Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Open Accountability

I tend to trust people and systems that are capable of analyzing their mistakes and advancing a theory of cause for an error. The proposed fix will not always work, and sometimes the mistake is not really a mistake but is natural random variation of reality and the decision process worked. If these results are arrived at honestly, after a thorough examination of the circumstances, I'll accept a null hypothesis of change.

This process of self-examination is a negative feedback loop that keeps an organization or an individual from getting too far off course and thus too good at wasting scarce and valuable resources. Organizations that either do not conduct a post-facto failure analysis or refuses to be open about their analysis of success and failure do not allow their public stakeholders to make informed decisions and thus leads to incomplete and potentially inaccurate information to enter the decision process and increases the probability of wasting of resources and effort.

My confidence in the Crooks and Liars/Firedoglake/Down with Tyranny groups' political judgment has increased tonight as Howie Klein has taken a painful and informative step of publicly airing a failure and his analysis:

We don't expect the men and women we support to necessarily support the same position we do on every single vote. But even in the short time Chris Carney has been in Congress, he has moved further and further away from all the other Blue America endorsees who won seats.

In terms of supporting progressive issues in general, he has established himself at the bottom of the barrel among the freshmen, along with candidates we chose not to endorse, like Jason Altmire (PA), Rahm Emanuel's Heath Shuler (NC), Nick Lampson (TX) and Brad Ellsworth (IN). Some of us were disappointed but none of the writers at DownWithTyranny, Firedoglake or Crooks & Liars chose to castigate Carney. And then something happened that has made us decide to speak up. We realized Chris Carney lied to us....

unlike other netroots groups, Blue America endorsed him. We encouraged our members to volunteer for his campaign and to help raise consciousness in PA-10 about Don "The Choker" Sherwood… and to donate money to the campaign. 722 of our members made donations to Carney's campaign....

When he wanted our support he told us he favors equality for the GLBT community, something he also made clear to the folks at Project Vote Smart when he checked the little box that indicates he would like to "Require that crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, and disability be prosecuted as federal hate crimes." So weren't we in for a surprise a few days ago when Congressman Carney joined 13 of the most die-hard reactionary Democrats in the House — near-Republicans who almost always support a reactionary social agenda — to vote against the Hate Crimes bill. The bill passed 237-180 and all but 14 Democrats supported… well, supported exactly what Carney promised in his campaign he would support, "that crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, and disability be prosecuted as federal hate crimes." I felt betrayed — like I had been kicked in the stomach.

Based on my research and interview with candidate Carney, Blue America had endorsed him and hundreds of our members had donated effort and money to his campaign....

We expect the candidates we endorse and raise money for to support a woman's right to choice, to support serious campaign finance reform, to favor serious proposals to end the occupation of Iraq, to support gay equality– and, like I said, to be willing to exercise leadership on difficult issues

I have one quibble with this analysis and that is why it was not performed earlier. However I have greater confidence in this group's political judgment as I know as a quality control/data analyst that shit occassionally happens and the best systems can be adaptive and learn from past mistakes. The visble and voiced recognition of a negative event and its causation are important steps towards improvement.

Secondly, a significant component of political power is the ability to issue a credible threat or a credible promise. Empty threats and constant support means that a politician can take that person or group as a chump as they can not harm their chances of success. Groups and individuals that are able to credibly and strategically defect and inflict significant costs are listened to and respected as they demonstrate a basic understanding of political power.

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