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Eye Opener: Thank You Google

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Wednesday! The Eye is ecstatic today that Google has launched a new search tool designed to help Web users more easily find public data often buried in hard-to-navigate government Web sites.

"The tool, called Google Public Data, is the latest in the company's efforts to make information from federal, state and local governments accessible to citizens. It's a goal many Washington public interest groups and government watchdogs share with President Obama, whose technology advisers are pushing to open up federal data to the public," reports The Post's technology reporter Kim Hart.

"The company plans to initially make available U.S. population and unemployment data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respectively. Other data sets, such as emissions statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, will roll out in the coming months."

Permit a moment of personal reflection, but after five short months on the bureaucracy beat, The Eye has been frequently frustrated in his attempts to obtain or decipher government data, often buried under a terribly poor display of information and little understanding or acceptance of Web 2.0 technologies.

Public affairs officers may rave about a new series of video instructions on their Web site, but when asked if the video is embeddable on blogs or available on YouTube, they answer with blank stares or an admitted ignorance of such technologies. They blame a lack of funding, or various arcane processes, excuses that will soon hopefully disappear. The Google announcement, coupled with GSA's embrace of Facebook are long-overdue but welcomed developments.

Cabinet & Staff News: Meet Dale Haney, the White House horticulturalist who has tended to every presidential dog since King Timahoe, Richard M. Nixon’s Irish setter. White House Military Affairs Director Louis Caldera who approved the Air Force One "photo-op" is facing, um, turbulence. Vilsack says stop calling swine flu swine flu. Oops, just did. He holds a presser at 11 a.m. to review USDA's first 100 days. Napolitano says the government will keep the borders open -- for now. Salazar brief's DOI's rank and file on the first 100 days. Geithner meets with lawmakers today to discuss the need for credit card reform. Sebelius (finally?) confirmed 65 to 31 and spotted over the weekend at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

In other news...

Obama's 100 Day Scorecard: Al Kamen writes today that "As expected, Obama, with 102 nominations pending before the Senate and 65 officials confirmed, has far outpaced his modern predecessors back to Ronald Reagan in terms of overall appointment activity. Obama nearly beat the Reagan juggernaut in terms of confirmed nominees, though the Reagan White House still holds the record at 73 appointees confirmed, according to the White House Transition Project."

Flu Crisis Underscores Need For Updated Telework Policies: "Put simply, the mission of the federal government could suffer because federal workers might not go to the office if they, or people dependent on them, are ill," writes Joe Davidson. "Or as Cindy Auten, general manager of Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership that promotes telecommuting, asks: 'If Uncle Sam calls in sick, who will tend to America in a time of an emergency?'"

Pandemic-Preparedness Money Stripped From Stimulus: " Congress stripped nearly $900 million to combat an influenza pandemic from the economic-stimulus package earlier this year as part of last-minute negotiations to gain GOP support for the plan," reports Fredreka Schouten of the Federal Times. "Now, with the spread of a potentially deadly strain of the swine flu, public-health advocates and liberal bloggers are sharply criticizing the move. Key Democratic lawmakers, including Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, vowed Monday to fight for increased funding in the coming weeks."

Bailout Director Nears Exit: "As [Neil] Kashkari prepares to leave the Treasury -- Friday is probably his last day, he says -- some of the Democrats who excoriated him during hearings acknowledge that Kashkari played a vital role in arresting a meltdown of the nation's financial system," reports The Post's David Cho.

Interior Dept. Reinstitutes Independent Reviews on Endangered Species: "Federal agencies will once again be required to undergo an independent scientific review if they embark on projects that might affect threatened or endangered species, marking yet another reversal of a last-minute Bush administration environmental regulation," reports The Post's Juliet Eilperin. "In mid-December, former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne issued a rule allowing government agencies to decide on their own whether a project would harm an imperiled plant or animal without consulting with either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, depending on the species. At the time, Kempthorne said the move would streamline the bureaucratic process without harming protected species."

Government Can Fine for 'Fleeting Expletives': "The Supreme Court upheld the Federal Communications Commission ban on one-time utterances of certain expletives over the nation's airwaves but held out the possibility that such a policy eventually might not survive constitutional scrutiny," reports The Post's SCOTUS reporter Robert Barnes. The Wall Street Journal's Amy Schatz notes that the agency can now address thousands of indecency complaints held up in legal limbo in the past few years.

Legislation Aims at Improving Workplace Safety: "Rep. Phil Hare introduced a bill to require large employers to report all workplace injuries," reports WSJ's Melanie Trottman. "Companies aren’t currently required to report injuries unless three or more employees are sent to the hospital for a work-related event and the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration isn’t required to conduct nationwide investigations of large companies with multiple facilities, Hare said."

OPM’s Berry Opens Door to Union: " New Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry pledges to bring employee unions into discussions on pay for performance, benefits and outsourcing federal jobs," reports Federal Times' Rebecca Neal. "That’s a change from the previous administration, where OPM took a hands-off approach to dealing with unions, Berry said. He favors renewing the labor-management partnerships that brought managers and union leaders together to debate issues during the Clinton administration."

Concerns Over Lawsuits Hold Up FHA Nomination: "A Senate Banking Committee vote to confirm David H. Stevens as head of the Federal Housing Administration was postponed yesterday after concerns were raised about lawsuits involving Long & Foster, the Washington-area real estate brokerage where Stevens has been president for seven months," writes The Post's Dina ElBoghdady.

DOJ Official Slams 'Lawless' Bush Terror Policies: "The remarks by Todd Hinnen, deputy assistant attorney general for law and policy in the department's National Security Division, went well beyond some of the earlier criticisms of the Bush administration by President Obama and his political appointees. And they came on a day when Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. was pressing the case for a sharp course correction away from Bush administration policies toward one that officials said was more in keeping with the rule of law," reports Josh Meyer of the LA Times.

Access to List of Clinton Backers Is Sold: "Hillary Clinton dropped out of the presidential election last June, but her campaign committee continued to raise millions of dollars this year by selling access to a valuable asset: Mrs. Clinton's vast list of political supporters," report John R. Emshwiller and T.W. Farnam of the WSJ. "In the first three months of 2009, Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign brought in $4.5 million by selling or renting out the list, which has contact information for more than a million people."

Today's Big Event: The Government Web Managers conference continues today at George Washington University's Marvin Conference Center. Today folks will hear from Jeff Jarvis and Craig Newmark, among others.

The Eye on Twitter! | Track Obama nominees with Head Count

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 29, 2009; 5:46 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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You wrote that "Public affairs officers may rave about a new series of video instructions on their Web site, but when asked if the video is embeddable on blogs or available on YouTube, they answer with blank stares or an admitted ignorance of such technologies." Many government Web sites block YouTube, blogs, and numerous social networking sites for security purposes. Such sites are considered entry points for hackers, and the last thing the government wants is another F-35 hack. It's annoying, but better safe than sorry. I suspect that's the real reason government organizations are slow to embrace Web 2.0.

Posted by: shortstuff1 | April 29, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Check this out

Posted by: anonymousk104 | April 29, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

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