January 22, 2009

So far, so good.

With the din of the crowds still ringing in their ears, the Obama administration hit the ground running.

High level staff were driven in vans to the White House immediately following the swearing in and got down to business.

And so far, it's been great. (and we all know that can't last long.)

While the decision to start the process of shutting down Gitmo is grabbing attention, one measure that is of immeasurable importance, but which gained scant attention is designed to end the paranoid secrecy and abuse of the Freedom of Information Act of the Bush era.

Obama issued a memo to counteract the ridiculous and obsessive secrecy imposed by the Bush gang, which historians and others who know about such things have long recognized as the most secretive administration in history, indeed, far worse than Nixon.

As a matter of fact, then Attorney General Ashcroft issued a memo to the heads of all government agencies stating,
When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions.

Kinda hard to hold anyone accountable when the actions of our hired and elected servants operate in complete secrecy, and when attempts to gain access to records are met with an army of lawyers that WE pay for, fighting to keep public information secret. Nice, eh?

Well now Obama has issued directives to counteract that anti-democratic stance on openness and accountability by issuing a memo to the government that says that in deciding when to disclose government records, if there is doubt, they should err on the side of openness, not secrecy.

No longer will 99% of government records requested under FOIA filings be denied, redacted, or kept from media and others seeking them by the ruse of claiming everything pertains to national security and therefore can't be released.

The manner that the Bushoids would routinely deny ANY request for information or records by saying they couldn't be released because they pertained to "national security", no matter how ridiculous and untrue that claim might be.

First realize that a FOIA request is incredibly complicated, and you have to be almost impossibly specific about the records you seek. The process takes literally several years in many instances, and often requires going to court to try to sue for their release.

The Bush administration mantra was to reveal NOTHING, no matter how relatively unimportant, with no regard whatsoever to the fact that these were public records and American's right to know what their government is doing in our names and with our money.

Want to know how often federal food inspectors actually inspect our food? Can't tell ya, national security. Think you still have a right to know? Sue us. Spend thousands. Wait years. Or give up.

In one stroke of the pen, that un-American mindset is gone. Now things that justify being secret will remain secret, but legitimate attempts to obtain matters unrelated to national security in any way, matters which might simply be politically inconvenient or revealing, will no longer be falsely withheld or denied and obstructed by the Justice Dept. and others with an attitude that the public has no right to any information whatsoever.

Obama also immediately signed a memo freezing the wages of all top staff with salaries over $100,000 (which I'd imagine included all of them.) Could you even imagine Bush doing anything remotely like that? Can you imagine Bush even understanding the message such an action conveys, let alone giving a damn?

No more leadership as if leading the government was one big, unimportant joke with only one simple goal... providing ever more wealth to your already exceedingly wealthy supporters by letting them essentially write the laws and regulations, and cynically lying to the public in order to justify using our military, our national treasure, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents in an attempt to conquer a nation that had absolutely NOTHING to do with 9-11, all in order to try to give your closest friends in big oil access one of the world's largest oil reserves.

That, my friends, isn't bringing up "petty grievances". It ain't chicken feed. The fact that it was done is criminal and immoral on its face.

And the fact that those responsible (though in no way held accountable) are no longer in charge? That's a cause for joy and emmense relief around the planet.


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