Sunday, December 21, 2008


Jess: Roundtable time and we have a number of topics but first, who's participating? The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Jess, and Ava, 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, Wally of The Daily Jot, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends. Jim and Dona are off this weekend. Others were scheduled to be as well but a number of 'hot' topics for this feature resulted in that changing. Ty, for example, is participating in this feature at Betty's request. I'm going to toss to Betty for the first topic.


Betty: C.I.'s Iraq snapshots are always a wealth of information and Friday's was no exception. In it, a link was provided to an article by Ashley Smith and Eric Ruder in the US Socialist Worker. Because of what C.I. wrote and because it was Ruder, I clicked. We can go into why I wouldn't have bothered otherwise if anyone wants to. But the article is a report on United for Peace & Justice's recent meet-up for non-planning. Let me be clear that Ruder and Smith's report is distrubing. It's awful -- what they're reporting is awful. Their own reporting skills aren't awful, to be clear. And this is a topic we hope to do a feature on, maybe an editorial. But I wanted to pull out one disturbing section and roundtable it. I asked Ty to participate and confirmed with Cedric, Marcia and Stan that they would be because of the topic. I want to be sure I'm not trying to speak for Black America and so you've got a shot at three other Black voices in this roundtable. I'm going to zoom in on this section of the article:

UFPJ's leadership didn't respond to this call for unity, and instead proposed local actions on March 19 and a spring national mobilization in New York City on April 4. Asserting that the antiwar movement alone isn't capable of mobilizing sufficient forces and would risk alienating the Black community if it directly confronted Obama, the New York City march will have a slogan "Yes we can...End the war"--but will emphasize a broad range of issues, such as corporate crime on Wall Street, the financial crisis, health care and environmental justice, among other issues.

Betty (Con't): Now I have very strong feelings when I read that but I'll let anyone else jump in.

Marcia: I will. Bulls**t UPFJ. The "Black community" is not all on board with Baracka Obama. He can kiss my ass and that's been the case for the whole year. It's also true of many others. And how insulting is that crap? We -- African-Americans -- are so weak that if a president is bi-racial, BI-RACIAL you f**king idiots, us African-Americans get all trembly in the knees and wez just not able to be thinking. Save us, you wonderful Whiteys, save us! Oops. I'm sorry. Ty's participating for this feature so I shouldn't have jumped in. Ty?

Ty: I agree with what you said, Marcia. And let's get something else straight, 100% of African-Americans are not against the illegal war, and of those who are, not all of them would work with UPFJ to begin with. Those that would aren't going to be scared off by Barack being called out. How insulting, that really is insulting and UPFJ owes the African-American community an apology.

Cedric: Yes, they do. How dare they suggest that we're so childish that we can't handle criticism of a sitting president. My God, that's insulting. They're saying we're immature and child-like and must not be told Santa doesn't exist. Do you get how patronizing that is? It's disgusting. United for Peace and Justice owes the African-American community a big apology, a big one. That is so patronizing and reeks of White entitlement. It says, "Unlike us evolved White people, them darkies just can't handle criticism so we have to be careful." UPFJ just basically called us children and savages in the same breath.

Betty: Thank you! That was my attitude as well. I found this to be such an insult. They're meeting -- a predominatley White crowd -- and they're deciding -- they are deciding -- that Black people can't handle reality, that they have to curb criticism for the Black folk because "we just so soft and mushy brained, we'll go and get all confused. You know wez really juz be good fur picking cotton and beans. Only a few of us even be good enough for house slaves, Miss Leslie." This is enraged me when I read it. It was so insulting, it was so condescending and my blood was boiling. There's a poem by Maya Angelou I wanted to bring into this but I couldn't think because I was so mad.

C.I.: "Mean old Mother Goose, Lions on the loose"?

Betty: Yes!

C.I.: It's "Life Doesn't Frighten Me." Which section did you want specifically?

Betty: Frogs and snakes.

C.I.: Again, this is from Maya Angelou's "Life Doesn't Frighten Me:"

Don't show me frogs and snakes

And listen for my scream,

If' I'm afraid at all

It's only in my dreams.

Betty: Thank you. "Life doesn't frighten me at all, Not at all, Not at all." But Leslie Cagan missed that memo, I guess, and she grew up believing every pop-eyed, 'Oh, Lordy!' Steppin Fetchit stereotype of my race and thinks she can infantilize us and be applauded for it.

Cedric: It's insulting, it's just disgustingly insulting. And it goes a long way towards explaining why they still have so many problems with people of color. Do we want to talk about that? Ty, kind of touched on it.

Ty: I'll grab it. And thank you to Betty and C.I. because that poem -- as usual Maya Angelou said it and said it before most people were even thinking about it. Like Cedric said, I was referencing that a second ago -- but, you know what, I'm going to stop and I'll pick back up in a second. I'm stopping because Stan's not said a word. I know Marcia will jump in --

Marcia: You know I will! All on my own!

Ty: That's right. But Stan's the newest to roundtables, this is only his second one, so I'm going to shut up and toss to Stan.

Stan: Well, Betty called me Friday and she was really upset. She started off talking about another topic just to try to calm down. And after that, she brought up the article and the UPFJ attitude and I told her my thoughts on it, which are basically the points everyone else is making, and said I'd be taking part in the roundtable. Did we need all that backstory? No. Which is why it's better for me not to talk. But Ty was saying earlier that only a certain number, X, of African-Americans are opposed to the illegal war. It's a high percentage, no question, it was before the war started. But out of X, only a certain number, Z, will do more than gripe for two minutes a month. From Z, only a smaller number are willing to participate with UPFJ. So this idea that they're going to be scaring off African-Americans -- 1) We don't scare so easy. I think that's been established by everyone's remarks here. 2) The small percentage willing to engage with UPFJ isn't going to go running because Barack gets called out. And, in my area, it's a really silent percentage. UPFJ has a really bad image in my area. Sorry, I know it's Elaine's favorite group.

Elaine: Was. No need to apologize, Stan. But what is the image in your area of the organization?

Stan: They're just seen as posers. C.I. said in the snapshot yesterday that they took 2 years off and, if you know UPFJ in my area, that really is your attitude. You think they're worthless. The peace movement as a whole has fallen big in the African-American community.

Ty: In your area.

Stan: Thank you, in my area. I can't speak of the entire US. You've got the idiots of CODESTINK and their focus on "End the war with Iran!" --

Marcia: The one that never started.

Stan: Correct. And people laugh at them. They are ridiculed.

Cedric: And they should be. I mean, it's five or six years of CODESTINK and they're still all about the White woman? They have yet to elevate a woman of color to prominence? You've got Jodie Evans, I-Need-Attention-Benjamin, Diane Wilson, and just go down the list. All these White women. After five years, you'd think they'd have found one African-American they could put on the stage with them.

Betty: True that!

Stan: So that's CODESTINK. I may hurt some feelings with what I'm about to say --

Jess: Go for it. Speak your mind.

Stan: Well, IVAW seems to be a group that wants cheerleaders. I think that was always a danger. Sorry. I know a number here support them but that's their image. And I want to zoom in on one aspect. White people are thrilled by Barack pledging more war on Afghanistan. I'm not hearing that in my own community. I'm hearing the opposite. And, how this pertains to IVAW is that a lot of people were raising that issue when IVAW was cheerleading Barack. It was, "Hey, I thought they wanted to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?" They took a big hit on that in my African-American circle.

Rebecca: I appreciate that you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings but let me jump in and say that C.I.'s not going to be upset with you or argue with you. You're talking about your feelings. So if you want to talk some more about the cheerleading aspect, do so. You seemed to stop real quick on that point.

Stan: Okay. And, again, sorry if I'm offending anyone here. But it plays out like, "Come to our trials, give us money, do this for us, do that for us," and, like my uncle said last week, "They're saying 'Support the Troops!' only it's on the anti-war side." He was just really offended by that, by what he saw -- and I agree to be honest -- this sort of hero-worship nature. I'm sorry if I offended anyone.

Jess: C.I.'s groaning. I know why. I'll add right here that Ava and C.I. both rejected the moderator position for this roundtable. I am not the moderator because I have a cock. Ava and C.I. didn't want to be talking throughout so they passed it over to me -- same reason as this time last year and we noted it then. So C.I.'s groaning is because --

C.I.: I've got to speak. First, Stan's sharing is observations and opinions. There's nothing wrong with that. As Rebecca said, I'm not offended. In terms of just one of the critiques he offered, the hero-worship being asked for, I think he's right. I don't think that's intentional. I think that it has to do with the fact that very few other organizations have done a damn thing in 2008. Now if we had a vibrant, diverse peace movement -- active peace movement -- it wouldn't seem that way. But they are the only ones doing anything most months and weeks. And IVAW's membership does require that you have served in the military. So it's not an open, anyone-can-join organization. That restriction automatically sets up a wall. And when others in the movement -- UPFJ, CODESTINK, etc. -- are doing nothing, that barrier can make it appear that the peace movement is made up of a small set of doers and the rest of us are supposed to be on the sidelines cheering. Stan's point is valid even without what I've added to it. But I've added it because Stan sounds really worried that his opinions and observations are going to bother someone and I'm assuming it's Elaine and me he's worried about.

Stan: Yeah, but less so Elaine due to the fact that she spoke just a little bit and initiated this section we're in right now. Okay, well, let me repeat one more time that I'm not trying to be disagreeable or insulting to anyone participating. And I do understand what C.I.'s saying. Those are good points but the issue of the Democratic convention, of IVAW getting punked, is not going away. And I won't say "sorry" on that because I know Mike and C.I. have both written about that.

Mike: Yeah and they did get punked. That was pretty embarrassing. They're protesting, and Rebecca, Ava and Kat can tell you this because they were there, and getting attention and they get punked.

Rebecca: I'll let Kat or Ava talk.

Kat: Ava's pointing to me. Remember that Ava and C.I. take the notes that the transcript's typed up from. Okay, well Ava and C.I. spent a lot of time the night before that protest planting seeds with friends in the press. When we're getting ready to go, the press is showing interest, and we're inside at this point. Ava and C.I. are saying goodbye to several friends, reporters, producers, etc. And they'd planted seeds the night before and word was starting to build inside about the protest. So they weren't having to plant seeds at this point, just note the protests. And they did that and we all leave for the airport. And I'm talking to Wally and telling him how my expectation is that IVAW is going to be the day's big story.

Wally: Right. Kat's happy, she's flying. She thinks they'll lead all three network's evening news. And that's because the interest was so high among the press as the protest was just barely started. But the punked part comes in here. See, they're protesting the Democratic convention and they have some demands. So here's how it's a story, and I'm stealing from Ava and C.I.'s pitch the night before: "The 'anti-war' candidate, on the day he officially wins/accepts his nomination, is protested by veterans against the war." And, yeah, that was an irrestiable news hook and it could have led to a deeper examination of Barack's actual position on the Iraq War. But that never happened because as the press is asking the campaign what's going on outside, the campaign realizes there's a huge p.r. problem. They hadn't be too worried about it until the press was asking them. So they send out someone, some Texan --

Ava: Benjamin Barnes.

Wally: Thanks. And he goes out there and does a song and dance and just hypes IVAW and they fall for it. They call off their protest. The press was ready to make that the story of the day and they halt the protest. They get nothing for halting the protest. They should have said, "We want X, X, and X and when we get it, we'll stop." But they didn't. They halted it and counted on Barack to be so fair and loving that he'd just bring them onstage that night out of the goodness of his heart. They were punked so bad an they have never owned up to that publicly and it's not just hurting them in African-American circles. They long ago needed to issue some sort of statement.

Cedric: But -- and I agree with Wally, we've talked this topic over and over into the ground on our own -- to do that would probably also require them explaining why they refused to call out Barack when he was not anti-war. And they don't want to touch that. They think they can keep their heads down and no one will notice -- my opinion, Wally's too -- but in the meantime, they're hurting their own credibility with this silence. It's the sort of b.s. you expect from CODESTINK but not from IVAW which prides itself on speaking frankly. And they can be offended by that or not. I don't care. The smart thing for them to do would be grasp they need to own up to the problem.

Kat: Well it is an issue. It comes up many times when we're speaking. Stan noted that C.I. has written of the punking. Anytime that pops up in a snapshot, you can be sure it's popped up that day in some group we spoke to. And C.I. plays it really diplomatic and fair but doesn't deny that they got punked. There's no way to deny it, that's what happened. And their pretending that it didn't is hurting them.

Jess: Okay, explain how because we're not all on the road. Every week, Ava, C.I., Kat and Wally are on the week speaking out against the illegal war to student groups, women's groups, veterans and those still serving, and labor groups. Rebecca and Ruth frequently join them on Fridays and sometimes for a full week of speaking. And Ava's waving at me which is reminding me that they're also now speaking to older people as well. Retired persons. Wally's grandfather set up the first one of those awhile back. In Florida, which is where Wally's from. And that's gotten very popular. So for those of us not on the road, Kat, explain to us what's being said.

Kat: I will word this as kindly as I can and note that isn't my strong suit but there are comments -- and this is especially true among veterans groups -- about, "Well now you get how they could sign up in the first place." Cedric's point is valid. This issue isn't going away. It's like if Britney Spears was trying to pretend she'd never shaved her head. Everyone would be saying, "That crazy idiot shaved her head! Why she's denying it!" But because she'll laugh about it now, she can have her life and her career back.

Jess: Okay, thank you. Alright, we're off of the topic Betty wanted to address. So let's reset. Betty, do we need to address it some more?

Betty: No. I think we did address it. To recap, Black people are not children, we are not savages. We have brains and can use them. Don't insult us with your patronizing nature and, UPFJ, apologize.

Jess: Okay, let me toss a question to Kat because Susan e-mailed asking about music.

Kat: Right now, we're listening to Under The Covers Vol. 1, Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet. If you're not familiar with that album, you should really make a point to check it out. When the roundtable started, we were finishing listening to an Erykah Badu concert that's a bootleg.

Jess: And if you don't know the Hoffs and Sweet project, you can find "Different Drum" on YouTube. Okay, Ty had a question from an e-mail he wanted to work in. Ty?

Ty: A woman wrote wondering if Ruth would rank the best Jewish fiction writer? The woman is a junior in high school and had a cultural project in English. She picked someone other than Isaac Bashevis Singer and she writes that her teacher told her he and Philip Roth were the only choices.

Ruth: Just so anyone who missed it knows, I am Jewish which is, I am sure, why the woman directed her e-mail to me. Jewish writers in America are a rich tapestry and it goes far, far beyond Singer and Roth. I would be very curious to know if her teacher was even Jewish? Best is subjective, especially on fiction. My own personal choice would not include either men, not even on a top ten list. My personal favorite is Cynthia Ozick. For a good sampling of her short stories, I would recommend The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories. Grace Paley, who died last year, is another who would make my list. E.L. Doctorow would easily make my top ten but Roth and Singer wouldn't. And thank you for e-mailing the question.

Ava: I'm very glad the question was e-mailed and asked because Dona always keeps track of who speaks and who doesn't. I can't do that and take notes but I believe that's the first thing Ruth's said this entire time.

Jess: I think you're right. Mike and Elaine also have a low participation thus far. Ty's got another question and I think Ava can grab that to up her own participation so I'm going to toss my own question to Elaine. The peace movement is in shambles. Let's not pretend otherwise. As someone active in peace today and active back during Vietnam, do you see any analogies?

Elaine: Hmm. You know what I'm thinking of? I'm thinking of a section from Gloria Emerson's book Winners and Losers: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses and Ruins From The Vietnam War. Emerson was one of the Vietnam correspondents for The New York Times, famous for her nasty interview of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but in the book, she's writing about how the real battle became the one between Americans opposed to the war and Americans supporting it. More so than the animosity between the American soldiers and the Vietnamese. C.I.? Can I access your computer brain?

C.I.: Oh . . . geez. Is it, "Each year that it lasted Americans who took opposite sides on the war seeme to hate each other more than the Vietnamese who opposed us. The quarreling was fierce; sometimes it did not seem as if the war alone could be the reason for the hatred." Is that the section you're speaking of?

Elaine: Yes, thank you. And she goes on to explore hate mail that Sy Hersh received for his work detailing the My Lai massacre. And, to be honest, that Emerson was puzzled Hersh would receive that kind of mail goes to how insulated The New York Times was then and is now. She passed away about three or four years ago. The book came out 1977. But, for example, someone whose son was involved in the My Lai massacre is not going to be thrilled with Hersh's work. That Emerson found that surprising goes a long way towards explaining how out of touch and insulated some people can be.

Jess: You're not saying Hersh did something wrong by reporting on My Lai?

Elaine: No. But I am saying that certain reactions are so normal that are predictable. To be surprised, as Emerson writes she was, by something so obviously expected to anyone paying attention is a rather shocking confession. But I think about that, about the animosities within America, and I would argue that the pro-war troops are winning just because they want it so badly. They are not letting go. By contrast, the other side throws in the towel and Mike's eager to speak on that so I'll pass to him.

Mike: Right. You know there have been so many stories this month so far that could have and should have resulted from serious Iraq covergae. We didn't get it. Because the left always has something else to do. Look at how many refused to wade into the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. It was C.I. and Chris Floyd. Am I forgetting anyone else who had the guts to speak up? Then you had idiots like Patrick Cockburn applaud the thing. We covered that here last week "Editorial: The treaty's not that confusing." But Cockburn shows back up this week and thinks he can pretend like he didn't lie and didn't get caught lying. And he's back this week, playing Tony On A Pony, and falling all over the place again.

Jess: You cover that in "Debra Sweet and return of idiot of the week" -- and pick him as idiot of the week. But "Tony On A Pony"?

Mike: Tony On A Pony. That's what we called it. Maybe because my best friend is Tony. But you break up into to sides and each team is seeing how many kids can be carried. See one team is the rider while the other is the pony and then you switch and its to see who can carry teh most. "Tony Ride A Pony! One! Two! Three!" No one else ever played it?

Jess: Nope. Sorry, Red Rover, I know. Tony On A Pony? Nope.

Mike: Well he shows up, Patrick Cockburn, and as usual doesn't have his facts straight and he falls over. It's like he can't even take one rider. But that treaty, it's going to be one of the biggest stories of the illegal war and, let me just point out in real time, everyone pretty much ignored it and those who didn't tended to get it wrong.

Jess: And I'm tossing to Ty for a question.

Ty: And Jess pointed out that Ava can grab this. Friday's snapshot, which Betty mentioned at the start of this roundtable, included that we were all delinking from Women's Media Center and that there was a trojan. Kevin e-mailed to note he went to the site as soon as he saw that and seconds after clicking on it, he got the warning about a trojan.

Ava: Yeah, well that happened to a number of people. They were e-mailing to complain about it. C.I. heard about the e-mails and pulled out the laptop. We were crowded around on Friday to see what would happen and, like Kevin described, as soon as the page started loading, the warning came up about the trojan. It's just not worth it. Even if the site was worth it -- which it isn't these days. The second we saw it, we knew it would have to be pulled from all the sites. To link to a site when you know it's attempting to install a trojan isn't taking into account the community. There was no debate about, "Well what if we don't link to it in entries or posts but leave it on the list of links," right, Rebecca?

Rebecca: That didn't come up. I think about three hours after the snapshot was dictated, we were at Trina's and Ava and I were hitting the margaritas when we both wondered for a second, "Gee what if it was left on the links but just not utilized." But if it was left on the links, as Kat pointed out to us, it could be accessed by anyone visiting our site. So it was pulled. There were no tears over that decision.

Jess: We're about to wind down so if anyone needs to add something, now's the time.

Marcia: I wanted to add something. Betty's "No use for Margaret Kimberley" says a lot and Kat and I were talking about and also talking about how Ruder and Smith's article has one huge, laughable error.

Kat: "No one would deny the enormous impact that Obama's election has had, inspiring workers and minority communities (especially African Americans), raising expectations for change and creating a climate in which a new movement for gay marriage is taking root."

Ty: Yeah, that's ridiculous. He's creating a movment for gay marriage to take root? How? By promoting homophobia? Proposition 8 and now Rick Warren at the inauguration. That's just idiotic.

Marica: And Betty pointed out that some people aren't helping the African-American community. I want to go on record as stating I agree with her --

Betty: And I was backing up Stan's "Margret Kimberley, The Black Apologist."

Marcia: Yes, and I want to go on record stating I agree with her and my cousin. Margaret Kimberley, you're not helping anyone with your minimizing, your excusing and your avoiding calling out homophobia. We -- African-Americans -- do not have the luxury of embracing bigotry. Anyone who encourages us to do so, which is what Kimberley's justifications do, is not helping us as a people and she's certainly no friend to me as a lesbian either.

Jess: Alright. This is a rush transcript. Enjoy the typos. Betty's oldest son did the illustration. We expect Jim and Dona to be back next weekend. We thank Ty for participating in the roundtable and he's otherwise off this edition.
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