoe, saving elderly people and feeding stranded pets. His efforts were brought to a halt when he was detained by the Bush administration on suspicion of being a terrorist. [more inside]
A group of 25 homeless Polish men are building a boat with the intention of sailing around the world. Meanwhile, over in the New World, around 80 Providence, R.I. homeless people have formed their own government.
The Daily Express reports on a UK Government Announcement to expand the use of Family Intervention Projects. However, the Daily Express exaggerates the report somewhat, the article stating (apparently wildly incorrectly) that the UK Government "plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV supervision in their own homes". Other reports in the UK press make no mention of CCTV. Nonetheless, the alarmist Express article is widely picked up and discussed on the internet, pushing many people past 10 on the Orwellometer. Then Mefite FfejL uses Twitter to ask Ed Balls, the minister responsible, if the CCTV aspect of the Express article is accurate. [more inside]
Why bureaucracy, like gas, fills up all available space. From the archive of The Economist, 1955 [via ArchiveDigger.]
Kōfuku-no-Kagaku (幸福の科学), also called Happy Science, is a relatively new religious and spiritual movement, founded in Japan in October 1986. The organization is gaining ground world-wide, with the international headquarter office in central Tokyo, 6 local temples located in London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seoul and Taiwan, and an additional 37 local offices around the world. The group's leader, Master Ryuho Okawa, has is not limiting the scope of the movement to politics, and in May 2009 the Happiness Realization Party was formed, with over 300 HRP candidates running for the coming general election. To provide background on the religion and political movement, here is a little investigation of Happy Science by MeFi's own shii [via mefi projects] [more inside]
Rebuilding Something Better by Barack Obama: "this week, I'll be talking about how we give our workers the skills they need to compete... Part of this goal will be met by helping Americans better afford a college education. But part of it will also be strengthening our network of community colleges..." [more inside]
Paul Romer: A Theory of History, with an Application - "His economic theory of history explains phenomena such as the constant improvement of the human standard of living by looking primarily at just two forms of innovative ideas: technology and rules." (previously, via) [more inside]
Overly confident in the economic health of the United States? Feeling sanguine about current spending levels? Haven't yet been scared out of your wits about your financial future? No worries! The U.S. National Debt Clock page is for you! Your one stop shop for all things financial meltdown related: Total debt, debt per citizen, budget deficits and spending year-to-date, total governmental bailouts, and much much more!
Prelude to Federation - Like a neocolonial SEZ (or TAZ) Paul Romer, not to be confused with David, posits "less developed countries contract with capitalist nations to set up Hong Kong's for them... that we rethink sovereignty (respect borders, but maybe import administrative control); rethink citizenship (support residency, but maybe import voice in political affairs); and rethink scale (instead of focusing on nations, focus on cities—on city states like Hong Kong and Singapore)." cf. neocameralism [1, 2, 3] [more inside]
Limited Purpose Banking -- for lending, investing, etc. -- Turn all financial firms into mutual funds: "All mutual funds would break the buck with one exception: cash mutual funds. These funds would strictly hold cash and be valued at $1 per share. Owners of these funds would write checks against their balances and never have to worry about a bank run. Fractional reserve banking and the FDIC would be history." [previously] [more inside]
Keynes & Marx thought "that productivity would grow sufficiently to allow our needs to be met with very little labour," and that humankind's biggest preoccupation in the future would be leading lives of comfortable (or comparative) leisure. Obviously, that has not yet come to pass. But why?** Yochai Benkler (previously), for one, is working on it... [more inside]
Ting-Yi Oei is an assistant principal in Virginia who was indicted for possession of child pornography. Today, he describes his year-long fight against the charges, which ended in dismissal.
London police are now deleting tourists' photos because "photographing anything to do with transport is strictly forbidden."
After two years of work of collecting, scanning, and tagging, the Government Comics Collection at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln library has gone live. This digital collection features "comic books affiliated with state and federal U.S. government agencies, as well as the UN and the EU (and a couple from Canada and one from Ghana)" and includes comics and art by Will Eisner, Scott Adams, Hank Ketcham ("Dennis the Menace Takes a Poke at Poison"), and more. [more inside]
"The Lighter Side of Pain: What’s Up with Our Global Economy" with P.J. O'Rourke. The keynote talk at the annual Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar at Washington & Lee University. Prefaced by some rambling remarks by Tom Wolfe '51 himself.
The US Food and Drug Administration started regulating the labeling of food, beverages, and medicines after the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, and added food coloring and cosmetics with the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. They have just released a new website, the FDA Notices of Judgment Collection, 1906-1963, containing data from thousands of cases of mislabeled or misadvertised products and drugs, available in multiple forms (text, PDF, metadata XML, .TIF image, etc.), with searchable archives. Poking around in the data will yield information on cases ranging from misbranding methamphetamine tablets, to quack "Film-O-Sonic" devices, to bacteria-laden unproven abortifacients sold over the counter, to purported "4-way" cures for baldness, to hunks of radium sold for putting in your drinking water to "stimulate the sex organs" (judged against for stating an unproven use, not for actual danger of product). Organized by the FDA's history office, the new database is a fascinating resource for historians, public safety advocates, researchers, and librarians.
OpenForQuestions at WhiteHouse.gov is asking you to vote for the questions you want Obama to address Thursday night. Like digg, but more governmentally.
WikiLeaks: every current Congressional Research Service report in a Torrent (2.2 GB). h/t Jessamyn's twitter. Americans spend $100 million a year on the Congressional Research Service, a private think tank for members of Congress and their staffs. While technically available to the public, their reports were never posted on the Internet by the government. [more inside]
The OMB has a blog (feed) -- Peter Orszag started one at CBO (still going under Douglas Elmendorf née Bob Sunshine) and carried blogging over to the White House. The Atlanta Fed has one too (not to be confused with Macro Man). David Altig unofficially began it as an economist at the Cleveland Fed and then, when he became research director in Atlanta, made it official (altho still hosted on TypePad). Are there any other (federal/state/local/non-US) worthwhile government blogs (wikis sure) out there from our shiny new iPod gov't? cf. DoD live (check out the other service blogs, e.g.)/air force live & USAgov on twitter
The Essential Parallel Between Science and Democracy. "[T]he restorative steps Obama has taken vis-à-vis science are praiseworthy not so much because they respect science as because they respect the grand institutions of democracy. This is no accident, because the very virtues that make democracy work are also those that make science work: a commitment to reason and transparency, an openness to critical scrutiny, a skepticism toward claims that too neatly support reigning values, a willingness to listen to countervailing opinions, a readiness to admit uncertainty and ignorance, and a respect for evidence gathered according to the sanctioned best practices of the moment."
Simon Johnson on Bill Moyers  (and, prolifically, making the public media rounds on npr ) tackling the bailout of the American Oligarchs, a.k.a. banksters... [more inside]
Infrastructurist. Although the blog is only a few days old, they've already debunked some of the myths of 24, interviewed Michael Dukakis, and grappled with Amtrak economics.
The Bad Bank Assets Proposal: Even Worse Than You Imagined -- the administration appears intent on building another black swan. This is political capitalism. [via]
The Right to Walk Away Has panarchist thinking finally come of age in 2009? With world leaders of big governments failing to find any new solutions to old problems, should we have the right to walk away from those governments?
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank gave a bank, whose capital ratio equaled only 1.88% of assets at the bank, versus a desired level of about 6%, TARP money after heavy lobbying. Frank inserted into the bill a provision to give special consideration to banks that had less than $1 billion of assets, had been well-capitalized as of June 30, served low- and moderate-income areas, and had taken a capital hit in the federal seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (WSJ link) [more inside]
Oh those vaunted "first 100 days," they are finally upon us. Roosevelt's legendary time period has long been applied to new administrations, but never so emphatically or with such hope as to the Obama administration. And now you can follow them! For commentary, there's The First 100 Days, for mainstream media there's Obama's First 100 Days, for a comparison between old and new there 100 Days: Starting the Job, From FDR to Obama, for new media there's Obama's First 100 Days, and finally, for a government perspective there's First 100 Days. I smell an idea for an ironic t-shirt...
UK MPs trying to block publishing their expenses - they're voting on Thursday to overturn last year's High Court ruling. TheyWorkForYou is emailing members to let them know that the UK government buried the news of this vote amongst last week's Heathrow runway anouncement. They are trying to reverse the 16 May 2008 High Court decision that MPs' expenses must, under the Freedom Of Information Act, be made public. What can you do about this mixture of Jo Moore and Krusty? [more inside]
Perhaps something of an oddity in Chicago machine politics [I like to think in the spirit of Sean Tevis] Tom Geoghegan (pronounced "gay-gun") is running in a special election -- primary March 3rd and (hope me :) general April 7th -- for Rahm Emanuel's vacated 5th district Illinois seat. [more inside]
2009 U.S. government wall calendar pdfs! We already hit the counterterrorism calendar, so let's look at the wall calendar pdfs for Biosecurity for Birds, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, and Private Lands. We've got funky green and blue monochrome. There's a brief one from the CDC and one that overdoes it a tad from NOAA. Finally, one from the International Space Station and my favorite, the Overseas Security Advisory Council's A-OK Kids Safety Calendar (2.6 megs). A preview of March's drawing by 3rd grader Roxane Kokka with someone impaled on a tree will make sure you always ware your seat belt.
President Obama's plan for American Recovery and Reinvestment [pdf] might be thought of as TARP round two [1,2] -- instead of hiding the bodies, this one's preparing the ground for a big tent or the economic equivalent of war. There are critics and detractors (cramdown nation ;) left and right, natch, but also conservative supporters and progressive defenders to save or create
three four million jobs; hooray! [more inside]