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First POST: The Clash

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, September 30 2013

The Clash

  • Dueling splash pages: "Defend Obamacare" on the DNC home page. "Dismantle Obamacare" on the National Republican Senatorial Committee homepage.

  • Metadata strikes again! That's how The Nation's Lee Fang discovered that a 2012 letter signed by 75 House Republicans demanding a vote to repeal a medical device tax was in fact written by one Ryan Strandlund, a lobbyist for an industry group. The repeal is one of the demands embedded in the House bill passed over the weekend.

  • You say you want a revolution? Zack Exley, the veteran web strategist, co-founder of the New Organizing Institute and "venture anachronist," has left the Wikimedia Foundation to go to work for Thoughtworks on building new tools for political organizing. And judging by this post he put up Saturday on the Huffington Post, he isn't thinking small. In "The Shockingly Simple Way to Fix This Mess in Congress," Exley argues that Congress's epic level of dysfunction has created the conditions for a "full slate of competent, experienced and incorruptible leaders" to take all 536 federal elected offices in one fell swoop, and he's launched a website called FiveThirtySix to kick things off. Given that Exley has hacked national politics more than once (see GeorgeWBush.org, or his seminal work with MoveOn, Howard Dean and John Kerry in 2003-4), count me more than a little bit intrigued.

  • Note to self: See if Fivethirtyfive.com/org, Fivethirtyseven.com/org, and Fivethirtynine.com/org, are still available.

  • James Risen and Laura Poitras, a fearsome combo, shared a front-page byline in Saturday's New York Times for their story on how the NSA is gathering and analyzing the social connections of American citizens. Using documents leaked by Edward Snowden, they report that the agency augments communications metadata "with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data." NSA analysts are told they can do this "as long as they cited a foreign intelligence justification" which "could include anything from ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation or international drug smuggling to spying on conversations of foreign politicians, business figures or activists."

  • Free/libre software activist Richard Stallman is on Wired.com explaining why, in our computer-driven age, we're not truly free and in control of our lives if we use proprietary software or other people's servers.

  • Nick Cohen says the Cameron government in the UK has a huge blind spot when it comes to its "open government" and "open data" initiatives: "when the public seeks to discover how corporations spend and misspend its money." That is, as the ruling coalition keeps pushing privatization of public programs, it is also pushing public services "from daylight into darkness when private managers takeā€¦over." The international Open Government Partnership is meeting in London at the end of October; it will be interesting to see if this issue arises.

  • Uber-geek Carl Malamud is appealing for support on Kickstarter for his latest project: he's publishing the world's public safety codes.

  • Tech-savvy activists in Khartoum are routing around their country's Internet shutdowns using SMS messaging and Ushahidi's Crowdmap tool to track the government crackdown on protesters.

  • Feeling hungry? Check out Cookisto, a collaborative consumption platform from Greece. It enables home cooks to sell meals directly to nearby city dwellers. The BBC reports that it has attracted 12,000 "Cookistas" is Athens in the last few months, and is launching in London soon.