January 2005 Archives

January 31, 2005

If You Are Living Under Occupation, Are You Free?

On January 30, 2005, President George W. Bush said, "Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East." Mr. Bush, your army is still occupying Iraq, so how can we be hearing the voice of freedom? We heard the voice of an occupied people. The January 30, 2005 election didn't change that.

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History, Not an Election in Iraq, Has to Vindicate Mr. Bush

"The Bush administration, buoyed by early indications of a higher than expected turnout and lower than expected level of violence, is seeing Sunday's [January 30, 2005] election as a long-sought vindication of its Iraq policy, especially its determination to press ahead with the vote in the face of widespread skepticism about its outcome," contends San Francisco Chronicle reporter Anna Badkhen. Question: How does an election justify the invasion of Iraq and the deaths of thosuands of Iraqis as a result of that invasion? Here's Badkhen's report..

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Despite Telegraph's Headline, Iraqi Bombers Are Not Defeated

The Daily Telegraph of London had this headline on a January 31, 2005, article: Power of the ballot defeats the bombers. The bombers are by no means defeated. There will be many more blasts before the bombers are silenced.

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How Accurate is Iraqi Vote Count?

News.Com.AU of Australia told its readers that "with foreign monitors mostly staying away for fear of kidnapping, it was impossible to assess the fairness of the [Iraq]election or accuracy of the turnout estimates." Here's the full story.

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Despite Election, Iraq Still Faces Daunting Challenges

Borzou Daragahi of the San Francisco Chronicle's foreign service reports that, "a day after millions of Iraqis flocked to the polls in an election hailed as a success by U.S. and Iraqi officials, the nation faces a series of daunting challenges, including choosing a prime minister, writing a constitution and closing the ethnic and religious divisions revealed on election day." Here's more of the Daragahi article.

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Talk Left Urges Readers to Seek Balance in Iraq Election Coverage

"If you're reading news coverage [about the Iraqi election], don't forget to read reports from the Arab world to get both sides," Talk Left urges in post on blogger reaction to the Iraq election analysis. I agree. Here is Talk Left's recommendation on post election analysis.

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January 30, 2005

A Rookie Gaijin's Perpective on Voting in Iraq

Selecta, a rookie gaijin living in Japan, offered this observation on the Iraqi elections:

The polls have closed by now and the results will take some time to come in, but early media reports are claiming success. Troops managed to contain election day violence more effectively than expected, and roughly 8 million, or 57 percent of the elegible voting population, made it out to the polls--not much by U.S. standards, but hey, I don't face the threat of having a grenade thrown at me when I go vote in Houston.
I suspect the winning candidates in Iraq will be dodging grenades as soon as they make their identities known. Read Selecta's entire post. It's thought-provking.

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Did Iraqis Endorse Democracy or a Strategy to Get U.S. Out of Iraq?

Joe Gandelman over at The Moderate Voice says Iraqis overwhelmingly endorsed Democracy on January 30, 2005 and defied terrorism. Did they endorse democracy or a strategy to get the U.S. out of Iraq? We will see when the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the Shiites flex their political muscles and adopt policies contrary to U.S. interest. Read Mr. Gandelman's post. He has a good roundup of commentary on the election by bloggers.

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Shiites Will Likely Dominate Iraq's National Assemby

The Christian Science Monitor's Dan Murphy reports that Ayatollah Ali Sistani "is Iraq's most revered religious figure, and his clout, combined with Shiite demographics, should leave Shiites with the most seats in the National Assembly that will write Iraq's new constitution. Shiites make up about 60 percent of the country's population," he said, "but candidates favored by Shiite voters will probably take more than 60 percent of the seats in the assembly, since turnout in many Sunni Arab areas was low." Read the Monitor article here. Ayatollah Sistani's web site.

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January 29, 2005

Charles Bird of Obsidian Wings: I've Been Chumped

Charles Bird over at Obsidian Wells admits he's been chumped by the Bush Administration on the question of the mistreatment of detainees at Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay. In his must-read post headlined Tipping Points and Presumptions, he writes:

When I carry the presumption of the official line--that the treatment of detainees is humane--and later get chumped by it, it's time to get pissed off. Today, for me, the presumption that the American government treats detainees humanely no longer applies, it's a sad day when my government has lost that presumption. When more allegations emerge, and they will, they have to be treated seriously. Clean house now.
The last straw for Mr. Bird was the AP story on female interrogators who
tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider's written account.
The insider, as Mr. Bird notes, "is a 29-year old Army sergeant who is a non-Muslim American." He said the AP report, "in addition to earlier statements by FBI agents, tells me one thing: I've been chumped. Detainees have not been treated humanely. Those officials at Gitmo who have stated that detainees were treated humanely have either lied or were duped."

As more evidence about Iraq and the so-called war on terror emerges, many more Americans, including bloggers who bought the party line that says Americans don't torture, will have to admit that they have been chumped, as Mr. Bird calls being deceived. Democratic governments depend on people who can be easily fooled and journalists who buy official policy without question.

Interestingly, it appears that the well-educated are the easiest to fool. Why? Because the propaganda they've heard over the years convinced them that so-called civilized, democratic government leaders wouldn't adopt torture as a policy. To many Americans, only Arabs and Muslims torture, murder and bomb civilians for political reasons. Many don't see dropping bombs from airplanes on a defenseless population as terrorism.

Finally, when U.S. soldiers return from Iraq and tell their stories, we will hear many more stories of torture, and even war crimes. I suspect other Americans will feel like chumps. Others won't give a dam. Still others will defend the use of torture notwithstanding the fact that the exposure of U.S. torturers at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan has shown the world that torturers in democratic societies are no different from torturers in totalitarian societies.

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January 28, 2005

The National Political Observer Welcomes Leftapundit

NOTE: The National Political Observer welcomes Leftapundit, a Chicago-based attorney and writer who contributed regularly to The Diplomatic Times online before personal and professional issues forced him to take a hiatus. I think his contribution will help make The National Political Observer one of the more informative and widely read blogs in the Blogosphere in 2005. Here is a link to his archive over at The Diplomatic Times.Com. His first post is scheduled to appear the week beginning January 31.

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January 27, 2005

Rumsfeld Reportedly Will Not be Prosecuted in Germany for War Crimes

"German justice authorities will not be taking legal action against U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq," a German newspaper--the daily Tagesspiegel-- reported January 27, 2005, according to a report in The Gulf Daily News. As the paper noted, "On November 30, [2004] The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association "filed a criminal complaint in Berlin against Rumsfeld and other senior U.S officials over the abuses".

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Questions about U.S. Plans for Democracy in Iraq

Thanks to a U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq that has been met by a fierce resistance movement, Iraqis get to go to the polls on January 30, 2005 in a country where many are terrified at being caught in the crossfire between the U.S. and the resistance. Questions:

How is it democracy if an election takes place as a result of a foreign invader overthrowing the previous government and installing an interim regime that imposes an election on Iraqis hit on one side by invaders and occupiers, and on the other by a resistance movement?

Is it democracy if it's imposed out of the barrel of over 130,000 guns? Is it democracy when the voters don't even know who the candidates are?

Finally, I thought democracy meant a people's right to decide for themselves the form of government they want. If an outsider decides that they should have democracy, it isn't democracy. No, it's a dictatorship with a pretty name. This time it's President Bush doing the dictating.

NOTE: This post can also be read at The Foreign News Observer, one of my other blogs.

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Do U.S. Troops Target Journalists in Iraq?

Rony Abovitz over a Forumblog.org - The World Economic Forum Weblog reported on, among other things, a January 27, 2005 discussion generated by the the question: Do U.S. Troops Target Journalists in Iraq? Abovitz said:

This fiery topic became a real nightmare today for the Chief News Executive of CNN at what was an initially very mild discussion at the World Economic Forum titled "Will Democracy Survive the Media?".

At a discussion moderated by David R. Gergen, the Director for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, the concept of truth, fairness, and balance in the news was weighed against corporate profit interest, the need for ratings, and how the media can affect democracy. The panel included Richard Sambrook, the worldwide director of BBC radio, U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, Abdullah Abdullah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, and Eason Jordan, Chief News Executive of CNN. The audience was a mix of journalists, WEF attendees (many from Arab countries), and a US Senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd.

During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by U.S. troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-U.S. crowd) and cause great strain on others

Abovitz added: "Due to the nature of the forum, I was able to directly challenge Eason, asking if he had any objective and clear evidence to backup these claims, because if what he said was true, it would make Abu Gharain look like a walk in the park. David Gergen was also clearly disturbed and shocked by the allegation that the U.S. would target journalists, foreign or U.S. He had always seen the U.S. military as the providers of safety and rescue for all reporters. Eason seemed to backpedal quickly, but his initial statements were backed by other members of the audience (one in particular who represented a worldwide journalist group)." While Mr. Gergen and others may be shocked by Mr. Jordan's charge, they should not be. Others have also made the charge. Read more here.

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Pentagon Trying to Find Ways to Neutralized IEDs

Defense Tech.Org notes that "When U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Sullivan was killed last week by a handmade bomb, it was a tragedy for his family -- and a tragically ordinary event for the American military. Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have been responsible for hundreds of American casualties in Iraq. And so far, there doesn't appear to be any reliable way of stopping them.

Defense Tech said "the Pentagon, scrambling for answers, is in the middle of a frantic search for high-tech methods to find and neutralize the jury-rigged weapons." Read more here. Note: Defense Tech's report appears to be based on one by Noah Shachtman over at Wired News.

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Record Federal Deficit Projected for 2005

"Additional war spending this year will push the federal deficit to a record $427 billion for fiscal 2005, effectively thwarting President Bush's pledge to begin stanching the flow of government red ink, according to new administration budget forecasts" unveiled January 26, 2005, according to a report in The Seattle Times. Is there a correlation between the deficit and the cost of invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq?

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Cost of Iraq, Afghan Wars Approaching $300 Billion

The Toronto Star told its readers on January 26, 2005 that the Bush Administration's "wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now costing almost half the $623 billion the U.S. spent during the entire 14-year Vietnam War, when adjusted to 2005 dollars. President George W. Bush will ask Congress for another $80 billion for the war in Iraq," the paper noted. Here's more.

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Newsday Says Bush is Delusional About Cutting Budget Deficit

Newsday stated in a January 27, 2005 editorial that "There's a dreamy, delusional quality to George W. Bush's continued insistence that he will cut the federal budget deficit in half in four years. The president said that again yesterday, shortly after requesting another $80 billion for the war in Iraq and projecting a record-setting deficit this year that will top last year's record-setting deficit," the paper opined. Here is more of the editorial.

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Feith Will Leave the Defense Department, Reports Say

Douglas Feith, who "oversees an organization of 1,500 military and civilian policy analysts" at the Department of Defense, according to Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder Newspapers, has resigned, effective in the summer of 2005. He started work for the Bush Administration in July 2001.

Mr. Feith "belongs to the neoconservative school of U.S. security policy, which holds that the United States should aggressively advance its interests by using its political, economic and — if necessary — military might to advance democracy and freedom." Knight Ridder noted. The resignation has been widely reported. Read Mr. Landay's report.

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January 26, 2005

Seattle Times' 'Backyard Bloggers' Frozen in Time

The Seattle Times' backyard bloggers, a group online journal for the 2004 election season, seems frozen in time. Stephanie Sanguinet made the last post on November 4, 2004 at 1:10 p.m. It was headlined There's still an open race out there.

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Hutchinson as Governor of Arkansas: An Analysis

Reed Luthanen of The Arkansas Traveler makes a valid observation about politics in a January 26, 2005 article on Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas congressman who was passed over twice by President George W. Bush for director of the Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Luthanen, who noted that Mr. Hutchinson has resigned as head of border and transportation security issues at the agency, said:

... there are only two directions in politics: up and down. You can't stay still for two long, lest you become forgotten and unimportant. Second, this state will need a governor in 2006. Gov. Mike Huckabee has done a fine job as our state's chief executive, but it seems clear that his interest in staying on beyond this term, and his chances of defeating a Democrat in the general election, are waning. His major concern this term is the education system in Arkansas, and if he gets that going in the right direction, as I expect that he will, look for him to retire from elected office following this term.
Mr. Luthanen said, "that leaves the door wide open for Hutchinson to step into the election. And what a formidable candidate he would be," he said, adding:
He is the only politician in the state who isn't currently a senator whom anyone has heard of, aside from the governor and Tim Hutchinson, the erstwhile senator and Asa's brother.
He said "in order to win back the governor's mansion, the Democrats would almost certainly have to convince either Senator Mark Pryor or Senator Blanche Lincoln to vacate their Senate seats and run a very risky election against a popular and prestigious figure with a state office as the prize if they win." Read more here.

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Bush Meets With Congressional Black Caucus: Why?

BlackAmericaWeb.Com reports that "Black congressional leaders emerged from a White House meeting Wednesday [January 26, 2005] with President George W. Bush saying they used the one-hour session to present Bush with a nine-point domestic agenda that outlines critical social and economic disparities between blacks and whites." I think Mr. Bush is looking for help on his Social Security reform plan. Read about the meeting here.

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Rice's Confirmation Was a Foregone Conclusion

Christian Bourge, United Press International's congressional and policy correspondent, stated in a January 26, 2005 post that "Condoleezza Rice was confirmed as secretary of State Wednesday [January 26, 2005] despite strong dissent from some Democrats, demonstrating that even as some in the minority in the Senate continuing to put up roadblocks Bush will clearly get his wishes on his Cabinet designates." He said:

Those roadblocks have proven to be mostly just rhetorical, but in the largest display of opposition against a nominee for the position in the post-World War II era, 13 minority members opposed Rice's nomination, surpassing the seven votes in 1973 against Henry Kissinger to become Richard Nixon's top diplomat.
Mr. Bourge said, "at the same time, to a certain extent Democrats managed to position the vote as a referendum on not only Rice's role in launching the invasion of Iraq, but on the war itself." Did anyone actually think Ms. Rice wouldn't be confirmed? Her confirmation was a foregone conclusion along with the fact that democrats in the Senate had to show that they are not cowered by republican hegemony. Besides, it's rare that a president doesn't get the cabinet member he wants.

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Gillmor Predicts Newspapers Will Eventually Open Archives to the Public

I concur with Dan Gillmor's prediction that, "One of these days, a newspaper currently charging a premium for access to its article archives will do something bold: It will open the archives to the public -- free of charge but with keyword-based advertising at the margins." Frankly, I am surprised at the number of online newspapers placing themselves behind walls. I don't find most of them valuable enough to subscribe to, even when they publish articles I want to read. The exceptions are The Washington Post and The New York Times, of which I am a subscriber. Read Mr. Gillmor's very informative blog, Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism, Etc.

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January 25, 2005

John Yoo Tries to Explain What the Administration is Saying About Torture

Gregory Djerejian over at The Belgravia Dispatch has a long but interesting article on torture. It's headlined John Yoo's Very Expansive Read of Section 2340A. As Mr. Djerejian notes, Mr. Yoo is a UC Berkeley law professor who, as a deputy assistant attorney general during [President George W.] Bush's first term, worked on torture policies." I found the article thought-provoking. By the way, I highly recommend The Belgravia Dispatch. Although I often find myself disagreeing with what Mr. Djerejian writes, he has an interesting perspective on international affairs that I respect.

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Disability Law Blog and Social Security Resources

J. Kevin Morton's Disability Law Blog is a good source of information if you are looking for Social Security resources. He also provides a valuble service for those of us trying to understand the Social Security debate.

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The Social Security Agenda

Tavares Forby at Black Pundit has an interesting take on the Social Security debate. "I still don’t understand how democrats think that social security is not in a crisis," he writes. "I am absolutely positive that democrats wants social security to stay the way it is because they want to keep their hands in our pockets. Privatizing social security would cut their funds and keep their hands out of taxpayers’ pockets." If any democrats, or republicans for that matter, care to respond feel free to do so.

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Freedom of Religion

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January 24, 2005

Are Christians in the U.S. Getting Fed Up?

Political Correctness Watch (PCW) reports that "Church-going Americans have grown increasingly intolerant in the past four years of politicians making compromises on such hot issues as abortion and gay rights, according to a survey released on Saturday [January 22, 2005]. At the same time," PCW added, "those polled said they were growing bolder about pushing their beliefs on others -- even at the risk of offending someone." This is worth reading. Here's more.

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Ohio Election Fraud Has an Abundance of Data for Researchers

Ohio Election Fraud has an abundance of information on alleged voting fraud in Ohio during the November 2004 presidential election. I am impressed with the amount of data the blog has made available for researchers.

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Peggy Noonan's MSM Requiem

I finally got around to reading Wall Street Journal contributing editor Peggy Noonan's "MSM Requiem: After the Dan Rather scandal, American journalism will never be the same." She is not afraid of the change sweeping mainstream media and the blogosphere. In fact, she seems to embrace it.

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Who Will Assist Chertoff at Department of Homeland Security?

Who will hold top positions under Michael Chertoff, the incoming director of Homelad Security? GovExec.Com takes a guess.

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Why Hutchinson Is Leaving Department of Homeland Security

The Arkansas News Bureau reports that "Arkansan Asa Hutchinson said Sunday [January 23, 205] that "he is resigning from a top-level post at the Department of Homeland Security. He said "it's an appropriate time now for a change." The truth is that he's resigning because President Bush picked someone else to head the Department of Homeland Security on two ocassions, leaving Mr. Hutchinson in the number three spot he's held since January 2003. He's not Bush's kind of guy.

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Iraq, Afghanistan Cost Nearly $300 billion and Rising

Adam Entous of Reuters says when the Bush administration announces that "it will seek about $80 billion in new funding for military operations this year in Iraq and Afghanistan," it will push "the total for both conflicts to almost $300 billion." This money could have been better spent on schools and jobs skills training in the United States. Read more here.

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Human Rights Watch Opposes Gonzales' Nomination for Attorney General

Human Rights Watch "opposes the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to serve as Attorney General of the United States" on grounds that he "played a key role in providing legal justification for policies that led to torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody," the New York-based rights group announced on January 24, 2005. Read the announcement here.

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What is the Strategic Support Branch?

What is the "Strategic Support Branch," the spy unit Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is operating out of the Defense Department? CNN makes an effort to answer the question raised by an article in the January 23, 2005 issue of The Washington Post.

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January 23, 2005

Will Bloggers Take Gillmor's Advice and Follow the U.S. Torture Story?

New York Times columnist Frank Rich, in a column in the January 23, 2005 issue of the "Old Gray Lady" headlined On Television, Torture Takes a Holiday, addressed the U.S. television networks' alleged lack of interest in the Abu Ghraib torture story less than a year after it broke on April 28, 2004 on 60 Minutes II, and April 30, 2004 in The New Yorker in an article headlined Torture at Abu Ghraib. He started the article this way:

On the day that the defense rested in the military trial of Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr. for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, American television news had a much better story to tell: "The Trouble With Harry," as Brian Williams called it on NBC. The British prince had attended a fancy dress costume party in Wiltshire (theme: "native and colonial") wearing a uniform from Rommel's Afrika Korps complete with swastika armband. Even by the standards of this particular royal family, here was idiocy above and beyond the call of duty.

For those of us across the pond, it was heartening to feel morally superior to a world-class twit. But if you stood back for just a second and thought about what was happening in that courtroom in Fort Hood, Tex. - a task that could be accomplished only by reading newspapers, which provided the detailed coverage network TV didn't even attempt - you had to wonder if we had any more moral sense than Britain's widely reviled "clown prince." The lad had apparently managed to reach the age of 20 in blissful ignorance about World War II. Yet here we were in America, in the midst of a war that is going on right now, choosing to look the other way rather than confront the evil committed in our name in a prison we "liberated" from Saddam Hussein in Iraq. What happened in the Fort Hood courtroom this month was surely worthy of as much attention as Harry's re-enactment of "Springtime for Hitler": it was the latest installment in our government's cover up of war crimes.

Mr. Rich continued:
But a not-so-funny thing happened to the Graner case on its way to trial. Since the early bombshells from Abu Ghraib last year, the torture story has all but vanished from television, even as there have been continued revelations in the major newspapers and magazines like The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and Vanity Fair. If a story isn't on TV in America, it doesn't exist in our culture.

Dan Gillmor used the paragraph directly above to address bloggers and the torture story. In a January 23, 2005, post headlined Torture and the Blogosphere, he said "America's descent into a political, tactical and moral swamp -- our use and tacit approval of torture -- will someday be seen as a stain on our national honor. (Never mind that it's basically counterproductive.) Television news' abandonment of this story will be seen as a stain on a once-serious part of the press."

"It's not as if this matter is closed," he said, noting that "Some newspapers and magazines have stayed on the story, as Rich notes, and they deserve great credit for sticking with an issue that obviously makes Americans uncomfortable, as it should. This is a situation that demands a swarm of blogging outrage as well.

Bloggers of various political persuasions have shown their ability to keep alive stories that the major media found insufficiently newsworthy. The right-wing bloggers are on the Bush administration's side on this issue, for the most part. I'm sorry about that, because our practices should be anathema across the spectrum. (South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former military lawyer, has been an exception (Frontline interview) to the lockstep fealty of Bush supporters.)

I hope bloggers in the center and on the left will stay on this. They need to be as relentless about a continuing scandal as the RatherGate folks were in exposing CBS News' shoddy journalism. TV's willful failures, once again, are the blogosphere's opportunity.

I agree with Mr. Gillmor that "TV's willful failures, once again, are the blogosphere's opportunity." But frankly, I would be surprised if bloggers of all political persuasians jumped on this story the way some of us jumped on CBS News anchor Dan Rather for his fake Bush military service memo story; Senator John Kerry for questionable statements he made about his Vietnam War service during the presidential campaign; and New York Times Reporter Sarah Boxer for daring to raise questions about the pro-American Iraqi blog called Iraq the Model, to name a few targets.

On the torture story, some of us are in denial. We've conned ourselves into believing that our government doesn't torture. We are too civilized; we are not barbaric like those "Moslems," Russians or Cubans. The truth is that most governments torture and all governments lie. Ours is no exception. The question is: Can we bloggers get beyond our lies to ourselves and let the chips fall where they may on the torture story?

NOTE: The National Political Observer has only published seven posts on the Bush Administration's use of torture. Meanwhile, the current post on the subject can also be found at The Foreign News Observer and The Opinion Gazette, which I also publish.

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Would Congressman Ron Paul Go For This Experiment?

On January 22, 2005, Timothy West at the always interesting blog, The New Libertarian, announced that he would love to see U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas' 14th congressional district, engage in a political experiment that could result in the loss of his congressional seat. Mr. West wrote:

Since he has been comfortably re-elected every time he has run, now could be the time for a grand experiment, if Mr. Paul would agree - and of course he has no reason to do so on his own behalf. It would require him to possible give up his congressional career by putting himself in a position to lose. But if he won, it could mean the beginning of the end for the "losertarian" label.
Mr. West added: "I think it would be grand if Mr. Paul declared himself to be Libertarian and ran as such in his next relection campaign." What about it, Mr. Paul? After all, you are a former Libertarian Party candidate for President,

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Wiken: 'Take Time to Find Actual Data on Social Security'

Doug Wiken over at Dakota Today, one of the blogs on my regular read list, has this advice on the Social Security debate:

Take time to find some actual data on Social security before accepting anything from the Bush propagandists as fact or actual data. Their outright lies and fabrication of information on Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction, yellow cake, terrorist connections etc are a good clue to the truthfulness of anything they say on anything.
Mr. Wiken said "Social security has always bothered the neanderthal wing of the GOP. That festering sore from FDR's days is oozing pus into political discussion straight from George Bush's mouth."

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The Blogging, Journalism & Credibility Conference Update

The Blogging, Journalism & Credibility conference blog has some posts for January 23, 2005. I found the reports very informative. It showed that some bloggers and journalists can sit down together without killing each other. However, this doen't mean that the civility will last. It won't. The invitation-only conferene was held January 21st and 22nd, 2005, at Harvard University.

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AP Reports Says U.S. Foresaw Terror Threat in 1970s

Associated Press (AP) writers Frank Bass and Randy Herschaft reported on January 23, 2005, that "Nearly three decades before the Sept. 11 attacks, a high-level government panel developed plans to protect the nation against terrorist acts ranging from radiological "dirty bombs" to airline missile attacks. Their report, according to the writers, was based on "declassified documents obtained by the AP."

They quote Robert Kupperman, chief scientist for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and now the co-Director of the Global Organized Crime Project, as saying in a "1977 report that summarized nearly five years of work by the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism" that, "Unless governments take basic precautions, we will continue to stand at the edge of an awful abyss,"

The AP said the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism group "was formed in September 1972 by President [Richard M.] Nixon after Palestinian commandos slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. The committee involved people as diverse as Henry Kissinger to a young Rudolph Giuliani, the once-secret documents show," the wire service said.

"It is vital that we take every possible action ourselves and in concert with other nations designed to assure against acts of terrorism," Mr. Nixon "wrote in asking his secretary of state, William Rogers, to oversee the task force," the AP noted. I wonder how many hours will pass before bloggers start tearing this story apart.

NOTE: Links in this post were inserted by The National Political Observer for historial perspective.

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Social Security Recipients by Congressional Districts

I ran accross an informative chart on Social Security Recipients by Congressional District over at Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. It was prepared for the 109th Congress based on data from the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of the Census. See TechPolitics 2005 for the chart and other fascinating studies on various interesting subjects.

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January 22, 2005

For Some Presidents, Second Acts Often Flop

Steve of Steve Goodard's History Wire said January 22, 2005, that "Lest we conclude that President Bush's upbeat inaugural signals good things for his second term, USA Today reminds us that historically, second acts quite often flop, citing Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon as examples."

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The Journalism, Blogging and Credibility Conference

I've been following the Blogging, Journalism & Credibility Conference held this weekend at Harvard University through posts by Robert Cox of The National Debate. Robert, Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine, Jill Abramson of The New York Times and other media and blogger personalities are particpants in the conference, which generated some heat in the days leading up to it. I think this is Mr. Cox at his best. I hope he continues with this style.

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Randon Blogging and Sounding 'Op-eddy.

Washingto Post blogger Joel Achenbach, whose blog, Achenblog, recently came online, wrote on January 21, 2005: "I have all kinds of opinions about Bush’s speech but whenever I write them up they sound too “Op-eddy,” if you know what I mean. I have to learn to stop saying “notwithstanding” and “incontrovertibly.” Basically my point was that we’re on the verge of World War IV. (But that violates the rule, “Tell them something they don’t already know.”) Joel, I think your readers know what the words mean. If not, there is always the dictionary. Read Achenblog.

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Who Will Replace Michael Powell at FCC?

Who will replace Michael Powell as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission? Mr. Powell, son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is also leaving his post, announced January 21, 2005 that he was stepping down. As Stephen Labaton of The New York Times noted, the younger Powell headed the FCC "during a time of helter-skelter convergence among telephone, television and high-speed Internet services." President George W. Bush has two months to find someone to replace him. He was appointed to the FCC on November 3, 1997 by President Bill Clinton. Mr. Bush appointed him chairman.

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The Brattleboro Reformer: ' Another Long Four Years'

The Brattleboro Reformer asks in its January 22, 2005 issue: "Did anyone notice the irony during President Bush's inaugural address on Thursday that as Bush talked about freedom, security personnel were dragging away peaceful protesters? Does this mean that the president's words -- "when you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you" -- do not apply to those who oppose him?" Does it? The National Political Observer would like to know.

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Ron Gidwitz Considers a Run for Governor of Illinois

Ronald Gidwitz, a former executive at Helene Curtis Industries, "the Chicago-based cosmetics giant," is thinking about running for Governor of Illinois," according to the Illinois Leader, which bills itself as ""Illinois' conservative news source." He currently serves on the state Republican Party's Finance Committee. The Illinois Republican Party is one of the worse in the nation. It imploded in 2004.

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Can Democrat's Stop Dean's Bid for DNC Chairmanship?

"Can Howard Dean be stopped in his bid to become the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee? That’s the question the party’s establishment has been asking since Dean — who’d said he’d run only if he thought he had the votes to win — jumped into the contest with a media splash last week," writes the LA Weekly's Doug Ireland in the January 21-27, 2005 issue. "Instantly he became the front-runner in the field of seven candidates for party chief and prompted the establishment to embark on an Anybody-but-Dean movement." Questions: Will Dean flame-out before the campaign is over? Did he learn anything from his presidential bid? Just asking

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Willie Talton: Georgia's African-American Republican Legislator

Macon Telegraph.Com has an article on Willie Talton, "Georgia's first black Republican legislator since Reconstruction." According to the Associated Press article, Mr. Talton "isn't out to make history." The former sheriff's deputy told the AP why he became a republican. Over the years, I've heard the same reason given by other African-American republicans.

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Tennessee 'Statehouse Partisan Politics Not Finished Yet'

The Jackson (Tennessee) Sun published an Associated Press article on January 20, 2005, that said "pressures inside the [Tennessee] Republican party are mounting a week after GOP control of the state Senate fractured in the chamber's first key vote, allowing Democrats to retain the top job and control of key committees.

"GOP activists, claiming they got a raw deal after two Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the re-election of Democrat John Wilder as speaker and lieutenant governor, are ramping up attacks on the ''turncoat'' senators," the article said. As any observer of politics knows, in-fighting among republicans is just as vicious as it is among democrats, especially on local and state levels. Here's more on the effort to punish "turncoats."

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Some Tennessee Democrats Can't Seem to Stop In-fighting

Memphis Flyer columnist Jackson Baker said Shelby County, Tennessee Democrats can't seen to stop their in-fighting. In a January 21, 2005 article he said: "Everybody knows the famous Will Rogers line: 'I don't belong to an organized political party; I'm a Democrat.' "And, sure enough," he added, "Democrats sometimes appear to regard the fact of discontent in their ranks as cause for pride. As of last weekend, however, that portion of the party's honor was being upheld in Tennessee almost exclusively by Democrats from Shelby County," of which Memphis is the largest city and U.S. Representative Harold Ford, Jr. is, perhaps, its most prominent politician. Read more here.

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January 21, 2005

Washington State Political Report

I think Carl over at Washington State Political Report does a good job of covering Washington State politics. He was really good during the controversial 2004 governor's race.

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Barbara Boxer Has the Wags Talking

Dave Whitney of the Sacramento Bee, in an article dated January 23, 2005, says "Just a few weeks into the new congressional session, many are beginning to wonder aloud: "What's up with Barbara Boxer?"

"The first week of the session, [Ms] Boxer led the Senate challenge over certification of the Ohio presidential vote, citing irregularities," he wrote. "In the end, it was she alone standing against certification, with 74 of her colleagues - including Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and 33 other Democrats - favoring the count.

"And last week, Boxer was all over Condoleezza Rice at her confirmation hearing to be President Bush's new secretary of state," he added. "Boxer all but called Rice a liar over her statements leading up to the war in Iraq as Bush's national security adviser.

"Repeatedly, [Ms.] Rice appealed to Boxer to turn down the attacks," Mr. Whitney noted. "We can have this discussion in any way that you would like," [Ms]Rice said. "But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity."

[Ms} Boxer never relented, and she and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democrats' nominee against Bush in November, cast the only votes against sending [Ms] Rice's nomination to the Senate floor."

Mr. Whitney interview Ms. Boxer last week, according to the Bee. Many conversative bloggers attacked Ms. Boxer with venom for refusing to rubber stamp Ms. Rice's nomination for Secretary of State.

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TND: New York Times to Request Refund From Exit Poll Consortium

Robert Cox of The National Debate reported January 21, 2005 from the Blogging, Journalism & Credibility Conference at Harvard University that The New York Times was requesting a refund from the Exit Poll Consortium because of its faulty exit polling on November 2, 2004. Mr. Cox wrote:

"Jack Shafer (of Slate)- I heard NY Times is asking for a refund from the exit poll consortium. Jill Abramson (of The New York Times) - I can confirm that."

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The FBI Wants to Limit Public Access to Records

The Associated Press reported January 21, 2005, that "public access to FBI records could be diminished if the bureau wins a court fight to limit the extent of searches required for documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act, a principal law to ensure openness in government." As a freedom of information officer here in Chicago, I will watch this one closely.

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WSJ Says Public Appears Uneasy About Bush

John Harwood, staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, said "A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll" on the eve of President George W. Bush's "second inaugural" showed "the toll that economic turbulence, terrorist attacks and combat casualties have taken on the public mood since his first one. Fewer than half of Americans express optimism about the next four years, or substantial confidence that Mr. Bush has the right policies for the presidency," Mr. Harwood wrote.

"But in one pivotal area -- ability to handle a crisis -- Mr. Bush has risen sharply in public esteem since his 2001 swearing-in following a disputed victory over Al Gore," he added. "That post-9/11 attribute proved critical to gaining a new lease on power, and represents the strongest asset he brings to the political course he has charted since." Read more here.

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January 20, 2005

DW-World.DE Deutsche Welle Sees 'A New Republican Era'

On January 19, 2005, DW-World.DE Deutsche Welle opined that "After Thursday's inauguration, George W. Bush will turn into a "lame duck" president, one who can't run for another term under U.S. law. Experience shows that his political power will diminish over the course of the next four years," the German website site said, "especially his power to influence Congress. Despite this, the Republican party may well be on the verge of a new era of dominance as the "natural majority party" according to chief Bush strategist Karl Rove. On certain topics, the Republicans have long commanded an almost uncontested dominance. Now, the party's plan is to make this situation permanent." Read the entire article here.

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Black Leaders Integrated, Core Community Segregated

Norman Kelley, who "is currently producing a documentary film based on his book, The Head Negro in Charge Syndrome: The Dead End of Black Politics, according to Newsday.Com, contends in a January 14, 2005 article that "If the black political agenda of the post-civil rights era has been to influence the machinery of the federal government to black advantage, going from protest to politics, the re-election of George W. Bush has shown that agenda has failed. A greater failure, however," he added, "is black leadership's inability and unwillingness to confront this as a problem and devise something new; this underscores how utterly bankrupt the leadership is." Read more here.

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The Japan Times: 'Picking Up Where He Left Off'

The Japan Times, in a January 21, 2005 editorial, told its readers: "The most urgent tasks in the second Bush administration are to bridge the bitter divides in American politics and to restore U.S. authority and leadership in the world." It's safe to say the bitter political divide won't be closed anytime soon. Read the editorial here.

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What Bush Dynasty?

John F. Harris of The Washington Post reported January 20, 2005 that "One of the 43rd president's achievements in winning re-election, according to Bush family friends and historians, is to ease the sting of the 41st president's (George Herbert Walker Bush)failure to do so. The president's victory also establishes firmly a fact that earlier was open to dispute: The Bushes now belong in the top tier of political families in U.S. history. Here's more of the Harris story.

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Lunch at Jimmy T's

"On the West Side of the Capitol," a post by Sam Smith over at City Desk, offers a brief glimpse of what was going on in Jimmy T's diner in Washington, D.C., during President George W. Bush's January 20, 2005, inauguration. You can read it here, if you like.

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President Bush's January 20, 2005 Inaugural Address

Here is a link to President George W. Bush's January 20, 2005 inaugural speech, which marks the beginning of his second and final term as President of the United States.

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Was Obama on the Wrong Side of the Rice Confirmation Vote?

Garvey's Ghost: Black Talk is not bullish on U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) Was Mr. Obama on the wrong side of the confirmation vote on Secretary of State nominee Condeleeza Rice? Garvey's Ghost says yes.

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The Belgravia Dispatch's 'Notes' on the Rice Confirmation Hearing

Gregory Djerejian of The Belgravia Dispatch of London has interesting "notes" on the Condoleeza Rice confirmation hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 18 and January 19, 2005. The comments the "notes" generated are also worth reading. Even the nasty ones.

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Letter Writer: Free Speech Opponents Have Become the Tyrannizers

A "Letter to the Editor" of the Chicago Sun-Times by Chicagoan Margaret Hall was given the Feautured Letter spot in the paper's January 20, 2005 issue. What prompted her letter, according to the Sun-Times, was the tearing down by vandals of "two large 'stop the war' banners, several smaller ones, and the lights that illuminated them" in a Northbrook, Illinois park on January 14, 2005. She said, in part:

"The people who try to limit the rights of our citizenry to speak and demonstrate are just like the insurgents in Iraq who are trying to stop the elections from taking place on Jan. 30. You are actually worse because you have never lived under tyranny. You have become the tyrannizers. You know that freedom is our right as American citizens and you are trying to limit the freedoms of more than half of the people in this country who believe this war was a mistake."
I think Ms. Hall is right. Here is a link to her letter.

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Colin Powell's Impending Exit

Farewell Colin Powell, you did a pretty good job as Secretary of State although the politicians in the White House and the warmongerers in the Pentagon made it difficult. You even went to the United Nations and told the world a big lie about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. I know you were humiliated, but you are a good soldier and good soldiers follow orders, don't they? Well, you won't have to do it again. Now, Condoleeza Rice, who will be the next secretary of state, will do the lying.

By the way, at least some of those that worked for you seem to appreciate having had you as their boss. Who gets a one minute standing ovation these days, or applause for eight minutes? Some could say it was because the residents at Foggy Bottom are glad you are leaving, but I think it's the other way around.

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Will Bill Clinton be the Next U.N. Secretary-General?

Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Michael Sneed asked this question in her January 20, 2005, column: "Is former President Bill Clinton being promoted as the next secretary general of the United Nations if Kofi Annan resigns? That's the latest rumor hitting the grapevine," she said. I think Bill would make a good secretary-general. With his love for detail and policy, I doubt he'd have a hard time understanding how the U.N. bureaucracy works.

NOTE: This post was first published at The Opinion Gazette, one of my other blogs.

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January 19, 2005

Arkansas Panel Approves Use of 'Prior Bad Acts' Testimony in Sex Crimes

Wesley Brown of the Arkansas News Bureau reported on January 19, 2005, that "a lawyer-laden House committee [in Arkansas]approved a bill Tuesday [January 18, 2005] that would allow prosecutors the use of "prior bad acts" as evidence in sex offense cases, despite one opponent calling the legislation unconstitutional." I think this legislation with definitely face a legal challenge if it becomes law. Here's Mr. Brown's article.

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Luis Fortuño: Puerto Rico's Representative to the 109th Congress

The Puerto Rico Herald recently published a revealing interview with Luis Fortuño, the new Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. He will represent the commonwealth as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 109th Congress. Here is the interview.

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A Democratic Club Sends Letter to Terry McAuliffe

There is an interesting "Letter from [the] Democratic Club of Central Orange County (California) to Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe at the International Labor Communications Association webiste: This observation caught my attention:

On the national level, our members felt that the Democratic Party was out-organized, out-issued, out- spun and out-communicated. We allowed the Karl Rove machine to highjack God, and the Democrats were too reluctant to claim the moral high ground with traditional Democratic values. The national media was much too passive and deferential to George Bush. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and his ilk were lying to the public, demeaning our candidates and mischaracterizing our programs and positions and the Democratic Party was too slow and too timid in their response. It is of the utmost importance that a Democratic news channel be developed to counter Fox, etc, a kind of rapid response team to counter the distortions and outright lies that seem to pervade the market place of political discourse.

Clearly, we were out-issued by the Republican machine. The Democratic Party never clearly identified our issues and what we stand for. For the first time in our history, a whole generation of American children, saddled with the huge budget deficit, is looking at a future less bright than their parents' generation. Traditionally, the Democrats have been the opportunity party; opportunity for jobs, social security in our old age, health care for young and old, a living wage, safe air and water, and excellence in public education. But the Democrats allowed themselves to be out-issued by the Republicans. We are now six weeks past the presidential election. Already we know the issues for the Republicans: the ownership society: privatization of Social Security, a permanent tax cut, a value added tax, health care savings accounts and tort reform. This plan was spelled out in the national media more than two weeks ago. Even today as this letter is being written, Bush is holding his economic summit that continues to lie to, defraud and deceive the American people.

The letter notes that, "[t]he DNC sent a letter last week that explains that sometime in the future the grassroots will hear from the Democrats about these issues. We need to hear from the Democratic Party NOW if not yesterday," the letter says. "These are real bread and butter issues that we Democrats have the moral authority to challenge."

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Editorials on Condoleeza Rice

Here are a few editorials on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's confirmation hearing on Condoleeza Rice, President George W. Bush's choice for Secretary of State.

Coddling Rice--The New York Times
Rice Should be Confirmed as Next Secretary of State--MadisonNet.Com
Integrity Question--Arab News
Merit in Appointments Committee Approval--The Daily News (Harare)
She’s Right, But Can She Deliver?--Newsday.Com

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Welcome to the Blogosphere, Mr. Achenbach

Achenblog, a blog by Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post, is not bad. So far, Mr. Achenbach's approach is slightly timid, which suggests to me that he's not sure he should be blogging. This is not to say his posts aren't interesting. They are, at least to me. For example, today he posted, among other items, this tidbit:

Just went to the Hill, got a congressional credential, noticed that they’re really cracking down on the jaywalkers. Hill cop shouted, “That is completely against the law!” at a man in a suit who looked so deflated and sheepish I feared he would burst into tears. You can feel security tightening by the hour. Soon they will go after people who are humming excessively.
That observation gave his post an I was there feel, in contrast to many of us who simply comment on what others have reported. While that bit does not rise to the level of a national security matter, it did make a post about going to Capitol Hill to pick up credentials more interesting.

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'Why Does the Right Bother with the Academy?'

Jodi Dean of ICite, one of my favorite bloggers, wants to know: "Why Does the Right Bother with the Academy?" Read her blog. You'll find that she raises thoughtful and interesting questions in her posts.

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Declining Health May Cause Henry Hyde to End Political Career

Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Michael Sneed reported January 19, 2005 that she has been told "U.S. Representative Henry Hyde's health is so delicate he may call it quits at the end of the term." Ms. Sneed's Column is here.

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'Rice is Black, Isn't She?

Neil Steinberg, perhaps the Chicago Sun-Times' most opinionated staff columnist, asked the following question about Secretary of State nominee Condoleeza Rice in his January 19, 2005 column:

Rice is black, isn't she? It's hard to tell, since, as far as I can tell, she registers exactly nowhere on the scale of American black pride and self-identity. Sure, she's conservative and working for the Great Satan, George Bush, and sure she has that Lucy van Pelt hairdo thing going. But she still is one of the most powerful people in the world, and believe me, if she were Jewish, she'd be on stamps in Israel by now.
I think Ms. Rice's skin is brown, Mr. Steinberg. The item was headlined "Not a thug, perhaps." I wonder what that's supposed to mean?

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January 18, 2005

IPA Cites What it Calls a Few of Rice's Dubious Statements on Iraq

On January 18, 2005, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) issued what it called "dubious public statements on Iraq" by Condoleeza Rice. Here is IPA's press release on the subject.

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Rice's Confirmation Hearing Resumes January 19

Dr. Condoleezza Rice's confirmation hearing is scheduled to resume January 19, 2005, at 9 a.m. in the Hart Senate Office Building. Here is the schedule.

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Rice's Opening Statement Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Here is the "prepared for delivery" copy of Dr. Condoleezza Rice's opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On January 18, 2005, the committee started confirmation hearings on her appointment as Secretary of State.

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The Neo-internationalist

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's editorial Board says President George W. Bush's "challenge" during he next four years "is to make good use of the second term, solidifying the frayed ties with allies, rebuilding trust in much of the world and still maintaining security for the United States." Here's more.

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Terry Eastland Looks at Bush's First Inaugural Address

Terry Eastland, publisher of The Weekly Standard, takes a look back at President George W. Bush's first inaugural address.

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Pentagon Trying to Knock Down Hersh's Story on Iran

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita is trying to discredit Invesigative Reporter Seymour Hersh's latest article in The New Yorker. Mr. Hersh quotes sources as saying the Bush Administration has sent U.S. special forces into Iran in preparation for an attack. In my opinion, Mr. DiRita is not that convincing in his effort to knock down Mr. Hersh's article. All the fuss from the Pentagon makes me think Mr. Hersh is right. Mr. DiRita's comments are here.

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A Note to DNC Chairman.Com

While the blog DNC Chairman.Com provides valuable information on the DNC, it would be more valuable to a political blog such as The National Political Observer if DNC Chairman provided dates with its posts. In addition to publishing news and views, I write with the intent of using posts, and quotes from those post, in future research. I'm reluctant to quote from a post that does not have a name and a date. Nevertheless, I still read DNC Chairman.Com.

NOTE: This post was sent to DNC Chairman on January 18, 2005.

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Rice's Confirmation as Secretary of State is a Foregone Conclusion

New York Times Correspondent Todd S. Purdum, writing on Condeleeza Rice's appointment as Secretary of State, to succeed Colin Powell, notes that "her confirmation as the 66th secretary of state is a foregone conclusion, and the White House plans to swear her in on Inauguration Day. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has set aside two days, starting Tuesday, to question" Ms. Rice "about almost every aspect of her her past performance and future plans," he said.

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January 17, 2005

Steve Goddard's History Wire

Steve Goddard's History Wire lives up to its moniker of making the past come alive. I highly recommend it to National Political Observer readers.

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'A Day Without a Mexican'

Bryan Caplan, a guest blogger at EconLog, notes that "this is the season for giving movies their just deserts, but as far as I know there isn't a prize for Most Economically Literate Movie. Until now. The First Annual Prize in this category goes too...A Day Without a Mexican." He writes:

Inspired by the "magic realism" common in Latin American literature, A Day Without a Mexican is a modern fable in which all of the Hispanics in California vanish overnight. (Why not call it A Day Without an Hispanic? One of the film's recurring jokes is that Californians think that Mexico is the only country south of the border).

Much of the story traces the effects on California's economy. Agriculture, construction, personal services, restaurants, and more fall to pieces. Families even find their beloved nannies are missing.

The great 19th-century economist Frederic Bastiat taught economics largely through this sort of thought experiment. What would happen to the economy if we blotted out the sun? Candle-makers would hail the higher demand for artificial lights, but Bastiat objects that this makes society poorer by frittering away valuable resources to make what nature gives us for free.

He said "A Day Without a Mexican makes the same point. Without Latin American residents - legal or not - a few special interests benefit, but society loses.Californian agriculture might implode. But even if it attracted replacement workers with higher wages, society would have to give up whatever those replacement workers used to produce. It is far better for everyone to focus on their comparative advantage: for the Ph.D. in computer science to hire a less educated but perfectly competent nanny from Guatemala to watch her kids so she can return to work."

I wish my economics professors had taught the subject the way Econlog explains things.

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'Are Computers Harming American Education?'

Ryan McCarl over at Policy Forum asked in a January 11, 2005 post: "Are computers harming American education." I welcome any thoughts on this subject.

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Mike Power Comments on the Ordeal of Sgt. Kevin Benderman

Mike Power has an interesting commentary on Sgt. Kevin Benderman who "has been in the army for ten years but after witnessing horrific sights in Iraq" has "refused to return and is seeking a discharge as a conscientious objector." Read it here.

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Expats Against Bush

On January 4, 2005, Luke Robinson of Expat's Against Bush announced that his work "with the Democrats Abroad UK executive committee is likely to bring about some positive change in their website and the way that DA-UK members use it to coordinate their activities." He added:

Hopefully as time goes by we can work on the DA parent website as well and work on unifying the look and feel of the websites across the different countries. We will also be working on improving the way that DA-UK members communicate with each other.
Mr. Robinson said "the bad news is that I cannot commit to doing a good job for them and continue to maintain this site as well. Therefore, I will not be adding any new posts to this site from today (barring any exceptional circumstances). I will leave the site up and running so that you can go back and review old posts, and the comments section will remain open on all posts, but I will not be adding any new content."

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Base Closings Will Have a Major Impact on Washington State

Washington State Political Report says with "another round" military base closings coming in May, 2005, "the military towns around the state are worried. "Everett fears that losing its 6,000 sailors would wreck businesses ranging from car dealerships to the local florists who fill hundreds of orders for homecomings," the report said.

"Folks in Oak Harbor say the closing of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station would turn the city into a ghost town and eliminate 68 percent of Island County employment." The blog clearly demonstrates the impact base closings will have on Washington State's economy.

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Clean Cut Kid: Another Dakota Blog

Clean Cut Kid, a blog on politics, culture and common sense, is another South Dakota blog weighing in on that state's intersting politics. Dough Wiken over at Dakota Today mentioned it in a January 16, 2005 post.

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'Last Week Was a Week of Introspection in Washington'.

Dave Cook wrote in the January 17, 2005 issue of The Christian Science Monitor that “last week was a week of introspection in Washington. “Most notably,” he added, “ George W. Bush danced right up to – but did not cross – the line of admitting he might have actually made a mistake during his first term. Meanwhile, Democrats continued their public soul searching about the best way to woo voters in future presidential elections.” Read more here.

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Don't Jump to Conclusions in Coptic Christian Murders

Rather than jump to conclusions about the recent murders of Hossam Armanious, 47; his wife, Amal Garas, 37, and daughters Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8, in Jersey City, New Jersey, I suggest that we wait until the police have concluded their investigation before we assess blame, as some bloggers are doing.

According to the New York Daily News and other newspapers, robbery is one theory the police is looking at because all money, with the exception of a penny, was taken. There was no forced entry, the Daily News reported. According to the January 16, 2005, issue of Newsday,"Mr. Armanious' elder brother Talaat said he was bewildered by the killings. He added that his brother's New Jersey home was robbed several months before the killing."

However, this is not to say the family did not die as a result of a Coptic Christian/Muslim fued, as some are suggesting. This is because Mr. Armanious reportedly often engaged in heated discussions with Muslims in a relgious chat room.

If Muslims killed the family, then they should be vigorously prosecuted. But what if it turns out the four were killed by fellow Copts, or Christians of some other denomination, or one of Mr. Armanious' co-workers? Will those who blame Muslims apologize?

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Is Iran next for U.S. military?

Based on a Seymour Hersh article in the current issue of The New Yorker, the BBC is asking: Is Iran next for the U.S. military? Since it can barely handle Iraq, it would be wise for the Bush Administration to leave Iran alone. And unless a draft is imposed, where will the soldiers come from to fight a war with Iran? If there is no intention to occupy Iran, then air power is sufficient. But why attack Iran if you are not going to occupy it?

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An Iraq Policy Mandate Based on Deceit

In an interview published in the January 15, 2005 issue of The Washington Post, President George W. Bush said:

We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections. The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."
It's true that the majority did choose Mr. Bush. If they hadn't, Senator John Kerry, his opponent in the November 2004 presidential election, would be preparing to be sworn in on January 20, 2005.

But historians will eventually confirm that Mr. Bush's supporter's endorsed an Iraq policy that is based on one the greatest con jobs in the history of the nation. It ranks with the propaganda that Spanish agents blew up the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898. This provided New York Journal publisher William Randolph Hearst and other American newspaper proprietors with an excuse to agitate for war against Spain, which many wanted anyway as a result of the Manifest Destiny doctrine propounded in 1839 by John L. O'Sullivan in an essay titled "The Great Nation of Futurity, which was published in The United States Democratic Review.

In fact, as scholar Lincoln Cushing notes in Centennial of the Spanish-American War 1898-1998, Mr. Hearst responded to illustrator/correspondent Frederic Remington's request to return from Havana because "there is no war" by allegedly saying: "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."

Mr. Hearst and other publishers whipped the nation into a frenzy and had citizens willing to sacrifice their sons in the Spanish-American War of 1898, which resulted in Spain losing Cuba and the Philippines.

After 35-years of studying such interventions,I've conclued that we Americans, who love to boast about our education and sophistication, can be easily manipulated into supporting questionable foreign adventures, especially against non-Europeans and non-Christians. I think some of it is steeped in racism and a belief that U.S. presidents have a duty to take up the white man's burden of taming and civilizing the "savages," by imposing democracy on them, even if it's out of the barrel of a gun. In other words, to make the nation feel secure, non-Europeans have to be like the majority of Americans, if not in skin tone and religion, then in political philosphy.

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Ex-Agent Sees a Dubious Purge at the CIA

Haviland Smith, a retired CIA station chief who served in east and west Europe, the Middle East and as chief of the agency's counterterrorism staff, published an article in the January 16, 2005 issued of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in which he charged that "Porter Goss, the new CIA director and a devoted political ally of President Bush, has brought with him to Langley, a Praetorian Guard from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. They have come to shake the place up.

"Whatever is going on, it is at the behest of the White House, and it probably does not focus on faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction but rather on the conduct of the Iraq war and its aftermath," Mr. Smith wrote. "In that context, the administration's wrath seems directed toward the clandestine service, that component of the CIA that recruits and handles spies (not the component that publishes intelligence estimates). Since Goss' arrival in Langley, Va., much of the senior management of the clandestine service has been fired or has quit, reportedly to be replaced with more compliant officials." Read more here.

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Seymour M. Hersh on Bush's 'Coming Wars'

"George W. Bush’s reëlection was not his only victory last fall," Investigative Reporter Seymour M. Hersh writes in The New Yorker posted online January 17, 2005. "The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state."

"Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism—during his second term," Mr. Hersh said. "The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as “facilitators” of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way." Read more here. By the way, things do always go according to plan. I suspect this will be one of those things that won't.

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Detroit Free Press: Bush's New Agenda May Be a Tough Sell

"'President George W. Bush is expected to use Thursday's inaugural as a springboard for an unusually ambitious second-term agenda that includes spreading democracy in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East and revamping Social Security and the federal tax code," according to the Detroit Free Press.

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Southern Political Science Association Elects New Leader

"Duke [political science] professor Paula D. McClain has been named president of the Southern Political Science Association, according to the Herald-Sun.Com of Durham, N.C. The association is "one of seven regional affiliates of the American Political Science Association," the paper noted. Read about it here.

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Is Iyad Allawi’s American Bodyguard a Secret Service Agent?

Is Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi’s American bodyguard a U.S. Secret Service agent? Mr. Allawi is profiled in the current issue of The New Yorker.

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Rudy Takala on 'Problems the Democrat's Have'

Rudy Takala over at Renew America says "as the day of President Bush's inauguration draws near, liberal organizations seem to be on the brink of implosion; they don't know what policies to pursue, they don't know who their chairman should be, and they don't know whether they should attack the presidential inauguration as a bourgeoisie-perpetrated fraud or as simply too expensive." Is he right? Read more here.

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Conservative Union Sees Vacuum in Debate Over Social Security

"Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum," Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union," notes in The Washington Times."A political vacuum will not long remained unfilled," he reminds Conservatives. "Something will come along to occupy the void. Right now, President Bush is allowing a vacuum to emerge over Social Security reform. Unless he moves quickly to fill the void, his opponents will." Read why Mr. Lessner is worried.

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Keeping American Politics in Perspective

Will Roberts, a staff columnist at The DoG Street Journal at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, took a look back at the November 2004 presidential election in his January 17, 2005 column. He wrote:

After the recent U.S President election, I found that many Democratic students were what I considered to be overly angry about Bush’s win. I heard comments such as , “How could Americans be so stupid!” and “That’s it, I’m moving to Canada!”
Mr. Roberts said "while I too voted for Kerry, my reaction to the election was quite different. For the first time in a long time I felt proud to be an American. I was proud not because Bush won, but because of the sheer number of people that turned out to vote. The 2000 election debacle had shattered my faith in American democracy. But the 2004 Presidential election restored my faith." Here's more.

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The Bushes: America's Family Portrait?

Peter S. Canellos asserts in the January 17, 2005 edition of the Boston Globe that "the Bush family's journey from New England to the Sun Belt marked a watershed in American politics that no one comprehended even 15 years ago, when George the elder was president. "Still distantly influenced by the Yankee tradition of noblesse oblige, the Bushes have come to represent a microcosm of national political and demographic shifts," Mr. Canellos contends. "Their changing faces have become, to some degree, America's family portraits." How? You may find the answere here.

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Jack Mosely: Politicians, Like Magicians, are Masters of Mis-direction

Jack Moseley, a columnist for Stephens Media Group’s Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, contends that "Magicians and politicians share one common talent — the ability to deceive you by misdirecting your attention on what is really happening by focusing on the less important. The Bush administration’s current rush to privatize Social Security and put this country a couple of trillion dollars deeper in debt is a prime example," he asserted in his January 14, 2005 column. Read more here.

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January 16, 2005

Time Canada.Com Asks: Is There Really a Social Security Crisis?

Karen Tumulty and Eric Roston, in a five-page article in Time Canada.Com, try to answer thes question:Is There Really a Crisis in Social Security? They say: "Social Security is a long way from bankrupt, despite the president’s assertions. Why, then, is Bush taking on America’s biggest, most successful social program ever?" Is the question legitimate>

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The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and Social Security

George Will, in a column that appeared in the January 16, 2005, issue of the Chicago Sun-Times, one of my hometown newspapers, offers an informative opinion on the role of the 30-year-old Penison Benefit Guaranty Corporation. An excerpt:

Its existence may be necessary, but it causes ''moral hazard,'' and is pertinent to the debate about how to guarantee the benefits of the biggest pension system, Social Security.

The pension agency is a government entity created in 1974 after some bankruptcies left thousands of retirees without pensions. The agency insures -- but not completely -- companies' pension funds. Since 1991, companies with pension plans have been billed $19 annually for every worker and retiree covered by the plans. The money -- about $1 billion a year -- funds the agency.

Last week, the Bush administration endorsed increasing the annual assessment to $30 -- and more for financially shaky companies. This is because the agency's $8 billion surplus in 2001 has become a $23 billion deficit, a reversal largely the result of the airline industry's crisis, the worst of which is still to come.

One of the most potent passages follows the discussion of trouble legacy airlines such as United and US Airways, who are only being kept alive by bankruptcy courts. They can not compete with the Southwest and various regional carries. Mr. Will said:
The older carriers are being driven to, or over, the threshold of bankruptcy by the weight of their pay and pension costs. Some of these commitments were made before the new low-cost carriers made it impossible for the legacy carriers to pass on high costs to their customers, and some were made to buy short-term labor peace because strikes could destroy the companies.

The agency is taking over the pilots' pension plan of United and will soon have all of US Airways' pensions, just as in recent years it took over many from the steel industry. Three other airlines are in bankruptcy court to dissolve imprudent labor contracts. No legacy airline can compete with another that has dumped its pension burdens in the government's lap. Some, perhaps most, legacy carriers could be one price spike in fuel costs -- meaning serious terrorism against oil production facilities -- from extinction.

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Tom Watson's Recommended Reading List

Thanks to Tom Watson for putting The National Political Observer on his recommended reading list. We welcome those reading TNPO for the fist time. We also appreciate our regulars. Here's what Tom wrote:

Munir Umrami will be - I predict - a force in political blogging by the time of the mid-term elections. His National Political Observer is relentless, complete, and opinionated. A daily.
I'm glad Tom changed his mind about ending his blog. Although we may not get as much attention as Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis, Juan Cole and others in Technorati's Top 100, I think blogs such as The National Political Observer, Tom Watson, The National Debate, INDC Journal, The Opinion Gazette(one of my blogs) and other lesser known blogs do make a valuable contribution to the national discourse on politics, economics, the war or whatever we write about. See La Shawn Barber's "The Blogosphere's Smaller Stars: There's a Vast Alternative to Dan Rather."

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January 15, 2005

INDC Journal's Perspective on Kos and the Dean Campaign

Bill at INDCJournal has written what I think is one of the best perspectives on the debate swirling around Markos Moulitsas Zunigas--the DailyKos--whom the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) claims was on the payroll of the Howard Dean presidential campaign. Bill's post is headlined "Blogger on the Roof." I recommend it.

WSJ, in a January 14, 2005, article headlined "Dean Campaign Made Payment's to Two Bloggers," wrote:

The partisan Democratic political bloggers who were hired by the Dean campaign were Jerome Armstrong, who publishes the blog MyDD, and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, who publishes DailyKos. DailyKos is the ninth most linked blog on the Internet, according to Technorati, a measurement service, and in October, at the height of the presidential campaign, it received as many as one million daily visits.
Zephyr Teachout, described by WSJ as "the former head of Internet outreach for Mr. Dean's campaign," mentioned the connection in a January 10, 2005 post on her blog, Zonkette. Her piece was headlined "Financially Interested Blogging." It immediately sent shockwaves through the blogosphere and eventually reached the mainstream media.

Many in the blogosphere who were not aware of Kos' June 9, 2003, disclosure that he was working with the Dean campaign seemed suprised. Some came to his defense while others, me included, opined that bloggers should make full disclosure whenever they are paid to write about an issue or are on the payroll of a politician or corporation they are writing about. Kos did just that, and still became the subject of an article that is a revelation only to those who did not know about his disclosure. For some conservative bloggers, it was an "ah ha" moment.

NOTE: The links in the WSJ quote were provided by The National Political Observer to provide perspective for readers.

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Are South Dakota Bloggers 'Missing the Point'?

Tim of A Progressive on the Prairie reported on January 14, 2005 that South Dakota's "right-wing bloggers are squawking that left bloggers in SD aren't outraged that the operator of Daily Kos was a paid consultant to the Dean campaign and using that news to rationalize their actions. They miss the point."

As I said at the outset, I didn't have a problem with the Thune campaign paying bloggers. My concern was that you wouldn't know that by looking at the blogs. In contrast, the Daily Kos site posted a "Full Disclosure" entry when retained and carried a front page disclaimer in the upper left corner. (Graphics and design-type people will tell you that is the focal point to which the eye is first drawn on a page or web site.)

I could care less if someone gets paid for voicing an opinion. If they can sell it, more power to them. Disclosure is the issue. It's the lack of candor that's disheartening. What did these people fear from being honest on their blogs?

Tim said "along those lines, I will join Proud Liberal and, in fact, make my statement somewhat broader: I have never received money or other consideration or recompense, directly or indirectly, from any federal, state or local political campaign or government agency in exchange for any thing ever posted on this blog."

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Did the Wall Street Journal Commit Journalism Fraud?

Did Wall Street Journal (WSJ) staff reporters William M. Buckley and James Bandler misrepresent the facts in their January 14, 2005 article headlined "Dean Campaign Made Payments to Two Bloggers?" Dean staffer Laura Gross thinks so. So do many bloggers. Read what Ms. Gross calls "the full story" over at Blog for America.

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Lean Left's Take on Suellentrop's 'Blogging for Dollars...'

Lean Left has a pointed commentary on Slate's Chris Suellentrop's January 14, 2005 post headlined "Blogging for Dollars: Hang Daily Kos, but not for taking money from Howard Dean." Lean Left's piece is called "Sullentop Writes Something Stupid." I recommend it.

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Should Social Security Agency Sell Bush's Overhaul Plan?

Blogger Julia Saltman raises an important question in a January 15, 2005 post headlined "Your retirement savings at work." Her question was prompted by a paragraph in an article in The New York Times that says:

Social Security officials say the agency is carrying out its mission to educate the public, including more than 47 million beneficiaries, and to support President Bush's agenda.
"Since when is the agency's mission to "support President Bush's agenda"?" she asks, adding: I don't see where it says that in the 1935 Social Security Act." Great question and observation. Should Social Security officials be campaigning to do away with Social Security as we know it? Read Ms. Saltman's entire post.

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Prairie Weather

Prairie Weather, a blog on "Reading, listening to, and watching America... from the southern Great Plains," regularly posts interesting commentary on national and international affairs. I hope the owner keeps blogging.

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The Democrats and Social Security Strategizing

Matthew Yglesias says there is the "need for more demagogic attacks on Bush's plan to eliminate Social Security." He asks:

In that vein, can't the Democrats get someone out there to complain about the fact that the plan is, apparently, some sort of secret? I mean, here's Bush and Cheney barnstorming the country in support of their plan and yet . . . there is no plan!
He contends that "this is exactly the sort of pseudo-issue that was part of the campaign to bring down the Clinton health care plan. And, seriously, even from a conservative point of view it's very hard to defend proposing to privatize Social Security without saying what the proposal is." Read the entire article. It's thought-provoking.
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John Kerry 2004 Unofficial Blog Joins the Debate on Full Disclosure

John Kerry 2004: The Unofficial Kerry for President Blog has weighed in on the full disclosure debate in the Blogosphere sparked by Zephyr Teachout over at Zonkette. On January 10, 2005, she wrote "in anticipation of a conference next week on ethics, blogging, and journalism:

I think the ethics question is a serious one, which I’ve brought up elsewhere and fought with Markos Zuniga, and several others in the blogosphere, about. In this past election, at least a few prominent bloggers were paid as consultants by candidates and groups they regularly blogged about.
In addition to the Armstrong Williams revelation, this is what fueled the debate in the blogosphere about full disclosure:
On Dean’s campaign, we paid Markos and Jerome Armstrong as consultants, largely in order to ensure that they said positive things about Dean. We paid them over twice as much as we paid two staffers of similar backgrounds, and they had several other clients.

While they ended up also providing useful advice, the initial reason for our outreach was explicitly to buy their airtime. To be very clear, they never committed to supporting Dean for the payment -- but it was very clearly, internally, our goal.

Ron Chusid of John Kerry 2004, commented on the disclosure debate in a January 15, 204 post headlined "The Best Supporters Money Can Buy." He wrote:
Looking back to the days when we backed Kerry early on in the primaries, despite considerable opposition from some of the major blogs such as Daily Kos, things are now looking much clearer, thanks to this confession from Zephyr Teachout. This also helps explain why the blogs gave an exaggerated impression of Dean's success, and provides warnings of such potential misuse of the blogosphere in the future.

He also wrote: In the interest of full disclosure, should I say that, while I never received any payment from the Kerry campaign, I did receive a big hug from Teresa Heinz Kerry when we met? A staffer from Kerry's Senate office also passed on a message to me in December expressing "the Senator's warm personal regards."

NOTE: This post first appeared at The Opinion Gazette, one of my other blogs.

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Full Disclosure is Best

I agree with Hugh Hewitt that "Bloggers should disclose --prominently and repeatedly-- when they are receiving payments from individuals or organizations about whom or which they are blogging. Period. Lawyers live with codes of ethics that detail conflicts, so I guess it is ingrained in some bloggers, but this is very simple. Transparency is the key."

Indeed, it is. If bloggers want to avoid being discredited even before the Blogosphere reaches maturity, full disclosure is necessary when one is shilling for a political candidate, corporation or other entity.

As for Kos, I never expected him to be non-partisan. During the presidential campaign, I read DailyKos with the thought that Kos was a political operative who used a blog as a tool. This view developed as a result of reading his June 9, 2003 "Full Disclosure" statement, in which he said:

I've been on the road a lot the past few months. Some of it was for my day job as a web developer. But the bulk of it was for my new political consulting firm (alongside my partner).

I spent this weekend in Burlington, VT, where we officially accepted work on behalf of presidential candidate Howard Dean. Dean joins a Senate candidate in our still small but hopefully growing roster of clients.

Of course, this means many of you will accuse of me of certain biases (with good reason).

That's fine. I never claimed to be free of bias. But I've always been able to see past such biases to do what I love to do -- analyze the political landscape. For example, I'm biased against Gephardt, yet have had no problem slapping him in first for the Cattle Call. My approach to writing will remain unchanged. I won't turn this into a rah-rah for Dean site. That's just not my style.

Ultimately, I trust you all to take what I write with the proper grain of salt, fully appraised of whatever conflicts of interest I may have.

But for the record, I will not discuss my role within the Dean campaign, other than to say it's technical, not message or strategy. I will also not discuss any of my other clients, including their identities (I have non-disclose agreements to which I must adhere).

In hindsight, it appears that Kos should have published the disclosure statement "prominently and repeatedly." Hopefully all Bloggers will learn from the controversy swirling around the question of disclosure. It will save a lot of embarassment and loss of credibility. As the Armstrong Williams revelations indicate, loss of credibility can be costly, quick and unmerciful.

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The Political Puzzle V.2.0: 'Everything Seems to be Reduced to Our Morals'

The Political Puzzle V.2.0 made this observation about morals and public policy:

Everything seems to be reduced down to our morals. The war in Iraq somehow became a 'moral obligation', tax breaks to the rich became a 'moral obligation', and now "fixing" Social Security has become a 'moral obligation'.

Never mind that virtually all of the experts outside of the Bush Administration state that there is nothing to "fix" on Social Security. The system is far from being "broke". If we do absolutely nothing with the program it will last at least until 2042 before it starts paying out more money than it is taking in.

I'm not that well-versed in the intricacies of the Social Security system. However, I have definitely been following the debate, and will continue to do so. As to whether "fixing" Social Security has become a 'moral obligation,' I don't have a clue since I don't know if it needs fixing. Some pundits say it does and some say it doesn't. Who is right? Read the entire article

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The Breakdown of Divisions Between The President, His Party and Media

Matthew Yglesias makes good points in his post headlined "Putinization Watch." The post is about what he calls "the breakdown of the divisions between president and party, between his administration and the state it administers, between the state and the businesses it regulates, and between party propaganda and media." This young man appears quite observant of current events and is obviously well-read. But what Harvard graduate isn't?

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Eric Alterman: Pundit Limbo: How Low Can They Go?"

Eric Alterman has a provocative piece in The Nation headlined "Pundit Limbo: How Low Can They Go?" Mr. Alterman writes:

While often annoying, punditry is an honorable and necessary corollary to media in search of the holy grail of objectivity. But the business has fallen into a pathetic state in recent times, as is clear from three scandals, the reactions to which are no less indicative of how low we now go.
He said "the first and best-known of these transgressions is that involving Robert Novak, who, alone among professional journalists, proved willing to play patsy for the Bush Administration and endanger U.S. national security by deliberately revealing the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, wife of Administration critic Joseph Wilson.

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A Transcript of Hugh Hewitt's Defense of Bloggers

Johnny Dollar's Place has a transcript of Hugh Hewitt's appearance on The O'Reilly Factor. Mr. Hewitt, as usual, represented bloggers well as they discussed "media and special interests."

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Captain Ed on Bloggers and Paid Political Work

Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters has a good post on bloggers being paid for political work. It's headlined Kos, Teachout, Williams, Lauck, Van Beek, and is relevant in the wake of the Armstrong Williams affair.

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January 13, 2005

Kucinich: Social Security Crisis is Administration's Latest WMD

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich contends that the Bush "Administration's Social Security 'Crisis' is their latest WMD Campaign. Click here to read his press release.

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President Bush's Views on the Armstrong Williams Story

In an interview published in the January 13, 2005 issue of USA Today, President George W. Bush commented on the Armstrong Williams scandal.

Q: Was it a mistake for the Education Department to pay Armstrong Williams to endorse No Child Left Behind in his broadcasts?

A: Well, obviously, first of all, I'm very aware of which newspaper broke the story.

No. I do think that your story brought up serious concerns. And I think there needs to be a clear distinction between journalism and advocacy. And I appreciate the way Armstrong Williams has handled this, because he has made it very clear that he made a mistake. And I think all of us — the Cabinet needs to take a good look and make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again.

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USA Today's Interview With President Bush

Here is a link to a USA Today transcript of an interview that USA TODAY reporters Richard Benedetto and Judy Keen conducted with President George W. Bush.

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Armstrong Williams and a Weekend From Hell

Chicago Tribune Columnist Clarence Page, a man I know from his days in Chicago, said in his January 12, 2005, column: "My conservative pundit friend Armstrong Williams just had the weekend from hell, answering phones and juggling interviews like a multitasking press agent for Paris Hilton."

"Have you seen the coverage?" he exclaimed over the phone. "I had no idea I was this important!"

"Well, sorry, my friend, but it's not just about you," Mr. Page wrote. "There's also the matter of $240,000 in taxpayers' money." Read more here.

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Columnist: 'CBS Needs to Focus on Journalistic Work Ethic...'

Seattle Times Columnist Kay McFadden says "The rush to air a story like the now-discredited "60 Minutes" segment on President Bush's National Guard service is known in television news as "crashing." This week, it burned," she wrote. Read more here.

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Was CBS's Investigation of its Bush Guard Story a Farce?

Chris Begala of the Lone Star Times contends that "The independent Panel which conducted CBS’s investigation into the network’s corrupt story on President Bush’s National Guard service has failed miserably in its attempt to produce a respected report, but instead has raised even more doubt into the credibility of CBS’s unprofessional news division." Here is more of Begala's column.

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Family Feud Leads to Investigation of Illinois Governor's Aide

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County (Illinois) State's Attorney Richard Devine "have opened an investigation into allegations made by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's father-in-law, influential Chicago Alderman Richard Mell, that a Blagojevich adviser traded government appointments for campaign contributions," according to an Associated Press article in the January 13, 2005 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times. Mr. Blagojevich, meanwhile, went on the offensive Thursday [January 13, 2005], challenging Mr. Mell to back up his claims," the Associated Press added.

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The Governor and His Father-in-Law Trying to End Feud

Political State Report has captured the essence of the feud between Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his father-in-law, Chicago Alderman Richard Mell, an old-school politician who engineered his son-in-law's rise to political power. Click here to see what the feud is about.

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'Those Bogus WMDs Won’t Stop the Bush Bandwagon'

Alf Young, columnist for the Herald of Britain stated in his January 14, 2005 column that:

There was no formal White House announcement. Nor even a whisper of an apology in our own prime minister's big speech yesterday, kick-starting Labour's bid for a third successive term in power. But the defining claim of George W Bush's first administration and Tony Blair's second – that Saddam Hussein was threatening global security and had to be stopped because he possessed enormous stockpiles of WMDs, weapons of mass destruction – is now officially exposed for what it was: bogus scaremongering on a monumental scale
Mr. Young said "on this issue, at least those of us who questioned the case for war can now say, without fear of contradiction, that we were right not to believe a word these two men said about their reasons for invading Iraq."

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HRW Wants Special Prosecutor to Probe Administration's Use of Torture

Human Rights Watch (HRW) contends in its World Report 2005, that "When the photos from Abu Ghraib became public, the Bush administration reacted like many abusive governments that are caught red-handed: it went into damage-control mode." The organization added:

It agreed that the torture and abuse featured in the photographs were wrong, but sought to minimize the problem. The abusers, it claimed, were a handful of errant soldiers, a few “bad apples” at the bottom of the barrel. The problem, it argued, was contained, both geographically (one section of Abu Ghraib prison) and structurally (only low-level soldiers, not more senior commanders). The abuse photographed at Abu Ghraib and broadcast around the world, it maintained, had nothing to do with the decisions and policies of more senior officials. President Bush vowed that “wrongdoers will be brought to justice,” but as of early December 2004, no one above the rank of sergeant is facing prosecution.

Key to this damage control was a series of carefully limited investigations—ten so far. Most of the investigations, such as those conducted by Maj. Gen. George Fay and Lt. Gen. Anthony Jones, involved uniformed military officials examining the conduct of their subordinates; these officers lacked the authority to scrutinize senior Pentagon officials. The one investigation with the theoretical capacity to examine the conduct of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top aides—the inquiry led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger—was appointed by Rumsfeld himself and seemed to go out of its way to distance him from the problem. (At the press conference releasing the investigative report, Schlesinger said that Rumsfeld’s resignation “would be a boon to all America’s enemies.”) The Schlesinger investigation lacked the independence of, for example, the September 11 Commission, which was established with the active involvement of the U.S. Congress. As for the Central Intelligence Agency—the branch of the U.S. government believed to hold the most important terrorist suspects—it has apparently escaped scrutiny by anyone other than its own inspector general. Meanwhile, no one seems to be looking at the role of President Bush and other senior administration officials.

HRW said "when an unidentified government official retaliated against a critic of the Bush administration by revealing his wife to be a CIA agent—a serious crime because it could endanger her—the administration agreed, under pressure, to appoint a special prosecutor who has been promised independence from administration direction. "Yet," the organization added, "the administration has refused to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether senior officials authorized torture and other forms of coercive interrogation – a far more serious and systematic offense. As a result, no criminal inquiry that the administration itself does not control is being conducted into the U.S. government’s abusive interrogation methods. The flurry of self-investigations cannot obscure the lack of any genuinely independent one."

NOTE: The links in this post are provide for perspective. They are not in the HRW report from which this is excerpted.

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When Journalists Cross the Ethics Lines

Luther Keith, columnist for the Detroit News, says "it is the bedrock of our American democracy and at the same time our Achilles heel, the free flow of information and the access to ideas through the media based on the guarantees of the First Amendment."

"The power of newspapers, television, radio and now the Internet represents a potent and precious force for freedom," he wrote in the January 13, 2005 issue. "But given an overzealous ideological agenda, an overeagerness to respond to competitive pressures or just plain greed, this force for freedom can be abused, manipulated and contorted to hoodwink, disguise and to propagandize in a way that is less than transparent to the public." Read more here.

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January 12, 2005

Blogger Comments on End of Search for WMD in Iraq

Reality Based Nation: "Clinton was impeached, ultimately, for lying to the American people about a sexual fling with an intern. Now that it's absolutely confirmed that no WMD existed, why should Bush not be impeached?"

Joe Fish over at Democratic Veteran pulls no punches in his commentary on the Bush Administration's admission that it had withdrawn the Iraq Survey Group from Iraq without finding weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Read it here.

Ed Thibodeau at NonPlussed noted that "The Bush administration has officially ended its search for WMD in Iraq. The only news in that statement is that it means the search was still active until recently," he said. "The shocker is a statement made by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellen:

"Based on what we know today, the president would have taken the same action because this is about protecting the American people."


"Let's say for the sake of argument that Bush sincerely believed that Iraq had WMD and wasn't criminally negligent in failing to test his views against contrary evidence," Mr.Thibodeau said, asking: "How in the world can his spokseman say he would do everything exactly the same way?!?!" Great question.

The Angry Patriot said: Okay, so maybe Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction after all! When did God's Chosen Leader, George W. Bush, ever say he was going into Iraq to find WMD's anyway? He always said that he was destroying Iraq to save it! Name one instance where Bush said he wanted to find the weapons of mass destruction? Name one?"

Angry Liberal Chick: "At long last, the official search for WMD is over. Wow, only 1,350 Americans dead and approximately 10,000 wounded, not to mention all those dead Iraqi civilians! Anyone have a head count on the dead Iraqi civilians? No? No matter, guess this is what we call a success in a Republican White House."

Harry's Blog: "And so we find out that - after more than a year of searching, a billion dollars, and 1,400 man-years of effort, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Sorry, we are told, it was all a big mistake. Tell that to the 1,300+ Americans killed, the 10,000+ Americans wounded, and the 100,000+ Iraqis killed."

Scott Bateman's Journal: "They sounded so SURE they'd find WMD. What the hell happened, and why can't we get a full accounting of it, if only for the families of our lost troops this president claims to support?"

The National Political Observer: Scott Bateman's Journal has a compilation of statements made by various Bush Administration officials assuring us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Great job, Scott.

There is Thought: "It is unfortunate that the debate over the War has been framed as a question about whether Iraq had a weapons program or not. The real question to ask when assessing the justification of the invasion of Iraq is not whether Iraq had a weapons program but if it was an immanent threat to America or its allies. The absence of a weapons program gives us a definite answer to this question: no. But if weapons were found, we would not have a definitive "yes" as an answer."

The Wertz Generation: Dear Conservative America,

I'll have the strength of character to refrain from saying "I told you so" if you have the strength of character to say "I was wrong".
Yours sincerely,Wertz"

WillBardwell.Com: "You might want to sit down for this.
Two years into a war that has cost tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars, the White House admitted today for the first time that the justification for that war has fallen through."

Big Dog's Weblog has interesting comments on the WMD story.

Grace4Me had this to say: "Well, The Bush administration blew it! They came out today and admitted that there "are" no WMD's to be found in Iraq and the media is eating it up. Obviously they have some answering to do. The report, however, does not say that there never "were" any WMD's. Even the Clinton administration had information that he did have them and we all know this is something Saddam did on a regular basis. But, the Press wants to see them in person and they will not get to do it. The search has been called off and the Bush administration has made its findings known and now we move on. Some argue that there never were and that is why there are none to be found. Others would say that there were and we gave Saddam too much time to move them and so they are across the border in Syria. What do you think?"

Thune Watch:"Bush 0, WMDs 0: Ok John, Ready to Admit You Were Wrong?"

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It's Official

Ed Thibodeau at NonPlussed noted that "The Bush administration has officially ended its search for WMD in Iraq. The only news in that statement is that it means the search was still active until recently," he said. "The shocker is a statement made by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellen:

"Based on what we know today, the president would have taken the same action because this is about protecting the American people."


"Let's say for the sake of argument that Bush sincerely believed that Iraq had WMD and wasn't criminally negligent in failing to test his views against contrary evidence," Mr.Thibodeau said, asking: "How in the world can his spokseman say he would do everything exactly the same way?!?!" Great question.

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Democratic Veteran's Take on End of the Hunt for WMD in Iraq.

Joe Fish over at Democratic Veteran pulls no punches in his commentary on the Bush Administration's admission that it had withdrawn the Iraq Survey Group from Iraq without finding weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Read it here.

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Bush: No WMD Found But Invading Iraq Was Worth it

The 1,200 military and intelligence specialists and support staff that made up the Iraq Survey have stopped looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. Headed by Charles Duefler, the group spent nearly two years searching military installations, factories and laboratories to no avail. President George W. Bush said one of the reasons for invading Iraq was to eliminate WMD. Although no WMD were found, Mr. Bush said invading Iraq and waging war there was worth it.

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January 11, 2005

The Report of The Review of the 60 Minutes Wednesday Segment on Bush

Here is The Report of The Independent Review of the September 8, 2004 60 Minutes Wednesday Segment "For the Record" concerning President Bush's Texas Air National Guard Service. Dated June 5, 2005, the study was commissioned by CBS and conducted by Richard Thornburgh and Louis D. Boccardi conducted

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Armstrong Williams: 'This happens all the time. There are others.'

David Corn of The Nation said columnist and public relations expert Armstrong Williams, who is under fire for taking $240,000 from the Bush Administration to promote its No Child Left Behind program in the guise of news and opinion, told him "This happens all the time. There are others."

"Really? I said," declared Mr. Corn. "Other conservative commentators accept money from the Bush administration? I asked Williams for names. "I'm not going to defend myself that way," he said. The issue right now, he explained, was his own mistake. Well, I said, what if I call you up in a few weeks, after this blows over, and then ask you? No, he said." Mr. Williams said taking the money was bad judgment.

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January 10, 2005

Muslim Charity is Between $250 Billion and $1 Trillion Annually

A February 22, 2004 study prepared for the United States Agency for International Development by the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that:

The magnitude of philanthropic giving in Muslim communities is unclear, but given estimates of per capita giving in some countries, religious injunctions to donate at least 10 percent of one’s income to charity, per capita incomes in Muslim-majority countries and other factors, total giving of the kind described here likely falls between $250 billion and $1 trillion annually.
As New York Times correspondent Neil MacFarquhar noted in an article published January 4, 2005 and headlined Gulf Arabs Wonder: Are They Being Stingy With Aid?, Kuwait’s Al Qabas newspaper “set off a debate spreading throughout the country and beyond on Monday [January 3, 2004] by suggesting that Kuwait deserves its reputation for being cheap and oblivious to people who go there to work as servants, given the relatively low level of aid it has donated to the tsunami victims at a time when the state treasury is bursting with an oil bonanza.”

However, it’s Peter’s Bergen’s article, “When Muslims Suffer, it’s the West that helps out,” that is being widely circulated and commented on in the Blogosphere and reprinted in newspapers around the U.S. and the world. The premise of the article is that Muslims don’t help their own.

He is credited in some quarters with bringing attention to the small sums Muslim and Arab governments initially offered in response to the damage caused by the December 26, 2004, tsunami that struck South Asia, Southeast Asia and the coast of East Africa.

To date, more than 150,000 tsunami deaths have been reported. Thousands more are unaccounted for, and are presumed dead.

Like al Qabas, Mr. Berger specifically singled out Gulf Arab states. However, in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, many nations faraway from the disaster zone pledged small amounts. Those in the neighborhood or region such as Japan and Australia pledged hundreds of millions. After the extent of the disaster became known, and because of political pressure and the desire to score diplomatic and public relations points, aid from all quarters began to pick up. Most of the aid has strings attached.

While Mr. Bergen, a fellow at the New America Foundation and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advance International Studies, raised valid points, he distorted the picture of Muslim aid to Muslims. To this observer, it seemed as if the article was designed to score propaganda points, and that it did. All propaganda has some truth to it.

After citing a litany of Muslim ills, and instances where he says the West had to bail Muslims out of tough situation—I contend they didn’t do it just to save Muslims but because it was in their best interest to do it--, Mr. Bergen concluded by noting the sums some Arab nations have given to date for tsunami disaster relief. “Much remains to be done, however,” he said. “The Persian Gulf countries that are reaping a bonanza from record oil prices should send a meaningful percentage of those windfall profits to their fellow Muslims devastated by the tsunami, rather than lining the pockets of their ruling families. After all, Zakat, the giving of charity, is one of the five pillars of Islam.

NOTE: This post first appeared at The Opinion Gazette and can also be found at The Foreign News Observer and The TDT Observer Review, my other blogs.

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January 8, 2005

KKK Leader Back in the Spotlight for 1964 Murders

The Clarion Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi has good, indepth coverage of the arrest and arraignment of Edgar Ray Killen, the Ku Klux Klansman who allegedly engineered the June 21, 1964 murder of James Chaney of Meridian, Mississippi, and Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, both of New York." They were working to register African-American voters in Neshoba and Lauderdale counties in Mississippi when they disappeared near the small town of Philadelphia. As the Clarion-Ledger notes, "the bodies were discovered 44 days later, buried 15 feet beneath an earthen dam." Here is a timeline on the murders, arrests and trials.

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Lynn Sweet: Political Reporter

I think Lynn Sweet, the Chicago Sun-Times' Washington bureau chief, is one of the best political reporters in the United States.

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Are New Standards For Elections Necessary?

DenverPost.Com noted in a January 8, 2005 editorial that "a few members of Congress challenged Ohio's electoral vote, a rare and mostly symbolic gesture that underscores the need for election reforms." It added:

By challenging the electoral vote this week, a small group of Democrats in Congress wanted to call attention to irregularities in Ohio that might have tainted November's presidential elections. They did not contend that the problems cost John Kerry the election, nor did they expect to stop George W. Bush from being certified as the winner.
The Post said the challenge was "a worthwhile gesture that underscores the need for new election standards."

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Distributive Journalism

I Cite, one of many good blogs that make up the Blogosphere, raised interesting questions in a January 7, 2005 post on Dan Gillmor's distributed journalism project. I Cite said:

Dan Gillmor thinks that distributed journalism, or a bunch of independent people working on the same or similar issue or story, is not only the future of journalism but a new kind of citizenship, a way for ordinary folks to mobilize their energy and have an impact. He's probably right about the future of journalism--all the current msm attention to blogs, including the Pew Blog Survey, seem to point in this direction. What concerns me is the underlying presumption regarding the participation: namely, the sort of citizenship is currently practiced in the US and likely to practiced in the forseeable future. Is there a community or possibility of commonality? Or, are we in a condition of extreme division that is likely to be furthered through the division of information and commentary into increasingly narrow spheres, into spheres of agreement?
I think there is a community or possibility of commonality," but not in the way the questions suggest.

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January 6, 2005

Californians Head Three Powerful Congressional Committees

Copley News Service correspondent Dana Wilkie noted in a report in the January 6, 2005 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune that, "with Wednesday's selection of Redlands (California) Representative Jerry Lewis as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee – the panel that writes the government's spending bills – California now has lawmakers leading what are arguably the three most powerful committees in the House." Click here to read about other Californians heading powerful committees.

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Political Notes from The Augusta Free Press

Chris Graham, co-publisher of The Augusta Free Press, today posted interesting news about the certification of President George W. Bush as the winner of the November 2, 2004 Presidential election. He wrote:

The Democrats' challenges, the first filed in the aftermath of a presidential election in decades, were rejected overwhelmingly -the Senate voting 74-1 against and the House of Representatives voting 267-31 against.
Mr. Graham noted that "Congress later moved to certify the Electoral College vote in favor of Republican George W. Bush - who outpolled Massachusetts Democrat Sen. John Kerry by a 286-251 count.

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The Bush Beat's Coverage of the Gonzales Confirmation Hearing

The Bush Beat, a column by Ward Harkavy over at The Village Voice, has interesting coverage on attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales' confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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January 3, 2005

DeLay asked House Republicans to Reverse December Rule Change

House "Majority Leader Tom DeLay asked House Republicans Monday [July 3, 2004]to reverse a December rule change that allows indicted leaders to continue to hold leadership posts in the chamber," according to Ted Barrett of CNN. Mr. Delay succumbed to intense pressure and criticism from democrats, the press and some members of his own party

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Matsui Rose From U.S. Internment Camp to U.S. Congress

U.S. Representative Robert T. Matsui, D-Sacramento, who died January 1, 2005, served time in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II and served 26 years in Congress. Read more here.

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109th Congress Convenes January 4, 2005

The 109th Congress convenes January 4, 2005 with nine new senators and 41 representatives.

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January 2, 2005

Will Democrats Alter 'Fundamentalist Position on Abortion'?

Columnist Cal Thomas contends that, "For Republicans, Social Security has been the untouchable third rail, at least until President Bush promised reformation by transformation."

"For Democrats," he opines, "the third rail has been abortion — no exceptions, no restrictions, no compromise. Now some Democrats sound as if they might be willing to alter their fundamentalist position on abortion in order to stop their electoral hemorrhaging and start winning elections again. Could they be serious?" Read more here.

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Senator Bob Graham Leaves Behind a Storied Political Career

Sun-Sentinel.Com of Florida says U.S. Senator Bob Graham (Dem.-Florida) "leaves behind a storied political career." Read about it here.

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Republicans Reportedly Made Gains Among Amish in 2004

Evelyn Nieves' Washington Post article on the Amish's particpation in the 2004 presidential election offers yet another glimpses at the Republican strategy that carried President George W. Bush to victory over Senator John Kerry. She wrote:

The Republicans, true to their pledge to leave no vote unwooed, came to Lancaster County hoping to win over the famously reclusive Old Order Amish -- who shun most modern ways -- along with their slightly less strict brethren, the Mennonites. Democrats laughed at the very idea. The Amish had no use for politics. Were the Republicans that desperate? But the GOP effort, underscored by President Bush's meeting with some Amish families in early July, did the trick.
Ms. Nieves quotes an an "elder Old Order Amish man, approached at his quilt shop on Route 340," in Pennsylvania, as saying: ''Yup, we voted this time."

''I didn't vote for the last 30 years," he told Ms. Nieves. ''But Bush seemed to have our Christian principles." There you have it.

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For National Politicians, It's a Shock When Limelight Suddenly Fades

Camille Ricketts of of Knight Ridder Tribune News offers a glimpse into the lives of former national politicians who've lost elections after enjoying the perks of power. "National-level politicians never plan to lose elections," she wrote, "so when they do it's a shock when the limelight suddenly fades, January rolls around and Washington moves on without them. Read her article here.

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Is Rehnquist Worried About Increasing Political Pressures on the Judiciary?

Chief Justice William Rehnquist's "annual report released by the Supreme Court on New Year's Day warned that trying to remove "activist judges" because of unpopular decisions would endanger an independent judiciary," according to Michael Kirkland, UPI's Legal Affairs Correspondent. Read more here.

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Reporter Says Liberals Hope Gregoire Will Repay Support

David Postman, the Seattle Times' chief political reporter, contends that, "if Christine Gregoire can hold off a potential Republican legal challenge and take her oath as governor January 12, liberal Democrats will be awaiting her thanks and expecting even more." What are they expecting? Read Mr. Postman's answer here.

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CIA Wants White House to Discuss Long-Term Detention for POWs

Washington Post Reporter Dana Priest reported January 2, 2004, that, "The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts. The outcome of the review, which also involves the State Department, also would affect those expected to be captured in the course of future counterterrorism operations," he wrote.

Question: How long will it be before foreign nations apply similar rules to Americans caught carrying out terrorist activities--we call them secret operations and preventive strikes-- for the U.S. government?

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January 1, 2005

Prominence and a Point of View Brings Enemies for Blogger

La Shawn Barber, a freelance writer from Washington, D.C., and proprietor of La Shawn Barber's Corner, a provocative and conservative political blog I read regularly, is a rising star in the Blogosphere. Thanks to her own talent, a point of view and a mention from Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds, the grandaddy of political blogs, she is getting attention, some of it unwanted. Getting a mention from Mr. Reynolds will give any blog a boost.

Ms. Barber gained even more prominence with a very good article in the December 20, 2004, edition of NRO (National Review Online) headlined The Blogosphere’s Smaller Stars: There’s a vast alternative to Dan Rather. This article was widely cited and commented on in the Blogsphere, as it should have been. It was an important contribution to the debate surrounding the impact of blogs on the political and cultural landscape.

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LA City Beat Says 2004 is 'The Year Reality Died'

Idan Ivri, in a LA City Beat article headlined The Year Reality Died, said "2004 was the year that super-villains mugged the truth in an alley." The writer also said, among other things:

It was the year when conservative bloggers outmaneuvered the established press in spearheading Republican efforts to destroy journalist Dan Rather, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, and the lifelong CIA agents outraged at the behavior of Bush’s new CIA Director Porter Goss. In the new paradigm of he-said/she-said reporting, persistence matters. Blogs offer the ability to repeat any message ad infinitum without any fact-checking, and do it cheap. As described in Time Magazine: “Just blog, link, and repeat. It worked for conservative bloggers like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who trumpeted the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s claims this summer. Say it enough times online, and someone is bound to hear you.”
I wonder how long will it be before Idan Ivri gets mugged in the blogs for writing the opinion above.

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