Thursday, November 10, 2005

Indymedia roundup

One of many intriguing points in Mapes' book--a thing I shouldn't have had to be reminded of--is that the documents she and Dan Rather based their story on were never exposed as fakes. In her book due out this week from St. Martin's Press, Mapes insists that the documents are authentic.
The people who made the most adamant accusations at the time were anonymous amateurs on the Internet, not known experts. Somehow all of a sudden everybody and his blog was an expert on 40-year-old typewriters and proportional spacing.
In the book Mapes presents expert opinion and evidence that the accusation--all the stuff about typewriters, superscripts, proportional spacing and typefaces--was just wrong. She says the people who presented those arguments didn't know what they were talking about.
After dealing with the typeface issues, Mapes presents contextual evidence to show that the documents make an uncannily smooth factual mesh with other documents of known provenance. Not the sort of thing one would expect from fakes.
Another telling point to recall is that not even the high tribunal and commission set up by CBS to explore the issue was able to corroborate the accusations of fakery. For all the money CBS spent on its commission, not to mention various private detectives--and for the amount of public bloodletting the network justified on the basis of the commission's findings--you have to think they would have found a way to call those documents fake if they could have.
That was the core accusation against Mapes, Dan Rather's producer for that story: that she bought off on fake documents and fooled her superiors. If CBS could have proved the documents were fake, then all the blame would have been on Mapes and much less of it on CBS.
Certainly on the technical side of this I am not a good arbiter. And I'm not entirely neutral on Mapes herself. But I can say this much for her book: Anybody with an honest intellectual curiosity about this story will have to read the book or find some other way to confront the arguments in it. Mapes' evidence supporting the authenticity of the Bush Guard documents is compelling enough to put the ball squarely back in the court of her accusers. The case for forgery is dead in the road until it finds a way around this book.

The above, sent in by Billie, is from Jim Schutze's "Mapesgate: Before you judge former CBS-TV producer Mary Mapes, take a walk in her shoes" (The Dallas Observer). Thursday, indymedia roundup and this entry is highlighting a variety of topics.

For instance, Billie's highlight notes the corporate media, the next entry wonders if indymedia can be saved from the same trap? Melissa e-mails to note Bruce B. Brugmann's "Lockyer: Stop the merger" (San Francisco Bay Guardian):

It all sounds exactly like what Lockyer complained about in his original Jan. 27, 2003 complaint, which charged that the actions of New Times and VVM "have the further result of depriving the economy and the general public of the benefits which accrue from healthy competition."
If this merger goes through, a company with a proven pattern of antitrust violations would be in a strong position to increase media concentration, damage competition, and hurt readers and advertisers in at least two California markets. It would add to the homogenization of media in the state and damage the vigorous marketplace of ideas envisioned in the First Amendment. One example: New Times, by its own admission and proclamation, will wipe out the endorsements and editorials at the LA Weekly, thus depriving the community of a strong voice for progressive causes and against the war.
Since the Bay Guardian was founded, in l966, the alternative press has become a vigorous and indispensable part of the politics and culture of California, a state dominated by out-of-state chain dailies. There are more alternative papers in California than in any other state, 23 in total, from the Chico News and Review, in the north, to the San Diego Reader, in the south. And most, in their own ways, have been on a special First Amendment mission, working to be alternatives to and competitive with the local monopoly daily paper and working in their communities to be a major force for positive change.
The Bush Administration would be happy to wreck all that, to see that the alternative press is subsumed into a neocon corporate-chain culture and the independents jacked up against the wall.
California's attorney general doesn't need to take his lead from Bush and doesn't need to let New Times and VVM make a mockery of the original complaint, consent decree and moratorium on further conspiratorial, antitrust and anticompetitive activities between the two chains. Lockyer needs to do the right thing, employ the logic and rationale of his 2003 arguments, and exercise his power to stop the merger.

Cindy highlights another concern by noting Eliza Strickland's "Was DiFi Batting for Big Oil? Human-rights groups delay Sen. Feinstein's surprise bid to gut key protections against corporate abuses abroad" (East Bay Express):

In the late afternoon of October 17, United States Senator Dianne Feinstein took an unlikely position, given her liberal Bay Area constituency. She introduced a Senate bill to amend the Alien Tort Claims Act, a law written in 1789 that lets foreigners sue in American courts.
Her bill might once have been politically safe, but over the past decade human-rights lawyers have dusted off the antiquated statute and used it to go after US corporations for their complicity in overseas abuses. Burmese villagers, for instance, used it to sue Unocal for allegedly enslaving them during construction of a pipeline -- the company settled for an undisclosed amount in 2004.
The human-rights community, which now views the statute as an indispensable counterbalance to multinational power, reacted with outrage to Feinstein's bill. Her move was a betrayal, they say, and it showed she was taking marching orders from her corporate donors.
In her statement introducing the bill, Feinstein said it was high time that Congress step in and clarify the act's limits: "This two-hundred-year-old law has spawned dozens of legal cases involving US multinational companies, human-rights groups, foreign plaintiffs, the State Department, and millions of dollars in litigation costs," she said. "Numerous companies in California are in the midst of these lawsuits as defendants."
One of those companies is locally based oil giant Chevron, which is embroiled in litigation over alleged murders and human-rights abuses in Nigeria in the late 1990s. When attorneys for the Nigerian plaintiffs examined Feinstein's bill, they discovered serious ramifications for their lawsuit. "There were about eight different ways that her proposal would have gutted this case," says Cindy Cohn, one of the attorneys. "It's clear this was written by a lobbyist for somebody on the other side of the Alien Tort Claims Act cases, and I think it's likely that somebody was Chevron -- although I don't know for sure," she says. Chevron has contributed about $30,800 to Feinstein's electoral campaigns since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
A Chevron spokesman wouldn't say whether the company participated in the bill's writing. However, its lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 and 2005 list "Nigerian litigation effort -- pending litigation regarding alien tort statute" as a specific lobbying issue.
With the media consumed by Harriet Miers, natural disasters, and pending White House indictments, the senator's proposal hardly made a blip on the national radar, but it set off such a furor among human-rights groups that Feinstein quickly backpedaled, and essentially withdrew the bill eight days after introducing it. She now doesn't care to talk about the short-lived anomaly that was the Alien Tort Statute Reform Act.
The bill's origins and the senator's motivations are no longer relevant, insists Feinstein's spokesman, Howard Gantman. "The bill is not moving at this time; that's the current status," he says. "She said that she does not want any action on this legislation until she can meet with the folks who have raised concerns. She will be meeting with folks as time allows." Gantman says he doesn't have a list of the interest groups or lobbyists Feinstein's staff met with to prepare the bill, and declined to make any staff members available for questions, citing time constraints.

Shifting gears to a musical note, Amber e-mailed to note Vince Darcangelo's "A song to pass the time: Emo's one-time boy wonder grows up to become an indie-folk superstar" (Boulder Weekly). Who? Conor Oberst. Amber's pulled from the introduction to the interview "in case anyone's still hasn't heard of Bright Eyes." Here's her excerpt:

The dark, poetic depths of the latter in particular had fans in the emo community rallying around Oberst and bandying about the word wunderkind. When Bright Eyes released Fevers and Mirrors in 2000, he was branded the next big thing and became the darling of the indie music scene. When he released Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground in 2002, he proved he was worthy of the hype, transforming Saddle Creek into the new industry buzz label and making Omaha-Omaha!-the new Seattle.
In January of this year, Bright Eyes simultaneously released two new CDs: a folkie, acoustic record, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, and an electronic record, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Oberst toured separately for each album, and recently embarked on a new tour, which will include a two-night stand in Boulder, Nov. 7-8, including a live taping at etown.
Two new releases and three tours in one year would be enough for most artists, but not the overachieving Oberst. On Nov. 15, Bright Eyes will release his first live album, Motion Sickness, through the Coalition of Independent Music Stores. The album will only be available in independent record shops.
In keeping with this independent spirit, Oberst recently canceled a show in St. Louis when he learned that Clear Channel owned the venue at which he was slated to play.
That's not the only controversy Oberst has found himself a part of this year. In May, he performed his new song, "When the President Talks to God," a scathing indictment of George W. Bush, on The Tonight Show. Last fall, leading up to the presidential election, he performed on the Vote for Change tour alongside Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M.
During a recent stop in Davis, Calif., Oberst hooked up with Boulder Weekly for an exclusive chat about music, politics and why Bright Eyes is not as depressing as you might think.

Switching from art to retail, we'll note Durham Gal's highlight Dan Coleman's "What's wrong with Wal-Mart?" (Raleigh-Durham Independent Weekly):

Although the world's largest retailer lacks the dramatically explosive potential of a nuclear power plant, its impact has been devastating to communities across the United States. It has played a major role in the dismantling of America's manufacturing base and the disappearance of the middle-class worker.
Although the feared north Chatham Supercenter has yet to appear and things have been quiet lately along the Orange-Chatham line, Wal-Mart is again in the news. Last month, the nonprofit group Wal-Mart Watch obtained a memo to the company's board of directors written by its executive vice president for benefits, Susan Chambers.
The memo confirms what anti-Wal-Mart activists have been claiming for years: that pay, benefits and working conditions at Wal-Mart are bad, and intentionally so. This is a corporation that seeks to maintain profits by keeping its employees on the edge of poverty.
And that's not all. As Robert Greenwald's new film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price ( dramatically illustrates, Wal-Mart is complicit in the evisceration of main streets across the United States. Its policies drive local stores and American manufacturers out of business. The retail giant has been charged with a wide range of abuses, at home and abroad.
Wal-Mart's success is a matter of legend. As Simon Head put it in the New York Review of Books, "With 1.4 million employees worldwide, Wal-Mart's workforce is now larger than that of GM, Ford, GE, and IBM combined. At $258 billion in 2003, Wal-Mart's annual revenues are 2 percent of U.S. GDP and eight times the size of Microsoft's. In fact, when ranked by its revenues, Wal-Mart is the world's largest corporation."

Note that this article includes links to others from The Independent Weekly on the same topic.

Brad e-mails to note Steve's "An Unreasonable Woman Comes To Troy" (Hudson Mowhawk IMC):

Diane Wilson, author of "An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas" appears in Troy on Monday, November 14 at 7 PM for a talk and booksigning at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, 3361 6th Avenue in Troy. By donation, to benefit the Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center. (She will also be speaking Monday at noon on the RPI campus in DCC 337, at an event co-sponsored by the Department of Science & Technology Studies and the Arts Department.)
Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation shrimper, began fishing the bays off the coast of East Texas at the age of eight, by 24 she was a boat captain. In 1989, while was running her brother's fish house at the docks and mending nets, she read a newspaper article that listed her home of Calhoun County as the number one toxic polluter in the country. She set up a meeting in the town hall to discuss what the chemical plants were doing to the bays and thus began her life as an environmental activist. Threatened by thugs and despised by her neighbors Diane insisted the truth be told and that Formosa Plastics stop dumping toxins into the bay.

Three years ago Wilson was arrested for committing civil disobediance at a Dow Chemical plant to protest the company's connection to the Bhopal chemical disaster. She’s now refusing to go to prison until former Union Carbide CEO Warren Andersen is jailed for his role in Bhopal.
The Corporate Crime Reporter is reporting that Diane Wilson is facing four months of jail in Texas. But she now says that she’s not going to jail until Warren Andersen, the former CEO of Union Carbide, is extradited to face manslaughter charges in Bhopal, India. Andersen was CEO of Union Carbide on December 3, 1984 when a deadly gas leak from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory in Bhopal, India poisoned at least 500,000 people. More than 8,000 people died within three days and over 20,000 people have died to date as a result of their exposure. In August 2002, Wilson scaled a Dow Chemical facility in Seadrift, Texas and unfurled a banner that read – "Dow Responsible for Bhopal." When she came down, she was arrested and charged with criminal trespass. In January 2003, Wilson was convicted of that charge and sentenced to four months in prison and fined $2,000.

Brad recommends the book and also notes that Diane Wilson was on Democracy Now! last month.

Lastly, Bonita e-mailed to note Anon's "AIDS activists take over Family Research Council to Protest Abstineence-Only Programs" (DC Indymedia):

Twelve staffers and clients of New York City's Housing Works (, the nation's largest AIDS agency, were arrested this morning at about 10am after chaining themselves at the base of a shrine to "traditional marriage" in the lobby bookstore of conservative think tank Family Research Council and refusing to leave once police arrived. The 12, including Housing Works CEO Rev. Charles King, were dragged out of FRC in plastic handcuffs by respectful D.C. police as dozens more protesters cheered them, chanting "Abstinence-only doesn't work!" and brandishing posters reading "Don't censor science."
Activists were protesting FRC's promotion of abstinence-until-marriage programs to prevent HIV/AIDS, which have virtually no scientific evidence of effectiveness compared to condoms, whose proven value in protecting against HIV the FRC has repeatedly aimed to debunk.
The protest began at 8:30am, when 40 protesters flooded FRC's lobby and bookstore. While the 12 who would be arrested chained themselves to each other before the traditional marriage display, others--chanting "Wake up, time's up, end AIDS now!"--blanketed the store with leaflets calling FRC's anti-gay, anti-condom agenda "hateful" and "ignorant." Protesters also decorated FRC windows with bold posters reading "Tell Youth the Truth: Condoms Save Lives." Three or four activists cavorted in giant condom costumes.
Astonished FRC staffers on their way into work stood by for over an hour watching the non-violent disruption until police arrived and began making arrests as cameras from local affiliates of ABC, NBC and Fox, as well as APTV and the Washington Post, captured the event.
"We're targeting Family Research Council today for one reason," said Housing Works legislative counsel Michael Kink, who served as a legal observer. "They've done everything in their power to weaken and distort the fact that condoms can help prevent HIV if used properly. Even the federal Centers for Disease Control has concluded that condoms are 'highly effective' at preventing HIV. FRC is messing with science to fit its own religion-based belief in abstinence until marriage, and with HIV rates rising in young Americans of color, that's a dangerous game to play."

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