Ty: Dona and I read the bulk of the e-mails. If I go on vacation, Ava and C.I. pitch in but otherwise, they don't read the e-mails. It's basically Dona and I with some help from Jim. If you e-mail, email@example.com, your e-mail is not the only one arriving that day. If you're e-mailing, why are you e-mailing? If it's to weigh in on something here with positive or negative feedback, fine. I get that. I welcome it. If it's to ask for a link, go for it. I'll work it in if it's appropriate and I can. I will also discuss it with Ava and C.I. in case they can work it in to their TV commentary and spare me having to worry about it. But if you write in and you're not clear, what's the point? I took the time to reply to some e-mails last week and it's not happening again. It appeared they were asking for a link but they were not clear in what they were asking for a link to. So I wrote them to ask them about that. Now I don't have the time. And if you're asking for something, you should be adult enough to know how to ask directly. In three cases, I felt we could comfortably link to the things people seemed to be hinting about. But I wrote ten people last Tuesday asking them if they were asking for a link. Because it wasn't clear. And as the week went on and on, all the way to this morning, none of them ever bothered to reply. That's it. I'm not babying you. You want a link? You ask for one directly. Nicely's even better. But I'm tired of trying to do your job for you. And what really ticks me off was that one of the ones hinting ran for public office and is fairly widely known. How can you e-mail hinting about wanting a link and not come right out and ask for it?
Jim: Agreed. Okay, the big media news of last week was what's being termed "the birthers." This is a group of people who have questions regarding Barack Obama's birth. Now the background here is that Barack has a grandmother in Kenya --
C.I.: I'm going to stop you. That's a woman who has no blood ties to Barack. I just want that noted because readers in the US will hear "grandmother" and assume she has blood ties. Barack's blood-line grandmother on his father's side died without ever meeting him. His father had multiple wives and his father's father had multiple wives. That was their norm. It's not the norm in America and I just don't want any additional weight given to the woman's testimony because someone thinks, "Well that's his grandmother and my grandmother would sure know for sure where and when I was born!"
Jim: Point taken. So the woman gave an interview in 2008 claiming that she was present for Barack's birth in Kenya. Barack has maintained that he was born in Hawaii. He has produced a certificate of some form -- not a birth certificate -- from the state of Hawaii. For some that ends the matter for others it doesn't. Among the many issues is that someone could get a certificate of live birth from Hawaii without proving birth in Hawaii. That's one of the things that those who dismiss the "birthers" usually fail to note. Okay, with that background info, I'm going to toss it out.
Dona: And I'm going to jump in. Lou Dobbs has raised the issue on CNN. Instead of leaving it with Lou Dobbs, CNN execs have taken to issuing statements. The smartest thing they could do if they don't believe there's an issue here is just shut up. And I would extend that to bloggers. Shut up about it. If you don't believe it, quit attacking the people. But if you attack them, you do owe it to them to allow them to respond. So these little wimpy attacks on the "birthers" that end with "Comments are closed"? They need to stop. You're embarrasing yourselves.
Jess: I'm going to back Dona up on that. Dona, Jim, Ty, Ava and I got our bacherlor's in journalism. We did so as the media landscape was shifting. The 9-11 truth movement was dealt with in one class we all took. For two weeks, we explored responsibilities with regards to it. And by the end of that class, it was agreed that if you're trashing them or any other group, you're inviting them to respond. If you don't believe that they have any validity, why are you attacking them? Matthew Rothschild, to give only one example, came off like a lunatic with his attack on the truth movement. Why did he write it? His attack only gave more credence to the movement. With the "birthers," it's the same way. Why are you attacking them? How are they harming you?
Rebecca: I agree but I'll play devil's advocate by repeating what those attacking keep saying: With the economy and everything else that matters, why can't they focus on what really matters?
Betty: Well they are focused, if you believe their sincerity, on an issue of whether or not Barack's a natural born US citizen. If he isn't, he can't legally be the president. That's due to the Constitution. That happens to be the highest law in the land. And these attacks that say "Focus on what's important!"? They only remind me that the media doesn't focus on what's important. Rachel Maddow focuses endlessly on sex scandals, wasting an hour each night on MSNBC to do so. Let's all quit pretending that a "birther" or a truth movement or whatever is distracting the media from doing their job. They aren't doing their jobs.
Jess: Like Betty just said, they aren't doing their jobs. And that's the other thing we hashed out during the two weeks of the class that we focused on the new media landscape. If you're attacking some group as conspiracy nuts, you're attack is giving them credence, you're attack is increasing their profile and it's increasing their popularity because regardless of whether you're Wolf Blitzer or me, you've pissed off someone online and when they hear you attacking, they think, "I need to know more about that group."
Jim: Rebecca, do you want to play devil's advocate some more?
Rebecca: Sure. But let me say that I'm neither offended or appalled by the "birthers." And let me note that the phrase we'll be in quotes because we aren't aware who coined it. If that movement coined it, we'd use it without quotes. But if this a term forced on that movement, we're not going to use it without quotes. So what if Barack's not a US citizen, he's president now!
Stan: Well George W. Bush didn't win the 2000 election and I never stopped objecting to his installation. It didn't matter that he was the "president now" to me. The Supreme Court did not follow the Consitution and created their one-time-only decision in order to install him. It does matter. And if people believe Barack's not a natural born citizen, it does matter.
Dona: And I would further add that this could be cleared up in minutes by Barack. Why doesn't he do that? Why is he always having attorneys challenge requests for his birth certificate?
Jim: Good point. Ava and C.I. know a great deal about Barack and his mother. In 2007, they began speaking to friends of Ann Dunham and even some of Barack's family members. Do either of you have anything to say on this issue?
Ava: From what we were told -- I'm saying "told," not "what we know" -- Barack is a natural born US citizen. That is not me saying, "So give up 'birthers!'" That is me saying that we haven't pursued this issue because it hasn't been a valid one to us personally based on the things we came across in 2007 and 2008. Now, based on that, we have a hypothesis as to why Barack won't release his birth certificate and, in fact, were saying he wouldn't back at the start of 2008. Now our information may be incorrect. But we spoke to people face to face, including two good friends -- in college -- of Barack's father. We can be fooled as easily as anyone else but we have to go by our guts on whether or not someone was telling the truth and the fact that a variety of people told us the same basic stories and details over and over and did so convincingly leads us to believe they were telling the truth. But we could be wrong. Our impressions could be completely off.
C.I.: So we aren't saying, "Drop your issue!" Why would we ever say that to anyone? Not only is this a democracy but the people grappling with this issue show a lot more maturity than the ones obsessed with whatever flavor of the month celebrity. I mean, in April, people were blogging about Adam Lambert as a huge advance for gay rights. The American Idol guy. Despite the fact that he was in the closet. And he was in the closet. He was asked repeatedly by the press and chose to play coy. Being out of the closet would have been answering the question. He never did until after the season of American Idol was over. But we had supposed political bloggers offering garbage for weeks and weeks about how he was an advance for gay rights. He was a dramatic singer, he wasn't the second coming of Stonewall. And remove Barack from it for a moment. Pretend this is a thriller you're reading, by John Grisham. Fresh out of law school attorney discovers a sitting president is actually not a natural born US citizen. Would that interest you? I'd bet it would interest a lot of people.
Jim: Okay, when you interrupted me to clarify about Barack's non-bloodline grandmother, I was wondering where you'd come down on this issue and thought, by your clarification, that you'd say, "The birthers need to move on."
C.I.: No, I'm not saying that at all. And I'm not saying the woman wasn't present. I know I wasn't present at the birth and, other than that, I don't know. But I think it's important, whether you're a "birther" or not, to grasp that Barack's father had multiple wives and his father had mulitple wives. That's important when you're weighing her remarks. Barack's father wasn't her son and because of the multiple wives issues, children were being born all the time. It would be very easy for her to honestly state she was present for someone's birth but be recalling mistakenly. Now, on the Dunham side, Ann was an only child and her parents were married to each other for their entire lives without any additional spouses. So their recall of what happened should be much clearer. They had one child and only one child and she gave birth to two children. There would be nothing confusing about it for them, were they alive. I'm not accusing the woman of lying. I am saying she may not be remembering correctly. I'm also aware that she may indeed be remembering correctly. I wasn't there, I don't know. If someone wants to pursue it, do so. It's not a waste in any way. It's a serious issue and people are learning about the law who are pursuing it. They're learning about Hawaii and the differing regulations and laws it was under as it became a state. They're learning about legal adulthood and what could and couldn't be passed on by someone who was not an adult. Kennedy researchers have unearthed important things that have nothing to do with the assassination itself -- as they pursued the truth about the assassination, they've found historical things that might otherwise be forgotten or overlooked. I'm not opposed to independent inquiry or independent study.
Dona: And I want to repeat one more time, you release your birth certificate and the rumors die immediately.
Marcia: What ticks me off are the people who say that Barack's being asked about this just because of his race -- which they then misidentify as "Black." He's bi-racial. And don't give me that crap about "Well we're all bi-racial!" No, African-Americans are not all bi-racial and those with some 'white blood' going back to pre-civil war are not the same thing as the product of a Black father and a White mother. But he's not being asked because he's "Black." He's being asked because a woman presenting as his grandmother claims he was born in Kenya and because he hasn't released his birth certificate and made a big deal about presenting that thing he posted online. We're calling it a "certificate of live birth" but I'm not even sure if that's the right term for it. Barack's 'grandmother' is not a right-winger or a Rush Limbaugh flunky. She said what she said and was proud of Barack. She put it out there and now people have questions.
Jim: Do you have questions?
Marcia: I appreciate the sincerity of the "birthers" but I don't have questions because I know we won't get the birth certificate. Barack's not going to release that. So, for me, I have to find something else to pursue. It's similar to impeachment. Before I started my own site, I was reading here about how impeachment wasn't your big thing, how this site wasn't going to promote it any more. That was because John Conyers sold everyone out and because they weren't going to do it during a presidential election year for sure. You stated that the issue was dead because there would be no movement on it. You wished those still pursuing it well but said you would be focusing on other things. Now when I read that, I really hit the roof and was ticked off. I was mad. Bush needed to be impeached. Then I went back the next day and read it again and you weren't saying he didn't need to be impeached. You were saying that, in your opinion, it wasn't happening so you were going to find issues to work on that might be able to happen. And that's how I feel about the "birthers." I'm not telling any of them to stop. They need to pursue whatever they want to pursue and whatever they are passionate about. But I don't see Barack releasing his birth certificate. One thing I would like to know is who is paying for the half-a-million or so dollars he's run up in court fees to avoid releasing his birth certificate?
Cedric: That's a good question and better not be us, the tax payers.
Cedric: This is an issue unrelated to his official actions as presidency. He's been fighting releasing the birth certificate since before he was sworn in and since before the November 2008 election. He can take donations up for it -- if that's legal -- but I don't think any tax payer monies should go to paying his legal bills on this issue that sprung up by the middle of 2008.
Jim: You're saying it's an issue from when he was a candidate that he's dragged over into the presidency?
Jim: Anyone believe the "birthers" position?
Kat: I don't think anyone's going to say "yes." But I also don't think that's the issue. Do you support the scientific method? I do. People test hypothesis and, if successful in repeated trials, we have a theory. Thanks to Elaine for making us all aware that we needed to stop calling hypothesis "theories" -- by the way. I support the scientific method, I support research. I support people pursuing avenues and that's what a democracy is about. No one's accused Barack of killing anyone. We're not off in Clinton Chronicles territory. I also think Barack could put the issue to rest immediately by producing his birth certificate. And I agree with Cedric, US tax dollars better not be paying his legal fees on this.
Jim: Most can agree that Barack is highly secretive, just like Bully Boy Bush. He's refused to release the logs for White House visitors. A partial list of some visitors was released late Wednesday.
Elaine: On that issue, on spying, on everything, he's proving to be Bush III. I think most people will remember the left promoted John McCain as Bush III if elected. I agree with Ava and C.I.'s assessment that John McCain is his own person and would not have been Bush III. I also am not at all surprised that Barack has turned into Bush III. The signs were always there for anyone who paid attention. And Samantha Power is this administration's Condi Rice with Susan Rice it's Donald Rumsfeld. On the spying, people should read James Bamford's "The NSA Is Still Spying On You" (Information Clearing House).
Ruth: I agree with Elaine and what I find interesting here is the press in this. For example, The New York Daily News rushed in with a blog praising Mr. Obama for releasing names. Oops! Some names. They had to update. And I just find it amazing how quick the press still is -- still is -- to pander to Barack. I think that is part of the reason he is falling in the polls. He is a media creation and their efforts to shore him up remind a lot of people of how they did the same with Bully Boy Bush.
Wally: Again, like you pointed out, Jim, we're dealing with secrecy issues. Barack won't cough up his birth certificate, he won't cough up the visitor logs. It's just a pattern and he's had six months in office and he has a steady flow of patterns emerging. I've yet to see one favorable pattern show up.
Ty: On the press, I would recommend reading Dan Eggen's "Hospital Lobbyists Try to Minimize Damage" from the Washington Post. On the issue itself, I just think it's disgusting. But I find it disgusting that it's pretty much just Helen Thomas calling out the staged press conferences Barack's holding. Take last week and Lynn Sweet's question that added to an uproar, Sweet was called by the White House the night before. She insists she was just told she'd be called on and that she did not supply her question. Whatever, Lynn Sweet, whatever.
Mike: The press is entirely too cozy with the White House. I thought the press was supposed to be in opposition and to be skeptical. Apparently, I was mistaken.
Ann: I really feel like we crossed some marker with Bully Boy Bush and we'll never get back to the way it should be. That's not to pretend things were great before Bush. But it is noting that when you asked about all the hostility towards Bill Clinton, the press would insist that they were playing their watch dog role and there was nothing personal about it. Where's that watch dog role now?
Wally: That's the question to ask. The public's ended the honeymoon with Barack, as evidenced by last week's polling. But the press continues its efforts to pimp Barack. It's really getting old.
Jim: Well there was a whine on CounterSpin Friday about boo-hoo, the only critics the MSM can find of Barack's health care plan are on the right. What about the left, whined the fakes on CounterSpin.
Mike: What about 'em? You mean the 'left' that says, "Excuse me while I gush over Barack for five minutes and then I'll give you thirty seconds on why I don't like the health care proposals"? Those aren't critics and the newspapers don't need to waste our time with them. They're part of a cheering section for Barry O.
Wally: And don't forget the bloggers who disgraced themselves Monday night, doing that "Here are your orders" conference call with Barry. Many of those bloggers showed up the next day telling people universal, single-payer health care really wasn't possible and not all that to begin with, so accept. I don't want a left wing echo chamber and I didn't want one before I saw what it was like.
Ann: Agreed. There is too little independence in independent media. You grasp that very quickly if you listen to more than one Pacifica radio station. You'll quickly notice how all the guests are the same and how it's only the order in which they show up that changes. Over and over, it's the same people. Sometimes Amy Goodman gets them first for a segment on her show, sometimes she gets them in the middle. It's the most boring, most mundane, piece of garbage.
Ty: Well that's one of the people I e-mailed, someone who was saying what you are and explaining that it had to do with the foundations and the grant money. But I never heard back from him.
Jim: Leaving out the D.C. Pacifica station which has been an embarrassment for over a decade, what does everyone think the worst Pacifica station is?
Mike: I was going to say that too. I mean they're still repeating Al Lewis' radio shows. He died how many years ago? They can never do an Iraq War program but they can repeat Al Lewis. And that clique that ruins the station, they've all aged and aged poorly. It's old people's radio. KPFA has their little clique as well but it's a little bit younger. WBAI is just geezer radio. Even the Houston station takes more chances than WBAI.
Marcia: I think everyone at WBAI should be fired. Just because it sounds so dead and aged. What happened was the clique brought in their own and everyone's got their slot on the schedule and no one news going to break in. Unless you fire them. I think they should. I say fire everyone on air and start with new programs and new hosts. I also think it's past time that a mandatory retirement age was proposed.
Ruth: I am laughing but I do understand Marcia's points. She is right that there are no surprises in the regular line up. You know what everyone will say each day because they have been saying it, over and over, for years. I think there are three programs the station has worth listening to. And I thnk the rest of it should be retired. There is a sameness to all the Pacifica programming, on all the stations, as Ann pointed out. But WBAI really does sound like you fallen back into the mid-seventies. It is grossly out of touch and never more so than when they try to come across as in touch.
Betty: I support Marcia's proposal. You don't need to be on WBAI for more than ten years. If you're on air for more than ten, there's a problem. Usually that you couldn't go anywhere else. But after ten years, you should take a behind the scenes role or go somewhere else. WBAI is not supposed to exist to feed the on air's egos. But that's really all it does.
Marcia: I'm sure Kimmy Wilder will stage another "Save WBAI" posting marathon but she's part of the problem. After they serve the Democratic Party meal several times a day, they toss some scraps to the Green Party every two weeks. They do not treat the party as a real party not even as a real party in New York. And it's people like her, people who make excuses, that allow the exclusion of third parties to continue.
Elaine: I agree with Marcia and I have to wonder, of all the Pacifica stations, why their supporters let them get away with this. Why do Greens pledge, and Greens do pledge to Pacifica, when, year after year, they are treated as less-than-real people? Seems it's long past time that someone should have staged a "Give us air time or we don't give money" action.
Jess: And I'm a Green Party member and I agree. I never considered Kimberly Wilder a Green. Right after this election she announced she was no longer a Green and I never considered her one. She was one of those Greens who was pushing Barack and forgetting Cynthia McKinney -- the Green Party presidential candidate -- all through the summer and fall of 2008. She never struck me as a real Green. And that's before that took place. She got mad during an e-mail exchange. And because I didn't want to talk to her on the phone. I've never met her, why would I want to talk to her? Because she's a Green? I'd already heard -- and Ava had passed this on with my permission -- that she was one of those Greens who hurt the party. I want to talk to her? I want to give her my number? No. If anyone doesn't understand that, let me drop back to a popular topic in 2008, one that readers loved. Ava and C.I. regularly pointed out that this Barack endorser playing Democrat wasn't one. They did that over and over and it was always hugely popular with Democratic Party members who read this site. And that's because they didn't want non-Democrats controlling their primary or party. Well I feel just the same as a Green. Kimberly Wilder refused to do anything to push Green Party beliefs. Over and over, her actions at her site were not in the best interest of the party. We have a lot of people in our party who see us as nothing but an auxillary to the Democratic Party. I do not. I see the Green Party as a third party that advances its own beliefs and candidates. I never saw Kimberly Wilder as anything much beyond a Democratic Party schill. If I misjudged her, too damn bad. She's nothing but trouble. We highlighted something she wanted highlighted. Our readers go to her site and she's off on another hate binge at Sarah Palin. Find the Democratic Playbook and you'll see she does everything they order. She's a joke. My opinion. Others may be kinder to her. I know Marcia and Elaine aren't. And Trina's flat out pissed at her and talking about fact checking her on a regular basis because she's pissed off Trina so much with her latest embarrassing White Momma post.
Stan: She hates that. I'm so glad I we came up with that nickname for her. Cedric, was that you or Betty?
Betty: That was Cedric. I love it, but it was Cedric.
Cedric: From the Bette Davis TV movie.
Jim: Okay. Movies. A regular reader, Sandra, wants to know who we think one of the biggest female starts of the fifties and sixties was? She says she's been going through TCM and also some books at the library and discovered that the big box office stars of the day aren't the ones who are necessarily remembered.
Betty: I have to say my favorite, Marilyn Monroe. I have to get her in.
Ruth: Well there are a lot of women, certainly Marilyn Monroe. Elizabeth Taylor was also a star then and remains one today as does Sophia Loren. I'm not really sure that Sandra Dee is famous today beyond my age group. I don't think she transcends her time period. She was immensly popular. Sort of the Connie Francis of film.
Ava: I'll give an example and then we can switch topics. Janet Leigh. Janet Leigh was well known, a star, popular. But she wasn't Marilyn Monroe or Sandra Dee. Now Marilyn obviously lives on. But so does Janet and with Janet Leigh, it's got a lot to do with really strong choices. She ended up in some wonderful films. And was very good in them. Touch Of Evil, Bye-Bye Birdie, Psycho, The Manchurian Candidate. That's just five. Janet Leigh's going to be remembered as long as people remember movies. She's earned her spot and others, like Jayne Mansfield, for example, wont' be.
Jim: And I'll add Natalie Wood because I know C.I. would.
Dona: Don't close this without Stan and my favorite, Shirley MacLaine.
Jim: Okay. So, Sandra, hope that addresses your question. Last topic is the Kurds in Iraq. They held their election yesterday and there's been a lot of writing in the community last week about them. C.I., of course, but also Elaine and Kat hit hard on it.
Stan: Well it's a fairness issue. The Kurds aren't necessarily community 'faves.' But there's a fairness issue. The Iraq Constitution was adopted when?
C.I.: October 2005.
Stan: Thank you. It mandated a census and election for the disputed province of Kirkuk before the end of 2007. That never happened. That still hasn't happened. When's the census scheduled right now?
C.I.: This October.
Stan: Thanks. So two years after it was supposed to happen, it may happen. Maybe.
Marcia: And remember that it's not just the constitution. The White House benchmarks of 2007, that Nouri al-Maliki signed off on, also called for the issue to be resolved. It still hasn't been. Nouri's thrown fits and done everything and is handed everything. The Kurds acted in good faith in terms of believing that the US would ensure that a census would take place and a vote would take place. Then the US did their faux pull-back and Kurds are rightly worried that if this issue isn't addressed very soon, it won't be.
Cedric: And, I think, they're also worried that the US has burned them. They were the easy ones, like Kat said at her site, the good child, and so they didn't get the attention. And now they're not getting anything.
Kat: And a point I made and one that Elaine and C.I. did as well, we aren't saying, "Give Kirkuk to the Kurds!" We're saying fair is fair and if you promise a referendum, you hold one. If you don't, you're not being fair. You're also not being fair if you 'report' on this issue and paint Kurds as ungrateful or as the ones disputing the boundaries. The dispute is on both sides. This is a historical issue, it's highly complex and it has been ignored.
Rebecca: C.I. got ticked off at a friend at the UN last week and wrote a really important commentary in a snapshot. One thing I'll note about that is that C.I.'s correct. The Kurds haven't played the world victim card. But they could and they'll get sympathy even if they don't. The Kurdish population is one that's frequently been discriminated worldwide. Certainly those that celebrated the PKK will be on the Kurds side.
Jim: They held elections. C.I. talk about that and any predictions?
C.I.: I have no predictions. The press is assuming the presidency will not change and that the two dominant parties will remain in power. The basics on the election? Nearly 80% turnout. Early voting started on Thursday for groups such as security forces, the elderly and those with physical challenges or limitations. Saturday was election day proper and they had to extend the voting by one hour. They have three provinces. These were provincial and presidential elections. The three provinces did not vote in the January 31st provincial elections. It's expected that the results of the election will be known no later than Tuesday.
Jim: Will the elections resolve tensions between the Kurdish Regional Government and Nouri's government out of Baghdad?
C.I.: Though it didn't occur to the UN, some of the statements re: Kirkuk ahead of the election might have been to win votes. The UN constantly offers that excuse for Nouri but didn't appear to believe the KRG deserved that same benefit of the doubt. Presumably, the world will see in the near future how much was rhetoric to win office and how much was sincere. Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, is a Kurd. When he stated that Kirkuk being a Kurdish province was a pipe dream, he quickly followed with he wouldn't run for re-election. Then he waffled on that several times; however, the reason he wasn't going to run was because he wasn't going to win. Who's going to vote for a Kurd? Against Sunni and Shias, most Sunnis and Shias probably wouldn't vote for a Kurd and a Kurd who says forget Kirkuk really isn't going to have huge backing from the Kurdish population. My point here is that Kirkuk has been a decider in Kurdish politics for some time. Even if it was all rhetoric for the election, all the statements in the last two months, it's raised expectations and politicians are going to have to deliver in some form. Or risk the wrath of the public.
Jim: We need to wind down but do you think expectations were unfairly raised?
C.I.: In what sense?
Jim: Did it cause more tensions?
C.I.: No, it probably did just the opposite. The statements were well received by the Kurdish population. Before the statements, there was probably more tension and anxiety amongst the population which wants Kirkuk to be part of the KRG and had to wonder if their leaders did. I think the statements sent a message throughout the KRG of "We are all on the same side."
Jim: Okay and we'll wrap this up there. This is a rush transcript. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Everyone was responsible for their own statements.