Monday, March 01, 2010

Follow-the-Money and Be-on-the Alert Links

ProPublica should be a must-read for every American. It is an independent, non-profit newsroom that really and truly produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Their work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” They do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.

Investigative journalism is at risk. Many news organizations have increasingly come to see it as a luxury. Today’s investigative reporters lack resources: Time and budget constraints are curbing the ability of journalists not specifically designated “investigative” to do this kind of reporting in addition to their regular beats. This is therefore a moment when new models are necessary to carry forward some of the great work of journalism in the public interest that is such an integral part of self-government, and thus an important bulwark of our democracy.

The business crisis in publishing and — not unrelated — the revolution in publishing technology are having a number of wide-ranging effects. Among these are that the creation of original journalism in the public interest, and particularly the form that has come to be known as “investigative reporting,” is being squeezed down, and in some cases out.

Here is an investigation everyone should read:

In the Loop: Pay Day Lenders Extensive, Expensive Ties to Washington Power Players. Charging interest rates as high as 400% to mostly the working-class, Pay-day lenders' "connections in the capital make clear that the industry has quietly -- and in a remarkably short time -- enmeshed itself into a network of Washington influence-peddlers skilled at putting a favorable sheen on a host of corporate causes."

Links to monitor:

Bailout Watch - is a collaborative effort to research, investigate, and analyze the federal government's bailout activities and publish resources and data for policymakers, the media, and interested citizens. Bailout Watch draws upon the expertise and resources of the partner organizations to identify specific data that should be disclosed (and made available in an online, indexed, searchable format), research and investigate government decision-making processes related to the bailout, and provide analysis and commentary about the effectiveness of different bailout programs.

Change Tracker - ProPublica has set up a page, with a feed, that monitors any changes to whitehouse.gov, recovery.gov, and financialstability.gov. Whenever there’s a change to any page on these sites, it’s noted in the feed. You can then view the old and new versions of the page side by side, with the changes highlighted.

Eye on Bailout Money

* A complete list of where the money's going, from AIG to the smallest community bank
* A map that charts all the bailed-out companies
* A timeline of major bailout events
* A running total of how much of the TARP bailout money has been committed
* Graphical breakdowns and plain language descriptions of the Treasury Department's bailout programs without confusing government acronyms
* A list of the banks that have returned the bailout money
* A snapshot of how mortgage servicers are performing in the foreclosure prevention program.
* The latest on the bailout from our blog and our links to the best bailout reporting
The Missing Memos ProPublica memo depository of the missing memos regarding legalities involving detainees, rendition, eavesdropping, using the military within the US, and free speech.

Open the Government is concerned that our government keeps from the American public information that we need to make our families safe, secure our country and strengthen democracy, a broad-based set of organizations formed OpenTheGovernment.org.

Side by Side Health Care Bills compare the Senate version of the health care reform bill with what it will look like with the House's changes.

Subsidyscope’s Financial Bailout Project. pulls together data on the financial institutions that are receiving benefits from the various federal programs so users can understand how and where taxpayer dollars are being spent.

It happened once:

“Army Surveillance of Civilians” (1972) - A Documentary Analysis” by the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate
“The following report by the Subcommittee staff analyzes certain computer print-outs and publications generated in the course of the Army’s domestic intelligence program.”

“The overwhelming majority of the reports pertain to the peaceful activites of nonviolent citizens lawfully exercising their constitutional rights of speech, press, religion, association, and petition.”

“These files confirm what we learned first from former intelligence agents – that Army intelligence, in the name of preparedness and security, had developed a massive system for monitoring virtually all political protest in the United States. In doing so, it was not content with observing at arms length; Army agents repeatedly infiltrated civilian groups. Moreover, the information they reported was not confined to acts or plans for violence, but included much private information about peoples’ finances, psychiatric records, and sex lives.”

“The size of these and other data banks confirms that the Army’s domestic intelligence operations did not begin with the Newark and Detroit riots of 1967. The events of that summer only expanded activities which had been going on, in varying degrees of intensity, since 1940, and which has its roots as far back as World War I.”

Maplight illuminating maps of all types

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