The introduction to this “citizens briefing book” is about the only coherent part of the publication. This comes from the feedback received at Change.gov, the website set up by the Obama administration as a means of giving feedback directly to the President. If anything, this book shows why a President needs a filtering organization to fend off the hoi polloi, as did his March virtual town hall, which used the same device and got the same data.
The introduction explains:
125,000 users submitted over 44,000 ideas and cast over 1.4 million votes, with the most popular ideas accumulating tens of thousands of votes each. This book contains some of the top ideas, broken into groups by issue area. You can tell how popular each idea was by looking at the number next to it – it represents how many people voted for the idea, with 10 points awarded for each positive vote. In addition, you will find a “word cloud” for each category of ideas representing the frequency with which various words and concepts appeared through the entire process.
Out of the tens of thousands of submissions, these ideas found the most support; here they are, unvarnished and unedited.
You can say “unedited” again, with gusto. The comment selected to represent “Reform the IRS and Stop the Tax Loopholes” (which received 32,840 points) had a recap of a Mother Jones article, with this endorsement at the end: “Please read the rest of the article. I am sure all his points can be verified with a little research.” In other words, the poster had no idea whether the article was right or not, but didn’t mind using it to support his argument. Classic.
The White House attempted to arrange these “ideas” into categories, but some of the assignments seem rather weak, while a catch-all category has its own revealing moments. For instance, under Service, the White House placed “Create an on-line E-library,” which might have been better suited for Technology. “Expand small business innovation programs” should have gone into the Economy category, which also probably should have gotten “A New Decentralized Energy Grid,” instead of Homeland Security — or at least that should have been in the Energy & Environment section.
The biggest vote-getter got stuck in the “Additional Issues” section, which as “Ending Marijuana Prohibition” with over 92,000 votes. A call to revoke Scientology’s tax-exempt status could have gone with the aforementioned tax-reform issue in the “Economy” category, but it looks like the White House was a little too embarrassed by it — despite it getting over 52,000 votes. But that’s no less embarrassing than the weird “word clouds” that head each section.
Be sure to read it all. You paid for it.
Update: Pay attention to the names on the comments. It seems like many of them are the same. One blogger at War is My Concern got 10 mentions in the Citizens Briefing Book. It seems that some citizens are more equal than others …