Sunday, September 18, 2011


Jim: For this roundtable, the focus is Iraq and the online world. 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.


Jim (Con't): Let's start with an e-mail from a guy named Joe who wants to know what our problem with Digby is and insists we should be supporting her.

Kat: You mean like financially? Is she unable to meet her bills? That's a shame. It's a shame that you sell out and become a tool but still can't meet your bills.

Rebecca: We love Digby's story about what it's like to be a woman online. I've loved that story for years. Ever since C.I. and Ava wrote about it long, long before Digby did. But, hey, when you're unable to think for yourself, steal.

Ava: Also why would we want to visit that stupid site? She's a woman -- woopie-doo, who gives a damn? She's not a feminist. A feminist would never embrace Network -- Digby's site features an image of Network character Howard Beale. In the film, Faye Dunaway gives an award winning performance as Diana, yes. But the character's written in the most sexist terms. She's supposed to be the modern woman and is ridiculed and mocked for that by the screenwriter. Even her orgasm is a ridicule of women. And by "the modern woman," I mean a woman who works. How very sad that this is what the film really chooses to go to town on. I'm really sorry that some people are too stupid to grasp the meaning of the film Network but that's really not my problem and I would not now or ever go to a site promoting the film. Especially a site run by a woman. Talk about not getting the point.

C.I.: And just to pick up there -- and speak slowly so Ava can grab this -- just to pick up there, Howard Beale? Talk about missing the point. Howard Beale has a psychotic break at the beginning of the film. He is not a prophet. That point is repeatedly made. Nor is he someone to be followed. His whining that he's "mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore" but the mad as hell isn't over any of the pompous reasons he lists -- he's a network anchor, he's supposed to be pompous and out of touch which is why William Holden is the lead character of the film -- the reason he's mad as hell is because he's been fired by the network, given two weeks notice, that's when he goes on air and starts screaming he's mad as hell. His psychotic episode continues throughout the film. Howard Beale is a rather strange identification. And, as Ava pointed out, we're talking a highly sexist filmthat trashes women and plays into fear of and hatred towards them. It was not a progressive film. And we haven't even factored in that, starting at the mid-point, there's a huge anti-Arab bias brought into the film.

Betty: This is the woman who couldn't defend Hillary from sexist attacks in real time and acted as though they weren't taking place but gives a few general comments on the topic for a book on the 2008 election and we're supposed to consider her brave. In addition, Bob Somerby has well documented how that White woman is forever charging others with racism.

Jim: Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler which Betty and C.I. were noting early in the writing edition has moved over to Blogger/Blogspot. This is the new site of The Daily Howler. Betty, C.I. called out DC Blogger, of Corrente, attacking peace activists and, in it, she notes you --

Jess: Stop. Before you get to that, I'm putting in the transcript C.I. did of the video. The video, the action was trashed. I think we need to start there. If streaming is something you're able to do and that you're able to follow, you can watch the video here. Otherwise, here's C.I.'s transcript of the video.

Activist: Remember when Barack Obama was a candidate and he inspired so much hope for change by saying things like this?
Barack Obama October, 2007: If we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.
Screen shot of a check 'from' Barack Obama for payment of "Priceless" to be made to "Citizens of the World."
Activist: Congratulations Bank of America, Cambridge branch. We come in peace to let you know that you are the winners of a promotion -- a promotion being held by the president of these United States of America who said on the campaign trail --
Barack Obama: We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.
Activist: Today we are at the Bank of America taking this to the bank. Is there any manager available who's like to pose for a photo op? We just want to know who we should give this to --
Bank employee: Come upstairs, I'm the banking center manager. I'd be happy to take it for you. So take all the pictures you'd like.
Activist: Is the Bank of America not the place to redeem this check? Bring the troops and the money home. Who should I --
Bank employee: Sir, could you please stop disturbing our customers?
Activist: So you're not willing -- you're not willing to bring -- the customer here all have the same check in their hands.
Activist: We went to Bank of America and they could not cash this check. We'd could establish an account here at Citizens Bank, the poetry of that for this priceless amount paid to Citizens of the World, bring the troops hom and redirect money towards human and environmental needs and could I have some popcorn?
Woman's voice: Yes, you can.
Activist: Alright!
Bank employee2: We cannot have this.
Camera Operator: Yeah, yeah, we'll just be a minute.
Activist: So who should I give this check to? Who wants to bring the troops home and redirect that money towards human and environmental needs? Is there a local community bank we could go to?
Bank employee2: No, we cannot suggest anything. But you cannot stay in here.
Bank employee 1: Can you please? [He covers camera with his hand.]
Bank employee: We could not allow that in the branch.
Activist: We've been to several banks. We've been trying to make a deposit but now we realize that we need to make a withdrawal.
He signs the check on the back.
Activist: Listen the only reason I'm doing this today is because I know there are people out there who know, who feel in their bones that the representative democracy is not working the way it's supposed to. A majority of people want to tax the rich. A majority of the people want the wars to end bring those troops and those dollars home, spend them on environmental and human needs. That's not happening by who you vote for. So that's why I'm trying to redeem Barack Obama's promise and take it to the bank. Now imagine, just think, if one person a day did that, they would just think that that person was crazy and they would ignore him. Imagine if two people a day did that, they might think that they were lovers on a lark and they would have a little laugh. Imagine three -- no, imagine 50 people a day walking to a bank with that check and trying to withdraw all those troops based on Barack Obama, they might think it's a movement. That's what it is. The homecoming October 2011 movement Bring The Troops Home, bring the dollar home, spend it on human needs. Take care of the poor, tax the rich. All you have to do to join me is send me your e-mail [at TheHomecoming], join me in Freedom Plaza starting October 6th for the protests that will not go home, for the protests that will not go away

Jess (Con't): As C.I. notes, "The video is both prompoting the October 2011 actions in DC and it's putting the war out there." Now that's what DC Blogger attacked. And it is a she. Her attack on the peace activists is a 10 sentence attack. Along with the headling, "Annoying white activists," she uses two sentences to emphasize that they're supposedly stupid due to their race. Two comments attack them. A third one offers some input that can be read several ways. Jim.

Jim: And as C.I. pointed out, it's really sad and telling that someone would form judgments based upon race at this late date. Let me quote from that section:

Were that to happen, they might realize how stupid they looked slamming people because of their skin color. [And before someone e-mails that Betty, Stan or Marcia did it -- Ann or Cedric are more likely to use that technique in roundtables at Third than at their own sites due to what they cover at their sites -- when they call out a White person and make a note of the skin color, it is because that White person has decided they know more about African-Americans than, in fact, African-Americans do. That's the point of Betty, Stan and Marcia calling those people out. It's not "They're white!" It's "that fool is saying this is what it's like to be Black and that fool is White and we don't anyone to speak for us, we can speak for ourselves thank you very much."]

Jim (Con't): So, Betty, agree, disagree?

Betty: I agree 100%. If someone writes, "Barack's jobs 'plan' is wonderful" and the writer's White, I'm not running to my website and typing, "Stupid White person!" C.I.'s correct. If a White person wants to 'explain' Black people or to Black people, I will call them out. There are more than enough of us to speak for ourselves, thank you very much.

Marcia: And I'll say the word: Cracker. I do try to avoid that at my site now because it makes some White readers uncomfortable as in -- is she calling us that? No, I'm referring to White people who do what Betty's talking about, what C.I. wrote about. I don't need White people telling me what it's like to be Black. And I really wish they'd find something else to write about and stop trying to speak for us. It strikes me as racist.

Jim: Okay, give me an example of that.

Marcia: Gladly. In The Progressive, Naomi Klein gave that stupid and racist interview to Matthew Rothschild where she took it upon herself to tell you what a group of Black men were thinking on election night. Though just across the street from them, she never bothered to ask them what they were thinking. She just 'knew,' the way some White people, with their sense of entitlement, seem to think they 'know' everything. Why doesn't she speak for herself and stop trying to put voices into the mouths of Black men -- her voice into the mouth of Black men? Of course, it's equally true that she spoke to Rotschild for his radio program and on that and in the pages of The Progressive, the most likely way you will hear a Black voice is second hand since Matthew appears unable or unwilling to speak to Black people.

Jim: Now some people might say, "What's the problem? She's just speaking."

Stan: She's reducing Black people to props. She's making puppets out of them. They were just across the street. She could have walked over and said, "Hey, I'm Naomi Klein, best selling author. I write a column that runs in The Nation and The Guardian and I'd like to ask you a few questions." She didn't do that. But still chose to speak 'for them'? It's appalling and patronizing. But how much more belittling is it to speak for them when you refused to SPEAK TO THEM?

Ann: And speaking to them might not have allowed her to put forth her theory about what they really thought. And this isn't a new problem. Elaine and C.I. can go historical and tell you about that. The movements of the sixties and early seventies are about people stepping up and saying, "We'll speak for ourselves, thank you." Lesbians and gays, feminists, Native Americans, Chicanos, Blacks, go down the list. And as various movements sprung up and people came forward to speak for themselves. That's what so irritating about Tim Wise. In the 60s, he would have been told shut your ass because White Tim Wise has declared himself an expert on what it means to be Black. And what it means when a White person is an 'expert' on being Black is that the limited time and space any of these left radio programs or web and print outlets actually devote to issues of color are being taken up by a White man. He needs to be told to shut the hell up. He needs to be told he is not an expert on Blackness and we really don't care for his crap. Now let me take DC Blogger's post to the issue of Iraq. There is no Iraq coverage at Corrente. So how very telling that when the Iraq War is finally mentioned, it's so DC Blogger can attack an activist against the wars.

Cedric: Yeah, I'm going to have to agree. And I didn't care for the blogging what Al Jazeera was reporting on Egypt to begin with. If you can't cover the wars your own country is engaged in, don't go foreign issues on something else. It makes you look immature and unable to address reality, it makes it appear you are hopping on trends for the sake of hopping on trends.

Trina: And Iraq really is absent from most websites online. If you want to know what's happening in Iraq, there are a number of right wing sites you can follow, a number of sites run by veterans that are centrist or right wing. But if you want a left view the only place is The Common Ills. That stupid little blogger Joel -- who I won't promote, either his last name or his website -- is stupid and is praised by Thomas E. Ricks which demonstrates that he's got nothing to say as far as the left is concerned.

Elaine: Let me pipe in again. That blogger Trina's talking about? He can't read Arabic. All of his news sources are in English. That severely limits his ability to understand what is going on in Iraq. Let me provide one example. Aswat al-Iraq is in English and that blogger, who I'll call Thomas E. Ricks' boyfriend, cites Aswat al-Iraq frequently. But when rumors broke last week that a secret agreement had already been signed by the US and Iraq, that wasn't coverred by Aswat al-Iraq. In fact, it was 24 hours later when they covered it and only because the US Embassy in Baghdad had issued a denial. Now C.I. had covered it a day before Aswat al-Iraq and that's a result of being able to read Arabic. Rebecca, I'm tossing to you, you know why.

Rebecca: Oh, okay. Yeah, Elaine and I were talking about this. There are so many things that C.I. doesn't cover at The Common Ills on Iraq. For instance, there was a grade fixing scandal last week. And I know about this because C.I. does a presentation on Friday nights to Trina and Mike's Iraq Study Group on some major issue and then comes back for a 'things no one covered including me' bit that lasts about ten minutes. And the grade fixing scandal wasn't covered. C.I. noted that, in August, it turnedo ut that standardized testing was being rigged in Iraq as well. She ignored that because time is limited and, in July, she'd already called out the claims of literacy increasing in the midst of war. I mean that's amazing that the lie got told to begin with. Think about that. Iraq is a war torn country. Every other month it seems some group has members refusing to send their children to school because of some threat. It's a very young population as well. And the growth industry in Iraq is orphans. But somehow in spite of all of that the literacy rate is climbing? It made no sense. And her point, in August, was that (a) I'd already covered it before this scandal emerged and (b) to cover it now would be a "See, I told you so!" and there were far more important things to cover than that.

Jim: I'm not at those meetings, in Boston, I'm out here in California. Give me an example, C.I., of a story you skipped recently?

C.I.: Friday's snapshot addresses the housing issues -- corruption -- and how the prices are going up and who's going to buy them. Today Al Mada has a story -- Dallas, I'll get you the link -- which continues the housing issue. It's an important story but I'm trying to figure out how do we cover it, one article, when we've already addressed the topic at length?

Jim: And Dallas does all of our links in the roundtable. He does not speak Arabic. Which is why C.I. just explained she'll get the link and pass it on to Dallas. Al Mada is an Iraqi news outlet which is in Arabic.

Dona: There are also human interest reports in the Iraqi media. I've talked to C.I. about that before and since we're talking media, C.I. talk about that a little bit.

C.I.: The big thing, feature writing wise, these days appears to be Iraqi women as subjects. And sometimes I do work it in. Sometimes I don't. For example -- let me know if links are needed for any of this, Dar Addustour has been running an article on women drivers' for some time. This even after their own columnists had, I thought, exhausted the topic. That's one we skip because Iraq has always had women drivers. It's not Afghanistan and that's always my concern because people confuse the two wars. Sloppy commentary is claiming that the Iraq War was sold on gender equality and freedom. It was not. That was part of the Afghanistan War roll out. Iraqi women have actually lost rights as a result of the Iraq War. And so a piece on driving is going to require a lot of explanation in a snapshot, a lot of, "Now women were driving in Iraq before the war started and in fact" blah blah blah. Al Rafidayn, to offer another feature article topic, did a piece on Madonna this month that was huge -- in terms of being read -- for almost two weeks. It was one of the most read arts articles at Al Rafidayn. And I seriously considered including that because how does Madonna go over in Iraq? That's interesting to me due to all of the things Madonna represents. And the article was about her buying lodgings for her boyfriend's family.

Dona: I'm interested in that article, give me an overview.

C.I.: Okay, it was about Madonna purchasing a home in France, the south of France if I remember the article correctly, for the mother of her boyfriend. The article noted she practices the Kabala and referred to it as the "Jewish Kabala" and it noted that her boyfriend fell into a "boy toy" -- term was used in the article -- pattern she already had. I believe it said her boyfriend was 28 years younger than her. That's all based on the article. I have no idea -- or honestly interest -- in whom Madonna's dating these days. If the article misrepresented her relationship with the man, I wouldn't know.

Dona: Who was the man?

C.I.: Brahim something. The article noted he was of Algerian descent.

Dona: Brahim Zaibat. Yes, that's who she's supposed to be dating.

Jim: And as the US media covers Iraq less and less, I'm guessing you try to focus on the bigger issues coming out of Iraq?

C.I.: I try. And it's also true that there are reports I read in Arabic and I think, "If I amplify this at The Common Ills will it get picked up?" And sometimes it might and sometimes it might not. But, for example, there's several province wars -- battles between Nouri and the provincial governments -- that are going on currently and it's always an issue we could return to if the national government out of Baghdad, Nouri's government, ever had any stability. Which it doesn't. Now there's a continued move in Basra to set up a government similar to the KRG. If anything develops on that long running story, I always try to work it in if there's time and space. Sometimes there's not.

Jim: Repeatedly last week, C.I. charted something the US media turned a blind eye to and I think Ruth captured it very well in her Friday night post "Iraq's disinegrating government." Talk about that, Ruth.

Ruth: Well prior to last week, there were aleady problems and I'm thinking about it and grasping that two weeks ago the US outlets were silent on those problems as well. I did not realize that until right now. Two weeks ago, the Kurds and Nouri al-Maliki began having public problems. The Kurds went public with their desire for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented and, two weeks ago, they even threatened to publish the Erbil Agreement.

Jim: I'm stopping you for a moment to bring in Mike. Mike, explain the Erbil Agreement.

Mike: Okay. March 2010, Iraq held elections for Parliament. Nouri created Political Stalemate I. It started with his hating the results -- his group, State of Law, came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraiqya. And Nouri challenged the results and stomped his feet and even after Allawi's group still came out ahead, Nouri refused to allow Allawi what the Constitution mandated, first crack at forming a government. This stalemate lasts months and months and months. Eight months later, November 2010, the leaders of the political blocs and the US come up with the Erbil Agreement -- called the Erbil Agreement because the meeting where they all signed off on it took place in Erbil. This agreement allows Nouri to remain prime minister, it allows Jalal Talabani to remain president of Iraq and it is supposed to create a new and independent commission on security issues which will be headed by Ayad Allawi. Now there are other agreements as well including that one Shi'ite group gets to retain their post of vice president, that Iraqiya members forced out of the elections with false accusations that they were Ba'athists had their names cleared, etc. After all sign off on it, the Parliament convenes and puts through Jalal as president and Nouri is prime minister-designate.

Wally: But they fudge that.

Mike: Right. As C.I.'s pointed out before, they fudge it and wait like 15 more days to declare Nouri prime minister-designate officially because once declared the candidate has exactly 30 days to propose a Cabinet and get it approved by Parliament. If the candidate can't do that, someone else is supposed to become prime minister-designate. That wasn't followed, by the way. So Nouri gets what he wants and trashes the Erbil Agreement. And that starts Political Stalemate II. Which is now nine months long.

Wally: And the understanding was that Article 140 would be followed, that's Article 140 of the Constitution. Nouri scheduled the census for October 2010 and then delayed it to December 2010. After he is named prime minister-designate, he cancels it at the end of November 2010. It's never been re-scheduled. And Article 140 of the Constitution requires a census and referendum to be held on the issue of oil rich and disputed Kirkuk which both the central government out of Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government lay claim to. That census and referendum were supposed to have taken place by the end of 2007 but Nouri ignored the Constitution during his first term as prime minister.

Jim: Alright, thank you, Mike and Wally. Ruth, you were saying the KRG was threatening to make public the agreement and they were demanding that it be honored. Anything else?

Ruth: They oppose Nouri al-Maliki's proposed oil and gas bill.

Jim: And what has this led to?

Ruth: Calls that they are going to join others in a no-confidence vote.

Jim: Okay, now I'm going to Elaine because she dated a British member of Parliament for a number of years so we'll call her our expert on parliaments. Elaine, tell us what a no confidence vote means?

Elaine: It would mean Nouri was out of office. He's challanged. Now he can try to campaign to retain the post, but there will be new elections held. Now the Parliamentary process in England and the one in Iraq may or may not be similar but the elections, I believe -- C.I., correct me if I'm wrong, would be within Parliament and this would not require printing of ballots and setting up voting stations all over Iraq as a -- a general election would.

C.I.: Elaine's correct. And that is the point that Ayad Allawi was attempting to explain in last week's now infamous interview. Back to Ruth.

Jim: One second. That interview is covered in C.I.'s Tuesday snapshot and a Saturday entry. I'm putting that in because I'm sure we'll do a link to the interview itself but that is in Arabic. So for English, see those two pieces by C.I. Now back to Ruth.

Ruth: So the Kurds and Iraqiya are talking about a no-confidence vote. At one point, there was support from Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc for that, support reported, but they did a push back on that so who knows? Nouri al-Maliki declared Ayad Allawi, after the interview was published, to not be fit to be in the government. Others ignored the outburts from Mr. al-Maliki as evidenced by the fact that Jalal Talabani met with Mr. Allawi even after the Nouri al-Maliki's outburst. I would say things are very tense at this point and I would argue that a functioning US press would be reporting on all of this. There are many more details that C.I.'s covered, but that is an overview. Seems like a pretty important story to me which is why I wrote what I wrote.

Jim: Alright. Isaiah hasn't spoken according to Dona's list. Ty hasn't either but we worry more about the guests than about Third proper. In other words, if Ty wants to speak up, he will. Do you want to?

Ty: Yeah, let me bring Isaiah in because there were e-mails about him. You were not doing a comic on Sunday, last Sunday, Isaiah, and you were going to do a comic at some point during the week last week. You never did. A number of people are confused and e-mailing this site about it.

Isaiah: Okay. Well I never did a comic because the week escaped me. On Tuesday, I had time, Tuesday night, and I thought about it but I was explaining it to a friend and he told me that Jon Stewart had done that on The Daily Show. I'm not going to do the same thing someone else is doing. So I was hoping to do one later in the week but then time ran out. I didn't do a comic on Sunday because it was 9-11. I didn't want to do a 9-11 comic. I was also aware that, regardless of the theme of the comic, due to the date people would be looking to see if there was some secret or hidden 9-11 message to it.

Ty: Do you have a comic for tonight is the big question in e-mails?

Isaiah: I will have a comic up tonight even if it's the worst I've ever done, I give you my word.

Ty: Okay.

Jim: There were other e-mails I wanted to get to but Dona's done the wrap up sign so just quickly. It was pointed out that we posted a video with no explanation and that was wrong by C.I.'s standards in Friday's snapshot. That is correct. And after it went up here, the next day C.I. asked me what the hell I was thinking? C.I. didn't participate in that. It was a 'short feature' we pulled together quickly while finishing up the edition. I believe that was me and me alone on that. But, yes, it is not fair to readers who need closed captioning or are using computers or operating systems or providers that don't allow for streaming. I apologize for that. Second, there were a few e-mails -- Actually, no. Dona's saying "wrap it up." This is a rush transcript.
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