Friday, December 24, 2004

Democracy Now! and replies to your e-mails

Democracy Now! devotes the full hour to Bill Moyers.

Bill Moyers: "Our Democracy is in Danger of Being Paralyzed"

Bill Moyers has retired from his weekly public affairs show "Now" on PBS. Over the past three decades, he became an icon of American journalism. He recently gave the keynote address before 2,000 people at the first ever National Conference on Media Reform where he warned, "What we're talking about is nothing less than rescuing a democracy that is so polarized it is in danger of being paralyzed and pulverized. Alarming words, I know. But the realities we face should trigger alarms. Free and responsible government by popular consent just can't exist without an informed public."

It's worth listening or to watching but there's no transcript. However, there is a transcript to this speech at Common Dreams (

Courage is a timeless quality and surfaces when the government is tempted to hit the bottle of censorship again during national emergencies, real or manufactured. As so many of you will recall, in 1971, during the Vietnam War, the Nixon administration resurrected the doctrine of “prior restraint” from the crypt and tried to ban the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times and the Washington Post – even though the documents themselves were a classified history of events during four earlier Presidencies. Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of the Times, and Katherine Graham of the Post were both warned by their lawyers that they and their top managers could face criminal prosecution under espionage laws if they printed the material that Daniel Ellsberg had leaked – and, by the way, offered without success to the three major television networks. Or at the least, punitive lawsuits or whatever political reprisals a furious Nixon team could devise. But after internal debates – and the threats of some of their best-known editors to resign rather than fold under pressure – both owners gave the green light – and were vindicated by the Supreme Court. Score a round for democracy.
Bi-partisan fairness requires me to note that the Carter administration, in 1979, tried to prevent the Progressive magazine, published right here in Madison, from running an article called “How to Make an H-Bomb.” The grounds were a supposed threat to “national security.” But Howard Morland had compiled the piece entirely from sources open to the public, mainly to show that much of the classification system was Wizard of Oz smoke and mirrors. The courts again rejected the government’s claim, but it’s noteworthy that the journalism of defiance by that time had retreated to a small left-wing publication like the Progressive.
In all three of those cases, confronted with a clear and present danger of punishment, none of the owners flinched. Can we think of a single executive of today’s big media conglomerates showing the kind of resistance that Sulzberger, Graham, and Erwin Knoll did? Certainly not Michael Eisner. He said he didn’t even want ABC News reporting on its parent company, Disney. Certainly not General Electric/NBC’s Robert Wright. He took Phil Donahue off MNBC because the network didn’t want to offend conservatives with a liberal sensibility during the invasion of Iraq. Instead, NBC brought to its cable channel one Michael Savage whose diatribes on radio had described non-white countries as “turd-world nations” and who characterized gay men and women as part of “the grand plan to cut down on the white race.” I am not sure what it says that the GE/NBC executives calculated that while Donahue was offensive to conservatives, Savage was not.

If you're able to listen or watch because you'll be able to enjoy Moyers' passion; however, if you're unable to watch or listen, please click on the Common Dreams link so that you do not miss the points Moyers raised.

Cedric writes to say, "I'm sorry you were sick this weekend, but are you just taking the whole week off?"

No. In fact, right now there's a blog entry that was posted five hours ago but still isn't showing up on the blog for some reason. I don't know why that is.

Shirley writes in to say there must be heavy traffic again because the blog cuts off midway and you can't even scroll down to the permanent links.

The belated birthday greeting for Jane Fonda was done on the 21st. And didn't post and wouldn't post. I tried repeatedly and started adding "belated" to it on the 22nd. On the 23rd, I was surprised to find it was up.

It's similar to what happened with the "Tony, Tony, Tony" entry. That entry was tried repeatedly and I had honestly given up on it when I was surprised to find it up the next day.

There's a "Kat's Korner" that Kat is working on. It may be completed this evening but as to when the web gods will decide to let it be on the blog, I have no idea.

I do know that we will try to have the year end review completed today. Whether it will post right away is another issue.

A number of you wrote to note that Christmas is not your holiday and wondering whether there would be anything new up on Christmas. That's the intent.

Yes, as Brad noticed, the comments option has finally been removed.

That general attidude was to shut if down so that's what's been done. If you click on the permalink, you can still see comments that were posted already; however, as I understand it, comments are now closed to all.

I know that many of you were upset with two people who kept posting (on only one item as many of you noted) because it appeared they were trying to say, "Okay, now follow us to the right wing." Your impassioned e-mails each time one of the two posted a comment were well written. I noted during this that we wouldn't turn to the right. And we won't. Because it's not me or one reader like Kara, or Keesha, or Ben or any two or three. This is about the community that we have and we can't turn right and we won't turn right. We won't move to the center to make someone more comfortable or to make someone like us more. We're a site that support peace and we support nonviolence. Had we been up during the presidential campaign, we wouldn't have held our tongue regarding the issue of Iraq. We couldn't have because you are vocal and you will be heard here.

I understand not wanting to do public comments. You had to register and that was off putting to many of you. I understand that (and wasn't aware that was the case when the blog was created). In these days of spam and hate mail and with J-Ass still heading the Justice Dept and spying becoming the new porn, I understand not wanting your e-mail address or web page visible to someone who gets angry over your comments.

I know I mention printing up the e-mails and going over them. That's what I pull from. And once they're printed, I delete them to protect your privacy the same way many great libraries around the country are purging their records on book check outs as soon as possible.

You have a right to express yourself and a right to believe that your correspondence is safe. The one thing, though, that bothers me about the closing of the comments is that we won't get to hear from some of the people who shared in the comments. One person shared their opinions of Ron Kirk, another the experience with his own local NPR station. Hopefully, we can still get those stories in e-mails (

The response to "I" and "J"'s poems and to Kat Korner's have been very positive and very large. And the comments section was always seen as the fallback (by me) for those things to be noted when my attention was focused on something bone-headed that the New York Times had done or on something that e-mails were saying "address this."

If there's something pressing to you that did not get mentioned within a week, please e-mail the site again to remind me because it's easy to get distracted by some current event or some blog problem. (I'm trying to practice acceptance regarding the current time lag problems with the blog to avoid getting frustrated the way I repeatedly did Tuesday.)

Andy's "Jesus Is a Liberal" also got a positive response as did "Bullies Without Borders." If you'd like to have something you've written posted remember to watch the language because we're tying to be a blog that makes sure no one gets in trouble due to some work place guidelines on language. And it helps to if it's something we're discussing. But we're happy to post and we're happy to link to something you've written.

We want more voices speaking up, not less. We saw ourselves silenced this week by the Times
[see]. We saw ourselves silenced during the Democratic convention. (And the idea of a "free speech area" is something the party should be ashamed of.) A number of you have written in to say that now the party is attempting to silence pro-choice beliefs. I think you're right to be worried but I also know certain individuals try this every now and then. They went after NOW in the late eighties and that didn't help them ("certain individuals") one bit.

On the subject of NOW, I want to note something that happened a year ago (so it won't be eligible for inclusion/mention in our year's notable events): a New York Times editorial.
Maybe you read it, maybe you heard of it, or maybe this is your first encounter with it.
If so, I'm going to refer you to NOW for more information

Now documents six points that our problematic with the Times editorial. One point though that I feel needs to be made is that in the slap-down of NOW (National Organization for Women) by the Times applied only to Moseley Braun. You never saw anyone else taken to task for endorsing a candidate. Did the unions that endorsed Howard Dean during the primaries get slapped down? No, they did not. Were they told that they were "silly" or that they were detracting from other issues or that they should wait for endorsements? No, they werent.
And when John Kerry won the nomination did the Times then editorialize about the various endorsements that went to Dean, Dennis Kucinnich or anyone else? No.

Only NOW got the slap-down. Where was the common sense on the editorial board? On vacation? We'll have another presidential election cycle and when it comes along, during the primaries, let's watch closely to see who is allowed to endorse and who isn't? Which endorsements lead to frantic editorials from the New York Times and which don't even raise a peep.

[To read the NOW pac endorsement that got the Times editorial board into a tizzy click]

They can hold any opinion they want, the Times editorial board; however, by electing to single out NOW, and only NOW, for their endorsement of a candidate during the primary, the Times appears to think that an organization for women can be bullied and shamed. (NOW didn't back down -- they have a long, proud history of standing strong.) Would the Times have been so patronizing with an organization for men? I don't think so. There were no other editorials telling organizations they were being "silly." Only NOW got that 'special' treatment.

We honored Jane Fonda for her birthday because she has stood strong and remained active. And we need to honor and note others that do the same. NOW has done incredible work and will continue to do so. I'm not asking you to make a donation -- we're all pretty tapped out at this point. But in the next round of additions to permanent links, you'll find one for NOW (probably right after the first of January). What I am asking you to do is to check that link from time to time (when it goes up). If you read something you like and your fortunate enough to have the cash to spare, make a donation. But if you can't do that (and I know many of us can't) you'll still be doing yourself and the organization a "good deed" by checking in with them via the link.

You'll become more informed and that will help you and help them.

After the "red" states series went up, the one constant in the e-mails (the non-hate e-mails) was that you were all tired of hearing from the DNC only when they wanted money and many of you shared lists of things you had done without to donate to an organization or a candidate already.
NOW always needs more members, true. But they, and other organizations -- other worthy organizations -- realize that not everyone can give money. If you can give a little time to check out NOW's web site, even once a month, you will be making a difference.

Go to the site and read information or utilize one of their "Take Action" alerts to voice your protest over an issue or event.

The address for NOW is (that's for NOW itself, not their political action committee) and, again, it will become one of the permanent links in January.

Trevor e-mailed wanting more permanent links "right now." I understand that. But rather than dump a lengthy list onto the page, I'd like to continue adding a few at a time so that, if you choose to go to one of the permanent links, you can familiarize yourself with it.

A lot of people have e-mailed that they were aware of Democracy Now!, for instance, but that since it was one of only two links and now one of six links, they found themselves going to it more often. Three of you are checking out Ms. Musings daily and four of you say the same about Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches. I'm busy and I know most of you are as well so I'd rather move slowly on the links so that when something's up, it means something. We've added The Daily Howler and Naomi Klein's No Logo which brings us to six (seven if you count Google News which I keep meaning to remove -- if comes with this blog package). (If anyone enjoys Google News, please e-mail the site and I'll leave it up.)

Four of you have requested that I provide a link to the New York Times website itself. Considering that there are days when I don't even want to comment on stories, let alone link to them, I'm going to take a pass on that.

For Rob and Dallas, I am working on an entry on Daniel Okrent. I'm doing it in long hand on paper and hope to have it finished soon. (But Rob, you know from before, this can easily get postponed when something comes up -- either something that a reader raises or just time constraints.)

Your response this week [see] have resulted in the blog entry that I'm most proud of personally.
(I also enjoyed reading your comments on Elisabeth Bumiller's Sunday New York Times article which resulted in "When Bully Boy Met Kerik . . .") I think those are our better entries because they are your voices.

I want to comment on Rob's comments from "'No, we don't do that, not us'; 'I cry every night over this American tragedy' -- your responses" ( I felt Rob's concerns were more than worth hearing but I did contact him prior to doing that blog entry to suggest that "The Common Ills exception" (my term) be taken out. His e-mail was quoted in full because it was interesting and it had some issues no one else was raising. Rob wanted that left in. So it was left in. But I'm not sure that a line can be drawn for The Common Ills. Or that one should be drawn. We're focusing on outrages daily just like other sites are. I'm sure that in the entries I do, I overplay it sometime. (Taking the Times to task for silencing a third of the population wasn't one of those times in my opinion.)

You can criticize this site and still get your comments up. (Which Rob knows.) I'd really prefer that we not become self-referential. (We're only linking to ourselves within posts because Shirley pointed out if we're mentioning something people will look and it's easier and more user friendly to provide the link.)

There are two e-mailers who feel the same people are always quoted. They write in everytime a person is quoted. The two never want to be quoted themselves, but they're unhappy that the "same people" are being quoted. (They also write in regarding David Corn, which I'll address later in this blog.)

If you write this site and you don't want to be quoted, you're not going to be quoted with an attribution. If I'm selecting from a number of people who don't mind being quoted, I'm going to be more likely to use one of them than rely on "an e-mailer" or "one e-mailer." I don't think Gore Vidal Is God was born with that name (I could be wrong). S/he has chosen that way to be listed at this site and that's not a problem. But if you're unhappy that the same voices are being quoted and you're not wanting to be quoted by a name (even one you give yourself) then I'm not sure why you're complaining. Short of using a swear word, you can be quoted by whatever name you give yourself.

While I was sick someone posted a comment that I never was able to reply to (either to the person or on the site). We're glad that someone shared but we're not going to link up with some site or organization to self-promote. One reason (selfish) is that I can now almost handle all the e-mails coming in to the site. Another reason is that we've got a dialogue going that's very important. If someone hears about the site and wants to join in, great. But we're not actively seeking out new people.

A number of you (Jim being one example) are trying to get us linked at various sites and commented on. And some of you have had success there and are disappointed that there's been no gushing of "We were just linked at . . .!" If you want to pass on an entry to a friend or to a web site, that's your business. (And it's really nice of you and is appreciated that you enjoy the site so much.) But we existed without testimonials and we'll continue to do so. I see no point in trumpeting "As linked to by . . ." or "As praised by . . ." because we're the story here, we're not pursuing outside validation.

I understand Jim's anger (when someone replied via an e-mail he forwarded that we were "too controversial and not supportive enough of the DNC" because we linked to comments by Medea Benjamin). But that's a reflection on someone else and not a reflection on us. We're not DNC cheerleaders here. We are of the left. And we have Green readers and third party readers and they are welcome here. If Medea Benjamin is "too controversial" or if Jane Fonda is, then we'll take the "too controversial" path and let others continue down whatever path they choose. That's their choice. But here we speak in our voice and that means we won't temper our remarks to curry favor with the DNC or the New York Times or anyone else.

Martha's a member of our community and she was a friend of Gary Webb so we are more than happy to link to stories on him. But I've looked over the blog repeatedly to find out where I've praised David Corn as "the only true voice of the left" as two e-mailers continue to insist I did in November. I'm not finding it. It doesn't sound like something I'd say. (If I said that, I need to apologize for it because there's no one true voice of the left.) (These are the same two e-mailers who feel the same people are always quoted on this site.)

In what I believe was the first (and, until now, the only) mention of David Corn on this site [see], I stated:

This also ties into Martha's e-mail today regarding David Corn and why do I defend everyone that works for The Nation. I don't believe (I could be wrong) that I've ever mentioned David Corn on this site. Eric Alterman does a column for The Nation and I've mentioned that I don't care for him. Corn wrote a good book (The Lies of George W. Bush), which I will recommend now, but I'm not a big fan of his columns. Eddie points out that Corn is in a squabble with Greg Palast (among others) in the letters section of the current issue (of The Nation).Yes, he is. Some people feel he plays the guard-at-the-gate and decides what is and what isn't permissable. I'm not sure if that's what he does so much as state his opinions strongly. I do agree that his columns can often be read as, "This is how it is! Do it!" (Martha's words.) Whether that's how he means them or not (his response to the letters indicated to me that this might not be the case), that is how they can come off.

That's the only mention of David Corn I'm finding on the site. If there's another mention of him and you're e-mailing about it, please reference it because I haven't been able to find it.

An e-mailer who doesn't want to be named (or create a name) said, "See and now you're pushing David Corn's book! You suck up to David Corn every day!" I enjoyed Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush but stating that doesn't, to me, qualify as sucking up to David Corn. (Martha, by the way, is not one of the two e-mailers.) Nor does it explain where my "constant drooling over David Corn" occurs on the blog elsewhere.

If I'm correct, and he hasn't been mentioned prior, then that means either the two are confusing The Common Ills with another site or else they're intentionally pushing a non-issue. If someone is aware of where David Corn's been mentioned prior, please e-mail the site. Again, if I stated he was "the only true voice of the left," that would be wrong. There's not "one" true voice. And if I typed that, I need to apologize and be accountable for that (but I can't find it). But if this is someone's personal problem with Corn they need to work it out somewhere else because I don't believe that his name has come up prior to Martha e-mailing regarding Gary Webb (I believe this is now the second time it's come up -- although he may have been on Democracy Now! and we may have linked to that as we do to most of Democracy Now!'s stories).

I gave Corn credit for writing a strong book and I'll also give him credit right now for being one of the first (I believe he was the first) to highlight the outing of Valerie Plame by the administration and being one of the few who stayed on that story while others either ignored it or "moved on."

When I do things like that, I irritate Yazz who writes: "I wish you'd just offer your opinions more and stop trying to be fair." I understand what Yazz is saying and even agree with him in many ways. But I do try to be fair (two e-mailers claiming to be from the New York Times, who didn't want to be quoted, feel differently). I'm sure I fail at that. But I do strive towards it. When something outrages me, I'm pretty vocal. Yazz wishes I was more vocal and feels that when the Times was taken to task for ignoring a third of the domestic population I wasn't vocal enough.

Yazz is probably more right on that than I am. As Shirley has noted in e-mails, I have a tendency to an "online stammer" when I'm really upset. (To type something like: "What I'm I'm getting at here" and not notice that I've repeated a word twice.) I am taking your comments seriously, Yazz, and trying to see how to improve that.

And I do understand what Rob is getting at. That's why, before he e-mailed, the site had already done two poems that weekend. And why "Kat's Korner" was already initiated. You shouldn't be coming to this site curious and leaving with nothing but blood boiling over something the administration or the Times has done. (Or any other media for that matter, but we emphasize the Times here.) So hopefully, there will be other things available (and hopefully other voices as well). But at the same time, and this isn't what Rob's advocating, we aren't going to start doing fluff just for fluff's sake.

"Kat's Korner" deals with music and that's important to me and to many of you (including Susan who's always asking for more songs, I'll try to quote one in this before I hit "publish"). She's attempting to put into a socialogical perspective and use it as a comment on the times we're in now.

But we're not going to start tracking who got kicked off the island or lost out on some reality show or something similar just to lighten the mood. These are "interesting times" (and let me plug that web site Interesting Times because so many of you have written that you enjoy it and I think we get enough meaningless fluff on network television (and nothing but on the majority of cable television).

Hopefully, within a week, there are some entries that make you think but don't leave you feeling angry or outraged. But there are things and events that we will note even if it we've been on an outrage kick just because they need to be noted.

For Susan, here's are some lyrics for a song:

Oh things are getting real crucial
Up the old wazoo
Yet you cry, why am I the victim?
When the culprit is y-o-u
What did your mama tell you about lies
She said it wasn't polite to tell a white one
What did your daddy tell you about lies
He said one white one turns into a black one
So it's getting ready to blow
It's getting ready to show
Somebody shot off at the mouth and
We're getting ready to know
-- "Skeletons" words & music by Stevie Wonder
(available on the album Characters)