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Cannon Fodder

This is a very difficult post to write.  I was hoping that the recent incident that resulted in taking Cannonfire off of our blogroll would go undetected.  But some of our readers, including Joseph Cannon himself, have quickly called attention to the deletion so some of us frontpagers feel we owe our readers an explanation.

First of all, I’d just like to say that as difficult as it is to do this, it is even harder to do it without pointing fingers at anyone.  We don’t want to assign blame or point fingers.  We don’t want to make enemies and we certainly do not wish to further alienate some of our friends who are protesting the frontpage by their absence.  The majority of the frontpagers met online and decided that in spite of the hurt feelings on both sides, we would like to forgive and forget and put the whole incident behind us.  The door is always open to all of our colleagues.  We feel like family who just had a bit of a falling out.

Here’s what happened:  A couple of weeks ago, Joseph Cannon posted on the Israel/Palestinian issue.  His position appears to be very favorable to Palestinians to the point of regretting the creation of the state of Israel.  I confess that on occasion, I too wish that God had chosen a different part of the world for his holy land but usually, I’m just joking when I say it.  Nevertheless, it is difficult to talk this way about the issue without being accused of anti-Semitism.  For the record, those of us who met to discuss the issue have decided that for our purposes, the definition of anti-Semitism that makes most sense to The Confluence is the irrational hatred of Jewish people and their culture which may be expressed as discrimination and violent acts.  When discussing the viability of the state of Israel, a person may or may not be expressing an anti-Semitic opinion.  He or she may be making a political comment.  We are aware that there are some groups, even some Christian groups, that would consider such sentiments anti-Semitic.  These groups may hope to squelch conversation on the subject by claiming political opinions to be anti-Semitic in nature in a manner that is reminiscent of the Obots calling us racists last year because we saw through Obama.  It is a very effective way of silencing one’s critics.

We got ensnared in that problem.  Some of the frontpagers of The Confluence have a very broad definition of anti-Semitism and as a result, they felt that the inclusion of Cannonfire on the blogroll marked The Confluence as being sympathethic to snti-Semitic views.  Some other commenters felt that this opinion was unfair and painted us all with a guilt by association to an accusation that was not proven.  Unfortunately, I did not read Joseph Cannon’s post.  Most of the day I am behind a corporate firewall and all most blogs are off limits to me.  I have read Cannon on occasion and found some of his posts to be well reasoned and insightful and some of his posts to be a little tin-foily for my tastes.  But I really don’t have an opinion on his I/P position except to say that anyone who posts on the topic has got to have balls of steel.  Both sides have legitimate points.  Both have behaved badly.  It is an intractable problem and no one is above criticism.  But if criticizing or losing patience with one side or the other makes us anti-Semitic, then I suppose the whole world is anti-Semitic.  I believe LadyBoomerNYC, our voice of Sophia Wisdom, calmed the waters about the whole problem and said politics is one of the reasons why she became a hippy- it’s a lot less stressful.

Well, the long and the short of it is that some of our frontpagers wanted Cannonfire off of the blogroll.  Normally, I would tell them to take a hike and stop bullying the rest of us.  But seeing as Joseph has asked that other blogs not link to him in the first place, it gave us a cowardly way to put the issue to rest.  Or so we thought.  Unfortunately, that action wasn’t sufficient for some of our frontpagers.  In not so subtle ways, they asked us to denounce Cannon and agree that his posts were anti-Semitic.  This was too much for many of us because it implied that if we like Cannon for other reasons we must be guilty.  Many of us were hurt on both sides and tears were shed by those who were accused.  I don’t think I can adequately express the pain.  It feels like betrayal by people you most cared about and who you would never dream of hurting.  Nevertheless, it is what it is and some of our frontpagers have left for greener pastures.  We wish them well and hope that someday we can get back togehter.  But in the meantime, we just need to let the dust settle and tempers cool.

As to Joseph Cannon, he is free to write what he wants.  I think I speak for everyone who writes for The Confluence that we do not approve of anti-Semitism.  We support the state of Israel but we do hold both sides responsible for the turmoil and unrest in the Levant.  The end doesn’t justify the means for either party.  We would not go so far as to say that we wish the state of Israel did not exist because we believe that the state has done much good that outweighs whatever bad it has done.  But it is time to get its house in order and it is time for the Palestinians to disavow terrorism.  People who have stronger opinions have the obligation to back them up with solutions that will defuse the inevitable conflict that results from implementation.

So, that’s the whole sordid story.  I’d like to thank everyone who has written for The Confluence in the past year.  I have enjoyed all of the posts from each one of those truly talented individuals.  We have removed Cannonfire but may occasionally link to him as the occasion arises.  The persons offended by having him in the blogroll in the first place, however, should not expect an apology.  At this point, the damage is too extensive on both sides of the divide.  We either learn to tolerate each other, respecting our differences in opinion and write together or we go our separate ways.

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Saturday: Jon Stewart, heal thyself

Jon Stewart took on Jim Cramer of Mad Money a couple of nights ago and raked him over the coals about the uncritical journalism of the press that failed to uncover the chicanery of the financial giants.  From the interview, we get this exchange (from Glenn Greenwald, who I’ll get to in a second):

STEWART:  This thing was 10 years in the making . . . . The idea that you could have on the guys from Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch and guys that had leveraged 35-1 and then blame mortgage holders, that’s insane. . . .

CRAMER:  I always wish that people would come in and swear themselves in before they come on the show.  I had a lot of CEOs lie to me on the show.  It’s very painful. I don’t have subpoena power. . . .

STEWART:  You knew what the banks were doing and were touting it for months and months.  The entire network was.

CRAMER:  But Dick Fuld, who ran Lehman Brothers, called me in – he called me in when the stock was at 40 — because I was saying: “look, I thought the stock was wrong, thought it was in the wrong place” – he brings me in and lies to me, lies to me, lies to me.

STEWART [feigning shock]:  The CEO of a company lied to you?

CRAMER:  Shocking.

STEWART:  But isn’t that financial reporting?  What do you think is the role of CNBC? . . . .

CRAMER:  I didn’t think that Bear Stearns would evaporate overnight.  I knew the people who ran it.  I thought they were honest. That was my mistake.  I really did.  I thought they were honest.  Did I get taken in because I knew them before?  Maybe, to some degree. . . .

It’s difficult to have a reporter say:  “I just came from an interview with Hank Paulson and he lied his darn-fool head off.”  It’s difficult.  I think it challenges the boundaries.

STEWART:   But what is the responsibility of the people who cover Wall Street?  . . . . I’m under the assumption, and maybe this is purely ridiculous, but I’m under the assumption that you don’t just take their word at face value.  That you actually then go around and try to figure it out (applause).

Here’s my problem with this exchange: About a year and a half ago, I *loved* Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I had Colbert’s devastating take down of the press at the WH Correspondents dinner on my DVR for a long time. And I still have the interview that Jon gave Bill Moyer’s Journal on my iPod. Back then, Jon Stewart was one of us. He was fighting the consensus reality in the only way he could- with humor and wit. He was the jester who could get away with murder in the court of a murderous king. I faithfully recorded The Daily Show and The Colbert Report every night on my DVR.

Then, primary season started. I don’t know if Viacom decided it was going to go for a much younger demographic or what but Jon Stewart left me behind. I have often heard it said that Stewart was initially a Hillary Clinton fan but I couldn’t tell. It would have been nice if he had just remained neutral. That I could have taken. But night after night, it seemed to *this* viewer that he was falling for the same crazy crap that everyone else was hearing. His dings on Hillary took on the same general flavor of rest of the news media that decided that Clinton was the old regime and was running a ridiculous campaign. Those of us who were paying attention know that it was the Obama campaign that was poorly executed, so poorly in fact that it required the assistance of the RBC to gift him with 59 delegates from MI, including 4 of his opponent’s delegates.

Back in the day, that RBC hearing would have been comedy gold for Stewart. Think of it: the candidates are pretty much even with the older, more experienced female candidate having the edge for actually participating in the primaries which conveeeeeniently don’t count (except that everyone knows that this is really Kabuki because they will *have* to count before it’s all over). And what does the RBC do? It takes delegates away from the real winner and gives them to the loser and gives him 59 delegates from a state where he wasn’t even on the ballot, so that he will beat her by a mere 17 delegates when the primaries finally end a few days later. Then, they make it sound like it’s a big landslide, giving him the edge all the way to the convention.  She *should* have taken it to the convention floor and had a knock down, drag out fight for the nomination.  But how could she do it if the one guy she really needed to be critical, Jon Stewart, was out to lunch?

How could you miss that, Jon? That was the epitome of ‘fuzzy math’. You should have been rolling your eyes and should have gotten someone like the RBC’s Allen “this is the thing I am most proud of” Katz or Alexis Herman on your show to eviscerate them, just like you did to countless others. This committee should have been the butt of ridicule for at least a week.  Think about what an incredibly UNdemocratic thing that was for the Democrats to do to their voters. But you said nothing. And why was that, Jon? Were we old, uneducated, working class, sino-peruvian lesbians no longer in the target demographic? Or is it the case that when women are represented by only one member in the ensemble, Samantha Bee, it’s easy to forget that they might have their own sense of honor and fair play?

Whatever. That’s when I removed TDS from my DVR and erased all old episodes. I, and the rest of my demographic, were no longer cool enough to be respected. Not only that but we kept saying over and over again that what we objected to with Obama was that he was inexperienced and unready to be president. But consensus reality said that we were ‘racists’ and ‘Reagan Democrats’, not the smart and professional, thinking liberals we actually are. Jon, the psychology major, should have known better. He should have seen the peer pressure, psychological warfare, and the pandering and flattery frenzy of the Whole Foods Nation, his own audience, and tried to rebalance their perspective. That was what he tried to do with Bush and Cheney and we admired him for it. But when it came to Obama and Hillary, Jon had a blind spot.

Well, thanks, in part, to the effort of Stewart and Colbert, we now have President Obama, a man who never met a multimillionaire, finance guy, banker campaign donor he didn’t like. We now have former Senator Obama, a man who ran and hid any time there was a difficult decision to make or a political controversy to avoid, in the midst of a financial maelstrom where he is dithering, afraid to commit. He appointed finance guys who were insiders, or at least passive observers of the fraud, who are trying to navigate their way out of the problem without upsetting the very guys who were responsible for it. And they are failing.  Who would have thought?  Their anti-Change!™, cautious approach and inexperience are taking the country and the world to the very brink of disaster with economist after economist screaming for them to change course and do something. We have a major catastrophe on our hands and it was all entirely predictable. WE predicted it. But last year, we were the losers and the stupid racists. No one was listening to us, least of all Jon Stewart.

It is all Jon Stewart’s fault?  No, but he’s too smart a guy to not understand what part he played in the nomination of Barack Obama last year.  Glenn Greenwald is just as guilty.  He suffered from a similar blindspot.  Glenn carried a snobby assumption that Hillary was just not viable.  He didn’t really bother to spell it all out so that the rest of us would understand what it was that made Hillary so objectionable.  I never bought the argument of ‘corporatism’ since there wasn’t anything in Hillary’s voting record to suggest that she could be bought.  Obama, however, almost immediately showed us his true colors when he reversed his promise regarding the FISA bill.  Sorry, Glenn, you should have seen that coming.  Obama is not a boat rocker and he demonstrated that over and ovcr with his “present” votes and abstentions.  Once the nomination was cinched, there wasn’t anything you could do to stop him.  His accountability moment had passed.

The idea that now Jon Stewart and Glenn Greenwald are going to start taking on the press again is laughable.  They had their chance last year and they blew it.  They challenged nothing.  They are now as responsible for what plays out as the Jim Cramers, David Gregorys and Brian Willams’s they now decry.  It’s time they spent some time thinking about why they so quickly abandoned intelligence, competence and experience for an empty suit.  For Stewart, maybe it was pressure from Viacom, which makes him no better than his targets.  For Glenn, it may have been part of the pressure of being an A list blogger.  For both, maybe there was a touch of unacknowledged sexism.  But whatever reason, they should know that whatever happens from here on out is partially *their* responsibility for failing to be sufficiently critical.  And we Conflucians and PUMAs, who have been critical of the press since our inception, will hold them accountable for it.

(I’m back.  Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.  We survived the night.  We had cabin 14, right on the other side of the wall from cabin *13*, on the eve of Friday the 13th, at a campsite, on a lake.  Cue the theremin music.  Three of the giggly girls in my charge stayed up half the night communicating with cabin 13 through Morris code and screaming periodically at every bump in the night.  Happily, Jason passed us by.  Anyway, the temperature never got above freezing the whole time and, as a chaperone, I was forced to participate in every activity that the kids did.  When I got home late yesterday afternoon, my entire body was exhausted and frozen.  I’m now thawed out and just stiff in every muscle.  It was a lot of fun but thank gawd it’s over. )

Another one bites the dust during Pod 7C's great Into the Wild 2-day fieldtrip

Another one bites the dust during Pod 7C's great Into the Wild 2-day fieldtrip