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The holiday buying season
With the post-Thanksgiving holiday buying season upon us, think about the e-government options out there. The U.S.

Postal Service sells stamps online — it has for years. And the U.S. Mint sells coins online — as it has for years. But what about a Christmas ornament of the U.S. Capitol? Or the U.S.

Supreme Court? You can buy those online, too.

You can also buy your loved ones Drug Enforcement Administration T-shirts.

Or check out the online stores for the National World War II Memorial and Mount Rushmore.

If your loved ones are more techie than govie — and because this is a green issue of Federal Computer Week — how about a solar-charging messenger bag? The Eclipse Fusion laptop PC bag provides enough energy to charge a cell phone or MP3 player. Although it won’t charge a laptop, it does let you go green. Reware’s Juice Bags come in different shapes and sizes, and all are outfitted with solar panels.

That should get your holiday shopping started.

Explaining Coburn’s no e-gov vote
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently moved legislation to renew the E-Government Act on to the full Senate. The bill would extend the 2002 bill and tinker with a few provisions. (See Page 47 for more.) After all, a few things have changed since 2002.

Interestingly, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), voted against reauthorizing the E-Gov Act. His was the only no vote. Folks at the Office of Management and Budget were not thrilled with the no vote.

So we asked about his decision.

The short answer: It isn’t a no on e-government. There are some fiscal provisions that Republican staff members say Coburn thinks are wrong.

Here is what one Republican staff member told us: “His vote at the markup does not actually reflect his view of [e-government] generally, which he supports. One of his primary agenda items has been about opening up government and making it more transparent through the Internet. This bill obviously does a lot of good in that area and is something he wants to see passed largely intact in the near future.”

“You won’t be too shocked to hear that his concern is largely a fiscal one. The bill reauthorizes about $300 million in spending but doesn’t provide any kind of offset.

Sen. Coburn’s view on authorizations is that they are a license for the government to grab power for itself in all kinds of areas, and so they should be kept in check. We have a situation right now where the government is actually authorized to do about three to four times what it actually does. In his view, the only thing keeping the government from throwing its weight around more is that it doesn’t spend more, but it’s certainly not for lack of legal authority. To keep authorizations — and therefore the power of government — in check, we like to negotiate decreased authorizations whenever we create authorizations.”

“In the case of the E-Gov bill — even though it’s a reauthorization since it would have expired — it’s technically no different than a new authorization and so we’d like to offset its cost. Right now, Sen.

[Joe] Lieberman’s bill also authorizes most of the programs through a ‘such sums as needed’ authorization, which we plan on replacing with actually authorization lines — then offsetting them.”

So now you know.

Innovative use of e-gov: Registering toilets
And speaking of e-government, one of the speakers at the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council’s Executive Leadership Conference in Wi lliamsburg, Va., last month spoke about the Australia National Public Toilet Map, which is part of the Australian National Continence Management Strategy.

According to the Web site: “The National Public Toilet Map shows the location of more than 14,000 public and private public-toilet facilities across Australia. Details of toilet facilities can also be found along major travel routes and for shorter journeys as well.

Useful information is provided about each toilet, such as location, opening hours, availability of baby change rooms, accessibility for people with disabilities and the details of other nearby toilets.”

The National Public Toilet Map site features a trip planner that lets people identify toilet stops for a journey…. You can create My Toilet Map, where you can “register for My Toilet Map to save your trips, favourite destinations and public toilets.”

They also have a newsletter with quarterly updates on the National Public Toilet Map project, including new toilets.

All of this is interesting, but they do not address whether water in toilets in the Southern Hemisphere swirls in the opposite direction from the way it does here in the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s all relative
A Nov. 14 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on allegations of misconduct by the State Department’s inspector general took a dramatic turn.

Initially, State IG Howard Krongard denied that his brother had ties to Blackwater, the department’s now-infamous contractor, as committee Democrats charged. But Krongard changed his story midway though questioning.

The IG called his brother during a break in the hearing after Democratic lawmakers said they had discovered that his brother was registered at the Virginia hotel where a Blackwater advisory board meeting took place earlier in the week.

When the hearing reconvened, Krongard recused himself from all investigations relating to Blackwater after telling the committee his brother had informed him during the break that he had attended an advisory board meeting.
 

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