The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the Fiscal Cliff Package, "Savings and Costs in the Fiscal Cliff Package" [table] The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (January 1, 2013).
This is based in part on the document:
John Wonderlich does a good job of summing up how openness was a casualty of the so-called fiscal cliff drama.
- The Fiscal Cliff Process was an Atrocious, Secretive Mess, by John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation (Jan. 2, 2013).
As we expected, the culmination of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations was a rush to the finish line, in which policies decided by a few men in a room were passed through the Congress without amendment.
Here is an interesting view of the bill that passed:
- 6 Things You Won't Believe That Are In The Fiscal Cliff Bill That The Senate Passed At 2 AM While Most Americans Were Drunk, by Joe Weisenthal, Business Insider (Jan. 1, 2013).
...why is the bill 157-pages long?
There's a provision extending a tax policy related to Puerto Rican rum... a tax credit for 2- and 3-wheel electric vehicles... An extension of some special rules for the film and television business... A gift to the car-racing world... Help to asparagus farmers...
As Wonderlich said, "While Congress (and the rest of us) only just found out what was in the bill, a coterie of corporate lobbyists managed to get their profit-boosting tax expenditures included. It's hard to imagine how NASCAR and Hollywood had stronger negotiating positions than the House of Representatives, but in the end, they did."
Census Bureau to Offer American Community Survey Internet Response, press release (MONDAY, DEC. 17, 2012)
The American Community Survey, the most detailed portrait of America's towns and neighborhoods, is now more convenient for most participants with the added availability of responding online. That will make it the 61st U.S. Census Bureau survey with Internet response...
Households selected to participate in the American Community Survey will receive a letter in the mail with instructions about how to log in to the secure website and complete the survey online... If households selected to participate in the survey do not use the online response option, the Census Bureau will send them a paper questionnaire, or contact them by phone or in person to obtain answers.
- Developing an Internet Response Mode for the American Community Survey, by Mary C. Davis, Jennifer Guarino Tancreto, and Mary Frances Zelenak, Decennial Statistical Studies Division U.S. Census Bureau, FedCASIC (March 23, 2011).
- Design of the American Community Survey Internet?Instrument: Final Report, by Jennifer Guarino Tancreto, Mary Davis, Mary Frances Zelenak. American Community Survey Research and Evaluation Program (April 18, 2012)
FOIAonline is a tool for tracking and processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. FOIAonline participating agencies include: Environmental Protection Agency, Department Of Commerce (except the US Patent and Trademark Office), Office of General Counsel of The National Archives and Records Administration, Merit Systems Protection Board, Federal Labor Relations Authority, and in a limited capacity the Department of the Treasury (for: Departmental Offices, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Bureau Of Engraving and Printing, Bureau of Fiscal Services, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and U.S.Mint). Please note: Information available from FOIAonline varies by agency.
- Searchable FOIA Database Available Online, National Coalition for History (December 10, 2012).
FOIAonline can be accessed at http://FOIAonline.Regulations.gov. While you can send requests to the participating agencies now, the data available in the system are initially minimal and variable by agency. The partner agencies will continue to enhance the system and they welcome other agencies’ participation.
The U.S. Census Bureau has a Data Visualization Gallery where they post weekly "explorations of Census data." Some of these strike me as unnecessary (does adding animation to the map of population density around Interstate 5 add any value to the data?), but strangely cool; (I will never be able to drive north from San Diego again without remembering this map!). At the very least, the site is a showcase for the data and (I hope) an inspiration to budding data visualizers!
Hat tip to LAist, a website about Los Angeles, that has a brief story (4 Cool Ways Of Visualizing Local Census Data) that links to some of their favorites that show how the population has been changing in Los Angeles and California relative to the rest of the country.
ProPublica has a short report with good links about the massive (roughly 6,000-page) Senate committee report on the CIA's detention, interrogation and rendition of terror suspects.
- The Senate Report on CIA Interrogations You May Never See, by Cora Currier,
ProPublica (Dec. 7, 2012).
... it's unclear how much, if any, of the review you might get to read.
The committee first needs to vote to endorse the report. Republicans, who are a minority on the committee, have been boycotting the investigation since the summer of 2009.
Even if the report is approved next week, it won’t be made public then, if at all. Decisions on declassification will come at "a later time"...
...the Obama administration has argued in courts that details about the CIA program [including some of the Guantanamo detainees' own accounts of their imprisonment] are still classified.
Staffer axed by Republican group over retracted copyright-reform memo, by Timothy B. Lee, arstechnica (Dec 6 2012).
The Republican Study Committee, a caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives, has told staffer Derek Khanna that he will be out of a job when Congress re-convenes in January. The incoming chairman of the RSC, Steve Scalise (R-LA) was approached by several Republican members of Congress who were upset about a memo Khanna wrote advocating reform of copyright law. They asked that Khanna not be retained, and Scalise agreed to their request.
Three open government access advocates (Sunlight Foundation developer Eric Mill, GovTrack.us founder Josh Tauberer and New York Times developer Derek Willis) have put the United States Code on Github.
- The United States (Code) is on Github, by Alex Howard, O'Reilly Radar (December 6, 2012).
This fall, a trio of open government developers took it upon themselves to do what custodians of the U.S. Code and laws in the Library of Congress could have done years ago: published data and scrapers for legislation in Congress from THOMAS.gov in the public domain. The data at github.com/unitedstates is published using an "unlicense" and updated nightly.
..."It would be fantastic if the relevant bodies published this data themselves and made these datasets and scrapers unnecessary," said Mill, in an email interview. "It would increase the information's accuracy and timeliness, and probably its breadth. It would certainly save us a lot of work!"
Perhaps even more importantly, the project has released its computer code so that others will be able to scrape Thomas to build their own datasets of legislative data. The computer code also includes a U.S Code parser, which is significant because none of various formats in which the government produces the U.S. Code are suitable for easy reuse.
I also think it is fantastic that these developers understand the difference between putting information on the web in various hard-to-use, hard-to-preserve, and often hard-to-parse formats and actually publishing the data so that it can be easily obtained, used, and re-used. As Mill notes, publishing information makes scraping the web unnecessary, and publishing in open formats makes it much simpler to preserve information.
NextGov asked app reviewers to take a look at two recently-launched government apps designed to help the public navigate complex economic information: The Census Bureau's America's Economy app and the Education Department's StudentAid.gov mobile website.