The "Troubled Assets Relief Program" (TARP) (Public Law 110-343, 122 STAT. 3765, DOCID: f:publ343.110) is the financial "bailout."
ProPublica has a lot of useful information on the bailout:
- Map: Show Me the TARP Money
- Show Me the TARP Money (a running count of the TARP $700 billion funds, updated regularly. includes Amount, Date, Bank Name, Background Profile.)
- Continuing Coverage
- RSS feed
- Bailout Widget you can put on your site.
And don't forget the Coverage at OpenTheGovernment.org!
Attempts to reauthorize the E-Government Act of 2002 (116 Stat. 2899, Public Law 107–347, Dec. 17 2002) are being held up, apparently because of an amendment that would require federal agencies to conduct privacy impact assessments before using outside contractors to manage personal information.
- Amendment likely to prevent e-gov act reauthorization, By Andrew Noyes, CongressDaily, 12/11/2008.
The bill would also add language to ensure government information is accessible via commercial search engines. (See also: Much Government Information Still Not Searchable on Google, etc.)
Library of Congress Photos on Flickr. The Library of Congress has prepared a report on the results of the first nine months of it use of Flickr.
The report: For the Common Good: The Library of Congress Flickr Pilot Project, by Michelle Springer, Beth Dulabahn, Phil Michel, Barbara Natanson, David Reser, David Woodward, and Helena Zinkham. October 30, 2008
This project significantly increased the reach of Library content and demonstrated the many kinds of creative interactions that are possible when people can access collections within their own Web communities. The contribution of additional information to thousands of photographs was invaluable. Performance measures documented in this report illustrate how the project has been successful in achieving the objectives and desired outcomes of the Library’s strategic goals. The Flickr project increases awareness of the Library and its collections; sparks creative interaction with collections; provides LC staff with experience with social tagging and Web 2.0 community input; and provides leadership to cultural heritage and government communities.
Near the end of the report, the authors quote some of the typical fears about projects like this and say that experience has not borne out the concerns of critics.
At the start of the pilot, critics pointed out several risks often expressed as questions. Experience so far has not borne out their concerns. The skeptics wondered: Would the public conversation contribute to a better understanding of the photos or would fan mail, false memories, fake facts, and uncivil discourse obscure knowledge? Would a public-commercial partnership undermine the Library’s reputation for impartiality? Would the Library lose control of its collections? Would library catalogs and catalogers become obsolete? Would the need to moderate and respond to comments overwhelm all other work? Would history be dumbed-down? Would photographs be disrespected or exploited? Would entire collections be welcome or would selection of safe content border on censorship of historical information?
This is an interesting, well done report with specific details that should be useful to others thinking about how to expand their library services.
Break time! If you work with government information in a library, you probably also either work with maps or work with someone who does. So, you may be interested in The Atlas of True Names, which "reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on today's maps of the World and Europe."
Anyway, enjoy, and check out the map!
State Dept: Crisis in the “Foreign Relations” Series, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News, December 11, 2008.
Steven reports on a recent meeting at the State Department in which the chairman of the Department’s Historical Advisory Committee warned that the future of the Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series is in jeopardy due to mismanagement by the Office of the Historian and announced his resignation from the Committee. William Roger Louis also said in a written analysis that "This year alone the office has lost 20% of its FRUS staff (7 of 35 members) and 30% of its FRUS staff experience (64 of 212 years)."
Steven has links to the analysis and other related documents.
Firms Push for a More Searchable Federal Web, By Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post,December 11, 2008; D01.
Here is another article about the problem that commercial search engines have in indexing government information.
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt says that the "vast majority" of U.S. government information is still not searchable or findable. J.L. Needham, Google's manager of public-sector content partnerships, estimates that 1,000 federal government Web sites are inaccessible to search engine crawlers.
A person using one of the search engines, for example, can't find Environmental Protection Agency enforcement actions against a given company, can't discover the picture of a specific ancient Egyptian artifact at the Smithsonian and can't search by name for the details of a Vietnam War casualty.
And for many Web users, if an online item can't be found with a Web search engine, then for all practical purposes it doesn't exist.
What's the problem? Often, it is simply a matter of agency budgets. "[I]nformation technology officials in the federal bureaucracy said that the transition may require significant manpower and that the costs could be large." One official said that "With limited resources as always, it's a little bit hard."
A new paper by Bernadine E. Abbott Hoduski and Michele McKnelly addresses the proposal to revise Chapter 19 of Title 44 "to allow a more flexible structure" for Regional Depository Libraries.
- Does the Federal Depository Library Program Require Title 44 Revision to Improve Public Access to Government Information?, by Bernadine E. Abbott Hoduski and Michele McKnelly, December 2, 2008
Hoduski and McKnelly conclude that the proposal "will do more harm than good and alternatives that will improve public access should be considered."
File this under "lessons learned." The European Union's new Europeana digital library, which was launched on November 20, had to be taken offine because the heavy demand by users -- 10 million hits an hour -- overwhelmed the servers.
The home page of "Europeana" today says, "Popularity brings the site down....We are doing our best to reopen Europeana.eu in a more robust version."
A story in the Christian Science Monitor (Everybody loves the digital library – maybe too much, by Marjorie Kehe, 12.09.08) says the site "had to be shut down within hours when powerful user demand swamped its system" and describes the digital library this way:
The online collection of Europe’s cultural heritage was launched on November 21. Europeana will allow users anywhere to access books kept in European libraries as well as films, paintings, photographs, sound recordings, maps, manuscripts, newspapers, and documents.
The event reminds me of the problem the House had recently (Scaling house.gov).
You will just have to trust me on this one. Listen and enjoy. It is okay to think about the implications of ants, and bees on Depository Libraries and long-term preservation.... Let me know what you think.
- Emergence, RadioLab, WNYC, July 15, 2008. (Streaming audio and downloadable MP3 available.)
Secret Law And The Threat To Democratic And Accountable Government, Hearing before the Subcommittee On The Constitution Of The Committee On The Judiciary United States Senate, April 30, 2008, (S. Hrg. 110-604, DOCID: f:44955.wais, Serial No. J-110-89, ASCII version. Theoretically available as PDF from GPO, but definitely available from FAS: PDF; FAS also has ASCII version).
From the opening statement by Senator Russell Feingold,
The notion of secret law has been described in court opinions and law treatises as ``repugnant'' and ``an abomination''. It is a basic tenet of democracy that the people have a right to know the law. In keeping with this principle, the laws passed by Congress and the case law of our courts have historically been matters of public record. When it became apparent in the middle of the 20th century that Federal agencies were increasingly creating a body of non-public administrative law, Congress passed several statutes requiring this law to be made public for the express purpose of preventing a regime of secret law.
That purpose today is being thwarted. Congressional enactments and agency regulations are, for the most part, still public. But the law that applies in this country is determined not only by statutes and regulations, but also by the controlling interpretations of courts and, in some cases, the executive branch. More and more, this body of executive and judicial law is being kept secret from Congress as well.
Feingold mentions many problems, among them the discovery that the Office of Legal Counsel has taken the position that a President can waive or modify a published Executive order without any notice to the public or Congress--simply by not following it. He says, "abrogating an Executive order without any public notice works a secret change in the law. Worse, because the published order stays on the books, it actively misleads Congress and the public as to what the law is. That has the effect--presumably the intended effect--of derailing any accountability or oversight that could otherwise occur."
Thanks, and a tip of the hat to Secrecy News!