Saturday, March 24, 2007

Watching Your Government at Work

For a lazy Saturday, here’s a website to browse and to consider keeping on hand for review or reference:

Glasses Citizen Joe appears to be a bipartisan affair. Hence their spectacles at the top of the page. The site is quite comprehensive and would make a good learning tool for those of your friends and relatives (especially relatives) who appear to be congressionally-impaired…which may include most of us by now. Not because we’re stupid, or don’t pay attention; rather, it’s the increasingly complex nature of legislation, what with each bill's special interests riders (spinach anyone?) and fatty pork sauce. And, of course, there's the behind-the-scenes bribing lobbying that never, ever stops. If there is a Hell, it surely looks much like the Imperial Congress of the United States of America. And like Hell, many people seem eager to go there.

You not only can’t stay on top of legislation (especially given the long turn-around the government printing office seems to have once a bill passes), but by the time you get to read the fine print, the bill you wanted to look at is making its way down the road and headed for the President’s office.

This site has a Civics 101 page and an Econ 101 page (look for the links to original sites on this page if the charts don’t seem up to date. The person maintaining this page says it’s a glitch with Excel that makes it appear to be shorted a few years).

On the home page, linked above, there is a poll concerning our actions in Iraq. It features four options, going from very right to very left.

Here is their raison d’être:

citizen Joe was founded in 2003 by two professionals - Julia Kamin and Jason Palmer — who noticed that with all the information on the web, it was surprisingly impossible to find unspun info on current policy debates. We looked in vain for a site that didn’t have a political agenda and that just offered up the facts plain and simple.

So we decided we’d create that site ourselves. After incorporating and becoming a 501(c)(3), citizenJoe expanded its team to twenty five - attracting people from the legal, business, research, media and nonprofit worlds - to sit on our boards and volunteer to contribute cJ’s content.

Most of our volunteer columnists are not journalists; they are concerned citizens who, in addition to their full time jobs, pay close attention to policy debates and are committed to clarifying the issues for other Americans. Their work is supported by cJ’s staff, student interns and freelance editors.

They’ve done a massive amount of work and have more material than you could cover in one go. As a political science reference site, it’s excellent.

- - - - - - - - - -
Congressional sealMeanwhile, for the basic de la basic explanation of our government, go to good old Wikipedia’s site on our Congress and system of government. This is an excellent place for children’s civics classes. I realize I’m talking about homeschooled children; public schools have dropped “Civics” in favor of more pee-cee classes on diversity and American imperialism. If you want to know about Harriet Tubman, the fate of the indigenous Americans, et al, just visit an American History class at your local high school. The Vietnam era is also an interesting read.

Having just finished a perusal of the book used in Li’l Kumquat’s tenth grade classes, I’m a bit uneasy. Concerned parents with children in government schools have so much un-teaching to do before they can even begin to inform their children about the real world.

Check out Citizen Joe. It makes government a bit more accessible and is managing to walk a middle line of information rather than spin.

See what you think.