Eroding access to information: Court limits whistleblower suits

Justices, 5-4, Limit Whistleblower Suits – New York Times:

“Official communications have official consequences, creating a need for substantive consistency and clarity. Supervisors must ensure that their employees’ official communications are accurate, demonstrate sound judgment, and promote the employer’s mission,” [Mr. Justice Anthony] Kennedy wrote.

He said government workers “retain the prospect of constitutional protection for their contributions to the civic discourse.” They do not, Kennedy said, have “a right to perform their jobs however they see fit.”

So much for the personal judgment we’d like to see our fellow citizens exercise in their jobs. Keep ’em quiet, not honest. Whistleblowing ends a career in most cases. Does Justice Kennedy, writing for the five-justice majority in this case, really think that speaking out about wrongs committed by government is wrong? Looking at the two sentence quoted by the New York Times above, do you see a contradiction? Supervisors decide what’s accurate and sound, while employees are supposed to toe the line. It’s the very opposite of the best practices that are transforming companies.

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Time to go, Rep. Jefferson

Jefferson says innocent in bribery probe – Yahoo! News:

A U.S. Democratic congressman facing a bribery probe after police found $90,000 in his freezer denied wrongdoing on Monday and said he would not step down from his congressional seat.

Rep. William Jefferson (D.—La.) is the same Congressman who had a special detail of emergency workers take him to his home and wait while he spent an hour inside, immediately after Hurricane Katrina.

Two associates who say they participated in up to $400,000 in bribe exchanges have already pled guilty. Jefferson should step down and, if acquitted, run again. This is not the time and New Orleans isn’t the place for someone to slow political decision-making with a protracted criminal trial. Based on the $90,000 found in his freezer, Jefferson has little hope of returning to Congress in the fall. So, do the right thing, Rep. Jefferson, and resign.

It would also show that Democrats enforce the rules against corruption if Jefferson’s colleagues can convince him to go now.

BIZARRE UPDATE: Now, it turns out, the raid by the Department of Justice on Jefferson’s office was unprecedented, even according to Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, who told the Washington Post: “Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress. Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years.”

If the Representative isn’t squeaky clean, and he gives every impression of him not being, it is still time for him to step down until his name is cleared. The Democrats must set a higher example.

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Two on Influence

For several years now I have been working on the measurement of influence in conversational networks. Here are two ZD Net pieces that begin a rolling commentary that will go from the 90,000-foot level down to practical personal, marketing and political applications of influence measurement.

Influence: It’s what moves networked markets

Influence is incredibly specific, personal and peered.

After working on a social network analytics system for two years, here are some initial thoughts on the meaning and value of the many economies proposed as foundations for measuring social networks. My contention: Influence, the conversion of one’s basic ability to attend to and convert the raw material of their life into meaning that, as the OED puts it, has “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something,” is the productive feature of the networked economy it is most important to measure and understand. Influence takes work—it is work in the networked economy—and we know how to measure the value of human effort.

Influence is Productive

Is paying attention to something a form of consumption, production or both? Depending on how you cut it, attention is both a form of consumption and it is productive in the same sense that iron ore has value. Actually creating new value in the information flow requires more energy, albeit human energy, than paying with attention for something. And a lot less energy than producing a Volvo.

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Na-na, na-na, NSA, oh my

In less than a week we’ve seen an extraordinary leap forward in the development of an American surveillance society.

I’ve got a series of postings at ZD Net about the NSA call tracking program, IT martial law, legislation that would have our ISPs snooping on everyone for the feds, FBI tracking of telephone calls to journalists, and the testimony of General Michael Hayden. Read the comments for a good argument.

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Last week, militarization of the telephone network, this week soldiers on the border

Bush Set To Send Guard to Border:

President Bush tried to ease the worries of his Mexican counterpart yesterday as he prepared for a nationally televised address tonight unveiling a plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to help seal the nation’s southern border against illegal immigrants.

Could we find anything else to keep us so frightened that it requires troops? Hmmm, those Canadian Geese honking through the sky look pretty sneaky and might need to be shot down…. That “threat” will probably justify Air Force patrols over all American cities, if the logic on panic we’re seeing continues.

I concur with The New York Times’ Bob Herbert, who wrote today:

In the dark days of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt counseled Americans to avoid fear. George W. Bush is his polar opposite. The public’s fear is this president’s most potent political asset. Perhaps his only asset.

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It’s Watergate for the rest of us….The Panopticon arrives

The NSA calling database is Watergate for everyone. The Bushies have literally broken into our homes to listen in on who we talk to, like the Watergate burglars did when they broke into Democratic headquarters in 1972. We’ve come a long way, baby. Here’s my ZD Net comment about it….

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Yuan to come over and stress my economy?

WSJ.com – World Bank Says China Needs Currency Appreciation:

The World Bank suggested it was in China’s own best interests to allow faster currency appreciation, ahead of a U.S. Treasury report that could label China a currency manipulator.

The bank’s careful statements follow blunt international pressure on China, including from the U.S. and the Group of Seven leading industrial nations, to allow a stronger yuan.

I’ve been saying for some time that part of the reason the Chinese have kept the yuan low, in addition to making its products more attractive, is a desire to use currency as a weapon. It makes sense for the yuan to appreciate, yet the Chinese have resisted in order to build up currency reserves, primarily dollar-denominated, that could be held over U.S. leaders’ heads—in essence, threatening to call the notes—in a crisis.

An appreciating yuan means China’s economy will run into a wall of reality as the real costs of its fantastic growth are finally expressed into the export market, which isn’t all bad for China. It will make workers in China more aware of how much more they may be entitled to, but it will also make U.S. shoppers feel their dependency on an artificially managed economy half-way around the world. Not a good time, for instance, to be Wal-Mart, which could see its margins under intense pressure. Also a bad time to be a shopper who, already confronted with higher gas prices, will not be able to count on Wal-Mart’s having artificially low prices, either. As always in the Bush era, it will be a bad, a worse, time to be poor.

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One more way in which mankind isn’t the sole proprietor

Some birds have been shown to have a grammar, now it turns out dolphins have names. Amazing and fascinating, speaking volumes about how little we know and how much we take for granted when talking about man’s dominion over the beasts. Douglas Adams was right about a lot more than we know.

news @ nature.com – Dolphins play name game – Underwater whistles give bottlenoses their own moniker.:

We are not the only animals to give ourselves names, says research on bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins’ distinctive whistles may function as individual calling cards, allowing them to recognize each other and even refer to others by name.

The research reveals that bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) each have their own personalized whistle, which is recognized by other dolphins even from a synthetic version played through a speaker. This suggests that the creatures recognize these as names in their own right, rather than identifying individuals based simply on the sound quality of their voice.

Wait till the dolphins start to get marketing calls during dinner. “Mr. eeehwaheeeiii? I have an amazing offer for you….” Man, will those dolphins be pissed.

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A lawyer’s backbone bends many waysLaw.com – ABA Downgrades Judicial Nominee From ‘Well-Qualified’ to ‘Qualified’

It is difficult to read the following without marveling at the fantastic ability to hedge that makes the modern American lawyer. The ABA review panel is worried that President Bush’ nominee to the DC District Court of Appeals, Brett Kavanaugh. He is described as “dissembling” and not necessarily open-minded, yet is is “qualified to serve on the federal bench” and “low ratings are very high.”

Apparently, “honest and objective” are no longer qualifications for a judge…. But read for yourself (it is edited for brevity):

Law.com – ABA Downgrades Judicial Nominee From ‘Well-Qualified’ to ‘Qualified’ :

The American Bar Association downgraded its rating of President Bush’s appellate court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, after new interviews raised concerns about his courtroom experience and open-mindedness, the chairman of the peer-review panel said Monday.

The 14-member committee changed the White House aide’s rating from “well-qualified” to “qualified” last month in part because six members of the panel downgraded their rating from the last time Kavanaugh was reviewed, panel chairman Steven Tober said.

Nonetheless, Tober wrote in a statement Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh is “indeed qualified to serve on the federal bench.”

“This nominee enjoys a solid reputation for integrity, intellectual capacity and writing and analytical ability,” Tober wrote. “The concern has been and remains focused on the breadth of his professional experience.”

In the statement, Tober said new interviews conducted since the ABA’s previous rating of Kavanaugh in 2005 raised “additional concern over whether this nominee is so insulated that he will be unable to judge fairly in the future.”

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Kavanaugh still is a good pick for the post.

“In 42 votes cast in the three ABA reviews, all 42 found Mr. Kavanaugh to be qualified or well qualified to serve on the DC Circuit,” Perino said. “Even the lowest of the three ratings is a very high rating.” The panel has issued three evaluations of Kavanaugh, in 2003, 2005 and last month.

Recent interviews with Kavanaugh’s associates expanded on those concerns, Tober wrote. One judge who witnessed Kavanaugh’s oral presentation in court said the nominee was “less than adequate” before the court and showed “experience on the level of an associate.” Another lawyer said Kavanaugh “dissembled” in the courtroom, Tober wrote.

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