Sunday, February 17, 2008

There goes the sun

Some years back, the legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas spoke in our little town. She called the Bush administration one of the most secretive ever. Considering Ms. Thomas covered the Nixon Administration, that's a pretty strong indictment.

The latest is not quite on the level of the 16 words. It pales in comparison to the destroyed torture tapes. It is really not even in the same ballpark as the NIE on Iran. But it is one more example of the Bush Administration attempting to hide bad news. Seems kinda pointless really, considering Bush's current approval rating.

Due to "budgetary constraints," the Department of Commerce's Economic and Statistics Administration will be discontinuing this site on March 1. Up until now, this site allowed easy public access to a plethora of economic data as soon as it is released. The "we ain't got the money this week" argument fails when you consider that 1) the proposed budget for this year is a whooping $3.1 trillion and 2) millions of people operate websites absolutely free. Ye gods, just include a few Google ads, and the site will pay for itself.

The public is well aware that the economy is currently in the toilet. We just want to know how far it is to the bottom of the sewer.

In fairness, the Office of Budget Management Watch, an independent group, has announced that they will start providing the same information on their website.

The Bushies must think the less you know, the better. Here is a good list of some of the more egregious lies coming from the administration lately. The problem with secrecy is that the public and media have no chance to vet the veracity of government claims (like the 16 words) before the government pursues potentially disastrous policies (like invading a sovereign country, just as an example). A little probing by a critical press corps is essential to solid collective decision making.

Here are the original 16 words, by the way: "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,"... Too bad it turned out to be untrue. (More about this in a future post.)

Government needs to stop operating on the assumption that information should be classified unless it is okay to release it. Instead, the assumption should be a government record is open to public inspection unless there is a reason to seal it. My beloved Pennsylvania just got that message this week. As of next year, we will not longer have one of the weakest open records laws in the country. Thanks, Governor Rendell. With all that sunshine, Punxsutawney Phil should keep seeing his shadow for a long time.

We have the right to know what our government, the one we elected, is up to. We as a public need to trust that the information provided to reporters is complete and accurate. Then we can stop pursing policies based on misinformation.


1 comment:

Wharf Rat said...

Really? Helen Thomas spoke here? I swear it seems like this town was just waiting for me to leave to roll out the cool. Well, I'm back for good now, you bastards, so put that in YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT!


Anyhoo...I thought that Ye Gods! and Google ads in the same sentence had a nice alliterative ring to it. I think in the future the latter will replace the former:

Hank: What is that thing?
Dr. Venture: Google Ads! It's a walking eye!
Hank: !

Also, the term Google ads will be preferred over AdSense, to which the proper response is, "God bless you."