I'm offlien for the next four days, so while I'm gone I recommend you go read Damn Liberals. You may know this blogger as DailyKos and MYDD commenter Michael in Chicago. He's quickly becoming a favorite for me - so go check him out.
I'm offlien for the next four days, so while I'm gone I recommend you go read Damn Liberals. You may know this blogger as DailyKos and MYDD commenter Michael in Chicago. He's quickly becoming a favorite for me - so go check him out.
Here's our founding father, Thomas Jefferson, making it clear that our rights matter.
"The principles of government are founded in the rights of man.
That's also the quote that inspired the title of a new quarterly online publication dedicated to covering human rights. The new online journal, The Rights of Man Quarterly, has set out to meet two interesting and important goals. The first is pretty straightforward - to remind us all that there are "bigger issue behind the smaller ones: that there are such things as human rights, and that those rights are systematically being removed". It's easy to miss the forest as we blog about the trees and this journal will remind us that the forest needs tending.
The second goal is as bit unique: "To provide a place, however small, where the jigsaw puzzle that is day-to-day blogging can begin to unveil the totality of the assault on our rights that it reports in disconnected chunks every day." I like the analogy of blog posts and puzzle pieces. We've all read bloggers that have a real in-depth understanding of a specific area. This quarterly just may be a forum for them to pull it all together for us.
This journal isn't a light undertaking and I'm impressed with the founder, Mick from Dispatch from the Trenches and Arran's Alley. He's a blogger who has consistently covered labor issues with insight and heart at Dispatch while he's nailed the politics at the Alley. He's occasionally pessimistic, telling us that it will get much worse before it gets better. But then he doesn't give in to that pessimism and does things like launch this quarterly - a sign of faith in humanity, a constant willingness to stay in the game and try to make a difference. In the editorial introduction to this new endeavor, he writes:
If he's successful with The Rights of Man Quarterly, he'll create a place where the pieces of information scattered across the blogosphere are put together so that we can see the larger truth. He'll spark a conversation about the dismantling of human rights in this country, the threat we face in this "time of terror".
Asylum, Race, and Torture
The first volume of the quarterly offers three in-depth articles. The feature article, A Question of Decency, is on the jailing of asylum seekers in Australia. It's a story that few in America know and fewer still understand why it matters here. But when you read how asylum seekers are treated like illegal immigrants, how they're jailed - young and old - in deplorable conditions- Americans should take heed. And think of the anti-immigration language trumpeted here and the increased demands we make on asylum seekers, like documented evidence of persecution. And know it's a slippery slope.
The second article Nothing but Smoke and Mirrors, hits hard on the Bush administration's record on civil rights. It highlights the gap between words and deeds in the Bush administration, bringing to life the information in the draft report by the US Commission of Civil Rights. The report evaluated the state of civil rights in the Bush administration and the draft led to the dismissal of the committee chair, who had served on the committee for twenty-five years. This story achieves the editor's goal of pulling together the story that is spread across the blogosphere.
The third article, Crossing the Line (by yours truly), begins to tell the story of detainee mistreatment in the war on terror. It shows how America began drifting towards an embrace of torture as a legitimate tool of war almost immediately after 9/11.
The Editor's Challenge
In the editorial introduction to this quarterly, Mick writes:
The Rights of Man is a small attempt to correct that situation. There is no more important story in our time than the whittling away of our human and civil rights--workers' rights, women's rights, minority rights, prisoners' rights, and even basic rights like assembly and free speech--by political and corporate forces that find them 'inconvenient' and are doing away with them, one-by-one.
It's that last part--the 'one-by-one' bit--that was the inspiration for this journal. We believe that the reason the Armies of Darkness, in Norman Mailer's apt phrase, are able to destroy the liberties we have carefully preserved for so long is first because we don't know they're being destroyed and second because no one has pulled the disparate pieces together to make a cohesive whole so that this war on our rights can be seen for what it is. We can't--not being mainstream corporate media--do anything about the first but we can do something about the second.
Take the time to see the picture that becomes clear as the pieces of the puzzle are put together. Go read this new quarterly - and recommend it to your friends and readers.
In honor of full disclosure, I guess I should tell readers that I've joined the Big Brass Alliance. This group of bloggers, nearing a total of 300 and counting, was formed in recent weeks to focus attention on the Downing Street Memo (pdf), the lack of media attention on the memo, the refusal of President Bush to respond to Congressional inquiries about the memo, and to support a demand for a formal investigation into whether or not the President has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the war in Iraq. This demand for a formal investigation was initiated by After Downing Street, a coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups formed specifically to urge Congress to launch such an investigation
Note here that we're a not calling for Bush to be impeached. We are asking only for a formal inquiry, based on the information contained in the Downing Street Memo. This memo, really an official state record of a meeting of top British officials including the Prime Minister and the head of their intelligence office, reports that Bush decided to go to war while still telling Congress and the public otherwise and that intelligence was being manipulated to fit that war policy.
There is Congressional activity, led by Rep. Conyers. He and 88 other Representatives sent a letter to President Bush asking him to respond to specific questions raised by the Downing Street Memo. Bush hasn't responded and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, has said that Bush sees no need to respond. In light of that high-handed dismissal, Rep. Conyers launched a petition to show that the public too wants these questions answered. (Go sign the petition now.) The questions asked in the original letter and the follow up petition are these (my comments follow in italics).
Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?
In a press conference, McClellan was asked directly if the statements reported in the memo were "flat-out wrong" as CNN reported he said the previous week. Instead of challenging the accuracy of the information in the memo, McClellan said his earlier comment was in reference to things said about the memo, not the contents of the memo. He then went on to say that anyone could see how the administration had used its flawed intelligence - putting the blame on US intelligence and avoiding the issue of whether that flawed intelligence was fixed to meet the administration's needs.
Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies,
before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or
anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade
prior to this time?
Certainly, the discussion at the highest levels of the British government seem to indicate that the Bush administration was recruiting allies for a military response to Iraq. Additionally, Bob Woodward previously reported that only a few months after the 9/11 attacks, $700m in funds allocated for the war in Afghanistan were illegally diverted to fund plans for an invasion of Iraq.
Was there an effort to create an ultimatum
about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for
the war as the minutes indicate?
Certainly the current justification for war - the spread of democracy - wasn't put on the table. The argument made by President Bush for going to war can be found in October 2002 speech to the nation, made in support of a Congressional authorization to use force, and this March 2003 speech to the nation announcing that war had begun.
At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?
In October 2002, months after the meeting documented in the Downing Street memo, Bush said, "Of course, I haven't made up my mind we're going to war with Iraq. I've made up my mind we need to disarm the man." As late as December 2002, the administration was still claiming that no decision had been made.
Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community
and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the
policy as the leaked document states?
For an excellent overview of the issue of intelligence - both the flaws in it and the pressure to conform intelligence findings to fit policy - check out this Washington Post article. It includes coverage on the delay and then cancellation of a Congressional investigation into whether the administration unduly influenced intelligence professionals to produce findings that supported their views.
There are two issues here: one is the lack of media attention on what should be a blockbuster story. The other is the question of whether or not the administration lied to the American people and manipulated intelligence to support their war aims. The latter question won't ever be addressed if the media doesn't pay attention.
There's real irony in the our response to the disclosure of Deep Throat's identity, as we acknowledge the power and value of a free press and marvel at how a story about a "third rate burglary" ultimately ended a presidency. We marvel at that and ignore how today's press ignores a story much bigger than a break-in at the DNC headquarters. It won't change if we don't demand change. So start demanding. The questions on the table are too important to ignore.
In a NYT op-ed, Adam Cohen (a member of the MSM whose writing I like) opines on the lack of ethical standards in the blogging world, concluding, "As blogs grow in readers and influence, bloggers should realize that if they want to reform the American media, that is going to have to include reforming themselves."
Well, I don't want to reform the American media. And bloggers who indulge in attacking without checking their facts aren't the ones credibly targeting the media.
The blogging world doesn't need reform. Blogging isn't journalism. Blogs aren't media outlets. Some blogs are personal diaries. Others are sources to share expertise in fields of interest - science, technology, parenting, whatever. Some blogs are all about music or reality TV or movie review or books. Others track celebrities. A minority of blogs attend to the political world. Among those, a minority target the media. Calling for reform of the blogosphere because a subset of a minority subset of a minority of the blogosphere attacks the MSM is a bit much.
Are there legitimate issues here? Sure. I think that political bloggers taking money from politicians or non-profits should disclose that like Marcos of DailyKos did, like the bloggers paid by Republican John Thune did not. I think that blogging pundits should disclose their bias (as if it's not obvious) and make the effort to get their facts straight. I think that bloggers who consider themselves citizen-journalists should hold themselves to the same standards as the paid media. Sure, I think that bloggers who rage against the media and rely on it for their content should reconsider their rants and tone down their egocentric belief that they'll replace the MSM. But no, I don't think that bloggers need to disclose their identities. Mine isn't published here, though plenty of readers know who I am. My business relationships include lots and lots of Republicans and I'm quite sure that they wouldn't be thrilled with my political positions. I keep business and politics separate and part of the way I do that is by keeping my last name off this blog. That's not avoiding accountability - it's just smart.
I also think that Adam Cohen should give readers a little credit. We can tell the difference between a Josh Marshall and a bloviating blowhard. We know when we're reading a ranter who doesn't research. We know to check further when we read something that seems extreme, that a blog isn't a reliable sole source (unless it's a blogger like Marshall). We know when we're reading a site that reinforces what we believe and will never challenge our preconceptions. We aren't unthinking consumers of biased opinion and inaccuracy misled by the passion of the blogger. We can actually think for ourselves.
Cohen cites the standards of mainstream journalism as an example of common ethics that the blogosphere might consider. Those standards are well and good but the MSM might not be a target of such criticism if those standards went just a bit further and included a commitment to truly informing the consumer. I'm tired or watching news reports or reading stories that present both sides of an issue as though the positions of each side had equal merit. Take for example CNN's coverage of an anti-gay adoption bill in Texas that was so wonderfully skewered by John Stewart of the Daily Show. Here we have CNN interviewing a woman citing research that says children raised by gay parents are 11 times more likely to be sexually abused, saying "it's a proven fact." The reporters ask no questions regarding the source of the research, make no effort to ascertain whether it's legitimate (which it is not), provide no information telling the viewer that research on this issue overwhelmingly contradicts her position. Instead, they switch to an advocate of gay adoption who says he hasn't heard of that research but can cite credible research supporting his position. The reporters shake their heads and agree that it's an "interesting debate" and that they'll share their opinions off the air. The viewer is left with a false impression that there's research showing that children in gay homes are at much higher risk of being sexually abused, which is just wrong.
Unfortunately, this media commitment to balance that results in misinformation is common. It's a disservice to the consumer, who expects to be informed by the MSM. When they don't get that they go elsewhere. To places like the Daily Show or the blogosphere. Because the blogosphere doesn't live up to the standard of the paid media doesn't mean that it can't hold the media accountable. Someone has to.
The bottom line is that the political blogosphere doesn't need reform. It needs time to mature. Attempts to reform it, to impose ethical guidelines or rules of blogging won't work unless they're voluntary and organic to the community. The blogosphere is the wild west of cyberspace and it's finding its own way. The little corner of the blogosphere where political blogging takes place will find it's way towards common ethical standards in time. It will get there - but not because someone from on high declares that certain ethical standards must be followed. It will get there because it can't survive without being credible.
Normally, I avoid angry men. Like the plague. But one thing the blogosphere has brought me is a new appreciation for angry men. Like Tas at Loaded Mouth with his profane, pointed, occasionally licentious rants that are so completely on target that I get a vicarious thrill out of them. Or Mick at Arran's Alley who is a strange modern merger of Swift and Paine with a little Don Quixote thrown in. He's outraged and frustrated, tilting at windmills in the hope of making a dent, incisive and insightful in his angry posts. I read both of these angry men and think - "it's not just me who feels this way".
I like they're anger. I may have to rethink my "no angry men" policy. At least when it comes to politics.
How is it that it's time for another Random 10 so soon? I've been swamped lately so my online explorations have been limited. But I've done my best and I offer you these six sites. I know, it's supposed to be 10. But I'm stuck at six and I don't want to simply offer you links to sites I haven't really looked at. So forgive me for being four sites short- and email me your recommended sites to help me out on the next Random 10, two weeks from now.
1. One Thousand Reasons: Next time Bush has trouble figuring out if he's made any mistakes, we can send him to this site. The site is like a cliff notes version of the missteps, mistakes, and misrepresentations of the Republicans in power. It's not striving for balance or hiding it's anti-Bush bias under the guise of even-handedness but neither is it a conspiracy laden site, embracing vitriol or ranting rages. It's a good place to see what those on the left find worthy of criticism. You can even get a historic overview by clicking on the 1000 failures link which lists 1633 failures (and counting).
2. King of Zembla: I like this site which is a solidly partisan site that points me to information I don't regularly stumble across in the round of WaPo, NYT, and a-list blogs. For example, this post highlights the impact of liberal radio and makes me wonder when we'll expand to a progressive TV network. Many of the posts are long excerpts from other sources, but they're sources I don't see elsewhere, with comments that direct the attention to the critical points made. Worth visiting for sure.
3. Bionic Octopus: I'd be tempted to include this blog simply for the name. But read it and you'll find a distinctly unique voice blogging opinions that are expressly her own. Whether it's the paean in praise of abortion or rants about the new "how to have sex" standards, the rants and raves on women by this American expat in London are compelling. But the same unique writing that infuses these topical rants shows up in her other posts, including the occasional coverage of television shows. The writing here makes the site worth reading.
4. Dissent Channel: This is a quintessential lefty group blog. Topical, good writing, and personal insights mixed with what might be lefty talking points if they weren't so easy to ferret out with the use of some common sense and attention to the world. Coverage includes small stories and big alike. So why add this to your blogroll you ask? The writing. Take this comment on Wolfowitz as head of the world bank as a taste of what to expect: "A right-wing warmonger with a proven track record of utter ineptitude and rampaging destruction, with no development experience and no training as an economist is going to head one of the world's most important development organizations?" Pretty good, eh?
5. Anti-[everything]: This newly resurrected blog is dedicated to questioning everything - no small task. While the posts explaining the focus aren't the clearest I've read, those that actually engage in the questioning are sharp and thought-provoking. I hope the blogger stays the course and prods readers to question not only those things that generate a critical spark, but also those things that fit nicely in our own world views. I'll be reading to see what I'm prodded to question, to see what sparks get thrown.
6. Dr.Tony: For something completely different, check out this ER doc's blog. It's interesting, well-written and in the occasional post provides real insight into our country's health care system and the related insurance industry. It's definitely a worthy read, mixing information, personal stories, and linky love in a regular 'Grand Rounds" column that is the doc's version of the Random 10". Based on the links and some posts I'm sure this doc is conservative. But I won't hold that against his blog. It's too interesting.
I haven't posted for a couple of days for two reasons. One is that the last post by Marjo zinged my brain and I wanted everyone to read it - I didn't want it pushed down the page or diluted by a bunch of new posts. The second reason is that the post I've been working on turned out to be much more difficult to write. I though it would be insightful to see what conservative bloggers were saying about Justice Sunday ( the extremist religious right anti-filibuster telecast) and Frists's participation in it.
So I began reading conservative blogs. And I continued to read.
I read about how sad liberals are, given that we're morally bankrupt and all.
I read about the estate tax and how if we only understood it we'd repeal it.
I read about the socialist takeover of American universities (that cabal of leftist professors).
I read about the filibuster and the Democratic hypocrisy in loving it now when they've hated it in the past.
I read about the borking of Bolton and the indignity that will be visited upon the left if his nomination isn't approved.
I read about the vast left wing conspiracy led by Hillary and funded by Soros.
I read about the value of politicians expressing their faith and the emptiness of the charge that we face a theocratic takeover.
I read about the religious bigotry of Democrats exposed in their opposition to "good Christian" judges.
I read a lot. But what I didn't read was one single damn thing about Justice Sunday and Frist's participation. Some mentioned it as the launching ground to discuss the need to get rid of the filibuster (or in the rare instance to keep it), but none directly addressed the telecast, the charge that opposition to the filibuster is equivalent to opposition to people of faith, and the credibility on the whole thing that Frist bestowed by his participation.
No, I didn't read every conservative blog. No, I didn't read all the archived posts of the ones I read. But I read a lot and found nothing.
What does it mean? They don't think it matters. They think it's awful but don't want to criticize their party. They think adding to the discussion gives legs to the issue and highlights the liberal response. They're embarrassed. They're thrilled. Who knows? I don't because they aren't telling. But if I had to guess, I'd say they think we're making a mountain out of a molehill and fear that it could hurt golden boy Frist. They hope the whole thing will go away. I hope we don't let it.
I've been negligent keeping my commitment to subvert the dominant link hierarchy with a regular Friday series of 10 links to blogs that haven't broken the cyber-ceiling into a-list dominance. It's likely that it will be an every-other-week feature, given the time it takes to find and read new blogs. Nevertheless, two days late, here's the latest round of blogs worthy of your time (IMHO).
Okay folks. That's it for this week. Look for more Random 10 links in roughly two weeks time. And PLEASE email me with links you recommend. If you don't, I'll have to start ripping off eRobin's lists.
Nick Lewis has an interesting post at American Street and on his own blog, titled Women, Geeks and the Blogosphere. He provides a nice summary of the "where are the women" meme and offers his own thoughts that the male dominance in the blogosphere is an outgrowth of the male dominance in the tech world. I posted a lengthy comment there on sexism in the blogosphere and the workplace, but there are a few other thoughts I had that I wanted to share.
In his post, Nick discussed the dearth of women in the a-list left blogosphere. Nick specifically clarifies that he thinks these points are relevant for men and women, though he presents them in explanation of why most women who blog politics won't ever be a-list. I don't fully agree with him. Nick writes ( my comments are in italics):
In order for a blogger to gain a mass audience, they must appeal our more vulgar, and reptilian-brained interests. Basically, the content has to be television-ized; for, as someone once pointed out, people tend to be very similar in what vulgarities they find interesting; but when it comes to their noble and enlightened interests, they tend to be wildly different. (While appealing to the reptilian brain might be an easier path to a large readership, I don't think the a-listers are guilty of this. A few might be, sure, but not most.) Most of the female bloggers that I know will never become a-list bloggers for the following reasons:
a) They already have jobs that pay a lot better than even the most successful full time blogging gig.
(Yep. Blogging is time consuming. Building a readership means self-promoting, reading and commenting on other blogs. If I weren't self-employed, I'd never have the time. And I'm not sure how long I will. I read somewhere that most prolific poli-bloggers are either writers or self-employed and that makes sense.)
b) Have a tendency not to compromise their integrity and morality for the sake of appealing to a mass audience.
(This is an interesting one. I've hit times where I realized that I was holding back or qualifying myself in order to appeal to a broad readership. It's easy to forget that you're writing for yourself, that it's your authentic voice that readers respond to, and to avoid replacing your personal voice with a more polished public voice. But again, the idea that you can only gain a large readership by compromising your integrity or morality seems extreme. Perhaps I'm naive, but I don't think so. The temptation to compromise is present but I believe giving into it is an act that sows the seeds of your destruction.)
c) Recognize that in a many-to-many medium, a high quality audience is much more rewarding, both intellectually, and emotionally, than a large mediocre one (if you don’t believe me just read the comment threads at Wizbang).
(Call me shallow because I want the large audience. Again I may be naive, but I hold onto the belief that I can winnow the wheat from the chaff and find the quality buried in the quantity. I'm not prepared to cede that it's an either/or. I'd welcome the chance to find out.
I've seen a number of bloggers comment that they don't want large readerships and I believe most of them. But I'm not like that. If I could find a way to make money blogging I would. I'd do it full time if I could. I don't think that's realistic, but the larger the readership the better the opportunity. I'm a consultant who makes her living on the health of her network. A readership is like a network. You can't articulate the opportunity present in it, but you know it's there. I don't blog with the intent of finding and grabbing any potential opportunities but a girl can dream and I do.)
I’m not claiming that those reasons are a "female thing" — they are just my personal observations.
Go read Nick's full post. He moves the conversation on women who blog forward, and that's welcome. He also mentions the BlogHer Conference and I'm curious to know what folks think of that meeting. I've got to decide whether or not to attend and I'm torn.