Sunday, December 24, 2006


Ava: This is a very casual roundtable. Do not expect much. A bit of background on this edition, we always mean it when we say, "Take time off if you need it." We mean that for the ones who help out and we mean it for the core six. Due to the holiday and bad planning, this is one where a lot of the core six took time off. C.I.'s steering this edition and the only reason I'm anchoring this roundtable is to make sure that's stated. Jim, Dona, Ty and Jess are off this weekend. We were a bit too casual in our planning and, had we checked in, we would have handled that differently or else made this the long promised edition where we posted favorite pieces from the past. Participating in this roundtable are Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Wally of The Daily Jot, Ruth of Ruth's Report and C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review.

Wally: And you.

Ava: And me. This time last year, we did a roundtable, so we thought we'd do a similar one this year. As with last time, we'll start with Ruth for what stood out in 2006?

Ruth: I think it's been said at all the sites this year, but it's true -- there is really only you. I think 2006 exposed how little support for ending the war the media, big media and independent media, intends to provide. I think when most people pick their own success stories, they'll be more likely to pick something they did on their own, nothing that got championed by independent media.

Rebecca: Because where was independent media?

Ruth: Exactly.

Mike: No where when it came to war resisters.

Elaine: Which actually reminds me of the radio program. C.I., you highlighted it Thursday, Sunny and I caught that during lunch Friday at work.

C.I.: Community member Joan highlighted it. Town Square, which aires on Hawaii's Public Radio, KIPO. December 14th, Beth-Ann Kozlovich, the host, devoted the program to Ehren Watada's case and he, Bob Watada, Carolyn Ho -- those are Ehren's parents, and Ann Wright were among the guests.

Elaine: Thank you, during the interview, Ehren Watada's talking about the time before he took his stand. He and his friends are looking around wondering where the person is that's speaking out for them? They're not seeing anyone like that. Ehren says that that's when he realized he was going to have to. That really seems to me to capture 2006. Quit waiting around. Quit thinking big media or small media gives a damn or wants to lead.

Wally: And realizing that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

Kat: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, as Janis sang.

Elaine: That's really the way I see it. Like Wally, and I think this touches on the editorial we did in 2005, "War Got Your Tongue?", knowing is actually better than not knowing.

Ava: Okay. First, help me out on this, is that where we quote Shampoo? I remember the editorial but I'm thinking of the lines in Shampoo.

C.I.: That's an editorial on the Democratic Party.

Ava: Thank you. It's late. Um, well, I think the illusions, all of them, have faded. And while I agree with Wally, Elaine and Kat that it can be empowering, I guess my question would be . . . Studs Terkel's book, Hope Dies Last. So what do we have now?

C.I.: I'll grab that because we've got a pause, and it is late. Correct me if I'm wrong, Ava, but you're tying this all together -- the illusions fading about the Democratic Party's leadership on the issue of Iraq, the illusions fading about big and small media's leadership on the issue, and you're asking when it's all gone, what's left, is there any hope? Correct?

Ava: Right.

Ruth: Well, the point earlier. The hope is the people. Mike and I both have groups in our area that meet each week to discuss Iraq and that's because there is not a lot of focus we're able to find on that topic.

Mike: Yeah. There's interest. If there wasn't, our groups would have faded away by now.

Ruth: And your group has actually had to split off into other groups because it has grown so much and continues to grow.

Mike: Yeah. What I find is what Ruth's talking about. If you're wondering where the hope is, like Ava's doing, it's not on your TV screen or on the printed page in front of you, it's face to face. That's where the work's being done. And, this is true for Ruth too, what you find is that with a group, there are going to be all these points and incidents you missed and others did as well, but someone caught.

Kat: Because it's so diffuse. There's not a clearing house. There's no program, all these years after the illegal war began, that follows the war exclusively.

Mike: Yeah. So you've got each other and, you know what, that's pretty powerful. More powerful than The New York Times.

Ruth: I'd agree because what I keep coming up against, what I keep bumping against and then hurdeling are all the false notions.

Rebecca: Like "No one cares about war resisters."

Ruth: Uh-huh, because that is someone's belief. If it wasn't, independent media would cover them. But the weekend of activism and awareness that Courage to Resist called for war resisters, in my own neighborhood, the disinterest was disproven.

Ava: I know you've written about that and I enjoyed it, but for those who missed it, walk us through some of the basics including the t-shirts.

Ruth: Tracey, my granddaughter, wanted us to make t-shirts for the get together. We decided on a get together for the neighborhood, my Friday group. We thought there was a lot to cover and that a relaxed social setting would be the easiest way to do so. So we had a cookout, my sons handled the grill, and my grandchildren, including Tracey and Jayson, and my study group, wore t-shirts we'd done transfers for. Some had concepts or organizations on them, some had war resisters. And we all had these little badges we made, like at a food place, that said "Ask me about" whatever our topic was. So we'd move around --

Rebecca: I want to just say this wasn't a few houses, this was pretty much several blocks in Ruth's neighborhood.

Ruth: Yeah. This really was a get together. My sons and daughters-in-law picked up the tab on the food. Early on, my group was attempting to figure out how much we needed to chip in and my oldest son ended up saying forget about it because they'd pick up the cost as their contribution to the effort. We had a huge spread, we had all these tables set up in my backyard. It was packed. So those of us in t-shirts would wander throughout with our "Ask me about" badges, moving from group to group and we would get asked. We'd answer questions and explain. There was a very huge interest in war resisters. There was interest in the position, the standing up, but there was also this huge interest in the people themselves and how their decisions impacted their personal lives and those of people around them.

Wally: And Ehren was the one most had heard of.

Ruth: Right. If they knew someone, especially if they knew the resister by name, it tended to be Ehren Watada. Hearing about him and others, especially in the sort of setting we were in, really seemed to register. They were receptive and responsive.

Kat: Which really demonstrates that there is an interest in the topic, even if the independent media isn't interested in covering it. Talk about the fascination with Kyle Snyder.

Ruth: "Fascination" is a good word for it. People were really fascinated by the fact that he'd served in Iraq and then self-checked out. He'd gone to Canada, and they could follow that. Then he came back to the United States in October to turn himself in which they could relate to because they'd heard at the gathering about others who had done that.

Wally: Darrell Anderson.

Ruth: Darrell Anderson. Ivan Brobeck. But Kyle's story was different because he gets screwed over. The military says, "Look, we said we were just going to process you out, but guess what, we've decided we're sending you back to Iraq, here's your bus ticket, we're dropping you off at the Greyhound station" --

Rebecca: And Kyle self-checks out again.

Ruth: Which they found very interesting and the fact that he spent Thanksgiving week working on repairs from Hurricane Katrina down in New Orleans and speaking out before and after while there was an arrest warrant out for him. His story, so far, doesn't have the end point that others may have.

C.I.: Darrell Anderson was discharged, Ricky Clousing was released from the brig yesterday. Kyle Snyder's story as a war resister is ongoing.

Elaine: Ruth left the photos with Rebecca so Mike and I were looking at them Friday night and my favorite is the reaction on people's faces when these sort of stories are being shared. You can see the interest on their faces. In some cases, disbelief.

Ruth: There really was a strong interest and certainly, as the polls repeatedly demonstrate, the country's in a place where these kind of conversations can take place. It's not 2003 anymore.

Ava: Except when it comes to our independent print media.

Mike: Which is just a coward and I'm speaking real slow to keep from cursing, but it's a coward.

Wally: Whipped puppies, that's all we've got. Little scared babies who think doing what they did in 2003 is brave three, almost four, years later. There is no leadership from the independent media as a whole. That's true when you have no single program that makes Iraq the focus, that's true when you've got The Nation acting like it's the Democratic Party while it attempts to figure out if it's 'safe' to cover this topic or that topic.

Mike: And people want to slam students, slam the left media. Students are involved. What's the left media doing? The new issue of The Nation has how many articles on Iraq?

Ava: Was that rhetorical or a real question?

Mike: Real question.

Ava: C.I.?

C.I.: The January 1st issue, January 1, 2007, offers an editorial on labor, a comment on Pinochet, minimum wage, Dennis Kucinich, David Corn writes about Iraq, Alexander Cockburn writes about Iraq, Katha Pollitt offers a list of where you can send money -- no organization listed has a thing to do with Iraq, the cover story on the mayor of Salt Lake City, 2 articles on Hurricane Katrina --

Elaine: Let me stop you there. Two articles on Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina has probably been covered as much, if not more, than the war in Iraq and that's pretty damn shameful. I also don't consider the Kucinich article to be about Iraq because John Nichols drags in Obama for God knows why and pretending Obama is trying to end the war is the sort of thing that makes The Nation a joke. CounterPunch doesn't insult it's readers like that.

Betty: Jumping in.

Ava: Jump. I should explain that Betty had to put the phone down right before we started to deal with one of her kids who'd woken from a bad dream. Everything fine there?

Betty: Too many hopes and nerves over Santa's impending visit. It finally boiled down to, this was my youngest son, the fact that he might not be getting anything because it was him and not the cat that knocked over a picture frame in the living room. Guilt was eating him up and fear that the whole thing had him on Santa's "naughty list." So the topic's Obama and I know Cedric's feelings are the same as mine and he'd say "Betty!" to me if I didn't weigh in. What does Barack Obama have to offer? In January, he'll have finished his second year as a Senator. And now he wants to be the boy president or wants us to think that and the media can't shut up about it? Speaking as a Black woman, when the media gloms on this, we, Black people, generally get the point, "He's the way you should be." Thanks for the advice but I'm not seeing anything in him that impresses me. He is good looking. If he asked me out, I'd probably blush and giggle. But in terms of his politics, what are they? He doesn't make waves. That's leadership. It's the sort of leadership White America likes. They'd have loved it if Dr. King hadn't made waves. If, after the initial protests in the south, Dr. King had said, "Everything's fixed," well they'd have loved him like crazy. But they didn't. Because he wouldn't stay silent. He wouldn't appease. He took on the war, he took on the racism in the north and he led. To White America like The New York Times, he was a pain which is probably why they offered not one editorial or op-ed about Coretta Scott King when she passed. But Obama? He doesn't lead. He whips the White audiences into a frenzy. And then there seems some irritation that we, Black people, don't want to embrace him. They're making him their 'rock star.' That term alone tells you there's a problem because if he were a Black leader coming up from Black people, he wouldn't be called a 'rock star.' Rock isn't the end all be all in Black culture so right there, the tag the media's given him, demonstrates that he's a White manufactored leader and not one who's risen up from the people.

Kat: Great point! All of it, really, but especially the "rock star" thing.

Betty: Well Cedric and I were talking about that for the last two weeks. We were both like, "Rock Star"? Since when was that a big thing with Black people? Or, African-American. Cedric uses that term, I use Black. He's not come up, he's been imposed. And the effect is a souring. Cedric's seen it at his church during the hoopla and I've seen it at mine. Our congregations didn't see him as a leader prior to the annointing but we thought he was just your average politician. Then he was used as a club and I guess you'd say his 'negatives' have risen. My choir director says everytime Obama opens his mouth, Chicken Soup For The Soul spills out, and that's not intended as a compliment. That's what happens when you offer nothing but platitutdes. Is he a motivational speaker or a member of the Senate? He's a Teacher's Pet. No, he's a Media Pet. And it's not playing well outside of White America. And I should say "a segment of White America." It's not all of White America.

Kat: How insulting is that?

Betty: Pretty insulting. I mean, the subtext is, "This is the type of Black person that the dominant culture can get behind." And so the message is, if you're half-White and half-Black, you can be endorsed. That really doesn't do anything for Black people. It may for biracial but not for those of us who are Black. I found it interesting that in the same issue where John Nichols has to bring him up -- apparently it's a LAW that he be brought up -- the editors have that note where they say Obama's playing the triangle in their illustration because he's a triangulator. Look, that's what he is. That's what he does. So what's with the gushing from Nichols? Would a White triangulator get the same pass? I doubt it. So on the one hand you have the mainstream holding him up as how Black people should be and on the other you have The Nation all over the map -- he's a hope! he's a triangulator! He's all things to all people! To me, he's boring and he's a coward. I also loved how his experience is seen as a given. There was some show, I believe it was CNN, my father had it on, and we were watching as the 'experts' were discussing a match up between Hillary and Obama. Hillary, we were told, really doesn't have experience. She's only been a senator for X number of years. Obama? They just breezed over that. Hillary's got four more years of experience as a Senator than Obama but somehow that point didn't get made.

Rebecca: Would you vote for Hillary?

Betty: For the Democratic nomination for president?

Rebecca: Yeah.

Betty: If it was between her and Obama. Hmm. Based on everything I've seen thus far, yes, I would. Between her and Obama, I would vote for her. I wouldn't be thrilled with the vote but she's got more experience and I think I'd at least know what I was getting. Obama? What's behind the Hallmark sentiment? I have no idea. If you throw Kucinich into the mix, he gets my vote. I would prefer to vote for someone against the war and wanting to end it.

Rebecca: I'm glad you added the wanting to end it because that goes to the points Wally and Mike were making.

Wally: Right. "I'm against the war." That's so 2004. "I'm against the war" isn't even controversial. The whole country's against the war. I don't want a candidate who's going to fight it 'smarter.' I want the war over.

Mike: But who's going to say that. Russ Feingold but he's taken himself out. So there's Kucinich and who else? I'm not going to vote the lesser of two evils in 2008. I know that.

Rebecca: Is that Elaine's doing?

Mike: Well, I mean, we've talked about that a lot. And no, I'm not interested in voting out of fear. I'd love to vote for the Democrat but I'm not voting for a War Hawk. And I want to spin this around now, if I can, to talk about The New York Times. They really are selling the war again. In their reporting. A few have started to notice, C.I.'s noticed it for some time, but a few more are starting to comment. But one of the most disgusting features about their new efforts to sell the war has to be the way they ignore or bury the number of troops who die each day. Dad called Saturday morning to tell me that was the topic that people were most vocal about in Friday's group. Right now, Elaine and I are skipping the group and going to Rebecca's on the weekends. So Dad was filling me in and I want to note that, that people are noticing it and they are disgusted.

C.I.: I'll leap in to note that today, the US military announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier southeast of the Iraqi capital Dec. 23. " And they also announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier southwest of the Iraqi capital Dec. 23. " One southeast of Baghdad, the other southwest of Baghdad.

Kat: It really has been amazing to see The Times either ignore it all together or else note it in the last paragraph of an article on something else. It says a great deal. And it takes us back to the main point, The Times isn't going to end the war or even try. It's up to the people.

Ava: And having come full circle, we're ending it there. If you're reading this on Sunday, thank C.I., in whose lap our own responsibilites, the core six, got dumped.
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