Texas local news makes it to TPM

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My State Senator, Wendy Davis’s, office was the target of a number of firebombs within recent days.  It is a scary story that had a good ending.  A staff member put out the fire and a suspect was arrested within hours.  No one was injured, thank goodness.

See the details in this well written story from yesterday’s Talking Points Memo blog post by Nick R. Martin.


ProPublica: Two-Years-Old—and More Than 100 Stories Partnered – ProPublica

Two years ago today, the formation of ProPublica was announced [1] in The New York Times. Since then, we’ve published more than 100 partnered investigations, posted hundreds of pieces on our Web site and created tools for other journalists to use (such as ChangeTracker [2], our Bailout Guide [3], and Recovery Tracker [4]).

On this occasion of our “birthday,” we would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of the newspaper, TV, radio and online outlets that have helped us in our mission to hold those in power accountable for their actions. We literally couldn’t have done it without them.

And while we’re celebrating our second year of life, we would also like to remind everyone that our stories can be used for free under the terms of our Creative Commons [5] license. All we ask for is proper credit, a link back to us, no edits and no selling it on your own.

Happy Birthday to ProPublica. This great idea has been a special resource for my blogging since its inception. I especially like their spirit of helpfulness to ordinary citizens and their fiercely nonpartisan investigative journalists. Kudos and many more good years to come!

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Monday’s business news is rich with possibilities for interesting reading.

Business is not always dull and boring.  When you depend on the best writers and resources it can be as engaging as political news is for the activist.

"The fight for financial reform,"
by Katrina Vanden Heuvel at The Nation Magazine (10/3/09) focuses on the big picture when it comes to reforming the regulations guiding the financial industry, particularly Elizabeth Warren's proposed new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.  Quoting this fine editor, pundit and writer:

The needed reforms are clear: affordable health care for all; a targeted jobs program and a humane, effective way to quell the tsunami of foreclosures; and a reorganized, re-regulated Wall Street that gets back to the essential business of investing in the real economy.

. . . One crucial debate is over the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA)–akin to the fight over the public option as part of health care reform. . . The need for a CFPA couldn't be more clear. . . Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law Professor who also chairs the Congressional Oversight Panel, first developed the idea for a CFPA. . . Warren describes the benefits of the CFPA as bringing "existing federal consumer regulation under one roof", and creating "a home in Washington for people who care about whether families are playing on a level field when they buy financial products…. It will focus on one, driving question: Are consumer financial products explained in a way that consumers can understand and that allows the market to work?"

. . . Even more threatening to reform efforts are the financial industries' deep pockets: McClatchy Newspapers reports, "The [US] Chamber [of Commerce] said it's spending about $2 million on ads, educational efforts and a grassroots campaign to kill the agency. It said that the grassroots effort has led to more than 23,000 letters sent to Congress to date."

"Inside the crisis: Larry Summers and the White House Economic team," is by Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker (10/12/09).  If you could only read one article to get the big picture of President Obama's fiscal approach, read this piece.  It is well worth the time.  The read is actually pretty effortless.  HT to Marc Ambinder for his tweet linking to this very important and terrifically readable article (even for us seriously non-economist types).  Lizza rightly concludes, "Obama and his team have pulled the economy back from the abyss, but they will get credit only when it has been rebuilt."

"A new Supreme Court term hints at views on regulating business," is by Adam Liptak from the New York Times (10/4/09). Remember also to watch C-SPAN's fine series all this week that focuses on the SCOTUS.  Last night's premier episode was just excellent. To quote Liptak:

The new Supreme Court term that begins Monday will be dominated by cases concerning corporations, compensation and the financial markets that could signal the justices’ attitude toward regulatory constraints at a time of extraordinary government intervention in the economy.

. . . By the time the justices left for their summer break in June, a majority of the cases they had agreed to hear — 24 of 45 — concerned business issues, according to a tally by the National Chamber Litigation Center of the United States Chamber of Commerce. The corresponding numbers last year were 16 of 42.

"Three Americans share the 2009 Nobel medicine prize," according to the New York Times (10/5/09). Selfishly, because I am a cancer survivor and a ripe old 72 years of age, I am pleased that their research has implications specifically for me. Quoting from the story, the winners are:

Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak were named winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for research that has implications for cancer and aging research.

The trio solved a big problem in biology: how chromosomes can be ''copied in a complete way during cell divisions and how they are protected against degradation,'' the citation said.

"Is the Internet's next frontier news for your neighborhood?" asks Matthew Lasar at Ars Technica (10/2/09).  This is a timely article for those of us who watched a panel on the Knight Commission's work last evening.  Here is a summary: "The Internet has made it easy to connect with anyone anywhere—but it's still tough to know what's going on down the block, in local schools, or at City Hall. One foundation has a plan to change this." HT to Jay Rosen who tweets that "Ars Technica summarizes the big Knight Commission report on serving the news needs of local communities, with links to the PDF."

There is reason to celebrate this year's Nobel laureates, reason to credit the Obama administration for its bold and intelligent approach to the financial crisis, reason to be curious as the Supreme Court begins its current term, and reason to be worried about the future of print journalism as you read the lates stories of the demise of another paper or the firing of another bunch of reporters.  The nation cannot afford to lose a viable and professional Fourth Estate that is in the business of original reporting.

Posted via email from Southwest Postings

Kuddos to ProPublica for its good investigative journalism.

ProPublica is a nonprofit investigative news organization that shares its material with all of us, making it available to freely republish.  Following are a couple of very good articles.

The story of Alhurra has been on their agenda for over a year.  The latest piece by Dafna Linzer (9/17/09) reports that Alhurra will now be reviewed by the State Department Inspector GeneralAlhurra is essentially a propaganda broadcast operation set up by former President George W. Bush to put out information on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.  The original ProPublica investigation was undertaken jointly with CBS's  60 Minutes.  It's investigation, according to Linzer,

revealed serious staff problems, financial mismanagement and long-standing concerns inside the U.S. government and Congress regarding Alhurra's content. Those stories led to congressional inquiries in the House and Senate. The station has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $600 million since it began broadcasting in 2004.

The problems that have plagued this broadcast operation are only part of what is currently on the Obama administration's radar screen.  The State I.G. has sent out a questionnaire to all employees to begin its work.  Alhurra, which has cost taxpayers $600 million so far, is rated very low in popularity in the Middle East, it has experienced high rates of staff turnover and it was investigated last year by both the House and the Senate. 

The current administration's intentions are not clear at this point.   The article reports that Walter Isaacson will be nominated to head the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees international government broadcasting, and believes that no decisions about the controversial broadcasting station will be made before the new BBG chairman is seated.  Visit ProPublica's web page for a complete list of links to its previous articles on Alhurra.


ProPublica recently published another very useful article by Emily Witt (9/10/09), titled: "Bush and Obama: A Counterterrorism Comparison."  It is a side by side comparison to the two administrations' stances regarding "Interrogation, Rendition and CIA Black Sites, Detention, Military Commissions, Secrecy and Warrantless Wiretapping and Surveillance."  Witt summarized by saying,

. . . what exactly has changed? Abusive interrogations have been banned, but renditions to other countries will continue. The prison at Guantanamo Bay has been ordered closed, but that hasn’t proven easy to do.  Meanwhile, prisoners  at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan — even those detained in other countries — can still be held without charge. Memos on CIA interrogation practices have been released, but the details of some programs are still smothered In sum, there are clear differences between Bush and Obama, but some policies have stayed the same in the name of national security.


Big blogs vs little blogs – reprise

[Post date of original – 4/10/05] This post was reprised in honor of the just completed Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh. This organization came about as a direct result of Markos Moulitsas’ blogging.

Dialy Kos‘ founder and host Markos Moulitsas was just interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN’s Q & A program. It was a great conversation that really gave a rather accurate picture of what blogging is all about, for both novices and Nerds-in-the-Know. MM was open, candid and articulate about his motivations and biases. And at one point he talked about how anyone can become a blogger, which is where yours truly comes in.

I am one of the ones who do not have web page design capacities, so it is good that I do not have ambitions to be widely read. So my blog, on its standard template, will not stand out enough to catch many, if any, readers. But what I liked about MM’s comments pertaining to bloggers of my type is that it was not a put-down. I did not feel diminished by his description of this type of writing; I felt accepted as one of the many variations of the Blog phenomena.

That talent for authenticity is typical of the great bloggers and why so many of us “go by to say ‘hello’ ” to them every day. Thanks, Kos. What I can promise here is my own authenticity as best I can manage it, derived from many years of climbing up Maslow’s “hierarchy of human needs.”

After this interview the Daily Kos site was flooded with new visitors, reinforcing the host’s willingness to go on television . He generally tries to avoid even watching the tube, feeling it is mostly too shallow. He was also flooded with requests for help from beginner bloggies like me. He referred them to the tool I use, so the sphere will be expanding a bit, with lil’ bittie blogs like mine, and some who will turn out to have a real flair for it in the coming years. Talent will out; good luck to all. Just be authentic. That’s what gives the satisfaction to both the reader and the writer.

See also Behind the Links, for further info.

Blogs: My general purpose/southwest focus blog is at Southwest Progressive. My creative website is at Making Good Mondays. And Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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Recommending a number of trustworthy investigative journalists:

TPMMuckraker is one of the features at Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo. Here’s an interesting example of the kind of good work Zachary Roth does: “In Testimony, Rove Hedged On Role in Siegelman Prosecution” (8/13/09).

Glenn Greenwald‘s “Unclaimed Territory” is at Salon.com. He was previously a constitutional lawyer and civil rights litigator in New York. On of a number of collaborators on big investigative stories, he is incredible bright and passionate and tells it like it is without blinking. Here’s a recent good post: “John Brennan’s dangerous national security advice” (8/14/09).

ACLU Blog of Rights – “Because Freedom Can’t Blog Itself” is from the American Civil Liberties Union. Posts are about capital punishment, civil liberties, drug law reform, closing Guantanamo, free speech, government spying, human rights, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, racial justice, religion & belief, reproductive rights, torture and abuse, Supreme Court, voting rights and women’s rights.

Secrecy News is a publication of the Federation of American Scientists. The FAS Project on Government Secrecy reports on new developments in government secrecy and provides public access to documentary resources on secrecy, intelligence and national security policy. It is written by Steven Aftergood. Here’s a recent good story: “Information Sharing as a Form of Secrecy” (8/17/09).

Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler) writes at Firedoglake. Marcy is the very best at investigative digging, and is a widely respected member of the collaborators that do the major investigative work in the blogosphere. Here is a typically good piece of work (this time on Dick Cheney): “The crazy man above the garage” (8/18/09).

Spy Talk at CQ Politics is a daily blog by Jeff Stein. His slogan is “Intelligence for Thinking People.” His post, “Interrogator:’Intolerance’ Led to Torture” (8/11/09) is an example of his investigative work using good contacts.

The Washington Independent‘s “National Security” section features Spencer Ackerman, one of the most respected sources contributing regularly to the collaborative efforts mentioned above. His story, “U.S. Prepares for Questions of Legitimacy in Afghan Election” (8/18/09) is subtitled, “United States May Push Winner To Incorporate Losing Factions Into Government.”

Wired: Threat Level is about privacy, crime and security online. David Kravets often writes the posts. This one by Kim Zetter is titled “Outspoken Privacy Advocate Joins FTC” (8/17/09). It is about Christopher Soghoian, an outspoken privacy advocate.

Suburban Guerilla is by former journalist Susie Madrack. Her slogan is “Keeping a jaundiced eye on corporate media.” Featured as a moderator at the recent Netroots Nation Convention, she also writes for Crooks and Liars. Her post on Matt Taibbi’s searing article on progressives and health care reform (8/18/09) is worth the read.

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic is a prolific contributor to Twitter. I follow him. To conclude this post, this is one of his recent important linked articles, from which I quote fairly extensively:

A federal judge dealt a setback yesterday to the administration’s ability to use information collected by intelligence agencies in Guantanamo prosecutions. In doing so, Judge John Bates weighed in on one of the core controversies of the cases — the tension between the protection of intelligence sources versus the ability to make cases in federal courts. Bates told the government that it could not introduce evidence derived from a source whose identity cannot be disclosed unless there’s some corrobarating evidence. And even if there is corroborating evidence, it’ll be treated with a bit of suspicion.

Still, in this particular case, Bates rejected the habeas petition of detainee Shawali Khan . . .

To understand the ruling, understand this about the process: the government faces the burden of providing sufficient evidence that its initial detention was within the proper sphere of the government’s detention authority as defined by Congress and the Supreme Court. If the government meets the burden, then the detainee has to convince the judge that the government is wrong.

. . . The government introduced at least three pieces of classified evidence where the identity of the source was not disclosed. If the court can’t assess the reliability of an intelligence report because the source is shadowy, the government can’t use the information to justify a detention.

Bates threw out four pieces of evidence out of eight. But the remaining evidence was sufficient to meet the detention burden.

Today’s post is a roundup of some of the best investigative resources on the Internet. The way I collected them was by noticing how the authors references each others’ work as they posted their stories. There is no better recommendation.

My all-in-one Home Page of websites where I post regularly: Carol Gee – Online Universe

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The Big Tug of War —

News items about national security are emerging more rapidly in recent weeks. Despite the stated preference for “not looking back,” the stories have emerged that lead to a buildup of momentum. According to The New York Times, former Vice President Cheney is linked to the concealment of a highly classified CIA program, until it was recently revealed to Congress by CIA Director Leon Panetta. To quote:

Intelligence and Congressional officials have said the unidentified program did not involve the C.I.A. interrogation program and did not involve domestic intelligence activities. They have said the program was started by the counterterrorism center at the C.I.A. shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but never became fully operational, involving planning and some training that took place off and on from 2001 until this year.

President Obama is increasingly under pressure to change his mind about investigating the Bush administration’s security programs, despite the political risks. Sunday talk shows saw leading Democrats demanding to find out how a highly classified counter terrorism program was kept secret from the Congressional leadership on the orders of Vice President Dick Cheney. The New York Times published a subsequent news analysis that lays out where the investigative push is, and from whom. To quote:

. . . Mr. Obama said this weekend that he had asked his staff members to review the mass killing of prisoners in Afghanistan by local forces allied with the United States as it toppled the Taliban regime there.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is also close to assigning a prosecutor to look into whether prisoners in the campaign against terrorism were tortured, officials disclosed on Saturday.

And after a report from five inspectors general about the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping said on Friday that there had been a number of undisclosed surveillance programs during the Bush years, Democrats sought more information.

. . . That makes four fronts on which the intelligence apparatus is under siege. It is just the kind of distraction from Mr. Obama’s domestic priorities — repairing the economy, revamping the health care system, and addressing the long-term problems of energy and climate — that the White House wanted to avoid.

Revelations about the CIA and torture, deliberate deception of Congressional Intelligence committees, and emerging Inspectors General reports seem to heading towards formal investigations that the Obama administration, including the Attorney General, and Congress may not be able to resist. Glenn Greenwald’s post yesterday provides one of the best overviews of the current climate, along with what others who stay on top of these issues are saying. It seems that this tug of war is far from over. The weight of the law will somehow have its way, if we remain vigilant and have a bit of luck along the way.

[Post date – July 13, 2009]

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

Blogs: My general purpose/southwest focus blog is at Southwest Progressive. My creative website is at Making Good Mondays. And Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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