Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

First POST: "We the People"

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, January 16 2013

Wednesday must-reads

  • At Aaron Swartz's funeral, his father said Swartz was "killed by the government," the Chicago Sun Times reported. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he planned to investigate the Justice Department's prosecution of Swartz. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) announced on Reddit that she would introduce "Aaron's Law" to change the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Lofgren had earlier spoken with ars technica about the 2013 tech policy agenda. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also praised Swartz, as the Huffington Post noted. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had expressed his sorrow about the news of Swartz's death on Twitter.

    Curious thing about Darrell Issa's outspokenness on Swartz's death: “Had he been a journalist and taken that same material that he gained from MIT, he would have been praised for it. It would have been like the Pentagon Papers,” Issa is quoted as saying. TechPresident escapee Nancy Scola observes:

    It's a particularly curious statement given that Issa was an original co-sponsor of the Research Works Act, which have limited federal agencies' abilities to require free public access to papers based on their funded work.

  • More commentary, reporting and analysis on the the legal case came from Kevin Cullen, Reuters, NPR, the Huffington Post and Ben Huh, who wrote that "The case against Aaron Swartz was like sending someone to jail for checking too many books out of the library." As Buzzfeed profiled prosecutor Carmen Ortiz, her husband criticized Swartz's family on Twitter. Daniel Lathrop from the Dallas Morning News posted the full court file of the Swartz case.

  • The New York Times and the Rockland County Times reported on how New York state's new gun law, signed yesterday, restricts public access to information about gun permits. New York Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal criticized the bill, saying it "also revokes automatic public access to gun permit records – a wild over-reaction to a Westchester newspaper’s decision to publish the names of all local holders of gun permits. Publishing those names seemed to have no legitimate journalistic purpose, but closing off public records is not the right response."

    Democratic Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti voted for the bill even though he had concerns about its First Amendment implications. The New York World undertook a deeper analysis of the Journal News' gun data.

  • Former Obama for America National Field Director Jeremy Bird and Battleground States Director Mitch Stewart have founded a new consulting firm called 270 strategies. Related: Democratic polling firms Anzalone Liszt Research and Grove have merged.

  • Pierre Omidyar has launched the Democracy Fund which will invest in "in social entrepreneurs working to ensure that our political system is responsive to the public and able to meet the greatest challenges facing our nation."

  • The White House is raising the signature limit on We the People petitions to 100,000 in 30 days, after already having once increased the threshold from 5,000 to 25,000.

  • has launched, a reorganized — and very slick-looking — window into the data published by the United States government.

  • Facebook unveiled its new Graph Search function yesterday, and noted as an example that it could help users find music liked by Obama or Romney supporters.

  • Philadelphia's new Director of Civic Technology Tim Wisniewski says his job is to work with outside developers to encourage the creation of new software based on city government data.

  • Also in Philly: PlanPhilly has launched a new web application called License to Inspect that tracks city property violations and construction permits among with other data.

  • For Personal Democracy Plus subscribers, Sam Roudman traces how the Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics was able to repurpose a Chicago app that maps free vaccination locations within about a day.

  • A Honolulu Code for America fellow tells Next American City:

    I didn’t know anything about cities. [Laughs.] Before the fellowship, I might have thought about City Hall as this big, bureaucratic black hole of inefficiencies. And then when you go there, you realize that, my god, there are real people there with real challenges. A lot of people are trying to do the very best they can. It’s true that there are of course government workers who are just there for the job security. But a lot more than that are people are trying make things happen, and be helpful as best they can. It’s the system that what really needs to be shaken up in a big way.

Around the web


First POST has been corrected to fix a formatting error that wrongly implied a story about Democratic Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti was mentioned in a New York Times editorial.

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO