Does ‘Double Government’ Render our Votes Meaningless?

An interesting article, from just over two years ago, published in the Boston Globe (link to original article).

The focus of the article is on security, but the examples given could just as easily be FAA failures. The problem appears to be rampant: agencies and elected officials are evolving away from transparency and accountability, and increasingly are serving only moneyed interests.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

FAA & Other Agencies, Using Pay-to-Play and Other Tactics to Deny Us Our Rights Under Federal FOIA Laws

It is a separate issue, yet thoroughly intertwined: the ongoing revelations about Hillary Clinton’s emails on a private server, expose the fact that our elected officials and agency leaders – all the way to the top, and regardless of which party has the White House – are waging a war against our citizens’ right to see what government officials are doing. As such, they are ensuring we can have no real Democracy.

(click n image to view source article at Washington Examiner)

(click on image to view source article at Washington Examiner)

Our FOIA Laws were passed by Congress in 1966. An incredible amount of careful deliberation went into defining the rules needed to be followed, to ensure transparency. FOIA was signed into law by LBJ, on 7/4/1966. The original laws have since been amended to incorporate electronic media. As President Obama wrote in his brilliant FOIA memo on the day he was inaugurated, January 21, 2009:

“…the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government.”

Words are wonderful things, but they need to be backed up by actions. Such has not happened since January 2009. Simply, although FOIA is a critical tool for government transparency, accountability, and performance, it is being side-stepped and ignored. At FAA (and elsewhere), here is what they are doing:

  • Ignoring FOIA requests: just like the Secretary of State did in the article/link shown above, FAA and other agencies are choosing to outright ignore FOIA requests. This is not legal. Legal recourse for citizens is in the U.S. District Courts. However, the district courts are bogged down with both a wholesale indifference and processes that are deplorably byzantine, to the point of making it impossible for justice to be served. The Judges are all political appointees, thus inclined to serve the power status quo in DC. We can have all the laws we want but, if the laws are not enforced, they mean nothing.
  • Delaying & Side-stepping: with time, even the best of laws become ruined by workarounds. There are so many ways FAA fails to comply with the FOIA Laws, yet excuses off their failures. Some of these include:
    1. they’ll spend months delaying on your reasonable request for a fee waiver, and use their indecision to rationalize that the FOIA request could not be started until the the fee waiver issue was resolved.
    2. they’ll claim the FOIA request was never ‘perfected’, lacked specificity, etc.
    3. they’ll use ‘Pay-to-Play’ to intimidate regular citizens away from using the FOIA Laws (see below).
    4. they’ll pretend to not comprehend even the most explicit FOIA request. Even more, they may not call to clarify but process it anyway, building months and years of delays producing a series of response packages that slowly migrate back toward the real response … but only IF the requestor sticks with it for all that time.
    5. they’ll route the FOIA request to multiple offices and refuse to produce ANY responsive records until all offices have finished their seperate sub-response; and, at least one of those offices will never finish … so nothing ever gets released.
    6. they’ll sweep the floor and compile all sorts of unrelated documents so a request that should have cost nothing (under 100 pages and less than 2-hours administrative time to produce), instead costs hundreds of dollars and swamps the requestor with thousands of pages of irrelevant records.
    7. they’ll cry to the People, to the media, and to Congress that they just lack resources and cannot comply with burdensome FOIA laws. It is like declaring, “Pay us more and maybe we’ll do our job,” and Congress does nothing to compel them to perform. Of course, all of this happens while ignoring the simple reality that:
      • they have full-time paid FOIA specialists on staff;
      • the vast majority of their workload is arbitarily added and focused on obstructing the release of disclosable records; and
      • if they ‘erred on the side of disclosure’, their workload would all but disappear.
  • Pay-to-Play: a very effective way to obstruct the FOIA Laws is to demand exorbitant payments and watch the requestors withdraw their FOIA requests. No pay, no play. This violates the spirit and the law within FOIA. Agencies are expected to grant fee waivers, and are also expected to routinely waive requests that require minimal time to produce (e.g., less than 2-hours of administrative processing, and less than 100-pages of responsive records). There is also the Office of Information Policy guidance initiated in 2008, that precludes agencies assessing fees for simple FOIA requests, if the agency fails to comply with the 20-day time limit:
20081231scp-portion-of-guidance-new-limitations-on-assessing-foia-fees-doj-oip-opening-para

(click on image to view an archived copy of the OIP Guidance)

Despite these clear requirements, all of which are aimed at ensuring the People can easily see inside government operations to keep those operations from running astray, FAA and other agencies routinely use Pay-to-Play.

Pennsylvania to Vote in Primaries This Tuesday

(click on image to view tweet with short video clip)

(click on image to view tweet with short video clip)

20121105pic.. Flooding at KLGA post, Delta jetbridge

Flooding at La Guardia Airport caused by Hurricane Sandy, in 2012.

Today is the last Sunday before the presidential primaries in five key states, including Pennsylvania. I ran across a tweet with a short video clip at a Bernie Sanders rally, and a speaker noting that climate change will cause the airport at Philadelphia to become flooded. I have thoroughly studied airports across the nation, and have blogged before about flooding risks impacting Florida as well as LaGuardia and other major airports. But, until hearing this Bernie 2016 speaker, I had always assumed the Philly airport was at a safer and higher elevation. So, I looked up the data; the speaker was absolutely correct.
The major hub airport at Philadelphia [KPHL] is on the north bank of the Delaware River, not far from the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay. A look at the Airport Diagram shows that all four KPHL runways are very vulnerable to flooding; low points on each of the four runways are between 8-ft MSL and 10-ft MSL. While FAA is spending billions to further overdevelop KPHL, we are ignoring the risks of flooding, which grow greater each year. All to subsidize airline profits and prop up wasteful airport programs and corrupt incumbent politicians.

(four low elevations marked with yellow boxes)

(four low elevations marked with yellow boxes)

Pennsylvania gets to vote in the primaries this week. We have endured too many decades of top-down control by the two major parties, and the balance continues to tip toward expanding the wealth gap, enriching elected officials (like the Clintons), all while a full-blown oligarchy is setting in. We need real and rational change, and it is more easily done now than later.

There is only one candidate who accepts the real threat to our planet caused by our excessive consumption of fossil fuels. There is only one candidate who is not beholden to money interests such as the fossil fuel industry, the Av-Gov complex, the banks, pharma, etc. There is only one candidate demanding an end to our corrupt ‘pay-to-play’ politics … demanding real reforms so we have effective governance that is transparent and accountable. That candidate is Bernie Sanders.

Politics Today, in the U.S.A.

Hakeem Jeffries is a young lawyer representing the New York 8th congressional district, a strongly gerrymandered district in Brooklyn and Queens. In this video he is going to bat for the Hillary Clinton campaign, making wild statements, all part of the Clinton campaign script, designed to undermine the legitimacy of candidate Bernie Sanders. Yes, he is a lawyer, so he seemingly has a license to lie and deceive, all to produce whatever nefarious end-result is intended, such as perpetuating our very, VERY broken representative democracy – yes, the one owned by a plutocracy of corporations and elites (a plutocracy Thomas Jefferson warned of in 1825).

So, ponder this embed of a short news discussion, with Nina Turner speaking on the Sanders’ side…

…and here’s something else to ponder:

If Mr. Jeffries can go to bat for Hillary Clinton and stretch the facts this far, what would happen if he applied his lawyering skills to advocate on behalf of those impacted by KJFK and KLGA flights? What possibly might stop him from speaking up, forcefully, on behalf of the people and against the FAA, the airlines, the Port Authority – the Av-Gov troika who are doing so much to diminish quality of life in his congressional district? Could it be the money that helps Mr. Jeffries (and the vast majority of U.S. elected officials) to pick their fights, to be selective and ALWAYS come out advocating for the source of funds needed to be reelected? Could it be we are long overdue to end this sordid corruption?


See also:
  • 4/11/2016 – an article by H.A. Goodman, in Huffington Post, includes this quote: “…An iceberg named Hillary Clinton threatens the system of honest graft that provides political power to so many establishment Democrats….”

20160411.. 'I'm Going With the Jewish Guy' (Bernie tweet-pic)

Ask John Kerry to Advocate for an Aviation Emissions Cap

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has initiated a letter campaign, seeking to get U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to press for a global cap on international aviation emissions. Here is a screen-capture, linked to a WWF webpage with further info and a quick signup to join the letter campaign.

(click on image to view campaign webpage at WorldWildlife.org)

(click on image to view campaign webpage at WorldWildlife.org)

Is This Why Hillary ‘Lost Her Tone’ the Other Day?

When she blew up at the Greenpeace activist who asked her a civil question, perhaps it was because she cannot stand the momentum shift? She was once invincible and only waiting through the process until election day. But not anymore. The Bernie Sanders campaign sent out this email today, illustrating the huge momentum shift in the past three weeks:

20160403scp.. winning percentages ID,UT,AK,HI,WA & abroad (email from B.Sanders campaign)

The next big step in the Democratic Primary happens on Tuesday, with the caucus in Wisconsin. For what it is worth, I find the Sanders platform attractive because it resonates deeply with the underlying mission of Aviation Impact REFORM. The Sanders platform emphasis is where it needs to be, aimed at producing long-overdue reforms:

  1. maximum transparency
  2. equitable and just treatment of all people
  3. verifiable accountability of government employees and officials
  4. empowerment of individuals and local communities – give the people the data and information, so they can become meaningfully involved
  5. acceptance of the need to rapidly end our dependence on fossil fuels; i.e., taking actions, including in aviation, to address the emerging climate change crisis.

It seems hard to refute that the political party duopoly in the U.S. is insufferable for its abuse of power and enabling of limitless corruption. This corruption consistently benefits corporations and elite wealth, yet hurts the diminishing middle class … and ALWAYS includes rich kickbacks to the politicians nearest the top of the parties. Like Hillary’s $225,000 Wall Street speeches (and, yes, she really does need to share transcript copies!). And the problem is undeniably bipartisan: all of our recent Presidents – both Bushes, as well as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have reaped huge rewards by acting as ‘cheerleader-in-chief’ for the establishment, while doing nothing about whistleblower retaliations and agencies that blow off the FOIA laws. Think about it: if Hillary cannot even share a speech transcript, why would she EVER be expected to demand FAA release records that show ATC’s watching movies or concealing controller errors? If she is such a beneficiary friend to corporations, how could she EVER insist on cleaning up the NextGen impacts, or demand an end to excessive airline mergers?

Hillary Clinton has made it quite clear: she plans to emulate the Bushes and Bill and Barack. She plans to extend the failed practices of the corrupted modern U.S. duopoly. So, I hope Bernie Sanders does well in Wisconsin and continues onward to eventually win the nomination, as needed to help us all reclaim the future we are losing.

Fossil Fuel Campaign Contributions: ‘I Am So Sick’

On the campaign trail, candidate Hillary Clinton lost her cool in this quick exchange, caught on video:

citizen: “Thank you for tackling climate change. Will you act on your words and reject future fossil fuel money in your campaign?” 

20160331scp.. 'I am So SICK!'

Hillary: “I do not have… I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick… I AM SO SICK of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it.”

Hillary then walks on, and resumes working the crowd.

20160331.. 'I'm the Greenpeace Activist who Asked HRC to Pledge rejecting FF money'(E.Resnick-Day, Greenpeace)

(click on image to view a PDF copy of the Greenpeace blog post)

The citizen was Eva Resnick-Day, and she followed up with a blog post about the incident. Eva is NOT affiliated with the Sanders campaign, but works for Greenpeace and is an activist for both democracy and climate action. Given the emerging reality of climate change, and also given the total reliance of aviation on FOSSIL FUELS, it is critical that our future political leaders can recognize the problems and initiate plans to fix the problems. It is also critical that our leaders guide us away from what appears to be a trend toward fascism dressed up as a self-serving ‘collaboration’ between bureaucrats, elected officials and corporate interests … such as we see with today’s matured ‘Av-Gov Complex’.

Hillary’s ‘I am so sick!’ reaction, and her evident intent to continue business as usual is simply unacceptable.


See also:
  • 4/1/2016 – copy of an email sent out by BernieSanders.com. Includes a link to a petition asking candidate Clinton to pledge to reject fossil fuel campaign donations.

An Exchange of Letters, Proposing Michael Huerta’s Removal

A New York area citizen, enduring years of unmitigated (and even expanding!) aviation noise impacts exacerbated by FAA’s ‘unmitigated capture by industry’, recently sent letters to both DoT Secretary Anthony Foxx and President Barack Obama. Both letters point to the ongoing failures by FAA, as well as a recent DoT-IG report: ‘FAA Reforms Have Not Achieved Expected Cost, Efficiency, and Modernization Outcomes’ (34p, 1/15/2016). Both letters also called for these top officials to “…find someone who is really responsive to citizen complaints coming from Phoenix, Palm Springs, Chicago, Boston, & New York and replace Michael Huerta…” and to “…remove Michael Huerta and replace him with someone who cares for more than just throughput and efficiency.”

Here are copies of the letters, shared with aiREFORM. Highlights were added, and the citizen’s personal info redacted. The first letter, dated January 25, is to Secretary Foxx:20160125.. (redacted) letter to DoT.A.Foxx (1p)

The second letter, dated February 10, elevated the issue to President Obama:201602010.. (redacted) letter to Pres.B.Obama, need to replace FAA.M.Huerta (1p)

Evidently, a pair of letters crossed in the mail. Secretary Foxx’s office staff forwarded the letter to FAA, directing that someone respond to the citizen. A letter with an illegible signature was sent from FAA’s Office of Environment & Energy, dated February 9:

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

The content of the FAA response letter is telling. You will note the text is extraordinarily framed to say nothing and do nothing; ‘bureaucratese’, precisely deployed so as to demoralize the letter recipient. Sadly, these days, people everywhere in our nation get this sort of treatment; this is how FAA (and other agencies) routinely treat the good citizens, those who care and act responsibly to try and solve ongoing problems that FAA refuses to address. Is it any wonder, than, that so many people are so outraged these days, across the whole spectrum, from progressive to conservative?

For a closer analysis of FAA’s response letter, identifying cut-and-paste response elements that are routinely sent to citizens, click here.

ICAO Announces New CO2 Rules … Their Proposal is All Hype & Offers Little Meaningful Progress

In early December, world leaders met at COP21 in Paris to try and work out agreements to get our collective fossil fuel addiction under control. Conspicuously, two major transport modes were not even part of the debate: maritime and aviation. The COP21 leaders could have at least declared targets and ‘asked’ world aviation officials to aim at meeting these targets. Instead, we were told, let’s let the U.N. group ICAO take care of creating their own targets. Sort of like letting the foxes define the daily predation rate at the local henhouse.

ICAO has now delivered, and the product is underwhelming. Here is their Press Release link, as well as a copy of a New York Times article, with highlights (and footnoted analysis) added by aiREFORM.com:

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

As noted in the aiREFORM footnotes to the New York Times article, this ‘agreement’ by a large group of people who generate profits by burning fossil fuels to move people and cargo… well, it’s all hype. The net positive improvement is frankly insignificant, yet all the official cheerleaders (including the White House and FAA’s Michael Huerta) are announcing this as a great achievement. It is not.

As further emphasis of the fraudulent cheerleading, read the statement within the News Release by GAMA, the General Aviation Manufacturing Association. Their headline was ‘Business aviation hails historic global agreement on CO2 standard for aircraft’, but within, note that small business jets are exempted from the new standards. This means that the most intensive CO2 generators – private jets with few passengers, flown on business trips and golfing junkets – are not even covered in this proposed agreement. No wonder people like GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce are smiling during this PR moment.

A short film by Germanwatch.org, about carbon-intensive living in Germany. Strong points made, especially at the finish.

Click on image to watch a short film about climate injustice and carbon-intensive living by some Germans. Strong points made, especially at the finish. (Germanwatch.org)

If our Congress (and FAA) wanted to do something truly ‘Transformational’, they would focus efforts on imposing a substantial aviation carbon tax, and disincenvitizing energy-wasteful airline hubs – hubs that simply have grown to be ‘too big to fly straight’.

 

[QUOTE]: Why this Wisconsin Voter Has Chosen Bernie Over Hillary

Aside

QUOTE

“…I live in Wisconsin and will make a point to drive the four hours to Iowa to volunteer for Bernie the next two weekends and once he has the nomination, I hope Bill and Hillary retire and go away quietly. No more convention speeches or campaigning or anything. The real truth is that Bill sold the New Deal soul of the Democratic Party to be president and his wife is now willing to destroy one of the last true citizen-legislators so she can have power and protect her powerful friends’ interests.

Hillary has shown by her actions this week that her motivation, just like her husband, no matter what he says, is to be president. Fifty years have shown that Bernie Sanders is motivated to serve the common person. Choice made. Hillary got what she wanted from her attacks this week. They made the choice easy….”

– a blogger, Posting on Daily Kos

Click here to read the original Daily Kos post.