Go Big or Go Home - Part IV

Original Publication Date: 
Monday, February 5, 2007

Welcome to Number Four.

AF: For a while there, IWT seemed to vanish from view. When I searched on the Web, I found an 8-month block where no one was talking about IWT at all.

PJ: That's very deliberate. In June 2005, when we launched the website, we were doing a feasibility study. We were not planning to launch a campaign. We had posted a survey and a video that would take about 10 minutes to do in total. We figured we'd be lucky if 500 or 600 people would take the survey. We did no PR. We were hoping that maybe 10,000 people would come over 6 weeks, which was the time we'd established for the survey. Then we figured we'd just stop. The truth is, we blame you -- and I mean this in all seriousness -- by you, I mean Daily Kos. I did an interview with the Tyee Report, which is a blog out of British Columbia. Daily Kos picked it up. Again, I did not think that much would happen. Anyway, the whole thing exploded. When Daily Kos released it, then the whole blogosphere got a hold of it. Then the Canadian print media got a hold of it. The Globe and Mail did a full page. The Toronto Star did a big piece. Le Devoir in Quebec did a full page. CBC Radio got in on it. The blogs in the U.S. went nuts. In 6 weeks, we had 80,000 unique visits. Instead of 500 or 600 people doing the survey, 6000 people did the survey. We had a contribution button up there. We were dealing with our advisors on the marketing, and they were telling us "Be happy if people do the survey. No one's giving you money just based on an idea and video." But 600 people gave us money. Anyway, all this activity was June 2005. We had no second act. We weren't planning to go public. We wanted a little contained feasibility study. So when all this happened, we tried to keep the site active, doing some aggregated text stuff and interviews. We didn't have the website ready in terms of the database capability, e-mail capability, the whole back-end. We didn't have any money to sustain any kind of production. The fact that it's been this much in people's attention has a lot to do with how badly people want it.

Go Big or Go Home - Part V

Original Publication Date: 
Monday, February 5, 2007

Part V: "We want all of you"

In my first installment, "Go big or go home", Part 1, I took us back to the prehistory of IWT/TRN, the courageous TV network that will search out the truth and bring it to a worldwide audience, uncompromised by money from corporations, advertisers, or governments.

In Part 2, "Oh, you mean the REAL news!", Part 2, Paul puts the REAL in The Real News.

In Episode III, "We'll go where the facts take us", Part 3, I followed Paul on a fact-finding tour.

In Number Four, "Seeking truth, not balance", Part 4, I told about how we gave IWT so much publicity in 2005 that the network had to hide from us for a year and a half.

In this final section, Paul tells us how he needs every single one of us.

Go Big or Go Home

Original Publication Date: 
Monday, February 5, 2007

Now that a corrupt party's stranglehold on political power has been broken, it's time to put the corporate Goliaths of the media on notice. I was pleased to see a healthy debate on Daily Kos two days after Election Day about restoration of the Fairness Doctrine. Whether you find yourself pro or con, it's great that the subject is being discussed. However, I want to tell you about an entirely different approach toward reclaiming truth on the airwaves.

Iraq Contractors: Raw Data From CENTCOM

Original Publication Date: 
Sunday, July 8, 2007

In an era of privatization and occupation, we need to know how many contractors are working in Iraq. Civilian personnel certainly are performing military-related operations, but we don't know the numbers of civilian contractors filling in the ranks of truck drivers, cooks, service personnel and other logistic roles. Unfortunately, those statistics have been hard to come by.

To remedy this, ePluribus Media filed its first Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA) request for such information in June of 2006. Almost exactly a year later, Central Command (CENTCOM) released updated results of its census on contractors working in Iraq. This census was first compiled in response to a Memorandum issued by Robert A. Burton, Deputy Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) in the Executive Office of the President, with a subject line entitled: Request Contracting Information on Contractors Operating in Iraq, from the Office of Management and Budget, dated May 16, 2006.1

With information beginning to be available, it will take the diligence of citizen journalists to make sense of the role of civilian contractors in Iraq, starting with analysis of this new census. At the end of this article, anyone interested in becoming involved in this will find links to the information and suggestions on how to proceed.

About the Information

The CENTCOM response to our request was a 'data dump.' The raw data is roughly organized by Contract Number, with 1901 entries. Data fields for each entry include: Reporting Unit, Company Name; Contracting Agency; Mission; Location; and the Total Number of Employees, broken down by U.S., Coalition, Third Country Nationals and Iraqis. Unfortunately, many entries contain numerous blank fields, making it impossible to arrive at correct figures for the number of contractors working in Iraq. So the wait for accurate information continues.

USAID: We don't know how many contractors we have working for us in Iraq

Original Publication Date: 
Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has funded over $5 billion1 in Iraq reconstruction projects. Yet according to a July 10, 2007 letter2 in response to an ePluribus Media FOIA request, USAID has no idea how many contractors are working on the reconstruction projects it funds in Iraq.

“... our USAID Mission in Iraq informs us that USAID does not aggregate the kind of information for which you are asking.”

However, in direct contradiction, USAID supplies Employment Program data for Weekly Status Reports prepared by the Iraq Transitional Assistance Office (ITAO)3successor to the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO). The data in the ITAO Weekly Stats reports is incorporated and widely disseminated by the State Department in its own Weekly Status Report4 as evidenced in its References.

The June 26, 2007 ITAO Weekly Status Report5 obtained by ePluribus Media from the State Department's Iraq Policy and Operations Group (IPOG) includes a table on page 21 with the following data:

Iraqi Employment: [United States Government] USG Projects6

Civil Rights Division to "Throw Tanner Under the Bus"

Original Publication Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

ePluribus Media has learned that the leadership of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has reversed its  July decision and is now signaling its willingness to permit Voting Rights Section Chief John Tanner to testify before Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)’s  House Judiciary Committee.  Although a Judiciary Committee spokesperson has confirmed the reversal, the final date and time for the testimony have not been finalized. There’s speculation that Tanner in his testimony will assume responsibility for the Georgia Voter ID controversy, leaving Hans von Spakovsky, currently up for confirmation to the Federal Elections Commission, a cleaner resume.

Tanner gained notoriety as the Section Chief who overruled career Justice Department staffers and permitted the State of Georgia to implement a law that requires all Georgia voters to show photo identification despite the fact that the career lawyers believed the new law discriminated against minorities in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  Tanner returned to the national spotlight when he made controversial remarks defending his Georgia decision. Last Friday, he stated, in remarks videotaped by Alan Breslauer of BradBlog, that “minorities don't become elderly the way white people do.  They die first.”  Earlier in the week, at a Georgia NAACP conference, Tanner remarked that:

AT&T (Cingular) Blocking Calls - Bypassing FCC

Original Publication Date: 
Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cingular Wireless is selectively blocking calls placed to numbers in Iowa run by local phone companies currently involved in multiple suits with its parent company AT&T Inc. The dispute is over "termination fees" -- rates long distance carriers pay the local phone company at a call's destination -- relating to third-party conference and international call services who are increasing traffic to states where these fees are relatively high.

But the FCC has made clear that long distance carriers may not block traffic to local companies as a "bargaining tool" based solely on the carrier's perception that fees are "excessive," in previous rulings that explicitly cite AT&T's use of the tactic.

Despite this, the nation's largest wireless provider is justifying its actions by claiming it may block certain "categories of number," if, in Cingular's sole discretion, the company is "experiencing excessive billing," referring to a clause in their customer service agreement that uses 900 and 976 numbers as examples.

Cingular began blocking the local exchanges in Iowa during the weekend of March 9.

AT&T Inc., the sole owner of Cingular Wireless, says it is losing millions of dollars because local telephone companies are partnering with businesses that offer services like free teleconferencing, and using the arrangement to exploit a "loophole" in the way network connect fees are set by the FCC.

Long distance companies like AT&T, Sprint and Qwest are called "interexchange carriers" (IXC) because they relay traffic between "local exchange carriers" (LEC) in different states. LECs are local phone company networks on which customers place and receive calls.

Jane Smiley's Divell Theorie

Original Publication Date: 
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This article is a cooperative venture between ePluribus Media and Appalachian Heritage , "A Literary Quarterly of the Appalachian South" published by Berea College in Kentucky. In addition to appearing here, this essay will be part of the Spring 2007 edition of Appalachian Heritage.

One of the latest and ugliest examples of the mainstream media's endless trashing of Appalachian people is a blog by Jane Smiley -- a novelist whose books I used to enjoy -- on the Huffington Post for December 29, 2006. Smiley wants us all to read the "most informative book of 2006," one that, ostensibly, explains America for her. This "revelatory masterpiece" is David Hackett Fischer's 1989 Albion's Seed. In that book, Fischer posited Anglo-American culture as consisting of four regional cultures, descended from four regional British cultures: the Puritans from East Anglia to New England and thence the Northern Tier; the Cavaliers from the West Country to Virginia and thence the Deep South; the Quakers from the North Midlands to Pennsylvania and thence the Midwest; and the Scots-Irish from North Britain and Ulster to Appalachia and thence the Upper South. And, says Smiley, aha! This is the explanation for what she'd previously called "the unteachable ignorance of the red states." The mess we're in now is all because those na-a-s-sty, mean, e-e-evil Scots-Irish have taken over the Republican Party and are using it as a weapon against "us" sweetly reasonable Quaker-descended liberals. Her posting brought a spirited rejoinder from Aaron Barlow [an ePluribus Media member and Quaker with Appalachian roots -- ed.], which in turn stimulated a lively exchange when it was picked up on the blog Daily Kos.

"Peacemaker of the Year" cleans DC streets

Original Publication Date: 
Sunday, February 25, 2007

Reverend Diane Baker, the 2006 Dallas Peace Center "Peacemaker of the Year," was missing from the photo taken when the rest of her Texas delegation met in Washington, DC with Senator Cornyn on January 27th. Why?

The 60 year old grandmother was busy picking up trash from the Washington, DC streets in blustery 20-degree weather to fulfill her sentence garnered from her September 2006 infraction while attending the DC-based Camp Democracy.

During the September event, Baker, with a peace delegation consisting of various activist groups from all across Texas lobbied U.S. senators and congress people about de-funding the war. At the time, she saw a group of protesters, arrested for crossing a police line, sitting together on the steps of a congressional building, and she went to sit with them in solidarity. . Although she herself had not crossed the police line, Baker was also booked.

Baker is hospice chaplain and a minister at a United Church of Christ in Dallas. She is a small, fragile woman who suffers from myoclonic epilepsy, a degenerative muscle condition. However, Baker wants no concession for her physical condition, so she never mentioned it to the judge who sentenced her to eight-hours of community service, picking trash from the DC streets. Instead, she reports that she faced her sentencing with a smile, proud to stand up for her beliefs.

Baker's husband says the Reverend Baker's attorney, who communicated with the Attorney General's office on behalf of Baker, was well aware of her physical condition and offered a list of alternative forms of community service. However, also according to Baker's husband, the Attorney General ruled that Baker travel back to Washington D.C. to serve her community service and insisted on the street trash detail;these were the only terms acceptable to the U.S. Attorney.

Given Baker's resume and community service as a hospice counselor, service that involved ministering and comforting wounded soldiers, or passing out food in a homeless shelter might have made more sense, her supporters feel, but the U.S. District Attorney's office assigned her to picking up trash.

Academic Freedom Beyond the Faculty: Students, the Institution, and the First Amendment

Original Publication Date: 
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The following is a talk delivered on February 8, 2007 at Portland Community College's annual Anderson Conference sponsored by PCC's Teaching Learning Center.

In an article on his website last fall, right-wing agitator David Horowitz made something of a mantra of the line, "there are NO academic freedom provisions for students in the state of Pennsylvania."1 He was talking about a report issued by a Pennsylvania legislative committee on academic freedom that had concluded, basically, that nothing should be done and nothing needed to be done by the legislature in regard to academic freedom.

Fortunately for Pennsylvania students, Horowitz's statement is akin to proclaiming "there are NO tsunami protection provisions for students in the state of Pennsylvania." In other words, what Horowitz was saying is meaningless in the given context. Until Horowitz, following the lead of just a few others, tried to make it so, academic freedom has never really applied to students' not until recent years, at least, when academic freedom has been defined in some quarters as simply an adjunct to established First Amendment rights.

Since its first enunciation in a 1915 AAUP declaration2, academic freedom has been a concern and a right of faculty only, though with a nod towards other rights and expectations that do legitimately belong to students. It is not and has never been a generalized right that covers everyone the moment they step foot on a college campus.


Original Publication Date: 
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Editors' Note: On the first year anniversary of Katrina, Louisiana resident and writer, Polydactyl reflects on her in-the-moment journals and diaries to remind us of what it was like in the eye of the storm.

about the author: Polydactyl dons her blogger's hat in Central Louisiana between shifts as a wife, mom, cat-herder and computer healer.