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Remember

In the movie V for Vendetta, the 5th of November plays a vital role:

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

But the crux of the movie is this:

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Which is an eloquent way to explain why I decided to donate $100 towards Ron Paul’s 2008 Presidential campaign today. While I am not afraid of my government in the corporeal sense (yet), I am afraid of where my government is headed. Ron Paul is only the only politician in the fray who offers any hope of changing the direction my government is headed more than a few degrees. And I do believe there are icebergs out there, waiting to sink this ship. Not today, probably not tomorrow, not perhaps for a hundred years. But we’re steaming towards them, and not many in government today care.

Open Government

Another great piece fromt he Seattle Times:

A government that’s open, accessible and responsive

By Brian Sonntag
Special to The Times

Democratic government is built on the foundation that its power and authority rest with the people. To preserve that power, citizens absolutely must have information about the actions and activities of their government — through the news media’s watchdog role and through access to public records and meetings.

It is never wrong to open government’s doors and let the people in.

In Washington state, we have strong public-access laws citizens themselves put in place in the 1970s by using their power of initiative. The preamble of one of those laws — the state Open Public Meetings Act — makes clear citizens’ intent:

“The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

All public officials, the media and individual citizens share a deep responsibility to make sure that the preamble is valued and that public-access laws remain strong.

Judge Damon Keith, of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, said: “Democracies die behind closed doors.”

Elected and appointed officials have a fundamental obligation to keep government’s doors wide open to the public. Yet, legitimate concerns about personal privacy and identity theft have created a rush by government to close information to the public. Citizens’ right to information has become a question of whether or not the public needs it.

That must never be the question.

To me, the fundamental question boils down to: Whose government is it?

It’s ours.

Most public employees are honest, hardworking and dedicated to doing the right thing. But, some agencies simply don’t want to be bothered. It is easier for them to deny a public-records request, for example, than to take the time to fulfill it.

We also see instances in which public officials deliberately shut the doors and run a government as if it were their own private club.

For all of us in government, we must never forget whom we work for.

Thomas Jefferson said: “Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”

The First Amendment recognizes the critical role the news media play in their vigilant scrutiny of government and their reporting of information citizens need to stay abreast of actions and policies that affect their daily lives.

The continued concentration of media ownership legitimately raises concerns about press bias and independence. Also, technology that enables anyone with a computer to become a mass communicator raises doubts about the truth and accuracy of some information.

Media owners must remember that the bedrock of our democracy is formed on the press’ responsibility to provide a fair, complete and accurate account of government activities. It is up to the media to cover the news and uncover issues. They must ask the hard questions and seek the truth.

To fulfill our own constitutional responsibility, the Office of State Auditor regularly audits and reports on government stewardship over public resources. And, while we do not have enforcement powers, we are able to shine the public light of day on conditions we find. We report our work broadly, and often find the media and citizens using it to further discussion on a wide range of issues.

President John Adams said: “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire to know.”

Individual citizens have a civic duty to keep informed and to actively participate in their government. Complacency and apathy are enemies of accountability.

I define accountability as government being open, accessible and responsive to people. Government must listen to citizens, and when it talks to people, it must tell them the truth.

Open, accessible government is the soul of our democracy. It breeds citizen trust and confidence in their government. But, that trust is fragile.

It is never wrong to open government’s doors and let the people in.

Brian Sonntag is the Washington state auditor.

Earmarks

The most important article I have read in the Seattle times this year. Copied here to to avoid losing it to the archives…

$4.5 million for a boat that nobody wanted

By David Heath and Hal Bernton
Seattle Times staff reporters
Read the rest of this entry »

Identical Quadruplets

A Canadian woman has given birth to extremely rare identical quadruplets.

The four girls were born at a US hospital because there was no space available at Canadian neonatal intensive care units.

Yay socialized medicine!

Libertarian Paternalism / Libertarian Benevolence

Via Adventures in Smarshland, a great paper titled “Libertarian Paternalism is not an Oxymoron.” Read it. Lets discuss it.

Democrat Presidential YouTube Debate Highlights

QUESTION: In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since.

In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

COOPER: I should also point out that Stephen is in the crowd tonight. Senator Obama?

“I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them (the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea)”

OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.

Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.

And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them. We’ve been talking about Iraq — one of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they’re going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.

QUESTION: Hey, I’m Mike Green from Lexington, South Carolina. And I was wanting to ask all the nominees whether they would send their kids to public school or private school.

“We need a little bit of competition in our system of education”

GRAVEL: My children went to public school and private school, and I’m recommend that we need a little bit of competition in our system of education.

Right now, we have 30 percent of our children do not graduate from high school. That is abominable, and that is the problem of both parties.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Stephanie. We’re in the Bay area, in my bathroom, because this is one of the places where I use compact fluorescent light bulbs. I use these to decrease my personal energy use, and I hear politicians talking about alternative energy to delay — to decrease our energy impact as a whole.

So my question for you is, how is the United States going to decrease its energy consumption in the first place? In other words, how will your policies influence Americans, rather than just using special light bulbs, to do this?

COOPER: Senator Gravel, how do you get Americans to conserve?

“A fair tax where people are taxed on what they spend rather than what they earn… that’s the most significant thing we can do to alter climate change”

GRAVEL: Very simple, change our tax structure. Have a fair tax where people are taxed on what they spend rather than what they earn. And our tax system is totally corrupt right now.

And so if we now have a retail sales tax, you’ll take this nation of ours from a consuming nation to a savings nation.

And that’s the most significant thing we can do to alter climate change.

Washington to Ban Handheld Cell Phones While Driving

Chip… Chip… Chip away at our rights, until none are left.