President Barack Obama's new standards of openness in the federal government have not trickled down to some of its agencies, where officials have used special statutes inserted into bills to skirt the Freedom of Information Act, open government advocates said Wednesday.
Efforts to strengthen the 42-year-old law "have been hampered by the increasing use of legislative exemptions that are often sneaked into legislation without debate or public scrutiny," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said in remarks prepared for a hearing on the issue.
News organizations and media groups said new legislation was needed to limit the information agencies may keep secret and for how long.
For reasons that defy logic, political reality and common sense, Republicans still back former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the soap opera that surrounds her.
Even with widespread criticism and antics that doom most political careers, Palin remains a contender in GOP circles for the Republican nomination for President in 2012.
Yet Politico, in interviews with Republicans around the country, found widespread support within the party of the elephant.
Most reasoned political observers consider Palin a flake but flake or not she still plays well with the Republican base.
Which raises a troublesome question:
Call it Deja Vu all over again. An American warning that another middle eastern country is a threat because of a secret nuclear program.
This time, it's Iran.
Only the program wasn't all that secret and the threat may not be all that great.
Sound familiar? We heard the same thing in George W. Bush's buildup to the Iraq war.
And while America and its allies appeared to stand in unanimous agreement about the purported threat from Iran, they disagree behind the scenes about the validity and depth of the threat.
And, as usual, there is a wild card called Israel.
High-ranking government officials are usually protected from claims that they violated a person's civil rights. In lawsuits stemming from law enforcement and intelligence efforts after the Sept. 11 attacks, three federal courts have left open the possibility that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and a lieutenant may be held personally liable.
In two cases, judges appointed by Republican presidents have refused at an early stage to dismiss lawsuits that were filed against Ashcroft and former Justice Department official John Yoo. One complaint challenges Ashcroft's strategy of preventive detention. The other seeks to hold Yoo accountable for legal memos he wrote supporting detention, interrogation and presidential power.
There is an old saying that something that belongs to everyone belongs to no one. The National Mall in Washington belongs to all of us, and it shows.
The Mall is one of the world's great urban spaces: Two miles of greensward stretching along one axis from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial on the short axis.
The Mall is lined with museums and dotted with monuments, including the achingly sad Vietnam Veterans Memorial. From a distance, it is still a world-class park for a world-class capital.
More than 50 million Americans gamble with their futures by not having health insurance, an option they won't have under all proposed health care "reform plans" coming out of the Democratic Congress.
The uninsured face the possibility of financial disaster if a catastrophic illness or accident puts them in the hospital but they also pay less for routing health care than most Americans with health insurance.
But they face a fine from the federal government if any of the proposed health care reform plans become law.
Opponents of the federal mandates say it is an infringement of individual rights and just another example of big government from the Obama administration.
President Barack Obama wants kids to spend more time in schools.
School students aren't happy about the idea. Neither or school administrators who say the President's ideas would add costs to financially-strapped educational systems.
Which could mean increased local taxes and a financial burden to struggling taxpayers.
Add another unpopular idea from a President who is facing increasing unpopularity from a skeptical public.
Big job losses and a spike in early retirement claims from laid-off seniors will force Social Security to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes the next two years, the first time that's happened since the 1980s.
The deficits — $10 billion in 2010 and $9 billion in 2011 — won't affect payments to retirees because Social Security has accumulated surpluses from previous years totaling $2.5 trillion. But they will add to the overall federal deficit.
Applications for retirement benefits are 23 percent higher than last year, while disability claims have risen by about 20 percent. Social Security officials had expected applications to increase from the growing number of baby boomers reaching retirement, but they didn't expect the increase to be so large.
The Obama administration may claim the recession is over and offer glowing reports of growth in the housing and financial markets but those messages ring hollow to the millions of Americans out of work and facing a future with little chance for employment.
There are six people seeking jobs for every one that is open. That's 14.5 million unemployed Americans trying to get hired for 2.4 million jobs.
And companies aren't ready to start hiring again. With unemployment benefits running out, an increasing number of Americans will lose their homes, their savings and their future.
Unemployment stands at 9.7 percent natiowide. It's expected to top 10 percent by the end of the year.
For these Americans, the recession is far from over.
Considering the turmoil about how to proceed in Afghanistan, perhaps it is time for the United States to cut its losses and leave this political and military swamp to its own fate. It certainly doesn't take any genius to understand that current policy is in such disarray that hopes for achieving political stability and long-term defeat of the Taliban are greatly diminished.