December 27, 2008

The notable, frequently dramatic, story of pioneer modern blues label Chess Records and its founder, Leonard Chess, has made its way to the movie screen in a film as remarkable and as powerful as its subject -- Cadillac Records. While the film is not always historically accurate, it does indeed tell a powerful and well-scripted story that engages the watcher's attention fully.

We identify readily with the humanness, rough edges and creativity of the film's protagonists -- legends who are put into human terms in the film without sacrificing any of the creative greatness that made them legends in the first place. For Cadillac Records focuses itself around the frequently tempestuous musical and personal relationships of Leonard Chess with Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry and Etta James.

The excellent soundtrack features many of the Chess classics played by a band of first-class musicians formed by harmonica great Kim Wilson, who plays harp on the soundtrack and masterfully re-creates the signature Little Walter licks. Other notables in the band are guitarist Billy Flynn and pianist Barrelhouse Chuck.

March 22, 2008

This past week, as the world marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the corporate news media confirmed the latest Washington consensus on the war: mistakes were made, perhaps, but things are looking up.

It's plain to see why -- despite the historical record, let alone the "facts on the ground" -- the corporate press has such a rosy picture of the war: the US press corps' uncritical reliance upon elite news sources.

Action alerts regarding press coverage marking the anniversary of the war in Iraq issued this week by the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) confirm as much.

February 23, 2008

Fossil fuel generation is coming under increasing scrutiny as alternatives gain acceptance with Wall Street financial institutions.

In a revolutionary statement issued by three major investment houses last week, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley released their “Carbon Principles” and “Enhanced Diligence Process.” They consider these to be global warming “guidelines for advisors and lenders to power companies in the United States.”

February 16, 2008

A devastating pestilence has invaded our beloved state forests. It is not an exotic insect, virus or blight. It is our invasive governor and his misdirected Department of Natural Resources. They have increased logging in our forests by 500 percent. Some of that logging involves clearcuts, where all trees are removed in 10-acre swaths. The backcountry of Morgan-Monroe State Forest, where logging had been off limits for decades, is now being carved up.

Our forests are areas of surpassing beauty that are greatly appreciated by Hoosier families for hiking, camping and personal reflection. They are sacred places that all citizens are free to visit to escape the harshness of our chaotic world. Our forests are some of the rarest and most valuable refuges in our state.

Income from the sale of these majestic trees amounts to a shockingly tiny part of Indiana's general revenues, about 0.02-0.03 percent. The value of these trees to our citizens, when they are left standing, is far greater and is never-ending. Decimating the natural wonders of our state cannot be considered a gain except on the narrowest of balance sheets.

James Alexander and Dark Rain Thom

January 26, 2008

Welcome to the first installment of “Alternative Conversations,” a new Bloomington Alternative multimedia reporting project. As you will see with today’s story package on local authors, artists and activists James Alexander and Dark Rain Thom, this series explores the experiences, thoughts and environments of some of our community’s most dynamic and effective voices.

This and future chapters in this ongoing, online series will feature in-depth, thought-provoking stories of the caliber our readers have come to expect, enhanced with video recordings of the conversations and photo album chronicles of the experiences.

This edition, for example, features a conversation Alison Hamm had with James Alexander and Dark Rain Thom about art and writing, the American Indian, and our current state of affairs.

Links to "Alternative Conversations: the Thoms"

December 29, 2007

Any objective analysis of the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL) administration over the past two years leads to two inescapable conclusions: Leadership at the public institution has been desperately lacking. And MCPL Board of Trustees' President Stephen Moberly's fingerprints are all over the mess.

Moberly is a former 18-year Republican state legislator and retired estate lawyer from Shelbyville. He is one of two MCPL board members appointed by the Monroe County Commissioners -- Republicans Joyce Poling and Herb Kilmer and Democrat Iris Kiesling at the time. His term began in January 2006 and runs through January 2010.

As Moberly has correctly noted, controversial MCPL Director Cindy Gray was hired before he joined the board. But her most egregious transgressions and ethically questionable activities, which infuriated library staff and led to Gray's Aug. 31 resignation under pressure, transpired on Moberly's watch, with his knowledge and approval.

December 29, 2007

The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Dec. 18 decision to "relax" media ownership rules opens the door to a new wave of consolidation that will further erode the quality of U.S. news media.

According to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the new rules will help the ailing newspaper industry compete with Internet news services for readership and advertising dollars by lifting a 30-year ban on newspaper-broadcast cross ownership. Martin contends that his "modest" proposal is limited to the nation's 20 largest media markets.

But as consumer advocacy and public interest groups, including Free Press and the Benton Foundation, have demonstrated, the ruling contains dozens of waivers and is riddled with loopholes that will have implications for media markets across the country.

December 15, 2007

Steve Bonney is an independent candidate for governor of Indiana. The following are his comments on the U.S. District Court ruling on the citizens lawsuit against I-69.


It is clear that the courts are determined to protect the institutions of government. They are able to do so because our laws are increasingly vague on the specifics, thereby allowing court decisions to be vague.

What we now have is an assemblage of vague case law upon which courts can make any decision they wish. We have truly lost the separation of powers that the Constitution mandates, as the executive and legislative branches are given a free rein by the courts.

December 15, 2007

In a meeting of climate change activists recently, I told those assembled that I did not understand why everyone in the room was not outraged at the seeming inaction of policy makers to tackle global warming when the evidence shows that serious response is required

Maybe that is the question that needs to be asked by all.

While Al Gore has served the role of Paul Revere in this revolution, the movement lacks a Patrick Henry. Instead of "give me liberty or give me death," we get muted voices that make it home in time for supper.

That does not mean everyone involved is not deeply committed to our cause. It simply means we lack the necessary will to affect the change our issue demands. Like most policy makers, we are all to tied to a comfort zone that interferes with saving the world.

September 11, 2007

Bloomington citizens had dual opportunities on the evening of Aug. 29 to witness our nation’s crisis in leadership up close, firsthand, at the local and state levels.

Down on Kirkwood Avenue, the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL) Board of Trustees, after two years of shirking its duties, finally took action to resolve the ever-deteriorating work environment inside the library. Unwilling to defend Director Cindy Gray’s sale of a handgun in the library, board members finally forced and accepted her resignation.

Meanwhile, over in City Hall, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) held a public hearing on a proposal from Duke Energy to have ratepayers financially guarantee a new $2.1 billion “clean coal” power plant in Knox County about 50 miles southwest (upwind) of Bloomington.

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