Friday, December 2, 2016

Fighting back against the media's 'fake news' hysteria

The 1992 presidential campaign between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton is often pointed to as the beginning of the end of the dominance of the corporate, formerly "mainstream" media. Remember that we had only the three networks, CNN and print newspapers. They filled their newscasts and pages with stories about the man in the chicken suit at Bush rallies and of Bush famously looking at his watch in one of the debates. By the closing weeks, the Bush campaign had a bumper sticker -- "Annoy the media, re-elect Bush" -- and was hammering the media in an almost Trumpian fashion.

Fueled by people's dissatisfaction, the entire news media landscape changed. Within four years, we had Fox News -- launched entirely as an alternative to liberal media bias -- and MSNBC, talk radio was booming, and the network newscasts and newspapers had begun their long and steady descent in terms of audience that continues today. Later would come blogs and online news sites, which further ate away at the mainstream outlets' audience and exposed their lack of credibility in the process.

So if '92 was the beginning of the end, this year may go down in history as simply the end. The Big Media threw away all rules to take sides in the presidential election and on pressing issues of the day. And after being soundly rejected on Election Day, they are going all-out to undermine the incoming administration. Media outlets such as NBC, CNN and the Washington Post use a simple formula -- work with political allies and each other to coordinate coverage and create a reality or "narrative" that benefits their side. But their problem is that alternative sites such as Breitbart and blogs ruin the narrative by 1) pointing out the dinosaur media's errant or blatantly false reporting, and 2) share facts or opinions that counter those that the Big Media is presenting.

The only way the Old Media can survive now is if they have the new media sites shut down, ostracized, blocked from the internet, etc., so they can retain the monopoly on the nation's discourse they once had. So, they invented the concept of "fake news," which is a label they can slap on anything and anybody they disapprove of. And they're more than willing to manufacture their own false evidence to apply the label. As Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton reported at The Intercept last weekend:
THE WASHINGTON POST on Thursday night promoted the claims of a new, shadowy organization that smears dozens of U.S. news sites that are critical of U.S. foreign policy as being “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The article by reporter Craig Timberg — headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” — cites a report by an anonymous website calling itself PropOrNot, which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian “misinformation campaign.”

The group’s list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig, and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as Antiwar.com and the Ron Paul Institute.

This Post report was one of the most widely circulated political news articles on social media over the last 48 hours, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of U.S. journalists and pundits with large platforms hailing it as an earth-shattering exposé. It was the most-read piece on the entire Post website on Friday after it was published. [...]

So the story spread in a flash, like wildfire. Tens of thousands of people, perhaps hundreds of thousands or even millions, consumed it, believing that it was true because of how many journalists and experts told them it was. Virtually none of the people who told them this spent a minute of time or ounce of energy determining if it was true. It pleased them to believe it was, knowing it advanced their interests, and so they endorsed it. That is the essence of how fake news functions, and it is the ultimate irony that this Post story ended up illustrating and spreading far more fake news than it exposed.
The Washington Post is far from the only media organization to try to "out" alternative sites. An obscure assistant college professor's blacklist of supposed "fake news" sites has prompted Google and Facebook to try to restrict advertising on the sites in an attempt to shut them down. Just this week, Apple removed Breitbart's app from its app store (before relenting because of public pressure) and Kellogg's announced that it would pull advertising from Breitbart because its 45 million readers aren't "aligned with our values as a company."

Whatever anyone's political leanings are, this kind of un-American attempt at corporate censorship needs to be fiercely and vehemently opposed. But how do we fight back if some of our favorite sites are somehow blocked by our browser or hidden or labeled as "fake" by Facebook? Here are some steps we should all be taking:

Sign up on Gab. Gab is a new social media platform that promises a freer forum than the heavy-handed Twitter, which suspends people that don't subscribe to the Orthodoxy. You can tell it's hitting a nerve with the Old Media guard, because the New York Times called it a "digital safe space" for the "far right". The more people who sign up, the closer we can get to a tipping point at which web outlets include a button to post directly to the service.

Sign up for email newsletters. Most online news outlets from Breitbart and Fox News to the Capital Press offer daily e-newsletters from which you can click on their stories directly from your inbox, bypassing the gatekeepers of Google and Facebook. InfoWars is actually touting theirs as an antidote to the coming censorship wave, if there is to be one.

When possible, use browsers that don't discriminate. If in the coming weeks or months you start having difficulty getting to your favorite websites because they're blocked or hidden, don't hesitate to use a different browser. The same with search engines. It's been well-documented that Google, for instance, only lists the news outlets they like when you do news searches.. There are plenty of opportunities out there if you take the time to look.

On Facebook, don't rely on your "news feed". In case you hadn't noticed, you don't see everything your friends and "liked" pages post on your news feed. That was true even before all this "fake news" hysteria, and it's because depending on how many friends you have, you might get hundreds of posts in an hour and you'd never see everything. So Facebook prioritizes items in your news feed for you. There's a way you can go into settings and set priorities yourself, but the surest way to see everything posted by the individual or organization you like is to visit their pages. That will become even more true if and when the site starts hiding posts or labeling them as "fake" for political reasons.

Invent workarounds. Facebook is still perhaps the most effective tool to disseminate information to your circle of friends, who will share it to a wider and wider audience. But it's banning users and shutting down pages at what some believe is an alarming rate. So if articles from certain news sites are dubbed "fake" because of the source, post the information from a different source. In other words, if all InfoWars content is considered fake, click on any links in an InfoWars story that contain the pertinent information you're trying to share and post from the other site. Or, you can create your own blog, reference stories from InfoWars or wherever with proper links, and then post to Facebook as you. Their editors and algorithms won't be able to keep track of millions of individual posters to see if the information they're sharing is "fake".

Defund the corporate media. Remember, this attempt at censoring alternative voices via this "fake news" hysteria is completely of, by and for the thoroughly discredited corporate establishment media. At this point, this media is deliberately spreading misinformation to undermine the country and has absolutely no respect for your First Amendment right to voice opposition to it, so taking away its funding through cancelling subscriptions and discouraging advertising has, in my view, become a moral necessity. This isn't an attempt to kick establishment news outlets off the internet or have them shut down; it's about voting with our wallets to walk away from outlets who have no credibility left and can only survive by strong-arming their competitors.

Keep contact with your elected officials. Whether certain people like it or not, January is coming. And I have a hard time believing any attempt by web browsers or social media companies to block, blacklist or label as "fake" certain news sources wouldn't be a blatant violation of antitrust laws. If you see that sort of thing happening, keep a contact with your elected officials or complain to the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces antitrust laws.

Be thankful. If more of the would-be censors' friends had been elected to positions of authority in this country, we would be seeing opposition media get shut down in a post-election purge right now. I truly believe that.

Now I realize that I may be presenting solutions to problems that don't yet exist. But the people who work in the corporate media world aren't joking about their disdain for alternative news sites. Many of them have been pining for some form of licensing or official registry of news media since bloggers ended Dan Rather's career in disgrace more than a decade ago. And again, the only way they can survive now with any relevancy at all would be to eliminate alternative sources of information. So it's best that we be prepared for when censorship occurs and know how to respond.

As Butch Leghorn blogs at The Right Stuff:
The internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it. Now that we can network our brains together and communicate directly, the power of Finance is doomed because it can not longer maintain control of communications through legal action against corporations. Attempts to censor thought by media companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, Reddit, etc. are doomed to fail, as the information will route around this damage.
In this information age, you are the media. If you see something that's interesting and that you think others may not know, post it. And don't be discouraged by attempts at censorship.

Cattle groups: BLM's latest planning rule 'flawed'

From the National Cattlemen's Beef Association:
The Bureau of Land Management [Thursday] released a final version of BLM Planning 2.0. Ethan Lane, Executive Director of the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association federal lands said this process radically alters federal land management planning and moves the agency away from its mandate to manage for multiple use on federal lands.

“We are continuing to review how much, if any, our input has been incorporated into the final plan, but regardless, we object to the Administration moving forward in the final days of the President’s term with this hastily-released regulation - particularly with one that will have such dramatic economic impact on western states,” said Lane.

Of the final rule, Chairman-Elect of the Congressional Western Caucus, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) said the following:

“Once again, the Obama Administration believes that Washington knows best and continues to defy the principles of federalism, subjugating Americans to another erroneous rule and more government red tape that strips away the authority and expertise of local land managers. BLM 2.0 is a bureaucratic nightmare that will kill jobs and create unnecessary permitting delays. This fundamentally flawed regulation will also impose costly and duplicative mandates on job creators and local communities. Local planning decisions should be made by the experts on the ground at the local level, not Washington bureaucrats. The Congressional Western Caucus will work with the Trump Administration, Republican leadership and important industry groups like the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to scrap misguided directives imposed by Obama’s political hacks during their waning days.”

The BLM must scrap BLM 2.0 and go back to the drawing board, this time with real input from stakeholders across the West, Lane emphasized.

Klamath congressman snares key committee post

From the office of Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., whose district includes the Klamath Basin:T
he House GOP Steering Committee today elected U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to serve as the next Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden released the following statement:

“I am deeply honored to earn the support of my colleagues to chair this incredibly important committee. Americans are looking for big improvements out of Washington, and that’s just what we’re going to give them as we work with the Trump Administration, the Senate, and the governors, to move forward on the Better Way agenda. Our work will focus on what’s best for consumers, on creating better paying jobs and providing patient-centered health care.

“I commend my friends and fellow committee members, former Chairman Joe Barton and Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus, for stepping forward to compete for this chairmanship. They are talented legislators and leaders to whom I will turn for help as we embark on our legislative work. I also want to thank outgoing Chairman Fred Upton who proved again yesterday with overwhelming passage of the 21st Century Cures legislation, that our committee does great, bipartisan work for the American people," said Walden.

Walden said he and other committee chairs will not make subcommittee chairmanship decisions until after the Steering Committee finalizes committee rosters in early January.

About the Energy and Commerce Committee

As the oldest standing legislative committee in the U.S. House, the Energy and Commerce Committee has broad jurisdiction. It has responsibility for the nation's telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, public health research, environmental quality, energy policy, and interstate and foreign commerce. Walden is the first Energy and Commerce Chairman from the Pacific Northwest.

For a complete history of the committee, please click here.

About Greg Walden

Greg Walden represents the people of Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes 20 counties in central, southern, and eastern Oregon. Walden, 59, is a lifelong Oregonian whose ancestors came to Oregon by wagon train in 1845. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. He and his wife, Mylene, owned and operated small market radio stations in Oregon for 21 years.

In 1998, he was elected to the U.S. House, winning a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee in 2001. Since 2011, he has served as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. He’s also served four years as Deputy Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and four years as Chairman.

Walden served eight years in the Oregon Legislature before coming to Congress. In addition to his small business and legislative experience, Walden also served several years on various boards, including a local community hospital board, a community bank board, the Oregon Health Sciences Foundation board, and the Associated Oregon Industries board. He’s a Member of the Elks, and Rotary International, and is an Eagle Scout.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Today in the Times: Let the Christmas season begin

Among the latest headlines in the East Valley Times:
Shasta County Interfaith Forum donates $1400 to local food banks
“The Shasta County Interfaith Forum, an association of nearly twenty faith communities in Shasta County, collected over $1,400 at the Thanksgiving Interfaith Service on November 20 which was attended by nearly 500 people. The Shasta County Interfaith Forum donated $702 to each of the food banks at One Safe Place and the Shasta-Trinity-Tehama HIV Food Bank.

Group of six local agencies will host public open house on Groundwater Management in the Redding Area
The public will have an opportunity to learn about a new groundwater management law and its local implementation at an open house on Monday, December 12, 2016 from 4:00-7:00 PM in the City of Redding’s Community Room at 777 Cypress Drive, Redding.

Free family friendly Winterfest Kick-off and Tree Lighting on Dec. 2
FREE FAMILY FRIENDLY WINTERFEST KICK-OFF & TREE LIGHTING 5PM-7:30PM FRIDAY DEC. 2 AT THE ATRIUM Come enjoy a family friendly environment, complete with entertainment, goodies, raffle, Santa Claus and the official tree lighting ceremony in Downtown Redding on Friday, Dec. 2 starting at 5pm. There is no cost to attend.

Redding Police provides route and rules for Annual Downtown Lighted Christmas Parade
The 35th Annual Lighted Christmas Parade will be held in the downtown area of Redding on Saturday December 3, 2016. The parade will begin at 6:00 pm and is expected to conclude at 9:00 pm. In preparation for the event, road closures for the parade route will begin at 5:00 pm.

Annual Palo Cedro Christmas Festival to expand throughout town
Join friends and neighbors to welcome the season at the 22nd Annual Palo Cedro Christmas Festival next Friday, December 9th from 6:00 to 8:30pm. This year, the Chamber is including more businesses by expanding the festival through the downtown area of Palo Cedro.

Rain, cold to mark start of 'meteorological winter'


The latest from the National Weather Service:
Weather Summary
An approaching upper level disturbance will bring chances for rain and snow Sunday and below normal temperatures next week. High and low temperatures next week are expected between 5 and 10 degrees below normal.

Impacts
Wet roadways and slippery mountain roads will cause travel delays
Below freezing temperatures may damage or kill crops or other sensitive plants

Forecast Confidence
Medium for near or below freezing temps
Medium for showers late Sunday and Monday

Timing and Strength
Rain and snow Sunday and Monday
Low temperatures near freezing Monday and Tuesday nights
Now's the time to start thinking about winter safety, advises Michelle Mead, the NWS' warning coordinator in Sacramento.
Winter Preparedness/Safety Kick-off
Today, December 1, marks the start of Meteorological Winter . We at the NWS are taking this opportunity to remind you of our NWS Winter Safety Page and utilize the resources here to promote winter weather safety messages with infographics and other resources to your friends, family and co workers via email and/or Social Media. Like I always say, a picture is worth a 1000 words.

This is a good week to roll this out, besides it being the start of Meteorological winter, as we have a few winter impacts to talk about. As you've seen from our partner emails, we have some wind and some of the coldest temperatures of the season to deal with today through this weekend, then some mountain snow potential for next week.

PLF launches campaign to 'save wildlife', farmland

From the Pacific Legal Foundation:
“Stop Starving Farms and Wildlife” is the theme of a public information campaign that Pacific Legal Foundation launched today, to highlight how federally decreed water reductions in the San Joaquin Valley are victimizing federally protected species.

Over the past seven years, federal environmental officials have ordered a sharp curtailment in the operation of the state and federal water projects in California. In a strategy to help two species on the Endangered Species Act list — the Delta smelt and salmon in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — officials have imposed draconian reductions on water deliveries to the agricultural heartland of the San Joaquin Valley, and to tens of millions of urban water users in Southern California.

Watch a one-minute video

This policy has been widely criticized for its harmful economic consequences and questionable effectiveness (the smelt, for example, has kept declining nearly to the point of disappearing).

However, there has been comparatively little discussion of another damaging dimension — the peril that the policy creates for other species that are supposed to be protected by the federal government under the Endangered Species Act.

The feds say “No water for you!” to species they’re supposed to protect

“We are launching an educational campaign to highlight the scandalous irony at the heart of the federal government’s draconian water cutbacks in Central and Southern California,” said Tony Francois, a PLF senior staff attorney. “In a so-called protection policy for two selected species -- a policy that may not even be helping them -- federal officials are causing outright harm for other ESA-listed animals by withholding water from their habitat, including the region’s farms and open spaces.

“Instead of developing a well-rounded, holistic approach to species regulation, federal officials are essentially saying, ‘No water for you!’ to a host of species that they are supposed to be protecting,” Francois continued. “This is not just irresponsible, it is a violation of the regulators’ duties to safeguard all endangered and threatened wildlife from further degradation.

“In fact, we believe this myopic approach to smelt and salmon regulation is vulnerable to a legal challenge, precisely because of the government’s failure to consider the interests of other protected species,” said Francois. “We look forward to hearing from wildlife lovers and owners of habitat areas who share these concerns and would consider the possibility of becoming involved.”

Some of the more well-known Central Valley species that are listed under the ESA, but which are potentially affected by the water cutoffs that ESA regulators have imposed, include:

· Buena Vista Lake shrew
· California condor
· California red legged frog
· California tiger salamander
· Conservancy fairy shrimp
· San Joaquin kit fox
· Southwestern willow fly catcher
· Vernal pool fairy shrimp
· Vernal pool tadpole shrimp

PLF’s multidimensional informational campaign will include: outreach to all segments of the media, including guest appearances on television and radio by PLF attorneys and op-ed distribution to newspapers and online outlets; speeches at forums; educational programs; and broad distribution of PLF literature that details the serious environmental consequences when habitat for endangered and threatened species is arbitrarily robbed of water.

PLF welcomes hearing from potential supporters of our campaign throughout California and beyond. Interested individuals are invited to register at PLF’s website to receive e-alerts.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

State water plan to boost requirements for ag suppliers

California's water agencies unveiled a water conservation plan today that would include new requirements for agricultural water suppliers to show their water use and describe their measures to increase efficiency.

Here is the news release from the Department of Water Resources:
Working to make water conservation a way of life, State agencies today released a draft plan for achieving long-term efficient water use and meeting drought preparedness goals that reflect California’s diverse climate, landscape, and demographic conditions.

“Californians rose to the challenge during this historic drought and recognized that conservation is critical in the face of an uncertain future. This plan is about harnessing the creativity and innovation that Californians have shown during the driest years in state history and making water conservation a way of life in the years ahead,” said California Department of Water Resources Director Mark W. Cowin. “This plan will help make permanent changes to water use so California is better prepared for whatever the future brings.”

The new plan’s fundamental premise is that efficient water use helps all of California better prepare for longer and more severe droughts caused by climate change.

California recently suffered the driest four years in state history, with only average rainfall last year, and 75 percent of the state remains in severe drought conditions. Meanwhile, a new report from UCLA projects that the Sierra Nevada snowpack — one of California’s largest sources of water supply — is likely to drop 50 percent by the end of the century due to climate change. Recognizing these risks and many others, today’s plan seeks permanent changes to water use that boost efficiency and prepare for more limited water supplies. These practices will help achieve a top priority in the Governor’s Water Action Plan - to “Make Conservation a California Way of Life.”

Today’s plan builds on the success of mandatory water restrictions during California’s severe drought and develops long-term water conservation measures that will ensure all communities have sufficient water supplies. This will involve activities such as ensuring farmers plan and prepare for severe drought and permanently banning wasteful practices like hosing off sidewalks and driveways.

“The last few years provided the wake-up call of all wake-up calls that water is precious and not to be taken for granted,” said Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “Californians rose to the occasion collectively during the drought. We can build on that success and now prepare for a more unpredictable and disruptive future marked by a changing climate – and do it equitably and cost effectively.”

Today’s plan represents a shift from statewide mandates to a set of conservation standards applied based on local circumstances, including population, temperature, leaks, and types of commercial and industrial use. For example, communities in hotter and drier climate zones will receive irrigation allowances that reflect evaporation levels.

Key water conservation efforts included in today’s plan include:
• Permanent bans on wasteful practices, such as hosing driveways and excessively watering lawns.
• Technical assistance and financial incentives for water suppliers to implement leak prevention, detection, and repair programs.
• Collecting information about innovative water conservation and water loss detection and control technologies.
• Requiring agricultural water suppliers to quantify water use in their service areas and describe measures to increase water use efficiency.
• Full compliance with water use targets for urban water suppliers by 2025.
• Planning and preparing for continued and future drought and water shortages.

Some of the actions described in the draft plan will require working with the Legislature on new and expanded State authority, while others can be implemented under existing authorities. All recommendations aim to achieve the main objectives of the Governor’s Executive Order B-37-16: use water more wisely, eliminate water waste, strengthen local drought resilience, and improve agricultural water use efficiency and drought planning.

In addition to taking action to implement this long-term water conservation plan, State agencies recognize the reality that most of California potentially faces a sixth year of historic drought. Therefore, in January the State Water Board will also consider whether it must extend its existing emergency water conservation regulations, as required by Governor Brown’s recent executive order. The State Water Board has already taken action to maintain mandatory reductions in communities that could not verify they have enough water supplies to withstand three more years of severe drought.

Today’s plan, Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life, Implementing Executive Order B-37-16,” is the result of extensive community and stakeholder engagement across California. The plan was prepared by the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Public Utilities Commission, Department of Food and Agriculture and the Energy Commission. For more information on the development of the draft plan, visit http://www.water.ca.gov/wateruseefficiency/conservation/.

The State encourages the public to submit comments on today’s draft plan: “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life Implementing Executive Order B-37-16” Comments should be submitted to wue@water.ca.gov no later than December 19, 2016. Public comments will be posted at: http://www.water.ca.gov/wateruseefficiency/conservation/comments.cfm.
For more on the plan's potential impact on agriculture, check CapitalPress.com in the coming days.