Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 11th, 2007

Trust the government—but watch carefully

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Governments tend to love secrecy: easier to cut deals and easier to cover up errors and corruption. But a democracy works only if the citizenry know what’s going on in the government. Thus a free press (one that actually does its investigative job) is important. And thus many places have laws that require open meetings—so-called “sunshine” laws. But governments ignore those laws, so we need to put teeth in the laws with mandatory penalties—up to and including imprisonment:

Though laws in every state say government records and meetings must be open to all, reality often falls far short: Laws are sporadically enforced, penalties for failure to comply are mild and violators almost always walk away with nothing more than a reprimand, an Associated Press survey of all 50 states has found.

Even in the handful of states that monitor such cases, when citizens appeal over lack of access to information, the government usually wins – and keeps public business secret.

Why does it matter?

Advocates for open government say public trust is at the heart of our democracy, that scrutiny keeps public officials honest, and that information is the foundation of informed debate.

“We’re in an era, clearly, where there’s a lot of distrust in government,” said Bill Chamberlin of the Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project at the University of Florida. “The more the public officials are open in their conversation and show the documentation that they’re basing decisions on, it’s going to help the public have faith in what officials are doing.”

The AP’s survey – conducted to coincide with Sunshine Week, a nationwide effort to draw attention to the public’s right to know – gathered material from each state on its open government laws and penalties. Additionally, for the years 2004 to 2006, it sought more detail on open government complaints in states with the best record-keeping. The AP found that fewer than 10 states effectively track what happens in such cases.

Looking more closely at those monitoring efforts, a snapshot emerges: Oversight agencies and attorneys general are more likely to rule in favor of government offices that keep documents secret and doors closed. And when they rule that the law was broken? The overwhelming majority of decisions bring a “don’t do it again” warning.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2007 at 7:54 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Blackstrap molasses on breakfast cereal

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Lately I’ve been putting on my oats some blackstrap molasses, a tablespoon of which provides 20% of the recommended daily allowance of iron. Easy (and tasty) way to beef up the iron in your diet.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2007 at 7:23 am

Posted in Food

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