From: John Wonderlich <johnwon...@gmail.com <http://johnwon...@gmail.com> >
Reply-To: <openhous...@googlegroups.com <http://openhous...@googlegroups.com> >
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 14:18:39 -0500
To: <openhous...@googlegroups.com <http://openhous...@googlegroups.com> >
Subject: [openhouseproject] ethics EO
Can't wait to see the actual text, still not up on whitehouse.gov <http://whitehouse.gov> <http://whitehouse.gov> .
Has anyone seen the EO on lobbying?
Also the Obama EO on Presidential Records may be found here
Last Friday Senator Rockefeller, Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, sought to get the Senate to pass his digital TV transition delay bill without first posting it publicly. By avoiding a committee vote, he was also apparently able to avoid a required Congressional Budget Office scoring of the cost of his bill to the private sector.
The same day, Representative Waxman, Chair of the House Commerce Committee, announced a mark-up of his own digital TV transition delay bill. The mark-up was scheduled for next Wednesday (today) at 1:30pm, and he posted a copy of his draft bill on his committee website. I was pleased that Chairman Waxman was following a more transparent and accountable course of action than Senator Rockefeller.
Today at 12:30pm Chairman Waxman cancelled the Committee mark-up. I was there and there was a large group of lobbyists and press that were very surprised by the last minute cancellation. It seemed like every committee staffer you talked to had a different explanation for why Chairman Waxman cancelled the mark-up. As soon as the mark-up was cancelled, the draft bill was pulled from the Committee website and it is no longer publicly available.
These are some of the issues raised by this incident:
1) Chairman Waxman showed great disrespect for the public by canceling the mark-up at the last second and with no way to notify people of the cancellation. I live about 75 minutes away from the Capital; it was quite a burden on me to drive to and from the Capital, go through security, etc., and then find that the so-called public meeting, announced five days before was canceled with no good reason. Note that mark-ups aren’t televised and you can be forced to leave the room if you’re found attempting to record it. (Note that canceling a public meeting at the last minute without consideration for the public may happen more frequently than some folks know. A few years ago I left work in DC early to attend and speak at a public meeting to discuss charter revision in Anne Arundel County where I live. A charter is like the constitution of a local government. The meeting was canceled a few hours before it was supposed to start because one of the Commissioners couldn’t make it and didn’t want to miss it. The commissioners not only had no way to notify the public ahead of time of the cancellation but no commissioner even showed up at the meeting to alert the few members of the public who did show up that the meeting was canceled.)
2) As far as I can tell, any trace of the draft bill has completely disappeared from the Committee website and is no longer publicly available in any form. It’s my sense that Chairman Waxman canceled the meeting because he realized at the last moment that the draft bill had some controversial sections in it. Somehow I think that the draft bill, even though it hadn’t yet been dropped in the hopper and become an official, public bill, should still be public. I for one was very interested in some of the special interest clauses included in the draft bill—clauses whose import Chairman’s Waxman’s staff didn’t seem to recognize when they posted the bill.
3) Will Chairman Waxman’s explanation for the cancellation continue to appear on his website? What if it changes over time and proves to be inconsistent with later behavior? For example, let’s say this doesn’t turn out to be a minor postponement but something that in retrospect will signal much more? I think the public should have a record that would allow a comparison of the explanation with the actual subsequent behavior.
Let me say that I think Chairman Waxman is a brilliant legislator and one of the most diligent and effective members of Congress when it comes to doing executive oversight. On several occasions I’ve even told my kids to watch him do oversight because I consider him to be a master at it and in my local County politics there is nothing like it for them to watch. Still, I think this behavior is inconsistent with the general rhetoric we’re hearing about the importance of transparency and public participation. I would welcome any thoughts people might have about the appropriateness of such behavior for a Congressional committee or any public body.
J.H. Snider, MBA, Ph.D.
> 3) Will Chairman Waxman’s explanation for the cancellation
> continue to appear on his website? What if it changes over time and
> proves to be inconsistent with later behavior? For example, let’s say
> this doesn’t turn out to be a minor postponement but something that in
> retrospect will signal much more? I think the public should have a
> record that would allow a comparison of the explanation with the
> actual subsequent behavior.
I posted something to the open-government list that is relevant here and
I think it ports across context (it makes sense here, too). I'll quote
it in tact. The original was addressed to something Carl Malamud was
saying (is about all the context you need, I hope):
This response to that is a little more "techy" and lower level than is
customary on this list but I hope you and others like it anyway.
Every time a static page on whitehouse.gov or a similar site is updated,
the service at that host should generate:
1) A stable URL for that version of that page, valid for some
time period (I'd say 30 years but even 30 days could work).
The site MUST NOT re-use these stable years ever: they
can take down the content after some period of time but
must not re-use the URL.
2) Meta-data on that page (e.g., using something like RDFa)
that includes checksums and perhaps a signature on the payload.
3) An RSS item announcing the publication and its stable URL.
4) Optionally: versioning meta-data relating it to previous
publications (e.g., "THIS replaces THAT" or "THIS combines
THAT and THAT OTHER THING"). Other optional meta-data such
Given those technically simple steps, it is no longer necessary to
archive those sites by spidering and hoping for meaningful snapshots.
An archivist can simply read off the RSS feed and collect the relevant
page snapshots from their stable URLs, using spidering mainly to
validate the archive.
An archivist can save the documents by using their stable URLs as a
relative URL on a new site.
A "redirector" is then a generic thing. A single redirector can be
applied to *any* site that constructs such an archive.
One valuable contribution of taking these steps, earlier rather than
later, is arguably this:
The resulting form of archive is easy for non-technical-type people to
understand. Anyone who can understand the concept of the Federal
Register can understand this form of archive. This form of archiving
not only creates an accurate record of how these sites change over time,
it reifies, in a human-friendly way, the form and function of an
Government communications to the public should be idealized as a kind of
"journaling" / "write-once" database / file-system with meta-data
sensitively designed for archival needs. Making that ideal real for
the web sites is well within reach, roughly along the lines of what I
described in (1)..(4) above.
As a technical matter, what I've described can likely be implemented in
a layered fashion without the need to substantially disrupt the content
management systems currently used.
"The transition to digital television is not going well. There is not enough money for the converter box coupon program and millions of Americans could experience serious problems.
Delay of the deadline is our only hope of lessening the impact on millions of consumers. Without a short, one-time extension, millions of households will lose all television reception. Late last week Senate Republicans blocked a bill to delay the transition date.
I have postponed Committee consideration of the DTV markup to give the Committee more time to assess the implications of the Senate action."
The postponement explanation was indeed posted shortly after the mark-up was postponed. But the reinstatement of the original meeting notice and bill discussion draft is interesting because I talked with a commerce committee staffer over the phone around 3pm yesterday and complained that the bill had been taken down. He replied that there was no reason to keep it up now that the mark-up was canceled, and, by implication, that I was ignorant for not knowing that that was the way the system worked. I asked if he could e-mail me an electronic copy of the draft bill that had been posted, and he restated the position above and read the Waxman postponement statement that you’ve noted below. At some point, the committee staff must have changed their mind and reposted the draft bill, perhaps because there was so much trade press interest in the postponement.
J.H. Snider, MBA, Ph.D.
P.S. I wrote a commentary on the House and Senate DTV bills for Ars Technica.
Tuesday, Januray 27, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.
2123 Rayburn House Office Building
Note: All hearings and markups will be available via either video Webcast (for room 2123 Rayburn) or audio Webcast (for room 2322 Rayburn). The Webcast will begin generally 10 minutes before the meeting begins. Windows Media Player is required to view the Webcast. If possible, the archived Webcast will be posted by close of business on the day the hearing or markup is held. It will be posted on the respective hearing or markup page. The use of Webcasts of Committee proceedings for political or commercial purposes is expressly prohibited by the rules of the House of Representatives. (Rule XI, 4 of the House of Representatives. See text of Rule XI, 4 as posted by the House Committee on Rules.)
I think the discrepancy in the way the Senate and Commerce committees have posted their digital TV bills online provide an interesting contrast. It appears that Senator Rockefeller has now attempted on at least one occasion (last Friday) and possibly today, too, to pass his digital TV bill without 1) going through committee, or 2) posting a draft of the bill online for comment. Representative Waxman has done both. It’s a good control case because both men occupy very similar positions (both are Democratic chairs of their respective chamber’s commerce committee), both have bills addressing the same problem, and both are equally anxious for bill passage. Politically, it so far looks like Senator Rockefeller’s secrecy has worked better than Representative Waxman’s openness. I believe Waxman underestimated the controversy his bill would generate.
Note that the only version of the bill that has been posted on the Senate website is ranking minority Hutchison’s written endorsement and summary today of the Rockefeller bill, which the trade press reported yesterday could come up for a vote by the end of today. Waxman appears to be having a lot more trouble with his minority committee members. One interesting twist is that Hutchison was a broadcast TV executive before entering politics and taking responsibility for broadcast regulation. This might help explain why the Republican leadership in the Senate Commerce committee seems more willing to compromise than the Republican leadership in the House.
Another tidbit might interest members of this list. When the broadcasters lobbied for spectrum flexibility in the early 1990s (digital flexibility is the right to provide up to ten standard definition digital signals in the same amount of spectrum that could previously only provide one analog spectrum), they argued that one use for those additional channels might be to broadcast local public meetings the way C-SPAN does (e.g., check the Radio Television News Directors pamphlet on how local stations might use such rights if granted by Congress and the FCC). Of course, shortly after they got spectrum flexibility rights, such talk immediately ceased. I don’t think terrestrial, over-the-air broadcasting was the right medium to bring transparency to such public meetings, but I also don’t believe we should have any broadcasting at all on the current frequencies broadcasters use, which are best suited for mobile broadband service—and the provision of all government information on demand.
Here is an account of the House action in Broadcasting & Cable:
Here is an account of the Senate action in Broadcasting & Cable and TVWeek
J.H. Snider, MBA, Ph.D.