Sunday, February 06, 2011


Jim: It's roundtable time. Our e-mail address is Participating in this roundtable are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Jess, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; 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; 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. Others who are not participating are working on an Iraq feature for this edition. We are tape recording this and will provide audio highlights for Hilda's Mix. What you are reading is a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't): One of the articles we've finished for this edition is on Riverdaughter. I had the feeling that there might be some comments on that. I could be wrong. Anyone?

Betty: I could make a million. I've made very clear my problems with that website over the years. More recently, Marica's taken on specific posts that were factually unsound. I don't see the point in that site. As we note in the article, factually, it's on shaky ground. In terms of 'movement,' Riverdaughter's forever expelling everyone from the Garden. It's just a waste of time and, most importantly, she's forever chasing trend topics. And then dropping them just as soon as the media moves on. This is what Rebecca's dubbed "Baby Cried The Day The Circus Came To Town" coverage. And she dubbed it that long before The Confluence ever existed. Rebecca?

Rebecca: Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager wrote a great song for Melissa Manchester entitled "Don't Cry Out Loud." I love that song. It opens with, "Baby cried the day the circus came to town because she didn't want parades just passing by her." When I started applying that to news coverage -- it was probably 2005 -- my point was that, like the people in the song giving the circus a little bit of attention while it's right in front of them, the news media quickly drops stories. It's similar to C.I.'s point about press that acts like the Red Cross rushing into a disaster and then dropping the story before it's complete to rush off to another disaster. So the point is someone like Riverdaughter grabs Tucson because it's a hot topic and then drops it because it's no longer hot and suddenly the Tucson expert she supposedly was is replaced with an expert on Egypt and next week, who knows!

Elaine: If C.I. were participating in this, she'd note Ellen Goodman -- as she has noted her at The Common Ills many times on this point. Ellen Goodman is a columnist for The Boston Globe. She used to be on a number of chat & chew TV shows discussing news developments. She stopped doing them, she explained, because she was not brought on to discuss a certain issue. Instead, she was supposed to be there to discuss the week's issues and she was supposed to be an expert on all of them. Goodman, unlike so many in the press, was smart enough to grasp that she is not an expert on every issue and news story and began to decline invitations as a result. The public square would be a lot better off if all the 'experts' realized they weren't experts on everything.

Betty: And C.I. has a very funny story about visiting a friend working on a live radio show last year and watching all the 'experts' get a topic list thirty minutes before airtime and take to their laptops to become 'experts' on the various topics that would be discussed in the hour. And let's be clear on that, these 'experts' were not offering facts, they were offering 'expert' opinions on a variety of topics they'd just learned they better bone up on.

Cedric: If I can weigh in --

Jim: Sure.

Cedric: I started my blog at Blogdrive. I no longer have one there and Blogdrive sent me racist e-mails and deleted my blog. But while it was up, you could see what I originally did. Now I do humor posts with Wally and I have a great time doing that. We started joint-posts because I was doing get-out-the-vote work in 2007 for the Democrats in my spare time and was going to have to stop blogging because I didn't have time for everything. Wally called me and said, "Don't stop blogging, we'll do humor posts together." And that's what we do. But when I started, I had a number of topics I covered. And, for a little bit, that included Afghanistan. C.I. was covering Iraq and doing a great job of it. And, this community, we're all opposed to the Afghanistan War. So I thought I'd make that my focus. And for two or three weeks, I tried. What it drove him is I am against the Afghanistan War but I am not familiar enough to cover this development and that development. If I'd stuck to it for six months or so, I might have become that. But it would have required real commitment. So when I see Riverdaughter or any of these other instant-experts on Egypt, I have no use for them. They are not experts. They are spitting back out what the media has just told them. It takes real work to be able to comment knowledgably on a subject. For example, C.I. and Iraq. She can do it. She's put the work in. She's now covering the Arab press -- Arab language -- to make sure Iraq continues to be covered. That's allowed her to be ahead of many of the US newspapers -- whether it was being a day ahead of The New York Times on the assault on the Christian recreation center in Baghdad or being days ahead over the protests in Iraq or whatever. And we all know what she has to do in order to be informed like that. She's got to attend Congressional hearings, she's got to read government documents, she's got to speak to friends in the State Department, she speaks to journalists who are or have covered the region, she speaks to friends in the French government and in the British government, she's constantly addressing Iraq and has been, online, for seven years now. She's a highly qualified voice. By contrast, when I see these people like Riverdaughter -- and she's not the only one -- who chase after the current popular news topic and present themselves as experts, I'm disgusted. They haven't done the work required. And they don't have the knowledge base they think they do.

Mike: I would agree with everything Cedric just said. I'd further add that there's the whole legal issues as well. C.I. does not just make a legal snap judgment. If she's talking about the Constitution -- Iraq's Constitution -- she's not only read it, she discussed it with scholars and with attorneys. And she's done all that long before she ever weighed in. That's why she was right, from the beginning, from the day the SOFA was published in November 2008, and why pretty much everyone else was wrong. I really want that noted. She, Ava, Kat and Wally are doing an Iraq piece with Dona right now talking about the Senate hearings they attended last week. In those hearings, one of the things floated was extending the SOFA. That would be the SOFA that C.I. always told you could be extended or replaced with another treaty just as easily as it could be terminated or run in full. While C.I. was providing that reality, for over two years now, other news outlets and other speakers and thinkers were telling you that the SOFA meant the Iraq War ended in 2011. That's not what it meant at all. C.I. was right. If she were wrong the conversation would not be taking place last week in the Senate. She was right. For two years plus, she told the truth and was attacked for it repeatedly by the likes of Raed Jarrar among others. Those liars have still not gotten honest about the realities of the SOFA. A more recent example is when she was explaining that Nouri's power-grab was not legal and just because a self-proclaimed 'legal expert' was saying it was legal didn't make it so. C.I. outlined just two ways the Parliament could circumvent Nouri. Less than 24 hours later, the Parliament was exploring that and, as a result, Nouri began wanting to form some 'understanding' with them over the issue.

Marcia: I want to jump in on this topic too. Along with having the knowledge base, you have to be able to call things up. By that, I'm referring to a female journalist being killed in a bombing in Iraq. She was an Iraqi journalist. C.I. was covering, one morning, another assualt on press freedoms by Nouri and she points out that another journalist has died the week prior and then further points out that two journalism watchdog bodies have failed to include the woman in their counts and one had just issued a report on the deaths and it didn't include the woman. I was on the phone with Wally about that one because I just thought C.I. pulled everything together so wonderfully and I was wondering how she did it and all. Wally said C.I. was writing the morning entry and stops and says, "Wait, a woman died last week. I think on Thursday. Why isn't she in the death count?" And then she's pulling up the snapshot that covered that bombing and getting the woman's name to include it. And I don't have that kind of memory. If I'm reading something a week later, I'm not going to be able to run down the names and also think, "Wow, they've forgotten the woman killed in last week's bombing." It's also being able to access it.

Rebecca: And Elaine and I have always teased C.I. by comparing her to Katharine Hepburn and -- AND -- the computer in the movie Desk Set. In that movie, Hepburn's a reference librarian for a large news network and forever recalling this or that fact or whatever. The computer's name is Memorac and we have often teased C.I. by not only calling her Bunn Watson -- Hepburn's character -- but Memorac as well.

Ty: While we're singing praises, let me extend it to Ava and C.I. and then note someone else. Here, Ava and C.I. bust their ass to cover TV. That means watching episodes, reading scripts, talking to people with the shows and with the networks, etc. They do so much work before they ever write a word. And we appreciate that but reader Albert doesn't believe they get the praise they deserve. He e-mailed to note Ava and C.I.'s "TV: One Less Bag To Leak Gas" from last month and to note that they were right and didn't tout their own horns. "While many others," he wrote, "praised themselves and pointed to how they noted there was a problem between NBC news and Keith Olbermann when Olbermann was suspended or a few even went back to cite some comments made after the November 2008 election night coverage. Ava and C.I. didn't self-cite, but they could have. 'MSNBC's Weiner Dog' was written in August 2008 and, in that, they were outlining all the problems that ended up getting Olbermann shown the door last month."

Jim: That is true. And I remember noting in my note for that edition that Ava and C.I.'s friends with NBC News dumped that story in Third's lap. Albert's correct and, as I'm sure he knows, there were many other pieces Ava and C.I. wrote on the topic.

Ty: So there's that credit. But to move to another example, we've got Trina. She started her site to be practical and address the Bully Boy economy. And she's done that and she covers the economy and does so in basic, easy to follow language. And I'm sure there are times when she's sick of the topic but she's been covering it for years now.

Jim: True? Trina, are you sometimes sick of covering the economy?

Trina: I'm more often sick of the economic aspect of recipes. I love sharing recipes but, at this point, I've shared all my staple recipes. I started out blogging just once a week. Friday nights or Saturdays. Back then, the community didn't have as many blogs. Cedric and I, actually, both started to be weekend bloggers because the community felt that only this site and C.I. offered content on the weekend, that everyone else took off. But I've done one recipe a week since the start of the site and, again, I've shared everything I regularly cook and then some. I'm always happy when readers send in recipes because then I can highlight that. If I don't get one and it's Friday, I'm on the phone to Wally's mother or another friend asking, "Do you have a recipe?"

Jess: And the recipes are important. I've subbed for Trina before when she's gone on vacation or been busy. And I've shared very basic recipes because I'm not a cook. My stuff was very basic stuff that Jim, Ty and I would do when we were all sharing an apartment in college. And Trina was fine with that. Her biggest point was that the site's readers weren't all cooks, many were learning to cook, so don't try to offer a four-course meal. And I think that's why she's so popular. She's kept the economic writing and the recipe writing basic. She wants to give you what you need to follow and help yourself. I agree with Ty that Trina deserves a lot of praise for what she's accomplished with her site.

Trina: Well that's very nice of you but it's also true that we all poach. If, for example, we weren't all covering radio from time to time, I'm sure that would still be Ruth's beat but she's had to expand her scope because we do all cover radio.

Ruth: Well I never did anything like what Ann does on her own or with Ava and C.I. I love that kind of work. I think they do amazing work. I cannot recommend "Terry Gross' new low (Ann, Ava and C.I.)" highly enough. But what I do not care for from people like Riverdaughter, for example, is the lack of voice. You can go to any website in this community and, within three or four sentences, know who is writing. Betty's got her own unique voice, Marcia's hers, etc. And it goes beyond just what their scope is, it goes to developing a style. Because Riverdaughter fails to focus on topics -- runs from one to the other -- and because she lacks her own voice, it leaves a lot laking for me as a reader. Not that I am going there anymore after the latest purge. One thing that Betty and C.I. led on last week that I was so proud of them doing -- and Mike was hinting at it earlier in the week as well -- was noting that there are other stories than Egypt. By the end of the week, we were all attempting to ensure that we offered topics that were important but not being covered in the wall-to-wall Egypt coverage.

Jim: And I think most people picked up on that -- that everyone was making a point to cover topics that were falling by the wayside. Isaiah, what stands out as you look back on last week?

Isaiah: For me it is what Mike and others were talking about a lot earlier, the whole decision that the Iraq War will continue. The Senate offering two possibles -- either US troops remain but under the State Department or the SOFA gets extended and US troops remain still under the Defense Department. Look at just us, this group. We have marched against the war, we have lobbied our Congress reps, we have talked about the issues with friends, taken it to our own communities and we've written or drawn about the war online to draw attention to it. And last week any pretense that the US was leaving got demolished in not one but two Senate hearings. Yet these people who couldn't shut up about the illegal war in 2003 couldn't be bothered with it.

Stan: And really, how much of that is their refusal to hold Barack accountable? I have to wonder that. If this were Bush, I do think the Iraq War would have been the story of the week. And I don't mean, "If this were Bush and 2006." If Bush or some other Republican were in the White House right now and the Senate hearings took place like they did, I think this would be the overwhelming story: THe Iraq War is not ending.

Isaiah: I really think Egypt was a defocus. I'm not saying, "It was planned to be a defocus and, in the bowels of the CIA . . ." I'm saying the event emerged on its own and suddenly it became a way to defocus. Egypt's going to do whatever it does and the US will have to adjust as will the rest of the world. But the US continuing the Iraq War? That's something US citizens should damn well be aware of.

Stan: I agree so much with you, Isaiah. And, honestly, I'm just really despondent over the outcome in terms of the peace movement because we don't have one and no one's writing about the Senate hearings on the left. You've got C.I., Ava, Wally and Kat. If you include the right-wing, you've got and the Cato Institute. And that's really it. All the people who made money off the war with their books and movies are suddenly nowhere to be found.

Jim: And I'd agree with that and add that I find it shocking. I can remember when Jess, Ty, Dona, Ava and I thought the Iraq War would be over by the time we finished college. Of course that hasn't happened and the Iraq War continues. Ann, we haven't heard from you, I'm sorry. I'll give you the last word.

Ann: That should go to Betty who is much better up summing up and offering insight. Okay, well, like Jess, I am a Green. I'm not a Democrat or a Republican and I'm not caught up in the two party system. I think a great deal of the refusal to call out the war has to do with the two party system. You've got Republicans who formed pro-war positions under Bush and aren't going to change. Not all Republicans are pro-war, just to be clear. And you've got anti-war Democrats who are not going to use their voices because Bush is out of the White House and Barack is in. Add in, and I'll say this as a Black woman, the cowardly element of White people -- and this is especially true of so-called leaders -- who think Barack can't be criticized because he's a person of color. It all adds up to where the Iraq War is no longer about the illegal war itself but something to be silent over in order to 'support' Barack. There are a lot of cowards and a lot of whores and that's what's betrayed the peace movement.

Jim: Thank you for that, Ann. On that note, we'll end. This is a rush transcript.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }