American Elephants


Slash the Budget of the Department of Agriculture! by The Elephant's Child

Just briefly looking around the USDA website convinced me that the Department of Agriculture has way too many bureaucrats employed, and their conception of what they should be doing is way too broad. I have never known anyone who has paid the slightest attention to the USDA’s guidelines as to just what we should be eating, which is just as well because they have mostly been wrong anyway.

The schools, unfortunately, have to pay attention because they get funding, but anyone who has ever visited a school lunchroom notices that enormous quantities of food end up in the garbage. The kids have mostly hated Michelle Obama’s school lunch program. The USDA’s high carb diet was all wrong, butter is fine, they’re still trying to reduce “greenhouse gas emissions” although carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is what makes plants grow, and apparently, according to the EPA, soon their mission will be to reduce cow flatulence.

The federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is currently working on updating nutritional guidelines to conform with Mrs. Obama’s ideas and new scientific evidence. Mrs. Obama has been behind the drastically altered school lunch menus and the federal push to change restaurants’ most popular items to healthier fare and add calorie counts to every menu. She also has a new nutritional food labeling scheme.

One of the committee members, Miriam Nelson,  feels the guidelines shouldn’t be confined to nutrition, but should include the long-term sustainability and environmental impact of crops recommended for eating.  Another committee member is pushing a “plant-based diet” — suggesting that meat eating is not sustainable.

Another new idea under consideration are federal phone texts to obese citizens warning them regularly of their unhealthy eating behavior.

I pay no attention to the “my plate” guidelines, and I’m sure you don’t either, but the work of this committee guides the food purchases by the feds for government cafeterias, school meals across the country, all branches of the U.S. military and the entire federal prison system.

Michelle has insisted that the White House chef change from sugar to fruit purees to sweeten foods, but the White House consumes six different kinds of pie for Thanksgiving, The state dinner for the president of France came in at 2,500 calories per plate — a more-than-healthy whole day’s allowance. Remember that when you get your text-message from the government telling you what to eat, and reminding you that you are officially categorized as obese.



Understanding Ukraine: The Problems Today and Some Historical Context by The Elephant's Child
April 3, 2014, 6:32 am
Filed under: Europe, Freedom, History, Politics, Russia | Tags: , ,


If You Can’t Trust the Government, There is No Liberty. by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson had an important column this last week on “Untruthful and Untrustworthy Government,” that digs into what distinguishes democracies from tinhorn dictatorships and totalitarian monstrosities.

It’s not just the scandals: Benghazi, the Associated Press, the NSA scandal which are troubling enough, but the doubt about the honesty of the permanent government itself. Does anyone still believe in a non-partisan and honest IRS? Our system of voluntary tax reporting rests on trust. If we can’t trust the IRS to treat us fairly, to what extent will the compliance from taxpayers cease to be honest.

Is the report from the Department of Labor statistics on employment accurate? Is inflation really as low as we are told? Nobody knows how many Americans have bought and paid for ObamaCare policies. We don’t know how many were previously uninsured. We don’t know whether we still can see our doctor and the local hospital, nor whether our medication is acceptable.

We don’t know how many foreign citizens have entered the U.S. illegally who were arrested and deported to their country of origin. ICE now counts as deportations those foreign nationals whom the Border Patrol immediately stops or turns away at the border. The Department of Homeland Security caught and then released—back into the U.S. population—68,000 aliens who had previously been convicted of a serious crime, when they could have been deported. In San Antonio, 79 percent of criminal aliens were released back into the general population in 2012.  In Washington D.C. 5,558 criminal aliens were released—64 percent of the 8,688 who were apprehended.

When everything is politicized, what the agencies of the government tell the people can’t be counted on. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has factored research and development costs of business into statistics on investment growth. Is the report on Gross Domestic Product growth honest? It is a vital measure of how the economy is doing. Politically it might be useful to make it look a little better that the numbers show. The government reported an unexpectedly high 2.8 GDP growth in the numbers last year.

Is inflation really as low as we are told? They have changed the way they calculate that as well. Inflation and unemployment numbers are lower, economic growth is higher. Problems disappear behind a screen of Freedom of Information Act requests that drag on for years instead of the prompt response the law demands.

If all is political, we are indeed in deep trouble.



Six Years Into the “Recovery” And There Still Aren’t Any Jobs. by The Elephant's Child

President Barack Obama’s approval rates are at record lows. Only 26 percent approve of ObamaCare, and Democrats running for re-election have been trying to disassociate themselves from the law as much as possible.

They need a new agenda, and think they have discovered it in rising inequality. Obama has laid out an array of populist proposals: more unemployment insurance, raising the federal minimum wage, giving women “equal pay for equal work”, a perennial favorite already in the law, ignored in the White House—where female staffers are not paid as well as male staffers.

The theory is that Republicans who are vulnerable at the polls can be forced to join them on  these poll-tested issues. It’s good old class warfare, always a winner in desperate situations. But this time it doesn’t seem to be working. People want jobs, not another handout. We are six years into an Obama “recovery” and people still need extensions on their unemployment insurance.

Obama has curiously mastered the art of killing more jobs with every attempt to increase employment. He promotes a national group of manufacturing hubs, as an excellent way to create jobs, but none have gotten off the ground, in spite of taxpayer money invested. At the same time, the EPA continues to shut down coal-fired power stations—killing thousands of jobs.

Vice President Joe Biden did the weekly address while Obama was in Brussels, and began by stating:

There’s no reason in the world why an American working 40 hours a week has to live in poverty. But right now a worker earning the federal minimum wage makes about $14,500 a year. And you all know that’s incredibly hard for an individual to live on, let alone raise a family on.

The minimum wage is a “starter wage” for those who have no skills to offer an employer, but have to learn how to work. The federal poverty level for an individual is $11,670, and someone earning the current federal minimum wage earns more than the federal poverty level. Biden added:

The big difference between giving a raise in the minimum wage instead of a tax break to the very wealthy is the minimum wage worker will go out and spend every penny of it because they’re living on the edge. They’ll spend it in the local economy. They need it to pay their electric bill, put gas in their automobile, to buy fundamental necessities. And this generates economic growth in their communities.

So give money to the poor, vilify the wealthy, because the poor paying their electric bill will stimulate the economy, but the rich building businesses and hiring more workers will not.  There’s the reason why we are in the sixth year of the Obama “recovery” spelled out. Add hundreds of regulations that increase the cost of building businesses and hiring workers, demonstrate with improper use of the IRS that businesses that do not toe the line will be audited, inspected by the ATF, perhaps raided by a SWAT team, and your business practices or your inventory confiscated by the Justice department.

There are enormous numbers of jobs waiting for the president to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, to O.K. the export of liquified natural gas to a needy Europe, and the EPA continues its path of destruction through the entire American economy, and nobody is supposed to notice that they not only kill jobs, but make companies reluctant to take the risk of expanding or hiring.

Kim Strassel, writing in the Wall Street Journal notes that:

Democrats have also become embarrassingly obvious, talking openly of how this agenda was devised not to help Americans, but to punish Republicans and rally the base. The New York Times’s Wednesday headline baldly read, “Democrats, As Part of Midterm Strategy, to Schedule Votes on Pocketbook Issues,” and quoted Sen. Chuck Schumer promising the vote would “mute” complaints about ObamaCare. Subtle, dudes. …

Democrats aren’t backing off; they are all-in for inequality, and they’re betting that a few more dedicated weeks of hammering Republicans as callous will force some movement. Maybe. But for now Americans seem unconvinced that any of their top concerns—a stalled economy, their health-care woes, the U.S.’s humiliation abroad, government dysfunction, soaring debt—are the result of “inequality.” Their president is talking past them.



A Rescued Florida Panther Kitten by The Elephant's Child

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This Florida Panther kitten was rescued on the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge after January’s record cold snap. Biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission discovered the kitten with a dangerously low body temperature, non-responsive and way too young to be separated from his mother. They transported the kitten to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida in Naples. Raised by people, he can’t be released to the wild. Once he’s old enough he’ll go to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Except for small numbers in Florida, the Florida panther, a subspecies of cougar, is extinct or rare in the Eastern United States. Puma concolor

It is the biggest of the small cats, and more closely related to our own pet cats and cheetahs of Africa. Where I grew up, we called them cougars. I never saw one in the wild, though I heard one scream several times. That is something else; “mountain screamer” doesn’t capture the sound. Sounds like a woman screaming in the most terrible agony you can imagine. Here’s a handsome grown-up. They are solitary animals, and occupy a large territory.  (from zooborns.com) a favorite website.mountain-lion

 



Sometimes You Have to Do Hard Things. No Pain, No Gain. by The Elephant's Child

Walter Russell Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and editor at large of the American Interest, a man of the Left, but modestly so. In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, he gently chides the president for his ambitious foreign policy goals, but unusual parsimony in engaging with them. The president, he says, isn’t satisfied with he world as it is, and wants a world fundamentally different from the one we live in.

He wants a world in which poverty is on the wane, international law is respected, and the U.S., if it must lead, can do so on the cheap, and from behind.

To get to this world, Mr. Obama wants nuclear proliferation stopped, new arms-control agreements ratified, and the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. He wants a tough global climate treaty that will keep carbon emissions at levels low enough to prevent further global warming. He wants the Arab-Israeli dispute settled and a new relationship with Iran. He wants terrorism to be contained and Afghanistan to be stable when the Americans leave. He wants to reassert U.S. power in the Pacific, and to see China accept the territorial status quo. He wants democracy advanced, human rights protected, poverty reduced, women empowered, and lesbians and gays treated better world-wide.

Professor Mead suggested that this paradox arises from Obama’s channeling the voters who want to eliminate the budget deficit without cutting the programs they favor, and a more peaceful world without so much effort on our part.

We also hear this week about American University students who couldn’t manage to name one senator, and were clueless about how many senators there are.

Makes you yearn for a poll-test. You don’t get to vote unless you know a few basic facts. But that is the job of candidates and political parties, to inform voters before they go to the polls. Yes I know that’s absurd as well. Civilization is messy at best. We are multitudes who have trouble getting along with members of our own family. let alone the guy across the street, and creating a more felicitous state of the world. Some of us are very smart, which doesn’t necessarily mean we know much about many subjects.

Our schools are failing our kids, not because we don’t want good schools, but because the goals of others trump educational excellence. Our colleges attract students from all over the world, yet our graduates can’t name a single senator, can’t locate Florida, and are unqualified to work in today’s world.

The free market recognizes the failures of individuals and companies, but relies on the wisdom of the multitudes, who, of course, can be easily swayed by glamour or charisma, bad information, and conspiracy theories.

Americans, however, have a sort of genius for muddling through. We make dreadful mistakes, and then turn around and try to fix them. Americans all, in one generation or another, gave up everything known in their home country packed up their belongings and set out for an unknown new world. There’s a kind of fearlessness there, that seems to be an inherited characteristic, a genius for risk-taking and adapting that has served our country well for almost 500 years.  Mr. Mead says:

Mr. Obama came into office telling voters what they badly wanted to hear, which was that on foreign policy, they could have it all. No risks to be run, no adversarial great powers to oppose, and no boots on the ground. Now he must tell them that he, and they, were wrong, and he must choose. Does he give up on some of his dreams for improving the world, or does he begin to urge the country to pay a higher price and run greater risks to make the world better and safer?

The truth is that he—and we—will have to do some of both. As a country we are going to be working harder than we wanted in a world that is more frustrating than we hoped.



Walter Russell Mead on Public Pensions and Municipal Bankruptcies by The Elephant's Child

As long as we’re talking about Puerto Rico, I should include a link to this informative article about a conversation with Walter Russell Mead on public pensions, a problem coming close in Puerto Rico, all over California, in Detroit.

People say: ‘A defined benefit pension from my employer, there’s no risk.’ A big risk is that your employer will go broke.

Adam Shapiro: Well, in the case of public pensions, we’re seeing that happen. And yet, there’s a resistance to reform the process by which we fund these pensions, by which we set the actuarial standards for these pensions, and to have an honest discussion with taxpayers about these pensions, why?

Walter Mead: It is interesting, normally you think of liberals and Democrats as being people who really want to regulate, and particularly they want to regulate the financial markets, in order, as they say, to protect the “little guy.” Well here’s a case in which cities and states are not held to the same standards for their pension funds that any private employer is held to. If in fact, employers did what routinely a lot of cities and states do, they would go to jail.

Shapiro: So why is there no public outcry over this?

Mead: There’s some public outcry. But, unfortunately there’s a kind of a conspiracy between government officials, politicians, and union leaders often. The deal is this: Union leader wants to show the union members, hey belonging to the union is a good thing, I get you benefits. You get more with me than you’d get on your own. So I go into the negotiations with management of the city or the state government and I come back so you’ll say, “wow he’s a great union leader, I don’t begrudge him a penny of his salary because this union is working for me.” Well here’s the problem: If you’re asking for a big raise for members this year, the politicians have to pay it this year. And that means they have to tax the voters, voters don’t like to be taxed to pay for your raise, or they got to cut spending on something else to get the money, well voters don’t like it when politicians cut spending on their favorite programs.

It’s a very interesting conversation, and a video. Walter Russell Mead is a most interesting man of the left.  Do Read or watch the whole thing, or both. There’s a lot more to the video, you may be surprised.

 



Progressive Policies Fail in Puerto Rico by The Elephant's Child

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Puerto Ricans move to the United States all the time, but now Puerto Rico has joined New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois and California as tax-and-spend blue states that are losing residents because of government policy. More than 450,000 Puerto Ricans have left over the past decade, with 1.000 arriving in Orlando, FL every 10 days.

More Puerto Ricans— about 5 million—now live in the continental U.S., according to media reports, than live in Puerto Rico. Doctors are leaving, teachers are leaving, lawyers and engineers are pulling out. Unemployment at 15.2% is higher than the bottom U.S. state (Rhode Island, 9.2%) and far exceeds the national average of 6.7%. Only 35% of the working-age population in Puerto Rico actually works.

The economy is in its eighth year of recession and is expected to contract by another 2% this year. It has plunged roughly 14% since 2006. To solve the commonwealth’s problems—a public debt of $70 billion, a downgraded credit rating, and talk of default—the government has done what the left always does, and has hiked taxes.

They might look to Texas as an example of what to do. Low taxes, no personal state income tax, a light regulatory role and an inviting business climate that encourages 52 Fortune 500 companies, and jobs —252,000 jobs created in 2013 alone. And it has added more than a half-million people, 148,000 from California. Even commonwealths can benefit from such policies.



All About the Little Red Hen by The Elephant's Child

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The Ruling Class is sure they are smarter than the rest of us, and know more about how the world should operate. They find the rest of us a little scary, and believe we need to be directed to do that which will comport with their vision of an improved country. We need to be regulated.

The rest of us are increasingly chafing under the regulation. The more liberal the venue, the more really nice things they want to do to improve things. A case in point is the State of California. Six states—Missouri, Alabama. Iowa, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Nebraska—sued California in federal court last month.

The controversy is all about eggs, or more precisely, about the hens.

California passed a ballot initiative, Proposition 2, in 2008 which mandated that by 2015 all California egg producers must shift to larger cages or “cage-free” housing for its chickens. The Humane Society of the U.S. funded the initiative to the tune of $4.1 million. Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, shelled out $100,000 for the initiative. Hedge-fund billionaire and green activist Tom Steyer gave $25,000. In typical liberal fashion, proponents were unaware of the economics and the unintended consequences, but full of   concern for being kind to the chickens.

The costs would be deadly. One 2008 analysis by researchers at the University of California-Davis determined that the changes would bankrupt the state’s then $337 million egg industry. The researchers expected the initiative to raise production costs for California producers by 20%. If the proposal were adopted nationwide, consumers would pay 25% more for eggs “and perhaps much more,” according to the report.

The California legislature in Sacramento decreed in 2010 that no out-of-state business could sell eggs in California unless the hens were raised in bigger cages, or cage free. The motive was purely protectionist to insure that in-state producers were not disadvantaged. A U.S. congressman said if “you can put small cages in Nevada, right across the border and our state can’t prohibit  it, than that’s a problem for us.”

The law is aimed at discriminating against out-of-state businesses by raising their costs. One need go no further than the California Assembly’s own admission for proof. Second, courts do not allow states to regulate interstate commerce if the public safety claim is “illusory”—which it is.

The Law’s defenders allege that hens in current cages are more likely to carry Salmonella to suggest that conventional cages are unsafe. Studies in the journal Poultry Science by the USDA said no differences in frequency of egg contamination were found. Another study in the journal Avian Diseases by USDA and University of Georgia found that among egg-laying hens, the caged housing system provide the lowest horizontal transmission level. The European Union’s animal rights radicals banned hen cages in 2012 led to supply shortages and price shocks. French farmers dumped their eggs in the streets.

The array of eggs in my grocery store offers, beyond the standard white eggs from White Leghorn hens, “cage-free eggs,” organic eggs, extra-large eggs, and my favorite brown eggs from Rhode Island Red hens. It also features a sign warning of a nationwide shortage of some kinds of eggs. I get testy when they’re out of brown.

How nice do you want to be to the chickens? We have coyotes, raccoons, possums. Do you just want the chickens in big cages or cage free? And if cage-free do you mind if the varmints eat the hens? Do you want to become a vegetarian in protest, or are you not all that fond of your vegetables?



Inequality, Hypocrisy, Pretense, Lies, and Politics of Course. by The Elephant's Child

The Democratic Party has made it clear that they are planning to run on “Income Inequality” in the 2014 midterm election. Liberal Washington Post writer Greg Sargent has suggested that this strategy is part of the reason for Harry Reid’s embarrassing war on the Koch brothers.

When all else fails, you rely on “class warfare.” Otherwise defined as “envy,” one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Liberals’ ideas about income inequality always involve higher taxes on the rich, and more government benefits for the poor. Most of the people who are currently suffering from income inequality would prefer to have a decent job. After six years Obama’s policies still aren’t  creating jobs.

The number of long-term unemployed increased by 203,000 — at the same time that Obama brags about total non-farm payroll employment increasing by 175,000 —  you see the problem. The labor force participation rate remains at only 63 percent, a level not seen since the stagflation of the 1970s, and well below the rate when President Obama took office.

Where is Income Inequality the greatest? The gap between the wealthy and the poor is most extreme in several of the United States’ most prosperous and largest cities. The economic divides in Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are significantly greater than the national average.

The one city that has hardly noticed a recession is Washington D.C.  There is plenty of income inequality, but more than half the members of Congress are millionaires. Members have long been  far wealthier than the typical American, but now a majority of members are, for the first time — millionaires.

So, if almost everybody is a millionaire, and Harry Reid certainly is, why is he at war with the Koch brothers? Liberal politics is seldom about what it claims to be about. The war on the Koch brothers is about discouraging any wealthy American from donating to the Republican party. That is what the IRS scandal is largely about — if you donate to the hated Republicans, we will attack you and make your name a poison among right-thinking people.

Democrats, on the other hand, are bountifully financed — contrary to all claims of thousands of small donations from regular folks — by the Democracy Alliance, a shadowy non-profit, self-described “liberal organization” which serves as a funding clearinghouse for progressive groups. DA members, called “partners,” include individuals and organizations alike. Partnership is by invitation only. There originally was an initial $25,000 fee, and $30,000 yearly dues thereafter. They must give at least $200,000 to groups which the Alliance endorses. There are at least 100 donor-partners. Members and staff have been working to establish subchapters in all 50 states.

There’s George Soros; Taco Bell heir Robert McKay; Tides Foundation founder Drummond Pike; Golden West Financial Corp. founders Herb and Marion Sandler; the AFL-CIO; Television producer Normal Lear; Progressive Insurance Co Chairman, Peter Lewis — for a sampling of partners. So you can see why attacking the philanthropic Koch brothers is so important. And why President Obama’s  IRS has gone to such lengths to illegally discourage donors to the Republicans with audits, searches and questionable investigations.

The man who professes solidarity with the poor has seen poverty increase every year of his presidency. His supporters and bundlers grow richer on government contracts, subsidies or grants to “green” start-ups that promptly go bankrupt. He claims to care deeply about the future of poor black children, yet teacher’s union opposition to charter schools trumps the most successful route to success for poor black kids. Charter schools have produced markedly better test scores than traditional public schools.

Inequality is no barrier to growth. There are no negative macroeconomic effects of inequality. We need to grow the ranks of working adults and shrink the rolls of those dependent on government.

The President’s latest big idea is “manufacturing hubs”— the first has been in operation in a once-abandoned furniture warehouse in Youngstown, Ohio. This  first in a series of ‘America Makes‘ operations is supposed to ensure “a steady stream of good jobs” into the 21st century. The focus is Three-D printers. The problem is that once they are programmed and loaded with raw materials, they work their magic with not a single human hand. If they are ever widely adopted, the main reason will be that they use less labor than traditional manufacturing.

Typical, typical, typical. The “ruling class” who are supposed to be ever so much smarter than any of us, have not, as usual, done their homework. Oh, they have some statistics, and some studies — but they are missing plain old common sense. So busy congratulating themselves on their brilliance, they have no understanding of how the world works; and the people they disdain as dumb, and needing job training, and food stamps, and welfare, and handouts, need government to get out of the way and give them a chance. Here’s the sleek new workplace of the future with an ever-declining need for workers. Go figure.

3D printers of all shapes and sizes fill the studios at America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio



So It’s Now Time to Dump Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Eastern Europe and Iraq. by The Elephant's Child

As long as we’re talking about the free flow of information, as Vladimir Putin extends his grasp over former satellites of the Soviet Union, the Obama administration is cutting back the U.S. broadcasting outreach in eastern Europe and Iraq. It’s time for the reset button, and the pivot to Asia.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors FY 2015 budget request favors expansion in Africa as “an emerging top priority for U.S. foreign policy,” and concentration on the Asia re-balance” with video and digital initiatives targeting next-generation audiences” particularly in Burma, Cambodia, China and Vietnam. That’s to be sure to reach everybody’s iPod? I thought one of the great problems in Africa was that so many people didn’t have any electricity.

This agency has a strategic imperative to tie its priorities to global realities, making the most of relatively scarce resources while responding to shifts in audiences, technology use and media markets,” BBG Chairman Jeffrey Shell said in a March 4 statement. “As we wrestle with difficult budget trade-offs, excellence in journalism remains our most important objective. Hundreds of millions of people around the world count on our journalists for accurate news and information.”

Their $721 million budget request is a $12 million decrease from what was enacted in FY 2014, axes key diplomatic programs. Of course they didn’t anticipate Russia’s acting up, but neither did the administration.

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill) wrote the Board the day after the budget release and the board’s vote:

Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL) were established during the Cold War as a way to broadcast unbiased news to Eastern Europe to combat Communist propaganda coming from the then-Soviet Union.  Eventually, it was revealed to be a CIA-front organization in the 1960s, and the funding responsibility shifted to Congress, where it has remained. Since then, RFE/RL’s coverage has expanded to many other countries and languages as a source of free speech and Western thought.

“The ongoing situation in Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula has reinforced the importance of these services in recent weeks, and has underscored the original pretext upon which these broadcast services were established. Furthermore, there is the concern that these broadcasts, originally developed with great purpose, investment, and thought will not be easily reestablished once closed down,” Schock wrote. “These broadcast services promote the values of freedom of speech and democracy: values that must remain in the forefront of Iraqi thought, especially as our troops withdraw and that are needed in the Balkans more than ever, as expansionist policies threaten to unmake all the progress that has been made over the past two decades.

If the values of democracy, free speech, and liberty lose their foothold in these regions, it will become an increasingly hostile world for the United States, and a far more difficult world for the people of Iraq and the Balkans. It is for these reasons that I urge the Broadcasting Board of Governors to overturn their decision to shut down the RFE/RL Balkans’ Service, and Radio Free Iraq. I believe that it is imperative that these services be restored, and I respectfully request that the Board of Governors reconsider their initial course of action.

Here is the website for Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty.  The Hoover Institution at Stanford University houses the broadcast archives and corporate records of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty — 10.5 million pages of documents and over 100,000 sound recordings. The collection is being made available in stages, but it’s pretty interesting to poke around in what is available. It was an important effort in keeping hope alive behind the Iron Curtain. The Left has never had much interest, and I don’t think this is the first effort to shut parts of it down.

Most of this piece is shamelessly stolen from Bridget Johnson at pjmedia, who did all the hard work. I am a great believer in Radio Free Europe and fascinated by their story.

 



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

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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.”




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