Roundtable: Online Activism Surrounds Stimulus Bill Can a black online advocacy group convince a GOP governor to take his state's federal stimulus funds? Our bloggers weigh in on that, the AIG bonus outrage, and reflect on their experiences with News & Notes. On today's final bloggers' roundtable, Tony Cox talks with Carmen Dixon, Kevin Ross, and Baratunde Thurston.
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Roundtable: Online Activism Surrounds Stimulus Bill

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Roundtable: Online Activism Surrounds Stimulus Bill

Roundtable: Online Activism Surrounds Stimulus Bill

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TONY COX, host:

Now, on to our final Wednesday Bloggers' Roundtable, and some of the hot topics we're talking about online. AIG bonuses continue to fuel outrage around the country. Online activists jump into the fight over stimulus money, and our bloggers reflect on their time at News & Notes. So, with us, media consultant Carmen Dixon - she writes the blog All About Race, also blogs for AOL Black Voices; former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross - he blogs over at 3 Brothers and A Sister, and he hosts "The Kevin Ross Show" on BlogTalkRadio; and comedian and self-described vigilante pundit Baratunde Thurston, he is the co-founder of Jack and Jill Politics, and also writes for the Huffington Post. Hello, everybody.




COX: You guys are our A-team of bloggers. I want you to know that...

THURNSTON: Oh, go on.

COX: Nah, I'm not kidding you...

THURNSTON: No, really, go on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DIXON: Yeah. My mom's listening.

THURNSTON: I'll let you know when we're done here.

COX: So, let's talk about AIG first, and here's what the president had to say. He's said many things since this. But this one sort of encapsulates, I think, how the president feels about what went down at AIG.

(Soundbite of speech)

President BARACK OBAMA: In the last six months, AIG has received substantial sums from the U.S. Treasury. And I've asked Secretary Geithner to use that leverage and pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses. Now, we already have resolution authority - (coughing) excuse me, I'm choked up with anger here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Polls say - let's talk about this in terms of how it impacts him and us because polls say - Carmen, I'm going to come to you first. More than 96 percent of African-American voters voted for him for president. All right, we know that. A lot of hopes and expectations have been placed on his shoulders. All right, we know that as well. Here's the question. How should his supporters stay realistic about his policies and work? I mean, it's our money, too.

DIXON: Of course it's our money, and I'm questioning how you define realistic. I certainly think if this - so many billions of dollars are being spent, it's absolutely appropriate for all people and particularly his constituents, his core constituents, to want that money distributed not just to the Wall Street fat cats but to also folks who need to eat, who need to find a job, and who need to preserve their homes. So, I don't know why that would be considered unrealistic.

COX: Well, what I'm getting at, and perhaps you'll have to answer this after the break, Baratunde, is, is it realistic to say, look, Barack Obama, president of the United States of America, you're messing up - you're messing around with our money. We supported you, but we need to criticize you and your policies. What about that, Baratunde?

THURSTON: I think it's absolutely essential to do both. I mean, there's - you know, blind support is not helpful either to the people or to the president. And we need both to feel empowered and to succeed. So, he needs that pressure, but I think we have to do it in a way that isn't destructive or needlessly negative. That doesn't get the job done. I'd hate to be a rich banker right now. These guys don't know how to manage image, don't know how to manage money, clearly, and they're in banking. So, this has been a fail on every possible angle of the whole situation, from the setup of these complex, financial instruments in the beginning to the bailout process, and now to the fallout over what's called bonuses. No one has tolerance for this when millions of people are suffering, when factories are shutting down, when people can't afford food and they're getting kicked off their health care. So the rage is there, and I think if we can communicate that - you know, he must be feeling it. He's got a really tough job.

COX: Well, let me stop you there only because the clock is running out, I guess.


COX: We're going to come back because Kevin hasn't had his chance, and there's no way in the world I'm going to get out of here without letting Kevin Ross talk about this.

Mr. ROSS: And you don't mess with judge(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: So, we'll be back to continue this conversation with Carmen Dixon, Baratunde Thurston and Kevin Ross, in just a moment.

(Soundbite of music)

COX: I'm Tony Cox, and this is News & Notes. We're back with our Bloggers Roundtable. Joining us today, Carmen Dixon, media consultant who writes All About Race, and who also writes for AOL Black Voices; former L.A. Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross, who blogs at 3Brothers and a Sister; and Baratunde Thurston, co-founder of Jack & Jill Politics and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. All right, so before the break we were talking about Obama. And what made me think of this, Kevin, is I have a friend who I've been friends with a long time. We talk politics all the time. And she and I had to stop speaking to each other for a period of time because I had the audacity to be critical of something that Barack Obama had done. And there's a sense among some of us in the black community that he is, you know, beyond criticism. It's crazy.

ROSS: Absolutely. Well, you know, it's interesting. I have tweets that go out at And one of the things I tweeted about was the woman Carmen over at Racialicious. And she had talked about the study that the Christian Science Monitor - actually it was an article that talked about how black men right now - you have seen this drop, 7.8 percent have fewer jobs than in 2007. When you look and see what's going on with people of color, you are seeing them say, OK, how is it that people in New Orleans, when they were in need, that they were called refugees, that they were called lazy, that they were called people that were not contributing to society? And then you contrast that with these folks that are just taking money and seemingly in a way that we wouldn't expect President Obama to have even gotten to this point with. You know, meaning that when you have someone like a Timothy Geithner, we were all sold from the president. This is the man who gets it. This is the man who no one else can do this the way that he can do it in terms of this execution.

COX: He said that today.

ROSS: And then you see the incompetence. Now, sure, it's only been 60 days. But anytime you have a company that has taken $170 billion - we as a country own 80 percent of that. They have lost $62 billion and then they are saying, well, contractually, we have to pay these folks almost $200 million in bonuses. It's not a good look for our president, and being a black Republican specifically, I think it's an opportunity for people of color to say, you know what, we can't put all our eggs in a basket anymore as it relates to Democrats...

DIXON: That's right.

ROSS: Because the fact of the matter is, you know, sometimes even the best intentions don't result in our best interests being advanced.

COX: Well, you know, you mentioned a good point that's a great segue to continue this conversation having to do with Shelby Steele, a conservative - a Republican columnist here in California who wrote an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal. It was an opinion piece entitled "Why the GOP Cannot Win with Minorities." And it was, you know, very academic in terms of its tone. But to cut through all of that beautiful writing, his point was, you know, don't be taken by one group, and don't put yourself in a situation where you don't even look at the other side, Carmen Dixon.

DIXON: Well, having been a Republican for eight years - now I'm an independent - but having been a Republican for eight years, I am a strong believer that the Democratic Party takes blacks for granted, and further...

COX: Absolutely.

DIXON: That our democracy depends on two viable, strong parties to make it work.

ROSS: Preach, sister, preach!

(Soundbite of laughter)

DIXON: But it's - so it's very interesting, you know. I had a chance to speak with Michael Steele at the State of the Black Union the other week, and I told him he had an ally, to come on my site, to write pieces, because I believe in the effort of the GOP to attract blacks and Latinos and Asians and all people of color to that party for the strength of our democracy. However...

THURSTON: In fact I was with Carmen, and we were actually at the - I was at the Prince concert, sitting next to Michael Steele.

(Soundbite of laughter)

THURSTON: At one point, we were doing the bird(ph), and I was like, he's a brother...

COX: When that - well, wait now. There's, you know - there's a real argument about Michael Steele...

DIXON: Right.

COX: And whether Michael Steele - and who he actually represents...

DIXON: Well, that's what I'm about to get to.

COX: So, we don't want to - I'm trying to make sure we keep this in some sort of balance here.

DIXON: But just real quick - I wanted to say, though, when he doesn't speak out against his fellow Republicans making comments like, we're going to become Zimbabwe, when he lets comments like that - when Michael Steele lets comments from the GOP like that float out into the ether and doesn't check them, he turns off any potential black voters.

COX: Well, Baratunde, I got to tell you. Even if - even after having read Michael Steele's argument, I thought he made an argument for why black people should not go to the Republican Party.

THURSTON: Yeah, he's not a good spokesperson. I think he's a spokesperson or salesperson without a good product right now. We're recovering from eight years of neglect of, quote, unquote, faith in the market rather than faith in some sort of a more equitable outcome for American people. And Michael Steele is not the guy to do it. Shelby Steele is not the guy to do it. This is the guy who wrote a book called "Why Obama Can't Win."

DIXON: Right.

THURSTON: And he has egg all over his face...

COX: Absolutely.

THURSTON: And his publisher's face for that. So the argument rings hollow when you oversimplify the relationship between black people and the Democratic Party. I'm not loyal to the party, but I am loyal to progressive ideas. And this is a party that has fought in a group - in a movement that has fought for equal application and equal protection under the law.

ROSS: Sometimes...

DIXON: I was going to say parts of it. ..TEXT: THURSTON: Parts of it.

COX: Let me - let me - let me bring this... ..TEXT: THURSTON: At the same time, you have...

COX: Let me bring this...

THURSTON: You have to call out your own party. When they constantly run games and marketing gimmicks, and when the substance of providing for the American people is left off the table.

ROSS: Now you're talking, yeah.

COX: Let me bring the whole thing full circle on why I raised the issue of criticizing President Obama, bringing up Shelby Steele, talking about Michael Steele is that, on this program, on this - at this moment, this is an opportunity for us to discuss this.

DIXON: Right.

ROSS: Yeah.

COX: That opportunity is going away in about 48 hours.

DIXON: Oh...

COX: And what is the significance of having a place? And I don't want to sound too self-serving. But having a place where you can just...

ROSS: But go ahead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

THURSTON: Preach on, preach one.

COX: Where you can have an exchange of these kinds of ideas. When we leave, you guys, your blogs will be the place where folks will have to go to have this conversation.

ROSS: Well, it's interesting that you mention that, Tony. Because what I have found in this last year - a year and a half that I've been involved with NPR in this show, is that I did not know. I read Baratunde, but I didn't hear Baratunde.

DIXON: Right.

ROSS: I read Carmen, but I didn't hear her. So, you know, even with individuals who for whatever reason, they don't want to give their real names on their blogs or they only give their first name. What this show has done is that it has forced us all to come from behind that curtain. And I'm excited about the possibilities because, see, now you've given it to us. You know, now you've given Baratunde voice, so you can't take it back now. So whether it's going to "The Kevin Ross Show" on BlogTalkRadio or Baratunde hearing...

THURSTON: I hear that plug.

ROSS: Hey.

THURSTON: You are so smooth, man.

ROSS: Hey.

THURSTON: You are so smooth.

ROSS: Because there's no reason why we shouldn't have Jack & Jill Politics Radio.

DIXON: Right.

ROSS: There's no reason why Carmen Dixon is not going to be able to really just blow her radio show that she's getting ready to launch right now.

DIXON: Launching April 27th.

ROSS: So the conversation is going to keep going, and it's unfortunate that NPR doesn't see the value that we ourselves recognize...

DIXON: Yeah, absolutely.

ROSS: That value is just going to move into a different space.

COX: Well, you know, I can't speak for NPR in terms of whether or not they see the value because perhaps that value will re-emerge in a new form.

ROSS: Well, hey, there's a saying. I can't hear you. Your actions are speaking too loud. ..TEXT: THURSTON: Too loud.

ROSS: So the bottom line is, if we're not here, then that means I'm going to call Baratunde and say look, brother, come on my show. Baratunde, if you want to start a show on BlogTalkRadio, I will come on your show. Let's get Field Negro, let's get Pam from Pam's House Blend, let's get Gina McCauley...


COX: All right.

ROSS: And keep the party going.

COX: Our time - unfortunately...


COX: Our time has - we've got 20 seconds.


DIXON: I want to talk about arguing with the Republican Muslims.

COX: Well...

DIXON: The black Republican Muslims.


DIXON: The black Republican Muslims. That was my favorite moment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: You'll have to do that on your blog.

THURSTON: Do it on your radio show.

DIXON: Yeah.

COX: Baratunde Thurston, let me thank you.

THURSTON: Thank you.

COX: Carmen Dixon, let me thank you.

ROSS: Thank you.

DIXON: Thank you.

COX: Kevin Ross, it has been our pleasure to have you as part of our contributors, and I know that the audience feels as we do. Thank you again.

DIXON: It's been an honor.

ROSS: Thank you very much.

THURSTON: See you on the internets, y'all.

ROSS: Yeah.

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