Reporters Hit a White House Stone Wall

Obama’s promise to lead an open and transparent administration has become an “albatross” according to a Dec 24, 2013 Politico.com analysis by Josh Gerstein. As Obama’s fifth year in office wraps up, much of the Washington and nation’s press corps is very unhappy.

With the exception of those who depend on Fox, ABC radio, the Wall Street Journal, and other conservative outlets, too many of the consumers of news are blissfully unaware of the liberal, rubber stamp product they are receiving. It is the complete betrayal of those whom the press is supposed to serve.

They did not report the truth about Obamacare. They have not reported the truth about Obama’s failed foreign affairs policies, including the attack on Benghazi. They have largely ignored other scandals. Obama’s new economic “inequality” lies are right out of the Communist Manifesto. The result, however, was his reelection in 2012 and millions of cancelled health plans.

All administrations have sought to control the information—the message—that reaches the public, but the Obama administration has gone to greater lengths than previous ones. In particular, its public affairs offices (PAOs) have become obstacles to press access.

Writing in the Dec 17th edition of Editor & Publisher, the newspaper trade magazine, Jim Dickinson said, “Over two hours at the National Press Club a few months ago, the truth finally hit me. Journalism has done it to itself, the ‘it’ being the surrender of our First Amendment-protected responsibility to tell the people what their government is really, actually doing—as opposed to what the government tells us it wants the people to know.”

The panel to which Dickerson was referring was entitled “Government Public Affairs Offices: More Hindrance Than Help?” He wrote that “Public affairs offices increasingly require that reporters conduct all interviews through the press office. U.S. Departments and agencies often mandate that their employees only talk to reporters through official channels and with communications staff present.”

Not only do government employees know that this means their job can be on the line, but as I noted in October, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act signed into law in November 2012 in reality puts whistleblowers at risk of going to jail.

Reporters find that the leaks from whistleblowers and routine information from government employees are drying up. Ironically, the actions of former NSA employee Edward Snowden and U.S. Army corporal Bradley Manning exposed more information than the administration wanted anyone to know. Manning went to jail and Snowden has found asylum in Russia. Both said they acted in the public interest; a public being told that the NSA’s acquisition of data on every phone call is being done to protect them.

The problem is manifest in efforts under the Freedom of Information Act to secure feedback from government agencies. Politico’s Gerstein pointed out the availability of government records under FOIA often results in requests routinely lingering for years “and often end up producing a ream of blacked-out text.” News is expected to be timely and delaying access to public records negates that.

What has been and is reported these days are the lies for which the Obama administration has become famous.

The administration has called the scandals of the first term “phony” and a recent Sixty Minutes interview with Susan Rice, now the national security advisor to Obama, dismissed the Benghazi cover-up as “false.” It was Rice who went on five Sunday news shows to spread the lies about the attack—on the anniversary of 9/11—having been caused by a video no one had ever seen. That earned her a promotion!

The daily White House press briefing has become increasingly heated and, when the President gave a press conference before leaving on a Christmas vacation, he was asked if 2013 had been the worst year to date for him. He obliquely acknowledged what everyone knows, but denied he pays any attention to polls, something every President of the modern era has always done.

The mainstream press has learned that, in return for having published the White House “party line” throughout its first term, that it would tap their phones and accuse a Fox News reporter of being an “accomplice” for releasing information it wanted to keep secret.

Its use of public information offices to thwart or control what news is released, its increased use of “official” White House photos, its widespread failure to respond to Freedom of Information requests, and its use of social media and organizations allied with the White House to advertise and spread its message all add up to a highly manipulative effort to influence the public.

The good news is that the Internet has become a major source of news and analysis available to everyone. As traditional print newspapers suffer decline due to the loss of advertising revenue and the younger generation’s preference for electronic access to the news, the scope of news has expanded to sources beyond government control.

A secretive and deceptive Obama administration is suffering from an abundance and availability of the TRUTH. Too bad that too many journalists have not been active contributors.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Exposed: Florida’s “shadow government” – unelected boards and committees

When Floridians go to the voting booth they elect representatives who are expected to make decisions on their behalf.

However, over time the decision making in Florida has been relegated to unelected boards and committees. These boards have grown in number, in membership and are becoming more costly to maintain. Boards and committees have become more powerful, touching every aspect of life in the state. Some have found that board findings/recommendations are rubber stamped by elected officials.

Jackie Schutz, from the office of Governor Rick Scott, told WDW – FL that he and his predecessors, appoint approximately 3,000 members to 750 boards or committees. The exact number of boards/committees and actual count of members is not known by the Governor’s office. The cost to operate these boards is also unknown, as they are funded by various government agencies and bureaus.

Schultz states, “Most appointing authorities are given in each individual statute, such as 471.007 for Board of Professional Engineers.” WDW – FL tried repeatedly to get an accounting of the exact numbers and costs. The information if provided will be included as an update to this column.

A list of some of the boards and committees may be found here. Some of these boards include: Board of Athlete AgentsBarbers’ Board, Board of Cosmetology, Board of Employee Leasing CompaniesPublic Employees Relations Commission and the Talent Agencies Licensing Board.

Tad Mackie, from Sarasota, FL worries that, “Many of these state level boards are really NGOs and represent special interest groups who are essentially lobbyists appointed by our governor and legislature.”

These boards and committees exist at every level of government. Cities, counties and school boards all have committees and in some cases sub-committees and boards.

Seminole County, FL lists 15 advisory boards. Pinellas County lists 13 advisory boards with 102 members. Lake County has 19 advisory boards. St. Johns County has 20 advisory boards. Using  an average of 15 county level advisory boards for Florida’s 67 counties the total number of boards/committees is approximately 1005. Using an average of 5 members per board that equates to approximately 5,025 board members.

The city of Sarasota, FL lists 22 boards including: The Employee Retirement Account Committee (5 members), Nuisance Abatement Board (7 members), Public Art Committee (6 members) and the powerful Planning Board (5 members). Each board requires staff support, creates rules and requires citizens to appear before them before appearing at a City Commission meeting. In some cases a committee will expend allocated funds and report directly to the City Commission.

The Sarasota City Administrator is required to do an annual report on the purpose, membership  and cost of each board. The 2012 annual report on boards and committees shows the city in FY 2011/2012 spent approximately $1.1 million supporting its 22 boards/committees (includes salaries, legal fees and operating costs).

Florida has 283 cities, 108 towns and 19 villages. If we use an average cost of $800,000 per municipality the total cost to taxpayers is approximately $32.8 million. Using an average of 15 boards/committees at the municipality level we have about 6,105 boards/committees.

If you add it up the number of boards/committees at the city, county and state levels it amounts to 7,860. Using five members on each board that is about 39,300 appointees. This figure does not include the number of staff needed to support them.

Some fear that these unelected boards and committee have become a “shadow government” in Florida.

NOTE: WDW – FL did not look at Florida’s 67 public school districts, 5 water management districts or other special taxing authorities like those in Pinellas County for the purpose of this column.

Benefit Corporations: The new government-industrial complex

President Eisenhower warned America about a growing military-industrial complex stating, “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Whenever and wherever government and industry partner Americans face “the acquisition of unwarranted influence”.

Most recently we saw how appointed officials working in partnership with a corporation can directly impact every Floridian. Robert Trigaux, Tampa Bay Times Business Columnist, in “At the PSC, a confederacy of yes men — and women” wrote:

The first thing we do is pass a truth-in-government law that changes the name of the Florida Public Service Commission [PSC] to the Florida Utility Suckup Club.

The PSC hearing held in Tallahassee this past week was beyond embarrassing. It was billed as a review and vote on a proposed settlement with Duke Energy Florida to finalize who gets stuck paying for the $5 billion wasted by the company on the broken Crystal River and the proposed-then-canceled Levy County nuclear power plants.

The vote: 4 to 1 in favor of the settlement agreement. Duke Energy’s Florida customers — victims would be a better word — will pay a whopping 64 percent, or $3.2 billion. Duke shareholders will pay just 20 percent, or $1 billion. The rest will be covered by an insurance policy.

This is a terrible precedent.

Trigaux and Floridians should be prepared for ever more “terrible” precedents.

Since Eisenhower’s speech in 1961 Florida has seen a government industrial complex with growing influence — economic, political, even spiritual — felt in every city, county and in Tallahassee. This greatest threat to one-man-one-vote and local control of government goes by many names: globalization, regionalism, sustainability and a new form of corporation called simply “B” Corp or “Benefit Corporation”.

According to the BenefitCorp.net website, “Certified B Corporations are leading a global movement to redefine success in business…Business, the most powerful man-made force on the planet, must create value for society, not just shareholders…Over 600 businesses have already joined our community, encouraging all companies to compete not just to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world. As a result of our collective success, individuals and communities will enjoy greater economic opportunity, society will address its most challenging environmental problems, and more people will find fulfillment by bringing their whole selves to work.”

Esquire magazine is quoted on the B Corp website, “B Corps might turn out to be like civil rights for blacks or voting rights for women – eccentric, unpopular ideas that took hold and changed the world.” B Corps want to fundamentally change American business.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have passed Benefit Corporation legislation. There is a move to pass Benefit Corporation legislation in Florida. The model Benefit Corporation legislations states, “This chapter authorizes the organization of a form of business corporation that offers entrepreneurs and investors the option to build, and invest in, businesses that operate with a corporate purpose broader than maximizing shareholder value and a responsibility to consider the impact of its decisions on all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Enforcement of those duties comes not from governmental oversight, but rather from new provisions on transparency and accountability included in this chapter.”

This fundamental change has been embraced by the Florida Chamber of Commerce in the form or regionalization. In July 2012, Dale A. Brill, Ph.D., wrote on the Florida Chamber website, “Let’s get the bad news out of the way: Too many participants in the private and public economic development arena are missing the considerable opportunity represented by regionalism when they insist on going it alone—even when there is insufficient economic density to make a real difference despite the best of intentions.”

Brill notes, “Let’s start with three straight-forward explanations of regionalism that you already know to be true but may not recognize as one in the same: ‘There is strength in numbers.’ ‘The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.’ ‘I get by with a little help from my friends.’ … Regionalism’s genesis can be traced to the increasing role played by coordinated investments as catalysts for economic development.”

Brill uses Harvard professor Michael Porter’s definition of economic regions, “Economic regionalism exists where geographically contiguous regions coordinate economic development activities tied to a comprehensive economic development strategy.  Economic regionalism focuses on the collaboration of organizations, governments, and businesses across multiple jurisdictions. These stakeholders work to manage the economic opportunities and constraints created by the geographic and social characteristics of a region.”

Regionalism, sustainability and “B” Corps are part of the idea of globalization. Everything feeds into a system that move power – economic, political, even spiritual – away from the city and county into regions that can have grave consequences that Florida is just experiencing with Duke Power – Florida.

Milton Friedman wrote, “Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.” What we are seeing is the government and businesses working in concert to protect each other at the expense of consumers. The Duke Power – Florida is a case in point.

As Trigaux wrote, “There are a few voices expressing opposition. But they are faint and few…I fear for Florida.”

EDITORS NOTE:

Florida League of Cities in addition to individual municipalities, leagues and organizations of local community authorities have also endorsed the Earth Charter. ICLEI – The Local Governments for Sustainability endorsed the Earth Charter – Sustainable Development in the year 2000. The Florida League of Cities, which is a voluntary municipal league comprised of 404 of Florida’s 408 municipalities and six charter counties, endorsed the Earth Charter in 2001. In the same year, the Earth Charter was also endorsed by the US Conference of Mayors, the official nonpartisan organization of the nation’s 1,183 cities with populations over 30,000.

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) serves as the national voice for regionalism. NARC advocates for and provides services to its member councils of government and metropolitan planning organizations.

RELATED: 

What is a corporation?

Benefit Corporations: The Demise of Free Enterprise

VIDEO: Florida Chamber of Commerce – The Importance of Regionalism to Florida’s Future

Regionalism and Fair Housing Enforcement

Walter Tejada Elected to National Association of Regional Councils to promote Regionalism

Community Progress Blog – The BUILD Act of 2013: How EPA brownfield funds can create more sustainable communities by Kate O’Brien, Groundwork USA

Exclusive Interview with Candidate Richard DeNapoli (FL-Dist. 74)

WDW sat down with Richard DeNapoli, candidate for FL-District 74. As the 2014 election cycle heats up it is important for voters to know the candidates. WDW will continue to interview candidates and elected officials to educate voters.

DeNapoli served as a prosecutor in Orange County, Florida for a short time after law school, prosecuting third degree felonies, before returning to South Florida to care for his grandmother when his grandfather passed away in June 2003.

In addition to being a Licensed Attorney, Realtor, Mortgage Broker and Notary, DeNapoli is also a Certified Financial Planner. He worked as a Trust and Investment Officer for five years at Northern Trust on a team with $1.8 Billion assets under management providing services to high net worth individuals. Prior to joining Northern Trust, DeNapoli had a successful law practice.

What sets DeNapoli apart is his work in Broward County, FL to insure voters rights are protected.

In November 2011 DeNapoli sent an open letter to Dr. Brenda C. Snipes, the Supervisor of Elections in Broward County, about early voting locations. DeNapoli, the then Chair of the Broward Republican Executive Committee (BREC), found that all of the Broward County early voting locations were in heavily Democratic areas. DeNapoli in his letter noted, “Research in numerous scholarly journals has shown that the greater the distance from a voting site, the greater exists the likelihood of non voting. The incidence of early voting is highly sensitive to the location of the early voting location.” Due to his efforts one of seventeen early voting locations was placed in a heavily Republican location.

But DeNapoli was not finished.

In May 2012 DeNapoli and BREC officials, “[C]onducted a search of the Social Security Death Index (“SSDI”) for Broward County for the 2011 calendar year as obtained through www.GeneaologyBank.com.  The search was conducted from May 13-19, 2012.  The results revealed that 9,960 Broward County residents had passed away during the 2011 calendar year.  BREC officials then checked 2,100 of these names without regard to party registration against the Broward SOE’s website: 481 deceased individuals cross referenced by name, birth date, city or zip code were still listed as “active” voters according to the Broward SOE. This is 23 percent of the deceased persons examined.” The featured photo above is of DeNapoli holding the stack of dead voter registrations in Broward. Photo courtesy of the BREC.

It is always interesting and notable to see any political party or politician scrub the voter roles of dead people – Republicans and Democrats alike.

Danita Kilcullen, TEA Party Fort Lauderdale, sent this comment to WDW – FL, “Richard DeNapoli was a fantastic Chairman of the Broward Republican Executive Committee.  He brought tens and tens of new memberships and put his own money where his mouth is. Especially memorable was the evening when CAIR’s South Florida Leader, Nasar Hamze, after months of heckling and creating chaos at Allen West’s Town Hall meetings, decided he would join BREC.  What Richard did to prevent this was maverick and read much like a Perry Mason courtroom drama.  When he tells you he’ll fight for you, that is exactly what he does.”

To learn more about Richard DeNapoli click here.

EDITORS NOTE: WDW will be keeping an eye on those running for public office in Florida. Stay tuned.

Anti-semitism in America: 2004-2011

As the Million Muslim March is scheduled for 9/11/2013, the Center for Security Policy has released a comprehensive study titled, “Anti-Semitism and Other Bias Crimes in America: 2004-2011 Comparisons.” The premise of the march is that Muslims are being discriminated against. That is addressed in this study, with the FBI data on hate crimes painting a much different picture.

The Center created an online database, with over 17,365 reports for localities showing hate crimes from 2004-2011, as well as 44 reports for US nationwide reports and 5 comprehensive nationwide reports for each broad category of victim groups (bias groups), also from 2004-2011. Read the full report here.

The CSP website states, “In its March 2011 Occasional Paper entitled, “Religious Bias Crimes 2000-2009: Muslim, Jewish and Christian Victims – Debunking the Myth of a Growing Trend in Muslim Victimization,” the Center for Security Policy (CSP) used official annual data published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to debunk the common fallacy spread by “Islamophobia” proponents that Muslims have been the target of an increasing wave of “hate crimes” in the years following the attacks of 11 September 2001. In fact, as the FBI data show, the number of religious bias crimes (or “hate crimes”) against Muslims post-9/11 is actually significantly lower than such crimes against Jews.”

From 2000 through 2009, the Center found that, according to the FBI statistics, Jewish victims of hate crimes outnumbered Muslim victims by about six to one.

Subsequent FBI statistics for 2010 and 2011 show a ratio of Jewish to Muslim victims of about five to one. The study’s presentation of hard data on such “religious bias crimes” (only reinforced by the additional data from the two more recent years) exposed the political agenda of certain highly vocal Muslim lobbying groups, many linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and leftwing activists, which persist in promoting the false narrative of America’s alleged “Islamophobia.” In fact, there is no “rising trend” in hate crimes against Muslim Americans and allegations to the contrary are demonstrably counterfactual as well as “corrosive to community relationships at every level of American society, and a potential threat to national security,” as Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney pointed out. 

With that 2011 study as a baseline, the Center for Security Policy expanded the earlier analysis for a second phase of analysis.

Methodology

This second phase of the study has two components:

First, the Center created an online database, with over 17,365 reports for localities showing hate crimes from 2004-2011, as well as 44 reports for US nationwide reports and 5 comprehensive nationwide reports for each broad category of victim groups (bias groups), also from 2004-2011.  The Center has put this database into the public domain in order to provide longitudinal data showing trends to all groups representing historical or potential victim categories, as well as to all localities from the federal to state to city or even university reporting agency level.  Only when the public can see the actual data – and trends – in hate crimes for a significant period of time, in this case from 2004-2011, can they assess the seriousness of the problem and the context to develop policies, if needed, to address it.   The categories of reports in the online database include:

  • 44 Comprehensive Reports: US nationwide data from 2004 – 2011 for incidents, offenses, victims, and known offenders;
  • 5 Comprehensive Reports: US nationwide data for individual bias victim groups, across all types of offenses, from 2004-2011;
  • 17,365 Summary Reports: Locality information for all states, cities, universities, county law enforcement agencies, tribal law enforcement agencies and other entities such as railroads that report hate crimes using the Uniform Crime Reporting protocol to the FBI, from 2004-2011, compared in each local report two other tables: the state’s total for bias categories and agency types.  These localities’ data are provided by the FBI at a summary level (religion, race), not at the detailed level of bias crimes against specific religions (anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic) or specific races (anti-Black, anti-White).

The second component of this analysis is provided in this report, with a selection of graphs showing the findings presented in the online database.  All comparisons were based on the data provided by the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data for hate crimes from 2004-2011.

Read more.

Warning: That Jacksonville or Tampa city employee you deal with may be a criminal

In 2008, the Jacksonville City Council adopted an ordinance reforming both its hiring procedures and its contractor bidding policies. In July 2009, the City’s Human Resources Department released the revised standard. In 2010 Jacksonville revised its screening summary for city employees and contractors.

The directive states that department heads will “not inquire about or consider criminal background check information in making a hiring decision.” Instead, “criminal information disclosure is required as part of the post-offer new hire process.”

The application instructions even encourage people with a criminal record to apply for city jobs.

The criminal background check screening is centralized in the City of Jacksonville Human Resources Department. Moreover, the screening process requires taking into account the specific duties of the job, the age of the offense, and rehabilitation. Denied applicants may appeal to Human Resources. Contractors are required to tally job opportunities for people with criminal records and report back to the City.

On January 14, 2013 Bob Buckhorn, the Mayor of Tampa, signed the ban the box ordinance approved by the City Council which covers city employees. Advocates in Tampa continue to work on expanding the ordinance to include city contractors. The Tampa Ordinance 2013-3 may be viewed by clicking here. The Tampa ban the box program is administered by Sharon Streater HOPE lead organizer, from the Direct Action & Research Training Center.

This effort is part of the Ban the Box project and National Employment Law Project. The ordinance only applies to the City Jacksonville employees. As of April 2013 there are fifty cities in twenty-one states that have implemented some form of Ban the Box ordinances. California, Illinois, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut and Massachusetts have statewide Ban the Box legislation.

For a larger view click on the map.

According to its website, “Ban the Box is a nationwide effort to remove criminal history inquiry; i.e. ‘the box’ from employer job applications. All employers have the right to know an applicant’s conviction history but the inquiry should be deferred until later in the interview process and not utilized as an automatic bar to employment at the application stage.” [Emphasis mine]

WDW – FL contacted both the City of Tampa and Jacksonville to determine how many people with criminal records have been hired as city employees and in the case of Jacksonville by contractors. According to Sharon Streater who administers the program for Tampa she has no data as the program is new. However, Streater did state that the disclaimer in the city announcements for job openings saying those with criminal records need not apply has been deleted.

The City of Jacksonville Civil Service and Personnel Rules and Regulations (revised in 2010) states:

The following are examples of extraordinary situations in which an employee may be immediately suspended without pay:

1. Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs on the job.
2. Use of alcohol or illegal drugs on the job or during the employee’s work day, to include breaks and lunch period.
3. Commission of an act which constitutes a felony offense or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude under the criminal laws of the State of Florida or Federal Government. [Emphasis added]

The question: Are those Jacksonville public employees and contractors with criminal records given access to sensitive citizen information?

As Milton Friedman wrote, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

Tipping the public sector job market to favor convicted criminals is problematic at the least and dangerous at the worst.

But, voters, like in the case of Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, re-elect criminals from time to time but that is another story. BTW Washington, D.C. passed a ban the box ordinance in 2010.

EDITORS NOTE: WDW – FL contacted the City of Jacksonville and is awaiting a reply on how many city employees and contract employees have been hired since 2008 who have a criminal background. When that information is made available this column will be updated.

Florida leads the way in the use of cost-benefit analysis to support policymaking

Pew Charitable Trusts in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation issued the States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis: Improving Taxpayers Results (Results First) study in July.

The Results First study overview states, “In this age of fiscal stress for state governments, it is more important than ever that policy leaders direct public resources to the most cost-effective programs and policies while curbing spending on those programs that have proved ineffective. But to do this well, policy makers need reliable approaches that can help them assess budget choices and identify the best investments for taxpayers.”

Given the dire fiscal situation in Detroit and looming Congressional battles over the budget, a continuing resolution to fund the federal government and raising the debt ceiling votes, Results First study is a document all elected officials should read and reflect upon.

Results First’s research answers three critical questions: Are states conducting cost-benefit analyses? Do they use the results when making policy and budget decisions? And what challenges do states face in conducting and using these studies?

The analysis includes a systematic search and assessment of state cost benefit studies released between January 2008 and December 2011.

The top states [in alphabetical order]—Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin—each generally released more studies than mixed or trailing states, systematically assessed the costs and benefits of multiple program alternatives, and used results to inform policy or budget decisions. Two of these states, New York and Washington, were leaders on all three criteria.

Results First found:

  • Ten states led the way nationally in the production, scope, and use of cost-benefit analysis to support data-driven policymaking. These states were among the leaders in at least two of the three study criteria and trailed in none.
  • 11 states—California, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, and Washington—led the way in the production of cost-benefit analyses, releasing at least 11 studies each, or an average of three or more per year.

Results First highlighted as an example of effective cost-benefit analysis that, “In 2003, the Florida Legislature directed its Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to assess whether it would be cost-effective to create an alternative therapy-based program to serve nonviolent juvenile offenders in the community rather than in residential commitment facilities. The office’s report concluded that, based on national research on similar programs, implementing two pilots of a program called Redirection would save the state an estimated $1.7 million in the first year of operation.”

Results First notes that between 2008-2011, 50 states and the District of Columbia issued 348 cost-benefit studies, but their output varied widely. Florida issued 11 cost-benefit studies.

Barry Goldwater

Former US Senator and Presidential Candidate Barry Goldwater wrote in The Conscience of a Conservative (1960):

“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size.

I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom.

My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden.

I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.

And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”

Prophetic words indeed.

Two Florida families affected by Congressional probe of “Extortion 17”

Before there was Benghazi there was Extortion 17. Extortion 17 was the fatal mission launched on August 6, 2011 killing 17 Navy SEALS, 5 SEAL support personnel, 5 Army National Guard/Army Reserve helicopter pilots/crew and three Air Force special operations command members. Their deaths are the greatest single loss of life ever suffered by the U.S. Special Operations community in the 24-year history of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

The second anniversary of Extortion 17 is August 6, 2013.

Floridians Billy and Karen Vaughn and Scott Bill both lost their sons on Extortion 17. The Vaughns have become the face of Extortion 17 and have sought to learn the truth about what happened to their son Aaron. For their efforts the Vaughns have been put upon by several active duty Navy officers and some in the the SEAL community.

Like Benghazi, the official retort  is “nothing to see here, move on”. The Vaughns and other families are not moving on.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

According to The Hill, “Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security, told The Hill, “We’re going to dive into this.” Chaffetz said he met with the victims’ families about a month ago in what he described as an “emotional” gathering. He is poised to send questions to the Pentagon and may hold hearings on the matter.

 Jeffrey T. Kuhner from The Washington Times asks, “Did the Obama administration put a target on the backs of members of Navy SEAL Team 6? This is the question that parents of slain SEALs are now asking — and rightly so. Forget Benghazi, the IRS, Eric H. Holder Jr. and the National Security Agency spying on U.S. citizens. Important as these scandals are, what happened to SEAL Team 6 could very well dwarf them. Our government betrayed America’s finest warriors.”

“Navy SEAL Team 6 became a household name for their role in killing Osama bin Laden. On May 1, 2011, the country rightly celebrated the death of bin Laden. The Obama administration, however, wanted to do more. It sought to claim full credit for the assassination, deciding to spike the football. On May 3, at an event in Washington, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. did the unthinkable: He publicly revealed the identity of the special-operations unit responsible for bin Laden’s killing. His reckless action put at risk the lives of every member of SEAL Team 6. The Taliban and other jihadists eager to avenge bin Laden now knew which unit to target. Stunned and shocked, SEAL members immediately realized they were going to be hunted by al Qaeda sympathizers,” notes Kuhner.

According to documents released by the Pentagon, Taliban fighters were assembling at the Extortion 17 landing site in what appeared to be a pre-planned ambush. On August 8, 2011 the Global Post reported, “The Taliban laid an elaborate trap for U.S. special forces last week when they shot down a Chinook helicopter during a night raid in Afghanistan, killing 38 troops including 30 Americans, an Afghan official said Monday.”

World Net Daily reports, “Among their many suspicions, the families question the sudden replacement of seven Afghan commandos on board the helicopter just before take-off. The seven who died in the attack are not the seven listed in the flight manifest. The families say, to this day, none of them know who those dead Afghans were. That leads the families to wonder if the original commandos may have tipped off the Taliban as to who was on board.”

The families of Aaron C. Vaughn and Brian R. Bill will hopefully get the truth about what happened. At least two Florida families may finally get answers and find closure.

EDITORS NOTE:

Brian Bill before his death appeared in the movie “Act of Valor“. Billy Vaughn has co-authored a book “Betrayed: Exposing the High Cost of the War on Terror“, which will be release in August.

Integrity Index: Florida Fails Watchdog Test

Florida is among the majority of states that are failing miserably when it comes to enacting laws that enable regular citizens to fight corruption by attending public meetings, reviewing government documents and raising questions without fear of retribution, according to a national study released by the Better Government Association, a Chicago-based non-partisan watchdog organization.

The Integrity Index, a comprehensive report issued by the Better Government Association (BGA) and sponsored by Alper Services LLC, analyzes laws from all 50 states in four key categories: Open Meetings, Freedom of Information, Whistleblower Protection and Conflict of Interest.

Florida ranks 38th on the Integrity Index and in the bottom ten in both whistleblower protection and open meetings laws.

“The Integrity Index measures the level of commitment each state has made—or, more often, hasn’t made—to the enactment of laws that helps citizens access their government and its documents, and hold elected officials accountable, which is the framework of integrity and the first step in combating political corruption,” said Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the BGA. “Our findings show that current laws in most states are woefully inadequate, locking citizens out or forcing them to jump through unnecessary hoops as they attempt to exercise their fundamental democratic right to keep an eye on government.”

Overall Findings

In measuring ethics laws and government conduct in all 50 states, the Integrity Index determined the overall national average is an unacceptable 55 percent, with all states receiving scores categorized as mediocre or poor and not a single state cracking 70 percent. The low marks suggest the states are vastly underperforming at enacting tough transparency, accessibility and accountability laws, and much more needs to be done to inspire public trust and confidence.

The report notes that several of the states receiving high marks—particularly Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana—aren’t commonly viewed as paragons of good government. Those states likely rank higher today because years of corruption and embarrassing scandals led to the adoption of stricter safeguards and more comprehensive sunshine laws. The BGA report also cautions not to assume that just because tougher laws are on the books, public officials are following them or states are enforcing them.

By contrast, many of the states with the weakest overall laws have not experienced widespread abuse and have steered clear of high-visibility scandals, so they may have not been prompted to enact stricter ethics measures and wide-sweeping reforms.

Final Integrity Index Rankings
Top 10 States Bottom 10 States
State Rank Total Score State Rank Total Score
Rhode Island 1 69.77% Montana 50 28.06%
New Jersey 2 69.18% Wyoming 49 36.46%
Illinois 3 68.49% Michigan 48 39.07%
Nebraska 4 68.14% South Dakota 47 39.82%
California 5 67.29% Idaho 46 43.46%
Louisiana 6 64.86% Alabama 45 43.93%
Texas 7 64.71% Tennessee 44 47.05%
Washington 8 62.73% Vermont 43 47.39%
Kentucky 9 62.20% South Carolina 42 47.96%
Arkansas 10 60.99% Delaware 41 49.13%

For more information about the Integrity Index and to find out where your state ranked in each category, visit www.bettergov.org.

About the Better Government Association:

The BGA works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the electorate to achieve authentic and responsible reform.

Zimmerman Aftershock: NBC lawsuit, calls to investigate State Attorney Corey

The name George Zimmerman is sending aftershocks across the state of Florida and the nation.

Since his acquittal on all charges stemming from the self defense shooting of Martin many actions and counter actions are anticipated. Among them: the lawsuit against NBC for “yellow journalism” and calls to investigate Florida State Attorney Angela Corey‘s misleading affidavit of probable cause, which had not disclosed significant exculpatory details.

Both are interrelated and deal with telling the truth.

In the first instance NBC employees (recently fired) selectively edited the 911 call that aired.

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reports Zimmerman attorney James Beasley stated that he and his team were eager to resume the [NBC] suit, which had been put on hold due to the beginning of the criminal trial. With that out of the way, they now intend to proceed. “We’re going to start in earnest asap, we just have to get the stay lifted which is a ministerial act,” Beasley said via email. Beasley did acknowledge that while Zimmerman’s victory in his criminal trial could be helpful to this civil suit, it was not a guarantee that he would win his defamation case.

To understand NBC’s alleged “yellow journalism” perhaps the following quotes from from a former Monitor/NBC Radio reporter are useful. The comments were sent to WDW – FL by Don Blair, former Monitor/NBC Radio news commentator and Florida resident. Blair’s last broadcast for Monitor/NBC Radio was in 1989. Blair was responding to a column posted by WDW – FL and wrote in a series of exchanges referring to Zimmerman: “Probably that a cold blooded murderer has been set free.” … “Is he immune from a drive-by shooting?  I don’t think this man can look forward to a long…or longer life from here on out.  I will drink to his death…hopefully a painful one.” … “I’ll say it again.  I will drink a toast the day that miserable bastard is gunned down.” Similar comments were made by others on social media sites. One of the defense attorneys referred to the media as “mad scientists“. Some in the media “cry foul” on the verdict.

While Blair’s comments do not reflect on the current management or employees of NBC or its affiliates, there is a lesson to be gotten from his mind set regarding the Zimmerman case.

Florida State Attorney Angela Corey

The second issue are calls for an investigation of State Attorney Angela Corey for the misleading affidavit which lead to charge of second degree murder against Zimmerman.

Multiple emails to WDW – FL state, “Please write to Governor Scott and request that he immediately order a full and comprehensive investigation into the actions of State Attorney Angela Corey during the entire George Zimmerman arrest and trial.”

William A. Jacobson from Legal Insurrection reports:

In early April 2012, Florida State Attorney Angela Corey decided not to take the George Zimmerman case to a Grand Jury, opting for the filing of a Criminal Information which then was presented along with an Affidavit of Probable Cause.  The Court found probable cause for the charges.

It turned out, once pre-trial discovery was exchanged, that the affidavit upon which probable cause was found had not disclosed a lot of significant exculpatory details.  There was no mention of the significant injuries to Zimmerman, or of John Good’s eyewitness account that Martin was on top of Zimmerman hitting him Mixed Martial Arts style.  All the Affidavit said on the subject of the physical confrontation was that there was “a struggle.”

Read more.

Eliott C. McLaughlin from CNN reports:

The George Zimmerman investigation was hijacked “in a number of ways” by outside forces, said the former police chief of Sanford, Florida.

Bill Lee, who testified Monday in Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial, told CNN’s George Howell in an exclusive interview that he felt pressure from city officials to arrest Zimmerman to placate the public rather than as a matter of justice.

“It was (relayed) to me that they just wanted an arrest. They didn’t care if it got dismissed later,” he said. “You don’t do that.”

Read more.

The shock waves from the Zimmerman acquittal are just now being felt. Stay tuned, it will be a bumpy ride.

RELATED VIDEO: Prosecutors address the media after the verdict. Corey states Zimmerman “profiled” Trayvon Martin. Listen carefully to the media questions and statements by Corey.

Rubio to Arne Duncan: Obama can’t force States to comply with Common Core

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

In a letter to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Sen. Marco Rubio says cajoling states to adopt Obama administration reforms – including curricula – are unconstitutional.

Kathleen Rae Doan, a Mom Coordinator Region #8 “Sisterhood of Mommy Patriots“, states in an email to WDW -FL, “In a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has expressed his concern about the Obama administration’s use of waivers in exchange for states’ adoption of the administration’s policies. Sen. Rubio contends that not only is the waiver [a] scheme and abuse, but that such a nudge toward adopting federally-backed curriculum is unconstitutional.”

Senator Rubio’s letter to Secretary Duncan is reproduced below.

The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary United States Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary Duncan:

As you may know, a rising number of parents, teachers and administrators from across our nation have expressed concerns regarding the Department of Education’s recent announcements relating to the issuance of waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB); particularly the stipulations expected to be attached to those waivers.

The issuance of conditional waivers is detrimental to our country’s shared goal of educational success for every student. Our principal concern is that the Executive branch does not possess the authority to force states into compliance with administration-backed reforms instituted through the issuance of waivers.

We acknowledge that NCLB allows the Secretary to grant waivers for existing provisions under the law, but nowhere does the law authorize waivers in exchange for the adoption of administration-preferred policies. This initiative is an overstep of authority that undermines existing law, and violates the constitutional separation of powers. The responsibility for legislating lies with Congress, and forcing policy reforms through NCLB waivers violates this most basic of constitutional structures.

Furthermore, I am concerned that the administration’s requirements for granting a waiver from NCLB would entail states having to adopt a federally-approved “college and career ready” curriculum: either the national Common Core standards, or another federally-approved equivalent. I am also concerned that the U.S. Department of Education has created, through its contractors, national curriculum materials to support these Common Core standards. Such activities are unacceptable; they violate three existing laws: NCLB, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the General Education Provisions Act.

All three laws prohibit the federal government from creating or prescribing national curriculum.

If you believe that conditional waivers tied to content standards do not violate these laws, I invite you to explain the reasoning underlying that belief. Since legislating is a duty reserved for Congress, attaching administration-preferred reforms to NCLB waivers would counteract and inhibit meaningful education reform desperately needed to ensure that our children receive an education that will prepare them for the challenging global economic marketplace.

I respectfully ask that due consideration be given to options that have been advanced through Congress and provide genuine flexibility to states, so that state and local lawmakers – those closest to children and families – can focus on high-quality education policies that will benefit our nation’s children.

Sincerely,

Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator

Kathleen Rae Doan a Mom Coordinator Region #8 “Sisterhood of Mommy Patriots”  quotes Dr. Martin Luther King who wrote, “To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

To learn more about Common Core visit Floridians Against Common Core Education.

Report: Florida gets 36.9% of its revenue from federal government

The Tax Foundation has released a map showing the dependency of each state on federal aid. Florida  relies heavily on federal assistance with 36.9% of its revenue derived from the federal government. Florida ranks 23rd of all states taking federal money.

Has Florida become a “welfare state”?

Mississippi takes in more than any other state, with 49% of its total general revenue coming from federal aid. Close behind are Louisiana at 46.5% and Arizona at 45.7%. On the other end of the spectrum, Alaska relies on federal aid for only 24% of its general revenue, followed closely by Delaware at 25.9% and North Dakota at 26%.

No state receives less than 24% of federal aid.

Question: Are the states truly sovereign when they receive so much aid from Washington, D.C.?

Federal-aid-as-a-percentage-of-state-general-revenue-(large)_0

Click on the image for a larger view.

Map courtesy of the Tax Foundation.

Thomas R. Pickering: The Benghazi and Khost coverups

Darren J. LaBonte, former Army Ranger, FBI agent and CIA operations officer. Photo courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Since President Obama took office there have been a number of strategically successful attacks by radical Islamists against US special forces units, the CIA and Department of State. In each case, due to security failures, these attacks ended in the largest loss of life for our Navy Seals (Extortion 17), CIA field operators (Khost, Afghanistan) and the first loss of a US Ambassador (Benghazi, Libya) in over 30 years.

One name that comes up in two of these tragic incidents is Thomas R. Pickering (above photo courtesy of the AP). Thomas Reeve “Tom” Pickering, is a retired United States ambassador. Among his diplomatic appointments, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992.

Many have never heard of Khost, Afghanistan. However, Venice, Florida residents David and Camille LaBonte will never forget that name. Their son Darren James LaBonte, a former Army Ranger, FBI agent and CIA operations officer, was killed in Khost on December 30, 2009.

“Khost” is the short name for Chapman Airfield, a secret CIA operations base located near Khost, Afghanistan. It was on December 30, 2009 at Khost that the US suffered the loss of seven CIA operations officers, a Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID or Mukhabarat) officer and two Blackwater security guards detailed to protect the base and its CIA personnel.

There was no formal investigation on the Khost incident by the US Congress. However, the CIA conducted an internal investigation ordered by then Director Leon Panetta, to look at what happened in Khost. According to Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, “The internal investigation documents a litany of breakdowns leading to the Dec. 30 attack at the Khost base that killed seven C.I.A. employees, the deadliest day for the spy agency since the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut. Besides the failure to pass on warnings about the bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the C.I.A. investigation chronicled major security lapses at the base in Afghanistan, a lack of war zone experience among the agency’s personnel at the base, insufficient vetting of the alleged defector and a murky chain of command with different branches of the intelligence agency competing for control over the operation.” [Emphasis added]

“Some of these failures mirror other lapses that have bedeviled the sprawling intelligence and anti-terrorism community in the past several years, despite numerous efforts at reform,” notes Mazzetti.

Mazzetti states, “The report found that the breakdowns were partly the result of C.I.A. officers’ wanting to believe they had finally come across the thing that had eluded them for years: a golden source who could lead them to the terror network’s second highest figure, Ayman al-Zawahri.”

Fast forward to September 11, 2012 and Benghazi. It was Pickering who lead the internal investigation ordered by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Pickering Benghazi internal investigation found:

  1. The attacks in Benghazi were security-related, resulting in the deaths of four U.S. personnel after terrorists attacked two separate U.S. government facilities – the Special Mission compound (SMC) and the Annex.
  2. Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.
  3. Notwithstanding the proper implementation of security systems and procedures and remarkable heroism shown by American personnel, those systems themselves and the Libyan response fell short in the face of a series of attacks that began with the sudden penetration of the Special Mission compound by dozens of armed attackers.
  4. The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. Known gaps existed in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist.
  5. The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability.

These two internal investigations sound eerily similar. Were both accurate portrayals that led to changes or just reports to be filed and forgotten? The Pickering report on Benghazi quotes George Santayana who wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” First came Khost then came Benghazi. Did our national leaders forget the lessons of Khost and did they repeat the same mistakes in Benghazi two years later?

You be the judge.

“Fascism” is the best way to implement Seven50: SE Florida Prosperity Plan

June 19-21, 2013 there will be dueling Seven50 Summits at the Palm Beach Conference Center, West Palm Beach, Florida.

The Seven50 plan is an effort by the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, funded by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), with the mission to,”[C]reate and implement the Seven50: SE Florida Prosperity Plan, a blueprint  for a vibrant and resilient economy; socially inclusive, sustainable, and affordable communities; and environmental sustainability.” View the SEFRP agenda here.

Mayor Craig Fletcher, City of Vero Beach, FL.

The City of Vero Beach, FL has pulled out of the plan.

Mayor Craig Fletcher attended a briefing given by proponents of Seven50 and reported that: city and county government would be less important, only “mega regions” are important as in the EU, the seven Florida counties that are part of the partnership “would have someone to control them”, they (the EU) are not going to put up with the American education system and “Fascism is the best form of government to implement these changes”.

Video remarks of Craig Fletcher, Mayor of the City of Vero Beach, FL at a City council meeting:

Proponents represented by the SE FL Regional Partnership (SEFRP) and opponents by The Liberty Caucus will be holding their respective summit in adjoining conference rooms at the Palm Beach Conference Center.

Why Seven50 now?

According to the SEFRP website, “The shifting nature of the global economy is changing the way business is done. Regions that can’t recognize and adapt to these changes will cease to be economically competitive. It’s time for Southeast Florida to move to the next level, to develop a regional mindset that focuses more on how to maximize the commonalities than accentuate the differences.” The agenda for the Seven50 Summit may be viewed here.

Opponents see this regionalization as an attack on local control, liberty and freedom.

The Liberty Caucus is a government watchdog organization that tracks local government in Fort Pierce, Port Saint Lucie and Saint Lucie County to “promote free markets and limit government intervention”.  St. Lucie County is one of the Seven50 partners.

Why stop Seven50?

According to the Liberty Caucus website, “The core of “sustainable development” is the notion of disciplining the consumption of consumers and producers. It consists of a self-appointed elite forcing needs and abilities of people against their will. But, needs and abilities cannot be determined arbitrarily by others; rather, it is derived by each individual according to their own unique, subjective valuation system. A central authority trying to determine the subjective valuation of other individuals consists of misallocation of resources (the same one’s we’re told to conserve) and market distortions (below market interest rates, industry specific stimulus) that inflate price bubbles (housing, commodity, stocks) causing an erosion of wealth.” The agenda for the anti-Seven50 Summit may be viewed here.

The Liberty Caucus notes:

Sustainability advocates tell us that:

  1. Resources are limited
  2. We are too inefficient for our own good
  3. Un-elected governing authority needs to decide what is the best allocation of our land, property and resources for us
  4. And thus lead everyone to prosperity with their ideas of sustainable development

Still unmentioned today, 26 years later, is:

  1. Who decides what is and is not sustainable
  2. On what logical basis sustainability is calculated
  3. Exactly whose ‘good’ is considered for benefit

Seven50 Consultant Andres Duany, from Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, speaks about the “hope for fascism in South Florida” and how Seven50 can take local communities and “tie them into nothing”:

Duany has been a consultant to counties and cities across the state of Florida on “sustainability and sustainable communities”.

The Government vs. YOU

The following column is from the Heritage Foundation:

Every day, more Americans get trapped by big government. In addition to groups targeted by the IRS, upstanding citizens going about their normal lives are suddenly targeted by law enforcement authorities and charged as criminals. Just a few examples:

The following are examples of Floridians caught up in this overreaching dragnet of criminalization:

These are only a few of the shocking incidents The Heritage Foundation chronicles in our new project, USA vs. YOU. Experts at Heritage’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies reveal the stories of 22 people from all backgrounds, races, and income levels victimized by carelessly written laws.

Get the FREE e-book USA vs. YOU now

When criminal laws are created to “solve” every problem, punish every mistake, and compel the “right” behaviors, this troubling trend is known as overcriminalization. Ultimately, it leads to injustice for honest, hard-working Americans at every level of society.

Public interest groups from across the political spectrum recognize how this flood of criminal laws violates our basic liberties. Diverse organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the American Center for Law and Justice, and Right on Crime, among others, have joined with Heritage to reaffirm the true purpose of America’s justice system: to ensure public safety and protect the innocent.

When was the last time you saw the ACLU work together with a faith-based group like Justice Fellowship? With USA vs. YOU, the problem is grave enough to bring together unlikely allies. And we’re delivering this bipartisan message just as the House of Representatives has launched a task force aimed at correcting this issue.

This morning, Heritage Senior Legal Fellow John Malcolm will testify at the first hearing of the Overcriminalization Task Force—shining a spotlight on the scope and severity of this threat to our liberties. Ending the practice of trapping our citizens with unnecessary laws will be no easy task, with an estimated 4,500 criminal law offenses and 300,000 criminal regulations on the books.

Experience the stories of Americans like you treated unjustly – download the FREE e-book now

Over the next six months, Members of Congress from both parties will study this issue in depth, hold hearings, and—with the right encouragement—take steps to enact real reform.

Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.

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