With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by CBSNews.com's Melissa P. McNamara.
A book that says Barry Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs to boost his homerun totals has bloggers striking out against the San Francisco Giants' slugger. Plus, a former high-profile White House aid caught shoplifting ... 25 times? Find out what bloggers have to say about it.
Bloggers Put Bonds In Dugout
An excerpt in Sports Illustrated from the book "Game of Shadows," which details Barry Bonds' alleged extensive doping regimen, had many blogging baseball fans angry, and taking to their keyboards. The book, written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, alleges that the San Francisco slugger used a vast array of , including steroids and human growth hormone, for at least five seasons beginning in 1998.
Since this isn't the first time allegations of Bonds' steroids use have been raised, many bloggers questioned whether Major League Baseball was simply choosing to look the other way. As Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute writes, "Bonds was voted the National League Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers Association of America a record-smashing four straight times, from 2001 to 2004. My (rhetorical) question -were they utterly in the dark about allegations of his steroid use? Or, if his steroid use was so outrageous, why did they keep voting him the MVP award? Which was it, ignorance or indifference? And can these awards be rescinded?"
But other bloggers blame Bonds alone, if the claims are true. "Think about this; He has knowingly cheated, yet would not have any problem holding the most prestigious record in baseball, one that will surely not be broken for a long time (this will be the only thing that will cause me to root for Alex Rodriguez)," Obstructed Seats writes.
"I don't care one way or another about Bonds' steroid use, but I do care about his denial of everything," Black Marks On Wood Pulp writes. "Yes, it was not against the rules when he juiced. No, he's never tested positive for steroids. Yes, this book seems to throw some undeniable evidence at Bonds."
But wait, Bonds is innocent until proven guilty, Jeremiah Graves says. "To this day Bonds has yet to fail a drug test," Graves writes on Baseball Bloggers. "Bonds has yet to be caught knowingly using any banned substances and most importantly Bonds has done nothing but draw interest in the game of baseball. Admit it -- love him or hate him -- you're going to be interested in whether he breaks Ruth and Aaron's records. Anyone who says no is not a true baseball fan."
Whether the claims are proven true or not, the book surely casts more doubt on America's favorite pastime. As DarkStar laments, "Cheating is time honored in baseball."
Bush Aide Takes A Fall
It's not often a White House policy adviser makes her or his way to the top of the blogosphere. But when the former domestic policy adviser to the president is charged with theft for an alleged refund scheme, bloggers are sure to be buzzing.
Claude Allen, 45, was arrested Thursday by police in Montgomery County, Md., for allegedly claiming refunds for more than $5,000 worth of merchandise he did not buy, according to county and federal authorities. He had been under investigation since at least January for alleged thefts on 25 (yes, 25) occasions at Target and Hecht's stores.
Allen, who had been the No. 2 official at the Health and Human Services Department, was named as domestic policy adviser at the White House in early 2005. He resigned abruptly on Feb. 9, saying he wanted to "spend more time with his family." This new arrest may cause some to doubt this age-old Washington catch phrase.
While many bloggers, and President Bush for that matter, simply found the story surprising and sad, liberal bloggers lent a partisan angle.
Judy Sohn at A View from Home writes, "He was President's Bush's top domestic policy advisor, earning $161,000 a year. I know how money doesn't go far in DC, but still!! This is what has been advising our administration on domestic policy?!?"
A post on Daily Kos features a top ten list of excuses Allen gave for his actions. Among those making the list are "Was saving up the money to help pay down the federal debt" and "Dick Cheney gave him the authority." And liberal blogger Michael Vocino writes, "Another Republican Swindler…These people are TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL...No ethics, no sense of morality, NO PRINCIPLES."
"If Claude Allen committed the crime, he should pay the penalty," liberal blogger Keith Boykin writes. "But it does strike me as odd that Allen would go to jail for stealing from budget department stores while George Bush and Dick Cheney go free after years of fraud, deceit and deception to the American people."
But Allen does have some sympathizers online, especially among those who knew him well. Josh Trevino, a former speechwriter at HHS who worked under Allen, blogs, "Claude Allen's fall from grace is, for the most part, a DC inside-baseball event affecting none of the great issues of the day, and certainly not life in Peoria… And that's why the left-wing attempts to exploit this incident will come to nothing -- particularly as the White House quite obviously forced him to resign upon learning of his troubles."
China's Fourth Estate
NPR featured an interesting report by Louisa Lim about bloggers in China. According to the report, almost 100 million Chinese are online, and there are about 30 million bloggers in all of China. In fact, more than half of all urban office workers have blogs, Lim says.
While the role of China's political bloggers has received attention by the media, the NPR report is noteworthy for its claim that personal blogs are revolutionary in their own right, transforming fundamentally Chinese culture. The majority of bloggers in China are female, single, in their twenties… and are self-absorbed, blogging mostly about themselves. Blogger Mumu, a Communist Party member, has gained attention for clips of her dancing, and another typical Chinese blogger, Jasmine Gu, proudly says, "It's all about me, myself and my life."
Many Chinese blogs are pushing the boundaries of expression, with young women describing their lives and interests in posts often laced with sarcasm.
For example, one popular Chinese video blog features a clip of two young women lip-synching a song. Another well-known blogger by the name Furong Jiejie posts provocative entries. She describes herself as a super-self lover with "the most sweet face" and has captured the spotlight with her gaudy photos and bold proclamations. But fellow Chinese blogger Eve Shen disagrees. "She has no talent, no outstanding pretty face or sexy body, but so called "braveness," Shen writes. "I don't think it is brave at all. It is purely silly. I wonder if anyone has doubted about if she is simply insane."
The Beijing-based start-up, Bokee.com (the Chinese word for blog) powers some of the blogs and raised at least $10 million in venture capital funding from six U.S. and Chinese firms last year. The blogosphere in China is likely to grow.
But that's not to suggest Chinese bloggers don't face hurdles, and sometimes, even fall prey to hoaxes. Just this week, Global Voices Online reported three renowned Chinese bloggers – Milk Massage, Milkpig (a site focusing only on celebrities and gossip) and Pro State in Flames – were blocked by their blog service providers, not by the government. The first two are hosted on Yculblog and the last is hosted on Sohoxiaobao. Reports said the providers considered the blogs offensive and dangerous. However, as Global Voices now corrects, it appears Milk Massage himself orchestrated the block of Milk Massage and Milkpig as a joke, which angered at least one blogger who called it a "cruel political joke on decent people." Pro State, however, remains blocked.
Meanwhile, some American bloggers are looking to see what happens in China as blogs explode. As Scott Lankford questions on Research Diary, "Could blogs truly provide all this and more: a growing zone where free speech and discussion can flourish (if only because the phenomenon itself is so enormous the government can't control it); a place where expression of one's own individuality is celebrated (egotistical here, revolutionary there); a literary forum where the voices of women, in particular, are not just present in print, but powerfully so."
If you want to read more from Chinese bloggers, check out China Blog List, a collection of links to English language blogs focused on China. Many blogs on the list are written by foreigners in China, but a few are written by Chinese bloggers.
By Melissa McNamara