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.



Police Disobey Court Order to Return Seized Medical Marijuana

According to an article first published by The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington police seized medical grade marijuana from a man during a traffic stop and charged him with misdemeanor possession.  With proof no crime had been committed, the case was dismissed.  However the police refused to return the property to the man.  Even after the judge twice told them to return it.  The police still refuse and will be facing contempt charges if they do not comply by the next court date, May 2, 2013.  The situation is a mess for city police, county sheriff’s office, the court system, and maybe soon, the appellate court system.

Medical Grade MarijuanaThe property is being stored at the sheriff department evidence locker.  The sheriff has no legal right to release it.  The police officers, or their superiors, have to physically get the property, sign for it, and then return it to the rightful owner.  Police refuse, and from the looks of it, their bosses don’t mind that the officers think they are above the law.  Maybe the chief of police thinks he is above the law too?  What is the likelihood that after failing to comply with a court order and is now directly negatively affecting our ability to do our jobs we would still have a job?

Is it possible those police officers are being encouraged by their superiors to refuse to comply until the matter is forced up higher and higher courts until it reaches the Supreme Court of the United States?  What then?  What will be at stake then?  Clearly the issue isn’t about if the municipal courts have jurisdiction over municipal peace keepers, because certainly they do.

Why don’t the officers just return it?  Perhaps the police just don’t like that medical marijuana is being accepted in more and more states.  Could it be they fear that legalizing marijuana for all is just around the corner?

What would happen if the property owner simply went to the county judge to ask for a court order forcing the sheriff’s evidence locker to return it to the city police?  A great deal would be accomplished.  The county would be out of this mess, completely.  It puts the city police department in possession of the stolen property, for which now it can be charged along with the contempt charges.  Isn’t that what the property is?  Stolen property since a legal binding court order has declared the property legal and to be returned to its rightful owner?

This case is about more than some little amount of medical grade marijuana.  It’s about the authority of a judge against the authority of police officers, their supervisors, and the chief of police to disobey a direct legal ruling.  It’s about some local police officers thinking their opinions are greater than the lawmakers of the state, so they may disobey the law at will.

Sure, for the property owner, its about getting his very expensive medical grade marijuana back.  More likely, for the owner, it’s the principle of the thing. We all understand that.  But for the rest of the country, it’s about setting a legal precedence we may not want to set.  What if we replaced “gun or weapon of your choice” or maybe “book” instead of  “marijuana“?  That might sound far fetched, but that is what setting precedence is all about.  Do we want police officers and police forces thinking they are above the law in every respect when they don’t have to obey a judge?  Do we want police to be able to seize things and not return them when there is no crime?

It’s tough to make sure the body of elected and appointed officials are doing the right thing all the time.  The problem isn’t just police and judges, it’s every person in power who tries to circumvent the constitution for what ever purpose.  The judge made a lawful order and those police officers are denying the owner his right to his property by failing to comply.  Shame on the citizens for allowing it without protest.

Reference:  The News Tribune


The Constitution and Gun Control

Gun control has been a “hot topic” for as long as I can remember.  IF ONLY it were just one area the government is trying to take away our rights.  Every where you look you see infringements on citizens rights.  More on those issues later.  But first, this seven minute video is one everyone should see and think about.

Who Has the Right to Take Our Rights?

Civil rights are being eroded with each passing bill in government.The government, if we let them.  Right now the public is focused on the second amendment rights we face having restricted even further.  We should be paying attention.  If we don’t, before you know it, it will go the way of our right to assemble, our right to free speech, and our right to travel freely amongst the states, along with a long list of other rights and freedoms we have systematically had removed.

Unfortunately, the citizens of this country have bought the big lie that all can be equal.  As long as people have self-interest, there will be inequality.  People naturally want to get as much “stuff” like food, clothing, shelter, and luxury items as they can so that they and their families are well cared for.  It is hardwired into our beings.  Even the most adamant anti-rich youth begin to find ways acquire wealth as they marry and have families.  When you ask them about it, they try to justify it by saying they are ‘just looking out for their family”.  Most of them say it with their flat screen T.V.s on the wall and smart phones blaring some ring tone.  They did the same thing in the 1960’s and 1970’s and so on.  Nothing has changed.  They don’t really care about equality or equity as long as they get what they want.

What does equality and gun ownership have in common?  In a Utopian society, a perfect commune, there would be no need for guns.  There would be no crime and no need for protection.  Just like Utopia never actually happened, so too is the way of people.  People will continue to have self-interest.  Not all people will try to meet those needs in a lawful way.

The first time a presidential candidate was proven to have used illegal drugs or engaged in any other illegal activity, everyone should have rejected him right then and there.  People who do not respect the law should not be making or enforcing the law.  How do you trust a government made up of people who can’t be trusted to look after your best interests?  You can’t.

No one but you will ever have your best interests at heart.  You are only one among millions.  But the millions can and should unite to remove the threats to our freedoms.  Demanding the Constitution be followed to the letter of the law as it was written by the founding fathers is right.  People and groups who seek to take our rights are unlawful.   There are legal ways of dealing with criminals.  We should start at the top.