sunshine may be a great disinfectant

Apparently, Louis Brandeis, Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939 coined the phrase, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” A 1913 Harper’s Weekly article, entitled “What Publicity Can Do,” is where you can find the original article. (Hat tip to the Sunlight Foundation.)

So is it true? No.

While sunshine is a very good disinfectant, but it takes longer to disinfect:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-3156.2009.02281.x/full

And it might depend on what you are disinfecting:

http://aem.asm.org/content/74/10/2997.short

show me the manual

Bureauphile is a HUGE fan of Carl Malamud. He is pretty great. A fascinating Wired profile a few years ago notes, for example, “Back in 1995, the Securities and Exchange Committee decided to put corporate filings online only after Malamud essentially shamed them into doing so. For two years he operated a free site that published the filings, then abruptly pulled the plug and directed angry users to the SEC.”

He has a new video out explaining why his organization, Public.Resource.Org is purchasing manuals which are incorporated by reference in regulations but are not free to the public and making these documents public. Because these manuals are considered to be law, he feels that these manuals should be freely available to the public.

the texan tribune

On the Media, an NPR show about, big shocker, the media, re-ran an episode about data last week. One article was about The Texas Tribune, a non-profit and non-partisan media organization, which compiles data from Texas. The data is posted on their site both in raw form and with analysis from The Texas Tribune. Lots of interesting information there.

For example, the annual salaries for Texas government workers can be found there now. Posting government employees salaries, as I ponder it more, however, seems akin to the Sweedish custom of posting everyone’s tax returns online. The practical effects of this policy are reviewed by an admittedly biased writer for The Telegraph in this article.

As they say though, sunshine makes the best disinfectant, so let there be light. (Is that even true? I will run that down next…)

death and taxes

Death and Taxes: 2012 by mibi

A few years ago, on a trip to Vermont, I stumbled upon a great visualization of the entire US Budget. Please check it out below. The artist keeps updating it yearly. I find you can really understand where the money is going more easily this way, but that all of the details are included. But the details matter. Click through below to check it out.

Happy Independence Day!

gao titles re-written

Recent GAO report titles with my interpretation of what they could have called the reports.

HHS: Patient’s Health Information Remains Unprotected

HHS Has Issued Health Privacy and Security Regulations but Needs to Improve Guidance and Oversight, GAO-12-605, Jun 22, 2012

It Takes Less Time to Get A Security Clearance Now

Personnel Security Clearances: Continuing Leadership and Attention Can Enhance Momentum Gained from Reform Effort, GAO-12-815T, Jun 21, 2012


government employee salaries

A few weeks ago I ran across a news article about a newspaper that had used FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, to gain access to the government salary information for the vast majority of US government workers. GAO employees as well as those working in national security related positions are not included. (The national security exemption is a well trod FOIA exemption. I don’t know why GAO was not included.)

The Asbury Park Press, a newspaper in New Jersey, is owned by Gannett, which also owns USAToday.

Click here to go to the database.

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halls of government: german edition

Ministry of the Interior, Berlin, Germany

Note: Working in a foreign government after working in US Government highlighted some inefficiencies in how both sides do business. For example, in Germany government workers are entitled to a window in their office. Working in the US government, when I was last promoted, it was to a windowless office from a cube. Did this affect my productivity? I think so. Does it cost the German government a lot more money to give everyone natural light? I bet.

habit

We plan on reviewing (commenting on) books that have some nexus with bureauphilia. Our first review is for The Power of Habit: Why We Do the Things We Do in Life and Business? By Charles Duhigg

You might be inclined to think we were stretching a bit when we decided that Habit had anything to do with governing. However, the book spends a fair amount of time with former Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill. Prior to that post he was the CEO of Alcoa where, according to the book, he refocused the company towards safety, which had a net effect of changing the whole company and increasing its profits. With respect to governing, he said: Continue reading