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Open Gov Tracker Reveals Best US Open Government Ideas 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-time-with-feeling dept.
jonverve writes "In May of 2009, the White House launched an Ideascale site to gather ideas from citizens to identify ways to 'strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness by making government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.' The digital letdown was when many of the top ideas generated by the process were to legalize marijuana, solve tax issues and to reinvestigate Obama's birth origins. Fast forward to February 6 and the same process has been repeated with individual federal agencies as the subject. This time the idea generation has been much more productive, with ideas such as establishing clear benchmarks on humanitarian progress in Sudan to the State Department, funding for open source text books and materials to the Department of Education, making it easier to access previously FOIAed documents to the Department of Justice, and creating a Wiki for NASA to share its data and to engage the public. Hackers from NASA's Nebula cloud computing platform have created a site that aggregates 23 of these idea sites to give a quick peek into the best rated contributions in each category. Programmed in Python and using the MongoDB and Tornado web server, the Open Gov Tracker was highlighted by the open government blog Govfresh this past week as well. Jessy Cowan-Sharp, one of the creators, explained their motivation: 'We thought that a single access point would give a sense of the participation on all the different sites, a window into the discussions happening, build some excitement, and inspire people to participate.' The process closes on March 19th, so go and visit the site to contribute your ideas and vote!"
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Open Gov Tracker Reveals Best US Open Government Ideas

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  • by Paktu (1103861) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:36PM (#31307118)
    The digital letdown was when many of the top ideas generated by the process were to legalize marijuana

    Or maybe that's because it's a worthwhile and viable policy objective.

  • by J'raxis (248192) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:39PM (#31307142) Homepage

    The digital letdown was when many of the top ideas generated by the process were to legalize marijuana, solve tax issues and to reinvestigate Obama's birth origins.

    So, in other words, they didn't get the answers they wanted to hear. What a "letdown."

    Fast forward to February 6 and the same process has been repeated with individual federal agencies as the subject. This time the idea generation has been much more productive, with ideas such as ...

    And "productive" means now they are.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:42PM (#31307162)

    The Obama birth record bs I can understand... but why are "legalize marijuana, solve tax issues" big letdowns?

    legalize marijuana: It could not only reduce the cost of law enforcement by tens or even hundreds of billions but provide valuable new jobs and revenue streams for taxation.

  • by clang_jangle (975789) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:53PM (#31307258) Journal
    Exactly, the position is "we're open to hearing anything -- except of course repealing prohibition, or actually representing the people in general". That's the whole problem with democracy in the US today, it doesn't truly exist on any meaningful scale. This whole "open government" thing is just feel-good theater to help the people maintain their denial about the fact that they live in a corporate oligarchy which is rapidly becoming feudalism. The difference between political parties comes down to which "special interests" own them, while the people have no representation. We are so screwed...
  • by KiahZero (610862) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:55PM (#31307292)

    No, "productive" in this context means "substantive," "based in reality," "possible in the current political climate," and, most importantly, "not subject to the Internet-poll effect." The highest rated "idea" right now is basically telling people to shut the fuck up about their bullshit Birtherism. That may be many things, but it's not "productive."

    By narrowing the topic of discussion, it filtered out more of the trolls and thereby increased the signal-to-noise ratio.

  • by Xelios (822510) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:57PM (#31307314)
    It may have been a letdown in terms of the goals of the project, but I think it was pretty successful in showing how much the government actually cares about these interactions. They're not after collaboration with the public in solving problems, they're after an image of openness, nothing more. Sure, if they run into an idea that's easy to implement and jives with their own agendas they'll run with it, but by and large it's just a marketing campaign.
  • by kestasjk (933987) * on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:57PM (#31307316) Homepage
    Getting stoned off your balls is always a worthwhile and viable policy objective.
  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:58PM (#31307318)

    1) Reduces prison population -> reduces Government budget/deficit
    2) Introduces new tax revenue -> increases government revenues & reduces deficit
    3) Reduces crime rate - small-time marijuana dealers no longer have any customers as it's more convenient for smokers to buy from regulated sources, so small-time marijuana dealers move onto other things (some will move to harder drugs, but many who would move are already dealing those)
    4) Whoever moves to legalize it first gains many votes from the millions of adults who regularly smoke it

  • by wealthychef (584778) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @01:16PM (#31307462)
    So if 36% of Americans favor legalization, why aren't there 30% of congress or the senate voting for it? We need to reform the electoral process to provide more choices. Maybe proportional representation plus instant runoff voting [instantrunoff.com]
  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @01:25PM (#31307540)

    Oh, dear. This is why statistics so often lie. The question of _legalizing_ marijuana is often conflated with that of _decriminalizing_ it. Decriminalizing it would provide the first, third, and fourth benefits at least somewhat, and consistently gathers far more than 50% support in polls.

  • by aminorex (141494) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @01:34PM (#31307614) Homepage Journal

    ...a big disappointment to those who wish to control society for their personal ambitions, rather than respect the popular will. If you don't think legalizing marijuana is a critical issue, I guess the overwhelming force of public opinion isn't going to change your mind.

  • by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @01:48PM (#31307734)

    Probably because it takes more then 30% of the people to elect a representative and of those 30% very few probably consider it the deciding issue in who they vote for whereas a large percentage of the group that does not favor it would immediately decide not to vote for a candidate regardless of other issues if they favored legalizing it.

    When there's enough people that want it badly enough and will actually go to the polls I'm sure politicians will have absolutely no problem pandering to that voting block.

  • by voodoo cheesecake (1071228) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @02:14PM (#31307936)
    1) Reduces prison population -> reduces Government budget/deficit - Too bad that prison is an industry, decriminalizing pot would hurt that industry at an average of $25,000 a year per person.
  • by wealthychef (584778) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @02:34PM (#31308076)
    I know why it turns out that way, that's the way our system works. But I'm saying it's a flaw in our system that something that 30% of us would like to see enacted is blocked from having any discussion or action taken on it at all by the winner-take all two party system we have in place.
  • by countertrolling (1585477) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @02:55PM (#31308266) Journal

    legalize marijuana...

    Gee, you're all heart... puttin' all those law enforcement personnel and bureaucrats out of work. You all completely fail to see the necessity of laws creating contraband, where now they are being used against information on a wide scale. It is merely another form of protectionism, creating scarcity to drive up its value for the local pirates. If you want to see the stuff legalized, you're going to have to vote for people that will do it. Seems fairly logical.. no?

  • by jimrthy (893116) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @03:04PM (#31308334) Homepage Journal

    Actually, there is a right/wrong to be considered.

    Either the Founding Fathers meant what they wrote when they agreed to the Constitution, or the idea behind the entire American system of government has absolutely no basis.

    Either Congress has absolute authority to do whatever we let them get away with (which is pretty much what the Supreme Court has given them over the centuries), or those men in Philadelphia (what other people have later considered "the greatest collection of brilliant minds ever assembled"...more or less..I forget the source and probably have the quote wrong) when they decided things like, for example, they would not allow a central bank.

    You'd have to have a mind as convoluted as a lawyer's to argue that anyone in the Federal government actually had the authority to start this whole stupid "war on drugs" thing in the first place. Especially since it took a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit alcohol.

    Every time the Federal government takes another step down the road to tyranny, we all lose. Even if you don't happen to have a dog in that particular fight.

  • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@gmailSLACKWARE.com minus distro> on Sunday February 28, 2010 @03:29PM (#31308520)

    However, if you argue principle and ideals, recreational drug use is bad.

    By what measure ? Driving a car, owning a gun, a poor diet and not enough exercise (to pick some fairly common habits in the US) are far, far more likely to ruin your life than "recreational drug use".

  • by careysub (976506) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @04:52PM (#31309158)

    No, one of the top ideas was NOT to "legalize marijuana"! The third most popular item was to remove marijuana from Schedule 1, where its placement violates federal law, the DEA's own internal regulations, and peer-reviewed science!

    Click on the "marijuana link" in the summary and read the item for yourself.

    This is a simple matter of paying attention to science and obeying the law as written.

    The rules for Schedule I are:
    A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
    (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
    C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

    The best available scientific and medical evidence and opinion clearly shows that criteria B and C do not apply. The only way one can claim A applies is via a circular argument: all cannabis use DEFINED as abuse, therefore it has a high potential for abuse.

    The logic of scheduling Cannabis at no higher than IV, and most accurately at Schedule V, is further shown by the DEA itself - by scheduling pure 100% THC at Schedule III!

    Clearly a preparation that is only about 10% as potent should have a lower ranking. One should note that Schedule V consists ENTIRELY of drugs with higher rankings (from I down to III) in reduced potency preparations. This the reason that this low scheduling category exists.

    If the rules of classification are objectively and scientifically applied the it would rank no higher than Schedule V, the lowest and least restrictive.

  • by Danse (1026) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:18PM (#31310358)

    Why do you think the birth record issue is BS?

    Because it is [factcheck.org].

  • by SavTM (1594855) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:21PM (#31310384)

    Exactly what type of fair, democratic system do you propose where 36% of the people supporting an issue is enough to get it passed? I don't see how any sort of system, no matter how many parties there are, could possibly be more democratic by allowing 36% of the nation to pass a measure that 64% don't want. It seems to me the system is not the problem, and if you all feel so passionately about the issue you should be debating it, educating people on your viewpoint and rallying more support for it.

    But what do I know, maybe trying to convince people to rewrite our entire system of democracy and governance that countless people have died fighting for would be waaaaay easier then convincing them that legalizing some mary jay would be beneficial for the nation.

    If you are saying 'the system is not the problem' while rationalizing no-knock raids, un-Constitutional property seizures, an almost endemic policy of hypocrisy, corruption and profiteering within police forces, a federal money train of military-grade equipment, privatized prison systems and propaganda, the subjugation of due process to the size of a defendant's bank account - well if you can rationalize all those things then it's clear to me that the plan to 'rewrite our entire system of democracy and governance that countless people have died fighting for' has already succeeded to a degree. When fully 1/3 of people do not support a federal policy and it involves all of the political weapons listed above, I think you should check your premises at the door and really nail down why Rush Limbaugh and others get a free pass for being prescription addicts. We are talking about locking up/ruining the lives of, in general, poor people and minorities without affordable health care. They are prosecuted to the full extent of the law for non-violent crimes and locked up at a profit to courts and prison operators.

    But what do I know, maybe the IV Amendment was written to protect police and criminally negligent politicians from oversight. Maybe the V Amendment was written to protect our 'civilian' president from war crimes tribunals. Maybe the XIV Amendment was written expressly to define people who were non-slaves and non-Confederates, so that those special persons could be indefinitely imprisoned without due process of law.

    My question to you is, how has making mary jay illegal proven to benefit the nation?

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