Most historians and scholars try, whenever possible, to consult original sources so that their writings are not filtered through multi-layered observations. While access and language barriers may make this too difficult, it is a goal of most reputable academicians and seekers of the truth. We in the public are lucky to have sources of information that can make us less dependent on either the spinning of talk show hosts or the abbreviated news coverage of mainstream media. We can, for example, read or listen to Congressional testimony, examine the omnibus spending bill (C-span offers a link), read the full text of speeches and Supreme Court opinions in The NY Times, consult reliable internet sources. We don’t have to rely on some version of reality when we can tap into reality itself.
When, for example, the president says we have a Social Security
Crisis it is helpful to examine the details to determine whether we are listening to opinion or fact. Remember two elections ago when both candidates kept talking about a “lock box” for Social Security” funds? Of course that never happened, and one of the problems is that the government keeps dipping into those funds, using the money for other things and replacing dollars with governmental IOUs. One has to wonder, if privatization is such a good idea, why the government shouldn’t stop raiding Social Security and begin investing more aggressively itself. Roger Lowenstein, in a most informative article in the January 16th NY Times Magazine, suggests exactly this : “…Social Security could capture the return on stocks, without putting individuals at risk by investing in equities directly” and accomplish another positive result: by “keeping the government’s hands off the Social Security trust fund.”
Social Security Policy is, of course, just one area of concern over what is said by administration sources and what might be understood with proper research. In terms just of language, it is apparently the administration’s current policy to refer to what were previously called private accounts as “personal accounts” probably because “privatization” has become kind of flash point politically. An old saying comes to mind when I think about such semantic finagling — ‘a wolf came to the door but we called it a dog’. In any case, the news media is being told to speak only of “personal accounts” from here on in. It will be interesting to see if everyone is willing to conform to administration language restrictions.
Unfortunately too many people rely on secondary sources and don’t bother to do any homework. If OReilly, Hannity and Limbaugh, to name just a few, are the steady diet of large numbers of the American public those people are not getting a balanced diet. When OReilly misrepresents what Barbara Boxer or others say or cuts dissenters off it would seem there’s a fear of facts on The Factor. When some talk show hosts imply that members of the public and Congress don’t support the troops if they question the gigantic amounts of money in the president’s supplemental budget requests it might be helpful for them to consider that millions of dollars are unaccounted for in Iraq and that, if we are not planning to remain a presence there, why does the supplemental include $1.5 billion for construction of a US Embassy, and why did Paul Bremer privatize everything in sight when he was in charge of things?
There are so many ways available to us to seek the truth on our own. We should take advantages of all our opportunities to do so.

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