Thursday, July 10, 2008

Let's end the backroom deals and shed light on our Congress!

One would think that in a representative republic like the United States, our elected officials would embrace every opportunity to communicate with us. Reaching out to us on television and radio is fine, but it's hardly what one could call two-way communication. With the growing public acceptance of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, we should be able to expect a new level of interaction with those elected to represent us. These tools allow us to interact with our lawmakers in real-time and allow them to keep us informed on what's happening in our government in a very 'at the moment' sort of way.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees these government changing technologies in a good way. While many representatives such as Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) are embracing services like Twitter, others, like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, would rather us not know too much about what goes on in the hallowed halls of our Congress. In fact, Congress is currently debating whether to relax standing rules that prohibit or severely limit members use of social tools like Twitter or blogs, or Qik video broadcasting without prior approval of the content by House leadership. Any guess where Speaker Pelosi falls on this issue?

It's no secret that Pelosi isn't a friend to the concept of open democracy. But her opposition to removing restrictions that prevent Congress from effectively communicating with the public is yet another sign of the Nazi'ish, authoritarian, House that Pelosi likes to run.

Speaker Pelosi, and those who favor keeping the rules in place, say that, in many matters, discretion is a must. What would happen, after all, if Rep. Culberson were to broadcast some "super secret" vote or meeting over his Qik channel or post it to his YouTube channel? While I agree that the results of doing such things in certain situations could be damaging, I'm wondering if Speaker Pelosi has forgotten a very important fact:

These are the people we've elected to run our whole country on our behalf. They're not 5 year olds running around with a video camera filming mommy in the shower.

If we can't trust them not to film or broadcast sensitive material, how in hell can we trust them with our welfare? Holy crap, these people have the power to authorize the use of nukes but they can't discern when is a bad time to use a video camera?

The reason, of course, for Pelosi and her ilk's opposition to loosening these restrictions is that they don't want people like Rep. Culberson to do what he has stated he wants to do: create a truly transparent government where Congress can't hide in the shadows where there are no television cameras or reporters and backroom deals can be cut without the public finding out until it's too late to stop them.

Thankfully, brave men and women in Congress and ordinary citizens tired of the secrecy are standing up for Congress's right to communicate with the American people. Rep. Culberson is drafting a letter as I write this to encourage the leadership to relax these restrictions and there's even been a petition started (not by Congress) that seeks to encourage Pelosi and her Congressional SS Guard to "Let our Congress Tweet".

This is not going to be easy folks. Congress has a long history of secret deals and things done in the shadows. It's only gotten worse since Nancy Pelosi has taken power as Speaker. Let's get behind our freedom fighters in Congress and sign the Let our Congress Tweet petition (you can do it via, what else, a tweet), and let's call on our officials to offer our support for freedom. There's also the non-profit Sunlight Foundation which works to free government officials from such oppression and win them the right to blog and to participate in social media conversations.

It's not going to change overnight.
But, as soul singer Sam Cooke once sang, change is gonna come.

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