Shortly after the first of the new year, CNN rolled out a new web site design. The site is still rife with a variety of issues. The changes have me wondering if newsy, social networking part of CNN's online presence which invites every day people to contribute images, videos, articles and opinions is being phased out.
In other words, is iReport still viable with the upcoming 2016 presidential election and primaries in the offing or is the news network signalling the demise of the experiment in citizen journalism?
Is iReport's future vibrant or terminal?
The iReport Team was updating and featuring various iReporters on a weekly basis. Those featured have been there since before the start of 2015 without change.
At one time there were weekly, then monthly round tables where the Team would share and gather input from members of the community. Those round tables disappeared over a year ago.
Where once a link to iReport was prominently featured at the top of the page, now one must hunt to find the link. Only members, former members or those who were regular viewers of the inuput from John and Jane from down the street know how to find iReport recently.
Instead of entreating people to upload their photos, videos and reports to iReport, now CNN is asking people to submit with Twitter, Instagram or a particular show's, reporter's or anchor's Facebook page. On occasion, as if an afterthought, uploading to iReport is thrown into the mix, but not always.
All of this has me wondering about the prognosis for iReport.
What do you think?
1. Is iReport being phased out?
2. Is there still a reason to use iReport?
3. Does iReport have a future with CNN?
4. Is iReport being abandoned?
6. Is the only purpose of iReport is to keep traffic visitng the site inflated?
From the Cornfield, my interest is waning in iReport although I have been an active contributor since September of 2011.
Then again with all my health issues, I am having trouble with focus and interest with my daily blog, Inside My Mind, which is no longer daily. I cannot muster the energy to do a daily recap of headlines and current events for Kernels From the Cornfield. I find it difficult to offer up political commentary here at From the Cornfield.
With the lack of attention to the community from the iReport Team, I am beginning to feel as if those who participate and contribute to iReport have been taken out into the country, dropped off and left to figure a way back home.
Even if we manage to get home, will we find that the family has packed up and moved away without a clue as to where they have gone?
Should my interest be rekindled as the presidential primary season starts in earnest, will there be an iReport to share my thoughts From the Cornfield?
In the lead up to Tuesday night's State of the Union Address to a joint-session of Congress, the White House was playing up the speech as being one where President Barack Obama would be declaring the page turned from a bleaker, dismal yesterday for the US of A to a better and brighter future ahead.
While high on hubris, the reality of what the President had to talk about was less than a page turner and more of a wish it so if the facts didn't get in the way speech.
True the President could rightly talk about an upturn in the economic aura that has been pervasively weaker than expected and this far since the recession officially ended. But more jobs were created last year than any time since long before the housing market went belly up in 2008. Granted those jobs are not the full-time, good paying jobs of yesterday, but they are jobs. Those jobs happen to be mostly part-time and closer to the bottom pay rate.
Will admit the stock market is soaring. However, the market is artificially inflated by actions of the Federal Reserve more than by real market forces being allowed to operate. Same with the much lower cost at the pump when filling up the tank in the family car. Those prices are lower as a result of Saudi Arabia keeping a glut on crude oil more than US policy.
The President did rightly call for authorization to use force from Congress to combat the forces of the Islamic State. At the same time, the President continued to assert that terrorism is on the run and not winning. The President claimed his policies are working in staving off the global threat and keeping Russia's march toward reclaiming its former glory in check.
Nothing can be farther from the reality on the ground.
The President did set out an agenda. It is an agenda for his party, the Democratic Party, to pursue as it tries to hold on to the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2016. It is an agenda that has little chance of fruition over the next two years as Republicans hold the reins in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Already proclaiming veto threat after veto threat, the President continued his threats twice during last night's speech. He smugly claimed that he had no more elections to face, because he had won both of his in 2008 and 2012. He ignored that voters put checks on his policies in 2010 and 2014 by putting Congress into the hands of Republicans.
Newly elected Joni Ernst, Senator from Iowa, gave the GOP response and committed no gaffes or flubs. She did her job. She did note that Republicans had heard voters about finding a way to govern together with the White House. But that's about it.
There were some, admittedly, items that may find compromise - free trade agreements and some tax reform. But not much else.
It is going to be a long two years.
From the Cornfield, the President appears to be in LaLa Land with his "victory lap" proclaimed last night staring in the face of what is happening on the ground all around the world.
Republicans must find a way to overcome the divisiveness and govern or face another humiliating loss in 2016.
Who will blink?
Who will do right by America?
Although a CNN/ORC poll revealed that a vast majority of Americans think the President pointed the country in the right direction last night, will either the President or the Republican-controlled Capital be able to map out a path in the right direction?
Will we see more detours, more road blocks and a continued disillusionment and hiding eyes from the reality not just in the US of A, but around the world?
The White House is refusing to call the Muslim radical jihadists what they are: Islamic terrorists. The terrorists are corrupting the Muslim faith to justify their murderous ways.
The White House claims it is not accurate to refer to the terrorists as Islamic or Muslim - even if that is what they are. The White House asserts it is not those adhering to "radical Islam", but "radical extremism".
The White House also asserts that since the massacre at Charlie Hebdo last week was condemned by Muslim leaders, it is inappropriate to refer to the terrorists as being Muslim or Islamic.
The issue is not with the moderate followers of Islam. But the reality is those committing atrocities around the world, including last week's massacre in France, call themselves Muslim.
In the US of A we have such corrupters of Christianity who are anything, but Christ-like, such as: the Westboro Baptist Church, various white supremacy groups and others. They attempt to justify their hatred, take advantage of our First Amendment to spew vindictive and blatantly evil rhetoric, while clinging to the Christian banner, which they tread under foot.
What is is.
These terrorists are in jihad, holy war for Islam in their perversion of the religion - no matter what the White House says.
Then again, the White House deemed the terrorist rampage of murder and mayhem by Army Major Nidal Hasan as "workplace violence" rather than upset or offend the sensibilities of adherents of Islam.
It was the terrorist act of a Muslim who had corrupted Islam and pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda over his pledge to the US of A and the US Army.
None of this is to be construed that I blame Islam any more than I blame Christianity for the Westboro Baptist Church, who are hate-mongers and far from what Christ taught or white supremacist with a Bible in one hand and treachery in the other.
From the Cornfield, it is time President Barack Obama and his Administration call it like it is.
We have already seen how appeasement worked back in the late 1930s when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain followed a similar course as the White House is following today with terrorists.
Yes, I must admit that I am a disciple of Jesus the Christ. It is my prayer there is enough evidence to convict me of being one of His followers.
I strive to follow closely the two Great Commandments:
Love the Lord God with all my heart, soul and body;
Love my neighbor as myself.
Jesus taught that all would know we are His disciples if we have love one for another.
The Apostle Paul wrote that without love nothing else matters.
The writer of the Acts of the Apostles relates that those of the Jewish sect began by the Carpenter from Nazareth were first "called" Christians in Antioch. These followers of the Rabbi Jesus did not label themselves, but it was there neighbors, their enemies, those not subscribing to the teachings of Jesus who called them Christian. They saw Jesus in the lives of His followers.
Through the years and even now, there are those who have attempted to justify their actions, their evil in the guise of Christianity. There are those who have corrupted the teachings of Christ to love for their own purposes.
All of these I reject and pray God have mercy on their souls.
Should the day ever come that I am hauled into a court of law, hopefully I will be convicted beyond a shadow of doubt of being a Christian.
Today, I am Charlie Hebdo.
Two values we in the US of A hold dearly, freedom of speech and a free press, came under deadly attack today in Paris, France. Among the 12 killed by terrorists were journalists and police officers. Another four of the 11 wounded are in critical condition.
We, as Americans, too often take our free press and freedom to speak our minds for granted. We often forget that in most of the world, what we call human rights are not recognized. In many of our non-western allies, there is no liberty to speak out, no freedom of journalism.
Though in France, the terrorist attack was an attack on the US of A and the Western World. There are those throughout the Earth bent on plunging us back into the Dark Ages of ignorance and enslavement.
Rather than cowering in their studios, political cartoonists are striking back at the terrorists, churning out artwork after artwork. These brave journalists refuse to be silent, but continue to highlight the foibles of society - even when they are the targets of inhumanity on humanity.
We must remain vigilant. We must stay strong.
While the tragedy in France is definitely worthy of headlining news broadcasts both here in the US of A and throughout Europe, terror attacks such as what happened today when satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was attacked by apparent Muslim extremists, the reality is this type of attack is common in many Mideastern countries.
Most have probably not read nor seen where a terrorist attack in Yemen Tuesday left 31 dead. This is not a rare occurrence in Yemen or Pakistan or Afghanistan. This happens all the time.
The fact that the terrorists targeted a journalistic enterprise in Paris makes it more real to most of us. We rightly feel the attack was on all of us in America and Europe.
Terror is terror. Whether the attacks are in Western countries or Muslim nations or Asian lands. Terror should be condemned where ever its ugly head rises.
Most disconcerting today is the lack of comment from leaders of the world's Muslim countries. The silence is thundering volumes.
To their credit, the large French Muslim community and some of their religious leaders are condemning the attacks. These French Muslims are standing in peaceful protests today with their fellow countrymen and countrywomen. They are not giving quarter to extremism.
Unfortunately it appears kings, sheiks, emirs, presidents and prime ministers in Muslim-dominated lands are too afraid of reprisals to condemn the acts of terror committed in the name of Islam. Though often they say that most of the Muslim population is peaceful and do not condone the actions of those who corrupt the Prophet's teachings, today when most needed, there is silence.
This should be no surprise.
In countries such as Egypt the right of journalists to do their jobs does not exist. Recently rerporters for Al Jezeera were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for daring to do the job of the press and report on what was happening on the streets and in the squares of this American ally.
A silent night may be ahead, but it is an unholy night when freedom is attacked and murder is acceptable or at least tolerated by too many in Muslim countries.
From the Cornfield, it is time more moderate Muslim national leaders speak out. It is time to tell the extremists they are not living by the principles of the Prophet. It is time Islamic religious leaders excommunicate those who would corrupt the Koran.
The start of a new year often signals the start of new ideas, new programs, new web site designs. Such is the case of international news giant CNN.
Over the weekend, the network launched a new web design. The design is ascetically appealing. It seems geared toward our more mobile-dependent society.
The design also appears to have signaled a turn in CNN's experiement with "citizen journalism".
Where once the network's user community, iReport, was prominently displayed with a link on the top banner, the ability to easily identify and locate the user submissions of articles, images and opinions is mch more difficult. Buried at the very bottom is a link. You can also click on "Opinions" to find a link.
For members of the community there has been much frustration. Another issue is having to constantly sign in when navigating the site.
Over the past year, there has been less interaction from Team iReport and the community at large. Where once there was a weekly roundtable it devolved to monthly to being non-existant in the past year.
The activity on iReport, for the uninformed, may be best described as submissions to a local newspaper "Lifestyle" section and "Letters to the Editor". On occasion users also submit "breaking news" when being in the right place at the right time to capture images or videos of local news which had national or international impact.
The community is a type of social network geared toward what is called "citizen journalism". It is not journalism in the traditional sense. It is the users' take on the news.
Submissions deemed "approved" or "vetted" by the Team have been part of the fare offered up to fill gaps in programming on CNN International. At times those images, videos or even commentary have made the way onto the US market of the news giant.
I am one of those iReport community members who have been fortunate enough to have been interviewed on CNN and on HLN, the network's sister channel. What led to those interviews were my political opinion reports on iReport.
Over the last year and a half or so since the 2012 presidential election, interaction with the community seems to have become less and less. While I have continued to have a very good relationship with the Team, not all iReporters have been so pleased.
Along with the new web design rollout, the new year brought the departure of iReport Community leader, Katie Garr-Hawkins. Katie has moved on to another venture in Florida and not with CNN. This had many in the community wondering last month about what would happen with iReport.
With the web design and the difficulty in locating iReport, members are now asking if CNN is signalling that its experiment is over.
With the 2016 presidential run soon to start in earnest, will CNN rethink its position on iReport?
Will CNN later in the year close the doors on the community?
From the Cornfield, so many questions and no answers at this juncture.
If the site layout is an indication along with the lack of communication between the community and Team iReport, are we seeing the end of a short-lived era of active user participation on CNN?
As we enter into this New Year of 2015, many make resolutions to change some facet of life or to promise to do this or that.
What we should never do, however, is resolve to change our core principles for the sake of change and without rhyme or reason.
For me, as I have stated for the past several years in various reports, there are certain principles which I have maintained and have consistantly stood on and behind. That has not changed as we have left 2014 to history and entered the "brave new world" yet explored called, "2015".
There are those who say that a moderate independent is a fence straddler or wishy washy, without root. I would beg to differ. I once more reaffirm the principles upon which my political philosophy is based and has been steadfast.
I may be open to discussion, open to modifications and even at times change in where I stand as new information is revealed, but I am firm on who I am and where I stand.
The Cornfield Political Platform
1. Size of Federal Government - I am for a leaner, streamlined federal government with more power and authority vested in local and state governments.
2. Taxes - The tax code needs simplied. Close tax loopholes and get rid of deductions. I am not opposed to a flat tax, a value added tax or national sales tax.
3. Government Spending - I believe in spending what you have. Only in rare emergencies should government borrow to pay bills. Unnecessary or redundant government programs, agencies, bureaus, departments should be eliminated to cut the cost of government spending on all levels: local, state and federal.
4. Government Revenue - When necessary to keep vital programs, agencies, bureaus and departments operating, an increase in revenue (taxes) may be necessary, but should be rare, not the norm. Pledges to never raise taxes should be eliminated. It is at times necessary to pass limited taxation adjustment upward.
5. Safety Nets - Should be there only for the elderly, the infirmed and disabled. Most other assistance to others can be provided traditionally on the local level through families, communities, chuches, charities and local and state government as needed.
6. Social Security - Needs revamped and overhauled for the future. Current recipients should have option of current program or a new overhauled program. Social Security Trust Funds should be off limits to Congress with hefty fines on individual members of Congress who attempt to "borrow" from the SSTF.
7. Medicare - Needs revamped and overhauled for the future. Perhaps an individual medical savings account is the route to go. Current recipients should have the option of the current program or the new system.
8. Medicaid - This should go directly back to the states and implemented as outlined in #5.
9. Supplemental Security Income - Should be given back to the states to administer in a manner as outlined in #5.
10. Military/Defense - We must ensure that we have the best equipped, best trained military in the world. We must be sure we stay ahead of the world in defense weapons and technology including cyber security. We do need to assess our commitments and global locations. Closing those bases that are not necessary, consolidating our forces and bases where feasible.
11. Education - Belongs on the local level. Local school boards should have more say over the curriculum and evaluation. Bad teachers should be weeded out without regard to tenure. Parents must become more involved. No federal oversight, only state and local administration.
12. Laws and Regulations - A complete study and analysis of all federal laws. Get redundant, outdated, overly cumbersome laws and regulations off the books. We must make sure our laws are concise and fair.
13. Environment and Energy - We must become independent for our energy needs. We must explore all avenues. We must approach new technologies with common sense. We must ensure we do the best for the enviroment, but measured and with common sense without being overly burdensome. We will move from fossil fuels to newer, greener energy once that technology is developed and affordable. We must weigh the needs of jobs and the economy against rules and regulations put in place which would place an undue hardship on families and individuals.
14. Equality - We must ensure that all our citizens are treated equally under the law. No one class or group of individuals or couples should be granted any rights and benefits not afforded to every other group of individuals and couples.
15. Immigration - We must stop the fear mongering and address the issue with common sense. Mass deportation will not work. Children who have grown up in the US all or the majority of their lives and who are here, not of their own free will, should be afforded a path to residence, but not citizenship, by serving in the military or upon completion of college giving back to the community in such areas as medicine, research and development. Immigration laws need enforced and streamlined and overhauled with quotas reassessed every 5 years.
16. The National Debt - As I stated, government should spend only what it brings in through taxation and fees. To pay down our unsustainable national debt, 10% of revenue should be used explicitly to cut the debt balance. Government will have to live with the 90% left to meet its expenditures, making cuts to stay within that amount. This 10% should be used until the national debt is liquidated. Once liquidated, the 10% should be set aside and build a surplus in the event of an emergency to prevent the need for borrowing in the future. If God and religious organizations can make it on 10%, the government can do without 10% to address the national debt and buld an emergency fund for the future.
17. Jobs and Labor - The federal government needs to get out of the way and let the market work. Except for ensuring workers are not abused and safety concerns are dealt with, government should be in the position of enhancing an environment that is conducive to job creation - not an impediment to work and business expansion.
18. Unemployment Insurance - This should be returned to the states with full authority. Benefits should be limited to encourage individuals to actively seek work. Training classes and assistance in finding work should be provided and required. All of this should be managed and administered at the local/state level.
19. Food Assistance - This again should be a state/local activity and not a way of life. This can be done successfully as was done traditionally as outlined in #5.
20. Financial and Banking - The federal government should ensure that proper oversight is in place to prevent those in the financial markets or banks from predatory practices. Banks or other financial institutions which run into trouble should be allowed to fail and let the market make corrections, while ensuring that customers are protected against loss. Regulators, inspectors and members of the Federal Reserve Boards should not be past or current employees of financial institutions or banks. Regulators, Federal Reserve Board members and inspectors must be completely independent of the industry.
21. Abortion - Abortion should not be banned in its entirety. There should be exemptions for rape, incest and medical necessity (the life of the mother or viability of the unborn).
22. Same-Gender Long-Term Relastionships - Same-gender relationships should be afforded the benefit of state blessing just as opposite-gender relationships now are. There is no reason to complicate or not allow equality under the law with all the benefits and protections afforded opposite-gender couples over the use of a word on the state license. Best option is that all state licenses use the term civil union on all state documents. Let the couples have a "marriage" privately within the framework of their religious institutions or according to their moral view. All couples, whether same-gender or opposite-gender, should be afforded the same rights and benefits under the law when receiving a license to recognize the joining of the two individuals legally.
23. Campaign Finances - Campaign financing reform is drastically needed. All political campaigns should be funded on all levels (local, state, nationally) by the people through a fund set-up specifically for that purpose, placing all campaigns on equal footing with equal funding based on type of campaign (local, state, national). No funding of political ads by any other entity or individuals should be allowed and only publically-financed ads should be allowed. This will take Congress having the guts to cut off any and all outside influences.
24. The US of A in the World - America must accept and understand its position of leadership in the world along with its responsibility as being a beacon of freedom. However, the US of A must not become entangled in every outbreak or unrest that occurs. We must choose our battles carefully. When our government (the Executive and Legislative Branches acting in unison) does choose to intervene, we must ensure that our military forces are not hampered by politics or changing public mood. Rather when our military forces are unleashed it must be with one objective - to win and then withdraw from the battlefield. The US of A must not be in the business of nation building and must eschew the path of "winning the hearts and minds" of the enemy. The enemy is the enemy.
25. Voter ID Laws - Voter photo identification seems logical and practical from where I sit in the Cornfield. We have had the law requiring a photo ID in the Hoosier State since 2005 with no disruption nor suppression of the vote. From my perspective, all the talk about voter fraud and voter suppression is all hooey. The practicality of having a photo ID to vote, to me, is that in order to receive government benefits, to purchase alcohol or cigarettes, to pick up prescriptions, to cash a check and the list goes on, a photo ID is required. Doesn't it just make common sense if an ID is required for these things an ID would be appropriate before casting a vote? Think about it, you even have to have identification to have a job. Isn't the most important function in our free society choosing our elected officials? So why not provide a photo ID, which under Supreme Court rulings must be free of charge?
That's just a bit of The Cornfield Political Platform. It is not all inclusive nor does it address all issues. It is just a sampling of where I stand politically on the issues.
From the Cornfield, I stand flat-footed, my feet planted by the water. I may sway with the storms of life, but I will not be deterred by those who attempt to demogogue or cast aspersions on those who may think differently.
We are Americans.
Part of our legacy is our independence and liberty, not just from a foreign power, but free to think, reason and live with the least amount of interference and influence of government and special interest groups. It is our freedom to be ourselves, individuals united as one, which is our strength.
Our national motto says it best: "Out of many, one" - E pluribus unum.