Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Time for a Progressive Third Party

In an editorial in the Miami Herald yesterday, Charles Ornstein, senior reporter at ProPublica, a non-profit investigative new organization and president of the Association of Health Care Journalists, and Hagit Limor, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, say the Obama Administration has not made good on its promises of openness and government transparency.

“Democrats criticized the Bush administration for not making decisions based on the best science. But the Obama administration now muzzles scientist and experts within federal agencies. Consider these few examples:

 After last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists and environmental groups accused the administration of hiding or underreporting the extent of the spill and its impact on the environment. Federal officials frequently deferred to BP in providing data on issues from cleanup workers’ health problems to oil-spill flow estimates. The government also placed restrictions on airspace for weeks, keeping media photographers from seeing the scope of the spill.
 The Food and Drug Administration placed an unusual restriction on reporters when announcing changes to its medical device approval process this year. In exchange for providing the information to the media ahead of time, reporters were told they could not seek insights from outside experts before the formal announcement. This ensured the first version of the story contained onl the FDA’s official position.
 In more than a third of requests made for public records last year, the administration failed to provide any information at all, the Associated Press reported. Despite an increase in requests, the Obama administration is releasing fewer records under the Freedom of Information Act than the Bush administration did.

The Obama administration puts reams of data online. Its useful, but it’s only the government posting what it wants to, when it wants to, on sites most citizens would never think to visit. Meanwhile, reporters’ questions often go unanswered. “We can’t see how that could promote public understanding of government, science and health policy.”

Here is yet another in an ever growing list of Obama administration disappointments. It is past time for a progressive third party. Most third parties in the last fifty years, have been on the right. If we really believe that, “transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing,” as Obama himself said when he took office, then perhaps it’s time, way past time, that we stopped playing the two party game in a socio-political system rigged for two parties, and find a way to change the system so a progressive third party has a chance.

[Written with only a little anger, disappointment and sorrow from a mostly centered space, with spirit.]

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