The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


Bit of comic relief for y'all

Victor Davis Hanson blogs for the National Review: "[T]here really will come a time, believe it or not, when a future American President baffled and paralyzed by the latest insanity from the Middle East -- whether an Iranian nuke or a Syrian invasion of Lebanon or another Middle East war or the usual assassination and killing of Americans -- will ask former president George Bush II for advice, as a then fawning media will look back to his past 'toughness' and 'determination' when under fire. That seems unhinged now, but it too will come to pass, as they say."

What can I say, but BWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!!! No, I don't believe it for a minute. The idea sounds completely "unhinged!" In order for Bush to get consulted about anything in the future, he'll first have to accomplish something useful in the next two years. As his track record is utterly devoid of useful accomplishments, he's got to accomplish a lot of work in a very short time to do that.


Piece by Cliff May

DailyKos looks at this article and concludes our boy Cliff May is delusional. After having read just the first few paragraphs, I had to agree.

Of all the possible responses, the most perverse may be this: To propose that Americans pull out of Iraq, abandoning innocent Iraqis to the tender mercies of those dispatching the terrorists.

The foreign jihadists in Iraq (An unknown percentage of whom are al Qaeda) have never numbered more than 5% of the people fighting US troops in Iraq. The great majority of the fighters are native Iraqis and are most probably Saddam Hussein-era Army members. There's very little danger of "terrorists" taking over Iraq in the wake of an American withdrawal.

Yet that is what many Americans now favor, perhaps because they have been persuaded that when Sunnis and Shites [sic] kill one another, Americans must be to blame.

Yeah, gee, I wonder where people got such a crazy idea. Hmm, let's see, in February 2003 there was, um, NO sectarian violence/civil war and in November 2006, there WAS!! Gee, I wonder what happened in the meantime? Wouldn't have been perhaps, an American occupation?!?! Whether or not the sectarian violence could have been avoided after the invasion, the US still has to take responsibility for invading.

[Saddam Hussein] has long maintained that the United States lacks the will to prevail against a determined enemy. Years ago, he told Americans: “Yours is a society that cannot accept 10,000 dead in one battle.”

The American people are fully prepared to stand against a determined enemy when there's a good reason to. Taking on tough foes is not a problem. Taking on a country that posed no threat to the US and occupying it against the will of their people (See Reason 4) is something else again entirely.

Many Americans see no link between the conflict in Iraq and America’s war with the militant Islamist movement. Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, would beg to differ. He has called Iraq one of the “two most important battlefields” of the world war now underway.

Please note that Iraq became an "important battlefield" AFTER the US invaded it. If the US wins, al Qaeda simply moves on to a new battlefield. If the US loses, al Qaeda gains a great victory. Problem is al Qaeda stands to lose only what they put into the struggle. The US can't hit anything that al Qaeda hasn't committed. If the US begins to make great gains, al Qaeda withdraws the forces that are in danger. The US is dealing with a classic "lose-lose" proposition.

The other key battlefield is Afghanistan. Should the U.S. accept defeat in Iraq, how many suicide-bombings in Kabul will be required before America and its allies retreat from that far less strategically vital front as well?

This is a consequence of what we call "screwing up." By failing to secure Afghanistan, by reconstructing it and winning the loyalty of the Afghans, the US ran off to invade a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. Yeah, it sure is a mess allright.

Iraq is a mess. It has not become, as [the] president hoped it would, “a country that can sustain itself; a country that can govern itself; a country that can defend itself; and a country that will be an ally in the war against these extremists.”

Well, yeah. When you set out goals for the country that are utterly delusionary, it will become a mess. The US wanted an Iraqi government that was pro-US and pro-capitalist and that would be willing to let it pump their oil and make off with 100% of the proceeds. What, the plan failed?!?! Wow, whatta surprise.

But because “victory” as Bush once defined it now seems out of reach, it does not follow that the solution is to cut and run — or even to cut and stroll away, the policy euphemistically called “phased redeployment.” More modest but still significant goals can be achieved.
We can continue to fight Saddamist insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists wherever we find them — and we find them in Iraq.

Continued death and destruction. Massive bloodshed. Killing everywhere. Gee, sounds like a really wonderful plan!

We can accelerate the training of Iraqi forces.

Had the US succeeded in producing trained Iraqi battalions that could fight on their own over the last three years, this might be a worthwhile plan. As it is, it's little more than wishful thinking.

We can do what is necessary to stabilize Baghdad — as we have pledged to do and tried to do but so far have failed to do because sufficient resources have not been devoted to the task.

This is the "magical pony plan" produced first by the DLC, then Joe Lieberman, than John McCain. It depends on the US finding more troops to fight in Iraq. From where, nobody knows.

As for the sectarian violence, our presence is not the cause and our absence would not be the cure.

The US has occupied Iraq since late April 2003. OF COURSE the sectarian violence is the fault of the country that's occupying Iraq. Would the absence of the US solve the problem? Worth a try, as Iraqis don't want US troops there to begin with.

By continuing to play the role of honest broker between the Shia and Sunni communities, we may be able to prevent the conflict from spiraling into all-out civil war.

The conflict has already spiraled into "all-out civil war" thank you very much. At no point has the US acted as anything like an "honest broker." The US has been interested in Iraq's oil from well before the conflict began.

There are no good options in Iraq.


There are only bad options and worse options. Let’s hope President Bush and the new Democratic leaders in Congress are wise enough to distinguish between the two.

As President Bush has demonstrated absolutely zero wisdom so far and as the "new Democratic leaders in Congress" have had absolutely no input whatsoever, the new regime can hardly do worse.

UPDATE: And do you want to know what's really sad? Cliff May is part of the Iraq Study Group. Yup, that's right. A man who's not really connected to reality is going to help figure out how to get the US out of his mess.


Cohen & moral seriousness

Excerpt from "The Lingo Of Vietnam" by Richard Cohen:

... let me explain that the "I" in the foregoing sentence is really four people. There is the "I" who originally thought the Vietnam War was morally correct, that the communists were awful people and that the loss of South Vietnam (the North was already gone) would result in a debacle for its people. That's, in fact, what happened. It was only later, when I myself was in the Army, that I deemed the war not worth killing or dying for. By then I -- the second "I" -- no longer felt it was winnable, and I did not want to lose my life so that somehow defeat could be managed more elegantly.

Things are precisely the same with Iraq, and here, too, I -- No. 3 -- originally had no moral qualms about the war. Saddam Hussein was a beast who had twice invaded his neighbors, had killed his own people with abandon and posed a threat -- and not just a theoretical one -- to Israel. If anything, I was encouraged in my belief by the offensive opposition to the war -- silly arguments about oil or empire or, at bottom, the ineradicable and perpetual rottenness of America.

On the contrary, I thought. We are a good country, attempting to do a good thing. In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic. The United States had the power to change things for the better, and those who would do the changing -- the fighting -- were, after all, volunteers. This mattered to me.

But these volunteers are now fighting a war few envisaged and no one wanted -- not I (No. 4), for sure. If at one time my latter-day minutemen marched off thinking they were bringing democracy to Iraq and the greater Middle East, they now must know better. If they thought they were going to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction and sever the link between al-Qaeda and Hussein, they now are entitled to feel duped by Bush, Vice President Cheney and others. The exaggerations are particularly repellent. To fool someone into sacrificing his life to battle a chimera is a hideous abuse of the public trust.

Cohen was kicked out of the tree-house of liberalism a long time ago, so we can no longer accuse him of not being a liberal (still true, but it's an old accusation). What he demonstrates here is that he cannot be considered a morally serious person. Here's the letter I sent to him:

Mr Cohen,

In your op-ed, you do not distinguish between the Bush Administration and the American People. Certainly, the American People went to war against Iraq because of WMD and supposed Iraqi connections to al Qaeda. But the Bush Admnistrtion very consciously and deliberately lied about those things, so we can dismiss the idea that these were motivations for them. What were their motivations? You make the case that the American People were acting out of the goodness of their hearts, that they were sincerely trying to help. Again, this was indeed a very real motivation for the American People. But was that really the motivation for the Bush Administration? That's a very difficult case to make.

Having been opposed to the war from the beginning, I take great offense at the notion that my objections to war were "silly arguments about oil or empire." The idea that "at bottom" my motivations were something else entirely is merely a conjecture on your part.

In August 2005, Bush declared ''If Zarqawi and [Osama] bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks," Bush said. ''They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions." In other words, yes, oil was indeed part of the Bush Administration' s calculations, even if it was an indirect calculation, a bit of projection on their part.

As the Washington Post put it in September 2002, "A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets." Oil was indeed an important part of US calculations from the very beginning.

I agree that the American People had noble and selfless motives for taking part in the Iraq War, but I'm quite skeptical that the same case can be made about the Bush Administration.

Obsidian Wings takes aim at the statement: "In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic." Sorry, but I served in the military for nearly a decade. I wasn't in there because my possible death might serve as someone's therapy or because my killing some foreigners might soothe someone's nerves back home in the US. Whether Cohen thinks of killing foreigners when he says "therapeutic" or whether he's acknowledging that US troops might die as well or whether he just thinks it's cool to rub out a lot of innocent civilians, I don't know or care. Cohen has absolutely no claim whatsoever to being a morally serious person. His admitting that, in neither case did he turn against either war because they were immoral, but turned merely because they didn't seem "winnable" cements my view of him as a morally unserious person. Editor & Publisher points out that:

Cohen reveals that he turned against Vietnam only after he joined the military and realized he didn't particularly want to die in an "unwinnable" war. Jumping ahead, it was easier for him to support the Iraq invasion because those doing the fighting would be "after all, volunteers. This mattered to me." In other words: It was okay if they died for a mistake -- in a "therapeutic" cause -- because they had signed up for the military, in peacetime.

A more truly disgusting rationalization woul be difficult for me to come up with. A fight does not become immoral because it becomes unwinnable. Winnability has nothing to do with morality. Nor does the morality of a war have anything to do with whether someone is a volunteer or not. My years in the Navy were years that I volunteered for. No, that would not give anyone the right to have casually tossed my life away for their own "therapy." My life is worth a bit more than that. So too, are the lives of every human being involved with the wars that the US gets tangled up in.


Radio Show on Presidential Signing Statements

I attended a taping of Justice Talking: Presidential Signing Statements on the 17th. The show will play on the radio station WHYY 91 FM at 3:45pm on December 4th (invitation). The show began with Host Margot Adler and guests Mickey Edwards and Christopher Schroeder, both of whom have worked in the government and have also taught as professors. They didn't disagree with each other as much as they took slightly different perspectives on presidential signing statements. As an historical overview, it was made clear to the audience that the current president did not invent signing statement and that they go back at least as far as Jimmy Carter (1976-1980). Signing statements are now used in very unique ways. They've never before contradicted the legislation just passed. Before G.W. Bush, they were always used to clarify what the legislation intended to do or to complain that the president would have used a line item veto if he were able.
The participants did not mention it, but Bush's particular use of signing statements goes back to current-Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's days as a member of the Reagan Justice Department.
The main question between the two speakers was over exactly what effect the signing statements were having. Schroeder was convinced they had no discernible effect while Edwards was convinced they were being used in some unknown, covert manner. The number of signing statements is not entirely clear as the Bush Administration has never given a definitive number, but it's around 750 to 800.
Speaking as a lefty liberal pro-Constitution kinda guy, I was quite pleased with the statements made by Senator Arlen Spector, who came on after the two debaters were done. Everything Spector said was completely in line with our liberal, pro-Constitutional point of view. One item I was especially pleased at hearing mentioned by him was the fact that the bureaucrats who carry out the detailed enforcement of the laws often use legislative histories to clear up various points in the legislation that do not speak for themselves. There's an excellent chance that they also see signing statements as similarly authoritative and use them while working out how to enforce the laws.
The Boston Globe was one of the first media sources to point out the current use of presidential signing statements.


Progress on diplomatic solutions to Iraq

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Bush remained cool to such a move, saying Syria needed to get out of Lebanon and Iran needed to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

He pointed out that the United States had offered direct talks with Iran about its nuclear ambitions if Tehran would agree to stop uranium enrichment, which Iran has refused.

So, Bush's idea is that the idea of getting Syrian and Iranian help/diplomatic solutions to the Iraq quagmire is to drag unrelated issues into the conversation. Also, he seems to have the peculiar iddea that the idea of diplomacy is to get the other guys to surrender all of their advantages first, then when negotiations begin, there's nothing left to negotiate over as the other side has already given up everything that motivated the US to begin negotiations in the first place.

Update: "While the administration's defenders claim that it has exhausted diplomatic possibilities..."
I believe that the statement above shows us that diplomacy has not been seriously tried. Bush has no interest in real diplomacy and has never really tried any. The current situation between the US, Iran, Syria and the Iraq insurgents brings to mind a metaphor of Bush flailing about in the water, having gone down for the second time (Third time is normally the last time), the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Syrian President: Bashar Al-Assad are passing by in a rowboat. Ahmadinejad takes pity on Bush and extends an oar to him. Bush replies: "Hey!! Why don't you junp in the water and pull me out? What's that? Will I drag you under? You'll just have to take the chance that I'll decide to be a nice guy and not do so. What, your clothes will get wet? $#%#@, just GET DOWN HERE!!!" Surprise, surprise, Ahmadinejad and Al-Assad look at each other, shrug and keep paddling on.


Who to credit for the Democratic sweep?

Somehow, the astonishing and amazing idea has spread that the recent election was a victory for conservative Democrats. Hardly! Rahm Emanuel represents the DLC, the group that oversaw the disastrous losses of 1994 (New Gingrich called it the "Republican Revolution.") and that failed to get the Democratic majority back (Except for a few razor-thin Senate wins) for the rest of the years of their grip on Democratic strategy. Emanuel is hardly any sort of genius strategist, in fact, the blogger Digby quotes the New Republic to show that, while not all of Emaneul's candidates failed, Emanuel was very clearly NOT the crucial factor tha made the difference. This was not the year of the conservative, corporatized DLC. 2006 was the year of the grassroots, the year of the bloggers, the years of "the fighting progressives."
In fact, DailyKos is complaining about the "...most moronic media lines last night, and continuing through today, [that] is how 'conservative' these newly elected Democrats are." After listing numerous successful House and Senate candidates who can't possibly described as conservative, he ends up concluding: "...during the campaign, every single one of these Democrats was accused by their Republican opponents of being 'too liberal'. Every single one of them."

Election highlights

The Note from ABC News is a right-wing publication that thinks Karl Rove is a master politician. So what do they say when it becomes clear that Rove is a one-trick pony that used up all of his mojo? Today's Note is completely silent on him..

Howard Dean today gives appropriate credit to the blogs. The liberal blogosphere spotted problems like robo-calls right away and immediately brought them to widespread attention, where the Democratic Party could deploy lawyers and then get "cease-and-desist" orders issued right away. The last-minute dirty tricks didn't work because the blogs are faster than the dirty tricksters are.

I simply can't think of enough foul, damning, dirty language to describe Laura Ingraham's comments yesterday. Having heard that the 1-800-DEM-VOTE voter help line was getting jammed due to all the dirty tricks Republicans were playing, Ms Ingraham encouraged her listeners to call the number and jam up the lines still further!!! To give you some idea of how bright Ingraham's listenners were:

CALLER: Well, you get the number, they ask you to put in your zip code; they ask you, of course, English or Spanish.

INGRAHAM: Blood type?

CALLER: And, you know, they say that they'll trace back to your phone. They give you options as to do you want to find your polling place, did you have trouble voting?

INGRAHAM: Do you know what zip code you live in?

CALLER: Oh yeah, I did. I'm pretty sharp. [emphases added]

When a help line covers the entre country, it's hardly a surprise to hear that they have an automated line to help direct the calls to the right department. Why this obvious measure brought forth the snide comment "blood type?" is not at all clear. And it's a matter of pride for someone to know their own zip code?

Update (11/19): Woo Hoo!!! Senator Pat Leahy grills an apparently clueless elections official about Ingraham's attempted interference with the midterms! Good for Leahy!!

DailyKos points that South Dakota is not exactly Massachusetts when it comes to reproductive choice. They're among the most conservative states in the nation. When even South Dakota decides 55-45 to not pass a draconian ban on all abortions (The only exception allowed was to save the life of the mother.) we can safely conclude that the really hard-core anti-abortionists are out-of-touch extremists.

MyDD points out that all of the candidates supported by the left blogosphere either won or made very strong showings. None of them were known before the blogs decided "Hey, let's support this candidate!" None of them were produced by Democratic Party machinery.

DailyKos posts picture of Majority Senate Leader Harry Reid amd House Majority Leader (Soon to be Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi!!


And keep in mind...

Tony Snow being interviewed by Rush Limbaugh: Americans don't like the Iraq War because "what they constantly get on television and newspapers is a failure narrative. They hear body counts, they don't hear about successes" whereas "the war is more popular in Iraq than it is in the United States because the Iraqis actually get to see the Americans in action."

Interestingly though,

_Almost four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents.

_About 61 percent approved of the attacks _ up from 47 percent in January. A solid majority of Shiite and Sunni Arabs approved of the attacks, according to the poll. The increase came mostly among Shiite Iraqis.


The State Department, meanwhile, has also conducted its own poll, something it does periodically, spokesman Sean McCormack said. The State Department poll found that two-thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad favor an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to The Washington Post. McCormack declined to discuss details of the department's Iraq poll.

Being an American, I of course think the troops are doing the best they can, but Iraqis do NOT see US troops as "liberators," do NOT see them as even reducing or holding back the violence they deal with every day. US troops are seen as provoking violence, not keeping a lid on it.

It's time for a change.


Twas the Night Before Midterms...

Hilarious poem, done to the rhythm of "T'was the Night before Christmas"

Snappy, fun tune you can hum to yourself as you vote the bad guys out of office tomorrow

Serious stuff about robocalls and how Republicans are AGAIN trying to steal the election

Editorial by NY Times columnist Paul Krugman

President Bush isn’t on the ballot tomorrow. But this election is, nonetheless, all about him. The question is whether voters will pry his fingers loose from at least some of the levers of power, thereby limiting the damage he can inflict in his two remaining years in office.

There are still some people urging Mr. Bush to change course. For example, a scathing editorial published today by The Military Times, which calls on Mr. Bush to fire Donald Rumsfeld, declares that “this is not about the midterm elections.” But the editorial’s authors surely know better than that. Mr. Bush won’t fire Mr. Rumsfeld; he won’t change strategy in Iraq; he won’t change course at all, unless Congress forces him to.

At this point, nobody should have any illusions about Mr. Bush’s character. To put it bluntly, he’s an insecure bully who believes that owning up to a mistake, any mistake, would undermine his manhood — and who therefore lives in a dream world in which all of his policies are succeeding and all of his officials are doing a heckuva job. Just last week he declared himself “pleased with the progress we’re making” in Iraq.

In other words, he’s the sort of man who should never have been put in a position of authority, let alone been given the kind of unquestioned power, free from normal checks and balances, that he was granted after 9/11. But he was, alas, given that power, as well as a prolonged free ride from much of the news media.

The results have been predictably disastrous. The nightmare in Iraq is only part of the story. In time, the degradation of the federal government by rampant cronyism — almost every part of the executive branch I know anything about, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been FEMAfied — may come to be seen as an equally serious blow to America’s future.

And it should be a matter of intense national shame that Mr. Bush has quietly abandoned his fine promises to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.


Getting those extra 100,000 bodies into the Army

I've commented on this before, but it's worth repeating. The DLC, Joe Lieberman and John McCain have all claimed that the US can add 100,000 bodies to the Army, no problem, no fuss, no difficulty. If that's the case, why are recruiters going to such lengths to sign up troops?!?!?!
Prospective soldiers are being told that:

"Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?" one student asks a recruiter.

"No, we're bringing people back," he replies.

"We're not at war. War ended a long time ago," another recruiter says.


One Colorado student taped a recruiting session posing as a drug-addicted dropout.

"You mean I'm not going to get in trouble?" the student asked.

The recruiters told him no, and helped him cheat to sign up.

Recruiters are desperate to sign people up because there's a severe shortage of new bodies to fill billets and there's very little in the way of sensible reasons to go over there, regardless of how patriotic folks may be. The question for the DLC, Lieberman and McCain then is WHERE are these extra 100,000 bodies going to come from?


Fundamental problem with reading comprehension

Compare these statements from Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and "senior terrorist leaders."

"If we leave Iraq, then the insurgents will leave Iraq, the terrorists will leave Iraq."

"The jihadists (are) in Iraq. But that doesn't mean we stay there. They'll stay there as long as we're there."

And now for the other side:

"WND read Pelosi's remarks to the terror leaders, who unanimously rejected her contention an American withdrawal would end the insurgency."

Note: Pelosi did not claim that all violence in Iraq would end upon American withdrawal. She claimed that there were jihadists in Iraq who were there only because Americans were there. Once Americans leave, so will the jihadists. The great majority of the violence in Iraq is against the American occupation of Iraq. Once that ends, so will most of the violence. That's not to say everything there becomes peaceful, it means that a big problems gets measurably smaller. I have zero problems with bad guys making statements that serve their own interests (As al Qaeda and other groups have gained in strength and popularity, of course they would want to convince Americans to "stay the course.") but there's no reason for American news services to blatantly misread what the bad guys are saying in order to prop up Republicans.


Fair vs balanced

Back when I was stationed in the South, a shipmate (co-worker) of mine invited me to see a Christmas play at his church. I knew this guy was a serious, hard-core Southern Baptist, but said "Sure." After the play, we stopped off for some ice cream. My shipmate told the servers that he and I had just seen this play. They asked him what his religion was. His answer infuriated me. "Oh no, I'm just a Christian."
No particular denomination.
I kept quiet, but it rankled me. Here was a fellow with very strong, specific viewpoints on religion and he was presenting himself as "just" a vague, general, nondenominational Christian. I have zero difficulties presenting myself as what I am, a Congregationalist Protestant who goes to a Methodist church because there are no Congregational churches in the area and this church is a member of the UCC. So this passage immediately raised my hackles:

HH: Before we press on to the specifics, we’ve got to get our plumb lines down, Mark Halperin. We’ve got to locate you on the political map somewhere, so the people will know how to adjust for the lie of the green. Did you vote for Kerry or Bush last time around?

MH: I believe that if you are a reporter covering politics, in America today, certainly, and probably I’d have the same view in the past, I think it’s important to try to restore credibility to the media, what we call the old media. And that requires doing what…the metaphor I used to use was we’ve got to be like Catholic priests and give up sex. But that metaphor’s lost some of its currency. We have to step away from politics. We can’t have political views. So I don’t discuss my political views. I don’t discuss…I will say, somewhat controversial in the minds of some, I don’t vote, because I think that just opens up the question of how can I say I’m being objective, and fighting for truth, if I’m making a decision about who to vote for in a presidential race.

Uh-huh. No viewpoints at all. Totally neutral. Ri-i-i-ight! Not only that, he thinks several thousand reporters around the country can be the same way. Su-u-u-re! I read this passage and the needle on my BS detector immediately swung into the red. Sure enough, it seems this guy edits The Note, an online "tip sheet" that alerts reporters to important stories. Eric Boehlert's book Lapdogs has a whole chapter on The Note where he demonstrates that it's a hard-line right-wing journal that fawns over Karl Rove and considers President Bush as little less than a denizen of Olympus come down to Earth. They provide links to stories that make Republicans look good and do their best to ignore stories that either compliment the Democrats or otherwise make Republicans look bad.
My view on reporters and objectivity can be summarized via those famous terms "fair & balanced." "Fairness" is quite possible to obtain and very desirable. If a conservative (I.e., on the other side of the political aisle from me) presents a decent argument, it should be presented to one's readers in a fair manner. It's improper to twist or distort the argument by leaving out crucial facts or leaving the context unfilled-in.
"Balance?" Not so much. I can't see that as being seriously important either in TV time or in newspaper column-inches. All too often, reporters nowadays take it to mean that both sides must be presented as equally guilty or innocent. Back during a period in the Abramoff scandal, reporters appeared almost desperate to find something, anything they could use to drag the Democrats into the story. Problem is, both sides are NOT always equally guilty or innocent and it's a serious distortion of reality to suggest that they are. Frequently, Democrats end up getting splattered with Republican mud for no better reason than for the particular media outlet to have a balanced story.

While writing this, my group had a meeting with the Editor & Executive Vice-President of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Amanda Bennett. In the middle of our lengthy discussion, she claimed that what is on the blogs "isn't news" i.e., one doesn't go to the blogs to find out what's going on in one's local area or in the world generally. One desires a broader, more general view than what blogs can provide. I replied that yes, blogs are usually written by a single individual or by a small group and most of the writing on them tends towards the editorializing and tends not to involve breaking news or other original material. But there is indeed some real "news." There are a few blogs written by people who can do serious, on-the-spot reporting or who are at least close enough to the event and generally knowledgeable enough that when these writers tell you something, it's worth taking seriously.
The primary reason that I would like to see a closer relationship between the blogs and "the news" would be to plug a major hole that's developed in this country's major media. The major news organizations were vulnerable to the tactics of Senator Joe McCarthy back in the 1950s and President Bush has proven absolutely and beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt that they still are. As I suggest above, the major media are afraid to be seen as too judgmental. They're wary of being seen as having taken a hard and fast position on anything, of being seen as biased. If the President uses a "straw man" argument ("President George Bush gave a speech today which included a line that it is foolish to try to negotiate with al qaeda. Well…duh."), the major media (I can't immediately think of any times when the Inquirer has been guilty of this.) doesn't seem to have any idea how to handle it. The following is a depressingly familiar refrain from Media Matters (And FAIR and other liberal media analysis websites): "ABC, CNN, and CNBC -- uncritically reported President Bush's false claim that..." (Emphasis added).
The major news organizations do a perfectly acceptable job when the subject is nonpolitical or noncontroversial. If there's any real or serious controversy, they adopt the "balanced" position of the ol' "he said, she said" formula. This formula has proven itself to be grossly inadequate to handling the continual lies and distortions that the Bush Administration engages in.
My suggestion: Let the blogs run interference for you! Let us take the slings and arrows that the critics toss at you. If you feel that a Democrat or a lefty has made a point that your research people have certified is inaccurate, quote a right-wing blog that says so. We bloggers will be happy to be the "she" in the "he said, she said" story. Naturally, you wouldn't use any statements that you aren't completely certain about, but we'll be happy to supply the quote that says "Senator Rick Santorum lied today when he claimed that..." and statements like that. Is there a better way o handle dishonesty from politicians? Back in the 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy found that if he made an accusation, it was featured on page one of the next day's paper. Eventually, there would be a correction, but it would be relegated off to a small piece on page seven. In time, the truth caught up with him, but not before countless lives were cruelly destroyed and the public had turned against him. Since then, the major media has not successfully come up with a way to handle the problem.
As I said, I can't think of any examples offhand where the Inquirer has done this, but the "balance" problem is, I think, a very major reason that the major media is losing market share. It's losing credibility because it hasn't come up with a way to handle lies from politicians.