Thursday, January 13, 2005

Not For Sale

Now it turns out that a couple of big time blogs were in the bag for Howard Dean last year. The Wall Street Journal reports that The Daily Kos, the ninth biggest blog in the blogosphere, was paid $12,000 to serve as "technical consultant" to the Dean campaign.

The partisan Democratic political bloggers who were hired by the Dean campaign were Jerome Armstrong, who publishes the blog MyDD, and Markos Zuniga, who publishes DailyKos. DailyKos is the ninth most linked blog on the Internet, according to Technorati, a measurement service, and in October, at the height of the presidential campaign, it received as many as one million daily visits.

In their defense the two popular bloggers insist they breached no ethical boundaries:

The two men, who jointly operated a small political consulting firm, said they didn't believe the Dean campaign had been trying to buy their influence. Both men noted that they had promoted Mr. Dean's campaign long before they were hired and continued to do so after their contract with the campaign ended.

Mr. Zuniga said they were paid $3,000 a month for four months and he noted that he had posted a disclosure near the top of his daily blog that he worked for the Dean campaign doing "technical consulting." Mr. Armstrong said he shut down his site when he went to work for the campaign, then resumed posting after his contract ended.

Be that as it may, Viewpoint wishes its readers to know that we are not for sale. We have never accepted any money from anyone in return for our support. Of course, we have never been offered any either.

Punishing Syria

This UPI article gives some details about possibly imminent Coalition strikes against Syria.

New York, NY, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Bush administration hard-liners have been considering launching selected military strikes at insurgent training camps in Syria and border-crossing points used by Islamist guerrillas to enter Iraq in an effort to bolster security for the upcoming elections, according to former and current administration officials.

Pressure for some form of military action is also coming from interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, these sources said.

Some former and serving U.S. intelligence officials who have usually been opposed to any expansion of U.S. military activities in the region are expressing support for such strikes.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official told United Press International, "I don't usually find myself in sympathy with the Bush neo-cons, but I think there is enough fire under this smoke to justify such action."

Referring to the escalating attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq by Iraqi insurgents, he added, "Syria is complicit in the (anti-U.S.) insurgency up to its eyeballs."

"Syria is the No. 1 crossing point" for guerrillas entering Iraq," Gary Gambill, editor of the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, said. He added that Damascus "does nothing about it."

An administration official said Syria has "camps in which Syrians are training Iraqis for the insurgency and others where Iraqis are training Syrians for the same purpose" which could be hit by U.S. air strikes.

Recently, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that senior Baath Party officials from Iraq are operating from Syria where they provide financing and direction to the cells of Iraqi insurgents killing Americans, sparking new discussions within the administration about possible measures against Syria.

U.S. officials told United Press International that money, direction, weapons and personnel are flowing into Iraq from Syria, ending up in Iraqi cities such as Iskanderiya, Baqouba, Latafiya and Fallujah.

Damascus is also home to associates of a top insurgency commander now affiliated with al-Qaida, Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, who is responsible for many major suicide bombing attacks in Iraq, U.S. officials said.

The presence of a Zarqawi branch in Damascus, discovered last summer, was said to have acted as a major spur in uniting France and the United States in supporting U.N. Resolution 1559 that demanded Syria withdraw from Lebanon and that elections be held in April 2005, U.S. officials said.

Gambill charged that a major Zarqawi deputy lives in Damascus.

In addition to Syria being used as a rear area for insurgents, it is a key center of finance for former Saddam Hussein officials who are leading the insurgency, thanks to stashes of Iraqi cash that could run as high as $3 billion, which is all in the Syrian banking system, according for former and serving administration officials.

There are also allegedly "many millions of dollars" from Palestinian groups flowing into Syria that are also being used to help finance anti-American guerrilla groups in Iraq, these sources said.

The Bush administration has applied increasing pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to halt the activities of militant groups inside Syria, and to arrest and extradite former Saddam Hussein officials who are the leading financiers, according to several U.S. government sources.

So far there has been no positive response, they said.

The article goes on to talk about the dilemma faced by Bashar Assad and the difficulties he confronts in trying to avoid Coalition assaults on Syrian territory. Perhaps making these plans public is an attempt to intimidate Syria into cooperating, or perhaps it is a signal that such attacks against targets in Syria have already begun. If not then we're left wondering why, if we are going to undertake such missions in the future, we would telegraph that warning ahead of time and afford the targets the opportunity to evade us.

At any rate, it's hard to see how Syria can escape when Bush clearly announced in his initial "Bush doctrine" speeches that nations which harbor terrorists would not be spared. It would seem that both Syria and Iran are daring him to back up his threat.

Say It Ain't So, Armstrong

Whether or not it is illegal for a government agency (the Department of Education) to pay talk radio hosts to promote their programs (in this case, No Child Left Behind), it certainly seems unethical for the radio host to accept a government check, promote the program, and not explain to his audience that his endorsement has been purchased. Armstrong Williams is a good guy and he's on the right side of most issues, but he showed poor judgment on this one. He has forever diminished his credibility with his listeners, and that is a shame.

Conservatives have been rightly clamoring for thirty years for disbanding the Department of Education. If what the Department did in paying Williams $240,000 to promote NCLB is in fact illegal then the DOE has just reinforced the case against maintaining this useless bureaucracy.