I keep wondering about this and keep not seeing any reporting on it, but when, exactly, did we make the policy shift that the United States is at war with Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia again? As you’ll recall, there was a period when we weren’t fighting his forced. Then there was a period when we were fighting his forces. Then there was a settlement and we weren’t fighting. Then his political party participated in the elections and even took seats in the Iraqi cabinet. But now we, along with Iraqi government troops, are fighting him again. When did this happen? And why? I’m not criticizing, per se, but I’d like to know what’s going on and I’d think people would be more interested in this sort of subject. Instead, you still hear talk about “succeeding” or “failing” in Iraq but it’s not obvious what the administration is even trying to do.
Two new sources come forward to report that they heard Sen. George Allen (R-VA) use the N-word repeatedly when they played in poker games together. One of the sources said, “[W]henever [Allen would] get a black card that he didn’t like, he would refer to it as a ‘nig— card’ he needed to get rid of.”
Do the financial problems and looming editorial cutbacks at The Los Angeles Times signal a giant social problem as we become a news-poor society? Michael O’Hare makes the case. Personally, I tend to take an optimistic view of the technology-driven decline of the newspapering business model. The thing of it is that the very same IT developments that are killing newspapers also make it possible for newspapers to have much broader reach in terms of the sheer number of people for whom it’s convenient to read them. On the internet it’s a simple matter to habitually scan the front pages of three or four different major papers. It’s also a simple matter to go read a newspaper published in England or Australia or South Africa or Lebanon or Singapore if you happen to have reason to believe that it’ll contain something you’re interested in.
In other words, the world could move to a state where there are orders of magnitude fewer papers than their used to be but wherein individual consumers actually have substantially more news sources they can draw from in practice.
The fly in the ointment, on this optimistic take, is local news. Really big cities will probably be okay. And residents of medium-sized cities should have better national and world news options than ever before. But who’s going to be the guy who does investigative reporting into government corruption in a medium-sized city? I couldn’t really say. Local news websites like DCist are a valuable contribution to our media ecology, but much like political blogs they don’t really seem able to substitute for the core news-gathering function of a local paper. One possibility is that this is an area where we’re going to have to hope to see some philanthropic activity; NPR provides a partial model for a heavyweight, somewhat decentralized news-gathering non-profit operation.
The LAT reports, “A former House page says he had sex with then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.).” The ex-page said his correspondence with Foley began after he finished the page program for high school juniors, but the sexual encounter occurred when he was 21 years old. “The former page’s exchanges with Foley offer a glimpse of possible predatory behavior by the congressman as he assessed male teenagers assigned as House errand-runners.”
The Newsweek poll released yesterday showing Bush’s approval at a record-low 33 percent also demonstrates a “larger loss of faith” in government leadership across the board. Here are some of the other highlights:
– 52 percent of Americans believe the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert covered up Mark Foley’s actions
– For the first time ever in a Newsweek poll, a majority of Americans (58 percent) now believe the Bush administration knowingly misled the American people in building its case for war against Saddam Hussein
– 53 percent believe it was a mistake to go to war at all, the first time the Newsweek poll has registered a majority in that camp.
– Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s approval rating has fallen to just 30 percent, and more Americans believe he should resign than remain, 48 percent vs. 37 percent