For those of you not quite clear on what it is that I do, you might be interested in an article that I wrote for the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, explaining The State Decoded and its application to laws and regulations. The project is more than halfway done, and I’m pleased with its progress. →
The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled in favor of allowing OpenCourt to expand their streaming video feeds of court proceedings beyond Quincy District Court. The WBUR project has been running since last year, allowing anybody to watch what’s going on in the courtroom. It’s been a success by any measure, but when they tried to expand to broadcasting jury trials, the county DA sued to stop them. The court ruled that there’s simply no legal basis to stop them—they have the same right as any other media outlet to film in the courtroom. This is a great project, doing the important work of opening up courtrooms. This is the second such legal challenge that they’ve faced, the second time it’s gone to the state’s highest court, and the second time that they’ve won. →
This is what I did for the White House from November–February—create Ethics.gov. I’ll have to write a lot more about that whole adventure, now that the site is public. In short, though, A++++ WOULD WORK THERE AGAIN. →
Chicago recently announced that they’d be sharing the GPS-tracked positions of snowplows online, for people wondering when their neighborhood would be plowed, and what roads are cleared. Now VDOT is doing the same in Virginia, although only upstate. →
- Mediaite: AP Reporter Responds To Chris Hayes Panel Debate On Racism Of Droppin’ G’s From Obama Speech
There's some fussing about how an AP reporter transcribed a quote from President Obama. In a recent speech, the president said: "Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’." On one of those sunday morning shouting shows, the reporter was declared to be racist for doing so. Ridiculous. Anybody who saw or heard the president's remarks knows full well that this was a deliberately affected speaking style. To transcribe his remarks with the "g" would have whitewashed his speech while altering his remarks. This is not a matter of transcribing a dialect paternally, but instead attempting to convey his remarks accurately.
- National Arbitration Forum: Ms. Stefani Germanotta v. oranges arecool XD
This is a really interesting decision that resulted from an ICANN complaint that Germanotta filed against a Lady Gaga fan site, ladygaga.org, demanding that the fan turn over the domain name. Though there are a lot of facts that led to their conclusion, the mediators found in favor of the fan, finding that the site was run in good faith, there was no substantial likelihood of confusion with the official site, and that Germanotta doesn't appear to be having any trouble promoting herself.
- Sunlight Labs: House Revamps Floor Feed
The U.S. House has made some great changes to their legislative data service. The U.S. Senate remains in the stone age.
- Macleans OnCampus: Is this what 17-year-old students are really like?
I think Beloit College's annual Mindset List is wretched. Every year it's full of mistakes, exaggerations, and generally poor thinking. I'm glad to see McLeans acknowledge this.
News stations are either loving their Dejero or coveting one. It's like a whole news truck in a suitcase, using a 3G signal to send HD-quality video back to the station for live broadcast. We're surely not more than 3–5 years away from accomplishing the same thing with a device the size of an iPhone.
- Matt MacDonald: Extracting quotes from 5 years of Watertown Town Council meetings
It's great to see open government technologists turning their attention to local government.
- GitHub: nysenatecio/OpenLegislation
The New York Senate's online legislative repository is available on Github. Very impressive.
- Reuters: It pays to be Murdoch. Just ask US gov’t.
Over the past four years, not only has News Corp. not paid income taxes, they've actually gamed the system to collect $4.8B in tax refunds. Murdoch has 152 subsidiaries spread among tax havens throughout the world, and uses them to make *us* pay *him*, via our government.
- The Daily Beast: Debt Crisis Deepens as Eric Cantor, GOP Propose New Cuts
Eric Cantor proposed to the president that college students start making payments on student loans immediately, rather than waiting until graduation. Apparently Cantor doesn't know any actual college students. To his credit, the president responded, "I’m not going to take money from old people and screw students."
- PolitiFact Virginia: Jamie Radtke says George Allen had 40,000 earmarks while senator
Does anybody take this woman seriously anymore?
- CNN: Conservative group sues over bin Laden death photos
Although I think it would be politically unwise and generally disgusting to release the photos of Osama bin Laden's corpse, I think there's a good argument to be made that the federal government is obliged to release them in response to a request, under FOIA.
- Mother Jones: Huckabee Adviser—Obama is a Soviet Spy
Janet Porter, Mike Huckabee's top advisor, claims that President Obama is a Soviet sleeper agent, created for the purpose of overthrowing the US from within. Somebody should break the news to her about the USSR.
- IBM Many Bills: A Visual Bill Explorer
IBM is doing some really interesting work with legislation here. In my own work on Richmond Sunlight, I've long treated the text of the bill as a black box, doing very little with the text of bills. IBM demonstrates here that there's actually some valuable data to be gleaned from the actual words within the bill. Their interface is lousy—the site is hard to use—by I really admire their original thinking.
- Think Progress: In Washington, You Don’t Need To Know Anything About Policy To Be a Senator Or Chair Important Commissions
Former Senator Alan Simpson knows disturbingly little about Social Security and, indeed, history and math, especially for the guy who is the co-chair of the President Obama's budget commission.
- Wikispecies: Free Species Directory
From the Wikimedia foundation, Wikispecies is like Wikipedia, but for species. One entry for every species. They're up to 265,369 articles.
- Wall Street Journal: Grandparents and Grandkids Connect Via Facebook, Twitter and Texting
My grandfather kept up with his grandchildren—and we kept up with him—via Facebook until shortly before his death last year. My grandmother had photos and status updates cherry-picked from Facebook and e-mailed to her—delivered via her HP Presto e-mail printer—until her death last month. Of course, the ability to assign grandparents (and grandchildren) to a specific group to limit access is helpful, too—kids need not share everything with their elders.
Woot! It's not just open government—it's open government about open government. Virginia needs one of these.
- Virginian Pilot: Va. House members back redistricting plan
The state's House of Representatives delegation have agreed on a redistricting plan that would protect all incumbents. Let's all pause and put on our best surprised faces. Griffith's district grows to take some of Goodlatte's, absorbing Martinsville from Hurt's district. Rigell's district grows to take some of Wittman's, while Wittman's district expands up towards D.C. Connolly gets Reston and Herdon, losing conservative parts of Prince William for more liberal parts of the county. Everybody wins. Except voters.
- Tumblr: Virginia Coalition for Open Government
If you're not already following VCOG on Twitter or the VCOG blog, you might follow it on its new Tumblog. I'd be surprised if there is a more open, active state-level open government organization group in the nation. (Disclaimer: I'm on the board, though I've had nothing to do with any of this outreach.)
- Krulwich Wonders…: Cactus Walking On 20 Legs Found In China
Half a billion years ago, lifeforms suddenly took on crazy, elaborate new shapes. It's really not clear why it happened, but they sure were impressive.
- Washington Post: GOP spending plan would cost 700,000 jobs, new report says
Moody's has released an analysis of the Republican spending plan, and they've determined that it would eliminate 700k jobs before the end of next year and reduce economic growth by 0.5% this year. (That report, incidentally, is by an advisor to John McCain's 2008 campaign.) Goldman Sachs' analysis last week forecast even more dire results. Republicans insist that these analyses are wrong, but haven't been able to produce an independent analysis that supports that claim.
- Tech President: Two Years Later—Recovery.gov Still Sucks At Public Engagement
Recovery.gov isn't anywhere near as great as it was supposed to be. It's one thing to install software and set up a fancy website, and quite another to change the habits of a bureaucracy.