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re Meeks comments on access
From: David Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Fri, 6 Jan 1995 08:17:45 -0500

Date: Fri, 6 Jan 95 08:14:12 EST
From: rick () cra org (Rick Weingarten)


Re Meeks comments:


I don't think we should dismiss all that quickly these initial efforts.


In the first place, I believe (and it's classical political theory) that in
a large complex democracy such as this, intermediary institutions, press,
public interest groups, lobbyists and so on, always will serve as an
important conduit between the raw firehose of government information and
individual constituents. In fact, one of the main activities of many
so-called "special interests," including the one I run, is simply to help
members get hold of what is actually happening and sort the noise from the
signal. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes not, but we try.


Previously, access to much of this data was priced out of reach of small
associations such as mine. I will now have better access to information and
will be able to make it available to my members much faster--as will many
groups, left, right, and center on the political spectrum.


I can't imagine that the typical research computer scientist, my
membership, is going to want to spend a lot of time browsing legislation on
the House Gopher, but:


1. If he or she wants to do that, it is available. That's got to be a good
thing.


2. I and my staff will browse it, sort through it for those things of
particular interest to computing research, and, when appropriate, send
messages to the community saying, "Hey, look at this." The same goes for
Brock Meeks, whose job, like mine, is based on the need of society for such
filters and analysts. The same goes for EFF, CPSR. etc., etc.


We protect against abuse and gatekeeping by having lots of such filters around.


So, independently of whether I support the Republican agenda, I am
delighted to see movement in the Congress toward openness and access.
Believe me, there were plenty of people outside who wanted to stop it
because they either made money from selling the information, themselves, or
gained political advantage by having limited access.


Rick


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