Sunday, July 11, 2010


Jim: Roundtable time and we've got some news topics and hopefully some time for some fun topics. This is one of the rare roundtables we do where we are all actually face to face. Our e-mail address is Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration.


Jim (Con't): First up, Iraq. What's the timeline, C.I.? How long without a government now and what's the 'standard.'

C.I.: Today makes it four months and four days and, the 'standard' would be the only previous Parliamentary election Iraq has had since the start of the illegal war, that's 2005, and Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister.

Jim: So we're three away from the same timeline. Anyone think they'll meet it?

C.I.: Just before anyone answers, the Parliament has held one meeting so far. Last week, Hoshyar Zebari announced to the press that they would hold their next meeting on July 13th and pick a presidency council -- the president and the two vice presidents. He's the Foreign Minister and, using the 13th, they could have shaved off one day from the 2005 record. They may not have a prime minister announcement on the 13th. But I wanted to put that out there before anyone guessed so they wouldn't feel like they'd been set up.

Stan: Well let's say that on the 13th they announce all of that, including the prime minister. I still wouldn't call that a success. You're telling me that the US continued the occupation, the death and dying, the money and lives wasted and all we did with five more years was shave one day off the record? That's appalling. The government in Iraq, the puppet government, is clearly dysfunctional.

Jim: Which really is the conclusion of UNAMI's "Human Rights Report," if you pay attention. Okay, we did the fiction edition last week and Dona and I helped Ty with the e-mails. We opened gingerly, expecting blistering e-mails. We were surprised that so many of you enjoyed reading it. We think it's the strongest positive response any of the fiction editions have received. So thank you for your kind words. We're sure, if we're around this time next year, that we'll screw up again. Dina did wonder in her e-mail why we didn't plan ahead of time?

Ty: Oh, how we try. We had an idea pad, for example, just for short stories that we kept all year. But you write down an idea when you can see it in your head and it's alive, then you pull out that pad the night you're going to work on it and it's cold. And that's true of the non-fiction as well. Saturday night, we were doing the pitching and thought we had a pretty good slate of topics to try writing articles on. Then we ended up with another slate. You just can't etch it in stone. Or we can't.

Jim: Anne e-mailed wondering why we don't tackle Afghanistan? At any of the community sites?

Cedric: We've addressed this before. A few months after I started my site -- and probably before I moved it over to Blogspot -- I did try. It was too much of a topic for me. Too much to deal with. If I'd stuck with it, it might have been different. But that's what it was for me personally. Now that's years ago. Today, we have a different reason. Our focus has been Iraq and any slippage there on our part would be interpreted a certain way.

Elaine: Right. We've long noted we're against the Afghanistan War. We've noted that long, long ago. But if we tackle Afghanistan now, it (a) justifies the media retreat from Iraq and (b) allows us to be as bad as the media.

Jim: And if the Iraq War really ends in a year?

Elaine: Then I can close down my site, C.I. can close down her site and Ava and C.I. walk from this one. Readers know that. Readers know that the three of us are so tired of the online world. That's not tired of readers who are wonderful and interesting. But it is being tired of all the time and effort that gets poured into the online presence.

Jim: Like tonight and this morning. Trevor and Lili e-mailed, by the way, to remind that Ann, Ava and C.I. needed to do another Terry Gross piece. That was one of the pieces planned for this edition but, as Ty was explaining, things change quickly. That may be written next week. On radio, Cameron wants to know what it would take for Pacifica to be noted community wide these days? He points out that it looks like NPR gets worked regularly.

Trina: NPR doesn't usually present a non-stop Barack-a-thon -- to steal Ava and C.I.'s phrase. There's little of value on Pacifica Radio these days. NPR, for example, has been a leader on the Gulf Disaster. Pacifica has done damn little. They've had no real reporting on it, just a bunch of gas baggery, and they've avoided anything that might reflect poorly on Barack. They're too busy covering for Barack to be a real radio network.

Ruth: In addition, we are not interested in Pacifica. Is it news? Okay, maybe it will get noticed then. But if it is just a conversation, why the heck would we highlight it? It will be gone in 14 to 90 days. KPFA was supposed to be setting the gold standard for archiving online. For a while, it did. Then they whined about money and how they could not afford to pay the publishing royalties required to play music and so they would have to delete their archives after 14 days. I think they are full of s**t for reasons Trina outlined and for the way they have destroyed the public's access to their airwaves. I am also tired of getting an e-mail two months later that says, "I went to" insert Pacifica Radio station "and they did not have the broadcast you were writing about." No, because they have deleted it.

Ann: And, to be clear, I'm the one who blackballed Aimee Allison. I was covering KPFA's The Morning Show until that evil video she posted, Aimee Allison. The one where she refused to condemn the attacks on Pakistanians with drones but did make plenty of time to talk about her wet dreams Michelle and Barack Obama. And I'm so, so sick of their White hosts wanting to show their 'solidarity' with Blacks. Want to help Black people be heard? Get your White ass off the air. Kris Welch is an embarrassment and especially so when she tries to pass for soulful. Kris, you can praise all the soul music you want, it won't make you Black. And of course, let's never forget that KPFA and Pacifica's racial 'expert' is White man Tim Wise. Dear Lord, help us all.

Betty: Amen. Tim Wise is like fingernails on a chalk board. I'm sure he pleases many of Pacifica's White listeners but as a Black woman, I find him so insulting and, yes, so very, very racist. And it is telling that the overly White Pacifica would make a White man their expert on racial issues.

Jim: Betty, you wrote about the Oscar Grant verdict in "Fairness" and Kavitha e-mailed to ask if you were as offended as she was by Dennis Bernstein's coverage on KPFA's Flashpoints? This is from her e-mail, "It was as if he was trying to stir it up. He wasn't reporting. He wasn't commenting. He was s**t stirring. And we all know it's not going to be Bernstein's ass on the line. This was one of those times when I felt like we were being used as pawns for the White man's game or gain."

Betty: I actually didn't listen to Flashpoints. I rarely do anymore. Once upon a time, they covered Iraq. I bowed out on that show as a regular listener when they couldn't shut up about Haiti. Every broadcast, week after week. It was way, way too much. But I don't doubt Kavitha's reaction and am sure I would have had the same response. And, for those who don't know, Kat's covered this many times at her site, Oscar Grant is a man who had no weapon and wasn't a criminal but was forced to lie on the ground by the police and then he was shot dead while lying down. The verdict came in last week and the police officer walked.

Dona: Kat, an e-mail for you, from reader Jordan, asks what's the most interesting thing you heard last week?

Kat: Yea! I'm so glad that question came in. Thank you, Jordan. In Africa, there's a beetle, I think it's a stenocara. And Australia is studying this beetle because parts of Australia have been suffering an apparently never-ending drought. What can this beetle do? It can take water out of the air. It's designed to do that. That's how it manages to thrive in dry areas of Africa. From the morning fog or dew, it can extract water. I found that story very interesting and heard it on BBC Radio.

Dona: Cedric and Ann, Allison e-mails that the two of you are "a blogging couple. And does that create problems with what one of you might talk or joke about or even with something like when you're going to work on your blog?"

Cedric: Ann's pointing to me to go first. I've never told Ann what to write or what not to write at her site. She's never done that to me either. I make a point to read her site. She doesn't make a point to read mine. That's because she hears Wally and me on the phone when we're working on our joint posts. And she's one of the people we run our final drafts by. Wally'll usually put down the phone and go ask C.I. and I'll usually be doing the same with Ann. In terms of working on the blog, Ann does more of that at her site than I do at mine. She's even changed her template. Her blog has a really nice look to it and that also is due to the fact that she's posted the painting of her that Betty's kids did. I'm not aware of any problems.

Ann: Wally and Cedric pitch things. "Hold my baby" was something they were doing last week. It was a joke involving Mel Gibson. And they never used it at the site. But they have to go through a lot of jokes -- some of the funny, some of them not -- to get to what they post. They work really hard on their posts. I don't work like that on mine. They also can't censor themselves during that stage. If one of them starts passing judgments in the middle of pitching, the whole process falls apart. I noticed that long before I started blogging. It's why I never say, as I'm listening to them pitch, "Uh, that's kind of gross." I never give any input until they're almost finished and then only because Cedric's reading it to me. But to do what he and Wally do, you have to go through a whole process. It goes beyond being co-writers. I've written pieces with Ava and C.I. and that was fun to do. But Cedric and Wally are writing humor pieces and that requires that they really not be afraid to say the stupid thing or whatever. They have to get silly, they have to work openly and, somewhere in all of that, an idea comes out.

Dona: Okay. Now Allison had a second question. This one for Wally. She wants to know if it's more difficult for you "and Cedric to write now that he's married and did it get even more difficult after Ann started blogging?"

Wally: She asked "even more difficult"?

Dona: Yes.

Wally: Because that appears to indicate that she thinks it was difficult. I don't. I think I knew Ann better than anyone before a number of us went to the wedding. That's because I'd be calling Cedric so we could work on our post and there were many times when she'd answer the phone and explain Cedric had just taken the trash out or run somewhere for something. So we had a telephone relationship for, easily, a year before they married. And, of course, I knew about her in depth from Cedric. I was thrilled for both of them when they got married. It's never been a problem with our blogging. There are times when she's made a major contribution to our joint-post and we try to get her to take credit but she won't. She feels that's Cedric's thing and she wants to maintain a line, a clear line.

Jim: And define major contribution.

Wally: With Ann, that's saying, "I think your main joke is interesting, but this thing over here, this is the real humor." And sometimes she may expand on that "this thing over here," craft a line or two that we end up using.

Dona: Lorraine wants to know why Cedric and Ann are married, Jim and I are engaged but Jess and Ava and Mike and Elaine are only dating.

Elaine: I'm jumping over everyone on this one. First, Mike and I live together. That's known. Our relationship is known. That would be all I care to say about it. My personal relationship is not lived online. Thank you.

Mike: And you know I've got nothing to add after that.

Ava: Well, I think Jess and I have a strong commitment and I really, like Elaine, prefer not to talk about my lovelife online. It's not an off-limits topic in my own life and I can bore anyone and everyone I know with it. But in terms of what I want to put out there for the whole world? I agree with Elaine. What did she say, "My personal relationship is not lived online." I mean you've got hold something back, you've got to have some levels of privacy even in this FaceBook age.

Jess: Jim is of the let it all out there school of thought. That's how he is and it's not a surprise. Ty and I knew that shortly after we all started living together in college. Readers of this site should well remember that what the rest of us might try to smooth over or not discuss is usually the very thing Jim's going to be writing about here. It's just a difference in personalities. I don't mind people knowing about my relationship with Ava. But I don't feel the need to provide details beyond the fact that we're in a relationship.

Dona: Trina, Bob e-mailed wanting your "best hunch" on the US economy.

Trina: Okay. Well this is gas baggery and just my opinion, so remember that. But, since you asked, as Judy Collins once sang, I've never bought into the idea that we've passed the hard part.

Mike: I'm cutting in for just a second. Mom just won $150 this summer. She needs to talk about that or I will.

Trina: As my son Mike pointed out just now, I won a bet. I was at a picnic for my husband's work last year, last June. And a group of people were talking and sharing what they thought of the economy. Including that the hard part was over. I said -- very strongly -- that the hard part hadn't even begun. And a man challenged me on that and wanted us to bet. I'd honestly forgetten about the bet but the company picnic came up last month and he came over and paid me on the bet. To me, there are indicators that are being ignored. I've been harping forever on several sets of them at my site and I'm beginning to suspect that Dean Baker finally got a clue or at least thought he should crib what I was pointing to. Either way he didn't understand it. The government jobs are the telling detail. They are still being cut back. October 1st, a new fiscal year starts. I expect to see October 1st find a large number of workers off the rolls. I'm basing that on my family members who work for various government agencies and on my readers who work for the government. I also, Dean Baker feel free to steal this, think people don't realize how bad it is for the government workers who have already been hit with fulough days and many are about to face, starting October 1st, a reduction in their pay rate. I'm not talking something temporary until a new budget is passed -- the way the California governor is attempting to do. I'm talking about a permanent reduction in their wages. Many municipal employees, for example, are writing me about the fact that come October 1st, they will have a 5% reduction in their rate of pay. And for many of those, that's on top of the furlough days. So, my best guess, we're not out of The Great Recession yet.

Jim: One question. Could you have stood to lose $150?

Trina: Yeah. I mean, I've blogged on this before, we're better off than we've ever been. That's not because we have a huge amount coming in. It's because I'm used to having all eight of our children living at home. That's cooking for them and that's electric and water bills that reflect that number of people. Where we are now is that one of our sons lives at home with his daughter and he's got his own job. And we're better off now than ever before. We're not raising eight kids now, if that makes sense. So the same money can go a lot further. It's reduced our overhead, let me put it that way.

Jim: Steve McBeth e-mailed to say he's a new reader of Isaiah's comics and is having fun seeing the older ones at Isaiah's site as well. His question for Isaiah is, "Of all the events in the '00s, what do you think was the most important one?"

Isaiah: I'll go with the Iraq War. I'm sure some would say 9-11 but I'd go with the Iraq War. I think something seriously changed in our national make up with the start of this war and I think our eagerness to be blind to the fact that the war continues demonstrates further unpleasant truths about our character. If you were eleven-years-old when the illegal war started, you're now 18. That's a hell of a long war. And whenever it finally does end, there will be so much still going on. Whether it's the continued treatment of veterans or the continued needs of the Iraqi victims. The destruction doesn't end just because the US finally pulls out. And, radio note, as C.I. pointed out Friday, To The Point covers many changes in the VA on PTSD this Monday.

Dona: A reader wants to know from Marcia and Rebecca if they're through with their book writing at their sites?

Marcia: No. We just haven't had time. For reading, to be honest. We would like to continue but time's prevented it so far.

Rebecca: In fact, we've considered doing the Pat Benetar book just to be able to have a book posts -- the one we've already discussed here. Then again, there's a large, oversize book that we've been looking at here. Marcia?

Marcia: Right. I think we could do that. Friday, check our sites. Friday night. I think we're going to do that. It's an oversize book. I think it's like thirty dollars though. But we'll discuss it at our sites.

Jim: And still with Marcia and Rebecca, Kitty wonders when you two think the Gulf Disaster's going to end?

Rebecca: Not this month. I don't see it. I would guess it might slow down by the end of August. Slow down. I don't know when it will end.

Marcia: I'm in agreement with Rebecca. But one of the things we talk about on the phone is why does Barack think it ends in August? I mean, Rebecca and I are assuming he knows something we don't know. Or else he threw that date out to try to silence everyone. I don't know.

Jim: Okay and, on that note, we'll wrap up. This is a rush transcript.
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