Monday, June 06, 2005

A note on e-mails and apologies for the delays in posting

First, my apologies for not posting sooner. I had spoken to Rebecca earlier today on the phone and I had a few things to take care of before I got home. When I did make it home, I had messages from Rebecca and returned her phone calls. We were on the phone together as she read an entry she'd composed and would be posting.

How does that matter to this site? Besides the fact that Rebecca is a community member?

The entry, which we'll link to later, is about an e-mail sent to Rebecca. But it was sent here.

So let me explain something. If you write to trash Ruth or Isaiah or Dallas or KeShawn or Rob or Kara or Gina or Keesha or anyone who chooses to share here, your e-mail goes in the trash.

I'm not referring to an e-mail that says, "Please forward to Ruth because I have a problem with ___." I'm referring to e-mails that are just not worth forwarding. They are community members and I will spare them the kind of nonsense (usually from the fright wing or some "there's nothing lovelier than a blue dog Democrat). I'll read that junk myself until I've had enough and then delete it.

However, if you write and you want something forwarded to Kat or Rebecca (or Folding Star or The Third Estate Sunday Review or Betty), I'll forward it. If it's trash talk, I'll check with them first. (Kat laughs at that stuff, she'll read it if she's in the mood to read e-mails.) Those people have their own sites (and the e-mail addresses for all of them is posted at their sites) so they're more likely to be used to nonsense e-mails.

Today, someone supposedly wrote Rebecca. He wrote at the top that he needed it forwarded to her. But it wasn't to her. He wrote me about Rebecca.

I don't have time to reply to all the members who write in, so the fact that someone's with some think tank (a centrist one) doesn't qualify them for special benefits. I don't believe we'd linked to Rebecca's post here (I could be wrong -- I told Rebecca I didn't even remember the post he was complaining about -- Rebecca said that's because it was from the first of April). Even if we had linked to it, I really don't know why someone, who's not a member, feels the need to go into Rebecca's supposed wrongs.

I'm reading the e-mail and trying to be fair. I even tried to reply (saved to draft). But it's not really my business what Rebecca says or doesn't say.

If it's a member writing to praise her or slam her (I don't think any member's ever slammed her), I would read it. But somehow you stumbled on something Rebecca wrote over two months ago and you feel the need to complain to me about it?

I don't have the time for it.

I'm also not, even in fairness, going to take your side against Rebecca. So I don't know what purpose was served by writing me.

It was the weirdest e-mail I've ever been asked to forward because it wasn't written to Rebecca. It was written to me.

Rebecca can (and should) write whatever she wants at her site. I've said it over and over here, we need more voices not less.

Some centrist was offended by what she wrote.

Did I miss something? Did we suddenly veer from the left to the center here?

If so, I didn't notice it and no members wrote to complain.

We're of the left here.

I'm not surprised that a cenrist would be offended by things up at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude. I am surprised that they think I would care.

I'm not trying to be rude or nasty here.

But apparently we need a clarification, so here it is: We're of the left. We highlight from the left (with the mainstream -- such as the Times -- thrown in). We're not trying to compromise on reproductive rights or to sell America on the supposed need to privatize social security.

I've never heard of the organization the man was with. I don't mean that as a slap down. I'm sure it's popular with the middle of the road crowd (in the same way that Vicky Carr or Steve & Edie were). But we're not centrist here.

This weekend, a UK member highlighted the Socialist Review and another Socialist publication.
We're happy to highlight from the left. But somehow this man missed that. I could be wrong but I don't think centrists highlight socialism periodicals.

We're pro-choice, anti-war, pro-peace, anti-Bully Boy, pro-gay rights . . . Go down the list.
How we've been confused with a centrist organization is beyond me.

But apparently we have.

Now there are e-mails from visitors (and one lurker) of the center all the time. But they usually write in to complain that we're risking the "party" by emphasing feminism. (It's funny how they all glom on that topic.) I read them or not depending on my mood. (I'm no longer reading every e-mail from start to finish. If a member writes in, it's read in full. If it's a visitor, it's read if it's someone who's goals are similar to this community's. Otherwise, I'll read until I'm bored.)

Right now, the focus is on members' e-mails. We're in the midst of an election, after all. But the people who've made this community what it is should be read first and always. When the issue of e-mails came up in a roundtable at The Third Estate Sunday Review, Ava and I disagreed with Rebecca's opinion. But I've thought about it and thought about it. There are some strong points that Rebecca made.

From time to time, friends offer to read the e-mails for me. "I can give you a report." They could but it might overlook something that's really important. For instance, Maria (and I got her permission to share this) will usually write what's most important to her in the final paragraph. I know that because I've read all of her e-mails. Someone coming in might miss that.

But if I'm not reading members e-mails, this can quickly turn into a blog and not a community.
I can pull a Daniel Okrent and do a "what I want to write about."

The community is strong because members are active in it. They make a point to weigh in on what they feel should be covered and what shouldn't be. They ask questions that lead to entries. They highlight stories we need to be aware of. Some of them write entries (always welcome) and those are shared with the community.

The minute I give up reading the e-mails, the community suffers.

But I don't have time to read through nonsense, from people who will never agree with us, about what we need to do. And I don't have time to read nonsense about what Rebecca should do.

Rebecca's got a blog. (She'll tell you it's a blog.) And it's quite popular. She's speaking in her voice and people are responding to that. I don't really think she needs tips on what to do at this late date. But she certainly doesn't need a rant about her written to me, passed on.

In the future, all e-mails to someone else need to be written to them. After you say "please forward," you need to begin speaking to that person so I'll know you're done with me and can forward it without reading further.

I'm not going to side with a stranger over Rebecca, Folding Star, Betty, Kat or Ava, Jim, Dona, Ty and Jess.

I read that e-mail and felt like I was supposed to reply, "Of course you're right."

I don't think he was.

We had a person write over the Memorial Day weekend wanting to be highlighted here. As noted here already, his blog isn't something the community would care about. I noted that here and we also did a "reply" at The Third Estate Sunday Review.

As most members know, on holiday weekends, I try to grab at least one day where I reply to every member who wrote in. (In the old days, I could always reply to every member.) I read the blogger's e-mail. I wish him luck. I felt for him. But we're a community and I was focused on the community.

I held back on posting the e-mail guideline that weekend (Shirley pointed out that with so many on vacation, most people would miss it).

But here it is, I'll reply to members when there's time for it. Even when I don't reply, I will read all e-mails from members. But I don't have time to reply to people who happen upon this community.

We're not trying to grow. New members are added and I'm not speaking about those people.
Anyone who's interested in social justice can always e-mail, visitor or member. And it's great when a new member comes along.

But I'm sick of these e-mails saying, "Defend this to me." Uh, it's up. It's here. If you can't grasp it (like the visitor who refused to believe Bill Clinton had visited Ireland just because the New York Times hadn't seen fit to inform its readers of it -- if a tree falls and the Times doesn't front page it, did it happen?) that's really your problem.

If you're anti-choice, that's your problem.

If you think the Bully Boy is a saint, that's your problem and even if I wrote back I couldn't help you because I don't have psychiatric training.

On those kind of e-mails, I'll read as long as far as I want. It might be one line. It might be one word. (I don't go past one word with e-mails that start off with curse words -- the c-word that rhymes with runt is especially popular among smaller minds. Although, in the past when I did, I always found it amusing that the writer always self-described as a Christian.)

When we highlight, if it's not of the mainstream, it's of the left. We don't highlight the right. They have an entire web circle to put out their side. More power to them, but we don't highlight them here.

Apparently that wasn't clear in some of the early days. So when someone e-mailed wanting an Andrew Sullivan piece highlighted, we did that. Then a day or two later, I clarified that we wouldn't highlight the right. Even if pigs were flying and they were saying something of great value, chances are we could find someone on the left writing on the same topic.

On a similar note, and this has been policy for some time, stop sending in asking that we highlight something from the morning's Times after we've done those posts. Some visitors love to do that. Members know that what goes up is what is sent in when I'm going through the e-mails. They know we don't do another post on the Times (a morning paper) in the evening or at night. Now if you want to write about why an article should have been noted or what it said to you, and mean for it be shared with the community, fine. But don't send in e-mails saying "I just finished the Times and you need to highlight this."

It's a daily paper. On any given day, we'll miss something. That's a given. We're not the "here's everything that's in this morning's Times" site.

By the same token, we now emphasize what members want from the Times only. Why? Because when I get up, even if I've managed to read every e-mail the night before, there are already hundreds waiting. If I read everyone before I start posting on the Times, we'll never have a post up for that morning's Times. There's a visitor who at least once a week, e-mails to note basically every story in the main section. We also don't have time for that.

(I know I don't.)

But let me be clear on this point, if you're a visitor, I don't want to hear your problems with Rebecca. Members know that the policy is, if it speaks to you, visit it, if it doesn't don't.

That's been the policy on links all along.

Today someone felt the need to trash Bill Scher (he was highlighted in the afternoon post which probably added to the visitor's ire). If you think Bill Scher is "an idiot" for defending Howard Dean, this really isn't the site for you. The community came out for Howard Dean early on.

I'm also tired of hearing how Christine of Ms. Musing was someone else in another life. I'm not attempting to slam reincarnation here. If you believe it, then great. But I fail to see how you know who Christine was or wasn't in another life. This is the same person who wrote a 40K e-mail earlier (and yes, it was on Christine). He has now limited himself to a 10K e-mail every other day. I'm not even opening them anymore after this goes up.

If you have a problem with Democracy Now!, I don't know how you missed this, but we highlight Democracy Now! Monday through Friday. The community gave an honor to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalaz in the year-in-review. Yet some visitors feel the need to e-mail that we should be focusing on a CNN show (the show in question differs from e-mail to e-mail) instead because Goodman is really ____ or ____.

Members have shaped this community. They've poured their time and energy into it. So for a visitor to drop by and slam something (with statements that are questionable -- my opinion) is a bit like dropping by someone's home and insulting the decor.

Again, this isn't all visitors. We have some great vistiors. Bridget was a visitor with a great idea. And we have visitors who've become members. But we're not going to change who we are to try to appeal to some centrist visitor.

And the idea that because we present the left we, therefore, have to present the right is evidence that a visitor hasn't grasped what this community is about or for.

I'll repeat (my apologies to members), God forbid we have another attack. But if it happens, we can't count on the mainstream, they've proven that. Leftist voices will, once again, be shut out.
We are a resource/review for the left. We're about providing you with resources. Maybe you like Molly Ivins' humor, maybe you don't. But if you're a member (or regular visitor), you know she's out there. You know Katrina vanden Heuvel is out there, Naomi Klein, Bob Somerby, Matthew Rothschild, Ruth Conniff, Medea Benjamin, Margaret Kimberly, etc.

Not every link will meet with the approval of every member. Some voices will speak to some, some won't. But you'll know they're out there.

After 9-11, we saw the right and the center on TV. Heard them on NPR. The conversation was limited to one pole and the center. That's not a full range of opinion.

We're here to highlight the left. Today someone wrote "Peggy Noonan got it right!" The visitor wanted her column linked to. It's not going to happen. Resource/review for the left.

If you're needing more, you need to go elsewhere.

One of the biggest problems with newspaper, TV or any news media (or "news media") in the center, my opinion (I could be wrong), is that if someone gets a letter writing campaign going, the paper, et al attempts to respond by leaning one way. That's a huge mistake (my opinion -- I could be wrong) because the majority don't read the paper or watch the TV show.

But slam 'em with enough e-mails and they move to the "center."

If there's hope that we will move to the center, it's a misguided hope.

Visitors are welcome (and most are wonderful) but the idea that we're going to highlight Peggy Noons or someone else from the right is a mistaken idea.

I've also stated before that I will deal with visitor e-mail here and I'm going to try to stand by that. If you're a visitor with a question, you need to watch here to see if it's answered. Members aren't getting personal replies to everyone of their e-mails. The point above (newspapers, et al) was that they needed to serve their constituency. Same here. The focus needs to be on members. Beth wants to do another interview and I've cancelled on her three times (she's been very understanding -- thank you Beth). That's her niche at this site. She'll address concerns or questions she has in the interview format.

I'm dying to compile an entry that's nothing but members comments. There's not been time for that.

We're never going to be all things to all people, but we never set out to be that in the first place.
Nor did we set out to be cheerleaders for the Democratic Party.

In the words of Kat, it is what it is. Maybe you can relate to it, maybe you can't. If it gives you a headache, that's probably a sign that this isn't the place for you.

The e-mail address for this site is