Check out our bi-weekly Net perspective. Our goal is to make these columns useful for our readers whether they be novice or pro, while still offering a fun to read column. Feel free to let us know what Internet resources you find useful in your personal, educational, or business life - it might just end up in one of our columns!
Another election year has come and gone without much notice by most of the electorate; notice the disappointing voter turnout in much of the country. While many may theorize that this disturbing downturn in voter participation is just another symptom of an apathetic American public, we who use the interment think not. For those connected, we have seen a boom in political discussion on the Internet. Additionally, all levels of government - federal, state and local - are beginning to utilize the Internet's vast potential.
As we have mentioned in previous articles, a great jumping off point to start any Internet search is Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com). By now, we hope you have set a bookmark to this invaluable site. For resources about politics, go to Yahoo's Political directory (http://www.yahoo.com/Government/Politics/). Here you will find index listings for political parties, interest groups, newsgroups, and just about anything else related to politics. One site we particularly like is the Center for Democracy and Technology (http://www.cdt.org/).
Any political discussion in this country invariably starts with the two major parties, each of which have internet sites: the Democratic National Committee (http://www.democrats.org/) and the Republican National Committee (http://www.rnc.org/). A number of other political parties also have sites, including Ross Perot's United We Stand (http://www.uwsa.org/). If your interested in current issues, check out the Electronic Democracy Forum (http://edf.www.media.mit.edu/).
To get political and government information straight from the top, check out the White House home page (http://www.whitehouse.gov/). The Executive Office's page is both cool to view and has great links to other government resources. Here, you can listen to an audio welcome message from President Clinton, take a tour of the White House, or register your comments in the White House Guest Book. We recommend surfing from this page to any of a number of links, including Government Publications (http://www.whitehouse.gov/WhiteHouse/Publications/html/Publications-plain.html).
For more information about your government in action, the Internet has a wealth of places to look. In the last few years the Federal Government has made a commitment to make much of its information accessible through the internet, including most major governmental agencies. Call us naive, but we didn't realize the astounding number of departments and agencies our federal government has; here's a listing of some of them: Internal Revenue Service (http://www.ustreas.gov/treasury/bureaus/irs/irs.html); Social Security Administration (http://www.ssa.gov/); Senate Information (http://www.senate.gov/); House of Representatives Information (http://www.house.gov/). To look for a specific agency, we recommend checking out FedWorld (http://www.fedworld.gov/).
For links to local and state government sites, check the Buffalo Free-Net's Government Center (http://freenet.buffalo.edu/govt/). To look for official state government resources try the New York State Government Information Locator Service (http://unix2.nysed.gov/ils/). This site provides access to the text of many state publications put out by the Assembly, Senate and Governor's office. Have you ever tried to figure exactly what politicians are saying during their speeches? For a more coherent format, look for them on the Internet. For example, you can read the the Governor's 1995 Budget Address on-line (http://unix2.nysed.gov:71/00/agencies/executive/governor/budget/).
As you can see, the amount of political and governmental information available on the Internet is truly amazing. And this is just a start. Many government agencies have plans for on-line documents and forms to cut through much of today's bureaucracy. Similarly, we can only imagine the creative ways that candidates and elected officials will use the Internet to tap into the pulse of their constituencies.
Finally, we want to make this column interesting and useful for you. Feel free to contact us and let us know how we're doing. You can email us, firstname.lastname@example.org , or fax us, (716) 853-1350 and let us know what's happening on the Internet in WNY or any computing related activities you're involved with.