Get Some!

While a constitution may set forth rights and liberties, only the citizens can maintain and guarantee those freedoms. Active and informed citizenship is not just a right; it is a duty.
-Ronald Reagan

You can’t keep up. You have a full-time job, kids to feed, a mortgage to pay, spouse to keep happy, and if you’re lucky you get an hour or two a day to just be you. Trying to keep up on what’s going on in the world on a daily basis is time-consuming and it takes dedication. So why should you make time to be an informed citizen? Because you care. You care about yourself and your family. You care about what kind of world your children will grow up in. You want the world to be a better place for your children and grandchildren than it is for you. You ask your child how their day at school went because you want to make sure everything is going well for them and nothing detrimental to their health or ability to learn is happening. This is the exact reason you should ask yourself: “What’s going on in the world today?”. Because you want to know what’s happening and what events or situations are occurring and how to adjust your life accordingly.

What can you possibly do even if you knew everything about everything that’s going on in our complex world? The more knowledge that We The People collectively possess, the more we can affect the decision-making that can lead to a better world in a positive and constructive manner. Ill-informed people tend to make ill-informed decisions.

It’s easy to grab the morning paper, read a third of it, listen to NPR for an hour or three a day while you work, tune in the nightly news on channel 5 at six o’clock every night, then go around thinking you’ve been informed. This notion tends to be reinforced, because most other people do the exact same thing you do. So when you speak with them there is very little conversational critical analysis, and a whole lot of parroting talking points and complaining. We all know that the traditional print media has been dying. So why do we continue to depend on it for knowledge, as if it serves us as well as it used to?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our highest-circulation news mediums are controlled by a very small group.

These five corporations control the majority of U.S. news

With the consolidation of so many news outlets under these few umbrellas, the duty to serve the people by informing them has taken a back-seat to profit. Investors don’t care about product, just profit. Corporations exist to make a profit, not something that’s necessarily good. So when these huge corporations own most of the news outlets, quality suffers in the pursuit of profit. News has devolved into info-tainment. You’re more likely to get the latest celebrity news on the front page of your local paper than to be told what bill your congressman just introduced that will hurt your community.

So what can a person do to stay informed? Do reliable news sources still exist, and if so, who are they and where do you find them? The good news is that, yes, good news still exists. It’s being produced and disseminated every day. You just have to do a little searching to find it. But when you do find it, and you will, you’ll never go back to relying on what you considered to be ‘news’ before.

Below are a few sources to get you started on your quest. By no means is this a comprehensive list. It is merely a starting point to help you find new sources. Most websites have a place with links to other sources. Find them. Use them. They are your friends.
An alternative news and opinion site with over 2.5 million unique visitors per month. Great thinkers like Chomsky write here from time to time.

The world’s most-read liberal blog. Here you’ll find opinion and essays on a vast range of topics. The huge number of contributors leads to absolute gems being written every day. Check out the ‘Recommended’ list on the right side. The authors vary from centrist-Democrats to left-of-left.

Democracy Now
Real. Actual. News. Enough said.

History professor, writer, and world traveler, Juan Cole provides in-depth analysis on all things Middle-East. He has a unique ability to explain the intricacies of Middle-Eastern affairs. Bonus: poetry by Omar Khayyam, the 13th century Persian astronomer and poet!

Matt Taibbi
Taibbi’s reporting on Wall Street and the banks’ continued fleecing of America is second to none. If you like your usual depressing economic stories sprinkled with some adult metaphors and the occasional f-bomb (full-disclosure: I prefer this method), Taibbi is your go-to guy.

Media Matters
Media Matters provides a thorough critique of the media on a daily basis. Warning: some of the stories are refuting the absolutely asinine stories coming out of Fox News.

The Nation
The Nation is the oldest weekly publication in the United States. An invaluable alternative news source with long-form reporting and daily stories only available online. Add their bloggers and OWS coverage and you have an excellent source you can depend on.

Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman is a Nobel-Prize winning economist and writer. His column in the New York Times is a must read. He’s been consistently right for a long time and is widely cited as someone who’s advice our leaders could greatly benefit from.
Tom Engelhardt is a writer and editor associated with The Nation magazine. Very informative, widely cited, and always intriguing to read. Want to know about drones? Look no further! Assassinations? Whistle-blowers? Got those covered too! Throw in the occasional environmental story and you get one hell of a site.

In-depth investigative reporting and great analysis and essays on current affairs.
“Drilling beneath the headlines”, truthdig gets to the pertinent facts of the story. Throw in their daily political cartoons and OWS coverage and you have a winner!

So here you go folks. Get to it. Explore and learn and we’ll all be the better for it!


Looking Back…

Yeah, I was scared. I tried not to be, but I have to admit I was scared. Things go wrong all the time. But I knew I was in good hands. The best, as it happened.

I used to be afraid of flying. After my first flight I figured I was going to take off and land all the same, so I might as well have a good time instead of worry. Fuck it.

I wasn’t in control this time either. There was absolutely no point in worrying. This was the attitude I tried to have going into surgery. I was fully aware that things would most likely go well, but ‘most likely’ is still not a particularly comforting thought when it comes down to it.

I really refused to think about any other outcome though. I was pretty drugged up, but still aware that I was about to undergo major surgery. I remember a completely peaceful feeling just before I went under. Thinking about my dad and how he’s completely calm in these situations really let me keep my mind in a good place. I knew who was there with me and who would be there when I woke up. I can’t emphasize enough how much that helped. Seeing you worry actually helped me take my thoughts off of myself because I like to be in control and I was thinking about how to tell you everything would be ok.

As it turned out, everything went extremely well and I couldn’t be happier with the medical treatment I received. God bless the nurses on the 10th floor. Jill was especially amazing and made me feel like I had a second mom taking care of me. It was almost like staying in a swank hotel, except for the part where I was confined to a bed with shitty food and they kept coming in six times a day to politely stab me with a needle. Good times.  🙂

In all honesty, I could have handled it by myself, but I didn’t have to, and that made it infinitely easier to go through. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have had the support from the people that put up with my bullshit in the hospital, despite what an awesome, non-demanding, not-ever-complaining, always-coherent, perfect patient I was. I know it was stressful and not easy and I gained a great deal of care and respect for you for taking care of me and coming to see me.

Ich bin Ihnen sehr dankbar.

Happy New Year and here’s to many more!