The Right Rob Babies of Rations



Rep. Alan Grayson to Republicans: Stop Taking Food Out of the Mouths of Children

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

For weeks now Americans have watched as the Right Rob Babies of Rations.  Today Representative Grayson spoke to this reality.  His heartfelt words addressed what he frequently observes.  Republican Congresspersons seem to avoid, forget, or have never considered, let alone experienced chronic joblessness, poverty and hunger.  With each vote against an unemployment compensation extension, envoys who label themselves “Right” engage in an ethical wrong.  Members of the House, safe and secure in their jobs, elite, and esteemed, rob mothers, fathers, and children of the funds needed to purchase food.

It would seem, those on the “Right,” through their repeated words and actions, wish to state, “Let them [the unemployed, their spouses and progeny] eat cake.” I trust that many in the Grand Old Party think food can be found in the proverbial bootstraps.  There is reason to believe that the Republicans think the families of the jobless must have some sort of lifeline to grab hold of.  After all, we have heard the sentiment, out-of-work persons must do as Conservatives have; pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  

Whitehouse: As We Look Forward We Must Also Look Back

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Millions in America were focused on the future.  Billions, worldwide, anxiously awaited change.  On January 20, 2009, the Presidential Inauguration was broadcast hither and yon.  Barely a television, radio, computer monitor, or big screen was turned off.  Most all tuned in to see Barack Obama take the Oath of Office.  Nary a one were as moved as they were on that occasion.  

Even several Republicans said they were excited.  For countless, it seemed a light was turned on.  Finally, the American people, our allies, and those who are often characterized as adversaries, had hope.  We, collectively, believe it was possible to walk through the din that had been our doom and envision an Earth united.

The world was wowed with thoughts of what would be, as were many Constitutional scholars, concerned citizens, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  Yet, there remained a persistent thought; our potential would not be fully realized.  Several understood, as Senator Whitehouse so solemnly expressed in a speech presented on the Senate floor, a day after the festivities,  As We Look Forward We Must Also Look Back.  Few had an opportunity to see or hear an oration that was perhaps as honest and historic as the Presidents.

Sheldon Whitehouse too saw the glimmer of light.  He spoke to, as Barack Obama did in his address the day before, a democratic republic, deeply scarred, cannot heal without a shared commitment to the principles that guide our country.  The Rhode Island representative, reflected on the notion, just as the Chief Executive had hours earlier, what was sanctioned in the past would not be wiped away by a more hopeful and ethical Administration.  He noted, no series of endeavors would expunge past misdeeds.  Nor could a solitary earthly being erase the clouds that now covered the Constitution.

The Rhode Island Legislator succinctly and eloquently expressed the concern others had hoped to communicate.  He said,  As the President looks forward and charts a new course, must someone not also look back, to take an accounting of where we are, what was done, and what must now be repaired.

For Senator Whitehouse, as for many legal scholars, Conservatives, such as Bruce Fein, and Journalist, Author, John Nichols, it seemed too clear; Americans, in Congress, and on the streets in every community have yet to learn from history.  Even the newly elected President, Barack Obama, did not wish to tread on traditions that obfuscate the thread, the United States Constitution, that for centuries has allowed America to prosper.  

The President, the Obama Administration, and most of America, has expressed a desire to bury the past.  Yet, there is reason to reflect if we are to see “that brighter day; forward to what Winston Churchill in Britain’s dark days called those “broad and sunlit uplands.”  To ponder the past does not mean to punish others for misdeeds.  A penalty cannot be the priority.  Reprimands will not realize a nation’s rebirth.

Indeed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse reflects, “Our new Attorney-General designate has said, we should not criminalize policy differences.  I agree.”  The Rhode Island representative continues, “I hope we can all agree that summoning young sacrificial lambs to prosecute, as we did after the Abu Ghraib disaster, would be reprehensible.”  Sheldon Whitehouse asks only that “We hold this unique gift in trust for the future and the world.”

Please peruse the prose that might move us to provide a little bright, healthy sunshine and fresh air, to citizens of the world.  The children of today, and those who will survive Seven Generations from now need us to strengthen our democracy.  If we are to be, an educated population, empathetic to those who inherit the Earth we must, as Sheldon Whitehouse avowed, “show where the tunnels were bored, when the truth was subordinated; what institutions were subverted; how our democracy was compromised; so this grim history is not condemned to repeat itself; so a knowing public in the clarity of day can say, “Never, never, never, again,”

I thank you Sheldon Whitehouse for the wisdom and the words that break through the silence, and secure a brighter day.


Whitehouse: As We Look Forward We Must Also Look Back


January 21, 2009

I rise as we celebrate a new President, a new administration, a new mode of governing, and a new future for America.

Even in the gloom of our present predicaments, Americans’ hearts are strong and confident because we see a brighter future ahead.

President Obama looks to that future. Given the depth and severity of those predicaments, we need all his energy to look forward to lead us to that brighter day; forward to what Winston Churchill in Britain’s dark days called those “broad and sunlit uplands.”

But, as we steer toward this broad and sunlit future, what about the past? As the President looks forward and charts a new course, must someone not also look back, to take an accounting of where we are, what was done, and what must now be repaired.

Our new President has said, “America needs to look forward.” I agree.

Our new Attorney General designate has said, we should not criminalize policy differences. I agree.

And I hope we can all agree that summoning young sacrificial lambs to prosecute, as we did after the Abu Ghraib disaster, would be reprehensible.

But consider the pervasive, deliberate, and systematic damage the Bush Administration did to America, to her finest traditions and institutions, to her reputation and integrity.

I evaluate that damage in history’s light. Although I’m no historian, here is what I believe:

The story of humankind on this Earth has been a long and halting march from the darkness of barbarism and the principle that to the victor go the spoils, to the light of organized civilization and freedom. During that long and halting march, this light of progress has burned, sometimes brightly and sometimes softly, in different places at different times around the world.

The light shone in Athens, when that first Senate made democracy a living experiment; and again in the softer but broader glow of the Roman Empire and Senate.

That light burned brightly, incandescently, in Jerusalem, when Jesus of Nazareth cast his lot with the weak and the powerless.

The light burned in Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Cordoba, when the Arab world kept science, mathematics, art, and logic alive, as Europe descended into Dark Ages of plague and violence.

The light flashed from the fields of Runnymede when English nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, and glowed steadily from that island kingdom as England developed Parliament and the common law, and was the first to stand against slavery.

It rekindled in Europe at the time of the Reformation, with a bright flash in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his edicts to the Wittenberg cathedral doors, and faced with excommunication, stated “Here I stand. I can do no other.”

Over the years across the globe, that light, and the darkness of tyranny and cruelty, have ebbed and flowed.

But for the duration of our Republic, even though our Republic is admittedly imperfect, that light has shone more brightly and more steadily here in this Republic than in any place on earth: as we adopted the Constitution, the greatest achievement yet in human freedom; as boys and men bled out of shattered bodies into sodden fields at Antietam and Chicamagua, Shiloh and Gettysburg to expiate the sin of slavery; as we rebuilt shattered enemies, now friends, overseas and came home after winning world wars; and as we threw off bit by bit ancient shackles of race and gender to make this a more perfect union for all of us.

What made this bright and steady glow possible? What made it possible is not that we are better people, I believe, but that our system of government is government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Why else does our President take his oath to defend a Constitution of the United States of America? Our unique form of self-government is a blessing, and we hold it in trust; not just for us, but for our children and grandchildren down through history; not just for us, but as an example out through the world.

That is why our Statue of Liberty raises a lamp to other nations still engloomed in tyranny.

That is why we stand as a beacon in this world, beckoning to all who seek a kinder, freer, brighter future.

We hold this unique gift in trust for the future and the world. Each generation assumes responsibility for this Republic and its government, and each generation takes on a special obligation when they do. Our new President closed his Inaugural Address by setting forth the challenge against which future generations will test us: whether “with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generation.” There are no guarantees that we will – this is a continuing experiment we are embarked upon – and a lot is at stake; indeed, the most precious thing of man’s creation on the face of the Earth is at stake. That is what I believe.

So from that perspective, what about the past? No one can deny that in the last eight years America’s bright light has dimmed and flickered, darkening our country and darkening the world.

The price of that is incalculable. There are nearly 7 billion human souls on this world. Every morning, the sun rises anew over their villages and hamlets and barrios, and every day they can choose where to invest their hopes, their confidence, and their dreams.

I submit that when America’s light shines brightly, when honesty, freedom, justice and compassion glow from our institutions, it attracts those hopes, those dreams; and the force of those 7 billion hopes and dreams, the confidence of those 7 billion souls in our lively experiment, is, I believe, the strongest power in our national arsenal – stronger than atom bombs. We risk it at our peril.

And of course, when our own faith is diminished at home, this vital light only dims further, again at incalculable cost.

So when an administration rigs the intelligence process and produces false evidence to send our country to war;

When an administration descends to interrogation techniques of the Inquisition, of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge – descends to techniques that we have prosecuted as crimes in military tribunals and federal courts;

When institutions as noble as the Department of Justice and as vital as the Environmental Protection Agency are systematically and deliberately twisted from their missions by odious means of institutional sabotage;

When the integrity of our markets and the fiscal security of our budget are opened wide to the frenzied greed of corporations, speculators and contractors;

When the integrity of public officials; the warnings of science; the honesty of government procedures; and the careful historic balance of our separated powers of government, are all seen as obstacles to be overcome and not attributes to be celebrated;

When taxpayers are cheated, and the forces of government ride to the rescue of the cheaters and punish the whistleblowers;

When a government turns the guns of official secrecy against its own people to mislead, confuse and propagandize them;

When government ceases to even try to understand the complex topography of the difficult problems it is our very purpose and duty to solve, and instead cares only for these points where it intersects with the party ideology, so that the purpose of government becomes no longer to solve problems, but only to work them for political advantage;

In short, when you have pervasive infiltration into all the halls of government – judicial, legislative, and executive – of the most ignoble forms of influence; when you see systematic dismantling of historic processes and traditions of government that are the safeguards of our democracy; and when you have a bodyguard of lies, jargon, and propaganda emitted to fool and beguile the American people…

Well, something very serious in the history of our republic has gone wrong, something that dims the light of progress for all humanity.

As we look forward, as we begin the task of rebuilding this nation, we have an abiding duty to determine how great the damage is. I say this in no spirit of vindictiveness or revenge. I say it because the thing that was sullied is so, so precious; and I say it because the past bears upon the future. If people have been planted in government in violation of our civil service laws to serve their party and their ideology instead of serving the public, the past will bear upon the future. If procedures and institutions of government have been corrupted and are not put right, that past will assuredly bear on the future. In an ongoing enterprise like government, the door cannot be so conveniently closed on the closets of the past. The past always bears on the future.

Moreover, a democracy is not just a static institution, it is a living education – an ongoing education in freedom of a people. As Harry Truman said addressing a joint session of Congress back in 1947, “One of the chief virtues of a democracy is that its defects are always visible, and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected.”

Entirely apart from tentacles of the past that may reach into the future, are the lessons we as a people have to learn from this past carnival of folly, greed, lies, and sabotage, so that it can, under democratic processes, be pointed out and corrected.

If we blind ourselves to this history, if we pull an invisibility cloak over it, we will deny ourselves its lessons. Those lessons came at too painful a cost to ignore. Those lessons merit discovery, disclosure and discussion. Indeed, disclosure and discussion is the difference between a valuable lesson for the bright upward forces of our democracy, and a blueprint for darker forces to return and do it all over again.

A little bright, healthy sunshine and fresh air, so that an educated population knows what was done and how, can show where the tunnels were bored, when the truth was subordinated; what institutions were subverted; how our democracy was compromised; so this grim history is not condemned to repeat itself; so a knowing public in the clarity of day can say, “Never, never, never, again;” so we can keep that light – that light that is at once America’s greatest gift and greatest strength – brightly shining. To do this, I submit, we must look back.

I yield the floor.

Geithner; Economic Expert?



Geithner Apologizes for Not Paying Taxes

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

There  are conventions, customs, and words, thought to be complementary.  Consider; Fat and jolly.  Short and sweet.  Tax-and-spend-liberal.  These words, while often far from tantamount, are in the minds of many, inexorably tied.  

I was fat.  However, I did not feel jolly during those days, months, and years.  I am short.  Sweet?  I am not especially so; nor am I sour.  Balanced might better describe me, which takes me to the next paired, or triad of adjectives.  I like my taxes progressive, my spending minimal, and I am a liberal.  

However, I do not support the oft-titled tax-and-spend-liberal Democratic President’s appointment, Timothy F. Geithner.  Perhaps, some would say, I do not appreciate the need for an economic expert.  This duo of descriptive qualifiers, I believe, can be an oxymoron, just as the others might be.  It seems those farthest “Left” on the political aisle may concur.

Russell Feingold [Wisconsin Democrat], Thomas Harkin [Iowa Democrat,] and Democratic Socialist, Bernard Sanders [Vermont Independent] voted nay when asked to approve Timothy Geithner for Secretary of Treasury.

The case of Timothy F. Geithner and his confirmation may enlighten Americans and alter conventions associated with language.  

The new Treasury Secretary, his history, and who approved his appointment might help Americans understand that conjoined words provide a contrary perspective.

Timothy F. Geithner has a troublesome history of unpaid taxes.  While he apologetically addressed this serious concern in Senate hearings, he could not negate the fact that he, an “economic expert” made more than a slight error.  A man who works with ledgers, looked past his own numbers.  For four years, he left levees unpaid.  Only an Internal Revenue audit, supposedly, helped him to realize his records were wrong.

The most Progressive Senators thought this tale difficult to swallow.  Legislators frequently labeled as the more extreme liberals, Feingold, Harkin, and Sanders pondered economic ethics.  For these few an awareness for dollars due is required if one is to serve as Secretary of the Treasury.  Hence, these Democrats decided the President’s selection for the Cabinet position was not a suitable choice.  

From their vote, it might be assumed, the three thought morals must be considered in the definition of monetary expert.  Perchance the Senators mused; if a fiscal guru is not immediately responsive to his or her own legal responsibilities, liabilities, how could that person be put in charge of the nation’s currency.

As one who is frequently characterized as a tax-and-spend-liberal, I know that moral values, and a code of consciousness concern me, especially when I consider Timothy Geithner as an economic expert..

I am exceedingly conservative, especially with money.  I may not be an expert; nevertheless, I believe legal liabilities must be paid.  Currency cannot be spent frivolously.  Coins, I believe are meant to be saved.  These pieces of eight add up.  

This tax-and-spend-liberal, me, thinks people, no matter their rank or royalties paid to them must be responsible for what they owe society.  The radical rationale I embrace dictates that as a part of the populace I must pay my fair share.

I think it vital that I, as a citizen, contribute to the greater good.  Unlike Timothy F. Geithner, President and Chief Executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since November 2003, and as of moments ago, Secretary of the Treasury., I would never withhold my taxes.  The idea of it troubles me as it does my fellow so-called tax-and-spend-liberals, Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin, and Bernie Sanders.  

An economic expert, I will never be.  Yet, I trust a levee, thoughtfully used, can strengthen the community.  Admittedly, I observe that in America, much money is spent with reckless disregard.  Witness, the credit crisis, and how a financial sage such as Timothy F. Geithner, does not sparingly dole out dollars.

That said, I remain secure in the knowledge that when we, the people, pool our resources, we can ensure that adequate educational facilities exist for all.  Fire and police protection can be provided for everyone.  When we pay the levees, libraries can be constructed, a supply of clean and fresh water flows, and waste is managed.  A cultured and civilized community can thrive.  

Tariffs afford us safety, sanity, and a sanitary environment.  With the help of fellow citizens, the good life that taxes allow for is possible, even for Mister Geithner, who pays his duties selectively.

The monetary expert who played a prominent role in the management of the financial crisis that has engulfed Wall Street, failed to pay federal taxes for Social Security and Medicare from 2001 through 2004.  

The fiscal sage had the funds.  The current Secretary Geithner was a gainfully employed Senior Official at the International Monetary Fund,

In 2006, after the Internal Revenue Service audited the esteemed economic guru, Timothy F. Geithner paid his taxes for 2003.  He presented a partial compensation for 2004.  Secretary Geithner was able to avoid recompense for 2001 and 2002.  The statute of limitations for these liabilities, fortuitously for the fiscal wizard, had expired.  Hence, he was able to retain the gains that might have helped pay for schools, streets, libraries, water and waste management.

Likely, this respected representative of the people spent the money on personal pleasures.  Now, with the authority vested in freeloader Timothy F. Geithner, he will have the ability to spend more of the tax dollars.  Money, the most liberal among us,  do not wish to squander.

The three tax-and-spend-liberal Senators, in practice, honored the adage, a book cannot be defined by it cover.  People must peruse the pages carefully if we are to comprehend the content.  The Democrats who did not approve of the appointment extrapolated and said, before we determine who is an economic expert, we must consider the ethical way in which that individual spends cash.  A Treasury Secretary must, at least, consistently attend to accounts payable.

Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin, Bernie Sanders, and I would say, perchance, it is time to examine conventions, customs, and words, thought to be complementary.  Perhaps, Americans could better define tax-and-spend-liberals and economic experts.  It would seem countless of those whose politics are more progressive pay taxes and do not wish to spend.  Those who think it fine to avoid the fees that contribute to the greater good of society, fritter the funds.  They are not more liberal, just more liable.  

Sources for spending . . .

Speaker Pelosi Proclaims Possible Impeachment



Speaker Nancy Pelosi on prosecuting the Bush administration

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

She said it!  I never thought this day would come.  Change has truly arrived in America, even before the Presidential Inauguration.  Today, on Fox News, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, the only person who could, the woman who for so long would not, stated, she is Open to the Prosecution of Bush Administration Officials.  Oh joy!  Oh, bliss.  Never did I imagine this moment might become a reality.  Even the idea that this could be a possibility eluded me.  Today, on January 18, 2009, finally, I have hope.  I believe in the future, as Michelle Obama expressed, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country, or I will be when I see an actionable censure.

I, as the future First Lady, elucidated, feel “privileged.” to witness a transformation that most never thought probable, let alone a viable potential.  I am elated.  I hold my breath, and await what could be if only she authorizes Congress to act.  

Could it be true?  Indeed, an investigation into high crimes and misdemeanors might commence.  At least that is what an anxious nation heard as Nancy Pelosi spoke these words.  “I think you look at each item and see what is a violation of the law and do we even have a right to ignore it.”  The California Democrat who holds the highest office in respect to this process continued, and mused that there might be “other things that are, maybe, spent better looking to the future rather than to the past.”

The nuance causes much concern.  Conservative Constitutional, and International Affairs Attorney, Bruce Fein, who advocates for a Bush/Cheney impeachment, may not think the sentiment sufficient.  The former Associate Deputy Attorney General under Ronald Reagan, might wonder if the Speaker offered too little.  The decision is very late.  Still, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation scholar, Bruce Fein, might feel as I do. While the statement Speaker Pelosi shared is not all I had hoped for, it is a beginning.  

Perchance the judicious John Nichols, a Journalist, might believe Nancy Pelosi’s newfound wisdom is not as poignant as it could have been.  I know not what the man who prudently penned The Genius of Impeachment thinks of this novel declaration.  However, I trust he too was touched by what he often said he waited for, a window of opportunity.

I, personally, feel blessed for the prospect of an investigation into practices that were injurious to democracy.  More importantly, I yearn for the day when the millions of displaced Iraqis and Afghanis experience a rightness.  For too long, these persons suffered from a wrong that most feared would be a precedent never corrected.  

The innocent thousand times a thousand, troops, civilians, women, and children, who lost their lives needlessly in these same two Middle Eastern countries, I believe, would want no vengeance.  I have faith, the fallen would wish to know, they did not die in vain.  Their demise might elicit a dream.  There will be a day when people realize all that is done in our name matters,  people, of any and every race, color, and creed make a difference.  A life taken without cause could be the lesson that will teach a world.  A realization for what is right, is not a shame.  It is the blessing the dearly departed deserve.

Those willing to right a wrong will not be blamed, if by their actions, no more high crimes and misdemeanors are committed.  

There is much to be considered and remedied. There are authorizations for illegal wiretaps to rescind.  The loss of habeas corpus cannot be denied.  Propaganda that passed for press reports must be addressed.  The blindfold that stands for fairness must be replaced in what has become a politicized Justice Department.  Guantánamo Bay prison and torture “legitimized” cannot stand if humane treatment of prisoners is to matter.  Geneva Convention Rules must be sustained if there is to be a modicum of honor in war.

Much must be addressed if America is ever to be acclaimed.  There is a fierce urgency to now.  Perhaps, at last, Nancy Pelosi feels it.  Fox News reported that the Speaker “hinted that the law might compel Democrats to press forth on some prosecutions, even if they are politically unpopular.”  Wow!  I await.  Until then, I will hold the words of the California Democratic Leader dear, “That’s not up to us to say that doesn’t matter anymore.  I want to see the truth come forth.”

Nancy Pelosi, so too do I.

References for a new reality . . .


Please peruse a history of thoughts on a possible of impeachment.  View videos.  Ponder the precedence set if, as Americans, we do not embark upon the trail of Constitutional Law.  Please, consider what was and will be if prosecution is not pursued.  I thank you.

Video: Wexler Confronts Condi on Iraq War Lies; Calls for Contempt Vote

By Wexler For Congress Campaign.  Contact the Congressman at contact@wexlerforcongress.com

Cross posted with Permission from Congressman Wexler.

Originally posted on Wednesday February 13, 2008 at 05:11:16 PM EST



Wexler Confronts Condi on Iraq War Lies

Today, in hearings on Capitol Hill, I confronted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her role in the lies, exaggerations, and misdirection that led us into the Iraq war.

During my questioning, Secretary Rice falsely stated that she never saw intelligence casting doubt on the Bush Administration claims that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.  This unbelievable statement is flatly contradicted by numerous government reports and CIA testimonials.

Sources such as the 2006 Senate Intelligence Report, a January 2004 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report as well as former CIA agents (including Tyler Drumheller) have disclosed that there was contrary intelligence to the information provided to the Bush Administration in the lead up to the Iraq war.

Please view the video above.

Secretary Rice’s responses demonstrate once and for all that we need aggressive oversight over this out of control Administration.  Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has ignored the constitutional right of Congress to provide such oversight.

It is time Congress took aggressive action to assert our rights on behalf of the American people.

The House of Representatives must immediately hold former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress for their failure to respond to congressional subpoenas.  

I have been aggressively lobbying Members of Congress to support a vote on contempt, and I am thrilled to report that Speaker Pelosi told me directly that she agrees it is well past time to vote on contempt.  I am anticipating that the House will shortly vote on resolutions of both civil and criminal contempt for both Miers and Bolten.

No one should be immune from accountability and the rule of law.

Not Harriet Miers or Josh Bolten.

And especially not Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush or Dick Cheney.

It is time to defend the Constitution and our rights as a co-equal branch of government.  

I will continue to take on the Bush Administration for their outrageous abuses just as I confronted Condoleezza Rice today and Attorney General Mukasey last week.  (Click here to see my questioning of Mukasey.)

With your help, we will hold these top Bush officials in contempt and continue our efforts to hold impeachment hearings for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Thank you, as always, for your great support.

Yours truly,

Congressman Robert Wexler

Free Flow of Information Act or Bloggers Beware


Society of Professional Journalists; Defending the People and the Press

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Bloggers beware; the Bush administration thinks you are a threat.  According to federal officials if the most recent version of the Free Flow of Information Act is approved there is ample cause for concern.  The country will be in danger.  Bloggers might be rebels in disguise.  Indeed, some do not hide behind a cloak of darkness.  They proudly proclaim, they are insurgents.  Nonetheless, the definition of a rebel is in question, as is the characterization of a reporter.  The burning question is, ‘Can a radical also be a reporter?’

We may never know.  The terms of Free Flow of Information Act has been bantered about for years.  This measure is now pending in the House and the Senate.  If passed, as is, bloggers would be granted perilous privileges said Rachel Brand, Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.

“The definition is just so broad that it really includes anyone who wants to post something to the Web.”

Brand spoke at a recent House Judiciary Committee meeting.  The Assistant Attorney General empathetically stated this proposed plan would shelter “a terrorist operative who videotaped a message from a terrorist leader threatening attacks on Americans.” 

In its latest form, the document specifies a “covered person” includes a blogger.  Citizen journalists would be protected from prosecution under the “reporters shield.”  The Internet publishers would be awarded the right to withhold the names of confidential sources. 

While this is the latest deterrent to the passage of a federal shield law, it is not the first.  Federal officials, political pundits, and prominent scholars, have argued against this legislation for a years.  Thus, ratification has long been delayed.  In October 2005, the discussions were rampant and ripe.

Senators: Bloggers may not be true journalists
By Anne Broache,
CNET News.com.
October 19, 2005, 12:00 PM PT

WASHINGTON–Politicians indicated on Wednesday that a proposed law offering journalists special privileges might not be extended to Web loggers.

“The relative anonymity afforded to bloggers, coupled with a lack of accountability, as they are not your typical brick-and-mortar reporters who answer to an editor or publisher, also has the risk of creating a certain irresponsibility when it comes to accurately reporting information,” Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said in a statement prepared for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on reporters’ privilege legislation.

In this article, published almost two years ago it was apparent, the discussion in 2005 was not novel then.

Cornyn on Wednesday [October 19, 2005] called for “serious discussion of what constitutes the term ‘reporter.'” Lack of agreement on that definition has stalled federal efforts at shield law legislation for years, said Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, in a statement.

“With bloggers now participating fully in the 24-hour news cycle,” he said, “we might face similar challenges in defining terms today.”

Today is now yesterday. In June 2007, the dialogue continues.  Currently, each Congressional chamber is considering a Bill that would cover . . .

anyone engaged in journalism, which is defined as “gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.”

This worries Democratic Representative Brad Sherman.  This week he stated his apprehension for what he thinks a broad characterization.  “I’d say anyone who didn’t want to face legal action would immediately try to put up a blog and try to get journalistic protection.”  He then went on to state he is willing to work with colleagues to refine the definition.

Yet, the possibility of resolution is long in coming.  The debate goes on.  We, the American people, might wonder how much longer can we postpone ensuring freedom of the press and freedom of speech.  If we are to preserve a democratic system, these rights must be declared and documented.  A fearful press will do more harm than good.  A representative government, by definition, requires an informed public.  That seems self-evident.  Nonetheless, there is much opposition.

George Washington University Law School professor Randall Eliason, argues against the Bill.  Still, he states, “anything narrower is going to run into severe First Amendment problems.” At least, those that oppose the measure acknowledge that “free speech” is our right, awarded to all citizens equally under the Constitution.  Our forefathers thought the right to speak without fear of incrimination or imprisonment was [and is] vital.

Thankfully, there is support for the current plan. New York Times columnist and former Nixon Administration speechwriter William Safire, extolled the bill’s current definition.  This esteemed writer explained that actions are more important than labels.  A journalist is not defined by his or her attachment to an organization.  Their work distinguishes them as a professional.

“Whether you’re a blogger or whether you’re The New York Times or CBS or The Wall Street Journal, if what you are doing is aimed at informing the public, then you’re a journalist, whether you get paid for it or not,” he said. (The New York Times, the National Association of Broadcasters and other journalism groups have endorsed the latest bill, according to its sponsors.)

At Thursday’s hearing, the bill’s chief sponsors, Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.), never directly addressed the issue of the journalist definition they crafted.  Boucher told CNET News.com in an interview earlier this year that they intended to include bloggers “who are regularly involved in newsgathering and reporting.” Any refinement of that definition would be left up to the courts.

Might the judicial branch have an opportunity to decide what is Constitutional if the legislation never leaves the House or the Senate.  The obstacles appear to be never-ending.  The Administration is firm.

[The] bill’s sponsors continued to tout the necessity of passing their measure as soon as possible. The measure, Pence said, “[it] is not about protecting reporters, it’s about protecting the public’s right to know.”

While the public, according to the First Amendment has certain freedoms, inclusive of the right to know, there is reason to believe, the Justice Department and many members of Congress think these civil liberties threaten the nation.  Perhaps, in fact the peoples’ right to a free press and free speech endanger those in power.  If the people truly knew what went on in the White House, the Department of Justice, in the House, or in the Senate, they might be appalled. Citizens might actually be concerned enough to give up their apathetic inclinations.

That cannot happen if the lawmakers [and breakers] are to be safe.  Thus, politicians procrastinate, deliberate, and debate. Many obviously wish to prevent reporters from having a protective “shield right.”  Bloggers, this may mean you, or it may not, depending on what Congress or the courts decide.  Perchance, the point is moot. 

If Congress continues to delay, bloggers will have no power, no rights, or means for reporting.  The certainty of Net Neutrality and access to information is waning.  In little more than a year the writing tool, the means for distribution may be lost.  Ma Bell may have more power than all these politicians combined.

Hold on to your mouse; grab your keyboards.  Protect yourself from the terrorism.  It is closer to home than you might imagine.

A Discussion of the Free Flow of Information . . .

  • Free Flow of Information Act
  • Bush administration attacks ‘shield’ for bloggers, By Anne Broache. CNET News.com. ZDNet News. June 14, 2007
  • Bills propose reporter’s shield for bloggers, By Anne Broache. CNET News.com. ZDNet News. May 4, 2007
  • US House of Representatives.  Committee on the Judiciary.
  • Senators: Bloggers may not be true journalists By Anne Broache. CNET News.com. ZDNet News. October 19, 2005
  • Network Neutrality; Frequently Asked Questions. Save the Internet.com.
  • Ma Bell; She’s Back. Net Neutrality in Jeopardy. By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.
  • Military Man, Senator Jim Webb Rebuts State of the Union Speech

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert
    Please refer to Senator Webb Speaks From the Heart; State of the Union Rebuttal for the actual speech and transcript.
    The full text of the speech is offered at the end of that missive.
    Video viewing is also possible.

    It is official, Jim Webb, a novice Senator, a Vietnam veteran, a former Republican, and an advocate against the Iraq war is expected to deliver the Democratic rebuttal to the President’s carefully crafted speech, The State of the Union.

    Thus far, the newer members of Congress, and as always, the incumbents under whelm my sensibility.  Jim Webb is no exception.  Senator Webb has a lifelong history of military achievements.  While impressive to some, these cause me to wonder.  Is he truly antiwar, or only against this battle.  Acknowledging that he was once a solid Republican and remained stalwart for a long time, I have reasons to doubt that Jim Webb will speak for me.  Nevertheless, for most of America, he is better than Bush, though who is not.

    We might compare the two and then assess for ourselves.  Unlike George W. Bush whose service and student records are of questionable quality, Senator Webb offers an impressive resume.  There is quite a contrast.  This citizen-soldier was

    First in his class of 243 at the Marine Corps Officer’s Basic School in Quantico, Virginia.  Jim served with the Fifth Marine Regiment in Vietnam, where as a rifle platoon and company commander in the infamous An Hoa Basin west of Danang he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts.  He later served as a platoon commander and as an instructor in tactics and weapons at Marine Corps Officer Candidates School, and then as a member of the Secretary of the Navy’s immediate staff, before leaving the Marine Corps in 1972.

    Democrats are proud to have this honorable man to speak for their cause.

    Many elite Congressional Representatives and Cabinet members would not endorse or allow their children to enter the Armed Forces.  Jim Webb’s and his son stay true to their family tradition.  The junior Webb is  a Marine stationed in Iraq.  The father is proud of his offspring and shows this actively.

    The Webbs are a family of Marines: Jim, his brother, and father all wore the birdie and ball.  Jim’s son, a Marine expecting deployment this summer to Iraq, recently asked why Jim’s primary opponent wears cowboy boots, as “there are no cowboys in Virginia.”  In a show of support and solidarity with his son, James now wears his son’s desert combat boots.  He suggests others standing in solidarity with our courageous military but not supporting the Iraqi invasion do so, too.

    Whereas George W. Bush has not fought on the front lines, politically or personally until he was anointed President of the United States, Senator Webb has an impression record.

    In government, Jim served in the U.S. Congress as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs from l977 to l98l, becoming the first Vietnam veteran to serve as a full committee counsel in the Congress.  In 1982 he first proposed, then led the fight for, including an African American soldier in the memorial statue that now graces the Vietnam Veterans memorial on the National Mall.  In 1984, he was appointed the inaugural Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, where he traveled extensively in, and worked closely with, our NATO allies.  As the Assistant Secretary, he directed considerable research and analysis of the U.S. military’s mobilization capabilities.  In 1987, he became the first Naval Academy graduate in history to serve in the military and later be appointed Secretary of the Navy.  He resigned as Naval Secretary in 1988 after refusing to agree to a reduction of the Navy’s force structure during congressionally-mandated budget cutting.

    Among Jim’s many other awards for community service and professional excellence are the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the American Legion National Commander’s Public Service Award, the VFW’s Media Service Award, the Marine Corps League’s Military Order of the Iron Mike Award, the John Russell Leader-ship Award, and the Robert L. Denig Distinguished Service Award.  He was a Fall 1992 Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

    This is the testimonial evidence that demonstrates, this man might know of what he speaks!  As George W. Bush works to convince the public, that all the killing in Iraq is necessary, even justified, Senator Webb will satisfy the belief that it is not.

    The American people, once paralyzed by the propaganda the Administration fed them have found their power.  They elected Senators and Congresspersons they think will serve their needs and speak to their desires.  Jim Webb has a history of standing up for what he believes in, regardless of what is expected or deemed “appropriate” by the powers that be.  This man does his research and does not rely on fallacious facts.  He is a maverick that is willing to present a meaningful message.  His fellow Senators trust he will.

    Senators know a majority of Americans want out of Iraq; so too does this seasoned veteran and novice Senator, James Webb of Virginia.  You go Jim!  We citizens of the United States are with you.  I may not trust that you can deliver on all that I think vital; nevertheless, if you can help bring our boys and girls home, I will be grateful.

    See the sources; Jim Webb, Senator and rebuttal speaker . . .

  • Webb to Give Democrats’ Rebuttal to State of the Union, By Bob Lewis.  Associated Press. January 16, 2007
  • pdf Webb to Give Democrats’ Rebuttal to State of the Union, By Bob Lewis.  Associated Press. January 16, 2007
  • We were Soldiers Once? The Bush War Record.  Mother Jones.  January/February 2003 Issue
  • Yale grades portray Kerry as a lackluster student, By Michael Kranish.  Boston Globe. June 7, 2005
  • Bush’s Popularity Reaches New Low, 58 Percent in Poll Question His Integrity.  By Richard Morin and Dan Balz.  Washington Post.?Friday, November 4, 2005; Page A01
  • pdf Bush’s Popularity Reaches New Low, 58 Percent in Poll Question His Integrity.  By Richard Morin and Dan Balz.  Washington Post.?Friday, November 4, 2005; Page A01
  • Webb to give response to Bush. Richmond Times-Dispatch January 16, 2007
  • Va. senator to give Democrats’ rebuttal to State of the Union, By Bob Lewis.  Associated Press.  Richmond Times-Dispatch January 16, 2007
  • jameswebb.com
  • Jim Webb Biography. Jim Webb for U.S. Senate.
  • Semper Fi: Jim Webb Walks Tall in Son’s Combat Boots. Democrats.com: The aggressive progressives!
  • The Misunderestimated Man, How Bush Chose Stupidity.  By Jacob Weisberg.  Slate.  May 7, 2004
  • Veterans for Jim Webb.  Google video.