Archive for Politics

International soccer and fiscal policy

The list of countries that qualify for the World Cup is always a motley one. There’s Brazil playing against just-got-in and didn’t-register-properly North Korea, which Radley Balko suggested fielded a side with eight Kim Jong-Ils. Over in Group  E there’s defending world champions Italy, we’d-rather-be-playing-rugby New Zealand, Slovakia (motto: “No, sorry, you’re looking for Slovenia; they’re in Group C; no bother, it’s a common mistake”), and Paraguay (notice that every country ending with “guay” qualified for the World Cup).

Qualifying for the World Cup is a big deal and source of national pride (except in the United States). Could this pride be leveraged for macroeconomic ends? I have a modest proposal.

The Stability and Growth Pact limits the ability of Eurozone countries to run excessive deficits and incur excessive debts. Supposedly. As we’re seeing in Greece, it doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job at this. And Greece is far from the only country to openly flout the Pact.

Would World Cup disqualification work any better? That is, what if FIFA or the regional governing bodies (like UEFA) only certified for World Cup participation countries that adhered to some basic rules of fiscal discipline, keeping their deficits in check and debt below some reasonable percentage of GDP?

It wouldn’t be unprecedented. After all, in club soccer, teams are regularly disciplined for financial irregularities with point deductions and even outright relegation. This seems to be a more-or-less effective way of keeping team management on the up-and-up. The same might well hold for nation-states.

Obviously this isn’t foolproof, and surely there will be countries that game the system. But it would at least allow the exclusion of countries like Greece who threaten the financial stability of an entire continent. To mix my sport metaphors, Greece deserves some time in the penalty box. That need not be executed just by diplomatic means.

Since the endogenous costs of reckless fiscal policy don’t seem to effectively dissuade countries from marching into the abyss, perhaps the damage to national pride accompanying disqualification from international soccer’s biggest quadrennial tournament would prove more effective.

California: America’s bread basket and food regulator

Baylen Linnekin has published a new law review article that you should read if you care about your right to eat whatever you want. He points out that California is leading the charge in regulating and banning politically incorrect foods, including hollandaise sauce and Caesar dressing, taco trucks and other street foods, eggs, raw milk, trans fats, and many others. This should worry the rest of us because as goes California, so goes the nation. For example, California was the first state to ban foie gras, and soon other jurisdictions followed suit, including famously Chicago.

Before reading Baylen’s article, I had no idea that California was responsible for so much of our food production. When you think of America’s bread basket, you tend to think of the midwest, but in fact it is California:

The sheer volume and variety of crops grown in California defy overstatement. The state leads the nation in production of almonds and walnuts and seemingly every crop alphabetically in between. In addition to almonds and walnuts, California is America‘s sole producer—meaning it is home to ninety-nine percent or more of the country‘s overall production—of figs, raisins, olives, clingstone peaches, persimmons, prunes, pomegranates, sweet rice, and clover seed. The state leads the nation in production of asparagus, avocados, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cut flowers, dates, eggplant, garlic, grapes, herbs, kiwi, lemon, lettuce, lima beans, melons, nectarines, onions, pears, pistachios, plums, raspberries, strawberries, turnips, and more than a dozen other crops. All told, California farms account for nearly half of America‘s domestic production of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. California growers ship the vast majority of these crops to other U.S. states. California also accounts for all of America‘s nut exports, and three out of five fruit and vegetable exports.

California also has the most vibrant restaurant industry in the country. To me, this begs the question: If California’s agricultural and food industry is so massive why hasn’t it successfully organized to block food regulation? Is it simply the case that green lobby is much bigger?

War + Lithium = Democracy. The Aristocrats!

The United States has discovered a trillion-dollar trove of metals in Afghanistan:

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe. An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries.

Referring to a country as “the Saudia Arabia of” anything hardly augurs well for its future since Saudi Arabia is, well, a theocratic petrostate whose rulers virtually imprison a group of foreign workers whose numbers total about a third of the kingdom’s population and whose native population is subject to the whims of a fascist religious police that, among other feats, murdered fourteen schoolgirls in 2002, prohibiting them from leaving a burning school building because they were not sufficiently veiled.

Afghanistan is not a country that has always been an anti-modern failed state, but one that was at one time, not so long ago, a relative symbol of progress and liberalism in the Muslim world. So moving to being the Saudia Arabia of central Asia isn’t really a great step forward.

Perhaps Afghanistan can join Nigeria or Venezuela in the list of countries whose natural resources have done so much to initiate prosperity, growth, and opportunity. But “central Asia’s Nigeria” doesn’t really have much of a ring to it.

For the umpteenth time: natural resources are not an unalloyed good that move a country from poverty to prosperity. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the rule of law and favorable institutions have a lot more to do with it than minerals. Given that the Soviets, then the Taliban, and now the US are presiding over an effectively broken institutional climate in Afghanistan, the discovery of mineral deposits is nothing to cheer about. In many ways, it’s a step backwards. At least for the people of Afghanistan.

Wrong method to identify libertarians

George Mason University economist Dan Klein had an op-ed in yesterday’s WSJ arguing that the Left flunks Econ 101. Using data collected by Zogby, Klein argues that liberals perform worse than conservatives or libertarians on a series of eight questions testing basic economic concepts. The longer paper that inspired the op-ed is here.

Nate Silver criticizes the question wording and survey instrument here. I just wanted to add a quibble with the method Zogby continues to use to identify libertarians. Zogby includes the word “libertarian” as an option in the traditional conservative-moderate-liberal ideology question. Using this method, Zobgy finds that about 7% of respondents are libertarian. And while this is certainly an improvement over the traditional method, it still underestimates libertarians by at least half. David Boaz and I have shown that between 14% and 23% of Americans hold libertarian beliefs. But data shows that there is much confusion about the word libertarian and that the word remains unfamiliar to many people who hold libertarian beliefs.

There is a better method to parse out ideology to identify liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. David Boaz and I have suggested using a three question screen to identify ideology, combining the best question wording from Gallup and the University of Michigan’s American National Election Studies. Researchers at TargetPoint and Politico used this method to parse out ideology in survey of Tea Party participants, finding that half were libertarian and half conservative. The questions are:

  1. I am going to ask you to choose which of two statements I read comes closer to your own opinion. You might agree to some extent with both, but we want to know which one is closer to your own views: The less government, the better; or, There are more things that government should be doing. [ANES]
  2. We need a strong government to handle today’s complex economic problems; or, The free market can handle these problems without government being involved. [ANES]
  3. Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view? [Gallup]

Of course, additional polling questions cost money. And three questions cost more than one. So if I had to choose only two, I’d pick 2 and 3.

Still, ideology matters. And pollsters do their clients a disservice if they overlook important trends in ideology that make a difference in reading the electorate. For instance, I suspect that pollsters would have detected the rise of the Tea Party, or at least better understood it’s causes and roots, if they had been using this method earlier.

June 8 poll closing times

A blogger at Firedoglake posts a helpful chart of closing times for states having primaries today, with links to the states’ elections bureaus or equivalents. I haven’t checked it but none of the commenters suggested it was inaccurate. I’ve pasted it here:

State w/ SOS or Elections resource link Polling place opening and closing times
Maine Opening varies, 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m; all close 8:00 p.m. EDT
New Jersey 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EDT
South Carolina 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT
Virginia 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT
Arkansas 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. CDT
Iowa 7:00 a.m. To 9:00 p.m. Statewide CDT
Montana Believed to be 7 a.m. to 8 p.m (Missoulian.com) MDT
North Dakota Highly dependent on size of town and location; According to Green Papers: “Polls close asynchronously at 9:00p CDT (0200 UTC) / 9:00p MDT (0300 UTC). Voting places open between 7:00a to 12:00n and remain open until 7:00p to 9:00p depending on the size of the town. The western half of the state is in MDT but that is, of course, the more sparsely populated part of the state, so it is not as problematic to the networks as might be otherwise suggested by simple geography.” See downloadable XLS at state website.
South Dakota Believed to be 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. MDT – confirm with SD-SOS
California 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. PDT
Nevada Believed to be 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. (see NRS 293.273) PDT

To represent it another way, here are states by closing time (all times Eastern):

7 PM: South Carolina, Virginia

7:30 PM: Arkansas

8 PM: Maine, New Jersey

9 PM: South Dakota (?)

10 PM: Iowa, Montana, Nevada (?)

11 PM: California

Times are all over the place in North Dakota; nobody will close a poll until I blow this whistle.

If anyone has any corrections, please post them in the comments.

Democratizing the takedown of BP

The New York Times, always fresh to break a scoop, reports on the BPGlobalPR Twitter feed, which for the last several weeks has been offering up scathingly hilarious takes on what is quickly taking the mantle of America’s largest-ever environmental disaster:

The parody site is updated throughout the day, offering a combination of “everything is going exactly according to plan” P.R. speak, macabre humor and occasional glimpses of genuine outrage. Over the last week, BPGlobalPR boasted of a deal on “blackened shrimp” at BP gas stations, linked to the photographs of oil-soaked pelicans with the out-of-character postscript “warning: truly heartbreaking” and spoke of how “we’ve modestly made modest changes to this modest gulf.” Beyond its followers, BPGlobalPR benefits from retweeting, becoming grist for other Twitter feeds. On Saturday, this cynical packet — “Safety is our primary concern. Well, profits, then safety. Oh, no — profits, image, then safety, but still — it’s right up there” — was bounding its way across the Internet.

But, the Grey Lady warns you, just because something is on The Twitters doesn’t make it legitimate:

Knowing who’s who on Twitter has been a challenge since the beginning: the basketball great Shaquille O’Neal created his own Twitter feed, with the insistent handle The_Real_Shaq, after someone was pretending to be him. The impersonations had become so problematic that Twitter created “verified accounts” last year assuring followers that the person controlling the account was the real deal.

Far be it from me to cast aspersions on people who use Twitter for comedic ends. Having received an order to cease and desist from a foreign government for allegedly impersonating one of their ministers on Twitter, I am no citadel of righteousness when it comes to tweets.

But the Times buried the lede here. It’s well-known that on Twitter, as elsewhere on the internet, satire (in its better forms) and fraud (in its black hat variety) run rampant. Only in the final paragraphs does the article get to the transformative aspects of this:

While satire has always been with us, certainly longer than public relations executives have been, the Internet is democratizing the process, said Miriam Meckel, a professor of communications in Switzerland who is a fellow at the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard studying the impact of Twitter and social media services on journalism.

And that is the real story here. Bursting the bubble of a pompous company is nothing new; being able to do it and have 11 times as many followers (that is, market share) as the object of your derision is what’s new. Blogs, social media, Twitter, et cetera provide myriad ways for normal folks to, if not comfort the afflicted, at least afflict the comfortable. And there are few better ways to hold power — whether in the form of political leaders, firms, or self-appointed social saviors — to account. No longer can a powerful, politically connected company like BP attempt to spin and manage its way out of wrecking hundreds of miles of coastline. This is changing brand management in a way we don’t, I think, fully understand.

It’s not that the facts are getting out. It’s that the Zeitgeist is being established independent of any entity with which BP can directly plead, cajole, or threaten. We are crowdsourcing the establishment of the snarky, ironic conventional wisdom. And in many ways, this is a much more powerful thing than the rise of mere fact-reporting bloggers.

It’s not just about reporting, which is how Web 2.0 (for lack of a better term) has largely been discussed. This isn’t the democratization of information. It’s the democratization of the takedown, the skewering, the needling. This is not the news media being disintermediated — it’s the professional satirists in the vein of Mencken and Rogers and Jon Stewart being replaced by amateurs, and lots of them. It makes it harder for any big entity or brand to remain hallowed and righteous for very long.

On a more prosaic level, we saw this as well with Helen Thomas over the last week. After declaring her wish for the Levant to be Judenfrei, she tried to back out and apologize. And in an earlier era, she might have been able to control the news cycle long enough for it to be buried. The facts here were never in dispute; she was caught on a Flip camera, so chalk that up as a victory for Web 2.0 as we understood it five years ago. But over the weekend she was so badly skewered by thousands of satirists (sample Twitter #helenthomasmovies titles: “10 Things I Hate About Jews,” “Goys Don’t Cry”) that today she was forced to resign from, well, whatever it was that she did.

The BP oil spill is the first major national event where the bad guy in question is subject to lampooning not just from a satirical elite but by anyone with the material and the gumption to set up a Twitter account, or hell, create a funny hashtag. Democratizing the news was a step forward. Democratizing our skepticism towards all form of power is an even greater step.

David Frum on the Bilderberg Group

The Bilderberg Conspiracy apparently met this weekend in Sitges, Spain. What? You’ve never heard of Sitges? That’s because the Bilderbergers made it up. It’s not a real city. They even went so far as to make up a Wikipedia page for it; there’s even one in Catalan! They also invented a backstory for it and got a whole bunch of gay people to claim that it’s a great destination for a beach vacation. Now that’s thorough, though it doesn’t fail the descamisados who know the truth.

Once again, I was not invited. However, David Frum spent some time at the Bilderberg Group in the 1990s as a guest of Conrad Black. (Presumably, Lord Black was not in attendance this year, as he’s currently in a federal prison in Colorado, where he seems to be having a fine old time.)

From Frum’s short essay:

I don’t mean that Bilderberg meetings are boring. They aren’t, not especially. They are precisely as interesting as any other conference that focuses on global economic data, the urgency of European integration, and the ever-rising menace of populist conservatism in the United States. I cannot recall ever hearing anything said in off-the-record conversations that the person speaking would not have said on-the-record…. The idea of Bilderberg as a shadow world government is rather funny. Bilderberg itself demurs, on grounds that the group only hosts discussions, never adopts resolutions or anything like that. But that’s not the real rebuttal. Unlike Davos, Bilderberg is a membership organization: Most attendees return every year. Over time, this practice has given Bilderberg a distinct yesteryear quality. You were much more likely to meet an “ex” this or “former” that than anyone in office today. Guests too tended to reflect the interests and enthusiasms of prior decades. You wouldn’t meet Bono at Bilderberg. (Or rather – you wouldn’t have in the 1990s. Maybe you would now!) For this reason, already it was true in the 1990s that Bilderberg felt itself being overtaken by glitzier competitors, especially the World Economic Forum in Davos. Nobody would ever describe Bilderberg as glitzy. Meetings were decidedly low-tech: panel discussions, not powerpoints. The group met in comfortable but hardly sumptuous resort hotels. Meals were served buffet style, with the group’s patron, the Queen of the Netherlands, carrying her own plate and joining the queue. It was precisely the anachronistic quality of Bilderberg that always fascinated me most and that looms largest in my own memory. Scene: I’m in the hotel bar after a Bilderberg session in Belgium. I get into conversation with an elderly fellow-attendee, a wealthy German businessman. Then: “You know, I was a Nazi.” Weren’t a lot of people? “Oh yes. But I was especially ardent. I volunteered for service in Russia.” What happened? “My parents were aghast. They thought the war was madness. They were influential people – and so my father got me an assignment as military attaché in Portugal. That’s the only reason I’m alive now.”

Tea Parties and future of politics

Don’t miss this AEI panel next Wednesday, June 9 at 2:00 about what the Tea Parties mean for the future of politics with Ross Douthat, Kristen Soltis, and Dave Weigel. Fun fact: Cheryl Miller, the organizer of this event, says

According to my highly unscientific count, they have the youngest average age (28!) of any AEI panel. If we include the moderator, Jonah Goldberg, we’re still at a record-making 31.

Hitch-22 out tomorrow

Christopher Hitchens’ long-awaited memoir Hitch-22 comes out tomorrow. (Fortunately, the publisher, Twelve, has seen fit to release it same-day on Kindle.) Here’s a partial list (below the fold) of what the reviewers are saying about it. I have it on pre-order; I only wish it had come out in time for the long Memorial Day reading weekend.

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Robert Reich wants to nationalize BP

Robert Reich wants to nationalize BP’s American operations until President Obama can use his Magical President Powers to stop the oil leak.

What’s interesting is Reich’s evidence that this is kosher:

If the government can take over giant global insurer AIG and the auto giant General Motors and replace their CEOs, in order to keep them financially solvent, it should be able to put BP’s North American operations into temporary receivership in order to stop one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.

So, in other words, because we’ve already done it a couple of times, there’s no reason we can’t do it again. It turns out that in politics maybe one occurrence does make a pattern. Merely suggesting that something isn’t a precedent doesn’t make it so.

So what happens when BP succeeds?

This morning Karl Rove has an op-ed (can we call it a column yet?) in the Wall Street Journal forwarding the increasingly silly and increasingly CW talking point that the BP oil spill is Obama’s Katrina:

As President Obama prepares to return to the Gulf Coast Friday, he is receiving increasing criticism for his handling of the oil spill. For good reason: Since the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up on April 20, a lethargic Team Obama has delayed or blown off key decisions requested by state and local governments and left British Petroleum in charge of developing a plan to cap the massive leak. Now the slow-moving oil spill threatens Mr. Obama’s reputation, along with 40% of America’s sensitive wetlands. Critics include some of his most ardent cheerleaders, who understand that 38 days without an administration solution is unacceptable. Obama officials have it backwards: They talk tough about BP’s responsibilities but do not meet their own responsibilities under federal law. They should not have let more than a month go by without telling BP what to do. And they should avoid recriminations against their partner in solving the problem until after the leak is sealed.

Rove’s analysis is good political point scoring, to be sure, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for a serious argument. Let’s think for a moment about the counterfactual: Obama spent the last month in BP’s war room, personally directing the operation, failing to use his Magical President Powers to fix the leak. Then Karl Rove would have written this:

As President Obama enters his fifth week embedded with BP’s senior management, he is receiving increasing criticism for his handling of the oil spill. For good reason: Since the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up on April 20, a hyperactive Obama team has interfered with and second-guesses every British Petroleum decision, making it impossible for the company to develop a plan to cap the massive leak.

Now the slow-moving oil spill threatens Mr. Obama’s reputation, along with 40% of America’s sensitive wetlands. Critics include some of his most ardent cheerleaders, who understand that 38 days without a engineer-led solution is unacceptable.

Obama officials have it backwards: They talk tough about the federal government’s responsibilities but do not allow BP to do what it knows, which is manage oil production. They should not have tried to take control of the situation from day one. And they should avoid recriminations against their partner in solving the problem until BP has really been given a chance to try.

Moreover, most of Rove’s criticisms have little to do with the president, but rather a big, complicated, inflexible, and opaque federal bureaucracy — the same bureaucracy that mucked up the response to Katrina, leaving political egg on Bush’s face.

Over at NRO’s Corner, Jonah Goldberg is a voice of reason:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually singing from the same “It’s Obama’s Fault and We Know It” songbook. But I just can’t bring myself to agree with the folks who think that the BP spill is a major indictment of Obama. He may have handled the politics  of this thing badly, by which I mean the P.R., but unless someone can explain how Obama could have “taken over” and fixed this faster, I think a lot of the criticism is overboard. Not all of it; it sounds like Bobby Jindal has some legitimate complaints. But the notion that B.P. isn’t motivated to cap this thing as quickly as possible and so therefore Obama needs to lean on BP harder is nothing short of crazy talk. Obama could have been on vacation for the last month and I’d bet the tempo of the BP operation wouldn’t have been one minute slower.

What I wonder is whether there is a wrinkle in Goldberg’s argument that’s not the fault of the administration but of Congress. For weeks, BP has been trying to stop the leak with dome capsjunk shots (do they know that that phrase means?), and top kills. Nothing’s worked so far, but eventually something will. Maybe this week, maybe next; the flow will be staunched or at least contained.

At that point, every Congressional committee with jurisdiction over energy, public lands, commerce, and the environment will dragoon BP officials before them and ask sanctimoniously, “Why didn’t you do [insert whatever procedure ends up working] first?” Whichever engineer and manager organized the working solution will be hailed as heroes, while the developers of junk shorts and top hats will be publicly mocked.

To what extent does this change BP’s incentives to cap this spill? Who knows? Despite an ostensible $75 million cap on liabilities facing BP, it seems to be a bipartisan consensus that they’ll end up paying more, since we’re not really so much into the rule of law right now.

Whatever the result, though, it’s untoward to have Congress utilizing 20/20 hindsight to second-guess technical decisions after the fact. But at this point, I suppose we should be used to it.

The what commission now?

President Obama’s “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” met for the second time today. They have just three more meetings before the panel releases its recommendations on December 1st. So, what’s the big news out of the meeting? It’s hard to know because the event seems to have gone completely uncovered in the press.

Perhaps internet culture has spoiled me, and maybe we’ll in fact see coverage in tomorrow’s morning papers, but right now, three hours after the meeting ended, I find no trace of coverage. Not from the AP, Reuters, or Bloomberg, and not from NYT, WaPo, or WSJ. The only thing I’ve found is a blog post from The Hill.

What does this tell us about the press? That they don’t think this meeting was that important. At the last meeting, Bernanke and Orszag testified, and it was widely covered. This time mere academics spoke. (Carmen Reinhardt pointed out that gross debt is approaching 90 percent of GDP, that this will drag down the economy, and that this will lead to further debt spiral. She counseled “austerity.”)

What does this tell us about the commission? I don’t want to overstate the point, but I think it says what everyone knows: that presidential commission go nowhere. Name the last presidential commission whose recommendations were heeded by Congress. As Judd Gregg pointed out before he joined the commission,

Numerous commissions have been created by executive order over the years, and their common thread is that none have produced any legislative results. How can they?  No one has any real responsibility, or expectation of action, and so their recommendations collect dust on a shelf.

In which case, is the commission simply an election-year detente? Have we postponed seriously dealing with the problem until December so that both parties can avoid having to vote for the painful cuts and likely tax increases that are inevitable? How much worse will things get between now and then?

Arthur Brooks’ “The Battle”

Arthur Brooks, the polymath president of the American Enterprise Institute, today released his newest book, The Battle. It’s one barnstormer of a defense of free markets and a very lucid indictment of Brooks’ ideological opponents. Short, to the point, well-researched, and simple without being simplistic, this is a must-read for anyone who’s been bemoaning what for the last few years has looked like the death of intellectual conservatism.

Brooks’ thesis is that America is in the midst of a culture war, one that splits citizens who support markets and free enterprise from those who distrust it and want to fundamentally transform what America was, is, and will be; Brooks refers to the former as the 70 percent coalition and the latter as the 30 percent coalition, citing a plethora of data suggesting that Americans are split roughly 70/30 on the questions underlying the two different worldviews. (This echoes, but I think is emphatically different from, Grover Norquist’s “leave us alone coalition” and “takings coalition” division of the right and left.)

The difference between these groups has nothing to do with God, guns, and gays; rather, it’s about free markets and free enterprise. (To be sure, Brooks never touches on social issues.) Nor is this merely a consequentialist or Benthamite argument; Brooks writes that the “culture war between free enterprise and statism is not [about] material riches—it is [about] human flourishing. This is a battle about nothing less than our ability to pursue happiness.”

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Kentucky fact of the day

The last Public Policy Polling survey in Kentucky found that more Republicans think Rand Paul (R) is too liberal (17%) than think he is too conservative (12%). (Via Political Wire.)

 

Daley’s amusing FOIA revenge

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the launch of the Congressional Transparency Caucus. A (somewhat weird) idea that was discussed was improving Freedom of Information Act requests for the purpose of helping the dying newspaper industry. Like I said, weird.

In general, though, the FOIA process definitely stands improvement. Once a federal agency receives and complies with a FOIA request, it should not only give the requested information to the requester, but also publish it to its website so it’s available to all. Today, the same in-demand documents can be laboriously requested many times by different individuals.

Transparency Caucus co-chair Rep. Darrell Issa made the interesting suggestion that there might need to be a deliberate delay between when an agency complies with a journalist’s FOIA request and when it publishes it on the web. Otherwise competing journalists will be able to see what the requesting journalist is sniffing around for thereby destroying any investigative scoop. Issa likened his suggestion to a patent or copyright for journalistic ingenuity.

Now comes word that Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago is doing exactly the opposite. To annoy his enemies in the press, his new transparency policy goes out of its way to disclose what all is being FOIA’d and by whom:

In the name of “transparency,” Mayor Daley on Thursday got some measure of revenge against the investigative reporters who’ve made his life miserable by digging up dirt on the Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals.

He revamped the city’s new website to include a log of all Freedom of Information Act requests. The list includes the name and organization of each applicant, documents demanded and dates the information was requested and is due to be released.

A new state law merely requires city departments to maintain such a log — not to post it on the Internet to tip investigative reporters about the trail being followed by competitors.

But Daley gleefully declared that he was going “above and beyond what’s required” in the interest of “transparency, openness and the free-flow of information.”

“If you want transparency in government, you have to have this. I’m sorry. This has nothing to do with [getting even with] the Sun-Times, Tribune, media or anything. This is what you want,” Daley said.

This is very amusing. For what it’s worth, I don’t think the government owes journalists or any other profession any special consideration. I also don’t understand why the requester’s identity should be disclosed, either.

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