mr. zilla goes to town

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

let the sunshine in

I recently came across one of the most depressing sites on the internet. It was a brief table that laid out in precise astronomical detail the changing number of hours of daylight that a person lingering in the latitude and longitude of Oxford was in for over the next three months. I can’t bear to repeat the figures it showed for December. Living in the UK is really quite marvellous, but the approaching winter grey & dark is the one thing that fills me with dread.

Still, I’ve been heartened by news that some disinfecting sunshine will at least (and at last) begin to penetrate a couple of other dark corners soon:
The German government has decided to back the European Commission’s campaign to reveal the names of the farmers and farm businesses benefiting from the Union’s €60 billion annual spending on agriculture, according to EU officials.

Germany was one of five member states which were resisting Kallas’s initiative, and its decision to back the campaign is a major boost for efforts to bring the names of recipients into the open. Campaigners for greater transparency over farm support payments welcomed the decision. Jack Thurston of, which monitors which member states publish what information, said that getting Germany on board would encourage the few remaining countries to follow suit. “There is a huge domino effect here. It becomes extremely difficult to sustain a policy of secrecy once other countries agree to transparency,” he said. Berlin’s support is particularly important because Germany is the largest gross and net contributor to the EU’s budget, which will average €123bn a year in 2007-13. It is also a major beneficiary of financial support for farmers and rural areas, receiving around €6.5bn in 2005.

And across the pond, the US House and Senate have now both passed bills to vastly increase the visibility to the public of federal porkbarreling:

WASHINGTON --- House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (Okla.), Barack Obama (Ill.), and Tom Carper (Del.), and Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) today announced that they have reached agreement on legislation to increase accountability and transparency by establishing a public database to track federal grants and contracts.

"This process has focused on enhancing the accountability and transparency in the federal budget process," Blunt, Boehner, and Davis said. "The federal government awards approximately $300 billion in grants to roughly 30,000 different organizations. Each year, roughly one million contracts exceed the $25,000 reporting threshold. We need to be sure that money is spent wisely. Our legislation creates a transparent system for reviewing these expenditures so that Congress, the press, and the American public have the information they need to conduct proper oversight of the use of our tax dollars. The package we've agreed to move requires the Administration to establish searchable databases for both grants and contracts."

Can’t wait to watch the fireworks as the US political blogs get their claws into this database. I do have an autumn resolution though to try to move on from my addiction to US politics. It's been going on two years since I left DC, and it's surely time to divert some time into speculation upon the impending Brown vs Cameron matchup.

After the midterms, anyway.


Post a Comment

<< Home