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54 posts from March 2009

March 31, 2009

Announcement: UN Dispatch

I'm very pleased to announce that I'm going to be writing the Morning Coffee news roundup for UN Dispatch, a UN and global affairs blog published by the UN Foundation.

Today's Morning Coffee is here. (I wrote this edition, though the header says it's brought to you by Brian Beutler.)

How Obama took over the peace movement

John Stauber describes how MoveOn morphed from an independent grassroots organization to an integral piece of Barack Obama's message machine.

MoveOn built its list by organizing vigils and ads for peace and by then supporting Obama for president; today it operates as a full-time cheerleader supporting Obama's policy agenda. Some of us saw this unfolding years ago. Others are probably shocked watching their peace candidate escalating a war and sounding so much like the previous administration in his rationale for doing so. [PR Watch]

The irony is not lost on Stauber.

March 30, 2009

News Flash

Astoria Parking Lot, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.


HuffPo announces $1.75 million investigative reporting fund

The Huffington Post is known for its stable of high-profile bloggers, its innovative campaign reporting, and it steady stream of celebrity gossip.

Now, Arianna Huffington's popular liberal blog is throwing $1.75 million behind an ambitious investigative reporting project:

NEW YORK — The Huffington Post said Sunday that it will bankroll a group of investigative journalists, directing them at first to look at stories about the nation's economy.

The popular Web site is collaborating with The Atlantic Philanthropies and other donors to launch the Huffington Post Investigative Fund with an initial budget of $1.75 million. That should be enough for 10 staff journalists who will primarily coordinate stories with freelancers, said Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post.

Work that the journalists produce will be available for any publication or Web site to use at the same time it is posted on The Huffington Post, she said. [HuffPo]

HuffPo has enlisted blogging journalist and media critic Jay Rosen as a consultant for the new venture. Good move.

Rosen relates more details on his blog, PressThink:

Continue reading "HuffPo announces $1.75 million investigative reporting fund" »

Investigative panel at Women Action and Media conference was a big success

This weekend, I appeared on an investigative journalism panel at the Women Action and Media conference. My fellow panelists were Aura Bogado of Pacifica Radio, and Maggie Mulvihill of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting. Esther Kaplan of the Nation Investigative Fund was our moderator.

My talk was about using the public record to get the dirt on practically anyone. I walked the participants through a story I wrote about Dr. Eric Keroack, a crusading anti-choice physician who was chosen by George W. Bush to oversee America's largest family planning program.

In the article, I revealed that Keroack had admitted to the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine that he couldn't prove that he'd done the continuing medical education credits necessary to keep his license.

I explained that I didn't need any special access or pull to get these documents. I was able to find what other reporters had missed because I understood how the medical board's record-keeping system worked and what documents were available on request.

I also talked about how to use the IRS 990 tax return of a non-profit organization to find the names of directors, salaries, assets, and other juicy details. You can look up these IRS 990s at the website (Free registration required.)

The WAM conference is organized by the Center for New Words and the MIT women's studies department.

March 28, 2009


P.J. Tobia's cover story in this week's Village Voice is worth reading. His travelogue conveys a sense of seemingly hopelessness of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. The way he Tobia it, there's virtually no chance that the coalition will train the Afghans to govern themselves and oppose the Taliban on their own.

Rachel Maddow has been running an interesting series on her TV show called "This Way Out" in which she interviews leading military experts and policy makers about possible ends to the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Tobia's account is consistent with what Maddow's experts have been saying.

The official Bush administration line was that the coalition was only going to stay long enough to turn over power to the newly democratic Afghanistan. This week Obama said, more modestly, that the mission was to defeat Al Qaeda.

Neither of those things will happen soon.

There's absolutely no reason to expect that the coalition will manage to train enough Afghans to resist the Taliban on their own. The popular will to cooperate with occupying forces is, understandably, limited. Over and above that, Afghanistan lacks the infrastructure, resources, and skills necessary to create a sustain a self-governing state out of the ashes of a failed one.

The question is whether it's worthwhile, let alone ethically justifiable, to continue to occupy the country indefinitely.

March 26, 2009

Clinton to Mexico: Sorry about the drug war

The good news: Hillary Clinton publicly acknowledged that the United States bears much of the blame for the drug war on the border involving tens of thousands of Mexican troops facing off against various drug cartels, many of which are simultaneously fighting each other for control of lucrative smuggling routes.

The bad news: Clinton proposes to make it up to Mexico by stepping up the aggressive, militarized prohibition that caused the problem in the first place.

Recovery Act stimulates deadbeat parents to pay up

Deadbeat parents beware, the Department of Health and Human Services announced today that it will set aside an additional $1 billion dollars in stimulus money to help states collect child support payments.

The stimulus bill restores federal matching funds for state child support enforcement efforts. These matching funds were eliminated by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, but the stimulus bill temporarily reinstates them, freeing up $1 billion for enforcement efforts.

“Every child deserves the support of both parents,”HHS Spokeswoman Jenny Backus said in a departmental press release published Thursday. “The Recovery Act will increase resources for child support enforcement and will help parents make ends meet and children receive the money they are due.”

March 25, 2009

RIP: Archie Green, folklorist, father of "laborlore"

The preeminent folklorist of American labor, Archie Green, has died at the age of 91:

Green moved comfortably through the halls of Congress and the halls of ivy, but he preferred life on scaffolding or in a welder's shed or machine shop. Work was where his heart was — doing it and convincing others to document what they did. He coined the term "laborlore" and actively encouraged filmmakers, steel workers and pile drivers, among many others, to keep the stories of working people alive.

Green's infectious enthusiasm and firm belief that labor culture had a place in what he called "a marble mansion" was largely credited with convincing Congress to pass the American Folklife Preservation act of 1976. It established the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. [NPR] (link added)

Green was received a Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress in 2007 for his tireless efforts to document the creativity of working Americans.

More on Green's extraordinary life and work.

The New Republic: I can't believe it's not StormFront

Where would you guess this litany of offensive anti-Mexican stereotypes originated? StormFront? The Weekly Standard?

Well, I am extremely pessimistic about Mexican-American relations, not because the U.S. had done anything specifically wrong to our southern neighbor but because a (now not quite so) wealthy country has as its abutter a Latin society with all of its characteristic deficiencies:  congenital corruption, authoritarian government, anarchic politics, near-tropical work habits, stifling social mores, Catholic dogma with the usual unacknowledged compromises, an anarchic counter-culture and increasingly violent modes of conflict.  Then, there is the Mexican diaspora in America, hard-working and patriotic but mired in its untold numbers of illegals, about whom no one can talk with candor. [The Spine]

Actually, it was Marty Peretz the publisher of the New Republic, writing on TNR's blog yesterday. What an embarrassment he is.