Saturday, November 12, 2005

Ruth's Morning Editon Report

Ruth: The e-mails came in and then some. C.I. posted a notice about a column I killed last weekend. At first, I was going to rework it and hopefully have something ready for Sunday. But I could not rework it and told C.I. that I was going to take a pass. Which is when C.I. asked me what I wanted said since e-mails would come in wondering where I was?

C.I. summarized exactly what I said on Monday while noting, "Ruth, people are going to read this and think I'm making a comment on your pulled column." C.I. was right but those were my words and C.I. addressed the issue of the show involved.

CounterSpin, produced by the organization
FAIR, is one of my favorite radio programs. Two Fridays ago, they had Robert Parry as a guest. Mr. Parry is the reporter who established himself in the mainstream press by taking on stories no one else wanted to deal with such as Iran-Contra. Now he is an author of books and also runs Consortium News online. When the interview ended, I thought to myself, "I wish it had been longer." Then the next interview started and that was the problem.

A law expert, a law professor, was the guest. I was underwhelmed by the guest. He was brought on to discuss Judge Sameul A. Alito Jr. who currently serves on the federal bench and is nominated for the Supreme Court. As Treva would say, Mr. Alito is a "biggie."

Janine Jackson was the interviewer. Ms. Jackson has strong interview skills and she needed every one of them while dealing with a guest who had not reviewed Mr. Alito's court decisions and repeatedly relied upon statements to the effect of "I'm told he ruled this way . . ."

It was as though I was asked to come on the show to discuss kugel and arrived with only, "I'm told Treva has an incredible recipe for it . . ." Did I look at Treva's recipe? No and I had no information to offer of any substance. P.S. Treva does make an incredible kuglel and I do have her recipe.

Ms. Jackson did an incredible job in the interview but I honestly felt the guest was ill prepapred and offered nothing of substance. I also took issue with the guest's use of "partial-birth abortion." "So-called" as a preface is quite different from other prefaces. I believe the guest used "what is known as partial-birth abortion" but I won't swear to that. As a feminist of more years than I have gray hairs, and I have a lot of gray hairs, I am really tired of hearing men weigh in on abortion. Especially those who use terms that are not medically supported. I was married to a doctor, many of my children have followed in their late father's footsteps, so I do take medicine seriously.

The guest was not to my liking. I had no desire to recommend that anyone go out of their way to listen to the show. That is where my back and forth on whether I'd have something came from.

I love CounterSpin. Robert Parry was a guest worth hearing. The critiques by Ms. Jackson, Peter Hart and Steve Rendell that start each episode are always on the money and funny. So the issue was one of do I want to recommend this episode or not?

As a feminist and someone who has a strong appreciation of real science, I had no desire to recommend that anyone listen to the legal expert brought on to discuss Judge Alito's record.

My hope was just to skip a week and come back this week where I would note the problems I had with the guest, as I have, and then recommend the latest edition of CounterSpin. C.I. called me to give me a heads up to a guest and warn me that I might want a "Ruth is on vacation" note posted at The Common Ills.

I cannot recommend this Friday's episode. I did not listen to it. I am sure there was value early on but there was a guest from an organization that this community would not support.

It is really too bad that the organization has never clarified their stance. Maybe the organization does not support the tactics used this summer? If so, the community would be happy to get behind the organization. But there has never been a statement from them on it. Now, as some leave the organization and go elsewhere, they may do so with a cloud over them.

C.I. said, "Ruth, it's your space, feel free to name the organization and write whatever you want." While I will gladly take C.I. up on the latter, I have no desire to promote the organization.

To recap, although I am sure every member of the community already knows what organization I am speaking of, this summer a high school kid, fifteen-years-old, goes to work with his father.

The kid plays around the internet. Coming from a family of good leftists, he seeks out leftist sites. He checks out the organization involved as well as some of the sites that the organization links to at its blog report.

The blog report is asking for feedback and allows comments. The kid notes some sites, four, in his comments. The kid also makes a comment that some of the topics being covered by the blog report are frivilous. I would agree with that statement. Instead, the kid steers the blog report author to posts at some other sites.

The Common Ills was one of the four sites. C.I. noted this event after the kid e-mailed, to the blog report author and each of the four sites, an apology because there was talk of the four sites not being mentioned as a result of the child's comments. That is where this community comes in.

But, thanks to the gina & krista round-robin and the fact that they ran the e-mails sent out by the organization -- both to West and those not to West, we know a bit more now than when C.I.'s statements on this were posted. So let's all back up a moment. On the first day when the student posted, already there was an effort by the author of the blog report, via e-mail, to attempt to find out information on the child. The author did not e-mail the child. That seems to me a bit sneaky, going around and attempting to get dirt on someone.

There was no dirt to be gotten from this community because the student was not a member of this community and no one knew him or of him. That was day one and I want to include it because it has not been noted here. That is due to the fact that C.I. did not know about this until Gina and Krista ran e-mails in their round-robin.

As my granddaughter Tracey pointed out, she is a big fan of
Katrina vanden Heuvel at The Nation, "Some people post really mean things in reply to Katrina's Editor's Cut but I can't believe she would ever attempt to get dirt on them and she obviously doesn't ban them." That is because The Nation operates under the principle of free speech.

Which brings us to day two. On day two, the blog report included praise for Michelle Malkin and links to her. Was the news that day so slow that the left needs to praise Michelle Malkin? I do not think we have had a news day that slow since the Bully Boy stepped into the oval office.

The child posted something to the effect of "step out of the GOP closet" and that is where things really hit the fan.

At this point, it is not only the author of the blog report but also a member of management of the organization involved that is on record: "Step out of the GOP closet" was "hate speech."

The child was informed of that and informed that he was banned and the possibility of harm to the four web sites was floated if the child did not immediately apologize. This occurred in a flurry of e-mail messages from the organization which apparently has nothing better to do on a mid-week day than harrass fifteen-year-olds.

So the child e-mails an apology. The child apologizes to the author of the blog report and to the four blogs he had praised. He sends that out in a group e-mail and then receives an e-mail from the author of the blog report saying he wished the child had not done that.

Of course he wishes the child had not done that. What the author and the one member of managment at the organization had done goes against everything that the left is supposed to stand for. It goes against freedom of speech, which is not supported in the comments that you can post, at your own risk, at the organization, as noted by management in an e-mail to the child.

What it boils down to is a bad writer did a bad blog report. Critical comments were not allowed. Prior to the banning, there was an attempt to seek out dirt on the child. When no dirt came back to the author of the blog report, at least from this community who did not know the child, they looked for an excuse to ban the child. The excuse they latched onto was that "step out of the GOP closet" was "hate speech."

"Step out of the GOP closet" is not hate speech. No one in their right mind would attempt to argue that it was. I spoke with my grandson Jayson and several friends who are lesbians to make sure that I was not missing something, as a straight woman, but the feedback was the same, "That is not hate speech and has nothing to do with sexuality."

What is was, I would argue, was an excuse to ban the kid who was making humorous criticism, but insightful criticism. Instead of taking a look at that criticism, they elected to ban the child, after first seeking out dirt on him and then going so far as to force an apology out of him.

The child's parents are still bothered by the actions of the organization. I spoke with the father on Friday and he said that to this day the child has not received an apology from the organization in any form.

As a mother and grandparent, I will say that no organization calling itself "left" should go after a child the way they did that student.

I also spoke to Pru who had advocated the linking to that blog report. Being one of our European members, Pru lives in London, Pru feels that C.I. gave special consideration to her request once Gareth, Polly and James in Brighton joined in. She states that they are appalled to this day over the events of this summer and that, speaking for herself and Gareth, they do not go to that blog report or to anything on that organization's site.

C.I. states that the decision was not Pru's and that C.I. takes full responsibility for that link.

When the child sent out the group e-mail,
Rebecca, who operates one of the four sites the child had praised -- the other two are not community sites, immdiately responded. She e-mailed the child and asked that they speak on the phone. She immediately posted her feelings of disgust over the treatment of this child at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude. C.I. learned of what had happened from Rebecca who phoned. C.I. immediately posted at this site. C.I. noted that the link was being pulled and that the behavior was not of the left. C.I., being C.I., didn't name the organization. C.I. offered the hope that the treatment of the child was not policy at the organization and that an apology would be made to the child. C.I. also stated that the child could consider himself a member of this community because anyone who is beat up for advocating this site and others on the left is a member. We know the child by "West" now.

I told West's parents that if that had been Tracey, Jayson or any of my grandchildren, I would be on the phone every day screaming at the organization, demanding an apology. West's parents are practicing Buddhists and a bit more sanguine than I am and feel that karma will hold the organization accountable. They say, both the mother and the father, that they have just eliminated visiting that web site and purchasing from it. West's father feels very badly about all of this because he actually had the site bookmarked on his computer at work and had suggested to his son that he visit it.

They were not aware, like everyone else, until Gina and Krista reproduced all the e-mails involved on this in their gina & krista round-robin, that the blog author had attempted to get dirt on their child. West's father is most vocal on that topic. He says that the site can certainly ban anyone that they wish to, for whatever trumped up charges, but it is quite another option to attempt to do covert research.

"If my son's comments bothered him [the blog author] so much the first day, he should have e-mailed my son. To instead attempt to hunt down dirt on him behind his back is more the sort of actions one expects from J. Edgar Hoover than from a purported left site."

The parents appreciate the strong support from the community on this. West no longer leaves a comment on any site he visits as a result although he maintains he is putting the incident behind him. As a mother and grandmother, I question whether he can?

That is some message the organization elected to send to a fifteen-year-old child. But West seems very bright and will hopefully be able to realize that some organizations practice free speech and some not only do not practice it but also attempt to launch covert actions.

I asked C.I. what I could say about this and was informed, no surprise, whatever I wanted to say would go up. "This is your space, Ruth. This is your op-ed."

Rebecca pointed out over the phone Friday night, C.I. delinked from them as soon as what was done to West was learned. C.I. welcomed West into the community, apologized that there would be no e-mail reply to West's e-mail that night, due to the late hour. C.I. also delinked from the blog report. The blog report author immediately delinked from The Common Ills. The author obviously read C.I.'s entry yet the author has never made any effort to apologize to West.

C.I.'s comments on the future with regards to that organization are "I stand with the community" and nothing else. To every question I asked, "I stand with the community."
Rebecca's belief is that had the author attempted to contact West and state that the author's behavior was "questionable," since the parents want to put this all behind them, C.I. would have probably linked to the organization. As it stands now, the organization is not promoted at this site. C.I. stated that Rebecca's opinions are her own opinions and may or may not reflect C.I.'s but that the operating prinicple at this site is that we do not promote or reward bad behaviors. If the organization had a spokesperson on Democracy Now!, a link would simply not be provided for that segment.

Could I have promoted the interview on CounterSpin in my column? Yes, I was told I could because this is my space though C.I. added that knowing my own feelings towards the treatment of West, it is highly unlikely that I would promote them. C.I. is correct. I came of age when, if something was wrong, you said it was wrong.

That all these months later, the organization has still not offered any sort of olive branch to West is appalling. There has not even been an e-mail stating, "I was under a lot of stress and, in reflection, if I had it to do over, I probably would have conducted myself differently."

So for this community, the organization does not exist. When this all went down, my eldest son was dropping off Elijah the next morning and I honestly had not read C.I.'s post on it. It went up very late and I always start with the top entry and work my way down. So I learned of it from my eldest son and I will note his reaction to it and insist that it make it into my report today. I will insist upon it because the only editing C.I. ever does of my column is to remove references to C.I.

My eldest son expressed amazement that the organization would treat anyone that way, let alone a child. He had bought a paper book from the organization and, I believe, a few DVDs. He stated then, and has kept his word, that he was not going to purchase anything from them anymore nor was he going to visit it. He also felt C.I. was brave to take the stand since it would likely cost a "link." It did. But, as Rebecca will tell you, C.I. could care less. There is right and there is wrong. You stand for what you believe in or you do not.

The only response from the blog author has not been an olive branch of any sort to West, it has been just to delink from The Common Ills. The blog author may feel that "addresses" the situation and possibly upper management at the organization does as well. It does not address what was done to West.

As a result, I did not listen to my favorite radio program. I will catch CounterSpin next week and enjoy it as I usually do. But in the wishy-washy world we live in where Bully Boy is treated with kid gloves and a corporate media repeats, but does not analyze, White House spin, it is very important that we take strong stands. The organization was one of several that could not take a stand on the war following the elections. They refused to run a piece by Tom Hayden that was "on the money" as we used to say in my day.

I applaud strong stands. The Nation has an amazing editorial. Hopefully that issue will arrive in the mail soon because I am highly tempted to use the link provided Friday to read it. ("
Democrats and the War.") This is not a time for cowardice.

Which brings me to two programs I wanted to highlight from public radio. KPFA's The Morning Show provided an in depth look at adoption this week, exploring various issues over several days. I do not think that I have heard a more in depth discussion on that topic. They approached the topic from a variety of angles including the rights of the LGBT community, the issues involved in raising children that are a different race or ethnicity from the parent or parents and,
on Friday, the issue of how a natural tragedy in one corner of the world can lead to adoptions in another and what are the ethics involved in that? Andrea Lewis did an amazing job interviewing the guests and everyone involved in the series deserves praise. With a multi-part series, the last installment often features some attempt to close the gate and state, "So here's how it is." There was no attempt to simplify this complex issue. Listeners were treated like adults.

I will also note that Friday, November 4th, Ms. Lewis interviewed Eddi Fiegel, the author of a new book entitled Dream A Little Dream Of Me: The Life of Cass Elliot. During her research for the book, Crosby, Stills and Nash's David Crosby offered Fiegel a hundred dollars if she found anyone who knew Cass Ellliot and had anything bad to say about Ms. Elliot. Ms. Fiegel did not collect a hundred dollars from Mr. Crosby. She did, however, learn a great amount of information about Cass Elliot. One of the reasons this was such a strong interview was because Ms. Lewis actually knew about Mama Cass. That surprised me as I listened and I kept thinking, "Surely she is not my age?" During the interview, it was revealed that, no, she is not my age. She was a child at the time of the Mamas and the Papas. But she does appreciate the vocals of Cass. Fans of Cass and those interested in the book, as well as those interested in hearing a good interview, should use the link to listen to the archived edition of the broadcast. For any impatient listeners, I will note that Ms. Fiegel comes on in the last hour of the broadcast.

The other program I want to steer to you towards is Law & Disorder on WBAI. [Dallas note: To hear this broadcast, click here and scroll down to November 7th.]

The hosts are "Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Dalia Hashad, Muslim, Arab and South Asian Advocate with the ACLU, Michael Steven Smith, civil rights attorney and author and Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the National Lawyers' Guild."

There were many topics discussed but I will note the one that holds everyone's interest when I mention it, author Joan Mellen about her forthcoming book A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK's Assassination, and the Case That Should Have Changed History.
[C.I. note: This book will be released Tuesday, November the 15th.] Utilizing documents from the National Archives, Mellen explores new data on the JFK assassination. The discussion included noting that the late Hale Boggs, House Majority Leader and father of Cokie Roberts, was the one who first steered Jim Garrison to questions regarding the Warren Report. Ms. Mellen draws strong conclusions and if you are interested in them, you should listen to the broadcast. [Dallas note: Again, click here and scroll down to November 7th.]

Earlier this week, C.I. noted of the departure of Judith Miller from the New York Times, "The Times, the original Survivor, has spoken. Everyone's to feed on Miller now." I found the line both apt and humorous. Tracey told me I had to include it and her mother will swear that Tracey has laughed "nonstop like a hyena" at that line. Apparently, if you have watched the program Survivor, it is especially funny. Being a doting grandmother, I immediately agreed it would be included. I was not sure how I would work it in until Friday morning when I flipped on NPR out of the blue and found Renee Montaigne suddenly, also out of the blue?, remembering that she was a reporter.

Here is the segment:

Judith Miller Defends Her Reporting at the 'Times'
Morning Edition, November 11, 2005 · Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller says she disagrees with criticism of her reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. She maintains that her sources got their facts wrong, and denies that her stories were improperly vetted.

Renee obviously got the memo that "everyone's to feed on Judy Miller" which explains Renee's interview "style." Does anyone else remember the tut-tutting from the NPR ombudsman over Terry Gross' Fresh Air interview with Bill O'Reilly? Will he have anything to say about the fact that Renee repeatedly cut off and interrupted Ms. Miller? That Renee was openly hostile to Ms. Miller?

If NPR wants to make this their "style," by all means do so but apply it to all. Curiously,
Ahmad Chalabi was intervied by Steve Inskeep immediately prior to Renee's interview with Ms. Miller being aired and Steve handled Mr. Chalabi with kid gloves.

This is not Renee's normal "style." You can contrast her interview with Ms. Miller with any number of people. You can focus solely on her interviews on to the topic of Iraq. She has held hands with administration officials repeatedly. Nor was this a case of Renee being frustrated because she had been a brave voice in the lead up to the war. She was not. As a sometime host of Morning Edition, then anchored by Bob Edwards, Renee never challenged any assertions or Colin Powell's infamous United Nations speech.

So since this is not her normal style and since she was not a brave voice standing alone on the coverage of Iraq, the only conclusion I can draw is she wanted to score some points. She did so.

She presented herself as belligerant and combative. If NPR wants to be that way, I have no problem with it provided that "style" is carried out with everyone.

Judith Miller is now disgraced publicly. Due to that, Renee apparently feels she can alter the tone of NPR and go into attack mode to score a few points.

I doubt the ombudsman will take a look at the issue and I doubt even more that he would issue a "finding" against Renee. It is open season on Ms. Miller.

While Ms. Miller has herself to blame for that, the fact remains that Renee's attention seeking interview "style," which I would term a "tantrum," did not meet the standards of NPR. If Renee wants to cut off administration officials and snap at them, by all means do so. But unless she is willing to provide that "style" across the board, the conclusions many listeners will draw is that Renee thought she could get away with dropping what NPR terms "professionalism" and go into attack mode since Ms. Miller is an easy target.

How bad was the interview? Ms. Miller said at one point, "Renee, I'm not going to argue with you about this." At one point, Ms. Miller asserted that "chest beating" was not the answer but that the answer was "going out and doing more journalism." While Ms. Miller's name is in tatters, a real interviewer might have asked the obvious question, "How would that be done? What would be pursued?"

Renee was not interested in pursuing that topic which is too bad because, now that Ms. Miller can admit her reporting is wrong, she might also be able to admit how the truth could be discovered. She might not be able to but we will never know that since Renee did not follow up on it. Instead, Renee show boated in a manner that goes against anything I have ever heard on NPR.

I have no respect for, nor good thoughts of, Judith Miller. But it bears noting that standards are apparently relaxed when Ms. Miller is a guest. The reason for that is a question NPR needs to explore.

Whether Ms. Miller's statements were sincere or not, she is correct that more reporting is needed. It is needed to rectify the reporting on record which was not reporting but stenography and which carries not just Ms. Miller's name but the names of many other "reporters."

If the conclusion from all of this is that Ms. Miller was a bad reporter I have no idea why people have spent so many hours addressing this. Ms. Miller was a bad reporter and that is not "news" or even fresh gossip at this point.

The news value is in exploring how a compliant press abdicated their duties and responsibilities to the public not in the usual manner of pursuing some titilating story but in one sided, unquestioning coverage of an issue as serious as war. That is the story. Ms. Miller is a character in that story. She, however, is not the only character.

It is very interesting that the press is so willing to examine Ms. Miller's motives but not the motives of people at their own organizations or, for that matter, the motives of the administration. Perhaps if they were Bully Boy's speech Friday would have been greeted with the laughter and ridicule it deserved.