Wednesday, October 3, 2007

From the State Department, All the News for Inquiring Minds

From the Washington Post, Al Kamen writes:

Fox News, launched with such high hopes 11 years ago as the "fair and balanced" network, apparently hasn't lived up to its billing. CNN never had a chance. The other networks? Please. No citizen could dare trust the agenda-driven print media -- The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times -- to figure out, let alone accurately tell, the "real" story.

But now the State Department is in the blogosphere, and says it "offers the public an alternative source to mainstream media for U.S. foreign policy information." The blog, launched last week and called "Dipnote," is "taking you behind the scenes."

This is what we've all been waiting for! No more media filters and distortions. Unbiased news directly from the federal government, a news source long noted for truthful, unbiased reporting. The Clinton administration and most all its predecessors vowed to end-run the media, and they finally have the new electronic media to help them to do it.

One of the first diplo-bloggers last week was the assistant secretary for international organizations, Kristen Silverberg, who blogged from the United Nations.

"Another busy day in New York!" she gushed Tuesday. ("I'm exhausted!" she wrote in a later dispatch that day.) "First thing this morning, President Bush met with President Karzai" to discuss progress in Afghanistan.

"We have a lot of hope," she wrote, "for the future of Afghanistan," where child mortality has declined 20 percent in the past five years and 80 percent of the public has access to basic health care and "primary school enrollment for both boys and girls has increased by five hundred percent over the past five years."

But that's not all! "Later in the morning," Silverberg reported, "Secretary Rice attended a meeting" and "issued a joint statement calling on the government of Burma to end violence against the peaceful demonstrators."

"The Security Council this afternoon issued a statement of concern about the events in Burma, which were also discussed at today's G8 Foreign Ministers lunch," Silverberg reported, and Rice "raised the issue of Burma when she met this afternoon" with India's foreign minister. She also met with the Korean foreign minister about North Korea's nukes.

"While Secretary Rice will be back in Washington, D.C., for part of the day tomorrow to open the President's meeting of major economies on energy security and climate, I'll still be in New York and will keep you updated!" Thank goodness.

Public diplomacy czarina Karen Hughes's blog from the United Nations yesterday gave us a real insider's view of diplomacy in action.

"This morning I spoke live with hundreds of thousands of people in the Arab world by appearing on Al Arabiya," she wrote, "one of the leading television networks in the Middle East. Whenever I visit a country, and I've been to about 40 during the last two years, I usually do television and radio interviews (I've even appeared on what was described as the Indonesian version of 'Oprah')."

Would the conservative or liberal media give you that insight? Hardly.

Meanwhile, the blog appears to be getting a tremendous response worldwide and -- with the exception of people complaining that the type is too small and that the white print on a black background makes it hard to read -- readers have been overwhelmingly positive.

The first comment to one of Silverberg's blogs was refreshing. "Wong in China writes: 'Hello, I come from China. I hate such countries: North Korea, Iran, Burma, Cuba and Iraq (before liberated by US army).' " Well, thank you, Wong, for your informed perspective. Please report immediately to the embassy in Beijing for your free visa and green card.

State Department folks may be feeling good about their official blog, but the Pentagon, as is usually the case, has been working that venue for a while. In fact it has, within the New Media Directorate, an office that's being called "Blogosphere Initiatives," and one of the truly unsung heroes of the Bush Florida recount machine has been tapped to help out.

He's Michael Allan Leach, who, "it could be argued, played a more direct role" than most anyone else in George W. Bush's victory in Florida in 2000, the St. Petersburg Times reported at the time. Leach, an Air Force veteran, then-recent Florida State graduate and state GOP field worker, "used a laptop computer to salvage hundreds of Republican absentee votes which were in danger of not being counted because they didn't have voter identification numbers."

The Times reported that Leach blamed President Clinton and media liberals for a decline in morals, and wrote in a 1998 Internet posting: "I can no longer sit idly by while liberals in Washington with seven brain cells drag this country into the muck and mire of stupidity."

So, after the election, Leach spent six years as a political appointee as special assistant to the administrator of the Agriculture Department's rural development office, minus time out to handle press duties for the CPA in Iraq. He also picked up a master's degree in international affairs from Georgetown and worked most recently in public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security.