LATE last month, the Obama administration unveiled a new tool that lets anyone send a petition to the White House; get 5,000 signatures in 30 days and you're guaranteed some kind of answer. My prediction: it's not going to stop people from trying to occupy Wall Street. After the past few years, we're increasingly unwilling to believe that political reform can be accomplished by going through the "normal channels" of democracy.
It's easy to understand why. In the first few months of the Bush administration, the vice president's staff held a series of secret meetings with energy company executives to come up with a new energy policy that, essentially, gave big oil everything it asked for. When journalists learned about the secret sessions, they became a scandal - environmental groups complained long and loud, right up to the Supreme Court, and rightly so. Important decisions should be made in the open, not behind closed doors by cronies scratching one another's backs.
In 2008, Barack Obama promised to turn things around with new ethics guidelines and promises of transparency. But if two batches of e-mails released via the Freedom of Information Act - the first last month and the second on Monday - are any indication, he's not delivering on that promise.