A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
On the federal level, lawyers and legislators are arguing for keeping secret the names of the AIG bonus-eaters. They give a lofty-sounding argument underpinned by extreme example: the crazies are making vivid and sickening death threats to AIG members and their families.
On the state level, Governor Doyle wants to keep secret traffic stop data that will be collected to figure out whether white folks get more breaks than others. There's a lofty-sounding argument for the secrecy, I'm sure, although I haven't heard it yet. But it probably has something to do with protecting the privacy of those who are pulled over for possible seatbelt violations.
I've heard lots of experts and pundits trying to explain to the "ordinary people" (yes, that's what they call us, when they aren't calling us "mobs with pitchfoks") why secrecy is necessary. And how things are just too complicated for us to understand. I think we understand pretty well. The wheelers and dealers have been making bad deals (bad for us, that is, not for them). And our elected representatives and government agencies haven't been doing their jobs in keeping a proper lid on things. And secrecy is the biggest tool they have to make mischief and malfeasance possible.
The sunshine principle holds that exposing the facts to the light of scrutiny gives us a shot at coming up with clean solutions. It's a simple and ordinary idea too little honored by the complex and exceptional.
For example, we've known for a few days that bonuses were specifically excluded from the economic recovery bill passed last month, but "someone" put the language back in. We now know who that someone was: Senator Chris Dodds, Democrat, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, who is also the biggest recipient of AIG campaign contribution largesse. (The Republicans don't get a pass on AIG baksheesh, though, with McCain, Palin, and Romney also benefiting.)
A couple days ago, Dodds "did not know how the change was made to the compensation limits," according to several reports. Yesterday, he had a change in memory. Oh, well, erm, yes: he and his staff wrote that change into the bill. But the Treasury Department made him do it. He's not accountable, either.
(I'd post the link to this article but JSonline is being cranky and won't give me the article, although it will give me a huge and annoying flashing advertisement. . .People, buy paper newspapers NOW!)
Part of the problem is that even when the information is available, nobody sees it. Almost nobody read the 1100 page stimulus bill--or most of the other whopping big bills that have been passed in a hurry and lamented in long, drawn-out quarrelsomeness.
It's clear to my ordinary mind that we need a lot of sunshine, and we need to apply it everywhere. To Democrats and Republicans, to financial products and traffic stops. One change might help, at least on the federal level. 'The Sunlight Foundation is proposing that Congress be required to post all bills for 72 hours before voting on them. That way both our complex leaders and the simple people would have a chance to see what's really in there, secret provisions, pork, and all.
If the swiftness to pass bills and the willingness of leaders to pass bills they haven't read (or have but are praying others have not) makes you as crazy as it makes me, you can sign the Read the Bill petition here.