Stonewalled, by Sharyl Attkisson; This is One Book You Can’t Miss

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When I first saw the title, Stonewalled, by Sharyl Attkisson, I thought this was going to be just another reporter complaining about how difficult life in the world of journalism can be.  After all, it’s tough all over and journalism is no different.  Not only do they have to compete against the traditional broadcast news outlets, but also against cable news networks, and the plethora of blogs and other pseudo-news organisations.

Add to it the amount of risk each journalist takes every time they publish something of real substance and meaning.  Not only has history shown us that being a true investigative journalist, in the most historic sense of the phrase, it is difficult and dangerous.  It be dangerous for journalists who stand up and speak out, it is also dangerous for whistle blowers who know when they speak out their lives will be ruined, and quite possibly they are in danger.

In her book, Stonewalled, Sharyl Attkisson speaks plainly and honestly about what investigative journalism is, what news agencies have come to, and what it’s like to try to get blood from a turnip.  That’s my analogy, not hers.  Except she does get blood from a turnip.  She does it with hard work, perseverance, and great with risk to herself.

It’s been a long time since I’ve believed a corporate journalist was worth any salt.  It’s been even longer since I believed any news outlet was telling the whole truth.  I stopped having any faith in the media long ago.  It began to slip away when I noticed a disclaimer on a cable news channel saying their broadcast was “for entertainment purposes only”.  It was two o’clock in the morning.  From that moment on, I stopped caring what they said.  The news is not for entertainment.

Sure, I understand the reasoning behind the cable channel’s disclaimer.  It’s to prevent them from liability claims.  They are not bound to the same rules as broadcast channels.  The question keeps nagging, why don’t they want to held accountable for their words?

Wouldn’t you want to be known for speaking the truth at all times?  Your reputation depends on your ability to speak the truth at all times. The public wants journalists who are known to have the best interest of the public at the center of their work.  The public is tired of journalists and news outlets who merely say what they are told to say, or are willing to say nothing at all.

That’s the whole purpose behind the freedom of speech amendment.  Without journalists who pour over and publish everything our government does, the protections of the rest of the constitution will be lost.  Journalists represent the light shining in the dark.  Ms. Attkisson speaks about how the government, at every turn, is trying to shut out that light.

Government wants to stop reporters from reporting.  They know citizens can’t travel across the country to investigate for themselves.  That’s way this country has valued investigative journalists from the beginnings of this country.  We can’t let journalists be muzzled.

What can we do?  For starters we can create new ways to ensure Freedom of Information Act requests are filled.  Hold the government to a specific time window to fill requests.  Limit redaction.  Require digital copies of all documents to be uploaded to the public every day where every citizen may freely access them with anonymity.  Require all documents that are declassified or that are eligible for FoIA request to be uploaded to the public servers.  Do not allow the government to charge large fees to obtain information.  Ten cents a page for copies should be sufficient.  Currently, the Department of Justice is responsible for making sure FoIA is carried out.  That’s the fox watching the hen house.  Perhaps we should fine or jail individual people found responsible for failing to fill these requests in a timely manner.   We need to define what a timely manner is and then require that it be followed.  In the end, it still boils down to one thing only:  The honesty and integrity of those people who are holders of information that belongs to the public.

I don’t want to give away too much about Stonewalled.  These are just few ways her book got me to thinking.  I can’t wait to hear how it made you think.

 

 

Android App Review: Congress

Congress App Watches Capitol Hill All of us want to keep up with what Congress is up to.  Until recently, it was very difficult.  For centuries people had to rely on newspapers and word of mouth.  Radio and television made public officials seem more accountable since news could now travel at the speed of light instead of the speed of horses.  Even so, the information was also at the mercy of broadcasters who have their own agendas and slants about the information they provided.

Now, not only can you get information at the speed of light, but you can get it without someone else’s opinion or agenda.  That is if you get the Congress app.  The Sunlight Foundation is dedicated to making information available as soon as possible without applying their own agenda.  Their only agenda is to supply the information.  You decide what to do with it.  Your own values are used to evaluate the information.

The app is easy to use and customization is up to you.  You can follow certain parts of government, people in government, or just follow certain bills as they make their way through the process.  You can read the abstracts or the complete texts of bills, along with changes.  It was simple to access my senator’s voting records as far back as January 11, 2009.

They have other useful apps you might want to check out here.

Sequestering: What’s Really on the List?

Lets take a look at what is expected to be affected by sequestering.  Since all “lists” are the same form with various values plugged in for each state’s unique situation, we’ll only post the “form”.  The affected groups are:

  1. Education (Title I education funds, Head Start, Special education (IDEA)
  2. Evinronmental Protection Agency (although not specifically named as such)
  3. FBI/Law Enforcement
  4. Unemployment Services
  5. Public Health
  6. Nutrition Programs
  7. Small Business Adminstration (SBA)
  8. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  9. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  10. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  11. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  12. The National Science Foundation (NSF)
  13. FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) and other operations of the FDA
  14. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA),
  15. Department of the Interior (DOI) and other agencies that plan for new projects, conduct environmental reviews, issue permits and inspect operations.
  16. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  17. National Park Service
  18. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Care and Development

    Fund

  19. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD)
  20. Emergency Unemployment

    Compensation benefits

  21. Mental Health Block Grant program
  22. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
  23. Indian Health Service

When you read the list, some of it sounds really bad and some sounds not so bad.  We could spend less money in some of those places.  The fact is that every one of those agencies will always want more money.  Now, lets take a look at the words for some of these items that justify wanting more money.

Several of the sequster “items” listed are actually listed more than once, but reworded to make it look worse than before.  A thinly veiled scare tactic.  Here is one example:

Homelessness programs – More than 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans,
would be removed from their current housing and emergency shelter programs, putting them at risk
of returning to the streets.

This snippet is actually covered under other programs previously listed in the document.  By adding it again here with the phrase ” including veterans”,  Mr. Obama wants you to feel shock, sadness, anger and maybe even guilt if you do not do something to prevent the our heroes from being on the streets.    What can you do?  Other than telling your representatives to do get off their tails and do something, not much.

There are other fear generating phrases in the document.  Here is one about mental health issues expecting to tug at your heart strings for people of all ages who suffer mental illness:

Cuts to the Mental Health Block Grant program
would result in over 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed
children not receiving needed mental health services. This cut would likely lead to increased
hospitalizations, involvement in the criminal justice system, and homelessness for these
individuals. In addition, close to 8,900 homeless persons with serious mental illness would not get
the vital outreach, treatment, housing, and support they need through the Projects for Assistance in
Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program.

And to make sure he hits all the notes he throws in this one:

Tribal services – The Indian Health Service and Tribal hospitals and clinics would be forced to
provide 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits, undermining needed
health care in Tribal communities.

At the very least, it is the intent of these documents to bring fear to people and make Republicans feel shame for standing their ground.   They are standing their ground because that is exactly why they were elected.  Sequestering Fear TacticMr. Obama admits the Democrats are also standing their ground and that is why they were elected.  There isn’t a problem with people doing what they were elected to do.  The problem is when one group stands before the nation and says one half of the members of a society are the problem.  Mr. Obama says he wants unity.  This document does not reflect this.  In fact, this document clearly states his willingness to divide the nation.

Most people will agree that some of these agencies should receive funding cuts or be removed completely.  The problem is, people can’t agree on which agencies to reduce or get rid of completely.  No one wants “their piece of the pie” thrown out.

The simple fact is that all of congress didn’t act in a way that would further the purposes of a government.  Instead, if they do not come to some agreement soon they will deliberately, as a single unit called congress, allow sequestering to take place.   Why shouldn’t they?  As noted in yesterday’s article, they have done it before.  

 

Image:  White House Web Site

States Show Concern about Automatic Budget Cuts Effects

Every where you look, the politicians and economists are talking about how their own state and/or city will be affected by the automatic budget cuts set to begin in March, 2013.  Indeed, every state and territory has some to reason worry.  The purse strings may not be totally cut, but they will be shortened.

This isn’t the first time sequestering happened.

In 2003 the military came to a complete stop unless a particular unit was deployed to action.  Training exercises ceased.  Funding for repairs stopped.  Indeed, this process was first described and put into effect in 1985 as a means to enforce budget constraints when congress failed to do its job.  Consider this from the CRS Report for Congress, March 8, 2004:

“During the period encompassing FY1986-2002, the budgetary decisions of
Congress and the President were guided in part by specific goals in statute enforced by
a process known as sequestration. The statutory goals initially took the form of deficit
targets, but later were changed to limits on discretionary spending (first effective for
FY1991) and a “pay-as-you-go” requirement for direct spending and revenue legislation
(first effective for FY1992). Five sequesters were triggered during years in which
Congress and the President did not adhere to these statutory goals, three under the deficit
targets and two under the discretionary spending limits. No sequester occurred,
however, after FY1991.

In many of the years since FY1991, Congress and the President were able to avoid
a sequester by ensuring that it did not enact spending or revenue legislation in violation
of the statutory goals. At times, Congress and the President had to take advantage of
flexibility in the procedures, such as the ability to designate certain spending as
“emergency requirements,” in order to achieve this outcome. In other instances,
however, Congress and the President prevented a sequester that otherwise would have
occurred by enacting into law provisions that intervened in the normal operation of the
process.”

The point is that Congress anticipated not doing its job in 1985 for which they created a plan by which they could forever blame for the resulting sequestering.

Now, the budget cuts won’t be the “fault” of congress.  Instead, they will say they can’t help it when laws take effect.  Members of congress can still sit in their offices with a smug little smile and blame the members of the other parties for not agreeing with them.  Neither party wants to budget.  Both parties are willing to let the sequester happen.  They did it before and will do it again.  After all, it isn’t their fault, is it?

Blame?  The Democratic party, starting with President Obama, flat out blames everything on the Republican party.  The “list” posted on the White House website consists of 52 documents, one for each state or territory.  Paragraph three of each and every document says:

“Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe. By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction. The President is determined to cut spending and reduce the deficit in a balanced way, but he won’t stick the middle class with the bill. The President is willing to compromise, but on behalf the middle class he cannot accept a deal that undercuts their economic security.”

Seriously?  Does President Obama expect us to believe 100% of the fault lies with one party?  The stark reality is that Republicans, Democrats and President Obama are all to blame.  They have created amongst themselves an environment that in any other work place could be called unfriendly at best and hostile at worst.  It didn’t just happen during this presidency.  It has happened more than once.  It seems when people get elected to the highest offices in the land, they become difficult personalities.  Working with them has to be a nightmare.

How does all this affect Preppers?  Tune in tomorrow for a run down of how fully prepared Preppers will be affected.

 

References:

The White House List

CRS Report for Congress

“How Automatic Budget Cuts Could Affect Minnesota.” The Journal. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

“Automatic Budget Cuts Find Few Fans.” Casper Star-Tribune Online. N.p., 24 Feb. 2013. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

“A Look at Automatic Budget Cuts in Florida.” Atlanta News, Sports, Atlanta Weather, Business News. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

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What’s This Sequestration Stuff: A Two Minute Primer

by Rod R.

1. Summer of 2011 the President and some in Congress wanted to increase the debt limit despite the fact that we are massively, dangerously in debt and federal government spending is out of control.

2. In exchange for the increase, a promise was made to cut spending by 1.2 – 1.5 trillion over ten years. A drop in the proverbial bucket.

3. To ensure that the cuts would actually happen, a penalty was imposed that would be equally onerous to both Democrats and Republicans IF the cuts didn’t happen. That penalty – also called the sequestration – was automatic cuts of 1.2 trillion to defense and domestic budgets over 10 years starting 2013. Remember, those cuts were supposed to be so scary that Congress would surely come up with their own cuts.

4. A committee was appointed to find the cuts. They didn’t.

5. After a year and a half to find and agree on the cuts, the cuts still didn’t happen. Shocker.

6. Now the automatic sequestration cuts are scheduled to begin in March.

7. Rather than dealing with the real problem – spending – the Dems and the GOP are pointing fingers at each other. Yet another shocker.

8. Even IF the cuts were made on time to avoid the sequestration – and they won’t be – they would not be significant enough to even come close to getting us out of a long-term debt crisis that will do irreparable damage to our country.

9. Assuming Washington allows the sequestration cuts to begin in March, there is no reason to believe that actual net cuts to spending will take place over ten years or that the deficit will shrink significantly or that the debt as a % of GDP will ever stop growing. That’s a very bad thing. The results will not be pretty.

10. Lest we cast all the blame on Washington “leadership” let’s remember who put them there – We The People. And unless We The People decide to put fiscally responsible leaders in Washington we will continue to whistle our way through the graveyard and eventually bury ourselves.

**This editorial was written by a guest writer, Rod R.  referring to events detailed in This is Why We Prepare.**