We're Gonna Need Eight Dozen Shovels and 16 Tons of Sand

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The Freedom of Information Act turned 40 this week, and D.C. has big plans for the future of open government. USA Today reports on plan A:

The federal government will pay a Texas law school $1 million to do research aimed at rolling back the amount of sensitive data available to the press and public through freedom-of-information requests.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: Of Course They Want Free Pie and Chips

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  1. what a shock that it went to a Texas school, the source of so many of our federal government problems: Bush, DeLay, et al.

  2. Plan B: Jackbooted thugs.
    Plan C: Sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their ‘eds.

    I bet they go right to C.

  3. The sharks won’t do so well in most of Texas… unless they’re they two-legged variety, admitted before the bar.

  4. You know, I’m starting to think that there would be less net harm to this country if we just said that ALL documents had to be made public. The whole troop-movement argument could be forestalled by building in some sort of waiting period–maybe six months–for anything designated as relating to “hot” national security matters. Yeah, I know all the arguments against this, but let’s face it, if we reach Authoritarian Land, it’ll be because too much governing happened outside of our purview.

  5. You know, I’m starting to think that there would be less net harm to this country if we just said that ALL documents had to be made public. The whole troop-movement argument could be forestalled by building in some sort of waiting period–maybe six months–for anything designated as relating to “hot” national security matters. Yeah, I know all the arguments against this, but let’s face it, if we reach Authoritarian Land, it’ll be because too much governing happened outside of our purview.

  6. amen, brother

  7. There would be even less harm if the server squirrels weren’t being bought off by the NSA to lose our posts.

  8. Some days, it surprises me that C-SPAN is still on the air, broadcasting State Secrets as they happen. I forsee the “static channel” sponsored by the NSA, coming soon to a cable or satellite system near you. You can’t be too careful.

    ps- Should I be bothered by the fact that there about 600 comments on the Malkin and Lactivism threads, and less than ten on this one?

  9. The NSA’s Carnivores are working a little slow today, which is blocking packet movement.

  10. P Brooks,

    Intra-blog and inter-blog drama always reigns supreme.

  11. What kind of message does FOIA send to the troops?? FOIA sends the message that we cut’n’run. We must support the “No FOIA Left Behind Act”. We have information that Saddam Hussein was hiding chemical weapons in his FOIA. I did not have FOIA with that woman. John Kerry faked his FOIA. One word: FOIAkwiddick.

    –Karl Rove in pre-dawn calisthenics.

  12. P Brooks,

    Don’t worry. Once the breast thread slows down, our libertarian brethren will get back on message 🙂

  13. Pro Libertate,

    Oftentimes I’ll skip posting in a thread because you’ve already made the point I was going to make, but better. This time, though, I have to show up just because you’ve said it exactly as I would have, and if I could give you rep points (or whatever) I would.

    Can we clone you?

  14. St. MARY’S?!? Don’t worry too much.

  15. P Brooks writes: “on the Malkin and Lactivism threads,”

    Please don’t use “Malkin” and “Lactivism” in the same sentence.

  16. That’s quite a tribute, jf. So, now that we have two open government fans, all we need are about 100 million more, and we’ll get our way. Unless. . . .

    Are clones citizens? How quickly could you breed a 100 million clones? I have an idea.

  17. Wow, a research grant for the purpose of finding clever new ways to cover up misdeeds…um, I mean, matters of national security.

    Maybe they could relocate the citizenry to a giant underground bunker run by a computer that has gone haywire. Every citizen would wear a unitard with a color corresponding to his security clearance, and live in a state of constant paranoia. They would be told that this is for their own safety in the wake of a nuclear apocalypse.

    Yep, long ago I played that game.

  18. Yep, long ago I played that game.

    Perhaps you’d care to test some experimental weapons?

  19. And just today, perhaps entirely without irony, the president referred to North Korea as “a nontransparent society“. Did he have a transparent society in mind for comparison? Can I move there?

  20. Joel H,

    We may not be transparent, but we are translucent–“(of a substance) allowing light, but not detailed images, to pass through; semitransparent.”

  21. I’m not that surprised. I have a weired feeling that a large number of citizens (not quite a majority though) would also probably support this, and that’s the real scary part.

    I’m hoping that I’m completely wrong.

  22. Pro Libertate: Yes, but as you noted this is another step towards total opacity. But who knows who’s behind this, maybe some overzealous undersecretary. Perhaps the White House disapproves of this behavior and intends to put a stop to it!

  23. I just wish people would realize that what we need is a failsafe system. One that doesn’t depend on “good” people to work legitimately. Assume that every person in office will attempt to abuse his authority and try to escape accountability, then build a political system to stop him in his tracks. Kinda like what our predecessors did 217 years ago. Limit their authority. Limit their ability to expand their authority.

    Whether someone “means well” or whether a certain action is justifiable as “stopping terrorists”, “destroying drugs”, or whatever, the most important thing is that we preserve our liberty. We can be plenty safe and secure without selling our freedom, and, if it comes to that, I’d rather live in a little more danger if the only option were to reduce security to increase liberty.

  24. “Congress added the grant to this year’s Defense Department budget. It is being administered through the Air Force Research Laboratory, Addicott said. The laboratory in Rome, N.Y., specializes in information technology, according to its website.”

    You don’t suppose that the DoD budget (and the Air Force Research Laboratory website) might someday soon fall under the “protected information” regime, do you?

  25. Looking at the previous post, I wondered:

    How many libertarians would trade social security reform for the freedom of information act?

    I take posts like this with a grain of salt. As far as I can tell over the past 10 years, 90% of the self-declared libertarians I have met would, considered supporting a conservative who opposed FOIA if only he stopped those damn entitlement programs.

    A freind of had a suggestion last night. For those of us who hold liberty dear. We might call ourselves liberty lovers rather than libertarians. We just can’t countenance the drift towards conservatives who promise econimic reform, while imitating communists in office.

    (we realize that because we hate republicans as much as democrats that we can’t be libertarians)

    Not that we don’t worry about ALL the aspects of reform. It’s just that we figure that in a country with a president who supports being able to arrest and hold any citizen without trail (as they did in the padilla case) social security reform loses its urgency. First things first. If I lose my right to speak, and know what my .gov is doing, what they do with social security doesn’t really matter that much.

  26. Johnny-

    I totally hear what you’re saying, and I sympathize. I do think a good case could be made that the sheer magnitude of the social security program makes it a particularly urgent matter. However, in general I do concede your point: If the guys pissing away our money can do so without any oversight, that’s a huge, huge, HUGE problem. And you can’t enjoy the fruits of economic liberty in a secret prison.

  27. Thank you thoreau, if only you were the chairman of the LP, you are one of the few I see here that I can actually understand.

    Yet…Yet all I can think of is that the “sheer magnitude of the social security” is not even detectable when measured against the Sheer Magnitude of the Police State that republicans and democrats are building.

    And I suspect that the real purpose of this issue is quite literally to distract from that. (of course I do acknowledge that there are some libertarians who are sincere who support this issue, it’s just that the main supporters, the Republicans have shown no genuine interest in limiting government, so I must look elsewhere for clues to the motivations)

  28. Johnny-

    My own take on Social Security is that it’s a distraction from the much less manageable problem of Medicare.

  29. Independence for Texas!

    – Josh, South Jerseyman

  30. Johnny,
    Of all the self-described libertarians I know, personal freedoms are at the top of the list, then government transparency, then free markets. Without personal freedom, there can be no free markets. The reverse is only partially true.

  31. Lamar-and I had not seen it this way when I was a liberal (I became a libertarian due to an econ. course at college, I’ve always been socially liberal)-when you think about it free markets are a part of personal freedom: the right to buy and sell at whatever price is mutually agreed upon, w/o gov’t getting in the way.

  32. Three cheers for

    What Pro Libertate said about total tranparancy and a possible 6-month wait for documents!

    A round of applause for

    What Lamar said of personal freedom being paramount and then the free market etc….

    Though I would hasten to add that Social Security, being paid for by a compulsory tax on income certainly does impinge on personal freedom.

  33. Here’s a non sequitur for you- what happened to the government commission on tax policy? Would anyone care to guess? It’s as if the earth opened up and swallowed them without a trace. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that it takes an FOIA request to get a copy of their report.

    I worry less about Social Security than I do about the tax code. What an abomination. People talk about “starving the beast” by limiting tax revenues, but that misses the real problem.

    Our elected sociopaths use the tax code as a product to be custom tailored and sold off to the highest bidder. That includes those who believe that the tax code should be used as a tool of social engineering. Politicians have always been corrupt, and always will be. The best we can hope to do is to limit the ways in which they can trade on their position. Simplifying, rationalizing, and then somehow “fixing” (as in locking out changes to) the tax code would be an excellent place to start.

  34. Why don’t we just centralize all informaion in one location? We can call it the Minsitry of Informaion.

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