1) Cole on the Downing Street Memo and the blog world.
Once again, he's right on the mark (go to
www.juancole.com to read the posting with relevant
The Downing Street Memos and the Revenge of the
When Michael Smith of the London Times wrote about a
further leaked British cabinet document on
decision-making about the Iraq war in July 2003, he
did not simply report the revelations in the document.
Most commentators on the Smith story have missed his
open acknowledgment of the role of the blogging world
in turning the Downing Street Memo and other leaked
British documents from a provincial Whitehall story
into a world (and American) phenomenon. Smith writes,
"The briefing paper is certain to add to the pressure,
particularly on the American president, because of the
damaging revelation that Bush and Blair agreed on
regime change in April 2002 and then looked for a way
to justify it.
There has been a growing storm of protest in America,
created by last month’s publication of the minutes in
The Sunday Times. A host of citizens, including many
internet bloggers, have demanded to know why the
Downing Street memo (often shortened to “the DSM” on
websites) has been largely ignored by the US
mainstream media." [Emphasis added.]
If this story had broken in the 1970s, it probably
would just have been buried by the mainstream US press
and remained an oddity of UK's Fleet Street. But here
you have the Times of London actually acknowledging
the wind under its sails from the blogging world!
"Frustrated at the refusal by the White House to
respond to their letter, the congressmen [led by John
Conyers] have set up a website —
www.downingstreetmemo.com — to collect signatures on a
petition demanding the same answers.
Conyers promised to deliver it to Bush once it reached
250,000 signatures. By Friday morning it already had
more than 500,000 with as many as 1m expected to have
been obtained when he delivers it to the White House
AfterDowningStreet.org, another website set up as a
result of the memo, is calling for a congressional
committee to consider whether Bush’s actions as
depicted in the memo constitute grounds for
So Smith not only acknowledges the pressure put on the
US corporate media by the bloggers, but he also points
to a virtual social movement around the DSM, with
emails and petitions circulating in the hundreds of
thousands and giving the Democrats in Congress their
first high-profile investigatory opportunity of the
The seeping of blogistan into the pages of the Times
of London with regard to its own scoops seems to me a
bellwether of the kinds of changes that are being
produced in our information environment by the
blogging phenomenon. The gatekeepers at the New York
Times and the Washington Post can no longer decide
whether a leak is a story or a non-story. The public
decides what a story is.
The magnitude of the change is clear in the coverage
at the Washington Post. The post, like the New York
Times, Newsday, and others, ignored the original
Downing Street Memo, published in the London Times on
The first Washington Post story on the Downing Street
Memo was not published until May 13, nearly two weeks
after the leak. Walter Pincus, despite doing an
excellent job in explaining the significance of the
Memo, was however relegated by the editors to page 18.
Admittedly, the leaked memo did pose problems for the
mainstream media. In order to protect its source, the
Times of London had not made available a facsimile of
the original, but just retyped it and put it up in
HTML. After the trouble Dan Rather got into last
summer over the document purportedly about Bush's
service record, any news editor would be nervous about
jumping on the DSM bandwagon. Wikipedia notes, "On
June 8, 2005, USA Today printed an article by their
senior assignment editor for foreign news, Jim Cox,
saying with respect to the memo, "We could not obtain
the memo or a copy of it from a reliable source. ...
There was no explicit confirmation of its authenticity
from (Blair's office). And it was disclosed four days
before the British elections, raising concerns about
the timing." Bloggers made fun of Cox for "not knowing
where to find the memo," but they don't have to worry
about this issue as much, since they mostly aren't
professional journalists. If the memo turned out to be
a fake, they could just say "ooops," what did I know?
As a professional historian, I had more at stake. But
I felt that the wording of the leaked memo, its
details, and its fit with what else we knew, were
sufficient to authenticate it.
Further, professional journalists have a credo that
they don't just poach on other people's scoops. You
would want to develop your own sources and have
something to add to the story before doing a
front-pager on it. I would argue that this credo is
counter-productive and easily dealt with. You could
kick it to the op-ed page and do commentary. (This is
how the bloggers handled it, and the indispensable
Paul Krugman weighed in on May 16 this way for the New
York Times.) Or you could do a story about the
reaction to the leak in the UK, which would give you
your own hook. I personally think that editors who
don't want to cover a story use their lack of original
leads as an excuse to sit on it.
The cabinet briefing paper leaked on Sunday is
instructive. This time a companion piece was written
by Walter Pincus for the Washington Post, and it
received front-page treatment.
"That memo and other internal British government
documents were originally obtained by Michael Smith,
who writes for the London Sunday Times. Excerpts were
made available to The Washington Post, and the
material was confirmed as authentic by British sources
who sought anonymity because they are not authorized
to discuss the matter."
This passage is worded in such a way as to suggest
that Smith himself made the documents and some British
contacts available to Pincus. If so, it was both
remarkably generous and also very smart of him. He
solved some of the main problems that the US press had
had in covering the story, at least with regard to the
Post, and ensured that it reverberated on this side of
the pond. I don't mean to take anything away from the
prowess of Pincus, a first-rate reporter, who may well
have in the meantime developed his own sources in
London. I'm just going by the diction, which admits
that Smith first obtained the new briefing paper and
then goes into the passive mood, saying that excerpts
"were made available" to the Post.
The positioning of Pincus's article is clearly in part
a result of the enormous pressure the bloggers and the
public have put on the Post on this issue. Indeed, it
is probably the case that having "ombudsmen" at the
papers of record, who discuss and explain editorial
decisions, is itself a response to the interactivity
of contemporary culture, exemplified by the internet.
Linguist Jean-Philippe Marcotte at Stanford, in an
email to me today, contrasts the Pincus article to the
treatment given the new revelations at the New York
You may by now have seen the NYT's deeply buried take
on the new DSM, written by David Sanger, "Prewar
British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made", which
turns on a tendentious reading of the phrase "no
political decisions". In the context of the memo, it
seems clear that these decisions concern the strategy
by which the conditions or framework for military
action [are created]; but Sanger interprets it to mean
what the article title says, and misses completely the
bit about using the UN process to justify, not avoid,
the war. The tone is strikingly defensive, effectively
claiming that the Times reported on this memo two
weeks before it was even written.
The contrast with the London Sunday Times reading, and
yours, is stark. At least when the Washington Post
missed the point they put their story on the front
Think Progress, a progressive Web site, surveys the
whole batch of leaked British cabinet documents on war
decision-making, and concludes that they demonstrate a
full knowledge on the part of the Blair government of
the flimsiness of the pretexts being put forward for
going to war against Iraq. Like Marcotte, they think
that the Washington Post missed this aspect of the
The bloggers have forced the issue into the corporate
media, and are helping create a real buzz around the
Conyers hearings scheduled for Thursday.
Conyers and his staff are well aware that ordinarily
hearings held by members of the minority party in
Congress (which therefore are unlikely to have teeth)
are routinely ignored by the corporate media. They are
placing their hopes in the blogging world to cover the
hearings and get the word out. They are planning to
release further documents corroborating the Downing
This entire affair could be a harbinger of what is
coming in 2007. If the Democrats can take back the
Senate in 2006, all of a sudden they could schedule
real investigatory hearings at the Senate Intelligence
Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and
the Senate Armed Services Committee, into Douglas
Feith's Office of Special Plans, into Cheney's
pressure on the CIA analysts, into the fabrication of
intelligence and the political lies that dragged this
country into the Iraq quagmire. Imagine what the
Republicans did to Bill Clinton for merely fibbing
about a desultory relationship (13 meetings) with a
young woman that did not even involve intercourse.
What would be the appropriate punishment for lying
about Iraq's non-existent nuclear weapons program? Or
launching a war of aggression in contravention of the
United Nations Charter? Bush knows very well he will
be a lame duck by January 2007. The real question is
whether he will end up being roasted duck.
Certainly, the end of the story will depend far less
on the contemporary equivalents of Katherine Graham
and Ben Bradlee, who gave Woodward and Bernstein their
heads in uncovering the Watergate scandal, than would
have otherwise been the case. Such members of the
press and editorial elite used to get to decide
whether to bury a scandal or pursue it. Now, that
power has been democratized by the world wide web.
Bloggers will help to decide the end of the story.
2) Save Louisiana's Condom Program Petition:
3) Anti-Republicanist speaks out:
Why I'm Joining the GOP
Leaving the left for fun and profit
by Jeff Gillenkirk
After a lifetime voting for and working for Democratic
candidates andindependents, I'm finally going to make
the switch and become aRepublican.
The reasons are many, not the least of which is age. I
turned 55recently and, having lived more than half my
life, I can't afford toworry anymore about the other
guy. It's time for me.
As a Republican, I can now proudly -- indeed,
defiantly -- pledge tonever again vote for anyone who
raises taxes for any reason. To hellwith roads,
bridges, schools, police and fire protection,
Medicare,Social Security and regulation of the
President Bush has promised to give me more tax cuts
even though ourfederal government owes trillions of
dollars to its creditors. Butthat's someone else's
problem, not mine. Republicans are about the hereand
now, and I'm here now.
As a Republican, I can favor exploiting the
environment for everythingshe's got. No need to worry
about quaint notions like posterity andnatural legacy.
There are plenty of resources left for everyone, and
ifwe don't use them, someone else will.
I want a party that doesn't worry about things before
we have to.Republicans refuse to get hog-tied by
theories such as global warming,ozone depletion,
fished-out oceans and disappearing wetlands. The
realproblems -- if there are any -- aren't forecast to
take hold for atleast 50 years. So what do I care?
I'll be dead.
As a Republican, I can swagger and clamor for war --
in Iraq,Afghanistan, Colombia, wherever -- even though
I've never fought in oneor even been in the military.
I can claim that we're fighting forDemocracy, ignoring
reports of torture at Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Baseand
Guantanamo Bay, and a spreading gulag of secret
detention centersaround the world.
Freedom, as every American should know after spending
$300 billion forwars in Afghanistan and Iraq, isn't
As a Republican, I can insist on strict moral values
when it comes tosex and ignore the growing moral
chasms in business, politics, sports,journalism and
the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.
A society that loses control of its sexual urges faces
unwantedpregnancies, socially transmitted disease,
broken families. Thoseoverzealous about wealth,
however, produce only a higher GDP, lifelongsecurity
for their family and more minimum wage jobs for the
lowerclasses. What's wrong with that?
As a Republican, I can favor strict punishment of
criminals, except forthose who happen to be my friends
or neighbors. Isn't that the verydefinition of
community -- looking out for friends and family?
I will be pro-death penalty and anti-abortion,
pro-child but anti-childcare, for education but
against funding of public schools. As aRepublican,
I'll have a better chance of getting to spout my
opinionsin the media, which for some reason seems
convinced that since Bush wasre-elected with the
smallest electoral margin of any sitting presidentin
history, liberals are passe.
As a Republican, I'll say goodbye to "old Jesus" and
hello to "newJesus. " Sure Christ started out as a
liberal Jew, and look where thatgot him. Compassion,
love and diatribes against the rich only encouragethe
weak and punish the most successful among us. The
Jesus thatRepublicans worship is a muscular, decisive,
pro-war crusader hard atwork cleansing the world of
evildoers, not, God forbid, turning theother cheek.
My decision to become a Republican didn't come easily.
For years Iclung to the idea that the foundation of a
democratic society was ourimplied social contract,
each of us committing some level of personalsacrifice
to the common good of all.
I regarded taxes as dues we pay for better roads and
schools, safeinspection of meat and dairy products,
maintenance of parks andprotection of wilderness
areas. I see now that looking out for thecommon good
resulted in shortchanging the most important element
inthis formula -- me.
Let Democrats continue promising the "greatest good
for the greatestnumber." Republicans clearly have my
number -- No. 1.
I'm sure a lot of my friends reading this will ask me,
"How can yousleep?" My answer will be, "Who's got
time? I'm busy earning money."While they're
bellyaching about rising deficits, the outsourcing
ofjobs and casualties in Iraq, I'll be marveling at
the march of freedomin the Middle East, upticks in the
GDP and the president's plan to linkSocial Security to
the magic of the marketplace.
As a Republican, I simply won't listen to bad news
anymore. Bad newsdoesn't get me or my family anywhere.
If you don't have anything goodto say about somebody,
don't say anything at all -- unless it happensto be
about a Democrat, of course.
Jeff Gillenkirk was a speechwriter for former New York
Gov. MarioCuomo. He lives in San Francisco.
4) Iraq's Universities:
Iraq universities battle for 21st century renaissance: