Monday, June 05, 2006


Byron Calame defends his right to sniff politicians' panties

New York Times Public Editor Byron Calame has published a despicable defense of Patrick Healy's above the fold investigation into Hillary Clinton's marital and sex life with husband Bill. The story, sourced entirely anonymously, told of marital difficulties and implied infidelity on Bill's part. It was a gossip hit piece and perhaps the lowliest piece of journalistic crap the Times has produced through years of mediocre, "balanced" crap.

COMPLAINTS about the May 23 Page 1 article on Hillary and Bill Clinton add up to one of the most uniformly negative and partisan reader reactions to a Times article during the past year. Most decried as tabloid journalism the story about the couple and the political implications of their marriage for her Senate re-election campaign and presidential aspirations.
I disagree. Over all, I found the article a worthwhile piece of journalism that deserved to be published in The Times. Senator Clinton's unique relationship with the former president is certain to be on many voters' minds if she pursues the presidency, and the article provided an update on where their complicated partnership stands. The focus, appropriately, was on the political calculations by the couple and their advisers, and the tone of the assessment of their personal lives was generally understated and evenhanded.
That's pure crap and to accuse readers of being partisan for not wanting to see the Times publish stuff more commonly found in a supermarket checkout aisle is absurd. The rest of his defense of Healy goes from bad to worse and I don't want to give any more space on this site to the words of a man whose stated job responsiblity is:

The public editor serves as the readers' representative.
Calling us names and taking the uncritical eye of a corporate yes-man is hardly any sort of representation of the Times' readers.

Fortunately Calame allows comments on his blog and we need to go there to keep hitting him for this inexcusable piece of biased journalism and his insulting defense of it. Here's what I posted and a number of NY Roots Project members have chimed in as well.

Mr Calame, you write “COMPLAINTS about the May 23 Page 1 article on Hillary and Bill Clinton add up to one of the most uniformly negative and partisan reader reactions to a Times article during the past year. ”

With that opening you told the world all we needed to know about your commitment to represent the opinions of NY Times readers. You called us partisan, projecting the issue as one only Democrats care about, as if the public on whole wants to hear about the contents any politicians’ underwear drawer.

I am a Democrat, though I am not a supporter of Hillary Clinton’s and I have no desire to see her gain my party’s nomination. But I expect the Times to both keep it’s above-the-fold journalism to matters of national importance and free of attack politics. The implication and innuendo included in this piece was unacceptable, as you’ve partially pointed out.

Since you and editors Keller and Abramson have now repeatedly defended this story as politically relevant investigatory work, I expect we will see forthcoming analyses of the marital and sex lives John McCain, George Allen, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, Mitt Romney, and Bill Frist - not to mention Mark Warner, Russ Feingold, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, John Kerry, and Joe Biden.

If your paper fails to provide at least one in-depth Page 6 style piece on a leading Republican presidential candidate, it will be you and your colleagues who have revealed yourselves as partisan hacks.

Also, as a public and politically important figure, I’d like to know about your marital state as well as that of Bill Keller. Are you gents married? Have you ever been divorced? Are you gay? How often do you see your spouse or partner? Have you ever had an affair? You and Mr. Keller play key roles at the paper of record and I think you’d agree that your personal lives are of critical importance to my ability to judge your worth as a journalist.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Clinton: Supports Net Neutrality

I just received an email from Hillary Clinton's Deputy State Director, Christine Falvo. I and six other members of the New York branch of the Roots Project met with her last week to talk about net neutrality and a few other issues. At the time Falvo was not able to say anything about the Senator's position on the issue other than she was "looking at" the Snowe/Dorgan bill. Now, it turns out, Clinton will cosponsor the Snowe/Dorgan legislation.

Here's the text of Clinton's announcement. Sent via email, so I don't have a link yet:

May 18, 2006
Washington, DC – “I support net neutrality. The open architecture of the Internet has been the critical element that has made it the most revolutionary communications medium since the advent of the television.

Each day on the Internet views are discussed and debated in an open forum without fear of censorship or reprisal. The Internet as we know it does not discriminate among its users. It does not decide who can enter its marketplace and it does not pick which views can be heard and which ones silenced. It is the embodiment of the fundamental democratic principles upon which our nation has thrived for hundreds of years.

I have always, and will continue to strongly and unequivocally support these principles. As I have worked throughout my Senate career to make broadband access readily available throughout New York State and our nation, I believe that maintaining an open Internet coupled with more broadband access is necessary if we are to meet the promise and the potential of the Internet to disseminate ideas and information, enhance learning, education and business opportunities for all Americans and improve and uplift our citizenry.

We must embrace an open and non-discriminatory framework for the Internet of the 21st century. Therefore, it is my intention to be an original cosponsor of the Dorgan and Snowe net neutrality legislation to ensure that open, unimpaired and unencumbered Internet access for both its users and content providers is preserved as Congress debates the overhaul of our nation’s telecommunications laws. Any effort to fundamentally alter the inherently democratic structure of the Internet must be rejected.”
I can't say that the NY branch of the Roots Project is responsible for Clinton cosponsoring legislation that goes a long way to preserving net neutrality, but I have no doubt that citizen action influenced her decision. The calls, office visits, emails, letters, and faxes internet users sent to her from around New York State surely would have had an impact on the senator. I can say this safely because I've heard from other elected officials that the input elected Dems are receiving about net neutrality is overwhelming.

Keep it up folks. The internet is at stake.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Meeting with Rep. Maloney's staff

Jay Ackroyd and I met with Minna Elias, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney's NY Chief of Staff, this afternoon. Maloney is a Democrat representing the New York 14th. Coming away from the meeting I cannot imagine a more heartening conversation for a constituent to have with a staffer. My hope is that our talk with Minna evolves into the normal expectation for constituents of the Roots Project to have going into meetings with aides and elected officials.

We began the meeting by introducing how The Roots Project was no more than a collection of concerned citizens who came together through the blogs Crooks & Liars, firedoglake, and Unclaimed Territory. Though we scheduled the meeting to talk about net neutrality, we first spoke about our support for Maloney's consistent defense of contraceptive and reproductive rights. Maloney was featured in last weekend's Sunday Times Magazine.

In July, a group of Democrats in Congress, led by Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, sent the first of four letters to the president asking outright: "Mr. President, do you support the right to use contraception?" According to Representative Maloney's office, the White House has still not responded.
We thought it would be a positive way to start our conversation on a subject Maloney has shown real leadership on. It's critically important to not just show up in congressional offices when we're upset with an officials actions, but to give positive feedback on the good work pols are doing on our behalf.

Our discussion with Minna on net neutrality was incredibly productive. Jay gave a straightforward technical explanation of what the issues at hand are and I tried to provide perspective on who would be hurt most by the demise of the free internet: working families, small businesses, non-profits, charities, grassroots organizers, and bloggers. It was clear from the beginning that we were talking with someone who readily agreed with the importance of our concerns and had already spent a lot of time thinking about the issue of net neutrality.

Minna raised two additional concerns about the loss of net neutrality that we had not addressed.

First, our representatives in Congress wouldn't necessarily have the money to pay for the sort of websites they now maintain. Minna specifically said, "Carolyn likes to be a resource" for her constituents. Maloney, like many representatives, want to be able to preserve her website as that resource for her constituents and anyone interested in the work she's doing.

Second, congressional staffs do a preponderance of their research online. Any high fees to access sites will hinder the ability for legislators to do the sort of research they need to do to succeed at their job. A restricted internet could seriously hamper the underlying research efforts that support legislation.

The bottom line outcome from our meeting is that we learned that Rep. Maloney supports net neutrality. The biggest factor that will determine how Maloney acts on the Markey bill will be the feedback she receives from her constituency. Minna said that their office has gotten more calls about net neutrality than any issue since the start of the Iraq war.The awareness that Maloney's office now has is entirely derivative of the high volume of calls they've already received on this issue. If we keep calling, we'll probably get the results we want to see.

Here's Maloney's contact information.

Washington Office
Congresswoman Maloney
2331 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515-3214
202.225.7944 phone
202.225.4709 fax

Manhattan Office
Congresswoman Maloney
1651 3rd Avenue Suite 311
New York, NY 10128-3679
212-860-0606 phone
212-860-0704 fax

Queens Office
Congresswoman Maloney
28-11 Astoria Blvd.
Astoria, NY 11102-1933
718-932-1804 phone
718-932-1805 fax

The last point I'd make is to pass along some strategic advice Minna offered us. She thinks the Republican leadership is just as concerned about being vulnerable on this issue. She thinks we have the power to really push them and if the Republicans hear from the people, they'll pull back from legislation that would only benefit the telecom industry. I'm not sure if I have faith that the GOP will choose popularity with voters over the interests of their corporate base, but it'd be great to see.

As I said above, I hope that our meeting with Minna Elias becomes the norm for meetings between Roots Project participants and aides to our representatives in Congress. It was a reassuring meeting and the more meetings like this we have, the sooner Democrats in Congress will be representing the interests and concerns of the netroots.


Details From Our Clinton Meeting

The netroots project began at, Crooks and and Glen Greenwald in response to the NSA illegal wiretaps. It has evolved to over 30 states. Each state has autonomy to engage elected officials as they see fit. This is the New York story.

New York netroots members wanted to meet with Senator Clinton to discuss three key issues: censure, Iran, and net neutrality. The community liaison, Christine Falvo, informed us that policy matters were discussed in DC. Her job is to act as a conduit. She takes the information from the meeting and distributes it to the appropriate staff. Prior to the meeting, we submitted questions to her in the hopes of getting answers that could then inform our discussions. The questions were:

1. War in Iran
Seymour Hersh's article pointed to a rush to war in Iran. Josh Bolten has listed fighting Iran as a key angle for resuscitating Bush's presidency. He said so in the following link :,10987,1186555,00.html.

"Presidential advisers believe that by putting pressure on Iran, Bush may be able to rehabilitate himself on national security, a core strength that has been compromised by a discouraging outlook in Iraq. "In the face of the Iranian menace, the Democrats will lose," said a Republican frequently consulted by the White House.

Thousands have now died for the partisan political purposes of George Bush. Given that the threat from Iran is not imminent, how will the Senate assure us that the President will not assume the authority to bomb or invade Iran?

2. Censure
The President of the United States continues to violate the Constitution and flout the duly enacted laws of the land through illegal secret wiretapping and signing statements declaring he is not accountable to the rule of law. See article from the Boston Globe, linked below. We believe that a Motion to Censure is an appropriate first measure. If you do not support Sen. Feingold’s motion, please discuss how you think the Senate should hold the president accountable.

3. Net Neutrality
Last fall, at the behest of the large telecoms , the "fairness" constraints that the telephone companies have been operating under since the 1930's were repealed by the FCC with regard to the internet. Within three months, if the Net Neutrality bill sponsored by Olympia Snowe and Byron Dorgan and Congressman Ed Markey is not passed (It was already narrowly defeated in the House,) the service providers will be able to decide what sites you can access and with what speed. Essentially this would de-democratize the net. What is your position on net neutrality? This is the New York Times take on it:

We did not want yes or no answers. We also wanted to know that she would take a leadership role on these issues.

Furthermore, it is our philosophy to praise electeds when they do good work, and express our displeasure when they do wrong, both directly to the elected and to the blogging community.

We began the meeting by praising Senator Clinton for opposing the confirmation of the FDA director until the FDA issues a decision on the morning after pill. Following this, we asked that she take a leadership role to thwart right wing efforts to criminalize birth control. We were told that she is drafting legislation that would put all members of the House and Senate on record as to whether they support the right of people to have access to birth control. A press conference will be held to announce the legislation. We were grateful to hear the information.

We moved to the three issues. Again, we were informed that policy staff is in DC. We objected to the set up of having to travel to DC to talk policy. Christine then informed us that the policy people come up to New York during recess to meet with constituents. Her office sets up the appointments. We look forward to meeting with the policy staff.


Senator Clinton is concerned about the issues raised in the Seymour Hersh NEW YORKER article. It is her position that the US should take a leadership role with the international community to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. She does not think military action is currently warranted, although she will not rule it out. We asked that she take a leadership role in passing legislation that explicitly states that the President is not authorized to take military action without Congressional approval. We stressed that Bush’s action threaten the Constitution’s separation of powers. Congress must reassert itself. Christine took careful notes.


This discussion was most disappointing. Falvo expressed that the Senator is “very concerned” and that she is “waiting for investigations by the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees”. We pointed out that there will be no hearings on the NSA wiretaps, especially in the Intelligence Committee. We asked for some recognition that the program is operating outside of the law. It was not forthcoming. We begged for leadership on the issue. We pointed out that Americans can be convinced that the NSA program is harmful. We told Falvo that America is looking for people to stand for something. Again, to no avail. We mentioned that Feingold’s approval ratings soared after he introduced the censure resolution.

As a follow up, we sent her a link to the Justice Department dropping the investigation because the NSA would not give them security clearance.


Senator Clinton believes in open access and increasing access to the internet. Her office is looking at the Snowe bill and the Markey companion bill. They have not endorsed either, but will let us know their decision. We are looking into whether there are competing bills on this issue in the Senate. The answer felt like a dodge.

On Net Neutrality we pointed out that this is being marketed by the Republicans with their usual deceptive "up is down"isms and that our legislators have to be alert to the actual issue which is an attempt to curtail and de-democratize the freedom of the net in the interest of corporate profits.


Though no surprise, we didn’t get the answers we were hoping for. Senator Clinton will not take a leadership role on the two critical issues before the Congress: censure and stopping Bush’s push to war in yet a third country. On censure, she is hiding behind the “need more information” door. There will be no further information. The Intelligence Committee will never hold hearings. If Judiciary holds hearings, they will be stymied by administration claims that all the information is classified. That she will not use her position on the Armed Services Committee to draft legislation requiring Congressional approval prior to military action against Iran is a sign that she agrees with the consultants and does not want to rock the boat.

We pointed out that the Bush people are radicals. And not in a good way. They are shredding the Constitution. Rather than veto legislation, this administration, in each signing statement, refuses to follow the law. This radicalism must be called out.

We gave them a copy of CRASHING THE GATES. We talked about how informed bloggers are—that blogs scoop the mainstream press on a regular basis. Falvo was certainly surprised to know that Daily Kos gets over 500,000 hits a day. We suggested blogs to read and urged, through Falvo that the Senator take advantage and get on line.

Now that we have met, we will remain in touch with Clinton’s office. We added our voice.


Meeting with Clinton's staff

Seven members of the New York Roots Project met with Hillary Clinton's Deputy State Director, Christine Falvo, Wednesday afternoon. We had previously posted on our efforts to meet with both Clinton and Chuck Schumer's staff in New York City. We had received no response from Hillary's office to our requests to meet and refused to let us up to the her office without a prior appointment - a disappointing experience, but one that was powerfully conveyed to the net via FireDogLake and a video post at Crooks & Liars; Glenn Greenwald has also played a large role in The Roots Project's actions. That action allowed us to get this meeting with Christine.

We decided we wanted to talk with Christine about net neutrality, censuring Bush for his extralegal surveillance of Americans, and the possibility of Bush taking military action against Iran. We submitted a list of questions as well as a handful of relevant articles for Christine to read over. She promised to have response to our questions at the meeting.

In short the meeting went about how we expected. Christine sat on the fence and was non-committal throughout -- she doesn't hold a policy position and could only relay our comments to the relevant staff members. We talked for an hour about net neutrality, censure, and possible military action against Iran and heard the vague responses she'd been prepared with by policy staffers. The vast majority of the time we talked and she listened. The few times we pressed her for specific answers were unsuccessful - I couldn't even get her to admit that she personally thought Bush was acting illegally with his domestic wiretapping program.

We didn't learn anything new, but hopefully we imparted some wisdom in Christine that she can take back to her coworkers. We left her with a copy of Crashing the Gate, as well as a short list of important blogs. Interestingly, she became most intrigued about our list of blogs when she found out they reach a couple million people combined every day.

Meetings with constituents can help move staff attitudes faster than emails or faxes ever will, which is why they're a critical aspect of The Roots Project's efforts to extend the influence of the blogosphere into off-line action. Maybe we won't get the response we want at our first meeting, but we'll keep going back and keep pressing.

Go visit your senators and congressmen. Visit their home offices, but if you can get to DC you're more likely to be able to talk to someone who actually can weigh in from a policy perspective. Keep pushing the actions The Roots Project started with: calling local radio stations and writing letters to the editor. These are simple actions we can do without sacrificing days at work, without going beyond the commitments we already make to blogging.

As Pachacutec has said, we're doing open source lobbying. We can push meaningful change if we get out from behind our computer screens and organize together.

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