Thursday, October 06, 2005

Democracy Now: James Yee; Christine (Pop Politics), Margaret Kimberley, Bill Scher, Bruce Dixon, Mark Sorkin

Before we get to anything else, let's address an e-mail. I'm asked to explain when Robert Kagan appeared on NPR to discuss Katrina and John Kerry's remarks and I'm told that Kagan never appeared to respond to Juan Williams' remarks. The e-mail closes with a request for an explanation of my remarks.

A) If someone writes to have their say at this site, they need to note that they're writing publicly and choose how they'll be identified. If you go to the profile (no reason to), the only thing you'll find is "if you're writing and wish to be quoted." The policy is right there for any visitor to see. It was added when Felicity Barringer wrote and and we were waiting to see if she wanted to be quoted or not.

B) I'm looking at 2305 e-mails today. I don't have time to reply visitors in personal e-mails when even members don't get personal replies.

C) There are something like 1920 entries at this site. If you're commenting on one, you need to note which one you're commenting on by title or date. I don't have time to pour over every entry to find some remark or statement that's bothered a visitor.

D) You need to know what you're writing about. That may seem harsh, but I don't have time to track down something you think is up here. (Ask Beth about that, she's noted that nothing pisses me off more than being told I wrote something and then me wasting my time to try to track something down that I know I didn't write.)

The person e-mailing is incorrect. Obviously, they've read of an entry I did, but they've read of it (or heard of it) somewhere else -- they have not read the entry itself. (Or they've heard of it.) For the record, the entry the visitor has been misled upon is entitled "When NPR Fails You, Who You Gonna Call, Not the Ombudsman." It ran in November (around Thanksgiving). Others have written of it and obviously the visitor has read or heard some sort of summary of it.

I'm not responsible for what other people write. That includes if they're a community member who's started their own site. However, on community members, they know this post and I can't imagine any one of them writing in such a way that the visitor would be as confused as the visitor is. So I'll assume (rightly or wrongly) that the visitor read or heard of the post somewhere else, outside the community. (If the visitor's misunderstood someone in the community, everyone but Kat has their e-mail address posted. You can write Kat care of this site and it will be forwarded to her. But Centrist Ed pissed me off trying to draw me into his debate with Rebecca. I hadn't mentioned his organization or him at this site and to have read through his whiney e-mail or e-mails was a waste of my time. He had a beef -- unfounded in my opinion -- with something Rebecca posted at her site. As I said here, Rebecca and I have been friends for years so Centrist Ed was really reaching if he thought I would say, "Hmm, Centrist Ed or Rebecca? I think I'll side with Centrist Ed!" Don't draw me into conflicts you have with a member of this community.)

The entry I wrote was written in November. I don't believe I've revisted it in any form other than to note the originaly entry. Hurricane Katrina was not mentioned because, obviously, it hadn't taken place then. So for the visitor to express confusion as to why I would claim Robert Kagan was on NPR to discuss Hurricane Katrina means the visitor needs to check the visitor's sources because somehow the visitor's sources have failed the visitor.

I make plenty of mistakes here (and am fine with owning them and correcting them) but I won't be the sin eater for every mistake that someone else makes. I never claimed Kagan was on NPR discussing Katrina. I have no idea whether he was or not. If I listen to NPR I note it in an entry and I think it's obvious to most people that I catch it (Morning Edition) about once a week. If Ruth weren't doing her Ruth's Morning Edition Report, I'd pay more attention to public radio but she's got it covered and my time is limited so I'm using my time for other things. (Such as enjoying Pacifica programming just to enjoy it.)

So the visitor has wrong information when they ask about why I wrote about Kagan's commentary on Hurricane Katrina. I didn't write about that. I don't know that he made any. So I certainly wouldn't have written that he did. I believe we've addressed him solely with regards to the Kerry campaign, specifically with regards to his NPR appearance. If a member's made a comment that we've posted, I'm not remembering it.

But let me repeat because I'm asked why I wrote such a thing when Kagan never made such a commentary: I DID NOT WRITE ABOUT KAGAN AND HURRICANE KATRINA.

Are we clear on that?

I'm really getting tired of visitors showing up demanding explanations or corrections to what they think was written. Bare minimum, if you have a beef, you identify the entry.

If you've heard something's up here, it's not my job to find it for you.

The person has faulty information. I'm wasting members time and my time to address something that's never occurred here. I'm really tired of that.

If I had written that Kagan commented on Hurricane Katrina, I'd correct it because I've never heard any commentary that Kagan gave on Hurricane Katrina. But I didn't write about it and the visitor's facts are incorrect.

There are some sites that I'm sure would be thrilled with the e-mail and think, "____ has written me!" I'm not impressed. We have members who are "names" (such as P.J.) outside the community and we have members aren't. But all members are "names" to me and I value them. If the visitor who wrote wishes to become a member, they're welcome to. All that it requires is you make contributions. Not monetary. You just find voices of the left that speak to you and send them in suggesting links. To be a member all you have to do is help shape the community.

Visitors are welcome to drop by anytime they want, this is a public site. But I do not have time to devote to visitors. We serve the membership here. We're a site for the left. And there are 2305 e-mails so far today. Jess was helping by checking the public account today and called me to say, "You need to read an e-mail from a visitor." I replied, "I don't have the time, Jess" and Jess said the visitor had the facts wrong and the visitor was ____. (Thank you to Jess and Ava of The Third Estate Sunday Review for their continued help with e-mails. There would be no entries here at all if I didn't have their help. I appreciate all that they do and thank them for their hard work and for their help.)

I feel like I'm always slamming visitors these days in entries here. That's not fair to visitors. Whether they become members or not, their e-mails can be helpful. They may catch something that's not clear and I'll clarify it. They may note a valued voice I've never heard of and a member's never suggested. They may note a topic that's not gotten attention at this site. Or they may be someone I've commented on here and they'll write to say they appreciated it. (If I've defended them, it's because I appreciate them so thanks right back at you.)

This visitor has either been fed false information, read a distorted version of the entry ("When NPR Fails You, Who You Gonna Call, Not the Ombudsman" -- which ran November 24th of last year), or misunderstood someone's comments on it.

There is no mention in that entry of Hurricane Katrina. No mention because Hurricane Katrina hadn't swept through in November of 2004. I don't know where the visitor got their information but they didn't get it by reading this site and I don't enjoy using limited time to address something that never happened.

I feel like I'm screaming at the visitor here and I don't mean to. But if I was told Stephen Holden trashed Carly Simon in the New York Times, I wouldn't fire off an e-mail to Holden asking why he trashed Carly Simon without first finding the article in question. I certainly wouldn't write Holden and say, "Hey, I understand that some time in the last year you wrote something about Carly Simon and you're wrong. Can you help me find your article?"

That may or may not be what the visitor is asking for. Whatever the visitor is asking for there has been nothing written about Kagan and Katrina. I'm not aware of any connection between the two so I haven't written anything about the two. If we've quoted someone from a periodical or website, I'm not remembering it and I'm not remembering a member commenting on it.

With over 9,000 posts, visitors need to be grown ups and say, "I read ___ and I'm confused." Not, "You wrote about blah blah blah and I have an issue with it." I can usually tell what sort of thing I'd write about but I have no idea where anything is or isn't on this site. One Sunday, we all went through the entire archives to find a name that was mispelled. A person was upset that their name was mispelled, that I had mispelled it. So Jim, Ava, Dona, Ty and Jess of The Third Estate Sunday Review, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, Kat of Kat's Korner, Mike of Mikey Likes It! and myself divided up, by week, everything here and went over every entry. That will never happen again.

Not only do I not have the time but I'm still bothered by the fact that when we found the mistake, it wasn't mine. We were quoting another site. Another site mispelled the person's name. I had to take out the quote and summarize it to fix the problem. And the person never wrote the site responsible for the mistake. They just wrote me to gripe about their mispelled name.

I will mispell names constantly. I will have typos and I will have errors that I make that weren't typos but just my spelling being wrong. I know that. But I'm tired of assuming, everytime someone writes to complain, that I've made a mistake only to search and find that I should have had more faith in myself.

With regards to anything written about Kagan, I know him casually so I'm fully aware of what I have and haven't said here about him. I've said nothing about him and Hurricane Katrina. I've only spoken of his appearance on NPR to discuss John Kerry.

Anyone who's said otherwise to the visitor is mistaken. I don't have to pour over the archives for this. I know for a fact that I never wrote about Kagan and Hurricane Katrina.

So there's no reason for me to now take time to explain "why" I wrote about something I never wrote about. In the future, visitors need to be grown ups and they need to take on a little responsibility. Type in "the common ills" and "robert kagan" on yahoo and, I'm being told, the first result is the entry "When NPR Fails You, Who You Gonna Call? Not the Ombudsman."

That entry is in November. It's been mentioned here since. There has been no mention, made by me, of Hurricane Katrina and Robert Kagan. I'm aware of no comments that Kagan has made publicly on the hurricane. If Matthew Rothschild wrote about Kagan and Hurricane Katrina, that would be something to take up with Matthew Rothschild. Rothschild didn't. But we quote him here a great deal so I'm using him as an example. If we quote anyone and a visitor disagrees with what the writer quoted says, the visitor needs to take it up with the person who wrote the thing. We're a resource/review (I can say that until I'm blue in the face and apparently I'll still have to keep saying it). (For the record, Matthew Rothschild is not the site we quoted that had a reporter offended that "I" mispelled the reporter's name. I'm not identifying that site because it was probably a typo and I certainly have more than my share. But since I've used Rothschild as an example, I don't want anyone to think that's some sort of clue as to the source of a reporter's mispelled name.)

I have a phrase that I've been using more and more and Lynda e-mailed wondering where it came from. "I'm not here to spoon feed." It's from a friend who grew up in Spain (but lives here now) and I'd never heard it before I was given the advice to stop doing everyone's research for them and instead respond "I'm not here to spoon feed."

When Ava and I noted (that link goes to our joint post which I believe has links to the other posts on that issue) that ABC cleaned up Colin Powell's remarks (online in text, they cleaned up what was actually said on 20/20), there were sixteen e-mails from visitors wanting to know how they could verify it? I steered them to the 20/20 website where a clip from the interview was available and where they could purchase a transcript or a video of the telecast. Fifteen were apparently satisfied with that but one guy writes me back demanding that I "dub" him off a copy since I wrote about it. His attitude is that, because I critiqued it and he missed the telecast, it's my responsibility to provide him with a copy of the broadcast. I may have to add, to the automated e-mail reply, "I'm not here to spoon feed."

When the site started, my greatest joy was in the e-mails (positive and negative criticism, sharing voices, sharing experiences). In January we lept up to 500 or so a day. That's when the automated reply was created. There wasn't time anymore. I regret that. But if I don't do private e-mails to members, I shouldn't do them to visitors. And if the person is a public name (as is the person who wrote about Kagan), I have enough appearances of conflicts of interest
as it is (which I've tried to disclose here since December when they've arisen) without adding to them by having private conversations with nonmembers about Kagan or anyone else.

If I'm having a private conversation with ___ (today's visitor) about Kagan, will it influence any future coverage of Kagan? I don't think so, the fact that I know Kagan didn't prevent the entry from going up here in November. (And we really don't cover Kagan. We cover the left so we don't highlight his op-eds for the Wash Post.) But that's why, for instance, I don't engage in private e-mails with Times' reporters. I don't need further conflicts of interest or appearances of them. As noted previously, I have praised the writing of a reporter for the Times that I was unaware I knew (he had done a good samaritan favor for myself and a friend when we were stranded many years prior). I didn't remember that until a friend called me a few days after to say how glad they were that I had praised him because remember when we were stranded and . . . If I had known that, I wouldn't have mentioned his article or his name. If a member had e-mailed on it, I would have noted it with no comments from me.

I didn't think about disclosures in November when this site started. At another site, there was a conflict of disclosure and when Jim brought that to my attention in December, I began trying to always be clear when I wrote about someone I knew. I'm sure I fail there. When I noted Christine's expectations for Serenity (Christine of Pop Politics), I made a point of saying that I knew someone who would profit if the film was a hit. I don't usually do that but since it was about a film (one I don't intend to see) and it wasn't a review but an expecation of it that could lead some to be excited about it, I wanted to be clear that if you read Christine and were excited, be warned that I knew someone who could profit from the film's success.

I have enough conflicts of interest without adding further by engaging in private e-mails that members wouldn't know about. Would it influence my comments? I don't think so. But, as I've said many times before, I could be wrong and often am.

When Ava and I review TV shows, we've taken to noting if we know someone involved with the program or not. We noted we knew people at Dateline. When we did our review of Peter Jennings, Reporter, we noted that we'd spoken to friends at ABC news. When we reviewed Prison Break, we noted that sort of thing. We do that so any possible conflict of interest is known. And that's for a TV review. (I'll disclose that Ava and I often include private jokes in the TV reviews for friends, especially if we're needling someone who works on the program we're reviewing that week.)

I know Kagan casually. I know I didn't write about him and Katrina.

The issue is raised in the visitor's e-mail that I said Kagan was called on to rebutt Juan Williams' commentary on Hurricane Katrina. I didn't say that. I don't even critique NPR now, haven't since this spring when Ruth made that her beat.

I wrote about Kagan in November. At the request of a member who was bothered that no one had commented on Kagan's Kerry commentary that was carried on NPR. Jeffrey Dvorkin, NPR ombudsman, commented on it. You can read his commentary here where he draws a relationship to Juan Williams' commentary on Kerry and Kagans. Media Matters also drew a comparison. There's a reason for that and it goes to the way the segments (actually three -- Williams, an on air "correction," and then Kagan) were handled by NPR.

At no point in that November entry did I critique Kagan for his comments on Hurricane Katrina. To do so would require that either Kagan was prophetic or I was because Hurricane Katrina had not hit.

So to write me asking why I criticized Kagan's commentary on Hurricane Katrina -- I don't know why I was e-mailed on this since I certainly never claimed he had. To ask me to clarify remarks I never made is wasting members time and my time. It's also wasting the visitor's time as well because they are seeking clarification to something that never happened. Instead of asking me to clarify remarks that you think I made, visitors would be better served knowing what I did or did not say before e-mailing.

This entry will be e-mailed (not by me) to the visitor with a comment to read the top of the post.

And the friend I'm dictating this too just advised me of a question someone might have. In the November entry, I don't dispute Kagan's opinions. I addressed the issue of NPR bringing him on to provide commentary on this topic and the lack of disclosure from NPR. Kagan wasn't give a pass by me. I wasn't surprised by his opinion (which I did and do disagree with). The issue the entry raises is that NPR didn't disclose conflicts and that they shouldn't have Kagan as a commentator on John Kerry to begin with. Kagan wasn't given a pass because I casually know him. His opinion wasn't addressed because it was hardly surprising (which may be effected by my exposure to it) and the issue that bothered a member enough to complain was the lack of disclosure on the part of NPR. I believe I said in that entry that "war hawk" or not (Dvorkin's term, I belive, I'm not near a computer and I can't go back and reread the entry) wasn't the issue. Dvorkin didn't address the real issue. He should have. NPR should have. I also believe I stated that if the disclousre needed was made, listeners could make up their own mind.

We did the entry in November. The commentary was in, I believe, October. Media Matters had already refuted Kagan's commentary in terms of his remarks and the basis for them. That wasn't our focus. Our focus was on disclosure. I didn't give Kagan a pass. I just don't enjoy the back and forth of "Your opinion is wrong!" and "No, your opinion is wrong!" (which is why I don't offer commentary on the op-eds or the editorials in the Times). Kagan's remarks weren't surprising nor was the stumble/choked up part (which I'll state I believe was faked to add weight to his opinion -- good tactic but not reality) and the remarks were a month old (and addressed already the day of the commentary by Media Matters). That wasn't our focus. Our focus was NPR wasn't informing listeners of a disclosure that should have been made. I haven't read that entry since November and that's how I remember it. Read it yourself if you have questions or concerns.

(But there's no mention of Hurricane Katrina in that entry. I know that for a fact. It hadn't happened so there couldn't be. In the words of Carly Simon, "I'm no prophet and I don't know nature's ways" -- "The Right Thing To Do" words and music by Carly Simon, originally on the album No Secrets.)

Thank you to the friend taking this cell phone dictation for that and also for catching a potential future issue in e-mails. Kagan was given no breaks or favors. His remarks weren't the larger issue, the larger issue was that NPR presented him as just another commentator when there was the appearance (undisclosed) of a conflict of interest. When Dvorkin addressed (and dismissed) the issue, listeners had raised the conflict with him (I knew of one or two raising it at the time the entry was written, after it went up, and ran around the web, e-mails began coming in from people saying that they'd also raised the conflict of interest. Dvorkin didn't address it. He was aware of it.

To the visitor: if you were told about an entry, and didn't misunderstand someone's summary of it, I think you were played. I think you were played by someone you know who knows me and knows I run this site. (And I think you'll grasp why I say you were played if that is the case.)Visitor, feel free to stop reading here because we're now going to focus on members.

Secret Service Seizes Photo from NC High School
The Progressive Magazine is reporting that the Secret Service recently entered a North Carolina high school to remove a student's project that was made for an assignment on the Bill of Rights. Students in a senior civics and economics class at Currituck County High School were told to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights. One student photographed a picture of President Bush with a red thumb tack through his head. He then took the photo to Wal-Mart to be developed. An employee at Wal-Mart called the Kitty Hawk police and then the matter was passed onto the Secret Service. Late last month the Secret Service sent officers to the school to question the principal and teacher. They also entered the classroom to remove the photograph.

Informant: FBI Knew Ojeda Rios' Location For A Year
And finally this update on the FBI killing of Filiberto Ojeda Rios - the Puerto Rican nationalist leader who was shot dead two weeks ago. In a column I wrote in today's Daily News, a former naval intelligence officer told me that he knows for a fact that Ojeda didn't have to die. The officer says he knows this because he told FBI agents a year ago where they could find Ojeda, who was a wanted fugitve. The informant, who asked not to be identified, has given his account to the Justice Department's Inspector General's Office, which opened an independent review of the shooting last week. But the FBI did not seek to go after Ojeda until Sept 23 - the anniversary of El Grito de Lares. The holiday marks Puerto Rico's failed 1868 independence revolt against Spanish colonialism. It is a date commemorated each year by the independence movement with a march to the town of Lares. The FBI informant told me, "I'm a statehooder, but I see the FBI was trying to humiliate all Puerto Ricans by going after him on El Grito de Lares. I feel I was used. I wanted him arrested, not killed."

Pentagon Analyst Pleads Guilty In Israeli Spy Case
A top Pentagon analyst has pleaded guilty to handing over highly classified intelligence to members of the pro-Israeli lobbying group AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The official, Larry Franklin, also admitted for the first time that he handed over top secret information on Iran directly to an Israeli government official in Washington. Franklin said he personally met with an official from the Israeli Embassy in Washington eight times. The Washington Post reports that Franklin's guilty plea casts doubt on long-standing claims by Israeli officials that they no longer engage in any intelligence activities inside the United States. In 1987, U.S. Navy intelligence officer Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life in prison after he admitted to spying for Israel. As part of a plea agreement Franklin pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and a third charge of possessing classified documents. He faces up to 25 years in prison. As part of the plea agreement, he has agreed to testify against the two former AIPAC officials, who are facing trial.

The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Krista, Zach and Kara. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for October 6, 2005

- 36 Die in Mosque Bombing in Iraq
- Senate Voted 90-9 to Limit Interrogation Techniques
- Pentagon Analyst Pleads Guilty In Israeli Spy Case
- Bush Warns About Avian Flu Epidemic
- Senate GOP Moves to Cut Food Stamps to 300,000
- Clear Channel Seeks Rewrite of Media Ownership Rules
- Informant: FBI Knew Ojeda Rios' Location For A Year

Fmr. Army Chaplain James Yee on the Abuse of Prisoners at Guantanamo, His Wrongful Imprisonment and Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the Military

We spend the hour looking at the extraordinary case of Chaplain James Yee - one of the first Muslim Chaplains commissioned by the U.S Army. Yee was posted in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002, but less than a year after serving there, he was accused of espionage by the military and faced charges so severe, that he was threatened with the death penalty.

The military leaked information about the case to the press and the media went on a feeding frenzy. Chaplain Yee was vilified on the airwaves as a traitor to his country and accused of being a mole inside of the Army. Then the military's case began to unravel. The charges were eventually reduced and eight months later, dropped altogether. Chaplain Yee has written a book about his experiences called "For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire." [includes rush transcript - partial]

Wally notes that Amy Goodman's grandmother has passed away and Ruth found this at WBAI:

Condolences to Amy Goodman on the Loss of Her Grandmother,

Sonia Bock

She died Oct. 5 at the age of 108.The management and staff of WBAI sends condolences to Amy and her family. You can send messages to

Ruth also notes that WBAI is in the midst of a pledge drive so the Christmas Coup Player's comedy program is not airing today. Instead, if you're listening, you're hearing a documentary (I've seen the documentary, The Oil Factor, and I'd say that you got a pretty strong trade off). Ruth says she apologizes to anyone who tuned in for CCP. (I say, you still got strong programming so no apologies needed.)

Maria notes that Christine's addressing the narratives and portraits in the fall TV season in "What Women Want: Don't Ask Your TV" (Pop Politics):

Double Standard?: "Men may have discovered their inner girl, but that does not mean that women's programs show more testosterone," writes Alessandra Stanley in a review of the WB's Related, which debuts tonight.

The show about four sisters pursuing love and happiness is "charming," says Stanley, "but represents the weaker 'Sex and the City': the strong female character is eliminated from the mix. It's the HBO comedy without Miranda, or an updated "Little Women" where all the sisters are like Amy, and none are like Jo."

The softer side of male television is apparent even on ESPN -- "basically Lifetime for Men," writes Stanley, "a sports network where commentators and athletes discuss not just scores and injuries, but also open up (especially on "Cold Pizza") about dating, diets and their feelings."

I'm irked by the shows featuring tough, independent women on whom a softer, more feminine persona is forced. In the season opener of the new Fox series Bones, for instance, the heroine is encouraged by two colleagues to open up and share something personal about herself. For women, being emotionally vulnerable is prized more than simply being good at what you do.

Melinda e-mailed to note Margaret Kimberley's "Bill Bennett's Fantasy: Freak In Life, Demon In Imagination" (The Black Commentator):

Comedian Richard Pryor posed a question about how and whether America saw black people in its future. He noted that futuristic science fiction films rarely if ever had black characters. Was this absence a creative oversight or were we being given a hint?

Hollywood invariably presents the fantasies and desires of white Americans, particularly those of white men. If we pay attention, we notice that film producers aren't alone in revealing very telling yet frightening thoughts about black people.

William Bennett is the intellectual representative of the right wing. He served as Secretary of Education in the Reagan administration and as "drug czar" in the first Bush administration. After his days of government service he created a cottage industry of conservative tomes to scold and moralize to the rest of us. His best seller, The Book of Virtues, was followed by a plethora of books with the words virtues, values or morals in the titles.

Like Rush Limbaugh, drug addict, and Bill Cosby, serial groper, Bennett lectures and condemns while reserving the right to be a freak in his own life. In 2003 Bennett's gambling addiction became widely publicized. It was reported that he lost $8 million in Las Vegas and Atlantic City in a ten year period. We are fortunate that what happened to Bennett in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas.

Jim notes that Bill Scher has an interview with Russ Feingold (Liberal Oasis):

LO: How would you address the genocide in the Sudan differently than Bush has so far?

RF: I've been working on this issue for many years, as the ranking member of the Africa Subcommittee in the Foreign Relations Committee.

And what I have proposed for some time is that we have a high-level, not a medium-level, a high-level special envoy whose purpose is specifically to deal with Darfur and the genocide in that region.

Sort of, of the type we had with Ambassador [John] Danforth, former Senator Danforth, when his job was to try to help broker the agreement between the North and the South.

I think that our policy should be as firm as possible, and should be even stronger than it has been. And we should push other countries around the world, including the United Nations, to create some real downside or penalties for the Sudan regime if they do not cooperate and if they do not control these militias which continue to do great violence in the Darfur region.

One of the ways to do that, is to link progress on stopping the violence in Darfur with cooperation in terms of the North-South peace agreement.

In other words, the two should not be separate. Some people think of them as completely unrelated, but they are not unrelated if the Khartoum government is going to continue to try to oppress the people in the West as they supposedly seek peace with the people in the South.

So those are some of my differences in the approach that the Administration is taking.

KeShawn e-mails to note Bruce Dixon's "Where The Left Lives: Black America Is The Core" (The Black Commentator) and picks this as the excerpt:

Better than two hundred years ago, there was a moment in the French Revolution in which that nation's first constituent assembly sat. On the right side of the speaker sat France's ancient and bloodthirsty nobles, many of whom aimed to bring back the king. Allied with them were the Church, the country's biggest and richest landowner, and the masters of France's vast overseas slave plantations in Martinique, Saint Dominique and elsewhere in the New World. In a few years the slaves of Saint Dominique would rebel, tear the white stripe out of the middle of the French flag and rename their land Haiti, in honor of its exterminated native inhabitants. On the left side of the room sat the representatives of small farmers and small business people, the landless farmworkers, the urban workers and poor. And so it has been that all over the world since that time, the political forces which prop up and defend entrenched wealth and ancient privilege have been called "the right," while those who fight for the humanity and dignity of poor and ordinary men and women and for their right to a place in the sun have been called "the left." Those are the terms in general use outside the Matrix.

Words are tools for understanding reality. The most useful ones allow us to make clear distinctions between things that are in fact different. How do we tell whether a public policy or a political figure is "liberal" or "conservative"? The answer is that we can't always, and even when we think we can it makes little difference.

Hilary Clinton, Congressmen David Scott (D-GA) and Artur Davis (D-AL) and General Wesley Clark are all supposed "liberal" Democrats. But all supported the war in Iraq, and none of the three who had a vote cast it against the Patriot Act. Democratic Senator Pat Leahy is a liberal, and voted John Roberts onto the Supreme Court, just as "liberals" before him voted for Clarence Thomas. "Liberal" Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid supports Bush's latest right wing crony appointment to the Supreme Court, and "liberal" Senator Barack Obama voted for "tort reform" that protects wealthy corporations from suits by ordinary citizens.

Dominick e-mails to note Mark Sorkin's "Bill Bennett's Abortion Fantasies" (The Nation):

So now we know that William Bennett, in addition to being a moral crusader with a gambling habit, is a pro-lifer who supports abortion. OK, maybe "supports" is too strong a word. But the conservative commentator did proclaim on his radio show last week that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." That would be an "impossible, ridiculous, morally reprehensible thing to do," Bennett warned his callers. But, he insisted, the strategy would work.

Leaving aside the question of whether Bennett considers eugenics or abortion the greater sin, the statement was so outrageous it hardly deserves a second thought beyond immediate censure. But give the man some credit for his timing: At a moment when Americans are already roiling over the Bush Administration's racist response to Hurricane Katrina, Bennett managed to turn up the heat. Suddenly sensitized, the White House sought to distance itself from Bennett, a longtime ally who served as Reagan's Education Secretary and drug czar for Bush Sr., by deeming his comments "not appropriate."

What's most striking about this little flap is not the lunacy of Bennett's remark, recycled as it was from an old theory advanced years ago by Freakonomics author Steven Levitt. Nor is it the speed of the response from the White House, which has been on permanent damage control since Katrina struck. Bennett's take on race as a key determinant of criminal behavior is so unsettling because it reveals in such stark terms the conservative conflation of poverty and race in America and exposes the racist fears that underlie our criminal justice policy.

The e-mail address for this site is

Yahoo! for Good
Click here to donate to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.