Sunday, April 10, 2011


Jim: It's roundtable time. We haven't done one in a few weeks and we're hearing about that in e-mails. Our e-mail address is Participating in this roundtable 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. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't): Lorne e-mailed wanting to know why does it take so long to turn out an edition. "I could easily write six articles in a series of hours," he insists. Jess and Dona?

Jess: First, we have to cover Iraq. Now more than ever. Go to The Nation and you won't find Iraq. Go to The Progressive and it's the same thing. What the Iraq War story will be each edition, we don't know. Often we hold that for the last thing we write which is how it is so often the editorial. In terms of other things, we try really hard not to repeat ourselves. So we look for different takes and different ways to cover things. That's what we're going for. If we just wanted to write an opinion column that hit the same notes over and over, we could be The Nation magazine. And none of us want to read that or force others too.

Dona: It's also true, Lorne, that we're group writing and that has a back and forth process to it. Even in discussing the potential stories, there's a back and forth to it. What happens most of the time is we make a list of 10 pieces to do for the edition. That's out of all the suggestions. Let me use Stan as an example. He wanted us to do a Netflix piece for weeks. And everyone supported him on that. So it made the board repeatedly week after week. But it didn't get done, week after week. Why? Because after it makes the board of ten topics we think could make good stories for the week, we then go through and rank them in terms of the order we will work on them in. A piece that's short or might be easy to write will get ranked higher on the list. So we'll work on it first. And, in Stan's case, his idea made the list for six weeks in a row before it was moved up high enough on the order list that we could get to it. Jess?

Jess: And we work on many pieces that never make it hear. We used to have a print edition for our friends when we were all in college back in New York. We continued that after we all relocated out here except for Ty's boyfriend. But he's graduated and come out here and now we just do the online. But when we did the print version, everything went in there, no matter how awful. What goes up here is the best of what we managed. That may not be all that great. Seriously. Last week, we wanted to be done quickly and were tired -- we're tired right now -- and Dona was insistent that we have (a) short pieces and (b) pieces different than the last few weeks because readers wanted a laugh or two.

Jim: Alright. Thank you for that. Ty?

Ty: A man whose initials are BH e-mailed wanting to know about writing a piece for this site? Write your piece and e-mail it. If we think our readers would be interested, we'll repost it. But we're not doing corporate advertising and that's why we are not privately replying to any e-mail like BH's. We get them all the time. I made the mistake of replying to one, saying something like, "Sure, if it's on topic, we'd love to have it." It was not on topic, it was advertising copy for an airline. The guy began e-mailing constantly and trying to guilt me with, "You said it would run!" No, I didn't. But we're not in the mood for that nonsense. We're also down on e-mails here in terms of reading because it's Jim and me right now. Dona's pregnant and is taking some time off from the e-mails. So we're not going to chase you down in e-mails. You want to write something, write it, send it.

Dona: And on the e-mails, I'm taking time off. We have many regular readers who e-mail to share and I enjoy those very much and enjoy the exchanges I have with so many. But there are also people who just e-mail to be full of crap. People who think the US needs to be more in wars or think that the social net is 'babying' America or whatever else. And then there are the people e-mailing e-mails filled with hate aimed at some group. And it's those "but" e-mails I've listed that I'm just not in the mood for. I took two weeks off and went to my mother's except for briefly being in DC. Those two weeks were great and I realized just how much I needed a break from the e-mails. I'll be back on e-mails before I give birth but I'm taking some time off now.

Jim: Okay, the government avoided a shutdown. Marcia, give us the basics as you did in your posts "Who gets the blame" and "Shutdown?" last week.

Marcia: The shutdown loomed over this year's budget. The Congress did not pass a budget in 2010, as they should have. 2011 began with no budget. And it was worse than that because this is Fiscal Year budget and the Fiscal year is October 1st through September 30th. That means this budget should have been passed before October 1, 2010.

Jim: And you argue Barack Obama and the Democrats would have been blamed if the shutdown had taken place.

Marcia: Right. Because it should have been passed before October 1, 2010. Until January 2011, Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House. If there was a shutdown, it was going to be very difficult to pin the blame on the Republicans. Let's say the Republicans dug in, dragged their feet and refused to budge -- and many would argue that's what happened. Today's reality doesn't excuse the fact that the Fiscal Budget should have been passed in 2010.

Jim: Rebecca, you did p.r. Your take on Marcia's statement?

Rebecca: Well the Democrats could have attempted to fight the reality Marcia's providing -- and Marcia is factual. But Democrats could have attempted to fight it and maybe might have. You never know who the media's going to side with. But if everyone stuck to the facts, the Democrats would have come off as the ones to blame. Efforts to say, "It's the Republican's fault!" would have come off like so much whining and like the little kid who refuses to take responsibility for their actions.

Jim: So does that mean Barack was right to cave in to demands from Republicans?

Ruth: No. That is not what Rebecca or Marcia are arguing. I suppose, yes, you could say, "This weekend, Mr. Obama had no choice." But there is also the fact that it never should have come to this. By his own inability to lead, by his party's own actions, this weekend came about. But if they had been doing their job, they would have passed the budget, as Marcia said, last year.

Jim: On the budget, let's talk about the economy. Trina, does Barack have a clue?

Trina: Worse than having no clue, he has no leadership on his team. Elizabeth Warren has been turned into a hero -- albeit one with no real powers. And it says quite a lot about the 'Democratic' president that some on the left have to really reach to turn Warren into a liberal hero. At best, she's competent and has done her previous job. That won't change the fact that she's a Republican. Why do we never get left ideas in government when the people tend to favor them -- at least in the abstract? Part of the reason might go to the fact that when Democrats occupy the White House, they're too busy staffing up with Republicans.

Jim: What is Warren, an economic guru, famous for?

Trina: Nothing. She used to blog at Joshua Micah Marshall's site so a lot of whores got on board with Warren. A government employee, she asked questions but I've yet to read of some great stand up moment in her career. What I am aware of is that if people studied what she had to say about TARP, I think they'd be far less impressed with her than the hype indicates they should. Her words on that, specifically on the financial industry, were pleasing -- if you were the financial industry and if you were a Republican. But I've yet to grasp how you can twist them around and argue those remarks are compatible with government oversight. There are moments in her writing where she's remarkably Ayn Rand-like and that would explain her longterm relationship with Alan Greenberg which, despite revisionary tactics on the likes of Josh Marshall, did not have the two at each other's throats. The two were very cozy for very many years. As someone used to having Warren in my own local media for years before she became a 'name,' I will allow she's quite good at stating the obvious. If a robbery took place and Warren witnessed it, I'm sure she could give testimony that would convey what happened. But for a lot of us in the Boston area who knew of Warren well before she became a lefty flavor, we're also wonder why she didn't pick up the phone while the robbery was in progress and call 9-11?

C.I.: I want to jump in, if I can.

Jim: Sure.

C.I.: Trina's speaking the truth but I know it will shock many readers who've been lied to. So I want to be very clear that I agree with what Trina's saying. And to back up Trina's analogy, I was reminded of Warren's media tour where she repeatedly said, of TARP, that we might never know where all the money went. And the obvious question to that statement, never asked, is: Who was in charge of oversight? That would be Elizabeth Warren. November 2008, she was made the chair of the TARP oversight committee. About a month and five days, in fact, after TARP was created. So if there are problems finding the money, maybe those are problems Warren needs to cop to. And to go to the analogy Trina was offering, yeah, Warren tells us a robbery took place. But why wasn't she telling us that when the robbery was going down. Again, her job was oversight.

Jim: Okay and we're going to Ava now.

Ava: Thanks. The biggest reason that there's been so much support for Warren has been that Republicans attacked her. And for that reason, we're all supposed -- on the left, we're all supposed to embrace her and hug her and make her one of us. She's not one of us. Her ideas that are applauded are the most basic common sense ones that really show nothing political or progressive. She's tossing out bromides that could have been tossed out by Judge Hardy in the old Andy Hardy movies. She's a right winger who admits there are a few problems with the economy. And for that we're supposed to stand and applaud. She's yet to propose anything that seriously helps Americans nor has she ever offered anything remotely left-wing. So why she's a hero or why a Democratic administration should have appointed her to anything is beyond me.

Trina: And I just want to thank Ava and C.I. for backing me up. I'm not afraid to go out on the limb but I do appreaciate their comments. One of my biggest disappointments has been the refusual of the radical press -- as opposed to the Democratic press or even the MSM -- to offer a valid critique of Warren. There's a lot being made over the way Paul Ryan was so easily accepted by some pundits -- a small number -- but Warren was waived through by the same crowd. There's nothing remotely left wing about her and she exists to protect the financial institutions. Even in her current post, that's still true. So I'd love to see the radical press offer a true critique of her.

Jim: Third Estate Sunday Review, slaughtering sacred cows since 2005. Okay, Mike, you've been noting the wars a great deal at your site of late. Talk about the drone war.

Mike: Okay. Drones are aircraft flown by remote control. Like a robot plane. And the US government uses them for surveillance and for killing. This took place under Bully Boy Bush but, as with everything else, Barack has increased it.

Kat: Jumping in, real quick. It's as though Barack can't stop singing "Anything You Can Do." Which is ironic or karmic considering it's from the Broadway show Annie Get Your Gun and, in April of 2008, Barack attacked Hillary Clinton with sarcastic remarks about Annie Oakley.

Mike: What a prince. So the weaponized drones are flying over the country Pakistan which shares a border with Afghanistan. The drones allow, for example, someone in the military stationed in Texas or Nevada to push a button and kill people in Pakistan. At last the weaponry exists that hours and hours of video game training has created the comfort for.

Wally: And it would be interesting to know if the military mirrored the gaming industry or if some sort of planning took place ahead of time. But it does turn the killing into a game, the drone wars. And it further removes the one doing the killing from the scene of the actual killing. Although the drone wars get very little attention in the media here -- other than "killed a terrorist" -- they get more attention from the foreign press. For example, last month BBC News reported on the outrage among tribal leaders in Pakistan after 40 people were killed in an attack. They issued a statement and it included, "We are a people who wait 100 years to exact revenge. We never forgive our enemy."

Mike: So we're creating a lot of longterm enemies that, decades from now, we'll be asking, "Why do they hate us?"

Kat: And the New American Foundation's research says that one out of every three killed is a civilian.

Wally: And we shouldn't forget the fact that judge and jury really isn't a role that's supposed to be played by the president. These are executions that are taking place.

Jim: They are. And from the drone war to the Iraq War. First off, Ava, C.I. and Ann had success last Friday. They repeatedly called out Diane Rehm for ignoring Iraq ten Fridays in a row on her so-called 'international hour' and last Friday she finally found Iraq. She's never addressed Camp Ashraf, of course, so we'll do that here. Cedric.

Cedric: When the US installed leader of Iran was ousted back when Jimmy Carter was president, there were a number of groups competing for the heart of Iran. One group was a group of Socialists. They lost out. So they left the country and some of them went to Iraq where Saddam Hussein allowed them to stay. Why? Because there were tensions between Iraq and Iran at that time. The US invaded in 2003. They asked the dissidents to disarm and promised protection. So the dissidents disarmed. And then, shortly after Bush left office, 2009, the US has an agreement with Nouri that these people, residents of Camp Ashraf, will be protected and he won't attack them. But July 28, 2009 the first attack takes place. Last week, an attack took place on Sunday and on Friday.

Betty: There's not a great deal of effort to report on the residents of Camp Ashraf in so-called 'independent' media. Free Speech Radio News did a significant report on the 2009 assault and they were the only left radio to do so. The Progressive has never covered Camp Ashraf and that's true of so many of our left magazines. Saturday, US humanitarian aid was not allowed into the camp -- allowed by Nouri al-Maliki's security forces. A few journalists were allowed in but they were not allowed to speak to the residents. DPA reports that the European Union is asking that "international observers" be allowed inside the camp.

Isaiah: And the group is loathed by Iran because in 1981 they took up arms in their struggle against the new Iranian government. They have been around since at least 1965 and were considered a terrorist organization by many countries and bodies. That appears to be changing. Their name is People's Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI) and there are about 3,400 of them. Friday, Amnesty International issued a statement:
The Iraqi authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into reports that Iraqi troops killed and injured residents of a camp for Iranian exiles north of Baghdad in an unprovoked attack, Amnesty International said today.
"Iraqi troops moved into the camp this morning and used excessive force against residents who tried to resist them, according to the information we have received," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"This is the latest of a series of violent actions that the Iraqi government has taken against the Camp Ashraf residents, whose continuing presence in Iraq they oppose."
Clashes broke out this morning after Iraqi security forces took up positions in the camp using armoured personnel carriers and, apparently, live fire against residents who tried to resist them, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. As yet, the number of casualties cannot be independently verified.
The camp in Diyala province around 60 km north of Baghdad is home to some 3,400 Iranian exiles and refugees, including members and supporters of the banned Iranian opposition group the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).
PMOI officials told Amnesty International that due to restrictions imposed by the Iraqi government, Camp Ashraf's medical facility does not have adequate medicines or equipment with which to deal with those reported by the PMOI to have been injured in today's clashes.
"If true, this is very worrying," said Malcolm Smart. "Whether they like it or not, the Iraqi authorities are responsible for the security and well-being of Camp Ashraf's residents and this includes providing access to adequate and immediate medical treatment when needed."
Video clips of the clashes that the PMOI has uploaded to YouTube appear to show Iraqi soldiers firing indiscriminately into the crowds and using vehicles to try and run others down.
An Iraqi government spokesman said Camp Ashraf residents threw rocks at security forces in what he termed a "riot." Troops did not open fire, he said, but force was used to push residents back inside the camp.
Since the US ceded control of Camp Ashraf to Iraqi security forces in mid-2009, the PMOI has told Amnesty International that the constant military presence has made it difficult to access medical treatment inside and outside the camp.
An Iraqi security committee controls the influx of medical supplies into the camp and decides who can travel outside the camp for specialist treatment.
In July 2009 the Iraqi government stated that it had set up an investigation into the killing of six Iranian exiles during an Iraqi security force raid on the Camp Ashraf. The findings of this investigation have yet to be made public and no members of the security forces are known to have been held to account fir the killings.

Read More

Iraq: Iranian opposition group supporters must not be forcibly evicted, (Press release, 11 December 2009)

Iraq: Detainees held incommunicado risk torture, (Urgent action, 6 October 2009)

Jim: Thank you, Isaiah. We still haven't heard from Elaine, Ann and Stan. Ann, you're now tracking the gender of the guests on NPR's Diane Rehm Show. There was a curious reaction to that.

Ann: Last week, I was semi-banned. Well, I was banned. I have just gotten on FaceBook and I link to a few things including my own post. Usually with something like "My latest post went up last night." The Diane Rehm Show complained on me to FaceBook and said I was "abusive" and FaceBook would not let me or anyone else link to my site as a result. If you tried to, you were informed you couldn't because my site had been judged to be "abusive." I went through hell clearing this up with FaceBook. But they had to fix it because my noting that diane has only 1 woman and five men isn't abuse. But it goes to how scared they are of criticism at that lousy show that they would campaign and try to prevent links to my Blogspot site on FaceBook. And let me announce right now, Ava, C.I. and I will be writing an article for this site using the numbers on the Diane Rehm Show. And we'll be hitting on it very hard because we're not going to take their efforts at censorship.

Jim: Thank you. And sorry about the temporary banning. That goes to desperation tactics on Diane Rehm and her crew. The easiest way, it should be noted, to silence Ann was not try to get her banned. It was to book as many women as you do men.

Dona: And how telling that instead of grabbing that and running with it, The Diane Rehm Show saw the 'answer' instead as insisting Ann was "abusive."

Jim: Very true. Okay, I asked Elaine to try to find something peace related that wasn't everywhere. Any luck?

Elaine: Oskar Castro is the new executive director of Military Families Speak Out. He's previously worked with the National Youth and Militarism Program of the American Friends Service Committee.

Jim: And what's the reaction?

Elaine: Honestly? There's a lot of confusion right now. Is he related to someone in the military? His work's been known for years and none of us can recall him sharing such a story. He did a lot of anti-recruitment work and that would have been the perfect time to say, "Hey, my brother" or "My sister" -- It never happened. If there's no relation, a number of people are confused as to why he's been made executive director. If there is a relation, please publicize it.

Jim: We'll certainly and gladly note it here. What aren't you telling us, Elaine?

Elaine: I think it was a mistake. I think it's going to discredit the organization. I think he's taking positions that will ultimately hurt the organization.

Jim: Such as?

C.I.: Let me jump in again. Elaine did her research. I can think of several things that she could be protecting but I'm going to guess it has to do with 9-11. His comments are well known on 9-11 and similar to ones that caused a controversy for the White House not all that long ago. Am I right?

Elaine: The 9-11 comments are all over. I was rather surprised that this didn't give Military Families Speak Out pause.

Jim: So you don't believe the 9-11 Truth Movement?

Elaine: I take no position on 9-11 Truth other than to wish them well. But I do take a position on credibility and people who lead organizations need to be seen as credible. I doubt Military Families Speak Out will be seen as credible by much of the press with him as their executive director when the right wing splashes this around and they're not prepared to respond.

C.I.: Give me just a second on the laptop. Okay, this is from his Facebook page: "I believe: in extra-terrestrials, time travel, that women are the closest thing to God on the planet because of the divine ability to create/gestate life and sustain life with the mommy elixir, that Sept 11th was a concoction of the US government or a shadow government or the Illuminati, or even reptilian aliens from some other sun who are disguised to look like us… that all people come from Africa, that traditional Africans worshiped ONE god and this god had a variety of personalities, that underground hip-hop can save the world, and that music is the language of the spirit." And I'm doing a screen snap in case it is changed. This is his FaceBook page and it's got a quote from Joshua Key's book on it. That's probably not what an executive director of an organization wanting to be seen as serious to the general press should have up on their FaceBook profile. I should note that it's not available to everyone --

Elaine: Good. Because I didn't see it.

C.I.: You didn't log in though.

Elaine: No, I don't have an account.

C.I.: You spoke to Rosemary who called me. She said to check out Oskar's FaceBook page and when I told her I wasn't on FaceBook and didn't intend to sign up, she gave me her log in. If you log into FaceBook, you see more than if you're not logged in. And I'll state -- Elaine will agree, I know -- what we're talking about doesn't mean, "Fire Oskar!" It does mean that it is publicly out there and we were able to find it very quickly. So you can keep Oskar -- and I've heard him give great, motivating speeches -- but you better get out in front of it. You better have a statement which would either be "Military Families Speaks Out supports 9-11 Truth" or "Military Families Speak Out recognizes a lively democracy depends upon many views and we support the pursuit of the truth." That's all Oskar's asking for. But as his position becomes known, the right wing will toss this out there. So let's toss it out there now and let's see MFSO get out in front of this instead of being caught responding.


Jim: Ann's the first one of us to FaceBook. Stan, what do you think?

Stan: Well I know there's more than what's been said in this roundtable. In terms of what he's posting and a few other things I know from Elaine, I'd say it's a huge mistake and wonder what Military Families Speak Out was thinking? I'd say that they made a real dumb move that will open them to ridicule and trivialize what they stand for.

Jim: Trivialize in what way?

Stan: When you're claiming that reptiles might be responsible for 9-11, you're a laughing stock to all but maybe 1 in every 10,000 people. Maybe 1 in every 100,000. You're not connecting with people and you're probably scaring a number of people who might otherwise be supporting you. If it's mean to be a joke, you should say so. But I do agree with C.I. -- and I'm sure Elaine -- that his 9-11 Truth isn't necessarily a problem if they, Military Families Speak Out, get out in front of it.

Jim: Very good. Okay, that's going to be it. This was a rush transcript.
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