Thursday night, there was a roundtable. Rebecca assumed that Trina and I both would be too busy to participate. We read it (you can read Betty's "Found in the paper" and I'm going with that because Trina's noting Rebecca's "roundtable" both Rebecca and Betty participate in both) and both wished we could have taken part so Rebecca scheduled another one late last night/early this morning. We did have to take a break to grab some sleep. (The break is noted in the 'rush transcript.') It was great to take part and thanks to everyone who took part.
Rebecca: Our second day in a row of roundtables. Tonight, topics will include food, independent media and the war in Iraq. Participating are:
Trina of Trina's Kitchen;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
and C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review
Our first topic is food. For this, we'll be referencing Jane Goodall's 2005 book Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating, The New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story "The School-Lunch Test" by Lisa Belkin from the August 20, 2006 issue and The Nation's September 11, 2006 "The Food Issue" featuring contributions from many people on this topic. Trina?
Trina: For me, and probably for a lot of people who've followed food issues, the starting point is Frances Moore Lappe. She wrote Diet for a Small Planet in 1971 and it's updated regularly. That's a book I've gone through so many copies of. There are times when someone looks at it and I can tell they're really interested so I'll say, "You take it." Then I'll buy a new copy. Or I'll be using various recipes and the binding will break over time, so I'll buy a new copy. It's always been a staple in my kitchen since I first discovered the book. So when I saw her name on the cover of The Nation's Food Issue, I went to her article first. "A Right to Food? How to Frame The Fight Against Hunger," on page 39, actually is a good set up for the issue because it presents the rights of food noting that the UN's 1948 Delcaration of Human Rights declared foor a right as did the 1993 Vienna Conference on Human Rights. But she argues that there are problems with making the case just on the argument that it is a right since "rights and power are too easily uncoupled." She argues it should be seen as a power and, using that perspective, this will increase our ownership and our activism. The other issues raised in the Food Issue spring from that perspective. So if I were editing the issue, I would have opened with the argument Frances Moore Lappe presents.
Elaine: I'd question the placement as well. On the one hand, maybe it was seen as a summation and that's why it was placed where it was. But I agree with Trina, it works better as an opening essay. Something like Liza Featherstone's "Mean or Green? Wal-Mart's Organic Turn Divides The Movement," which starts on page 31, is enhanced when you realize your stake in it. Alice Waters has a strong essay that opens the section on food --
C.I.: "Slow Food Nation," page 13.
Elaine: Right. But I actually would have flipped the two. To me, it reads more like a conclusion. It's looking to the past and to today and it's much briefer. I'd end with that and open with Moore Lappe. The danger is that for those who are reading and not interested in the topic, or not seriously interested, by the time they're getting to the ownership of the issue, the perspective Moore Lappe's dealing with where we own our power, they may feel, "I've read all these articles, I'm done." I would have structured with Waters at the end because it is a shorter essay and it really is a summation.
Betty: If we're talking about placement, I would've moved Felcia Mello's "Hard Labor: For Farmworkers, It's Not Easy Being Organic." That starts on page 21 and it's an important article but, I did put the magazine down. I care about the issues, I think it's great that The Nation devoted an issue to it -- and look forward to an issue devoted to Iraq, hint, hint -- but Mello's talking about the non-organic realities for some workers on so-called organic farms. The farms aren't alternative in the ways they treat workers.
Elaine: And for anyone who's not read the article, talk about it.
Betty: Well, some farms that are organic actually do treat the workers like human beings. Others don't. The workers are largely immigrants. Mello describes seven-minute bathroom breaks on some farms, where the workers are timed. The wages are poor and there are no benefits. It's using 'organic' in the sense that there may not be pesticides but the treatment of workers is no better than it is on many farms, organic or not.
Trina: And she gives an example of Jim Cochran who owns Swanton Berry Farm who actually does offer benefits like medical, dental and pension and pays a higher wage. He made that choice and the people working at Swanton Berry Farm work under a union contract which is not common, nor are the benefits and wages offered, when compared to the other farms she visits.
Betty: And that woman who was studying law in Mexico but thought coming to America would improve her financial situation --
C.I.: Beatriz Gonzalez.
Betty: Beatriz Gonzales. She works for eight hours a day on her feet, sorting oranges and she's got arthritis and, in her knuckles she has arthritis, from the work, and she's been working there for four years and makes only $7.30 an hour. The minimum wage, which she started at, in California is $6.75. And that actually reminded me of conversations and discussion Andrea Lewis and Philip Maldari have had on KPFA's The Morning Show about how there is so little affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Was she from that area?
C.I.: No, she's near Bakersfield. That's further south and closer to Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Or that's where the farm is, I have no idea where she lives. But affordable housing is a problem pretty much everywhere.
Betty: And Andrea Lewis and Philip Maldari have talked a lot about the living wage and there's just no way that someone making $7.30 an hour, working a forty hour week, at a job after four years, is making a living wage. Mello, the author of the article, talks to a shopper and she, the shopper, asumes that food from organic farms means the workers are better off.
Elaine: Right, she talks about the assumption that those marketing has dubbed "hard core" organic produce consumers have about that.
Betty: And about how there are other consumers who don't know about the conditions and prefer not to know. How it's a personal choice, usually for their children, wanting their children to not be exposed to pesticides and all, and they'll purchase organic but they're really of the "Don't wake me from this dream because I don't want to deal with reality."
Rebecca: You said you had to put the issue down after that article. How come?
Betty: Well. I mean, what do you do? That's what Frances Moore Lappe's addressing and why I think you open with that. Mello's talking about labels that would note true organic, the idea that hard core consumers have of the working conditions that produce the organic foods they purchase, and that's needed but I just had to put it down because, and I buy some organic in the winter but, for the most part, my father's semi-retired, he works his garden like crazy. In the spring, summer and fall, we've got more than enough fresh fruits and vegetables usually. I can't leave my parents house without hearing, "Oh take some of this, take some of that." The backyard was supposed to be just a few rows and my mother jokes about how now she steps out her back door and her backyard is gone because he's turned it into a farm. But when I do buy organic, in the winter, I am just like the hard core consumer Mello talks to at Whole Foods, I've just assumed, "Organic food equals fair labor practices." So it was just shocking to realize how frequently that isn't true. And, from Mello's article, that's not the exception, which I could have handled, but that's the norm for a lot of farmers so it was just a shock. It really depressed me and I had to put the issue down. If Liza Featherstone wasn't a name I recognized, I might not have picked it back up. She wrote a great article debating the pros and cons of Wal-Marts move into stocking organic foods. But when I got to Frances Moore Lappes' article, it was like, "Okay, here's something that can be done. Here's a way to look at it and address it." If that makes sense. And, just to put it into perspective, I went from laughing with Jim Hightower, who's a very funny writer, to the shock of Mello's article.
Rebecca: Now organic practices are something that Jane Goodall addresses in Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating. C.I.?
C.I.: What? You haven't read the book?
Rebecca: I read it and loved it, thank you for it. But I'm trying to be moderator.
C.I.: You are allowed to comment. Goodall's tackling that issue, and Betty, I can send you the book if you're interested and a great deal more.
Betty: I'd love to read the book. Let me check at my library later today and if they don't have it, yes, please send it.
C.I.: No problem. But to me the issue of Goodall's book that I wanted to raise was one that Barbara Kingsolver also raised in Small Wonder. You have, in your produce departments, all these foods from various places.
Betty: Holland has been big in my supermarket. I have no idea why. But at the end of spring, suddenly they had some fruits from Holland. I don't even remember what. I didn't buy it. But I remember thinking, "Holland? Don't we have growers in Georgia?"
C.I.: Which is a point that both Goodall and Kingsolver make -- which is, this notion that we should have year round access to everything. There are growing seasons. That's part of the natural cycle. Instead of addressing that, we're getting fruits and vegetables from all over the world and, to have those, requires they are shipped great distances which requires fuel both for to get from point A to point B and to keep the produce refrigerated. Goodall uses strawberries as one example and notes that they are picked too soon so that they will last through the travel cycle. This effects the taste and effects the quality of the nutrition. Goodall writes of how some produce native to certain areas is in danger of being lost because it doesn't travel as well so there's no large market for it. And Kingsolver writes, this is a paraphrase, I don't have the book in front of me: "Most adults my age couldn't pass a simple test on what foods are grown in their home countries and what month they come to maturity." She writes of visiting a friend in Manhattan, in winter, who was serving a dish with fresh raspberries, and wondering where, in winter, fresh raspberries came from. Both Goodall and Kingsolver stress the point that it's important to eat locally grown produce both to support your communities and to cut down on the waste of fuel which, of course, effects the environment with the fuel being burned off into it and polluting so that we can have this or that out of season produce. Goodall focuses on how diets, over time, adapted to the environments they were in. She offers the Masai people of East Africa who ate a meat heavy diet due to the fact that they were cattle herders. But, as a result of the plants they ate, they had less problems than would be expected from a meat based diet. And how the Tohono O'odham tribe, in Arizona, began moving from their native diet to a more processed one and even the children were developing diabetes.
Rebecca: Which is a good transition to the article in The New York Times' Sunday magazine. This is from Lisa Belkin's "The School-Lunch Test," QUOTE: "By any health measure, today's children are in crisis. Seventeen percent of American children are overweight, and increasing numbers of children are developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes, which until a few years ago, was a condition seen almost only in adults. The obesity rate of adolescents has tripled since 1980 and shows no sign of slowing down. Today's children have the dubious honor of belonging to the first cohort in history that may have a lower life expectancy than their parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that 30 to 40 percent of today's children will have diabetes in their lifetime if current trends continue." And for those wondering why that quote wasn't set off, we're trying to make this as easy as possible for everyone to copy and paste without worrying about spacing. You'll find typos here, just like the last one. This is a rush transcript. Those wanting links, we're providing very few. We've told you where the article is, you can go to a web site and hunt it down if you're interested.
Elaine: Just googling the author and title should provide you with the article.
Rebecca: Right. So that's the current stats for children today and what can be done regarding student lunches is the focus of the article. Who wants to start?
C.I.: As with Frances Moore Lappe, I know and respect the work of Alice Waters so I'm excusing myself from commenting on either so no one thinks, "Of course you would say that."
Elaine: I wish you wouldn't. But let me grab the article because the Alice Waters aspect seemed more than insulting. I didn't care for this article at all. I didn't care for the majority of the people speaking in it. I didn't care for what happened in the schools.
Betty: The pledge. What was that? A woman has children recite a pledge to eat this and that? I'm sorry, my kids don't recite any pledge that I haven't been informed of prior and that I haven't given my consent to. If one of my kids came home telling me about a pledge like that, I would be up at the school complaining. It doesn't matter what the pledge is, what it's topic, I would be complaining because you don't tell my kids to pledge to anything without my permission. I am the parent.
Trina: You know I had the same response. This was a pledge that I could live with, and I assume Betty could as well, right?
Betty: Right. But you tell me first. You get my approval.
Trina: Because today's it's something we agree with, and I only have one child still in school, the other seven are out. Mike's in college of course, so it's just my youngest daughter that's still in school. She's in high school. Something like this, if she were pledging it, I would assume, "Well she's old enough to make up her own mind." And if that included not wanting to take the pledge, then the school better not have attempted to shame or force her into it. But I don't like the idea of pledges being brought into a school, regardless of what they are, without a parent being informed of and giving their consent. This was elementary school. And while I would have given my consent to the pledge, I would have had to have been notified first. I'm with Betty on that.
Betty: Because what someone else is okay with may not be something I'm okay with. There are many issues that I wouldn't want my children pledging to. I also had serious concerns about a lose weight diet author being put in charge in children's food. I would have been one of the parents calling the school system, as happened in Florida, asking, "Why is my child being put on the South Beach Diet?" And the fact that a parent did that demonstrates that parents probably weren't informed of it before the program started. They may have been told there was a new lunch program. But I'm sorry, I wouldn't want my kids on Atkins, I wouldn't want them on South Beach. I don't understand how you skip nutritionists when you're dealing with something as important as children's lunches and breakfasts? I don't care that you've written a 'hot' book or that you're responsible for a fad. That's not speaking to my children's needs.
Elaine: And what a child needs and what an adult needs are different things so I have trouble grasping how someone who wrote a weight loss book for adults could be brought in to begin with. That makes no sense. The issue of Alice Waters, just to touch it on quickly, there's a bit more going on with her program than weight loss. It's about healthy eating, reconnecting with your environment and long term goals. I don't believe that was grasped in the article.
C.I.: If you're talking weight loss, you're talking food and you're talking activity. Nation wide, there has been reduction in free form activity as well as in structured play. Harry Truman's cited in that article, about how WWII inductees were rejected due to being underweight and how, in 1946, Truman signed the legislation to guarantee that every child would have a meal which, hopefully, for those in struggling environments, would be the most nutritious meal. Where's the legislation for activity? There is no time for that because everyone's so busy teaching to a test which may be why some teachers didn't want to use the guide material they were provided with. But, and this is why choosing someone who wrote an adult diet book as your 'savior' is such a problem, your expectations with regards to diet are way too high. You're talking one meal. The Florida program, that's the state it's going on in, at some schools, is focusing on K through 6th. Somone familiar with children would be fully aware that children do not generally prepare all their meals. Truman wanted children to have a nutritious meal. That can be done. It can be done with the Florida program. But one meal is not weight loss. Lunch and breakfast is not weight loss. Any adult trying to lose significant weight by eating one healthy meal a day, low-fat, would not, or should not, expect to lose significant weight as a result if the other meals remain the same. And in many cases, the other meals will remain the same because of resources, what kind of stores you have access to, what kind of time you have to prepare a meal, etc. You want weight loss, you have to up the activity time each time. You want to reduce calories and fat for one meal a day, that's a worthy cause. But don't assume that will result in any significant weight loss.
Elaine: Remember to that one parent complained about how her child wouldn't eat anything at home, after the program started, and she said, the parent, that she couldn't very well throw out everything. Any adult who has done some diet is familiar with the restocking required. I don't think the parents were given, or shown, any power in this program -- going back to Frances Moore Lappe. I also think there's too much denial. Don't complain about the weight loss, which does require physical mobility, as C.I. pointed out, and allow people to sell Chick-fil-A bisquits in the parking lot at the start of the day. Don't say it's mainly parents buying. Why are you selling those to begin with? Yes, the PTO is selling them to raise funds. If you've banned junk food from the cafetria, why are you inviting it on to the campus once a week? As for JoAnn Kandrac, she's kidding herself. She says that the McDonalds coupons provided are "a tradition." The whole point of the program is to break away from bad traditions. If you give those coupons out to honor roll students as a reward then you are presenting McDonalds as an indulgence you can earn. It's a mixed message. Her excuse is, "This is educating our children that they can make smart choices at places like McDonalds." When the coupon you hand out allows them one burger, one fries, one soft drink, they're not making smart choices, they're redeeming coupons and being handed junk food.
Rebecca: I would agree with that. I also found it laughable that the author of the South Beach Diet took exception to her plan being called that and noted that it was a way of eating healthy. You put "Diet" in your book title and you marketed it as a weight loss gain. If anyone's confused, it's the author of that book. We're now turning to the topic of independent media. To give background, WBAI broadcast a program Thursday, The Largest Minority. I was listening with my friend T and we've all now listened to the program. Rachel called it to Mike's attention for one reason in particular but that entire interview was a problem. Who wants to start?
Trina: I'll just note that the issue, and Rachel was clear in this and Mike was clear in summing up her e-mail at his site, was not that someone was talking about cooking. It was the fact that two women were speaking, a host and a guest, and the guest was instructing the listeners to cook to please their man. That's how it played: Please Your Man. The whole thing was insulting. But that was the most insulting.
C.I.: The whole thing had no place on a Pacifica station. Tackling menapause, which a program in March did, fine. Tackling rape, tackling health issues, even discussing cooking, that's fine. But that retro bullshit, and I do call it that, had no place on Pacifica. It would have been booed by the mid-sixites. That it's considered acceptable today is nonsense. I e-mailed Rachel about it after I listened because the cook-for-your-man was only one problem with it. She agreed and said that writing the e-mail to Miake, she did it while she was listening to the show, was when she was ready to scream and she decided to focus on only one point to get the e-mail sent out. But to be clear, it wasn't just the women-you-better-keep-your-man-happy-by-cooking-for-him bullshit, it was also the guest offering up that women needed to marry men who were more successful than they were because that was the only way to happy marriage and that this was the natural balance. That bullshit, and I will call it that, I try to be supportive of independent media but I will not support that crap, had no business airing on any Pacifica station and the host's giggling responses were tragic. She should have called the guest out. She didn't. She giggled, she made jokes about her own significant other, she was playful, she was everything but a mature adult woman. It was embarrassing to listen to and, Mike was right, it was retro.
Betty: I want to add that this is exactly the sort of thing I talk about when I praise Andrea Lewis. Lewis isn't doing that nonsense. She's not playing like she's sitting in the beauty parlor giggling with the gals, while she waits her turn. This was sub-standard. It's the reason I don't listen to most radio programs geared towards Black women. I find it insulting to hear that "You go, girl!" nonsense. That's all it was. The guest and the host were Black women. I find it embarrassing that this nonsense aired, I find it more embarrassing as a Black woman that it was put out there by Black women.
Rebecca: T hated it as well. When it ended, she said, "Thank God I'm a lesbian. Hopefully, I've never embarrassed myself like that." She also made the comparison to a beauty parlor.
Betty: Well, T's Black. She's aware that this "Oh we got to get us a man and keep us a man, girlfriend!" nonsense is too often put out there to Black women as the height of any discussion we're capable of. Again, I have praised Andrea Lewis and she's earned it because she's not trying to deny who she is, racially or sexually, she's not playing prim and proper, she's natural on air. What I heard on WBAI, however, was a stereotype that Terry McMillan wouldn't even try to promote. I was so insulted and called Rebecca and asked, "Do I have to listen to the whole thing?"
Rebecca: Betty had fury in her voice. I could tell she was ticked off.
Betty: Because it's bad enough that Black women are fed that stuff on commercial radio. To have to hear it from a non-commercial radio station, one where supposedly educated discussions take place?
Rebecca: Your mother dropped by while you were listening and she didn't care for it either.
Betty: I was on the phone with Rebecca and my sister had my kids because I've got hers on Saturday, she's got mine on Friday. So my mother came in, nodded to me and just sat down because I was on the phone. She listened for about a minute half before she said something about how those women were 'tripping.' It's embarrassing to hear those kind of caricatures. As though all Black women can do is focus on getting a man and keeping him. And that 'advice' was so insulting. But it was presented in that you-go-girl wrapping that we're all supposed to assume surrounds the true package of Black women. I was disgusted. Again, I could hear that on commercial radio without having to go up and down the dial too much. Andrea Lewis, if anyone didn't get the points I was trying to make when I subbed for Rebecca or that I've made elsewhere, comes off like a grown up. Those two came off like a parody you'd see on Mad TV. It was so disgusting. I was so disappointed and so outraged and, like Rebecca said, I was furious.
I'm sure some liked it. I'm sure some White audience members thoughts, "Oh them colored women and their man troubles." I feel like I'm saying the same thing over and over. I can understand Rachel being so furious that she only focused on one thing in her e-mail to Mike. I'll just shut up at this point because I'm getting too angry.
C.I.: I think you expressed yourself very well. I don't think you were repeating yourself. But it was insulting. It was insulting on many levels. Again, had Pacifica broadcast that conversation in the mid-sixties, regardless of the race involved, there would have been fury over it. There should be today. The key points were, you have to find a man who is 'better than you' and hold the power because that is the only way to have a successful relationship and, after you find that man, your long day at work doesn't matter, get in the kitchen, over "a hot stove" and cook, because men like that. They like for their women to cook for them.
Elaine: You know what I thought of while I was listening? That scene in Tootsie. Where Dustin Hoffman's Dorothy Michaels and Dorothy's speaking to the battered woman and breaks from the text. When the director yells cut, Dustin as Michael pretending to be an actress named Doroty says that she wouldn't tell any woman to give up her home. I just flashed on that for some reason and maybe it's because there was more feminism and awareness in Dustin Hoffman's performance of Dorothy Michaels than there was in that entire show broadcast on WBAI. What's next? I think Rachel made a joke, in her e-mail Mike quoted, about how maybe they could offer up programs on how to apply blush? That really is the next step, the next low. That was disgusting. That it aired on progressive radio was disgusting.
Betty: They'll get an out. The show will. It will be, and this is what makes me so furious, well that's the way 'those people' talk. No, it's not the way I talk, it's certainly not the way any of my friends talk and it's not the way my mother or her friends talk. Silly little girls, aged old women who fancy themselves as 'girls,' talk that way. Mature women deal with serious issues and don't sit around yacking over how to keep your man satisified with you. Now I do go to a hot stove every evening after I get home from work, after I've picked up the kids. I do that because I am their mother. You can take it to the bank that if I didn't have children, I wouldn't be doing that for a man. A grown man's a grown man. If he's hungry, he knows where the kitchen is. If I've had a hard day, I've had a hard day. It was Black Cosmo aired on WBAI and it was insulting and embarrassing and I'll bet you anything that if it had been two White women, there would have been huge complaints about the program and there would be some attempt to address that nonsense. But it won't be seen as nonsense, it will be seen as, "Oh, I can't object that we aired something sexist and racist and retro because the two women involved are Black and what do I know about that?" And you better believe some smug, pampered Black man will rush in to say, "Oh, there was nothing wrong with it, they were just having fun." That was the first point my mother raised when I got off the phone. Because there are a number of Black men who dream of taking away the power of Black women. God forbid that they go out and get their own power. So instead it has to be a competition with us. So, yes, my mother is quite correct, some Black man on WBAI's staff will say, "Problem? There was no problem with that." There was a huge problem with that and I seriously question the way women are seen at WBAI as a result. I listen to The Morning Show, Kat tapes it for me and sends me cassettes. That airs on KPFA. I have no interest in listening to WBAI again. That something so racist and sexist could be presented and not send up alarms tells me that station has some serious problems.
Rebecca: Anyone want to add to that?
C.I.: I think Betty's said it all. She's very upset by it and she's conveyed why.
Rebecca: Okay, then we'll move on to Iraq. We'll let Trina and Elaine start because this was a topic on the last roundtable and I didn't invite either due to the late hour. They read it and wished they could have participated. So I apologize to them for not inviting them. And before we start, let me note that when I put this together, it was again last minute. I did get ahold of Ruth but she was actually doing something with four of her grandchildren so she wasn't able to participate. Okay, Iraq. Elaine or Trina?
Elaine: Why don't you start it off.
Trina: Okay. Thank you. I think the points raised in the previous roundtable were good ones, strong ones. Iraq has vanished from the coverage. Not because things improved there, it's worse. Even with the so-called crackdown, it's worse. It does bother me that the coverage is so poor and that it seems that independent media, just like mainstream media, seems to rush to cover every other topic. There's a lot of talk about how Ted Koppel read the names of the fallen on Nightline and now he's gone. Well, why can't independent media do that? Why are we going into a holiday where we will have broadcasts of pre-recorded programs and none will do that? Why will we have pre-recorded programs and no one thought, as Ruth's pointed out before, to use existing material from previous broadcasts to assemble a special on Iraq? I am very disturbed by what appears to be a lack of interest in the Iraq war.
Elaine: Those are good points, and thank you to Ava for attempting to include the point I would have raised in the previous roundtable, which is, and C.I. makes this point as well, don't blame the peace movement for the growth. Once again, we're coming up on demonstrations and actions, this month, and independent media may or may not cover the lead up, judging by past coverage, it won't, but somehow it will be the peace movement's 'fault.' Whatever the figures, it will be the fault of the peace movement for not getting and keeping X number of people interested in Iraq. As though the peace movement has a program on Pacifica or anywhere else. I'm thinking now, Dona called the office Thursday and spoke to Sunny, I had just finished a session and Sunny put it on speaker, who was that stupid woman you were all listening to?
C.I.: She wasn't on public radio. She was on commercial radio. We were in Sacremento and Jim had gone around the dial trying to find something to listen to. He landed on her and we were just appalled by her. Dona was so appalled that she wanted you to hear it. She insulted Mike Malloy, which was the whole point of over an hour of her show, Randi Rhodes and just about everyone who called in. She was a silly piece of nonsense.
Elaine: Who whined about how unfair the media was to Israel and justified Mike Malloy's firing.
C.I.: Right, but we may be doing a piece on that at The Third Estate Sunday Review, so I'm going to stop you there on the details.
Elaine: Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that. Well, the thing that ticked me off the most was her talk of the need for 'fun.' Yes, there is a need for fun. I like fun. But if you're a political program --
C.I.: She airs on a station that carries Air America programming. Supposedly, she's a political program.
Elaine: Thank you. Then she has no excuse for whining about how she doesn't want to cover this or cover that. I'm going to drop that because I'm going to start giving examples and if this is possible piece for Third, I don't want to step on it. But the point is, there's very little coverage of Iraq. In the mainstream, in the independent media, with few exceptions, so once again, the heavy work will be done by peace groups and, once again, a turnout, a sizeable and impressive one, will turn out. But there will be the usual post-commentary of, "Why can't the peace movement mobilize?" They are mobilizing and without the help or support of the media.
Trina: I would add to that by noting that this week Donald Rumsfeld smeared critics of the Iraq war and of the so-called war on terror and instead of noting the smear and how out of bounds it was, everyone wanted to say, "Well, here's where he's wrong historically." Of course he's wrong historically. Expecting him to be right about history, when he's been wrong on everything else, is beside the point. Where were the voices condemning his statement. They could be heard in Congress. But you didn't hear them in commentary after commentary which read like everyone wanted to show off that they hadn't slept through the class discussion on WWII. Good, grab your prize. Get your pat on the head. But don't ever criticize 'tone' again because that wasn't tackled. C.I. and Cedric both listed names of people on the left who were attacked by the center and the left for statements they made. And yet Donald Rumsfeld makes an offensive statement and instead of dealing with how offensive it was, especially coming from someone serving in government, supposedly serving the people he's smearing, but all we get is, "Well, the real history of WWII . . ." Take off the kid gloves.
Rebecca: I'm with you. No wonder the left is in such a sorry state when the left can't even rise up against that kind of nonsense. Wally and Cedric did a joint entry on how Congress showed some spine even if most of the left didn't. I'm sick of that whole "You catch more flies with honey" nonsense. It's that bullshit that's allowed the playing field to tilt so extremely to the right for so long. We're not in a contest judged by Miss Manners, we're competing in the public square and if we're not willing to call out the ones who need to be called out, then we're not doing anything but proving how 'reasoned' we are. Good for the Congressional Democrats because "flies" aren't "voters" and "Look at us, we are so reasoned' isn't a winning campaing motto. Betty?
Betty: I agree and I think Trina's point is especially valid. This is the Secretary of Defense, a public servant of the people, smearing the American people. A large chunk to judge by the polls. That was so out of bounds, so off sides. It was a huge foul and instead of blowing the whistle, they wanted to talk about the next play. Sorry, Elaine.
Elaine: No, I followed your analogy.
Betty: If we can't come alive in the face of those sort of attacks, and Democrats in Congress did so good for them, then what kind of a movement do we think we have? It's a movement where, All Puff But No Politics can and did trash Bright Eyes and Kanye West, West for his statement that George W. Bush doesn't like black people, Bright Eyes for recording "When A President Talks to God" but the same supposed lefties can't call Donald Rumsfeld out on his offensive statements? That's just -- just really, really sad.
Elaine: Rebecca made the point, a good one, that some of the biggest voices, or what we were supposed to think were the biggest voices, haven't been urging the troops come home. Like she pointed out, Baby Cries A Lot has repeatedly urged just the opposite and continues to. She made a comment about how, when C.I. called Baby Cries A Lot out on that, I believe in 2004, it was seen as "controversial" and I wanted some clarity on that. I'm not surprised by it being seen as controversial but I was wondering what the crowd was.
C.I.: The Bull Moose crowd. The idiots, as Cedric pointed out, who chased down the mythical 'vangical voters and dropped the war as an issue immediately after the 2004 election. How dare I say that about Baby Cries A Lot was the gist of the e-mails from those. That and how I'd be sorry. I am sorry he has no guts. I'm not sorry for what I wrote then or since. But they are part of the problem, that crowd and Baby Cries A Lot. They wanted to push the nonsense of 'pottery barn' -- which isn't their policy -- you break it, you buy it. Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize Iraq was an uninhabited object. I thought it had citizens and that the citizens might be the ones to best chart their future.
Trina: I think it is "the other." The looking at the Iraqi people as if they're not smart enough or functioning adults and so inferior that they are our responsibility or our burden. I think it's quite clear that there's a lack of respect for them. If there wasn't, people would have been outraged in this country that contractors were being shipped in to work on reconstruction, which never really got off the ground from most reports. I think if we saw them as adults, we, in this country, would have said, "Now just a minute. There aren't any engineers in Iraq? What's going on here?" And I think Elaine wrote some wonderful pieces for the gina & krista round-robin before she ever started blogging.
Elaine: Thank you.
Trina: Unfiltered used to air on Air America. It's been cancelled for over a year now. Could you talk about that show because you did listen to it and I think that the movement is where it is in spite of the media and that Unfiltered is the perfect example.
Elaine: Sure. I used to grab an hour of it during lunch, when you could still listen to archived shows without the new steps, and, when I was scheduling a hole in the schedule to do paperwork, I'd schedule during the show so I could listen. The show was often funny. I'm not saying it wasn't. It could be entertaining. But they refused to address some issues. For instance, I think this is what Trina's talking about, they couldn't go a week without some refugee from Op-Truth. An organization that couldn't call for withdrawal and, in fact, was preaching that stay-the-course nonsense. You couldn't get a peace advocate on the show but you could hear at least once a week from them about how we needed to stay-the-course. Tariq Ali is a guest and I was nodding along with what he was saying but apparently not everyone was because as soon as he was gone, Liz Winstead felt the need to note that they didn't agree with him. Who did Rachel Maddow and Liz Winstead agree with? They fawned over Op-Truth. It was so bad at the end, that they could offer a comedic look at couple training but you still couldn't get, in a three hour program broadcasting Monday through Friday, a peace advocate. It was "We must worship their opinion because they know, they were there" as the ad they couldn't stop airing reminded you constantly. Well other vets returned from Iraq and called for withdrawal but they couldn't get on the show because we weren't going to address that. Rachel Maddow was quite clear repeatedly that, in her opinion presented as fact, troops could not leave. Now when the polls shifted, after she had her own show, she apparently had a new way of thinking. But while she was on Unfiltered, she couldn't do anything but push the stay-the-course nonsense. Liz was less inclined to but when a listener would bring up the need for a peace advocate as a regular guest, Liz would go ballistic. She did at a guy once when I was the one who'd brought it up. She went ballistic and then offered a mealy mouth apology to the guy she'd torn into. But they couldn't talk withdrawal. What good were they? They were presenting the same argument as the Bully Boy and arguing for a 'smarter war.' A war based on lies is a war based on lies and you can't 'smarten it up.' But the peace movement had to overcome that as well. Not just the mainstream media dismissing them and shutting them out but the likes of Unfiltered or Baby Cries A Lot as well. The peace movement had to overcome that and they did. There have been so many obstacles and the worst have been the ones put up by supposed 'friends.' There was also the issue and, Rachel and Liz would go spastic when anyone pointed this out, that in a democracy, no one has a greater voice. But they were treating the Op-Truth crowd like gods and goddesses. They were worshipping that hideous organization. And it was hideous and it did attack CODEPINK in March of 2005. CODEPINK is still around. Op-Truth disbanded. But not until they'd done all the damage they could. And someone tell that leader he looks like he's wearing pantyhose on his head with that stupid photo at The Huffington Post. He looks like a White boy with Mommy's pantyhose stuck to his head. All he wanted to do was talk war, war, war. Now he can't sell that because America's not buying it and he's trying to reconfigure himself. He was disgusting in 2004, he's disgusting now. And let me say, on the record, to C.I. that I'm so sorry. I would start a piece for The Common Ills on this. C.I. would note that I was doing a piece and then I'd think, "Oh, I shouldn't even go there." So my apologies to C.I. for not finishing those pieces, when the round-robin started up, I would just give them to Gina and Krista, but this was before it started up. Then when I'd say forget it, C.I. would end up writing about it and I know C.I. didn't want to even mess with that crowd. So thank you to C.I. for that.
C.I.: You don't have to thank me for that. I'm glad it was written. I wish you'd written them instead because you would have said it better but when that 'leader' was on a program this year and disagreed with another guest, he repeatedly called the other guest 'your caller' as though the man speaking, who'd also been in Iraq but had different views than rah-rah-war, "your caller." As though the other person wasn't good enough to be a guest on the same program as 'the leader.' His smugness is the least of his problems but I'm glad I said it. I think you could have said it better, but I'm glad that it got said in 2004 and 2005. And Elaine is correct, that's what the peace movement was up against. A little twerp could get airtime preaching war-war-war and Leslie Cagan couldn't. A little twerp could go on week after week with the same speech, eventually, they started bringing on others from his organization because the Unfiltered audience had too many negatives on him, which is only surprising to anyone who's never heard him pontificate. Or take the actions at the end of August and start of September in 2004. Naomi Klein rightly argued that we should bring Iraq to NYC. Toad and the others freaked out. "Oh my God! Riots!" That wasn't what she was arguing and I had a difficult time then, and still do, believing that Toad was really confused. He didn't want any protests. When Laruga Flanders interviewed Tom Hayden this year, she asked if the Democrats gained control of at least one house of Congress via the November elections and then did nothing would he be in favor of some actions of protest, harkening to 1968 in Chicago, and he said yes. The audience applauded, this was at a thing for the republishing of the Port Huron Statement. Flanders agreed as well. If the Dems gain a House and do nothing with it, then yes, we need action in the streets. We need it now. But yes, the Democrats need to be protested if they do nothing.
Rebecca: The above was done early Saturday morning for those of us in EST time zones and we took a break and are resuming later Saturday. A long break, so we could all get some sleep. Betty?
Betty: The new thing seems to be that Donald Rumsfeld should resign, the new thing elected Dems can rally around.
Rebecca: That is true. The call on that has gotten louder. Thoughts on that?
Betty: Well, he does need to. He's been repeatedly wrong, he's acted as though he's impervious. He's mishandled an illegal war. The start of the war, the lies it was built upon, meant nothing good could come from it; however, he's been at the heart of the biggest scandals from Abu Ghraib to you name it.
Rebecca: Right. Dennis Bernstein interviewed Janis Karpinski on Flashpoints and she spoke of how, when the story on that was breaking, she wasn't advised of that. She wasn't over that area of the prison, she was attempting to find out what happened when she was informed after the fact and when she returned to the prison, one of the things she noticed was, still displayed, Donald Rumsfeld's memo, signed off by him, regarding the permission granted for these 'new technicques.'
Rebecca: Torture. Forget his involvement, or forget splitting hairs over it, the fact that he was Secretary of Defense when that happened, and remember there are photos that Congress refused to release, the fact that he was in charge then should have led to immediate calls for his resignation though, if he had any real sense of duty, he would have resigned without anyone calling for it.
Betty: Which goes back to the lack of accountability. No one's accountable. There's no accountability for the lies that led us into war. Rumsfeld's not accountable for anything. The no-bid contracts have resulted in on accountability. We're seeing some small bit of accountability for those who bribed or received bribes, but that's really it. In so-called military justice, we've yet to see any justice. There is no accountability in this administration.
Elaine: And Congress doesn't push for accountability.
C.I.: Nor did they with the imprisonments at Guantanamo.
Elaine: Exactly. Scare the nation and keep it scared and you can do whatever you want. That is the historical, Machevillian type 'lesson' from this dark era of our history.
Trina: Bully Boy doesn't worry about history, but I do think about it. I wonder what people, future generations, will think.
Trina: I think they'll think, "How could you be so stupid to be lied into war?" For one thing, that's what I think they'll wonder.
Rebecca: Well, and this is the point C.I.'s made for some time, it helps the excuse when you act as thought it's all Judith Miller's fault. As though she were the only one in the press pushing the war. It helps when you ignore her frequent writing partners, still at the paper.
C.I.: And to beat that drum one more time, Judith Miller was not the editor of the paper. She did not decide if her story would run, where it would run, etc. She did not publish the paper. She also did not own or operate NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, MSBNC, PBS, go down the list. Some papers carried her writing, other than the Times. While you can probably make a strong argument that other papers expect the Times to do some sort of work and vetting, the reality is that those papers made the choice to run her pieces. And she wasn't the only one at the Times writing those pieces nor was the Times the only paper with original reporting or 'reporting' that led the push to war. Betty was talking about the lack of accountability and she's correct but there's also a huge lack of journalistic acountability. A lot of people are basically staying silent and getting off scott free because Judith Miller's been "punished." Iraq didn't even bring Miller down. It was the outcry over the involvement in the Plamegate matter. Which, to be clear, Judith Miller never wrote on. Her reporting had been questionable for some time, prior to the lead up to the Iraq war, then came her involvement in that. She refused to testify without her source, Scooter Libby now indicted, giving her permission to break the privacy trust built into the source and reporter equation. Because of who she was and the issues involved, a lot in the press wanted to scream, "Oh she should be forced to testify!" She wasn't sympathetic to many in the general public but it's still surprising to me how many of her peers were willing to turn on her. The Times saw headlines, after her release from jail was on the horizon, and honestly didn't realize the aminosity towards her by readers, the public -- which includes non-readers and there are a lot of them to judge by some of the criticism which attempts to hold her responsible for things she never even wrote -- and by the Times own staff. When that sunk in, Judith Miller's days as a reporter at the paper came to an end.
Rebecca: The myth is Iraq brought her down.
C.I.: Her gender and manner of carrying herself brought her down. If it wasn't about gender, others would be held accountable for their own actions but a lot of men are still around. When the issue of the lies, the press lies, that led us into war, is discussed, people always say "Judith Miller." She became the focal point. By all means, hold her accountable for what she wrote, but she's being held accountable for things she didn't even write. And the idea that one person could be so all mighty powerful is laughable. But it plays into the fear of women, powerful women especially, still in this society, so it's much easier to bash Miller and let others go unnamed. It's also true that Bash the Bitch, the true national pasttime, is so ingrained in this country that even those who didn't read the paper, didn't follow the criticism, know her name. It may be more well known than Jayson Blair's.
Rebecca: That would be interesting, to see Zogby or some other organization poll on that.
Elaine: I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case. Blair's largely fallen out of the public eye but the war drags on and when people want to appear 'informed,' they'll toss off her name. She is the short-hand and it goes to, I agree completely, the fear of women in this society. She wasn't the only one who needs her feet held to the fire but she was the most prominent woman so she becomes the face for all.
Betty: And no one hear is defending her reporting. We are talking about the fact that to give Tim Russert or anyone else a pass is insane. I'm borrowing from C.I. here, but Dick Cheney offering lies on Meet the Press and then waving around a copy of The New York Times with a story on the front page doesn't mean Tim Russert has to take a dive. Nor does it excuse the awful reporting that the networks aired or the way they shut out voices in their aired discussions. Do you think they were all saying, "I wish we could have on someone opposed to the war. Hey, check with Judy Miller? Maybe she's okay with it. If so, we'll book Medea Benjamin." It's crazy. Her area, Judith Miller's, was The New York Times. If that paper and only that paper pushed the war, it wouldn't be enough. Other outlets did and no one is held accountable for that. We all are supposed to act like it was all Judith Miller.
C.I.: And now the witch has been burned and the village purified. That's the take away, that's the message being sent. A lot people, especially a lot of men, must be real grateful that what passes for press criticism is so superficial that not only do they not have to explain their own pre-war actions, but that no one even bothers to note those actions. Danny Schechter's documentary WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception, a great film, has him wondering if it was all a dream? The press coverage. The official narrative today is such that the question could be posed: "Was it all Judy Miller?" The answer is now but the official narrative doesn't bear that out.
Trina: And it amazes me that Dexter Filkins, also with The New York Times, has not gotten the criticism he deserves. My paper does, or did, carry his stories. And he wrote the most mythical accounts.
Elaine: As C.I. has said for 2 years now, if Miller got the US over there --
Elaine: If, it's people like Dexter Filkins that have kept us there with their non-reality based reporting.
Trina: And that point, which I agree with 100%, is demonstrated repeatedly but no one tackles it. Well, in this community it is tackled and I'm sure in a few places elsewhere, but in the supposed press watchdog quarters, it's not even dealt with. Filkins was outed by The Washington Post as their go-to-guy when they wanted to plant a story. The reporter --
C.I.: Thomas E. Ricks.
Trina: Gets Dexy to speak on the record and it didn't even cause a ripple. Or take his review of Paul Bremer's book. Danny Schechter did take him to task and that was one of the few who did.
The point Schechter made was, "If you knew this then, why didn't you say it. You didn't need an official source to report what you saw with your own eyes." That's his point, not a direct quote.
Elaine: Right because Dexter Filkins, who won awards for his rose colored glasses view of the slaughter of Falluja, repeatedly spun the realities into something more palitable an bearable. He should be held accountable and he's not.
Rebecca: When it gets to the point that you're blaming Judith Miller for an article that had Chris Hedges' byline, it's clear that Miller's being scapegoated.
Elaine: I like Hedges, I think we all enjoy his writing, Rebecca's speaking of his article immediately after 9-11 that pushed the false lie that a terrorist training camp was in Iraq, training people to hijack planes. That article established the link between the two, Iraq and 9-11, a false link, for many. To his credit, Hedges has spoken of the story and disowned it. But there were two sources and apparently The Common Ills is the only one that will point that out. Apparently, actually going back to the article and reading it before weighing in, because this was a mini-hot topic a few months back, is too much work for our watchdogs. There were two sources, at least two, but he wrote of two sources. Only one was outed by Mother Jones. Who is the second source? Who is the second liar? No one wants to tackle that. And now, in ignorance and haste, you hear press critics give Miller the blame for that article.
C.I.: Chris Hedges is a good writer and anyone can get burned. But it's true, his article says "two" and only one was outed. It's that kind of nonsense, the refusal to address the issue by the press critics at large, that allows for a lot of stupid press criticism. And that stupidity, or refusal to explore, allows an impression that "Judith Miller's gone! The press works! All is well!"
Rebecca: Which is the ultimate lie. Going back to Falluja and Dexter Filkins, he didn't report what went on. As you, C.I., have pointed out, the Times and other outlets initially dismissed the reports of white phosphorus when they emerged in the last twelve months. What did they use to dismiss those reports? We had embedded reporters and they didn't report it so it didn't happen. Then the Pentagon admits that it was used and there's no, "We had embedded reporters and they didn't report it so how did that happen?" Does anyone think the press is doing a job today that demonstrates a huge improvement?
Elaine: Well, I think they're more cautious. I think they realize how angry the public is and that some of that anger is aimed at them, as it should be, so they're realizing that they have to tone it down a notch or two. The country won't accept that nonsense right now. The people were lied to and they know that. I think that makes some who would be more hasty a little more cautious and it makes some outright liars look over their shoulder with every word they type.
C.I.: And let's be clear, because members wrote about in e-mails and continue to, this wasn't confined to the hard news section or the opinions. This war march leaked into the arts coverage with Sheryl Crow being slammed for a Grammy nomination. As Billie and others have pointed out, they were so eager to slam her that they couldn't even get their facts right. It leaked into the sports coverage with Steve Nash and others being told to shut up. I wish I could remember the female athelete, a basketball player, that Billie always notes who got slammed in one column.
But it was a sports column, in the sports section, by an award winning sports columnist, and he listed her, Nash and others and basically said, "There's no draft, shut up! If the draft was reinstated, you could speak." And as Billie fired off to the columinist, in an e-mail, if the draft did come back tomorrow, it's questionable whether women would be included so, by the columnist's 'logic,' even then the female basketball player would have no right to voice an opinion. Members can tell you about columnists whose beat was their local cities, not Los Angeles, who had to rush in to weigh in about Michael Moore or the Dixie Chicks or whomever. Or the local columnist, Steve something, with the Dallas Morning News, who felt the need to weigh in that the actions of peace activists were traitorous. Now the Dallas Morning News just slimed Cindy Sheehan as being pro-terrorist in an editorial. Not a lot's changed obviously. They can't go after sports heroes but they can slime Cindy Sheehan. That editorial ran Friday, for anyone attempting to locate it.
Trina: It's appalling that she, Cindy Sheehan, can be portrayed like that but, and I think everyone will agree, a lot of the reason for that, the reason for that happening, is because independent media abandoned Iraq, didn't care about Camp Casey this summer and I think it allowed a lot of people to feel this was their moment, they could go to town on Cindy Sheehan and get away with it.
Rebecca: I would agree with that completely. And that gets to the failure of all media to seriously address Iraq. There's been too little serious coverage, too little coverage period. The war didn't end, just the media's interest in it. And we're going to have to wrap up because C.I. has entries and we all have things to do. Thanks to everyone for participating in this roundtable and joint post. Thanks to Trina, Betty and C.I. who did the typing. Typos are here. Enjoy them.