"Lessons" Is a Seven Letter Word

By Al Giordano

I was playing Scrabble on Wednesday evening – a half-day after posting The Narrative Is Not a Story of Technology to what is now the ex-Field, the blog from where I reported on the US presidential elections for the last six months - when this email arrived in my mailbox from the boss there, RuralVotes’ Debra Kozikowski:


From: DebbySKoz@cs.com
To: narconews@gmail.com
Date: Wed, June 11, 2008 at 8:00 p.m.
Subject: What Are You Doing?
Rules for radicals? Give me a break. We have a meeting with Farm Aid and other interested parties in the next two weeks -- what do you think you are doing? This is not helpful -- do you WANT Barack Obama to lose? Talk about creating the petrii dish for beautiful loser syndrome. I am including Matt in this conversation b/c w/o an understanding The Field goes fallow. I mean it, Al. I cannot allow you to rule this roost to the detriment of the overall mission. I'll take the hit if you refuse to be a team player and quit. An Obama funder I have been courting is horrified. That makes three -- two in the last week. You are wrong headed. This has NOTHING to do with rural at all and this particular hero of yours according to Time Magazine in 1970 -- "SAUL ALINSKY has possibly antagonized more people—regardless of race, color or creed—than any other living American."
It is NOT 1970, it is 2008 I am NOT ARMING A REVOLUTION. I have now LOST two major funders this week alone and I have defended you to the hilt -- so what do you do? You go purposefully more left and i was blinsided by a phone call b/c I hadn't seen it. The ultimate lack of respect. I am uninterested in the defense of Saul Alinsky and his worthiness -- we are not a debating society ... it doesn't matter what you think is right or wrong headed -- it is what it is -- and funders are running away as will the Obama campaign -- who has informed me it wants nothing to do with this sort of propaganda. How could you? How could you? This is NOT rainmaking, it is a destructo force tornado. And for what?
Do you have a reasonable solution? As for The Field, without a reasonable agreement it goes dark and is archived with a big thank you to the readers for their participation. End of story. The next move is yours.


Had I seen it I would have first thought that the mention of a “meeting with Farm Aid” as an excuse for the complaint was pretty funny. I remember when Farm Aid was started in the 1980s by country-western singer Willie Nelson, who made no secret even back then of his, uh, botanical preferences. Big time politicians and presidential candidates beat a path to Nelson’s trailer backstage at the group’s benefit concerts. There, they would typically try to pretend they didn’t notice the pungent herb that Nelson would be openly smoking as he held court and advocated on behalf of legalizing hemp crops to save the American family farm. One who said he was there told me at the time of a particularly funny scene when Nation of Islam bodyguards stood awkwardly outside the trailer door while their charge was visiting inside, as billows of Nelson’s smoke wafted by their noses. But, okay, according to Democratic National Committee member Ms. Kozikowski, my mention of Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” would be too, er, something for that organization, or so she apparently thinks.

At this point in the otherwise enjoyable evening, my partner was racking up her first seven-letter Scrabble word, gaining her another fifty points. So I still had no idea what was going on in my email box, to which this missive arrived, 19 minutes later:


From: DebbySKoz@cs.com
To: narconews@gmail.com
Date: Wed, June 11, 2008 at 8:19 p.m.
Subject: Andrew Kopkind?
In the same post? I have just recieved call number two, this time directly from an Obama steering committee member ... a lavender man himself from San Fran who has just asked me if I've lost my mind? Good Lord. Andrew Kopkind? The Weathermen? They are trying not to talk about Bill Ayers and this is on MY website?
What are you thinking???? What point are you trying to make if any?


Had I been near the Internet when that question arrived, I would have answered that I had written the words “I met Micah Sifry, now at TechPresident, during Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign (both of us studied political journalism at the feet of the late, great Andrew Kopkind),” well, because they were true and helped introduce Sifry and our common and proud association with Kopkind, editor of The Nation, reporter for The Washington Post, Time, and so many other national publications before he died in 1994, to our readers. (And just to make sure that a lie doesn’t fly around the world before the truth can put its pants on, let me say that Kopkind was not a “Weatherman.” I don’t know where she got that crazy idea or the lack of judgment to repeat it. He was and is widely recognized as a legendary journalist and a writer of such enormous talent that she would do well to study him rather than make false posthumous claims about him.)

Anyway, by now my partner was racking up her second seven-letter Scrabble word of the night, and more emails were flying into my box, unbeknownst to me:


From: DebbySKoz@cs.com
To: narconews@gmail.com
Date: Wed, June 11, 2008 at 8:37 p.m.
Subject: All the good stuff is getting buried under that one post. What in the world possessed you?


And fifty minutes later, when I was playing the rematch, the news of the censorship arrived:


From: DebbySKoz@cs.com
To: narconews@gmail.com
Date: Wed, June 11, 2008 at 9:27 p.m.
Subject: All the good stuff
No sense editing the OK parts out -- it's your work, I simply pulled the entire thing.
It was the reaction from San Fran that made it clear the immediate solution. It's a sensitive phase this month, though HRC says she's out many of her people are festering ... last night at state party mtg Cranky Women for Hillary were hanging hopes on a disaster to bring her back -- and these are party people talking openly.
It's the same everywhere. So no comparing Obama organizing to radical organizing techniques from thirty years ago. No stoking that radical connect. This organization will not be made a fringe element that needs to be marginalized on my watch. On to the next funder, hoping tonight's calms down but if not what can I do? What I am asking you to do is recognize what doesn't help in the year 2008.


When, later in the evening, I finally logged on and read those four hysterical (in my opinion) emails – keep in mind that all four of those emails, which appear uncensored and unedited here, were sent before I had said a single word in response - it was clear that I had to disassociate myself from such people.

I wrote back, “You are out of your mind. There is no working with you any more,” adding my own opinions about the $7,400 raised to “Send Al to Denver” and to “Keep Al Writing” by her organization since April 30. (Only $1,000 from those funds were paid to me, and that was a month ago, and yesterday they dropped off a check for $773 to our counsel as owed for my labors in the first 11 days of June.). I can do the math: $7,400 minus $1,773 leaves $5,627 that was not spent for the purpose it was solicited.

The part that I keep asking myself questions about is Ms. Kozikowski’s repeatedly stated obsession in those emails with donors and “funders” (who, after all, to some people, are more important than writers or readers or anything or anyone).

So when Ms. Kozikowski wrote, “An Obama funder I have been courting is horrified. That makes three -- two in the last week,” I wondered: Which of that candidate’s 1.5 million donors could she possibly be so worried about? Is the pursuit of money for an institution – whose mission, after six months of working for it, I still haven’t heard stated in a manner coherent enough to explain – that much more important than the thousands of people that read it and the hundreds that donate their comments to it?

And when she wrote about the complaints of an, “Obama steering committee member... a from San Fran,” again I was dumbfounded, for two reasons: I had thought that as a pending 501c4 organization that her group, RuralVotes, was strictly nonpartisan (I know that I’d never advocated on those pages on behalf of voting or supporting any candidate or party; I thought those were the rules). And I also thought it would be naïve to think that the opinions of one or two members of a (fundraising, I presume) “steering committee” (a title given out like candy to hundreds of volunteers, not spokespersons or staffers) in any way spoke for anyone but themselves anyway.

I was struck that, when speaking about that individual, she wrote:


It was the reaction from San Fran that made it clear the immediate solution. It's a sensitive phase this month, though HRC says she's out many of her people are festering ... last night at state party mtg Cranky Women for Hillary were hanging hopes on a disaster to bring her back -- and these are party people talking openly.


I had to wonder what the worry was: Could it be that in the week when that same State Democratic Committee Meeting in Massachusetts purged Democratic National Committeewoman (and my old friend) Mardee Xifaras in part as revenge for her having supported Barack Obama for president, that Ms. Kozikowski, vice chair of that committee, was suddenly worried about her own fate and continued position as vice chair of that group? If those people are upset with the famously polite Mardee X, they must be really angry with me. Was my freedom of speech being offered up in ritual human sacrifice to the gods she calls “Cranky Women for Hillary” by someone trying to save her own hide?

I don’t claim to know the answers to those questions. Nor to the question of why most of the money raised for two purposes – “Send Al to Denver” and “Keep Al Writing” – has not been spent on either.

And so, the more things change the more they stay the same: an honest working man has lost some much-needed resources, it seems, and a valuable convention press credential, that were only obtained because it was claimed they were for his use. But I’m not the victim here. I still have my integrity and the trust of thousands of readers, maybe including you.

And here’s a clue: It wasn’t association with late journalists or community organizers that lost elections for frontrunners this year. Just ask Senator Clinton: It was association with the kinds of wealthy donors and influence peddlers that try to throw their weight around and force feed their famously poor political, strategic and tactical judgment on others based only on the size of their potential donations.

If Ms. Kozikowski and her organization are, as her own words suggested in those emails, letting wealthy individuals dictate what can and can’t be said on their website based on the simple fact that they have money and might give it to her group, it is they that have not yet entered 2008, much less learned the lessons – hey, that’s a seven letter word, too! - of this precise moment in history.

Update: A great many of the small donors to RuralVotes whose intentions would be violated if RuralVotes used their dollars not in support of my work have asked for refunds (and I give warm thanks to those that have then donated it to support my work via The Fund for Authentic Journalism), but they only found out they could get a refund on their own initiative. Not surprisingly, the website of the Ex-Field maintains radio silence on the matter. Others are simply calling their credit card companies and canceling the payments. I would do the same in their shoes.

If any other donors to “Send Al to Denver” or to “Keep Al Writing” were not aware of the option of demanding a refund, Ms. Kozikowski has been corresponding with others via her email address of debbyskoz@cs.com. Please use the comments section here to inform the rest of us if your contribution has been returned and if so how much: It will be interesting to track how much money the organization will keep.

And as for those potential big donors that are apparently so much more important than all of you, I have to wonder: Who, in their right mind, would donate to support a project of an organization that has already shown that it may not use funds for the specific project for which they were solicited?

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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