USENET IN THE SENATE?
It's been almost two years sine Senator William Frist initiated a letter (also signed by 14 other Senators) to the Senate Rules Committee making five specific requests for improved Internet access in the Senate. Only one of the five has yet to be implemented, access to Usenet newsgroups for Senate staff. But that seems to have changed, for the moment anyway. Until about a month ago only particular individuals who were part of the multi-year Usenet pilot in the Senate were able to access the Senate's news server. But it was recently found that the access restrictions were gone, and newsgroups are available to all Senate staff. If this access is a short term slip up, or a yet to be announced service for Senate offices isn't clear yet. So for now, please keep it to yourself, and be on the lookout for alt.binaries.congress!
FORMER MEMBER PAGES ARE HISTORY
Congress made it's debut on the World Wide Web during the 104th Congress with more than 250 members establishing home pages for their offices. But now that the 105th Congress is underway, and the 104th is history, so also are the pioneering web efforts of those members who retired or were defeated. No longer can you find Senator Simon's bow tie icons on the Senate server, and Representative Dornan's short lived home page has gone down with him in defeat. But you can take heart that they have not been lost to the bit bucket. The Senate and House historians have archived the online efforts of former members for posterity. They're not currently available on the web, but maybe you'll see one in a museum some day. The Senate historical office does maintain a home page that's certainly worth a look today.
U.S. Senate Historical Office
A NEW CONGRESS, A NEW LOOK
The Senate's home page has had a makeover. The content is pretty much the same, but the graphics are slick. It's a nice improvement over the first version on which the grey backgrounds and top-to-bottom orientation were beginning to show their age (and which are still the norm on the unchanged House home page). The new look for the Senate was designed by Proxima, a Northern Virginia Internet solutions provider. I don't know what it cost, but don't judge a site by it's graphics. The Senate and House both have plenty of documents that need to find their way online to provide full access to the people's branch of government.
The Senate Home Page
NO MORE NEWTWATCH
NewtWatch, the best known of Congressional Watch pages and pioneer of the field, is no more. When he originally created NewtWatch, Matt Dorsey had hoped that the Republican majority would be a one-term anomaly, and that there would be no Speaker Newt in the 105th Congress. Following the '96 election, he decided to pack it up and move on to other projects. Even though the Republicans held onto their majority, the Speakers troubles have persisted, culminating in a first ever reprimand for a Speaker of the House and a $300,000 fine. The House ethics committee has a home page, but don't look for any independent counsel reports or mention of the Gingrich case there, you won't find them. The page is a collection of memos from the committee offering guidance to members and staff on ethical matters (including one on Legal Defense Funds that the Speaker might read). As for NewtWatch, you can find only Matt's farwell note and a link to an archive of the site for old times sake.
NewtWatch's Farwell Letter
House Ethics Committee
LAUGHING AT CONGRESS ONLINE
Two sites I've recently found do a very good job of providing some laughs at Congress' expense. One attempts to make life easier for Democrats working on their one-minute speeches to be read on the House floor by providing a simple form speech with various items filled in via pop-up menus. To be sure your speech writing efforts aren't wasted, a button click will e-mail them to Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt's office (where they are certainly all being read). The other site is a parody of a home page for a member of the House of Representatives (at least I think it is, with 435 of them it's hard to keep track).
The Democratic Party OneMinuteSpeechMaker
The (more or less) Honrable Congressman Billybob
That's all for now!
Copyright ©1997 by Chris Casey