deadlines amuse me

exploring how the world works and why it works that way …

Archive for March 16th, 2005

Who needs Gale Norton anyway?

with 3 comments

How nice of the nation’s secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, to support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a.k.a. ANWR.

Sunday’s Times op-ed page carried Norton’s “Call of the Mild” commentary that argued technology would mitigate impacts on a “sliver” of ANWR. (Read her piece.)

Frankly, I’d expect this from the secretary of Commerce, not the Interior boss. But she’s from Colorado, and many Westerners think natural resources ought to be “utilized” rather than “preserved.”

Times readers shot back. (Read the letters.)

Environmentals say the amount of oil recoverable from ANWR amounts to about 10 days’ consumption in the U.S.

I doubt I’ll ever see the Alaskan refuge. But the image of wilderness, pristine and unspoiled, is a necessary antidote to the stresses of modern, “civilized” life.

I need to know it’s there. I don’t want to trade that knowledge for 10 days’ worth of oil.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 16, 2005 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Sunshine? What sunshine?

with 4 comments

Remember that scene in “Sneakers”? Redford and company playing Scrabble and arranging the tiles to read: No more secrets

Everyone has secrets. Every organization has secrets. Every Big Govmint and Corpokleptocracy has secrets. And every secret has a professed reason for being kept from those who want — or need — to know.

“I don’t want my parents to know.”

“It’s for your own good.”

“It’s proprietary information.”

“We don’t want the terrorists to have it.”

“Sorry. National security.”

At any societal level, people have reasons for keeping secrets. Not all of those reasons are justifiable, and disagreement over those reasons keeps lawyers running to the bank and journalists stewing over how to get secrets that they believe their readers need to know.

But many, if not most, secrets are kept simply to avoid embarrassment. Every proffered reason for keeping information secret most likely conceals incompetence that, if presented publicly, would reveal that we’ve elected or hired or allowed to “rule” us someone who is incompetent.

If elected or appointed officials — or executives of companies large and small — are incompetent, voters and consumers need to know that. If incompetent people set the standards for what information is “classified” or “proprietary,” then us common folk need to fight attempts to increase secrecy.

Which brings us to National Sunshine Week, the intent of which is to “spark a discussion about the importance of open government.” (See the Web site.) It’s a week that reminds us of the need for a strong Freedom of Information Act.

The sun is shining this week, and people are testifying before a Senate panel on “a bill Congress is considering that would strengthen the 1966 act in part by forcing government officials and agencies to respond more quickly to requests for information.

“Sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the bill would create an ombudsman at the Administrative Conference of the United States to review agency compliance with FOIA requests and recommend alternatives to litigation.” (See the Times story.)

Among those testifying is Walter Mears, a Pulitzer-winning, now retired Associated Press journalist and executive. He’s far more eloquent than me:

“Too often, security becomes an excuse for shielding embarrassing information and secrecy can conceal mismanagement or wrongdoing.

“Overdone secrecy raises, rather than reduces, the risk that really vital secrets will be breached. If everything is classified, then my colleagues are going to go after everything.”

Governmental and corporate ability to hide behind secrecy has, to no one’s surprise, increased since Sept. 11, 2001. Some of that secrecy is justifiable.

That does not mean we the people should turn a blind eye to the ferocity with which Big Govmint and the Corpokleptocracy hide their incompetent bungling from public view.

Support attempts to strengthen, not weaken, the Freedom of Information Act. Support Senate bill S394.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 16, 2005 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized