Thursday News Chum

It’s been a busy day — teaching a class, reviewing documents with a short deadline, and fighting a migraine — so the opportunity to look at the news didn’t arise until I got home. But here are some observations, to feed the sharks in the water:

  • From the “Making Government Efficient” Department: Those who remember back to the Clinton Administration will remember that Al Gore headed an effort to improve government efficiency. Obama may be doing something simliar, on the technology side. The Washington Post has an interesting article about his plans to appoint a Chief Technology Officer who would help federal agencies use technology “to make government work better.” Now a CTO isn’t a bad idea — and there should likely be a CIO as well to focus on information protection, but perhaps the CIO would report to the CTO. I found this line in the article particularly interesting: “A top priority might be getting rid of redundant information technology systems, many of which do not operate across agencies.” One of the things I taught today was about CNSS 1253, which is going to be a combined IA control catalog for the entire Federal government (non-DOD, DOD, and IC), as part of an effort to unify C&A across the government (well, at least the C). So this could be an indication that the effort might continue. Good thing.
  • From the “Just Fill Out This Application” Department: That new CTO is going to have an application to fill out. And it’ll be a long one. According to CNN, the Obama transition team is sending a seven-page, 63-item questionnaire to every candidate for Cabinet and other high-ranking positions in the incoming administration. The questions cover everything from information on family members, Facebook pages, blogs and hired help to links to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, American International Group and troubled banks as well as lawsuits, gifts, resumes, loans and more. The largest part of the questionnaire asks prospective White House appointees and their spouses to list real estate and other business transactions, affiliations and relationships as well as personal financial and tax information. It also asks about writings, speeches, testimony, online communications and even personal diaries. An entire section requests details on any criminal or civil legal action in which the applicant may have been involved. Under the final, “Miscellaneous” category, the questionnaire asks for the names and phone numbers of past live-in lovers; whether anyone in the applicant’s family owns a gun; the state of the applicant’s health; and whether he or she has any enemies.
  • From the “Taking a Lesson from Elvis” Department: In the Obamaphoria following the Obamalection, a lot of people have been selling Obamatchotchkes and Obamashirts. The problem is: some of these have images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on them… and the King family wants their cut. They tightly control his image (a good thing), and are going after the unlicensed usages.
  • From the “I Don’t Like Where This Is Going” Department: Two of my favorite blogs, la_observed and la_biz_observed, have regular articles about how the newspaper industry in Los Angeles is imploding. Tribute is laying off reports and closing bureaus left and right. Media News, owner of the Daily News, is cutting staff. The OC Register is cutting back. We’ll soon be left with one newspaper reporter in LA, posting to a blog. Now, USA Today is bringing news of a deal between Fox TV and NBC — a local television news-sharing plan that promises to reduce the number of reporters, trucks and helicopters assigned to cover major events. Following a test that began in May, the stations owned by NBC and Fox in Philadelphia will formalize in January an arrangement that turns some of their camera crews over to a jointly run assignment desk. It determines which local events they’ll photograph, and feeds the raw video to each station. The stations prepare their own stories. The companies — which compete with each other at MSNBC and Fox News Channel, but are partners at the online video service Hulu — plan to copy this process in other cities in which each owns TV stations, including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Dallas and Washington. More bad news — and I mean that literally. Are we going back to the days where journalism was practiced by muckrakers with their own printing press (now called the blog-o-sphere)?

And with that chum, it’s time to go clean the kitchen….