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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

KATRINA: Congress Should Take Back the Pork; Use it Instead to Rebuild Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama

Nobody knows at this point how much it will cost to rebuild the areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that were struck by Hurricane Katrina, but early estimates were in excess of $30 billion. There is little doubt that the ultimate cost will be far in excess of that figure even.

So how to pay for the rebuilding? How about starting with the $286 billion transportation bill approved last month, along with its $6.5 billion in pork barrel projects? And the first of those pork projects that should be re-directed to hurricane relief is the $190 million bridge to nowhere shepherded through Congress by Rep. Don Young, R-AK, the GOP's answer to Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, the Democrats' reigning porkmeister.

Here's how Taxpayers for Common Sense described the project when the group gave Young its Golden Fleece Award:

"[The $190 million project] is for a one-mile bridge from the town of Ketchikan, Alaska on Revillagigedo Island to Gravina Island, a sparsely populated island on the southern end of the Alaskan Peninsula. This bridge is purportedly meant to replace the ferryboats which adequately handle passenger traffic between the islands. Far from being beneficial to the local economy, the bridge would jeopardize Ketchikan's largest industry: tourism."

Instead of building the bridge to nowhere, how about instead spending that money on rebuilding the Lake Ponchatrain spans that have extensive damage, including numerous sections that have fallen into the water?

How could Young or any of the other senators and congressmen who got all that pork say no to a request that they support a measure in Congress to redirect all of the highway bill earmarks - aka pork - to the rebuilding of the ravaged areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama?

New Orleans is our number one port for imports because of its location at the mouth of the Mississippi River and its water highway to the heartland of America. Our economy depends in great part on the Port of New Orleans being open, so it is a matter of national security.

And there may well be up to a million people in Lousiana, Mississippi and Alabama who have been left homeless. Thousands of these people have literally lost everything they couldn't stuff into their cars and trucks as they fled Katrina.

So which is more important - building Don Young's bridge in Alaska to nowhere or rebuilding America's number one port and the lives of so many of our fellow Americans? Whose side is Congress on, anyway?

KATRINA:Bloggers Swarm to Organize Many Assistance Efforts; Hotline Notes "Official Washington" Slow to Grasp Magnitude

The shock of Hurricane Katrina is clearing, the enormity of the disaster in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama is evident and the American people are starting to demonstrate yet again how resourceful, compassionate and determined we are.

The announcement of the Astrodome in Houston as a shelter for New Orleans victims is getting headlines this afternoon but people and private organizations in every corner of the nation are stepping up to provide help in a myriad of ways. As we saw with the Southeast Asia tsunami last December, bloggers were among the first to step up.

Even before Katrina struck, Michelle Malkin - who has led the Blogosphere in gathering vital storm links - posted on the idea of fellow blogger Bill Hennessey of a network of homes opened to storm victims, which is now a reality. Also check out his Katrinia help wiki here and his blog reports on corporate aid here. More tracking of the private sector response here.

Similarly, even as the storm continued to rage, Samaritan's Purse - which has long been my favored charity - was loading up trucks and organizing legions of volunteers to go to the disaster areas. The Southern Baptist Convention has 15 state units either on site now or on the way with food and other assistance. Catholic Charities has swung into action.

Perhaps the most striking examples of bloggers moving in the Katrina aid effort are Hugh Hewitt, Glenn Reynolds and N.Z. Bear. Hewitt suggested a blog bleg, Reynolds said let's do it Sept. 1 and Bear put together a blog directory of bleggers and their favored charities.

The list just goes on and on and on. The incredible way the Blogosphere is able to identify, organize and concentrate aid resources - applying the wisdom of crowds - is a management model for everybody in government, business, the academic world and the non-profit community.

UPDATE:

For those who think I was unnecessarily critical of Bush yesterday, this post from the Hotline -which is among the most widely read media in Washington, D.C. - is indicative of conversations taking place all over town for several days:

"Anyone else get the feeling that we here in official Washington haven't quite grasped the seriousness of what's happening in LA and MS?
"This is not a criticism of any one person or one agency. It's meant as a wakeup call to all of us. This could very well be the biggest natural disaster in this country's history; an entire city in ruins.
"If this happened in Washington, you wouldn't be reading this. There would be no electricity; there would be no light; there would be no phones (even cell service would be nearly non-existent); your Blackberries would get no email; there'd be no subway; there'd be no newspaper delivered or available; you couldn't reach your friends; your office wouldn't exist or you couldn't get to it; your home would be gone; there'd be no schools to send your kids to; the graves of your family would be washed away; electrocuted family pets; snakes and other scary creatures everywere; and you'd have to move somewhere for at least 3 months.
"And this is what life is like for those with means in New Orleans. MS is the 3rd poorest state in the union, according to a Census report released yesterday."


Yes, emergency declarations were issued before Katrina's full fury was felt and federal agencies led by FEMA were preparing to move in advance of the storm's landfall. But it has seemed Washington has been about 48 hours behind the curve in grasping the magnitude of the storm and the even more serious consequences for several million Americans.

Given the rarity of a Category Four or Five hurricane, it is understandable that people are slow to understand just how extensive the damages and casualties can be. But now we know and because there will be more Katrinas - natural and manmade - in the future, we need to acknowledge this reality and take appropriate measures to prevent its recurrence.

UPDATE II:

Dallas Reunion Arena also accepting evacuees, though a spokesman there declined to say how many would be involved. A local source tells me it could be up to 10,000 people. The Arena is part of the Dallas Convention Center. Also in Dallas, EDS has established a matching fund for its employees, who are offered a choice between contributing to Red Cross or Second Harvest.

And a small bit of good news - the Houston Chronicle reports oil companies are assessing damage to off-shore rigs and finding less damage than expected. And the same paper reports on Houstonians opening their homes.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune will undoubtedly win a Pulitzer for its performance in these past few days. And the daily will certainly have a wealth of first-person stories of rescue, tragedy, terror and perseverance as a result of this.

Did you know the overall intensity of hurricanes has actually declined in recent decades? James Glassman of TechCentralStation.com has the details.
HT: Instapundit

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

NEW ORLEANS IS DROWNING, AN UNPRECEDENTED NATIONAL DISASTER IS UNFOLDING ON TELEVISION AND BUSH IS WHERE?

It is becoming clear as the scope of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina emerges that this is the worst natural disaster in American history. And as the water level rises in New Orleans, it looks like an even greater disaster is developing because thousands of people apparently are trapped in the city and the aid response of local, state and federal officials is inadequate to the task.

And President Bush is returning to ... Washington, D.C. Why isn't he in New Orleans? Why isn't he flying over Biloxi? The National Guard is not enough. The Air Force should be air-lifting food and medical supplies to the areas. Army and Navy helicopters and ships are needed to help evacuate people trapped on rooftops and in places like hospitals and nursing homes. And getting those people evacuated from the Superdome, which is looking like the symbol of a disaster of Biblical proportions.

Bush united Americans after 9/11 by going to ground zero. He needs to be at this ground zero now, on the ground and clearly in command. Calling cabinet meetings in Washington, D.C. won't get it done.

WEDNESDAY A.M. UPDATE:

Drudge reported last night that the Navy is dispatching four ships with helicopters to aid the evacuation effort. That's a start, at least, though at least 24 hours late. Michelle Malkin, who has done a fantastic job of compiling comprehensive links to the developing story, has a post that summarizes the situation in its headline.

Louisiana's Gov. Blanco estimates there are a million people in her state alone who are now homeless and she plans to ask Bush for military units in addition to the National Guard units already there to help maintain order and assist the avacuation.

Meanwhile, Fox reports this morning that the White House is saying Bush will return to D.C. late this afternoon and that his first order of business will be a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. A task force has also been organized and lots of federal agencies are moving. Such bureaucratic atmospherics are necessary but it begins to look as if New Orleans may well be lost forever as an inhabitable city, no matter what anybody in authority can do now.

OPEN GOVERNMENT: Nearly Three Years Later, Justice Department Answers an FOIA

On Nov. 8, 2002, yours truly submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy requesting copies of all emails mentioning my name, the name of a colleague here at The Heritage Foundation, The Heritage Foundation and the part of the think tank I oversee, the Center for Media and Public Policy.

For some reason, the OIP only received my FOIA on December 10, 2002. But then the months started rolling by and I heard nothing in the way of response. More months went by and I figured this was just another example of an FOIA being ignored by the bureaucrats. It's an experience with which all journalists, including myself, who have ever submitted FOIAs have been through many times.

But then lo and behold, more than 33 months later, what arrives in my mail on Aug. 23, 2005, but an official response to my 2002 FOIA. It's precisely the kind of response that makes you wonder on the one hand why the bureaucrats even bothered and on the other hand are they doing it purposely to discourage journalists from using the FOIA.

It's not simply that the response was nearly three years late. It's what is and isn't contained in the response. For example, the response's signer, Melanie Ann Pustay, a career civil servant who is OIP's Deputy Director, claimed that she had "determined that the responsive portions of 10 documents, totalling 15 pages, are appropriate for release without excision and copies are enclosed."

In fact, six documents, not the 10 claimed by Pustay, were provided without excisions in the response.

Pustay further claimed in the response that she also enclosed "four documents, totalling five pages, that are appropriate for release with excisions made pursuant to Exemptions 5 and 6 of the FOIA."

In fact, the response included eight documents totalling 10 pages that included excisions.

Then Pustay helpfully added that "lastly, three documents totalling seven pages are being witheld in full pursuant to the deliberative process privilege of Exemption 5."

In addition, only one of the documents provided in the response concerned the issue which generated my original FOIA and it was not even from the period of time I specified!

Maybe there is a connection between that issue and the irrelevance displayed by Pustay's response. My FOIA was inspired by the following: At the request of a Scripps Howard journalist in 2000, Heritage's Center for Data Analysis conducted the most comprehensive statistical analysis ever done of the effectiveness of the government's COPS program.

The COPS program was the Clinton administration initiative that was claimed to have put 100,000 new policemen on the streets and thereby reduced the nation's crime rate. The Heritage study found no statistically demonstrable connection between a community's receiving COPS grants and either an increase or decrease in the community's subsequent crime rate.

A few months after Scripps published stories based on the Heritage analysis, the Justice Department made public a study it had financed with tax dollars by two academics. That study found a strong correlation between COPS grants and decreasing crime rates. Release of the tax-paid study happened to coincide with congressional consideration of the COPS program's future.

As is standard procedure in legitimate statistical analyses, Heritage made its datasets and methodology available on request to anybody who asked, which included one of the academics who got the Justice funding. But when Heritage asked for his datasets and methodology in return, he refused, claiming the grant under which the study was conducted had not yet expired.

There ensued more than a year of effort by Heritage to obtain from the two academics or the Justice Department the datasets and methodology of the tax-paid study being used by the government to justify continued appropriations for the COPS program, which had already consumed more than $7 billion. Put another way, the tax-paid study was being used in a propaganda program for more spending on COPS.

Heritage did finally obtain the datasets and methodology of the tax-paid study but only after the intervention of a Member of Congress. Not surprisingly, the tax-paid study had a fundamental flaw - it looked at only one year - while the Heritage analysis looked at seven years worth of data that included every COPS grant ever made to that point in the program's life.

This is not a new topic for yours truly. Some previous columns here, here and here.


WHAT'S UP WITH CAPTAIN'S QUARTERS, HEWITT, INSTAPUNDIT, POWERLINE BEING DOWN?

Has the Left found a way to silence selected Right blogs? Or am I the only one who keeps getting a "server not found" message when I try to check on those blogs?

UPDATE:

Looks like Hosting Matters is having some technical difficulties that have resulted in a number of blogs being inaccessible. No word yet on when things will be remedied.

ABLE DANGER: How the Clinton Administration's Great Wall of China Made 9/11 Possible

The Blogosphere's unmatched ability to focus the wisdom of crowds on a particular problem is being grandly demonstrated on the Able Danger scandal.

Latest installment is from Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters with a detailed explication of how the Clinton administration pursuit of campaign money from Chinese interests so strengthened the wall between U.S. intelligence and law enforcement that it virtually cleared the way for a 9/11-type attack.

Ed summarizes an extremely disquieting narrative (and one that reinforces the view that, while there were some notable positives, on balance the Clinton years were a calamity for this country in a variety of ways) by noting:

"Critics of the almost obsessive focus on Jamie Gorelick's role in the Able Danger fiasco, which may have prevented the breakup of Mohammed Atta's al-Qaeda cell in Brooklyn and the quashing of the 9/11 attacks, are right in one sense: Gorelick was not alone. Gorelick's mentor, Janet Reno, had other agents: Richard Scruggs, Gerald Schroeder, and Frances Townsend were all close associates of the attorney general; and Louis Freeh became close to Reno, as well. All followed the same trail blazed by the boss, President William Jefferson Clinton.
"All six of these individuals (seven, counting the president himself) were true believers in building that wall higher and higher. I suspect that OIPR's fear of being rejected by the FISA court and Clinton's well-known loathing of defense and disdain for intelligence gathering in general combined into a 'perfect storm.'

"The intelligence side would simply not even be allowed to talk to the criminal investigation side. The wall of separation became a veritable Great Wall of China, completely segregating intelligence gathering at the CIA, DIA, Naval Intelligence, the National Security Divison of the FBI, and yes, the Able Danger data-mining operation from the criminal investigators and prosecutors under the Department of Justice -- including the FBI. Everybody on both sides of the wall contributed another brick or two.
"That same Great Wall also imprisoned the federal criminal-justice system itself: they were isolated, sequestered, and kept in the dark about the great and terrible events swirling around the country (and the world) from 1993 right up to when the hammer fell on September 11th... and even beyond, until Congress enacted the USA PATRIOT Act a month later."


It's a long post but I strongly encourage everybody to read it in full.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Is It Time for Conservatives to Dump the GOP?

Technical difficulties prevented posting of my weekly Townhall.com column that normally appears on Saturday until early this morning. As of noon today, though, I have received an avalanche of emails in response, with all but a handful agreeing and many suggesting the Libertarian Party or Constitution Party as an alternative.

Would it be easier to organize an effective third party in the age of the Blogosphere?

Here's the column text:

"Thanks to the incredible expansion of federal entitlements, regulations and pork spending sanctioned by the GOP leadership in Congress since 2001, there is virtually no chance that Big Government is going to be shrunk even a little any time soon.
"And since there is no sign the folks running Congress are willing to change course, why shouldn't conservatives dump the GOP?
"Now, all you party loyalists who started gasping while reading that last sentence can take a deep breath. I'm not saying we should just up and bolt right now. What I am saying is this: The rebirth of limited government will remain a conservative pipedream as long as the people in charge of the GOP refuse to sober up.
"Put another way, it's time for an intervention. That's when the family and closest friends and professional associates of an addict confront the abuser with an ultimatum: get sober and get help now or else.
"The presence of the spouse with suitcases packed and the boss with pink slip in-hand helps the abuser realize the consequences of not getting help will be immediate and unpleasant. More than a few lives and careers have been saved over the years by such interventions.
"But sometimes interventions work and sometimes they don't. There is no guarantee that the GOP leaders will get the message, either. Quite frankly, I am not optimistic because I've seen the Stan Evans Law in operation for too long. Evans is the retired conservative activist/journalist who years ago said: 'When one of our people gets elected, sooner or later he [or she] stops being one of our people.'
"Being elected to Congress or appointed to a high position in the Executive Branch to serve in a presidential administration can be a heady experience. Especially for Members of Congress, the perks of office can be overwhelmingly beguiling, so after a term or two the first and last thoughts of too many of our representatives begin to be focused on getting re-elected. Playing along with the powers-that-be in D.C. is often seen as the easiest path to re-election.
"How beguiled have too many of 'our people' become? Think back to January 1995 when the Republicans assumed control of the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years. 'First the Berlin Wall, now Congress,' we shouted in unbelieving glee.
"There seemed nothing to stop the conservative agenda of cutting taxes, reducing spending, eliminating wasteful bureaucracy and pointless red tape, limiting the power of incumbency, making Congress more accountable and breaking up the Iron Triangles of special interests, bureaucrats and entrenched Democrats on Capitol Hill.
"Yet here we are a decade later and what do we have to show for it? Taxes have been cut, welfare was reformed, a limited missile defense was approved and ... and ... and. Let's face it, friends, it's a short list. Sure, there have been legislative victories but little of enduring substance from our domestic agenda has been enacted.
"Among other things that have been enacted instead is Medicare 'reform,' the biggest expansion of the Welfare State since LBJ declared war on poverty. The sacred right of free speech is now subject to the whims of Congress through campaign finance 'reform.'
"Federal control of education has never been greater, thanks to a No Child Left Behind 'reform' that was mostly written by Teddy Kennedy. Pork barrel spending is at an all-time high. And as the government grows and the politicians crow, the entitlements crisis approaches ever closer, guaranteed to cause economic, political and social upheaval that will make the Great Depression look like a cakewalk.
"Incredibly, after a decade of GOP control, the federal government is bigger, more powerful, costs more and is less accountable than it was when the Democrats were thrown out by voters in 1994 after four decades of mostly uncontested rule.
"How would an intervention work on the political scene? I don't have that answer. Some people suggest withholding campaign contributions. Others predict conservatives will stay at home in droves in the 2006 elections, possibly handing the Democrats a bunch of new seats in Congress and revived hopes of taking back the White House in 2008.
"Perhaps such a turn of events would be the needed jolt, but it seems just as likely, given recent history, that only the names and party affiliations of those doing damage in Congress would change.
"Got any suggestions?"

Strange Bedfellows United Against XXX Net Domain

Paul McMasters of the Freedom Forum notes the odd coincidence of interests between pornography opponents and pornography producers in opposing creation of a new XXX domain on the Internet.

"The anti-porn groups say a .xxx domain would make Net porn legitimate, increase the amount of such material and reduce the pressure on the U.S. government to go after pornographers. 'The .xxx domain proposal is an effort to pander to the porn industry and offers nothing but false hope to an American public which wants illegal pornographers prosecuted, not rewarded,' said Patrick Trueman of the Family Research Council.
"For their part, some adult content providers voiced concern that the industry might be forced to give up lucrative dot-com real estate and be 'zoned' to the margins of Internet traffic — or that the move might be turned into a tool for regulation or prosecution."


Go here for the full column.

Friday, August 26, 2005

IRAQ JOURNALISM: Help Give (Night) Sight to Blogosphere's Combat Reporter Michael Yon

Hugh Hewitt is urging bloggers to help raise $11,000 to buy the night vision goggles needed by the Blogosphere's front line combat reporter Michael Yon. I put in my $100. Who's next? Go here.

IMMIGRATION: TRAC Study Shows Value of CARR, FOIA to Bloggers Who Want to Get Beyond the Spinmeisters

Kudos to RedState.org's California Yankee, who notes the latest Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse data analysis showing the federal government significantly increased its prosecution of illegal aliens last year.

The TRAC study that caught California Yankee's eye found a 65 percent jump in cases brought by federal authorities in 2004. Most of the big increase resulted from a surge - 345 percent! - in cases brought in South Texas as a result of a newly aggressive approach taken by U.S. District Attorney Michael Shelby in Houston.

Notes California Yankee about the surge:

"The increase in illegal alien prosecutions stemmed mostly from the 345 percent increase in Shelby's district alone. Absent the South Texas numbers, the increase would be a mere 5 percent for regions adjoining the southwestern border with Mexico, and 11 percent for the rest of the United States.
"27,000 prosecuted out of 1.1 million illegal aliens arrested along the border leaves little room for hope. Nevertheless the increase in prosecutions in the South Texas District offers a slim hope that if we ever become truly dedicated to controlling the nations borders, it might be possible. Give us more officials like Attorney Shelby. Lots more."


There is another point of significance to this story: the TRAC study is based on data that is publicly available from the Department of Homeland Security (usually via a Freedom of Information Act request) and the analysis required to determine basic trends such as the increase in prosecutions is easily done with elementary spreadsheet skills and Microsoft Excel.

The TRAC project is an example of Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting, which is among the most powerful tools not yet discovered by the Blogosphere. The Media Bloggers Association is hosting its second-ever Database 101/201 CARR Boot Camp Sept. 23-24 at the National Press Club.

The first was May 5-6 at BlogNashville and was attended by 14 very enthusiastic bloggers. These CARR boot camps are hosted by The Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy, which I have the honor of directing. I'm also a member of the MBA's board of directors.

Also participating in the Nashville event as an instructor was David Kamin of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. Joining the usual Heritage crew of instructors at the September event will be Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, the AFL-CIO's think tank.

Attendance at the CARR boot camps is free and there are a limited number of fellowships available to assist with travel and hotel expenses. You can view the agenda here. Enrollment info here. Hurry because enrollment is limited to the first dozen enrollees.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

IRAQ: Blog Journalist Michael Yon Is Re-Defining Combat Reporting; Ernie Pyle Would Understand

This guy doesn't hang back in the Green Zone, he's out there with Deuce Four. If you want to know "what it's like out there" on combat patrol, read this. And send Yon some support. This guy may well be doing the best journalism you will find anywhere in the Blogosphere.

MEDIA BIAS: MEMO TO BILL KELLER; Here's Three More Examples of Why The New York Times' Credibility is Shot

Col. Thomas Spoehr had some genuine good news from Iraq. Your reporter Michael Moss wanted a bad news story instead. World Jewish Review contributor Jack Kelly explains it all here.

Here's another thought: What happens when the Blogosphere starts routinely calling people quoted by the Times to ask them if the newspaper got it right?

HT: Instapundit

UPDATE:

Roger Piekle Sr, a Colorado State University professor, is quoted on Coloradoan.com explaining that The New York Times "mischaracterized" his reasons for resigning from a team advising the Bush administration on global warming issues.

"'The reference to my perspective and to the reasons I resigned from the committee are mischaracterized and erroneous in The New York Times article,'" Pielke said in an online posting on a departmental Web log, or blog, called Climate Science.

"'I was very disappointed that The New York Times so badly mischaracterized my perspective, but fortunately we now have blogs so that errors can be corrected, and I've posted my response there,' Pielke said in an e-mail statement sent from Tucson, Ariz., where he is attending a conference, after speaking with the Coloradoan by telephone."

This is beginning to look like a new trend in Blogosphere journalism.

UPDATE II:

Now comes blogger Rick Richman of Jewish Current Issues with a scathing analysis of how the Times sliced and diced a recent interview with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, including her remarks about Israel's withdrawal of settlements from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Be sure and note that Richman links to the transcript of the interview so that readers can judge for themselves how the Times treated her quotes.

UPDATE III:

At least one of these examples has something of a happy ending. Steve Outing has the full details of the correction tendered Professor Pielke by Times reporter Andrew Revkin. Outing draws the right conclusion about this episode:

"I don't know about you, but I find this public exchange quite remarkable -- though these days it's becoming more commonplace. The way we practice journalism has changed significantly when what in the past would have been a private exchange between an annoyed source and a reporter is part of the public record. This is the "transparency" that we so often talk about as being a hallmark of journalism in the Internet era."

Outing is editor of The Poynter Institute's E-Tidbits. Yes, that Poynter, of the MSM.

WHAT IS GOING ON AT AP? Time to Recall Angela Brown From Crawford, Send a Real Reporter

This is not reporting, this is flackery masquerading as journalism. Powerline has the details.

UPDATE:

Michelle Malkin has lots of additional AP links here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Are "Free Papers" Disliked Because They are "Anti-Government?" Or For Asking the Wrong Questions?

Earlier today, I was reading a piece on free newspapers at GradetheNews.org, an oline project associated with the journalism programs at San Jose State University and Stanford University, which critiques San Francisco Bay area media.

The article caught my eye because I regularly hear traditional MSMers expressing fear and loathing for these publications, and because I have a developing theory that such publications may well prove to be a kind of stop-gap between the old era of dead tree newspapers and the New Media era of online journalism.

The article, which bore the byline of Michael Stoll, laid out the usual criticisms one hears within and without the journalism profession about free papers - they lack substance, they pay lousy wages to terribly overworked reporters and thus have high staff turnover rates, they aren't always accurate and they tend to publish a lot of fluff.

Three publications were the focus of the article's analysis - the San Mateo Daily Journal, the San Mateo Daily News and the San Francicso Examiner, which is owned by the same people who publish the Washington Examiner here in the nation's capitol.

Although most of the criticisms were familiar and in many respects understandable, I found myself thinking the author was indulging in a bit of overkill as I continued reading towards the end. Then I came upon a section subheaded: "Anti-Government Reporting?"

"A number of the people in local government described the Daily News' coverage, not just its editorial commentary, as 'libertarian,' 'anti-tax' and 'anti-government.' None of the 41 Daily News stories we reviewed showed an obvious political slant. But critics said it is most apparent in subtle use of adjectives that belittle most government action.

"Said former Mayor Bay of East Palo Alto, 'You know if the Daily News reports something it indicates that something happened, but you don't really know what it was. You take everything in the article with a grain of salt.'

"Daily News Publisher Price disputed the criticism. Self-respecting journalists ought to be 'rabble rousers,' he said.

"The Daily News has been an aggressive requester of public information. In 2003, with the help of the [San Jose] Mercury News, the paper went to court fighting several Peninsula cities to get access to the salaries and names of public employees making more than $100,000 a year, for which it won a '
bouquet' from Grade the News. The papers ultimately ended their fight without success."

Isn't that interesting? I wonder if the salaries of any of the friends, employees or appointees of the former Palo Alto mayor were among those successfully kept behind the closed doors of local government? I wonder if Stoll checked?

In my own experience as managing editor of a chronically under-funded and under-staffed suburban daily that often locked horns with Maryland officials, particularly on our frequent Freedom of Information Act requests, the criticisms voiced by the former mayor sound rather familiar.

That's not coincidental. The big urban dailies tend not to give local news much more than lip service. That's one of the reasons free papers, which are almost always intensely local, often find receptive audiences.

But local officials like the obscurity they enjoy as a result of the big dailies' preoccupation with the "important news," so they are doubly disturbed when snoopy, often inexperienced and young, journalists with those darn free papers start coming around asking questions, however ineptly that might be.

Thus is created a certain, shall we say, confluence of interests among professional journalists who naturally aspire to decent salaries and big newsrooms and local officials who naturally aspire to be left alone away from prying eyes to do their deals with generous developers, state and federal grantsmakers, captive community organizations and pliant neighborhood associations.

I was reading the second installment of a three-part series. The opener made a case for another familiar criticism, the contention that free papers are too willing to allow advertisers to determine or otherwise shape editorial.

Having had some unpleasant chats about editorial integrity with advertising staffers seeking "something nice about Joe Blow who just bought a half-page," I experienced lots of deja vu in reading the first installment. I'll post a link to the third piece in the series when I see it.

One other note here: When you get to the end of the article, the author's tagline indicates that he worked for the Examiner before it was sold to the present owner. That fact probably should have been pointed out much higher in the copy, like about the third graph or so. And in the same vein, I should tell you that the local Examiner publishes my weekly new car and truck reviews.

UPDATE:

A journalist colleague who works for a chain of very successful controlled circulation weeklies in Maryland read the above post and said it sounded quite familiar; so much so in fact that he sent along the following account of a recent exchange he had with a local government official regarding an event being sponsored by the County Executive:

She was literally begging me to come. I said no, it's an obvious photo- op (she agreed).
She mentioned again that I should come, and bring a photographer, if only to see county employees dressed in period costumes and the high school girl registering to vote by signing a gigantic reproduction of a voter registration card.

Here's where her tone changes from light and funny to righteously indignant and offended. I asked how much is this costing tax payers. She first said "Im not going to tell you." I told her I would request it under the PIA. "Are you serious," she asked. I assured her I was. Her response was that it cost "nothing."

I persisted and was told it was covered in their office's budget. So what's the cost, I asked again. Finally she told me $300 but we got a great deal."

We went through a similar conversation when I asked who got the money. I had to tell her that not only would I PIA the information but that I would make sure she had a copy of that request in her e-mail in box before we hung up the phone.

She then told me and told me that the County Executive got a 30 percent discount on the costumes. I asked "Can anyone else get this discount? Could I?" She said it is the discount the company gives high school drama teachers. (Who are poor and need the break).

So, apparently the answer is no. The spokeswoman was angry with me and complained about me asking these questions about a nice event celebrating an important historical moment. This reaction has been more frequent from the County Executive as I ask this more and more. They see it as unfair and mean. I'm ruining their good events. Raining on their parade.

My response? "If you don't want people to ask what it costs or be obligated to say, then go work in the private sector." A little terse, maybe, but I'm getting frustrated with the attitude, the personal attacks and the obfuscation.

Michigan Neighborhood Gives Toyota Less Than Cordial Welcome as Locale for Television Spot

Maize Page reports the recent reaction of residents of a Canton, Michigan, community when Toyota advertising production types started scouting the location for a new television spot. Seems many of the residents get their paychecks from the blue oval company. The spot won't be made there, thank you.

BTW, Maize Page is a new blog authored by "Radcliffe." Radcliffe loves Michigan football, the glory years of Detroit's Big Three and conservatives. Go Blue!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Liberal Blogger Puts Rubicon in Front of FEC on Internet Political Speech, Media Regulation

Liberal blogger/Democratic political consultant Roy Temple, maestro of the Fired Up! America group of Left blogs is moving to force the FEC to make some decisions. Temple has petitioned the FEC to decide whether his online enterprise qualifies for the commission's media exemption.

Temple is the guy behind the Fired Up! America web site and its growing network of state-focused sites like FiredUp!Maryland.com. The sites provide news and commentary from a liberal perspective, though Temple prefers to call it a "progressive" perspective, of course.

In a statement on the main Fired Up! web site, Temple noted that "people are relying more and more on the Internet as a source for news and information about important issues and events of the day. The Fired Up! network is pleased to be one of a large variety of sources for that news and information."

He added that "blogs encourage public discourse. The FEC should clarify the law on this matter so that millions of Americans can continue to enjoy the benefit of citizen journalism, and citizen journalists can continue to offer their views and perspectives without fear that the law will later be interpreted in a hostile way."

You can read the whole petition from the link on Temple's site. The FEC has 60 days in which to respond.

UPDATE:

ACBonin on Daily Kos has a good summary of the FiredUp! petition and its relation to the FEC's proposed rule on regulating political speech on the Internet.

HT: Scepticseye.com, who notes that the FiredUp! peteition is not yet listed on the FEC's To Do list.

Have You Voted in Ruffini's 2008 Straw Poll Yet?

Here's my prediction on the outcome: Sen. George Allen, R-VA, gets a surprisingly large percentage and Condi Rice is the clear wild card. Go here and vote!

Why Bush is Losing the War in Iraq

If you think that headline is off base, then you've forgotten the basic lesson all leaders of democratic regimes must remember about the politics of war - you must make your case continually because you risk losing public support when you don't. That is not a lesson of Vietnam, by the way, but of Thucydides in "The Peloponnesian War."

With that in mind, there is a prescient juxtaposition today in the public debate between the wise counsel of former Bush advisor David Frum in his analysis of the President's Salt Lake City speech yesterday and Editor & Publisher editor Greg Mitchell's column calling on the nation's newspapers to come out of the closet, as it were, and actively oppose the war.

All second terms are rough for incumbents, but Bush faces two gathering storms that could undo everything he accomplished in his first term - the growing dissatisfaction on the Right with Bush's refusal to confront Congress on spending and the doleful consequences of failing to make the case for his strategy in Iraq and the war on terror.

The former if left unaddressed will eventually split the GOP and the latter if left unaddressed will eventually undermine the post-9/11 public consensus that it is better to fight terrorists "over there" than over here.

Monday, August 22, 2005

ABC/WMAL Fires Michael Graham


Radio Equalizer's Brian Maloney pauses from outing Air America scandal to bring us the details of Talk Radio host Michael Graham's termination.

Maloney has the full text of Graham's statement, which begins thusly: "The First Amendment and I have been evicted from ABC Radio in Washington, DC."

Any second now we will hear the first barrages of outrage from the civil liberties brigades on the Left protesting the silencing of a media voice for expressing a controversial opinion about Islam, right?

UPDATE:

This isn't getting any less ugly. More updates here as Graham and WMAL management issue competing statements. And Stephen Bainbridge, a blogging law school professor at UCLA, says Graham has no First Amendment claim.

Will Time, Newsweek, U.S. News be First Major MSM Institutions Killed by Internet News?

USA Today's media columnist Peter Johnson has an interesting piece today that includes this observation from University of Mississippi journalism professor Samir Husni: "If they really believe in their websites, then why do I need a magazine, and isn't it just a vehicle to drive me to the Web?" Husni says. "Sooner or later I'll just get my fill from the Web."

That is precisely the nub of the dilemma facing all print and broadcast network news poo-bahs. If they view their web sites as assets in which to invest, they have to use their old assets to drive traffic to the new sites. But that is guaranteed to drain readership and profits from the old assets.

The three old-line news weeklies are most vulnerable on this score because it is most difficult for them to adapt to the 24-hour news cycle increasingly dominated by web-based news media. Nobody wants to read stale news, so the news weeklies can either go for long-form pieces that seek to provide comprehensive coverage of a single issue or dilute the substance between the covers by covering the same ground as People, etc.

The long-form strategy won't work because the people to whom that approach appeals are most likely to be aware of the vastly superior and more quickly accessed resources that are available to them on the internet, so why expect them to settle for more cover features?

The People/celebrity news strategy won't work because too many others have long been doing it better than Henry Luce's heirs could ever hope to do.

That's my view. Check out Johnson's column.

First There Was the "Blogswarm," Then "Adopt-a-Box-of-Docs;" Now How About a "Blog ____" to Fisk Bad Legislation, Regulation Before It's Approved?

Hugh Hewitt coined the term "blogswarm" to describe what happens when legions of Blogospherians start posting on an issue like the 60 Minutes National Guard Memos or Eason Jordan's anti-military foibles.

Now Hugh's faithful sidekick, Radio Blogger's Duane Peterson, has come up with the "Adopt-a-Doc" moniker for the gathering of a bunch of Blogospherians for an explicit purpose like going through thousands of John Roberts documents in search of potential grist for the Left's next sliming of the Supreme Court nominee, so that it can be de-slimed ahead of time.

Adopt-a-Doc is significant for many reasons, not the least of which is that it illustrates what can be accomplished via the concentrated power of bloggers as journalists. But there are other ways in which Adop-a-Doc can lead to great things, like focusing the power of the Blogosphere on an especially onerous piece of legislation or proposed federal regulation.

Some months ago, Ed Feulner, President of The Heritage Foundation, proposed that all appropriations bills in Congress be posted on the Internet for public examination for at least 48 hours before the Members take a final vote.

Having the actual text available to the Blogosphere before the final vote on that outrageous transportation bill with its 6,500+ pork barrel projects might well have forced major amendments to the measure or perhaps even a public outcry that could have forced a complete rewriting. At the very least, public understanding of what Congress is doing would have been much better.

As blog journalism progresses from a Model T to a Ford GT, clever people are going to figure out how the power of the Blogosphere to focus the wisdom of crowds can be applied to government at all levels. If that progress is to be led by the Right side of the Blogosphere, we need to get crackin' on the problem, folks.

Any suggestions?

UPDATE:

Interadvocacy's Chip Griffin has a superb suggestion for what to call it: "Citizen-Assisted Research and Reporting," as in CARR. I love it! He is playing off of the fact I teach a Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting (CARR) course for journalists and bloggers, hosted by The Heritage Foundation at the National Press Club in coordination with its Erik Friedheim Library.

Ruffini Demonstrates Power of Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting (CARR) With New Jersey Data, Mapping

New Jersey has its statewide elections in off-years, so Patrick Ruffini applied his data analysis and data mapping skills to creating this superb map of the state's voting patterns. Patrick's accompanying analysis of the data is in-depth and essential for anybody who wants to understand what is going on politically in Joeyzey these days.

Bloggers who wish to acquire the same skills can do so by attending the Media Bloggers Association Database 101/201 Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting Boot Camp Sept. 23-24 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. For more information on the program, go here, for a look at the agenda go here and to enroll, go here. MBA members get priority but the event is open to all bloggers.

The first MBA CARR Boot Camp was held May 5-6 at the Freedom Forum's Diversity Institute newsroom in conjunction with BlogNashville. The 14 attendees at that event were full of positive comments about the value to them of the skills they acquired there.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Adopt a Box of Docs: No Bad News in Abortion 1 (But Maybe a Nugget for the Slime Artists)

John Roberts can breathe a little easier perhaps because the box of documents labeled "Abortion 1" is empty of snares for the U.S. Supreme Court nominee. The box did, however, contain some horrifying memories and one sentence that liberals might construe as being critical of the 14th Amendment.

Remember when somebody in California found the unburied remains of about 17,000 aborted babies in 1981? The California Pro Life Medical Association used a supportive 1982 letter signed by President Reagan in a photo exhibit centered around the grisly discovery in 1985.

The association had also separately sought Reagan's "approval" to bury the dead babies in Arlington National Cemetary if permission was denied by state authorities for burial at a site there and the ACLU won its suit to have the remains burned.

In a January 1985 letter apparently drafted for White House Deputy Counsel Richard Hauser by Roberts, the association was told stop using the 1982 letter in the exhibit because its inclusion suggested Reagan was trying to influence the outcome of the group's pending litigation in state court. In an August 1984 letter also apparently drafted by Roberts, the association was told only military veterans and spouses who met certain conditions could be interred in Arlington National Cemetary.

Interestingly, in a background memo to Hauser from Associate Counsel Peter Rusthoven, the 1982 Reagan letter was described as having been drafted by the White House Correspondence Office and autopenned - i.e. Reagan's signature was done mechanically. In the same file, however, is a copy of a page of hand-written corrections to the 1982 letter that look very much like Reagan's penmanship.

A second element of the documents in Abortion 1 covers a 1982 Justice Department response to a proposed "Right to Life" amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Roberts apparently drafted a letter for Assistant Attorney General Robert A. McConnell to then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond. I say "apparently" because Roberts initials are nowhere to be seen on the letter in the file, but it is in the file and his job at that time including writing memos and letters interpreting the constitutionality or legality of various legislative proposals.

In any case, the proposed amendment read: "The paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, health or condition of dependency." The proposal was introduced as S. J. Res 19.

The McConnell response described the proposal as "overly broad" and suggested that "a more narrowly drawn" text would accomplish the same purpose - making virtually all abortions illegal everywhere in the United States but without creating a wide range of potential new problems.

The balance of the McConnell letter suggested several of those potential new problems, including those proceeding from such an expansive definition of a right to life. The proposal could if ratified as drafted be construed, for example, to outlaw some forms of birth control such as the "morning after pill," as well as some medical treatments for the mother that could result in the death of an unborn baby.

The proposed amendment could have damaging results in other contexts besides the abortion controversy, the McConnell letter said, by leading to the establishment of a uniform federal code governing homicide, thus pre-empting existing state law, and also create grounds for deprivation of constitutional rights suits being filed on behalf of victims of auto accidents, thereby obviating existing state definitions of negligence.

And the McConnell letter said the expansive definition could be cited by capitol punishment opponents as grounds for anti-death penalty actions, as well as for proposals to enact certain "quality of life" standards for such material benefits as are necessary for living "a relatively comfortable existence."

Finally, the McConnell letter doubted that such conerns could be adequately covered in a detailed legislative history meant to guide courts in applying the amendment in specific cases. To illustrate the point, the McConnell letter noted "the expansive meaning given to the open-ended terms of the Fourthteenth Amendment despite historical evidence indicating the amendment was designed primarily or wholly to deal with problems of slavery and race relations."

Hmmm. If I was a desperate Senate staffer on the Democrat side or a creative propagandist for a pro-abortion lobbying outfit, would I construe that sentence as "proof" Roberts would have opposed the 14th Amendment if he had been around in that day? It would be a looooong stretch, but, hey whatever it takes, right?

Federal Data Show Individuals Most Often Use FOIA; Response Delays Up 15 Percent in 2004; DOD Fastest On Expedited Processing Requests

The Coalition of Journalists for Open Government collected 25 reports by major federal departments and agencies to Congress and the Department of Justice for 2004 and found the vast majority of Freedom of Information Act requestors are private individuals.

Journalists account for a miniscule proportion of the record more than 4 million FOIA requests submitted to federal agencies last year, according to the CJOG study. The Defense Department answers requests for expedited processing on average in only onde day, which is much faster than other federal agencies.

The study also found the government's backlog of FOIA requests waiting to be processed increased 15 percent. The CJOG observed that:

"Most FOI requests are from people seeking personal information from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Social Security Administration. For instance, the Social Security Administration received more than 1.8 million requests from people seeking their own Social Security records."

Such requests are typically processed promptly and thoroughly, according to CJOG. Problems begin when requestors seek information that is not personal. One of three such requests encounter delays, denials or other obstacles to disclosure.

The FOIA provides an administrative appeals process but the CJOG study found that a requester pursuing such an appeal had only a one-in-six chance of getting more of the requested documents. The State Department was most likely to provide additional documents after an appeal (59 percent of the time), while the Justice Department was least likely (six percent).

The CJOG study notes that federal law requires agencies to assess a request for expedited appeal within five days. The Defense Department's media response time for such requests was one day, compared to the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, which had 36 expedited review requests pending for more than 195 working days, or nearly 10 months!

Reported litigation costs by federal agencies reached only $18 million, according to the CJOG study.

I wonder when the journalists who are most often heard complaining about DOD secrecy will get around to saying thank you for the fast processing of their FOIA requests? No, I'm not holding my breath, either.

You can read the complete CJOG study here.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Waste, Fraud Scandal Brewing at FAA?

Congressional Quarterly's Kathyrn Wolfe reports two U.S. senators are asking Federal Aviation Administration officials for information about the agency's contracting practices:

"Two senators said they will be monitoring FAA contracting practices after a whistleblower suggested the agency was wasting taxpayer money on certain service contracts.
Sens. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a letter Thursday to provide them with more information about their contracting practices.
"The contracts in question are for 'multiple award support service contracts,' which essentially award multiple contracts to a number of companies that provide the same type of service. Since 2001, the FAA has issued three such contracts involving more than 100 contractors.
“'Recently, we began examining contracting practices at the Federal Aviation Administration after a complaint was brought to our attention regarding allegations of possible fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer dollars,' the letter read.
"'Support service contracts at the FAA represent over $1 billion in taxpayer funds and should be scrutinized to ensure that every dollar is spent as intended and not subject to fraud, waste or abuse.'"

Here's my suggestion, senators: Put the complete texts of all federal contracts on the Internet as soon as they are approved, subject only to reasonable exceptions for national security, law enforcement, proprietary commercial security and personal privacy.

And if you are really worried about waste and fraud in federal contracting, start posting the complete texts, subject to the same exceptions heretofore noted, of all bid solicitations and bid responses, including the numbers. The costs of government will plunge and waste and fraud will become a rarity, rather than a fixture on the federal bureaucratic scene.

State FOIA Led to Scoop on New Jersey Dems' Misuse of Homeland Security Funds

Not sure how I missed this fact, but let the record show the stories broken last week by Newark Star-Ledger investigative reporter Rick Hepp on former Gov Jim McGreavey's partisan use of federal homeland security grants was made possible by documents obtained under the state Freedom of Information Act.

It cannot be said too often: Transparency is Big Government's worst enemy. And liberty's best friend.

Michelle Malkin has an update of the latest developments, including The Trentonian's story about a New Jersey state legislator calling for the impeachment of Attorney General Peter Harvey for his role in the scandal.

WHAT IS GOING ON AT AP?

Does anything strike you about this sentence from a story today by AP Diplomatic reporter Anne Gearan on efforts by a U.S. diplomat to persuade the Taliban to hand over Osama Bin Laden in return for a relaxation of U.S. sanctions:

"State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Bush administration has no comment on the meeting, which took place before Bush took office."

Uh, would that be during the Clinton administration?

Lunacy in the Lone Star State

How can it be that a decorated Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq and now lives in Austin where he is registered to vote must pay out-of-state tuition at Austin Community College? While illegal aliens pay in-state tuition? USMC_Vet has the details here at Blue State Conservatives.

McMasters Offers "Better Way" Than Official Censorship to Deal With Offensive Culture

Freedom Forum columnist and veteran newspaper journalist Paul McMasters offers some solid advice for both sides of the debate on issues such as FCC regulation of content on television programming:

"Good and smart people differ over what indecency means. But there are two ways we can respond when dealing with whatever it is that we determine indecency to be. The easy way is to get a government official or agency to ban it or regulate it. The hard way is to engage it, decry
it, discourage it, present a better alternative."


You can read Paul's complete column here.

Does GOP Leadership Have the Guts to Put Gorelick Under Oath in Front of a Camera?

Able Danger-inspired revelations keep pointing to the 1995 memo by former Deputy Attorney General and 9/11 Commission Member Jamie Gorelick that, for the sake of "appearances," barred contact between counter-terrorism intelligence agents from talking to FBI agents and other domestic law enforcement personnel. Gorelick's boss, Attorney General Janet Reno reaffirmed Gorelick's directive a few months later.

That bar prevented Able Danger officials who had identified several members of the al Queda cells responsible for 9/11 more than a year before the attacks from informing the FBI about their discovery. The "Gorelick Wall" was thus the fulcrum upon which hinged the Clinton administration's tepid response to Osama Bin Laden's repeated and lethal attacks on U.S. citizens and property abroad from 1993 through 2000.

Gorelick appears to have been on both ends of this fateful sequence of events, having authored the 1995 memo establishing the wall and serving for nine prior months as the Defense Department's General Counsel. In other words, the DOD lawyers who barred Able Danger officials from sharing their information with the FBI may well have been former Gorelick subordinates.

How long before the jelly-boned GOP congressional leadership convenes a hearing and puts Gorelick, the Pentagon lawyers and the Able Danger officials under oath? Don't hold your breath because the GOP leadership is desperately afraid of making congressional Democrats mad.

And how long before federal officials acknowledge that the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people was al Qaeda's first attack on American soil, not 9/11, and that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were simply a couple of far Right goofballs who became pawns of Osama Bin Laden? Journalist Jayna Davis has the facts here.

Interestingly, elements of both the MSM and Blogosphere have done excellent work in keeping the Able Danger story advancing. Could this be a precedent for a rapproachment?

HT: Captain Ed for this excellent analysis and for crediting one of his readers for making the important connection.

UPDATE:

BBMike comments on Captain's Quarters:

"Somebody that needs to be testifying under oath very soon is Richard Shiffrin. Shiffrin was Deputy General Counsel (Intelligence) at DoD from 1997-2003. That puts him in a position not only to quash the Able Danger work, but also to cover-up the mess post 9/11. Prior DoD, he was in Janet Reno's Justice Department from 1993-1997."

Makes sense to me.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Is Blog Journalism a Model T or a Ford GT?

When Henry Ford produced his first Model T, it had four wheels, an engine and passenger seating. It wasn't too attractive but it was good for about 35 mph top speed and it put America on wheels.

When the company bearing his name rolls another second generation Ford GT off the assembly line today, it will also have four wheels, an engine and seating. There will never be anywhere near as many Ford GTs produced as Model Ts, but both are autos.

Look at the difference. The Ford GT is good for about 180 mph top speed, gets vastly better gas mileage than the Model T, produces virtually no pollution and looks absolutely gorgeous. Yes, it costs considerably more than the Model T, but then it is aimed at a far more specialized audience.

So it will be with the Blogosphere and journalism. The collaboration of Brian Maloney and Michelle Malkin on the Air America scandal is merely the latest illustration of how the Blogosphere is in the very earliest stages of its development as a news reporting media. In the near future, clever people will figure out lots of revolutionary new ways in which to use blogs to gather and report the news the public needs and wants.

Like the Edsel, some of these developments won't succeed, but others, like the minivan, will be smashing successes. We literally are at the start of the Information Reformation brought about by the Internet and blogs.

Speaking of the Internet Reformation, the man who coined the term has a super column up today in The Weekly Standard that elaborates on this very point and in the process notes the significance of another important contemporary step in this process:

"As the daily information avalanche keeps getting bigger and bigger, and the data mountains higher and higher, the need for sherpas increases. No one person can keep on top of it all, but the technology Power Line News harnesses puts the new media's best content in a compact and easy-to-use display--basically mirroring the function RealClearPolitics performs for old media. Reliable aggregation of content is a huge development, one which further weakens the mainstream media."

Go here for Hugh's complete column. And if you haven't yet bought his book, look on the right side column of TCD for the "Blog" ad, click it and get your copy ASAP. You don't want to be left behind by the Information Reformation.

And Speaking Of ...II:

Did you know something quite similar to the present Information Reformation happened years ago in the grocery store business? Terry Heaton has a fascinating look back - and forward - via "The Unbundled Zone" on MC Morph. See, I told you MC Morph is essential reading!

And Speaking Of ... III:

Have you checked the Blogosphere's news forecast for today? As this post update is written, it appears news consumption is up 7 percent today in North America. Check it out here.

And Speaking Of ... IV:

Hugh Hewitt observes of ReMax saying it will make all of its residential listings nationwide available on a single web site and the impact of that decision on the real estate and newspaper industries:

"Information monopolies simply cannot survive the internet age and the new consumer's demand for transparency. Re/Max is wise to brand itself as unafraid to provide its customers with facts."

Hugh is absolutely right, of course. But now think about this - What is the biggest information monopoly? The government, which has vast stores of information, much of it a product of its own decisions, on every aspect of life.

How much of the endemic waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency of government would be eliminated if instead officials at all levels of government tried to make their operations as transparent as possible, subject only to reasonably narrow exceptions for things like national security, law enforcement and privacy?

What if bidding on government contracts was done openly, so everybody could see the price and services to beat? What if all development and highway planning had to be done on the record and available to all requesters? What if the government grant process was conducted publicly, including all grant proposals, grant evaluations and decision recommendations?

Waste and fraud occur most often in connection with programs and decison-making processes which are partly or wholly shrouded in secrecy, which is simply another way of saying somebody on the inside enjoys a monopoly on information that can be profitably used.

Remove the shroud, end the insiders' monopoly and you can create competition to see who can put the newly liberated information to best use at the lowest cost to taxpayers on behalf of the public interest.

Government secrecy creates waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency, which undermines public confidence. Transparency in government creates incentives for higher quality, lower costs and strengthened public confidence.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Judicial Watch Used FOIA to Produce a Smoking Gun on Clinton Failures Against Terrorism

It took four years of persistence but Judicial Watch used the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to force public disclosure of State Department documents that demonstrate the Clinton administration was warned in 1996 that Osama Bin Laden's move of his terrorist operation to Afghanistan represented a serious threat to U.S. security. The New York Times broke the story about the documents yesterday.

The documents provide the clearest evidence yet of the warnings given the Clinton administration during his first term about the terrorist threat. It is hard not to apply the "smoking gun" label to these documents, considering how the former chief executive and his senior national security advisors have claimed the evidence on Bin Laden was never conclusive.

If there was any further doubt in the Clinton White House in 1996 following the State Department memos, Bin Laden provided abundant proof of his intentions and capabilities in the succeeding years by blowing up two U.S. embassies in Africa and killing 17 U.S. sailors with a suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

These State Department documents should be read in conjunction with the Able Danger revelations - also in The New York Times and elsewhere - showing U.S. intelligence operations were prevented by Clinton legal policies from telling the FBI that they had identified Mohammed Atta and several of his 9/11 attack co-conspirators more than a year before the attack. And the Marjorie White memo (requires registration) exposed by the New York Post's Deborah Orin. And Captain Ed's Weekly Standard column describing the arrests of two Iraqi spys in Germany in February 2001 during the 9/11 planning stages.

My guess is the next few weeks are going to be marked by more explosive revelations about what some will plausibly argue looks increasingly like criminal incompetence in the Clinton White House. The present and coming revelations could shed new light on:

- Why Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was so determined to steal documents from the National Security Archive.
- The real extent of damage inflicted on U.S. national security by the Gorelick memo and the related Clinton administration policies that hamstrung coordinated anti-terrorist intelligence and intediction in the U.S. and abroad.
- Whether the Bush administration has aided efforts to prevent the full truth of Clinton's incompetence from being made public.

There are some hard decisions ahead for a lot of people presently and formerly in government, as well as the American people.

In the meantime, let us note the critical role of the FOIA (and an independent media) in these matters. Regular readers of Tapscott's Copy Desk and my regular columns that appear on Townhall.com and as part of the Knight-Ridder-Tribune FOI Series (collected here on The Heritage Foundation web site) know that I've been preaching the vital importance of the Freedom of Information Act for a long time.

Transparency is Big Government's worst enemy but I have often had the feeling that hardly anybody on the Right cares much about FOIA, especially considering the paucity of conservative advocacy groups getting involved in efforts to improve administration of the FOIA and other transparency measures. But that situation is changing, dramatically, for the better.

Eight major conservative movement leaders have signed a letter of encouragement to Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, in the FOIA reform effort embodied in his proposed Open Government Act of 2005. Cornyn's bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, and in the House by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX.

The Cornyn measure would significantly strengthen the FOIA by among much else establishing for the first time concrete penalties for individual federal employees and agencies for violating the FOIA.

The eight conservative leaders include: David Keene, Chairman of the American Conservative Union, Mark Levin, President of Landmark Legal Foundation and former Chief of Staff to Attorney General Edwin Meese during the Reagan administration, Brent Bozell, President of the Media Research Center, Amy Ridenour, President of the National Center for Public Policy Research, Terence Scanlon, Chairman of the Capital Research Center and head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission during the Reagan years, Mike Krempasky, Founding Director of RedState.org, John Berthoud, President of the National Taxpayers Union and Alex Mooney, Executive Director of the National Journalism Center.

Let us hope these eight are the first of a growing legion of folks on the Right who stand up for the public's right to know the truth about what is - and is not - being done in their name by their leaders, representatives and public servants.

Check out "Intercepts," the new Blog of Mike Antonucci and the Education Intelligence Agency

Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency - aka "EIA" and a selection of unprintable name inside the NEA's Washington, D.C. headquarters - has a new blog called Intercepts. Mike calls Intercepts "a listening post for monitoring the world of public education and teachers unions." Believe me, nobody does that better than this guy.

Also check out EIA's new web site. For years, Mike has burrowed inside the NEA and the AFT to get the facts about those organizations' political activism, salaries, staff disputes, merger squabbles and just about everything else of significance in one of the most powerful political influences in America.

From the EIA web site:

"Mike is the director of the Education Intelligence Agency and has covered the education beat since 1993. Education Week calls him 'the nation's leading observer -- and critic -- of the two national teachers' unions and their affiliates.' Mike's own writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor's Business Daily, The American Enterprise, and many other periodicals, and his work has been favorably cited in The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Post, and a host of other prominent daily newspapers."

If you are at all interested in education and politics, Intercepts is a guaranteed must-read.

Special Report by Maloney and Malkin Nails Air America Scandal; Shows Blog Journalism at its Best

This, Blogosphere friends and neighbors, is what good investigative journalism is all about - digging deep into the documents, talking to people and burning shoe leather, literally or cyberically, to get at the facts others refuse to seek.

Brian Maloney of Radio Equalizer and Michelle Malkin joined forces to get at the ugly truth behind Air America's mysterious receipt of an $875,000 loan from the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls, a Brooklyn-based charitable agency that provides food and other assistance to poor and disadvantaged children. Despite having agreed to repay the loan, Air America has yet to do so.

In Part I of their four-part investigation. Maloney and Malkin report finding that Gloria Wise Boys & Girls is not the only agency being stiffed by Air America. A New York Supreme Court judge has ruled Air America and its parent, Piquant LLC, are in default of a judgement requiring the network to pay its creditor, Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, Inc., more than $255,000 in damages. The damages were a result of what the judge termed Air America's "meritless lawsuit" against Multicultural in an attempt to avoid payment of charges for radio air time.

Even more damaging, though, is the detailed charges included in Multicultural's court filings regarding the sale of Air America's founding corporate owner, Radio Free America, to Piquant. According to Multicultural, the transaction was "fraudulent" and a "sham transaction" designed to leave Multicultural with no prospect of collecting a legitimate debt.

And this is only from Maloney and Malkin's Part I! BTW, the title of Part 1 is "A Trail of Debts." Parts II - "Beyond Evan" - III - "Air America's Defenders" - and Part IV - "Consequences" - are coming soon. Congrats to Malkin and Maloney for superb journalism.

UPDATE:

Part II is up today on Radio Equalizer and it raises the question of whether the principal backers of Air America are creating another corporate entity to avoid paying legitimate debts, as is alleged by Air America creditor Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, Inc. in a New York state court filing.

Maloney and Malkin cite the account in a 10th District (Highland Park, Illinois) Democrats newsletter of a July 21 presentation to a group of Air America supporters by the network's main investors, Sheldon and Anita Drobny.

During the presentation, the Drobnys described their plan to create a new corporate entity called Nova M Radio that ostensibly will purchase rural radio stations that will become carriers of Air America programming.

Maloney and Malkin lay out evidence suggesting Nova M Radio has the appearance of "a new shell game" that could be used to evade creditors by purchasing Air America for pennies on the dollar and then disavowing previous debts.

This is a strong second day installment in the four-part series, though it is somewhat marred by the appearance of an anonymous quote of a radio industry executive saying something that borders on the innocuous.

UPDATE II:

Part III is up today on Radio Equalizer. It covers the travails of former Air America on-air personality and programming manager Lizz Winstead.

Thank you, Ford

This is not merely an advertisement, it is a mini-documentary on America past and present. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Yes!

This is one way to stop frivilous lawsuits, even those against people whose politics you don't share.
HT: Dan Gillmor, Bayosphere.

What if DeTocqueville Had Read Blogs Instead of Newspapers?

This is why I love "Democracy in America" and Scepticseye!

Love it or Hate it, Justice Sunday II Set a VIP Blogosphere Precedent for Inviting Right and Left

Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters had a fine time live blogging last Sunday's Justice Sunday II in Nashville. Among the many speakers from the Conservative Right and the Religious Right (Not always identical, contrary to the MSM) were Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Rep. Tom Delay and Bishop Harry Jackson, all speaking on the need for men and women of character and constitutional perspective being appointed to the federal judiciary, including President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, Judge John Roberts.

Whatever your views on that issue, Justice Sunday II organizers went out of their way to make it invite and assist bloggers from Left and Right to live-blog the event, even going so far as to pay expenses for several. Unfortunately, only one liberal blogger attended. Charmaine Yoest of Reasoned Audacity served as the main contact between the organizers and the Blogosphere.

Back in April, The Heritage Foundation hosted a number of bloggers from Left and Right at an issue seminar for journalists and bloggers on Social Security reform.

How long before inviting bloggers from across the political spectrum is the accepted way of doing things? It can't be too soon. See Captain Ed's comments on his experience at Justice Sunday II here.

Hades IS Frozen: NYU Professor Proclaims Death of the Religion of Liberal Journalism

New York University Journalism Associate Professor and PressThink proprietor Jay Rosen has let the cat out of the bag - the MSM's traditional claims about itself are dead because they concealed a fundamental lie about its liberal ideological foundations.

The lie was expressed in the many variations heard, especially in the post-Watergate era, on the theme of journalism's purpose being to "make a difference" or "to speak truth to power." The truth was the difference sought was advancing the liberal public policy agenda through selective reporting, with the "truth" being the liberal perspective about whatever particular issue was at hand.

Here's how Rosen put it in a Sunday PressThink post regarding a panel at the national convention in San Antonio of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, which is a major professional association for academic journalism:

"Here is what I believe. The official religion has run out of gas. The tribes that are out there chasing Pulitzers and Duponts (plus market share, advertisers and ratings) do not know what to believe about themselves, their future, or their present value in the world.
"As I wrote in June: 'When The New York Times had to decide recently what goods to charge for at www.nytimes.com, did it choose good old fashioned shoe leather reporting? No. It chose the columnists. The religion we teach them in journalism school cannot account for this.'
"Similarly, 'making a difference' was never a good enough standard for teaching or doing journalism. It was a lazy idea, the press putting one over on itself. For the liberal journalists and professors who were the believers in make-a-difference journalism were babied by their profession, and their J-school training, which allowed them to believe in agenda-less journalism at the same time.
"And in fact, they wanted the innocence (we do just the facts journalism) and the power (we do make a difference journalism) but this could never be. We in the J-schools failed to catch that. The people on a mission never got around to justifying their mission in the language of democratic politics.

"They talked about it as a neutral public service instead, but speaking truth to power isn’t neutral, and making a difference isn’t just a service to others. We in the J-schools didn’t do well with that, either.
"Later the language of politics took its revenge, and overwhelmed “mission” talk, which had failed to impress the public, as well, because it was increasingly non-descriptive.
Natalee Holloway mocks the mission night to night. Culture war mocks the mission left to right."

Is this not absolutely stunning to hear the former head of the journalism department at one of America's best-known universities acknowledging what so many of us on the Right, both wthin and without journalism, have contended for so long?

Actually, I am not surprised to read this from Rosen, as he is among the most insightful and prescient observers of journalism and the Blogosphere, which is why PressThink has been on my regular reading rotation for a long time.

But didn't we just have Bill Keller, Executive Editor of The New York Times, admitting that "even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages."

Now here comes a respected journalism professor at a top-flight university saying "'making a difference' was never a good enough standard for teaching or doing journalism. It was a lazy idea, the press putting one over on itself."

I would only add that it was also putting one over the American people. In any case, go read Rosen's entire post, including the many comments that have appeared thus far. Intentionally or not, Rosen conveys the crushing sense of futility and foreboding that is increasingly evident in the MSM as its credibility and future fade further into the past.

WHAT IS GOING ON AT AP? Editors Doubt News Service is Reporting Whole Story; New York Managers Get Defensive, But Promise Change

AP managers in New York got an earful recently from a bunch of editors beyond the Hudson River who wonder if the nation's most widely used news service is telling the whole story about the War in Iraq and U.S. reconstruction efforts in that ancient land.

The New York Times' quotes Tampa Tribune Editorial Page Editor Rosemary Goudreau:

"The bottom-line question was, people wanted to know if we're making progress in Iraq," Ms. Goudreau said, and the A.P. articles were not helping to answer that question. "It was uncomfortable questioning The A.P., knowing that Iraq is such a dangerous place," she said. "But there's a perception that we're not telling the whole story."

Mike Silverman, AP's Managing Editor, insisted his reporters in the field were trying to present all sides of the news from Iraq while coping with tremendous logistical difficulties and the inherent dangers of covering a war zone.

Silverman acknowledged, however, that like Goudrean and other editors he has also heard from returning soldiers and civilian contractors about incomplete reporting, with too much emphasis on the daily toll of U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians being killed and injured by insurgents.

The Times quoted Seattle Times Deputy Managing Editor Suki Dardarian said editors like Goudrea were encouraging the news service to provide readers with "as much context as you can bring."

Dardarian, who is also Vice President of the board of directors of the Associated Press Managing Editors, also defended Silverman and Kathleen Carroll, AP Executive Editor, claiming the editors were asking some questions without answers, according to the Times:

"For example, she said, the editors understood that it was much easier to add up the number of dead than to determine how many hospitals received power on a particular day or how many schools were built."

Dardarian's defense of AP management illustrates why there is not likely to be much of a change in the news service's reporting. It is likely hard to know on any given day how many hospitals have power restored or schools are reopened, but summary data on those positive aspects of the U.S. reconstruction effort has long been available from the Pentagon and other sources. AP has simply ignored that data or buried it the avalanche of negative stories produced by its reporting staff.

UPDATE:

MaryKatharine Ham is a former MSM journalist and presently associate editor of Townhall.com. She's also a sharp wit and knows how to critique journalism. Her column on the Mark Yost flap is full of good sense that Mike Silverman and the rest of the AP leadership in New York and across the country would do well to study.

Among other things, MaryKatharine skewers the attitude so common among MSMers when confronted by criticism of their Iraq coverage from folks on the Right:

"Hannah Allam, Knight-Ridder’s Baghdad bureau chief, is undoubtedly a brave woman doing very hard work. She is right to defend her copy and coworkers, but her line of defense is strange. She invites Yost to come to Baghdad, because as everyone knows, you’re allowed to talk about how bad Iraq is from a distance with complete authority, but once you start suggesting some good things are happening there, you better be swooping in with your legs slung out the door of a Huey, chickenhawk!"

Read MaryKatherine's whole column here.

Michelle Malkin shares my skepticism about changes at AP.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Left Sees Tremendous Growth in the Blogosphere, According to New Politics Institute Study

It contains some truly puzzling analyses in some respects, but a new study for New Politics Institute by Chris Bowers and Matthew Stoller is loaded with striking information about the ideological state of political play in the Blogosphere.

Bowers and Stoller argue that the Right side of the Blogosphere is little more than an echo chamber for the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy that allegedly controls the MSM. Thus, they argue that "most right-wing blogs reiterate talking points that are generated from inside formal conservative institutions; conversations center on feeling victimized for being right-wing, attacking and hating progressives, and attacking and hating the media."

That statement seems on its face to be contradicted by the first "Netroots advantage" Bowers and Stoller see for the Right: "Conservative blogs are more likely to take a local focus than progressive blogs, and to create strong, local blog rings."

Still, don't let that prevent your reading what I believe to be a very perceptive analysis by Bowers and Stoller of what the Left is doing on the Blogosphere:

"Progressive blogs build communities of activists and generate new political activity online. Blogs and online organizations offer forums where people can actively engage in progressive politics - real involvement from people talking about politics, policy, organizing, their lives, etc. The degree to which progressive blogs encourage active engagement in political dialogue has fueled their rapid growth over the past several years."

Bowers and Stoller lay out the numbers for that growth thusly:

"In the past two years, the political dynamics of the Internet have reversed themselves. According to research conducted by MyDD.com, as of July, 2005, the ninety-eight most trafficked progressive blogs totaled an amazing 15,181,649 page views per week, an average of over two million daily page views.(3) That is over five times the size of the entire political blogosphere just two years ago.
By way of comparison, the top one-hundred and fifty conservative blogs had less than ten million page views per week during this period, and just over one million unique visits a day. In less than two years the progressive blogosphere had grown from less than as big as the conservative blogosphere, to nearly double its size.
Nowhere is this rise more apparent than in a direct comparison of the largest progressive and conservative sites. As previously discussed, two years ago, Instapundit was three times larger than any other blog. However, as of July, 2005, the largest progressive blog, Dailykos, received more than four times as many montly visits.
It’s important to remember that Instapundit is still growing. Over the last two years, it has almost doubled the size of its audience. However, over the same period, Dailykos, now easily the largest political blog in the world, has increased its audience nearly thirty-times over.


There is much in Bowers and Stoller's report that can be argued, but I think their fundamental point about the Left taking advantage of blogs to build communities of political activism is right on target and deserves serious and extended consideration by folks on the Right.

By the way, Beltway Blogroll has some interesting information about the political activities of Bowers and Stoller:

"The report, 'Emergence of the Progressive Blogosphere: A New Force in American Politics,' was authored by two liberal bloggers: Chris Bowers of MyDD, who is now a volunteer for Democratic House candidate Ginny Schrader in Pennsylvania; and Matt Stoller, who is on hiatus as the editor of The Blogging of the President while he runs the campaign blog of New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine."

Comments?

HT for Beltway Blogroll on the study.