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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Don't Miss Young America's Foundation Panel Tomorrow on C-SPAN2 at 3:00 PM on Changing America Through Blogs

If you want to hear an abundance of the most dynamic no-nonsense analyses and commentary by two of the Blogosphere's best minds - Scott Johnson of Powerline and LaShawn Barber of LaShawn Barber's Corner - tune in at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon on C-SPAN2 for the Young America's Foundation National Conservative Students Conference panel on "Changing America with Blogs."

Moderating the panel will be Alex Mooney, Executive Director of the National Journalism Center and a bright young star of the Maryland GOP, thanks to a couple of eventful terms in the Maryland State Senate. Oh yes, I will be on the same panel but I am most eager to hear what Scott and LaShawn have to say.

BTW, YAF is one of the top political activistism groups for college kids and more than 225 of the sharpest, representing 41 states and 160 campuses, will be at the week-long conference, which convenes tonight at George Washington University in the nation's capitol. The lineup of speakers is impressive and I know from my own experiences with these kids that they are going to carry the torch of the conservative movement to new heights in the future.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

National Press Club's Friedheim Library to Offer Blog Seminar Led by Matthew Sheffield

Now this is news! The National Press Club's Erik Friedheim Library is offering a seminar on blogging and other forms of grassroots media Aug. 22-23. Leading the seminar will be Ratherbiased's Matthew Sheffield. Here's the NPC's description of the seminar:

Blogs, New Media and CYA: a Hands-on Seminar

Want to write a blog?
Want to use new media in your reporting?
Want to keep up with the latest in the blogosphere?
Want to avoid the problems of former Boston Herald reporter and professor, Michael Gee?

The Eric Friedheim Library of the National Press Club is offering a hands-on class to help you learn the ins and outs of the new media. This class will be held in two two-hour sessions during lunchtime over two days (total of four hours) and will cover blogs and other forms of grassroots media as well as how you can use the new media to your advantage.

The class covers Blogs, Forums, Newsgroups, and Chatrooms, who uses each, how they are best used by reporters, and who may be lurking in them. You will also learn where and how to open your own blog along with how to do so anonymously. The advantages and disadvantages of each aspect of blogging and the new media will be discussed in addition to how to use which search engines and monitoring systems to keep track of it all.

The instructor: Mathew Sheffield was blogging before there was even a word for it, starting in the “ancient” days of 1996 when he started a personal site while working at a college newspaper. He is a media and technology consultant who specializes in integrating new media into clients’ public relations strategies as well as helping journalists and bloggers better understand each other.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Yours truly suggested Sheffield as the ideal person to lead such a seminar, for reasons made clear in the NPC statement. I've been a press club member for years and work with Matthew on the board of the Media Bloggers Association.

Where's the Line for Journos Who Want to Ride the Space Shuttle?

CNN's Miles O'Brien thought he would become the first journalist to ride the Space Shuttle but that didn't quite work out. What did work out was O'Brien continued covering the agency while negotiations were ongoing between his bosses and NASA.

Now I'm from out of town and all but isn't that a blatant conflict of interest? I don't recall there being disclaimers on O'Brien's reporting during that period. Is O'Brien CNN's only reporter capable of covering NASA?

Seems to fit a pattern, though. Remember the deal with Saddam Hussein to stay in Baghdad? Hank Osborne at Land of Ozz has additional interesting details here, including information about the aborted first try by NASA to launch a journo back during the Reagan administration.

Virgin Atlantic impressario is far more likely it appears to be responsible for putting the first journalist into space, thanks to his amazing Virginia Galactic, a private space travel firm that will operate a fleet of space ships modelled on the SpaceShipOne craft seen recently. Given Branson's entreprenurial record of success, one ought not doubt Virgin Galactic's claim it will have commercial space flight operating in 2008.

BTW, if you haven't blogrolled Land of Ozz yet, you should. It offers more sanity than one finds here in the Disneyland-on-the-Potomac, believe me.

Friday, July 29, 2005

A Progressive Speaks Sense to Advocates on Campaign Finance Reform's Fundamental Flaw

Bob Bauer is that rare bird in contemporary American politics - a progressive who understands the intrinsic flaws in the reliance on government action that typifies the Left's approach to public policy. It's doubtful that his wisdom is going to be received today as he speaks to the American Constitution Society on why Progressives should oppose campaign finance reform.

He has posted his text on his blog and I heartily commend it to everybody who cares about the cultivation of civil discourse on public policy issues. Bauer is a thoughtful guy who deserves serious and sustained attention.

Readers of Bauer's text will encounter these paragraphs:

"Yet the expenditure of resources is a measure of intensity, and it is not, as the examples suggest, weaponry monopolized by any one side. It is in this way that campaign finance reform ideology betrays its Progressive—and I would say, regressive—roots.
"As the quite Left late historian Christopher Lasch wrote, Progressive reformers seek to manage all competition, including political competition, and to render it orderly and manageable.
"Progressive reform thinking values "efficiency, rationality and uniform standards"; it believes that there is a truth, largely accessible only to experts, and it holds that all socially useful endeavors, including politics, should be professionalized so that objective solutions can be devised for objectively ascertainable problems..."
"Just as reformers believe that the use of money to influence politics is crudely beyond the pale, so they believe that the style of communication in rough-and-tumble politics, financed with this money, fails the test of rational, orderly and properly informed argumentation."

In other words, campaign finance reform regulation's purpose is to insure that political speech conforms to the regulators' vision of what should be said in political debate. Bauer does not mention it, but let's not miss it here - The notion that only the "experts" should be able to decide what is and is not permissible political speech is precisely contrary to the First Amendment and to the fundamental concept of democratic accountability.

Or to put it more simply - campaign finance reform is the Left's tool for replacing democracy with the aristocracy of expertise.

HT to Scepticseye.com for pointing out Bauer's text.

Here's Why the FOIA Should Also Apply to Congress, Just as it Does Now to Executive Branch

It comes up in public discussion only occasionally but it has always struck me that Congress routinely exempts itself from laws it passes for the rest of us. The Freedom of Information Act is an important example and Northwestern University Law Professor Steven G. Calabresi offers the perfect illustration of why.

Calabresi argues in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard that Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat leading the charge of the Senate minority in demanding the Bush administration hand over for public examination thousands of pages from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' days as a senior political appointee in the Justice Department and the White House Counsel's office, should be willing to take a large dose of his own medicine.

Whatever one thinks of the propriety of Schumer's request (and I happen to be among those who believe all such documents should be available on some basis, even if only for historical research). the New York senator has opened what could be a genuine can of worms for Congress.

Calabresi explains why by observing that:

"Evaluation of whether Schumer is or is not on a fishing expedition is impossible given the public record as it stands now. Accordingly, Senate Republicans and the administration should call on Senator Schumer to immediately release and make public all conversations and emails between the senator and his staff, between Schumer staffers and outside left-wing advocacy groups, and between Schumer staffers themselves relating to the Roberts nomination.
"Schumer should also be required to release phone records of all telephone and cell phone calls that were placed between his office and outside advocacy groups since the Roberts nomination."

Don't expect Schumer to drop what he and his staff are doing and rush to the copying machines to comply with the professor's request. They don't have to because the FOIA doesn't cover Congress and Congress has long made it a point to keep its internal administrative and communications materials under lock and key.

Schumer could strike a blow for the sort of tranparency he demands of the Bush White House by voluntarily complying with Calabresi's suggestion as a gesture of good faith and logical consistency. I suspect John Roberts will awaken tomorrow with a third ear growing out of his forehead before Schumer takes such action.

Perhaps Schumer - who talks a great deal about the vital importance of transparency in the executive branch - would join his similarly inclined Democrat colleage from Vermont, Sen. Patrick Leahy, in offering legislation amending the FOIA and including Congress under its authority?

You can read all of Professor Calabresi's article here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Put Allison Hayward on the FEC!

FEC Commissioner Brad Smith's departure opens a seat on the panel that must be filled with a Republican. RedState.org's Mike Krempasky has an outstanding idea - President Bush should use his power to do recess appointments to put former FEC staffer Allison Hayward in the Smith seat.

Here's why Krempasky's idea makes such good sense: Recess appointments are for one year. Hayward already knows the FEC's processes, people and issues and so could hit the ground running, thus enabling the panel to continue its work smoothly while the White House decides what to do about a permanent appointee.

Being as sharp as she is, Hayward might well impress Bush so much that he makes her his permanent appointee. If he goes with somebody else, Hayward still has done the Republic good service and the President will have credentialed her for another appointment at a similar level on another panel or federal agency.

Such a move would have the additional wonderful benefit of bolstering the pro-First Amendment forces at the FEC against Sen. John McCain's next assault on freedom of speech aka campaign finance reform.

Here's Krempasky's full post and you can read Hayward's recent blog postings on Scepticseye.com here.

Rep. Mike Pence on Campaign Finance Reform's "Whack-a-Mole" Game with Freedom of Speech

Townhall.com's Tim Chapman has a superb interview with Rep. Mike Pence in which the Indiana Republican makes a tremendously compelling case that more freedom, not more regulation, is what is needed on campaign finance reform.

Pence is the preiminent defender of the First Amendment on the Republican side of the House, and perhaps in Congress. Here are a couple of excerpts, but you will enjoy reading the entire interview, which you can do here.

On "playing whack-a-mole" with freedom of speech:

"We either draw the line here and make it possible for Americans to support political parties and candidates of political parties. Or we are going to play whack-a-mole with freedom of speech for the rest of the century. Everybody knows where the money will go. If you clamp down on 527’s the money will almost invariably flow to 501 organizations, 501 (c) 4 and if you clamp down on them there will be a new group of amorphous corporate organizations that George Soros’ attorneys can dream up.
"You are on a path where you can end up in the front yard of some American someday and you can tell them how to spend their money in politics. That’s where we are headed. That’s the path we are on. And I refuse to go down that path."

On campaign finance reform as a "dark day in the history of liberty:"

"But I saw it as a dark day in the history of liberty because for the first time in American history Congress made a law abridging the freedom of speech and the Supreme Court said that was okay. And as George Will has observed, from now on life in Washington, DC is simply going to be a debate over the parameters of the First Amendment not the prerogatives of the First Amendment.

On the damage done to public debate by limiting the First Amendment:

"Once you put the First Amendment on the chopping block you have fundamentally changed the dynamics of public life and public discourse in America. And as long as I get to be in Congress I’m going to work in large ways and small ways to reassert the principle of the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, and reverse the efforts of the court and Congress to intrude on those rights."

This man deserves support from all bloggers and anybody else who cares about preserving freedom of speech in America.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Kudos to The Washington Post for Superb Medicare Series

There is likely no other federal program that more vividly illustrates the fatal flaws of government regulation than Medicare. If you doubt that statement, take a look at the front page of The Washington Post yesterday, today and tomorrow and read the "Chronic Condition" series by reporter Gilbert Gaul.

Today's installment in the series focuses on how Medicare spends more than half a billion dollars annually on audits, inspections and reviews to insure compliance by Medicare providers with quality standards. Despite this tremendous outlay of tax dollars, stories abound of hospitals and other health care facilities failing to maintain even minimally acceptable standards for things like cleaning and maintaining equipment used to keep people alive.

The reason? Medicare is a regulatory system shot through with conflicts of interests. The non-profit Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, for example, is dominated by officials from the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, according to the Post report, which notes that:

"Today, the nonprofit is one of the nation's most influential health groups, evaluating thousands of medical facilities annually. It collects $113 million in annual revenue, mainly from the fees it charges hospitals.
"Yet at the same time, the joint commission's practices raise questions about potential conflicts of interest and the rigor of its hospital surveys. It operates a thriving subsidiary that charges hospitals thousands of dollars for coaching on how to pass its reviews. About 99 percent of the hospitals reviewed by the joint commission win accreditation, and in recent years it has missed glaring examples of poor care in which patients have been injured or killed."

The Post doesn't say this, but let it be noted here that the conflicts of interest detailed by the newspaper illustrate the fundamental flaw of any government regulatory scheme - sooner or later, the regulators and the regulated get together to insure mutual survival. It's inevitable for two reasons:

First, who knows better how an industry functions than people in the industry? That means the regulators must to some degree depend upon industry representatives for expertise and experience essential to rational regulatory actions. Impartial expertise is thus essentially a myth perpetuated mainly by Public Administration professors and government bureaucrats.

Second, political expediency encourages accommodations to insure predictable, smooth functioning of the industry so that regulators don't have to worry about being surprised by technological or competitive upheavals and the regulated don't have to worry about a sudden spike in compliance costs.

Yesterday's opening installment in the Post series focused on how Medicare's payment system actually encourages waste, inefficiency and even bad medicine:

"In Medicare's upside-down reimbursement system, hospitals and doctors who order unnecessary tests, provide poor care or even injure patients often receive higher payments than those who provide efficient, high-quality medicine.
"'It's the exact opposite of what you would expect,' said Mary Brainerd, chief executive officer of HealthPartners, a nonprofit health plan based in Bloomington, Minn. Her Medicare HMO ranked among the top 10 in the nation last year for quality but was paid thousands of dollars less per patient by Medicare than lower-performing plans.
"'The way Medicare is set up,' Brainerd said, 'it actually punishes you for being good.'"

Again, the Post doesn't desdribe it in these terms but its reporting shows how Medicare is intended to insure quality healthcare for those it covers, yet it encourages exactly the opposite. In other words, Medicare demonstrates the Law of Unintended Consequences that characterizes virtually all government programs.

And then we wonder why Medicare costs are spiralling? As the Post observes:

"As Medicare approaches its 40th anniversary on Saturday, much of the debate about the nation's largest health insurance program revolves around whether it will remain solvent for aging baby boomers. Yet another critical question is often overlooked: whether taxpayers and patients get their money's worth from the $300 billion Medicare spends each year -- now about 15 percent of federal spending and projected to grow to nearly a quarter of the budget in a decade."

The Post deserves accoladates for this series, which is among the best I've seen anywhere on the crisis that is Medicare.


The concluding piece in the three-part series is a thorough expose of Medicare's Quality Improvement Organizations, the $1.15 billion contract between the government and 53 private groups to insure Medicare recipients receive quality care. Instead, the QIOs are essentially industry dominated panels that provide shields against outside examination of the actions of Medicare providers.

Friday, July 22, 2005

American Press Institute's Morph Blog Says Rather Taken Down by "Citizen Journalists"

Morph is the blog of the Media Center of the American Press Institute. It's an excellent site for professional jouralists and anybody interested in the thinking of and about professional journalists. An entry reporting CBS plans to incorporate citizen journalists' contributions includes this interesting observation:

"The rise of the citizen journalist comes parallel to a time of internal questioning within the Fourth Estate. The recent unveiling of Deep Throat - for, we might add, money - returns us to the crowning moment of investigative journalism, just as Judith Miller's incarceration and the fall of Dan Rather (brought about, incidentally, by citizen journalists) bring up questions as to what are the responsibilities of the vocation."

Presumably, the API, a paragon of the MSM, credits folks like Little Green Footballs, Powerline, RatherBiased, etc. etc. - the blogs that led the unmasking of Rather's fake National Guard memos Bush hit piece on "60 Minutes Wednesday" late in the 2004 campaign - merit at least the description of citizen journalists.

Check out Morph here.


Here's what I meant to say in that last graph above:
The API, which is a paragon of the MSM, presumably is referring to Blogospherians such as Little Green Footballs, Powerline, RatherBiased, etc. etc., as these were the blogs that led the unmasking of Rather's fake National Guard memos late in the 2004 campaign. I think it is significant that API is willing to credit bloggers with being journalists of some description.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

MSM's "We Have Standards, Editors" Argument is Getting Awfully Thin

Bill Keller, The New York Times' top editor, tells USA Today media columnist Peter Johnson what traditional dailies have over blogs:

"'We've only got two things that distinguish us from blogs,' Keller says. 'One is we have reporting staffs who actually go out and see stuff and are trained professionals. And we have standards which are enforced by editors — you double-check things, make sure it's right — and all that costs money. If you aren't giving people the basics — good reliable news, smart analysis and in-depth investigations — then all they're going to see is the same stuff they can get on cable TV.'"

Funny, I thought Jason Blair worked for the Times. Doesn't Keller remember anything from this exchange with Jeff Jarvis?

What is Going on at The Columbia Journalism Review?

Pity poor Paul McCleary of the Columbia Journalism Review. Or maybe we should be writing "pity poor CJR." Frankly, it's not clear who should be more embarrassed, the reporter who wrote "And the beat goes on" or the once-esteemed academic review that published it on its web site?

You know McCleary doesn't understand anything about the FEC's proposed rule regulating political speech on the Internet when you read this sentence at the outset of his third paragraph in a report on the recent federal Appeals court decision upholding Kotar-Kotelly:

"The crux of the issue is the ability of blogs to raise money for candidates and political organizations while being exempt from any 'controlling legal authority,' as Al Gore once unfortunately put it."

Uh, no, Paul, that is not the crux of the issue. The First Amendment is the crux of the issue.

I could go on, but RedState.org's Mike Krempasky - who, let me say it again fellow Blogospherians, deserves our first-ever Hero of the First Amendment Award - has already done such a fine job of slicing and dicing McCleary that I don't want to delay your getting to the meat of the issue. Go here. Be forewarned, it is not pretty.

If Something Seems Somehow Familiar About FEC v Bloggers, That's Because It Is! Sceptic's Eye Takes Us Back to 1946

In fact, you might even do a Yogi and say it's deja vu all over again! Back in 1946 Congress tried to ban union newspapers published on behalf of political candidates. Allison Hayward of Scepticseye.com explains why that case is eerily like the current conflagration over the FEC's proposed rule regulating political speech on the Internet.

Vanderbilt Tries to Throw Some of it's Own History Down the Memory Hole

Back when the Soviet Union was still around, jokes and anecdotes were commonplaces about how Soviet textbooks had to be rewritten every time a new leader appeared. Similar things happen under all totalitarian regimes because the totalitarians want power over all of reality, including the past.

Vanderbilt University in Nashville is not a totalitarian regime, of course, but it certainly seems to have succumbed to a tendency of our contemporary Political Correctness Police to take a similar view about rewriting history, at least that part of American history that includes mention of the Confederacy.

Win Myers at Democracy Project has the details here and in today's issue of The Washington Times. With his usual precision, Myers explains the fundamental issue at hand:

"Leaving for others the arguments over the Civil War's causes and effects, what is most disturbing about Vanderbilt's original scheme is the underlying belief that the past is merely a weapon in contemporary culture wars, putty in our hands to be shaped according to our desires."

Put another way, those who would erase the mistakes of the past make it impossible to learn from them.

BTW, congratulations to Myers, who is becoming the new managing editor of "The American Enterprise," which is the flagship publication of the fine think tank of the same name. He's one of the Blogosphere's most graceful and knowledgeable scribes and this move to AEI could be a large step towards a much-deserved recognition by a far wider audience.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Can You Identify Who Said This?

"I've always thought the American eagle needed a left wing and a right wing," Mr. X said. "The right wing would see to it that economic interests had their legitimate concerns addressed. The left wing would see to it that ordinary people were included in the bargain. Both would keep the great bird on course. But with two right wings or two left wings, it's no longer an eagle and it's going to crash."

Put your answer in the Comments.

Did You Know It's Illegal to Speak the Christian Gospel in Indonesia?

It is and three women are on trial in the world's largest Muslim nation for nothing other than telling children about Jesus. Since President Bush believes Muslims practice a religion of peace, perhaps he could ask Indonesia how such trials advance the cause of peace in the world? Go here for more details on the trial.

MSMer Most Out of Touch on Capitol Hill?

Dave McConnell has covered Congress for WTOP, the all-news radio station in Washington, D.C., for more than two decades and is a fixture in the local news ranks. When it comes to framing a news story, he often seems to be a reliable megaphone for whatever the Democrats' line happens to be on any major issue. He thus stands out as an exception to the generally solid news operation that is WTOP.

His comments this morning on President Bush's nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court are the latest illustration of McConnell's predictable news perspective. What is Roberts' top priority the morning after his nomination before a national television audience last night? According to McConnell, it's to "separate himself from the endorsements of prominent conservatives."

What McConnell didn't say is that Roberts was almost unanimously confirmed by the Senate for his present seat on the federal appeals bench, is universally respected and liked among his peers in the legal profession for his intelligence and personal warmth, has argued nearly three dozen cases before the nation's highest court and has vast legal experience in government and private practice.

In other words, McConnell's buddies on the Hill face a nominee who can't be accused of lacking judicial temprament, experience or prudence. He appears vulnerable on ideological grounds on few points, none of which look remotely like show-stoppers and there appears to be strong public support for a dignified and appropriately paced confirmation process that puts Roberts on the Court in time for it's October opening.

So what else can the Democrats say but encourage him to separate himself from conservatives who Democrats routinely describe as being "out of the mainstream" - i.e. not liberal? There are few straws here but I expect McConnell to grasp them all as he reports on the confirmation process in coming weeks.

To be sure, this morning's McConnellism came during an interview which presumably represents something of a news analysis rather than a news report. Even so, the comment affords an insight into his fundamental perspective on the issue.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Here's Something the MSM Never Told You About Abortion Clinic Bomber Eric Rudolph

Abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph is an evangelical, Born-Again, Right-Wing Christian, right? If that's what you think, it's almost certainly because that's what the MSM and some parts of the Online New Media have been telling us for years. There's just one problem with it - IT AIN'T TRUE!

Finally, after all these years since Rudolph exploded a bomb at Atlanta's Olympic Park and blew up an Alabama clinic, the five years Rudolph managed to avoid capture despite a massive manhunt involving local, state and federal authorities, and finally his recent trial and sentencing, somebody in the MSM has reported actual evidence from the man's own hand of his spiritual inspirations.

It wouldn't surprise me, though, if CNN didn't even realize it was putting the lie to years of inaccurate reporting when it reported July 5 on some letters between Rudolph and his mother. Credit goes to Stones Cry Out's Rick Brady for noticing Rudloph's explicit rejection of the Bible:

"In another he refers to people who send him money and books. 'Most of them have, of course, an agenda; mostly born-again Christians looking to save my soul. I suppose the assumption is made that because I'm in here I must be a 'sinner' in need of salvation, and they would be glad to sell me a ticket to heaven, hawking this salvation like peanuts at a ballgame,' he wrote.
"'I do appreciate their charity, but I could really do without the condescension. They have been so nice I would hate to break it to them that I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible.'"

Don't hold your breath waiting for corrections.

McMasters on Patriot Act: Excessive Secrecy Can Be Curtain Covering Incompetence or Worse

First Amendment Center's Paul McMasters makes this key point about the perils of excessive government secrecy in the course of describing problems with the Patriot Act:

"The problem with excessive government secrecy is that it is a refuge for incompetence - or worse. It is a policy reeking of desperation - or worse. It is reflexive rather than deliberate, defeatist rather than courageous. And in the end it hides not only what our leaders know but,
more important, what they don't know."

I don't always agree with Paul but I always read him. You should, too.

A Key Post From Skepticseye.com on Early (1921!) Campaign Finance Reform Maladies

And you thought campaign finance reform was something Sen. John McCain came up with one day a few years ago after spending too much time out in the Arizona sun. Skepticseye.com's Allison Hayward did some research and found an interesting piece written in 1936 by V.O. Key - one of the pioneers of using statistical analysis in political science - about California's campaign finance disclosure law adopted in 1921.

The issue then appeared to be Daylight Savings Time, but in fact it was those evil Big Awl (my family roots are in Texas where you have to pronounce it that way while smilling or risk being forced into exile in ... Oklahoma) companies up to their usual tricks to get all us Boobus Americanus to spend more time driving (and buying more petrol). Hayward has it all here.

You Can Say Anything You Want ... Just Don't Dare "Coordinate" With Somebody Else

New York Post editorialist and Tech Central Station columnist Ryan Sager was mystified by a Seattle Post-Intelliencer editorial that defended a Washington state county judge's assault on the First Amendment rights of a couple of Talk Radio hosts.

So Sager - who is also proprietor of the fine Miscellaneous Objections blog - called PI Editorial Page Editor Mark Trahant and asked him about it. Sager describes Trahant's response:

"'We're not participants,' Trahant said. 'We have no vested interest, other than as citizens.' Trahant went on to note that one of the hosts, Carlson, had given money to the I-912 campaign. 'They actually coordinated on air, telling people where to get petitions.'"

The I-912 campaign was a tax hike effort ginned up by the local politicos who were being criticized by the two Talk Radio hosts.

Note the last line of Trahant's remarks. What seemed to get his goat was less the fact that the Talk Radio hosts were talking but that others were listening and acting on what they heard!

Observes Sager:

"The speech regulators, almost always on the political left, are happy to let you talk
all day -- so long as what you say doesn't actually have any effect on anything. But if what you say starts driving fundraising or getting people out of their chairs and on the street collecting signatures, then you may well be an enemy of the state."

Especially if you happen to be opposing a tax hike proposal! How about we call this Sager's Law?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Unbelievable ...

David French, President of the Foundation for Individual Rights Education (FIRE) reports on the state of the First Amendment at Washington State University these days. FIRE is among the most active defenders of the First Amendment on college campuses across the nation:

Washington State University Bankrolls Vigilante Censorship, Student Play Falls Victim to Double Standard

PULLMAN, Wash., July 18, 2005—In a shameful distortion of the First Amendment, Washington State University has morally and financially supported disruptive heckling and threats at a controversial student play.

Washington State went so far as to pay for hecklers to attend student playwright Chris Lee’s Passion of the Musical. It then allowed the hecklers to repeatedly disrupt the musical through shouts and threats of violence. Washington State’s president later defended the hecklers’ behavior as a “responsible” exercise of free speech.

“Students have a right to leave a play, protest outside of the theater, and condemn a play in the newspaper. But they do not have the right to obstruct and censor other students’ protected expression,” remarked David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has intervened on Lee’s behalf. “Washington State’s defense of this vigilante censorship will encourage students to unlawfully silence others whenever they feel offended.”

On April 21, 2005, Lee and his student cast performed the final production of Passion of the Musical, a play they had widely publicized as being potentially “offensive or inflammatory to all audiences.” During the play, a group of 40 student protestors repeatedly stood up, shouted about being offended, and verbally threatened audience members and the cast. FIRE has obtained a document confirming that administrators at Washington State’s Office for Campus Involvement (OCI) purchased the hecklers’ tickets.

The disruptions were so severe that at one point, Lee requested that campus security remove the hecklers from the audience. Campus security refused, instead asking Lee (who is African American) to censor part of his production by changing the word “black” to “blank” in the satirical song “I Will Do Anything for God, But I Won’t Act Black” in order “to avoid a possible riot or physical harm.”

Lee later complained of this censorship to Washington State’s Center for Human Rights (CHR) and other administrators. CHR’s May 13 report justified the disruptions as protected expression, claiming that because the play provoked and “taunted” the audience, it exhibited “qualities of a public forum.” Washington State President V. Lane Rawlins was quoted in the campus paper as saying that the protestors “exercised their rights of free speech in a very responsible manner by letting the writer and players know exactly how they felt.”

“Washington State’s ‘public forum’ excuse is so ridiculous I don’t think even they believe it,” commented Greg Lukianoff, FIRE’s director of legal and public advocacy. “Does this mean that any time a play addresses the audience, it becomes a public forum? Under this theory, every soliloquy in Shakespeare would turn a theater into a discussion hall. Everyone knows what a play is—and that the audience does not have the right to disrupt it or to threaten the cast.”

Interestingly, the same office that bankrolled the hecklers at Passion of the Musical sponsored Washington State’s 2005 production of The Vagina Monologues. Washington State also played host in April to Tales of the Lost Formicans, in which a cast member simulated masturbating into the American flag. Washington State called that play “a whimsical look at the idiosyncrasies of human interaction” and promoted it via a university press release.

“Clearly, Washington State does not treat equally all plays that some might find offensive,” Lukianoff observed.

On June 17, FIRE wrote President Rawlins to request that Washington State renounce its support of a “heckler’s veto” over constitutionally protected expression. President Rawlins’ June 20 response to FIRE was a non-answer in which Rawlins claimed that the university was “committed to everyone’s exercise of all their human rights at WSU, including free speech, without fear of unlawful obstruction by anyone.”

FIRE reiterated its request on July 1, reminding Rawlins that “Washington State is a public university bound by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and therefore may not tolerate, let alone support, attempts to disrupt, silence, and censor a theatrical work.” On July 14, a local paper reported that Rawlins responded to FIRE without withdrawing his support for the hecklers, but FIRE as yet has received no such response.

“As Lee said in a recent article, ‘The whole point [of the play] was to show people we’re not that different, we all have issues that can be made fun of,’” noted Lukianoff. “The very function of satire and parody is to challenge, provoke, and, yes, offend. If Washington State is not comfortable with this, it is not comfortable with the idea of free speech.”
WELCOME TO MY FELLOW MALKIN FANS! Thanks for clicking over. Here are some other TCD posts you might enjoy: here, here and here.
And please do come back in the Chicago way, early and often.

UN Steps Back From Attempted Takeover of the Internet ... For Now

Silicon.com's Web Watch columnist Declan McCullagh of CNET.com has details on a new UN report that explains why the world's most ridiculous assembly of international blowhards, consumate graft artists and rampaging ideologues will not be taking over the Internet, at least for now.

Lots of usual suspects at the UN want to wrest control of the Internet from the U.S. but the report says the would-be leaders of the prospective cybercoup couldn't agree among themselves on the best strategy from among four options:

"Among the governance options put forward by the group were a continuation of the current system, creation of a world body to address public policy issues stemming from the work of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) and creation of a body to address a broader range of public policy issues. The fourth option is to create three bodies, one to address policy issues, one for oversight and one for global coordination."

Be sure and follow Declan's link to his report earlier this year on the Bush administration's decision to retain control of the Internet via control of its master file of authorized domains. That decision came as a shock to some who had expected the U.S. government to hand over the file to a UN body.

HT to Michelle Malkin.

Lots of Good News on the Blog Advertising Front, Courtesy of Danny Glover and Beltway Blogroll

If you dream of making some sort of income with your writing/blogging time, Beltway Blogroll's Danny Glover has some very good news for you, courtesy of Henry Copeland of Blogads. Progress in getting advertisers to realize the marketing potential of blogs and to invest in that potential has been slow, but things are starting to pickup significantly. Go here for the details from Glover.

Is This the End of the Plame Affair? (Please, Lord, Be Merciful and Let it Be)

NRO's Andrew McCarthy has what seems to me to be the authoritative explanation for why there was no violation of law by columnist Robert Novak, nor by Judith Miller of The New York Times nor Matthew Cooper of Time, as a result of the publication of CIA desk jockey Valerie Plame's employer.

Why? Because the CIA itself blew Plame's cover years ago. Bill Gertz of The Washington Times reported this fact a year ago. And The New York Times-led media coalition that filed an amicus brief on behalf of Miller and Cooper earlier last year knew that fact and included it in the brief.

Among so much else, that means there also can be no violation by Bush administration people like Karl Rove in regard to Plame, unless of course somebody was sufficiently stupid to lie to the Special Prosecutor or the grand jury.

So can the MSM please get back to reporting news?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Blogmeister Hugh Hewitt on Lead Pipes and Copper Pipes; And Why the Right Will, Sooner Than Later, Own the New Media

Okay, drop whatever you are doing and read this post by Hugh Hewitt. I know, it's Sunday evening, but believe me, when Hugh goes long, it's worth putting that dead tree in your hands down and paying attention.

The Washington Post Caricatures Citizen Journalism, Profiles Your Mom For Iowa Teens

The Washington Post has discovered citizen journalism - members of a community taking to the Internet to report on their community, often without benefit of professional journalism experience and also without the institutional biases of the media - and provides readers of its Sunday edition with a lengthy look at several examples of the accelerating trend.

But it's a bit difficult to see that the Post is actually taking citizen journalism seriously because the bulk of the piece looks at Your Mom, published for local teens by the Quad Cities Times in Davenport, Iowa.

It almost appears citizen journalism is significant for the Post because it may represent a threat to traditional journalism. Consider these graphs from the top of the Post story:

"The explosion of the Internet over the past decade has allowed anyone with an Internet connection to instantaneously publish whatever he or she wants, fueling the growth of "citizen reporters." Over the past year or so, media companies have been backing citizen journalism efforts like Your Mom in various shapes and sizes across the country.
"They are creating what some believe to be a more democratic press, but throwing into question what it means to be a journalist and adding a new dimension to debates over fairness, libel, protection of confidential sources and trust in the media.
"On one end of the spectrum is Falls Church-based Backfence.com, a venture run by local residents with no editorial guidance from the site's owners that is evolving into a sort of virtual town square. Its hyper-local coverage is available so far in McLean and Reston.
"On the other end, there's New West (
http://www.newwest.net/ ), a Web site that specializes in politics and development issues in the Rocky Mountain region. Its goal is to break news in competition with mainstream media, and it contains a mix of content written by experienced journalists and amateurs."

Backfence and New West are serious attempts to bring genuine citizen journalism to bear on wide sprectrums of issues, concerns and activities in a bunch of places. That is a threat to traditional journalism. So why spend so much time on Your Mom,which is focused on topics of interest only to (some) adolescents:

"While Your Mom runs some teen-oriented stories from the local paper and national news services, stories by the teenagers are the heart of the publication. About half come in unsolicited, i.e., "I saw this thing on TV and felt inspired to write about it." The rest are assigned by Hillary Rhodes, the publication's 25-year-old editor, based on biweekly brainstorming sessions she has with the teens.
"They might pop in at a student or city council meeting, but only if they feel like it. Most of the articles are takes on subjects such as Christianity ("undercover" reports about local youth groups from the perspectives of someone who is religious and someone who is not), drugs (how they actually make you feel in addition to how bad they are for you) and body image (an opinion piece by some guys about how fat girls are unattractive)."


Yes, it's great that teens are discovering journalism in some fashion, but why would the Post editors choose to emphasize this small aspect of an emerging trend in the nation's public policy communications system, rather than the far more numerous citizen journalism projects in which professional journalists, technology geeks, ordinary citizens from all walks of life and generally representing all points on the ideological and political spectrums, bloggers, community activists of every hue and others come together in a sort of cypher town hall to discuss the issues of the day and anything else on their mind? Especially when one of those is right in the Post's backyard, the Backfence.com project in Reston and McLean, VA.?

Post reporter Airana Eunjung Cha does note the influence in South Korean politics of the prototypical citizen journalism project, Oh My News, acknowledges that bloggers had an impact on the 2004 national political conventions, gives passing mention of the London tube terror attack photography by non-journalists carrying camera-phones and even manages to quote Jan Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland. There's also a quote from New West's Jonathan Weber.

But Your Mom gets the bulk of the coverage and it concludes with this inspiring illustration of the apparent success metric that obtains among Quad Cities citizen journalism:

"Michael Phelps, the Quad-City Times publisher, said Your Mom's unpredictable nature is what makes it appealing. 'I never know what I'm going to find on the site.' Without the controversy, he said, Your Mom would not be as successful: 'I know if I'm not getting any complaints from parents we're not doing things right.'"

Believe me, there is so much more of substance and value about citizen journalism the Post could and should report than how it is being used by some in the MSM to relive the 1960s. A good place to start would be Dan Gillmor's "We the Media" and Hugh Hewitt's "Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation that is Changing Your World."

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Climate Change is Real and for the Better in Oklahoma, Says Okie on the Lam's Dale Baker

Some of you may recall my observations earlier this year about the changing climate in my native state of Oklahoma. When I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma City, it seemed the place was always hot, brown, windy, flat, tree-less and dry. On returning to the area in recent years, however, it has increasingly seemed greener and much more treed.

Turns out it wasn't my imagination. My buddy Dale Baker, who lives in Southern California and writes the excellent Okie on the Lam blog, did some research and came up with some concrete evidence that suggests strongly my hunch was in fact accurate. Explains Dale:

"But the great state of Oklahoma and the Federal Government were developing the real projects that turned northeastern Oklahoma into 'Green Country': the aforementioned Grand Lake of the Cherokees, Lakes Oologah, Spavinaw, Tenkiller, Hudson, Skiatook, Hulah, Ft. Gibson, Keystone, Eufaula — all major lakes, several placed sequentially on the same river. "Also, most of these are hydro-electric, serving the needs for the electric co-operatives serving rural Oklahoma. I’ve either fished or camped at all of them except for the newish Lake Skiatook, which was created after my move to California in 1983.
"Of course, there wouldn’t be nearly as many trees in the Oklahoma City area, or many other parts of the state for that matter, if it hadn’t been for
arborist Stanley Draper, Jr. He has been responsible for the planting of 53,000 trees in Ok, with over 23,000 of them in Oklahoma City itself. The Natural Home Magazine article also states that 29 tree farms have been established in OK to continue Draper’s work of the 'Greening of Oklahoma.'
"So, to answer Mark’s original question, I think you can make a case for definite climate change in Oklahoma, at least in the central & northeastern sections — and that this change was definitely “man-made” — and for the better as far as I am concerned."

Go here for the whole story, courtesy of one of Oklahoma's best gifts to SoCal.

Now, what has this to do with those of you who don't live in the land we gave to the Indians "as long as the grass shall grow and the wind shall blow" or have any interest in the state? Well, here's my prediction: A lot of folks in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia are going to be reaching retirement age in the next decade.

More than a few of these folks will be living in homes whose values have skyrocketed since 1990 and who have significant additional assets. When these folks discover they can sell their high-dollar homes on the Left and Right coasts, build a bigger, nicer and safer place in Oklahoma for half the cost and invest the remainder to pay for a comfortable retirement, the Sooner State will become a haven for greying Boomers.

Sort of puts a new twist on the "Boomer Sooner" chant we've heard out of Norman all these years. Of course, being smart cookies, these new Okies will become Oklahoma State University Cowboy fans and live happily ever after.

You heard it here first!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Salon Columnist Says It's Time to Let "Bugzilla Meet the Press" and Adapt Open Source Technique to Corrections

Salon's Scott Rosenberg has an interesting idea: Why not apply to the corrections dilemma in the MSM and the Blogosphere an approach similar to that used by open source software developers?

Under the open source approach, everybody who finds a bug or thinks they have goes to a public web site and posts a description, which allows the developers to determine if the post concerns a genuinely new bug or duplicates to some degree an existing problem that has or is being solved.

Here's how Rosenberg explains it:

"The model doesn't map perfectly onto journalism, but it's not too far off: Let people file "bug reports" if they believe your publication has published something in need of correcting. The publication can respond however it seems appropriate: If the complaint is frivolous, you point that out; if it's a minor error of spelling or detail, you fix it; if it's a major error, you deal with it however you traditionally deal with major errors -- but you've left a trail that shows what happened.
"However you respond, you've opened a channel of communication, so that people who feel you've goofed don't just go off to their corners (or their blogs!) feeling that you're unresponsive and irresponsible."

Makes sense to me, though I can see some bugs that would have to worked out before the system would be anything more than a mere paper-trail creator. Go here for the full post. Comments anybody?

What Hath the D.C. Circuit Court Wrought in Shays v FEC? A Beast Without a Tether?

I haven't had time yet to go through the D.C. Circuit's decision today, but others have, notably Skeptic'seye's Allison Hayward, a former FEC staffer. She's going through it and filing updates as more becomes clear to her. Go here for her analysis. I'll post additional links as they develop.
Well, here's my initial assessment. I had to track down a musty quote from one of the Puritan divines before I could compose this observation, which is two-fold:

First, what we are seeing with the Kotar-Kotelly ruling at the District Court level being upheld by the Appeals Court is the application by the federal judiciary of the basic, if yet unstated, claim underlying the Supreme Court's 2003 decision declaring the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act to be constitutional - Congress can pass laws regulating First Amendment rights and the federal courts will uphold those laws.

Of course, Congress has always been able to pass some laws respecting the exercise of First Amendment rights. But BCRA goes beyond prudent exercising a right to defining the core scope of that right. This is a fundamental departure from any recognizable jurisprudence of limited government and moves Congress towards the assertion of an unprecedented degree of supremacy.

Let it be noted that this claim of supremacy over and against any individual's right is exactly the same claim made by Parliament in the years leading up to the American Revolution. Rev. Samuel Seabury gave voice to this Loyalist view of Parliamentary supremacy in his "Letters of a Westchester Farmer" in 1774 when he stated that the liberties of individual citizens utterly depended upon Parliament. He dismissed as "Whiggish nonsense" the idea that individual rights have an independent authority that supercedes any ruler or state.

Now that the Appeals Court has upheld Kotar-Kotelly and told the FEC to enforce BCRA exactly as Congress intended, the content of our First Amendment rights are subject to regulation by Congress. The First Amendment's text has been effectively rewritten: "Congress shall make whatever law it pleases respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free eercise thereof, of of abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, of the the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Second, I am reminded of a book that John Adams described as nearly as influential in the Revolutionary period as Paine's "Common Sense." It was titled "Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos" and was published originally in 1579 in Amsterdam, then in several successive editions that made their way across the Atlantic to the colonies. We hear little or nothing of Vindiciae today in our history books or other public documents, probably because it reflected the rigorously anti-absolutist views of its Dutch Calvinist authors, as opposed to Paine's more fashionable Deism.

In any case, the basic point of Vindiciae was that authority is granted to the state from outside itself (i.e. from God for the authors, from the people who contract for Lockians, etc.). That means individuals possess rights independently of the state. The contemporary application should be clear - Congress is presuming an illegitmate authority to define rights recognized (not granted!) by the Constitution.

The present battle over the FEC and regulation of political speech on the Internet is not merely one part of the larger conflict over BCRA, it is part and parcel of the long war between freedom and absolutism.

Here is where that musty old quote comes in. It is from John Cotton's "An Exposition Upon the Thirteenth Chapter of the Revelations." There Cotton observed that the state, because it is made up of men afflicted by Original Sin, as well as any other sector or institution of society, will always seek to expand it's power and perogatives and thus must be carefully and specifically limited. (And continually watched, I might add, as a journalist!).

"If you tether a beast at night, he knows the length of his tether before morning," said Cotton.

In other words, Congress is simply using BCRA to stretch its tether. If indeed a tether exists any longer.

Hat Tip to R.J. Rushdoony's "This Independent Republic" for the refresher on the Puritan roots of the American revolution. Don't worry - Being a Southerner of Scots descent, I know there were other roots that were equally or more important. Still, let's not forget there was a time when NewEnglanders supplied much of the fervor, and of the blood, to keep the Revolution alive. We should not forget the stuff of which that generation was made.

As usual, The Captain dives into the research and comes up with extremely important facts. In this case, he goes to the appointing presidents of the judges involved in the original District Court and today's Appeals Court decisions, as well as the congressional backers of the case. Guess what? The people responsible for perpetuating this assault on the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech are all liberals.

And don't miss the facts The Captain found about today's other significant federal court decision:

"So we have a lawsuit to regulate the internet brought by a Democratic representative who is as liberal as it's possible to be, and by a Republican representative who is the most liberal Republican in either body of the Congress, decided by a liberal Democratic judge, and now affirmed by two liberal Democratic appellate-court judges (with a conservative Republican dissenting).
"So now we know who is trying to screw us. But what about who is trying to save us?
"The other
important D.C. Circuit decision announced today, allowing military tribunals for terrorists at Gitmo to proceed, was unanimous: Judge Arthur Raymond Randolph was appointed by George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990; Judge Stephen Fain Williams was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986; and Judge John G. Roberts, jr was appointed by W in 2003.
"I hope that answers the question of 'who's your daddy.'"

Does for me, folks.

Halberstam on America Then and Now

Historian David Halberstam has often struck me as a reliable chronicler of the Eastern Liberal Establishment's perspective on the world. But he does have his moments of original insight, including this from a piece on "A ModestGeneration" he wrote recently for The Harvard Magazine in connection with the reunion of his graduating class of 1955:

"The change in our country in those 50 years, so much of it driven by technology, is startling. We have gone from a semi-Calvinist society, or at least a society that still paid homage to Calvinist values, to a modern, new-entertainment-age culture where we all have television sets which are close to being de facto movie screens in our homes, often with hundreds of channels. "It is a society where, because we are supposed to be entertained at all times, the great new sin is not to sin, but to be boring. As such we have reversed our values--something quite obvious now to anyone watching sports on television.
"The more provocative your behavior, the more you violate the existing norms of the sports society, the more everything is about you, the more handsomely you are likely to be rewarded. If we are a society with a higher level of energy than that of our youth we are also, for a variety of reasons, one with a much lower level of basic civility."

Hat Tip to Rev. Al Mohler for pointing this out.

BTW isn't this post rich with irony? Here we have a certified 100% Grade A spokesman for the secular liberalism that gave us the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society - let's not forget "God is Dead," the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and the McGovern Movement, either - telling his former Harvard classmates that America was a kinder, gentler (uh, okay, sorry, I just couldn't resist), excuse me, a more civil place when its Christian roots remained strong than it has become under the tutelage of "the best and brightest." And this comes to us courtesy of a former head of the Southern Baptist Convention!

Yes, yes, I know this post doesn't have much to do directly with the stated purpose of Tapscott's Copy Desk, but you know how we old f--ts can be, wandering off the topic, reminiscing about the way things were, the battles of our youth, etc. etc. Just humor me, okay?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Nancy Pearcey's "Total Truth" Wins Gold Medallion of Evangelical Christian Publishers Association

Regular readers of this space will recall a lengthy and highly positive review that appeared here several months ago of Nancy Pearcey's "Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity."

Now the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has recognized Pearcey's work by awarding her its Gold Medallion Award. Here's the text of an announcement distributed by the World Journalism Institute:

"As America continues its heated debates on the role of religion in public life, Nancy Pearcey’s highly acclaimed book TOTAL TRUTH: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity (Crossway) has won the 2005 ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best book in the category of 'Christianity and Society.'
"Pearcey, a former agnostic, has been heralded as 'one of the few female intellectuals in evangelicalism' (The Evangelical Outpost). She is also a musician and a homeschooling mother. The prestigious award was announced at a celebration held in Denver, Colorado, on Monday, July 11, 2005. The ECPA reports that more than '1,000 publishers, retailers, authors, and industry colleagues' attended the evening’s festivities.
“'There is much to be thankful for in receiving this award,' Pearcey said. 'It is a positive sign that a rock-the-boat book like TOTAL TRUTH could find a base of support among the grassroots of evangelical publishing.'
“'The book rocks secular boats because it argues that God is a public figure,' Pearcey explained. 'It shows why secularists cannot simply relegate religion to the private realm of faith and feelings, which is the most common way of stripping Christianity of its power to challenge and redeem the whole of culture.'

“'But the book may also rock some evangelical boats,' Pearcey said, 'because it challenges a tendency to allow essentially secular principles to shape the way we do business in Christian circles, which hurts many people who are seeking authentic relationships and answers to life’s questions.'
"Pearcey, who became a Christian at L'Abri Fellowship in the early 1970s, said, 'I am thankful to Francis and Edith Schaeffer, who opened the door to doing this kind of worldview analysis.'"

If you haven't read Pearcey's book yet, I hope you will do so soon. And you can order it from Amazon.com via the handy link in the right column of this very blog!

AP Survey Finds Quarter of Dailies Ban Anonymous Sources; Carolina Journal's Chesser Says They Miss Too Much VIP News About Official Corruption

Associated Press Managing Editors, a professional journalism organization, recently surveyed the nation's daily newspaper editors and found that fully a fourth of them allow no anonymous sources in their reporting.

A lot of people will stand up and cheer that news. Paul Chesser, Associate Editor of Carolina Journal, a conservative online news journal, is not one of those cheering. Noting that most of those editors are from small and mid-size dailies, Chesser explains in The Washington Times today why they do their readers a disservice by refusing to allow reporting based on anonymous sources:

"And if you operate from that standpoint, you rarely get a genuine glimpse of how political leaders exert their power; how bureaucrats are pressured by elected officials; how wealthy business interests win political favors; how government resources are wasted; and so forth.
Witnesses of misbehavior rarely come forth without assurance of anonymity, for fear of their jobs and of their physical well-being.
"So readers of these timid newspapers are left only with nice little community interest stories, and reports on local government meetings based on public testimony. Such content is sometimes useful and entertaining, but it hardly captures the activity that really drives political decisions -- and dishonesty."

Chesser is exactly right. Much of the corruption and abuse that is inherit in government at all levels will never be exposed if journalists aren't allowed to protect the identities of key sources. Of course, it is preferable to get sources on the record, but the reality is that people in government or who otherwise depend upon government largesse such as contractors have good reason to seek anonymity if they know about official corruption or misconduct. Most important, the public has a right to know that information.

There is another aspect of this that Chesser doesn't discuss and that is the impact on the young journalists that dominate the reporting and editing staffs of small and mid-size dailies. If they don't get to learn the proper use of anonymous sources, they will be ill-equipped when doors open for them at larger news outlets, which almost certainly will allow some anonymous sourcing. Again, it's the public which is cheated of news it should know.

What I find especially encouraging about Chesser's piece, however, is that it appears in The Washington Times, the self-proclaimed conservative daily in D.C., and that Chesser is a top editor at one of the best conservative online news journals.

Too often the only media criticism one encounters in publications on the Right (the Times and Carolina Journal being notable exceptions on this point) is aimed at the Liberal Media Establishment - aka the MSM - and it is distressing how much ignorance is sometimes displayed therein of how good journalism is supposed to be practiced.

MSM Obsesses on Rove/Plame While Journalist Paul Klebnikov's Murder(s) Walk Free; Anybody Remember Don Bolles?

And the MSM wonders why its public standing is plummeting? Consider these two items from this morning's postings on the Blogosphere.

First, RedState.org's Clayton Wagar ends the discussion of whether Karl Rove or any reporter - much less Judith Miller, Matt Cooper or columnist Robert Novak - could have violated the law by noting CIA desk jockey Valerie Plame's employer two years ago. The answer is, as I and many others in the Blogosphere have argued, no, they did not because the law requires that the CIAer being outed be in an undercover position, the government be attempting to keep that fact secret and the offender knowingly acting to out the CIAer.

But what about Plame? Was she in such an undercover position in 2003 when Novak published the fact she recommended her husband, Kerry advisor Joe Wilson, who was then a Clinton administration holdover in the Bush White House, for a trip to Niger to determine whether Saddam Hussein tried to obtain materials there needed for his WMD program?

Wagar has the definitive evidence from liberal blogger Joshua Marshall's Talking Points Memo that Plame was not undercover:

"Yet we need only go right back to TPM itself to see that Plame was brought back from overseas in the late 90's because she may have been compromised by Aldrich Ames. Heck if you just Google 'Aldrich Ames Plame' you'll see plenty of blog posts, Wikipedia, et. al. discussing this."

No wonder Plame had no fear of appearing on the cover Vanity Fair with Wilson! Thus the controlling fact of the Plame contretemps is that the law could not have been broken. Yet the MSM, especially the White House press corps, is on Double-Double-Super-Extreme-HerdThink-Obsession on the Rove angle of the controversy.

Wagar has more, which you can read here.

Second, Paul Klebnikov was Founding Editor of Forbes Russia when he was shot 10 times at close range and died on a Moscow street July 9, 2004. To this day, his murderer (s) has not been identified or brought to justice. Klebnikov had written news articles and several books detailing the vast corruption that permeates Russian society, as well as the influence of the Russian mob. It seems reasonable to assume his death has some connection to somebody who didn't like what he was reporting, or what they feared he might report.

But when was the last time you read anything in the MSM about Klebnikov, asks Democracy Project's Win Myers? Unless you happen to have seen The Wall Street Journal's piece reporting the July 9 launch of Project Klebnikov, you haven't seen much of anything about this journalist's murder or the investigation by Russian officials presumably seeking to find his killer (s).

Notes Myers:

"Given the extraordinarily poor performance of the White House press corps and their petulant, even amateurish efforts to bring down Karl Rove (and, therefore, the President) over a non-issue (see yesterday's WSJ editorial on this matter), it's important to remember that not all journalists are so petty and self-important. For those working in Russia, investigative reporting of the kind that uncovers facts can be a lethal game. Let's hope that Paul Klebnikov's colleagues get to the bottom of this case, and that the phrase "Russian civil society" rings less hollow in the years ahead."

Klebnikov's tragic case reminds me of the Don Bolles murder in Arizona in 1976. Bolles was blown up when he started his car outside a Phoenix hotel to which he had been summoned by a source claiming to have information on real estate fraud, an issue the Arizona Republic journalist was actively covering. The source never showed up. Bolles lingered for 10 agonizing days before passing away.

Bolles was a member of a small organization, Investigative Reporters & Editors. Following his death, IRE organized The Arizona Project, which pooled the resources of various news organizations in an investigation of the corruption that would lead to the murder of a journalist in broad daylight on a public street in a major American city. You can read the rest of the Bolles story here. (Full Disclosure: I am a long-time IRE member).

Now, if Karl Rove couldn't have broken the law in the Plame contretemps, shouldn't the MSM stop obsessing about it and start devoting itself to something much more clearly linked to the health of the journalism profession? Like demanding justice for Paul Klebnikov's murder (s)? Yes, it's terrible that Judith Miller of The New York Times is in jail. She made a promise to a source and she is standing by her promise. She is acting honorably. I admire her immensely. In the final analysis, I believe she will be vindicated.

How long will the MSM remain silent about Paul Klebnikov?

More fine work at RedState.org, this time by Leon H, who provides an excellent guide for the confused (i.e. me and most everybody else who is either not employed by the Special Prosecutor or any of the attorneys for the main characters in this drama, or is not Victoria Toensig who helped write the Agee Act and explained it clearly and concisely earlier today on FOX News) with his 13 statements about the controversy and a handy summary of where things stand on each statement.

Anybody have the video of the Toensig interview? I cannot find it on the FOX web site.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sager: Washington State Judge's Talk Radio Ruling an "Atrocity Against the First Amendment"

People on the Right sometimes look at me like I am whacko when I tell them we are the last hope of the First Amendment. The Left has lost its credibility on Free Speech, thanks to its enthusiastic endorsement of campus speech codes, campaign finance laws that squelch political speech during campaigns and "hate crime laws" that criminalize the expression of unpopular opinions based on religious faith, however inarticulately uttered.

In other words, the simple truth is the Left no longer believes in Freedom of Speech, especially for those of us on the Right. And they will use the power of the state to shut us up if they ever get the opportunity.

But even if you've never looked at me and thought I was a whacko for saying such things, or if you're among the fortunate millions who have simply never laid eyes on me for any reason whatsoever, you still should read this post on the Washington state court's recent ruling eviscerating the First Amendment for Talk Radio. (BTW, the photo above is courtesy of The Heritage Foundation, which has given me what is arguably one of the best jobs in Washington, D.C.).

The column is by Ryan Sager, the superb New York Post editorialist who has done some great investigative journalism that will likely never be recognized by the Pulitizer folks. Which is why winning a Pulitizer doesn't mean what it once did. But I digress.

Here's Sager's point:
"An American radio station was ordered, by its political opponents, to turn over tapes of radio shows and logs of airtime spent on various subjects.
"This is not an amusingly outrageous story. It is an atrocity against the First Amendment."

Go here for the complete Sager column. But if you want to get really steamed, first go here for the link Sager kindly provides to the Washington judge's decision and read it. Then go to the rest of Sager's column. This is serious stuff, friends, and there isn't time left to sit back and do nothing.

Michelle Malkin on .... Michelle Malkin

Meet the Bloggers blog has a great interview up today with Michelle Malkin, who among much else is asked if she thinks she's ever suffered or benefitted as a journalist or blogger by either her Phillipino heritage or being a woman. Here is how one very wise woman answered:

"I don't know whether I've ever benefited from my ethnic heritage. Of course, the unthinking left will brand any minority conservative who opposes government race and gender preferences a hypocrite if he/she may have benefited from private diversity hiring considerations. Nothing will persuade them otherwise.
"I will tell you this: Your skin color doesn't get up every morning and sit at the keyboard. Your chromosomes don't meet deadlines. Your ethnicity doesn't sniff out good tips. In the end, you live or die by the quality, newsworthiness, reliability, and strength of your work--not by the box you checked on your job application.
"The only time my ethnic heritage has mattered in the blogosphere is when critics bring it up to smear me as a sellout to my race/ethnicity or to make bigoted comments about my maiden name and my appearance.The gender question is interesting.
"While I disagree with the Susan Estrich-like complaints by left-leaning women columnists/bloggers that there's some sort of white male cabal suppressing "diversity," I do think many non-academic women bloggers are treated differently by male counterparts.
"I've experienced The Wonkette Effect, for example, where serious matters that I've written, blogged, or talked about have gotten gratuitously sexualized for absolutely no rational reason. I also think that when some male journalists/bloggers can't be bothered to debate/address an equivalent female counterpart substantively, they toss out the "shrill"/"hysterical" bomb and run away. Or they ignore you.
"Despite these minor quibbles, there has never been a better time for women with opinion journalism aspirations and/or investigative journalism\r\nskills to be in the marketplace. Barriers to entry in the blogosphere are practically non-existent. Any woman who wants to jump in, can.
"Indeed, there are tons of fabulous female bloggers, and as I've written before, I don't read them because of their reproductive organs. I read them because they are sharp. Funny. Incisive. Informative. And because unlike Maureen Dowd, they actually know what they're talking about.

Go here to read the entire interview. Sooner or later somebody smart is going to put this woman in front of a camera with a staff and a budget for real investigative reporting. Are you listening, Mr. Ailes?

NY Daily News' Goodwin Has Today's Must-Read on the MSM's Decline and Fall, As Led by the White House Press Corp

Whatever one thinks of the Judith Miller/Valerie Plame/Robert Novak/Matt Cooper/Karl Rove contretemps, watching the White House press corps grilling Scott McClellan has been painful, even embarrassing. Even if one agrees with the premises of so many of the sarcastic, arrogant and obtuse questioners, don't these people realize what they look like?

Michael Goodwin of The New York Daily News has a Pulitizer on his resume, so the man knows a thing or three about these issues:

"That the mainstream media are basically liberals with press passes has been documented by virtually every study that measures reporters' political identification and issue positions. But bias has now slopped over into blatant opposition, a stance the media will regret.
"Instead of providing unvarnished facts obtained by aggressive but fair-minded reporting, the media will be reduced to providing comfort food to ideological comrades.
"Already held in lower esteem by the public than lawyers and Congress, the press risks looking like a special interest group. Its claims to represent 'the American people,' as one McClellan inquisitor did, are easily ignored when it serves as an echo chamber for the anti-Bush."

Read and heed, MSM!

Here's Why President Bush Should Find a New Job for Brad Smith. And Clone FEC's Dave Mason

Anybody who can stand by the First Amendment like departing FEC Commissioner Brad Smith is the kind of man or woman who ought to be on top of the White House Personnel Office's list of "Must-Hires." NRO's Byron York explains why here. Time for a "Bring Back Brad" campaign in the Blogosphere.

And while that campaign is cooking up, let's not forget the other Hero of the People on the FEC, Commissioner Dave Mason. Full Disclosure: Mason is a former Heritage veep and one of the Right's most knowledgable people on government transparency. When the GOP took over Congress in 1994, it was Mason who led the effort to include in congressional reforms the requirement that congressional witnesses disclose how much federal money their organizations received.

Go here for Mason's FEC bio. There you will find, among much else, this statement by Mason of his guiding principle as a commissioner: "I see my duty as enforcing the law exactly and only as passed by Congress and approved by the President, while keeping the Constitution, especially the First Amendment, the lodestone and guide star for my decisions."

Sounds to me like Mason is the First Amendment's Best Friend at the FEC.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Conservative Leaders to FEC: Hands Off Our Blogs!

Here's the best recommendation I've heard yet for what the FEC should do with its proposal to regulate political speech on the Internet:

"The Commission should announce that its fact-finding hearings have convinced it that Internet regulation is simply not possible and that its respect for the First Amendment rights of American citizens demands that it refrain from trying to do so."

That's from a letter to FEC Chairman Scott Thomas co-signed by a smart bunch of leaders of conservative activist and advocacy groups. I don't know if my calls for Conservatives to Wake Up to the various threats to the First Amendment had anything to do with this particular effort but I am cheering it on and hoping it will be followed by many more.

Congratulations to English First head Jim Boulet Jr. for organizing the letter to the FEC. You can read the entire letter here.

Hat Tip to Amy Ridenour for bringing the letter to the Blogosphere's attention.

Also, The Washington Post updates the FEC issue this morning with a nicely balanced piece by free lancer Brian Faler that includes this excellent quote from liberal blogger Duncan Black:

"I'm troubled by the fact that participants in this emerging medium, which allows anyone the opportunity to participate in the national political discourse at a minimum cost, would face stricter regulation and stronger scrutiny, along with the potential for ruinous legal expenses -- than would participants in media outlets owned by large corporations such as Time Warner, General Electric and Disney."

Black edits Eschaton.com.

Faler quotes Mike Krempasky of RedState.org, who more than anyone else I know of in the Blogosphere has labored to alert people about the threat embodied in the FEC proposal: "What goal would be served by protecting Rush Limbaugh's multimillion-dollar talk radio program -- but not a self-published blogger with a fraction of the audience?"

Perhaps most significantly, Faler notes that Democrat FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub may be getting the message:
"The commission, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and needs a majority vote to approve new policy, is expected to decide the issue this fall. Ellen L. Weintraub, one of the Democratic commissioners, said the FEC appears to have all but decided against regulating bloggers and is now hashing out what, if anything, it needs to do to protect them against government oversight. The FEC could give all bloggers the media exemption, or it could massage other provisions in the law to provide what some said would amount to similar protections."

Go here for the full Post piece.

After you read that, go here where Democracy Project's Win Myers shows once again why the Blogosphere is so often a more accurate and trustworthy news source than the MSM. He notes that Post free lancer Faler is still quoting people who favor FEC regulation of political speech on the Internet without identifying their fundamental conflicts of interests on the issue.

This time around Faler quotes Carol Darr of the Institute of Politics, Democracy and the Internet. Who is Darr? Myers explains what Faler left out, thus cheating Post readers of the full story: " Who funds IPDI? You guessed it: Pew. Who helps run IPDI? Sean Treglia and Larry Noble, both of whom sit on IPDI's board."

Why is that significant? Because Treglia is the former Pew program officer who let the cat out of the bag by telling a group of journalists that his former employer spent millions of dollars in grants designed to make it appear campaign finance reform enjoyed broad public support. that is called "astroturfing." Read Myers' complete post to get the details.

And why do the Post editors continue to cheat their readers of the full story by using this guy Faler?

Mention of FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub reminds me of The Captain's response earlier this year to her attempts to reassure everybody that nobody at her agency really wants to stifle political speech on the internet:

"Allow me to blow a few holes through the 'trust us' scenarios Weintraub paints here. First, although bloggers may not make significant money now, that may well change in the next two or four years. (I know, I know ... wishful thinking.) If campaigns start spending heavy money on buying ads on blogs such as CQ, will they start accusing me of coordination when I link back to their sites in my posts?
"What happens if a national campaign hires me as a political analyst? Of course, I would immediately disclose that on my blog, but I would want to use CQ without affiliation, meaning that I would likely post on a variety of topics without involving a specific candidate. Does my right to free speech suddenly get diminished because I work for a candidate? (This scenario doesn't just apply to the Internet, for that matter.)
"Here's another scenario that comes from my real-life experience from the last election. I cross-posted many of my essays at
Blogs For Bush, without a doubt a site dedicated to promoting one particular candidate. If I participate on B4B by cross-posting my CQ posts, and B4B winds up being considered a campaign site for the purpose of regulation, how does that affect CQ? The overall effect of such power to regulate the medium, even if the power remains sheathed, is to intimidate people into withdrawing their participation.
"Weintraub may not have the appetite to draw up these kinds of regulations -- for now -- but the next set of FEC commissioners might, especially if Congressional incumbents see bloggers as a threat. The only long-term solution is the repeal of the BCRA and the erosion of First Amendment freedoms it imposes on political speech in America."

You can go here to re-read the whole post from The Captain.

Speaking as a former reporter and editor at The Washington Times (in the interest of full disclosure, you see!), I hope you will also check out this note about now-former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith's relationship, or lack thereof, with Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and Political-Speech-Regulator-in-Chief. From "Inside Politics" and John McCaslin. Hat Tip to Paul Mirengoff at Powerline. Yes, I know that makes it, what fourth-hand, but I know McCaslin and I know Paul, so trust me, this is solid.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Here's Why We Must Defeat the Terrorists

Okie on the Lam's Dale Baker lays it out in stark terms - here's what would happen if terrorists detonate a small nuclear device just above downtown Los Angeles. If you think it couldn't happen here, just read on because it can and it will .... if we assume it can't. Be forewarned, Dale holds nothing back.

Also, bloggers Bill Roggio of The Fourth Rail and Marvin Hutchens of Winds of Change have prepared this tremendous flash presentation mapping the many attacks of Al Qaida since its organization in 1998. Go here. And post the link on your own blog!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

WHEN ARE CONSERVATIVES GOING TO WAKE UP? Washington Judge Rules Talk-Radio Speech is Campaign Contribution, Subject to Regulation

That Big Government is a state of official mind and not just found in Washington, D.C., is seen in a ruling last week by a Washington state county court eviscerating the First Amendment and Talk Radio. Clearly Leviathan can live and thrive at every level of official action.

This ruling is an illustration of exactly what I predicted three years ago would happen as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's upholding of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law's regulation of campaign speech - government regulation of political speech will inevitably expand beyond congressional elections at the federal level. Here's what I said then:

"Because it is impossible to regulate some political speech without regulating all political speech, McCain-Feingold clears the way for ever broader bans and ultimately government regulation of media campaign coverage."

Now Michelle Malkin brings news and links regarding a ruling earlier this week by a Washington state court that comments made by a couple of Talk Radio hosts in Seattle constitute campaign contributions and are thus subject to official regulation.

Michelle gets to the core of the issue by noting:

"The sources of the problem--as political bloggers who've been fighting similar regulatory encroachment battles on the online front know--go higher up than that, of course. Their names rhyme with McGain and Feincold. Looks like talk radio needs a Mike Krempasky and an industry free speech coalition. Quick."

Liberals must choose between their god, Big Government, and freedom of speech. Frankly, I am not optimistic that enough of those people will make the right choice to stop Leviathan's assault on the First Amendment. So the key to the future health of the First Amendment is held by conservatives, who must wake up and make protection of Free Speech a first priority.

This is at least as important as the FEC's assault on bloggers because it has its roots in the same cancer - the presumption of people like John McCain and the rest of the Liberal Establishment that they should have the right to tell the rest of us what we can and cannot speak and hear.


Ryan Sager's latest column in The New York Post has the day's must-read update on the issue. Not surprisingly, government bureaucrats who want higher taxes found a willing ally in the government's courts. Here are Sager's money quotes ... so to speak:

"So why are two talk-radio hosts being harassed by Washington state officials under local campaign-finance laws for their on-air support of an anti-tax ballot initiative?
"And why did a judge back the government attack, ruling that on-air speech can be considered a campaign contribution — which leaves it subject to myriad rules and regulations?
"Because, contrary to the reformers' claims, money is speech, and speech is money. If you set out to regulate one, you will inevitably regulate the other."

Hey, didn't I say that, too, back in the day?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Post's Donald Graham Says "Bloggers Are Not the Enemy," Hill Tells Heritage Panel on Journalists and Bloggers

Following are presentations by Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters blog, Jim Hill, Managing Editor of The Washington Post Writers Group, and Danny Glover, Managing Editor of National Journal's Technology Daily and Beltway Blogroll blog.

They were speaking as members of the panel hosted July 8 by The Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy on: "Are Bloggers and Journalists Allies or Enemies?" The following texts are presented in the order in which the trio spoke. You can also view a video of the panel here.

In the photo above, Matthew Sheffield, left is chatting with Morrissey, right. That's your humble servant looking on in the middle background. This photo is courtesy of Mary Katharine Ham, one of Townhall.com's greatest assets.

My introduction of the three precedes the text of their presentations:
"Good morning, I am Mark Tapscott, Director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Media and Public Policy. I want to welcome you to Heritage and tell you how impressed I am that you have braved the soggy, windy remnants of tropical storm Cindy to join us here today.
"Before this day is over, it is estimated that more than 20,000 new blogs will be created. Like most of the rest of the 10 million or so blogs already up on the Internet, the vast majority of the new blogs will be solely devoted to such prosaic issues as why the morning commute was miserable, what the family’s plans are for the weekend and whether little Jimmy or Mary should have been called out at third in yesterday’s little league game.
"But a relatively small slice of those new blogs will be written by people who are seriously interested in the events of the day, who have strong opinions about those events and may even have the means of 'advancing the story' – that is, doing journalism.
"The result is an explosion in just the last three years of new news sources and the creation of the Blogosphere – a machine that has proven itself capable of unseating mighty potentates like Dan Rather and bringing eyewitness reports and video of the horror of a disaster on the other side of the world like the December tsunami in our hands literally within hours of the tragedy.
"Having spent most of my career as a newspaper journalist and more recently as proprietor of one of the more obscure sites of the Blogosphere known as “Tapscott’s Copy Desk,” I have one foot firmly planted in each of these two realms and so I have watched these developments with great interest, as have many of you. But not everybody in the news business has been cheered by these developments.
"Another of the mighty potentates of our day famously referred to bloggers as guys sitting in their living rooms in their pajamas. I think we can safely assume that the cbs vice president who uttered that phrase on Fox News during the Rathergate scandal does not consider bloggers to be journalists.
"That issue has received a great deal of debate and discussion in recent months in the newsrooms of America, as well as in the journalism classrooms and indeed in many forums where public policy issues are routinely debated.
"And that is why we have gathered this august panel for you today, to consider whether bloggers and journalists practice the same craft or are they like Twain’s proverbial lightning and lightning bug – they sound very much like alike but they couldn’t be more different. On the other hand, lightning and lightning bugs both fly through the air so maybe they are more alike than we or they realize.
"Let me tell you briefly about each of our panelists and then we will hear presentations from each of them. Following that, you will be able to ask our panelists as many questions as time permits.
"Our first speaker today is Ed Morrissey, better known to many of you as 'The Captain' of Captain’s Quarters blog. I note from the Truth Laid Bear’s web site today that Ed received more than 25,000 visitors yesterday, making Captains Quarters one of the top 20 most widely read blogs in the blogosphere.
"This is quite remarkable when you consider that Captain's Quarters blog is barely more than a year old. But Ed quickly established himself as one of the blogosphere’s most incisive, well-documented and entertaining sites. And there are more than a few journalists who envy his amazing reporting earlier this year that blew Canadian politics wide open and may yet result in the downfall of the Liberal Party government there.
"Our second speaker is Jim Hill, who some of you may know from his days as one of my colleagues here in the Media Center. Jim has what i believe is the best job in town – Managing Editor of The Washington Post Writers Group he gets to edit George Will, Charles Krauthammer, E.J. Dionne, who is with us here today, and the rest of that fine stable of wordsmiths. He’s been an editorial page poo-bah at The Los Angeles Times, Arizona Republic and The Kansas City Star. I understand that he will be bringing us word directly from on high at the Post.
"Our final speaker today is Danny Glover, who is almost singlehandedly bringing National Journal into the era of the Blogosphere. His main job is Managing Editor of National Joural’s Technology Daily but just a few weeks ago he took on the added opportunities that come with being the guy in charge of National Journal’s Beltway Blogroll.
"With that, it is my great privilege to turn the podium over to Ed Morrissey."

Ed Morrissey:
"Thank you for the invitation and the kind introduction. I am honored to speak at the prestigious Heritage Foundation as a guest of my friend, Mark Tapscott, who made the arrangements for this panel discussion. Appearing with Jim Hill of The Washington Post Writers Group and Daniel Glover of the National Journal is not only an honor but an inspiration, as are the guests in attendance today, some of whom are also members of the media corps.
"Many of you know me from my writing as Captain Ed, the nickname I use when writing for my weblog, Captain’s Quarters. I started Captain’s Quarters less than two years ago out of frustration – frustration that came from not having an outlet for my voice and point of view beyond that of the occasional letter to the editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, my local newspaper. When I began blogging, I had less than 10 visits a day during the first few weeks. Seven of those were me, one was my mother, and we still haven’t figured out who that other lonely soul may have been.
"Through a combination of good fortune, timely reactions to current events, some marketing skills, and sheer bloody-mindedness in the face of reality, I built up a steady readership that continues to increase to this day. Although many bloggers had come before me, I found myself fortunate enough to have entered the blogosphere just as it began to catch the attention of American news consumers. The hotly-contested election gave me and thousands of other bloggers an opportunity to compete for the enormous cascade of readers that started looking to the blogosphere to find information that could not easily be found elsewhere.
"In the early days of my blog – which sounds like my 3-year-old granddaughter saying, 'When I was a baby' – my posts entirely consisted of links to stories in the mainstream media and my opinions of what they meant. Some of those essays were media critiques, while others pointed out facts and arguments for political positions or cultural debates.

"While the writing and the content were, I feel, at least as professional as the average newspaper article, I doubt that anyone would consider what I did to be journalism in the common sense of the term. For myself, I considered Captain’s Quarters as a forum for punditry, media criticism, and political debate.
"That began to change when my readership grew to significant numbers in the summer of 2004. As the reach of the blogosphere grew, so did the diversity of our audience. Bloggers found that their readers as well as their fellow bloggers held enormous amounts of information, knowledge that could be organized through our sites and combined into news, independent of the mainstream media. The first example of this came with the CBS report on '60 Minutes Wednesday', when Mary Mapes and CBS used memos supposedly written by a senior officer of the Texas Air National Guard to question George Bush’s service record.

"The first hints that these documents might have been falsified came three hours after CBS posted them onto their website. My friends at Power Line – another more obscure Twin Cities blog – received an e-mail from one of their readers outlining a few issues that he had seen discussed at the popular Free Republic website. Scott Johnson wrote a post called 'The Sixty-First Minute', and shortly afterwards received hundreds of e-mails with many details that undermined the authenticity of the documents.
"Captain’s Quarters had a more peripheral role in that blogswarm, although as a former technical publications expert in the defense industry, I had some insight into the typography and the format issues that arose. Other bloggers hit the streets, looking for more answers. Bill Ardolino at InDC Journal, located right here in town, hired his own document examiner to review the scans CBS posted.

"Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs generated a graphic experiment that showed one of the memos to exactly match a duplicate typed in Microsoft Word using its default settings – an impossibility given the typographical differences between typewriters in the 1970s and computer systems today.
"Power Line’s large readership included many current and former military men and women who sent Scott examples of proper formatting of military documents, as well as data that pointed out historical anachronisms contained within the Killian memos.
"Regardless of one’s belief in the final determination of these memos and the story in which they were used, these bloggers had moved beyond the familiar pundit roles that they had earlier assumed. Through the building of trust with their readership, they had developed sources with information that they applied in generating original and timely articles that delivered fresh information to their general readership.

"In some cases, they stepped outside of the passive role to interview experts, develop evidence, and keep pressure on CBS to respond to the growing concerns over the veracity of their story. We have a word for that activity: journalism.
"My blog has had its moments as a journalistic organ rather than strictly punditry. Earlier this year, I wrote extensively on then-CNN Vice President Eason Jordan and his comments at Davos that accused the American military of deliberate assassinations of journalists in war zones.

"This started a few days after Jordan made these remarks during the World Economic Forum, and had only been briefly mentioned as a Grapevine item on Fox News Channel. I first heard about it through the Hugh Hewitt radio show, and began blogging about it immediately and often, asking my readers to look into it as well.
"I opened an account at Nexis to research the question of whether CNN had ever reported on those allegations. Readers who also did research sent me links to even more instances of Jordan’s allegations. In the end, we compiled a list of evidence that Jordan had habitually made these claims, always in foreign venues, without ever providing any evidence – and CNN had never reported on these conspiracy theories that Jordan espoused.
"In this case, the blogs provided the only journalism for this story for well over a week. In the midst of this controversy, I wrote an article for the Weekly Standard, which highlighted the absolute silence on Jordan and his remarks in the major media outlets. In fact, until Eason Jordan resigned nine days after the controversy broke out into the blogosphere, it had received almost no notice in any of the traditional media.

"Of the major national newspapers, only The Washington Post mentioned it at all, in a Media Notes column by Howard Kurtz that tended to dismiss the controversy as a blogosphere tempest. The New York Times didn’t mention it until the night of Jordan’s resignation, and The Los Angeles Times only mentioned his remarks the day after his resignation. CBS didn’t even report Jordan’s resignation on its website until 48 hours after he quit.
"Again, bloggers had reported unique and relevant information, this time not only separate from the mainstream media but in apparent opposition to it. The information came with specific sourcing, links to the historical record, and persistent calls for one of the largest media organizations in the world – CNN – to authorize the release of the pertinent videotape so that they, too, could perform the journalistic function of informing their consumers of the news. To this day, CNN has refused to ask for the videotape from the World Economic Forum, which said that such a request would likely be honored.
"Which organizations in this example performed journalism – and which ones stonewalled?
"Most recently, Captain’s Quarters created a storm of controversy in Canada based on reporting that I did on a major political scandal north of the border. Canadian politics has long held little interest to Americans, and therefore receives scant coverage from our media. That reflects no bias, simply the natural reaction to their consumer market.

"I was no different. I knew that the Liberal Party had controlled Canadian government for several years, but I had not heard much about the Sponsorship Program and the millions of dollars that had disappeared mysteriously from its coffers before receiving an e-mail from one of my readers, in late March.
"The e-mail started off by asking me to help Canada, an odd proposition for an American blogger. It did not go into specifics but said that an “extremely big” story needed to be told, and needed to be told through the blogosphere. Normally I would have put this in the same category as e-mails from former Nigerian princes that promise millions of dollars if I can get them access to an American bank account – mine, of course – but this had specifically been written to me and had the contact information and identification which, if true, promised something more substantial than mere spam or scam.
"I wrote back, asking for some confirmation of the person’s identity and a better explanation of why Canada needed an American blogger. My source sent me some confirming information and gave me the background on Adscam. In brief, the Sponsorship Program intended on defusing the separatist movement in Quebec by using advertising and sponsorship of cultural events throughout the province to make Quebeckers feel … more Canadian.
"With the Liberals in charge, however, the program quickly turned into a money-laundering scheme with at least two main strategies. First, large payments were made to politically-connected ad agencies, using invoices for work that had never been done, and this money was kicked back in cash to the Liberal Party and its cronies for unknown purposes.

"Secondly, the ad agencies hired a number of Liberal Party activists who did no work on Sponsorship Program contracts, but instead did political work “off the books” and outside the reach of campaign-finance regulations. In return, the agencies involved got millions of dollars in business from the Canadian government.
"Witnesses had given testimony to the public inquiry headed by Justice John Gomery for several weeks. Despite the fact that the inquiry had been public, testimony from three specific witnesses who had upcoming criminal trials was placed under a publication ban. This is similar to a gag order in American courts, except that it only affected the ability of the press to report what was being said in open court.

"Therefore, the political operatives for all of Canada’s political parties could sit in court and hear the testimony. Reporters could do the same. In fact, some media outlets continued to receive closed-circuit video and audio feeds from the Gomery Inquiry during the sessions under the publication ban. The only people that could not have access to the testimony, apparently, were the Canadian taxpayers whose money had been stolen from under their noses.
"After reading some of my essays on the First Amendment and the McCain-Feingold Act, the source felt that Captain’s Quarters would provide a good outlet to publish this testimony in defiance of the ban and allow Canadians to hear exactly how their government had been corrupted.

"At this point, on April 2nd, the first of the three witnesses had testified for two days. The Canadian media reported on the sensational nature of Jean Brault’s testimony but offered no specifics whatsoever. After reviewing the material and judging it to be genuine, I posted a summary of the testimony that evening in an article titled, 'Canada’s Corruption Scandal Breaks Wide Open.'
"At first, the reaction met my expectations. My traffic doubled as others linked to me, such as Instapundit and a handful of Canadian bloggers. The visits picked up speed as NealeNews, the Canadian version of The Drudge Report, headlined my post. However, on Sunday evening, my website came to the attention of CTV, one of the two Canadian networks, who reported that an American blogger had started releasing what appeared to be highly accurate summations of the banned testimony. After that, all hell broke loose.
"My traffic jumped to 10 times its normal rate, then to 20 times, and then my server crashed under the weight of the visits I got. Major media all over Canada reported on the American blogger who either stood for freedom of speech or didn’t respect Canadian law, depending on one’s point of view.

"In four days, after two posts revealing the secret testimony, I received over 1.5 million visits to my blog. My normal traffic then was about 20,000 a day. I received a number of requests for interviews, mostly from Canadian media, which was unfortunate because I had a raging case of laryngitis at the time. I’m afraid that Canada’s first experience with an American blogger might have left them with the impression that Don Corleone had suddenly gone legit.
"The reaction of the Canadian electorate matched the sudden enthusiasm I saw in my traffic reports. Where before the Gomery Inquiry had operated mostly within the confines of Ottawa political circles, the secrecy and surprise revelation of Brault’s testimony sparked wide interest in the scandal. Throughout the country, outrage over the corruption and graft erupted, threatening to topple the Liberal government and force elections. Only recently have the Liberals managed to escape that fate, and only temporarily.
"Again, a blog reported a story which the media did not – in fact, in this case, could not for fear of prosecution. More than once, I heard from reporters assigned to interview me that they wished they could have broken this story themselves, and that they envied my ability to do so without legal liability.
"Does that make bloggers journalists? Not necessarily, but the better question is this: Can bloggers perform journalism? Our track record proves that we can and often do. It isn’t what we do every time we post, or even most of the time we post. Bloggers move between journalist, pundit, critic, self-promoter, and back again, sometimes all within the same day.

"As our own editors and publishers, we have the flexibility to do all of that as we see fit. Our impact in each of these roles depends on the level of trust we have built with our readers, who enable us to fill each role by bringing us information we need. On occasion, that information allows us to report original information that can have tremendous effect on the world around us.
"That’s journalism, no matter what one calls the person delivering it."

Jim Hill is Managing Editor of The Washington Post Writers Group:

"Good morning. It's so good to be back here at the Foundation and sharing this panel with Ed and Daniel. Since Mark contacted me to inquire if I could appear, I've been giving a considerable amount of thought to what we should be talking about here today. And the thing I want to say right off is something the chairman of my company, Donald Graham, told me in a casual
conversation not long ago: "Blogs are not the enemy."
"Indeed, The Washington Post has been among the pioneers in electronic journalism, and on our Web site, washingtonpost.com, one can find all sorts of blogs -- Howard Kurtz's "Media Notes," Joel Achenbach's "Auchenblog," Terry O'Neal's "Talking Points," Mark Maskie's "NFL Insider," to name a few. Tom Boswell even blogged throughout the Washington Nationals'
inaugural ritual of spring training.
"And I note that Mark has been particularly active in encouraging other newspapers to get involved in what is becoming to be known as "citizen journalism," and just recently posted that The New York Times had reported on efforts by the Greensboro News & Observer and the Rocky Mountain News encouraging this trend.

"I would add that the editorial writers at The Dallas Morning News also have a very active blog, and the newspaper business has been watching intently to determine what Michael Kinsley is going to do as he tries to makeover The Los Angeles Times' editorial and opinion pages as more reader-interactive.
"So Big Media get blogging. And, in doing so, we are also setting the parameters for some interesting debates to come. Are bloggers journalists? Do they deserve First Amendment protection? Should they be regulated? And my answers would be: sure, of course, and absolutely not.

"A journalist can be anyone who takes pen to paper (I just realize how antiquated that phrase is in this electronic era) and spreads the news. (Quoting Don Graham again, he called bloggers modern-day Ben Franklins, and I think that is most certainly right).
"The First Amendment applies to all Americans. Nuff said.
"And regulation? The notion itself is preposterous. But here, of course, is where we need to keep our attention focused, for the forces of mischief are already at work trying to do this very thing. A free press must be always vigilant about creeping regulation, and Mark, I hope the Center for Media and Public Policy will continue to track these issues as aggressively as you have pushed Freedom of Information issues. It's not just the right cause, it's the correct cause.
"But now that I've welcomed Captain Ed and the many other bloggers who are trying to check the actions of both government and the media who cover government into our band of journalistic brothers, I just want to spend a little time posing some other questions that frankly, I don't have the answers to.
"And the most important one is: What happens when the lawyers come calling? And they will, trust me.

"Back in the pre-blog days of 1998 when I was doing "James Hill's Weekly" on the Internet, I had a couple of lawyer friends who watched the site to see if I had strayed over the line, particularly on libel issues (fortunately, Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright were public figures, so I never got sued). John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson and Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine are
all lawyers, as is Glen Reynolds at Instapundit, and Ann Althouse at Althouse is a law professor, so they have a measure of protection or at least an inkling of what dangers are out there.

"But blogging has developed so fast, and the waters are still so uncharted, that I fear we may be steaming toward an iceberg, the consequences of which we've just begun to think through. Now, I think that a libel suit of one blogger comes across as pretty much an absurdity. I mean, what would one receive in a judgment -- the blogger's computer, maybe? Yet I don't think it is farfetched to imagine creative lawyers going after bloggers collectively, especially ones that may have linked or quoted extensively from an article or posting deemed to be libelous.
"More worrisome, perhaps, and Ed, you have already had some experience with this, I wonder what would happen if the government started to go after a blogger or bloggers because they had gotten ahold of something the government never wanted to see the light of day: a Pentagon Papers type of case? Or promised a source anonymity and a special prosecutor was
threatening to throw you in jail?
"Where are the protections of the First Amendment now?
"Whenever we at the Washington Post Writers Group have a column that we feel needs to be lawyered, I can call the Post's legal department -- at any time of day -- and get it checked and cleared for publication. But the Post has a philosophy of getting news into the paper, not keeping it out. So our lawyers will go that extra mile to see that we are covered.
"Sadly, that's not the case with many of our nation's newspapers. In their zeal to maximize profit, many of the major chains have ordered their newspapers to eliminate in-house counsel, and that sad fact may explain a lot of the deterioration in newspapers today -- and, consequently, the rise of blogs as sources of news.
But I think it also says that the traditional, mainstream media aren't going to be of much help when and if this nightmare scenario develops. It doesn't seem to be much on the radar of organizations such as the American Society of Newspaper Editors or the National Conference of Editorial Writers, both organizations to which I belong.

"And I think that is a shame, for as old media embraces new media in many ways, we are not doing much as an industry to apply the protecting forces that are necessary for the First Amendment to thrive to these pioneers who
are, quite literally, writing the book on citizen journalism.
"So Mark, I have a simple request, which I hope Ed and Daniel will endorse as well. Why doesn't the Center for Media and Public Policy become a clearinghouse for blogging and the First Amendment? Maybe you can enlist as allies organizations such as Lucy Dalglish's Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which has already done some work on this issue. Maybe we can get a start to making our new friends in the new media feel more welcome, and let them feel that someone is watching out for their interests because, in the end, as it always has been, their interests are our interests as well.
"And with that, I'm going to close off. I'm honored to be here with these gentlemen, and I look forward to any questions you might have."

Danny Glover is Managing Editor of The National Journal's Technology Daily and Editor of NJ's Beltway Blogroll:

"We’re here today to answer the question, 'Are bloggers and journalists friends or enemies?' and the best way to answer that is by listening to what the two camps say about each other.
"Because I’m a journalist, I’ll start with the blogger bashing that unfortunately is all too common among my colleagues. I keep a running list of journalistic rants against bloggers, and it is a nasty list.

"Journalists have called bloggers:

  • Jumped-up dunces with PCs
  • Barroom loudmouths
  • Salivating morons
  • And the headless mob

"In February, columnist and editorial cartoonist Ted Rall wrote this: 'Bloggers are ordinary people, many of them uneducated and with nothing interesting to say. They're sitting in their rec rooms, regurgitating and spinning what real journalists have dug up through hard work. They don't have sources, they don't report, and no one holds them accountable when they make mistakes or flat out lie.'

"Bloggers have just as much animosity toward the press. They refer contemptuously to the 'mainstream media' and the 'media establishment.' They claim as trophies the careers of Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd of The New York Times, Dan Rather of CBS News, Eason Jordan of CNN and Jeff Gannon/James Guckert of something called Talon News. And if some of them had their way, Newspaper Guild National President Linda Foley would be looking for a new job now. "That evidence makes it abundantly clear that bloggers and journalists are enemies. They are intellectual adversaries engaged in battle on the front lines of a 21st-century information war.
"Appreciating the depth of that conflict also helps answer another much-debated question: Are bloggers journalists? And the answer is a resounding 'no.' Bloggers are not journalists and clearly have no desire to be. They are grassroots activists who, if inclined at all to quit their day jobs and change careers, are more likely to end up in political or policy circles than journalistic ones.
"But the truth is that most bloggers are just happy being bloggers. Instead of being part of the Fourth Estate, they are part of something new. I call it Estate 4.5 -- a nod both to the profession whose excesses galvanized many bloggers and to the medium they use.
"Bloggers are like inspectors general, the independent watchdogs of government. Just as IGs are not part of the agencies they oversee, bloggers are neither part of government nor journalism, but they keep a wary and watchful eye on both. And in so doing they provide a valuable check against the arrogance, inadequacies and abuses of all four estates.
"Bloggers like to say that journalism is something you do, not who you are, and they have done some great journalism. I admire their work and have even used it to better my own.
"But just doing journalism doesn't make you a journalist any more than doing first aid makes you a doctor or emergency medical technician. Any more than representing yourself in court makes you a lawyer. Any more than loaning money to a friend makes you a banker. Journalism is a profession; blogging is not.
"On the flip side, journalists are not bloggers, either. I have blogged about religion from Russia and adoption from Guatemala, and I just started Beltway Blogroll, a column in blog format that is focused on blogs. But I am a journalist, not a blogger.
"Like it or not, we journalists are part of the 'establishment,' one of the four estates. No matter how hard we may try, we simply can't gain the perspective of bloggers who are not part of our club. Bloggers bring fresh insight, unyielding passion and a whole lot of sass to the public sphere, and they answer to no one but themselves.
"Bloggers are not part of the journalistic-corporate complex that controls information from ivory towers; they are the militiamen of the information revolution. They are, as Jay Rosen of PressThink says, the Court of Appeal in the State of Supreme News Judgment.
"Bloggers are not journalists because they 'think outside the box,' and we don't. I once had a supervisor who told me repeatedly to think outside the box. When I asked him to explain what he meant, he couldn't. I was so aggravated by the experience that when I left that job, I started a newspaper column called 'Inside the Box.'
"Thanks to bloggers who have hurled cyber rocks upside my head over the past few years, I'm at least aware that life does exist outside the box now. But inside the box is where I remain -- and all of my journalistic brethren are right there with me.
"I strongly advocate that we journalists adopt the technology of bloggers to enhance our editorial products. But I also appreciate that we are not and never will be bloggers. Try as we might to escape our past, we can't help but see the world through green-tinted eyeshades.
"The bottom line: Journalists and bloggers are entirely different creatures occupying the same universe the Constitution calls 'the press,' and they are adversaries. But journalists, bloggers, the government and 'we, the people,' have benefited greatly from that adversarial relationship -- and hopefully we will continue to do so.
"Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine said it best when he put it this way recently: 'Journalism is institutional, impersonal, and dispassionate; blogs are human, personal, and passionate. ... At the end of the day, I don't want to see blogs turn into an institution, or try to, for then they wouldn't be blogs anymore.'”