Sunday, April 10, 2005

A note to our readers

Another Sunday edition and, as usual, we get in one good edition of planning and finishing early only to find the following week a mad scramble.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. We had a piece we were going to do on "Franks" and we'll hopefully pull from the notes on that for next week. We had a tremendous amount of e-mails from people wanting to play along with "Dear Third Estate Sunday Review" and intended to do a column on that. We'd gotten e-mails on how Slate and CJR Daily both missed the big story in the blogosphere and, on Friday, we knew we'd make that our editorial. We knew we'd do something on Jane Fonda's book My Life So Far. And we had already picked our blog spotlight piece.

But how things can change quickly. Though The Third Estate Sunday Review gang proper (Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim) were together, our various helpers were far flung and when we all began hooking up digitally, we were surprised, happily, to be joined by Kat of Kat's Korner. We love Kat. And we were in the process of pulling together an Indy Media piece when Kat joined us.

Due to the "brownout" on Blogger, C.I. wasn't able to post an Indy Media Review Thursday and we always enjoy those so we had planned to do that. We'd all found a piece to emphasize and then Kat joined us. We were filling her in on what we were doing and Ty offered the piece he'd found as an example when we all began talking about the media, about Air America (the subject of the piece Ty found), about CJR Daily and a number of other issues. When Ava asked someone to repeat something, C.I. must have caught on as to what was going on because while the rest of us continued speaking at our normal speeds, C.I. began speaking slowly. We asked why, and, as C.I. suspected, Ava was taking notes.

That's how you ended up with a roundtable in this edition. We spent four hours discussing that topic. What resulted was a lengthy transcription that we then edited down to stay closer to the topics. If we thought something was funny, we left in regardless. For instance, at one point, C.I. went off topic (as C.I. notes) but used "for the record" and that became something that popped up later so we left that in. Kat was off the phone after the roundtable (thanks for hanging in for the four hours, Kat, we appreciated it) while the rest of us worked on the first edit.

Then as Betty, Rebecca, Jess, Ty, Dona and Jim continued to work on shaping that and shortening it, Ava and C.I. went off to write their TV review. Readers probably won't be pleased to read this, but Jim and Ty both offered that they could skip that if they were too tired. Everyone was tired at this point. But the e-mails on the TV review indicate it's one of the most read features and Ava and C.I. had their notes and were ready to "churn out something." What you're reading, Ava asks that we note, is a first draft. There was no time for a re-read or for any other drafts. So consider that "live" blogging. (As usual, they handed it over expecting that we add input but what we've learned from readers is that you don't like it when we muck up Ava & C.I.'s voices so we try to stay hands off there.)

They read over the final draft of the roundtable. C.I. felt that there was way too much C.I. (we disagree) but said, "Fine, put it up so we can get started on the editorial."

That's the kind of non-perfection attitude we strive for at The Third Estate Sunday Review!

For the editorial, we need to thank Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq?) who helped us out when we were trying to get statistics. We, tried Blogger Support, and we're still waiting on a reply.
But Ron tracked down some stuff for us and we appreciate that. We'll also thank Common Ills community member Dallas who throughout the night tracked down links for us. Our roundtable may be our most link filled entry ever. That was Dallas, whom C.I. suggested we e-mail and see if he was up. He was and while we were finishing what ended up being the last draft, he found the last of the links we were looking for. (Though honestly, we were in a linking mood and, if there had been more time, we would have done even more.) Wait, you can't find links?

Yes, we can find links. And the person typing can also pick up a dictionary. But when you're scrambling, it's easier to scream out, "Look this word up!" or e-mail a list of sites, people, what have you that we need links to and then just copy and paste from that.

The editorial could have gone on longer but we were all jolted by a loud noise. "What the hell was that?" screamed Rebecca. And we all wondered if someone had been shot. No, said C.I., that was The New York Times delivery person throwing the paper not on the doorstep or on the door but on the wall. We at The Third Estate Sunday Review love the all nighters (well, okay not Ava, and the consensus is that only Jim really finds the "exciting") but when the Times has been delivered, it's time for us to wrap it up.

For this edition, we thank our readers. And we thank for Kat for particpating in the round table. We thank Folding Star for giving us some comments on Jane Fonda's book and for the comments on Blogger in the editorial. We thank Ron for his help with the editorial and Dallas for his help with links. We thank Betty and Rebecca for all their help on everything (except the TV review). And we thank our own Ava for realizing a roundtable was occurring and we thank her and C.I. for the TV review which is funny and on the money (as usual). We also thank C.I. and we swear that next week, we won't pull an all nighter. (Like everyone hasn't heard that one before!) C.I.'s now blogging on this morning's Times while Rebecca and Betty are probably fast asleep and we'll be joining them (in the non-clusterfuck sense, we won't be getting into bed with them, we'll just also be going to sleep) shortly.

As always, we hope you find something here that makes you laugh or makes you think. And if you can find both, we're thrilled.

-- Dona, Ty, Ava, Jess and Jim

Editorial: You say you're doing a Blog Report

Call it a "Blog Report," call it "Today's Blogs," call it whatever you want. But how the hell do you do a blog report, a report on blogs, and miss the big story of the week?

If you're CJR Daily, you miss it by sitting Friday out. (They really work hard to do their four posts each day.) If you're Slate, you do it by ignoring the topic. And it's not like readers didn't tip them off. We're looking at e-mails to both CJR Daily and Slate notifying them of the Blogger "brownout" (our term) that prevented people who use Blogger from blogging at the end of last week.

It was news to Wired News. "Bloggers Pitch Fits Over Glitches" by Adam L. Penenberg outlined the basics on April 7th at 2:00 am PST. But possibly when you spend the majority of your online "research" time searching for the dancing baby from Ally McBeal, you miss the big story?

Look, no one's forcing them to do a blog report of any kind (and some would argue the world would be better off without their lackadaisical approach), but if you're going to report on blogs and Bloggers malfunctioning, seems like that's a story. Or as one tipster noted to them, "If ABC went dead, that would be a story."

Here's what Peneberg noted in his article:

Lately, it seems like almost every time you tune into your favorite Blogger-hosted blog to catch up on the latest gossip, meme, political diatribe or cybersnark, you find that the site is frozen in time. Or, there are multiple posts with identical content. Since Blogger, which is owned and operated by that sleek geek machine, Google, is a lot like a public utility, when it goes down, so do the lights on a large swatch of the blogosphere.
The result: a lot of irate netizens.
"This has been the worst week of blogging since I started," complained Digby, who ruminates on politics. "Blogger has been constantly bloggered and when it wasn't, my cable has been offline. Since last Tuesday, I've barely been able to read Atrios, for gawds sake, much less post one of my own brilliant observances. I hate blogging in coffee shops. I just hate it. But I'm here and if I don't keel over from caffeine poisoning before Blogger eats my post, I'll hopefully have something brilliant up soon. Or not."

Unlike CJR Daily, let's clear the air from the start. Please note that we've pull quoted in a way that links to Digby and Atrios. For the record, we have not been involved in any "clusterfuck" (Candy Perfume Boy term) with either. We have not partied down with them, we have not drank with them, we have not seen any online photos that either may display so we are unable to engage in the high standard of "hubba, hubba, hubba" discourse that CJR Daily so often sets. We merely pull quoted from the top of the article.

But "netizens" were upset? That sounds like a topic for a blog report. That strikes us as news if you're "beat" is the blogs. (You might have to tear yourself away from your hunt for the Dancing Baby . . .) Now we know it's really hard for the kiddies at CJR Daily to tear themselves away from The Daily Show (or that they think it is for bloggers to at any rate), but Wired got a news story out of this. And Slate and CJR Daily? Nothing.

And yet both do blog reports and, again, both were tipped off to this story. (Though Slate ignored it, they did e-mail back to at least one reader that they were passing the story on to the guy doing the blog report that day. Let's hope he's not also sitting on the lost minutes of the Nixon tapes!)

The Wired article will tell you the anger frustration many people felt. As a once a week site that basically pulls everything together on Saturday, we weren't effected. But other community members were.

Folding Star of A Winding Road noted that the troubles were non-stop all week. The result was feelings of discouragement and that "my readers have probably all abandonded ship by now!"

Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude lost her Thursday post twice (reconstructed it on Friday). "I couldn't believe it. Here was something I wanted to share and I'm trying to share it and it won't go up. I felt like Candy Perfume Boy in that last regard, but I digress. This week, I was trying to hit hard on the importance of the sunset provisions of the Patriot Act not being extended. I was doing that on the blog and in my own life where I held one house party after another to get the word out. And to see the story that C.I. sent me and know what I wanted to say but not be able to get it out there was really frustrating."

Betty of Thomas Friedman Is A Great Man started out Thursday excited. "All day I was thinking, as soon as I get off work, cook dinner, get the kids fed, get them settled or maybe after they've gone to bed, I can sit down and do this reply to Thomas Friedman's column Thursday. But I go to log in and it just won't work. Over and over. And I'm getting really upset and keep trying. I e-mail C.I. who called and said Rebecca's having the same problem, just let it go and move on. But I was so discouraged that when I did write on Friday, I sent the thing out to Rebecca, C.I., Dona, Ava and Ty to ask, 'Is it even worth posting?' And even with the encouragement, I still felt like I didn't say what I was wanting to say. It was discouraging."

C.I. of The Common Ills notes that Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq?) had the echo posting going on and that Luke (wotisitgood4) had a post he couldn't get into to finish. "I had e-mails from Rebecca and Betty that I was reading on another screen as I kept trying to log into Blogger. So when I couldn't get in, I called Betty and told her it wasn't something she was doing wrong. And because of the tone Rebecca had in her e-mail, I decided I wasn't going to get worked up over something I couldn't control. I asked community members UK Computer Gurus to look at it and see what was going on and I e-mailed Blogger.
I heard back repeatedly from the UK Computer Gurus, at least. And I had told them that there was no way if this went on the next morning that I wasn't posting. They took the lead and when I couldn't get into Blogger Friday morning, I was surprised to hear from the UK that they had set up another site. And it's late and I know I'm going on too long, but let me say that they did a really great job and a lot of members have noted that they like the look of that site."

So is that the answer? Mirror sites? Backup sites? The whole Blogger network was basically down. Near the end of his Wired article, Penenberg notes this:

So what would happen if something vitally important happened -- a terrorist attack, an assassination, war, political upheaval -- and the blogosphere went atwitter, but Blogger went down?

We'd say that's an important question if you're doing a blog report of any kind. We're confused as to how two sites can do blog reports and miss the big story of the week?

Not being Cokie Roberts, we have no pearls; not being Candy Perfume Boy, we have no candy necklace, so all we're left to chew on is this: Ron notes that three years ago, Blogger was utilized by over 150,000 sites and guesses that it's probably reached the millionith mark by now. That's a lot of people effected on the writing side and a lot more on the reading side (and there's crossover). As more and more people turn to the internet for heads up, what would happen if the blog world went dark?

Judging by the lack of interest in the Blogger story this week, we'd guess that Wired would cover it and that those doing blog reports would keep searching for their Dancing Baby. Meanwhile, readers who still held hope of getting any useful coverage of the blogosphere in these blog reports would miss out, again, on the big story of the week.

We'll leave the pearls to Cokes, the candy to Candy Perfume Boy, and we'll chew on how people who self-describe "journalist" and who are supposed to be covering the blogosphere can miss the biggest blog story of the week.

Roundtable on CJR Daily, Air America and the state of the mainstream media

From Portland IMC, we love Jen Amos and her "Commercialized Progressive Talk Radio Shows Its True Colors." First a pull quote from this article reflecting on the cancellation of Unfiltered and the state of Air America radio:

Air America relegated Rachel Maddow to a show between 5 AM to 6 AM. Down from three hours to one hour, during prime REM sleep for most people. Lizz Winstead has left the network. Chuck D may be getting a show on the weekend. But Air America listeners will get fifteen hours a week of Jerry Springer. In fact, progressives can listen to men - mostly white men - for the majority of the time on this "progressive" station -- save for the respite of the Randi Rhodes show and the Majority Report which is co-hosted by Jeanne Garofalo. But be prepared to hear Garofalo chastised about proper etiquette by her co-host Sam Seder.

We at The Third Estate Sunday Review couldn't agree more that bringing on uber TV trash king Springer to replace the Air America radio show with a diverse line up a white woman over forty and straight (Lizz Winstead), a young lesbian (Rachel Maddow who was the youngest on air host) and an African-American artist long a part of the struggle for equality (Chuck D). Somehow, Air America thinks aging white man Jerry Springer can reach out to all the listeners that the diverse hosts of Unfiltered couldn't. Of course there's another issue at stake, there always is. And it has to do with Clear Channel's reluctance to program Unfiltered on stations that carried Air America programming. (If we've just shocked anyone, our apologies, but yes, Clear Channel has enabled the growth of Air America.)

The fact that Clear Channel wasn't keen on Unfiltered should have told the radio network something right away: stick by the show! Having spent the last years rallying for the Bully Boy, if Clear Channel's threatened, take it as a good sign. What could have threatened Clear Channel?
Maybe guests like Naomi Klein, Tariq Ali, Tom Hayden and others? Maybe topics that varied from the usual "Gosh I love this country" that aging fat boy Al Franken loves to push. Maybe the fact that the issue of abortion and other reproductive rights had a solid home as a topic on Unfiltered?

Or maybe it was just that the Franken shit/shtick of "Arafat was the devil!" was preferred to some engaging conversations?

Ty notes that posing as an aging hippie who pushed his Grateful Dead lust from the start, Al Franken's never been an inclusive host. "As an African-American, I know for three hours every day, I will be overlooked because there's only so much time in three hours and after you bring on your wolf in sheep's clothing buddies from the AEI, there's just not a great deal of time to address any issue that matter to the black community. On Unfiltered, Chuck D was a voice, true. But so were Lizz and Rachel who took issues of inclusion very seriously."

Betty echoes that by noting the disrespect Franken showed to Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the biracial daughter of Strom Thurmond. "To hear Al making sex jokes to this elderly woman disturbed me tremendously . . . as though a black woman, of any age, is supposed to serve as some sort of conduit for white males sexual fantasies. It was disgusting. Washington-Williams is over seventy-years-old and she's supposed to serve as a prop for Al's snickering sexual innuendo? And we think Thomas Friedman is bad? I'm really sick of this, this, attitude of colonialism."

Rebecca feels that "It's a nice little racket. Clear Channel refuses to carry it on many stations, then having provided it to few audiences, they point to low ratings and say, 'See, no one wanted to listen.' And Air America buys into it even though they know better because they're willing to do a little accommodiating of their own. That's what should really frighten listeners because Unfiltered was targeted and it was taken off the air. The question is, what's next? Laura Flanders isn't carried on all the stations, will she be next? Is half The Majority Report being female too much? Will Janeane Garofalo be shown the door next? And as Jen Amos rightly points out, Garofalo is always getting wrist slaps from Sam Seder. From Sam who? Exactly. He needs to lose some of the self-love he has for his own voice and let Garofalo speak. Just one more man who thinks that a woman's point will be lost on a larger audience, so he needs to cut her off and put it into 'universal words' that all (men) can get behind."

Kat notes that she finds the lack of attention to issues of inclusion and women disturbing and can't stand the "Everybody Loves Raymond set up of Franken's show where his co-host has to play mean-Mommy who lets Franken play the eternal boy. That crap is tired."

We all leaned forward to hear what C.I. had to say. And were surprised when the following was said:

It was way too hard . . . it was way too tough
On this she had not bargained
But she was like some missonary dancing to the beat of some man's ancient drum
And she tries hard to tell the story . . . but it's a hard story to tell
She consults her book of Miracles . . .
Cry . . . and the wind says fly on
Well now you're on you're own
You're back out on the road again for a million reasons
Well you're back out on the road again
And you try to tie together some connections
You get some ribbons and some bows and get back out on the road again.

Kat exclaimed, "Oh my God! That is so true! Why didn't I think to quote Stevie! That sums up the whole sorry story on so many different levels."

[The quote is from Stevie Nicks' "Juliet."]

What's the future for Air America? On the plus side, it's passed it's first year mark. That alone is a success for the network no one thought would last. ("Not unlike Ms. Magazine," says Ava, "which pundits predicted would go out of business after the first few issues.")

And while we applaud their success and enjoy the independent voices of Laura Flanders, Mike Malloy and Janeane Garofalo among others, we do worry about the fact that the network continues to go "white" and continues to go "male." After one year on the air, one would think they would have found a way to drop the weekend reruns and provide listeners with hosts who were Latino, Asian, etc. The continued whiting and male-ing of Air America indicates that the value is placed on listeners who are white and male only.

Though they've no doubt stripped away a few listeners from the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity, more often what they've done is provided a home to people who weren't listening because they weren't rabid right wingers and they weren't willing to listen to soothing corporate talk found on NPR.

Air America deserves strong praise for giving Randi Rhodes a national platform because she's been a voice in wilderness for far too long -- someone an in-the-know friend would mention smartly and wonder why you weren't listening to her online out of Florida?

And while there may not be air time (we think there is) to give other voices who were talking truths before Air America came into being their own shows, we think Air America should be highlighting voices. We know a few people who have heard of Amy Goodman on Air America (usually via The Majority Report, The Laura Flanders Show, or the now cancelled Unfiltered).
We know of many more people who've learned of Democracy Now! via blogs and websites.

And so began the process of exchanging comments. Ava noticed, before anyone else, that what was going on was a roundtable on the media. Taking notes and acting as moderator when prompting was needed, Ava shaped and structured this, so give the credit for it to her. The participants were Ty, Jess, Dona and Jim of The Third Estate Sunday Review, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is A Great Man and C.I. of The Common Ills.

Ava: Since The Common Ills is a resource/review for The Common Ills community could you speak about the importance of getting the word out?

C.I.: I'm under no impression that I toss out a link a member's found and e-mailed or that I've found and the entire community clicks on the link. Far more often, they're just going to read a summary or a pull quote. That may be because people are trying to get their news quickly and partly due to the fact that the community is adamently opposed to any form of tracking. They are concerned about what information about them is stored as a result of a web visit. But what the community does, members and myself, is to make sure we're all aware that voices are out there. In the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, voices not speaking the lie that the Bully Boy was a fearless leader were silenced. And certain voices are always left out, not invited to the table. If you're watching mainstream media, you might, for instance, be aware of Katrina vanden Heuvel (editor of The Nation) due to appearences on The Chris Matthews Show, but that might be it. And if you can't take Chris Matthews, you may never know that voice is out there. What you get, and this is something that I think Bob Somerby has really done a great job addressing at The Daily Howler, is some psuedo voices. Some weak voices who won't take a strong stand and make a joke out of the whole idea of an open discussion, let alone a debate.
I'm going to run off at the mouth here so edit where you want but this is an important issue to me. A member wrote about Eleanor Clift of Newsweek (online) and how she's often overlooked but she was willing to engage what passes for debate on the level the right created. And that member is correct, Clift has spoken strongly and loudly and refused to be overshouted or silenced. But most of the "left" pundits go on these forums and they make a weak point and then find a way to find conciliation. Why is that? Read The Daily Howler. But we don't get a lot of brave voices out there. We get a lot of weak-ass, chummy talk. And if you're of the left, you're depending on TV to inform you, you're not aware that there are voices out there.

Rebecca: Take the seemingly brave CJR Daily, I saw the e-mail C.I. sent Jim, the e-mail from a member who'd copied and pasted Candy Perfume Boy's response to CJW Daily. I'll give him credit for a sense of humor, I did laugh, but that's about it. This idea that The New Republic is somehow brave just bothers me. If being brave is passing yourself off as "of the left" while pushing programs and views that are anything but . . . I don't know. But what I do know is that they give you the "Magazine Report. They give you The New Republic, then they give you The Weekly Standard. And that's balance? That's covering the basis? They took a pass on Christian Parenti's recent article on Venezuela, CJR Daily took a pass. It was in The Nation. They ignore The Nation, unless it's an op-ed on "water cooler talk." How are they providing a magazine report to their readers when they're ignoring the reporting going on in The Nation? Or The Progressive? Or In These Times? Or Ms.? Or whatever? They will go to the extreme right (including in their blog reports) for coverage and then they'll do the mainstream and then from the "left," they'll toss out The New Republic.

Jess: There's a real problem with that and that, that a web site coming out of the Columbia Journalism School doesn't see that may be the most frightening thing about it. I don't see them as reality based. I think the idea that they were going to give voice to the voices that weren't heard was a great idea and in keeping with the purpose of CJR proper. But I don't think that's happened. And that's where I think we, on the left, really need to be moving. To make sure that voices from the left are known. CJR Daily is mainstream and while it's frustrating that they refuse to cover The Nation or whatever, it's not surprising because they have the same bias and same limitations of the mainstream media and the same desire to play gatekeeper. So as a resource/review, at The Common Ills, that focuses on the left, you're highlighting voices from the left. Members don't have to click a link to be informed. Anyone who visted in the last days, knows that The Black Commentator, for instance, is celebrating its third anniversary. Or knows the work that Bob Somerby's being doing at The Daily Howler. Or knows the sort of things that Jude of Iddybud or Pam and the others over at Big Brass Blog is focusing on. Names like Matthew Rothschild or Katrina vanden Heuvel or Maxine Hong Kingston or whomever, are names you're familiar with even if you don't pick up a magazine or a book.

CI: And Ron [Why Are We Back In Iraq?] and a host of others. God forbid another attack happens, but if it does, and the recent past is any indication, we're going to see the same faux left voices and the same right wing shouters given air time and I honestly don't think our country can survive that if we're not aware that there are other voices out there. In terms of Democracy Now!, we highlight that five times a week at a minimum. Members who'd never heard of it now listen on the radio or on TV and a few read it or watch or listen online. The community is aware that Amy Goodman is out there. They know she's a voice. And that's what being a resource/review is about, getting the word out on what's out there.

Ava: And Air America?

C.I.: I've nothing to contribute besides they could be a very powerful thing for the left and I know people who work there and care very much about the state of our country. At the beginning of last month, when I learned the reasons for Lizz's departure, I was very depressed and I'm maintaining what I hope is a healthy distance/detachment from Air America. I'll applaud them for things worthy of applause -- and a member can or can criticize them and it will go up for the community to share -- but I'm not going to comment beyond that. And we will not highlight Jerry Springer, the community is opposed to his show and they get the last word.

Rebecca: As a blogger who started out as a Common Ills community member, I'll first say, "What C.I. just said." I mean, the charting or whatever sums me up perfectly. I'm someone who didn't know of Democracy Now! and I watch it now via Dish TV because I learned about it from the community. I didn't know about many of the voices that I now know about. I'd picked up Ms. maybe twice a year and I'd read any book that a friend recommended, but there was nothing that highlighted the left that I knew of. I mean Utne is really sweet and nice but I
always associate it with two friends who were convinced that the world would turn over January 1, 2000 and that the only safe place would be Colorado, so they moved there in the late 90s. As someone who listens to Air America, I wonder why Al's friends get so much airtime, not just the Dittohead but the AEI refugee? Janeane Garofalo's my girl, I listen to her because she is interested in the world beyond the glossy weekly newsmagazines. And The Common Ills has been stressing Laura Flanders so I listen to her now. But I feel that if Air America wanted to make a difference, they'd do a better job of highlighting what's out there. Amy Goodman can now get booked on Hardball. And was on there Friday. And the reason for that is because she has a bestselling book and the word is growing on Democracy Now! each day. I know people who've grown very reliant on that show and they didn't know about it before or they would have watched or listened to it then. And that's where I fault Air America because it shouldn't be just Janeane Garofalo and Laura Flanders highlighting that show or Amy Goodman. Al can bring on his Newsweek buddy each week. Why? Howard Fineman says one thing on Al's show, writes something else in Newsweek and says something else when he's talking on a non-Air America show. What's the point of highlighting Howard Finemann? He may be a nice man but what exactly is he bringing to the table?

Jim: Respectability. That's about it. He gives Al's the shine on of respectability. So the fact that Fineman's inconsisent from one medium to the next doesn't really matter. It's an old mentality in a new world and you'd think that baby boomers who probably spent the better part of their life humming along with "The Times They Are A Changing" would grasp that. But they play by the same rules that the mainstream plays by. Laura Flanders, on the other hand, is interested in getting viewpoints out there and you grasp that quickly with one listen. It's the difference between being an information provider and a gatekeeper.

Dona: Which is why he wouldn't let Jeremy [Glick] speak. That was so shocking. He brings on the guy with all this talk of how Bill O'Reilly told him to shut up and when the guy tries to speak about something other than how Bill O'Reilly told him to shut up, when the guy is trying to address the topic that so angered O'Reilly, Al's suddenly rushing to change the topic. And Jim, you've talked about how your father refers to Al's War on a Dead Man before and I want to bring that up one more time because Al didn't want to hear Greg Palast discuss the crimes of the Reagan administration in Central America during the "Reagan, He's Still Dead" week, but he even while Arafat lay dying, Al didn't lay off the jokes. And they aren't jokes now, you're father's correct, it's a War on a Dead Man as Al can't stop from making these ugly remarks about Arafat and it's not like he's highlighting any other Palestinian so the message we're left with is one of hatred and ugliness. And Rebecca talked about something this week on her blog Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude.

Rebecca: Al being DLC? Yeah, I mean that's Al Franken. It took Janeane Garofalo to say it on air, but that's Al. That's who he is and that explains why he is. He can talk up progressives, but that's why he plays gatekeeper. That's why he brings on those AEI idiots. C.I. had something awhile back about how we needed to realize that neoliberals needed to be addressed.

C.I.: When the term neocon really took hold with the average person was around the time Nightline did their story on it. That's when you'd bump into people into talking about them. They have a long history and, for the record, David Brooks' attempt to paint the "Neocons are Jewish" off on the left? Excuse me, Peggy Noonan did that in her book What I Saw At the Revolution. She predates all recent criticism and I'm having a hard time believing Brooks was unaware of that (although the mainstream media that gave him a pass on it probably was). She painted them as Jewish. Being Jewish is not a prerequiste to being a neocon. But if anyone painted all neocons as Jewish, I wouldn't point to anyone on the left as responsible for that when Noonan, in her eighties bestseller, started that ball rolling. It may predate her. But she predates any criticism from the left in the last years.

Jim: Which is exactly what happens. They do something, they get away with it and then they accuse the other side of doing it.

Ty: Anytime a Republican's making an accusation in the press, I always think of Freud's statement about the criminal having a compulsion to confess.

Jess: Which you learned from the movie Fun With Dick and Jane!

[Ty and Jess both laugh.]

Ty: But it's true. Take any scandal they've tried to create around Democrats and when the facts are known later, you're left with the reality that these accusations described their own behaviors.

Jess: Which, if someone wanted to go psychological, could explain why they make these accusations. This is how they operate. This is how they do things. So they naturally assume the other side must be doing it as well. The current Republican leadership and much of the more vocal members are very much a fear-based crowd. They run of fear, they push through things on fear. And you keep waiting for the press to call them on it. Okay, take for instance Tom DeLay. Unless we're talking about Lou Dubose or Molly Ivins, any story on his scandalous behavior omits the use of Homeland Security to track down a plane because he suspected it was being used to take Democratic legislators out of the state of Texas. The Washington Post reported this in real time. But it's not to be mentioned. And what did DeLay do in Florida in 2000? He shipped in people to pose as citizens of Florida outraged over the recounts. There's this huge story of who DeLay is and what he is but few in the mainstream want to connect the dots for the people. That robs the public of information and robs them of the full story.

Ava: Which is a good point but has to do with the topic how?

Jess: [Laughs] I just wanted to go "for the record" too.

Betty: Well let me tie it to the topic. Black voters were disenfranchised in Florida in 2000 and again in 2004 in Ohio and, if you're black, this isn't a state story, this is a national story. And it's outrageous and they don't do a good job of that on Al's show. They're not interested. They weren't interested in Ohio to begin with. As grassroots pushed, it briefly became an issue on The Al Franken Show and then quickly became "tin foil hats! tin foil hats!" And that goes to a number of issues that Rebecca and others have raised here. And I think that the point C.I. for instance wrote about was that neoliberals needed a little more scrutiny, right?

C.I.: Right. And I got lost on my Peggy Noonan point, "for the record," but Betty's correct. When Nightline did the neocon story, it reached people that hadn't heard the term before and the word of mouth on the story reached even more people. PNAC and neocon became topics of discussions. And people were alarmed by the actions of neocons and needing a definition that Brooks blew by being sarcastic (something like "neo" means Jewish "con" means conservatives). But the neocons didn't exist as a stand alone movement, they are shoulder to shoulder with the neoliberals. Which doesn't mean that they agree on all points but does mean that they react to one another. And certainly the neocons came to power with Bush, but there's another story, a backstory, that people who grew interested in neocons were robbed of and that had to do with neoliberals.

Rebecca: And if you talk about them, or about their damaging effects in the Clinton years, as Naomi Klein does, prepare to be dismissed and shut out of the mainstream media. Both groups preach privatization and mask it in terms that imply other things. For neoliberals, it was "reinventing government" which basically meant turning it over to private industry for private industry's profit and not the public good. And of course that didn't work. For all the talk that outsourcing the duties of government would increase their performance and cut down on costs, that hasn't been the case. What has happened is that the person who might have been able to get a government job and lift themselves out of the very poor into the lower middle class is now shut out completely because these businesses do not offer what the government did in terms of benefits or in terms of pay.

Betty: Which I can add to because I have a friend who worked for the government and her job and her whole section was outsourced. This was for city government and that's where you are seeing outsourcing to the private sector still being preached as religion. So now she does the same basic job as a temp worker. She does federal work as a temp worker. And she gets six months here and six months there. But she doesn't get the benefits she had before and she doesn't get the pay she had before. And I have another friend who worked for a city in their automobile repair division where he worked on the various city vehicles each day. And then the mayor, an idiot, decided to outsource that to the private industry. The immediate effect was freeing up the payrolls as people lost their jobs and you saw a strong first quarter but the reality is, and no one should be surprised, that after the initial benefits from that, the city now pays more money to maintain their vehicles than they were paying before. And before you ask, Ava, I'd tie this in to the fact that we aren't seeing neoliberalism seriously explored. The New Republic, which CJR Daily can't go a week without highlighting apparently, preaches neoliberalism. That's why, as Rebecca noted, Martin Peretz could sign on to PNAC. There's not a great gulf between the neocons and the neoliberals. And you can hear them on NPR, the neoliberals or see them on PBS's The NewsHour. Or hear them on Al Franken's show. And this passes for the left. And it's not the left. But it is corporate friendly and for people, like CJR Daily, who aren't very brave, it passes for "debate" and they can applaud The New Republic for it's contrary positions which are contrary to what? CJR Daily readers don't know because CJR Daily doesn't inform them of what the left is writing about in actual magazines for the left. And let me do a "for the record." If The Nation is the bestselling weekly political magazine, then it should be covered by CJR Daily as opposed to The New Republic whose audience is almost a third of The Nation's.

Ty: I see CJR Daily and Air America both blowing a wonderful opportunity to highlight. I know CJR Daily isn't "liberal." It's supposed to be objective and non-partisan. So let's deal with that. If it's objective and they're doing a magazine report, why do they do shout outs week after week to The New Republic and you see the same thing at Slate.

Jess: Is the Slate magazine report written by former New Republic writers?

Ty: Who knows? But they try to play gatekeeper. They push The New Republic. I want to emphasize that, they push it. This isn't reporting on what's in the various magazines, this is giving a magazine report that has to carve out space each time for The New Republic. And I saw the e-mail to Jim that C.I. passed on and yeah, it's funny that Candy Perfume Boy wants to say "WE HEART THE NEW REPUBLIC" in a magazine report after we just finished our CJW parody which included a spoof of magazine report by Candy Perfume Boy where he, or "he," wrote "I HEART THE NEW REPUBLIC." But here's the thing, it doesn't matter what you "heart." It's not called "Here's a Magazine Report on What I Like." It's called "Magazine Report." And it's not. It's The New Republic report. I don't care if you like them or not, the world doesn't begin and end with that half-assed magazine. Why it's included week after week when it's not really doing much of anything besides op-eds and editorials is beyond me. The New Yorker has to break a big story to be included. The New Republic just has to put out an issue. The magazine report is not about endorsing a magazine or it shouldn't be. It's supposed to be an overview of what's being addressed in different magazines. And that's not what it is currently.

Ava: I'm going to toss out a question, and whoever wants to grab it do so, but I think someone reading might say, "Well there's a lot of talk about CJR Daily and what it does wrong and you aren't highlighted in CJR Daily's Blog Report. Do you think that has anything to do with your reactions to it?"

Jim: Look if CJR Daily had done their job, we might not be sitting around here. This Saturday or any other. We were all frustrated with CJR Daily long before we started blogging. Candy Perfume Boy Brian Montopoli's little inside joke doesn't change the fact that CJR Daily isn't doing the job that they claimed from the start they would be doing. As for highlighting, when you write one editorial about the watchdog being a lapdog and another about it being inbred, you don't do that with the hopes that you'll be linked.

Rebecca: Agreed. I'm glad Ava asked the question because it comes up from time to time in e-mails I get. When I helped out I knew it was saying "Goodbye CJR" and I was fine with that.
I don't need CJR Daily. The majority of my readers don't go there. I don't need The New Republic or Al Franken. What I need to do is speak my truth. And that's what I try to do.
Fox "News" is bullshit but I think it was Danny Schechter who made the point about how easy it was to dog pile on them and to avoid dealing with the realities at other media outlets. I don't take a pass, and that's not an insult to C.I., on anyone. C.I. got sick over the whole Unfiltered thing and I was one of the ones saying let it go. And if I was invested with hopes or dreams in something and it was making me sick, I'd remove myself from that topic because there are plent of other topics to discuss and address. But it too often seems like the only topics that can be addressed are Fox "News."

Ava: C.I. do you want to respond to that?

C.I.: I think Rebecca said everything that needed to be said and the shows we highlight at The Common Ills from the network pretty much demonstrate where we stand and with whom.
CJR Daily will cover who they want. The Common Ills was started because things weren't being discussed as far as I know. (And I'm blog ignorant.) After the election, I asked myself what I didn't try that I could have and the night The Common Ills went up is the night I taught myself what little I knew about blogging. Very quickly, the next day, we got some attention, Jim and Dona were two of the people e-mailing in fact. And it became obvious that we weren't going to have "readers" but members and that we weren't going to be a "blog" but a community. So if and when CJR Daily or Slate does a "Community Report" and The Common Ills is left out, maybe people should feel slighted. I love how in the last month "community" has become the buzz word and applied to other sites. Hopefully that's what they are. But if I think "Oh, if I write this or if I post this from a member, that means that ____ won't mention or cover us," my next thought would be, "I'm not going to be intimidated."

Kat: I think C.I.'s overly generous of how "community" is popping up lately. The term predates The Common Ills but it was certainly popularized and applied to online sites by The Common Ills and I cringe when I hear the term applied to some other sites. And I want to say --

C.I.: Please, do me a favor and use "blank" if you're going to go into Rachel.

Kat: Okay. I want to say that the Ohio hearings was an example of an issue that The Common Ills drew attention to. They drove that story and they aren't a breaking news site. The Monday when that story got some attention online also saw an Air America program avoid the issue for the bulk of the show. While that was going on, ____'s blog was filled with remarks from Common Ills members linking to and quoting The Common Ills posts and asking why this wasn't being addressed. And other people on the blog began asking about it too. So the show finally addresses it and I'll give them credit for that. But Rachel, a Common Ills member, blogged after that the mention should have noted that it was the fact that people on that show's blog brought it up and that The Common Ills brought it up. When one co-host mentioned Rachel's post on air and named Rachel, he didn't note The Common Ills. The hosts obviously knew nothing about the topic when the show started. Credit them with addressing it. But as Rachel posted, if it had been one of the bloggers they have on as guests, they would have mentioned the web site. And I think that needs to be noted because that's the same as CJR responding to The Third Estate Sunday Review without acknowledging it. And I think that turned into an inside joke and that readers of CJR Daily should have, at the very least, been provided with a link to what Brian Montopoli was responding too since he didn't mention The Third Estate Sunday Review. As for myself, I do music reviews at The Common Ills and Third Estate Sunday Review reruns them here. CJR Daily doesn't cover music and if they did, I wouldn't care. I've heard from some reviewers in response to my comments on the state of music reviews today. A few were offended and a few agreed. The biggest surprise for me was how many of them wrote in. I knew there were members of the press who were community members but I had no idea how many people read it. I'm sure it's a guilty secret but non-members reading the site includes the working press. And you can see that. Or you can hear that when someone goes into a monologue that repeats points that were made at The Common Ills. And this goes to crediting and CJR Daily didn't credit The Third Estate Sunday Review.
And I think it was Ron who was rightly upset that he was doing all this leg work on Talon News and people were ripping him off. He wouldn't have had a problem if he'd been credited but if you read his post, what bothered him was that he wasn't getting credit while people were using his work. That's not fair and the same media that wants to editorialize against peer-to-peer file sharing or illegal downloads shouldn't be guilty of stealing from others.

C.I.: To clarify on the Ohio issue, the same Sunday, The Third Estate Sunday Review noted it with an editorial and Rebecca noted it on her blog Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude. I believe Folding Star noted it at A Winding Road on that Sunday, I know it was noted by Monday. I haven't read ___'s blog but Rachel has said that all four sites were brought up by community members.

Ava: Ty?

Ty: Nobody back home reads CJR Daily. Now if you can get Jet interested in our blog, that's something I'd send back home. I mean, I feel like people reading this may think Betty and I are playing the "race card" here but it's a white world. And CJR Daily highlights the whites they like. A lot of whites don't get highlighted. And the more concerned you are with issues of inclusion, it seems like the less highlighted you will be by the gatekeepers. But C.I.'s highlighted the third anniversary of The Black Commentator. Who else has? Did CJR Daily? Do they even know it took place? When I read KeShawn's post over at The Common Ills I thought, "Speak it, brother." And I thought that if this happened at other sites the best that would happen was some comment like that would be buried in the middle of a thread with 300 posts. But at The Common Ills that could be highlighted. And it was worth being highlighted. And maybe that's what Betty was getting at earlier?

Betty: Yeah, about what the mainstream, the larger media chooses to emphasize and what it chooses to ignore. If a story effects a small segment of upper-middle class whites, it is news. If it effects a large portion of blacks, it's not news. And I agreed with KeShawn, "for the record."

Ava: For those who missed that post, KeShawn's post, a week after the recent Ohio hearing, offered that if Stephanie Tubbs-Jones has been Barbara Boxer, the blog world would have been alive with cheers and applause for Boxer.

C.I.: And that this is an issue that a lot of people spoke of in January. And that Tubbs-Jones was still fighting the fight and for some reason people just didn't care. It was an issue worth raising and the community overwhelmingly supported KeShawn in their feedback on that post.

Betty: I've got three posts up and will hopefully have a fourth so it's not like CJR Daily should be covering me or anything to begin with.

Rebecca: But they covered Ad Nags, the parody site about Adam Nagourney.

Betty: Right but wasn't that Sam Seder doing that site? If it wasn't him, the idea was that, right or wrong, it was someone like them in terms of outlook, in terms of where they were raised and in terms of race. And certainly there's the issue that women don't get attention. So I mean, I'd have to be pretty stupid to think that as a working class, black woman, CJR Daily gives a damn about what I say or what I think. I've helped out here but I don't mention them at my site and wouldn't because I'm dealing with a ficitional spoof. Maybe at some point, there will be a place to work them in and, if it comes, I won't hedge my writing with hopes of being linked. And Ty, this is what you're getting at, right, that you can't be raised in this country and not notice who gets attention and who doesn't?

Ty: Exactly. I almost came to blows with this idiot on campus last month. He said, "The problem with you people is that all you care about are basketball stars and rap artists." Well no, we don't all care about anything. But yeah, you can't grow up in this society and not notice who is getting the spotlight and who isn't. We've got writers, writers who sell books, that you'll never hear about in The New York Times. And just because all that guy knew about my race was basketball stars and rap artists doesn't mean that that's all we are.

Betty: And we're not all criminals!

Ty: Yeah, don't forget that. That's the other way the spotlight shines on our race. So not being a rap artist or a sports star or a criminal, I'm not really expecting that CJR Daily or anyone else is going to take the time to highlight me. The mainstream treats us like foreigners in our own country.

Ava: Okay, well we're dealing with problems of inclusion and exclusion. And "for the record," I'm Hispanic. I don't take offense to the term Latino. My relatives not being from Mexico, I prefer not to be called a Mexican-American. And now let's get back to something that Kat raised. C.I. why the insistence on "blank?"

C.I.: ___ can mention whatever blog they want or not. I'm dealing with a lot of angry members who are angry or hurt because they feel that attention has not been given to a community that they are a part of. I don't discount their feelings and it's great that they are so passionate about their community. We dealt with this on Monday as a community and I'd like us to move on before people start really getting upset.

Jim: "We're about issues, not about wars." That's what C.I. e-mailed me in December. I was really upset by the fact that the blog community was ignoring issues and ignoring the community. And C.I. e-mailed that the issues shouldn't overshadow anything else and that while I could write whatever I wanted to whomever I wanted to do so as me and not speaking for The Common Ills.

Dona: Right because we were upset, Jim and I, we were outraged. Here's this site that even our favorite journalism prof is saying is worth paying attention to but people are acting like it doesn't exist. And as community members we took it very personally. I think we still do. I mean, to put it in perspective, this was coming on the heels of the fact that only one site told you that NPR brought on someone who's wife worked for Dick Cheney to critique John Kerry in the weeks before the election and NPR never told anyone, "Hey, by the way, Robert Kagan, his wife works for Dick Cheney." And in the blog world, and we did follow the blogs, that was part of this class, following blogs, there was this push for Simon Rosenberg to be DNC chair. And you could find all this "information" about Simon Rosenberg all over the net. But it didn't tell you anything. It was The Common Ills that did "Questions for a Questionable Simon Rosenberg."
And that thing spread like crazy. My cousin in San Jose calls me up asking and starts reading it to me and I'm like, "Michelle, I know, I read The Common Ills." And Jim and I both knew that Simon Rosenberg was going on The Majority Report, sorry C.I. I won't do a "blank" here, the next night. I will note that Janeane Garofalo was not on the show. So Simon goes on and gets a fluff interview where he dances around non-difficult questions and instead of taking responsibility for an embarrassing interview, Sam Seder says, "If you didn't like what you heard then you got your answer on Simon Rosenberg." He only said that because people were outraged. He kept talking about how on the show's blog people were mad at him. Of course they were mad at him. It was a fluff interview. And Simon Rosenberg is not grassroots, is not about being a progressive. And if he thought the listeners of The Majority Report would be happy with that interview, I question his judgement. I also didn't care for the attack on Howard Dean that Sam launched into. My take? Just my opinion? It was looking like a done deal for Simon Rosenberg at that point. And it was a chance to be inside with "power." And Sam threw away the interview. I don't remember the cohost, a blogger, but I do remember thinking, "This is so disappointing."

Jim: I remember the blogger and he did end up linking to The Common Ills so I'll pull a C.I. and just say it was ____. I agree with Dona, this was about someone thinking Rosenberg was going to be the new chair and thinking "access." And there's a larger issue that I always harp on --

Jess: (interrupting) Why didn't anyone else tell you about Simon!

Jim: Right. C.I.'s entry was based on public knowledge. Instead of allowing all the astroturf that went on about reasons why Slimey was so great, why weren't our brave bloggers who supposedly speak for us, informing us of Rosenberg's record. They glossed over it. They ended up trying to clamp down on outrage over Ohio initially as well.

Rebecca: But it's so tempting to do. You get e-mails saying, "I'll link to you if you . . ." Now me, I don't care. But there was a post about counters [post at The Common Ills] this week and a lot of people do want to be players in this new web world. And they seem to think that they need to hit some magic number of visits to do so. I don't know about that. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't. Robert Parry is famous for what he did, not for how many people read him at the time. But I do understand the temptation. And when someone writes you a whiney e-mail about how much your post on them hurt you, for me, the initial reaction is, "Oh, I didn't mean to hurt someone." But I'm not dealing with that really. I mean I'll do my sexual analysis for fun -- but haven't in some time, I need to do some more of those -- but I'm dealing with what's in the public record. And if you can't handle that, then maybe you shouldn't be in the public record. If someone wants to blast me as a potty mouth or sex obsessed, I can't turn around and say, "Hey, no fair!" That's my public persona. That's what I've put out there. And when someone writes me and says, "That really hurt" . . . Well I'm sorry that you're so thin skinned but I could have gone behind the scenes and written more. In fact, usually before I'm coming down strong on someone, I'm using my contacts to make sure the person deserves it. And I'm not C.I., I reserve the right to publish your e-mail if you piss me off enough. No one has because they've either wanted to know my measurements or two men wanted to know "Do you swallow?" (two reporters) and I just laugh at that. But there's an e-mail that went to C.I. about the destruction The Common Ills was supposedly doing, from a reporter who was criticized at the site. It was a nasty little thing with no humor. And if I got something like that and it bothered me the way that one did C.I., I reserve the right to post that right on my blog.

C.I.: I don't know that you could. You could refer to it, you could name the person and summarizes the e-mail, but the person writing the e-mail retained the rights to the words. That's something that Daniel Okrent failed to grasp but it is part of our legal system. You can print up a copy and sell it. But as for quoting from it, as I understand it, you'd need the person's permission if you were naming them. I think, and I'm not a lawyer, you could quote the thing in full, presumably, if you didn't name the person. Okrent didn't quote a letter sent to the letter pages of the Times for publication. He quoted a private e-mail and he crossed the line.

Kat: And that really pisses me off because where is the outrage? Even after Randy Cohen goes on The Majority Report, and to give Sam Seder some credit, is boxed into answering a question, we learn that Okrot got censured. But the press is alive with all these hearts and flowers to Okrot and how he did this marvelous job as public editor. He did a lousy job even if you leave out the outing of "George." He was rude to readers, he was dismissive of them, he was just a monster and you can go to The Daily Howler and find out all about that. But Okrot wasn't even from the newspaper business and why he was put in charge as public editor of a newspaper is beyond me.

C.I.: CounterPunch article is what Kat's referring to on the last point, I think, by Steve Sherman.

Ava: C.I., you've had some contact with "George?"

C.I.: Right. I e-mailed him when the "Daniel Okrent, Step Down" piece was going to be done. I e-mailed him the night before. I was asking for permission to use his name. I didn't hear from him for sometime after, it was the holidays and I believe he and his family were out of town. That's why we referred to him as "George." He wasn't a public person until Okrent outed him. And since the outing involved is legally questionable and something I found morally offensive, I wasn't going to continue down the path Okrent had blazed.

Ava: And what are his feelings?

C.I.: Well, I wouldn't presume to speak for "George." And we're not pen pals, to clarify. I contacted him via an e-mail address he left on the web. Weeks later he replied. I believe I replied to that and stated that my intent was not to bring him or his family any further pain and if something I'd written on the subject ever did, to please let me know. I again e-mailed him the day before the post on Randy Cohen went up because this did apply to him and I felt he had a right to a head's up.

Ava: You sent him the entry?

C.I.: No. Both times, the heads-up e-mails went out before the things were written so there was nothing to send other than a heads up. We're not a breaking news site and like Rebecca, we're focused on the public record mainly. Like Rebecca, we have some "access" that we use from time to time. But this was a private citizen and it was someone I felt very badly for, so I gave him a heads up to what was coming both times.

Ava: And what's the effect of Okrent's actions been on him?

C.I.: Again, that's something that you'd be better off taking up with him. Publicly, he's stated, in an open letter online, that Okrent's actions resulted in pain and harrassment to him and his family.

Jess: And that's the circle jerk! That's the circle jerk that Bill Keller [executive-editor of The New York Times] spoke of. It's not happening with bloggers. But like a Republican, Keller rushes in to accuse others of his own misdeeds. The press circles the wagons and protects their own.

Rebecca: Like with Barbara Walters during Iran-Contra.

Ty: Or with anyone. That's what the gatekeepers do, they monitor the gate. They keep some people out and close the gate when they need to protect their own, they circle the wagons. And the fact that Okrent was censured --

C.I.: If.

Ty: If he was censured for his public ations in his little op-eds, that should have been made public by the Times, it shouldn't have been covered up.

Ava: Why if? Randy Cohen said he was, right?

C.I.: I'd have to go back and look at that but I believe Randy Cohen, who's does The Ethicist column in the Times' Sunday Magazine, said "I think" he was censured. I could be wrong on that. But I'd add the "if." I'd also add it because Randy Cohen is one source and the only source thus far. No one else has commented on it from the paper and I'm not aware that it's gone too far beyond The Majority Report. Randy Cohen's not management at the Times. He's going by what's floating around the halls. Since he is "The Ethicist," presumably, he understands the implications of what he was speaking of and he chose his words carefully. But I'd still add "if."

Ava: Should he have been censured?

C.I.: My opinion? He should have been fired on the spot. For two reason. In terms of selfish reasons, the Times should have fired him because his actions had the potential of opening them up to litigation for what was a non-story. It's one thing to go to court for a story, it's another to go to court because someone piped off about something they shouldn't have. I think exposing them to litigation would have been grounds enough for a firing. The non-selfish reason? The public editor spat on, in print, a reader. That's not the job of the public editor who is also billed as "the readers' advocate." My opinion.

Rebecca: And Okrent's such a hypocrite. He said he was a free speech supporter but that goes out the window when he slams this private citizen over an e-mail. And he was asked not to print the guy's name by the guy. But he previously stated that he'd never print anything without permission. He's just a hypocrite and it's disgusting the way this has played out as he prepares to step down and people rush in to assure you that he's done a wonderful job. He hasn't.

Jess: And the glow, the halo, just keeps getting put around him. People who have no idea of what he's done in print, with or without outing the guy, write about him like he's been some wonderful help to readers. He's ignored the readers. He's mocked them and he's wasted their time. But he's stepping down and his peers are rushing in to say "Great job!"

Ava: And we'll let Jess have the last word because C.I. and I have a TV review to write and we've all got an edition to pull together.

TV Review: What I Like About You

The WB's What I Like About You is a show that thinks it's a lot cuter than it actually is. At best, it's a wasteful half-hour that grossly insults your intelligence. That's about all we can say for it. "That's about all we can say for it." Say that really slow, letting your voice wrap around the words a la Winona Ryder or Jack Nicholson. If you can do that, you're almost half-way to Amanda Bynes' "acting style." You'll need to add not just delivery, but also the most annoying voice on a teenager since Brooke Shields was a "child" actress.

At 19 (we only strongly criticize adults here), Bynes is more than a bit too old to sound like she's on helium. Brooke Shields, as she grew older, began to find an adult voice. Who knows if or when Bynes will? Maybe if that day comes, she'll also learn to stop mugging like she's in the midst of a Bob Hope TV sketch? (Shields did.)

Possibly because she also does the little-girl voice, Jennie Garth has been cast as "Valerie 'Val' Kelly Tyler." Get it? No? She played "Kelly Taylor" on 90210. Are you sides splitting yet?
Well then they probably won't be because that's the level of whimsy/humor you get from What I Like About You.

The supporting cast? Leslie Erin Grossman who got a lot of attention as Mary Cherry on Popular is hilarious by making goofy faces and taking the lines God knows where. She's a scene stealer and provides the only laugh-out-loud moments. As for the three men, other than the accent, it's hard to tell the two white guys apart. As for Wesley Jonathan (Gary), he's not doing anything Tim Reid didn't do years ago on WKRP in Cincinnati -- meaning he's the standard issue character of color who hangs around to make the others feel better about themselves.

Amanda Bynes started out as a Nick star who achieved "fame" as the host and performer on
The Amanda Show. What I Like About You airs on the WB, so why does it feel like we're so firmly in the land of Nick at Night?

Though she's in the final year of her "teendom," Bynes has yet to do anything that suggests she can leave those years behind, this despite the fact that her character, Holly, has a career. Get this, she manages a would be rocker! Has an aspiring rock artist ever had a manager so noted for her "cuteness?" Gidget Books Beck would be the title if this were a film instead of a TV show.

Does anyone believe for a moment that Bynes' Hope can somehow navigate the club terrain of NYC as a hopper, let alone as a manager? Isn't it all just a bit too hard to swallow?

It's even harder to swallow Jennie Garth as the Suzanne Sommers of this century but check out the opening of the show and damned if Garth's not doing the "mammary acting" that first brought Sommers to fame on Three's Company. Look, there's the jiggle and wait for the big breast heave that she does against the car in the final moments. Bynes is all dressed up to shake her stuff as well. But in the opening credits (which actually occur after the first scene) she just doesn't have the shakeables. Which leaves you with the impression that Garth might actually be an integral part of the show.

She's not. She's just there for "T" of T&A. (The lack of "A" may be why she's Kelly Tyler and not Taylor?) Here's the basic set up, Kelly wants a date real bad, but she's like . . . old and stuff. Always count on Lauren (Grossman) to egg her on and goodness if Kelly doesn't end up going on a date. Oh sure, she'll protest. She can't talk to that guy. She can't be seen with this guy. What would her little sister Holly think? But each and every time, she ends up doing exactly what she starts off saying (in each and every episode) that she wouldn't do. The "twist" this episode was that Grossman encouraged her this episode to let her "breasts speak." As if Garth or the producers had any plans of silencing them! The date doesn't go well. They never do. Poor spinister Kelly.

And between the sad sack love life of Kelly, we get Bynes' Hope eternally torn between two lovers and forever looking like a fool. Who do the fans of the show like this year? That seems to be how the writers determine which guy Hope's on the ins with and which guy she's on the outs with. Pre-teens everywhere rejoice! Looks like she's getting back with Vince! And we're really glad she says "Vince" (or "VINNNNssss") so often because, again, it can be hard to tell the two white guys apart. On this episode the gang (the young gang) jets off to Mexico on the spur of the moment. NYC to Mexico with Holly covering the expenses for all four. This show is so realistic!
(Vince, the fifth member of the party, pays his own way.)

Packing everything but their characterizations, Stephen Dunham (Peter) and Nick Zano (Vince) blend into the background in a way that reminds you of Paul Wilson's fifty-six guest appearences on Cheers. Who? Exactly. (Or as Bynes would say "EXXXuuhToLLLEEE.")

While this episode Holly went to Mexico (via a soundstage), sometimes she's just off in this floating zone that passes for NYC (also a soundstage). You don't believe for a minute that if she was really in NYC saying, "Out of my way" in that annoying squeak, someone wouldn't deck her. In the "Out of my way" episode, she also played hardball with a club. That too was beyond belief.

Periodically sisters Hope and Kelly check in with one another in what can only be a homage to Apartment 3G. This usually entails both speaking in rapid rates, in high decibels, before the "you go first" bit. Somehow, this never fails to tickle the studio audience (or maybe someone just can't keep their fingers off the canned laughter button). Think of it as homage to Nick's famous sliming bit that never ceased to make the kiddies chuckle. Maybe the What I Like About You audience waits on pins and needles (or pimple cream and pore strips) each episode to see if Garth and Bynes will get all excited and go for the shattering glass bit with their voices again? If so, the writers and the two actresses rarely disappoint! It's a set piece for the show. What I Like About You without the high pitched screeching scene is like an episode of Diff'rent Strokes without Gary Coleman saying, "What you talking 'bout, Willis?"

But even in this fantasy world, ugly reality can sometimes intrude. Like the episode where Peter tells Holly that writing a song about their breakup was cathartic for him. Though you didn't doubt for a moment that squeaky voiced Bynes would have to look up the word, you started to grasp why Peter's career was going nowhere even in this land of fantasy (we like to think of it as Larry Clark's Kids all Disney-fied) when his manager didn't know the term "cathartic." Exactly how does Holly talk Peter up to the clubs that book him? "He's really good. Really, really good. Did I mention he was good?"

When not grabbing time with sis to fill her in on the latest crisis of the heart, Holly goes back and forth between Vince and Peter like a tennis ball. What a wonderful message for young girls! And not only can they pattern their own lives after Holly but they can also picture themselves hitting the thirties with lots of dates (provided a friend eggs them on) that never go anywhere while they whine about how much they need a man.

On it's surface, What I Like About You is all shiny and new, like any half-top Bynes wear, but there are things going on underneath that are old and retro: Holly's inability to resist a cat fight, Kelly's lamented spinster-hood, etc. It's as though That Girl never aired, as though Sheila James Kuehl and Rose Marie got a pair of hot bods and tiny little outfits to show them off in.

In the nineties, Do Me Feminism provided a range (a small range) of female characters for sitcoms. This decade, we've apparently dropped the "Feminism" and are back to "Do Me" and "Please Do Me." Bynes and Garth are quite adept at getting this old messages across.

Blog Spotlight: Common Ills on NYT's Janet Maslin's review of Jane Fonda's My Life So Far

We usually do full posts in our Blog Spotlight. But we think C.I. had a post within post at The Common Ills (and hope C.I. will repost just this aspect of it because we enjoyed it). In a post entitled "Democracy Now: Oil, borders, Korematsu; Daily Howler, Jude of Iddybud, Amy & David Goodman on the media, Jane Fonda & the Times" we want to focus on the last part.

And Jim just talked C.I. into reposting it today. Because C.I. wants to reference Bob Somerby's Daily Howler. C.I. notes that Janet Maslin reviewed Slander and that e-mails have come in asking about that. For those needing another overview of Maslin, C.I. recommends Somerby's "The NYT praised Coulter’s footnotes. It should have looked a few up." And recommend you view these articles from the Howler archives. Janet Maslin is a menace. If not to society, then certainly to readers. So we're very happy to highlight this entry.

Here's the post within a post, "Jane Fonda & the Times:"

A number of you e-mailed in to ask how could I have not mentioned the book review of My Life So Far, by Jane Fonda, and the article on her on the front page of the arts section. I could skim the truth and say that's what I meant by many other articles in the paper today. But I won't. I was focused on the Patriot Act (and had meant to write on it last night). I also don't read the arts section until later in the day (if I read it).

But that's why we're a community and why we're all members. What one person misses, someone else picks up.

Todd S. Purdham has an article entitled "And Now for Her Third Act: Jane Fonda Looks Over the First Two." Here's the section Rachel, Dallas, Eli and Brandon wanted quoted:

As she has before, Ms. Fonda apologizes for being photographed laughing and clapping while sitting on an antiaircraft gun in Hanoi. (She writes that she absent-mindedly sat down in a moment of euphoria with her North Vietnamese hosts, and adds, "That two-minute lapse of sanity will haunt me until the day I die.")
But in the book, and in the interview, she is unapologetic, even defiant, about her opposition to a war she saw as wrong and un-American, and expresses pain and puzzlement about why an acquaintance from those days, John Kerry, could not seem to defend his own antiwar activities in his presidential campaign last year.
"I just don't know," she says, her voice barely a whisper. "Because then he was just brilliant in his ability to articulate, and brave in his willingness to articulate. And he seemed to be a human being who was in touch with his core person. And I don't know what happened in the interim."
Ms. Fonda's whole life has been a struggle to stay in touch with her core.

Janet Maslin turns in a book report posing as a book review in a piece entitled "An Actress Tries Reconciling the Many Lives She's Lived." We won't quote from it. Little Janet left reality long ago.

For those not in the know, Maslin wrote a triumphant review of Ann Coulter's Slander. Of course, had she not been taken in by . . . whatever it was she was taken in by, she might have checked the citations and found that Coulter distorted. But Maslin doesn't really do observations or research, she just tells you what's on each page and throws in an attempt at pithy every now and then. Little Janet was running on fumes before she left movie reviews and she's still struggling to make it to the next gas station. In this review, it appears she's stalled on the side of the road.

Maslin's displeased that Tout Va Bien and Letter to Jane aren't addressed. I'm not quite sure why they should be. Jane Fonda "appears" in Letter to Jane -- as a photograph. What exactly Maslin's wanting to know, I'm not sure. Tout Va Bien wasn't a good filming experience (and Roger Vadim noted that in his own book as well as an interviews -- everyone seems aware of that except little Janet -- Hey, Maslin, put up the hood and maybe someone will pull over and take you to the clue store).

The book is covering sixty plus years. It's 597 pages. I'm not sure what's the basis for whining that a film that few have seen is not discussed at length (Tout Va Bien) or for the carping that Fonda's not responding to a critic (Letter to Jane -- is Little Janet taking it personally?). SEE NOTE ADDED AT END.

Janet Maslin, for a brief time (one year as I remember it), was shaping up to be a film reviewer worth following. It's true. You can't tell that by her book reviews today (did she even finish reading Carrie Fisher's book before reviewing it?) but at one point, she could have been something. Then her writing grew cautious and her observational skills trite. She offered less and less observation and more and more summaries. By 1980, she was the equivalent of a Mad magazine parody -- reading one of her reviews, you felt you'd sat through the whole movie -- only less entertaining.

Now she does book reviews. I understand they're quite popular with non-readers. There's no book Jane Fonda could have written that would have pleased Maslin. Had it been 2,500 pages, she would have focused on the bikini Fonda wore in California Suite (trust me, she would have) and carped about what was being hidden, why wasn't that discussed in detail!

Most of the time, burn outs come in the field of music. The music critics flame out and attempt to do profiles or move on to movie reviews. Maslin has to be a first for flaming out in movies. At last, a record she can put her name to.

A shell of her former self, she was given to tossing out terms like "resplendently" too often when reviewing films near the end. Just when you thought the Times would have to pull the plug on her, personal fortune (and you can read that any way you want to) allowed her to finally put movie lovers out of their misery.

Now she does her embarrassing book summaries. That's what they are. Maslin will get attention for this one, she probably wants it. She's been obscure for so long now that few even know her name. ("Janet Maslin? Was she the actress in Take the Money and Run?" No, that was Janet Margolin.) But it's the same book "report"ing she was doing as a movie reviewer. Summarize, summarize, throw out some inflamed remark that's not central to the discussion but suggests you know what you're talking about (and are up to the review) and you may fool some (the non-book reading public).

It really is sad because she could have been something. She could have influenced film. Maybe it was having to compete with Vincent Canby? Maybe it was the fact that it took real strength to be a woman reviewing films in those days.

Judith Crist, Molly Haskell and Pauline Kael had already broken the ground. They had strength, grit and any other word you can toss out. Maslin aped them initially but she folded because you can only fake strength for so long. She still fakes interest, some are taken in.

She finally called it quits on film in the late nineties. (1998? 1999?) But she'd flamed out long before that. Decades before. As I remember it, she had one strong year, 1977. I'm not talking about agreeing with her opinions, but I am saying she had promise then. It's been a slow fade to obscurity ever since. Sheila Benson and others quickly eclipsed Maslin, maybe that played into it. Who knows?

These days she does her Cliff Notes and passes them off as reviews. She's apparently happy with that and the Times has no problem with her mediocrity. Non-book readers love her the same way a certain segment (blue haired ladies was the term then) loved reading middle of the road play reviews while queing up in line to see The Odd Couple for the ninth time. Her reviews exist as something to read while waiting for the latest from Reader's Digest condensed.

Here's a morsel Maslin could have chewed on but didn't:

Headlines across the country screamed the news that I'd been arrested for drug smuggling and assaulting an officer. Several months later one article tucked away on the back pages of The New York Times noted, "It was determined the pills she brought into the country from Canada were really vitamins, just as she said they were," and the charges of assault and drug smuggling were dropped. No headlines for that.

That's page 263 of Fonda's My Life So Far.

Now aren't you glad that I usually just focus on the main section of the Times?
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NOTE: Wally e-mailed asking for clarity here because he wanted to know Maslin's statement on Tout Va Bien. I said we wouldn't quote from Maslin, but we will now because Wally has no "use for the Times anymore" and has "made a vow not to give them any web traffic" at all. He's attempting to keep that vow and I'll help him out by offering the statement. (I've also corrected the spelling of observation -- from "obeservation!" one of my more laughable typos -- and deleted a period. Judith Crist's last name has been corrected and I've added Molly Haskell to that sentence to correct what Erika noted was "a huge oversight." Apologies to Crist and Haskell.)

Maslin: Unplesantness like "Letter to Jane," the semiotic diatrabe addressed to her by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, goes unmentioned, beyond her use of the words "dreaded" and "incomprehensible" to describe "Tout Va Bien," the Godard film in which she appeared."

Page 278 addresses the filming of Tout Va Bien. Maslin's not happy with words like "incomprehensible" (possibly had Fonda used " resplendently" Maslin would have purred instead of hissing?). Perhaps she's settling a score with old rival Vincent Canby (who reviewed the film in real time, four years before Maslin joined the paper)? What did Canby write about the film, in the pages of the Times?

Canby: It is Godard's first revolutionary film for the bourgeoisie and, unless audiences are more indulgent that I credit them to be, it may well be his last.

Although Tout Va Bien did better in France, it did little to no business in this country. (Where it was released as Everything's Okay.) The year the film is released is 1972 and there's a great deal more going on in the world and in Fonda's life. Filming of the film itself is sandwiched between post-Christmas 1971 and February, 1972. Around eight weeks. The film was not a hit. It wasn't a pleasant shoot. And Maslin's expecting more than a page on it?

Maybe Maslin's genuinely stupid? (Some just assume she's thick headed and lazy.) Maybe she's not aware that there are certain things you discuss and certain things you don't? Maybe she's wanting Fonda to damage her own career with a book full of from-the-set tidbits told "out of school" the way Shirley MacLaine did with My Lucky Stars? (And you thought all those people just suddenly had other things to do on the night of MacLaine's AFI tribute?) Fonda's a child of Hollywood and grasps the basic etiquette/rules. If the filming was a disaster, credit her with honesty for saying so (which she does) and then moving on instead of attempting to stamp a happy face on it and to treat every film as though it were a joyful experience, a critical hit and a box office success.

She's not Joan Crawford attempting to go out of her way to defend making Trog. As an alleged film critic, Maslin should grasp that.

There are benchmarks to a career and Tout Va Bien isn't one. (You'll note Little Janet doesn't mention A Doll's House which would argue her own thick headed case far better. There's a reason for that, she's unaware. And she's skimmed a book she should have read to provide her "summary" and then quickly mixed in a few "observations" to attempt to come off informed.)

Maslin slams Fonda as a "soap opera queen." When in fact, Maslin's review is based upon carping that she's not getting the high drama she so obviously needs. Maslin doesn't grasp the contradiction in her writing. Editors long gave up on attempting to make sense of Maslin's writing. So Maslin's allowed to embarrass herself to anyone paying attention.

But, as noted before, no one pays attention to Maslin these days -- haven't in some time. Her non-book reading public, reads through her reviews (lips moving in the process?) and never note that that they turns this way and that repeatedly not unlike a "paradoxical, protean Weathervane" (something she compares Fonda to, failing to realize the face staring back at her isn't from the front cover of My Life So Far, but from Maslin's own mirror).

As a hallmark of bad writing, Maslin's jottings can be chiefly noted for ripping apart her own attempted arguments from one paragraph to the next as she stumbles and restarts constantly. This disjointed, distorted "style" is exactly why Maslin went from contender to joke in twelve months -- and has remained one ever since. As a semi-professional "writer" posing as a serious one, Maslin's become a scary morality tale in it's final stages: Kids, here's what not to do.

Books: Jane Fonda's My Life So Far

At 597 pages of text, Jane Fonda covers a lot of ground in My Life So Far and some of the more idiotic reviews (see Blog Spotlight this edition for comments on Janet Maslin) have picked through the book without reading it.

No surprise, it's a weighty volume. This is a book by someone that's lived several lifetimes (in a non-Shirley MacLaine way). This is a book by a woman who's been an activist, a model, a pin-up, an actress in films, television and on Broadway, married to three famous men (Ted Turner, Tom Hayden and Roger Vadim, in reverse order), the daughter of a famous actor (Henry Fonda), the sister of another famous actor (Peter Fonda), a business woman both in the entertainment world and the fitness world, someone who's traveled around the globe, someone who lived in France, a politician's wife, someone who made Nixon's enemies list, the mother of two children, and now a grandmother. The idea that 597 pages will cover every aspect of every year of such a public life is a bit inspid.

So we'll let the Janet Maslins carp that some movie another reviewer for The New York Times wasn't impressed with didn't make more than a page in the book. And while we might expect/hope for a tell all from Sharon Stone about on set antics, we were smart enough not to expect that from Fonda. The woman who never says "the end" but always views life as a journey has a bit more to write about.

Which isn't to say that movie buffs will be disappointed. She does address films and fills you in on details. For instance, if you've wondered about the turtle she picks up in The China Syndrome when, as Kimberly Wells, she listens to her phone messages, you'll find the answer here. You'll find out some advice that Lee Marvin gave her on the set of Cat Ballou.

We've been devouring it all week since Tuesday. And we're not alone. Folding Star of A Winding Road noted:

I'm exhausted, too, but for a far less interesting reason: insomnia. Which was aided and abetted by Jane Fonda!! I couldn't put the bloody book down! :) I'm really enjoying it. She was remarkably candid. I think so far I'd have to say it's the best autobiography I've ever read.
I've had very little progress today myself, thanks to the Fonda book! lol. I keep going back to it, 'just for a few minutes' and I look up and it's an hour and a half later. :)

It is a book that's hard to put down. Two members (Dona and Jess) weren't happy about pulling themselves away from the book tonight to work on this edition. (Though they got into the spirit quickly.) Fonda's been on NPR's Morning Edition, Good Morning America and 60 Minutes this week. But our favorite appearence was on The David Letterman Show. She noted it makes a great mother's day gift and we'd agree that it makes a great gift, for anyone.

Here's an excerpt will quote both to lead in to the next section and also because we love exposing fools like George Will (from page 408):

The China Syndrome had been playing in theaters for about two weeks, with great box office success. Conservative columnist George Will had called us irresponsible for making a thriller that would scare people about nuclear power because, he said, it was based on fantasy, not fact. Then, on March 30, 1979, while I was in St. George, Utah, filming The Electric Horseman, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that high levels of radiation were leaking from inside the reactor of the Three Mile Island atomic power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Radioactive steam clouds were escaping. The commission admitted there was "the ultimate risk of a meltdown." and Pennsylvania's governor, Dick Thornburgh, asked that children and pregnant women within a five-mile radius of the Three Mile Island facility evacuate the area.

Probably one of the gifts of a long life is being able to be around long enough to be proven right. Fonda's been different from many in this regard, she's usually been proven right rather quickly.
Another gift is the ability to look back and reflect on your life. That Fonda's willing to do that is hardly surprisingly. At 64, she's not just still attractive or still alert, she's still growing. Some reviewers (Maslin?) may have embraced rigidity long ago and need the safety of boxes and labels but Fonda's life has been a search for meaning and the search continues.

For anyone living in the present tense, this is a book we would highly recommend.

C.I advises that The Guardian of London has excerpted the book. For those readers whose budgets might not allow an immediate purchase and whose libraries might not yet have the book. we'll steer you to The Guardian's final excerpt which contains links at the bottom to the previous excerpts. (There are four excerpts total.)

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