Friday, April 30, 2004

ACLU Challenges Patriot Act Provisions

"ACLU challenges Patriot Act provision"
By Curt Anderson
Philly.com
Reposted at Free Press

WASHINGTON -The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the FBI's use of expanded powers to compel Internet service providers to turn over information about their customers or subscribers.

A lawsuit challenging secret FBI national security letters was filed April 6 in U.S. District Court in New York but not made public until yesterday because of its extraordinary sensitivity.

The FBI can issue national security letters, or NSLs, without a judge's approval, in terrorism and espionage cases. They require telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses to produce highly personal records about their customers or subscribers.

People who receive the letters are prohibited by law from disclosing to anyone that they did so. Because of this legal gag order, the ACLU was forced to reach an agreement with the Justice Department before a heavily edited version of the lawsuit could be unsealed.

"We believe the public has a right to know much more about this lawsuit," said Ann Beeson, ACLU associate legal director.

Justice Department and FBI officials declined comment on the case.

The lawsuit challenges as unconstitutional one of several types of national security letters used by the FBI in counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations.

The letters in question involve records held by Internet service providers about their clients, including billing information, kinds of merchandise the clients buy online, and the e-mail addresses of the clients' associates. The coplaintiff in the case is identified only as an "Internet access business," with other identification blacked out.

The ACLU lawsuit contends that the Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after the 2001 terror attacks, expanded the FBI's power to use national security letters by deleting parts of an earlier law requiring that there be some suspicion that the subject of the probe was linked to spying or terrorism.

"As a result of the Patriot Act, the FBI may now use NSLs to obtain sensitive information about innocent individuals who have no connection to espionage or terrorism," the lawsuit says.

An FBI guidance document to its field offices acknowledges that the Patriot Act "greatly broadened" FBI authority to use the letters in relevant investigations. But the document says that FBI supervisors must exercise care in their use, particularly because that part of the Patriot Act is set to expire in 2005 unless renewed by Congress.

"Supervisors should keep this in mind when deciding whether or not a particular use of NSL authority is appropriate," the FBI document says.

The lawsuit contends that NSLs are unconstitutional because of the gag order. That is because a recipient has no way of challenging the letters' validity and because the government is not forced to justify its reasons for not notifying the target about the records being sought.

President Bush has been pushing Congress to renew all of the Patriot Act before it expires next year, arguing that it is one of law enforcement's best tools in preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack.

Article Link

Special Report on Bush's War on the Middle Class

Another extensive archive of reports, links and articles courtesy of Moving Ideas In-Depth Issues:

Moving Ideas Network, a project of The American Prospect, presents resources on the magazine's Special Report on Bush's War on the Middle Class.

Bush's War on the Middle Class

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Sinclair Stations to Boycott Nightline Broadcast of the Names/Faces Of U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq

For more on this see a few posts below:

"Sinclair Stations to Boycott 'Nightline' Tribute"
By Steve Gorman
Yahoo

A major television chain, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, will bar its ABC-affiliated stations from airing a planned "Nightline" tribute to fallen U.S. troops in Iraq, saying the program is a political statement disguised as news. ABC News plans to devote Friday's entire "Nightline" segment to the tribute, with anchor Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of hundreds of fallen American servicemen and women as their photographs are shown.

The network's intentions drew a denunciation from Sinclair, a Baltimore-based owner of 62 television stations in 39 markets reaching roughly 24 percent of U.S. television households. Sinclair said the "Nightline" segment "appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq."

In a statement posted on its Web site, the broadcast group accused Koppel and his show of seeking to "highlight only one aspect of the war effort and in doing so to influence public opinion against the military action in Iraq." An ABC News spokeswoman said Sinclair's decision to preempt Friday's "Nightline" on its stations would remove the program in at least seven markets -- St. Louis, Missouri; Columbus, Ohio; Charleston, West Virginia; Pensacola, Florida; Springfield, Massachusetts and Asheville and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Sticking to its plans, ABC News issued its own statement defending the planned broadcast as "an expression of respect which simply seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country."
In an interview with Internet media report Poynteronline, Koppel himself rejected the notion that he was out to make a political point. "Just look at these people. Look at their names. And look at their ages. Consider what they've done for you. Honor them," Koppel said. "I truly believe that people will take away from this program the reflection of what they bring to it."

Sinclair's boycott drew a sharp rebuke from U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat and leading congressional critic of newly relaxed media ownership regulations adopted last year by the Federal Communications Commission. "The decision by Sinclair ... to keep this program off its stations is being made by a corporation with a political agenda without regard to the wants or needs of its viewers," Hinchey said. "This move may be providing a chilling look into the future if we allow media ownership to be consolidated into fewer and fewer hands."

The Washington-based liberal think tank the Center for American Progress cited campaign contribution reports showing Sinclair executives have donated more than $130,000 to President Bush and his political allies since 2000. The network initially said the 30-minute telecast would be limited acknowledging only the 523 U.S. troops killed in combat since the start of the war in March 3002. But on Thursday, ABC said it would expand the program to 40 minutes to include another 200 or more Americans who died as a result of accidents, friendly fire or suicide.

ABC is a unit of the Walt Disney Co.

Report Link

The Diplomacy of Imperialism by Alex Lefebvre

"The diplomacy of imperialism: Iraq and US foreign policy"
by Alex Lefebvre
WSWS


Part one: Monarchical Iraq and the growth of social antagonisms

Part two: The Iraqi nationalist movements, the permanent revolution, and the Cold War

Part three: The Iraqi Baath Party, from its origins to political power

Part four: Iraq in the 1970s and the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War

Part five: Donald Rumsfeld and the Washington-Saddam Hussein connection

Part six: Reagan administration deepens ties with Hussein

Part seven: US financial assistance for Hussein in the 1980s

Part eight: The end of the Iran-Iraq war

Part nine: American policy after the Iran-Iraq war

"Some Of My Best Friends Are Black"

How many times have I heard someone say this when they become anxious about a position they are taking, except it comes out as "you know, some of my best friends are black, but ... (followed by some essentialized view of what the speaker perceives as "blacks")" An online conceptual performance troubles this (un)easy enlightenment:

Some of My Best Friends are Black

ABCs Nightline on Friday Night: Reading the Names of US Military Killed in Iraq

What will be the effect of this public memorializing? Will it bring a sense of the loss involved in this war? Will it cause Americans to finally ask why we are in Iraq and if forceful intervention is really a democratic way of bringing freedom to people?

Of course, it is late friday night, on a news show, but last week pictures of fallen soldiers' coffins and now this on network TV? Could this be a pivotal moment in public opinion?

(thanks to Thoughts on the Eve of the Apocalypse for posting a notice about the Nightline special)

Report on the Show

The Memory Hole

Picture the Costs of War

The Costs to Our Children and Our Civil Rights

As I first saw the image for the link above "Darkness" by Rage Against the Machine was playing on the radio...

Also check this out:

Chris Hedges is a long-time war correspondent who wrote a very important book called War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2003). It is a passionate call for us to reconsider the roots of the human addiction to war through a careful consideration of the realities of warfare and our necrophiliac relationship with the symbols, rituals and displays of military culture.

Chris Hedges later gave a commencement speech at Rockford college that was disrupted and caused a nationwide controversy. Hedges showed great courage in sticking to his beliefs and not backing down. He is no simple-minded pundit attempting to manipulate the masses for profit and power, but a considerate, thoughtful, former divinity student, shocked by the violence he has seen in the world, but hopeful that we may still change.

Chris Hedges' controversial May graduation speech at Rockford college:

Speech

AlterNet now has an interview with Hedges online: The Silencing of Dissent on Graduation Day.

Interview

Democracy Now interview:

Interview

Excerpts from “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”:

Excerpt

More writings by Chris Hedges:

Hedges' Writings

1 Hour audio lecture on “The Mythology of War”:

Audio Lecture

TomPaine.com interview:

Interview

Chris Hedges and “Enforced Conformity”:

Enforced Conformity

Interview a month before the speech on “Dangerous Citizen”:

Dangerous Citizen

PBS interview about “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”, includes streaming video of the interview:

PBS Interview


Further sources:

Barbara Ehrenreich's Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passion of War (1998)
Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
Erich Fromm's The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1992)
Carolyn Marvin's and David Ingle's Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag (1999)
Alexander Laban Hinton's edited collection Annhilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide (2002)

Hubert Selby, Jr., 1928 - 2004

Hubert Selby, Jr., author of Last Exit to Brooklyn and Requiem For a Dream died monday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:

Yahoo Obituary

Defining the Sacred

Blue Eyes and Exit Wounds

A Lightning Strike on the Retina

Books and Writers bio


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Village Voice: Questions We Would Like to Ask Bush and Cheney at the 9/11 Commission Hearings

"Grilled to Order: What we’d Like to ask when Bush and Cheney take the hot seat"
by James Ridgeway
Village Voice

On Thursday, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will sit together and speak—off the record and in private—to the 9-11 Commission. Bush and Cheney can make a record of the interview, but the commission, under a bizarre agreement, is prohibited from doing so.

By refusing to appear separately or in public, the two may have taken the panel for a ride, but they can't avoid the tough questions forever. Both give every sign of having been asleep at the switch on 9-11. Worse, for months they have been engaged in collusion to obstruct justice by thwarting first congressional and then commission investigations. Sooner or later, both must be served with subpoenas, sworn to tell the truth, and ordered to testify under threat of impeachment and/or criminal prosecution.

Let's start with Bush. Here's the setup: Morning, September 11, 2001. At 8:40 NORAD is notified Flight 11 has been hijacked. At 8:43 NORAD is notified Flight 175 is hijacked. At 9, Bush arrives at the Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he takes a call from Condoleezza Rice before entering an elementary school classroom for a photo op. Certainly by that moment Rice must have known that one plane had hit the World Trade Center and another had been hijacked.

Now a few simple questions for our president, the last six from the Family Steering Committee, whose members lost loved ones on 9-11:

1. What did you know about the emerging crisis before speaking to Rice?

2. Who told you? What was your response?

3. What did Rice tell you?

4. And why, after speaking to her, did you go ahead with a meaningless photo op?

5. Why was Flight 77 allowed to plow into the Pentagon 52 minutes after Flight 11 had smashed into the WTC?

6. Given the warnings on hijackings and flying bombs, why were there only 14 fighter planes assigned to cover the entire U.S., with only seven airborne that morning?

7. A briefing prepared for senior U.S. officials in early July 2001 stated: "Based on a review of all-source reporting over the last five months, we believe that [bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against U.S. and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning." As the weeks went by, senior officials continued to receive intelligence information warning of an imminent Al Qaeda attack.

Did you receive such warnings before 9-11? If so, what did you do in response?

8. Mr. President, European security forces were widely reported to have prepared elaborate measures to prevent a possible bin Laden attempt to assassinate you at the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, in July 2001. According to German intelligence sources, the plot involved bin Laden paying German neo-Nazis to fly remote-controlled model aircraft packed with Semtex into the conference hall and blow the leaders of the industrialized world to smithereens. The reports were taken so seriously that you stayed overnight on an aircraft carrier offshore, according to CNN, and other world leaders stayed on a luxury ship. Two days before the summit began, the BBC reported: "The huge force of officers and equipment which has been assembled to deal with unrest has been spurred on by a warning that supporters of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden might attempt an air attack on some of the world leaders present."

Italy surrounded the summit with anti-aircraft batteries, kept fighters overhead, and closed off local airspace. No attack occurred. U.S. officials at the time stated that the warnings were "unsubstantiated," but after 9-11 reversed themselves and took credit for preventing an attack. Were you aware of the planned Al Qaeda attack on Genoa using planes as weapons? If so, what did you do to safeguard the homeland and U.S. facilities overseas?

9. As commander in chief on the morning of 9-11, why didn't you return immediately to Washington, D.C., or the National Military Command Center once you became aware that America was under attack? At specifically what time did you become aware that America was under attack? Who informed you of this fact?

10. Please explain why you remained at the Sarasota, Florida, elementary school for a press conference after you had finished listening to the children read, when, as a terrorist target, your presence potentially jeopardized their lives?

11. What was the purpose of the several stops of Air Force One on September 11? Was Air Force One at any time during the day a target of the terrorists? Was Air Force One's code ever breached on September 11?

12. Was there a reason for Air Force One lifting off without a military escort, even after ample time had elapsed for military jets to arrive?

13. What prompted your refusal to release the information regarding foreign sponsorship of the terrorists, as illustrated in the inaccessible redacted 28 pages from the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry Report? What actions have you personally taken since 9-11 to thwart foreign sponsorship of terrorism?

14. Who approved the flight of the bin Laden family out of the United States when commercial flights were grounded, when there was time for only minimal questioning by the FBI, and especially when two of those same individuals had links to WAMY, a charity suspected of funding terrorism? Why were bin Laden family members granted that special privilege and protection, when protection wasn't available to American families whose loved ones were killed on 9-11?

Now for the vice president:

1. Mr. Cheney, we know—more or less—what Bush did on 9-11. What did you do? A chronology, please.

2. Did you receive any orders from Bush that morning? If so, what were they?

3. Did you issue any orders, either in your own or in the president's name, to civilian and/or military agencies of the U.S. government that day? If so, what were they?

4. Before 9-11, Bush entrusted you to head a task force to work alongside the new Office of National Preparedness, a part of FEMA. This office is supposed to oversee a "national effort" to coordinate all federal programs for responding to domestic attacks. You told the press, "One of our biggest threats as a nation" may include "a terrorist organization overseas. We need to look at this whole area, oftentimes referred to as homeland defense."

The focus was to be on state-funded terrorists using weapons of mass destruction, and you mentioned neither bin Laden nor Al Qaeda. Your task force was supposed to report to Congress by October 1, 2001, after a review by the National Security Council. Bush stated that he would "periodically chair a meeting of the National Security Council to review these efforts." Yet neither your review nor Bush's seems to have taken place before 9-11. Your deadline was a couple of weeks later.

What had you done up to then? How many meetings had you held? Who were the members of your task force?

Article Link

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Memory Hole: Rescuing Knowledge, Freeing Information

(excerpt from Up the Memory Hole by Rory O'Connor)

"Like many of us, Winston Smith, the protagonist of George Orwell's classic novel 1984, worked in a cubicle. There were three holes in the walls. The last was for the disposal of documents. "For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes," Orwell wrote. "When one knew that any document was due for destruction, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building."

Smith's job was to alter history -- or, as the official phrase put it, to 'rectify' it. I was reminded last week when the Pentagon ban on allowing us to see images of dead soldiers' homecomings at military bases was briefly broken, and hundreds of photographs of flag-draped coffins were released on the Internet by a Web site dedicated to battling government secrecy.

The Web site is called the Memory Hole."

The Memory Hole

Michigan Preparing to Let Doctors Refuse to Treat Gays

A new low point for Michigan lawmakers and the Michigan Catholic Conference:
---------------------------------------------------------------------
(courtesy of Abby Normal)

"Michigan Preparing To Let Doctors Refuse To Treat Gays"
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

(Lansing, Michigan) Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House. The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol. The bills now go the Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans.

The Conscientious Objector Policy Act would allow health care providers to assert their objection within 24 hours of when they receive notice of a patient or procedure with which they don't agree. However, it would prohibit emergency treatment to be refused. Three other three bills that could affect LGBT health care were also passed by the House Wednesday which would exempt a health insurer or health facility from providing or covering a health care procedure that violated ethical, moral or religious principles reflected in their bylaws or mission statement.

Opponents of the bills said they're worried they would allow providers to refuse service for any reason. For example, they said an emergency medical technicians could refuse to answer a call from the residence of gay couple because they don't approve of homosexuality. Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) the first openly gay legislator in Michigan, pointed out that while the legislation prohibits racial discrimination by health care providers, it doesn't ban discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation.

"Are you telling me that a health care provider can deny me medical treatment because of my sexual orientation? I hope not," he said. "I think it's a terrible slippery slope upon which we embark," said Rep. Jack Minore (D-Flint) before voting against the bill.

Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said the bills promote the constitutional right to religious freedom. "Individual and institutional health care providers can and should maintain their mission and their services without compromising faith-based teaching," he said in a written statement.

Report Link

Current Wallpaper

Northwestern Cambodia, 1968

"Ghostlike faces surround two saffron-robed Buddhist monks in a window of the extravagantly carved Bayon, central temple of Angkor Thom. Here, in northwestern Cambodia, rise the splendid temples of the Khmer kings, ancient rulers of Southeast Asia. Not only does the architectural grandeur speak of a brilliant civilization; complex canals, reservoirs, and ponds—some still in use—reveal a remarkable system of irrigation, forerunner of the Mekong Project."

—From "The Mekong: River of Terror and Hope," December 1968, National Geographic magazine

Cheney Secrecy Case Goes to High Court

"Cheney Secrecy Case Goes to High Court"
By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
Posted at Yahoo

WASHINGTON - A nearly three-year fight over privacy in White House policy-making is going before a Supreme Court known for guarding its own secrecy.

Justices were being asked by the Bush administration Tuesday to let it keep private the records of Vice President Dick Cheney's work on a national energy strategy. The White House is framing the case as a major test of executive power, arguing that the forced disclosure of confidential records intrudes on a president's power to get truthful advice.

At the Supreme Court, which will rule before July, the administration finds a last hope in a dispute that began in July 2001 when a government watchdog group sued over Cheney's private meetings. The case has never gone to trial, but a federal judge ordered the White House to begin turning over records two years ago. The Bush administration has lost two rounds in federal court. If the Supreme Court makes it three, Cheney could have to reveal potentially embarrassing records just in time for the presidential election.

Watchdog group Judicial Watch and the environmental group Sierra Club want the task force papers made public to see what influence energy industries had in outlining national energy policy. The Sierra Club accused the administration of shutting environmentalists out of the meetings while catering to energy industry executives and lobbyists.

Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the justices in court filings that no energy industry officials participated improperly in meetings. He maintains that forcing information about the sessions into the open violates the separation of powers among the branches of government.

The Supreme Court also is known for private meetings. "The court utilizes the process of confidential deliberation just as the executive branch does. Memos are drafted, deliberations occur and drafts of opinions are circulated — all behind closed doors," said Kris Kobach, a constitutional law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. "In both branches, deliberation is more candid, honest and valuable if it sometimes is sheltered from public scrutiny."

Martin Shapiro, a Supreme Court expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said while the court engages in private consultation, "the justices are used to themselves making decisions on the basis of what they hear from two sides publicly." The case requires the court to clarify a federal open-government law.

All nine members were hearing arguments, despite a controversy over a hunting trip Cheney took with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, an old friend, weeks after the high court agreed to hear Cheney's appeal. Scalia, the vice president and two of Scalia's relatives flew together on a government jet to Louisiana for the duck hunt at a camp owned by an oil rig services executive.

"If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined," Scalia wrote in rejecting the Sierra Club's request that he disqualify himself.

The case is Cheney v. U.S. District Court, 03-475.
___

Supreme Court

Article Link


bell hooks--Teaching to Transgress, pt. 3

"Teaching is a performative act. And it is that aspect of our work that offers the space for change, invention, spontaneous shifts, that can serve as a catalyst drawing out the unique elements in each classroom. To embrace the performative aspect of teaching we are compelled to engage "audience," to consider issues of reciprocity. Teachers are not performers in the traditional sense of the word in that our work is not meant to be a spectacle. Yet it is meant to serve as a catalyst that calls everyone to become more and more engaged, to become active participants in learning." (11)

"The academy is not paradise. But ... the classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine way to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom." (207)

bell hooks--Teaching to Transgress (1996)

"The New Information Ecosystem" by Siva Vaidhyanathan

Got this for students who wanted to write about P2P and Internet histories... great example of writing history-in-the-making (lots of complex ideas and terminology--stretches the brain)... the essay is loaded with embedded links that explain concepts/people/organizations/technologies/theories/events. This essay becomes a multi-volume history on the Internet--this website/journal, Open Democracy, is a master of this form...

----------------------------------------------------

Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of the forthcoming The Anarchist in the Library and a true scholar of the internet age, presents a compelling, five-part panorama of the implications of electronic peer-to-peer networks for culture, science, security, and globalisation. His provocative argument registers peer-to-peer as a key site of contest over freedom and control of information.

Part 1: It’s a peer-to-peer world
In the first of his five-part series, Siva Vaidhyanathan maps the fluid new territory of electronic peer-to-peer networks that are transforming the information ecosystem. Is this a landscape of enlarging freedoms where citizens shape the forms and meanings of social communication, or does it offer an invitation to entrenching state surveillance and closure?

Part 2: ‘Pro-gumbo’: culture as anarchy
Peer-to-peer technologies have precedents in the anarchistic and hybrid processes by which cultures have always been formed. Decoding anxious cultural preservationists from Matthew Arnold to Samuel Huntington, the second instalment of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s five-part series reframes p2p in the light of other technologies and practices – cassettes, creolisation, world music – which likewise reveal the energetic promiscuity of culture. Any attempt to censor or limit this flow would leave cultures stagnant.

Part 3: The anarchy and oligarchy of science
Science is knowledge in pursuit of truth that can expand human betterment. But part three of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s powerful series sees the free information flows at the heart of science being pressured by the copyright economy, the post-9/11 security environment, proprietary capture of genetic databases, and science policies of governments and universities. If commerce and control defeat openness and accumulation, what happens to science impacts on democracy itself.

Part 4: The nation-state vs. networks
In the last decade, the nation-state has survived three challenges to its hegemony – from the Washington Consensus, the California Ideology, and Anarchy. The promise of a borderless globalisation unified by markets and new technology has been buried. The fourth part of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s compelling series asks: what then remains of the utopian vision of global peer-to-peer networks that would bypass traditional structures of power?

Part 5: Networks of power and freedom
The use by non-state networks of new communication technologies is challenging ideas about citizenship, security, and the nation-state. In response, the impulse to restrict or suppress is shared by states as different as the United States and the People’s Republic of China. In concluding his five-part openDemocracy series, Siva Vaidhyanathan maps an issue that will define the landscape of 21st century politics.

Get all five parts of this essay at:

The New Information Ecosystem

A Nomadic Academic Learns the Importance of Place

My latest column at In The Fray:

A Nomadic Academic Learns the Importance of Place

Previous Columns

Remembering Illinois State University's English Department and the Interdisciplinary Status of English Studies

(a response to a grad student lamenting the fact that ISU's English department doesn't prescribe a specific methodology for English Studies)

My experience of the department faculty was that they were very committed to developing their personal and professional interests and then participating in communal events whereby they could share or link their interests/specialties across areas/disciplines. In fact, collectively, they were the most curious, helpful, intelligent and interdisciplinary that I have experienced as a student and instructor.

For me the English Studies program requires the student to actively pursue links and develop connections, not passively receive mc-knowledge packages of pre-chewed information specified as English Studies methods in specially designed courses designed to make life easy. It is in the transmission, interaction, and translation, between/across disciplinary (area) borders where the new meanings are possible, the epiphanic moments of discovery are when we recognize the connections that allow us to engage with the world beyond our intellectual sandbox.

In our English department I experienced extracurricular lectures on English Studies, pedagogy, experimental poetry, posthuman theory, postcolonial film theory, classic literature, technology/writing, rhetoric/comp; conferences on campus (supported by our dept) on history/rhetoric, postmodern culture, Shakespeare, Global culture, Border culture; participated in department affiliated organizations such as the ISU film society (Adam and William), the independent publication L'Bourgeozine (Adam and Joseph), poetry readings, working as an editor for the various independent publications at the Unit For Contemporary Literature; teaching composition classes and a literature course (IDS 121: Terror in Contemporary American Literature); editing an organizational theory journal in the business department; developing alliances with young scholars/faculty in our department who introduced us to other activist scholars/faculty in the political science and sociology department as well as developing relationships with scholars from U of Illinois and U of Chicago; road trips to events on other campuses; grad courses outside the department in History and Communications; Charlie Harris' amazing Postmodern Literature course in which he had five leading scholars/practitioners of contemporary literature guest-lecture, or, Ronald Strickland's online Marxist course where we interacted with leading Marxist scholars; or Curtis White's "narrative theory" course that culminated as a mini-conference that included one of the leading scholars of globalization, Saaskia Sassen.

Also, very important was the interaction with the international students that were my neighbors in Cardinal Court... Not to mention the regular pub meetings on wednesdays at Killarneys and the writing departments gatherings on friday afternoons--places to blow off steam, but also arenas of collaboration.

Why do you want your English Studies experience wrapped up neatly in a little package and handed to you? Get up off your ass and develop this perspective, don't stop there, share/link it to others' experiences. At least, at the very least, instead of complaining, start by developing a manifesto, a declaration, a perspective or your vision of English Studies. Meet with others and ask for their understanding of English Studies--develop, interact, fight, laugh, get pissed (mentally and physically), wake-up and begin again. I would enjoy very much hearing your definitions and the new meanings that are produced in your interaction.

FCC and Media Deregulation Sites

PBS archive that maps out the major laws, institutions and players:

FCC and Media Deregulation Sites

Proud Member of the Intellectual Elites

(courtesy of Abby Normal)

Proud Member of the Intellectual Elites

Monday, April 26, 2004

Picturing Truth in the Digital Age

"A picture is no longer worth a thousand words"
By Farhad Manjoo
Salon
Repost at Free Press

In early April, Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), received a mysterious photograph in his e-mail in box. The picture shows a white man dressed in military uniform standing with two dark-skinned boys in what appears to be a desert setting. Behind them is a ramshackle structure, perhaps a cabin or a makeshift bunker. The man and the boys are under this structure's lean-to roof, posing, happily, for the camera. The man grins, the boys smile shyly, and all flash a thumbs-up sign. Despite their apparent mirth, however, something is amiss with the scene. One of the boys is holding up a piece of cardboard on which, in black marker, is scrawled a chilling message: "Lcpl Boudreaux killed my dad. then he knocked up my sister!"

Although the picture contains no clues to the scene's location or date, to Ibrahim Hooper and CAIR — an Islamic rights group that opposed the war in Iraq — the story the image told seemed clear: The photograph shows an American soldier ridiculing two Iraqi children by making them hold up a sign they don't understand, CAIR concluded. "If the United States Army is seeking to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, this is the wrong way to accomplish that goal," Nihad Awad, CAIR's executive director, said in a press release issued on April 2.

In response, the military, which determined that the soldier in the picture was a Marine reservist — Lance Cpl. Ted J. Boudreaux of Thibodaux, La. — launched an investigation. News of the probe sparked a small outcry against Boudreaux; his local newspaper said he had "embarrassed himself, the Marine Corps and, unfortunately, his home state."

But the anti-Boudreaux fulmination appears to be have been, at the very least, premature, because nobody can determine whether the picture CAIR received is authentic. Boudreaux has told the Marines that the photo is not real. And, indeed, just as the military's investigation got underway, several other versions of the picture began popping up online. Some were obviously doctored — one version, posted on a Usenet newsgroup, has the boys holding a sign that reads, "We wanna see Jessca Simpson!" But at least one other picture found online appears just as real as the image CAIR received — and this one has the boys holding a sign with a decidedly friendlier message: "Lcpl Boudreaux saved my dad. then he rescued my sister!"

Which picture is the real picture? It appears impossible to tell — even experts in digital imaging are cautious in venturing a guess.

The Boudreaux story illustrates, once again, the emerging weakness of photography in a digital age. There was a time when photographs were synonymous with truth — when you could be sure that what you saw in a picture actually occurred. In today's Photoshop world, all that has changed. Pictures are endlessly pliable. Photographs (and even videos) are now merely as good as words — approximations of reality at best, subtle (or outright) distortions of truth at worst. Is that Jane Fonda next to John Kerry at an antiwar rally? No, it isn't; if you thought so, you're a fool for trusting your own eyes.

Some photographers welcome the new skepticism toward images; it's good that people are learning not to automatically believe what they see, they say. But many fear that we're losing an important foothold on reality. Without trustworthy photographs, how will we ever know what in our world is real?

"One of the founders of Doctors Without Borders once said, 'Without a photograph there is no massacre,'" says Fred Ritchin, a professor of photography at New York University. "You can say Tiananmen Square happened — there was a video, there was a massacre. But if we typically disbelieve the evidence of a photograph, then when the Chinese government says there's no massacre, what are you going to hold up against that?"

CAIR received its version of the Boudreaux picture in an e-mail from a subscriber to its listserv — in other words, someone who likely shares the group's point of view regarding the war. Beyond that, CAIR has no idea where the picture came from. Yet the group's press release reads as if CAIR is certain of the photograph's authenticity. Nowhere does CAIR suggest that there may be some reasonable explanation for the scene in the picture, or that the image could be a complete fabrication. Instead, the group's director implores the government to "take action to let military personnel know that such offensive behavior harms America's image and will not be tolerated."

Did CAIR jump the gun? Perhaps. But it's hard to blame the group; this is the power of a photograph. Maybe CAIR could have been more cautious, but as Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the group, points out, CAIR has no way to determine whether a picture was doctored. And caution is hard to summon when you're faced with something so real. Since before the war in Iraq began, CAIR has been warning that an invasion would "harm our nation's image and interests in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world." Now, here was a picture that appeared to prove just how American soldiers were hurting our standing in the Muslim world. Of course CAIR believed it was true.

This is how it goes with pictures. The Internet, many of us know, is mostly garbage. You're not supposed to believe anything you see online. CAIR probably knows that. Still, every so often a picture or a video pops up on the Internet that is so compelling — so unbelievable — that you can't help but believe it. You want to believe it. You want to believe that George W. Bush (or Bill Clinton) didn't have sense enough to remove the lens cap before looking through a pair of binoculars. You may want to believe that Tom Daschle pledges allegiance to the flag with the wrong hand, or that Bush reads books upside down. A series of pictures that appears to show the Israeli police summarily executing a Palestinian may confirm your worst fears about Israeli justice; if it does, you're going to believe what you see. And if you already suspect that the American military is doing much more bad in Iraq than good, your reaction to a picture of a Marine cruelly mocking Iraqi children will be predictable. You would, as CAIR did, err on the side of it being true.

In an age in which a picture is never quite what it seems to be, the opposite reaction — one of complete skepticism when faced with a photo you desperately hope is fake — is also evident. Immediately after CAIR sent out its press release, right-wingers at the Free Republic discussion site began picking the picture apart, looking for flaws in its design. Some pointed out that the soldier appeared to be wearing Army fatigues, which didn't fit with the Marine Corp's ranking of lance corporal. Many also said that the text on the sign seemed digitally manipulated. "I'm no handwriting expert, but this writing appears a bit too curvilinear for someone who's a native user of the Roman alphabet," one person wrote. But beyond anything in the image, for many Freepers the biggest clue that the picture was fake was that CAIR was saying it was real. The Freepers don't trust CAIR; why should they trust a picture that it says it received by e-mail?

Several Freepers created their own doctored versions of the photograph in order to show how easily digital images could be manipulated. But all of their home-brew photos were pretty much obviously doctored. Indeed, of all the alternate versions of the Boudreaux picture to show up online, only one (besides CAIR's version) seems believable — the one that claims that Boudreaux "saved" the boy's dad and "rescued" his sister.

The source of this image is a mystery. It seems to have first been posted on Image Dump, a site that allows people to submit pictures for others to rate. The picture was posted anonymously, but was accompanied by this caption: "Grateful Kurdish children thank a marine, Lcpl Boudreaux. An obviously doctored version of this photo with an offensive statement clumsily pasted on has been floating around the internet as part as some sort of cowardly smear campaign. Let's hope Boudreaux gets to tell his story and how he helped this family."

The caption is signed by someone who calls himself doggod91. Doggod91 seems to be the same person who runs a blog called Heretic 2004, a site that espouses a curious blend of political positions. The proprietor is a fan of John Kerry and an opponent of Bush, but he's also a critic of "pacifists," of Palestinians, and of antiwar types in general. Interestingly, doggod91 also likes Photoshop tricks.

Several experts, including those in Salon's art department, could not say definitively which picture — doggod91's or CAIR's — was real. Some believed that the one with the "positive message" was authentic; others believed just the opposite. Almost everyone suggested that both could be fake.

The Marines say they have called in the Naval Criminal Investigative Services for help in the investigation of the picture, and detectives there could finally get to the bottom of the story. Digital forensics is said to be a new science, but there has recently been much interest in the detection of forged digital pictures, and some tools provide hope in the effort to pin down fakes. For instance, Hany Farid, a computer scientist at Dartmouth College, has been developing ways to analyze the actual code that makes up a digital photograph in order to check its authenticity; altered images can look quite different, statistically, from natural images, Farid has found. Other researchers have come up with algorithms for detecting when one part of an image has been copied and moved over another part of an image, a popular method of forging pictures. (See a PDF of this research here.) It's possible that NCIS could use any of these — and probably even more advanced — techniques in finding the truth behind the Boudreaux picture.

But until there's a formal conclusion, your decision on the photograph would seem to come down to whom you trust. Doggod91 did not respond to several e-mail inquiries sent to the address posted on his blog, so it's impossible to tell where he found what he calls "the real picture." But given his politics, believing that doggod91's photograph is authentic is at least as difficult as believing that CAIR's is authentic, and you are free to choose whichever version of reality you're happier with. This is perhaps the ultimate message in the controversy surrounding the Boudreaux picture: In the digital world, a picture isn't assessed on its own terms. You are no longer responsible for believing your own eyes; only if you trust the person who produced the photograph should you conclude that it shows what it purports to show. Otherwise, you can guiltlessly dismiss it as a fake.

To some photographers, the new age of photographic uncertainty is an unsettling development. "My work is about witnessing my time and events," says Ken Light, a veteran photojournalist and a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. "My career as a photographer has been based on seeing America through a lens that is critical of institutions and of the culture." Among other things, Light has photographed the Texas death row, the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta, and migrant workers crossing the Mexican-American border. His pictures are powerful precisely because they're credible, because they're real. If you're a supporter of the death penalty, you can read 10,000 words on the horror and loneliness of death row and still come away unmoved, dismissing the whole thing as one subjective writer's bluster. Stubborn as you might be, though, perhaps just this one Ken Light picture of a 21-year-old waiting for execution will jar you from your settled view. This is what attracts Light to photography. It's difficult to shake criticism that comes through a camera, he says, because "people sense a deeper truth in photographs" than they do in other media.

But Light worries that the truth we see in photographs will diminish in a digital age. He has two nightmares: First, that fake pictures will be mistaken for true pictures, rattling the political discourse. But a scarier proposition for him is that, in the long run, people will start to ignore real pictures as phonies. When every picture is suspect, all pictures are dismissible, Light fears, and photography's unique power to criticize will decline.

Light recently found himself at the center of his first nightmare. An old picture he took — a 1971 shot of John Kerry at an antiwar rally in Mineola, N.Y. — was swiped from the Web site of Corbis, Light's photo agency, and seamlessly stitched with another picture from Corbis, photographer Owen Franken's 1972 photograph of Jane Fonda at a rally in Miami Beach, Fla. Nobody knows who did it, but whoever it was had a good eye for doctoring. The composite photo, showing a thoughtful, appreciative Kerry next to a fired-up Fonda, was given a border, a headline, a caption and an Associated Press credit; it looks like an authentic newspaper clipping showing Kerry closely associated with Hanoi Jane, a woman hated by many of the veterans who support Kerry.

The composite image spread around the Internet with lightning speed, even catching the attention of some in the media; on Feb. 13, the New York Times reported its existence, describing the picture in detail but noting that its origins were "unclear." It didn't take long for Light, Franken and sites like Snopes.com — dedicated to debunking Internet rumors — to show that the picture was fake. Eventually, the record was set straight. As Light later wrote in the Washington Post, "The Internet has come as close as it gets to a correction. If you use a search engine to look for my Kerry picture now, you'll find the hoax explanations before you see the photo itself." But it still took some time to put things right, and perhaps too much time — what if the picture was found online just weeks before the election? Fred Ritchin, of NYU, has a specific case in mind: "Seriously, what if there's a picture of one or another political candidate in bed with a woman who's not his wife two days before the election?" he asks. What if its authenticity was impossible to determine quickly? (Ken Light still has the original negative of his Kerry photo, but modern photographs, taken on digital cameras, might not provide this handy way of proving which is really the "original" picture.) How would society deal with such a political earthquake?

If a doctored photo ever does lead to the defeat of a political candidate or some other disaster — puts the wrong guy in jail, say — one immediate consequence might be a quick decline in the trust we have in pictures. And to Light and Ritchin, people in awe of the power of photography, this is a terrifying thing. In the absence of trustworthy photos, says Ritchin, "The institutions in power will increase their power." Then he adds, "Look at Rodney King. For years and years there was brutality in the LAPD. It wasn't until the video came out that we all knew about it, because we saw it." Light echoes that idea. "It's one thing when it's a silly photo, but when it's massacres, executions, all those things, it becomes very dangerous. How do newspapers know when they see something if it's real or not? Let's say I'm at a newspaper and I get this picture of this cop beating up this guy, which could be a great picture. But what if it isn't real? Should I run it?"

There are already signs that our trust in pictures is slipping away. People used to get fooled all the time by nude pictures of celebrities online, says Ed Lake, also known as the Fake Detective, a man who dedicates much of his time to pinning down the fakery behind purported naughty pictures of people like Gillian Anderson and Sarah Michelle Gellar. (Lake was the subject of an entertaining profile in Wired recently, titled "These Are Definitely Not Scully's Breasts.") Now, Lake says, "Most of the e-mail I get is about real pictures. Now they automatically think it's fake." David Mikkelson, who, with his wife, Barbara, runs Snopes, said something similar. Many times when people ask Snopes to review photos, the pictures turn out to be real, Mikkelson says. What's actually wrong with the pictures are the descriptions that are added on to them online, sometimes out of malice but mostly just as a guess. "The pictures were thrown out on the Internet and people have no idea what they mean, so they just make up a description," he says.

While photographers like Light and Ritchin aren't pleased that the Internet has caused the public to question every picture, there are some photographers who would welcome the public's wary eye when it comes to pictures. For too long, these photographers say, pictures have been burdened by a need to provide a level of fidelity with the real world that is actually beyond their reach; pictures need to be liberated from this constraint, they plead. "Photography is only the medium that is a witness to itself," says Pedro Meyer, a celebrated Mexican photographer who leads a movement that embraces, rather than eschews, digital manipulation. "Photographs say, 'You can trust me because I am.' What other medium does that?"

Meyer would like photographs to be treated like any other bit of information — in an ideal world photos would be given as much credence as words. "We don't trust words because they're words, but we trust pictures because they're pictures," Meyer said in an interview with Wired several years ago. "That's crazy. It's our responsibility to investigate the truth, to approach images with care and caution. People need to realize that an image is not a representation of reality."

Meyer is remarkably sanguine in the face of Ritchin's nightmare scenario — how will we ever know a massacre has occurred if we don't have believable photographic proof? "If you take my logic of using photographs along the same line of thought as using words, then look how easy it becomes," he says. "What do you do with text? You have to have other sources to confirm that something happened; if you don't have other sources to confirm something, you can't conclude it happened. Now enter into the picture this fact — over the last 12 months there have been more cellphones with cameras sold than all other cameras, digital or analog combined. Cameras are becoming ubiquitous. We have the possibility for the first time to cross-reference everything, something that was never done before. It doesn't matter if the picture is a shitty little picture, it's a reference." And if you have enough references, it doesn't matter if one person doctors an image; if a hundred — or maybe a thousand — cellphones say a massacre occurred, it probably happened.

In a cross-referenced, constantly photographed world — a thing that might scare you but that is probably becoming inevitable — we would probably have better proof of what actually happened in an important event than we do today, Meyer says. A single photographic image is important, Meyer says, but we can't rely on it to tell a whole story. The Rodney King video was important, but we should note that it did not in fact prove anything about the LAPD. In court, the police officers accused of beating King were acquitted, despite the video. The video may have been horrific, but jurors, at least, seemed to decide that it didn't convey the whole truth of what occurred that night. The video was just one slice of reality; the jury seems to have considered other things at least as important as the pictures — what happened before the camera was snapped on, what happened outside of the camera's field of view, what happened in people's minds.

And in the end, it's perhaps this sense of caution that we need to bring to the mysterious photograph of Lance Cpl. Boudreaux. As Snopes' Mikkelson says, "Whether or not the photographs are real in a physical sense is only part of the story." The rest of the story is what happened outside the frame, what the Marine and the boys and whoever took the picture (whichever picture is real) were thinking at the time. Why are they there, near that hut? Why is the kid in the Real Madrid T-Shirt not as happy as the boy with the sign? Is the whole thing a joke? If so, who is in on the joke? Does one of the boys know what's on the sign? Are the boys being made fun of, or is the soldier, or are we? "You can't know what's going on without knowing the rest of the story," Mikkelson says.

Original Salon Link

Repost at Free Press

Postmodernism: An Organizational Perspective

David Boje's and Robert Dennehy's classic (subversive--at least in the business department) textbook, Managing in the Postmodern World (3rd ed., 2000) is now available online. I was first introduced to this book while working with Dale Fitzgibbons editing the Journal of Management Education. It has a lot of wisdom for all of us trying to survive in increasingly Dilbert-like organizational systems.

I find the radical organizational theory perpsective to be a unique synthesis that helps round out my humanities understanding of the world. Here is their take on Postmodernism:

Brief Overview of What is Postmodernism?

Hedging Bets on the U.N.

The Connection

"Think of it as 'Back to the Security Council 2': The sequel no one thought would happen. But with the war in Iraq still raging and the June 30th handover just weeks away, the U.S. is reaching out to the hand it slapped more than a year ago when it decided to go to war without Security Council approval.

George Bush is now publicly praising the U.N., and the role it could play in shaping Iraq's political future. Some in the administration are now hinting that would be great to have some of those blue helmets on the ground. But even if the administration plays nice this time around, a new Security Council resolution will be a very tough sell. Others are warning that failure in Iraq is not an option, either for the U.S. or the international community."

Listen to Show

March For Women's Lives: Up to a Million Descend on DC in One of the Largest Protests in U.S. History

Democracy Now

"Up to one million protesters descended on Washington DC Sunday to show support for reproductive rights and opposition to Bush administration policies on women's health issues in what could be the biggest demonstration in U.S. history. We hear speeches from celebrities and activists addressing the crowd."

Watch/Listen/Read

Saudi Woman Running for Office in U.S.

Democracy Now

Saudi Woman Running for Office in U.S. On the Riyadh Bombing & the House of Saud

"[Four days] after a bomb killed up to nine in Riyadh, we speak to Ferial Masry of Los Angeles who is attempting to become the first Saudi native to hold elective office in the US. She is running for the California State Assembly."

Listen/Watch/Read

U.S. Contractors In Iraq Fined For Bid Rigging, Fraud, Environmental Damage and Faulty Products

"10 U.S. Contractors in Iraq Penalized"
By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
Posted at Yahoo

WASHINGTON - Ten companies with billions of dollars in U.S. contracts for Iraq (news - web sites) reconstruction have paid more than $300 million in penalties since 2000 to resolve allegations of bid rigging, fraud, delivery of faulty military parts and environmental damage. The United States is paying more than $780 million to one British firm that was convicted of fraud on three federal construction projects and banned from U.S. government work during 2002, according to an Associated Press review of government documents.

A Virginia company convicted of rigging bids for American-funded projects in Egypt also has been awarded Iraq contracts worth hundreds of millions. And a third firm found guilty of environmental violations and bid rigging won U.S. Army approval for a subcontract to clean up an Iraqi harbor. Seven other companies with Iraq reconstruction contracts have agreed to pay financial penalties without admitting wrongdoing. Together, the 10 companies have paid to resolve 30 alleged violations in the past four years. Six paid penalties more than once. But the companies have been awarded $7 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts.

"We have not made firms pay the price when they screw up," said Peter W. Singer, a former Pentagon official who worked on a task force overseeing military and contract work in the Balkans. "But it's not the company's fault if it has a dumb client. I'm not blaming the companies, I'm blaming the government," said Singer, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

The contracts are legal because the Bush administration repealed regulations put in place by the Clinton administration that would have allowed officials to bar new government work for companies convicted or penalized during the previous three years. Spokesmen for the companies defended the contracts, saying the penalties often were for violations committed years ago or by subsidiaries unrelated to the ones working in Iraq. Spokeswoman Pamela Blossom said AMEC, the convicted British firm, wrote new company ethics rules after its punishment.

"None of the people involved are with the company any more," said Blossom, whose firm paid $1.2 million in fines for contract fraud on projects in California and Missouri. "We're a much better company now." Federal regulations require government contractors to have a "satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics." The government can ban unethical companies from getting new contracts through a process called debarment.

Companies often avoid debarment by agreeing to settle misconduct cases and pay penalties without admitting guilt. AMEC was the only one of the 10 punished Iraq contractors ever debarred, and it was banned for just one year. If a U.S. company is not on the list of banned firms, it can compete for Iraq work, said Army Maj. Gary Tallman, a spokesman for the Iraq contract management office.

"If they pay their fine or do what they have to do to get off a debarment list, they are back in good standing and eligible to compete," Tallman said. The Clinton administration tightened contracting rules shortly before leaving office in 2001, instructing officials that repeated violations of federal laws would make a company ineligible for new contracts. Officials still would have been able to award contracts to punished companies for overriding reasons such as national security.

The Bush administration suspended the new rules during its first three months in office, and revoked them in December 2001. Business groups had objected to the Clinton changes, arguing it was unfair to deny contracts for reasons unrelated to how well a firm could do the work. The two largest government contractors in Iraq, Bechtel Corp. and Halliburton Co., have paid several penalties in the past three years.

Halliburton paid $2 million in 2002 to settle charges it inflated costs on a maintenance contract at now-closed Fort Ord in California. Vice President Dick Cheney's former company did not admit wrongdoing. Halliburton took in $3.6 billion last year from contracts to serve U.S. troops and rebuild the oil industry in Iraq. Halliburton executives say the company is getting about $1 billion a month for Iraq work this year.

Federal authorities also are investigating whether Halliburton broke the law by using a subsidiary to do business in Iran, whether the company overcharged for work done for the Pentagon in the Balkans and whether it was involved in an alleged $180 million bribery scheme in Nigeria. The company admitted in 2003 that it improperly paid $2.4 million to a Nigerian tax official.

Bechtel paid more than $110,000 to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department in 2000 and 2001 to settle alleged safety and environmental violations. Bechtel has prime construction contracts in Iraq worth more than $2 billion.

"We were chosen on ability and cost," Bechtel spokesman Howard Menaker said.

Bechtel also hired three subcontractors in Iraq that have been fined more than $86 million in the past four years, though none had been banned from getting new contracts. Bechtel spokesman Francis Canavan said the company would reject subcontractors that are on the no-contracts list.

Other punished contractors include:

_American International Contractors Inc., which paid $4.7 million in fines in 2000 after pleading guilty to bid rigging on a U.S.-funded water project in Egypt. AICI has part of a $325 million contract to rebuild Iraq's transportation systems, has a share of a $500 million contract for emergency construction needs in the Pentagon's Central Command region, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites), and is in a partnership that has a $70 million construction contract at Al-Udeid air base in Qatar, used to support troops in Iraq. An AICI official who spoke to the AP declined to comment or give his name.

_Fluor Corp., which paid $8.5 million to the Defense Department in 2001 to settle charges it improperly billed the government for work benefiting its commercial clients. The company did not admit guilt. Fluor and AMEC created a joint venture that has $1.7 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq's electricity, water, sewer and trash removal infrastructure.

_Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., which paid a $969,000 fine in 2002 for environmental damage in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Bechtel awarded the company a subcontract to clear the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock also pleaded guilty to price fixing on Army Corps of Engineers contracts in 1988. A company spokesman did not return messages seeking comment. Bechtel's Canavan said Bechtel told the Corps of Engineers it planned to hire Great Lakes Dredge & Dock when it applied for the contract.

_ Northrop Grumman Corp., whose Vinnell Corp. subsidiary was awarded a $48 million contract to train the new Iraqi Army last year. Northrop Grumman has been penalized $191.7 million in the past four years, including $750,000 paid to the Pentagon in 2000 in a case involving allegations of providing faulty replacement parts for the JSTARS airborne surveillance system. A Northrop Grumman spokesman referred questions to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which said it excludes only companies banned by the federal government.

Article Link

Fiction Collective 2/Black Ice Books

If you are looking for cutting edge/experimental fiction then this is a good place to start. FC2 is the longest running, autonomous, independent press in the United States:

Fiction Collective 2

Spring Theatre Festival (University of Kentucky)

Spring Theatre Festival Sponsored by: Association for Concerned Theatre Students
4/26/2004 - 4/28/2004
7:00 PM
Individual works produced by UK Theatre Department students will be conducted in the Briggs and Black Box Theatres of the College of Fine Arts.
Location: College of Fine Arts Building
Ticket Info: Free and open to the public
Contact: Andrew Jessop (859) 257-3297
nakedfever@yahoo.com
Fine Arts

Knowing Through Showing Film Series, April 26th (Lexington, KY)

In Whose Interest? and Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News - Knowing Through Showing Film Series - Monday, April 26th at 5:30pm at the Center Theater, of the UK Student Center. You can find more information about In Whose Interest? at Bullfrog Films and “Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News” at Commercialism, Politics and the Media. Sponsored by the UK Leftist Student Union and the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice

Sunday, April 25, 2004

March For Women's Lives, April 25th

Don't forget today is the March For Women's Lives protest in Washington D.C. For more info check out:

March for Women

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Woodward's Interview on 60 Minutes

For those that missed the 60 minutes interview with journalist Bob Woodward about the Bush administration's plans for (obsessive drive toward) war with Iraq, Bill, of Thoughts on the Eve of the Apocalypse, has kindly supplied us with the Transcript and the Video. For more on this check out Thoughts on the Eve of the Apocalypse.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Jesus' General

Well what are you waiting for? You know you want to! Go on, its ok, the general is expecting you:

Jesus' General

Kabul, Kabul (Lexington, KY film event)

Documentary film on Afghanistan
On Tuesday, April 20, 2004, at 7:00 pm, a free showing of the innovative 2000 documentary Kabul Kabul (running time 46 minutes) will be presented at the Kentucky Theatre in downtown Lexington.

Co-sponsored by Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, One World Films, the UK President’s Commission on Women, and UK’s Women’s Studies program, Kabul Kabul documents filmmaker Sedika Mojadidi’s journey back to her native Afghanistan after a 23 year absence.

This cinematic narrative wrestles with the multiple layers of loss, memory, and mourning experienced by both Mojadidi and an Afghan people confronted by years of war. Sedika Mojadidi will introduce the film, show excerpts from her work-in-progress, which is also about Afghanistan, and answer questions. A reception in the lobby will follow.

For more information, contact Kate Black at (859) 257-0500, extension 2111

"Knowing Through Showing" Film Series (Lexington, KY)

Free and public Lexington Film Series

Ground Score

Thursday, April 22rd, 5:30-7:00pm
Classroom Building, Room 118, University of Kentucky
"Distorted Morality: America's War on Terror?"

Monday, April 26th, 5:30-7:30pm
Center Theater, University of Kentucky Student Center
"Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News In Whose Interest?"

Thursday, April 29th, 5:30-7:00
Classroom Building, Room 118, University of Kentucky
"Unprecedented? 2000 Presidential Election"

Artistic Mapping of Geographical History of U.S. Bombings

Artist e l i n o ’ H a r a s l a v i c k's online exhibit:

Places the United States Has Bombed

An Australian in Saudi Arabia

(courtesy of Crispan Harris, posted at Media Squatters)

"windows to an isolated whitey in the Land of Saud"

This blog is the experiences of a friend of my family, who is an
Australian recently converted to Islam living in Saudi Arabia.

Notions of a Purple Ontology

Monday, April 19, 2004

2004 Carnegie Center Writers Series (Lexington, KY)

New Books by Great Writers
Reading and Workshop Series
Thursdays @ 6
The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning
251 West Second Street
Lexington, KY

The Carnegie Center offers its inaugural New Books by Great Writers, a variety of readings and workshops, to those who love hearing from great writers and those who want to learn more about the craft of writing. The series will feature some of the state’s finest authors and some from outside the state. READINGS ARE FREE!

Featured writers include: Frank X Walker, Marie Bradby, Neela Vaswani, Bob Sloan, Leatha Kendrick and Silas House. All readings are free and open to the public. The workshop price includes a free book by the authors.

Thursday, May 6
Frank X Walker, author of Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York (The University Press of Kentucky)
6 p.m. Reading, 7 p.m. Writing the Persona Poem (Poetry Workshop)

Walker, who blurs the lines between poetry, fiction, and history to tell the story of the infamous Lewis and Clark expedition from the point of view of Clark’s slave, York, will lead workshop participants in exploring the research involved in the process of realizing a full-bodied persona poem and guide participants toward writing their own persona poems. ($50) All workshop registrants will receive a free copy of Buffalo Dance.
Frank X Walker, vice president of the Kentucky Center and executive director of the Governor’s School for the Arts, is the author of Affrilachia. A founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, he currently resides in Kentucky.

Thursday, May 20
Marie Bradby, author of Some Friend (Antheneum Books)
Bradby will read to local 4th and 5th graders earlier in the day
6 p.m. Women and Girls Writing Together
Bradby will lead a workshop for females of all ages—mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, sisters—on the topic of friendship. ($50) All workshop registrants will receive a free copy of Some Friend. Note: Mothers and daughters may sign up as a pair for this workshop for $50 but they will only receive one free book. Marie Bradby was a staff writer for National Geographic magazine. She has also held staff reporting positions with The Providence-Journal, The Lexington-Herald Leader, and The Courier-Journal. A native of Alexandria, VA, her other books include More Than Anything Else, Once Upon a Farm, The Longest Wait, and Momma, Where Are You From? She resides in Louisville, Kentucky.

Thursday, June 3
Neela Vaswani, author of Where the Long Grass Bends (Sarabande Books)
6 p.m. Reading
7 p.m. Creating Character (Fiction)
In this fiction workshop, we'll broadly discuss the craft of creating "character." The general structure of the workshop will be as follows: 1) We'll analyze some examples of characters from literature (a handout will be supplied; examples will be drawn from short stories, novels, plays, and some visual mediums). 2) Discussion of what we've read. 3) We will write brief and causal in-class exercises that relate to our discussion; I will ask volunteers to read what they've written aloud. In terms of content, we'll look at various aspects of character--psychological, dialogue, body language, how POV (point of view) affects character and vice versa, first person and third person renderings, how identity (gender, class, race/ethnicity, sexuality, age, religion, etc.) and culture affect character portrayals. We'll briefly look at actor techniques for creating character and discuss what a writer can learn from an actor's process. We'll also briefly discuss the issues of creating a character from another time period or of a culture, gender, age, etc., different from the author--the slippery slopes of "authenticity," and the importance of research and empathy. ($50) All workshop registrants will receive a free copy of Where the Long Grass Bends.
Neela Vaswani lives in New York. Her short stories have appeared in numerous journals, including Prairie Schooner, American Literary Review, and Shenandoah. In 199, she was awarded the Italo Calvino Prize. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland, and teaches in the brief-residency MFA Program at Spalding University in Louisville.

Thursday, June 10
Bob Sloan, author of Bearskin to Holly Fork: Stories from Appalachia (Wind Publication)
6 p.m. Reading
7 p.m. Working With a Small Press (Fiction)
Bob Sloan believes that for nearly all who want to publish a book length fiction manuscript—a collection of stories or a novel—the only realistic initial venue for their work is the small press. In six months he sold almost a thousand copies of his collection of short stories. Come to his workshop and learn the pluses and minuses of working with a small press and find out how he did it. ($50) All workshop registrants will receive a free copy of Bearskin to Holly Fork: Stories from Appalachia. Bob Sloan is frequently heard on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition news program, and his opinion pieces run in the Lexington Herald-Leader. He’s a Faulkner Award winner, and has received a PRNDI for his radio work. He majored in creative writing at Purdue University. He teaches creative writing workshops in Morehead.

Thursday, July 15
Leatha Kendrick, author of Science in My Own Back Yard (Larkspur Press)
6 p.m. Reading
7 p.m. The Moment of Change (Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction)
Adrienne Rich has said that “the moment of change is the only poem.” Most moments of change are ordinary moments, recognized only in retrospect. Kendrick says “Writing has given voice to moments of transition in my life, whether these moments were traumatic (like cancer diagnosis) or apparently trivial (like seeing my daughter through the multi-paned window of a patio door).” Her workshop and reading focus on how we articulate our changing selves in the act of writing and how giving voice to change helps to integrate it into our sense of who we are. ($50) All workshop registrants will receive a free copy of Science in My Own Back Yard. Leatha Kendrick has taught creative writing for the University of Kentucky, the Carnegie Center, the Appalachian Writers Workshop, and elsewhere. The former poetry editor of Wind magazine, she is widely published. She is also the author of Heart Cake. Her poetry and essays have appeared in numerous publications including The Louisville Review, The American Voice, The Connecticut Review, Passages North, Nimrod and others. Kendrick was also a screenwriter for a documentary film, Doris Ulmann: A Lasting Thing for the World, about the life and work of Ulmann, who photographed Appalachia.

Thursday, September 30
Silas House, author of Coal Tattoo
6 p.m. Reading
7 p.m. Workshop
How to Get Published: Learn About the Industry

Silas House, one of Kentucky’s most successful authors will conduct this workshop on learning about the publishing industry. Silas says learning about the publishing industry is essential to having a successful publishing experience even though “as writers this is not our true nature.” He will share ways to learn about the industry, how to write good query letters, and how to find a good agent. ($50) All workshop participants will receive a free copy of Coal Tattoo. Silas House was named one of the South’s “Ten Emerging Writers” by the millennial gathering of writers at Vanderbilt University in 2000. His first novel Clay’s Quilt, received rave reviews from over 40 publications, was called “perfect” by USA Today, and received the Bronze Book Award from Foreward Magazine. His second novel, A Parchment of Leaves, was nominated for the Southern Book Critics Circle Prize, The Booksense Book of the Year, The William Styron International Literary Prize, The SEBA Book Award and The Foreward Magazine Bronze Book Award. He is a member of the creative writing faculty of Eastern Kentucky University and Spalding University.

New Books by Great Writers has been made possible through a generous grant from the Lexington Arts and Cultural Council. All LACC programs and services are supported in part by the Kentucky Arts Council, a state agency in the Commerce Cabinet.

Contact: Crystal Wilkinson or Jan Isenhour, Carnegie Center, 254-4175

"The Revolution Will Not Be Commodified" by The Mobiustrip

This an angry and powerful mapping of corporate co-optation of revolutionary images. Much thanks to Jakeneck who linked to it from the now (temporarily?) defunct SHTV:

The Revolution Will Not Be Commodified

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Octavio Paz on Criticism

"Criticism not only makes my pleasure more intense and more lucid but obliges me to change my attitude toward the work. It is no longer an object, a thing, something that I accept or reject and on which, with no risk to myself, I pass sentence. The work forms part of me, and to judge it is to judge myself. My contemplation has ceased to be passive."

Octavio Paz, Essays on Mexican Art

"The Speed of Darkness" by Laurie Anderson

Anderson tells the story of attending a conference on information technologies in Germany. A very old professor, who specializes in predicting the future of information, uses a food analogy to explain the current need for information:

EXCERPT FROM THE SPEED OF DARKNESS (1997)
Laurie Anderson

We are again in the hunting and gathering stage but this time we hunting for information. Trying to grab whatever rushes by. And it's all really disorganized and there are no restaurants, no recipes yet. We're just sort of foraging. But the food analogy explained a lot to me because the frantic part of the digital revolution seems like a kind of real hunger. People really seem hungry. They seem starving for information. And even more so, they're starving for new equipment. And as technologies escalate and things get faster, a lot of people get caught up in what amounts to a sorta personal arms race, building up arsenals of equipment. And, for what? And so you have to keep getting more and more stuff, endlessly. More bandwidth, more storage, more memory, more speed. And you will never, ever have enough. It's like you're in a race against speed itself.

More Stories from Anderson's Nerve Bible

Black Mountain: An Exploration in Creative Community

(for Ryan who seeks to learn and in doing so teaches me to pay attention)

"Josef Albers believed that learning was facilitated when students continually compared their different solutions for identical tasks - and also when each student compared his own work from earlier and later periods (Is the latter more or less? In what way is it more? In what way is it less than my former work?) All education, Albers believed, is self-education, but self-education best proceeds through comparison. We must teach each other, he continually said - and included himself: students and I, we want to learn together...for me education is not first giving answers, but giving questions. And if a student comes to me with a question, I consider it very carefully whether I should answer him or not. When I give him the answer to an execution, then I take away from him the opportunity to invent it himself and discover it himself. I say, Boy, I know I could answer you, but I prefer for your own profit not to tell you....' Teaching is never a matter of methods, he said, its a matter of art. Though he believes in systematic treatment and systematic learning and has always been known, both in and out of class, for austerity and rigor, Albers prefers to emphasize that in the end it is the heart, the inner participation in somebody else that accounts for success or failure in the classroom."

- Martin Duberman, Black Mountain - An Exploration in Community

Black Mountain College: PBS Site

Black Mountain College Project

Fully Awake: The Black Mountain Experience

Every moment there seemed alive in a way that few have since. This had to do with being asked to be fully awake, to be at a new threshold of perception, whether in class, in the work program, in our own work, or in the life of the community...It let us perceive how much we, each of us, had meaning in the process of the life of the community. That was our education.

- A.G. (Black Mountain College Student, 1943-1946)

Quote from Black Mountain College: Sprouted Seeds © 1990.

Pedagogy of BMC

A Location Constantly Reoccurring: Black Mountain Poetry

Influence of Black Mountain's Multi-Layered Poetry

Ray Johnson: Education Before Fame

Teaching to Transgress, Pt. 2

"I longed passionately to teach differently from the way I had been taught since high school. The first paradigm that shaped my pedagogy was the idea that the classroom should be an exciting place, never boring. And if boredom should prevail, then pedagogical strategies were needed that would intervene, alter, even disrupt the atmosphere...To enter classroom settings in universities with the will to share the desire to encourage excitement, was to transgress...As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one anothers voices, in recognizing one anothers presence...any radical pedagogy must insist that everyones presence is acknowledged...Excitement is generated through collective effort..."
-from bell hooks, TEACHING TO TRANSGRESS / EDUCATION AS THE PRACTICE OF FREEDOM

The New World Border

"Standing on the map of my political desires I toast to a borderless future. The work of the artist is to force open the matrix of reality to introduce unsuspected possibilities...I wish to propose a third alternative: the hybrid - a cultural, political, aesthetic, and sexual hybrid. My version of the hybrid is cross-racial, polylinguistic, and multicontextual. From a disadvantaged position, the hybrid expropriates elements from all sides to create more open and fluid systems. The artist who practices hybridity can be at the same time an insider and an outsider, and expert in border crossings, a temporary member of multiple communities, a citizen of two or more nations. S/he performs multiple roles in multiple contexts. At times s/he can operate as a media pirate, assume the role of nomadic chronicler, intercultural translator, or political trickster. S/he speaks from more than one perspective, to more than one community, about more than one reality. His/her job is to trespass, bridge, interconnect, reinterpret, remap, and redefine; to find the outer limits of his/her culture and cross them.... "
- from Guillermo Gomez-Pena, THE NEW WORLD BORDER

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Stay Free #21: Psychology Issue

Stay Free
Introduction to Issue 21
by Carrie McLaren

In 1999, sixty psychologists and psychiatrists sent a letter to the American Psychological Association (APA) urging it to oppose advertising to children. You had to admire their moxie: The APA represents a field that practically owes its existence to advertising.

The roots of the psychology industry date from the turn of the 20th century, when both advertisers and psychologists were scorned by their peers. Economists, bankers, and executives equated ad men with sideshow barkers, while scientists considered psychologists no better than fortune-tellers. To bolster their credibility, ad agents turned to psychologists and vice versa. By applying psychological theories to advertising, psychologists hoped to prove themselves practical; by incorporating psychology in ad campaigns, ad agents hoped to prove themselves scientific. (Psychology wasn’t yet seen as a science, but that’s another story.) John B. Watson, America’s answer to Pavlov, personifies the triumph of both fields–the founder of behaviorism, which dominated psychological theory in the 1930s, he was also a vice president of J. Walter Thompson, a leading advertising agency at the time and currently the world’s largest ad firm.

Psychologists allied themselves with business in other ways, as in "human engineering." Ana Marie Cox explores this history in her article on employee personality testing (p. 22), while Gaylord Fields and Matthew Flaming expose the psychological notions at work in another economic realm: grocery shopping (pp. 32 and 34).

Like psychology, psychiatry has been shaped by business interests–and though we’re calling this the psychology issue of Stay Free!, it is equally about psychiatry. (Psychology covers everyday habits of the mind; psychiatry deals with aberrations.) In his stellar history of the lobotomy, Elliot Valenstein (interview, p. 12) describes how the field of psychiatry has, like psychology, faced economic pressures. Thrifty state governments, competition from neuroscientists and nonmedical therapists, and a burgeoning pharmaceutical industry have ultimately contributed to psychiatry’s turn away from an environmental approach to mental illness and toward biological models.

The point of this issue of Stay Free! is a simple one: Both psychology and psychiatry purport to help people yet remain seriously conscribed by money and politics.

Read a few free essays, see the contents page, then go buy this excellent magazine

"Documentary Websites" by Edward Picot

Trace

Hyperliterature writer Edward Picot takes a look at documentary websites and investigates the effect of political bias and propaganda on online documentation:

Documentary Websites

Dialogue on Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs and Steel

Here is an Ideas and Issues audio interview of physiologist Jared Diamond about his Pulitizer Prize winning book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (1999). Connecting the dots of this interconnected world:

Jared Diamond audio interview

and critiques of the book by University of Chicago historian William H. McNeil :

William H. McNeil Audio Interview

and East Tennessee State University historian Jim Odum:

Jim Odum Audio Interview

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Careful, it is easy to get lost in an intellectual derive at this site:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Houston Wet: A Sprawl Ecology

I'm very interested in the production of online ethnographies (like the Zone Zero, Home Project and 21st Century Neighborhoods links on the left side of this page). Here is a good example of the documentary potential of the Internet. This site's narrative structure unfolds like a movie drawing one in through powerful storytelling and an extensive series of images:

Houston Wet: A Sprawl Ecology

I'm very interested in hearing about similar online ethnographies...

Open Democracy and Bangladesh Garment Workers

One of the best things about Open Democracy is that they often supply more than one perspective on the issues that they cover and there are forums that encourage further dialogue on the topics raised by the original authors. Here is a pair of essays on the garment industry in Bangladesh:

If shirts could speak and “we the people” would listen by Anita Roddick

Getting Real About Globalisation in Bangladesh by Farida Kahn

Public interest groups open new front in media reform movement

MediaChannel
Free Press
To sign Media For Democracy's petition

--The Public Airwaves, Public Interest Coalition , an alliance of public interest groups, media activists and grassroots organizers, will announce on Tuesday, April 20 a broad-based campaign urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold the nation's commercial broadcasters to a more responsible standard of public service. The announcement will be made with FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps at a 1:00pm press conference during the National Association of Broadcasters annual gathering in Las Vegas.

The Coalition is taking this action as the television industry stands poised to receive another massive FCC giveaway — involving billions of dollars worth of publicly-owned digital broadcasting capacity. Before the FCC acts on behalf of broadcasters, the Coalition has called on the agency to clearly define its public interest obligation, in particular as it concerns civic and electoral programming.

The campaign was kicked off on April 7 when the Alliance for Better Campaigns, Benton Foundation, Common Cause, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Creative Voices in Media, Institute for Public Representation of Georgetown University Law Center, Media Access Project, New America Foundation and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc. asked the FCC to move quickly to establish a clear and strong public interest obligation for the nation's commercial broadcasters.

The Coalition's proposal asks the regulatory agency to help ensure among other items that licensed broadcasters air:

a minimum three hours per week of civic or electoral affairs programming on their most-watched primary channel; and

independently produced programming for at least 25 percent of the primary channel's prime time schedule.

According to the proposal, "One core component of these public interest requirements is that broadcasters provide opportunities for citizens to become informed about — and involved in — local civic affairs and elections."

The FCC proposal is supported by a nationwide petition drive launched on April 12 by grassroots organizations including the Alliance for Better Campaigns, Common Cause, Free Press, Media for Democracy, MediaChannel.org, MoveOn.org and TrueMajority.org. On April 20, the Coalition will deliver thousands of signed petitions to FCC Chairman Michael Powell during the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. The petition calls upon the FCC "to define minimum standards for broadcasters to fulfill their public interest obligation through coverage of elections and civic affairs."

Giving Back to Viewers

This coordinated initiative comes as the television industry fundamentally changes the way it transmits content — from an analog to a digital signal that can carry multiple interactive channels — six or more — over a frequency that now only accommodates one. This new technology, called multicasting, makes it possible for broadcast license holders to air more diverse and local content.

TV station owners expect to reap massive profits from advertising, pay-per-view programming and televised home-shopping services on the new digital channels. They have proven reluctant, however, to air programming that encourages public participation in America's democratic process.

"Multicasting over public airwaves is worth tens of billions of dollars to Big Media companies, and they're getting it for free courtesy of the American taxpayer," said Meredith McGehee, executive director of the Alliance for Better Campaigns. "The FCC with the complicity of Congress has left broadcasters free to define for themselves the meaning of public interest obligation. As a result the current obligations are meaningless. It's time the FCC steps in to provide clearer guidance to the industry."

"Without increased public and FCC pressure, few of the new digital broadcasters will opt to include programming that serves the public interest," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "Broadcasters are expected to reap $1.2 billion in campaign ad revenues this election cycle alone. It's time they gave something back to the public interest."

The Next Front in the Media Reform Movement

The Public Airwaves, Public Interest Coalition will continue to press the FCC for meaningful policies to support the public's interests — despite ongoing attempts by the powerful media lobby to block any efforts to define broadcasters' obligation to their viewers. These lobbyists, working on behalf of large commercial media conglomerates, continue to push for industry deregulation that will open the way for further concentration of local media outlets in the hands of fewer corporations. In 2003, a popular outcry against FCC plans to allow more concentrated media ownership in local markets mobilized nearly 3 million Americans opposed to the further dismantling of ownership regulations. Capitol Hill observers say discussion of this issue among congressional constituents was second only to concerns about the War in Iraq.

"Ensuring that big media serve the public interest is the new front in the media reform movement," Timothy Karr, executive director of MediaChannel.org and Media for Democracy said. "A clearly defined public interest obligation will help ensure diverse, original and local programming that reaches formerly underserved audiences and encourages citizen participation in civic affairs and the democratic process."

In the months ahead, media activists and grassroots organizations aligned with the Coalition will reach out to television stations in all 50 states to brief them on the FCC proposal and engage station managers in a constructive discussion of best standards for local broadcasters.

"Media moguls want the FCC to approve multicasting before the public realizes just how much more money they're going to make off the publicly-owned airwaves," said Chellie Pingree, president of Common Cause. "We need to remind them that they owe us something in return."

Report Link