American Elephants


Sunshine vs. Secrecy. No Change! Still Secret. by The Elephant's Child

sunshine

This is Sunshine Week, And this is a post (revised) I published at this time last year. Has anything changed?  “Open government is good government.” Celebrating Your Right to Know. Yoo Hoo, Hillary…

The government watchdog group Cause of Action released a Freedom of Information Act report card for 15 federal agencies that receive the bulk of all FOIA requests. Six of the 15 agencies received failing grades. Three agencies—the Departments of Education, Homeland Security and Treasury—earned “F” grades for failing to comply with the law’s annual reporting requirements. Whether their grades included agencies that are part of, for example, the IRS which is part of Treasury is not clear.

The Center for Effective Government also rated 15 government agencies, not quite the same list, but even worse grades.

“Transparency and the Rule of Law
will be the touchstone of this  presidency.”
Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

Nice public statement spin, but Obama has been trying to figure out ways around it ever since, and Congress has been trying to figure out how to make it stick. I have 55 articles in my “transparency” file.

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.” As usual, there is the big public announcement which the peasants might hear, followed by the actions that the administration prefers, which people probably won’t hear. Not transparent at all, except where it doesn’t make any difference.

—”Obama Just Officially Decided White House Emails Aren’t Subject to the Freedom of Information Act” Mother Jones 3/17/2015

—”Obama administration stonewalls FOIA request on IRS targeting scandal” Hot Air, 2/10/2015

—’Serious limitations‘: Gov’t watchdogs unite in letter slamming Obama administration transparency,”Fox News, 8/06/2014

“Transparency Groups Seek White House Position on FOIS Reforms” Washington Free Beacon, 10/27/2014

“FOIA request revealed Obama family vacation to Hawaii cost taxpayers over $3.6 million in flight costs alone”
Political Insider, 3/13/2015



Outrage and Protests, Fuss and Furor Over Nothing Much. by The Elephant's Child

tOtXL.So.7

Seattle is an interesting city, sinking slowly in the West¹. but still reliably, environmentally green. This is the city that insists that grocery store customers use cloth bags for their groceries, or pay for the other kind. That fines citizens $50 for putting any foodstuff in the garbage can instead in the yard waste can. Nearly 98 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources, thanks to Columbia River Dams, which the County Council wanted to tear down until they took a field trip and found out how big they were.  Now, a national furor has erupted over Foss Shipyards’ lease of their docks to Royal Dutch Shell for the regular maintenance and repair of their Arctic drilling rigs. (Shown above a 2012 photo of Shell’s Kulik leaving Seattle)

In the first place the green loonies assumed that they were going to start drilling for oil in their beloved Puget Sound. Seattle always has indignant protesters willing to come out and demonstrate. But when it turned out that it was just for the repair of their Arctic Ocean drilling rigs, they switched their environmental angst to the Arctic Ocean. The City Council was up in arms, a court challenge was filed by environmental groups, and protesters have vowed to block the rigs arrival with a flotilla of kayaks in Elliott Bay.

“You have signed a lease that will amount to a crime against the planet,” said Zarna Joshi, 32, a Seattle resident who was first to speak at a raucous three-hour public meeting this week before the port’s commissioners. The meeting was packed mostly with opponents and punctuated by the occasional dissenter, pointing out the hypocrisy of protesters who had arrived to denounce Shell in vehicles running on gasoline.

Officials at the publicly owned Port of Seattle have strongly defended the lease, saying that the two year contract will bring in millions of dollars in revenue and create hundreds of good jobs on 50 acres that Shell would use just west of downtown. In any case, the decision to allow oil exploration in Arctic waters is federal policy, and not anything that the port or the city or the state can alter.

It’s all about climate change, of course, and politics, and the politics of climate change — science is not involved, only emotion and Democratic talking points.

“Hosting the Arctic drilling fleet in the city of Seattle is an activity that, if successful in drilling and extracting oil from the Arctic, will almost certainly mean that all of the industrial land in Seattle will be under water, and is completely inconsistent with the region’s and even the port’s goals,” said Mike O’Brien, a Seattle City Council member.

¹Seattle has long had an elevated roadway along the water front to let drivers bypass much of downtown Seattle if they choose, but it is old. Almost as long has been the fight over a replacement. Freeway, tunnel, street-level replacement. Property owners of lots facing the waterfront have always fought for a tunnel to remove the unsightly Alaskan Way Viaduct, and they eventually won the argument. Digging began, giant tunneling machine “Big Bertha’ went to work, drilled a few feet and ran plumb into a huge old drainage pipe that they didn’t know was there. They apparently cannot proceed, they cannot remove the pipe, and the people in those waterfront properties are finding that their buildings are sinking, slightly, but regularly. No answers.



The Clancy Brothers: “Carrickfergus” by The Elephant's Child
March 17, 2015, 6:00 am
Filed under: Entertainment, Humor, Music, YouTube | Tags: , ,