Dear Facebook Feed, Why so Political? (aka: bring back the cats)

You’ve probably noticed it too: Facebook has once again become overly political. I haven’t noticed it this bad since the 2016 election cycle. The uproar this time is about immigration and families and children and … you know, all that other political stuff that shouldn’t be in my Facebook feed.

Yes, we are friends, and I wouldn’t mind talking with you about politics, you know, like sitting down and actually chatting back and forth like a dialogue, of two people, who use logic, and reason, and discuss, even if they don’t agree … I wouldn’t mind that, dear friend, but what exactly are you proving or doing or saying by putting that politically charged article link or meme on my Facebook feed?

Are you trying to persuade someone? You aren’t?

Are you looking for a hopelessly purposeless argument? You may get one.

If you really want to affect change or convince people to act, then do it in an appropriate forum.

HINT: Facebook is not an appropriate forum.

What is an appropriate forum? Well, hey, go argue with someone in the comments on HuffPost or Fox News.  Go to a political rally. Go walk around with a sign in front of the White House. Preach all you want, yell all you want, show everyone how smart you are and how informed you are. Do it.

Just not on my Facebook feed.

Seriously, why are you preaching to your friends? If your friends agree with you then you aren’t changing anything only preaching to the choir. Amen!

If your friends don’t agree with you, you are just causing them angst that their feed is filling up with stuff they don’t want to see. And, no, you won’t change their point of view.

No, you won’t.

So really, my friend, your political posts on Facebook serve no purpose. None. Except possibly annoy people.

So from now on, please …

  • show me what you had for dinner
  • let me see the cake you baked for your daughter’s birthday
  • tell me about your trip to Spain
  • share with me your heartaches and what I can do to help
  • tell me where you are, maybe we can meet up
  • cats, go ahead, post stupid cat videos

I prefer a Facebook to be about friends, not politics.

Now, I do love talking politics. I’d be happy to meet and chat with you one day. But let’s do it face-to-face as adults.  We may not agree with each other on everything, but that’s all right. We will still end the evening as friends.

But if politics continue to show up in my Facebook feed, I can’t make that guarantee.

Facebook Fatigue

I used to love Facebook.

But as I’m sure you’ve noticed, its become toxic.

Why can’t we be friends without discussing politics? Please, add as many cat memes as possible, but is it really the place to be discussing immigration policy?

And yet, I find myself commenting on any number of threads. I cannot not comment. Especially after I sine the inane comments, the misinformation, the outright falsehoods, and the mystifying beliefs which are not based on any facts whatsoever.

Or at least that’s from my own point of view. And everyone else has their own point of view. A billion points of view which are based and shaped by those other billion people turn out to be not so helpful after all.

And so I wonder why I continue to be a Facebook warrior. Why can’t I let people wallow in their own incompetence. I’m sure they let me wallow in mine. Why can’t I let a snide comment go? Why do I have to add to the toxic environment? Why do I insist on mindlessly scrolling through everyone else’s political comments knowing I’ll simply think they are idiots. (as they think the same as me) Why? Why? Why?

The better question is: why don’t I quit Facebook?

I do wish someone would pay me to be a truth warrior on Facebook, countering every false meme and ridiculous comments with obnoxious statements based on fact and actual research. I could spend a year on my own newsfeed countering the misinformation. Anyone want to sponsor me? $50,000 should do it. I will make you proud. I’ll produce quotes, facts, laws, research, history, and common sense to defend those who blast against the decency of truth. I’ll do it. I have a computer and I’m willing to use it.

Facebook has put me on the edge. But I’m not likely to jump anytime soon. I’ll probably keep my scrolling habits in place. Unfortunately.

Facebook fatigue is a real thing. And I live there.

 

Let’s Hope 2016 Does Not Become the New 1968

Martin Luther King Jr. said the following at the Washington National Cathedral in March of 1968:

“I don’t like to predict violence, but if nothing is done between now and June to raise ghetto hope, I feel this summer will not only be as bad but worse than last year.”

Unfortunately, he was right. The year 1968 turned out to be one of the years of greatest turmoil in modern US history. The assassination of King – the assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy – the stifling heat of the inner-city ghettos, raising tension and diminishing hope on the many minorities who had seen the progress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but had yet to experience their promise. The country boiled to a breaking point as riots, protests, and violence dominated the summer.

In light of recent history (Ferguson, Baltimore) and the events of this past week (police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota and the murder of five policemen in Dallas), the summer of 2016 does not look promising. Further putting tension on alert is the contentious 2016 US presidential election cycle between Donald Trump (R) and Hillary Clinton (D).

People are angry. On both sides of the congressional aisle. People are angry. On both sides of the political spectrum.

With the Republican Convention right around the corner, one can only imagine the protests and confrontations which await Cleveland. Trump is certainly a polarizing figure, but that never justifies violence and law breaking.

Police departments around the country are on edge, and rightly so. It is difficult enough to be a policeman in this country, but the toxic environment in which we now live makes confrontation and misery to be the new norm. I’m sad to say, we probably haven’t seen the last loss of life this summer.

But in my estimation, what is ultimately more important for our democracy, is that we must not shrink away from robust political debate simply because someone might be offended and it might lead to violence. No. We need political debate more than ever in this country. We must stand absolutely against violence, intimidation, and the inflaming of the electorate. But we must also stand absolutely for our rights of freedom of speech, petition to address grievances, and the right to peacefully demonstrate.

We cannot allow the haters and inflamers – from both sides of the political spectrum – to hijack this election. We need calming, cooling heads of reason to win the day and push back against the violence. The calming voices are there, again on both sides.

I firmly believe that both political sides have more in common than everyone thinks. We all want an open society where we, all of us from every background, can live out our days in the pursuit of happiness. We all want police departments which function to protect all in society. We all want peace. We all want equality and a color-blind justice system. We all want the ability to rejoice in victory and mourn in defeat without having to worry about a violent push-back.

Let’s pray that in spite of the great many difficulties facing America this summer, that calmer heads and reasonable minds will emerge victorious, and the best of America will emerge out of the chaos.

A Father’s Day Lament: Don’t Mislabel People.

As Father’s Day was approaching, I got to thinking about a post I published about my father about a year and half ago. It was a meaningful post to me for a couple reasons. One, it honors my father and how he lived his life. Two, it dispels (at least in my view) much of the left-wing narrative about how right-wingers don’t care about the environment. And this politically charged environment which is constantly being primed by the non-stop, agenda-driven media (on all sides!), I thought it was appropriate to post again. Labeling people one way or another is not only unfair, it will (most likely) end up being extremely inaccurate. Our society likes to think in black and white terms. In left and right terms. But people and life and reality are really not that way. So anything I can do to dispel such silly notions, I will certainly try to do.

So for Father’s Day, my wish is that we stop putting people in boxes. But for some reason, I get the feeling a Clinton-Trump election will not stop doing that. Oh well. Here’s my part.

Happy Father’s Day!

——————————————————————————————————————–

“The Problem with Politically-Charged Labels. An Example from my Father.”

This is not a post about either side of the Global Warming mud-throwing match which goes on in politics and academia.

This is a simple post to dispel a certain narrative that exists about “right-wing, conservative, Christian fundamentalists” who dismiss global warming and who don’t care about the environment.

I’ve seen plenty of these kinds of talking points in my day. I contend that such a narrative is misguided. My father is the proof.

Upon first glance, he would seem to fit the mold of a person that certain left-wing environmentalists would heap scorn upon. They would certainly be wrong to do so.

Not because of ideology or politics. Not at all. They would have plenty to disagree with my father concerning politics and religion. My father has always been a Republican. He is certainly conservative, and he is a Bible-believing Christian.

Has he already been pigeon-holed? Would left-wingers quickly cast him aside into a certain box? Regardless of how some people might label him, he is the most environmentally conscious person I know. Consider this:

  • He gardens. He’s one of the best gardeners I’ve ever seen. Mulch and compost. The whole works.
  • All that gardening is used for canning. Lots of canning, especially when all the kids were still at home. Re-usable Mason jars. I wonder how many decades they have been used.
  • He’s the most diligent recycler I’ve ever seen. Obsessive in sorting out the containers, throwing organic matter on his compost pile, of course.
  • He is obsessive about keeping unnecessary lights off. When I was putting in a router for the house’s computer, he was quite concerned when I told him that it had to be kept on at all times. It seemed to him like such a waste of electricity. And when I was growing up, how many lectures did I have about turning off the lights when I left a room?
  • His car tires are always pumped to optimum level. (unlike me. oops!)
  • In the winter, the furnace (an extremely efficient one) is kept at about 68 degrees. We freeze when we visit, but the savings is tangible. He has a wood-burning stove in the basement that further helps to keep the electricity usage down. The trees are from his own property.
  • He has been upset and complaining for years about the corrupt oil companies who have been gorging the pockets of American citizens while rolling in record profits. He tells me how all those oil companies are in cahoots with the government, which has done nothing to curtail their power.
  • He has been tracking his gas mileage for years, trying to figure out ways to increase it. He is always eager to investigate new devices which claim to raise mileage significantly. He has said time and again that the big three auto makers have purposely put  many innovations out of business by buying them out just so they can hold onto to their monopoly. And so they can continue their cozy relationship with big oil.
  • He collects rain water off the roof in order to water the garden when the weather is dry. Or he uses it to flush the toilets in times when rain has been few and far between.
  • In the summer months, especially, their water usage from their well is very strict. It is never wasted.
  • When at all possible, laundry is dried outside in the sunshine.
  • He is keenly interested in wind and solar power.
  • He never buys anything he doesn’t need. He always uses everything he already has.

I know I’m missing some stuff here, but perhaps this gives you the proper picture of what I’m talking about.

Don’t actions speak much louder than words? Isn’t my father the perfect example of someone who cares deeply about our environment and lives it out in his everyday life?

Isn’t this exactly the behavior that the so-called left-wing environmentalists are trying to encourage? If people act like this, who cares what they think about global warming because they are doing more than their share to take care of the environment.

This shows me just how silly labels really are, and I’m sure there’s another example out there which could be written coming from the opposite ideology and perspective.

I’m thankful for my dad and the great example he gave me about taking care of the earth. I hope I can do the same with one caveat. The next time I live in North America, I’m not sure that a 68-degree thermostat in the winter is going to work for me. Just saying.

I Want a Politician Who Stands Up for Everyone

The mayor of San Jose was quoted the other day as criticizing Donald Trump for running the type of campaign which riles up people and causes problems. This in response to the rough treatment that some Trump supporters received after leaving a Trump rally in San Jose. He said, in effect, that Trump has to be held accountable for people who show up outside his rallies and break the law.

What?

Is it any wonder that people are upset with the system when politicians care more about hurt feelings from words than protecting the most basic of all American ideals: freedom of speech? People are sick and tired of lawbreakers who are given the benefit of the doubt while the law abiders – no matter how annoying they are — being called out.

Here’s what the mayor of any city should be doing: he should make sure the police are following the law to ensure anyone attending any political rally is not physically hurt or threatened in any way – regardless of who is speaking.

A mayor should chastise any movement – even if he agrees with its aims – if it crosses the line and becomes anything other than a peaceful protest.

A mayor should choose the side of free speech, and espouse everyone’s rights to proclaim their beliefs – even if they are unpopular.

A mayor should be able to tell the difference between free speech and a lump on the head. There is no justifiable correlation here. (in 99.9% of situations)

A mayor does not have to like the Donald Trumps of this world, but a mayor should defend Trump’s right to say what he likes. It’s the American way. It’s what sustains democracies.

The San Jose mayor has fallen to the more and more common political correct, non-American way by blaming those who speak unpopular sentiments, pandering to the political, and being a party-man in all that he does.

Is it any wonder that so many folks are sick of politicians?

 

Trump did it. Everybody was wrong.

I, like nearly everyone else, did not think Trump would be in this for the long haul. Surely, he would fade. Surely, his ridiculous statements would be his downfall. Surely, a more standard politician would rise to the top. Surely, surely, surely … it just can’t be.

But it is. Trump has secured enough nomination votes to be the Republican nominee.

Wow! He did it.

So anyone who thinks they know what is going to happen in November is simply full of it. This is the most unpredictable election year ever. All bets are off. I’m not a gambling man, and it’s a good thing.

This Trump vs. Clinton election cycle will be one of the wildest ever. Really, can’t you wait to see the debates between these two? It’s going to be hysterical or really, really sad. But still hysterical.

Whatever conventional wisdom remains concerning Trump should be thrown out the window. The democrats should be shaking in their boots right now, because Hillary is looking like a very beatable candidate, and the Donald isn’t going to let up on her.

Sure there are MANY Donald detractors, and they aren’t going to be won over. And Trump still could burn and crash and come back to earth at some point. Hillary could beat him, possibly even by a big margin. But if I had to predict today, I think Donald will win – probably by a large margin. I keep hearing things like: “I don’t like what Trump says, but I decided to vote for him anyways, just to stick it to those politicians in Washington!” That’s a powerful incentive for large swaths of the country – stick it those who have betrayed them. (or something like that)

But there I am, making foolish predictions on the most unpredictable race ever. Anything can and probably will happen.

And that could include Sanders sticking around forever to see if anything seriously harmful will happen to Clinton. (aka FBI & Inspector General report) Much has been said of the crazy Republican primary, but the Democratic side has been equally chaotic. Sanders must be driving the Democratic establishment bonkers!

As a political junkie, this is a race made in heaven. It’s been fun already, and honestly, it’s just getting started.

Trump vs. Clinton. Who would have thought? Basically, nobody.

Puerto Rican Default. When will governments learn? Probably never.

As an individual, you spend what you have. If you spend what you don’t have, people, and I’m talking highly motivated financial-type of people, aggressively come after you. It will hurt. And sure, there are plenty of individuals in this world who have gotten themselves over their head in debt, but for the most people, most people realize that if you don’t have the money, you don’t spend it. Or their will be consequences.

In walks Puerto Rico. About ten years ago, Congress got rid of a favored tax cut which had kept many pharmaceutical companies thriving on the US territory. But after the tax cuts expired, the businesses bolted, and so did jobs and revenue.

So, in order to make up the deficits, the governor of Puerto Rico did what any good lead would – he borrowed the money so he wouldn’t have to cut spending so it would align itself with reality. Who in government wants to live in reality? Just borrow, and let the next fool worry about it.

Well, the future is here. Puerto Rico just defaulted on hundreds of millions of loan repayments. Your past will always catch up with you.

I guess Greece didn’t serve as a big enough lesson. How many hundreds of billions of Euros do they owe?  Didn’t they have a more than billion loan default last summer? The Greek gods are cranky, that’s for sure, and their wrath is being felt on the beautiful home of Roberto Clemente.

What’s next? A bailout? Should the American tax payers dish out billions of dollars to keep the island afloat? Is it too much to ask to have responsible politicians who care more about a stable economy and less about a stable constituency?

I believe the answer to that, going by historical data, is YES! Politicians can’t be responsible. Is it any wonder that the country is fed up and is blowing-up the political establishment this year?

Who is it that gets caught in the cross-hairs of poorly planned government? Those who no longer have a job. Those who see “non-essential” programs like art and band cut from their schools. Those who have been promised the world and end up with a pile of debt on their shoulders which will eventually make its way to their children.

When will we ever learn? When will we spend what we have? Borrow only under extraordinary circumstances, and create an environment where innovation and the pursuit of happiness will trump the rival fears of trying to buy votes with shoddy economic schemes?

When?

Not in my lifetime.

Are older people smarter?

Don’t you find it fascinating that Bernie Sanders’ core support is from the under 30 demographic?

Why is that?

I’ve thought a lot about this lately. Is it because they like his rhetoric? “We’ve been screwed by the large corporations!” “They’ve made the playing field unfair for this generation.”

Is it because they have had fewer life experiences? Will these same people buy into the Sanders’ philosophy after 20 more years?

Is it because they can’t get a job, so the prospect of paying exorbitant taxes seems remote or even alien to them?

What makes the older people in America cast aside Sanders’ message more readily?

I don’t really have any answers to this, but I do find it quite interesting. It could be that the label “socialist” has a completely different meaning to the older generation than the younger. Socialism for anyone over 40 brings back images of the Soviet Union, Tienanmen Square, Vietnam, and a host of other visuals which aren’t easily removed from one’s psyche.

For an unemployed college age kid, Sanders’ message certainly does resonate. Free college. Why should you have to pay such exorbitant fees while many get rich off the scheme? I’ve put one kid through college and have another one in college. I’m all too familiar with the ridiculous cost of higher education.

What about healthcare? Who doesn’t think the US healthcare system is broken? The fees are ridiculous, especially after comparing the coverage and care and price I receive in Malaysia. Great, fast service, high quality care, at a fraction of the cost. So when Sanders’ talks about giving everyone healthcare run by the government, it sound appealing. But really, when’s the last time the government ran a program that large efficiently and responsibly? And really, for 320 million people? Really? You actually think the government could pull this off? They can’t even give our vets proper care.

And what about the fat-cat Wall Street executives who seem to be Sanders’ scapegoat for everything? They are surely an easy target. They are living large and have enjoyed a cozy relationship with government and political entities for as long as … well … as long as there has been governments, I suppose. It’s easy to wave your finger and yell “$15 minimum wage” when you’ve never run a business. It’s easy to accuse the rich of rigging the system when you can’t find a job. I get it.

But here’s where I get off the circus ride. No one owes you anything. America was founded on the ideal of freedom and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t begrudge anyone of any millions of dollars that they have earned legally. (If, by chance, they’ve earned it illegally, by all means go after them.) But if they’ve stayed within the law, tip your cap to their ingenuity and move on. We have to create our own happiness. We have to live our lives for ourselves, and we can’t rely on any big brother to swoop in and prop us up. We have to embrace our freedom, cherish it, live for it, protect it, and never let any politician try to diminish it.

So young people, you absolutely have the right to believe what you want and support any political candidate of your choosing. That’s the American way. At least until it isn’t.

Maybe It’s the Podium That Makes People Say Stupid Things

For the past nine months, we’ve seen plenty of politicians say stupid things. Trump is probably leading the pack in the jaw-dropping odd, weird, or just plain stupid department. But he’s not alone. I’ve also found myself shaking my head at Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, and others (used in an all-inclusive sense.)

But it wasn’t until this week that I had an amazing revelation. The cause of all this stupidity might not trace itself back to any mis-firing of a brain synapse. I discovered that the reason for stupidity might be more of an environmental factor – one that, oddly enough, is related to furniture. A podium to be more precise.

Yes, it’s true. The podium made them say it.

How do I know this? I discovered this quite inadvertently as I introduced a new drama game into our theatre arts classroom. A game I called “press conference.”

The premise is simple. I give one person a scenario and they come to the podium and say “and now I’ll take some questions” and the rest of the students have to act as reporters asking questions about the given scenario. Some scenarios I used were:

  • You are a police chief reporting on two prisoners who escaped from a penitentiary.
  • You are a town mayor dedicating a new park.
  • You are a politician who has been accused of corruption.
  • You are a presenter at a healthcare conference, introducing a new line of skin care products.

You get the idea. The game started, and the class joined in with much gusto. It quickly became lively as the person at the podium would have to answer the sometimes antagonistic questions.

And then it started happening. Insults. Rude comments. Stupid comments. The person behind the podium began to sound like … gasp … Trump!  It was glorious! I told the class that I wanted to rename the game to “How to be the Donald!”

Now all of our stupid comments and rude posturing was all in good fun. No one got hurt. No one cried, and we had a blast playing the game. But I couldn’t help but think that something happens to one’s brain as you stand behind the podium. People become aggressive, illogical, and somewhat stupid-sounding.

It’s the podium! Podium syndrome. Why even the POTUS had a podium moment the other day when he said, “we defeat ISIS, in part, when we tell them that they are weak.”  Really? That’s all we need to do?

It happens to the best of us. Podium-itis.

So don’t be too hard on Trump. It’s that wooden piece of furniture in front of him. Perhaps we should build a wall around it.

Hey Belgian Prime Minister, Perhaps a Little Rowdiness is What’s Needed

Supposed “right wing” demonstrators in Belgium defied the authorities in Brussels today and held a demonstration against terrorism in the wake of the Brussels bombing.

ChannelnewsAsia reported this:

“It is highly inappropriate that protesters have disrupted the peaceful reflection at the Bourse (stock exchange). I strongly condemn these disturbances,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said according to Belga news agency.

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said the group were “scoundrels”.

Let me just add a few things about this incident. The demonstrators may have been “scoundrels” – I have no way to verify this. Perhaps they were rude and crude. Perhaps they stole Belgiun frites from a local vendor. Perhaps they earned the scoundrel title.

On the other hand, perhaps the government term scoundrel means something very different. Perhaps it’s someone who has the gall to go against the government. In that case, I would guess that the suicide bombers would indeed be called scoundrels if not something worse. (I hope the government called them something worse.)

“I strongly condemn these disturbances!”

Me too. Oh wait, he’s talking about the terrorism protesters.

“It is highly inappropriate!”

Oh yeah, once again he’s talking about the protesters who were upset at the bombings.

I honestly don’t know anything about Belgium politics. I spent a few days in Brugges last summer and learned a lot about Belgium fries, Belgium chocolate, and other Belgium delicacies, but I didn’t learn anything about Belgium politics.

But I do have an observation. Perhaps these people needed to protest! Perhaps these people are upset beyond reason at the security gaps which helped lead to these events. Perhaps the government should encourage more people to get angry. Not rowdy. Not disrespectful. But angry. I think anger is an OK response to such an event. Why do only “right wing” people have anger? Do you mean “left-wing” folks don’t have the same passion and angst over such an attack?  Of course that’s nonsense.

And so are these silly little words from the Belgium Prime Minister. Perhaps people are angry because the government is spending too much of its time calling out “inappropriate” demonstrations which are completely appropriate in the light of what happened.

Let people show their anger. Perhaps it might just lead to some much needed change.