Ray Bradbury’s FOI File:

Was there any writer the FBI didn’t track back in the day? The FOI file reveals the extent of the creepy tracking of the sic-fi genius:

The FBI gave Ray Bradbury a mixed review.

Photo of Ray Bradbury.

Photo of Ray Bradbury. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to documents declassified recently through the Freedom of Information Act, the bureau investigated the “Fahrenheit 451″ author in the 1950s and 1960s because of suspected communist sympathies.

One informant warned agents that Bradbury, who died June 5 at age 91, wrote stories that were “definitely slanted” against capitalism. The informant added that science fiction itself could so terrify readers that they would succumb to “incompetence bordering on hysteria” and would be helpless during a third world war.

The bureau noted Bradbury’s opposition to Sen. Joe McCarthy and other anti-Communists and his support for civil rights. But it concluded that Bradbury had never been in the Communist Partyand that interviewing him was unnecessary because he did not have “informant potential.”

 

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NFOIC Joins Washington State Lawsuit Over Guv’s Claims of Executive Privilege

Good for the good ‘ol NFOIC….

The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) has joined media associations and good government groups in asking the Washington state Supreme Court to limit Gov. Chris Gregoire’s authority to withhold documents from public scrutiny.

The case grew out of a lawsuit filed in April 2011 by the Olympia, Wash.-based Freedom Foundation, an NFOIC member organization in Washington state, over the governor’s claims of “executive privilege” as a basis for shielding records from disclosure.

At issue in the case are Gov. Gregoire’s claims of executive privilege to conceal records regarding a controversial, $2 billion proposed tunnel along the Seattle downtown waterfront to replace the elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct, in addition to other documents.

Other organizations supporting the Freedom Foundation’s position in amicus briefs filed in the lawsuit are Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Institute for Justice and the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG), also an NFOIC member organization.

The Freedom Foundation and its supporters say the governor should only be able to shield records from disclosure under the provisions of the state Public Records Act (PRA), which includes a “deliberative process” exemption. Gregoire’s attorneys say she is neither seeking to invalidate the PRA nor claim general immunity from it. They contend, however, that the constitutional separation-of-powers doctrine gives her additional authority to withhold documents in some instances.

FOI News You Can Use: White House Petition to Release Beer Recipe!

Maybe we should just do all federal FOIA this way….

Beer enthusiasts may soon be able to craft their own version of the White House honey ale. That is, for a few thousand online signatures.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney recently announced on Twitter that the administration will unveil the beer’s recipe once a petition for this request receives 25,000 signatures by September 17.

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FOI AT Work: Outing the Water Hogs In Austin…

What a GREAT FOI-driven story idea, especially given how hot and dry most of the country is these days. An FOI request for the top water hogs, coupled with voter records…

Water Drop

Water Drop (Photo credit: Isolino)

Here’s the lede:

A few years back, Lance Armstrong was caught. He apologized, admitted the error of his ways, and promised to do better in the future. His offense? Using too much water.

Armstrong had used 330,000 gallons of water in July 2008. He hadn’t even been home at his three acre, 14,475 square foot estate. “I’m a little shocked,” he told The New York Times at the time. “There’s no justification for that much water. I need to fix this.”

Well, it’s been several summers since then, this last one being notable for being the hottest and driest on record. And the city is in stage two watering restrictions because of the historic drought.  But it would appear Armstrong has not learned how to conserve. According to data from Austin Water Utility, he used around 1.3 million gallons of water in the last year, putting him among the top ten residential users of water in town.

Armstrong isn’t alone in using excessive amounts of water. In fact, he’s not even the worst offender. That would be Roger Girling, who owns a home health care company. He used 1.9 million gallons of water in the last year. Also on the list of the top twenty-five residential water users in Austin? Venture capitalist Paul Zito, car dealers Doug Maund and Steven Late, and Congressman Michael McCaul, who went through 1.4 million gallons of water in the last year.

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FERPA interpretations differ from school to school…

A Mizzou J-Schooler, Allison Prang, did a fine job on the subject of FERPA inconsistencies, in a piece for the Kansas City Star.

Her lede:

If you’re a student at a Kansas college or university, you don’t need to worry about your school giving your contact information to companies that want to sell you their products or services.

It’s illegal.

But if you’re a student at a college or university in Missouri, you just might need to be concerned.

Companies and outside organizations frequently request broad lists of directory information from schools

In Missouri there are no prohibitions against using it for marketing aimed at students. Companies and organizations that ask for the information include test preparation, graduation announcement and textbook businesses.

In Kansas, though directory information is still considered a public record, the state Open Records Acts bars people from using it for solicitations.

The police in Champaign really loath jaywalking…at least by some people, in some neighborhoods.

Wow — what an inspired use of FOI by the website Vivelo Hoy, a really interesting online news site…anyway, they took a look at five years’ worth of arrest records, and found that 90 percent of those arrested for jaywalking

English: No jaywalking restriction sign: An ar...

English: No jaywalking restriction sign: An arrow supplementary plate is mounted to indicate the direction of an appropriate crossing for pedestrians. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

were black — and most of those arrests occurred on streets without sidewalks. What?!?!

Here’s the nut graf:

We found major disparities in the number of arrests of black people in both communities.

In 2010, black people made up 16 percent of the population in both Champaign and Urbana, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

But in both communities at least 40 percent of the arrest charges were against black people in each of the years from 2007 to 2011.

Within the category of arrest types, there were even greater disparities.

One of the largest was in regards to “improper walking on roadway,” or jaywalking.

In Champaign from 2007 to 2011, 658, or 88 percent, of the 744 jaywalking arrests were of black people.

In Urbana, the percentage of black arrestees  for the same crime was even higher during those same years.

 

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FOI AT Work in the Sports Department: Social Media Monitoring

Nice use of FOIA by USA Today:

Student athletes at the University of Kentucky and most at the University of Louisvillesurrender their online privacy to their coaches under a social media monitoring system used by both schools, as well as others across the country.

As a condition of participating in sports, the schools require athletes to agree to monitoring software being placed on their social media accounts. This software emails alerts to coaches whenever athletes use a word that could embarrass the student, the university or tarnish their images on services such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and MySpace.

The University of Louisville flags 406 words or slang expressions that have to do with drugs, sex, or alcohol. The University of Kentucky flags a similar number, of which 370 are sports agents’ names.

The words range from the seemingly innocuous “pony” — a euphemism for crack cocaine — and “panties,” to all manner of alcoholic drinks and sexual expressions usually heard on the street.

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