Sunday, September 17, 2006

Quick Roundtable

Jim: At the insistance of readers, we're doing another roundtable. Participating are:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ils); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; and Wally of The Daily Jot. Okay, let's kick it off with what's the big secret because that's what readers want to know after C.I. deleted a portion of a roundtable Rebecca moderated?

C.I.: It's not my secret to reveal. Mike knows the secret. Ask him.

Mike: Let me say first that myself and one other person were shocked that C.I. knew. And when I was tossing out things, that got deleted, I wasn't going to go into it. In the deleted portion of that roundtable, C.I. told me in no specific terms to basically "Shut it."

Jim: So are we talking about it or not?

Mike: I don't think I can.

C.I.: Jim's asking the wrong questions. If this is talked about, will you or another person directly involved be upset?

Mike: No.

Rebecca: I don't get it but if we're noting the deleting portion, I want it on record that C.I. said, quote: "Oh my God, we're Fleetwood fucking Mac. I thought that was hilarious and pulled the other portions of the discussion, that I couldn't follow!, without any regrets but I did love that line.

Dona: Okay, well so we get to what this is, because readers do want to know, let's establish that (a) C.I. knows, (b) Mike knows, (c) it involves one other person. Mike, is that correct?

Mike: Yes.

Jim: Well --

Dona: Let C.I. ask the questions. I'm not in the mood to go round and round.

C.I.: This is the only question I'm going to ask, and I have a feeling Wally also knows about this secret and has for some time, is anyone participating in this roundtable opposed to this being discussed?

Mike: No. The other person said you could discuss it.

C.I.: Okay, Fleetwood Mac, and I'm not asking questions, I'm going to tell everyone what's going on, and do so quickly, so follow along, the Fleetwood Mac reference was to the everyone sleeping with everyone nature of that group. Mike and Elaine are a couple. Mike and Elaine aren't talking about it due to Nina either asking directly that they not or hinting that they shouldn't.

Rebecca: What?

Ty: No way.

Mike: Way.

Jess: Well that's cool. Congratulations, Mike and Elaine. I'm surprised and didn't see it coming. Wally knew?

Elaine: Wally was staying with Mike when we became involved. He was asked not to discuss it.

Mike: Can I ask, this is for C.I., how you knew? You said it was obvious.

C.I.: Okay, but just to establish this, Nina's asked you not to talk about the break up? Is that correct?

Mike: Yes.

C.I.: Nina and Mike were a couple for a year or more. This is how I knew, by the way and I'll try to be brief because Dona wants this roundtable done quickly. Nina and Mike were a couple. Nina, Mike and Tony established the Friday Iraq discussion group that Mike notes each week.
Anyone's who's been reading the site should have noted the vanishing of Nina this summer. I did. At or around the same time other remarks were made including, at Trina's site, the comment that Elaine was more than just a friend to her. It's also been noted that although Elaine drives in for the Friday meetings, she tends to stay there the entire weekend, at Mike's. Between that and other things that went up at Mike's site and Trina's and the fact that Elaine was no longer repeating, as she tends to do at least once a week, "Mike and I are only friends," it was obvious. I knew before everyone stayed out here this summer but it was confirmed when I was advised that there was no need to make up one bed, day after day. It obviously wasn't being used. Wally ran interference while they were out here.

Dona: I didn't notice that.

C.I.: You wouldn't have if you hadn't already noted what had gone up at Mike's site, Elaine's and Trina's. If you had read between the lines or noted what wasn't being said, it would have been obvious that Mike and Elaine were disappearing together and whenever anyone noticed, Wally was there to either change the topic or to offer an excuse.

Mike: My man, Wally!

Rebecca: I can't believe no one told me. I can't believe you, C.I., didn't tell me.

C.I.: I didn't tell anyone, it wasn't my place to. Ava knows and found out after the roundtable when she spoke to Betty to find out what the deleted portion of that roundtable was. Mike was hinting about Ava and Jess having a relationship, which neither intends to speak of, and that much was known.

Ava: Right and C.I. wouldn't tell me what was said. So I called Betty because I was curious to know if something about my relationship, other than that it existed, was discussed or hinted at.
Betty told me the deleted portion.

Betty: And told her I couldn't make hide nor hair of it. I hope that's the expression.

Ava: And I tossed that around, what Betty told me and realized someone was having a relationship and that Mike knew so it was probably him. My first thought, honestly, was it must be Mike and Wally because that's the only person I knew he'd spent any time with this summer, more than usual, of us. But Wally's got a girlfriend and when I called him, on a fishing expedition, it was obvious that things were going very well there. Wally's not the type to do anything on the side, so it was obvious Mike was sleeping with someone else. Then I kept going back to Betty saying C.I. was "fierce" in the fact that the issue wouldn't be discussed and I guessed it was because it involved Elaine and she wasn't participating in the roundtable. So I went to C.I. and the non-answer was the answer.

C.I.: I'm jumping in again because I like Nina and she's a community member and, I'm guessing, she doesn't want to be discussed at either Mike or Elaine's site. Is that correct?

Elaine: Yes. And if you could guess one more thing so I don't come off like the skank of the year, I'd really appreciate it.

C.I.: Well, it's obvious, Nina and Mike broke up and then after that, underscore after that, you two began a relationship.

Elaine: Correct. And she doesn't want their breakup discussed online "now or ever" which is what she told me when the thing went up here noting that there was some secret. She said if it came up from others it could be acknowledged, the break up, but she doesn't want her personal life discussed online.

C.I.: And she never did and that was noted at Mike's site during their relationship. She's entitled to her privacy. She's a member of the community and a very nice person. Everyone here spent time with her in March when we all went to DC. I'm not aware of any ill will towards her.

Rebecca: Well excuse me for leaving the cut and dry, but that's a pretty big secret and I can't believe I wasn't told.

Elaine: You who can keep no secret.

Rebecca: I would've kept that.

Elaine: Well, we hoped it would ease out and then we would have confirmed it. But questions like, "Wasn't Mike seeing" or "What happened to" were questions we weren't supposed to discuss. And we really weren't sure what we were allowed to discuss.

Mike: Right. After the roundtable with Rebecca, I spoke to Nina and told her it would be coming out soon and asked her for specifics of what could and could not be discussed. The fact that Elaine and I are a couple and anything to do with that, we can both talk about.

Elaine: But don't intend to talk about everything.

Kat: I figured Mike was in a new relationship, during the roundtable, when C.I. made the Fleetwood Mac joke. Or had a brief relationship or something. I honestly wondered if it was Betty and Mike because of the secret nature to it. Betty always says she can't have a realtionship until her kids are older so it made sense to me, that if she'd broken that vow, Mike wouldn't be at liberty to say. But I got lost in that discussion, at the roundtable, because only Mike and C.I. seemed to know what they were talking about.

Elaine: Okay, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, the joke about the age difference.

Jim: No one's going to make a joke about that. I am surprised and surprised that something could be going on and be kept for weeks. I don't mean that in a "I'm hurt that Mike and Elaine didn't tell me" kind of way. I just mean, I can't believe we didn't notice. Now that C.I.'s pointed it out, I did think, for instance, that the way Trina worded that comment at her site about Elaine was strange. I figured she was just rushing to get her post up, though.

Mike: We really thought Rebecca would be one the who would figure it out.

Rebecca: Me?

Mike: Yeah, because you and Fly Boy are coming to the Friday things and because you and Wally are on the phone all the time. We figured at some time Wally would have to slip up and let something out.

Wally: I am no Richard Armitage.

Mike: No, you are not. But like, Rebecca, you were trying to fix Elaine up with a guy on Friday and we really thought the hints Elaine was dropping would clue you in.

Rebecca: Damn it, I missed that. I hate being the last to know. But congratulations.

Jim: Okay, so that's the big secret and now we all know.

Mike: Just one more thing. The day after the roundtable, that Friday, I called Wally and told him, "C.I. knows" and Wally was all, "Oh boy do I look a liar now." Because he was covering for us when we were all together, so we could get some alone time. So just so Wally doesn't wait for a few days to bring this up. C.I., I'm talking to you.

C.I.: Oh, sorry. No, I don't think Wally's a liar. He was doing what he'd been asked to do. I never thought, "Wally, that liar!" He was running interference.

Mike: No harm, no foul.

C.I.: Right.

Jim: Okay, so now we can move on. Right? Okay, Cedric you had a comment or topic.

Cedric: I just put down "topic" because I wasn't sure how to word it. We're dealing with something in another feature and doing it humorously but I thought it needed to be addressed in a non-humorous manner. If someone wants to grab that and intro it in a way that doesn't interfere with what's planned for the other thing, that would be great.

Betty: I will. On 9-11, Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive decided to write one of the longest pieces he's written lately. It was slamming the 9-11 truth movement. And his column and the way he wrote it offended a lot of people.

Ty: That was a good intro and I think we should toss to Kat now because she's spoken of Drunk Uncle. That was an apt comparison by the way, I thought, you go over to visit a sick uncle and he greets you at the door by grabbing your breast.

Kat: Well, that's how it struck me. I mean he always comes off so friendly and so upbeat and in that thing he just wanted to holler and yell and stamp his feet about a topic that his magazine hasn't ever covered and to do so on 9-11. It made no sense to me at all.

Jim: It didn't make sense to anyone participating. When you write about Iraq, you dash off a few thoughts. When you write about something supposedly important to you five to eight paragraphs is enough. But you've got a "web exclusive" that goes on and on for what felt like 7,000 words and it's on a topic that you haven't covered and it's to note a day that American should be able to come together on, if no other day of the year, but you're playing "The Divider."

Ava: And that wasn't funny. Just to note that. He tries to get at least one obvious one-liner off in that and I think there were several other ones as well, less obvious. It didn't read funny. He shouldn't try to write funny. In fact, here's a tip for him, if you're trying to write funny, read it aloud and see if it sounds funny. If it doesn't, chances are it's not.

Wally: Which is why I always read mine aloud and then call C.I. and say, "Listen to this."

C.I.: Quickly, thank you to Cedric for noting that all I'm doing is being a sounding board for Wally or for you and Wally when you write together. I don't want credit for writing things I didn't write.

Betty: And I do the same thing Wally does. I'm always e-mailing drafts to Kat and C.I. and calling them to read things. But, Ava's point, it wasn't funny. It seemed like it was supposed to be in that one-line. For it to have been funny, he would have had to build to it.

Mike: C.I.'s not really discussing the column and I'm wondering if there will be any participation on this topic?

Dona: Yes, there will. C.I. knew what Cedric's topic was and will weigh in on one aspect. I didn't have time to get with Jim before the roundtable but I did get with Cedric to find out what the topic was and I did ask C.I. about participation. Our opinion is that when Matthew Rothschild wrote the gleeful e-mail, public e-mail sent out to anyone who signs up for them, about the "hornet's nest" he'd stirred or created, he was wanting attention for his column.

Jim: I thought it was bad journalism. When you present a unified theory, it had better be a unified theory. It's not but he presented it as such. He created a straw man from the parts he picked and then tried to go to town but some people really aren't built to go to town and that's why he failed. It's really an embarrasing piece of writing.

Wally: If he was interested in addressing the topic, which he wasn't, he could have gone to someone like Bonnie Faulkner who has interviewed people with various beliefs on the matter.

Ty: Well, what do you think about the truth movement?

Wally: I don't disbelieve them and I don't believe them. I don't know enough either way. I've heard Guns and Butter and think it's a great show and applaud Bonnie Faulkner for being willing to seriously address the topic. But I'm too busy to evaluate, or to do the research to evaluate. I'm not opposed to any hypothesis being discussed.

C.I.: Which is where I'm going to jump in. He seems offended that the issue is raised. I've been going around the country and speaking and I've never had a problem with it. If someone raises it, and I'd guess that's every third gathering, I don't say "Shut up" and I don't dismiss them. I listen as they have their say. If he's getting hostility from people , he may need to take a look at the way he's responding when someone brings up the topic. I think it needs to be stated again that there is not one unified theory around the country. There are some who believe a conspiracy involves people knew what events were going to happen and that they did nothing to prevent them from happening. There are some people who believe that a plane did not hit the Pentagon. Not everyone believes that aspect. Some believe that there were bombs in the World Trade Center. Those some, as Kat has noted at her site awhile back, include friends of mine who were in there as firefighters. I certainly wouldn't scream and have a tantrum to insist, "You are so wrong! You don't know what you're talking about! You're looney!" I wasn't there, I don't know what happened. Nor do I have the time to find out. I think it's great that anyone with questions should pursue them. I think it's foolish to be dismissive of things you know nothing about -- and when you've reduced several theories into one unified 'string' theory, you don't know enough to speak on the subject. Any avenue pursued, on any issue, can produce something of value. That's why people research to begin with. People with conclusions today may continue to research and reach other conclusions. To those who are researching, more power to you. I'm not going to slam you or tell you that "You must stop! I am the all knowing, all controlling power in the universe." Rothschild, in that column, appeared to think he was. And this point needs to be made, Dona heard it in a thing I wrote for hours and then pulled, on Thursday night, that it's not just a column. Katrina vanden Heuvel isn't just a writer for The Nation. With her position comes expectations and responsibilites. The same is true for Rothschild. Had a columnist for the magazine written the same piece in exactly the same manner, it probably would have been greeted differently. When the editor and chairperson of the board does, the reaction is different. It's even more different when it's on a topic that the magazine's never addressed. As the editor, if you're going after something and slamming some on the left, you might need to have offered a balance of some form. A discussion, or whatever. That wasn't done.

Rebecca: Look, I know Dona's called five minutes, but I'll pull my topic because I want to stay on this for a second. There was a thing you wrote, you, C.I., and pulled, many things, on Thursday, that Jim told me about. I want to talk about that. Briefly, at my website, I write what I want, if someone doesn't like it, in the words of Cedric, "Oh well." I can do that, we can all do that except you. There's a different level, so talk about that.

C.I.: Briefly, we have a diverse group of members in The Common Ills community. What I can do here and what I can do there are different. But even with that --

Jess: You scream bloody murder if something is included here that's going to offend or treat a member as though they're not important or their issue doesn't matter.

C.I.: Right. I'm not doing a blog. Rebecca is. That's her journal. I'm expected to speak to the issues that matter to the community and, many times, to speak for. That's not boo-hoo. It's not a burden. But it does mean that I take the community's diversity into account when writing something at The Common Ills. To stick with Rebecca, if she upsets someone, she has readers, if she upsets them, her attitude is "Oh well." The community is members and they deserve to be treated with respect. I have never intentionally disrespected them. When I have unintentionally done so, I have immediately apologized. But, to drag out the dead fern one more time, in November of 2004, I thought I'd be writing about an issue very dear to me, water rights, within days. I still haven't written that. I may never write that. There are always issues members want addressed. Members dictate the content and the approach. I don't say "stupid" in real life. What the site started as and how it ended up are based on what the members wanted. And language choices are often made to make sure the site, the main one, is work-place friendly and no one ends up in trouble for visiting due to foul language. I work from an approved list of words. I work from an approved list of topics. There are highlights we have by people I know personally and do not like. That's fine. I don't say, "Oh, I don't like ___." The Common Ills isn't, to put in Daniel Okrent terms, "What I wanted to write about." By the same token, with all the hats Matthew Rothschild wears it strikes me as strange that he doesn't grasp each hat carries additional responsibilities.

Ava: And I'll note, we polled, one of the first polls in the gina & krista round-robin in fact, on whether C.I. could cut loose here in the reviews. Members were behind that. But what we do together here in the reviews, couldn't be done word for word at The Common Ills. There are different hats and different responsibilities and until Jess and I started working The Common Ills e-mails, we really didn't grasp that. This week alone, let's just focus on visitors, there were four people who needed an attorney, three who hopefully will contact the ACLU which was recommended in addition to information for individual attorneys, and one whom we think is working on a paper and needed contact info for a specific humran rights attorney in England.
The most that we get at The Third Estate Sunday Review is a request of where to find a song. At The Common Ills, focusing on visitors again, someone wrote in who was raped and she wanted to know resources. And that's just some of the visitors. It's a very different group of people. They are very vocal and when something goes up, especially if it's not Iraq related, it's because it's an issue to a member or members and they are very upset. I imagine Rebecca gets similar e-mails from her high school readers.

Jess: Which isn't an insult to Rebecca.

Ava: Right. It's not. That's the core audience for Rebecca.

Rebecca: The kids love me and my potty mouth. But yeah, rape's an issue that I get e-mails on and domestic abuse. But it's nothing like what C.I. does. I mean, I joke about the whole "We're a resource/review" but that truly is how the community and many members see it [The Common Ills]. And my point, in asking that it be noted in this discussion, is that Matthew Rothschild, to repeat, isn't just a columnist for the magazine. He is the face of the magazine. Why he wanted to present a hateful, demeaning face, I have no idea but that's what the column did.

Jim: We need to wrap up but I'll note something else that got pulled. If you don't believe in the truth movement, why are you writing about it? Kat writes about in terms of Guns & Butter and does so because members of the community felt that the issue was being ignored.

C.I.: I'm happy to highlight anything a member wants but I'm not an expert on that topic and I won't play insta-expert. I've always stated that anything a member wants to write on 9-11, their memories, what they expereienced, their thoughts in any form, would go up. Ruth tried to include it due to requests and wasn't able to for the same reason. Gina and Krista have included things by members with varying points of review in their round-robin and they have insisted, rightly, that everyone participating be treated with respect.

Jim: Which brings it back to my point. If you're someone who doesn't write about it, why are you making your biggest piece something on that topic? And where is the respect in that? I'm not seeing it. What I think I may be seeing is someone wants everyone to follow him --

Rebecca: Top-down leadership.

Jim: Right. Rothschild's bent out of shape because people who could be his disciples, working on his approved issues, are instead working on something else. "Get over it"? Right back at you, Matty. People need to research. If it's something so important to them that they will put their time into it, I say applaud their efforts. That doesn't mean I have to agree with them or that I disagree with them. It does mean that they are working towards something they believe in and it's not calling for an attack on another country or sending in the Marines.

Ty: Right, I've got more in common with someone researching any current event than I do with the modern day Carrie Nations.

Dona: The fact of the matter is that it was a dishonest column. It was dishonest in terms of the voice Rothschild usually speaks with, which he tossed out the window for this smarmy piece, and it was dishonest in terms of taking from various strands what he wanted to use to embarrass or mock people with and presenting it as a single, unified theory. There's nothing "Progressive" about that. We have to touch on Alexander Cockburn because Jess said an angry visitor, to The Common Ills, keeps harping on the fact that Cockburn got a pass. Kat?

Kat: Well Cockburn's voice isn't Rothschild's. Alexander Cockburn's always angry. You learn to enjoy the passion if you like his writing, which I do, and you always know it could explode at you.

C.I.: I'd agree with that but I'd also note that the passionate writing . . . I'm trying to choose my words carefully because I don't want this to be seen as a slam at him. It's not intended as such.

Dona: We don't have time for careful wording.

C.I.: Okay, he gets very animated. And he makes statements. And if they offend you, you can usually find a place to say, "Oh look, he was so angry in this column that he forgot about . . ." Such as when he wrote about online journalism and referred to Jason Leopold in a derogatory manner. E-mails came in on that. I replied to those with issues over the column, "I don't think he remembered it when he wrote the column, but CounterPunch has run Leopold's work many times."

Rebecca: Right because the message, on Leopold, in that column was something to the effect of, "And look at what some people will post online and where are the standards that a writer like this can be published." And the fact of the matter is a writer like that can be published at CounterPunch and had been, many times. Alex isn't trying to be the nice guy who lives next door. Rothschild's repeatedly written in that voice.

Cedric: I want to add something.

Dona: Cedric's will be the last word and please note that I'm fully aware Wally hardly said a word and that Betty's next on the list after. This was a free-for-all and everyone was told that before the round-table started. On this one, everyone's responsible for themselves. Cedric, go.

Cedric: First off, I was offended by his Ward Churchill piece sometime ago and that goes into this. I think the issue that concerned a lot of people who were offended, was that it was an attempt to draw a line and say, "Look at me, I'm respectable." The way the psuedo-defense/psuedo-slam of Ward Churchill read. I think that there can be a need to draw lines. I think the left's biggest problem is an eagerness to draw lines that shut out the people we'd most agree with. You can apply that to the issue of people who have serious doubts about the administration regardless of what the doubts are and you can take that to race as well.

Dona: One minute.

Cedric: As an African-American, I know very well how the lines get drawn that exclude. Keesha was outraged by Rothschild's column and she's someone who doesn't belive in the truth movement. She's not ragging on it, but she doesn't believe in it. The reason she was outraged was because it felt to her like line drawing. This rush towards respectable shuts a lot of people out -- sometimes due to beliefs and sometimes due to gender, due to skin color, due to sexuality, you name it. If he has problems with the movement, he should have taken great strides, considering that I've never seen an African-American in the magazine as a regular writer, to make sure that it did not come off like line drawing.

Dona: And that's it. We may touch on this topic again.
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