Scalzi's weekend assignment asks us to list ten of our favorite blogs and Web sites. I decided to use only blogs. Most of the blogs I follow are political ones in some way. And Democratic-leaning ones, as well. I didn't want to list blogs that I know are pretty much viewed by any Democrat who knows what "blog" means. So that eliminates Josh Marshall, Duncan Black, Markos Mulitsas and his blog community at Daily Kos, Kevin Drum and TAPPED.
So here are my ten picks. In general, blogs I follow regularly tend to post regularly (not necessarily daily) and cover similar themes over time. But the main things I look for within my areas of interest are good writing, lots of links and sensible analysis. All of these ten offer some kind of specialized knowledge in some area. And at least five of them provide original reporting in their blogs.
Informed Comment by Juan Cole: The Iraq War is one subject I follow regularly. Juan Cole is a professor at the University of Michigan and a specialist in Shia Islam. He knows Arabic, he knows about the the particular understandings Iraqi Shias have of Islam and he is well-informed about a lot of the religious and political players in Iraq and Iran. Plus, he does an admirable job of trying to stay "reality-based," in terms of not letting his desired spin of the moment affect his analysis of what's happening.
A couple of recent notable posts: History of Baghdad: Abu Muslim and al-Mansur 04/27/05 and Abu Muslim Rebels Against al-Mansur 04/28/05. (Hey, I like stories about 8th-century political intrigue!) Characteristic quote:
It isn't really news, but the Christian Science Monitor reminds us that the road to the airport from downtown Baghdad is extremely dangerous. The supposed American manufacturers of Reality in other peoples' countries atthe US embassy cannot travel it and have to be helicoptered in and out.
Jerry Brown: the current mayor of Oakland, former two-term governor of California and candidate for state attorney general in 2006, has started his own blog. A number of politicians are starting to use these as a way to interact with their constituents. A blog entry can be prepared by a staff person just like a speech can. But if a staff person is preparing Jerry's, they have his "voice" down exceptionally well. He hasn't posted frequently yet. But he ranges from the very specific and concrete problems of city govenment in Oakland, to Democratic party campaign strategy in the state and nationally, to the kind of philosphical reflections that befuddled the press corps even in the 1970s. I've found that even when I think he's mistaken about a particular issue that he is one of the most insightful and provocative politicians in the US today. Characteristic quote:
Now more than ever, what is needed is balance and life experience in the face of government running amok, making minute and invasive laws about everything. Isn’t it curious that the same solutions continue to chase the same problems?
Orcinus by David Neiwert: Neiwert is a journalist with a taste and a talent for political science. He has specialized in particular in research on far-right extremist groups in the US. In the process, he has developed a understanding of the various groups and ideologies that I'm sure few rightwing extremists have themselves. For instance, his posts on the Minuteman sideshow on the Mexican border just recently had the kind of information that lets readers develop some informed concept of what the group is about. Ditto on the unsavory politics that were very likely behind Eric Rudolph's plea bargain. He has written some very insightful posts on how far-right ideas are mainstreamed into "respectable" conservatism. He posts frequently, but not always daily. He tends to write longer posts; for some reason I can identify with that. :) :) Characteristic quote:
I met Olson at the Freemen standoff in Montana. He, like about 99 percent of all militiamen, is a loudmouthed fantasist whose chief combat capabilities involve scratching their posteriors.
Intel Dump by Phil Carter: Carter is an attorney with a background in military intelligence. He has had some of the best discussions of international law as it applies to current US dilemmas that I have encountered. His discussions of the torture issue have been particularly informative. In a post last week, he takes a hard-headed look atthe Bush administration's sudan policy and the contradictory interests involved (When interests trump ideals -- how do you choose between evils? 04/29/05). He concludes by saying essentially that he supports the current policy while holding his nose at the unmistakably grim implications of it. Characteristic quote, this particular one on the investigations of torture at Abu Ghuraib:
Based on the evidence contained in the Taguba report, Schlesinger report, Fay-Jones report, and the Church report, as well as the volume of documents obtained by the ACLU's FOIA litigation, I believe there to be sufficient evidence to find probable cause that these senior officers committed criminal failures of leadership. One of the worst scandals in American military history happened on their watch, under their direction, at least partly due to conditions under their control. And yet, the highest-ranking individual to see prosecution sofar for these abuses is a Staff Sergeant. (my emphasis)
Washington Note by Steve Clemons: Good blogging, including some original reporting, on military, national security and intelligence issues. He's been the go-to guy, in Liberal Blogostan anyway, on the John Bolton travesty. Characteristic quote:
I don't mean in any way to disparage Mr. Ereli. But at some point, the denials of wrong-doing and the attempts by State to white wash what are clearly rogue behaviors by Bolton goes beyond what could politely be called "absurd".
Steve Gilliard's News Blog: A veteran of the Daily Kos blog, Gilliard is a full-time free-lance blogger. Informed by his own military background, his analysis of events in the Iraq War has been particularly good. Gilliard's blog voice is kind of like a New York City, African-American version of Molly Ivins. He's blunt, pragmatic, unapologetically liberal and doesn't suffer foolsgladly, whether they're Republicans or the kind of liberals who are so focused on being pure that they're shocked when somebody actually tries to do something. He has very good instincts about the Christian Right. He does use too much profanity for my taste, though, although sometimes it's really funny. Characteristic quotes:
[On Mad Annie Coulter appearing on the cover of Time:] Because unless there was [uh, sex] involved, how could he write such an unhinged article. Coulter's racist screeds are legendary. The real Ann Coulter would have led a lynch mob at Ol' Miss. She would have fed Joe McCarthy his booze.
What the [Cheney] is up with Time anyway. They name the [expletive-deleted's] at Powerline best blog, now this. What's next, a guide to scaring the [expletive deleted] out of judges and glowing articles on Jenna and Not Jenna?
[On the five-year-old kindergartener who was handcuffed by police in Florida:] File this under things which don't happen to white people.
The Daily Howler by Bob Somerby: Sometimes I think that all I should really post here on my blog is a daily entry that says, "Read Juan Cole. Read the Daily Howler." But that would start to look pretty quickly like Jack Nicholas in The Shining. Somerby, a comedian in his regular job, writes sound, thoughtful analyses of mainstream press coverage of US politics, often combining his analysis with biting humor. Real humor, that is, not the mean-spirited, Ann Coulter/Rush Limbaugh type of "humor." He is particularly good in pointing out the way the press increasingly neglects basic journalistic fact-checking. Some of his special concerns are what he calls the media's "war against Gore" in 1999-2000 and on how the press corps avoids doing serious coverage of crackpot claims from groups like the Swift Boat Liars for Bush, even when the crackpot claims are very influential among the public. And just to be clear: anyone looking to Somerby's column to provide ammunition for the conservatives' Liberal Press! Liberal Press! Liberal Press! conspiracy theory would have to pick and choose very carefully to do so. Characteristic quote, in reference to a factually-challenged Washington Post article by "the unfortunately named Peter Whoriskey":
Where on earth do they find the Whoriskeys? This must be one of the worst “news reports” we have seen in our incomparable career. And remember: Whoever Peter Whoriskey is, his copy had to go through an editor. It’s hard to believe, but yes, it’s true. At the Post, there exists an editor so stupid, so daft, that this garbage was waved into print.
... And if [Whoriskey is] sincere, he must be the dumbest sumbuck whose copy ever made it to print. Which leads us to the larger question: Who on Flat Earth was the editor? Who on Flat Earth at the Washington Post waved this wide load into print?
War and Piece by Laura Rozen: A war correspondent with experience in the Balkans, Rozen writes on foreign policy, intelligence issues and gives special attention to the foreign policy hawks known as "neoconservatives." She also provides original reporting at her blog. Like other journalists who blog, she often gives us glimpses of how a reporter approaches a story and looks for possible new avenues to explore. Characteristic quote:
Reading between the lines, it's pretty clear that key Bush administration officials, including Rice, acknowledge there are serious reasons to not have confidence in Bolton in the role of parlaying and representing Bush administration policy at the UN. The multiple accounts of bureaucratic warfare gathered here also add to the suspicion that when Bolton sought the US names from the NSA transcripts he obtained, it was in his role as fighting a guerrilla war against US officials inside the Bush administration, rather than in pursuing external national security matters.
Today in Iraq by yankeedoodle (with Matt and Friendly Fire): The main author of this page (who I believe is the one that goes by the pseudonym "yankeedoodle") has been collecting links to warnews from Iraq since June of 2003. He was particularly incensed by Bush's callous, frat-boy crack when the insurgency was in its early stages: "There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: Bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." He maintains that quote in a banner at the top of his blog page. And he captions news of Americans killed with "Bring 'em on," reminding us how cynically and recklessly the Bush administration has hadled itself throught the Iraq War. This is an excellent source for links on Iraq War news. Characteristic quote from yankeedoodle:
Makes me want to puke. [Then quotes from Paul Wolfowitz Get Formal Sendoff by Robert Burns Washington Post (AP) 04/29/05]“At a ceremony on a Pentagon parade ground that overlooks the Potomac River, Wolfowitz reviewed a military honor guard and was presented with a Defense Department medal for distinguished public service which cited him as an ‘internationally recognized voice for freedom.’ Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised his top deputy for intellectual firepower and perseverance, noting that he was a leading force in Rumsfeld's drive to modernize the military. ‘The threatened, the oppressed and the persecuted around the world must know in their hearts that they had a friend in Paul Wolfowitz,’ Rumsfeld said. ‘You are one of those rare people who, as the Talmud puts it, would rather light candles than curse the darkness.’”
Donkey Rising by Ruy Teixeira: Teixeira has a sensible head for analyzing political opinion poll results, which can be deeply flawed by poor design, which is sometimes deliberate but probably more often careless and/or unintentional. But the blog isn't strictly limited to opinion polls. A recent entry by guest blogger John Belisarius (The Appalling Elitism behind the Pharmacists' "Right of Conscience" Campaign 04/25/05) gives a very sensible analysis of the Christian Right fad of having pharmacists pass religious judgment on which physicians' perscriptions they will fill and which not. One of Teixeira's recent entries pointed out what a hard sell Bush's Social Security phaseout is proving to be (Oh Sure, Telling People You Want to Cut Their Benefits Will Certainly Turn These Numbers Around 04/30/05). Characteristic quote:
One of the bonds between President Bush and California Governor Schwartzenegger is an inordinate fondness for swagger and verbal bravado. This stuff can play well in campaigns if you have clever writers and and lots of anger directed at your opposition, as did Arnold when he whipped Gray Davis.
But there comes a day, when the public stops chuckling and expects to see some progress toward solving theirproblems. That day has clearly arrived for President Bush big time, according to numerous recent polls. Now it appears that it may be dawning for Arnold, as well.