Go Forth, Ye Wonks, And Prosper

Kevin's right, Open CRS, the new site collecting the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service's policy summaries, is a great service. The CRS is a taxpayer funded agency that prepares reports on various policy topics for congressmen. The reports are short, highly reliable, and scrupulously fair. Better yet, there are thousands of them, with more emerging each year.

Like Kevin, I've long been irritated that the CRS doesn't make its reports public. After all, we pay for them. Indeed, I was even thinking of proposing a 10 Miles Squared (The Washington Monthly's front-of-book, talk-about-something-quirky-in-DC feature) on it. But then, you've got to think; maybe it's a good thing. After all, let the CRS go public and suddenly Accuracy in Media or the Media Research Council devotes an intern to reading every single dispatch and raising huge stinks about out of context sentences proving liberal bias aimed at weak-minded congressmen. They become just one more political football, and soon, no one reads them, except to attack.

This, in fact, is probably the best solution. A third party collecting them for the few wonks who want to dig through the archives, but keeping it from becoming a visible agency. In a world where congresscritters are deluged with fact sheets from every pressure group under the sun (and a few that only come out at night), I quite like the idea of an actually nonpartisan, determinedly fair service providing them with the policy info to make an educated decision. Now, it so happens that DeLay's habit of stalking the halls with a large paddle and a fresh horsehead has done much to make policy research a useless task, the leadership calls the shots. Nevertheless, I still like knowing the CRS is there, poignantly pointing towards a day when their mission matters and deliberative democracy ceases being an ironic concept.

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