Saturday, April 30, 2016

Why I Left Forward Progressives

Over three years ago when I was writing solely on this blog and had just a few hundred followers, I was approached by the editor and web manager for what is now Forward Progressives. I was asked if I would like to be a "co-founder" of a website that would be the answer to the clickbait bullshit from sites like Addicting Info and others.

As an amateur writer, I was excited about this new opportunity, especially after running into a dead end and very brief unpaid stint at Politicususa, which told me they were dumping all revenue into further building their site. At that time, my contact "Thomas Barr" and his business partners were running a number of pages like One Million Strong Against Mitt Romney in 2012, or unofficial fan pages for Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart and others which they apparently used to post links for Politicususa for kickbacks.

This opportunity seemed like the great break I was hoping for. I was honestly honored that sources I naively bought into considered me to be qualified to graduate from a lowly blog site about punk rock, politics, fraud and whiskey to what I thought was the big time in liberal journalism.

One of the factors that I believe made me a candidate for their website was my utter distaste for Addicting Info and Being Liberal - as their owners and I had repeatedly clashed over reuse of my content without proper attribution. My friend John Henry was also offered a position writing for Forward Progressives, but only if he wrote under a pseudonym so as not draw unwanted attention to our website, which he declined to do.

At first, things went fairly smoothly and I was awestruck at the amount of traffic my articles were attracting. Before long, we had amassed a respectable squad of potential writers, and things were looking great. There were articles that went viral, our pages were booming, and we reached the front page of Reddit once. When I received my paycheck after the first month of writing that was enough to buy a new laptop, I really thought that this was amazing venture I could finally believe in.

Things started changing when we appeared on the radar of political blogging. While the website had a very large reach, priority was only given to "Allen Clifton" - and some of my articles while our other writers were put on the back burner, often for days. Even when their stories were finally published by "Thomas Barr," they were given little promotion and one by one, nearly every one of those writers quit in disgust.

Eventually, almost nobody wanted to write for us, and the few people I managed to recruit didn't last long. This venture was supposed to be a collaboration of writers that were the progressive answer to the clickbait headlines that littered Facebook, but we rapidly became everything that I hated. There was almost zero collaboration or discussion among writers, and "Allen Clifton" did very little to promote others on our team, myself included. Only Arik Bjorn and his delightfully esoteric Sunday column remained, much to the ire of "Allen Clifton" who had asked me to help him force Arik (and others) out.

Within the first couple of months of Forward Progressives, I had also been informed by the website manager, "Thomas Barr" that the site had come under attack from individuals he believed to be connected to our alleged competition, Addicting Info, among others. I was asked to do what I could to take them down, which I was more than happy to do.

At his instruction, I employed a number of techniques that he suggested, including reporting their racier articles to Google AdSense for any violation we could find. A couple of years ago, Addicting Info went silent for a couple of days with no new material as their founder flew from Santa Rosa, California to Chicago to apparently meet with a buyer.

I can only conclude that we reported the Addicting Info organization so hard that they lost all of their advertising revenue sources due to the complaints, and were bought out by a guy calling himself Icarus Verum, who has the real name of Daniel Gouldman. Daniel seems to also hold partial or complete control of a number of liberal websites like If You Only News, Winning Democrats, Reverb Press, Groopspeak and others.

After almost 3 years of battling this juggernaut and letting me take most of the heat, "Thomas Barr" claimed he didn't want to fight this battle anymore. While I was the one who had been relentlessly cyberstalked and reported into 30 day Facebook bans, he told me that people from the Addicting Info cabal had supposedly gotten too close to finding out things about him and his family in Minnesota - and that it was time to shut up.

Before my relationship with Forward Progressives ended with a group chat in January, the website had descended into clickbait stories, far away from the original mission I had signed up for. Articles I had written fell on the back burner, priority was given to Allen Clifton's latest recap of Sarah Palin's pleas for attention, and nobody else wanted to work with us.

What I found strange through this entire experience is that I was almost always the focus of the attacks by the Addicting Info army of trolls, and not Thomas Barr, Allen Clifton, or the site's owner, Logan. Things like my occasional donations to people in need were made the focus of Facebook pages like The Adventures of Beefaroni Tits or Whiskey Dick & The Most Ethical Blog.

Imagine having a group of Facebook pages devoted to harassing you and your friends, or even making fun of your dog? Thomas Clay Jr who commented on that picture was one of the people that worked with Addicting Info and others to relentlessly bully or even attempt to extort individuals into cooperating with them. He is currently the owner of the website American News X, an organization that includes a former admin of my page, Steve Ahearn who was booted after continually begging for money and harassing people.

This is what I continually dealt with since confronting the owners of Addicting Info and Being Liberal back in 2012, although I have enjoyed a brief respite since ending my relationship with Forward Progressives. While "Matthew Desmond" has repeatedly told me that neither he, nor any of his associates have had anything to do with the harassment, the evidence I've seen shows that isn't true.

Anyhow, back to Forward Progressives. Despite the fact that we were supposed to be politically "objective," Allen Clifton insisted on writing one condescending article about Bernie Sanders after another. At the same time, he also created Facebook pages like "Being Progressive" which were intended as an outlet for other links that appeared to be supportive of Bernie. I was instructed, after Thomas Barr gained access to a large pro-Bernie Facebook page run by Annabel Park, to write links specifically tailored for that audience.

This is when I knew that Forward Progressives had jumped the shark. Despite being told I was joining a site that was going to be the answer to the clickbait bullshit that I hated, we had become just like the rest. Logan and the others even claimed that FP was based in San Francisco, CA despite being a registered LLC in Ohio.

When that day in January came that I began writing for my new website and the first article was published, I received a Facebook message from the others that I was being let go. In exchange, I would not talk about the operations of Forward Progressives, and I would continue to receive payments for the traffic that led to my articles, and the site overall.

Those promises were broken, and the sites I helped to build were taken away from me. I have repeatedly tried to rectify these issues, only to be ignored. So now I am releasing this story, and I have recorded all of the conversations with these individuals in case they want to state this story is false.

Let the chips fall where they may.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My Love/Hate Relationship With Louisiana

I moved to Louisiana in the fall of 2010. I arrived here on a Greyhound bus in October, with just a few coins in my pocket, and no job prospects. At that point, I was at probably the lowest point in my life, and thankfully, I had family that would make sure I didn't starve, and that I had a place to sleep.

Within a month, I had a job waiting tables at a local restaurant. It took me another 5 months to save up the money to buy a used car, and it was nearly a year before I could find a job in my field. It was an unexpected journey from having nothing, to having a steady paycheck, a woman who loved me, and the peace of mind I had been seeking for years.

Louisiana is not where I ever saw myself ending up. A couple of years prior, I had visited with an ex-girlfriend to attend my sister's wedding, and I remarked that while I liked parts of Louisiana and its culture, it was a place that I could never see myself living in.

Yet, just a couple of years later, that's where I found myself. In time, I began to adjust and find my own niche in a culture that has a distrust of outsiders and a preference for their own ways, even those ways are decades behind the rest of the country.

What I love about Louisiana, at least the southern part of the state, is how friendly people can be. They want to know who you are, who you are related to, and many will buy you a beer during that conversation. You might even be invited to a crawfish boil where you don't know anyone else, and at the end of the night, you've made a bunch of new friends - if you don't talk about political or religious issues that might offend some folks.

For the most part, most Cajuns I've met have embraced me to some degree. After 5 1/2 years, I know people of all political and religious persuasions who I can spend time with, and we get together over our love of food, sports and beer. This isn't the place I saw myself ending up in, but I've learned to make it work.

The political ignorance and individuals fighting against their own self-interests does drive me crazy - as does the racial hatred which lingers just below the surface not only in Louisiana, but across the Southern states in which I have spent all of my life.
One of these days, I may move back to Florida, or even the state where I was born, Virginia. Louisiana has so much promise if only it would turn its government around and elect officials who have the best interests of every citizen in mind, rather than the corporate interests who have run Louisiana into fiscal crisis.

I would like to see Louisiana rise out of the bigotry and ignorance of the Bible Belt and join the rest of the United States in the 21st century sometime in the near future. But if they cannot do that, I will have to regrettably move on, Cajun recipe books in tow.