Sunday, July 13, 2014

The grab bag roundtable

 Jim: It's roundtable time.  We're all face to face for a change so we're doing a roundtable.  Our e-mail address is And our topics for this roundtable are coming from your e-mails.   Participating in our 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): First off, Bert wants to know if anyone remembers Guantanamo?

Isaiah: I think everyone but Barack Obama remembers Guantanamo and that there are people held there, disappeared there.  Maybe even Barack remembers but, if that's the case, you can be sure that he hopes everyone's forgotten his promise to close it. I do get where Bert is coming from.  It's not a pressing topic today in many ways.  I'd argue that's not because time's being wasted on trivia but because there are so many important topics to cover.

Jim: Alright, Eileen wants to know why we aren't covering what's recently blown up in Gaza?

Rebecca: Why the f**k would we?  I'm the one who covers that topic in this community but I have no interest in it because I'm sick of  all the 'leaders'  rushing off to the topic of Gaza after, what, one piece on Iraq?  Not in the mood.  Iraq's in trouble that's where the focus should be.  But on the left we got the sigh of relief and, "Palestine!  Thank goodness we don't have to pretend to care about Iraq anymore."  This bulls**t is exactly why I don't give a f**k.  I am not the damn Red Cross. I can't go running after every disaster.  I'm also not silly putty.  Stop pulling me in a million and one directions.

Jim: You're serious, I can tell.

Rebecca: I am completely serious. This happens over and over.  The self-righteous return to the topic of Iraq for a brief second, they get everything wrong because they haven't paid attention and then they immediately drop the topic.  I'm sick of it.

Jim: Okay.  On the topic of Iraq, Denise wants to know if anyone has an opinion on the Kurds taking over two oil fields the Baghdad-based government had been running?

Trina: I'll jump in.  Thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has lost control repeatedly of cities, towns, weapons, oil fields, etc.  As I understand the statement the Kurds issued, it makes sense that someone needs to control the fields, to protect them.

Jess: Trina, I'm going to jump in just to read the statement into this roundtable.  This is what the Kurdistan Regional Government issued regarding the takeover:

Erbil, Kurdistan Region ( - This morning, members of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kirkuk Oil Protection Forces moved to secure the oil fields of Bai Hassan and the Makhmour area, after learning of orders by officials in the federal Ministry of Oil in Baghdad to sabotage the recent mutually-agreed pipeline infrastructure linking the Avana dome with the Khurmala field.
The nearby Bai Hassan field and the other fields located in Makhmour district are now safely under KRG management. The KRG expects production at these fields to continue normally. Staff at the North Oil Company that previously operated these fields have been informed that from tomorrow they will be expected to cooperate with KRG management. Those who do not want to do so can leave.
The new pipeline linking Khurmala with Avana was designed and constructed with the express purpose of facilitating export from the Makhmour, Avana and Kirkuk area fields through the KRG pipeline network to help increase revenues for Iraqis, at a time of great need and at a time when most of the Iraq-Turkey pipeline is under ISIS control.
The new infrastructure was built and paid for by the KRG, working in full cooperation with officials and engineers at North Oil Company. However, the KRG learned on Thursday that some officials in the federal Ministry of Oil gave orders to a number of NOC staff to cease their cooperation with the KRG and to dismantle or render inoperable the valves on the new pipeline.
The Avana and Makhmour fields have been unable to export since March because the main Iraq-Turkey pipeline has been damaged by terrorist attacks. The main Iraq pipeline lies mostly within territory recently surrendered by the federal government to ISIS.
Despite the inability to export and the halt to refining at Beiji, the Avana and Makhmour fields were producing about 110,000 barrels of oil per day and utilising the associated gas to help with the operation of the LPG bottling plant in Kirkuk.
But instead of using the new KRG pipeline infrastructure to export the produced oil, officials at the NOC were ordered by Baghdad to re-inject the oil back into a small, disused field in Kirkuk. This politically motivated decision risked causing great damage to the field in question with a permanent loss of most of the oil that has been re-injected. It has also deprived the people of Iraq of much-needed oil export revenue.
From now on, production at the new fields under KRG control will be used primarily to fill the shortage of refined products in the domestic market. This will ease the burden on ordinary citizens caused by the failure of the federal authorities to protect the country's vital oil infrastructure in the region.
The KRG will also claim its Constitutional share of oil revenues derived from these fields to make up for the huge financial deficit triggered by the illegal withholding of the KRG’s 17 percent share of the federal budget by Baghdad.
The KRG has been and always will be open to cooperation and coordination with Baghdad, according to the rights and responsibilities of the Regions as outlined under the Iraqi Constitution. The KRG still hopes that Baghdad climbs down from its policy of punitive political and economic sanctions against the citizens of Kurdistan.
This morning’s events have shown that the KRG is determined to protect and defend Iraq’s oil infrastructure whenever it is threatened by acts of terrorism or, as in this case, politically motivated sabotage.

Jim: Thanks, Jess.  So, Trina, you accept that explanation?

Trina: Surely.  Am I supposed to instead believe Nouri?  Nouri al-Maliki is a non-stop liar.  I don't know that the Kurds have entered the liar-liar-pants-on-fire stage.  So I'll take them at their word.

Jim: Any other thoughts -- from anyone -- on the Kurds?

Ann: I'm glad that they've shocked the US government by making clear that they're not waiting for orders.  The White House -- White Houses past and present -- have treated the Kurds as people who have no thoughts or dreams of their own but just wait to serve the American government.  Good for them.  And, as C.I.'s noted, this is about the new leadership for the Kurds, President Massoud Barzani who is not the weak willed Jalal Talabani.

Cedric: And I agree but I'd also add that Nouri accusing them -- the Kurds -- of harboring terrorists, that was a new low even for him.  And he had to know this would inflame an already tense situation but Nouri doesn't care.  He just doesn't care.  Supposedly, President Barack Obama outlines to him that any US help was conditioned upon a political solution for Iraq.  And yet, Nouri's spent week after week attacking other elements in Iraq.  He's done everything to prevent a political solution.  I wish Barack would publicly make it clear that Nouri's actions thus far are not just unhelpful but they are also destructive and putting at risk any US assistance.

Jim: That is true.  And Ty actually had a point on that when we were talking -- him and I -- mid-week.

Ty: By any standard, I was saying to Jim, Barack's non-defined plan is a failure.  By keeping things so vague, however, he's able to spin everything.  But this is a failure and Nouri should be held accountable.  I would hope to see this failure pointed out.

Jim: But Ty and I are both aware how much denial there is on the so-called left.  Morey e-mailed to ask "What's the magic number for troops Barack's sending to Iraq that makes people care?"  Anyone want to hazard a guess.

Elaine:  If one US service member dies in Iraq, that does the trick immediately.

Dona: I'd agree with that. And I wouldn't be surprised if that happened if we saw that Barack could be as crafty as Bully Boy Bush when it came to hiding coffins and preventing them from being photographed.

Wally: I wish I could disagree with Elaine -- both for what she said and what she didn't.  I think she chose her words intentionally in both cases -- meaning that unless a service member dies in Iraq, most will be willing to look the other way on Barack sending troops back in.  Did I read you wrong there?

Elaine: No, not at all.  I don't think it matters for most people.

Jim: Why?

Elaine: They don't want it to.  They don't want their world 'rocked' by reality. I have had patients -- veterans -- in the last few years who are disturbed by the fact that people in their own lives don't have any interest in issues like Iraq. They have returned to friends who sat out the world and whose days revolve around playing Halo and watching Adventure Time on Comedy Central.

Wally: And those aren't complaints about the culture at large.

Elaine: Exactly.  Those are complaints about specific people, usually close friends.

Wally: And as awful as everything else must be, to come back to the US and your best friend is basically a never-grow-up teenager who can't even try to have an adult conversation?  That must make people feel very lonely.

Jim: Muhammed wants to know if we thought, when we started this site, that Iraq would be a non-story by now?  He writes, "Surely, in 2005, you had to think 'a year or two and this is over'."

Ava: Hindsight's always tricky.  I can tell you, because it's up here in the archives in the summer of 2005, that a lot of us thought the Iraq War would be over by 2008 and C.I. didn't think that at all.  Again, it's in the archives. Prior to that moment, I had no idea what I thought, I really can't remember.  But I know at that moment my belief was, "Yes, it will be going on for many, many years to come."

Jim: Ruth question for you from Abe, "Coke or Pepsi?"

Ruth: I can drink both but if I am ordering or I am in the grocery store, I always pick Pepsi.  It has a sweeter taste, to me.  Did he say why he was asking?

Jim: Nope.  His subject line is "Question for Ruth" and then he writes: "Coke or Pepsi?  Best, Abe."  Darcy e-mails wanting to know why we don't weigh in on the immigration issue?

Ava: As a Latina, I'll grab thar. We have weighed in on this issue in the past.  Barack's 'plan' strikes me as nonsense that will go nowhere and so I'm not going to waste my time on it.  Effective legislation could be passed but not by Barack who is an idiot. You could let people earn citizenship immediately if you had a clue.  First off, "earn," not "give."  Use the proper language.  Second, "earn" means the rules are still in place they're just moving more quickly.  By that I mean, immigrants already in this country could earn citizenship by passing the history test all immigrants currently have to take.  This is how they earn it.  And that test is about making sure they understand the country they want to become a citizen of.  And most importantly, make English the language of the country.  That's not hurting anyone.  And it reassures opponents on this issue that they won't wake up in two or five years and find the whole country is speaking Spanish.  Note I did not giggle or laugh.  I'm not making fun of their fear.  They want to preserve their culture.  That's a natural inclination among immigrants and non-immigrants.  So just take that fear off the table as a compromise measure and reform happens quicker and with broad support.

Jim: And what would English being named the language of the US mean?

Ava: I would assume it would mean that business was done in English.  For 9-11 and hospitals, you'd need Spanish language speakers but you want to open a business in Palo Alto?  You're going to have to speak English and not just keep waiting for the Spanish speaking employee to wait on you.  You want to run a business in the US?  Well you need to be able to speak English.  That's really not asking a great deal.  If you don't speak English, you bring someone with you who does.  Bilingual pay is becoming an issue and it's ticking a lot of workers off.  I don't just mean the ones who don't speak a second language and don't get it.  This is a government workers' issue.  You've got a lot of people doing translations without getting bilingual pay -- sometimes there is a cap on how many people in your section can get the pay, sometimes you're supervisor is just too lazy to send you through the certification process, etc.  But just do away with it because unless it's an emergency situation, you need to be able to speak the language of the country.  And I'm sure there are people who will object big time to what I'm saying.  That's fine, they can.  But I'm not trying to create the most perfect scenario in the world.  I'm trying to get a real path to citizenship started for immigrants in need.  And the big block to this happening is fear that this takes place and suddenly the country changes who it is.  So something as minor as saying "English is the language of the land" could allow us to move forward on real immigration reform.

Jim: Alright.  Victor e-mailed, Kat, wanting to know how the year is shaping up musically?

Kat: I think it's been a strong year so far.  You've had major releases from Tori Amos and Ben Harper and Chrissie Hynde and Afghan Whigs.  There have been people taking real chances.  I honestly think 2013 sucked.  Already, I think 2014 is topping last year.

Jim: Kat, he also wants to know who your favorite male artist is?

Kat: Okay.  Hmm.  Ben Harper.  I listen to him more than any other man -- only Neil Young comes close.  I think Ben is operating right now -- and probably for the next five years -- at the height of his powers.  I think he's made tremendous artistic strides and he's going to make some more in the immediate future.  He's the male artist who excites me the most when I see he has a new album coming out.

Jim: Last week, we did our summer read edition and that led Louise to e-mail asking when Rebecca and Marcia plan to do their joint-book read for the summer?

Marcia: We're talking about maybe doing it this week.

Rebecca: In the past, we've scrambled.  So this year, we made our choice back in May.

Marcia: Which gave us plenty of time to read it and discuss it.  We only fear that it might not come off fresh since we're not rushing through a book and immediately writing.

Rebecca: So if this one is a bust, we'll go back to our old ways.

Jim: Louise asks that we consider doing a piece on a book of some type here.  She notes we haven't done one in some time.

Stan: Well we've done some last August and there was one we did around November or December.  Also, Ava and C.I. did "She sang so much, she wrote so little (Ava and C.I.)" last October.

Jim: That's true but Louise is far from the only reader we have asking for more on books so we'll try to work something in during the next few weeks.  And on that, we're going to have to wrap up because we are out of time.

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