July 17, 2008

The Time Has Come, The People Said

Lewis Carrol gets a bad wrap. With the pedophilia, hallucinogenic drugs, and all. But his "literary nonsense" was actually filled with tons of word play, vivid imagery, and... logic. Enter, "The Walrus and the Carpenter." 'Tis a poem most likely about the ills of organized religion (The Walrus representing Buddha, and The Carpenter playing the part of that Jewish fella from yesteryear), but I want to take a different spin on it this morning...

We operate under a representative democracy here in this beautiful country. We elect men and women to carry our concerns, ideals, and passions to Washington, representing us before other men and women doing the same for our friends and neighbors in other parts of the country. Pretty cool, huh? Well, it gets cooler.
I am on the House floor. I am voting yes for Community Health Centers which provides medical care to uninsured Americans.
That's an entry from Representative John Culberson (motto: Letting Texans Run Texas) on his Twitter account. Culberson, a Republican, represents the 7th Congressional District (Houston) of Texas. And he's coming close to breaking the law.

Last Tuesday, John Boehner (motto: It's pronounced "BAY-ner," I swear) sent a memo alerting Members of Congress that House Leadership (read: Democrats) were completely shutting off their access to social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Or at least, it looked that way. Representative Micheal Capuano (D, MA) submitted a letter addressing the current Committee on House Administration rules concerning the subject:
Members of Congress can utilize New Media if:
  1. The website /blog is "sanitized" and has no political or commercial advertising or political opinion;
  2. The website /blog contains a disclaimer that the post was official business;
  3. The post conformed to House rules (i.e. edited and approved by House franking)
Culberson had a nifty response:
Complying with these three requirements would indeed make it easier than it is today to post on a social/new media site... Similarly, I am sure it was easy to write an op-ed in a Soviet newspaper as long as you didn't mind the guy looking over your shoulder.

But it seems as though Culberson's comments (he haphazardly labeled the situation as "the Dems trying to censor us") and Boehner's alert memo, although right-minded, came a little premature. Capuaono, and others from the CHA, are actually interested in investing some time and energy in loosening the restrictions politicians currently have. This fight has been going on for a few weeks, and nearly avoided the partisan punching bag it was in danger of becoming.

But, the conversation transcends party lines. New Media should be as accessible to our lawmakers as Old Media is. Period. I'm not the only one that thinks this way, either. Let Our Congress Tweet is a project of the Sunlight Foundation, an organization shedding light on the "interplay of money, lobbying, influence and government in Washington in ways never before possible." From the Sunlight Foundation blog:
If Members can use whatever brand of inkpen, or any brand of paper, or buy whatever shoes they want, they should be given radically expanded freedom to use the Internet, and make the same empowering discoveries that their constituents are. Even if that same pen was once used to scribble a ransom note.

So, I say, "Let our Congress Tweet!" and interact with Constituents with other types of New Media. With a higher level of transparency comes a higher level of accountability. With an increased amount of real-time updates comes an increased amount of democratic engagement. And that's what Congress wants, right? Or would they rather us be their little oysters, "eager for the treat" of apathy, following Walruses and Carpenters towards ignorance?

"Congress needs more sunshine."
Rep. John Culberson (R, TX)

Note: You can follow Sam on Twitter @samuelisaac.


Kim said...

I too say "tweet on". I really like this post, and the clip took me back to yesteryear, when the stereotypes displayed meant nothing more than sillyness to me. Thanks for the breakdown.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nice Blog . I don't really know a lot about Human anatomy or art, but that's just my 2 cents. Really great job though, Krudman! Keep up the good work!