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Gary Thornock's Weblog » Pete Ashdown meeting
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26th Sep, 2005

Pete Ashdown meeting


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I went to Salt Lake tonight for a public meeting that Pete Ashdown had at the city library.

Pete started off the meeting with a short presentation. He touched briefly on some of the issues facing the nation today, including energy, health care, transportation, water, and the need for clean food and water supplies. Then, he talked about barriers, past and present. Historically, America has overcome such barriers as opression and slavery. Mobility, a significant economic barrier for centuries, is now largely a solved problem. More recently, inexpensive high-quality camcorders and computerized editing have removed barriers to filmmaking, the first Mac lowered barriers to publication, and the Internet has opened up communication on a global scale. The next barrier is government.

Every generation needs a new revolution. — Thomas Jefferson

In the world of commercial software, a company releases a program, people buy it, and if they have comments, complaints or suggestions, they might possibly look for a way to communicate back to the company, which may or may not pay any attention and address some of the customers' suggestions in a 2.0 release. This is, in many respects, similar to the traditional process of government: government enacts laws, and if the people are sufficiently motivated, they can comment or petition their representatives regarding those laws. Those comments and petitions may or may not be heard by the representatives, who might address some of them in future legislation.

One of the very interesting features that's appeared recently on Pete's web site is a wiki where interested people can discuss issues, present information and even contribute to campaign strategy. The idea is to move toward a more open, collaborative model — similar to the Open Source model in the software world — wherein everyone has the ability to participate in the process. Related to the collaboration idea is the "20/20 system", where people are encouraged to donate 20 minutes or $20 a month (or, as one person suggested, talk to 20 people).

After the presentation, there was a discussion period that covered a wide range of topics. A couple of interesting comments:

On the current Washington establishment:

The people in Washington now are trying to protect the last 50 years, rather than looking forward to the next century.

On bureaucracy and privacy:

Government should be transparent, and citizens should be opaque.

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