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Obama: Government should be transparent

By Howard B. Owens

Today, President Barack Obama made this statement:

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

On the same subject, the Washington Post reports:

The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears," Obama said in the FOIA memo, adding later that "In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public."

His memo on government transparency states that the Obama Administration "will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government."

Follow the Post link for full text of President Obama's message.

The need for government transparency isn't just a federal thing. It applies to local government as well.  You know, governments like, oh, the City of Batavia.

Whenever a government agency fails to answer timely requests for information, to not ensure all relevant media receives ready and easy access to information, to stymie full disclosure of information by prohibiting government employees from speaking publicly about issues that effect taxpayers, then it isn't really serving citizens to its highest and best ability.

Robert Drewinski

Already a failure as a President, he promised for months on the campaign trail that on day 1 to sign executive orders to rescind Bushie`s off shore drilling orders. Also he said on day 1 he would close the Cuba resort for terrorist. Well we are almost into his 3rd day and what has he change? Only thing I seen change was a price of oil go from $33 a barrel to $44 today. So when B. Hussein Obama revokes Bushie`s order on oil drilling the price will go up to the $75 plus range, thank you democrat party.

Jan 21, 2009, 9:12pm Permalink
Russ Stresing

This is a groundless assertion on your part, I'm afraid.
Few of the oil companies made any noise about new wells offshore or in Alaskan preserve back when oil <i>was already </i> $75 a barrel. Its only when oil is <i>much more</i> expensive than that, in the $100 range, that those fields become profitable.

Oil prices dropped because of the global recession, not because people made noise about drilling. It was enforced conservation, not the prospect of new sources of oil that forced the price down. And it figures to get worse for oil producers. If not, then why does OPEC feel pressure to turn down the taps? When oil was $130, they couldn't pump it fast enough.…

Jan 21, 2009, 9:51pm Permalink
Daniel Jones

Bob, PRESIDENT Barack Obama has had one day in office and immediately committed himself to ethics reform, I think that it's a pretty good step given the complete lack of them for the last eight years. I've read your arguments on the previous threads and I know that you aren't too big on facts, in fact, the last time someone else offered facts you promptly (and in a very cantankerous way) left the debate.

At any rate though Bobby, Obama indicated that he would support limited offshore drilling if it was combined with a broad energy strategy (same goes with Nuclear Power),

He did indicate that as President that he would push for more alternative energy funding. Today though was a committment to ethics reform, which has nothing to do with what you just brought up....I have to ask you, why are you so bitter? This wasn't a close election, he won by 7 percentage points and carried more than 350 electoral votes, like or not, he received a clear MANDATE from the American people.

I know that your still bitter Bobby, so I hate to say it again but I will....Barack Obama rules!

Jan 21, 2009, 10:02pm Permalink
Russ Stresing

Within hours of taking office, President Obama took the important first step to close Guantánamo: halting the unconstitutional military commissions by ordering the prosecution to seek a 120-day suspension. It’s the first step in what we hope will be a series of bold measures to free America from the civil liberties outrages and human rights abuses of the Bush era.

Jan 21, 2009, 10:05pm Permalink
Robert Drewinski

Keep drinking the kool aid boys, I just cant get by the fact of what B.Hussien Obama has said for months now. Your facts are wrong about oil prices, please check on the day Bushie sign ex order, oil prices dropped like a rock. The queen bee of the house had a fit along with all the liberal leaders. Just like that Batavia mall sign being misspelled, democrats cant even spell right.

Jan 21, 2009, 10:06pm Permalink

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.
Seems to me there was another young president a little before my time that wanted to expose government secrets and how things are actually done. And he also had great ideas for this country. And we all know what happened to him.

Jan 21, 2009, 10:09pm Permalink
Russ Stresing

<i>"democrats cant even spell right".</i>

Seriously, you might want to hit 'edit' and erase that. I almost had a cerebral hemorrhage when I read that.
Return the favor I extended to you by posting the Bloomberg link, if you have it.

Jan 21, 2009, 10:10pm Permalink
Robert Drewinski

Its nothing to do with bitterness just comedy in the White House now. Remember he only won in the cities were all the welfare is handed out with no strings attached.

Jan 21, 2009, 10:12pm Permalink
Russ Stresing

No proof requested, no pressure, if you don't want to reply, that's cool. Do you think George Bush was a good president? Do you think he left the country in better shape than he found it? Just holla back if you want, nothing urgent.

Jan 21, 2009, 10:29pm Permalink
Daniel Jones

Bob, you do realize that Obama won suburban voters as well as urban voters, that Obama has supported offshore drilling as part of a broader plan and that oil prices dropped right alongside AIG declaring bankruptcy, right?

Kool-aid? Nope, just facts.

President Barack Hussein Obama, who recieved a clear mandate from the American people, rules!

Jan 21, 2009, 10:47pm Permalink
Andrew Erbell

I've been reading this site for some time now, most of the time with a great deal of bemusement. Up to this point I have been reluctant to post because of the "no pen name" rule but finally simply had to voice my opinion, hurt feelings from people that post here I know be damned.

Howard wonders why "The Batavian" isn't considered a legitimate news service, worthy of all the considerations given to WBTA or The Batavia Daily, and simply not one of 100's of other message boards/blogs in the area. Upon seeing posts such as these go back and forth endlessly do you have to ask why that is Howard, really?

Secondly, for all the hoopla about supporting the local economy I have yet to see any legitimate local businesses advertise on the site. (Perhaps I'm not looking in the right place but I would think it would be prominently displayed on the home page somewhere. In fact, I've looked at every page listed and don't see any. There must be a reason.) I've owned one myself for more than 20 years now and I certainly wouldn't want my company's image associated with this prattle.

Jan 21, 2009, 11:15pm Permalink
Russ Stresing

Do you object to this specific prattle? Or the tone in general? Or, and I'm with you if this be the case, the often-times indecipherable spelling and/or grammar?

I'm withholding the possibility that you're just being snotty.

Jan 21, 2009, 11:19pm Permalink
Andrew Erbell

No, I'm not being "snotty" and I don't care about the spelling/grammer so much - people type in a hurry and some are probably animated when they do so. It's the general tone. I don't even have a problem with that per say, most community oriented or topical forum message boards are this way. My point was if this site was set up to be a news service, run as a business, it is failing in that regard, in my opinion. I believe that the lack of advertising and difficulties the reporters are facing getting sourced stories supports that view.

Jan 21, 2009, 11:29pm Permalink
Russ Stresing

"per se", but then, you don't care. Or you'd know that you didn't mean to say "bemusement".

I don't see the connection between the lack of advertising revenues and the question of journalistic legitimacy. According to my source, The Daily News website is about even with The Batavian as far as unique user hits, to this point, given that I've only got about a 1/2 month worth of history. That probably has more to do with familiarity than anything else. WBTA's website gets about 1/3 of the hits that The Batavian gets.

What tone does The Batavian sound that keeps people from advertising? What business do you own?

In the past, I've said that The Batavian is reaching beyond its journalistic legitimacy by taking public officials to task for not answering questions in as timely or forthright a manner as Howard or Phil see fit. I chalked that up to longevity, not tone.

Having said that, you still come across as snotty.

Jan 21, 2009, 11:46pm Permalink
John Roach

It seems you’re a bit of a hypocrite.

You of all people asking Bob to answer a question. You, the guy who has hid from answering three easy questions related to the City of Batavia, ask somebody to do something you’re afraid of doing yourself?

On the positive side, while you are afraid to answer questions, at least you’re not afraid to be a hypocrite.

Jan 22, 2009, 5:27am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Andy, as to being a legitimate news source, the only thing I need to point to is the First Amendment. But it's worth noting, we've also been recognized officially as a legitimate news source by the New York Newspaper Publishers' Association. To whatever opinion you, or any member of the city government, has to the tone or nature of any of the content, whether produced by paid staff or comments from users, is 100 percent irrelevant under the law and in principle.

The other fallacy of that objection is the Daily's own comments. If comments here delegitimize The Batavian, they also delegitimize the Daily.

Also, currently, Andy, we have four local businesses advertising on the site, with more coming. You obviously haven't looked very hard. Yes, that's about half as many as the Daily online, and the Daily as a business in this community had about a 100 year head start on us, so we're doing fine in that regard so far.

The idea that local businesses wouldn't want to advertise here is ludicrous. The questions they ask are, will my ad be effective for the money? Am I reaching the local audience I want to reach? And on The Batavian, the answer is clearly yes. Advertisers want results, and we can deliver results at a price they can afford.

You don't think we don't have an engaged, valuable audience? Just look at how many votes our polls get in one day compared to the Daily's polls, which are generally up more than a week; or, how many more comments we get -- often we get more comments on a single post than the Daily gets in a week.

Finally, as to traffic, Russ -- our traffic right now is about double what the Daily's traffic. They can't offer advertisers nearly the local online exposure we can, and aren't even trying to make those promises. WBTA is much closer to us in traffic, but for online news in Genesee County, we're the market leader right now. The Daily has significant marketing power through its print circulation, so the Daily online could still overtake us, but on the other hand, the more they market their site, the more it helps The Batavian because it helps generate interest in online news.

I'm pretty darn optimistic about our future.

And within the next week, maybe even today, we're going to launch something new that local businesses are going to love and it takes what we can deliver to businesses to a whole new level -- the Daily won't even be able to come close to matching its value, at least not any time soon. And we have other enhancements coming to the site aimed at creating even more value for advertisers. We've got a lot of good ideas coming, so keep an eye out for changes.

Jan 22, 2009, 6:11am Permalink
Robert Drewinski

GWB on a scale of 1 to 10 compared to Jimmy Carter I give him a 10. Bushie screwed himself over the years by letting the liberals cry over everything. He let them write the education bill and he really focused his attention to the cries of the libs on how to run the war on terror. With libs wanting to give rights to the terrorist and constant harking about everything out of any President control. He was blamed by Bobby Kennedy Jr of having a button in the oval office to start hurricanes. One sports writer on ESPN said Bush and his global warming policies caused Big Brown to lose the Triple Crown last year. I mean the guy got blamed for everything. Granted Bushie was no Reagan and we will just have to wait and see how Bill Clinton`s 3rd term works out.

Plus news flash B. Hussein Obama must read the Batavian, last night I demanded he stick to his campaign promise of closing the Cuban Terrorist Resort- GITMO and he sign the papers last night and to shut it down next year.At least its a half promise from the summer.

Jan 22, 2009, 6:39am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

BTW: On the First Amendment issue, consider the type of press the Founders intended to protect.

It had no relation to today's so-called professional media. The idea of objective reporting, of factual reporting was completely unknown at the time.

The New Yorker recently published <a href="… interesting piece on the 19th Century press</a>.

<blockquote>“The Business of Printing has chiefly to do with Men’s Opinions,” Benjamin Franklin wrote, in his “Apology for Printers,” in 1731, after he started printing the Pennsylvania Gazette, in Philadelphia. (Franklin proposed printing a one-size-fits-all “Apology” annually, to save himself the labor of apologizing every time he offended someone.) Franklin’s job, as he saw it, wasn’t to find out facts. It was to publish a sufficient range of opinion: “Printers are educated in the Belief, that when Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.”</blockquote>


This charge wasn’t entirely without foundation. Early American newspapers tend to look like one long and uninterrupted invective, a ragged fleet of dung barges. In a way, they were. Plenty of that nose thumbing was mere gimmickry and gambolling. Some of it was capricious, and much of it was just plain malicious. But much of it was more. All that invective, taken together, really does add up to a long and revolutionary argument against tyranny, against arbitrary authority—against, that is, the rule of men above law.


Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated on March 4, 1801, the day after the Sedition Act expired. In his Inaugural Address, Jefferson talked about “the contest of opinion,” a contest waged, in his lifetime, in the pages of the newspaper. Without partisan and even scurrilous printers pushing the limits of a free press in the seventeen-nineties, Marcus Daniel argues, the legitimacy of a loyal opposition never would have been established and the new nation, with its vigorous and democratizing political culture, might never have found its feet.

Soon after Jefferson came to power, he, like Adams, developed doubts about the unbounded liberty of the press. Printers, Jefferson complained, just days after his election, “live by the zeal they can kindle, and the schisms they can create.” In his second Inaugural Address, Jefferson ranted against printers who had assaulted him with “the artillery of the press,” warning that he had given some thought to prosecuting them. During his beleaguered second term, Jefferson suggested that newspapers ought to be divided into four sections: Truths, Probabilities, Possibilities, and Lies.

So, to whatever degree The Batavian might be out of step with most of the 20th Century version of journalism, it clearly fits the definition of Press as understood by the Founders -- a free forum of opinion, improved upon by staff reporting and community contributions.

But the other point that needs to be made -- the need for open government isn't just about The Batavian. It's about WBTA and the Daily News as well.

Jan 22, 2009, 7:58am Permalink
Andrew Erbell

It must be my computers then. While enjoying my morning cup of coffee, I have just spent the last 10 minutes going through every page on this site. I again found this; "The Batavian offers the best online advertising value with guaranteed ad positions and fixed run-of-site positions." I do not see one business advertisement, anywhere. I would assume like other on line sites, the ads would be running down either side of the home page. I see the weather, regional headlines, your ads, user-related info on the left side, and lots of blank space. Where are these business advertisements you mentioned?

Jan 22, 2009, 8:09am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

There's a leader board at the top of the page, two tile ads on the right side top of the page, and a big box ad under the weather.

You went through every 500+ or so pages of the site? In 10 minutes?

Doesn't matter, our ads run on every page of the site.

Jan 22, 2009, 8:13am Permalink
Andrew Erbell

I'll take your word for it. No tile ads at the top and under the weather, your ad for free classified ads. I went through each of the topic headings listed and scrolled down the first page to pop up there, nothing.

Jan 22, 2009, 8:19am Permalink
Philip Anselmo

Andrew: Your Web browser may have its JavaScript disabled. That would mean you wouldn't be able to see any sorts of animated content. You wouldn't be able to view videos online either. If you are able to see these other types of content yet still unable to see the ads on <i>The Batavian</i>... well, I can't explain that.

Hope that helps!

Jan 22, 2009, 8:26am Permalink
Andrew Erbell

I can view videos fine. As an example of those found here, I watched all the Robert Morgan stuff without any problems at all. So, what businesses am I not being directed to solicit?

Jan 22, 2009, 8:36am Permalink
Philip Anselmo

Andrew: My bad. These videos, on our page, will work fine, even without JavaScript enabled, because of their format. It is videos incorporated into slides and such that disappear when JavaScript is turned off. For example, those thumbnail videos on the Buffalo News Web site. Those would be blank, as you currently view the space where our ads would be. Under the column entitled 'Videos and More' in the center of the Buffalo News homepage, you would see nothing but blank spots where thumbnail slides should appear.

Or, you could just check your browser's Preferences, look for JavaScript and see what's clicked.

Jan 22, 2009, 8:49am Permalink

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