The federal government is enjoined from abridging the freedom of speech or of the press by virtue of the explicit restriction against Congress making any law granting any part of the federal government the power to do so. That restriction is housed in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the highest law of our land. What that means, essentially, is that the government has no authority to halt the reporting of a public event (unless they’re somehow asserting a national security issue and, therefore, are classifying the event) nor can they confiscate a reporter’s materials used to record that event. And yet, according to Mark Segraves at WTOP News in DC, that’s exactly what happened a few nights ago:
What makes this story truly unbelievable – and very scary – is the fact that the mastermind of this attack is a federal employee, Gloria Hairston, an internal communications specialist with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. She was aided by at least two other employees of the V.A. and four armed security guards.
I call the incident an “attack” because it was just that. An attack on the First Amendment, an attack on veterans and an attack on the public’s right to know how their government is treating wounded vets.
Schultz is a reporter with Public Radio station WAMU. Last Tuesday night, he was covering a public event at the V.A. Hospital in Washington, D.C. While interviewing one of the veterans about the poor treatment he was receiving at the hands of the V.A., Ms. Hairston demanded that Schultz stop recording the interview and hand over his recording equipment.
“She said I wouldn’t be allowed to leave,” Schultz tells WTOP.
At first he refused. But after being surrounded by armed police officers who stood between him and the exit, he looked for a compromise.
“I became worried that I was going to get arrested,” Schultz says.
I am amazed that Schultz’s editor advised him to hand over the recorder’s flash memory card. The VA has refused to answer questions about this situation nor have they returned the memory card. (And even if they did, who would believe they had not tampered with it?)
Even more astounding was what happened when one of the many vets who overheard what was going on came out into the hall to try to give Schultz their phone number. The VA official apparently claimed he wasn’t allowed to do that and promised to “get ugly” if they didn’t do as she ordered.
Read Segraves’ whole article for the details. This is one that deserves a full and public investigation to say nothing of an indictment against Hairston if this situation turns out to be even remotely as reported. Schultz’s comment at the end is spot on: With actions like these, what is the VA trying to hide? Why do they fear what interview was going to reveal?
Update: Well, apparently the glare of the spotlights the VA’s actions attracted have managed to clear whatever haze was keeping the VA from thinking clearly. In a letter from the VA, spokeswoman Katie Roberts has said they will return the gear:
In a written statement to The Associated Press, VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the department “regrets this incident occurred” and as a result would hand back the flash drive that it took from WAMU reporter David Schultz at the VA Medical Center in Washington. WAMU is a National Public Radio affiliate in the capital.
“After reviewing all the facts surrounding the incident of April 7th and actions since, VA has arranged the return of the flash drive to WAMU,” Roberts said. “We make every effort to protect the privacy of our patients and to ensure that they are able to make informed decisions about what information they release or discuss with the public while in a VA facility.”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs regrets this incident occurred as we appreciate the interest of the press in covering veterans’ issues,” she added.
I would certainly hope that someone has explained all of that to Ms. Hairston, the woman who clearly didn’t think the VA appreciated the interest of the press at all.
Watching the General Assembly today was certainly instructive. The phrase has been attributed to a number of people but whoever said it was right: Laws, as with sausage, should not be watched in the making.
In my previous post I did a sort-of live blogging of event up to around 6:15 PM or so. Feel free to read that post but I’m going to recap the pertinent stuff here. As you know if you’ve read this blog I was an advocate for several bills passing through the Assembly and, when Governor Kaine vetoed them, I was also an advocate for the override of those vetoes. Well, here’s how it shook out today:
|House (Y/N)||Senate (Y/N)||House (Y/N)||Senate (Y/N)|
|HB1851||Military > 1 gun/mo.||73/26||26/14||Yes||No|
|SB877||Retired LEO CCW in restaurant||76/22||30/10||Yes||Yes|
|SB1035||CCW in restaurant||n/a||24/16||n/a||No|
|SB1528||CCW safety course online||73/23||28/12||Yes||Yes|
You’ll note that the Senate actually had a majority vote to override the veto in each case. The ones that failed did so because they needed 2/3rds of the Senate to vote for the override, which means they needed 27 Yes votes to get the job done. Cynic that I am, I am convinced the Democratic majority in the Senate contrived to allow a number of their own to vote yes to the override so they could go home and say they voted “yes” but there just wasn’t enough votes to complete the override. Be as that may, this is what it is. Of the 5 bills I was hoping to see an override on, 2 of them managed to get through. Of the others, the House voted to override but the Senate did not.
The big bill, so far as I was concerned, was SB1035 which sought to remove the inconsistency of being a trustworthy enough citizen to carry a concealed weapon in the street and the sidewalk outside a restaurant but not enough so as to carry it past the threshold of that restaurant. Irrational fears and hyped-up hypotheticals is all that the opponents of this bill have had for over 2 years, now. This law has been passed twice by the Commonwealth’s elected representatives by quite large margins only to be dismissed by a handful of people. Truly incredible.
The good news is that this will be the last time Kaine gets to use Virginia’s legislative process to pad his national resume. He’s out in November, period. Those of us who have tried to work with him and his party must now put our efforts into electing Bob McDonnell to the governorship and as many Delegates and Senators as we can who offer the trust and respect to Virginia’s citizens that we’ve clearly been asking for.
In case any of my nearby neighbors were wondering, Delegate Dave Poisson (House 32nd District) and Senator Mark Herring (Senate 33rd District) voted like this:
Note that Poisson didn’t vote on SB1035 because the Senate failed to override making the House vote moot. I would like to point out to my fellow Loudouners that the votes of these 2 gentlemen make it clear they trust a retired cop slamming down brews at the local pub with a concealed weapon far more than they trust you stone-cold sober. Keep that in mind.
I’d also like to hear them explain themselves regarding HB1851 where they think our military personnel and Guardsmen aren’t worth the consideration of being able to buy more than 1 handgun a month. With the deployments going on a soldier with orders to ship out might very well get caught having to decide between buying a sidearm for his own use overseas or getting one for his wife to keep at home to defend themselves here. I don’t understand how they can claim to trust and honor our military personnel – and depend on them to fulfill their missions, I might add – and not allow them this latitude. I hope members of our military and Guard will keep that in mind, as well.
Time to turn our eyes toward the future, my friends, and work to show Virginians everywhere that we’ve got the ideas and solutions to a better way and the people who know how to get them implemented.
Remember the sounds of trumpets here in the last couple of weeks over Obama’s announcement of a drawdown of troops in Iraq? If you were at all connected to the news you’d have to be. You couldn’t miss it. With great fanfare, Obama announced that troops were going to be deployed, instead, to Afghanistan. Greyhawk over at Mudville Gazette brings some disturbing information to light. Obama’s been lying to you about that drawdown and he’s been using the lives of some of our military units as pawns in doing so:
Let’s recap the salient points here:
1. In September, 2008, the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) – after months of preparation – is ordered to Iraq. (One of two SBCTs that were then scheduled to replace the two currently in Iraq)
2. In February, 2009, President Obama announces his Iraq drawdown/Afghanistan surge – the 5th SBCT will be diverted to Afghanistan instead of Iraq.
3. March, 2009, the DoD announces the 4th SBCT will deploy to Iraq this fall, several months ahead of the original schedule replacing the 5th SBCT in the rotation in order to maintain two Stryker Brigades in Iraq.
For the record, I’m in favor of commanders on the ground getting the forces they need to get the job done. I have no doubt that two Stryker Brigades are needed in Iraq, and others in Afghanistan.
I’m deeply concerned when I see troop rotations “adjusted” in what appears to be an effort to fool the American public.
That’s an understatement, Mr. Greyhawk. Read the linked post over there. It has the details and links to the original sources. Greyhawk is military himself and has insights and connections in the military that I lack, so definitely listen to him. As Greyhawk says at the close of this post, of equal or greater concern is the lack of coverage and “connect the dots” by our media over this. Had this happened a year ago, it’d have been a helluva story. It would been one you couldn’t have escaped if you’d tried. Why not now? Hmmm.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her staff have apparently gotten used to the notion that the US Air Force exists to fly them around at their whim:
Representatives for Judicial Watch, which obtained e-mails and other documents from a Freedom of Information request, said the correspondence shows Pelosi has abused the system in place to accommodate congressional leaders and treated the Air Force as her “personal airline.”
The e-mails showed repeated attempts by Pelosi aides to request aircraft, sometimes aggressively, and by Department of Defense officials to accommodate them.
“I think that’s above and beyond what other members of Congress are doing and what is expected of our elected officials,” said Jenny Small, a researcher with the group
Pelosi & Co. are reported to be getting their knickers in a twist when specific aircraft types – notably the Gulfstream V, a very high-end VIP jet – aren’t available at their beck and call. Between making last-minute requests and then last-minute cancellations Pelosi and her staff are costing us quite a bit. That’s to say nothing of them appropriating US military aircraft that were, we presume, acquired to perform actual military missions.
And all this “private” jet travel has got to be generating a helluva carbon footprint, don’t you think? I would think that Pelosi would want to keep that to a very rare event if she was convinced that global warming was a problem.
I guess she’s not convinced.
Madam Speaker, get a commercial plane ticket and go through what the rest of us must do in order to fly. Leave the military aircraft for military missions.
So, how about them MoveOn.org creds, now? The Obama Administration has made a decision on the Constitutional rights and court access of those unlawful combatants being held at Bagram AB in Afghanistan:
Detainees being held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot use US courts to challenge their detention, the US says.
The justice department ruled that some 600 so-called enemy combatants at Bagram have no constitutional rights.
Most have been arrested in Afghanistan on suspicion of waging a terrorist war against the US.
The exact quote from the Barack Obama-era Department of Justice? “Having considered the matter, the government adheres to its previously articulated position.” The DoJ and the DoD consider Bagram detainees “unlawful combatants” without any rights to access the US court system and with no recourse for release.
Just as it did in the George Bush administration. Remember how the Left considered Bush a war criminal for taking this exact position? I’d like to see how they square the circle with Obama now. A few like Glenn Greenwald will rip Obama on principle, but the rest will suddenly discover the reasonableness of detaining terrorists and treating them not like burglars but like enemy combatants who have themselves violated Geneva Conventions through their terrorism.
Just as we did in the George Bush administration.
The Left screamed bloody murder over this and are still trying to get someone, somewhere to put George Bush on trial. Now that The One has, basically, said Bush was right you’d think they’d scream at Obama the same way. You’d be wrong, of course, which begs the question of whether or not the Left’s real issue was the policy or the person whose administration articulated it.
Via Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, CQ Politics is reporting that the budget submitted by the Obama administration shows a $527B limit (excluding war costs) for the DoD in 2010. That’s above the current $513B budget. In fact, that represents an increase of $14B, not a decrease of 10%. It’s not a decrease at all, regardless of what Fox News reported just this past weekend:
The Obama administration has given the Pentagon a $527 billion limit, excluding war costs, for its fiscal 2010 Defense budget, an Office of Management and Budget official said Monday.
If enacted, that would be about $14 billion more than the $513 billion allocated for fiscal 2009 (PL 110-329), including military construction funds, and it would match what the Bush administration estimated last year for the Pentagon in fiscal 2010.
But behind the scenes, Pentagon officials have already begun trying to cast the new administration’s fiscal 2010 Defense number as a cut. A Jan. 30 Fox News report quoted a senior Defense official as saying the Obama administration demanded a $55 billion cut in Defense spending. President Obama met with the Joint Chiefs that day.
“To call that a cut would be wrong, because what the chiefs had done was a huge increase,” said Gordon Adams, who led the national security division of OMB during the Clinton administration.
Mr. Adams is absolutely correct and Fox News should be issuing both a correction and an apology for misrepresenting this. The Left pulled this kind of “Bush is cutting funding!” for things like the Veterans’ Administration, education, and all manner of things when what was really happening was that he wasn’t increasing funding as fast as they wanted. It wasn’t a cut then and it’s sure not one now. This isn’t rocket science, folks. If the budget shows more money next year than this year, then it’s an increase. If it’s less, it’s a cut. Obama’s administration is not asking for cuts in the Defense budget.
Now, he may be asking for cuts in certain programs. I have no doubts he’ll find all manner of reasons to impose cuts and outright cancellations of weapons programs, but to say he’s cutting the DoD budget is just plain old wrong.
I knew it wouldn’t take long for Obama to go to the liberal Democrats’ favorite whipping boy and start taking the long knife to the Defense Department’s budget. When he made the statement that he would cut government programs that he thought “weren’t working” it was pretty clear he was looking at the Pentagon.
The Obama administration has asked the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to cut the Pentagon’s budget request for the fiscal year 2010 by more than 10 percent — about $55 billion — a senior U.S. defense official tells FOX News.
Last year’s defense budget was $512 billion. Service chiefs and planners will be spending the weekend “burning the midnight oil” looking at ways to cut the budget — looking especially at weapons programs, the defense official said.
Yes, cut those weapons programs. I mean, after all, the enemy’s not looking for new and improved ways to kill Americans, right? Russia’s not rattling their sabers and China’s not putting any money into upgrading their military capacity, right? And it’s not like America is actually being targeted by people who want to kill as many of our fellow citizens as possible or anything.
Yes, they are.
I’m not saying there isn’t waste in the DoD budget and spending and perhaps there’s even that 10% that they could actually do without. But is there any doubt that there’s an equal amount of waste in other departments? I work down there in DC, I know there is and some of those departments and programs are up to a lot more than 10% of their budgets in crap they don’t need to be spending money on. If Obama were sending out the word to all government departments and programs saying that they all needed to find 10% in their budgets to cut I’d feel differently about this. He isn’t. He’s got the traditional Democrat sneer at the military and he wants to cut their funding even if it means cutting their capability. We’ve been down this road before and it’s never ended well. This time won’t, either.
Update: Hang on there a second. A second report is showing that the submitted 2010 budget has an increase in DoD spending, not a decrease.
Rep. Rangel (D-NY & Corruption) is apparently set to once again be the guy advancing a bill to reinstate the draft. Rangel’s the guy who brought this up after the 2006 mid-term elections and who apparently didn’t think enough of his own bill to actually vote for it when the motion was forced to the floor.
Reintroducing the military draft bill, which would attract media attention, will be trickier for Rangel in 2009 than it was a couple years ago because the Ways and Means Committee chairman is now under investigation by the House ethics committee.
Democratic leaders have given Rangel a leading role in helping craft the new economic stimulus bill despite an array of ethics allegations that have surfaced over the last several months. The charges have ranged from failing to report rental income on a villa in the Dominican Republic to an alleged quid pro quo involving a legislative favor for a donor to an education center bearing Rangel’s name.
Always eager to be at the heart of the action, Rangel clearly is relishing discussing the high-profile stimulus package. During the first days of the 111th Congress — and for the first time in months — reporters have been swarming around Rangel to discuss policy matters rather than ethics.
Yes, and that’s all this re-submission of the bill for the draft is as well: a distraction. It’s a smoke-screen that has the added feature of allowing Rangel a political statement. No one involved in the military wants the draft. It’s a bad idea, militarily, to force people to serve but I can certainly understand why Rangel has no issue with that concept. I predict this attempt will also go down in flames, assuming Pelosi can’t manage to keep the bill tabled somewhere out of sight this time.
Hmmmm. Of course, the troops may be far more aware than Obama’s flock of the fact that Obama’s not their commander until 20 January.
Over at the Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry:
The liberal political establishment is always expressing its concern over the possible “disenfranchisement” of voters (claims that almost always turn out to be completely exaggerated), but their concerns seem to disappear when the disenfranchised are military voters. How else can one explain the almost total lack of interest expressed over the pending disenfranchisement of possibly thousands of overseas voters in Virginia, mostly military personnel?
Not good, fellow Virginians, not good at all.