Archive for March 1st, 2004

Aristide Claims He Was Kidnaped – US Denies

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WASHINGTON, March 1 — President Jean-Bertrand Aristide asserted Monday
that he had been driven from power in Haiti by the United States in “a
coup,” an allegation dismissed by the White House as “complete
nonsense.”

 Mr. Aristide, who relayed his accusation by telephone from the
Central African Republic to news organizations and members of Congress,
contended that he had been kidnapped and forced to leave Haiti at
gunpoint.

 “The allegations that somehow we kidnapped former President
Aristide are absolutely baseless, absurd,” said Secretary of State
Colin L. Powell.

from the New York Times

Our Hometown

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lostsign

Undated file photo of the signpost to the village of Lost in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which has been forced to changed its name to Lost Farm after at least five signs have disappeared in recent years. (AP Photo/ Harvey Wood)

Citizen Journalists Rule – In Asia

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Over the weekend we went to a meeting of people interested
in contributing to an alternative media web site called "Exploit
Boston!
",
envisioned to be a sort of facilitator for and aggregator of writing
by a group of "citizen journalists"
covering the local beat. We can’t say we have taken much to the name,
being accustomed to battle exploitation in all its nefarious forms, but
the idea has some merit.

Numerous interesting possibilities were discussed, including covering
local politics and arts, designing a logo and paper organization in order
to facilitate getting credentials and press passes, sharing cameras and
recording equipment, the mechanics of recording, editing and hosting streaming
video. Just the kind of thing we were considering in "Why we need video
aggregators
".

An interesting project, and worth keeping an eye on. Concurrently, we
have been researching the world’s first Digital Democracy – South Korea.  There,
a site called OhmyNews has revolutionized media and politics, provided a
viable technical and financial model for "Citizen Journalism", become the
number 1 news source in the country, and been held primarily responsible
for electing the current President, Roh Moo-hyu.

What is OhMyNews? "With OhmyNews, we wanted to say goodbye to 20th-century
journalism where people only saw things through the eyes of the mainstream,
conservative media," said editor and founder, Oh Yeon-ho. "Our
main concept is every citizen can be a reporter. We put everything
out there and people judge the truth for themselves."

When Oh started the site three years ago he had three volunteer collaborators
– today the site has a paid staff of 40 editors and reporters.  They
collectively post about 200 stories a day, generating a virtually constant
output of stories and updates.  How? Via their network of over 26,000
registered "Citizen Journalists" who contribute stories and get paid for
those which are published.

And people are paying attention. OhmyNews is getting an average of 2 MILLION
readers a day. 100 times more than Glenn Reynolds. But not more than the
top citizen reporters in this country could generate, if they were organized
like this. We modestly suggested something along those lines in our posting The
Bloggers Consortium
. However, even the Dowbrigade never dared dream
of power like this:

The Guardian newspaper called OhmyNews "arguably the world’s most
domestically powerful news site."

"OhmyNews is as influential as any newspaper," a South Korean diplomat
told the paper. "No policy maker can afford to ignore it. South Korea
is changing in ways that we cannot believe ourselves."

The
attitude sounds exactly like what we seem to be groping towards here in
our local cyber cells and emerging organizations:

Calling itself a "news guerilla organization" — and adopting
the motto, "Every Citizen is a Reporter" — OhmyNews has
become a wild, inconsistent, unpredictable blend of the Drudge Report,
Slashdot
and a traditional, but partisan, newspaper.

OhmyNews tends to be anticorporate, antigovernment and anti-American. Stories
are often subjective, oozing with emotion and odd personal tidbits. But they
also can be passionate, detailed and knowledgeably written. The site covers everything
a traditional newspaper covers — from sports to international politics — but
does it with heaps of personality.

"It’s entertaining, it’s heartfelt and it’s caring," said Don Park,
a Korean-American reader who said he visits OhmyNews daily. "It’s like
blogs. It has a personal side and an emotional side. It has human texture.
It’s not
bland and objective like traditional news. There’s a definite bias. It’s
not professional, but you get the facts. I trust it."

Of course, one of the essential elements of making it work is getting
access to the newsmakers. Here, the value of belonging to an organization,
as opposed to working for a corporation, come into play. Would American
politicians ever give bloggers and citizen journalists equal access? Not
this years crop, that’s for sure. South Koreans, however, seem to have
found their One.

OhmyNews reporters are given access to government ministries and public
institutions, putting them on level footing with professional reporters.
Top officials increasingly give OhmyNews journalists exclusive interviews,
a precedent set by President Roh, who gave his first postelection interview
to OhmyNews — a startling snub of the country’s established media.

The site warns contributors that they bear sole responsibility for whatever
they post. Copyright is shared between the site and the reporter, who
is free to republish the material elsewhere.The pay ranges from nothing
to
about $16, depending on how a story is ranked
by the editors — "basic," "bonus" or "special."

All stories are fact-checked and edited (that’s what the 40 full-time
employees do). They have an English
language version.
  Check it out.

quotes from Wired Online

OhmyNews in English

 

Least in Need of More Drugs

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A Chalmette man was arrested after calling the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s
Office to complain he had been ripped off attempting to trade a microwave
oven for crack cocaine.

Joseph Bulot, 32, of 600 Oak Tree Lane, Apt. B, was booked Saturday just after
4 a.m. on a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia after he showed
a sheriff’s deputy a crack pipe he said he had used to smoke what turned out
to be fake cocaine, according to a sheriff’s report.

Bulot had called the Sheriff’s Office from the 8900 block of West Judge Perez
Drive, several blocks from his apartment. He told a deputy he traded a microwave
oven to two men for crack in the 500 block of Oak Tree Lane, but when he
took the drug home and tried to smoke it, he discovered it was bogus, the
report said.

from the New Orleans Time Picayune

 

Absolutely Pure is a Relative Term

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We Weep For Our Beloved Country

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What
is happening in the streets of Haiti is more than a tragedy and a travesty
of supposed American support for Democracy. We are seeing
a death struggle between an immoral gang of thugs,
killers and dope dealers
and a well-intentioned but misguided
and unrealistic regime trying to end centuries of neglect, social decay
and external exploitation. And
once again, improbably, the United States seems to be on the wrong side.

Not long ago President Aristide in a way was our Poster Boy for benevolent intervention
and support for Democracy. Now he is just in the way. Although the State Department admits to “encouraging” him to leave office, the reality seems to have been a bit more emphatic. From today’s
Boston Globe
:

But questions lingered over whether Aristide left office voluntarily.
Ira Kurzban, Aristide’s Miami-based lawyer, said yesterday that the
50-year-old Haitian leader was “kidnapped” by US troops and
taken forcibly from the National Palace. Kurzban said he was not able
to contact Aristide
and feared for his safety.

As to exactly how the US intelligence community could have aided the
rebels, there are rumors that a mysterious (even to the DR) “security
exercise” on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic last
year was designed to funnel thousands of assault rifles to the rebels,
arms which are even now pouring into Port au Prince in the hands of drug-crazed
teenagers.

A senior US military official acknowledged that some American weapons
sold to the neighboring Dominican Republic last year may have ended up
in the hands of opposition forces in Haiti, but stressed that they were
not provided as part of some covert US activity and could have been acquired
from the Dominican military.

The Central Intelligence Agency declined to respond to questions yesterday
whether it had any role in Haiti.

According to news reports at the time, the exercise apparently came
as a surprise to the country’s foreign minister, who publicly denounced
the operation. The US official said 20,000 M-16s were provided to the
Dominican forces to help the country guard its border with Haiti and
that all the weapons could not be accounted for.

The
Dowbrigade has been getting a lot of Vietnam flashbacks lately, although
we have
never
actually
visited
that
unfortunate
nation.
However,
we are currently suffocating under a blanket impression that our
beloved country, which
used to stand for Truth, Justice and the universal human aspirations
for dignity, security and moral values, is being used to ends that,
although perhaps in our commercial or geo-political interests,
completely ignore the values on which our country was built.

The Vietnam war in the 60’s and 70’s was a shocking, eye-opening experience
for the young baby boomers. We had been brought up believing that
our country was ALWAYS on the right, winning side. The US was the
beacon of truth and justice in a backward world still clinging to the
totalitarian traditions of the past. The Dowbrigade, for one, truly believed
this down to the depths of his soul. But how were we supposed to reconcile
these core beliefs with what we were seeing on the TV sets in our kitchens
and living rooms? The incessant carpet bombing of cities and villages
not only in North Vietnam but also Laos and Cambodia? The naked napalmed
children running screaming down the roads? The towns and hamlets razed
as euphemistic “pacification”? The drained and haunted returning veterans
offering first-hand testimonials to the moral
bankrupcy of the war effort and confessing to atrocities in the name
of America?

Could it be possible, we began to wonder, after growing up steeped in
the Audie Murphy and
John Wayne iconography of won wars, evil Nazis and Japs and heroic GI’s,
that this time WE were the bad guys? What a world view shakeup that was!
Is it any wonder an entire generation went off the deep end?

Now its all coming back like a bad acid flashback. Once again we feel
unclean, ashamed, unable to explain or elucidate exactly how
we
got onto
the wrong
path,
but instinctually
certain
that
something
has gone horribly, horribly wrong. It is not only in Haiti that it
seems the US is allied with shadowy forces of darkness.

In Iraq, it is becoming increasingly clear that American foreign policy
has been hijacked in the name of some dark 19th century inter-family
blood vendetta between the Bushes and the Husseins. Although no fan of
the latter, the Dowbrigade sincerely believes that there are more serious
and immediate threats to our person and nation, and that the diversion
and waste of so much money, effort and accumulated goodwill, not to mention
an ever-expanding list of American boys and girls who can never come home except in a box, on such a petty,
personal, embarrassingly transparent revenge scenario amounts to a criminal
abuse of power.

To make matters worse, we are in the embarrassing position of being
OPPOSED to holding elections for a new Iraqi government. Didn’t
we “liberate” these people in order to allow them to freely choose their
own leaders? Now, the Dowbrigade is NOT an expert in Middle Eastern Foreign
Policy, and there may very well be good reasons why we can’t hold fair
and safe elections there yet. After all, even after we kicked out the
British, it took a few years before we had a functioning constitution
and an elected president in place.

But it just LOOKS bad to have the news full of Iraqi’s demonstrating
in FAVOR of elections and the occupying army of the United States saying
“No way.” It’s bad enough that we are the occupying army, without seeming
to be holding down the legitimate democratic aspirations of the local
population.

And in Saudi Arabia, it definitely looks to us that we are backing the
wrong guys. We are deeply committed to supporting a completely
non-Democratic feudal family dynasty which constantly trashes the human
rights of more than half their population (the women) and encourages
an virulent anti-Americanism in the disenfranchised population which
led directly to the 9/11 tragedy. In what amounts to America’s foremost
Venal Sin, we do it because we need their oil as much as any junkie needs
a fix, because the withdrawal pains of even cutting back our consumption
would be so terrible regimes would fall and millions could die.

We will forego casting aspersions on US policy vis a vis Israel and
the Palestinians because it seems to the Dowbrigade that there is no
“right side” in that one, no “good guys” at all, just a tragic and deadly
dance between death-besotted fanatics on all sides.

Perhaps
we are engaging in a bit of old-fogeyism here, pining for a clearer world
that never was, but we don’t think so. There was a time
when there was a clear-cut line between
right
and wrong,
and
our country at least tried to be on the right side of it at
all times. When we were friends with Democracies and enemies of dictatorships,
and in those dictatorships offered moral and financial support for authentic
resistance and liberation movements (South Africa, for example).

The central principal of a democracy is that if you don’t like your
government, you don’t need to kill anybody, just wait until the next
election and vote the bums out. Despite the smoke and mirrors from the
White House and the State Department, it looks
like
we had more
than
a little
to
do with
the premature
departure
of Haiti’s democratically elected President, who, according to AP, “fled
the country under heavy American guard”.

The Dowbrigade weeps for what
America has become. We long to feel again the
righteous
pride
in
our
country,
and
its position
in
world
affairs. Not
as an invader or occupying army or even as “peace keeping” troops, but
simply as a moral example and as a beacon of liberty to oppressed and
freedom-loving people the world over.

quotes from the Boston Globe