Make room, not war

Give peace a chance: Several local anti-war activist organizations settled a misunderstanding and united at 16th Street and Broadway on Saturday, June 17, to honor the 2,500 American troops who’ve fallen in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003. Approximately 150 people gathered to protest the war and call for the impeachment of President George W. Bush.

“It was a smaller turnout than we expected,” said Colleen Whalen, a volunteer for the 16th and Broadway Coalition and CodePink. “The temperature was over 100 degrees.”

The turnout represented a turn-around of sorts. In recent weeks, Bites has been on the receiving end of e-mails that indicated a stressed and splintered anti-war community, frustrated with the lack of local media coverage and exhausted by the length of their vigil, which has no apparent end in sight.

The misunderstanding between groups began after longtime 16th and Broadway organizers Stephen and Virginia Pearcy announced plans to take a hiatus from the protests. Other groups, such as Not In Our Name and World Can’t Wait, stepped in to fill the void, only to find themselves in a tempestuous tiff over turf. After a few tense words, the dispute was settled when all the parties realized they were on the same side, said Whalen.

“The corner at 16th and Broadway is a commons,” she said. “Everybody rallied, it’s water under the bridge, and we’re ready to move forward.”

Presidential endorsement: Politicos want increased press scrutiny, the kind that alternative newsweeklies deliver. It’s hard to believe. But on June 17 that’s what former President Bill Clinton told several hundred staffers from alternative newspapers across the country who’d gathered in Little Rock, Ark., for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ yearly convention.

President Bill Clinton. Is Bites the only one who thinks that sounds a lot better than it did six years ago? Turns out Clinton seeks out alt weeklies when he travels to different cities, and not just for the ads in the back.

Mainstream political coverage turns politicians into flat cartoon-like characters, depriving Americans of true portraits of their leaders and their actions, whereas “you tend to fill in the blanks more,” Clinton told editors and publishers of the country’s alternative newsweeklies. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a 2004 presidential candidate, also sang the praises of the alt press at the annual conference last week. The mainstream media don’t do enough homework to bring the facts to the people, Clark said. But the alt press occupies a very important space, covering the news “in a way that’s vital to American democracy.”

“It’s fine for government to put out information,” he said. “But someone has to be there to tell the story that’s behind what the government wants you to know.”

Two of the nation’s top politicians praising alternative newspapers may not strike you as a good thing. Especially if don’t like your president to be a big reader.

Neutered Net: Hang on to your Internet—while you still can. On the night of June 9, while you were sleeping, the House of Representatives passed the Communications, Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE) by a vote of 321-to-101. The vote paves the way for phone and cable companies to turn the Internet into their own private cash cow and came after an amendment that would have preserved “Net neutrality” was stripped from the bill.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi opposed the bill, saying that with its passage, “telecommunications and cable companies will be able to create toll lanes on the information superhighway. … This strikes at the heart of the free and equal nature of the Internet.”

COPE will permit the telecommunications giants to charge additional toll fees to content providers, particularly companies that use lots of bandwidth. Proponents of Net neutrality say this will stifle innovation because smaller, more innovative companies with little cash flow will be unable to pay the toll. They also worry that corporations might use higher fees to censor content deemed unacceptable. Net neutrality will maintain the status quo and prohibit such fees.

The issue now heads to the Senate. Bites is not exactly sure how to cope with COPE, other than to tell the reader to write his or her senator and log on to for more information.