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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Understand the New ("Broadcast") Media Revolution in One Easy Read

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine has lately been doing segments for CBS and ABC. In the process, he spotlights one of the factors driving the explosion of New Media and the decline of old broadcast news media - simple logistics.

Nearly two dozen people were required to produce a Jarvis segment for CBS News that may never be aired. Jarvis went home and produced the same script by himself with equipment he operates:

"At home, I took the exact same script and with some photos to illustrate my points and produced the segment alone, in my den, on two programs: iMovie and VideoCue, a Mac competitor to Visual Communicator, which gives you a teleprompter and the ability to drag-and-drop graphics, lower thirds, photos, audio, or video onto your script so the’re all recorded along with you (no need for editing)."

Video picture and sound quality from such equipment is bound to improve and quickly. It is only a matter of time before the Blogosphere evolves video and text-based news and opinion sites that put broadcast news in a news niche analogous to that of the big American family sedan in the automotive world.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Does Oberstar Read the Newspaper?

Anybody who doubts that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty need look no further than the U.S. House of Representatives and Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, who cleverly took advantage of a House rule to slip an anonymous earmark worth $11.5 million into the Coast Guard appropriation bill.

But wait a minute, didn't the House just adopt a new rule requiring the names of earmark sponsors be made public? True and Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters explains how Oberstar got around that new rule. It's why he's earned the Porkbusters Shame Frame you see with this post.

A fervent discussion ensued on the House floor last night between Oberstar and Rep. Jeff Flake, R-AZ. Flake was understandably ticked that the ink was barely dry on that new House rule mandating identification of earmarks sponsors before Members were looking for ways to get around it. Andy Roth at Club for Growth has the video here of a hemming and hawing Oberstar trying to explain why black is not black, it's actually white.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

O Happy Day! Bush Signs Coburn-Obama; Lauds Government Transparency in Signing

Photo by Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit. Tim Chapman has more photos here. White House video of the signing can be viewed here. Americans for Prosperity's Ed Frank has a great shot here. Rob Bluey of Human Events has more here, including a photo of the group that met with OMB Deputy Director Clay Johnson after the signing to discuss how the spending datbase will actually be created in the next two years. N.Z. Bear at Porkbusters.org has more here and Ace of Spades does a stream of (sort of) consciousness account of his role in the day's events, beginning with a breakfast at the White House mess.

Do not miss Danny Glover's extensive analysis at Beltway Blogroll. He notes some of the backstory elements to some of the congressional statements about the Bush signing. And Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist justifiably singles out Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, N.Z. Bear of Porkbusters, Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters and other bloggers for their role in mobilizing public support. And Mary Katharine Ham points to the one surprising oversight by the White House.

Here's the text of President Bush's signing statement for the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act this morning in the Old Executive Office Building beside the White House:

"Every April, Americans sit down and fill out their tax returns, and they find out how much of their hard-earned money is coming here to Washington. Once the tax dollars arrive here, most Americans have little idea of where the money goes. And today, our government is taking steps to change that. We believe that the more we inform our American citizens, the better our government will be.

"And so in a few moments, I'll sign the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. This bill is going to create a website that will list the federal government's grants and contracts. It's going to be a website that the average citizen can access and use. It will allow Americans to log onto the Internet just to see how your money is being spent. This bill will increase accountability and reduce incentives for wasteful spending. I am proud to sign it into law and I am proud to be with members of both political parties who worked hard to get this bill to my desk.

"This has been a good effort by concerned members of the House and the Senate to say to the American people, we want to earn your trust; when we spend your money, we want you to be able to watch us.

"I want to thank Rob Portman, who is in my Cabinet, he's the Director of the OMB, and my good friend, Clay Johnson, is the Deputy Director, for insisting on accountability when it comes to taxpayers' money. I know this has been a particular project -- a fond project of Clay, and I'm glad that members of Congress got it here.

"I want to thank Susan Collins, who is the Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. I want to thank the bill sponsors, Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, Tom Carper from Delaware, and Barack Obama from Illinois.

"I appreciate Roy Blunt, who is the Majority Whip. He's a sponsor of the House companion bill. I also want to thank Tom Davis, who is the Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, as well as cosponsors of the bill, Jeb Hensarling and Randy Kuhl.

"You know, we spend a lot of time and a lot of effort collecting your money, and we should show the same amount of effort in reporting how we spend it. Every year, the federal government issues more than $400 billion in grants, and more than $300 billion in contracts to corporations, associations, and state and local governments. Taxpayers have a right to know where that money is going, and you have a right to know whether or not you're getting value for your money.

"Under Clay's leadership, we launched a new system for measuring how federal programs are doing. In other words, federal programs say, we want to achieve this result, we're trying to figure out whether or not they're meeting the results. In other words, it makes sense for all of us in Washington, D.C. to say, we're a results-oriented government.

"I know Henry Waxman believes that. (Laughter.) Thank you for coming. Proud you're here, sir. I was just praising the bipartisan support that this bill has received, and you’re confirmation of that bipartisan support. (Laughter.) Thank you, appreciate you coming.

"And so we've got -- we're measuring, and we put a -- we put a website out called ExpectMore.gov. In other words, people can go on to that website and determine whether or not the results are being met for programs.

"And now Congress has come forth with an additional sense of accountability here in Washington, additional way for taxpayers to figure out whether or not we're being wise with your money. And the Federal Funding Accountability Act -- Accountability and Transparency Act will create a new website that will list government grants and contracts greater than $25,000. We'll list all grants except for those above $25,000, except for those that must remain classified for national security reasons.

"The website will allow our citizens to go online, type in the name of any company, association, or state or locality and find out exactly what grants and contracts they've been awarded. It will allow citizens to call up the name and location of entities receiving federal funds, and will provide them with the purpose of the funding, the amount of money provided, the agency providing the funding and other relevant information.

"By allowing Americans to Google their tax dollars, this new law will help taxpayers demand greater fiscal discipline. In other words, we're arming our fellow citizens with the information that will enable them to demand we do a better job -- a better job in the executive branch and better job in the legislative branch.

"Information on earmarks will no longer be hidden deep in the pages of a federal budget bill, but just a few clicks away. This legislation will give the American people a new tool to hold their government accountable for spending decisions. When those decisions are made in broad daylight, they will be wiser and they will be more restrained. This is a good piece of legislation, and I congratulate the members here.

"Recently the House made an important rule change that will also improve transparency in the legislative process. Under the rule change, the sponsor of each project will now be disclosed before the bills come to a vote. This is a wise change. It will shine the light on earmarks. It's going to help the American taxpayers know whether or not they're getting their money's worth here in Washington.

"Rule change, along with the bill I'll sign today, are important steps, but there's more to be done. The President needs a line-item veto. Here's the problem: I get a big bill, an important bill to my desk, and in that bill there may be some bad spending items, some kind of last minute cram-ins, or items that may not have seen the full light of day during the legislative process. I then either have to accept those, or veto a good bill. And there's a better way forward, at least the House thought there was a better way forward in the legislative process, and that's the line-item veto.

"Under the proposal, the President can approve spending that is necessary, red-line spending that is not, and send the wasteful and unnecessary spending back to the Congress for an up or down vote. I think this is an important part of making sure we have accountability here in Washington, D. C.

"I want to thank the House for passing the bill. I would hope the Senate would take it up. We can work together to inspire confidence in the appropriations process here in Washington. And it's in the interest of both political parties to do so, and it's in the interest of both branches of government to do so.

"Right now, however, I have the honor of signing this new bill. It’s a bill that empowers the American taxpayer, the American citizen. And we believe that the more transparency there is in the system, the better the system functions on behalf of the American people.

"Again, I thank the members. It’s my honor now to sign the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006."

UPDATE: White House talking points on FFATA

We hear the term "talking points" frequently in the media and the Blogosphere. Here's the White House talking points for today's signing of Coburn-Obama.

Today's Presidential Action

Today, President Bush Signed The Federal Funding Accountability And Transparency Act Of 2006 To Improve The Quality And Accessibility Of Information About Federal Spending. This legislation calls on the Office of Management and Budget to oversee a new website through which the public can readily access information about grants and contracts provided by Federal government agencies, except for those classified for national security reasons.

Ø The Act Is Part Of President Bush's Ongoing Commitment To Improve Transparency, Accountability, And Management Across The Federal Government. The Administration has implemented a number of initiatives allowing American taxpayers to see how their tax dollars are spent and what they are getting for their money. Greater transparency has made programs more accountable for their performance and more responsive to the American public. Two of these initiatives include:

· ExpectMore.gov: This website was established earlier this year to allow the American people to see how well Federal programs are performing. To date, the Administration has evaluated the effectiveness of nearly 800 Federal programs, representing over 80 percent of the Federal budget. Agencies and OMB post these candid assessments of Federal programs in jargon-free language on ExpectMore.gov, so taxpayers will know which programs work, which ones do not, and what programs are doing to improve.

· Results.gov: Since 2002, this website has provided detailed information on the President's agenda for improving Federal agency management. It also tracks agencies' progress in meeting their goals. Federal agencies are held accountable for developing and adopting better management disciplines under the President's Management Agenda. The status of agencies' management reform efforts is made public through scorecards updated on Results.gov every quarter.

Transparency Produces Quantifiable Results

The President's Push To Publicly Provide Federal Program Performance Information Has Helped Make Agencies Accountable For Producing Results. Agency management improvement efforts are measured based on clear, transparent, quantifiable goals. For example:

Ø With The Support Of Congress, And After Publicly Disclosing Clear Justification, The President Was Successful In Reducing Or Ending Spending On 89 Programs That Weren't Getting Results Or Serving Essential Priorities. This year, the President proposes to end or reduce 141 programs that are not achieving results or serving essential priorities, saving nearly $15 billion.

Ø By Making Agencies Verify Payment Eligibility And Publicly Measure Accuracy, Improper Payments Have Been Reduced By $7.8 Billion, Lowering The Government-Wide Improper Payment Rate By 17 Percent.

Ø By Subjecting Federal Government Activities To Competition From The Private Sector, The Federal Government Is Now Operating More Efficiently And Saving Taxpayers $900 Million Per Year.

Ø By Creating An Inventory Of Property Held By The Federal Government, The President Has Been Able To Dispose Of More Than $3.5 Billion In Unneeded Federal Assets.

Transparency And Accountability For Spending Taxpayer Dollars – The Line Item Veto

In Order To Turn Information About Wasteful Spending Into Concrete Action, The President Needs The Line Item Veto. The House of Representatives approved Line Item Veto legislation earlier this year by a strong bipartisan majority, and the President calls on the Senate to do the same. The Line Item Veto would be a tool to further improve government transparency and accountability and ensure wise financial stewardship of taxpayer resources.

Here's my original post from this morning before the signing:

President Bush will sign into law the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-MD, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, this morning in a White House ceremony that will include a bunch of us bloggers as guests.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, N.Z. Bear of Porkbusters.org, yours truly and a bunch of others will be there to witness an historic event. John Hart, Coburn's communications director, notes in a Washington Times news article of Coburn-Obama that:

"It really does represent a revival of basic democratic values: that active citizens using tools of technology really can steer the political process. And what happened was profoundly subversive to the established political order."

That last line is exactly the point. The mainstream media has not devoted much attention to Coburn-Obama, but I believe it will prove in the near-future to be among the most important legislation of the early 21st Century.

Senate Panel Approves Cornyn-Leahy FOIA Reform

It received virtually no notice in the major outlets of the mainstream media and I have to confess I didn't even know it was on the panel's calendar but the Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved on a voice vote the Open Government Act sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT.

Cornyn-Leahy was first introduced in 2002 and provides the most comprehensive reforms ever of the 1966 Freedom of Information Act. Among other things, Cornyn-Leahy provides concrete penalties for individual federal employees and agencies that violate the FOIA and establishes an independent panel to monitor agency compliance and moderate disputes between requestors and agencies.

The measure also grants bloggers the same public interest fee waiver rights as are now enjoyed by mainstream media requestors and strengthens oversight of a Department of Homeland Security program that exempts information voluntarily provided to the government by corporations involved in security activities.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Todd Platts, R-PA and is now in the House Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA. I have testified before both the Senate and House in favor of Cornyn-Leahy. You can read that testimony here and here.

Government Executive magazine reports here on last week's Senate vote.

Looks Like Drudge Has Been Hacked

Yet another illustration of how the PC forces demonstrate their commitment to free speech.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

LaShawn Barber Live-Blogging from Traditional Values Conference

It was just a decade ago that President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act - bet you didn't remember that he signed that one, did you! - and this weekend is the Values Voter Summit hosted by the Family Research Council at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C. LaShawn Barber is live-blogging the event.

Considering the key role of values voter in the GOP's prospects for retaining control of the House and Senate - to say nothing of the White House in two years - it is not surprising that among the speakers has been Tony Snow. LaShawn has also reported on speeches by Gary Bauer and Ann Coulter. Lots going on here and LaShawn is a meticulous observer of the important details.

She says she is the only blogger attending who is actually live-blogging the summit. Very curious. I understand from LaShawn that Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost is FRC's new communications director, so I assume he didn't have sufficient time to promote the event to the Christian and conservative communities of the Blogosphere. You can be sure that will change with Joe on board!

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Prescient 2003 Column on CRS Access

Sylvia Smith has covered the nation's capitol for the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette for a lot of years and she has seen a lot of politicians and promises come and go. She wrote the following column Aug. 8, 2003, on the lack of public access to Congressional Research Service reports.

Smith's column makes clear both why taxpayers should have access to at least most CRS reports and the fact one Member of Congress can unilaterally make a difference for the public's right to know how its business is being conducted:

WASHINGTON -- Not long after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Sen. Richard Lugar was working on a document that eventually became known as the Lugar Doctrine, which outlined his view on the tack U.S. foreign policy should take in our heightened awareness of weapons of mass destruction.
One of the things he wanted to know, as he worked on the paper, was which countries have both terrorists cells and weapons of mass destruction.
It's not the sort of thing you can look up in the World Book Encyclopedia, and the Pentagon was reluctant to commit itself.
But when Lugar's staff asked the Congressional Research Service, its researchers were able to develop the lists.
"It was maybe the most scholarly overlay ever done," said Lugar's press secretary, Andy Fisher.
Over the years, Lugar's office has relied on the Congressional Research Service countless times, as have all members of Congress, their staffs and the congressional committees.
The Congressional Research Service provides the best, most clearly written, least slanted information about public policy issues to be had in Washington - which is to say, in the world.
But if you call the CRS, you won't get a single word of a single report.
The Congressional Research Service was created almost a century ago by and for Congress for its own edification. Until Congress says it can share its myriad reports (from abortion to the World Trade Organization), CRS is a closed shop.
The fact that you and I and our taxpaying neighbors pony up to the tune of about $75 million a year for these top-notch researchers is irrelevant. It is not a publicly available resource.
That's a ridiculous situation. Like most ridiculous situations, it can be gotten around.
The first way is to pay $299 a year to subscribe to a for-profit organization that then sells individual CRS reports for $7.95 a pop. (It's $29.95 for non-subscribers.) Penny Hill Press's Web site doesn't happen to mention how it gets the reports.
The drawback to this approach is the cost and the absurdity of paying twice for something.
The second is to ask a member of Congress for a report. Most people don't know the Congressional Research Service exists, let alone that a call to a House or Senate office will yield results.
But it will. Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, for instance, gets a couple of constituent requests each year for CRS reports. Lugar gets a few each month.
The flaws in this approach are that you have to know the report exists (although most public policy topics are covered), there's a time element involved, and maybe you don't want a member of the government knowing what you're interested in.
The third way to scale the CRS castle wall is to take advantage of the offer made by a Wisconsin Republican who thinks taxpayers ought to be able to use what they pay for.
So Rep. Mark Green's Web page has a link to the Congressional Research Service's various reports.
A click or two, and you can learn all you'd ever want to know about daylight-saving time, Ecstasy (the drug), countercyclical assistance for farmers, Internet gambling, the labor issues involved in the U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement, state laws on human cloning, Plan Colombia or the next excuse for a party. (It's National Airborne Day, Aug. 16. I know that from the report called "Commemorative Observances: A Chronological List.")
A link Green has on his Web page (www. house.gov/markgreen) goes directly to the list of CRS reports.
It's the intragovernment link available to anyone hooked in to a congressional computer system, but that excludes the taxpaying public.
Green's Web page is essentially a conduit between the treasure trove of information and the people who paid for it.
There are no down sides to this approach except to politicians.
Say you want the background on the African Development Bank and Fund and ask your member of Congress to help. Some staffer will get the CRS report, put it in the mail to you (or e-mail it if you've e-mailed your query) and include a letter from said member of Congress saying it was a pleasure to assist, and write any time.
You, of course, will be most grateful and perhaps will keep this in mind when Election Day rolls around.
"If you're that hard up to get constituent appreciation, you have deeper problems than whether or not a CRS report is on your Web site," Green said.
None of the Hoosier congressional delegation has followed Green's leadership. If we're lucky, perhaps they will.

A 30-year veteran of The Journal Gazette, Sylvia Smith has covered Washington for 14 years. She is the only Washington-based reporter who exclusively covers northeast Indiana.

Thanks to Sylvia for pointing this column out to me earlier today. See, I have friends in high places!

Bill Hobbs: Why Not Make Congressional Research Service Reports Public?

Bill Hobbs notes that taxpayers spend more than $100 million annually for research produced for Members of Congress by the Congressional Research Service and wonders why that research is not made available to the public.

Good question. A significant amount of CRS's work is done on defense and intelligence issues, but most of it is routine analyses of domestic and foreign policy issues and programs. Only Members of Congress can request the services of CRS, which is a congressional branch agency.

Hobbs notes a campaign is being mounted by the Center for Democracy and Technology to make CRS material public. Go here to read Hobbs' complete post and to find out more about the campaign.

Edsall of The Washington Post Says Mainstream Media Bias is Deeply Liberal

Thomas Edsall is retiring later this year as The Washington Post's senior political correspondent. When he sat down with Hugh Hewitt for a radio chat yesterday, what followed was one of the most brutally candid discussions ever about the Mainstream Media and its deeply ingrained liberal biases.

Here's just one exchange, to give you an idea of how Edsall pulled no punches:

"HH: Is there any big name political reporter, and you know them all, Thomas Edsall. That's why your book, "Building Red America," is getting read left and right. Are there any of them who are conservative?

"TE: Big name political reporter?

"HH: Right.

"TE: Jim Vandehei of The Washington Post.

"HH: Think he's voted for Republicans for president?

"TE: Yes, I think he has. I don't know, because he’s never told me. But I would think he has.

"HH: And so, of those sorts … and he's a very fine reporter.

"TE: He is.

"HH: He probably is a Republican. But given that number of reporters out there, is it ten to one Democrat to Republican? Twenty to one Democrat to Republican?

"TE: It's probably in the range of 15-25:1 Democrat."

Go here to read it. And, as Glenn Reynolds says, just keep scrolling.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Boycott Chavez' Citgo

Dear Citgo:

Every morning and evening, I drive more than 50 miles to and from work. That means twice or sometimes three times each week, I need to fill up. There is a Citgo/High's Store conveniently located about seven miles from my house on my route. That's almost always where I stop to fill up.

Never again.

UPDATE: CITGO Boycott momentum growing

GOP and the City is where I found the wonderful logo above. The Man there is tracking bloggers picking up on the Chavez-Citgo Boycott and posting additional logos like the praying Chavez. You think maybe he's praying Americans don't get a gutful of him and stop buying his gas?

Note to The Man: Sorry about the tardy credit and thanks for helping lead the response to the lunatic rantings of Chavez, who obviously expects to succeed Fidel Castro as the Southern Hemisphere's most visible despot.

UPDATE II: Captain likes boycott

Captain's Quarters Ed Morrissey normally isn't a fan of economic boycotts, but Chavez was so insulting to America and Americans that:

"However, in this case, it's not a protest about gas prices in general but against a business owner (Chavez) who went out of his way to personally insult our Head of State, from which all Americans should take offense. For me, BP Amoco and SuperAmerica look better and better all the time."

We don't have SuperAmericas in Maryland, at least not where I live, but we do have lots and lots of alternatives to Citgo.

UPDATE III: Here are the American-owned stations

Chevron American
Coastal American
Conoco American
Esso American
Exxon American
Gas Express American
Getty American
Gulf American
Hess American
Kerr-McGee American
Marathon American
Martin American
Mobil American
Murphy USA American
Pate American
Petro American
Phillips 66 American
Sergaz American
Sinclair American
Sonoco American
Spur American
Star Kleen American
STP Fuel Centers American
Sunoco American
Tenneco American
Texaco American
Ultramar American
Union 76 American
Zephyr American

This list is courtesy of Roger Simmermakers, who is the guy behind the How Americans Can Buy American web site, which you should check out here.

HT: Kyle Tapscott (Yes, he's my bro and I'm proud of him! He ought to start a blog.)