Watching history in the making…

Two weeks ago, I added to my daily RSS feeds.

Since then, each morning, I get to glimpse the volume, and sheer dynamic range, of work going on there. The speed of context switching makes my head spin. Lobbying restrictions. Child health care. Plans for Guantanamo. Weather emergencies in Arkansas and Kentucky. Interviews on Al Arabiya. Freedom of Information Act. A gender-equal payment law… Nice going for just two weeks, and that’s just the highlights of the unclassified stuff. For extra fun, you can now also see the full text of the new law, and even comment on it.

“…The law is now up on our website, where you can review its full text and and submit your thoughts, comments, and ideas.”

Lots of this information was probably available in different forms in the past, if you knew where to look and who to ask. But not easily to mere mortals. Getting this out of the hands of gatekeepers, or media spin-doctors and instead making it available directly to the public feels to me like how government is supposed to be. The phrase “…by the people, for the people…” seems refreshingly appropriate once again.
I really never thought I’d see the day, and I have to say this openness really makes me proud.
As an aside: If you take top-of-the-world financial institutions, and drive them literally to bankruptcy (or in some cases to rescue by government handouts), how exactly you can justify getting a bonus in that situation is beyond me. That $18billion (yes, billion with a B) could instead pay for a lot of salaries. I wonder how many of those laid-off financial workers, including some computer engineer friends of mine, would still have a job if that “bonus” money was used instead for employee salaries. These are the same financial institutions that make me sit silently every time I look at the carnage in my 401k. Shameful is one word for it.

2 thoughts on “Watching history in the making…

  1. I’ve been reluctant to jump on the Obama-is-Messiah bandwagon, but I will say the most encouraging and definite change that has been brought to the White House for sure thus far is the new trend toward transparency and availablility of information. This is one area where Obama was without doubt a better choice than McCain. A web-savvy, communicative administration will do a lot more for keeping the public informed. We never would have gotten that from McCain, who said he doesn’t even have an e-mail account. It doesn’t make him a bad person — it’s just a telling generational issue. We have yet to see on other issues like the stimulus package and plans for health and education, but at least we can chalk up one positive legacy Obama will leave us.

  2. […] I agree with John that it’s good to see enacted legislation made more accessible to the public. (The referenced bill was available as always through the Library of Congress’s Thomas system, of course, but if you’ve ever attempted to use the system it’s, well, horrible. Permanent links are difficult if not impossible to find [I’m pretty sure the given URL isn’t permanent, given the “temp” within it; I found it by searching for “ledbetter”], bill text is “splashed” into the page with no containing box to draw the eye or limit line length, search navigation text is preformatted [why?!?!], the “XML display” of a bill isn’t even sent as XML, and overall the site’s just ugly.) Engagement in the political process first and foremost requires knowledge: of the issues, of the bills under consideration, of the enacted laws, and of the people in the government. […]