Open Government – Putting a Face on an Implicit Right

December 24, 2013

Dear readers:  First and most important, happy holidays to all!  I am being really negligent this season about cards and greetings – with some reason but it still makes me sad.  I will do better during the holidays.

The reason, or at least the alibi, is that I am hard at work in my new position that is pretty much overwhelming all else for the moment.  The learning curve and the enormity of the task are a bit overwhelming.

As I mentioned since November 15 I’m the new Outreach Coordinator at  This is a national association of “civic society” groups committed to access to information by and about the federal government – a well nigh infinite category of information.   One current focus is on the National Action Plan for Open Government which was issued earlier this month by the White House.  OTG is also coordinating US. agencies’ response to the Open Government Partnership, a global initiative.   I’ll follow up with a brief fact sheet that will give the basics as well as the National Action Plan and the Open Government Partnership.  Please share them all through your many channels.

Like a kid with a hammer thinking everything is a nail, my eyes and ears are tuned into federal information everywhere these days – from the labels on kids’ toys to wikileaks to who pays for federal research being conducted at the U of M to immigration, water quality and fracking!  Government information is everywhere one looks – and if it isn’t there may be something to be done about that.

So that’s my job – to make people aware of how dependent we are on good information collected, organized, processed and made available in useful format by the federal government.

One thing I need is stories – stories of information you’ve used encounters with FOIA, educational tests, maps, food safety, SNAP, wherever you see room for improvement, gaps or ways information could be more accessible.   Seriously!  If you have contacts or resources in other parts of the country, agencies,  at the federal level, I would appreciate your letting me know.

Keep your eyes and ears open for stories – good and bad stories – that “put a face” on open government.  I would be grateful for any help you may be able to offer.  Parables work best!

Needless to say, this may slow but it will not stymie my penchant for Poking Around!  It’s a challenging position but a grand chance to learn and share – with your help we can raise public consciousness of just how critical open government is in life in this dynamic democracy.!


2 responses to “Open Government – Putting a Face on an Implicit Right

  1. Mary,

    Thanks for the invitation! We need to shine a bright, penetrating spotlight on the FDA’s refusal to follow the recommendations of its own Scientific Advisory Panels on Dental Amalgam, to restrict the use of a mercury-off-gassing medical device in young children, pregnant women and people with a known “allergy” to mercury (the genetically susceptible population reaches or exceeds 20 percent, and it is a toxin not an allergy) and require clear patient warnings of potential risks and specific signed inform consent for its use.

    Other nations have banned or restricted it, here it is still standard of care due to FDA inaction and obstinency in the face of rampant conflicts of interest. They only require warnings to dentists, and no restrictions or warnings to patients, saying “Dentist knows best.” We cannot get our dental plans, to which we pay decades of premiums, to pay for more than the cost of putting more mercury amalgam back in the back of our mouths, even when medically necessary, because of the FDA’s ruling. Legions of people are recovering from dread diseases on their own dime when they figure this out, and dentists and amalgam manufacturers get a free pass for installing a known neurotoxin right under our noses.

    The ADA was founded to promote amalgam 160 years ago, has held patents on it, and fights tooth and nail to keep it in use in the U.S. Right to poison trumps right to know, and there is a Media Cone of Silence erected through quite an exciting tale of decades of threats and actions to pull ad budgets, gag orders in the ADA code of ethics, expulsion of questioning dentists through state dental boards, intimidation, lobbying, legal defense, smear campaigns and mountains of PR for “smiles” and “silver fillings,” dental health and kids.

    I can share lots of information and stories. I was sick for two decades, and like people I’ve met all around my community, state and country, finally figured it out and recovered my health. I started Hidden River Health Challenge, A Social Innovation Enterprise Promoting Health, to work on this issue in new ways, combining the power of people and markets.

    I invite you and readers to learn more about this, read and sign my new online petition at, like,, @LauraHRussell, join Tweet Races to President Obama and First Lady Obama and to VP and Dr. Biden. Ask your employers to switch to a cost-neutral dental plan which pays the same percentage or same amount toward alternative filling materials.

    They say if you have a big problem, find a bigger solution. I am calling on the President to stop dragging his feet on this issue and do what is right for American children and families: Issue an Executive Order to Ban Amalgam during the State of the Union Address January 28th. Develop a comprehensive recovery and financing plan to help the genetically susceptible remove the toxins, improve their environment, recover their health, and save future costs for all like we have for energy conservation, asbestos and lead paint removal, and smoking cessation.

    Together we can get and stay healthier, bringing down chronic disease, and saving billions of dollars on needless chronic disease management, hospitalizations, prescriptions, special education costs and long term care for families, employers, health insurers and government.


    Hi Mary: Sounds as if you are already immersed in the new job.  I like the idea of gathering stories.  Try our friend, Paula Beugen, who gathers info she can about community service.  She is watching the budget process in this area but probably has some good stories.  Her e-mail is .If this does not work try her number: 763-545-4553.  Talk to you after the holidays.  Mary Jo

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