Saturday, October 27, 2007

Government Expectation of Openness Needs to Be Returned

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison waxed eloquently on the need for federal officials to monitor communications between suspected terrorists in this morning’s San Angelo Standard Times. She noted these measures are needed to protect law abiding Americans. But what of U.S. telecommunications companies that broke existing law by sharing confidential information with that same federal government? Kay wants to give them a free pass.

The implication is citizen’s who have nothing to hide shouldn’t be worried, open up your communications if you’re not a terrorist. Fine, now apply that same standard to government operations. Let the sun shine in on the attorney general firings. That issue has more resonance than Kay and company believe. Many of us have worked for a heavy handed, authoritative boss and his sleazy underling. We cower under the bully and avoid the sniveling minion at all costs. As George Bush hammered home the right to hire and fire, I relived my time under the thumb of knuckle dragging leaders, thinking “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

As for openness, Kay still owes me an answer as to why the White House Lessons Learned report made no mention of LifeCare hospital and its 24 patient deaths, the largest number in any one health care facility post Katrina. While The Carlyle Group couldn’t save many patients in just one of their twenty one long term acute care hospitals, the private equity firm is getting ready to close on 550 nursing homes with their purchase of ManorCare. None of this is being openly talked about as the purchase is evaluated by government authorities.

Also, the Senator never explained why the Bush investigative report lacked a clear explanation of who was responsible for hospital patient evacuations during Hurricane Katrina, how they performed, and specific things to change in the future to minimize suffering and death should another overheated urban toxic stew occur. If Kay wants us to swing open our doors, mailboxes, phone lines and computer connections then the favor should be returned. Openness, it’s the gift we can give each other. What’s to hide, Senator Hutchison?