Saturday, November 29, 2008

City Councilor Chuck Turner told Fenway News he was 'preparing' for the system to 'swing back'; He's 'overjoyed' to use arrest as teaching opportunity

Four years ago, Democracy Now! called Chuck Turner, who has represented District 7 as its City Council member since he was elected in 1999, "one of the city’s best known dissenters." He has seen some awesome social action, by lying across Columbus Avenue to prevent construction that dispaced poor minority neighborhoods; occupying the Mayor's office in 1991 with a dozen others forcing The Man to make key concessions concerning the hiring of minorities on city construction projects; and suing the city in 2004 for not allowing protesters to march to the Democratic National Convention held at the Fleet Center.

So as you might have heard, Turner was arrested on Friday, Nov. 21, 2008, for allegedly accepting a $1,000 "bribe" from a local businessman named Ron Wilburn, and then "repeatedly" denying that he was "ever being offered the money," according to an FBI affidavit. Turner has since come out on BNN-Channel 9's "Talk of the Neighborhoods" and said if any mistake was made, it was a "campaign finance violation" and that there was no "probable cause" for his involvement in this investigation. The whole thing started to unfold when the Feds unveiled their case against Diane Wilkerson, and the probe seems to be expanding from her. Wilkerson was the first black woman elected to the state Senate. These leaders of of color have presided over a constituency largely composed of minorities.

The Boston Herald reported: "Turner says he’s innocent. 'I did not extort money from Mr. Wilburn,' [Turner] said."

Well, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, all TV stations, et al. of the imperialist MSM in the area generally have been crucifying Turner in their coverage -- except for the Globe with what might of been a euphimism for a headline "Turner raises questions about Wilburn interview," when in it was more like "Turner attacks Globe for its failure point out inconsistencies in an interview with FBI informant who lacks credibility." (But there are some reasons maybe the Globe has to treat Turner like a chump.) Oh, I like this letter. But this is for real so lets drop that stupid stuff; and, seperately, we don't have to blindly trust the FBI all the time.

While Turner is boisterously on the defensive with the local MSM, he got all nice and cozy with The Fenway News, a small monthly newspaper with little online presence, and their reporter Aqilla Manna, who also spearheads the newspaper's distribution. She presented a short explanation from Turner about his situation in the context of the greater struggle for social justice. Turner reflected:

"[M]any people have expressed their condolences for my being in this kind of situation -- have expressed how unfair it is, and how difficult it must be for me. What I'm trying to help them understand is that if your objective in life has been to challenge the system, that is similar to someone poking a bear with a stick. When you poke a bear with a stick, you'd be a fool to think that the bear isn't going to swing back. And so your whole life your practice is to figure out how to duck the swings of the bear so that you may have another opportunity to try to bring him down through poking him in the stomach.

"So what's happening is my wife and I have been preparing for this day. We knew this day was going to come if we kept up an effective level of work because their practice is not to allow people who won't submit to their will ...

"They set up a situation that will take you down. So what's happening is not surprising -- it's draining in terms of energy, but it's not even troubling. I know I'm innocent. I'm an organizer. I know how to organize my defense. I've been advocating for people for over 40 years. So if I can advocate for other people for 40 years, I certainly am not concerned with being able to advocate for my self ...

"In fact, in some ways, I'm overjoyed that it's happened, which seems strange, but meaning I'm at the time that I have to realize that every breath I take could be my last. So for me, what I really yearn for is the opportunity to be able to see that my people can understand clearly and see how the system functions. ... The fact of this situation gives me the opportunity to really help teaching critical thinking, help teach how to not to be misled by the psychological warfare that's used to demoralize us as individuals as well as people.

"So for me, God had given me just a wonderful opportunity to help my people understand the viciousness of the system that we had been oppressed by for 400 years."

Of course, we all know there's something pretty fishy about this. Does the FBI allow only crotchety, old black guys like Ron Wilburn to get revenge only on their fellow African-American figures in the community in these skeezy, sneaky ways. Is it all to neutralize The People and keep them complacent, without hope for better pay or, furthermore, change in the white power structure that dominates American society? Or are we all allowed to try to set up our politicians? Or do we have to be Whitey Bulger or something?

Ron Wilburn said their was more people going down or, basically, it wouldn't be right. Either he's just collaborating with a systemically racist system or he's ignorant in getting this simple smalltime revenge.

Besides the Turner story and the sidebar interview by Manna on the cover of The News there were election results and a photo feature. The picture showed a longtime neighborhood activist and former city councilor Rosaria Salerno being recognized for a lifetime of achievements as a founding member of the Fenway CDC. In the image, she embraced with State Representative Byron Rushing.

Ron Wilburn, the cooperating witness in the Turner and Wilkerson case, said their should be others arrested or it wouldn't make sense. I've heard eyes are on a State Representative. Rushing, watch out!

Photo (cc) by Jonathan McIntosh and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On a hunt for stories with News Trust

Last Wednesday my Reinventing the News class and I were introduced to News Trust.

With guidance from Mike LaBonte, the class was split into groups and we all evaluated one story using News Trust. The Independent, of London, printed this piece by their environment editor, called "A 'Green New Deal' can save the world's economy, says UN."

After scanning through the article a couple of times, my three group mates and I began to scrutinize it using the News Trust supplied evaluation sheet. Becoming a member of the website allows you to submit these judgements on articles and any other multimedia news posted on the Internet.

For the Independent piece we were unimpressed by the analysis of the proposition at the center of the article. We saw the piece and realized that it was one-sided -- basically cheer leading -- with only one or two sources who were proponents of the cause.

Normally, people throw aside articles that are not well sourced and don't have conflicting voices. So we gave it a bad score, a 2.3, noting that it's "hard to understand the source of data and projections voiced in this piece."

Through News Trust we have a record documenting the perceived quality of different publications.

As an exercise on Friday, I went on a "news hunt" for three different articles somehow pertaining to the global economy.

First I stopped at an article in the Guardian about how Venezuela is doing throughout this global financial crisis. I felt like the article had a pro-Capitalist bent to it because it offers criticism of Venezeula's style of government without explaining. I gave the article an overall 2.3, with low grades for context and depth. I said in my notes that "I just don't like how Venezuela is 'considered' one of Latin America's riskiest credits without backing up this statement with anything else but a blanket condemnation of socialism, solidifying investor's unqualified fears."

Next I went to India, where leaders are assuring the poor that they will be unaffected by the global financial crisis which was caused by "profligacy" or rich nations. It was not a broad story and was rather boilerplate quotes from India's leaders. I gave it a 2.7. In my notes I said: "It's nice in the sense that we are given the Indian perspective on the global economic crisis. But I feel like there should be more analysis than this pre-packaged allaying of financial fears."

Last I decided to behold the gold. In times of economic turmoil you always have some nutcase yelling at you to stock up on gold because the dollars is dying. Now's a time to get hooked up with some stats. This article offers some recent prices of gold and shows a bit how it's fluctuated over the last year. But it hardly gives me an understanding of the subject.

Many buyers, Edwards said, are figuring that global governments’ unprecedented efforts to pump money into the financial system will inevitably lead to higher inflation down the road -- even if the immediate concern of central bankers is deflationary pressures as consumer spending slumps.

"What I hear from [investors] is that they think deflation is a short-term issue," Edwards said.

That's the basics. Supply and demand.

I wanted more. My urge for more substantive understanding led me to give the story an overall 2.4, giving it a low score for lack of enterprising quality.

Now let's all demand better quality journalism through the persistent scrutiny of our entries in News Trust!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mapping out coffee shops to percolate minds

Brigham Circle Diner is a mainstay for workaday folks during the week and for frantic local college students on the weekend.

I stopped by today to participate in a Google Mapping assignment for class. I ordered a cup of coffee for just $0.99, and I also ordered a few scrambled eggs, some potatoes and wheat toast to go with it.

The waitress poured the black bean brew. She asked if I wanted cream or sugar but I like it straight-up, no sugar-coating. She plopped this thick, off-white ceramic mug on the counter for me, still steaming. I grabbed a cup of water out a pitcher in the corner while I let it cool for a minute. Halfway through sipping down my coffee while catching a few headlines in The Globe -- Obama now allows lobbyists to work in White House? -- my food was up on the counter. Surprisingly, prompt service from a two-person staff: The ruddy chef in his apron swirled around the kitchen chopping stuff up while constantly frying as the waitress flickered from doing dishes, taking orders, wiping up tables and more.

The grub, suffice to say, was delicious! -- that gritty breakfast of champions, but not overly greasy, doused with hot sauce.

I took my time and grabbed another black coffee. I suspect a Columbian blend. It was not strong, but it certainly got my body going. I felt like I could have approached the counter and had the girl pour me cups all morning. I've found it to be a real friendly atmosphere.

That's all I got. They won me over. I'm easy but I know this place is quality.

As a supplement, here's an excerpt from a Boston Phoenix "Cheap Eats" column that came out in October, 2002, shortly after the store was founded:

There aren’t any big-haired waitresses, but the men behind the counter embody the surly-yet-sweet mix. The first cup of coffee was presented unceremoniously — plopped on the counter, not brought to the table — with a cursory, " Your coffee. " The second and third (the mugs are small) required approaching the counter and asking for refills. But then, after cup three, the man behind the counter walked by our table and paused. " How ’bout some more coffee? " he asked. I hesitated, thinking I’d had my fill. " Go on, " he said, smiling persuasively. " It’s cold out. " Surly had turned sweet.

Brigham Circle Diner, located at 737 Huntington Ave., is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mapping and New Media

Five years after the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, the Boston Globe set out to explain the resulting war in Afghanistan from the ground. To accompany the full story by Charles Sennott that appeared in the paper they created a flash map of the area.

The map, produced by Scott LaPierre and T.S. Amarasiriwardena, of, plots Sennott's journey from Islamabad, in Pakistan, to Asadabad, in Afghanistan.

Each stop, when you click on it, gives you a little multimedia presentation: an audio clip, a slide show, and/or some text that pops up.

For instance, zoom in on Jalabad, noted as the number 7 point in Sennott's journey, where his flight to Kabul is detailed. Sennott explains: that this is where "it is believed that the US had bin-Laden cornered in December 2001. He managed to escape, according to US, Pakistani, and Afghan officials, because of a lack of US troops on the ground and flawed intelligence." I'm sure it was a mistake to let bin-Laden go.

Regardless, this is just one fine example of how maps can be utilized to redefine the news. For next Reinventing the News class we'll be utilizing Google Maps for reporting purposes.

An American police state experience

This weekend I submitted a column to a local newspaper about my experience being assaulted by a police officer in Boston. He conducted an unwarranted search of my person and possessions, completely violating my Fourth Amendment rights. God bless America! There were a few key facts that were unfortunately left out of my narrative, which I wrote from the second-person perspective of the cop. So, here is the raw version of the story in all it's awful glory:

At the corner of Newbury Street and Charlesgate East, you stand in the midst of midday traffic on Saturday sporting your dark blue uniform and fluorescent orange vest. Three college-aged boys walk down Commonwealth and take a turn at the intersection, stopping nearby at a grassy area featuring two concrete patio-like sitting spaces next to a calm creek and a small building that may be an old generator house.
The kids start milling around, chatting amongst themselves. They must be up to no good.
So you start towards them and one of them sees this. As you get near, what appears to be the oldest one, this scruffy punk with a bomber jacket and black hair, steps forward.
"Now get your story together," you say, staring at him, swaggering ahead.
"What's going on?" he says.
"You know what you were doing over here," you bark back.
You grab the kid by the elbow and start pulling him toward the swatch of ground they were standing around. "What's wrong? Are you arresting me?"
Heh-heh. Who does this kid think he is?
The other boys follow.
"You were drinking over here. Admit it!" you yell, scanning the ground for any illicit material.
"No," he says. "I was just having a cigarette. You have no right to detain us like this for no reason."
This pisses you off. You wrench his backpack from his arms.
"You can't look through that," he says. Well then – you wonder why – what could be in it?
Rifling through you find four bananas and four pears; a pair of headphones; "The Complete Stories of Truman Capote," a bunch of papers; and a reporter's notebook. No dice.
"Show me what's in your pockets?" you demand, in a rising tone.
He pulls everything out: keys, a cell phone and a pack of Marlboro Reds.
"Again, if you're not going to arrest me," he says. "I'd like to leave. I have things to do."
This infuriates you. You charge the kid gritting your grimy, jagged teeth, huffing with bulging eyes, locking your mitts on his shoulders and knock him down onto the hard steps of the generator house a foot or so behind him. And then you stomp on his foot for good measure.
"You're assaulting me," the boy says, scrunching his face with anger.
"Ya. I am assaulting you. ... And I have a right to do a field interrogation," you say, reaching for a notepad to write down their identification information.
The boy settles into a stolid stare. Suddenly, he looks up, taking his cell phone from his pocket.
"I'm going to have to call a lawyer," he says. You quickly snatch his phone and furiously look back and forth.
"Oh, wait, what's this," you say, giddily, picking up what appears to be an empty pint of cheap Peppermint Schnapps.
"Are you kidding," the kid says, wincing. "That looks like something a homeless guy left there. C'mon. I'll take a Breathalyzer test. You're just being a bully. You're infringing on our civil liberties."
No. You are doing your job. But there's not much left to do with these schmucks. So you appeal to their respect for protection of property.
"You know, we've had a lot of car break-ins on this street."
You start walking away, still fuming, feeling somewhat defeated. So you turn back, lurching back toward the kids and yell, "If you had a pair you'd fess up! Grow a sack."
At one point, you recall, the outspoken boy says: "I'm going to have to report you to the police."
Chagrined, you say, "I am the police." Your name is Officer Schueller.

* * *

Throughout the night this incident, I tried to empathize with Schueller, to see it in his shoes. Why was he so hostile, and then violent. Were my words crude? It was just a little truth to power.
Conversely, by the end of the ordeal, this cop was coaxing me to confess to a crime I did not commit by means of emasculation. I felt compelled to report him.
"We can assure you that this won't happen again," said Sergeant Michael McCarthy. "We sat down with the officer and he told us his account and it matched yours. We believe you. He shouldn't have conducted himself like that. We hope your next experience with the police is a good one."
Not all officers act this way. I deal with police regularly at work and they have been outstanding gentleman. But this experience offered me a glimpse into what may have been the overly aggressive ethos harbored by police who handled the Celtics championship reveler David Woodman at the time of his arrest and subsequent death. In more general terms, it was my first personal encounter with an overbearing nanny state that won't let people alone with their privacy when they are doing nothing illegal; and it was the first time my Fourth Amendment right was blatantly violated. My hopes are that police would continue to protect and serve while maintaining respect for the community.

Boston Globe Multimedia Reporter Emily Sweeney Presents

When I was working at City Weekly for the Boston Globe last may I remember the editor mentioning an upcoming section front regarding Boston slang. The idea amused me, being from the area, and so I wondered how it would come out.

The article was O.K. But it needed something else. A video to compliment the text would bring the story to life.

The Globe, like lots of other major newspapers, are infusing video into their online product more and more everyday. You gotta' have sound and moving sights for this one.

That's where Emily Sweeney comes in. She sat down with the writer Billy Baker, recorded some narration, scrapped together some animation as well as file photos and let the Beantown vernaculur shine.

Sweeney visited the Reinventing the News class on Wednesday.

On her website, SpikeyEm, she links to this really inspiring video for an article she wrote in 2006 about John McClay, who was a former Mr. America contender, adapting to life in a wheelchair. He was hit by a car while jogging in 1985 and that left him disabled below the waste.

The video is structured nicely. We have a dynamic interview in scene -- the gym -- that we start with and end with. We have body building b-rolls and pictures spliced in from the prime years in his career. And we have edgy rock music. Let's roll!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

BlogAgainstTheMachineBoston experiments: first time YouTubing

Check it out. The first YouTube video from BlogAgainstTheMachineBoston.

Editor's note: It's my first time. But it was fun. Some of these pictures are just famous some are from Flickr. But I'll get around to citing them all.

BlogAgainstTheMachineBoston Watches Votes

Check it out. It's my little Polling Place Photo Project slideshow I participated in through the New York Times. Just three pictures of the voting festivities where I was. After I got yelled at, which you'll read about in one of these captions, I got scared. But afterwards an elections worker said I could of YouTube'd my vote. Whateva maybe next time.

And hey, hey! on this historic election night Media Nation gave BlogAgainstTheMachineBoston a historic shoutout. Word.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

BlogAgainstTheMachineBoston Votes

So today Mr. BlogAgainstTheMachineBoston went to the ballot booth for Ward 10 Precinct 6 at the Kennedy School in Boston and here is what he picked: Cynthia McKinney, of the Green Party, for President of the United States. Sonia Chang-Diaz, for state senator (even though her opponent socialist William Leonard showed at the antiwar rally while she was absent). They're both power-to-the-people pols who aren't going to be bought off by anyone.

For the initiated state statues on the ballot he voted No on Question 1 because it's tempting but just too rash and plus, his mom said, the property taxes will just go up; Yes on Question 2 because criminal laws against marijuana are systemically racist leaving it to police discretion on when to arrest never mind the fact that alcohol is far more dangerous yet remains legal; and lastly No on Question 3 because we need jobs so forget dogs they're fine anyways.

For the rest of the candidates, including Mike Capuano, his Democratic U.S. rep to the House, he voted No Confidence to send a message that he's unsatisfied by their service. He did not vote for the U.S. Senate seat and instead wrote No John Kerry! and blackened in the circle.