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Utah Repeals Anti-Transparency Law 80

Posted by timothy
from the opacity-the-law-for-behives-and-ski-mountains dept.
oddjob1244 writes "After enduring two weeks of public fury, Utah lawmakers voted Friday to repeal a bill that would have restricted public access to government records. While Senate President Michael Waddoups accused the media of lobbying on the issue and others blamed the press for biased coverage that turned citizens against them, Sen. Steve Urquhart said bluntly: 'We messed up. It is nobody's fault but ours.'"
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Utah Repeals Anti-Transparency Law

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  • cupcakes in salt lake tomorrow anyone?
    • Re:We won? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 517714 (762276) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:19PM (#35618830)
      The Legislature, led by the Senate isn't done. Senate President Michael Waddoups said Monday, "We’re not going to repeal it until we have something to replace it with.” This is just intermission, the fat lady hasn't sung.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JimboFBX (1097277)

        they'll probably replace it with a law that says you have a sign a form and put your self on a public registry every time you buy something with caffeine in it.

        On a side if not entirely off topic note, I've come to the conclusion that there are (at least) 4 points to the political spectrum, not 2:

        1. Conservative
        2. Liberal
        3. Progressive
        4. Regressive

        I've come to the conclusion that most republican candidates are Conservative/Regressive while many Democratic candidates are Liberal/Progressive. Libertarians are

        • by aekafan (1690920)

          Progressive means your goal is to fix what is wrong

          This only works if you believe that your solution will fix something that is inherently broken. I keep hearing people in parts the spectrum you mention saying how they are the ones with the right solution. Every time they get power though, it keeps getting worse.

          Where would those of us whom do not believe in even the possibility of good government (no matter who is in charge), fit into your neat categories there?

          • Re:We won? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ppanon (16583) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:27AM (#35620312) Homepage Journal
            Don't go looking for good government from those who claim that good government is not possible. They have every motivation to prove themselves right, consciously and subconsciously.
          • by pestie (141370)

            Where would those of us whom do not believe in even the possibility of good government (no matter who is in charge), fit into your neat categories there?

            I think you'd find them filed under "assholes."

        • Re:We won? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by zippthorne (748122) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:30PM (#35619322) Journal

          Your definition of "progressive" bears very little resemblance to any actual political party or movement bearing that label. I fear that you have taken the bait and fallen enamored with the word --- "Oh yeah, progressive, that must be good. I'm for progress" --- and failed to recognize the only thing that they have a desire to progress is the power of the state.

          You've even invented the obvious complementary position with which to paint the "foes of making things better"

          Well, let me remind you of one of the policies of the actual progressive movement. A policy that lead to the rise in power of organized crime: Prohibition.

          So, let's stop demonizing people here. Everyone with a political philosophy has the goal of fixing what's wrong, although there are wildly varying opinions on how to achieve that, and what exactly it is that is wrong.

          Well, everyone that is, except those whose philosophy is "say anything to get as much for myself as possible, and to hell with everyone else." Unfortunately, this latter group, although I'd like to believe it is the smallest of the philosophies, is uncommonly good at actually achieving office...

          • Re:We won? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by 517714 (762276) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:43AM (#35620020)
            Reactionary is the correct term for what he described as regressive, and he did not make them up. They do not wish to make things worse, but they do wish to undue certain aspects of "progress" Many fundamentalists regardless of name of their god are reactionary. Back to nature groups, survivalists, Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites, a lot of Mormons, America First groups are all reactionary to varying degrees.
            • I fervently disagree... I would consider myself fairly pragmatic with some libertarian ideals. I find that it isn't practical to completely revert to the constitution, but do find the current levels of taxation, and bloat in government to be more inhibiting than progressive. Bureaucracy breeds inaction. I do find it is the role of government to provide for defense and common infrastructure. It is the limits of what can be considered essential common infrastructure that is open to interpretation. Howeve
          • by ncgnu08 (1307339)

            I'm not posting as to argue with you zipp, but to clarify hopefully. I believe Jimbo was referring more to his feelings/observations rather than precise terminology. Also, the "progressive" that you relate to Prohibition comes out of the "Progressive Era" (late 1800's - early 1900's). While the Progressives of this era were mostly supporters of Prohibition (not all Progressives supported Prohibition), the idea and support of Prohibition came less from pure Progressive ideals and more from the elevation o

          • by Omestes (471991)

            ...and failed to recognize the only thing that they have a desire to progress is the power of the state.

            Partisan rhetoric much? In what reputable and objective source is the term defined as such? If I say "conservatives are defined as an ideology that wants to cater only to rich people and let the poor starve in ditches" am I being as accurate as you? I'm not arguing that quote is the case, but many would.

            I'm somewhat progressive, but still am a (social) libertarian (lowercase "l:). I want the state to be as weak as possible, while still supporting the people who constitute it. Yes, I'm in favor of scho

            • The abolitionists (anti-slavery being quite progressive) tended to also be prohibitionists.

              I like to think of it as "nobody has a monopoly on bad ideas".

              The larger point, progressives want to expand the power of the state, is a little fallacious.

              That really ties into paternalism, how hard/soft do you like it (if at all), and where is it appropriate. Those questions/answers don't fall on either side of the political spectrum, I think. (e.g. Republicans believe in hard paternalism when it comes to a woman'

          • So, let's stop demonizing people here.

            You say that right after you finish demonizing the "progressive" parties. He recognized that "progressive" isn't necessarily better.

        • by tycoex (1832784)

          As a Poli Sci student it seems that your definitions for Progressive and Regressive actually fit the real (not the screwed up American usage) definitions for the words Liberal and Conservative.

          • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)
            The political spectrum as such is a big misnomer. At best a jumping off place. It's actually a big loop, in which the further left or right a group goes, the less distinguishable the groups get, until at the "furthest" extremes, left and right become functionally indistinguishable.
  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday March 25, 2011 @08:34PM (#35618558) Journal
    You didn't "mess up", except in the very limited and weasely sense that you 'miscalculated the level of bullshit that you could get away with'.

    I'm pretty sure that you didn't just trip on your way into the state senate and accidentally draft and pass a bill. That would be "messing up". You can't do something that complex just by accident.

    While the attempt to simultaneously diminish your guilt and 'take responsibility' is rather cute, it is entirely false. Everyone who assisted in passing this bill didn't "mess up", they quite deliberately tried to get away with something. The only 'error' involved was miscalculating what they could get away with.
    • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EdIII (1114411) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:30PM (#35618920)

      While Senate President Michael Waddoups accused the media of lobbying on the issue and others blamed the press for biased coverage

      Let's not forget that one either. That there are people that won't admit any part of it is wrong. That there exists a "unbiased" view of anti-transparency that would convince the average citizen that transparency is bad for our society.

      These people are the exact type of people that have no business being in government.

      If you can't understand that all information, ALL INFORMATION, that the government possesses, creates, or receives is the PROPERTY of The People... then you are completely unsuited to be a champion of the people, a guardian of our ideals, specifically those relating to freedom.

      The only exceptions that I will accept as reasonable are a very narrow area regarding national security.

      Trade negotiations are NOT national security, and the bus schedules are not owned by the government in a way that allows them to enjoy copyrights.

      The biggest problem with this story is this Waddoups douchnozzle that does not understand any of this and, right at this moment, still thinks he is right.

      The Senator is just a weasel as you said.

      • by istartedi (132515)

        The only exceptions that I will accept as reasonable are a very narrow area regarding national security

        I agree, but I've never found a clear way to define that.

        Obviously information regarding forces in a war should be classified. Is Libya a war? Ooops. Today's policitican can't even define war.

        OK. You and I can define war. So let's say that we restrict classification to information regarding forces in a war. What about new weapons systems? OK. Troops in war, and weapons systems.

        What's a weapons sy

        • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by I(rispee_I(reme (310391) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @03:32AM (#35620482) Journal
          The national security loophole is bullshit. Here's why:

          An informed electorate is vital to the continued existence of a democracy. A democracy that keeps information regarding its own activities from its electorate endangers itself. Thus, the national security loophole is itself a danger to national security.

          There is no valid reason for a government to ever keep its activities secret from those it governs. The potential conflict of interest is too great- it is reminiscent of the logic puzzles wherein someone of unknown honesty is asked, "Are you a liar?"

          Emotional appeals for national security based on the safety of those engaged in espionage are not relevant. The individuals in question, without exception, agreed to exchange their safety for their government's. And, as stated above, invoking national security endangers the invoking government.

          Your paraphrasing Potter Stewart's opinion on pornography [wikipedia.org] is apt- in that that opinion is famously subjective and useful only to those who wish to set themselves up as (or be ruled by) potentates.

          As for myself, if I must be ruled, I would prefer the rule of law to the rule of man.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            "Emotional appeals for national security based on the safety of those engaged in espionage are not relevant. The individuals in question, without exception, agreed to exchange their safety for their government's. And, as stated above, invoking national security endangers the invoking government."

            What. The. Fuck?

            Are you trying to demonstrate a reductio ad absurdum, or are you out to win an award for dumbest comment ever on Slashdot? You think that deliberate disclosure of spies' identities is a good thing? C

            • You think that deliberate disclosure of spies' identities is a good thing? Can't think of any really significant deleterious consequences, like ooooh, I don't know, sources and their families being boiled alive by despots like Ahmedinajad bent on revenge? Plus, when coupled with your spectacular suggestion that states hold no secrets at all, a loss of all materially useful insight into what hostile states such as Iran, North Korea et al are doing?

              1. I think that spies volunteer their safety and are aware of

          • by jamesh (87723)

            There is no valid reason for a government to ever keep its activities secret from those it governs.

            Interesting opinion. Back in the real world of shades other than black and white, there are situations where secrecy is required, at least in the short term. It's not much good making a sneak attack on Osama Bin Laden's secret bunker if you go and tell the people you govern that you are just about to do it, as you can be guaranteed that at least one of the people you govern is going to be working for the enemy. Likewise, if you were working undercover as one of Hitlers henchmen it would kind of suck if the

            • This is why checks and balances are supposed to be good. For when there are legitimate secrets, there should be oversight. The problem is, you're dealing with humans, and the oversight mechanisms have flaws.

              • by jamesh (87723)

                This is why checks and balances are supposed to be good. For when there are legitimate secrets, there should be oversight. The problem is, you're dealing with humans, and the oversight mechanisms have flaws.

                Until the machines rise up and take over, humans are the best we have.

            • by bye (87770)

              There are much more mundane examples beyond spies and spooks.

              Think everyday police footwork. Do you really want the identities of all informants exposed publicly? Do you really want the list of all current investigations and suspects exposed publicly? Do you really want the list of sex crime victims exposed publicly? Do you really want the list of protected witnesses exposed publicly?

              Until there's human dishonesty and crime, there will be a need for honest people to keep secrets - and that includes honest,

              • Presumably the sex crime's victims' names are already made public knowledge in the course of bringing the sex criminal to trial?

                While you've listed some unpleasant consequences of transparency in government, they pale next to the consequences of opaqueness in government.

            • Do you really think that government transparency is the bottleneck in finding Bin Laden?

              It's not the 8 years of fighting a war against the wrong country or our policy of kicking out skilled Arabic translators who happen to be gay while we have a shortage of same. It's not that our own government characterizes the war in the middle east as "culture war". It's not the low quality of our intel or the inadequacy of our soldier's equipment.

              It's that damned "accountability in government" that keeps us from catchi

        • by bhtooefr (649901)

          A couple options I can think of...

          1. Automatically give every American citizen a clearance, and if they're found by a court to have leaked info to non-citizens, they're guilty of treason.
          2. Have classified information, but treat overclassification - that is, classifying information that would reveal wrongdoing or does not affect the US's military strategy if it were to leak - as treason, and give a reward to the leaker of that information.

          • by ultranova (717540)

            Automatically give every American citizen a clearance, and if they're found by a court to have leaked info to non-citizens, they're guilty of treason.

            And since protests inevitably bring up the thing people are protesting against, taking part in one is treason. So is reporting about those protests, for the same reason. And of course the matter can't be discussed in a public forum like this one, newspapers, TV, etc.

            You people keep on demonstrating over and over again that you have exactly the government you

            • by bhtooefr (649901)

              Actually, no.

              Under that idea:

              Taking part in a protest that is visible to non-citizens would be treason, but only if it were protesting something classified, and not everything that's being protested would be classified.

              Reporting on the protest in a venue that is visible to non-citizens would be treason.

              Also, if a person could reasonably believe, as determined by a jury of their peers, that non-citizens didn't have access to the information, then they could be acquitted.

              Sealing the borders would likely be re

      • by dkf (304284)

        The only exceptions that I will accept as reasonable are a very narrow area regarding national security.

        You shouldn't really accept that there except in a very limited sense: that it may take a decade (or perhaps a little more) for information about military operations to come out. That's enough time for the info to be of little use to the enemy, while still preserving the fundamental aspect of being able to discover what happened within the lifetime of (most) people who were around when it happened and to hold those who made bad decisions to account.

        • by EdIII (1114411)

          That's why I said narrow definition. Meaning, it does not include trade negotiations, but obviously includes the locations of our troops on the ground, where are missiles are, ongoing operations.

          The fact that the information would then become public after a suitable period of time was something that I did not think needed to be said. I also don't think it needs to be 75 years either. 15 years at most, or the life-time of the war. Although, heavens help us if we are in a protracted state of war for longe

      • by Intron (870560)

        The only exceptions that I will accept as reasonable are a very narrow area regarding national security.

        The only way to make that work is if there is a penalty for classifying something without justification. As it stands now, anything can be classified for any reason with no repercussions.

    • by drb226 (1938360)
      While it's easy to paint the situation that way, the reality is a lot more complicated than "they miscalculated what they could get away with." Despite popular belief, there are benefits, as well as costs, to unrestricted information. While "we the people" see the costs as far outweighing the benefits, we're also not the ones that have to make decisions that will inevitably be criticized left and right no matter what they are. (Also despite popular belief, no one is capable of being the perfect politician.)
      • by DaSwing (902297)

        While "we the people" see the costs as far outweighing the benefits, we're also not the ones that have to make decisions that will inevitably be criticized left and right no matter what they are. (Also despite popular belief, no one is capable of being the perfect politician.) We all see through biased eyes.

        If by "biased", you mean "pro-democratic" and "pro-freedom", then, yes.

    • I don't think anyone is claiming that he accidentally passed bill (or even that such an action would be possible). However, from that fact, it is a leap of logic to conclude that he knew of the consequences and was trying to get away with causing those consequences to happen. It is also a possibility that he tried deliberately to pass a law for which he didn't fully consider the consequences. The latter still falls under the heading of "messing up" in my books, and is what the senator is claiming. There is

    • by jamesh (87723)

      You didn't "mess up", except in the very limited and weasely sense that you 'miscalculated the level of bullshit that you could get away with'.

      Very nicely put. It reminded me of an incident I witnessed at a computer 'swap meet' (which is just a way for backyard vendors to flog off imports without paying taxes). A guy casually walked past a booth, picked up a video card and slipped it under his jacket. The vendor saw and yelled at him. The guy took the card out from under his jacket, put it back where he grabbed it from, and made some sort of gesture to indicate "Sorry, it's fine, I'll put it back. Everything is fine", then casually walked away.

      It

  • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Friday March 25, 2011 @08:42PM (#35618602)
    I've never really understood Freedom Of Information Act requests. If I'm allowed to request the information, then why isn't it just... available? Why the need for a request?
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Because there's a huge mountain of materials that could be requested and much of it has to be reviewed before it's released. Some materials can be provided via a FOIA request but have to be redacted in order to be released.

      • by TheABomb (180342)

        Perhaps for records from the 1950s that's true, but there's no excuse for creating any government doc in the last (at least) 20 years non-digitally, and storing them on a public server.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          Even then, presuming that the documents were created and used electronically for their entire lifetime (still not a given even today), there sometimes is either "classified" references or perhaps personal and/or private information such as SSNs and other personally identifiable information that normally ought to be removed.

          If you applied for food stamps (a government document by the standard proposed here), should that information be available for anybody to read and use how they see fit? What about passpo

          • If you applied for food stamps (a government document by the standard proposed here), should that information be available for anybody to read and use how they see fit? What about passport applications? Military pay vouchers?

            Let's turn this around:

            If my tax dollars are being taken at gunpoint (as they are, ultimately) and used to feed hungry people, do I have a right to verify that they are, in fact, being used to feed hungry people?

            What if my tax dollars are being used to process passport applications or h

      • But this is kind of my point. If material is, say, classified, then someone has already sat down, looked at it, said "OMG, this is thuper thecret!" and stamped it classified. You've already paid someone to do that. Why didn't you pay them to mark the parts that are secret, so that the rest of the document is publicly available. (Properly designed, the document could be marked up for various levels of release, over time. I'm thinking commercial-in-confidence material on government contracts.)

        Even with older

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fonos (847221)
      It would cost a lot of money to publish every single document that could be requested. Plus, certain documents contain sensitive/personal information, so they may omit certain parts of the document depending on who requests it. You can request the information US Customs has on you. Entries, exits, etc.
      • Re:FOI request. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by zippthorne (748122) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:34PM (#35619352) Journal

        It would cost a lot less if, instead of publishing the documents, they stored them in some kind of machine-readable form, and used automatons to fetch, copy, and deliver responses to requests made using a standardized set of machine instructions....

        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          It would cost a lot less if, instead of publishing the documents, they stored them in some kind of machine-readable form, and used automatons to fetch, copy, and deliver responses to requests made using a standardized set of machine instructions....

          LOL...you really do have a bit too much faith in the abilities of the fed and state governments. It takes years, research, committees and miles of red tape just to approve the official design of the cheese sandwich in the cafeteria downstairs.....multiply that b

    • My guess is to create a paper trail.

      If info was just open anyone could access anything at anytime. At least this way they know whose accessing what and when. Just because information is open doesnt mean it isnt sensitive. knowing who views what can have its advantages.

    • by AJWM (19027)

      In some cases it depends on the infromation. Personal information about you, for example, might be freely available to you but not to just anyone -- so you need to request it (with some proof of who you are). There's certainly plenty of information that is freely available (the number of web sites on the .gov TLD is boggling).

  • RTFA, and would like more info. TFA doesn't provide much details.
    • by Teancum (67324)

      If you don't mind reading original sources of information and doing some data mining, as well as listening to hours of legislative debate, you can always go to this site:

      http://le.utah.gov/~2011S1/2011S1.htm [utah.gov]

      That gives you at least the public face of information you may be wanting to learn about.

      In terms of "the opposition", you can also go to this website:

      http://savegrama.org/ [savegrama.org]

      I'm not a huge fan of how this site has been administered, but it at least provides a counterpoint as to what has been happening. Do

  • Fine, so "they messed up" and the bill was repealed. Is that enough to really fix the problem? Was the problem the bill itself? No. The problem is the intent and mindset of the people who drafted, promoted, and passed the bill. Such mindsets never change, even if they admit publicly "we screwed up"; they don't actually believe they did screw up... they just got caught trying to screw you over. It's the people behind the bill that need to be repealed as well. Does repealing the bill also make them go away for good? No.

    People of Utah, your work isn't done.

    • People of Utah, your work isn't done.

      That's right. They need to remove Hatch from Washington if they can't control him.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        People of Utah, your work isn't done.

        That's right. They need to remove Hatch from Washington if they can't control him.

        We are working on that. My problem is that I don't like the potential successors to Orrin Hatch, and Mike Lee is likely to be a bigger thorn in the side than Hatch ever was. The real problem is finding somebody who can step up and do the job to replace Hatch. That isn't as easy as it should be.

        • Find somebody you like, and make him an offer he can't refuse. Tell him that either his name or his brains will be on the ballot.

      • by jensend (71114)

        Bah. Hatch is the least of our worries.

        I'm not very happy with the job Hatch has done in recent years, and he clearly has some messed-up ideas regarding IP law, but for most of his career in the Senate he did a rather good job of representing the state, and he's been a voice of moderation on some key issues where many of the republican politicians here are off the charts of extremism. (The state republican party's caucus/convention system has been an effective way of filtering sanity out of the candidate po

  • 2011 SPJ Black Hole Award [spj.org]

    Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services: Hiding Child Deaths
    University of Maryland: Pricing People out of their Government
    Central Intelligence Agency and A.G. Eric Holder: Flagrant Destruction of Embarrassing Records
    Fairfax County Police Department: Hiding the Killers of Unarmed Citizens
    Broward County, Fla., School Board: Inaccurate Records

  • Now THAT'S funny! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dutchmaan (442553) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:07PM (#35619196) Homepage
    A politician complaining about the media "lobbying" the public. I can't imagine a better definition of irony!

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