Sunday, May 15, 2005

Roundtable III

Ava: This is roundtable three for those keeping track. And as Jess wanted it noted, if you're not watching Meet the Press, you're actually learning something. The first issue on the table is John Bolton and the allegations against him made by Larry Flynt.

Jim: It's tawdry and the press wants to take a pass. The same press that gleefully reported, in great detail, on the stained dress last decade. It makes no sense.

Jess: Like a lot of people, I heard about it on The Majority Report and then rushed over to Raw Story to find out what was going on. Shocking.

Ty: But it's Larry Flynt. That seems to be the attitude. It's Larry Flynt so we won't cover it. Like when he stated on CNN that Bully Boy had paid for a girlfriend to have an abortion decades ago.

Betty: Flynt's sleazy, sorry, but he is. But I'm failing to see what that has to do with the charges or why the media is suddenly so all the sudden prim. I remember the press running with every item around during Clinton's tenure. Who's the chubby woman? Myers on NBC. Freepers were bragging that she was one of them and if pressure was put on NBC, the interview Myers did with the woman who sometimes claims she was raped by Bill Clinton and sometimes claims she wasn't would be aired. They had one person's word and they aired it. One person who had changed her story repeatedly over the years. Flynt's supposedly got evidence. You'd think the press would want to look into the charges. Especially after they beat the drums for that prissy one. What was her name?

Dona: Kathleen Wiley? The one that even Starr's people found wasn't trustworthy?

Betty: Yeah, that's her. Even as her story was falling apart, the press still put her on TV. They championed her. They used her to smear Bill Clinton. They ran with anyone they could no matter how questionable. So I'm not seeing how Flynt's charges are unreportable. Is he known to be a liar?

Jess: On The Majority Report, it was stated that he'd never been proven wrong for his claims.

C.I.: I'm not a champion of Flynt. I personally don't care for him. But we did mention it in the first morning's entry after I heard it on The Majority Report. It was an allegation, we presented it as such.

Ava: And Isaiah did his cartoon.

C.I.: Right. An editorial cartoon commenting on what was being discussed. Instead of addressing that allegation, Chris Matthews and Margaret Carlson were bashing Hillary Clinton yet again as noted in detail in today's Daily Howler.

Jim: On the one hand, I can see the press act gingerly considering the issue. But I can't see them ignoring it. And that's what they did.

Ty: Playing gatekeepers.

Betty: But why is it that the gate swings open if it's a Democrat but is firmly locked on any Republican?

Rebecca: Rheotrical?

Betty: Yes.

Rebecca: I agree with Jim's point about them addressing it in a cautious manner, and I do support the reporting of it as "allegations." But I don't support it being ignored.

Ava: Jane Fonda's Monster-In-Law opened Friday. We've all seen the movie. What do you make of the printed reactions to the film and the film you saw?

Rebecca: What a load of crap. When C.I. e-mailed the reviews Folding Star sent, I just got so angry. And then I saw the film and got really angry. It was just a load of crap.

Ty: How stupid are some reviewers? There were people saying it was Sunset Blvd. If you're going to make a comparison like that, the film is All About Eve. Did no one else take film history?

Ava: A point C.I. and I make in our reply to "Davey" and "Lisel."

Jim: I was thinking, "What the hell is this shit?" That's not the movie I saw.

Betty: The New Yorker guy was so offended on behalf of black people. I saw it and thought Wanda [Sykes] played an incredibly together woman who looked stylish and didn't kowtow.
Would he have been happy if Brenda Vaccaro played the role?

Ava: I don't think anything would have made him happy. Since we're discussing issues of race, I'll address ethnicty. As a Hispanic woman, I read his review and wondered exactly what he was on when he wrote that thing about the film makers not having the guts to make Fonda hate Lopez due to her ethnicity. I felt like saying, "Davey, don't take up a cause on my account especially when you're seeing something I don't."

Betty: Exactly. I've seen Bernie Mac and that's about it. Film after film comes out with these all white casts and Davey's got his boxers in a wad because Wanda's playing an assistant. She's not cleaning toilets. It's a solid job. Glamorous even. I have friends who would kill for that job. By Davey's standards, Wanda doesn't belong in the film unless she was playing the woman who had the hots for Michael [Vartan]. I can't think of any other role that had much to it. And Ruby had a lot to offer. Wanda and Jane worked great together. I'd love to see them do another film.

Jim: Wanda and Fonda.

Ty: (laughing) Fonda Wanda. I'm fond of Wanda. But I agree with what's Betty's saying. I know Betty has kids and if she's going to the movies, they're going, right?

Betty: You got that right. A child's ticket is cheaper than a babysitter.

Ty: So Betty took her kids to the movie with her and I doubt that they were looking at the screen thinking, "That woman is setting us back!" I'm sure they were thinking, she's funny, she's gusty, she dresses nice. Davey thinks Skyes played a bad "role model." Is that it? It's role models or no models? Because that seems to be what Davey's thinking. I remember seeing Scream 2 and being excited that Jada Pinkett and Omar Epps were in it. That was a big thing to me. I'm older now, but I saw the film and didn't feel like my race was betrayed or insulted. Like Betty said, Sykes has a job a lot of people would kill for. He's acting like Sykes is walking around in a maid's uniform and saying, "Yes, Miss Charlie, yes, Miss Viola, yes, Mr. Kevin." Or is that supposed to be, "Yes, Master Kevin?" I don't know what he was thinking but I'm with Betty, I liked Sykes in the film, thought she was hilarious. I'm not so sure what he saw or why he feels the need to speak for me, but I wouldn't have laughed as hard if Sykes hadn't been in the film.

Dona: I felt there was also a lack of understanding regarding Lopez in the reviews. The character is too dreamy, at times. But when she gets what's what with Fonda, during their first lunch together, she starts showing some spine. From that moment on, Lopez is coming on strong and I didn't think that either got that.

Jim: Right. And wasn't that part of the character. She's just kind of going through life. In a way it's a control issue of her own, trying to keep things so smooth. And when she can't do that, she's ready to fight. Then at the end, she's ready to cede control. I thought she did a great job and preferred it to everything she's done except for Selena and Out of Sight.

Dona: And she had flaws. And I liked that they weren't fixed. She is timid, the character. That's why she won't speak to Kevin forever. That's why she's doing all those temp jobs. And I liked that the ending wasn't "And now Charlie has achieved success with her art."

Jess: For a send up, which was what it was, of conflict in families, it had some surprising real moments. I'd agree with Dona. And this carping about the conflict between Fonda and Lopez, did people have a fit about Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Or any of the Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau films? Lisel was saying it set feminism back.

C.I.: I think that's what irritated me most of all about Lisel's review. I was bothered by her loose grasp of the facts. But I was really angry that someone who's not critiqued from a feminist persective now wants to act as though she's spent years at Entertainment Weekly as the resident feminist critic. It was so much posing and it really disgusted me. And it's the sort of damning charge that, if left unanswered, could hurt the film.

Ava: We poured over her reviews, C.I. and I, doing research and we're confused as to who is setting back feminism? The film or Lisel.

C.I.: And with Davey and Lisel, it wasn't that they disliked the movie. We point out that Stephen Holden didn't like it. But he got the basics right. They could hate the movie, and they obviously did, but that didn't excuse getting the facts wrong. We were more angry that Lisel wanted to use her own gender to suddenly play like she'd been the voice of feminism all the years.

Rebecca: But, and I wrote this at my site, both reviews fit into what you two reported in your reviews. With Davey he wanted Fonda in a drama, like the ones who dismissed Nine to Five. With Lisa, I'll call her Lisa, she was the flip side of the critics who were whining that Redford and Fonda were too perfect in The Electric Horseman. Lisa was offended that Fonda wasn't Ms. Nobility. If Lisa wants to provide a feminist critique, she probably could and since she hates the film she could trash it. But she didn't provide a feminist critique. She tosses out her feminist line, about setting it back, and then goes on to write one of the most sexist reviews. Fonda shouldn't do physical comedy. Why? Apparently because she's a woman. Fonda shouldn't play a character who's in conflict with another woman. Why? Apparently we all have to get along. Fonda shouldn't play a bitch. Why? Because Fonda should play upstanding roles. Is Lisa trying to be a film reviewer or Fonda's manager?

Jim: C.I.'s exact words when we spoke on the phone Saturday morning was "Who the hell is ____ to question Fonda's feminism?" Which was an echo of what Ava was saying. That's why we turned you two loose on Davey and Lisel.

Ava: Our "rebuttal" is angry. We acknowledge that. But we responded on their playing field.

C.I.: Which Kat would advise us against.

Jess: I want to interject here because I'm sure someone reading this is going to think, "Good Lord, it's a movie! You're talking about this more than anything else!" But what they don't realize is that we're Fonda Fonda. And we're sick of the attacks. People want to use her to work through their own issues but act like they have no issues. Obviously, we like Fonda here. We did the whole series reviewing her comedies. But this isn't just about we like Fonda and we thought the film was funny.

Ty: There's an issue here along with a lot of us want her to return to film full time and it has to do with us not being thrilled to see people making up stuff. But beyond that, this is larger, two reviewers decide to take on Monster-In-Law for what they perceive to be sexism and ethnicism. And we're responding to that. I don't like the idea that because someone is African-American they can only play a role that might have been played by Sidney Poiter. There are reasons to object to certain roles if it's an African-American performer. But when you're playing a character like Ruby, there's not a problem. Davey's a classist who thinks African-Americans can just play lawyers or something. There are a lot of us doing menial labor and we need to be represented on film as much as the lawyers, doctors, etc. Those "high class" positions can act as inspiration. But lower positions, which reflect a great many of us, can acknowledge reality and say that there's nothing wrong with working a job. Davey's over the top reaction, it's as though Ruby was some stereotype of a "welfare queen." And like Betty pointed out, there are many people who would kill for that kind of job, of any race. Right now if you asked someone if they wanted to be Hillary Duff's assistant or 50 Cent's assistant, a lot of kids would jump at the chance. Ruby's been working with Viola for many years. Viola needs an assistant, the film needs the character to have one, so who's going to play the role? Davey's creating a straw man where it doesn't exist. And I was offended by that and his attempting to destroy what Sykes achieved, which even he has to begrudgingly acknowledge, by calling it a retro stereotype. My feelings were, "How dare he look down on some character's job like that?" She wasn't playing the dumb maid or the wide eyed butler. She's not defined by her job and her job does have a certain glamor. Just Lisel attempted to couch her argument on non-existant feminist grounds, Davey did the same with race. I find that offensive, which is why I'm still talking about it, and I think it's a valid topic for the roundtable.

Ava: Agreed. Anyone else? Okay, let's move to Bolton. We've discussed the sexual allegations, what about his nomination being sent out of committee?

Jim: I'm really disgusted with the way the case has been argued to the media.

Ty: Right. The Republicans get to spin it as he's "authoritarian." Or "commanding."

Dona: Naomi Klein's written about how, by not addressing torture in the presidential campaign, John Kerry made it hard for Democrats to suddenly bring up the issue with the nomination of Alberto Gonzales. I think that's true. And I think something similar applies here.

Betty: That's the piece where she talks about the refusal to respond strongly to the "global test" nonsense, right?

Dona: Yeah.

Betty: And that's so much a part of this. Are we going to work with others or just be a bully. And the adminstration wants us to be a bully. I don't think we're in any position to be a bully.
I don't think even my "husband" Thomas Friedman would argue we're in that position. Not with our economy, our trade record and our job losses.

C.I.: The issue of diplomacy isn't being addressed loudly. I want to note that with the mainstream media, if it's being brought up, it's probably going to be ignored. But in terms of the Sunday Chat & Chews, that's a live mike. Democrats could be making points there, strong points. And this does go to who we are and what we stand for. Do we live up to our self-concepts or toss them out? I don't think an overwhelming majority would say "Trash our beliefs!" But the issue hasn't been presented on those terms to most Americans.

Rebecca: Because God forbid the Democrats look weak! I think that's there worry.

C.I.: I agree with you. And anyone jump in at any time because I can off on this topic forever.
But this fear of "weakness" led to support in Congress for the occupation/invasion. It prevents Congress from reflecting the mood of the people which thinks the occupation is a mistake. At some point, the decision was made to give some Republicans and the administration enough rope to hand themselves, my opinion. So instead of coming out strongly against certain issues, then and now, Democrats have basically, as a whole, shrugged their shoulders. What's going on is too important for them to continue shrugging their shoulders. When Condi Rice speaks of a fondness for the cold war, I'd argue it's because even she realizes the stability a bipolar system brought. Not a great system, mind you. If you weren't the United States or the Soviet Union, you were caught in the middle. But we're operating now as though we're in a unipolar system that will never end despite what history demonstrates. Despite the fact that, as Betty has pointed out, we don't hold all the cards. So, out of concern over future shifts, if nothing else, you'd think Democrats could speak out. While they remain silent, and I'm exempting the Barbara Lees and Ted Kennedys, I'm speaking of the party as a whole, who and what we are is changing. If we're going to change, we need an honest and open debate among the people and we're not getting that because the Democrats are running scared from the issues that go to the heart of our country.

Jim: Which is why I'm really enjoying Stop The Next War Now. And, I mean, thank goodness we've got CodePink but is that all we've got? They have to battle the FCC, the conventions of both major parties, the occupation and everything else? Where are our elected officials in all of this? And I do agree that they thought they'd hand the Republican Party enough rope to hang themselves. But for that to happen, the Democrats need to be addressing why you don't always resort to the stick, why you use the carrot, why your belief system goes beyond what happens today and is not something you toss aside one minute and think you can pick up later.

Dona: Because we are judged by our actions. And when our actions go, as they do now, in such an opposite direction of our beliefs, our beliefs are dismissed by others as merely words. I didn't vote for the Bully Boy, I know no one's shocked by that. But I think we can survive four more years --

Ty: Impeach!

Dona: I'm with you there. But I think we can survive four more years provided the Democratic Party doesn't just roll over but provides clear reasoning. I am not saying, "Where is your proposal!" That's such nonsense. The Republicans and the press are starting that shit, "Where's your Social Security proposal?" Well if Bully Boy comes up and says, "I think you'd be happier if we cut off your leg" and I say, "No, I want to keep this leg," I don't need to propose an alternative. I don't need to be forced into accomodation. I can simply say, "No, you're crazy, we're leaving it alone."

Betty: Amen to that. Cokie Roberts and her ilk want the Democrats to propose an alternative plan. It's like Bully announces he's dropping a bomb on your house and you say, "I don't want a bomb dropped on my house" and Cokie's on NPR screaming, "Where is the alternative plan!"
It makes no sense. And the Democrats have got to get it together on the war. They need to stop trying to rush to a mike when things look better for a day or a two and copy Bully Boy's Operation Happy Talk. Besides ending up looking stupid when the truth comes out, they give the Republicans the ability to say, "Okay, people died and Bully Boy was wrong, but hey, Hillary Clinton was saying last February that we'd turned a corner so you're no better!"

Jess: Exactly. The Democratic Party needs to be "better." They need to explain in clear terms why things are wrong. They don't have to come up with a plan. Somethings just need a no. And with regard to the occupation, if they started saying what so many feel, that the occupation is wrong, you'd see the country insisting that the troops come home in such large numbers that even some Republicans in Congress would agree.

Ty: Good point. I went home over spring break and there wasn't one person in my family who didn't think the troops need to come home now. But like my uncle said, "So what, who's going to listen?" And a lot of the reaction, or lack of reaction, is the result of Democrats not even trying to fight in Congress on some issues during the last four years.

Rebecca: Jane Fonda went on David Letterman and said the war was wrong. It's shocking that the Democratic leadership in Congress can't do the same. And that they will ignore a Ted Kennedy when he says it's wrong. It's wrong and the longer we stay, the worse it will get.

Dona: Because we are part of the problem. We're there when we shouldn't be but I'll table that and just focus on today. We have not demonstrated good faith. Instead, we've made a lot of promises that never came to pass while we've made back alley deals and the Iraqis are quite aware of that, even if many in America aren't.

Betty: And where are the insurgents or the resistance in the press coverage? I'm so damn sick of hearing whispers about them.

C.I.: Christian Parenti writes about them in his book The Freedom. But to cover them in any form, not even to endorse them, just to cover them, you'd have to leave the safety of the Green Zone.

Rebecca: I wanted to ask C.I. about the Dexter Filkins comments. I agree with what you said, he turned a slaughter into a rah-rah video game. But I'm wondering if there was any fall out or regrets?

C.I.: About thirty people e-mailed to complain, thirty people claiming to be long term members of the community, they always claim that and seem to think I'll have no idea that they're not long term members. With long term members especially, I know who is and who isn't, wrote in to say that was wrong of me to write. It was my opinion, and I could be wrong, but I stand by it and I think history will find that Filkins' reporting was, at best, embarrassing. It was something like six days old by the time his awarding winning "reporting" made it into the paper. I have no idea whether it was heavily edited or what, but I do know that Filkins wasn't an objective reporter in his coverage and that his accounts do not match the accounts of non-embeds in Iraq. When he was being interviewed by Terry Gross he came off like a hack embed, not like a reporter interested in observing and reporting what was going on. There's another issue that I intend to write about, but you know how that goes, which is he denies an allegation that he killed plans to cover the resistance. Those allegations are out there and everyone will have to make up their own mind as to whom is telling the truth. But Filkins' credibility is zero with me.

Jim: Which goes back to the legacy. And it's unbelievable how many people are willing to live for today and ignore the impact of their actions. And you can take that beyond reporters to the administration. What we'll be dealing with for years to come, as a result of the invasion, the torture, you name it, is fairly obvious. But it's live for today. Maybe it's because some of them seem to think the second coming is upon us. If that's the case, they better be prepared for harsh judgements because there's nothing godly in their actions.

Ava: One of the e-mails we had this week was from Chuck in Dayton. He wondered if we could all name one issue other than the occupation that think bears focusing on?

Ty: The prison systems in this country. The corruption in them, the lack of accountability. The public's ability to turn their back on the issue.

Rebecca: Good one. Is this supposed to be something we haven't blogged on?

Ava: Yes.

Rebecca: Well then I won't say polio. I think the war on truth, in all it's various battles, is pretty frightening. I've touched on this with regards to the media, but I'm thinking in terms of the people you'd meet just going out to buy a carton of milk or to see a movie. I don't know what to call it . . .

C.I.: Suspension of disbelief.

Rebecca: Okay, that's a good term. But I would wonder where it's coming from? Gore Vidal talks about our decaying educational system and has for years. So is that the reason for the attitude? Does the attitude lead to the decay of the education system? Is it circular? I don't have the answers but I think it goes beyond the idea that we can bring the truth to others and everyone will open their eyes. I think we can do that with a great many people and that we're seeing the nation wake up, but I'm fascinated, in a bad way, by the desire of so many to suspend disbelief and ignore reality.

Jim: Alternative ways of addressing problems. I'd be hitting on CodePink's book every day if I had the time. Writing things here, maybe passing on posts for C.I. to put up at The Common Ills. It's as though we've lost our sense and memory of history and we now believe that any problem has only the one solution of war, war, war. It goes to reclaiming human decency. I'm really concerned about that.

Dona: I think I'd do something similar. But about the way we treat others in this country. From the handicapped to the immigrants to the ones we define as "the other" for skin tone, religion or nonreligion, sexuality and all the rest. We've been on a blood lust for four years, if you ask me, and we can't even reach out to a neighbor. Which is why I fear the faith based charity crap. We don't want to deal with our neighbors and I think a lot of people would be happy to pass it on to churches just to be done with the discussion.

Jess: We're each supposed to have a different answer, right?

Ava: Right. You can take someone's comments and apply it to another area the way Dona just did. But Chuck was wanting more than, "I agree with that" or "Put me down for that too."

Jess: Then put me down for a living wage. I'd focus on how most jobs are not paying people enough to live. I know people who've graduated and between normal bills and student loans, they speak of marriage and children as something they have to put off for ten or so years because no one's getting ahead in this economy under these working conditions. I'd want to focus on the good of collective bargaining and unions and address the demonization of both and even carry it over to the war on class action suits which are, at their most basic, people banding together. This administration enjoys keeping us removed from one another as much as they enjoy keeping us removed from reality.

Betty: Well there are so many things. Probably because I do a parody, I feel like I'm not dealing with much when I do write. But besides what's been mentioned, I'd probably focus on the desire to split the black community, to splinter it off. Whether its gay rights or another issue, there are people who are looking to a party that doesn't give a damn about you because you think they are moral. In fact, I'd probably focus on AIDS. Not in the, "Is Terrance 'down-low'?" kind of way. But in terms of, community, these are our sons, brothers and fathers. There's still this attitude that AIDS is a white thing. And I blame the silence on the issue by a lot of our preachers. The continued silence. If we'd been saying "Brother Tom died of AIDS" instead of acting like the choir director or who ever just passed away for no reason, we would have been addressing this issue for years. Instead, we continue in many of our churches to act as though it doesn't exist and that it's not happening in our families. It is hitting home, and in larger numbers than ever before, so since the church is supposed to be a place for healing, we should be addressing it and not acting as though it's not happening.

C.I.: Everyone's got a strong topic and I guess for me, it would have to do with things like water. I feel like we're so unaware of the issues facing water, in terms of attempted ownership and distribution, and that what we've seen play out in Bolivia on the water issue or the natural gas issue are things that aren't going to go away. And they will effect us here. Most people have no idea, in this country, who's providing their water. It may be the city, it may still be a public good in their area, but the reality is a lot of cities don't have the water rights anymore. They've sold them to corporations. Water is a common, a public good. And I guess I'd be addressing the public commons and resources. Or the enivronment which truly does concern me but I always feel like everyone else, anyone else, can speak to that better than I could. So I'd focus on water and the need for us to be aware of what's going on there. I'd push the documentary the water wars and how that is effecting people and will continue to effect them. There's a great documentary about this topic entitled Water and I'd discuss it. And doing so would mean discussing topics like rainfall, forests and clean, potable water.

Ava: I thought about going with water as well when I read Chuck's e-mail but figured you'd choose that so I'll go with open democracy with accountability in elections. We need to be able to trust the results and for the second presidential election in a row, we can't. I'd hit on registration, requirements, machines and how they were distributed in the areas, the need for free TV time for candidates and the need for local media to cover local candidates. And my fear that as we move to away from broadcast and those airwaves are sold off, we'll have even less local coverage in the news as we instead all watch WGN or some other super station originating from far beyond our own communities.
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