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First POST: Auld Lang Syne

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, January 1 2013

Is Congress' chaos a symptom or a disease?

  • A fiscal cliff deal is heading through Congress that pleases no one, especially people who expect their elected officials to behave like adults.

    More disturbing to Nancy Scola is that pleas for transparency, even rules that House leadership has embraced in the past, have apparently been cast aside in the heat of the moment as untenable given the circumstances. This leads to more chaos, rinse, repeat, with no solution in sight:

    With the so-called fiscal cliff, it's been a messy rush to the finish, and in a hundred different little ways the public has been prevented from engaging in the process. CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller complained that even reporters like himself were having trouble gaining information. "Sure would be nice if Pres Obama's meeting today with Congressional Leaders was open to press coverage," Knoller tweeted on Friday. "Or we were to get a live audio feed." There's also fact that this whole episode is reaching its conclusion on New Year's Eve.

    It's not as if any of what needed deciding was a real surprise ... Its behavior this week is akin to packing for a long-planned trip by throwing everything into a giant black garbage bag -- something generally frowned upon in polite society ...

    That's one real lesson from the flourishing of web technologies over the last few years, actually; the application programming interface, or API, is the structure that lets one piece of software talk to another. The trick is publicly stating what it is you're up to. In a real way, transparency has let tiny developers build world-changing, or at least really neat, tools off of platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

    By contrast, it's very difficult to plug into chaos. And we shouldn't underestimate the degree to which people -- representatives and senators included -- assume that the fault for their ignorance is their own, rather than a product of the fact that there's no good information to be had.

Piling on ...

  • Pandodaily's Sarah Lacy takes this opportunity to suggest that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs "get shit done," as opposed to people in government and politics who "perform theatre for six months:"

    [When] it comes to well-meaning allegations that “what’s wrong with Silicon Valley” is we don’t apply enough energy, cash, and ingenuity to the innovating the democratic and political process, let’s remember just how broken that process is. There is a fundamental cultural gap between Washington and the Valley that makes Wall Street and Silicon Valley look like sentence-finishing, milkshake-sharing BFFs.

... from inside a glass house

  • Clarifying a Twitter post, former Obama for America technologist Catherine Bracy writes that Silicon Valley "feels like, and often is, a bunch of Stanford guys making tools to fix their own problems:"

    Barely any of them start from an entrenched social problem and work backwards from there. Very few of them are really fundamentally improving society. They’re making widgets or iterating on things that already exist. Their goal is to make themselves as appealing—or threatening—to a big player as possible so they can get bought out for a few hundred million dollars and then devote the rest of their lives to a) building Burning Man installations, b) investing in other people’s widgets, or c) both. They really don’t care that much about making the world a better place, mostly because they feel like they don’t have to live in it.

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