Signing Off

I intended to write this weeks ago. At the time, I couldn't figure out how to say it. Even now, the words still elude me -- but as with just about every pressing assignment throughout high school and college, it's way past due. I must bid you farewell, whether I can find the words or not.

I've started a new job with Washington Post Radio. It's a totally new area for me, requiring all my time and attention. And so I am putting The Debate to bed.

A nice, long nap sounds pretty good to me, too, actually. The Debate was always just a fraction of my job; most of my time was spent coordinating the hundreds of op-ed submissions sent to The Post each week, leaving only late night hours for the intensive research necessary in order to have an informed discussion the next day. I've been exhausted since mid-October -- right about the time the adrenaline that helped keep me awake for most of September started to fade.

I've often wondered why I never managed to recover fully from my September of Sleeplessness -- and later, The Vacation That Wasn't -- but after collecting the content of The Debate into one document, I think I understand. In standard 12-pt font, The Debate spans almost 9,000 pages; the month of March alone took up 1,600 pages. My posts, not counting comments, run 365 pages -- more than 125,000 words. Add in the nearly 16,000 comments and the word count easily tops 3 million.

That's 3 million (predominantly analytical, thoughtful, logical, and often eloquent) words exchanged in detailed discussions of some of the biggest quandaries facing our nation and our world. Three million words of Debate. It's humbling.

I'm sorry there are so many fascinating subjects we never touched, like campaign finance reform proposals, the epidemic of press releases disguised as television news, and perhaps even debating the merits of a presidential system of government versus a parliamentary one.

I'll miss being able to share those Congressional Record gems like Rep. Dingell's War on Christmas poem. I'll miss the reporting behind the posts -- separating the facts from the rumors, pouring over documents, debunking false assertions, trying in vain to get straight answers from officials, taking questions directly to Congressional offices, and scrutinizing the statements of pundits and lawmakers alike.

I'll miss being able to present useful background information, little known facts and key questions to a geographically and experientially diverse audience. Your wisdom -- and (at times scathing) wit -- broadened my perspective, and I think you opened each other's minds, too.

The Debate could never have worked if it had simply been me spouting my opinions.

Opinions are everywhere -- you can't go more than two clicks of the mouse or of the remote without running into one. The Internet is saturated with what I've come to think of as Cyclops Blogs, popular because they're good fodder for boosting self-righteousness. On television news networks, talking heads give funhouse-mirror glimpses of opposing points of view, then knock those views down for us, cleverly but not too deeply, so we rarely have to rely on our own reasoning skills.

Throughout The Debate, I have attempted to provide both opinions and the facts behind (or contradicting) those opinions. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.

If you think The Debate's approach has been valuable -- or not -- then my editors at would like to hear from you. They're debating whether to continue the feature and would appreciate your input.

If you're inclined to keep our conversation going, drop me a line with your suggestions for making compelling radio that informs and creates a dialogue. Or just send me a note to say hi.

've thoroughly enjoyed the time I've spent blogging with you (even more than I would have enjoyed the hundreds of hours of sleep I could have had instead.) Most of all, it has been a pleasure getting to know many of you through your interactions and analysis, as well as your personal comments to me. Thank you.

By Emily Messner |  July 24, 2006; 8:31 AM ET  | Category:  Conclusions , Looking Ahead , Misc.
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You have generally taken a hands-off approach - very good policy for a debate moderator.

The post should keep the blog and find a replacement moderator. The exchange of ideas was very dynamic, and reflected clearly the ideologies that drive our bifurcated culture (as well as the debate techniques and ideological flaws of each/either side). This is internet based opinion challenge would seem to be especially important for a news(?) organization such as the WaPo.

Ending the blog due to your departure is to throw the baby out with the bath water (or vise versa).


Good luck in your new job.

TO OTHER POSTERS HERE: It's been nice arguing with you (very good mental/philosophical exercise). Why don't we get together over at the otherwise useless, and rip each other's heads off? We can leit the debate rage free-form on issues of the day.

Anyone game?

Love ya' all (even you, CF!).


Posted by: smafdy | July 24, 2006 08:59 AM

Okay. I'm going to the now to introduce a thread (I love being an instigator). The topic will be:

Where is the money going?

I relaize that the hot news right now is Israel/Lebanon, but that's only a red herring to distract us while our collective wallet is lifted.

Hope to see you there.

I wonder how long this will last until the powers pull it down, too.

Posted by: smafdy | July 24, 2006 09:10 AM

Good luck Emily. It was great while it lasted. Thanks for putting up with all of us. I will miss you and The Debate.

Posted by: Richard Katz | July 24, 2006 11:22 AM

Best wishes and good luck in your new assignment. I enjoyed the debates here and even was motivated enough to participate in a few. I just attended a Messner family reunion in Oklahoma, so in case we're related, all the best from Messner family reunion 2006.

Posted by: Steve Messner | July 24, 2006 12:22 PM

Best wishes and good luck in your new assignment. I enjoyed the debates here and even was motivated enough to participate in a few. I just attended a Messner family reunion in Oklahoma, so in case we're related, all the best from Messner family reunion 2006.

Posted by: Steve Messner | July 24, 2006 12:24 PM

All the best Emily. Its been informative and interesting.

Good luck at Washington Post radio. I listen to it a fair amount and its quite good.

As for all the regular contributors, I've already see some familiar stuff on other blogs and I imagine that over time I'll continue seeing some of those familiar themes and writing styles, not to mention pseudonyms, on other blogs in our virtual universe. I'll look forward to it and might even drop a few inside jokes if the opportunity ever arises.

So, until we meet again.....

Posted by: DK | July 24, 2006 04:51 PM

Saying goodbye is never easy but it is a must when able to do so. And so, thanks for the memory. Better things will be coming from your eloquence.

Posted by: Alfred Tsang | July 25, 2006 10:13 AM

Breaking news about the FBI investigation of House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

For uncensored news please bookmark:

The secrets behind 'state secrets': Sibel Edmonds, Turkey's mafia and their US neocon allies
By Mike Mejia
French filmmaker Mathieu Verboud is set to release a new documentary for European television this fall which will reveal important new insights into the case of former FBI translator and president of the National Security Whistleblower's Coalition Sibel Edmonds.

Edmonds, a Turkish-American whose wrongful termination lawsuit was suppressed by the government's invocation of the all-too-common "state secrets privilege", reported to her superiors espionage and deliberate mistranslations on the part of fellow Turkish translator Melek Can Dickerson. It seems Ms. Dickerson had relationships with targets of FBI investigations working at the Turkish Embassy and the American Turkish Council, a fact which meant that anything she translated was likely to be false. However, instead of receiving a promotion for bringing Ms. Dickerson's' espionage to the attention of her bosses, Edmonds was fired after she went in frustration to the U.S. Senate.

The FBI refused to investigate Edmonds' claims, at least in part, because the contract linguist had discovered quite a messy scandal: the content of the mistranslated documents revealed that some very powerful people in the U.S. government, allegedly including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, were connected to foreign organized crime. Even worse, these foreign criminals connected to the high and mighty in the U.S. were also connected internationally, through the heroin trade and associated money laundering, to international terrorist organizations like al Qaeda.

Okay, take a deep breath and take a step back: it's not a pretty picture. According to what we know so far from Sibel Edmonds' many interviews and from the groundbreaking story on her case from Vanity Fair, "An Inconvenient Patriot", Edmonds found that within the U.S. a nest of Turkish spies, some working at the Turkish embassy, others affiliated with namely the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), the American Turkish Associations (ATA) and the American Turkish Council (ATC), were involved in espionage, bribery, illegal lobbying, drug trafficking and the infiltration of U.S nuclear research labs.

Separately, from a former CIA Counterterrorism official, Phillip Giraldi, who himself was once based in Turkey, we know that some arms sales meant for Turkey and Israel were actually meant for resale to countries like China and India- and perhaps even to international terrorists -- using fake end-user certificates. So we have Turkish nationals at the embassy and NGOs stealing U.S. secrets for sale to the highest bidder, reselling arms meant for Turkey, bringing in drugs from Europe, and pouring money into bribes and lobbying activities.

To understand how these activities fit together- Americans must first understand what Europeans call the Turkish 'deep state.' In 1996, a car crash in a town called Susurluk revealed the "link between politics, organized crime and the bureaucracy" in Turkey. As it turns out, its crippled economy in the 1990s meant Turkey had become the European equivalent of Colombia -- a state almost completely dependent on the Turkish mafia and by extension, the Southwest Asian Heroin trade. Which is where the Turkish 'deep state' comes in -- it becomes very difficult to determine where the 'government' ends and the 'mafia' begins. What we do know from Sibel Edmonds and other sources is this: Turkey's secular establishment, including the Turkish military and intelligence services (MIT), as well as political parties associated with former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, appear to have been more connected to the Turkish mafia than the Turkish Islamic Parties that Washington abhors. Furthermore, it appears from reading into some of Edmonds' statements that the Turkish mafia was partnered with Osama Bin Laden's al Qaeda network in the drug trade, meaning Turkey's secular establishment was more connected to al Qaeda pre-9/11 than were the Islamists in Turkey. Which is quite ironic, to say the least.

If you think this story sounds too convoluted to be true, and you feel the instinct

Posted by: che | July 26, 2006 09:57 AM

Emily you made this tough ol' WM :cry:

You know why I liked this blog so much? Not only because Emily made me think (and her blog was so unusual to be about reasoning, not sheer propaganda), it's the only one I wasn't kicked off of because of debating (just got kicked off another one just minutes ago, so it comes freshly to mind). ;) Maybe there was some times Emily was thinking of it -- the LANDMINES statement comes to mind ;) -- but I'm glad I got a chance to hang out long enough to debate.

Also liked the regulars who came in and stated their peace, with passion, without turning this blog into a juvenile cesspool. Some debates were heated, and we jumped on Chris plenty of times, ;) but he was mostly a stubborn but good sport. You guys were unusual as you didn't post oneline replies and just spewed propaganda -- well, Che is his same old copy and paste self. I'm going to miss that, as it's extremely rare online to gather strangers together to hash out hot issues and not burn down a blog/forum.

Hate to see all of us go to the four winds, though. It's a little like leaving friends behind, and rare to find a mostly cordial debate crew, only to see everyone is away now. :( If anyone is willing to carry "The Debate - Fan Edition" on, I'm game. If there's enough of us to keep it going, I'm willing to donate webspace/admin/web design for such a project.

Smafdy has a good idea in using an unused forum here to hang out, too (or WP would be nice enough to just leave it open so we can -- promise we'll be nice). ;)

Emily, I wish you well on your new venture. But selfishly going to miss coming here to read your next article, more so since WP radio is far far far away from my location, and seriously doubt it'll be carried here.

Some things I wish I could take back that I said too, that in a heat of passion, it came out without much forethought (like over the Dubai deal). Thanks for putting up with me and my persistence too.

Damn, I do hate these goodbyes. :cry:


Posted by: SandyK | July 27, 2006 01:26 AM

Hey, Sandy K:

It's strange that we haven't heard from the others (looks like it's just you, me, and che - the Silent Bob of the internet). We do seem to have formed a community - it's a shame that there's no way to continue the blog without the post's support. No one seems to have liked my idea of continuing the blog and keeping it sponsored by the Post (being in the creative services field myself, I can't emphasize how important feedback and critiques are to tailoring your product to your audience. I'm surprised that the Post doesn't see the marketing value inherent in "The Debate"). Maybe we can find a common ground somewhere else. Keep checking the, maybe we can get a private thang going.

Posted by: smafdy | July 27, 2006 10:30 AM


I was sort of hoping you would post your conspiracy theory on Emily's decision to end it all.

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end.

Lyrics by Jimmy Morrison

Published under the Fair Use Exception to the Copyright Laws.

Nothing really ever ends anyway, there is always a reflection of its existence. Past isn't even past. Witness the middle east. 2000 years of fighting over pure fanasty errr I mean religion. How many angels can sit on a pin? Answer correctly or die. That is my take on all this nonsense, but that does not alter the fact that it is all really happening.

Anyway, Emily's The Debate was life altering for me, a true opening of my eyes to the world around me.

Thank you to you Emily and all the debaters.

Posted by: Richard Katz | July 27, 2006 06:25 PM


Makes you wonder if some of "the other" absent posters are just paid operatives, as opposed to really people expressing their honest opinion.

Posted by: Richard Katz | July 27, 2006 06:34 PM

Most folks were here to promote their agendas. They were like Che, except they answered. Were others like probably you, and I know me, came here for the intellectual challenge -- it was more than an agenda. This is why they disappeared and don't come back, the spotlight now has been turned off.

It's sad that politics is nothing more than rubberstamps now -- actiongrams and party platforms. :( Why I like The Debate so much, as it wasn't the same dumb partisan blogging, sarcastic screed, or paid for propaganda (like what Daily KoS became). Emily did a good job in helping folks THINK, not be Ches that answer. It's something more like news reporting before "entertainment" got mixed into it. Emily's spot on with her assessment of the media AND blogging today.

BTW, have you emailed Emily yet? I'm not much for small talk and haven't -- what can I say, "Hi, how you're doing? Congrats for leaving :cry:"? Shallow. Posting doesn't require the formalities, and what I'd say in it isn't much different than what I'd post publicly. Nor does it soften my hard edge online (why does this medium make me look so angry or sharp? I'm REALLY not this way. Emotional, yes. Angry and mean? No).


The marketing value for The Debate isn't as much as the more partisan blogs. Little trackbacks, little promotion. People came here to use, not to take and plant to use elsewhere (well, not online). Besides, who'll replace Emily's style of blogging? She said it took hours to research the links and write up an article (can you imagine the pundits actually researching what they're posting about, not just copying and pasting other people's thoughts -- or what their party tells them to promote?). Not the same as the other WP bloggers who write basically commentary on news (not much research needed there), that's quickly snatched up to equal thought out blogs elsewhere.

I'm posting on other political forums to pass the time, but it's the same brainless junk, and not much thinking comes from the replies. And damn, I get kicked off for nothing more than I posted here. Here read my ban notice...

"For post [XYZ in a private forum] you are warned by a moderator for 'Blatant flaming' .. You still haven't learned how to have a discussion in this forum. There's still no respect for anyone else's opinion. Continually derailing threads with off-topic comments, flaming, trolling. 3 day post ban in the [private forum], followed by a 7 day watch."

Classic projective identification.

How I got banned this time? Not agreeing with a former Christian youth minister advocating absolutely no forms of abortion, all based on his faith's teachings. No exceptions, mother and fetus can both die. Worse, he distorted and blatantly misused biomedicial literature to back up his claim (you know the links on the Family "Research" Council website??). I disagreed and point-by-point explained why. Oh, he had a fit about me being the "intolerant" one, ran to the mod and played the censorship game instead.

This is rampant on political forums now. It's about promoting agendas, not exercising political free thought.

Have more ban notices that I should put up on a blog as a Hall of Honor. I'll consider it a public service. ;)

Can you see why The Debate was fresh air to that stagnant partisan propaganda ridden fare? We need more Emilys out there to provoke thought, not hibernate in dens that educate folks to hate, kill, destroy under some party banner.


Posted by: SandyK | July 28, 2006 05:30 AM

I didn't mean that it was a valuable marketing tool because of it's numbers of participants/readers. I saw its marketing value more like a wet finger held up to the wind (or lack thereof). One of the key pillars of maketting is knowing what your customers and potential customers want/like. The debate was a good indicator.

Posted by: smafdy | July 28, 2006 09:00 AM

I didn't mean that it was a valuable marketing tool because of it's numbers of participants/readers. I saw its marketing value more like a wet finger held up to the wind (or lack thereof). One of the key pillars of maketing is knowing what your customers and potential customers want/like. The debate was a good indicator.

Posted by: smafdy | July 28, 2006 09:01 AM

I didn't mean that it was a valuable marketing tool because of it's numbers of participants/readers. I saw its marketing value more like a wet finger held up to the wind (or lack thereof). One of the key pillars of maketing is knowing what your customers and potential customers want/like. The debate was a good indicator.

Posted by: smafdy | July 28, 2006 09:04 AM

Apparently they knew it'll be filled with partisans, anyway. Thus, it doesn't matter.

The media is still trying to learn how to use the web, it's a foreign concept for newspaper types, especially since marketing doesn't work the same here as offline.


Posted by: SandyK | July 28, 2006 10:18 AM


I'm sorry to see you go, but I know you will do well in your new position at the Post. You did a wonderful job with this debate blog.

David Foster (AKA Jamal)

Posted by: David Foster (AKA Jamal) | July 28, 2006 10:56 PM

I'm on the other side of the North American continent, and I still have read many Debates and will miss the feature.

Too bad that bioscience hasn't yet reached the point that Emily could clone herself and hand the Debate off to her clone . . .

Hasta la Vista!

Posted by: oldhonky | July 29, 2006 05:02 PM

BFD. It's not like Emily lost her job or anything. This forum ran it's course, and now it's done. On to the next.

Posted by: ErrinF | August 1, 2006 03:08 AM

NORAD Tapes Expose Lax Military Attitude On 9/11 Air Defense
"We'll get back to you on that," Navy ATC told ground ops as they pleaded for fighter support

Paul Joseph Watson/Prison | August 4 2006

NORAD tapes released this week which shed light on the negligence of the U.S. military in providing adequate air defense on 9/11 contain a conversation with a Navy air traffic control operator that provides another smoking gun for the assertion of a deliberate stand down policy on the morning of the attacks.

It's 09:34 on September 11, 2001.

At this point in the timeline, NORAD commanders were becoming increasingly frustrated at their impotence and inability to successfully intercept any of the stray aircraft. Erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft that never were and a report that a Cessna, not American Airlines Flight 11, has hit the WTC north tower, are adding to the confusion.

However, the NORAD ground ops know that something is headed towards Washington and they are chomping at the bit to turn around fighters that have been meandering in a stand-by position and send them in the direction of Baltimore.

From the Vanity Fair piece,

"At NEADS, a 28-year-old staff sergeant named William Huckabone, staring at his Green Eye, is the first to notice that the Langley jets are off course. His voice is a mix of stress and dread as he and the controller next to him, Master Sergeant Steve Citino, order a navy air-traffic controller who's handling the fighters to get them turned around toward Baltimore to try to cut off the phantom American 11. The navy air-traffic controller seems not to understand the urgency of the situation."

The conversation with Navy ATC takes place four minutes before Flight 77 hits the Pentagon.

NAVY A.T.C.: You've got [the fighters] moving east in airspace. Now you want 'em to go to Baltimore?
HUCKABONE: Yes, sir. We're not gonna take 'em in Whiskey 386 [military training airspace over the ocean].
NAVY A.T.C.: O.K., once he goes to Baltimore, what are we supposed to do?
HUCKABONE: Have him contact us on auxiliary frequency 2-3-4 decimal 6. Instead of taking handoffs to us and us handing 'em back, just tell Center they've got to go to Baltimore.
NAVY A.T.C.: All right, man. Stand by. We'll get back to you.
CITINO: What do you mean, "We'll get back to you"? Just do it!
HUCKABONE: I'm gonna choke that guy!
CITINO: Be very professional, Huck.
CITINO: All right, Huck. Let's get our act together here.

The fighters never arrive, Flight 77 ploughs into the Pentagon.

Click here for the audio file.

From the tape, you can hear that the NORAD ground ops are furious with the attitude of the Navy air traffic controller at his listless, placid response to their plea for support.

The biggest attack on America since Pearl Harbor is an hour and twenty minutes underway, two planes have already crashed into the World Trade Center, untold more are known to have been hijacked, the President has been told that America is under attack, and military air traffic control who are in charge of the country's air defense fighters do not understand the urgency of the situation?

This is the 9/11 stand down in plain site.

Not only do the NORAD tapes prove that no shoot-down permission was ever granted by the top brass, but they also betray a laissez faire, suspiciously over-relaxed tone from military personnel who failed to assist NORAD in implementing any kind of rapid air defense procedure at every turn.


Posted by: che | August 4, 2006 03:15 PM

Well, So long and thanks for all the fish (from a book of that name and the movie "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"). It's been good and even though the last couple of months it's been hard to read all the blog and post, I sincerely appreciate your efforts. I think many readers who've maintained open minds have found a lot to think about here. Doesn't it make you wonder how journalists of the past kept sanity and focus for years on end? Well thanks, Emily. And don't take any wooden nickels.

Posted by: Jazzman | August 7, 2006 11:13 AM

Good times while it lasted. Best of luck in the future Emily, in whatever you do.

Was fun all and have a good life.

Posted by: Will | August 9, 2006 04:55 PM

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