Saturday, January 15, 2005

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Blogging Ethics

Atrios notes that the
Blogging, Journalism & Credibility Conference has decended even further into self-parody.

(Hot tip for Rebecca MacKinnon: When I start planning a conference, first I talk to some people who actually know something about the topic. You might find that helpful next time.)

As for a code of ethics for bloggers, Digby says it much better than I could:

So the left blogosphere will be the focus of this crusade for online ethics. We don't have institutions like the Claremont Institute who can hire us on as "fellows" --- and launder Republican money through it to pay us. We aren't going to get our marching orders and talking points through the coordinated "left wing" media because there is no coordinated left wing media. We are out here on our own, and when or if we say or do something controversial, there is no institutional defense of us because there is no institution. Certainly, we aren't going to get paid big bucks to be a member of the team.

So fuck a "code of ethics." It will only serve to marginalize us.

All we really have, and ever had, is our credibility with our readers as opinion writers and committed activists. We shall have to measure all of our decisions based upon personal integrity and issue a blanket call of caveat emptor. It's all there is. And, frankly it's all we need.
Time to let this go. It was sort of entertaining for a few days. But really, there are much more important battles before us. If the "professional" journalists won't police themselves, well, that's their problem.

Every newspaper, every TV network, every radio station is owned by somebody. Blogs work because nobody owns us. If all we wrote was over-ripe bullshit, we'd all be writing for an audiance of one. Clearly that is not the case. If lots of people weren't reading blogs, nobody would be organizing silly-assed conferences about blogging ethics.

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Your Payroll Taxes Hard at Work

The Bush administration is using YOUR TAX DOLLARS to run a propaganda operation targeted at YOU. This time it's YOUR CONTRIBUTION to Social Security that's paying for it.

Josh Marshall, the NYT is reporting:
Over the objections of many of its own employees, the Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to convince the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution.

[. . .]

But agency employees have complained to Social Security officials that they are being conscripted into a political battle over the future of the program. They question the accuracy of recent statements by the agency, and they say that money from the Social Security trust fund should not be used for such advocacy.

"Trust fund dollars should not be used to promote a political agenda," said Dana C. Duggins, a vice president of the Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 50,000 of the agency's 64,000 workers and has opposed private accounts.

Deborah C. Fredericksen of Minneapolis, who has worked for the Social Security Administration for 31 years, said, "Many employees believe that the president and this agency are using scare tactics to promote private accounts."
Read Josh's post. Then contact your Congressional representatives and start raising hell.

Remind them that it's YOUR MONEY and you don't want it spent on partisan propaganda.

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Connecting the Dots
and seeing the pattern

Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, the Navajo Police detective in many of the Tony Hillerman mysteries, had a philosphy about solving crimes: When you find a cluster of events around a crime, it's not by accident. The connections may not be obvious at first. But if you pay attention, they will emerge.

I'll use that as the intro to tie some my posts below with the exciting news of the week for the benefit of those of you who have lives and haven't been spending your day sorting through the comments sections of your favorite progressive bloggers.

Item 1. There's going to be a conference called
Blogging, Journalism & Credibility. Check the list of participants. Is there a blogger you've ever heard of? Is there a blogger you read? No. Didn't think so. Me either. Until yesterday when the name Zephyr Teachout got splattered like explosive diarrhea all over the blogosphere and much of the talk show slime, as well.

Now the organizers of the conference have taken some heat for the panel they put together. You can make your own decisions based on whether you recognized a single name other than Joe Trippi (who is not a blogger, but was the genius behind the Dean campaign's use of the internet).

Knowledge about the conference spread quickly throughout the left blogosphere due to mention by
Atrios, Digby, and Seeing the Forest. The comments of Digby and STF are definitely worth reading to place this conference in its proper perspective. Cluelessness is on the loose in academia.

Item 2. Now if you'll note the "Blog Aggregator" over in the right hand column of the
conference home page, that means that, for anyone interested in the conference, they started collecting all the blogging of the bloggers who would be on the panel. That would include the blog of Ms. Teachout. So suddenly her obscure little blog (had you ever heard of it before yesterday?) was getting a significant boost in readership.

Knowing that her blog was suddenly being read by important journalists and academicians, what does she do? She resurrects a
story she told last summer about the Dean Campaign hiring Kos (no mention at that point of Jerome from My DD). Only this time she makes it quite a bit juicier. Instead of hiring them as technical consultants in order to create the campaign's web presence, she implies that the campaign was trying to buy some favorable blogging press (please see my Non Story post below). In Ms. Teachout's own words:

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.

Now supposedly, Ms. Teachout has some credibility on this matter, since she was part of the Dean Campaign staff. But there's this funny matter of timing. See, Joe Trippi asked Jerome to consult for the Dean campaign a few months before Ms. Teachout came on board. So she was not in a position to be privy to the "real" reasons that the Dean Campaign hired Markos and Jerome. She was, to use that delightful phrase we hear so much these days, making shit up.

Item 3. It's interesting to note that all this was going down as the DNC was getting ready to elect its next chairman. And as I noted below, Howard Dean is the clear front runner.

I don't think that Ms. Teachout wrote her little post in order to smear Dean (though stranger things have happened in Democratic politics). She was, after all, a Dean staffer once.

But I have no doubt that the Wall Street Journal was more than happy to stick it to Dean. And the people at the WSJ definitely violated some serious journalistic ethics (such as they are), when they ran their Dean/Kos/Armstrong story. Since then, other right wing slime are using the story in an attempt to make Dean look bad. At the same time, it provides some cover for their boy Armstrong Williams, who was being paid $240,000 in taxpayer money to look like a journalist while pushing the Bush propaganda program.

As for Ms. Teachout, one Kossack said it best. She's had her 15 minutes of fame -- now she's sort of like a cross between Dick Morris and Linda Trip.

UPDATE - Saturday Afternoon: Jerome provides some clarity, including quotes from others who were in key positions within the Dean campaign and know exactly what did and did not happen and why. He concludes:
What's left of this now? The accusations of Zephyr Teachout did not pan out, neither were they ever confirmed, and now have been contraditcted by the person who hired us, Joe Trippi, and the Blogger in Chief of the Dean Campaign, Mathew Gross. I do believe that the Wall Street Journal, which did not acquire a confirmation of Zephyr Teachout's accusations against DFA, should now retract their story.
Right on!


Friday, January 14, 2005

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Dean's the One
to lead the DNC

I have to confess that I don't know squat about how the party works at the national level. That may be just as well. I'm still trying to figure out how to succeed at local politics.

That said, I think that Howard Dean should be the new chair of the DNC. He has the energy and the moxie to move the party where it needs to go. He understands grass roots politics. And let's face facts: If the Democratic Party can't do grass roots, we'll never be in the national race again.

Kos has the numbers from a straw poll conducted by the Nationl Journal. They asked the 187 members of the DNC to name their first choice, second choice, and last choice. Dean is way out in front of every other condender for the job. That's a good thing in my opinion.

Dean has shown how to bring new energy and new ideas (can you say "internet fundraising?") into the political arena. And while we didn't win the big one in 2004, there is reason to believe in the future.

A few days after the election, Kos wrote an interesting piece about how Democrats did "at the AAA level" (to borrow from baseball jargon). He noted a WSJ article by John Fund that showed momentum swinging to the Democrats at the state level.

There is great work being done in the field by organizations like Democratic Gain and Progressive Majority. They are working to replicate and improve upon what Newt Gingrich and Ralph Reed did for the Republicans in the 1980s. That is, identify, recruit, train, and support candidates at the minor league level so that they can form the next generation of successful candidates in the majors. I think that is an essential element to building the party's success into the next generation.

I got to sit in on a breakfast at the convention last summer where Howard Dean said a few words. He talked about getting people involved in the party, and the variety of ways people can do it. Some are comfortable making phone calls, some maintain lists of voters, some pound the pavement, and some give money.

He said we also need good, committed people to run for office at every level. "Certainly," he said," we need good candidates for Congress and the White House, but we also need good people to run for local offices like school boards and library boards." "Think about it," he continued, "who would you rather have on your local library board? Someone who likes to read books, or somebody who wants to burn them?"

Dean gets it. He should be the next chair of the DNC.

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The Big Non-Story

Big hooplah in the blogosphere during the past 24 hours. Here's the short version:

First, far right Black guy Armstrong Williams acknowledged a week ago that he
was paid $240,000 in taxpayer's money (YOUR MONEY!) to push Bush's No Child Left Behind foolishness on his TV talk show and syndicated newspaper columns. That is a story, by the way. And the bigger story is how many other so-called journalists have been woofing shit because the government paid them to do it.

Then Zephyr Teachout, a former Dean campaign staffer who writes a blog called
Zonkette (an obvious knock-off of the much more interesting blog Wonkette), convinced the Wall Street Journal that she had a hot story about bloggers who were paid by political campaigns, and it was hot because it dovetailed into the Armstrong Williams story rather nicely.

Well, somebody at the WSJ isn't very bright. So they published a non-story, based on the non-story that Teachout wrote in her blog (I'm sure they just stumbled upon her obscure blog by accident -- right!). The bloggers Teachout wrote about in her big exposé were none other than Markos Moulitsas of
Daily Kos fame, and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD. And as Kos notes, they couldn't even get his last name right.

You should read the WSJ article, just to remind yourself how clueless the mainstream media are when they're writing about the blogosphere.

The two sailient facts that make this a non-story are:

Kos put a prominently-displayed banner on his blog stating that he was doing techinical consulting for the Dean Campaign.

Jerome shut down his blog for the duration of the consulting contract.
So it's a non-story for 2 reasons. There was complete transparency on the part of the bloggers. And unlike the Armstrong Williams case, there was NO TAXPAYER MONEY INVOLVED.

I gotta wonder why Ms. Teachout feels compelled to just make shit up and publish it in her blog. Maybe she's not getting enough attention at home or something.

For the record, Rain Storm promoted 3 candidates during the last election cycle. One was John Kerry, a good man whose opponent is a dangerous idiot. The other two were congressional candidates. The first was Paul Babbitt, a good man whose opponent (how can I say this delicately?) makes Tom DeLay feel good. The other was Stan Matsunaka, a good man who ran against someone who, as near as we can tell, is a homophobic mutant wingnut.

I also pounded the pavement for two local candidates, both of whom won their races. I was not offered, nor did I accept any renumeration from any of these candidates or their campaigns.

Now, it's time to get back to the real story. Why is the Bush administration using YOUR TAX DOLLARS to run a propaganda operation on the American people? If enough people ask, maybe the Wall Street Journal will ask, too.

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Billmon's Back

Go read him now!


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

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Hunt for WMD Ended Last Month --
Somehow I missed the victory parade

I'm sure it's only a coincidence that they waited until after the election.
According to the WaPo:
The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley.

In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.
Well, at least somebody got to come home for the holidays.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

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A Blog You Should Read:
check out

And don't worry if you can't pronounce it. I can't either. But the dude lays it down:
I had to back down over Clinton’s blowjobs because it turned out Bill was lying. Just about every liberal out here went through a deeply personal and gutwrenching experience when they realized Bill lied to us. It was hard to take, even though it was all about a personal failing and not malfeasance in office.

Waking up to the fact that George W. Bush isn’t perfect is going to be tough on the right, but the issues here are far more serious than Bill’s blowjobs. If you think there’s parity between a blowjob and lying your way to war, let me put it this way: Bush fucked us all in the ass.

It’s not about Texas Guard typing protocols. It’s about dead and wounded American troops and a president who doesn’t want his staff to tell him any bad news.
Read it all. It's worth it. And thanks again to Tild ~

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Rain Storm Hits Big Numbers (sort of)
high fives all around

A major storm has been rolling through Wolf Hole for a couple of days, and the electrical power was out for a while up here on Forked Tongue Mesa. Consequently, I was off-line during the actual event.

But sometime during the past 24 hours, this humble blog passed 20,000 visits and 25,000 page views. And Rain Storm is just a month away from its 1 year anniversary.

So thanks to all of you who have wandered in from time to time. Even those of you who were surfing for the weather channel and walked in here by mistake. And a big hug to my 2 or 3 regular readers. You know who you are. Feel free to open some bubbly and celebrate, where ever you are. Drink a toast to better days. They're just a little further down the road.


Monday, January 10, 2005

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Rain Storm Takes the Oath

This blogger is not for sale (honest!)
I swear that I have never taken money -- neither directly nor indirectly -- from any political campaign or government agency -- whether federal, state, or local -- in exchange for any service performed in my job as a journalist (or commentator, or blogger, or whatever you think I should be called).
To be completely honest, I'm a pretty low-level blogger (sort of like what we would refer to as a tier-3 country in the intelligence community). So really, nobody has been coming around offering major sums of cash (or good booze, or even interesting women) for me to write pretty things about their dumb-ass candidates or their really stupid political agendas.

It brings to mind something Jerry Garcia said once about the Grateful Dead:

In the '70s lots of folks sold out. The Dead didn't sell out. We would have. But nobody was buying . . .

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Billmon's Back
& he's got him a bumper sticker

Check it out. I knew he'd show up for a word or two about the Pentagon's proposed death squads.

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Panel Report on CBS News --
Maybe they'll look at the White House next

I'm sure I won't be the only blogger to mention this. Listening to the Thornburgh/Boccardi report, I couldn't help but think: substitute the White House for CBS and the Iraq War for the Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, and it's the same story.

Consider the key words in
the report:
... rush to air (rush to war?)

... believed firmly that it was true (and some still do)

Efforts at authentication failed miserably

... valid questions raised were pushed aside instead of probed

The strong sense was that the attacks were driven by partisans and competitors, and thus were not valid.
The report conludes:
This Report is about one 60 Minutes Wednesday segment. Other news organizations confronted by a reporting crisis have recovered by acknowledging their mistakes and taking steps to repair systems that permitted the lapses. This is the task now confronting CBS News and 60 Minutes Wednesday.
Can't help but ask the question: Where's the panel that's going to look at the failures that created the American military quagmire in Iraq?

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The Logic of Empire:

First comes Torture, Then come Death Squads,
just as surely as Negroponte follows Bremer.

According to
What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency—as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time—than in spreading it out.

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras. There is no evidence, however, that Negroponte knew anything about the Salvadoran death squads or the Iran-Contra scandal at the time. The Iraq ambassador, in a phone call to NEWSWEEK on Jan. 10, said he was not involved in military strategy in Iraq. He called the insertion of his name into this report "utterly gratuitous.")
Well, consider my inclusion of Negroponte's name in this post as utterly gratuitous, too. But just like Susie at Suburban Guerrilla, I know a bad flashback when I see one. And this one is definitely not chemically induced.

No doubt, irony is lost on the Bush administration, especially on those bright young men wearing civilian clothes at the Pentagon. So I'll point out that murdering people because they were a threat to the regime is exactly the sort of thing Sadaam is accused of.

Of course . . .

UPDATE Monday evening: Duncan nails it with a bit of moral clarity:
Let's be clear, "death squads" are terrorists. Their goal is not simply to catch/kill suspected bad guys, but to frighten populations into submission. It's collective punishment of an entire population.

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A Little More
on The Warrior and the War

Armando, at Daily Kos, writes some great stuff. Like Kos (and me, for that matter), he's a veteran, and he writes with the clarity and focus of an infantryman.

He brings that clarity to the discussion that started bouncing around left blogistan a few weeks ago about what it means to oppose the war and still support the troops (see my post on
The Warrior and the War). Here's what Armando has to say:
In what I find, frankly, to be an example of twisting a simple concept into a complex one, many are troubled with the vagueness of the word support. It seems simple enough to me in this context, especially as I make clear my utter opposition to the Iraq Debacle. But I'll explain what I mean here: I support the troops by appreciating and recognizing the sacrifice they and their families make in serving in our Armed Forces. I support them for risking their lives for the national security of our nation. I support them BY opposing the scandalous policies of the Bush Administration in Iraq. I support them by understanding that they are not to blame for the Iraq Debacle, but among its victims. I support them by opposing the Bush policy of torture and suspension of the Geneva Conventions. I support them by denouncing war criminals, because to do otherwise is to dishonor our troops.
I couldn't agree more.


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