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Daily Digest: The Fine Art of Voting Without Knowing

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, September 29 2008

The Web on the Candidates

  • Calls for Congress to Read Bailout Bill: It was just last night that the 110-page Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was finally hammered out, but members of Congress will be asked to render a vote on the bill as early as today -- making it unlikely that representatives and staffers without advanced Evelyn Wood speed-reading training will gone through the thing closely before issuing a yeah or nay. The bill's indeed up online; when Speaker.House.gov appeared to crash under the weight of public interest, the Sunlight Foundation's Public Markup made the bill available. (Comments are flowing in. With 66 comments total, many are dedicated to criticizing executive pay restrictions as lamentably weak.) And Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised, highlights Sunlight's John Wonderlich, that "all of the transactions related to this legislation will be on the Internet within 48 hours and that represents change." As John notes, Pelosi's call for transparency is part of a nascent trend of putting government financial information online. Witness Alaska's Checkbook Online and the database of federal spending put together by Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) -- projects that the Republican and Democratic presidential tickets respectively like to brag on. But, to play devil's advocate, those are after-the-fact transparency tactics. Enron-esque financial instruments that no one really understood is one of the roots causes of the financial crisis; is rushing a bailout bill before Congress understands its import and impact making a similar mistake? Our own Micah Sifry is calling for each of us to call our congressperson and ask if they've read the bill. UPDATE: This just in -- Sunlight is calling on Congress to delay voting on the bailout bill until October 1, which is 72 hours after it was first posted online. You can sign the petition here. #

  • How Successful are Experiments in Debate Mediation?: Wired's Sarah Lai Stirland takes a look at Current TV's "Hack the Debate" experiment and assesses whether Twittered comments like "rubyfruitradio: mccain also does that nervous smile thing. it's kinda funny" adds much to the debate experience. Relatedly, Micah Sifry says that Twitter is bringing Joi Ito's vision of a HeckleBot to life, and Free Press is cleverly attempting to shape post-debate spin by drawing press attention to how viewers rate the debates. I played it decidedly old-school Friday night, hosting a watch party with half dozen or so friends, some more political than others. How'd you watch the debate? Let us know in the comments. #

  • Voter-to-Grandpa Persuasion: Have a grandma or grandpa living in the critical battleground state of Florida? Happen to be Jewish? Well then some activists want you to make The Great Schlep to the Sunshine State to hard sell your elders on Obama. Comedian Sarah Silverman is the entirely profane public face of the campaign, a project of the Jews Vote effort that seeks to address "what is unsettling so many people in our community" about the Democratic candidate. And if "Nana, that's not true" doesn't work, Sarah suggests the strong-armed tactic of threatening to withhold future visits. If you're not up for booking a flight to Boca, there's also guidance on how to participate in a virtual Mini Schlep. #

TechCongress and Beyond

  • Look Down Ballot for Campaign Creativity: Some of the more compelling online creativity we're seeing this cycle has nothing to do with two blokes named John and Barack. In California, for example, there's a great deal of attention being paid to a hotly-contested ballot initiative against factory farming. And the Yes on Prop 2 campaign has spawned "Uncaged," a comic video short that features an animated pig doing a slightly-tweaked rendition of the Stevie Wonder hit "Superstition": "There's a proposition, to save us from this hell..." The goofy clip on a serious topic has picked up some 43,000 views since its release in the middle of last week. #

In Case You Missed It...

Nancy Scola explores how C-SPAN is attempting to gin up public engagement around the presidential debates by loosening the reigns on its video archives (and borrowing a few tricks from information design guru Edward Tufte).

And Colin Delany explores how the Internet will help campaigns win those all-important post-debate water cooler debates.