Archive for war

Want to read my writing? Check People’s Production House

In order to simplify my life and give the company that pays me the full value of my work and energy, I will now be posting to my blog on the People’s Production House website. RSS feed coming soon.


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Flipping past Burns’s The War?

So the Ken Burns documentary The War has been running this week. If you’re like me, flipping through PBS these past few evenings has felt a bit like passing over the Seinfeld reruns since that Michael Richards thing.

At about the time the concern over The War‘s homogeneity in interview subjects was bubbling into outrage, my dad published a piece on the Burns brothers for the New England Review. My father has been a documentary filmmaker for more than 40 years; he’s also a great writer. I think this piece might be the best critique out there of the patented Burns style of filmmaking, notwithstanding the personal testimony of Latino WWII veterans.

He wrote the article pre-The War, ostensibly as a review of Ric Burns’s Warhol, but the first half is a thoroughgoing critique of the entire Burns body of work and its impact on documentary filmmaking. He uses the “Ken Burns Effect” now featured in popular video editing software as an insightful point of entry. The second half is also a great read, taking the Warhol film apart in some detail.

I recommend taking some time out of your Friday afternoon to read the piece.  You can find it online here: Eric Breitbart, “The Burns Effect: Documentary as Celebrity Advertisement.”

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Further restrictions on soldiers’ Internet usage

Starting today, the Department of Defense will begin blocking soldiers from accessing some of the most popular websites on the Internet, including YouTube and MySpace.

The increasing use of such sites compromises the security of the DoD’s unclassified Internet known as NIPRNET, according to a newsletter put out by the Commander of US Forces in Korea. The newsletter also warns soldiers to be alert against identity theft and the sharing of sensitive information.

The website blocking comes less than two weeks after the military imposed new restrictions on soldiers’ blogging.

The May 11 “Bell Sends” newsletter from Commander B.B. Bell describing the new restrictions says,

To maximize the availability of DoD network resources for official government usage, the Commander, JTF-GNO, [Joint Task Force, Global Network Operations] with the approval of the Department of Defense, will block worldwide access to the following internet sites beginning on or about 14 May 2007:,,,,,,,,, ifilm,com,,,”

(You can see the full newsletter from this website here or from the original military website here. From what I gather, this journalist broke the story.)

The banned websites all promote online interaction based on the sharing of photos, videos, music, musical tastes, or personal information. Some, like MySpace offer the opportunity for soldiers to blog their experiences. The Pentagon operates a channel on YouTube.

Last year, the then-Republican House of Representatives passed legislation that would bar access to such sites for minors using government-funded Internet access, for example in schools or libraries. The “Deleting Online Predators Act” (DOPA) died in the Senate.

The bill would have forced libraries and schools to bar minors from accessing any websites or chatrooms where they “may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material; may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults; or may easily access other material that is harmful to minors.”

I’m with Seth Johnson and the Dynamic Platform Standards
on this one, that you can’t block such sites and still honestly call it the Internet.

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Democratizing the Beltway talk shows

In media reform as in most political endeavors, direct action gets the goods. You don’t like the questions the corporate media are asking the decisionmakers? Ask ’em your own questions.

The big news in the DC news biz every week is who will be appearing on the Sunday talk shows – Face The Nation (CBS), This Week (ABC), and Meet The Press (NBC). Those shows send out a press release with the lineups every Thursday.

Competing news agencies send interns or other rookies to sit outside of the corporate media studios in case the guests want to make any statements after the interview. There’s a microphone stand set up outside; sometimes the guests stop there on their way out of the interview and take some questions.

Those other news agencies don’t send more seasoned reporters because they don’t expect to get any of what they consider useful footage there. Also, this all takes place on a Sunday morning when many of their employees would rather be in bed.

A couple of months ago, some enterprising media activists joined the post-talk show gaggle in order to ask the questions no one else is asking. The project is called The Washington Stakeout and is the work of DC Indymedia veterans and Sam Husseini, best known for his work with the Insititute for Public Accuracy.

If you check the site, you can see the Stakeout asking questions about Israel’s nuclear weapons of John Edwards and about pre-Iraq war intelligence of Colin Powell.

Washington DC is basically a series of concentric boxes, each one designed to keep you from thinking outside of its borders. It’s refreshing to see this kind of imaginative yet straightforward media activism in this town.

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Violence against reporters on the edge is harbinger to destruction…

Our country is focused on the civil war in Iraq; we are failing to notice the one emerging on our doorstep.

Sarah Ferguson has posted an extensive article addressing the question, “Who shot Brad Will?” The NYC IMC statement on the Caña Cadeza Investigation still stands.

Since Brad’s murder on October 27, three other journalists have been killed in Mexico: Roberto Marcos García, José Manuel Nava Sánchez, and Misael Tamayo Hernández. They were not working in Oaxaca, where many other reporters have been attacked by government forces, but those deaths compound Mexico’s standing as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists.

Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo, Enrique Perea Quintanilla, and Ramiro Téllez Contreras were killed earlier this year and Rafael Ortiz Martínez and Alfredo Jiménez Mota are missing.

Over 100 journalists and media activists have signed the letter for press freedom in response to Brad’s death. It states, in part,

When the members of the press are subjected to physical attack, it is our values of freedom and of democracy which suffer… Hoodlums and political operatives who wish to operate under cover of darkness often feel safe in silencing independent reporters through acts of violence and intimidation. Violence against reporters on the edge is harbinger to destruction of press freedom in the middle.

The attacks on journalists in Mexico are symptoms of a much, much bigger problem: a new dirty war has begun in response to widespread political unrest.

From Oaxaca, the country’s poorest state, to the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas, to the capitol Mexico City where López Obrador continues to reject the legitimacy of incoming president Felipe Calderón, the country is growing increasingly unstable. Drug traffickers control or terrorize much of the north and there is severe corruption at all levels of the government. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is militarizing the US-Mexico border.

We are on the eve of either a great uprising or a civil war,” Subcomandante Marcos stated at a press conference on the day of our Thanksgiving. And then things got even worse

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Heads up: NYPD renews its attack on our right to assemble

Over the summer, I deviated from my normal focus on media to alert you to an attempt by the NYPD to implement laws on public assembly that would turn New York into Singapore on the Hudson.

Or maybe public assembly is a kind of media. The friends of Brad Will are certainly trying to use it to distribute information with a lunchtime bike ride tomorrow, November 1, starting at 40th Street and the West Side Highway.

Anyway, thanks to a public eruption of opposition to the laws, they withdrew the proposal. But that didn’t change the fact that the police have no business writing laws. That should be up to a legislature, like City Council.

Now they’re at it again with the same police state principles but slightly revised numbers. A public hearing – which the NYPD can disregard, but is still important – is scheduled for November 27.

With many of the city’s most committed activists focused on the death of our friend Brad Will and the crisis in Oaxaca, it would be easy to let a major threat to civil liberties in New York City go unopposed. Luckily, we have Assemble for Rights NYC.

That coalition is proposing a sensible set of assembly regulations called the NYC First Amendement Act, which fulfills NYCLU’s recommendation to remove permitting authority from the NYPD.

The NYC First Amendement Act is based on the Washington, DC, assembly rules that our friends won through multiple lawsuits and hearings after their city’s shameful policing of protests like A16 (World Bank) and J20 (Bush first inauguration).

Here’s what A4R and I are asking you to do:

  1. Contact Your City Councilor Today
    Tell them to back the NYC First Amendment Act. You can get your city councilor’s phone number here
  2. Contact City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
    Tell her to support the NYC First Amendment Act. This is very important!
    Phone: (212) 788-7210
  3. Contact Mayor Michael Bloomberg
    Dial 311 and send him a letter.
  4. Register To Testify at The Nov 27th Public Hearing
    The NYPD is hosting a public hearing at 1 Police Plaza, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the 1st floor auditorum. Send written notice to:Assistant Deputy Commissioner Thomas P. Doepfner
    New York City Police Department
    1Police Plaza, Room 1406
    New York, NY 10038
  5. Spread The Word
    Tell your friends about this issue! Blog about it, email it, link to this site.

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Indymedia Journalist murdered by government paramilitaries in Oaxaca; Marcos calls on alternative media to demand justice

Mexican government-backed paramilitaries attacking the popular occupation of the city of Oaxaca killed human rights activist and Indymedia journalist Brad Will.

Brad was a familiar figure to those who squatted the Lower East Side, occupied the countryside of Brazil, and built the Other Campaign in Mexico.

Even if he sometimes was a challenging person to get along with, no one who knew him doubted his commitment to global justice. Surely no one ever will.

Even after many of the other people who had lived through the days of N30 and A16 had left the struggle behind, Brad kept fighting, going to where globalization bared its fangs and staring it down, camera in hand.

I would say that Brad was a human rights activist first, a journalist second. He should be remembered as a hero of the New York City Independent Media Center because he always knew something that others of us are just coming to understand: Journalism is either in the service of justice or it is a cause of injustice.

Read Al Giordano’s obituary for Brad, which includes this statement from Zapatista Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, responding to the news about Brad’s death while speaking at a public meeting of the Other Campaign in Buaiscobe, Sonora:

We know that they killed at least one person. This person that they killed was from the alternative media that are here with us. He didn’t work for the big television news companies and didn’t receive pay. He is like the people who came here with us on the bus, who are carrying the voices of the people from below so that they would be known. Because we already know that the television news companies and newspapers only concern themselves with governmental affairs. And this person was a compañero of the Other Campaign. He also traveled various parts of the country with us, and he was with us when we were in Yucatán, taking photos and video of what was happening there. And they shot him and he died. It appears that there is another person dead. The government doesn’t want to take responsibility for what happened. Now they tell us that all of the people of Oaxaca are mobilizing. They aren’t afraid. They are mobilizing to take to the streets and protest this injustice. We are issuing a call to all of the Other Campaign at the national level and to compañeros and compañeras in other countries to unite and to demand justice for this dead compañero. We are making this call especially to all of the alternative media, and free media here in Mexico and in all the world.

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