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Corporate Power, ABC TV and Ted Koppel tried to censor the free speech of a free man in a free country. Fuck that.

10 Dec

Corporate power tried to steal my life work.

ABC  TV and Ted Koppel tried to censor the free speech of a free man in a free country.

Fuck that.

ABC TV stolen pictures frame grab from my copyrighted work. Count them--four separate credits demanding ABC be given credit for photographs taken when ABC did b not even have a staff person in all of Southeast Asia. This photo was hand delivered to the New York Times, The AP and posted on ABC's website

ABC TV stolen pictures frame grab from my copyrighted work. Count them–four separate credits demanding ABC be given credit for photographs taken when ABC did b not even have a staff person in all of Southeast Asia. This photo was hand delivered to the New York Times, The AP and posted on ABC’s website

Discuss freedom.

I would like to define this discussion, where it belongs: The power of corporate thugs using their money to put their jackboot on the necks of of freelance creative artists must stop.

It is time to draw the line and demand that we, as writers, photographers, musicians, creative artists are worthy. Our work should be respected and compensated as such.

Unlike the Atlantic magazine headache of a few months ago, let’s use our power to define the debate.

Please discuss.

Whatever the content of your opinion, of the  discussion, is fine. Whatever point of view you have, is legitimate.

But the censoring of free speech is not. Full stop. I will be damned before I allow a 10 cent lawyer to tell me when I can open my mouth and say what I want, or not, especially if it is the documented truth.

Fuck their money and their self delusion of power. I am free and intend to remain so.

My earlier blog post on the raw facts of the failed attempt of ABC TV–and their corporate owner–Disney–and Ted Koppel allowing himself to be a common streetwalker for his pimps, has gone viral.

I would like to hear from @ABC and @TedKoppel and @Disney what their response is. Are you selling quality journalism to free people, or are you only trying to deliver viewers and page hits to advertisers?

I respect Ted Koppel. It is why I chose him to bring the story of Pol Pot to North America. But he allowed himself to be a pimp for ABC/Disney in exchange for cash money. That is a fact. Of course he feels guilty. Ted Koppel, I believe, is a moral man. He was, ironically, the best that American TV had to offer. So take responsibility, Mr. Koppel. You will further contribute to the return of quality journalism to free people by doing so. You will be able to look yourself in the mirror without flinching at what you see. I can, mostly, now. As can you. But mostly isn’t good enough for you or me.

How Ted Koppel and ABC TV Tried to Steal my Life Work

8 Dec

How Ted Koppel and ABC TV Tried to Steal my Life Work

By Nate Thayer

December 8, 2013

I am banned by legal agreement to write the following: ABC Television/ Disney Corporation, after seven years in court, where they attempted to bankrupt me and ruin my reputation for objecting to them stealing fifteen years of my life work, buckled and paid me. They have the legal right to take back the money they finally paid me–which actually all went to lawyers and taxes–if I open my mouth.

Fuck them.

Good luck getting blood from a stone while trying to attempt to muzzle a free person in a free society while claiming you are an icon of the free press and free speech

So here goes…..

On July 25, 1997, I was the first outsider to meet Pol Pot since he killed 1.8 million people 20 years before.

It was, for a couple of days, the biggest story in the world. I, as a freelance journalist, had the only photographs and video and eyewitness account that existed since Pol Pot did what he did. It was a tumultuous few days of dealing with the very worst of what the big media companies represented.

Ted Koppel, of ABC Nightline, flew to Bangkok to view the video and signed a written contract for “North American video rights only for 7 days.” ABC America–owned by Disney–told Koppel to sign whatever Thayer asks for–our lawyers will deal with it later. He is just a freelancer. Give him whatever he wants. We can bankrupt him if he objects.

As soon as ABC, which had exactly zero correspondents in Southeast Asia, got a hold of a copy of the tape, which Ted Koppel personally and in writing promised he would not allow any frame grabs to be made into still pictures, or allow the video to be distributed to anyone outside of Nightline, or allow the transcript of the text of the video to be shown to anyone else, ABC created the below frame grabs from the video, distributed it personally to numerous news outfits, including the AP and the New York Times, where it appeared on their front page above the fold, and ABC placed them on their website crediting themselves with having taken the image.

My picture, credited to ABC TV, was published on the front pages of hundreds of newspapers around the world, my footage was distributed around the globe, and my story was written in virtually every major news organ on earth, credited to ABC TV, before I actually had written my own story . which was published with the integrity and dignity and seriousness it deserved in my excellent publication, the Far Eastern Economic Review.

1018923 Pol Pot ABC Frame Grab Pic

ABC TV stolen pictures frame grab from my copyrighted work. Count them--four separate credits demanding ABC be given credit for photographs taken when ABC did b not even have a staff person in all of Southeast Asia. This photo was hand delivered to the New York Times, The AP and posted on ABC's website

ABC TV stolen pictures frame grab from my copyrighted work. Count them–four separate credits demanding ABC be given credit for photographs taken when ABC did b not even have a staff person in all of Southeast Asia. This photo was hand delivered to the New York Times, The AP and posted on ABC’s website

ABC distributed transcripts of the trial of Pol Pot I had made and allowed other news organizations to view the video tape with strict instructions to credit ABC for the images and story, and then refused to pay me anything unless I signed a release that they did nothing wrong and I promised not to take legal action against them.

I refused.

Nine months later, I won the Peabody award as a “correspondent for ABC Nightline.”

Ted Koppel called me up, nervous, to congratulate me.

I said “Fuck you! Where is my fucking money? I am going to go to the Peabody awards ceremony and refuse the award and tell the planet what unethical thieves ABC are and how you, Ted Koppel, acted as their pimp.” I was then banned from attending the award ceremony, escorted out of the Waldorf Astoria hotel banquet room by security guards.

I spent seven years in court fighting ABC.

I won, sort of.

It sucked the life out of me, which was the exact intention of ABC: to make my life as miserable and expensive and distracted as possible to punish me for objecting to bald plagiarism, fraud, and theft. They tried to bankrupt me and ruin my reputation.

But ABC fucked with the wrong person. They will never fuck with Nate Thayer again.

It was worth it. They thought I would back down in the face of their team of hundreds of staff lawyers and corporate power.

I refused.

Such is the life of freelance journalism.

Every freelance journalist alive has suffered under the corporate jackboot of the ABC’s of the media world, their work stolen and never compensated. Usually it is not possible to pay for a legal team to fight them to get remunerated for one’s work.

Above and below are a couple of the still pictures, still available by a simple Google search online.

Another ABC frame grab of my still pictures, taken after 15 years of work, which they distributed to the planet and took credit for

Another ABC frame grab of my still pictures, taken after 15 years of work, which they distributed to the planet and took credit for

These are just some examples of the still picture ABC frame grab’s ABC took from the video and distributed to the world, voiding scores of contracts I had sold for my stills for exclusive rights.I had scores of contracts for the sale of still pictures, video, and stories cancelled around the globe overnight.

ABC tried to take credit for 15 years of my life work. Below is one of my original still photographs, which became worthless overnight because  a degraded version was available for free from the ABC website.

CAMBODIA-POL-POT/WALK

One of my actual still photographs–taken by me–with a Nikon F-4 on July 25, 1997—the first pictures of Pol Pot taken since he murdered 1.8 million people during his 3 years 8 months and 20 days in power

polpot.abc

My still photograph, which became worthless on the international market after ABC TV America stole my pictures and tried to take credit for 15 years of my life work

My still photograph, which became worthless on the international market after ABC TV America stole my pictures and tried to take credit for 15 years of my life work

GRATITUDE: Thoughts on being born free

20 Nov

 

 

GRATITUDE

By Nate Thayer

November 21, 2013

I am, I think, most grateful in life for being born a free person. I know many–many of whom are my friends–who were not.

No government, no authority is less flawed than me.  And no person is more flawed than I.

For the most part, the successes and joys and the equally and, crucially, humbling number of failures and missteps I have had in my short life have resulted from my having been blessed with having free choices.

Choices that have allowed me to stumble.

Choices that have allowed me to fail.

Choices that have allowed me to be wrong.

Choices that allowed me to suffer.

Choices I have made that have caused others pain.

Choices that have made me weep in regret or shame.

God knows, I have made choices that have made me do all of these.

These fruits of being a free man allowed me to be able to be a satisfied, happy, fulfilled and, to a small, but important to me, modicum degree, contribute, in a very small way, to a better world.

To have been free to stumble, has allowed me to be free to choose to learn how not to stumble that way again, if I chose not to. I hadand still have that choice.

Choices that have allowed me to fail, have allowed me the choice to better move forward, to learn how to succeed, if I chose to. Failing has blessed me with success.

Being free to choose to fail, has made me free to understand the importance of empathy for others when they, like we all do, fail.

It has allowed me to understand the importance of accepting as a blessing the flaws in others, their different ones and the ones we all share.

To be free to have the choice to be wrong, to be mistaken, has given me the choice to know, better, what was closer to what is right. And then, later, a few times, free to have been right.

Choices I have made that I have suffered from have allowed me to have deeper compassion for others when they, like all of us, suffer.

Choices I have made that have caused others undeserved pain, have graced me with being the recipient of forgiveness and unconditional love.

And have allowed me, as a free man, to understand the vital import of being forgiving to others when they, like we all do, have caused pain to me or others through our choices.

Being free to have caused others pain has made me free to, and the importance of,  forgiving others when they, also, have trod behind me on that same path.

Choices that I have made that have caused me to weep with eternal regret and shame, have allowed me to be less judgmental of others mistakes or sins, to offer an intimate understanding with others in their darker or darkest hours.

This has allowed me to offer unconditional love because I now know better the special beauty of having received unconditional love has been to me.

If, like many in the world,  I had not been allowed to exercise a free mind and free choices, and the blessing of a political system that demanded and protected critical thinking and the rights of all flawed people to be free to be flawed,  I would never have been free to contribute to move, ever so slowly, in at least the right direction of a more perfect man, a better world, a happier child who has come after me.

The right to make choices for each and every one of us, especially the wrong choices, has and remains one of my greatest blessings of being born a free man.

Being free to be wrong has allowed me, occasionally, to know, at least better, what is right.

No government, no authority is less flawed than me.  And no person is more than I am.

Vietnam Era Renegade Army Discovered: Lighting the darkness: FULRO’s jungle Christians

28 Oct

Lighting the darkness: FULRO’s jungle Christians     

Vietnam Era Renegade Army Discovered

By Nate Thayer

(This story appeared in the Phnom Penh Post and  as the cover story in the Far Eastern Economic Review.  I discovered, in the remote Northeastern Cambodian jungles along the Ho Chi Minh trail along the Vietnamese border, an army literally lost in time. Eventually all 398 FULRO fighters and families were given political asylum in the U.S., after the high pressure intervention of their former U.S. army special forces comrades learned they were still, 17 years after the Americans withdrew, fighting the Vietnam War. They are all now settled in the U.S., mostly in North Carolina.

Friday, 25 September, 1992

By Nate Thayer

MONDULKIRI, Cambodia – Accompanied by a chorus of crickets and the steady drumming of rain on the leaf roofs of their huts, scores of Montagnard fighters and their families gather in the jungle darkness each night to pray and sing.

Having long ago fled ideological restrictions in Vietnam for a religious sanctuary deep in the forest, the soldiers are members of FULRO–the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races-which has fought for a separate homeland in Vietnam for their hill tribe people since 1964.

Lamps fueled by chunks of slow-burning tree resin give light to the few shared tattered bibles and hymnals as Christian songs of worship echo through the otherwise uninhabited forest. Familiar gospel hymns are sung in the tribal dialects of the mountains.

For many at FULRO’s scattered guerrilla bases, the ability to pray freely was a main motivation to flee their villages in Vietnam’s central highlands 17 years ago.

Fulro Catholic Priest at Servies in Jungle Church Where They Fled From Religious Persecution in Vietnam

Fulro Catholic Priest at Services in Jungle Church Where They Fled From Religious Persecution in Vietnam

“The communists will not let us pray. They say that Christianity is an American and French religion, so we came to live in the jungle,” said Lt.-Col. Y Hinnie. “In our land under the communists, people pray at home secretly or in the rice fields. They cannot worship together like we do in the jungle. Here we are free.”

Each of the five jungle encampments in the FULRO rear base area have an Evangelical church, while there is a lone Catholic church in the main guerrilla camp. Nearly 40 people share a single bible for the daily Catholic Mass and at weekend services. The church consists of pews of wooden logs lined neatly in a clearing, a towering rough-hewn cross behind the altar.

Similar Evangelical churches, cut into clearings surrounded by 30-meter high hardwood trees, are packed with more than 350 worshipers for the daily two-hour evening service and brief early morning prayers. Each church has its own pastor, and worshipers bring large green leaves as hassocks to kneel on the damp forest floor.

These believers are the legacy of Christian missionaries who lived in the Central Highlands until 1975, when the last of them were expelled by the current government in Vietnam. Many of the missionaries had mastered the local dialects, translating Bibles and hymnals into the region’s Rade, Jarai and Koho languages.

The guerrillas also tune into weekly radio sermons delivered in their native languages by a powerful shortwave radio station in Manila operated by the Christian Missionary Alliance.

A guerrilla congregation reels off the names of “their” missionaries like a litany: “In Pleiku, Mr. Long and Mr. Fleming and in Dalat, Helen Evans, she is from America too. Ken Swain from Darlac, he preaches in our language on the radio every Saturday now.”

FULRO officials say some of the missionaries’ involvement with the Montagnards went beyond simply bringing the scriptures to the area. They said some of them were active in the waning days of U.S. involvement in the early 1970s in running guns to the guerrillas.

Following the collapse of the South Vietnamese regime in 1975, FULRO leaders say, the communists set about systematically dismantling Christian churches. Many of the Montagnards’ religious leaders were arrested and killed after the communist victory in 1975, they say.

“They take our pastors, preachers and Christians and put them in jail,” said FULRO’s military Commander-in-Chief Col Y Peng Ayun. “We don’t hate any one man because we are Christians, but we can never trust the communists,” he added.

Two prominent Montagnard pastors from Ban Me Thuot, Y Ham Nic Hrah and Y Lico Nie, died in the early 1980s after many years of harsh conditions in prison, according to the guerrillas. “Here, we worship no matter what,” said Pastor Budar Su Khong, 52, from Dalat. “Jesus said ‘Come to me whoever is tired, and I will bring you rest.’ We are very tired. Please take a message to Christians in other countries to pray for us, and we will pray for them.”

—–0000——
Vietnam War Era Renegade Army Discovered In Mondulkiri

By Nate Thayer

Abandoned for years by their own leaders and former foreign military backers, an anti-Hanoi Montagnard army based in northeast Cambodia has a plea for protection.

The military combatants of FULRO-the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races-have waged a lonely battle for a separate homeland in Vietnam for their hilltribe people since 1964.

The recent discovery of the Montagnard army in Mondulkiri province prompted Phnom Penh’s Interior Ministry to inform U.N. peacekeeping forces that unless the group-formerly given sanctuary by the Khmer Rouge-is disarmed they would attack them.

Under threat from the Phnom Penh regime, expelled by the Khmer Rouge, and a thorn in the side to Vietnam, FULRO is presenting an interesting if not painful dilemma to U.N. officials in Phnom Penh.

UNTAC-mandated to verify the withdrawal of all foreign forces in Cambodia-may be obligated to ensure the return of the group to Vietnamese soil if they insist on continuing to wage war.

But UNHCR-responsible for protecting people with a “well founded fear of persecution”-may have to offer asylum to the fighters if they are in danger of being sent back to Vietnam, where they certainly would face imprisonment.

That, in turn, could open the floodgates to thousands of requests for political asylum from Vietnamese living in Cambodia.

“We have enough problems in Cambodia dealing with the four factions, and now this army we never even heard of turns up,” said one UNTAC military official.

American diplomats in Phnom Penh and U.N. military officials in Cambodia are urging that UNHCR grant the group refugee status to begin the process of third country asylum, and give them temporary protection from military attack.

But FULRO Commander-in-Chief Y Peng Ayun and his forces are reluctant to accept giving up their fight without first getting U.N. protection.

“If we give up our weapons, they will take us back to Vietnam or the Vietnamese will come get us,” Ayun said. “If I go to the U.S., I don’t want to stay a long time there, because I have responsibility to liberate my country.”

When two correspondents visited FULRO’s remote guerrilla headquarters last month, they found an army unaware of the world around them and desperately seeking instructions and resupply from their leadership.

Col. Ayun and his lieutenants gathered around the reporters, hungrily seeking information. “Please, can you help us find our president, Y’Bham Enuol?” Colonel Ayun asked. “We have been waiting for contact and orders from our president since 1975. Do you know where he is?”

Neither Ayun nor his troops, who gathered around to meet the first journalists to find them since they fled to the jungles after the American defeat in Indochina in 1975, knew that their leader was executed 17 years before by the Khmer Rouge.

They fell silent when informed; some wept quietly.

Situated in a string of five villages carved out of dense forest along a raging river, the group of 407 guerrillas and their families have no access to even the smallest luxury items except from fighters returning from Vietnam.

There is no medicine or schools, and many of the soldiers and their families have only the clothes they wear and rifles. Bamboo huts with roofs of leaves provide shelter.

“The food we get from the forest. The forest belongs to FULRO.” said Lt. Col. Y Hinnie. “We don’t have food or medicine, so it is difficult. But with food and medicine the jungle is a very nice place. We are used to it.”

The rivers nearby abound with crocodiles, huge catfish, and fresh water porpoises and the surrounding jungle-thick with mosquitos-is home to elephants and a host of deadly snakes.

The combatants and their families are traditionally rice eating people, but they are unable to farm rice here with the enemy constantly forcing movement.

A staple of corn, with jungle cucumbers, pumpkins, and hot green peppers are all they have. For part of the year they survive on poisonous potatoes that must be carefully processed for five days to extract a deadly toxin.

“We must eat it slowly until our bodies get used to it or it will kill you,” Hinnie said, “But the poison is also the medicine we use to cure snakebites.” Nearby a soldier lay paralyzed from a snakebite he received three months before.

“This tree has the medicine we use for malaria and this one here we can use to treat diarrhea,” Hinnie said, pointing.

The army has no maps or compasses. “But we can guide ourselves by stars and winds of the seasons. We can tell by which side of the tree is wet during different months exactly which direction we are going,” he said.

Hinnie spoke credible English from his days as a young boy with Christian missionaries, as well as Khmer, Vietnamese, and French, and several tribal dialects, and translated for others who spoke in Rade. His skills have given him the title of “the FULRO Military Delegation’s Representative of Foreign Affairs.”

But his knowledge of world events is spotty. “We would like you to take a message to U Thant,” he said, referring to the former U.N. Secretary-General. Asking about the cold war, he said, “I hear that President George Bush now contacts with the Russians.”

He is charged with listening to the shortwave radio each morning, tuning in VOA, BBC, Christian radio, and Radio Vietnam to keep the group abreast of foreign developments.

Hinnie told amazed fighters of the fax machine: “You take a letter and put it in a telephone and it comes out in one minute in America,” he explained.

The Forgotten Army

A number of soldiers appeared to introduce themselves in English as having fought with the Americans.

“You are the first foreigner I have seen since 1975,” said Bhong Rcam, 47, “The Americans usually call me Tiny.”

Like many of the fighters of FULRO, he worked with the U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam War. After the U.S. withdrawal he was jailed by Hanoi, before joining FULRO in the jungle in 1976.

During the Vietnam War FULRO was supplied with millions of dollars of U.S. equipment, and before that, used as allies to further the objectives of the French and various Vietnamese regimes.

When the North Vietnamese launched decisive offensives in March 1975, FULRO leaders say that senior U.S. officials in Saigon promised continued support for the Montagnards and pledged to covertly support their fight.

Well equipped with American weapons and promises of more as South Vietnam crumbled in the spring of 1975, FULRO waited for the Americans who never returned, eventually re-grouping in the jungle.

“The Montagnard people and the Americans are like one family,” said Lt. Col. Hinnie. “I am not angry, but very sad that the Americans forgot us. The Americans are like our elder brother, so it is very sad when your brother forgets you.”

FULRO continued to launch attacks on Vietnam for four years after the U.S. withdrawal, fielding a fierce army of 10,000 fighters. But by 1979 they were running low on ammunition and had suffered huge casualties, with more than 8,000 of their fighters killed or captured.

In 1979 FULRO abandoned their bases in Vietnam and moved to the jungles on the Cambodian side of the Vietnamese frontier, switching to underground networks and small guerrilla strikes in their four regions of operations in Vietnam-Quang Duc, Darlac, Pleiku, and Kon Tum.

Previously given sanctuary by the Khmer Rouge in areas under their control, FULRO was expelled from Khmer Rouge zones in January to a remote area of Mondulkiri province. Khmer Rouge officials in Phnom Penh say they had given FULRO sanctuary since 1979, despite having fallen out with their leadership in 1986.

“They had no political vision. Their fighters are very, very brave, but they had no support from any leadership, no food, and they did not understand at all the world around them,” said one senior Khmer Rouge official.

Jungle Christians

Col. Ayun complained bitterly of the treatment of his people by the Hanoi government.

“My people suffer terribly under the Vietnamese communist regime,” he recounted from a thatched hut in the forest. “They came and took our land, and made it theirs. They try to erase our language and force us to speak Vietnamese. They have taken our fertile land and forced us to the bad land.

“They say they have come to build progress for my people, but they have come to kill, arrest, and oppress my people.”

For many at FULRO’s scattered guerrilla bases, the ability to pray freely and practice Christianity was a main motivation to flee Vietnam. Each of the five villages in the FULRO area have an evangelical church, while there is a lone Catholic church in the main guerrilla camp.

“The Communists will not let us pray,” Col. Hinnie said. “They say that Christianity is an American and French religion, so we came to live in the jungle.”

Col. Ayun requested to meet with the American ambassador to seek advice on whether his group would get the aid he said was long promised and to seek proof of the death of their leader.
“We are the troops of President Y Bham Enuol,” he said.

“If he has died, we want proof from the United Nations. The Americans had a whole plan for Indochina. I want to meet face to face with the American ambassador. I have a plan for the future, and they should know clearly our position for the revolutionary struggle. We want to know whether they will help us or not.”

But the chances of U.S. support for Ayun and his forces are dim, and FULRO faces a whole new series of difficulties.

Montagnard leaders now living in the U.S. appealed to Col. Ayun to give up the fight. “Due to unfavorable circumstances, I suggest it is time to stop fighting, to find different ways to reach our ultimate goal,” said Pierre K’briuh in a recent message to the FULRO fighters.

K’briuh is a leader of the former FULRO troops now in the United States and he himself was jailed by Hanoi until the early 1980s.

“President Y-Bham Enuol and his entourage were executed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975,” he wrote.

“Therefore, based on common sense, lay down your weapons and appeal at once to the U.N. for political asylum to join us here. We don’t have any other choice.”

Col. Ayun and his troops say that if they have proof that Y Bham Enuol is indeed dead, they will consider going to the U.S.

“But even if we go to another country, our resistance will continue until we get our own land, until we get back the land that belonged to us before,” Ayun said.

“I don’t want to go to a free nation,” he added. “I want to stay here because this is my battlefield. It is my responsibility. But I have no supplies or help from free countries.”

 

The Childhood Education of a Cantankerous Journalist

28 Oct

The Early Education of a Future Cantankerous Journalist: 7th grade English class papers from a 12 year old

By Nate Thayer

October 28, 2013

I recently moved several hundred boxes of books, papers, and various possessions I have acquired through my decidedly nomadic, itinerant life from a storage unit into the basement of my new flat. I have spent many hours in recent days discovering all sorts of treasures which have brought back many long forgotten memories.

Some of the most special forgotten treasures are from my childhood schooldays that my mother had the foresight to know might be meaningful to me someday, and she surreptitiously secreted away and tucked in boxes to keep safe and give me when I was old enough to know they would be meaningful.

I was a difficult child.

I went to 13 schools prior to graduating high school. Let’s just say I did not leave them all by my own choice. “Nate is very smart and finds academics easy and does well in class. He has a bright future if he would only apply himself. He lacks discipline and appears to have some serious problems with authority,” read one report home to my parents on how I was faring, prior to the school insisting it would be in all parties best interest if I did not return to that institution the following academic year.

That was when I was 14. That was the fifth school I had attended in 3 years.

I made it a point, if one is too appoint a very acrobatically creative narrative, to do original research in my youth of the entire spectrum of educational styles and institutions.I went to fundamentalist Christian missionary schools, private day schools, all boys boarding schools, coed private day schools, Christian coed blue-blood boarding schools, alternative open class room schools, and public high schools. That was prior to college.

Most of them were social penitentiaries for the reproduction of the ruling class.

They were a lot of boarding schools. Their purpose was to ensure one did not attempt to poison one’s mind with the misconception that you could think for yourself. By the time, if they were successful from preventing your escape and you were allowed out on parole to the public at large upon graduation, one was 18 or so, and sufficiently safe to be allowed to experience the real world without threat of diverging from the, by then,  quite effective brainwashing.

I went to 13 schools before I was released into the civilian population at 18.

I was required to wear a coat and tie. I was required to attend church daily.

There were a lot of rules. I broke most of them. For lesser infractions, one would be disciplined with “work hours” as penance and assigned a mundane task to perform as punishment, such as janitorial duties etc. At one school, I accrued 578 work hours—an historical school record which, I am guessing, still stands. That was so many punishment “work hours” that there was no hope I would ever be able to complete them prior to graduating, not that the latter chance was either likely or proved true. But I saw this as a plus and a relief, because it really didn’t matter how many more rule breaking infraction hours I accrued as a result. And, hence, how many more rules I broke in the future.

I am finding all sorts of stuff in these boxes of memories.

Yesterday, I found a box with my 7th grade English class school paper assignments, with the teacher’s comments and my responses to his comments.

It is dated October 28, 1972—41 years ago to the day from today.

I was 12 years old. That is 7th grade for the American school system. It was in an all boy’s Christian boarding school in Connecticut.

Every second was regimented. One of my jobs was to get up at 0600 each day and ring the tower school church bell to awake the entire student body sleeping in dormitories. We had exact times to file in for breakfast. Our bedrooms were inspected for cleanliness each day. Church. Class. Recreation, meals–every minute was regimented. All lights had to be out at bedtime—which was 9:30 PM. Everyone had to be up by 0600, showered, dressed in coat and tie, bed made and room clean for inspection by 0630.

An adult dormitory monitor who lived on the dormitory would inspect each room at precisely the assigned hour to make sure innumerable infractions were not violated.

I lasted exactly one semester at that penitentiary, at the age of 12, before the school and I parted company. In this case, I told them—which was not the usual scenario—that I was leaving.

A solemn meeting was held in the principal’s office where a school psychologist was brought in. The stern duo of headmaster and psychologist did their most somber, almost grave best to try and persuade me to stay.

I had, at the time, the highest grades of any student in the school. I remember, because they would post every student’s grades next to their names on a public bulletin board for all to see. What a horrible thing to do to a child, in retrospect, if one was not performing at their peak for whatever reason.

I remember the exact words of the psychologist that day sitting in the principal’s office when I, 12 years old and 4 feet 11 inches tall, informed them I was leaving their institution because I determined it was not in my interest to continue that relationship.

“If you leave this school, you will be a failure. You will never be a man. Men don’t give up.”

I didn’t like that man in 1972, and I don’t like that man today in 2013.

I suppose I was a contrarian then, which has its downside, i am well aware.

Here is an English paper assignment dated October 27, 1972—41 years ago to the day from when I found it in a box this morning.

It includes my original paper and the notes and comments of my teacher, as well as my responses to his comments on the quality of my writing, which I returned to him for review.

Nat Thayer

English 7-1

October 27, 1972

Teacher: Sir Andy Rutman

“Last summer while in North Carolina, I had a chance to go rock climbing. Now rock climbing is my favorite sport and I always jump at a chance to do it.

A party of eight of us went to a gorge in the middle of the Carolina wilderness where we knew were some good climbs. We practiced on many little climbs until we knew we were ready.

Early one morning we woke up, had a light breakfast, and hiked for about two miles down a very steep path. After about an hour we came upon a huge rock, 350 feet in the air. I could not believe my eyes! It looked like an endless wall bounding up into the clouds. I had no hope of going to the top of this mountain rock.

We got all our ropes ready and within fifteen minutes we had started to climb the rock. At 4:30 in the afternoon we were on the top of the rock eating lunch. I had climbed the rock! At times I was sure I was right on my first conclusion. But I had climbed it. I had done the impossible. I had done a “five dollar job”.

The teacher “Sir Andy Rutman” graded the paper a 95%. He commented at the bottom, in all capital letters: “VERY GOOD. BUT IN SOME PLACES YOU LEFT OUT WORDS, SO IT DID NOT MAKE SENSE. QUESTIONS?”

“Sir” Andy made several corrections and criticisms which I detail un-redacted below.

In the second paragraph, first sentence regarding the phrase “A party of eight of us went to a gorge….” Sir Andy circled the two words “of us” and wrote in the margin: “Not necessary.”

I wrote in the margin under his comment: “Yes it is and does make sense!!!”

In the last paragraph, fourth sentence, “I was sure I was right on my first conclusion” Sir Andy put a big question marked and circled it, indicating he didn’t know what I meant.

I scrawled in the margin next to his circled question mark: “Just what I said!”

I wrote, in a summary of my response to his grading conclusions and skills in the returned paper to him addressing his criticisms and comments: “Your corrections do not make sense. You just want to find something wrong.”

Forty-one years later to the day, this now 53 year-old sticks by my then 12-year old comments as correct.

I was a difficult, problem child, I suppose.

And, reasonable people argue,  I am a difficult adult man.

But I still loathe to this day my early English teachers who did their best to suck the life out of a young child’s imagination, in the stead of nurturing and encouraging it.

We won’t even begin to speak of my 9th grade English teacher who failed me for starting my sentences with the word “and”.

I have made a point of starting sentences with the word “and” in hundreds of stories I have published as an adult professional writer in the ensuing years, and I think of him and smile each time. Well, and say a quiet “fuck you”, to be honest.

The check is rarely in the mail: The dark side of freelance journalists trying to get paid for their work

6 Aug

The check is rarely in the mail: The dark side of freelance journalists trying to get paid for their work

By Nate Thayer

August 6, 2013

There is only one thing more frustrating to freelance journalists than being asked by for profit companies to work for free.

That is being forced to spend months fighting, arguing, begging, threatening, cajoling, and renegotiating to, if you are lucky, actually get paid a portion of the compensation you were promised for the work you have already done.

Every freelance journalist, photographer, musician and creative artist on the planet knows exactly this scenario–how unethical, debilitating, frustrating, and sometimes humiliating this, routinely, is part of the everyday cadence of freelancers who make a living practicing their craft.

Here is a portion of the latest example of my being forced to divert my attention today from writing for a living to trying to get paid for that work already performed that has taken up much of my last few weeks.

Most every freelance journalist, and creative artist, will immediately recognize, and is all too familiar with the depressing, common scenario.

For much of May June and July, I was solicited and commissioned by a major Hong Kong based company which promotes Chinese direct investment in the U.S. economy, to write articles, copy edit, and provide other professional consultancy work to help them write a news letter, corporate brochures, and other English language documents.

For freelance news journalists, such work is often drudgery, and slightly demeaning, but necessary to supplement the dwindling opportunities to make a living as a journalist in these profoundly changing times for a free press in free societies.

The Hong Kong company has, to date, despite scores of attempts on my part, not paid a single dollar for these months of work.

Today, I received an email from them, after no response to increasingly strident messages from me since early July, saying they had no intention of paying me–at all–for the professional services they initiated, commissioned me for, and that I provided them.

It is, unfortunately, not an uncommon scenario faced by freelancers everywhere.

from:     XXXXXX<xxx.xxxx@xxxxxx.com>

to:          Nate Thayer <thayernate0007@gmail.com>

cc:          xxxxxx.xxxxxx@xxxxx.xxxx>

date:      Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 10:24 AM

subject: Response to second payment request

10:24 AM (3 hours ago)

Hello Nate,

Per your earlier request about $5980, I have discussed with xxx and here is our response.

You and I have agreed orally to work on the newsletter as a project and you have agreed to provide us with a compensation proposal during our first meeting in Caribou cafe on June 25th. However, you have failed to present us with that proposal. And the project didn’t yield much result because what you wrote was not usable for us. So I am afraid that we can’t pay you what you are asking for.

We appreciate your work and it’s regrettable that it didn’t work out well. I wish you best of luck with your career in the future.

Best,

xxxxxxxx

Communication Director

My Response:

Dear XXXX,

I think you must have sent me a message you intended for someone else, so I wanted to alert you so you could correct your error and direct it to the proper recipient.

This would save XXXXXX the embarrassment of being accused of being guilty of the most transparent, egregious, immoral, unethical and illegal business practices that are readily provable and evidenced by the mountain of documents from yourself and XXXXXX CEO XXXXXX to me soliciting my work, congratulating me on its quality, and repeatedly soliciting more work, which you acknowledged, approved and thanked me for, in writing, throughout June and July 2013.

There is an off chance that you actually didn’t push the wrong send button, and you actually seriously meant to tell me that you don’t intend to pay me for the 62 hours of work (which was an extremely generous and conservative invoice of my time and efforts made on your behalf in June and July, taking into account that you repeatedly missed deadlines, changed your requests, asked me to standby for urgent deadline work requests which then didn’t materialize, and other bumps and starts which I attributed to your lack of experience or knowledge of the production requirements of putting out a quality newsletter).

This is work you solicited and I performed at the request of you and XXXXXX CEO XXXXXXX that you are now in default in paying me the $5890.00 you owe.

If by some unfathomable chance you have taken leave of your sanity, and you actually intended to say that XXXXX, after contacting me and securing my professional services 2 months ago, in which the physical records of  several hundred exchanges of emails, documents, text messages, Skype conversations, phone calls, conference calls between you, I , and XXXXX CEO XXXXX in Hong Kong, and personnel meetings, all of which document with indisputable clarity me having provided those professional services at your request and the request of XXXXX CEO XXXXX to XXXXXX during that period and are in my possession, that XXXXXXXX does not owe me compensation and payment of $5890.00 for providing my services, please clarify to me why the fuck not, promptly.

Two months after I began working for you, in which you have repeatedly delayed living up to your singular end of the deal—to pay me for my fucking work—you are now seriously contending that I didn’t work for you and you didn’t use my services at your request and initiation and are refusing to pay me?

Really?

As a matter of advice, it might be in your much better interest to rethink that strategy in your rather bizarre attempt to renege on having to live up to your promises and obligations to pay for the services you solicited, contracted, and received.

Here are some random samples of scores of quotes from your own messages to me that obviously shows that your suggestion that you did not agree to pay me or use my work you contracted me to perform for XXXXX, is ludicrous.

By my rough count, there were approximately 327 exchanges of emails, text messages, Skype conversations, Dropbox documents, phone calls, conference calls, and personal meetings in June and July between you, I, and XXXXXX CEO XXXXXXX.

From XXXXXX CEO XXXXXXXX to me on June 30:

On Sun, Jun 30, 2013 at 11:45 PM,  XXXXXX  wrote:

Nate

Thanks for your notes, these are my feedback, I have not talked with Min, but wanted to send this to you first, let’s discuss and get this moving.

Thanks

XXXXXXX

President & CEO

XXXXXXXX

From XXXXXXX to me and XXXXX CEO XXXXXXXXX July 1:

Hello Nate,

The newsletter outline is right on track. We have some comments to share with you. Please see the attachment. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Best,

XXXXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXXXXX

From me to XXXXXXX Chairman XXXXXX and Communications Director XXXXXX July 1:

XXXXXX:

See my comments highlighted in yellow below.

I thought the comments and suggestions were all spot on, useful, and good.

Cheers,

Nate

From XXXXXX to me July 1:

Hello Nate,

please find the attachment with our comments in red underline. We are riding on a good momentum here, please let us know your plan going forward.

Good luck with moving today!

XXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXXXX

From XXXXXX CEO XXXXXX July 1:

date:      Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 12:28 AM

subject: Re: Thanks for your notes

Hi Nate,

thank you, this is exciting to find a passionate, professional writer we can rely on.

July 2 email from XXXXXX to me:

Hello Nate,

We have drafted a Newsletter table of content, which includes the three articles that you are working on and also another 12 articles which we found “fit to print”. All of them need to be worked out this week. Next to you, XXXXX and myself will take up some writing. I just sent an email to our team for TOC comments and inputs. Here I am sharing with you.

Best,

XXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXX

XXXXXX Newsletter Table of Content for Your Comments

Dear colleagues,

We are redesigning the XXXXX newsletter. The newsletter will demonstrate our mission in building bridges between US and China, inform the readers about XXXXX developments and create a platform for XXXXX partners, XXXXX communities and XXXXX past events participants to contribute to XXXXX mission. The newsletter will have print and online edition and will contain texts, photos and videos.

Since the last time some of you saw the newsletter index, we have made quite some changes and renamed it as Table of Contents. Please take a look at the latest XXXXXXX Newsletter Table of Contents ( TOC) and share with me your comments.  This TOC is designed primarily for the English newsletter, although we plan to let the Chinese newsletter to keep most of these items if not all.

Each numerical item represent a section and an article. Articles will generally be between 300 – 600 words, with one or multiple photos. We have set up 15 sections, which roughly doubles what we used to publish. Even though XXXXX, Nate ( outsourced writer ) and myself will take up majority of the writing, there are five articles that currently don’t have author. I highlighted them in yellow and if you are interested to produce any of these articles, please send an email to me.

Because we are working on a tight schedule, I’d like to ask you to please provide your comments before July 3rd, 6 pm EST.

Thank you!

From a July 8 email to me from XXXXX on XXXXXX official email:

Hello Nate,

Thank you for submitting the three articles. They are well developed, only need some minor adjustment, which we will mark out tonight. The newsletter is moving quickly. We plan to publish it this Friday. I have a translated article that needs some copy editing. I will send it to you in a separate email in an hour or so. I can see that you have put in a lot of effort, and I hope we can find a time to have coffee and recap after the dusts are settled.”

Or another message from XXXXX to me on July 8:

“Hello again,

I am sending you the short article that need some copy editing. This one can be worked out after you finish with article 2 and 3 revision. It’s a straight forward article, just need to smooth out and make it read like a 1st tier professional English news media article.”

Email to me from XXXXXX from July 11:

Hello Nate,

We are entering the final stages in the newsletter production. Let me give you an update since yesterday.

1. XXXXX approved all the section names and the article 2-4 packaging change.

2. Two more article folders are ready for copy editing. My colleagues sent me stories for article 7 and 8.

So for today, could you first finish the final copy editing for articles 7-15? Some of these are short articles. To purpose is to smooth the language, final round check. Some of the articles are already copy edited by you, such as # 9, 10, 12. Some are functional pieces, such as # 8, 11. For these kind, little changes maybe needed, but I still hope you simply go over them to approve the language for the last round.

For this kind of editing, because no big changes are needed, so there is no need for you to turn on track changes. If you want to show me places that you are unclear about or need me to look at afterwards, please highlight them in yellow.

Can you get this done before 5 pm today? And please send them in one by one as you finish copy editing.

After that, can you add a forth paragraph to dropbox article 2 to summarize what to be expect in the following three articles ?

XXXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXXX

There are dozens more, but I think you get the point.

I know you are young, inexperienced, and new to my country, and I know these kinds of unethical business practices are routine in your home country of the People’s Republic of China, so here is a bit of unsolicited advice to avoid unnecessary headaches for you as you start your budding career doing business in the properly organized world: Pay your fucking bills; pay them on time; don’t try and steal other people’s work; and live up to your promises.

One’s reputation as a person and a business of honor and integrity is important in a business environment driven by the rule of law and ethical conduct.

Given XXXXXXX singular mandate, using the company slogan “Building Trust, Creating Jobs”, is to promote Chinese direct investment in the United States by easing concerns among Americans and economic development officials that such investment will not be tainted by China’s well-earned reputation of using dubious business practices to make a fast buck and undermine the interests of those it is conducting business with, the irony of XXXXXX refusing to pay a contracted employee (that would be me) for services XXXXXX solicited, is a more than a tad ripe.

Please let me know if perhaps you have misspoken and let me know sometime in the next three hours.

On a positive note, I do think that your particularly stark attempt to refuse to live up to your legal and ethical responsibilities by trying to wangle out of paying for the services you solicited, contracted, and received, does make for a perfect case study of what thousands of freelance journalists and other producers of creative products face daily and are all too familiar with.

On a more negative note, for you in any case, I assure you, have fucked with the wrong person.

If you are under the delusion that you will not very much regret not having the $5890.00 in my bank account by the end of the business day Wednesday, August 7, you would be mistaken.

With all sincerity,

Nate Thayer

Within two hours of me sending this email, the Chinese company communication director rang me on the phone, attempting to argue they had no legal obligation to pay me anything.

“Let me be clear here. Fuck you! You either have $5890.00 wired and in my my account by the close of business day Wednesday August 7, or you will, I assure you, regret you were ever under the profound miss-impression that retaining my professional services could be had without living up to your end of the pretty simple arrangement—pay me my fucking money! This is not a matter of discussion, little less negotiation.”

She then offered me $1500.00

“Fuck you! You will pay the $5890.00 you owe me and a wire transfer in my bank account with that $5980.00 by the close of business Wednesday, August 7.”

“I will let you know our decision,” she said before I hung up the phone.

3 minutes later, my phone rang. It was the company CEO from Hong Kong. The conversation was civil and polite and clear. He agreed to send the money owed me by wire transfer immediately, today Hong Kong time.

But it took 3 weeks of dozens of increasingly acrimonious messages exchanged, a considerable amount of angst, and an entirely unnecessary and distracting amount of effort to simply get paid what had been agreed long ago was the amount owed me.

I estimate I spend 40% of my time negotiating payment and then trying to get those who commissioned my writing and agreed to compensate me for it to live up to their agreement to do so.

It is hard enough to make a living as a freelance journalist these days, but it is made infinitely more difficult by those who commission one’s work, invariably under the pressure of tight deadlines, and then give no priority to living up to their side of the agreement to fairly compensate you.

I detest it. And I, for one, am fed up with it.

Within hours of receiving my above message, the $5890.00 was transferred by wire to my bank account.

Another unpleasant day distracted from focusing on the only thing I do know what to do—write.

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