Well, here we are in the middle of national Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week was established to honor the rights of Americans to transparency in their government. Being just the second year celebrated, it's a relative unknown in much of the country, but a week that's sure to gather steam as more and more people learn of the festive events commemorating the openness of a government operating "in the sunshine".
Last night's parade locally was a huge success. Downtown streets were filled with exuberant revelers rejoicing as police turned a blind eye to the numerous acts of information freedom performed publicly in the streets.
One of my favorite floats and recipient of The Mayor's Trophy was an entry entitled "The Ashcroft Memo." It was also the float this year's Grand Marshal, John Ashcroft, rode on. (Of course, the real John Ashcroft didn't make it, so his symbolic presence was a lifesized dummy.)
It commemorated our former Attorney General's offer of legal support to federal agencies by encouraging them to confound Freedom of Information Act requests for official documents. Adding levity to that atrocity, it depicted Ashcroft sitting beneath a statue of Justice which revelers would throw beads at. Every time a string of beads landed on her scales of justice, her gown would drop, falling over Ashcroft's head shielding his eyes from her exposed breasts! It was one of the crowd's favorites.
Another great float and winner of the Sweepstakes Trophy was entitled "Tell Me a Secret" sponsored by the American Food and Pharmaceutical Industries. In a goodwill gesture toward American consumers, it featured an unending list revealing such secrets as the amount of lead in candy, formaldehyde in sodas, mercury in our children's vaccines, etc. scrolling into a vault of secrecy where it is sealed from every citizen forever. Sadly, much of the public was too drunk to catch the only glimpse of such information they may never see again in their lifetimes.
But last night's very successful feting of government openness continues as the week progresses. Various activities and celebrations are planned throughout communities across the country.
Beginning Thursday night in New York's Times Square, the famous outdoor news "zipper" will scroll the presidential papers of George Walker Bush, the president's father which Bush had classified and secreted away from public view forever. The actual time of their viewing will be 3:00 a.m. and in order to display his entire collection, they will be scrolled at the rate of 375,000 words per minute. Afterwards, they will be returned to the vault where they will not be again revealed until every living American is dead.
The following night, again at 3:00 a.m., above Washington, D.C., a plane will pull the more than 6,000 documents across the skies that had been posted on federal websites but which were removed by the government claiming "security".
Finally, once again in New York on Saturday night/Sunday morning at 3:00 a.m., celebrations across the nation will wind down with the dropping of the Times Square New Year's Eve ball revealing the entire top secret Dick Cheney energy task force bill written entirely by moguls from the gas, oil and power industries such as Enron's former CEO, Ken Lay. These are documents never seen by the public. Not even by members of our own congress. It promises to be an exciting climax for this, the second annual "Sunshine Week."
Of course, there still remains more to be done. Proof of this is the 3,505 bills that have been proposed since 9/11 that would restrict public access to government information and meetings. There have been 1,023 new laws, 616 of which restrict public access. That will become 617 if the senate approves the bill passed by the House last week limiting your right to know the contents of the food you eat and removing warnings from food labels.*
U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D. Calif said such a bill is not about consumer protection, but about the protection of special interests.
Dada says, "Enough of the sour grapes on the content of our food or what secret information the Bush government's collecting on all of us. This is a week for celebrating free information in a free and open society!"
*Attribution: El Paso Times