American Elephants


Secrecy vs. Sunshine: No Contest, Politics Wins! by The Elephant's Child

sunshine

This is Sunshine Week, March 16-22, 2014. “Open government is good government.” Celebrating Your Right to Know. Uh huh.

So you may be unaware that President Obama rewrote the Freedom of Information Act, without telling the rest of America.

The rewrite came in a memo from then-White House Counsel Greg Craig on April 15, 2009, instructing the executive branch to let White House officials review any documents sought by FOIA requestors that involved “White House equities.” That word is not to be found in the law, but the Obama White House effectively amended the law to justify keeping public documents locked away from the public. Cause of Action, is  a Washington-based nonprofit watchdog group that monitors government transparency and accountability.

The exception “applies to all documents and records, whether in oral, paper, or electronic form, that relate to communications to and from the White House, including preparations for such communications.”

Oh, ho, ho. Open government indeed. The FOIA requires federal agencies to respond within 20 days of receiving a request, but the White House equities exception can make it impossible for an agency to meet that deadline.

Cause of Action is still waiting for documents from 16 federal agencies, with the Department of Treasury having the longest pending request of 202 business days.  (Would you care to wager that this has to do with the IRS?) The Department of Energy comes in second at 169 business days. 20 days indeed. Can’t have the  great unwashed viewing politically sensitive documents.

That’s the promised “most transparent administration in history.”



Now Obama’s Giving the Internet Away to the International Community by The Elephant's Child

“U.S. Officials plan to relinquish federal control over the administration of the internet to something called the “global internet community,” which is full of tyrants to whom the free flow of information is a threat.” (Investors)

“The Commerce Department said Friday it plans to relinquish its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which manages a number of technical functions that serve as signposts to help computers locate the correct servers and websites. …

Alan Marcus, senior director of the World Economic Forum, said “the NSA tarnished the U.S. stewardship” of the Web. Mr Marcus said the U.S. needs to relinquish control over the Web before new leadership can emerge. “There are real issues that get clouded” by US. leadership, he said.” (Wall Street Journal)

“The Internet is often described as a miracle of self-regulation, which is almost true. The exception is that the United States government has had ultimate control from the beginning. Washington has used this oversight only to ensure that the Internet runs efficiently and openly, without political pressure from any country.

This was the happy state of affairs until last Friday, when the Obama administration made the surprise announcement it will relinquish its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, which assigns and maintains domain names and Web addresses for the Internet. Russia, China and other authoritarian governments have already been working to redesign the Internet more to their liking, and now they will no doubt leap to fill the power vacuum caused by America’s unilateral retreat.” (L. Gordon Crovitz: The Wall Street Journal)

Our president has always been a communitarian, a globalist; he has proclaimed himself a “proud citizen of the world.”The administration was caught flat-footed at an International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN agency, conference in 2012 stage-managed by authoritarian governments. Google organized an online campaign with a petition that”a free and open world depends on a free and open web.” A former Obama aide called it “the chosen vehicle for regimes for whom the free and open Internet is seen as an existential threat.”

Regimes in Russia, China, and Iran are notable for denying their citizens access to the Internet, controlling speech, and using propaganda as a force to control their people. The United Nations was a ‘we are the world’ fantasy that quickly became one of the earth’s most corrupt organizations. Consider the IPCC, Oil for Food, and the Blue Helmet reputation for child rape. We are still in massive denial of the obvious, and keep insisting that it is worthy.

Obama’s view of Freedom is truly Orwellian. He wants the Democrats to reclaim the word “freedom” as their own; but what he means by it is deeper dependence on government. So we have to be cautious when he suggests that some action will give us more freedom.

The National Journal cautions that the Obama administration is opening the door to an internet takeover by Russia, China, or other countries that are eager to censor speech and limit the flow of ideas.

Investors again: “In 2008, the Internet trade journal Cnet reported the ITU was quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous. Regimes in places such as Russia and Iran also want an ITU rule letting them monitor traffic routed through or to their countries, allowing them to eavesdrop or block access. …

Before Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, Moscow launched attacks against its Internet infrastructure with coordinated barrages of millions of requests, known as distributed denial-of-service attacks, which overloaded and effectively shut down Georgian servers.

Today, the largely self-regulating Internet means no one has to ask for permission to launch a site and no government can tell network operators how to do their jobs. The Internet freely crosses international boundaries, making it difficult for governments to censor. To many governments, the Internet is a threat to statist goals.”

Charles CW Cooke at National Review: We might worry about who is reading our e-mails, but we don’t fret about the Internet being restricted at its core. We may be concerned about the lack of free communication in other countries, but we don’t have to sweat about those countries’ governments shutting off our access here. And yet, having grown cocky in its maturity, the U.S. government is now considering inviting those countries’ censors to the table and giving them a vote on how to fix a problem that never was. Why?

From National Journal:”Coming Soon: Free Internet From Space. Outernet wants to use tiny satellites to take the whole world online — even in countries where dictators wish they wouldn’t.” Is this the solution?

We’d probably better re-read Orwell’s 1984 too, to remind ourselves of the potential when free communication and free speech are not allowed.



Unprepared for the Office to Which He Aspired. by The Elephant's Child

The Russian absorption of the Crimea seems to be a done deal. Obama is ordering sanctions, but apparently on the wrong people. One would think that they could at least sanction the bank accounts of people who would mind and do something about it. This is what Russia has been doing since the end of the Cold War— when it sees weakness and vacillation, they slide in.

The big problem is that our lack of understanding of how the world works, speaks loudly to the rest of the world. Putin, former KGB Colonel,  knows what he is doing and has a good idea about what he can get away with. Russia is a mess. Life expectancy is around 55. Their manufactured goods are only for home use, and are not competitive on the world market. What they do have is lots of oil and natural gas, which Europe, due to their romance with wind and solar, and fear of global warming, desperately needs. Europe can thus be blackmailed. They have relied for too long on an American superpower which they can no longer trust.

On September 17, 2009, President Barack Obama officially announced that he would abandon the Eastern European missile shield. The new man in the White House apparently felt that his “mandate” meant that he was free not only to break with the past, but to undo it.  No scruples about reneging on long-term commitments of his country when they interfered with his own plans. So he scrapped the treaties George W.Bush had signed with Poland and the Czech Republic. The latter countries were not exactly pleased.

“Catastrophic for Poland” a spokeswoman at the Polish Ministry of Defense said. Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and founder of Solidarity observed with bitterness: “I can see what kind of policy the Obama administration is pursuing toward this part of Europe. The way we are being approached needs to change.”Aleksander Szczyglo, the minister of defense at the time, told the press: “From the point of view of our interests, every U.S. soldier, every U.S. base on Polish territory, increases our security and binds us to the United States by a closer alliance.”

Continuity in international relations is essential. You just can’t jerk other countries around. The U.S. has historically respected it’s treaties, even those that the Senate did not ratify. We now have an administration unconstrained by preceding commitments. Nations whose good-faith gestures and risks are snubbed may have a very different view. Simply dumping treaty commitments may seem unimportant at the time, but it is the kind of thing that reverberates around the world affecting countries willingness to act in concert with us. Diplomacy by “reset button” damages our relations with everyone.

In a joint statement on December 4, 2009, the president of the United States, Barack Obama and the president of Russia, Dimitry Medvedev, confirmed the assurances of security to Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus given on the heels of these countries consent in 1994 to give up their nuclear weapons. According to the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, the signatories pledged to “Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders” and “Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.” The Russians ignored the memorandum, but one does not expect much of Russia. Apparently one does not expect much of the United States either.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,506 other followers

%d bloggers like this: