Call for Participation: The Weblog Action Center

Folks –
You may recall last week, I proposed an addendum to Eric Raymond’s Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto which was focused on the idea that we should be practical about what it is we, as weblog authors and readers, can actually accomplish to make the world a better place.
Well, come Monday, I’m going to “put my blog where my mouth is”, so to speak, and launch a new weblog project here at TTLB called The Weblog Action Center.
The idea is to provide a forum for folks to share information and opinions on what actions people can take to make the world a better place. Actions can be anything, as long as they are legal: an argument for why to vote for a certain candidate or ballot measure; a request for donations to a charity or cause you feel worthy; a suggestion to write letters to Congress in support of a pending bill.
The idea, in short, is to provide a focal point for weblog writing that strives to bridge the gap between words on a monitor and actions in the real world.
The site will be set up as a massively collaborative weblog, in the same style as Blogcritics, the successful arts and entertainment review site. Folks will post their entries at the Weblog Action site and, if they choose, can also post the same entries back at their own weblogs.
The public launch is most likely going to be this coming Monday, and I’m interested in getting as many posts up in advance before then as possible. In particular, I’m very interested in collecting as many posts as possible that will help folks make intelligent decisions in the coming election.
So think about it: posted a commentary on a politician lately? Have a favorite NGO or charity you think deserves support? Ballot measure coming up that you think must be defeated at all costs? Or is there just some other burning issue you want folks to take action on?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these and you’re interested in broadening your audience, drop me a line, and I’ll set you up with a posting account and send instructions on how to get started. As with Blogcritics, contributors will get a nice free permalink on the Weblog Action Center home page.
I hope you’ll join in, and thanks for the support…

Senator Paul Wellstone Is Dead

Senator Paul Wellstone is dead, along with his wife and daughter.
Their plane crashed early this morning in Minnesota, apparently. Reports are extremely light on information as yet; I have not seen anything to indicate the cause of the accident.
First and for the record, my condolences to the families of those on board, both of the Wellstones, their travelling party, and the pilot and crew.
At a more base level, however, there is obviously the question of who will succeed Wellstone. My understanding of Minnesota law says that the governor has the power to appoint a successor to Wellstone’s seat.
But the question is, for how long? I’ve been unable to determine the rules by a quick read of the Minnesota State Constitution (oddly, it seems only to refer to state legislators, not to the state’s federal representatives at all. But perhaps I am reading it wrong). This biography of a former governor, however, contains with in it a statement that the governor may appoint anyone to a vacant Senate seat but himself.
If a new election must be called in the immediate future, this changes little.
But if the appointed senator is permitted to serve out even a two-year term (until the next election; barring the one that is presumably too-near in the future to count).
Well then, Jesse Ventura, irony of ironies, has just become a rather powerful man. Is it possible that this has-been wrestler turned has-been ‘independent’ governor now gets to decide all by himself which party will fill a hotly contested Senate seat for the next few years?
Update: Did a bit more research. It appears that the Democrats will be able to nominate a candidate to continue in Wellstone’s place in the election; I’m reading this part of Minnesota election law right now, which says:
“A major political party may provide in its governing rules a procedure, including designation of an appropriate committee, to fill vacancies in nomination for all offices elected statewide… If the vacancy in nomination occurs through the candidate’s death or catastrophic illness, the nomination certificate must be filed within seven days after the vacancy in nomination occurs but no later than four days before the general election.”
It would appear that Wellstone’s death fits into this definition, which means the Democrats still have time to run a candidate in his place.
My assumption now is that Ventura will have to nominate someone to fill Wellstone’s seat; the Democrats will put up a new candidate, but then whoever wins the general election will take the seat from the Ventura’s appointee early next year.
Update 2: A Blogger-crippled blogger sent InstaPundit a link to this statute, which provides additional detail on the process to be followed to replace Wellstone on the ballot.
Update 3: Scott Koenig is also following the story, and has additional information, including a biography of Wellstone.
Update 4: Martin points us to James Lileks’ thoughts on Senator Wellstone. And while I cannot in truth say I knew Wellstone’s record or person well even through the media, I suspect that if I did, Lileks’ summary of his view of Wellstone would serve for my own as well. As it likely would for many in this corner of the Blogosphere. Political opponents who possess honesty and integrity are to be cherished, and this one will be missed.
Update 5: I would like to provide a link to any site or organization where condolences can be sent to the families of the crash victims, but have not yet found any (obviously a little early). If anyone sees such a link (or address, or phone #) please pass it on and I’ll post it here. Until then, I would assume that messages of condolence sent via his official web page would be routed appropriately by his staff; his main page is here and his contact form is here.

Listen to David Frum

David Frum is getting a bit of attention these days, for some allegedly well-written essays in the Telegraph (haven’t had time to read them yet myself) and for citing John Hawkins’ splendid Confessions of an Isolationist Wannabe.
The news of the day is that Frum has corrected his earlier error of not mentioning John as the source by name.
Anyway, thought I’d note that if you enjoy Frum, you can catch him weekly on KCRW radio’s half-hour discussion show, Left Right and Center. It’s broadcast on Friday afternoons if you’re in the LA area, but even better, is available for streaming on demand via RealAudio from KCRW’s web site.
Frum represents the conservative point of view on the show (natch), and faces off against traditionally lefty moron Bob Scheer (or is that traditionally moronic lefty?) and occasionally-bright-but-mostly-flaky Arianna Huffington. “Holding down the center”, as he says, is the show’s moderator, Matt Miller, who I don’t always agree with, but is clearly an intelligent and rational fellow.
I’ve yet to truly sample Frum’s writing, but he generally comes off quite well in live discussion, so check it out…

Bears of the Blogosphere, Unite!

OK, MommaBear probably hates me by now, as she sent me the idea for this in email many, many weeks ago. But better late than never!
I’m now accepting applications for the Coalition of Ursine Bloggers (CUB). Founded for no reason other than our own amusement, CUB is open to all bloggers of an ursine sort.
Once we gather our initial membership, we will turn our attention to the burning Bear Rights issues of the day, whatever they may prove to be, and will strictly enforce a zero-tolerance policy on all anti-bear discrimination.
Membership is free and open to all bears; associate membership will be considered for furry creatures of any other sort, with particular favor given to rodents.
Bear bloggers, unite!
-NZB
PS – No, I don’t mean this kind of bear. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Kissinger Redux

Much discussion of my Kissinger post in the comments section, almost universally negative, to my surprise. As I noted there, where are all the lefties who generally bother me in my comments when I need ’em? (I actually think I figured it out: they all took U.N. Day off).
And now Stephen Green has weighed in, with what he described to me in e-mail as “a backhanded defense” of my post. And indeed it is that.
So, time for a few responses that are too long to stuff in a comment.
First, many folks have called for a recap of the U.S. laws Kissinger is accused of breaking. In a nutshell, the Logan Act, which prohibits private diplomacy, is probably the biggest and clearest example: Kissinger’s collaboration with Nixon in sabotaging the 1968 Paris peace talks almost certainly meets the standard. Another key example is the prohibitions against allowing U.S.-supplied weaponry to be used for wars of aggression, which was clearly violated by Kissinger’s active role in supporting Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor. In addition, Kissinger is implicated by Hitchens as a co-conspirator or at least a complicit party in the murder of several individuals, the most prominent of which being General Renee Schneider of Chile. And while I don’t believe Hitchens mentions it directly, I’m fairly sure the secret bombing campaign against Cambodia was a violation of U.S. law, if only in the sense that it involved the executive branch deliberately lying to Congress.
If you’re looking for a concise recap of the legal aspects of Hitchens case (in both U.S. law and international law), then jump right to the conclusion of his Harper’s piece.
Next, Stephen’s comments. They can be summed up in his key paragraph:
Kissinger kissed up to China, spearheaded a duplicitous policy in Vietnam, blazed the trail for selling out Taiwan, negotiated bad-faith nuclear arms deals (on their side, not ours, but he knew it) with the Soviets, excused illegal bombings in Cambodia, and personally sabotaged the 1968 peace talks. We might disagree over whether these actions were good or bad, but there

Today in the Grudge Match: Buckley vs. Hitchens

William F. Buckley Jr. is out and about and is peeved that Christopher Hitchens is picking on poor Henry Kissinger.
If there was anyone on earth I could pick who does not need my rhetorical assistance, it would be Christopher Hitchens. But examining in such detail the work of an esteemed fellow as Mr. Buckley was a challenge I could not resist nonetheless.
I present the full text of his complaint in The National Review here in my traditional highlighted quotes, with my own rebuttals and commentary interspersed. (Dare I use the ‘F’ word?)
The War on Kissinger
He is the enemy, for reasons many of them obvious.
The desire to do something about Henry Kissinger is, for many, a popular pursuit; for some, an obsession. He is the enemy, for reasons many of them obvious: He is a Harvard intellectual who served Richard Nixon intimately and survived. And of course he was at the right hand of the president for three years of the reviled war in Vietnam. Resentment is certainly fostered by facial expressions seen as registering Shylockean self-satisfaction, and verbal adroitness that sometimes seems to be bent on squaring circles, a demeanor that enemies will liken to that of the Vicar of Bray, and advocating what they see as Johnnie Cochran explaining the innocence of O. J. Simpson.

He’s a pompous, irritating git, yes. But I don’t think that’s truly the reason many people think he belongs behind bars. There are a great many annoying individuals in the world; only a select few deserve actual criminal punishment.
The latest expeditionary force against the enemy was initiated by Christopher Hitchens, a learned and resourceful moralist of exhibitionist inclinations who picks his enemies with brio and, a few years ago, undertook a book to the effect that Mother Teresa was a mountebank. The Kissinger offensive was done in Harper’s magazine, and became a book. The call, no less, was to declare Henry Kissinger a war criminal and urge international courts to try him for, among other things, murder and kidnapping.
That was a tall order of Hitchens, perhaps even outdoing the call to defrock Mother Teresa

LGF Emerges Victorious

You may be wondering why I’ve been oddly silent on the LGF / MSNBC Weblog Central flap. The reason (for the last day at least) was I was actually doing a little in-the-background work drumming up support for Charles from previous “Best Of” webloggers who had been mentioned by Femia at Weblog Central.
I had in fact been scheduled to send our completed open letter to him this morning, but we’ve been (happily) overtaken by events: the offending “is this hate” question has been removed from LGF’s link at Weblog Central.
So, no open letter today. But here’s the text of the letter just to get my own thoughts on the matter down in the public record for posterity:
==============
Will –
Through your comments, you have made clear that you are interested in feedback from your readers and the weblogging community as a whole; a noble attitude. We are writing you now, therefore, to provide such feedback; each of us has either been highlighted as a “Best Of” weblog on your blog or has otherwise been prominently mentioned on Weblog Central.
Your nomination of Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs has, obviously, stirred much controversy. You clearly faced significant pressure to remove LGF from your list; pressure which you have resisted. For that, we commend you.
In your compromise solution, however, we feel that you have still bowed to those who oppose LGF’s political stance more than is appropriate. Your closing comment annotating LGF’s entry — “is this news or hate?” — lays an accusation at Charles’ feet simply by posing the question (“Does he beat his wife?”). And worse, it does so without providing any specific charge or facts to back it up. In this way, LGF is left with a vague and damaging allegation against it which neither Charles nor anyone else can refute or debate.
We urge you, therefore, to remove this note. Noting that LGF is controversial is both appropriate and accurate. But if you are going to label it as “hate” — even in the passive method of your current note — you *must* back that accusation up with facts. And to be frank, from your rather positive comments about LGF in your last entry (“LGF is actively maintained, well-presented, heavily trafficked, and a prime example of the ability of blogs to generate discussion and create community…”) it seems that you yourself do not believe the accusation to be true either.
We appreciate the difficult position you find yourself in, and thank you for your attention. And we hope that you will decide to take corrective action on this matter swiftly.
Signed,
N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Michele Catalano, A Small Victory
Solonor, Solonor’s Ink Well
Russel Wardlow, Mean Mr. Mustard

=====================
We got a nice little group of previous ‘Best Of’ awardees together, but I’m only listing names here who’ve given me a second note of permission to do so given the new circumstances. (I’m rather anal retentive that way; I tend to take the view that as bloggers, our names are really the only currency we have, so one shouldn’t use them lightly, no?)
At any rate, Charles appears pretty vindicated at this point, so enough said. Congrats to Charles, and kudos to Will Femia for doing the right thing in the end.
-NZB

Best in Show

I keep meaning to mention and support Bigwig’s fine idea, The Carnival of the Vanities, a weekly assemblage of bloggers self-selected best work.
Normally it’s over at Silflay Hraka, but this week, Lair is stepping in and hosting it at File 13.
Go forth and check it out, y’hear…

Bear Seeks Beer

Okay apropos of nothing, here’s a request to the peanut gallery:
Has anybody ever found a non-alcoholic beer that doesn’t taste like piss?
I enjoy good beer. I’d rather drink it than soda any evening. But often I have no interest in getting even a slight buzz; I just want a drink that tastes pleasant.
I’ve tried Kaliber, and St. Pauli Girl NA, and they suck, so don’t even bother suggesting them.
Am I chasing a nonexistent ideal here? Suggestions are highly desired…