Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More blurring between mainstream and blogstream

From today's WSJ: More on the success of milbloggers

Wall Street JournalJuly 26, 2006 Pg. B1

Cry Bias, And Let Slip The Blogs Of War
By Mike Spector

J.P. Borda started a Web log during his 2004 National Guard deployment in Afghanistan to keep in touch with his family. But when he got home, he decided it was the mainstream media that was out of touch with the war.
"You hear so much about what's going wrong," he says. "It gets hard to hear after a while when there's so much good going on."
Mr. Borda, a specialist, read other soldiers' blogs and found he wasn't alone. Hundreds of other troops and veterans were blogging world-wide, and many focused on a common enemy: journalists.
The 31-year-old software analyst, who now lives in Dallas, wanted to make it easier for people to read soldiers' accounts. So he started a Web site,, to organize as many blogs as possible by country, military branch and subject matter. Today, the site links to more than 1,400 military blogs world-wide and was recently purchased for an undisclosed amount by, a Web site catering to soldiers that is owned by Monster Worldwide Inc.
Now, Mr. Borda finds himself at the center of a growing blogging movement. Military bloggers, or "milbloggers" as they call themselves, contend that they are uniquely qualified to comment on events in armed conflicts. Many milbloggers also argue that the mainstream media tends to overplay negative stories and play down positive military developments. For many of these blogs, says Mr. Borda, "the sole purpose is to counteract the media."
There have always been at least some soldiers who have wanted to go to battle against Big Media. Some in the military blamed coverage of the Vietnam War for turning American public opinion against it. What's changed? The Internet now allows frustrated soldiers and veterans to voice their opinions and be heard instantly and globally.
The backlash takes many forms. Some bloggers point out what they see as inaccuracies and post lengthy critiques of current reporting. Others post their own stories. Some simply sling arrows.
Matthew Burden, an Army veteran, started his blog, "Blackfive," in December 2003 after he learned that an Army buddy, Maj. Mathew Schram, had been killed in an ambush near the Iraq-Syria border. Mr. Burden, 39, felt his friend received short shrift in media coverage and decided to blog about military stories he felt weren't getting the attention they deserved.
"Does Abu Ghraib need to be told 40 times above the fold in the New York Times when half your readers couldn't name the guy who won the Medal of Honor?" Mr. Burden says.
Michael Yon, a 42-year-old Army Special Forces veteran, is perhaps the most attention-grabbing blogger, with appearances on MSNBC and CNN. In December 2004, he embedded himself with troops in Iraq and posted dispatches online for the next several months.
Most of Mr. Yon's writings related heroic acts by American troops and Iraqis. Mr. Yon also praises some media coverage of Iraq. But in an interview, he says many reporters "haven't stayed long enough to see what's going on. Most of the reporting is not deep enough." According to Mr. Yon, Iraqis are determined to fight insurgents and embrace a new government, a storyline he says he doesn't see in mainstream news coverage.
Not all milblogs wave the flag. Some have drawn attention for posts that irk the chain of command. Jason Hartley, a National Guardsman from New Paltz, N.Y., caught flak for posting comments on his blog, "" that he said were satirical. Mr. Hartley, who served in Iraq, wrote that he loved dead civilians and wished he could shoot children. He claimed the comments were meant to highlight what he sees as the military's nonchalant attitude toward civilian casualties, but his superiors weren't amused. Mr. Hartley was eventually demoted to specialist from sergeant, and his commander, Capt. Vincent Heintz, wrote in a sworn statement that the blog "disparaged the Army in a manner unbecoming of an NCO (non-commissioned officer)."
Mr. Hartley says the military displayed "a neo-conservative, knee-jerk reaction" to his blog. "I'm a bleeding heart liberal in the guise of a soldier, and sometimes it comes out in my writing," he says.
Other milblogs are critical of the Bush Administration. An Army blogger in Iraq who calls himself "Godlesskinser," has a clock on his Web site noting how many days, hours, minutes and seconds have passed since President Bush vowed to capture Osama bin Laden.
The Pentagon, taking notice of the impact of such writings, has a committee studying military blogs over the next several months. In the field, the Army has issued formal guidance about blogging, reminding soldiers not to post information that might tip off the enemy. And U.S. Central Command officials in Florida have started contacting bloggers -- military and civilian -- when they come across posts that contain what they view as inaccurate or incomplete information. But overall, military blogs remain independent, with little organized oversight.
Military blogs receive a fraction of the hits generated by mainstream news Web sites. Mr. Burden's site, for example, receives about 210,000 unique visitors per month, he says. In comparison, Nielsen/Netratings data shows got 24 million unique visitors last month.
But milbloggers, who only began online postings in earnest within the past three years, have become increasingly energized and organized in their efforts to counteract existing media coverage. In April, bloggers convened in Washington, D.C. for the first ever milblogging convention.
The frustration of milbloggers is understandable, says Alex S. Jones, a former New York Times reporter who heads the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. But he adds, "If the overall picture is one of continued violence and a significant lack of stability in many parts of Iraq, the individual shards of good news could be more of a distortion than a reflection of the truth."
When launched in October, Mr. Borda stayed up until 5 a.m. on some nights maintaining the site. He says he sleeps more now, but his wife still has to tear him away sometimes for family events with their two sons, ages 5 and three months. "It's different," Angelica Borda, 26, says of her husband's passion, but "I'm used to it now."
Mr. Borda receives an undisclosed monthly stipend to maintain the blog (he signed a nondisclosure agreement with He's currently working with to attract advertisers. The site's most notable paid advertisement so far is from a group called the Iraqi Truth Project, which has made a documentary that it says "exposes the atrocities committed by the former Iraq dictator."
In the mornings and evenings, Mr. Borda scours the Net for new blogs to add to his site and responds to emails from bloggers, fans and critics. He also interviews milbloggers and posts the transcripts in a feature called "Milblogger of the Week." Mr. Borda had collected just 50 blogs when he started Today, that number has increased nearly 30-fold, and Mr. Borda believes there are thousands more blogs out there.
Mr. Borda says he isn't able to fact-check the bloggers he publishes, or to verify their identities beyond using common sense. "I do a sanity-check of the milblog, making sure it deals primarily with a military subject matter, and I also rely on readers to let me know," he says. "That said, no matter how much research you do it's unlikely you could ever verify without a shadow of a doubt that any blogger is 100% legit."
What's the future of military blogs? Mr. Borda would like to see milbloggers get their own TV shows or have their entries printed in major newspapers. The goal, he says, is to "continually be blurring that line between the media and blogging."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I'm not dead yet!

Quick update: we're back in the land of the Morning Calm. Change of command went great, we're getting housing fairly quickly. The family's happy. I'll post some picutres as soon as I to in-process finance, yay!


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fair and Balanced?

Today the Baltimore Sun had this editorial concerning Media coverage of our men and women in uniform. Opinions aside, it has some interesting statistics in it as well. Of course, with Thomas Sowell, the opinions aren't bad either.


Baltimore Sun
July 13, 2006

Media Mistreat American Troops

By Thomas Sowell

The same newspapers and television news programs that are constantly reminding us that some people under indictment "are innocent until proved guilty" are nevertheless hyping the story of American troops accused of rape in Iraq, day in and day out, even though these troops have yet to be proved guilty of anything.

What about all the civilian rapes that are charged - and even proved - in the United States? None of them gets this 24/7 coverage in the mainstream media.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated example of media hype of unproven charges against U.S. troops.

While military action was still raging in the early days of the Iraq war, there was media condemnation of our troops for not adequately protecting an Iraqi museum from which various items were missing. When the smoke of battle cleared, it turned out that museum staff had hidden these items for safekeeping during the fighting.

Then there was the incident in which a Marine shot a terrorist who was pretending to be asleep, and the media turned that into a big scandal until an investigation revealed how this trick and others used by terrorists had cost the lives of American troops in Iraq.

None of the beheadings of innocent hostages taken by terrorists in Iraq - and videotaped for distribution throughout the Middle East - has aroused half the outrage in the mainstream media as have unsubstantiated charges made by terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo.

Nor have most of the media become any more skeptical about charges made by these cutthroats in Guantanamo after the claim that copies of the Quran had been flushed down the toilet at that prison turned out to be a lie. The idea of trying to flush any book down a toilet ought to have raised suspicions, but much of the media treat statements by terrorists and their supporters as true and any denials of wrongdoing by U.S. troops as false and a "cover-up."

These are the same liberal media people who claim to be "honoring our troops" when they hype every casualty and make a big production of each landmark death, such as the 1,000th American killed in Iraq, and then the 2,000th.

The multiple-page spread in The New York Times and similarly elaborate coverage of these landmark deaths on liberal television programs show that they had been preparing for these particular deaths for some time. They may well be disappointed if we don't reach the 3,000th American death, since the terrorists have shifted their attacks and now target primarily Iraqi civilians.

We all need to understand the fraudulence of the claim that these media liberals who have been against the military for decades and who have missed no opportunity to smear the military in Iraq are now in the forefront of "honoring" our troops by rubbing our noses in their deaths, day in and day out.

Troops who have won medals for bravery in battle - including one private who won a Medal of Honor at the cost of his life - go unmentioned in most of the mainstream media that are focused on our troops as casualties that they can exploit.

A recent study by the Media Research Center found that the three big broadcast news networks, CBS, ABC and NBC, ran 99 stories, adding up to 3 1/2 hours, about the investigation of charges against Marines in the deaths of Iraqi civilians in Haditha last November.

These remain unproven charges in a country where people on the side of the terrorists include civilian women and children who set off bombs to kill American troops and who lie to discredit those they do not kill.

But the same networks that lavished 3 1/2 hours of coverage on these unproven charges gave less than one hour of coverage to all the American troops who have won medals for bravery under fire.

Every newspaper and every television commentator has a right to criticize any aspect of the war in Iraq or anywhere else. But when they claim to be reporting the news, that does not mean filtering out whatever goes against their editorial views and hyping unsubstantiated claims that discredit the troops.

Those troops deserve the presumption of innocence at least as much as anyone else.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His syndicated column appears Thursdays in the Sun.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Moving across country

Well, here's some pictures of us getting started out of Fort Hamilton. Nothing like a PCS move to show you who your friends really are. First, my younger daughter had to say goodbye to her FIAO league teammates (Federation of Italian American Orgs). A few of them got together for a saturday practice (the threat of rain kept most away) and they gave her a special plaque because she was the only kid who wouldn't be returning next year. It's funny how we take all this moving around for granted. Apparently there are people in the world who live in the same exact place for several years at a time...strange but true.

Then it was time to get the quarters cleaned. The good news this time was that they are renovating our quarters so we didn't actually have to clean anything beyond the appliances. NOTE: Char-Broil brand grill cleaner works like nothing else I've ever tried, clorox, simple green, anything. It even works on enameled appliances. So that was one of the best clearings we ever had from quarters.

Then it was time to pack the truck...Our German Shepherd had spend a night in the empty quarters by herself, convinced that we were abandoning her (and us learning an important lesson for next move). So she staked out her territory early once she saw the truck and the suitcases.

Finally we got our gypsy caravan ready to move.

Everybody was pretty good during the trip...even me. We managed to avoid the rain and still make it the 14 hours back to Indiana...Man, I don't like those long drives. We even managed to miss most of the rain. Except here, when we stopped at Breezewood, PA. This has got to be one of the biggest truck/rest stops EVER. My wife and I realized that we've been coming through Breezewood for 12 years now...and we ALWAYS get ice creams at this McD's....

That's one of the things I love about the military...tradition.

Anyway, that's all for now.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

The real Korean threat

Well, things are heating up in Korea. The response from the locals to a commander who's apparently trying to make a difference has gotten personal. About 300 merchants held a gathering to demand the Area III commander's resignation. Stripes covers it here. The Area III Commander met with local officials to map out the way ahead. Area III also amended their Web site to reflect the correct curfew hours (showing that people are checking out what we put on the web).

Hat tips to USFK forums, GI in Korea, and Lost Nomad for all this. GI thinks we're headed down the wrong road. Lost Nomad has some pics and a lot of comments on his entry.

Here's what I've cross-posted on their comments.

Personally, my hat's off to the folks in Area III for trying to make a difference and not just throwing their hands up in the air and saying, "Oh well, that's Korea for you."

Okay, all the "truth in advertising" information up front:
I'm an Army Lt. Col. who's getting ready to come back to Korea this month. I just left LAST summer after a year with 2ID as the Public Affairs Officer. I've got 20 years in including a few years as an enlisted guy...I'm what some people used to call a "mustang" (enlisted, then commissioned). I've never been to Humphreys, but I can't imagine it's too different than Casey. I've been to Yongsan several times (my family lived there while I was at Red Cloud), and I will live there this time.

I agree with some of the stuff so far and disagree with some of the other.

Everything that follows is completely my own opinion.

Agree: "biggest supporters....NOT" Only as long as we have money and are spending it in their bars. Korean business people are like business people around the world: they support themselves first and foremost. If our interests coincide, great ... if not, we're gonna' march because the Man is keeping us down.

Agree: Not much is going to change until local governments take actions that have a permanent and lasting effect on these businesses. Yes, we can put places permanently off limits, but it's very hard to keep the same business from opening in the same spot under a different name, with the cousin's name on the ownership papers. Put the building off limits you say? Then we have the exact opposite problem when a new and legitimate owner comes in.

The best idea I have heard here: Putting breathalyzers at the gate upon return. If you're not 21, you take the test. Of course, the MPs aren't going to be happy about the personnel requirements... maybe random checks are the answer. Who knows? But if we decide the problem is that underage servicemembers are drinking, our actions should be directed right at the servicemembers themselves.

Disagree: "this can't be about underage drinking". Yes, it can...and hopefully it has a chilling effect on drinking as a whole. Why? Drinking is the main contributor in the vast majority of sexual assaults no matter whether men or women are the victim.

"Why can Joe defend his country at 18 but can't have a nice quite drink at 20?" Because Joe doesn't have a nice, quiet drink, that's why. Joe gets shitfaced and has his way with Susan, who's 19 and shitfaced as well. Then Susan wakes up and realizes that Joe promised to watch her back and make sure she got home, and then turned into a complete jackass.

Yeah, the fact is that we'd love to treat everyone over the age of 17 like a real adult. Unfortunately, they don't act like it. Yes, it's a few that ruin it for the many, but if I'm in charge of Soldiers, I'm not going out of my way to risk a rape or sexual assault just because "it's only a few soldiers out of a hundred".

Try explaining that to Susan's mom. "Well, ma'am, I could have tried to do something about it. Yes ma'am, I understand that I'm a leader, but you have to understand that your daughter's technically an adult. She just made bad choices is all."

Still, maybe the breathalyzer at the gate's the way to go.

Disagree: We have no right to tell Korean businesses what to do. Sorry, this argument is a complete red herring to draw off attention from the real issue. This isn't about businesses, this is about KSTA membership. Remember, KSTA membership is voluntary ... and includes TAX BENEFITS. The downside is that you agree to do certain things you normally wouldn't. KSTA membership is why you don't see Koreans in those same bars. Any bar at any time can decide that they don't want to be a member of KSTA and they don't have to abide by the rules. I wonder why they don't do that...hmmmm??

(Note: this is why it's absolutely critical for commands AND locals to work together to sort this kind of stuff out.)

This is also why many other hotels, bars, etc. aren't "off limits". They aren't KSTA members to begin with. So yes, GIs can go there and drink instead. So why don't they?

1- generally farther than Itaewon (or name your ville).
2- generally nicer places that won't tolerate as much crap.
3- no military police to pull your ass out of the fire when they decide they've had enough of your crap.
4- fewer people that speak English maybe? I don't know about this one.

Anyway, that's probably enough for now. Attack the ideas and I'm happy to respond. Attack the person and don't be surprised when you're ignored. I'd be happy to hear any other great ideas about actually solving the problem.

We'll see what happens.