Democracy

Roping Off the Information Commons

Public domain information - including our shared culture of literacy and democratic dialogue, basic drug research and government information resources paid for with public tax dollars - has grown in importance now that the Internet has empowered everyone to become a creator and to readily share information with others. As a result, writes David Bollier, corporate "content aggregators" -- film studios, publishers, record labels -- have "brazenly cast a broad net of claimed ownership rights in the intangibles of our culture.

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A 12-Step Program for Media Democracy

Jeffrey Chester and Gary Larson have drafted a "plan on behalf of a more democratic media system, a collective effort to ensure that alternative, independent voices will still be heard over the growing din of conglomerate media culture. " In the Internet age, they say, "The sad irony is that never before have we had such communications power at our disposal, in the form of new digital technologies that allow any of us to be producers as well as consumers of media content.

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Don't Scrutinize the Pentagon

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is pushing a series of sweeping proposals that would weaken congressional oversight of the Pentagon. According to the Los Angeles Times, "Pentagon officials also are drafting proposals to ban strikes by contract workers, eliminate federal personnel rules protecting civilian workers at the Pentagon and bypass environmentalists in Congress. Some proposals are more provocative. They include allowing the Pentagon to send its initiatives directly to Capitol Hill before other agencies could review them.

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Spinsanity's Inanity

The Spinsanity.org website has on occasion published insightful commentaries on misleading uses of political rhetoric in the United States. In July 2002, however, Spinsanity itself published a deceptive attack on the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). After FAIR criticized U.S.

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Free the Info

In the last decade, 26 countries have enacted formal statutes guaranteeing their citizens' right of access to government information. Now freedom of information advocates have a global internet link: freedominfo.org, a virtual network that offers summaries of existing laws governing access to information in 45 countries, along with current news and analysis.

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Bush Zips Whistleblowers' Lips

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has joined senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy in warning that the Bush Administration's proposed new cabinet-level Homeland Security Department threatens long-standing American freedoms while eliminating legal safeguards necessary to keep the agency open and accountable to the public.

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Fear and Loathing in the Middle East

"I have seldom been lied to so blatantly in my life," Amit Pal, editor of the Progressive Media Project, writes from Egypt. "On June 20, we had a lunch meeting with Nabil Osman, who is the chairman of the State Information Service here. He assured us that censorship was a relic of the past in this country, having disappeared after the 1970s, and that the press was free to criticize anything or anyone, including the president.

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Myanmar Hires PR Help

"The Union of Myanmar, which is ruled by a ruthless military junta, has retained Washington, D.C.-based DCI Assocs. to improve its relationship with the U.S.," trade publication O'Dwyer's PR writes. "DCI is to brief members of the Bush Administration and Congress that the former Burma is now committed to democracy and human rights. It also wants to be considered a foot soldier in President Bush's so-called 'war on terror.' DCI received a $100,000 retainer from Myanmar in early April, which will cover work through July 15. It will then bill Myanmar $35K a month. ...

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Revitalizing Democracy, Confronting Corporate Power

The corporate media pay little attention to the growing grassroots movement seeking to do something about corporate power and propaganda run amok. All over the US groups of citizens are organizing meetings, discussions, conferences, protests, websites, initiative campaigns and other efforts focused on a common problem: corporate power's subversion of American democracy. The Democracy Revitalization Project is hosting its inaugural conference in Duluth, Minnesota, July 28 - 30.

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Podhoretz's False Choice: Dissent or War

Ben Fritz of Spinsanity.org analyzes the rhetoric in a recent New York Post column by John Podhoretz, who "frames the entire debate ... as a crude either-or proposition: we're either fighting ourselves or we're fighting the terrorists. ... Podhoretz would do well to remember, however, that questioning the performance of our government is not an act of treason. It's part of the process of open debate that is central to American democracy."

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