The Trouble With Today

 

cereals-100263_1920Katie Aguilera

Veterans Day is hard for me.  I am not a veteran.  I’m not close with very many veterans.  And, I don’t believe we should be fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all the other places around the world where we have troops active.  But, I care very much for all the lives affected by war.  So, the trouble with today is how to express that care without celebrating or glorifying war and militarism?

A simple “thank you for your service” feels hollow, it doesn’t feel genuine.  Because, I don’t feel thankful for what my country is doing around the world with its military.  I do, however, feel immense gratitude for people who are willing to serve their communities and countries, in large and small ways.

Some say that opposing the war on terror somehow suggests that those who have died fighting died for nothing.  I myself have felt this, a heart-breaking sadness that young men and women have died senseless deaths for no good reason.  I don’t believe that anymore, though the sadness is no less heart-breaking.  I don’t believe soldiers have died fighting over there to protect my freedoms.  I do believe that soldiers die, not for nothing, but rather for each other.

I don’t know how to make peace with all the lives lost to those caught in the middle.  I don’t know how to make peace with the fact that our Congress refuses to do anything to bring this war on terror to an end.  I don’t know how to make peace with the apathy of the American public, who largely seems to forget we are still at war.  But, I make peace with Veterans Day by reflecting back to the original intent of creating a holiday on November 11th.

The cessation of hostilities of World War I officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  A year later, November 11th was declared Armistice Day in commemoration of that.  The war to end all wars was over, and the world celebrated peace.  President Woodrow Wilson stated, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

On May 13, 1938, Armistice Day became an official holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”  In 1954, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to honor those who served in World War II and the war in Korea as well World War I.

Veterans For Peace states,

“Almost a hundred years ago the world celebrated peace as a universal principal. The first World War had just ended and nations mourning their dead collectively called for an end to all wars. Armistice Day was born and was designated as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated.”

After World War II, the U.S. Congress decided to rebrand November 11 as Veterans Day. Honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war. Armistice Day was flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.”

In today’s world of never-ending conflict, it’s hard to imagine celebrating genuine world peace.  But today, Veterans Day, to all who have served and are serving in the military, I pray you have a day of peace.  For the world, I pray we find the courage to put a stop to the fighting.

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

If you enjoyed this article and would like to support the author, click here.

When You Don’t Make the Cult

Why I No Longer Support Newsbud

Katie Aguilera

Two years ago, I was involved in the early stages of the development of Newsbud, an online news and media platform with the stated goals of being 100% people funded, unbiased, and non-partisan.  My involvement, like that of many others, was short lived.  Recently, I publicly made some comments about my change of heart regarding Newsbud, and I have also decided to remove nearly all content from this blog that promoted the organization*.  As a result, I feel that I should explain why I no longer support Newsbud.

I have been hesitant to discuss my experience with Newsbud, and have told few people the details behind my decision to leave the team.  It is not my intention now to pen a vindictive, personal attack on Newsbud or its founder, Sibel Edmonds.  I know that I have readers who support Newsbud, and I’m not writing this with the goal of changing anyone’s mind based solely on what I have to say.  People need to come to their own conclusions.  I am writing this to explain why I no longer endorse the site, why it has lost credibility in my view, and why I feel guilty for promoting it and supporting it in its early stages.

The Beginning

Several years ago, the research I was doing for the novel I am writing led me to a series of interviews [no longer available at this link] posted on YouTube with James Corbett and Sibel Edmonds.  That was how I first discovered Boiling Frogs Post, or BFP, and Sibel’s work.  Her story in her book, Classified Woman, aligned really well with the sort of things happening in the plot of my novel, and I began to follow the work at BFP.

When Sibel announced the idea for Newsbud, I contacted her and offered to help any way that I could with the project.  I explained that I didn’t have much to offer, I had no related experience, and wasn’t sure what I could do, but I wanted to help if I could.  I knew that I can write, but at that point I had yet to even start my own blog.  I don’t consider myself an expert of any sort, and I had never published anything.

I was surprised by the offer to be a regular contributor to Newsbud, and I jumped at the chance.  First and foremost because I genuinely believed in the idea of what Newsbud was supposed to be, based on how it was presented.  Also, because I was excited to get to know and work with Sibel Edmonds, who I had come to respect and admire greatly.  And, of course, it was an opportunity to get published and earn some extra money.

Newsbud launched a series of Kickstarter fundraising campaigns, the first one on February 14, 2016.  The goal of the campaign was nearly one million dollars, and ultimately it was unsuccessful.  It was during this campaign that I experienced my first hint of doubt about the direction Newsbud was going.

First Doubt

It started with this article in which Sibel makes some startling claims.  I was asked to do some research and fact checking on the suspicious letters discussed in the article after it was published.  I researched, I made phone calls, I spoke by phone with an FBI spokesperson about the matter, I attempted to contact Sheriff Glenn Palmer.  He never returned my phone call.  I found a phone number for the person who sent the suspicious letters, and I passed the information on to Newsbud.  I thought the logical next step would be to contact the letter sender but I was unwilling to do that from my private phone.

In the end, my research led me to the conclusion that there really was no more to the story than what had been reported in the local news, and with no comment from Sheriff Palmer, I couldn’t confirm his reported version of the event.  I was unable to find any evidence that would prove his claims, or that there had been any sort of substance in any of the letters.  I was also unable to find evidence that the letter sender was targeting Palmer specifically.

Pretty quickly I was informed that my conclusion wasn’t satisfactory and to stop researching the story.  Shortly thereafter, this video of an interview with Dr. Fred Whitehurst was released.  When that video aired, initially I felt that what I had reported to Sibel about my conversation with the FBI spokesperson was misrepresented.  Much later, when I watched it again, I also felt as though Dr. Whitehurst was manipulated in the interview because he wasn’t given all the information.  I didn’t understand why they did not mention any attempt to contact the letter sender, or Sheriff Palmer.  So, I messaged my concerns to Spiro Skouras of Newsbud, and asked why they had pursued the story the way they did.  I got no response from him that night.

Not long after, I received a request via email from Sibel to schedule a Skype conference call with her and Spiro.  I don’t remember all of the ways in which I was informed that I had failed during that call, but I do remember the main point, that I had missed the big piece of the story.  Sibel explained her reasons for that, and shared some links, and she was right, I hadn’t found what she had found online.  Upon reflection, I didn’t see it as proof of her claims, though I didn’t say so.

Perhaps I did miss a smoking gun, perhaps Sibel knew much more than she had published in her article and video.  However, what continued to bother me was that there was never any follow up, they never published any further evidence to support her startling claims.  They never informed me, or publicly stated, that they ever tried to contact the letter sender.  While attempts other than my own may have been made to contact Sheriff Palmer, there was no public mention of it from Newsbud.

After what felt to me like sensational claims that begged for further proof, that was basically the end of it.  That left me feeling as though the purpose of the story was to draw clicks, to capitalize on the related media furor occurring at that time over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, and Sheriff Palmer himself.  This would become a pattern I have since noticed repeatedly with stories discussed at Newsbud.

Staying In

Unfortunately, I ignored my instincts.  I still believed in Newsbud, and I didn’t want to admit that my faith in Sibel’s credibility had just taken a significant hit.  I convinced myself that, with my lack of experience, I had screwed up, and I moved on.  Newsbud launched a second Kickstarter campaign for a significantly lower goal, and with a very different team, because many on the original team had already left for reasons I didn’t fully learn until later.  This time it was successful.  This is when I began receiving payment from Newsbud, and I published an article a week for about two months.

Around this time, the attempted coup in Turkey took place, and Newsbud launched its “Confront NBC” campaign.  I was supportive and helped to promote this because I felt (and still do) that it is really important for news outlets and journalists to retract erroneous reporting.  I also agreed that the timing of the false information was suspicious with regards to the coup attempt.  (Not to mention this very real problem.)  But, the entire thing began to feel like a publicity stunt.  Looking back, it felt like a publicity stunt that went too far, and felt uncomfortably too pro-Erdogan.  And, it led to this attack on FAIR.org.

I was asked to email FAIR, and follow up with a phone call, requesting comment from them on the Confront NBC story, and also information about their sources of funding (something I would like to see more transparency on from Newsbud).  I truly did not want to do this.  I have a lot of respect for FAIR.org and other organizations that work to hold news outlets and journalists accountable.  I was embarrassed to be involved in an attack on them.  However, I made the call, and I’m sure I sounded like a complete idiot to the man at FAIR that I spoke with.

A Way Out

This was the point that I finally began to lose, or let go of, some of my belief in Newsbud.  I realized I no longer wanted to tell anyone that I wrote for Newsbud.  I increasingly felt that, in order to fit the mold, I had to find some sort of “conspiratorial angle” to everything I wrote for Newsbud, and even here on my blog.  I was going along with things I didn’t always agree with, in order to stay with Newsbud.  It felt dishonest, like I was putting on an act.  I wasn’t being honest with myself.  I wasn’t being honest to all the people I was promoting Newsbud to.  I wasn’t being honest with Newsbud or Sibel either, because I didn’t address these concerns with them.

The final straw (or straws) came after I published this story here on my blog.  I submitted a shorter version of the story to Newsbud, and initially was told it would be published.  Later, I was told that it wouldn’t be published for several reasons.  I was disappointed, but I understood that Sibel didn’t like the story and she had the ultimate say on what was published on Newsbud.  I moved on.  However, shortly after that, I received an email that finally ended my willingness to remain on the team.

In that email, Sibel questioned my recent sharing of a GoFundMe campaign by someone that she didn’t like, and she informed me that I shouldn’t be following a certain journalist on social media.  Basically, what it came down to was that my behavior was reflecting negatively on Newsbud, and I was damaging Newsbud’s credibility.

I replied that I had no desire to cause Newsbud any harm, and if she didn’t want me on the team that was fine.  It was a way out, and I took it with relief.  I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t hurt by the things Sibel said to me, but I did not, and do not, have any desire to argue with her, or defend myself to her.  It wasn’t worth it to me to be told who I could or could not follow, who I could or could not share support for, who or what I could write about.  I had already watched other team members leave, even just disappear from the team, with no explanation.  What Newsbud had become was absolutely not what I supported in the beginning.

Ironically, after I responded that I didn’t want to harm Newsbud, I was told my behavior not only reflected negatively on Newsbud, but on myself, that it would hurt my credibility.  That was indeed true, but not about the behavior Sibel was referring to.  What would reflect negatively on me would be to continue to support what I no longer believed in.  Continuing to work with and promote Newsbud would hurt my credibility.

It is my opinion that Newsbud has gone the way of another well-known alternative media (infotainment) site that thrives on click bait, unsupported sensational claims, and false information.  I know Newsbud has deleted negative and oppositional comments from their site in what looks like attempts to shield their supporters from anything contradictory.  I know they asked numerous dissenting commenters to unsubscribe.  I see no integrity in this.  There are other things I could point to, but that and skepticism born out of my own brief experience working with Sibel, are the most important reasons why I no longer support Newsbud.

Coming Clean

It has taken me a long time to decide to write about all of this.  It took some time to admit to myself that the entire experience felt very cultish, and even longer to feel ready to admit it publicly.  I held a cult-like faith in Sibel, and that affected my judgement.  I don’t blame Sibel or Newsbud, I blame myself.  At the time, as I was still trying to make sense of the overwhelming information I was searching through online, I was especially susceptible.  But, I know that I have learned a lot from this experience.  In the chaos of today’s news cycle, the fake news, the social media trolling and bot manipulation, and endless sites spreading misinformation for profit, my experience at Newsbud, even though I regret it, does have value for me.

The following, from an International Cultic Studies Association article titled, Characteristics of Cults and Cultic Groups, describes how I feel about my experience with Newsbud perfectly:

“…the group claims to pursue lofty goals (e.g., salvation, bringing enlightenment to the world for the sake of peace, or solutions to specific world problems and injustices), …but a close look at the group’s accomplishments will invariably show that these publicly proclaimed goals are not reached, or that they mask less noble goals, such as massing monetary wealth, gaining power and control over the followers, and feeding the leader’s need for adulation.”

So, when I saw this tweet which reads, “they’ve been throwing fits due to not making the cut when it comes to Newsbud,” I laughed.  I knew immediately that I had the perfect title for this story.  I didn’t make the cult, and for that, I am so thankful.

**********

*This decision was made because I can’t in good conscience keep content posted that promotes Newsbud.  If that bothers you and you want to know what those posts contain, just ask me.  I’ve kept copies of them all.  Also, I recently noticed that all of my work has been removed from Newsbud’s site, for which I am grateful.  I have reposted most of the articles here on Seeking Redress.

Update 4/29/2018: the above link to the Dr. Whitehurst video no longer works.  Here is a link to Newsbud’s report about the video.  The video isn’t available there either.

 

If you liked this article and would like to support the author, click here.

Mueller’s Delivery of Uranium Sample to Russia

Katie Aguilera

As the Uranium One story trickles out in the mainstream news, alternative news sites and social media are jumping all over it, with all sorts of speculations and claims.  One specific claim keeps popping up, ever since this July, 29, 2017 tweet from Wikileaks.  This claim is that former FBI Director Robert Mueller hand delivered a sample of highly enriched uranium, or HEU, to Russian law enforcement.  According to a leaked cable published by Wikileaks, this is indeed true.  However, many in the alt media seem to be suggesting that this sample of HEU given to the Russians is somehow related to the Uranium One deal, which is untrue.

Many alt media sites insert the fact that Mueller gave the HEU sample to Russia while discussing the possible scandals surrounding the Uranium One deal without giving the full story, as if to imply that this sample is somehow related to that deal.  And, of course, people on social media are spreading the rumor far and wide.  But, they aren’t giving the back story, apparently relying on the fact that their audience won’t read the leaked cable themselves.  The following is from the leaked cable:

“Background: Over two years ago Russia requested a ten-gram sample of highly enriched uranium (HEU) seized in early 2006 in Georgia during a nuclear smuggling sting operation involving one Russian national and several Georgian accomplices. The seized HEU was transferred to U.S. custody and is being held at a secure DOE facility. In response to the Russian request, the Georgian Government authorized the United States to share a sample of the material with the Russians for forensic analysis.”

But here is what Wikileaks highlighted in the tweet linked above:

  1. “(S/Rel Russia) Action request: Embassy Moscow is requested to alert at the highest appropriate level the Russian Federation that FBI Director Mueller plans to deliver the HEU sample once he arrives to Moscow on September 21. Post is requested to convey information in paragraph 5 with regard to chain of custody, and to request details on Russian Federation’s plan for picking up the material. Embassy is also requested to reconfirm the April 16 understanding from the FSB verbally that we will have no problem with the Russian Ministry of Aviation concerning Mueller’s September 21 flight clearance.”

The leaked cable makes it clear that the sample of HEU that Mueller gave to Russia was from uranium suspected of being stolen from a Russian facility, and Russia wanted the sample in order to confirm the origin of that uranium.  The cable does not say anywhere that the sample came from any uranium mined in US mines owned by Uranium One.  The cable does not claim that the sample has any relation whatsoever to the Uranium One deal.  But that hasn’t stopped the claims that it does.

Is there reason to question and investigate the Uranium One deal?  Yes.  But spreading false information about the story, whether by directly lying or by omitting important facts, only serves to misdirect attention from the true facts as we learn them.  It also calls into question the credibility and integrity of any alternative news outlet that uses this tactic.

Longbow Productions: The FBI’s Fake Documentary Film Crew

 

camera-690163_1920
Image courtesy of pixabay.com

“If criminal organizations in the world know that the FBI is willing to pose as journalists in order to infiltrate groups then it puts all of us in danger.”

Rick Rowley on OPB’s Think Out Loud.

The long-rumored and quietly discussed Longbow Productions came out of the shadows this week with the release of the Frontline documentary American Patriot which showed some clips of footage filmed by the Longbow team.  Longbow Productions was a fake documentary film crew, created by the FBI to gather evidence against the people involved in the 2014 confrontation between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and supporters of rancher, Cliven Bundy.

Longbow Productions was the creation of the Las Vegas FBI office after the Bunkerville standoff in 2014.  It was led by an undercover agent who went by the name of Charles Johnson, and who has since been arrested in an unrelated case where he posed as an “investigative consultant for a journalist.” A fake website was set up and the crew obtained professional recording equipment, and then approached the Bundy family and supporters requesting interviews.

A motion to exclude Longbow evidence from Cliven Bundy’s trial, filed in February 2017, states, “the FBI created a fake film production company designed to trick defendants into making boastful, false, and potentially incriminating statements that could be used against Defendants.”  It also claims that the FBI “delayed filing of any criminal accusations in this case in order to launch a wide-reaching deceptive undercover operation known as ‘Longbow Productions.'”

The film crew traveled to five states, possibly more, and interviewed at least 20 different people in an effort to gather evidence.  According to the Intercept article America Reloaded (named for the working title of Longbow’s supposed documentary) by Ryan Devereaux and Trevor Aaronson, there were over 100 hours of video and audio recordings from the Longbow team.

That article goes on to call into question the usefulness of such an undercover operation, pointing out that the majority of what was said in the Longbow interviews was already well-documented in many ways, by many different sources. The article states, “despite a clear risk that considerable resources would be expended to gather publically available information, incurring a guaranteed backlash from legitimate members of the news media along the way, Johnson and the FBI pressed on.”

Rick Rowley, Frontline producer of American Patriot, also questioned the operation in an interview with Dave Miller on OPB’s Think Out Loud.  Rowley states, “it seems like it must be part of the case because it’s an embarrassing thing that you wouldn’t want to reveal unless you needed the evidence from it, but to my ears, it’s difficult for me to see what the logic is behind it.”  He describes the questions asked in the Longbow interviews as leading, and that they “seem to be about trying to build a conspiracy.”

The effectiveness of evidence gathered using this undercover film crew is also worth questioning.  In a February 7, 2017 Guardian article by Sam Levin, Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Daniel Hill, is quoted as saying, “when the jury finds out this tactic they used, none of them will think it’s okay.  It shows the lows the government was willing to go to.”  Indeed, after Longbow evidence was presented in the first trial of defendants in the Bunkerville case, it’s been reported that jurors did in fact think that it was not okay.  According to the Intercept article, Eric Parker’s attorney, Jess Marchese, “said a number of jurors he spoke to were turned off by the government’s presentation of the Longbow evidence.”

The Longbow operation undoubtedly had a high price tag as well.  Cliven Bundy’s motion to exclude the Longbow evidence states, “the FBI’s Longbow operation spent taxpayer money extravagantly and with wild abandon.”  It goes on to describe how the agents conducted many interviews in expensive hotels, plied some interviewees with alcohol, and paid for the interviews.  Charles Johnson even offered to buy the rights to the Bundy’s story, and his assistant, known as Anna, offered to buy tickets to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to entice the Bundy’s to Las Vegas for interviews, according to the Intercept article.

What is perhaps most disturbing about the entire undercover operation, is the effect it has on journalism and news gathering.  From Levin’s February 2017 Guardian article, “‘if you think every reporter you meet could be an agent of law enforcement, it really has an immediate impact on any journalist coming to try and cover that story,’ said Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.”

Daniel Hill, Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, is quoted in this Frontline article by the producers of American Patriot as saying “they impersonated journalists so they could interrogate people the FBI fully intended on charging with serious crimes, without any lawyers present.  We should not have to fear that our government is infiltrating America’s sacred press and media institutions in order to try to gain prosecutorial advantages against its own people.”

In 2015 the Associated Press (AP) along with the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press sued the Department of Justice.  The lawsuit was the result of unanswered Freedom of Information requests made by the organizations seeking information about a 2007 sting operation in which an undercover FBI agent posed as an AP reporter.

“We cannot overstate how damaging it is for federal agents to pose as journalists,” Katie Townsend, the litigation director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said in a statement. “This practice undermines the credibility of the independent news media, and should not be tolerated.”

The Hill, August 27, 2015

And of course, there is Rick Rowley’s perspective, from his Think Out Loud interview about the Longbow operation.  “For people that are reporting on other stories, it puts their lives in danger.  If criminal organizations in the world know that the FBI is willing to pose as journalists in order to try to infiltrate groups then it puts us all in danger.”

The use of a fake documentary film crew is just one more thing to question about the way the FBI handled this entire investigation, from Bunkerville to Malheur.

 

If you liked the article and would like to support the author, click here.

 

 

US Airstrikes In Yemen Increasing

drone-161414_1280

Katie Aguilera

According to Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, the US has conducted some 50 airstrikes in Yemen from February 28 through last week.  And last weekend, after numerous strikes in eastern Yemen targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the total now stands at 70, according to Captain Davis.

Bill Roggio wrote in his April 4, 2017 Long War Journal post that the total number of US airstrikes in Yemen since the beginning of the year is more than 75, which he notes is “already nearly double the yearly total since the drone program against al Qaeda in Yemen began in 2009.”  He adds that “the previous record number of airstrikes conducted by the US in Yemen in any one year was 41 in 2009.”

(Just a reminder, the United States is not at war with Yemen.  For more on how the US justifies such strikes outside of areas it is actively at war, read what I wrote here.)

Yemen has been in the midst of a brutal war with Saudi Arabia for nearly two years.  Adam Johnson writes in a February 27, 2017 FAIR article that the war has “left over 10,000 dead, 40,000 wounded, 2.5 million internally displaced, 2.2 million children suffering from malnutrition and over 90 percent of civilians in need of humanitarian aid.”

His article goes on to discuss the threat of famine Yemen faces as a result of the war that has received media attention lately.  Johnson rightfully points out that the major media outlets ignore the role of the US in the crisis.  He concludes his article with this:

A first step to putting political pressure on Trump to mitigate the suffering in Yemen is for the US public to speak out about their government’s role—a condition unlikely to be met if corporate media never bother to mention it.

Another question the media rarely raises is what these airstrikes ultimately accomplish.  Captain Davis stated that “we continue to target AQAP in Yemen, and this is done in the interest of disrupting a terror organization that presents a very significant threat to the United States.”

That vague explanation does not address the threat of increasing the ranks of the very terrorist organization we are attacking.  In a September 2, 2014 report for Yemen Times, Ali Abulohoom discusses the PTSD experienced by Yemeni citizens as a result of drone strikes, as well as the continuous fear of future strikes that they live with.  He also writes of another effect of airstrikes.

The article states, “it is well-known that animosity against the United States is mounting as the attacks have intensified in recent years,” and concludes with the following quote:

“As long as the United States continues to strike areas in Yemen with drones which are claiming the lives of innocents in addition to their targets, support for Al-Qaeda is going to increase.”

Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmadi

This statement has been echoed by four former drone operators who wrote an open letter to the Obama administration arguing against drone strikes.  In the letter, they state that the killing of innocent civilians by drone strikes served to fuel “the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay.  This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

As many feared, the new administration shows no indication of slowing the use of targeted killing through drone strikes.  Instead, it appears the strikes will increase, leading to more innocent lives lost, and more anger and hatred towards the United States.  And the drive for revenge.

Image courtesy of pixabay

 

There Is No Fear In Love

_20170214_165846

Hatred never ceases by hatred; by love alone is it healed.  This is the ancient and eternal law.

-Buddha’s Little Instruction Book by Jack Kornfield (find it here).

It’s Valentine’s Day again.  Sure, it’s become a day of splurging on greeting cards, flowers, chocolates, etc, to show our romantic love for our partners.  But, I hope on this day of celebrating love we can remember to show some love for all of humanity too.  There seems to be a shortage of love lately.

In this increasingly divisive climate of fear, anger, and hatred, let’s all pause and remember to treat each other with compassion.  Let’s treat each other like the humans we all are.  Let’s honor our differences rather than attacking each other for them.  Let’s stop fearing each other, for we are all people who love, and are loved.  And there is no fear in love.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Leaves Are Changing

_20160909_172319

The leaves are changing color, and the days are taking on that golden fall tint.  September is settling in and the nights are growing colder.  I’ve always loved the season changes.  I nearly always find myself anxious for the switch from one passion to another, from the river to the slopes, usually with some quality single-track time in between.  I’ve been anticipating this fall for awhile, as it promises a return to those long-neglected passions.

School has started, and I’ve sent my youngest out into the world for Kindergarten.  An empty and silent house is perhaps the greatest, and most eagerly anticipated, change for me this past week.  I’m suddenly rediscovering just how many hours there really are in a day.

Change is also in store for my career as a writer.  I will no longer be contributing articles to Newsbud, though I wish them success.  I’m hoping to write more here on the blog again.  More importantly, with all this newly recovered time on my hands, I plan to finish my long overdue novel.  I’m eager to return my focus to fiction for a while, and I’m feeling a great sense of freedom and inspiration.

The leaves are changing, and I’m excited.

Never Enough Time

It is April already, spring is upon us here in Central Oregon, and it is beautiful outside.  It is the sort of weather that makes it impossible for me to remain inside, dutifully typing away on the computer.  So things might get a little bit quiet around here, and I apologize.  I started several posts here in the past week, only to set them aside after a paragraph or two to go play outside.  And, I confess, I’ve also been pretty distracted by my fictional endeavors too.  I’m increasingly anxious to get this novel finished and published!  There is never enough time to get everything done.

I mentioned starting a few posts this past week, and I decided this morning to just combine a couple here rather than go back to finish them.  As I said, the weather is beautiful, way too nice for me to spend much time here!

First, the Panama Papers, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) last Sunday.  Everyone is talking about them, there’s plenty of good posts out there analyzing the coverage, and I don’t really have anything to add.  But, I do want to say that there is a lot of speculation being tossed around because the leaked data itself isn’t available to the public.  Of course the leak is being framed and micro-managed to serve someone’s (or many someones’) purposes.  Rolled out like a thriller novel or movie, (I’m sure that’s already in the works) to grab our attention and point that attention in the direction desired by those managing the release.

The fact is, leaks happen.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and for many reasons.  How they are framed and spun can be quite telling.  The very fact that the Panama Papers leak is getting so much media attention is telling.   Obviously it was a ‘safe’ leak in the sense that it is unlikely to make anyone in real positions of western power too uncomfortable.  Here is an interesting perspective by Eoin Higgins on why that might be the case.  Also consider this article on the ICIJ’s website describing what looks like a possible cleaning up of any suspicious evidence in Nevada by a Mossack Fonseca owned company.  And remember that this data was leaked to the journalists a year ago.  That’s a pretty fair amount of time for damage control.

What should be demanded of this international consortium of journalists is a full release of the data to the public, to be searched and analyzed freely.  But so far, we are only allowed to view the information through a certain media lens, just as has often been the case with big leaks in the past.  Perhaps this leak will follow the same course as Edward Snowden’s, with the ICIJ destroying the Mossack Fonseca data to protect the source and the journalists, as was the case with Snowden’s data and the Guardian.  But don’t worry, there will surely be copies of the information safely stored elsewhere, to ensure ongoing reporting, as needed, on things that are useful to serve powerful agendas.

Which leads me to the incredible idea of media that isn’t funded by large corporations and powerful elites.  If investigative journalists could be freed from those ties, they would be free to report information without framing it to fit a narrative dictated by those powerful sponsors.  A leak such as this Mossack Fonseca one could be released to the public, allowing everyone to see the information, and determine their own conclusions.  The reality today is that the media serves only the less-than-one-percent of the population to manipulate and control the rest of us.  Because they own it.

So why don’t we, the people, fund our own source of information?  Of course, there are many great sources for independent news and analysis available for anyone taking the time to find them, and there are plenty of willing supporters supplying well earned donations to those sources.  But why not help fund something even bigger?  Something that might actually give all those independent sources a larger platform in order to reach a much larger audience.  A real chance to counter the corporate owned media and their dictated narrative.  Why not?

The Kickstarter campaign for Newsbud is down to the final six days.  The total amount donated is nowhere near the goal, but the donations have continued to come in daily.  If the Kickstarter campaign had more time, I think the goal would be reached, but it is limited to sixty days by the crowdfunding platform.  There is certainly support for such an idea, as is demonstrated by the nearly $190,000.00 pledged as of this posting.  We may not make the goal in six days, but I hope that the support for this idea will remain strong.  If at first you fail, try, try again, right?

 

Questioning the News

 

The reporting on the Malheur refuge occupation in Harney County has, for me, been a perfect example of how corporate news networks manipulate the narrative of events to fit their own position on the issues and people involved. Admittedly, I have questioned corporate media for a very long time, for many reasons.  Perhaps it started for me with the way events were covered between September 2001 and March of 2003.  Confusion, lies and omissions, controlling (and co-opting) the narrative, and what do you know, endless war resulted.  There have been so many big events since (and before) then that show the same patterns in the media as the narrative is spun to portray a story a certain way.  So, the way the narrative in Harney County has been spun hasn’t surprised me, but it has been an up close view of the process.

With this situation taking place so close to home, I have had the opportunity to communicate with some of the people involved.  I have had the opportunity to learn about the underlying issues, to try and get a genuine understanding of why the protests and occupation happened.  Now, I certainly don’t expect everyone to come away from this story changing everything about their own opinions on the matter.  I don’t expect people to agree on every aspect of the issues involved.  It is, after all, a tangled combination of complicated and sensitive matters.  But, what I do expect, or rather, what I would like to be able to expect, is some honest reporting.

It has been sadly lacking, both in the mainstream media and the alternative media.  There have been some honest and unbiased stories here and there, scattered throughout a wide range of sources.  I’ll specifically shout out to Oregon Public Broadcasting here who’s reporters have followed the story closely.  But the good coverage was often buried in avalanches of speculation, distortion, name-calling, and outright hatred.  Social media has played an increasing role in this as well.  On one hand, social media has given us a platform to communicate with people involved in these stories and to share what we learn.  On the other hand, in what appears to me to be a desperate attempt to keep their stranglehold on the narrative by the media, it has become a place to whip the hateful and divisive rhetoric into a frenzy.

What is perhaps even more notable to me as I’ve followed the story obsessively, is the meticulous avoidance by the mainstream media of any perspectives that challenge the narrative the federal government has an interest in maintaining.  After all, if it isn’t in the news on TV, we Americans won’t bother to look at or think about it.  On the flip side, what has stood out to me in the alternative media is the sensationalizing and manipulations of the facts, and the constant repetitions of false information.  Again, social media, with all of its clever algorithms, plays a powerful role in this.

How many have taken the time to look beyond our own assumptions about the Malheur refuge occupation and the shooting of Robert Lavoy Finicum?  How many have bothered to challenge the media’s presentation, whether mainstream or alternative, of the story rather than simply allowing it to shape or reinforce our own perspectives?

Can we not see that an inability, or unwillingness to question the distorted narrative handed to us will only lead to more excessive police force, more ambushes conveniently hidden from public view?  More lies about safe drinking water?  More invasions of foreign lands, more slaughtering of countless civilians?  More division, more laws, more repression?  Have we become so hopelessly detached from reality that we can’t see that every American is losing rights?  The front line is different for all of us, but the enemy is the same.

You may not see or feel it yet.  It may not have touched your life yet, and your news might not be telling you about it yet.  I wonder at what point the citizens of Germany woke up to the tyranny of the Nazi regime?  I doubt the media in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s was doing much reporting on all the atrocities being committed by the Nazis.  And the same can be said for our own media today when it comes to the atrocities being committed by the US government.

I’m sickened by that fact.  Rather than bowing to the government’s narrative, or acting as advertising for mega-corporations, the press is supposed to report the truth.  The press is supposed to investigate all angles and ask the hard questions.  The press is supposed to be a weapon for the people to wield to maintain transparency and accountability within our government.

The press isn’t supposed to be info-tainment to benefit corporate or political interests.

We can do better.  We need to do better.  And we can’t wait any longer.  Let’s start asking the hard questions in order to get to the truth in any story.  Let’s push our lawmakers to confront the hard questions in order to make positive changes.  Let’s make the Tamir Rices, Eric Garners, Lavoy Finicums, lead-poisoned Flint families, PTSD suffering Veterans, homeless, under-educated children, victims of wars of aggression, victims of excessive prison sentences…WE THE PEOPLE relevant again.

 

Author’s Note:  this post has been edited from its original version to remove content that promoted Newsbud, as well as to reflect changes in my own perspectives.  If you want to read the original version, contact me.