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May 31, 2012 - by David Moore

The U.S. Congress is a baffling, systemically-corrupt, closed-off institution. OpenCongress works every day to make its workings more accessible and give you the real story behind what's happening. 

Help us keep OpenCongress alive as a free & open-source public resource.

OpenCongress will launch a new fundraising drive next month and we need some volunteer web development time to make it happen. Click through to see how you can help. 

 

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Last week there was a brief flurry on the micropublishing service re: possibility of a version control system (VCS) for laws. Background links via the incredible research of Rob Richards - this post by Abe Volcker on "GitLaw" made a splash on Hacker News. Here's an unedited-draft, non-exhaustive, quick-fast sketch of a response from my point of view.

First, though, please read this enlightening Quora thread in full: "What are the nontechnical barriers to adopting a version control system for use in writing bills / new laws?" My apologies to have a pre-requisite, but it's crucial background & full of expert insight. 

Click through for my take on public accountability through an open VCS for laws. (I'm bullish!) 

 

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Congress Refuses to #FreeTHOMAS (updated)

May 17, 2012 - by David Moore

Update, May 30th, 2012, 5pm ET: Ohh hell no. They're blocking you, you reading this now, from accessing #opendata about bills in Congress. This afternoon, Daniel Schuman & Eric Mill with our partners Sunlight Foundation posted this seriously unfortunate, significantly discouraging, sadly expected update: "Appropriators May Undercut Legislative Transparency". 

Background on OC Blog: our campaign is to #FreeTHOMAS now. See our #FreeTHOMAS community wiki whip count page for more info & links. 

Primary point of contact here should be office of Rep. Ander Crenshaw [R, FL-04], on behalf of the intentionally, insistently closed-off Legislative Branch Subcommittee. Give them a ring and let them know that even if you're not a constituent, you demand bulk access to public legislative information - Rep. Crenshaw's office phone is 202-225-2501. Click through for more updates. 

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This video presentation, by Prof. Yochai Benkler of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, is one of the best articulations I've ever seen of the meaning of "participatory politics".

Please watch it in full & share it: Blueprint for Democratic Participation.

Help us facilitate more stop-SOPA-style civic engagement on OpenCongress - around the economy, education, health care, the environment, immigration, technology, or any issue imaginable - support our not-for-profit work. Click through for more of my thoughts on the importance of the stop-SOPA / PIPA movement for netfreedom, as well as why this research is so important for our core non-profit mission of promoting participatory democracy through free Web tools.

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Remember the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its language "affirming" the military's power to indefinitely detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, without charge or trial? Well, the 2013 NDAA bill begins its journey through the legislative process tomorrow morning in the House Armed Services Committee; take a look at what power they'll be trying to affirm for the Defense Department this time around:

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The Week Ahead in Congress

May 7, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

Remember the harsh budget trigger the government was supposed to face as a reprecussion of the deficit supercommittee's epic failure? Yeah, well, Congress this week is going to start working on a way to avoid that. Under a series of bills to be voted on in the House this week, the budget trigger would be revised to eliminate $600 billion in scheduled defense cuts over the next decade and increase cuts to social programs. According to the AP, one quarter of the new spending cuts would "come from programs directly benefiting the poor, such as Medicaid, food stamps, the Social Services Block Grant, and a child tax credit claimed by working immigrants."

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After indicating that they may veto the House's cybersecurity bill (CISPA) over privacy concerns, the Obama Administration is reaffirming its support for a competing cybersecurity bill in the Senate, the Lieberman-Collins "Cybersecurity Act of 2012." Problem is, the Lieberman-Collins bill is nearly as bad on privacy as CISPA.

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