Friday, March 11, 2005

The Daily Howler & Bob Somerby as a starting point for the importance of independent voices

We're a resource/review, not a breaking news site or one that pretends to be a breaking news site. So it's always great when a member e-mails about a voice that speaks to them.

But we've got four members e-mailing this week about a voice that we added early on. (Our first linking was BuzzFlash & Democracy Now!; our second set was Naomi Klein, The Daily Howler Ms. Musing & Dahr Jamail.)

Bob Somerby provides a great resource at The Daily Howler. And most members were aware of The Daily Howler and reading it long before The Common Ills community ever existed. But it's great that a few members have learned of him here.

The point of this site is to be a resource/review. We've added a number of links and will continue to add. And there's always the chance that someone can end up lost. So if you read something anywhere that you think should be shared, e-mail about it (, whether it's someone we have a permanent link to on the left or not.

Sophia e-mails that she bookmarked The Daily Howler in 2001 and visits it Monday through Friday "with the hopeful checking on Saturdays for that rare Howler weekend post." She notes that "he always has a way of looking at a comment or an event that goes beyond the obvious."
Which brings up Ken's e-mail this week that "I don't know if you noticed or not, but Somerby and [Bill] Scher are disagreeing and you noted them in the same entry." People can have different views of the same thing. (And witness who saw the same incident and testify to the best of their ability in court often testify to different things.)

We're not all the same and we're not all going to agree all the time. Ken asks, "What will happen when you disagree with The Daily Howler?" We, as a community, disagree with The Howler over Lawrence Summer. That hasn't stopped us from noting The Howler. And I, personally, have disagreed with The Howler before and will again. I still visit the site every day (Monday through Friday) unless it's a day when I can't go anywhere online other than here to work on entries. Ken wonders also, "What happens if The Daily Howler disagrees with you and writes about it?" I don't see that happening (we're not on that kind of radar, we're a community, not a blog). If it did and it was a member's comments, they (and other members) would be allowed to respond here. If it has to do with some opinion I've had or written, I honestly don't know.

If I didn't link to it, I'd be accused of not noting what might be a valid disagreement/critique.
But we're not self-referential here. If someone wants to note that they e-mailed into a talk show (as Maria did) or that they called in or share any experience, that's their right. But we've (which means "I" -- but I'm not big on "I" talk) made it a policy not to note if we're linked or noted somewhere which has included deleting those comments from comments of members that have been posted. So I honestly don't know how to answer Ken's question. Anything that looks like self-hype or running a fan club for The Common Ills is something I'd be reluctant to have up here.

Ken closes with, "I'm not grasping why The Daily Howler is so worthy of attention, could you explain it to me?"

If you're seeing pull quotes from someone and the voice doesn't speak to you, then don't worry about it. (But remember that either a member or I'm choosing what to highlight. A pull quote isn't an entire entry.) There's no reason that every voice that speaks to Sophia will speak to you, or every voice that speaks to you will speak to me, etc.

We had a woman write in last week wanting to state that Krista had nothing to feel embarrassed about and that Yukos was important. She was basing her remarks on what she'd observed in Russia. She disagreed with Katrina vanden Heuvel. We didn't post it and if she's ever come back (she said the entry on Krista was the first thing she'd read at this site), she probably feels like she was ignored. I would have been happy quoting her but she didn't note her permission to be quoted. When you e-mail the site, you get an automated reply that notes you need to give state if you want to be quoted. That's your heads up to do an e-mail saying, "You can quote me" or "You can quote this part: ---."

Because Krista was bothered, I was tempted to write the woman and ask, "Do you want this to be shared?" But I had about 612 e-mails that day. And there's no way I can e-mail to everyone and ask, "Do you want to be quoted?"

I did note in an entry that a number of e-mails were coming in re: Krista and that if anyone wanted to be quoted, they needed to say so. (That was noted twice, but one time was after the woman's e-mail.) If the woman's come back, she's never written again.

But Katrina vanden Heuvel did not speak to her (judging by her comments). Were the woman a community member, that wouldn't bother me. We don't all have to agree.

So if Bob Somerby doesn't speak to you, it's not the end of the world. There's not a list of people you have to agree on. Hopefully, you'll find some voice sited her that does speak to you. (And you can influence that by e-mailing to highlight a voice you find important.)

If Ken's asking for permission not to read The Daily Howler, he doesn't need permission. If someone doesn't speak to you, don't worry about it and try to find someone who does (and share that with the community). But if he's asking why I personally enjoy The Howler . . .

Somerby's a media critic and a valuable resource (my opinion). I've learned a great deal from The Daily Howler. (So much, in fact, that "a great deal" seems to be minimizing the impact.)
I believe he makes you think. (He makes me think.) And I think it's great that his writing is out there, on the record. I've cited before that The Daily Howler, Media Whores Online, News Dissector and Bartcop were important to me at a time when it seemed like so many had tossed out common sense. [Warning, you visit Bartcop at your own risk if you're in a work environment. That's true of all links.] Media Whores Online ceased to be and now you can't even find it's archives online. If The Daily Howler ever ceased to be, I'd hope that the archives would remain.

I think there's been some of the best and strongest media criticism coming from The Daily Howler. It's not jumping around to note this and that and this and that and this. Somerby has not been reluctant to critique anyone. He's also not critiquing the same obvious sources.
(Again, as stated earlier this evening, I believe he was the one who first started making the points about the appearence of a conflict of interest between Bob Schieffer and the Bully Boy.)

And I think he refuses to make nice. I think that's hurt him to a degree. Others who have offered shoddy or poor criticism have certainly garnered attention. I think he's been an independent voice who p*sses people off (which is something I personally applaud).

I can think of an appearence on Al Franken's show on Air America when Somerby was speaking about issues and apparently Franken either wanted to keep it light or didn't want to go there.
It's not a secret here that I don't care for Franken's show. I'll listen only if I have the time and someone I respect is on. I listened that day to hear Somerby. And I'd listen again if Somerby were booked again.

You'd think Bob Somerby would be all over Air America. He's a Democrat. (Politically, I believe I'm to the left of Somerby who strikes me as more of a mainstream Democrat -- my opinion.)
He's fought "the brave fight." He knows what he's talking about and can cite examples (and cite them correctly). You'd think that would mean he'd be all over the radio network.

The fact that he's not . . . (That'll be the next entry worked on after this posts.)

So if Ken's asking personally what I respond to in Somerby's writing it's the fact that he's smart, does research and doesn't operate under a system of "This person can be criticized but this one can't." He's an independent voice and I respond to that.

Ruby, Colin, Joanne and Diana each wrote in this week to say they wanted to pass on that he's a voice who speaks to them and one they've begun checking due to the highlighting of The Daily Howler. That's the point of this community, to bring to your attention someone you might not know about otherwise. And hopefully, they'll speak to you. But even if they don't, you're aware they're out there. That's the point.

God forbid we have another 9-11 incident. But if we do, we're going to need to know where the voices that speak to us are. Because they weren't on TV (unless you're lucky enough to get Democracy Now! on TV). They largely weren't on the radio. Dissent was silenced and opinion was managed. And it's a great disservice to democracy when that happens.

There are serious questions about 9-11. I've been sent things asking me to weigh in (and sometimes to slam someone for a theory). I don't know enough to weigh in. (Any member's welcome to share their own thoughts.) I do know we weren't provided with answers from any investigations.

I'm not going to slam anyone who's attempting to figure out the why or how of 9-11. They're doing more work than our government has. The limited scope of any probe has operated under the we're-not-here-to-find-fault.

Well was it an accident? Because there's no fault in a true accident.

But that's not what the mainstream reporting indicates. That's not what Condi Rice's testimony indicates (to me). The 9-11 families wanted answers (and fought for them). I don't think they got them.

I don't know if Richard Clarke's a hero or not. I do know that he gave an apology that had to do with responsibility and I'll give him credit for that.

We were told we had to come together. And apparently be stupid. (Which I believe is the point of Susan Sontag's infamous New Yorker piece that so many had a problem with. I didn't have a problem with it. I agree "let's not all be stupid together" or whatever the quote was.)

The stage managed "need" to "come together" prevented reality from being noted in the press reports of the recounts. (You had to dig in beyond the headlines to find the reality and also beyond the first few paragraphs in most newspaper reporting.) It also prevented questioning of the Patriot Act (which, my opinion, is one of the more shocking and shameful legislations to come out under the current administration). This "come together" manipulation prevented serious discussions prior to two wars.

We've lost interest (as a people) in Afghanistan so maybe that doesn't matter to many. But we pay some level of attention to Iraq. And serious questions weren't addressed because we were under the haze of "come together." (I'm speaking as a people and of the mainstream media.)
Cheerleading took the place of critical thought. And that's really sad because we're supposed to be a democracy and that means we share what we think, not just what's deemed "acceptable."

With the Kerry campaign, we saw a number of disturbing things. First off, we saw that we had to fight hard to avoid another "Gore-ing" (I saw that term first in Somerby's writing, so I'll give him credit for it). Kerry was "gored" but in different ways. We also saw a media that felt we were picking Miss Congeality as opposed to the leader of our country.

That he came as close as he did in the election (and no, I personally do not believe the official Ohio totals) is amazing to me because we went from a period where we couldn't question the Bully Boy at all to a period where we could question in limited areas. (You saw the gatekeepers, the Cokie Roberts, playing manner cops letting you know what was and wasn't acceptable.)

That said, my opinion, you saw a disgusting Democratic convention. You saw the pens where people could go to protest. That's undemocratic and should never have been a part of the convention. (They existed at the Republican convention as well. If I seem less shocked by that, it's only because I don't expect much from the Republican party.) Outside of Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Free Speech Radio News on Pacifica and Lizz Winstead on Unfiltered, I didn't see or hear anyone drawing attention to those protest pens.

You saw an attempt to shut out Hillary Clinton. Oh, she'd be onstage . . . with a group of women.
But the individual speakers would largely be males. Love her, hate her, indifferent to her, that people had to register their objections to the sidelining of Hillary Clinton indicated how many problems there were going to be with this convention when it did take place. (For the record, Hillary Clinton did get to speak solo, for anyone who missed it.)

What did we have onstage? Rah-rah-rah, we're tough boys with big balls. And it came pretty close to looking like war mongering to some (including me). Even John Edwards . . .

Matthew Rothschild's real time criticism:

On foreign policy, Edwards was even more disappointing.
He managed to mention "a safe and secure Israel," but Palestine fell off his map.
Edwards even did a Bush imitation, telling "Al Qaeda and the rest of these terrorists: You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you."
He showed none of the subtlety or sophistication of Bill Clinton, who on Monday night grasped that the United States must get to the root of terrorism. Said Clinton, "we cannot possibly kill, jail, or occupy all of our potential adversaries."
But Edwards really bottomed out on Iraq. He actually said, "We will win this war."
How's that going to happen? And how many more U.S. soldiers are going to die as a result?
Edwards plucked at the heartstrings of America by invoking images of wounded soldiers who now "need their mother to tie their shoe. Their husband to brush their hair. And their wife's arm to help them across the room." But his vow to win this war, which has already taken more than 900 American lives and wounded thousands more, will only compound these human tragedies.
Edwards did not manage to paper over the differences within the party on this most crucial issue.
He exposed them for all to see.

Let's go Rothschild's real time critique of Kerry's convention speech:

By surrounding himself with his Vietnam "band of brothers," and by the introductions of Max Cleland and Wesley Clark, Kerry burnished his martial bona fides. (Not for nothing did he mention "blood" in his first 100 words.)
"I will build a stronger military," he said, vowing to add 40,000 active duty troops and to provide new weapons and technologies.
And, like John Edwards the night before, Kerry did his own Bush imitation. "I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security," he said.
That is the worst kind of mindless U.N.-bashing. There is nothing in the U.N. Charter that prohibits countries from defending themselves when their very survival is at stake. For Kerry to parrot Bush on this is to further deligitimize the United Nations, and to undercut Kerry's claim that he will work better with others.
Kerry did, however, draw some good distinctions with Bush, saying that Bush had distorted U.S. intelligence for political reasons. Kerry said he would "never mislead us into war," and he pledged to "bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to." (Historical aside: Did the United States have to enter the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War?)
But as to what to do now on Iraq, Kerry had little new or helpful to offer. "We need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers," he said.
That's essentially Bush's plan, too. And it's not working. The allies don't want to send their troops in. So then what?
Kerry and Edwards are on record saying the United States cannot afford to lose in Iraq. As a result, under their Administration, it's likely they will continue the occupation of Iraq, and U.S. troops will continue to die there. And so long as the Iraqi government is perceived as a stooge of Washington, which it is, it will have no legitimacy, and the resistance will only grow.
Kerry, who said famously in 1971, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" will have a hard time answering that question for himself if he becomes commander and chief, which I expect he will.
On the war against Al Qaeda, Kerry missed two opportunities. First, to slam Bush for letting Osama bin Laden go when U.S. troops had him surrounded in Tora Bora. (Maybe it's too risky for Kerry to do so since Bush might drag Osama out by his beard for Halloween.) And second, to show how Bush's policies are really aiding Al Qaeda.
It's not enough for Kerry again to ape Bush by saying to the terrorists, "You will lose, and we will win." The ranks of terrorists are not finite. The United States must get at the roots of terrorism.
And right now, two U.S. policies are watering those roots: maintaining the occupation of Iraq, and supporting Israel's occupation of Palestinian land. As I've suggested, Kerry showed no promising way of ending the Iraq War, and he was totally silent on the question of Israeli policies (and when he has addressed this issue, he has backed Ariel Sharon to the hilt).
Nor, for that matter, did Kerry talk about the need to address global poverty or to bring together a world forum of Islamic religious leaders, who could offer a different path than fundamentalism to the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world.
Kerry talked about how he sees "complexities," but on the issue of Islamic fundamentalism, he didn't identify many.
On domestic issues, Kerry was much better.
His best point of the night was about dissent in America. At a time when people who protest against Bush are being accused of being unAmerican and when the Attorney General says people who criticize him are giving "aid and ammunition" to the enemy, Kerry defended our most crucial civil liberty.
"Our purpose now is to reclaim democracy itself," he said. "We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism. It is the heart and soul of patriotism."
He invoked the Constitution twice, once to take a swipe at John Ashcroft and again to tag Republicans for trying to misuse it for political purposes (a thinly veiled reference to the proposed amendment banning same-sex marriage).

This isn't an attack on John Kerry. But people involved with the convention should be questioned as should the people hired to run the campaign (many of who quickly surfaced after the election, to speak of how Kerry had 'problems' communicating with people -- no, that's the campaign staff's problem, they were hired to address that). (And no, that's not a slam at Mary Beth Cahill.)

While Kerry may have mentioned J-Ass (a proven applause line and one that would drive up donations whenever Kerry commented on the thankfully now former attorney general) and the attacks of dissent, the reality is Medea Benjamin was detained at the convention for unfurling a banner (pro-peace banner). She would have been arrested if they hadn't realized what a public relations nightmare that would be.

You saw Bill Richardson make a complete ass out of himself with his rude treatment of Amy Goodman. (It's a short segment so I'll only quote the ending -- due to fair use restrictions --
GOVERNOR RICHARDSON: I'm sorry. Please get that out of my way. Watch or listen to the segment.)

Mad Maddie Albright didn't do any better.

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary Albright--the question I have always wanted to ask' do you regret having said, when asked do you think the price was worth it--
MADELINE ALBRIGHT: I have said 5,000 times that I regret it. It was a stupid statement. I never should have made it and if everybody else that has ever made a statement they regret, would stand up, there would be a lot of people standing. I have many, many times said it and I wish that people would report that I have said it. I wrote it in my book that it was a stupid statement.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it laid the ground work for later being able to target Iraq and make it more acceptable on the part of the Bush administration?
MADELINE ALBRIGHT: What? You've got to be kidding.

Unless I'm mistaken, Mad Maddie is invited on television because of the position she held. She wrote a book that was sold on her career accomplishments. "You've got to be kidding" hardly seems like an approprite response to a policy issue -- especially one that she piped off on and, according to her, has since had to her make "5,000" clarifications.

If you watch the segment, you'll note that Mad Maddie has to have a buffer between herself and Goodman and that the closest she comes to eye contact is a sidelong glance. (Maybe she was doing her Cher impersonation?)

Now Richardson or Albright might argue, "Do you know what Amy Goodman did to Bill Clinton!"

Yes. She did an interview with him. And she asked tough questions. And as she pointed out, he could have ended the call anytime he wanted. (He called her.) (And instead of blaming Goodman for doing her job, someone might have blamed the fool who sat up the call to Democracy Now! on election day -- what Bill Clinton thought would be a get-out-the-vote pep talk -- since some idiot didn't realize that when the call was finally placed, Democracy Now! was already off the air for that day, which is why it ran the next day, after the election.)

You can listen to the interview online at Democracy Now! or you can read a transcript of it in Goodman's book (with her brother David Goodman) The Exception to the Rulers. (I'll give Clinton credit for staying on the line.)

There was an elected state official at the GOP convention that came off much better than Mad Maddie and Richardson did. (My apologies for not citing him by name but I'm going through the Democracy Now! archives and can't find the segment he appeared in.)

Medea Benjamin pops up in other media when she's protesting at the GOP convention. And certain broadcasters (not Amy Goodman or Juan Gonzales, or Janeane Garofalo) got very nervous is she attempts to discuss the Democratic convention.

We love you -- as long as you tell us what the GOP did wrong. (The GOP does plenty wrong -- I'm trying to think of something they have, as a party, done right recently and nothing comes to mind.) But we're not going to have discussions about the Democratic Party apparently.

If you were against the war and were for Kerry, you were told to silence your objections because it wasn't doing anyone any good (the candidate, the campaign, the cause). The result was a Democratic convention that very few seriously addressed in terms of what was on stage. (What went on off stage is not a press topic for the mainstream.)

When gotta-love-that-Bully-Boy finally started to crack, what we saw was a limited number of topics being deemed "appropriate" for discussion.

So I appreciate that Bob Somerby is an independent voice and I appreciate anyone who is. We need to be aware of them even if they don't speak to us. So if a member highlights someone and they don't speak to you, find someone who does and share it with the community.

More voices is always the answer. There are issues we're not always aware of and that's because we have a very limited range of voices. Now the right should build up their own set of voices and that's for them to do at their web sites. (And more power to them.) But we need to be aware of what's out there on the left.

I doubt very seriously that Somerby (to try to stay focused on the supposed topic) would agree with every issue I feel passionately about. That's not why he's highlighted. He's highlighted because he's going to speak his mind and he's not go shut up just to get along. (He is also of the left or he wouldn't be highlighted at this site to begin with.)

If I had the time (any time), I'd be visiting Bartcop every day. But that doesn't mean I agree with everything he writes. He spoke to me because he was true to what he believed in. Media Whores Online spoke to what they believed in which is why I visited their site even when I disagreed with something they had posted.

Let's hope another event like 9-11 never happens. But if it does, we'll need to look somewhere other than the mainstream media. And in terms of issues effecting our lives daily, we need to look somewhere else as well.

There are many members who e-mail that they only come here and go to A Winding Road, Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and The Third Estate Sunday Review because they're concerned by site trackers and data mining. (We don't have a tracker up at this site and we will never will out of respect for people's right to privacy. If Google has something here, I'm unaware of it and have no control over it and certainly didn't ask for it.)

So they really depend on the pull quotes highlighted here. If you're e-mailing to say that someone has a great piece, you're welcome to say which section you want pull quoted. (Many already do that.) The alternative is to just go by my judgement. In which case, we're getting more voices, yes, but a limited scope/range of the discussion.

And we have ten members who've volunteered to be on this month's committee to evaluate any suggestions for a permanent link to a blogger. So if there's someone not linked to that you think should be, e-mail the site. (The ten this go round are Liang, Rob, Eli, Francisco, Marcia, Erika, Cedric, Dominick, Krista and Keesha. Why ten? If it's a five-five split, it's not someone we need to highlight. And yes, they will determine it. Whomever they select or don't select will be the final word.)