Foley Scandal A 'Perfect Blogstorm'

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla.
AP (file)
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It doesn't seem like the story about former Congressman Mark Foley's resignation is going away anytime soon in the blogosphere. It's been one of the most blogged stories since the scandal broke. Plus, a new site is the online equivalent of the "nanny cam," and attracting watchful bloggers. And guess how many people are blogging in China? Find out below.



Paging Mr. Foley

Former Congressman Mark Foley's electronic indiscretions with a congressional page is a story that isn't going away any time soon, especially with mid-term elections on the horizon. "Foley" has been one of the most searched terms in the blogosphere since the scandal broke last week.

Pajamas Media described the scandal, aptly, as "The Perfect Blogstorm," referring to the combination of IM chats, a Republican, and mid-term elections that's likely to send bloggers to their keyboards. Perhaps further igniting the blogosphere is that Foley's alleged IM conversations were first posted on Sept. 24 by a fellow blogger at Stop Sex Predators.

Some of the reaction from bloggers has fallen along political lines, but many bloggers of all political stripes were angry about Foley's apparent actions, and at his fellow representatives who may have known about them before they became public.

Think Progress posted a timeline of "The Foley Coverup." And other liberal bloggers, like Matt Stoller, said Foley's behavior was typical of Republican hypocrisy. "The religious right isn't religious, it is politically authoritarian. It is a movement of morally and ethically corrupted individuals who refuse to tell the difference between right and wrong," Stoller at My DD writes.

Some Republicans were also outraged at what they perceived to be a potential cover-up. "New slogan for Republican Party: Compromise when it counts!." Kevin Mark Smith writes at Right-Wing Agenda. "Just as I would never vote for a staunch pro-choice Republican presidential candidate, nor would I vote for someone who says he believes in family values while violating the trust placed in him by parents of 16-year old pages by luring them into engaging in affairs."

A blogger at Dabroots of the Cosmos was angry at reports that Rep. John Shimkus may have not dealt with Foley when the problem was first brought to his attention. "Shimkus' reaction to learning of it is comparable to a high school principal learning of a teacher's behavior of this sort and basically doing nothing about it. All of it is shameful," the blogger writes.

Some bloggers are just fed up with politicians. The worst thing about this scandal is that it's the second time our politicians have been caught using the page program as a jailbait dating service," Rogers Cadenhead writes at Workbench. "Members of Congress should register with the local sheriff's department when they move and be prohibited from living within 500 yards of a school or day care center."


Looking For A Raise?

People are always curious to find out what their friends or colleagues earn, but when a site showing the salaries of the 20,000 Capitol Hill employees went live, so many people rushed to look at it, that the site had to be taken down temporarily.

Staff salaries are public information, but previously available only in clunky books in the House and Senate clerks offices. Sure you may be curious to see if what the guy in the next cubicle earns, but who really has the time to cull through endless lists? The site, Legistorm, was founded by a former reporter for The Hill newspaper, and makes the process for the nosy much easier.

So, what does it show? Perhaps useful information if you're negotiating a raise, the Washington Post reports that the Legistorm data reveals that about 200 Senate staffers earn $150,000 per year, and most employees seem to make about $50,000 to $60,000 per year. Many paid interns -- which Hill aides often start their careers as -- take home barely $200 per month.

Now if only the data accounted for wages lost as staffers spent time looking into their colleagues' salaries.

One blogger says the salaries only tell half the picture. "Add to the base salary the incredible perks that are enjoyed by all employed on the Hill from the highest leadership office to the maintenance staff," a blogger at Philips Guide to North Carolina writes. "These include extraordinary health and life insurance benefits (better I am sure than most of us enjoy), generous bonuses, pensions, and a whole range of special discounts and freebies that go underreported and are often highly unethical, even if they may be legal."

Some bloggers think the numbers raise more questions than they answer. "Why does the Senate Shoe Shine Attendant make more than all of the women who work in the House Child Care Center. And don't even compare them to Senate's Chief Barber/Stylist who makes $67k a year," a blogger at X-Tra Rant writes.

Nosiness aside, political motivations sparked some bloggers to look up the salaries of staffers in specific offices, like Sen. Hillary Clinton's office and Sen. Bill Frist's office.

Others say it's a good way to keep tabs on how your money is being used. "Search in a multitude of ways to find out just how your tax dollars are being spent!," Stephen at Cogitations writes.

The Project on Government Oversight's blog says it brings "more transparency to Congress," but some bloggers are not so sure all that data floating around is a good thing. "I love it when we shine transparency on the legislative process but I have to admit even I was a bit uncomfortable with the new site Legistorm making Legislative Staff salaries public for the first time on the Internet," J. Thomas at Right Side Redux writes.

Whether the data actually ends up being used for meaningful analysis remains to be seen. But in the meantime, Wonkette jokes that Legistorm promises to "revolutionize who-buys-who beers at Hill happy hours."


Nannygate

If you've ever wanted to tattle tale on a babysitter or nanny you see neglecting a child in their care, there's a new forum for you: IsawYourNanny.blogspot.com. The site solicits anonymous sightings of nannys not acting appropriately. It's the online equivalent of the Nanny Cam.

Witnesses to bad nanny behavior write in about everything, from a nanny chatting at the playground, to one throwing a child's afterschool snacks in the garbage, to another caught drinking the family's scotch. "She puts on huge headphones blaring music and stares into space while Jaden wanders around the park alone" is a typical sort of entry. In the comments area, people debate whether the nanny was acting within reason, or whether the parents are reasonable.

But it's not all bad news. Some people write in with praise for a nanny. Kelly in New York, for example, wrote in to describe a nanny whose "caring and patience shines through each and every time I happen to see them out there."

At least one nanny says some of the posting are exaggerated and makes her feel that Big Brother is watching. "Without going to the archives I counted 7 postings that all involved the, apparently shocking, offense of drinking while caring for children, and yes, that's drinking coffee!!," Nanny in NYC writes.

Some bloggers are concerned the site will do more harm than good. "The purported aim is to help mothers know when nannies are behaving badly behind their backs," Mir writes at Blogher. "But what's to stop someone from sending in a false report for their own purposes? What's to stop someone from reading an entry about someone else and thinking it's her nanny being discussed?"

Liz Henry is also concerned, adding that there are racist overtones to some of the posts. "It is not just the fact that (at least around here) the tattletales are always white women, reporting on Hispanic babysitters who have white children in their care. It is that what the white park moms see to tattle on, is filtered by their own racism. And classism," Henry writes.

After reading through the blog, some parents are simply happy they don't need a nanny. "This all makes me appreciate the time I have with my kids," KchristieH writes.


Welcome Chinese Bloggers

China's state media announced last week that the number of blogs in the country reached 34 million in August, a 30-fold increase from four years ago. China has over 17 million people writing blogs, and more than 75 million people reading them, Xinhua news agency said.

Not surprisingly, since the government tries to curb media and political dissent, most blogs deal with pop culture, travel, family matters and other nonpolitical subjects. The China Internet Network Information Center notes that at the current rate of growth, the number of active blogs in China will most likely exceed 10 million by the end of the year.

But Mike Yamamota, executive editor of CNet News.com, says the sheer number of blogs shouldn't be mistaken for the degree of press freedom in the country. "The lightning-fast expansion of China's sector of the blogosphere…can hardly be interpreted as a reflection of commensurate growth in free speech," he writes at BlogMa.

Afterall, the "Great Firewall of China" is well-known among bloggers across the globe. The firewall inspects Web traffic for certain keywords the Chinese government wants to censor, including political ideologies and groups it finds unacceptable. You can read China's Internet restrictons here.

Nevertheless, some Chinese bloggers have been able to get their views out. "Censorship in China is a major hurdle for anyone who would speak out against the Communist Party. But despite the many trials Chinese bloggers face they are pretty good at it," Braineel writes at Sewers of Babel.

And Gareth Powell says the act of blogging in China may be political in itself. "The virtue of blogs is not in the reading, it is in the writing. Just writing a blog says, as Descartes would have put it had he the sense, 'I blog, therefore I exist.' And I can write. Sort of," Powell writes at BloggerOff.

The rapid rise of blogs in China has many bloggers just wishing they knew some Chinese.

"Some of the top blogs on the Technorati top 100 are from China, making you wonder, due to their massive amount of people, if the language of blogging will shift towards Chinese languages. Could we see blogging applications written and commented in Chinese in a few years?," David at Blogging Pro writes. "I need to learn mandarin or something."

A blogger at Magic Smoke agrees. "It drives me nuts that I can't speak Chinese and figure this out for myself. There's a whole culture evolving and exploding over there, and we've got no easy way to access it," he writes.

Stay tuned. Perhaps these issues will all be debated at the Chinese Bloggers conference in October in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.


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By Melissa McNamara