Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth (of Ruth's Report): This will be an odds and ends report where I basically address some questions and issues that visitors raised in the public e-mail account ( If community members e-mail me at my own account or at the private e-mail accounts for members, I either reply or save it for my column each Tuesday in Hilda's Mix.

The lack of e-mails to visitors results in regular questions best summed up by one man who wrote three times last week and, the last two times, asked, "Why won't you reply?" He seemed to feel I was scared of his question. I am not afraid of his question; however, I am not qualified to answer it. His concern is with Pacifica specifically and all independent media in general receiving foundation grants. He has concluded that this has diluted both the coverage and independence and provides a wealth of links that I could read "and see it backs me up." I do not have a the time for a wealth of links and I do not know that I am qualified to comment on the topic. My gut instinct tells me that there is a trade-off whenever monies are exchanged and that includes grants. If, as he feels, the trade-off is not equal, he can start his own website for free at Blogspot/Blogdrive and address the issue. If he does and he e-mails to notify me of his post or posts, I will be happy to link to them and suggest everyone read them to be aware of his issues of concern.

Why do I not reply to e-mails to the public account? I actually do reply to some even now. But apparently I need to revisit the topic. Jess responded to an organization and found his e-mail forwarded to people at The Nation. Thus far, the e-mail Jess responded to has not been made public but it may be in 2008. Jess' e-mail contained nothing embarrassing but someone apparently thought, "I'll get in good with The Nation!" So they sent it along. While Jess has nothing to be embarrassed about from that passed on e-mail, the e-mail he was replying to will embarrass the organization that e-mailed this site. While that e-mail came into this site, it is equally true that Rebecca responded to a blogger who e-mailed her to praise her and ask one question. He then forwarded her e-mail and attempted to deny it despite the fact that Rebecca has a copy of it being forwarded.

Early on Jim used to make the point repeatedly at The Third Estate Sunday Review that the gang was doing an online site, they were not running a pen-pal club. "At the end of the day," he told me Saturday, "we are judged by what features we posted on Sunday. That's what we set out to do. I know that statement has always pissed people off, including members of the community. We now do the mailbag feature as often as possible to address things that come in. Is it reflective? No, it's not. If it were reflective, the bulk of it would be comments praising Ava and C.I.'s TV commentaries. But are we running a site or are we replying to e-mails?"

Jim cites C.I.'s 'model' as the reason for the confusion. The Common Ills is not a "blog." C.I. started it having never seen a blog and it quickly turned into responding to issues raised in the e-mails. A generic e-mail goes out automatically from the public account to anyone who writes. The generic e-mail was set up in January 2005 when the incoming e-mails became too many to address. C.I. worked with The Third Estate Sunday Review on their first edition and on every edition since. Only Ava and C.I. have worked each week on every edition of that site. When they finally persuaded C.I. to be credited as "one of the gang," Jim explains, "The one condition was that we create an automated reply because C.I. wouldn't be a part of it unless everyone who e-mailed got some form of acknowledgement."

At this site, the private e-mail accounts were set up so that C.I. could pull from them quickly and address the concerns of members without having to search through the public account. The public account is now worked by Jess, Ava, Dona, Martha, Shirley and Eli as well as C.I. All also work the members accounts. If anyone else finds an e-mail that feel C.I. needs to see, it is put into a folder that C.I. addresses as time permits. There is also a folder for e-mails to Kat and for e-mails to me.

The e-mails coming into this site are read. They may or may not receive a reply. But there are very few private replies that go out as a result of the fact that e-mails have been passed on. As a general rule, if you are a reporter who is covered here, you do not get a reply from a C.I. Someone else may choose to reply to you such as Ava who loves responding to the coffee fetchers; however, C.I. does not respond because, as stated here many times, "I have enough conflicts of interest already without creating new ones." C.I. has broken that rule twice. Once it was with a reporter for The New York Times, once it was with a reporter in independent media. In one instance, the reporter was having a meltdown, this was 2005, and there was enough already going on. This is the summer of 2005 when C.I. announced that the site would most likely go dark after the November 2008 elections. There were a number of other issues going on at that time and members will remember them, as well as the fact that C.I. stated the illegal war would still be going on past November 2008. The two created "a bit of a shock," Jim remembers. "Both for us because sentiment was really turning against the illegal war, public sentiment, and 2008 seemed so far away. Now it's right around the corner and, of course, the illegal war is no closer to ending despite the fact that public sentiment against the illegal war has only increased. That was a really rough writing edition both because I was pressuring Ava and C.I. to drop the show they wanted to review and to focus on another to deliver something really hard hitting and because there was a feature that C.I. wanted no part of, and had no part of and we noted it, and also really didn't want it written. During a break, C.I. checks the public e-mail account for The Common Ills and finds the cry baby from the paper of no record whining and blustering. His name was misspelled by one letter! Oh, the tragedy. In most cases, it wouldn't matter because of the fact that C.I. intentionally misspells or nicknames many reporters but this wasn't an Iraq-related reporter. We all, Dona, Ty, Ava, Jess, C.I. and myself, possibly Kat as well, spent hours trying to find that entry to correct that one letter. When we finally found it, C.I. had excerpted two paragraphs from another site, the site was clearly credited, and that site had misspelled the reporter's name by leaving out one letter. That e-mail really ticked me off for two reasons and the second was I doubted the cry baby had complained to the blogger who was excerpted. I did e-mail the blogger and he replied to me that the reporter had never griped about his misspelled name. No surprise." In the other instance of C.I. replying, C.I. was informing a reporter why they were perceived in a negative manner and what they needed to do change that. I will note that the reporter used that input but never bothered to say thank you. Then the advice was disregarded a few months later and the reporter is now viewed negatively again.

Many e-mail to gripe and whine in the public account and when I told C.I. I was writing about this topic, I was asked to note that Felicity Berringer is the only reporter who has ever "had the guts" to take her issue public. You can click here to read her comments. I will note that in 2005, when Ms. Berringer wrote that article which clearly intended to push the notion that environmentalists were shifting to support for nuclear energy, C.I. called it out. Had more done so in real time, possibly they would not have needed to do so in 2006 and 2007 as they rush on the scene to act as though this selling a lie just began.

"If someone's been mentioned here," C.I. explains, "I read the e-mail. If anyone wants to go public, they can. I might advise them not to. I'm thinking of when a friend who is a commentator and not a reporter e-mailed the site offended by what we'd said about him. He stated we'd distorted his comments on something that happened in 2005. In that instance, if he had wanted his comments to go up here, I would've e-mailed him to explain why he did not. We never commented on what he said or didn't say in 2005. A mutual friend was playing a joke on him. This was addressed at the site and Jess e-mailed him to notify him that he was being played, pranked, and to read the entry that had just gone up clarifying that no one, not me, not you, had commented on anything he'd said in 2005. But if someone wants to comment on something that actually went up here, a critique of them, they're welcome to. My attitude has always been, 'I've had my say, have your say.' With Berringer, I was perfectly comfortable with posting her e-mail, with her permission. That would have been the end of it for me. The community had an uproar over that. So I ended up having to do an entry that evening commenting on their reactions and weighing in. I'm not really interested in that but aware, aware now, that it is expected. If you disagreed with Berringer, and the community did, my own personal feelings were, we already addressed it. We've weighed in, then she weighed in, and we move on to something else. That didn't happen because members thought it required a response and my own personal feelings were that it had already been addressed. There's not going to be any chance that she's going to say, 'Oh my goodness, they're right!' And there's not any chance that members are going to say, 'Oh my goodness, she's right!' What the exchange, my opinion only, should have done was to provide members with where she was coming from, her views. I appreciate that she took her issues public. What I wrongly thought members would understand is that we are a site for the left. As such, we will be in opposition to most mainstream reporting which, by its stated goal, is not supposed to lean left or right. There was never going to be agreement by members and Berringer but it was, I felt, a way for her to offer where she was coming from. In fairness to her, it needs to be noted that a daily paper is concerned with 'new'. That some environmentalists or 'environmentalists' were publicly joining the push for nuclear energy will result in coverage because that is 'news.' Where I feel her article failed was in not giving equal weight to the vast number of environmentalists that still oppose nuclear energy. Her argument might be, that position is well known. Her argument in her response, I believe, was that she offered dissenting views. They were not given equal weight and the thrust of the article was that the new move in environmental circles was support for nuclear energy. That was not reality. After her comments were posted, the reaction of the community was obviously 'hostile' and I did make a point to try to include some things she'd written afterwards that were stronger because the hostility was so intense in the community and what I had hoped was that the reaction would be, 'I disagree with her. I don't care for her reporting in that story but she does outline what she was attempting and that's more than many have ever bothered to do.' I'm not saying members were 'wrong.' But I am saying that I didn't anticipate that reaction. Now I will. If anyone wants something to go up, I know I will have to offer some response. If it happens again, I would prefer that a response go up and stay up long enough to be read and digested before a response goes up. Myself, I don't care to read the letters section of a magazine where one person sounds off and the writer of the piece sounds off in response. But that's what would happen here and I'm aware of that. With friends who want to sound off, I usually advise them to take it to one of the community newsletters. Gina does a wonderful job with those where she's able to offer an actual exchange, because the newsletters are more private, and to demonstrate what I hoped exchanges like Felicity Berringer's did which is there's a report, here's an opinion, here's a response. Weigh it and make up your own minds. Gina handles that amazing well and I think she's helped explain the process when you are at a news outlet and have to adhere to what passes for 'balance.' I think she's also made very strong points about how 'balance' should not replace truth and how it frequently does."

C.I. explained the reasons for replies to e-mails and how e-mails, from the start, determined the focus of this site. I had five e-mails from the public account to use as examples of people who were upset that they didn't receive a personal reply and C.I. noted, "None of those are about Iraq so the first question is, 'Why did you bother to write?' As a feminist, I will bend over backwards to include issues specific to women and maybe that confuses some and they think, 'Oh, they'll note this too!' But we are focused on Iraq. Whether it's Iraq related or not, if it comes into the public account, it goes into a folder and I work from that folder as time permits. Time may never come. Something else may need to be focused on and that's generally the result of the mood of the community. If someone wants something highlighted in the paper, and this is one of the e-mails you've printed up, that they've written and it does get highlighted, they've really got no point in complaining that I disagreed with them. They got their name, they got a quote, they got a link. I really don't know what more they want other than to put words into my mouth. That piece, there is no way anyone in the community was going to agree with it. I only included it because the writer had e-mailed the site. It was Iraq related, we could fit it in, it wasn't right-wing but it also wasn't realistic. You got your link, you got your name, you got a quote. You're not happy with my opinion? What is this site but opinion? You were attempting to do something good, I understand that. You compromised your position in doing so and I also understand that and am not going to just provide a pull quote and a link without commenting on the piece itself when it so clearly needed commenting on. I never wrote the writer when the request came in, I worked it in as soon as I could, I put it into a snapshot which mean it was reposted at every community site that posted that day. The link means anyone interested in the topic had access to your writing. Again, other than putting words into my mouth, I really do not know what more that writer wanted. Now he's upset that I commented and thinks it is rude that I never personally responded to his first e-mail. I'm not personally responding to his second. He asked for something, he got it, he might not need to be grateful, but he should have seen he received what he wanted which was a link to his piece. The end result is his nasty little e-mail means he'll never be noted here again. Links can provide traffic where you will be read, links also effect online rankings. I take it very seriously who we link to and who we don't.

"In the case of the other four e-mails," C.I. continues, "we can summarize those as 'I'm trying to understand where you're coming from.' Fine, if that's what you're trying to do. If that's what you're trying to do, it's factored in because I'm lacking clarity on some issue and need to address that. That's valuable input. But in the case of these four, they aren't trying to understand a position, they're wanting personal information about me. There's far too much personal information already up and that comes from having to churn out entries day after day. But I'm not the Iraq War. A group of coffee fetchers, despite Ava's fiery replies to them, continue to e-mail and they're not e-mailing for any valid reason. I'm old enough, too old, to know that game which is: 'I will pretend I love them and then offer that they need to tone it down.' I really am not seeking 'love' from an online site, so that's your first mistake. Your second is assuming my ego is so great that I could ego trip out on your e-mail. I make a ton of mistakes every day in my personal life and online. I do not think I'm perfect, I think I am as humanly away from perfect as anyone could get. So you're tactic of 'I will subvert the website by feeding the ego' is a failed tactic. I've never looked to strangers for validation and never will. I've never been concerned with 'tone' because I know how the press works. All this 'I'll soften my critiques and they'll see my point' is nonsense. I know how those critiques are received from growing up. The comments you've structured to be in agreement register and the minor criticism you offer is blown off. Those letters never were the topic of dinner conversation growing up. The ones that hit hard were. The ones that didn't try to flatter or soothe the ego made an impression. It was usually one of 'How dare they write that!' but it registered. Not surprisingly, that's the tactic the right has employed forever. And they've done so with great success. It has moved the mainstream press to the right even while polling demonstrates no such move among the country. So this 'more flies with sugar' nonsense is nonsense. I'm not trying to 'catch flies.' I can understand why someone attempting to set themselves up as a paid commentator would utilize that approach. But I'm not paid for this and I'm not trying to turn it into a career.

"Here's the reason this site started. In February 2003, a friend had scheduled some speaking appearances against the possible Iraq War but ended up getting requests to do another set of appearences on the same topic. She didn't want to just cancel the previous ones but the second set would provide her with a larger number of people. I said I'd fill in when I was asked. Then the illegal war broke out. I know a lot of professors and they asked me to speak since I'd already spoken before the start of the war. This was never planned to be something I'd do over and over. I continued doing it throughout 2003 and 2004. I supported John Kerry in the 2004 election and donated to the campaign. I did not use any of my campus activity to endorse a candidate during the primaries or after them. The focus was Iraq and students could and did vouch for whatever candidate they wanted. That was fine. I was there to talk about Iraq. The 2004 election was a shock. I think the work done by Harper's magazine and others demonstrate that the election results were in question. But, since no one was going to question them with the power to demand a recount, that really wasn't my concern. A week or so after the election, I met with friends who had either worked on getting Kerry elected or worked on ending the illegal war or both. We reviewed what we'd done and how effective it had or had not been. We talked about what we could have done differently or what avenues we didn't even attempt. Elaine and Rebecca, who were not at this meeting, had been among the people saying to me, 'You should do a blog.' I didn't know what a blog was and I didn't have the time. One of the points made during the meeting was that the press was able to saturate on an issue, which they are, and that the counter to that wasn't as effective as it should be, which it's not. Blogs were brought up. I left that meeting and that night started up The Common Ills. I had no idea what I was doing and I may have seen something in Clamor on Blogger/Blogspot. I was on the phone with Elaine talking about something different, she thought I was typing something like a letter. I was filling her in on the meeting while trying to figure out Blogger/Blogspot. At the end of it, she said, 'You need to start a blog.' I replied, 'I just did.' She was the only one I told originally. I didn't know what I was doing, I don't claim that I did. Day two, I was able to post without my hands shaking, I was very nervous on the first night, and thought I did several entries to try to figure out how it worked. I did and by the last one that day, there were comments at the site as well as e-mails. I, honestly, assumed those were friends of Elaine. Jim and Dona were among the first to write and it was only after I met them that I stopped suspecting Elaine had told people, 'Go read The Common Ills and write in.' I didn't know how to do a blog. I did know how to be a resource. That's what the early e-mails and comments steered us to. We dropped comments because of concerns from African-Americans about the way they were treated at other sites. I didn't know how to drop comments at that time, I didn't know how to alter that, but when the issue was raised, I immediately said, 'Give me time to figure it out and I will pull them.' When Keesha was attacked by 'Blue Dog Democrats' one day in the comments, I made myself figure out how. If someone goes through those earliest entries, we are talking about Iraq. It wasn't the only focus but it was covered every day. The site quickly became a resource more and more and what members want is Iraq. That is because Iraq receives so little coverage. The US is engaged in a war, an illegal war but for those who can't handle that, let's just say 'a war.' And the press -- big and small -- treats it as though it's not really happening. How do you do a two-hour debate with presidential candidates on public radio and never ask them about a war when the country is engaged in an ongoing war. Even if you don't believe it's an illegal war, how do you ignore that topic?

"So we cover the illegal war and we're not doing it to win friends. I don't need money, I don't need attention. Therefore, I don't need to include 'qualifiers' and a bunch of fluff that will allow me to parlay this into a paying gig. I'm not running advertisements or asking for donations. That allows this site to be truly independent. So the 'tone' crowd can save their attempts at changing the way things are discussed here via their use of fake flattery and should instead be grateful this site exists so that they can point to it, from their slightly to the left of center positions, and say, 'See, we're not radical. We're not that left. Look at The Common Ills.' We provide a lot of cover for them to hide behind. It's amazing that when we only offered negative criticism of big media, little media was on board -- with links and with e-mails. The idea that little media could be criticized as well seems to be shocking to the coffee fetcher crowd. Well too damn bad. I'm on the phone every week screaming at friends, family and ex-lovers in big media about their coverage. Most of them know I do The Common Ills and most of them were saying, 'You don't criticize small media.' That's a valid point and when small media screws up, whether it's CounterSpin or whomever, they get called out here. Friends at CBS were furious, rightly, with CounterSpin deciding to critique via ratings. What does that have to do with quality and where does someone with CounterSpin's smaller audience get off criticizing how many people are tuning in? That was a valid complaint and that really was the shift for me. Katrina vanden Heuvel is a joke to some in big media and, when she embarrasses herself, if someone in big media is willing to do a trade-off on something Iraq related, she'll get called out here for whatever bad logic she offered.

"That covers all but one e-mail. The last one is whining about their presidential preferences. We're a site for the left so if you're candidate isn't -- in the most general and watered-down sense -- left, youre candidate's not getting covered. Of the Democratic candidates, if you don't feel your candidate is getting their 'props,' take it up with your candidate's campaign. There was a link to Hillary Clinton provided in a snapshot last week and that was because her campaign was one of the few offering anything new all week on Iraq. It was Wesley Clark mentioning it in his endorsement, but look at the campaign sites, as a friend at NPR told me when defending NPR's lack of attention to Iraq in that so-called 'debate,' and you'll see that the candidates are running from it. I know most of the candidates and I've not shown any favoritism based on that. Joe Biden is someone I think is a very decent person. There's been no attempt to avoid calling him out on his desire to partition Iraq. Barack Obama's groupies can complain and probably have the most legitimate complaint. Prior to his running for the Democratic presidential nomination on his 'I was against the war in 2002,' he's not really dealt with at this site. When he started running for president and offering that nonsense and calling out John Edwards on his vote, he became a hypocrite. Not just because in 2004 he told The New York Times he wasn't sure how he would have voted if he'd been in Congress -- but note that, he wanted to call out Edwards in a debate for a vote that, in 2004, he was saying he didn't know how he would have voted. The fact is Elaine and I showed up at fundraiser for his 2004 Senatorial campaign ready to write big checks. We were and are both against the illegal war. We made that very clear during our 'face time.' We were shocked to hear this alleged anti-war candidate tell us that he didn't favor withdrawal. We left immediately and, no, we didn't contribute to his campaign. To hear him now repeatedly present himself as an opponent of the illegal war is laughable. And it's a real shame that only Chris Dodd's campaign has had the guts to call him out on how his position has shifted. The mainstream press hasn't. They've treated him as novelty. The exception there would be the Chicago press. The bulk of independent media appears to have signed on to his campaign offering excuses and public pleas that they don't offer to any other candidate. A candidate that you feel needs to be coaxed isn't much of a candidate. That he put homophobes on stage at a campaign event should have led to serious criticism but it didn't. Independent media largely took a pass. The exception there would be Black Agenda Report. But tell me The Nation wouldn't be all over Hillary if she'd put a homophobe on stage at one of her events and the homophobe had then gone on to express his homophobia? She would have been trashed in online posts, in written articles and possibly an editorial. But with Barack it's all cuddle and fondle. That's ridiculous. If you can't hold him up to a standard when he's a candidate in a primary, you won't hold him up to a standard if he makes it into the general election and you won't hold him up to a standard if he becomes president. If somehow you managed to, on the latter, it would be far too little, far too late. Little media, overall, has refused to inform about Obama. They have, instead, signed up for his campaign. I'm not interested in who anyone's voting for, I'm not following anyone into the booth and approving their ballot. I am interested in an independent media that tells the truth and it is not telling the truth when, in 2008, a candidate can provide a forum for homophobia and not get called out on it. That's supposedly a battle that was already fought and won. A friend who is a lesbian was publicly on the Obama train. I asked her how she of all people could be onboard after that event? She didn't even know about it. She was hearing about it from me for the first time. She researched it, found out it was true and is now publicly supporting John Edwards. That would be true of a number of people because homophobia is outrageous, you don't have to be gay or lesbian to find it outrageous, if independent media had done their damn job and covered it.

"Our chief concerns at this site regarding elections are that the point be clear (1) an election isn't going to end the war and (2) anyone who wants to run should run. We will not support a 'Ralph Don't Run!' campaign. I am not slamming those who did in 2004. I didn't get on board that then and I would hope that I wouldn't have if I'd had the time. I can understand how people were of the opinion that 2004 mattered so much that they had to take part in that. But the reality is every election matters. We've already seen this year efforts to start a 'Cindy Don't Run' campaign against Cindy Sheehan. That's really appalling. We're talking about a House race in this instance so to read people from outside the district attempt to not only provide cover for Nancy Pelosi but also to attack democracy -- that's what those things are, an attack on democrcy -- is just appalling. So the second point is very important to me because if we do not stand up against those campaigns, they become more and more accepted and more and more common. If you're left, right, center or apolitical and you want to run, you should. No one should tell you not to or that we can't afford your running. I mean, obviously they can, that's free speech, but don't pass off that message as democratic because it's not. Cindy's run could inspire others who have never run to go for public office and that's something we on the left supposedly support: more candidates, more choices, contested races. A 'Why I won't vote for' or 'I won't vote for' piece is one thing and it's part of the democratic process. But 'Don't run ___' is not part of democracy. There's a woman, a Democratic challenger, I don't know her name, running against Dennis Kucinich for the party's Congressional nomination. We haven't weighed in -- at any community site -- with a 'Don't Run __.' Now a number of members have publicly endorsed Kucinich in the presidential primary and the bulk have websites. But you didn't see anyone rush to type up a 'Don't Run ___' piece. Because we don't believe in that and we don't support it. In terms of the first issue, when the 2008 election rolls around finally, I don't want us -- those trying to end the illegal war -- in the same position we were in after the 2004 election where Iraq disappeared from the radar, where some 'left' voices began weighing in that the US had to stay in Iraq -- while attempting to pretend that they were against the illegal war -- and I especially do not want to see that shock and depression that so many students felt after the 2004 elections. The only thing to compare it to is the hype they were given in 2003, where they were told, 'We turn out for this big rally and it will stop the war from starting.' They turned out and the illegal war still started. There's been a lot of hype and we try to make it very clear that elections don't end wars, people do.

"The e-mail, the one where the man claims both to want to understand 'where you're coming from' and to whine about how his candidate doesn't get enough support, also ends with 'Remember, not everyone is perfect.' I didn't know anyone was. But if that's directed at me, we've just finished our third year online. If I was going to grade it, I would have high marks for Kat's reviews, your reports, Isaiah's comics, Shirley and Martha's end of the year book lists and the individual contributions of members. I wouldn't give myself high marks or even relatively high marks. 'It is what it is,' Kat's phrase that's now being used by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Which may outrage Kat more than when a friend of mine turned her into a character on a TV show. In 2005, we actually had the time to note Black History Month and Women's History Month and did that through members' contributions. With the newsletters, more and more members weigh in on topic through those, which is great. But that's one area, I'd mark low. I'd also mark myself low on everything I write because there's never enough time -- forget typos, I don't care about typos -- everything is rushed and instant. I don't worry over that or obsess over it. To do so would mean nothing would ever go up here. But I'd give this a low C at best, if I were grading myself. In terms of whether or not we succeed with our purpose, to address the illegal war every day and do so speaking as people wanting to end the illegal war, we do succeed there. For myself, judging what I've done, the biggest regrets are when I've stayed silent. And of those regrets, the best example is Suzanne Swift. From the start, there was a push to promote her as a war resister. If she'd ever stated publicly she was one, that would be one thing and should be supported. But she got tagged with that and I knew it was hurting her story. I'd be griping to a friend that they hadn't covered her story and I'd sketch it out. They'd look into it and call me back later to say she was a war resister. Due to that, mainstream media kept a distance. I knew that would happen, I knew it was happening. I made the mistake of not calling it out loudly. I regret that and feel that I failed her. When I finally had enough of that nonsense, when a producer at a news magazine called me to say they'd discussed it but wouldn't be doing anything on it, I wrote an entry that morning saying she wasn't a war resister and that it was hurting her cause to keep calling her that. No help at all, in turns out, because her mother, Sara Rich, would be on Democracy Now! later that day discussing the outcome of her court-martial. So it was too late by then. That was my mistake and that bothers me and troubles me. Someone's name getting mispelled doesn't. What happened to Suzanne Swift was not just wrong, it was offensive and that it was allowed to pass by without comment -- or without the kind of comments it required -- puts every woman in the military at risk. Suzanne Swift needs to be discharged immediately, honorably with full benefits, and she needs to be apologized to by the military. The sexual abuse she suffered was allowed to go unchallenged because the war resister issue entered into it. That shouldn't have happened and I do hold myself responsible for not using my own voice to call that out. Any other regret I have pales in relation to that. I don't care what else you include or exclude but do put in that I failed there. Other outlets presented Swift as a war resister and I assumed they had caught something I'd missed so we did in the early days as well. It was only when the sister of a war resister e-mailed the public account that I looked into it and saw that Swift had never identified herself as a war resister. That's why, now, we do not identify anyone as such unless they do. Once I found out that she had made no public statement on that issue, I should have written something explaining how this was hurting her coverage. I didn't and that was a failure on my part and there's no word for it but 'failure.' Congress betrayed her and betrayed their oversight role by not addressing what happened to her, what has happened to many women and some men who are serving, and I hold them accountable for that. No one should think I've given myself a pass on my own failure because I haven't. Nor will I. It will be my biggest regret when the site ends. I failed and failed completely. In terms of preventing that in the future, if something's wrong and it's hurting a cause, I'm not silent now. And the really bad thing there is I was old enough to know better and more than aware that when I look back on my own life the things I regret are not what I did or said in trying to change something but the times I was silent. Overall, if the communtiy rose or fell based on me, it would be an utter failure. Thankfully, members are very vocal and they do determine the scope of what we address and do hold me accountable. Any credit for anything worthwhile here should go to members. They repeatedly raise issues, provide highlights and say, 'You've got to address this!' That's where the bulk of anything that goes up originates from."

I asked Beth, the site's ombudsperson, for comments and she noted first that she no longer reads the public account. "I do understand how people could be upset about not getting a personal reply," she says. "I'm a member from back in the day where every e-mail got a reply. But I know from before I stopped reading the public account that enough e-mails come in that if everyone got a personal reply the site wouldn't have an entry that day."

"In terms of the site, I think Jim and C.I.'s comments address the public e-mails. In terms of C.I.'s comments, I agree that members determine what gets noted and what doesn't get noted. I do disagree with the self-grade because I think there's a ton of amazing stuff on any given day. Whether it makes you laugh or it's something that's just happened that appalls you, I think it's made an impression. I know we're not supposed to talk about this, and you can choose to include it or not, but the fact remains that only one war resister got attention from the Christian media and that came only after C.I. structured the argument around the war resister's beliefs. Kayla led a campaign to e-mail that entry to Christian outlets and that did get attention for the war resister. While I understand why C.I.'s gives a failing grade on Suzanne Swift, I think it's equally true that a major right-wing, Christian news outlet, that regularly applauds the illegal war, took the time to note a war resister in a sympathetic manner can be counted as a huge success. If I brought that up in a roundtable, C.I. would immediately say, 'Give the credit to Kayla for organizing that mass mailing.' But I'd give the credit to both of them. I'd also note that, every day, C.I. has been present. Sick or well, tired or rested, every day, C.I.'s been present. When you think of how few can make that claim with regards to anything, let alone Iraq, that's really amazing. I was one of the ones skeptical about Iraq becoming the sole focus. I actually was one of the few members to vote against the shift. For me, the reason was I didn't think there would be enough to warrant the focus because media interest had already fallen. It's only fallen more so but C.I.'s output has continued so obviously members were right about the shift. Jim especially mentioned the site going dark after the November elections so, before an avalanche of e-mails hits my account, I have no idea if that will happen or not. I know that is the ideal. I also know it may not take place. If it doesn't take place, I will happily continue to be a member of the community; however, I will be handing over my ombudsperson duties to someone else. It's been fun, but it's been a lot of work. I did a piece for a special gina & krista round-robin when we were all in D.C. that just tracked the way the entries here were put together. Mike's noted that before at his site and I got the idea to do it from him. Seeing the morning entries come together, the main thing there was watching C.I. work off several browsers to go through the e-mails and flip through several papers at once while calling friends in the press or in Iraq or just back from Iraq and say, 'This doesn't make sense. Walk me through it.' Those conversations are quick and they take place over and over. It's why The Common Ills hasn't been taken in by Happy Talk. I was exhausted just observing. Exhausted and nervous. Then came the snapshot and that still shocks me. C.I.'s dictating on one phone, listening on another and it's always, 'Okay, insert this ahead of ___' and yet, when you read it, it seems to flow and you think it was dictated in the order it appears and that everything in it was known before the first word was dictated. If the site continues after 2008, I would insist that, whomever the ombudsperson is, they make the time to observe the way the entries come together because it will save you a lot of time when you're answering questions in your columns. In terms of the morning entries, if something makes it in there it's generally due to several members bringing it up or a member who hasn't asked for something to be addressed in some time making a request. On the days I observed, I would ask questions up to the point where C.I. was on the phone. I know that C.I., from reading the papers, had an in idea of what the two morning entries would be about. Then came the e-mails and phone calls and, each day, everything changed. One day, a major topic became a minor one and, on the other days, the issues C.I. had planned to address never even made it in. When you're answering questions about why something made it in or didn't make it in, you really need to have observed the process. And it also helps you because you're aware of how quickly it moves. In terms of e-mails to the public account, there's just not time to reply to all and there's honestly no reason to reply to most. People may or may not like that explanation, but that is the reality."