~ Learning from our American friends ~
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Published in November 2002   (Version 0.02)

How did they vote? Learning from our American friends
by fravia+
 (Linguistic checking by Ann)

(Grass root organisations & civil society buffs will appreciate the "accountability" possibilities opened here: searching the web and fighting for a better world do finally slowly integrate :-)

  I have been often criticized for my "europacentrical" Weltanschauung, and for the many "antiamerican" drops that I allegedly have spread. Yet I have no doubt whatsoever that we (rest of the world) have not only a lot to teach, but also a LOT to learn from our american friends (and I have so many friends in the States that I know very well how stupid antiamerican stereotypes are). Here is a tiny, yet in my opinion terrific example. How to use the web for more democracy, transparency, accountability. A simple, effective, clever, factual, to use a puking word... even "pro-active"... 100% american approach. And I bet it works. I love it. My unconditional admiration for whomever thought it out and implemented it.  

Igittigitt! Have a look at this succulent link.
Should it disappear, I made a local copy of it just in case, with images...
Now let's have a closer, evaluating, look (I made the red highlights):

How did your member of Congress vote???

189 members of Congress actually voted against
stricter standards for arsenic in your drinking water.
Just type in your zip code to find out how the elected officials from your state really voted on the environment. {FORM}

This is a TERRIFIC, great idea. Note that there is a form that zaps a database with the names of those elected representatives that have taken the described political position.
Note also that you are looking at the 'main page', but that this "advertisement" appeared -as well- as a "right side column" on some portals la Yahoo. Yes! Like any idiotical, banal, commercial advertisement, yet with a spicy difference here... let's underline it...

Of course the relevant data: "who voted what" are all 'theoretically' public, in the States and elsewhere, and of course anyone COULD have had access to them.
Yet,  nota bene  they DID NOT: in my experience, with few exceptions, NO NEWSPAPER, NO MAGAZINE, NO MEDIA ever publishes the names of the 'responsibles' whenever a given law is passed (or blocked).
This allows huge margins of meddling for all sort of dark lobbies, since their (bought) "elected representatives" never have to fear in the least that some light will be ever shed on their mischiefs.

The "LCV accountability project" described above is  de facto , nothing else than an environmental "counterlobby", that much is clear. So what?
This does not disturb me... in a world where the anti-environmental lobbies are so strong, numerous, active and well-funded to provoke the weekly catastrophes we are used to nowadays, a "pro-environmental lobby" is something I can live with :-)

Here is how they describe themselves:

Yet, even so, even with these last, small and obvious, shortcomings, this remains a TERRIFIC, great idea.

As anyone knows, lobbies, driven by commercial interest, rule the day in the shadowy corridors of the powers that be, in Washington, Moscow, Brussel and Tokio (and wherever else you care to think of, in our fully 'globalized' world).
Of course,  eo ipso , any 'success' of such lobbies translates into a [deteriorating environment / worse quality of life / shorter life-expectancy / you name yourself the evil consequence] for each and every citizen. This is a tautological statement.

I believe that lobbysts puppeteers are inherently evil, even worse than advertisers, microsoft programmers, military generals and even tattooers: they always "buy" their results (and personal advantages) on the skin of everyone else.

In order to be successful, however, they have to keep somehow shy, they privilege low-profile: See: the politicians they have actively bought have "unsure" feelings: they do not like being spotted, listed, pointed out. No, they don't, corrupted politicians are fragile fellows, poor creatures.

There is a sort of gentlemen agreement, between the lobbysts' puppeteers and their political minions and lackeys: "listen buddy: you do what we told you to do, and do not worry, we will mask it somehow, and noone will care nor speak about it anyway. One more glass of Moet & Chandon?"

But the American example above 'cuts across' such careful shy, low profile, fragile threads, and brings (some) transparence, highlighting responsibles through very easy to have informations.
If a senator has voted in order -say- to avoid any serious investigation after a desaster, you (and your readers, and even his electors) can smell something fishy twenty servers away :-)
Simple, effective, clever.

Since I live in Europe I will make an example of possible 'best practice' spreading here in the old continent.

First of all it is worth recalling that, through the recent How to access ANY European Union document essay, anyone CAN actually find, for instance in the European parliament's minutes, the names of those that did vote in order to ALLOW all sort of nasty (and obviously heavily lobbied) developments: just to name a few examples (hope readers will send feedback on this, hehe :-):

Now, of course, you can use a similar approach and fetch similar (potentially useful, as we have seen) data also on your own microcosmus: for isntance in London, Rome, Berlin, or even -say- Villefranche :-)
What's sure is that -as a searcher- you'll find everywhere enough material to send some mighty snowball down your local council hill :-)

This kind of approach may be followed, of course, not only in Europe, but -increasingly, and thanks to the sheer might of the web- anywhere, using it to check (and if necessary punish, or at least irritate :-) any "public" body wherever located.

In fact "the powers that be" have a bitter choice:
pie in face

Petit image

(c) III Millennium: [fravia+], all rights reserved