Category: The Barbour

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American Woman

“Thank you!” was what she said when Sean “largest crowd in history, period” Spicer criticized her on Twitter. Andrea Mitchell called for the White House Correspondence folk to publicly apologize for Wolf’s words, the same Andrea Mitchell who did nothing when her colleague Chuck Todd was attacked by Trump twice calling him “sleepy eyed Chuck Todd” and “a sleepy eyed sonuvabitch.” They defended Kellyanne Conway too, saying Wolf went too far with her as well, the same Conway that created the term “alternative facts” in a defense to a blatant lie that no one is really sure, to this day, why Spicey insisted on standing his ground over. And don’t forget the Bowling Greene Massacre. But Wolf went too far, so far that two days after the infamous dinner, we are all still asking if it was wrong or appropriate. Well I have the answer: Flint still doesn’t have clean water.

In the 19 minute roast, Wolf did what looked like amateur hour for this administration. The biggest difference: in her vulgarity filled roast, a massive amount of truth bombs went off, making the room even more uncomfortable – something the White House and its current staff know nothing about. In fact, they spend most of their time defusing truths so they can cover them in a lie case that shields everyone from the explosion.

For all of those that want to whine about her language, I would suggest checking where she was at the time. She was at the one event that each year celebrates free speech. If you’re offended, don’t invite a well known risqué comedian to a first amendment celebration and tell her to keep a lid on it.

Have any of you idiots who are responsible ever actually watched her on The Daily Show? Did you miss her HBO special? Did you think that the wise mouth girl from Comedy Central would actually be nice enough to kiss your asses?

What Wolf accomplished Saturday night is nothing short of pure genius. She did what she was expected to do: she torched an absent Trump in a series of appropriately inappropriate jokes and jabs. She took the key women of the administration to task over their failures in a time when women are gaining more and more ground in the power struggle between the sexes. But most importantly, the moment she “lost the room” was when she went after the press. CNN has broken the news, MSNBC is less a news organization and more like a tragedy of an American family, and Fox News is nothing more than an old man plotting the next time he can chemically seduce an unsuspecting woman into sex. She took a shot at Hannity by not taking one, using his own words against him. She pointed to the way #MeToo has lost steam. She offered herself up to a Michael Cohen payoff. She summarized every Thanksgiving dinner in a simple sentence: “Milk comes from nuts now, all ’cause of the gays.”

But most impressive is not the shots at Sanders, which people can’t seem to shut up about, but the following quip:

You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.

It was at this moment that truth ran headlong into the headline makers who, all of sudden, began Tweeting that she had gone too far – about Sanders.

She shouldn’t have said that about Sanders. I can’t believe she’d say that with WHPS sitting right there. Sanders is brave for sitting there through it. WHCD should apologize for Wolf attacking Sanders looks which Wolf never mentioned.

They did just what she accused them of. And by Monday afternoon, they were making bank off Wolf’s portrayal of Sanders, a part of the Trump White House. Part of the machine that is driving our culture into the ground. And they will continue to ride the wave of her 19 minutes all week.

The obsession with the Trump White House is addictive, consuming, and a vortex that leads nowhere. We’re even guilty of falling into the Trump trap here at The BetaFiles. It’s hard to stay out of the hole. But I think the message we can take away from her “vulgar display” is not the shots she took at Trump, but the ray of light she shined back at the press. The power elite that is supposed to be the voice of the people on Saturday and Sunday were proven to be nothing more than power elite who speak to and for themselves. A Trump Truth come to fruition. Self-fulfilling prophesy that has hurt the press more than Trump’s insistence that its all fake news.

She didn’t do it to them as so many in the press are accusing, rather they did it to themselves by reacting the way they did.

And they missed her harshest critique of both the Administration and the press: the story no one is covering; the same story the Trump White House is ignoring; the very symbol of multiple massive atrocities that the press should be covering into the ground until Washington listens and does something but instead has lost interest and, as a result the story, like so many that it represents, has fallen to the wayside to be forgotten.

Flint still doesn’t have clean water.

American Pie

I was listening to NPR the other day, and they ran a story on the current Conservative arm of our culture. What stood out in the piece was the message, over and over, that true Conservative voices have been lost to the culture war – and after they laid out the points of their argument – they’re right. This simple fact is (to be quite blunt and honest) the most dangerous aspect of our current culture, and for that reason, we are in grave trouble.

Jonah Goldberg recently went on The Daily Show to discuss his new book Suicide of the West and noted that the divide in the country is so deep that the middle has been lost. From the NPR piece noted above, Goldberg explained:

You know, this is how the center doesn’t hold, is when people start [to] sort of, you know, partly out of a understandable sense of frustration, but nonetheless starting to embrace the kind of tribalism that says, there is no unum. There is only pluribus. And that’s a real, real problem.

Goldberg, and so many other conservatives, are pointing to a huge problem in America: the consequences of a culture war that has been won and exploited by one side. Conservative writer John Hawkins explains in detail how the left’s conquering of our cultural landscape has affected the everyday Conservative:

…a Republican guy gets up. And he reads his liberal college newspaper, and he turns on a TV show where he’s insulted. And then he’s, like, ah, jeez. Well, maybe I’ll just unwind and watch, you know, an awards show. Well, it’s the Oscars or something where he gets trashed all day long. This is sort of like a pervasive all-out attack if you’re a conservative, and it’s [an] all the time sort of thing.

It is because of this phenomenon that Trump carried the vote in 2016. He called directly to the group of Conservatives that felt they had been left behind, noting in his acceptance on election night, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” In hindsight, we now understand what he was talking about. On election night, and through a few of the more hair raising events of the past year-and-a-half, Liberal bias painted those “men and women” as backwoods, rural, uneducated voters who heard a recycled tag line, and pushed the Electoral College into his favor. However, the reality is that the forgotten men and women are the true Conservative voices that once made up the core of the Republican party. These same voices have not just been pushed out by the Liberal factions of our country, but also by their own peers as the Republican party has been the victim of a fringe group of extreme right wing views that do not fully embrace compromise. And to be fair, the same thing has happened on the left as the Democratic party has been lost to extreme liberal views without care of the moderate voices that demand both liberal and conservative values.

What happens when the word “Conservative” is mentioned is nothing short of a cringe as visions of Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reily come rushing to the forefront of our minds. Alex Jones produces angry eye-rolls. These are the conservative voices that dominate our current climate, with very few level headed Conservative voices are being allowed to seep through.

On the other side of the aisle, Liberal voices like Joy Reid, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, and Don Lemon push extreme left wing views without acknowledgement of a middle area where true compromise can be made. They focus on how horrible and stupid Trump is while FoxNews and Sinclair focus on how great he is and how the “media” is tainted against him.

The reality is that we have lost our ability to debate and compromise because we are being told there is no middle anymore. And to that, I call BS.

What both sides need to understand can be broken down into 3 simple points:

  • You are not going to get everything you ask for – in fact, you’ll be lucky to get a fraction of what you want. In our current climate, there is so much diversity in our society that there is no possible way that you can easily give every group a lot of what they want. Its impossible. Fight for what you know you can get and what can benefit the largest portion of our culture. Someone somewhere is not going to be able to benefit from what we want, so it comes down to how can we affect change for the largest portion of who will benefit. That’s how Democracy REALLY works.
  • It is time to eject the extreme voices that dominate opinion. We have heard complaint after complaint for the past several years that the media is losing itself to ratings. SO QUIT WATCHING. Turn off CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC so we can demand better, more moderate voices that understand compromise means losing sometimes. Our problem is that we have allowed these talking heads to gain power in our conversations, and they are pushing extreme views from both sides. We have to get rid of Maddow and Hannity and find more Tappers and Todds. There is no reason we should have to listen to them any more. Jon Stewart called Tucker Carlson and CNN out several years ago on the old show Crossfire, accusing the show of doing what I mentioned above. It was enough that the show was cancelled shortly afterwards in one of CNN’s few moments of clarity. It didn’t last long. There was also a wonderful meme a few years ago that explains how our media works:

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  • We have to realize that words like “Conservative” and “Liberal” do not always mean “Christian Fundamental” and “Socialist.” The reality of our culture is that it is dominated in real terms by the moderates. It is not one side verses another side. It is two extremes competing and controlling a dialogue that belongs to a larger group that agrees with portions of both. When Marco Rubio went on CNN for the townhall debate after Parkland, I noticed one thing he did better than his two Democratic colleagues: he tried to explain to the crowd how legislation worked and conceded when he was in the unfavorable opinion of the dominant crowd. While MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post all lambasted Rubio, what I saw was a Senator of the United States who was actually trying to work towards a middle, and giving himself up to criticism so he could reach across and draw closer to the middle. His mistake with the NRA contributions question, unfortunately, destroyed all credible actions he took throughout the night, and it was because the clip was the dominate clip on every left leaning media site and article the next morning. He is on the right, so he must be vilified and made an example of, and he (unfortunately) gave them what they needed to erase the real role he played that night. His colleagues, the two Democrats, did nothing but repeat popular anti-gun tag lines without truly engaging with the crowd. They were simply there as eye candy for an angry, left leaning crowd. We have got to change our views and language about each side and realize that we are dominated by a moderate electorate.

One person in the NPR piece noted above mentioned a possible Civil war. I don’t know if we are truly at that point, but I do know that we have to change they way we think, and we have to change the way we understand each other. We are not all Hannity loving, Maddow worshiping extremists. To be honest, I can’t stand either one of them and would prefer that they both lose their jobs. But as long as eyes are watching, they will keep on talking. They will keep on shaping the discourse, and they will keep on ruining our society. The media is largely to blame, and it is time that the media understood and acted on the power it levies in our lives. It is time for the media to create a new space in the middle and allow all the voices a fair moment.

Because when one side dominates the culture, then it is no longer a culture. It is an autocracy, and right now we live in one – but Trump is not the autocrat.

The extreme right and extreme left are.

Tales from a Middle Aged Father: Uber

Throughout life, there come moments where a lack of attention to detail leads to what many would call an “adventure.” One such moment happened to me when, after a night of heavy drinking at a club, I did the responsible thing and requested an Uber. What happened after was nothing short of an epic tour of Greensboro, one that had all the trappings of Moses leading a lost Hebrew nation through the wilderness without Google maps…

It began innocently when I met a few friends at a bar downtown where we pre-gamed before heading three blocks over to a new club that was celebrating its first real gig. The band that night was a seventies funk throw back that gave us plenty of music to drunkenly dance to. It was a Saturday night, so I let loose and did not hold back on how much I took in, leading to what I am sure was the hilarious vision of a late 30s man doing his best combination of Elaine and Carlton in the middle of a dark dance floor. As the hours grew late, I realized the world was starting to shift to the side a little, and decided it was time to make my exit.

I perched on the edge of the side walk outside, watching my phone for notification of where my ride was. A blue sedan pulled up, and I asked “Barbour?” – he nodded, and I got in. I sat in the back of his car, and watched the lights of the city pass the window. I tried to plan my next day, only getting so far as planning to shower in the morning before trying to remember what I was doing in the present.

A street sign passed my window, a street that a friend of mine lived on. I contemplated what they were doing at that time of night, thought about the last party they had, thought about grad school and different times we hung out in the courtyard or bar across the street from our department – then it hit me. We were on the opposite side of the city from where I was supposed to be going.

“You know where Adams Farm is, right?”

“Adams what?”

Holy shit. Either this guy put the wrong thing in his GPS or I am down to the last few minutes of my life. I immediately panicked in my mind, remembering all the news stories of women being raped by Uber drivers, and, now, I may be the first male to be raped by an Uber driver. Or maybe I was being taken to one of those secret cults where they sacrifice people for a demi-god from the old Norse traditions, or even worse – this guy could be a Scientologist and this was a new way of recruiting – I realized I may be in for hours of Thetan counts and L. Ron Hubbard brain washing.

“Adams Farm! Over off High Point Rd towards Jamestown! Adams Farm!”

“Where?”

It was clear I was s-k-rewed.

“You need to go to Autumn Court, right? That’s what I have?”

“No! Autmncrest, in Adams Farm!”

I was now wondering why this guy wasn’t getting the fact that I needed to be on the other side of the city.

“Dude, Adams Farm, going towards Jamestown. We need to find High Point Rd.”

“It’ll be extra.”

Extra! Are you kidding me!?

“How much?”

“I don’t know. But there’s a fee for changing route, plus the new route.”

I was pretty sure this was bullshit.

“Let me out at the gas station up here. I’ll figure it out.”

He dropped me off and left. I went in and bought smokes, then after I waited ten minutes to make sure he would not be the same Uber I had before, and after contemplating if I should get a Lyft instead, I requested another one. This time it was a little white sedan. I got in, and made sure this guy knew where I needed to go. I explained what had happened with the other guy, and my driver was sympathetic to all of my complaining – either that or he was just having a great time messing with the incoherent rambling drunk in his car. Probably the latter.

We finally arrived at a small cul-de-sac, and he let me out. I had been checking my Twitter when I let me out, and so wasn’t really paying much attention to where we were. When I finally looked up, I did not recognize the townhomes that I was standing in front of. I searched in a daze of confusion for the front of my homeplace, grew angrier and angrier, and finally pulled my phone out, and ordered my third Uber of the night.

By this point, I was mentally composing a strongly worded letter to Uber about the horrific night, and the incompetent drivers. I wanted the CEO of Uber to know that I was a valuable customer who put his safety in the hands of his drivers, only to be lost not once, but twice in the same night. I wanted the world to know that Uber had added an extra hour to a twenty-minute trip. I didn’t want to know what this night would end up costing me.

When the third and final Uber arrived, I got in, and told them to please get me to my address. The driver chuckled, and said “ok.”

We drove out of the cul-de-sac and around a small curve to the front of the row of town homes where I lived. I got out. Walked into the house. Found my couch and passed out.

The next morning, over coffee, I tried to figure out what exactly happened the night before. The first mistake was the wrong street typed in by yours truly – autocorrect changed what I had been typing, and sent Uber the wrong address. The second time was 100% error on my part as I typed in the wrong house number and left off “Dr” at the end. Finally, the last mistake I made was not paying more attention to where I was and noticing my own back door as the second driver had dropped me off directly behind where I lived, and simply studying the back side of the houses I was looking at would have been a lot cheaper for me when it was all said and done.

The lesson I learned: pay attention to where you’re at…

Smells Like Teenspirit

One of the more interesting problems with the younger generations is their lack of etiquette within written spaces. An example of what I’m talking about is their inability to discern the difference between texts, comments, and emails. In almost all cases, they forget to move between the different language sets that each format demands – a problem that drives most of us who are older crazy.

I do have an unproven theory for this phenomenon, and it points to the issue of the smart phone. Within this one device, they move between at least four different sets of language at any given moment. Email, text, status updates, and instant messaging all require different means of engagement for these youngsters. However, because two of the four demand a speedy response, moving between them becomes a blur, and etiquette goes flying out the door as they plant a well intended emoji right smack in the middle of an email to their professor or boss without hesitation, or lambast someone publicly using the same fluid language as a text message only to be dumping within a public space with a hastily written status update.

It is easy to do, and even easier to let it go with a simple “sorry, I was in a hurry.” But the problem may not actually lie with them. There is a reason why we of the older guard let it grate on our nerves – we were taught to navigate through these different rules of engagement. Unfortunately, they haven’t.

We understand email etiquette because we were taught long ago how to properly write a letter, and the email format is designed specifically to mimic that old standard. We know not to cuss our boss out on Facebook or Twitter because we know that it is a public space, where these youngsters see social media as a means to communicate with their friends, and do not understand or comprehend the true scope of how large social media is, and how many people are actually out there watching.

We also see texting as a private endeavor that takes place between two people only, and value that privacy, where they capture specific conversations through screenshots and text forwarding in order to create a chance for blackmail or a preemptive defense when they feel they have been wronged. An ingenious way of  fighting, but one that they have perfected because they do not understand that there is a ball of emotions on the other end of the text message.

I guess what I’m trying to say is simply that when these young folk break old standards of communication, it isn’t all their fault. We kinda handed them the greatest invention ever created and never really explained or trained them in how to properly use the damn thing. Nor did we explain thoroughly  the consequences, even if not seen, their words have.

So if we want them to “do better,” then we need to be better ourselves, and rethink how we approach leading them into the universe that a smart phone connects them to. As it is, they see the phone as a neighborhood, and they will continue to treat it that way until we take them out of the cul-de-sac.

Man in the Mirror

Earlier this week, all hell broke loose when it was revealed that Sean Hannity was a secret client of Trump lawyer, and so-called “fixer,” Michael Cohen. Everyone outside of Fox News went nuts over the news, hounding Hannity over what he could have possibly hired Cohen for, leading Hannity to release a statement defending the accusations. Why does it matter? Because Hannity didn’t disclose last week (as he hammered the FBI for the Cohen raid) that he had dealings with Cohen, leading to questions of journalistic ethical breeches by Hannity, and in turn, Fox News (who has stated that it will stand by it’s largest ratings provider regardless of his integrity).

Which leads to this recurring question: what exactly is Fox News? Is it a news organization, a right wing opinion haven, the vocal arm of the Republican party, or a conservative version of TMZ? There are tons of satirical articles across the web that claim Fox News is registered as an entertainment channel. In reality, Fox News is listed under the larger moniker of Fox Television, which will soon be broken up and re-classified once the Disney deal comes to fruition.

What is very clear, and has been so since the early 2000s, is that Fox News has never tried to hide the fact that it presents itself as news, but also distances itself once the question of what news it actually produces, dropping back to punt with the “we are opinion based journalism” – the same thing Hannity has tried to hide behind. It uses commentary to control how headlines are interpreted, and conveniently leaves out huge chunks of evidence, facts, and real journalism to further shape and promote messages handed down from the head of the G.O.P. and other larger conservative movers and shakers.

This is nothing we didn’t already know.

Fox News is also the very reason we as a culture have grown skeptical of journalism as an industry. Because of Fox News and its unorthodox style in the late 1990s, it became a massive juggernaut that devoured Cable News ratings, and left CNN and MSNBC behind trying to figure out how to compete with a new, obnoxiously in your face conservative slant on the news.

Fox news perfected the “Breaking News” shock cut, the logo heavy screen that framed the talking head, and the multi-paneled remote expert panel who rolled eyes at each other from 200 miles away. It challenged the very term “news.” It challenged truth as well with its first motto, “Fair and Balanced,” only to be replaced with “We report, You Decide” after it was hammered over the fact that fair and balanced in Fox speak was only balanced by a right-wing view point only.

Hannity himself was part of this rouse in the early days of Fox News as he joined Alan Colmes for a “debate” style show which would presumably pit (equally) both liberal and conservative viewpoints in a head to head “friendly” manner. However, it was obvious through the visual rhetorical signs that the entire thing was tilted towards Hannity’s right leaning positions as Hannity was a larger, strong jawed, handsome, clean cut man sparing with a thinner, smaller, thinning hair, glasses wearing Colmes who struggled to defend his stances from the pit of a conservative valley filled with neo-con soldiers guarding every avenue out.

MSNBC and CNN followed FNC down the rabbit hole of ratings, and tossed journalistic integrity out the door. “Cross Fire” and “Olbermman” were two attempts to recover what had been lost, but were left even farther behind once O’Rielly took off.

I blame the current state of all the cable news channels on Fox News, and the so-called “Fox Effect” that has taken true reporting of news, what CNN pioneered in the early 80s, and turned everything into a partisan talking point where networks have become defined by which way they lean, and not by their journalism. Which brings me back to Hannity and this question of whether or not he is a journalist. The reality is that he is not in the sense that none of the talking heads on any of the cable news channels can be considered journalists. All three of the major networks have become nothing more than real time op-ed networks that twist the headlines for ratings, and leave journalism behind. And while the Times and the Post are battered every day for “liberal” bias, in this day and time, they (along with a small handful of other print style news organizations) are the only ones left producing true journalism.

Fox News is not news. Hannity is not a journalist. Cable News is not balanced.

It is just that simple.

Tales from a Middle Aged Father: The Idiot Light

It was chilly enough that the water hose I cut into was stiff. My son, a six-year-old first grader, knelt beside me watching as I put the now 20” hose into the lawn mower’s gas tank.

“Don’t ever try this until you’re big like me, ok?”

“Ok, daddy.”

“Ok, here we go.”

I took a breath, placed the free end of the hose into my mouth, and tried the well-known method of removing gas from a tank through suction.

I was scheduled to go to the doctor that morning, a check-up, before work. Because of my appointment, I had been tagged to take my oldest son to school after his mother neglected to get him on the bus on time. The boy and myself marched out the door and to my little civic, both kind of excited about this moment where dad and son got to join in the ride to school. Normally, I was gone well before the boy was up, so this was a treat for him.

However, there was a snag. When I cranked my car, the gas needle didn’t move. It sat just below the “E,” and after a few seconds, the gas light came on. Immediately I tried the desperate calculations in my head to determine if that small space between the “E” and oblivion would get me to the closest gas station. After burning some precious petroleum trying to decide if I had enough, I shut the car off, and instructed the boy that we had to do something else.

I went to our other car to check its situation, and all though it wasn’t as dire as mine, it wasn’t much better. So I did what I always did when stuck in a conundrum. I lit a cigarette, and laid out all possible scenarios that would land me at the gas station. Even though car number two had a smidge more gas, it also had a larger engine and at 7:30 in the morning, my math told me it would drink faster than my Honda; I would have to chance it. I needed to get the boy to school.

I went to the back yard to grab the gas can (it too was empty) so I could get enough for my car, when I saw my lawnmower – it was a giant John Deer monster with a massive gas tank – and that’s when my genius kicked in. I yelled for my son, and he came jogging around the house to see what I needed. I looked at him and simply said, “your dad has a plan.”

Being a six-year-old, he wasn’t too wise to the world, so whenever I did something mechanical or constructive, he typically watched with eagerness, wanting to learn how to emulate his father as so many young boys do.

But on this chilly morning, he saw something different in my eyes, and his own eyes reflected a warning I did not heed.

I told him to run inside the house and grab my knife from the kitchen drawer – it was an old pocket knife I’d had for years – and bring it to me. He hustled away, reluctantly but obediently, and brought the tool back a few moments later. By then, I had pulled enough of our garden hose out to make a small syphon tube that would help me get the gas from the lawn mower into the gas can and from the gas can into my car which would get me to the gas station for more gas and on to the school where I would write my son in as by now, he was going to be late.

It was a full proof plan.

I cut the hose, and marched to the lawn mower. I laid the gas can on the ground and told my son, “once I get the gas moving through this hose, I’m going to shove it into the can. I want you to hold the can still while it fills up.”

He said, “Ok.” Then his mind started calculating. “How are you gonna get the gas moving through the hose?”

“I’m going to have to suck it out.”

His face, once again, should have been enough for me to know that this was not going to work. But I had seen my step father do it multiple times, and now, as I was a man (I was in my 20s – young and stupid), I could replicate the actions and prove a hero to my son by saving the day and getting the gas needed to move on down the road.

I placed one end into the lawn mower tank, and held the other to my mouth. I took a breath in anticipation praying to something that it would work. I put the hose in my mouth, and drew back.

As the gas failed to come through the tube once it abruptly flew out of my mouth, my son quietly asked me, “you swallowed it, didn’t you?” I said nothing, and instead ran into the house. In the bathroom, I reached for a toothbrush, and tried to shove it down my throat. His mother, who had seen the flash of an idiot running by her, came into the bathroom to find me bent over a sink trying to induce muscles to reject the petroleum from my stomach.

I was not succeeding.

She asked me what I was doing, and I asked her in response, “How do you make yourself throw up?”

“What!?”

“HOW DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF THROW UP? YOU’RE A GIRL, YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS, HOW?!”

She asked me why, and before I could answer, my partner in crime had arrived to inform her of the entire episode.

“You dumbass,” was all she said as she went into the kitchen, and brought back three glasses of water. “Drink all of this and then drive my car to the gas station.”

I did as instructed, and got the boy to school late. I made my doctor’s appointment and was assured I would not die or catch on fire if I smoked (I already knew I wouldn’t as I tried the method before I went, but I wanted a second opinion).

My son and I learned valuable lessons that morning.

Never syphon gas from a lawn mower.

Never shove a toothbrush down your throat.

Never tell a woman she is an expert in vomiting simply because she is a “girl.”

But most importantly: pay attention to that damn gas gauge before the idiot light goes off.

Bound for the Floor

As you probably know, on Monday the FBI went in with a search warrant granted by a judge in New York, and confiscated materials from Micahel Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room in search of documents that could shed light on payments made to Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and information linking McDougal, Trump and the National Inquirer. This came after Trump, on Air Force One last week, told reporters that he knew nothing about payments to Daniels or any one else before the 2016 election. Once the news hit, our Tweeter in Chief went ballistic, and has threatened behind closed doors to get rid of everyone involved at the state department with the Special Council. It is just another week in America under Trump.

With the raid on Monday, it appears that Mueller is getting closer to Trump, and Trump is infuriated over it. He took to Twitter again, calling the investigation fake and a problem that is slowing things down in the White House. The New York Times reported Wednesday that sources noted that he was on the verge of a “meltdown” on Monday, and had to be talked down numerous times.

What concerns me in all of this is simply why he is so emotional over any of this. If he truly believes that he did nothing wrong, and his lawyer was raided – under the pretense that there may have been payments made during the campaign that were illegal, and Trump didn’t know about it – then Trump, the champion of justice, would want to see justice done, and would gladly cooperate with the Feds over the payments he didn’t know about for affairs he didn’t take part in.

It only makes sense to me.

But this is Trump. And nothing makes sense when it comes to Trump.

Since he has taken office, Trump has introduced an unorthodox style of governing – a unique way of understanding the job of President that has gone against all preconceived notions of the job. He’s been rash, bullish, un apologetic, and loud. His constant Tweets have given news media outlets plenty to dissect, discuss, and pour over looking for meaning and deeper cognitive reasons for his actions. There have even been hours of news anchors diving into the question of just how much they should cover his Twitter habit.

Outside of his social media addiction, his administration has baffled everyone as it makes not one or two headlines a week, but three or four a day on average. There seems to be no possible end to the ever continuing stream of news stories that pour out of the White House, leaving so many of us with our heads spinning as we desperately try to keep up.

And in some weird way, they all connect, all part of the same synchronistic thread that runs through the daily news cycle, water tank gossip, tabloid headline, newsfeed crawl of our lives.

One of my concerns with this administration is what will happen once it is over? Regardless of whether you like him or not, he has changed the role of the President and created a space that will never be the same again. Gone are the days of an administration that gains instant respect, a default honor to the American people. The next administration will have a hard time gaining normal back, it will not come over night. It is a task I do not envy.

For now, though, we can only watch as he, this President, re-writes what being President means. Autocratic or patriotic, either way he is changing the way the job is done. And the way he is conducting it, there will be no road map or template as he is making it up as he goes.

And frankly, that’s what scares me the most.

State of Love and Trust

The problem with Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg.

Although I wasn’t able to listen to all of the hearing today, I was able to hear enough sporadically to understand exactly why we are so frustrated with the founder of Facebook. He is still mentally living at Harvard, trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes about what his social network really does. In the end, Facebook is not a social network that is designed to connect people in a digital community. Instead, Facebook is simply the new way that we experience magazines, books, news papers, and opinion driven pieces; Facebook is a publisher. And Mark Zuckerberg is making a killing with it.

Zuckerberg did lay out, several times after various Senators asked what data Facebook sold, how data and advertisers worked on the network. According to him, advertisers request a specific group that they want to target, Facebook builds the algorithm to target those people based on data Facebook has collected through what we decide to share, and then post the ads to our news feed and FB page. He continuously assured Senators, and those watching, that the data was never given over to the advertisers, nor is it sold to the advertisers but rather stays inside Facebook’s servers. But, as one Senator pointed out, Zuckerberg and his massive company still make money off the use of that data.

And that appears to be the lynch pin that sets off the bomb of what Facebook really is doing with the data they collect from those 2 billion users every day. Zuckerberg faced the question of what happens to the data once it is collected from several Senators in various ways, and each time he would not give a complete answer, even partly dodging the question of what actually happens to the data of a deleted Facebook page with a convoluted “there are several systems that are in place and it takes time to get through those systems” – in other words – “we keep it long enough to create a picture of what people are doing so we can adjust the algorithms, then we forget about it and it sits on our servers forever.”

What was clear, for me at least, is that Facebook is entering a new phase in its life cycle, and social media is about to change dramatically. Several Senators brought attention to legislation that addresses privacy concerns, ad control and regulations, and first amendment concerns in the digital space. There was also an overwhelming feeling that Congress has decided what Facebook and the public have not been able to do: Facebook is a media company, and it acts as a publisher in charge of author’s content.

If Congress acts on the idea of regulations, and how far those regulations will go, remains to be seen. Senator Thom Tillis made a plea to not only Zuckerberg, but to Google, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and LinkedIn to get together and come up with an independent agreement between them that would help keep Government handling out of the free platforms that we all use to communicate with. Whether the tech giants will do so, again, remains to be seen.

But in all of the questions of data, privacy, where the information is going, and so on, one thing remained clear (a point that Zuckerberg kept coming back to over and over again): the user ultimately is responsible for what data Facebook gets their hands on.

The reality of this whole mess is that when it comes to what information we have floating out there, we are the ones who put it there. Facebook remains as simply a platform that we use. It does not force us to share anything. We do so at our own risk, and at this point in 2018, we are well aware as a culture as to exactly what social media is and how it works. While Facebook, and all the other sites, have some liability, we are ultimately the ones at fault for what information is presented to the community. The one saving grace with Facebook is the privacy tab where we can determine who sees what, and if we as individuals do not utilize that tab, then we do not have a place to complain. In fact, it is by simply engaging with Facebook that we allow ourselves to be placed in the precarious position of having our identities compromised. Facebook does not make anyone join. Facebook does not force anyone to do anything they do not want. Once you click the “Ok” button to create your account, you have made the choice, not Facebook. It is hard to understand that sometimes as we live by the idea that we are all owed something, yet we do not want to accept the responsibilities of our actions.

The only real problem with all of this is as noted above: the guy we trust is still mentally living in a dorm at Harvard.

And we tend to ignore that simple fact.

Is it for Me…

“I think about the kids. I think we need to stay focused on what’s right for the kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served.” This was Betsy Devos last Thursday (April 5) according to the Dallas News. The quote was in response to a question about the Oklahoma teachers who are in their second week of marching for better funding for their system. Devos, who has been out of touch with teachers and their concerns before, is missing the point of the marching itself, instead taking the typical Republican stance that has become the norm in America when it comes to education: education is not a priority any more.

In 2016, our President convinced a disgruntled rural populace that America had fallen too far behind in the world, and he alone could make America great once more (I refuse to use his slogan. I just can’t…). But the one thing, the one missing ingredient, that made us so great in the past was education. The fact that we as a culture have allowed the Republican elite from the Neo-cons to the Tea Party slowly destroy public education, and somehow convince the public that the failure of the system stems from the teachers who fight the daily war on incompetence and ignorance, is mind boggling and disheartening.

We love to point out how we were the ones who landed on the moon (which is constantly under scrutiny by right wing fringe conspiracy groups – go figure), won World War II almost singlehandedly, invented the Nuclear bomb (and in turn nuclear energy), was the country that gave the world the microchip and the iPhone, and so many more amazing accomplishments that have driven the world for over a century. And we yearn to return to those glory days of American abundance and technological and cultural dominance in the world. However, we refuse to recognize that it was through our education programs, public elementary, secondary, and private universities, that we were able to achieve such dominance. We will never return to the large stature of world leaders in innovation if we do not recognize the proven fact that a well-rounded liberal education is fundamental to cultural growth.

The term “liberal education” itself has been politicized so much that we forget what it exactly encompasses in its entirety. The term “Liberal” when associated with education does not mean left leaning political ideals in the class room. It means open dialogues, understanding what all sides understand, and how we interact with those sides. How science and math apply to real world issues and actions, how we interact with each individual we come in contact with, and how we operate as a culture.

But it has been politicized by those on the far right that see liberal education as nothing more than programming liberal ideas, an anti-God establishment bent on creating drones of immoral compasses that will lead our culture to Babylon and destruction. Meanwhile, they stand by and allow our society to decay into ruin through the advancement of a single ideology that damns any other way of processing the world as inherently evil and un-American. An ideology that proclaims itself as the only true ideology while condemning all others as holding no value. An ideology that questions anything that does not produce solid results, tangible findings that lead to profits.

We laugh at the humanities because they study the soft, the abstract, the things we cannot touch or define through any of our senses. In reality, it is the humanities that give us pleasure, hope, and faith; all abstract entities that we all covet and desire – something you will not hear a FoxNews pundit admit.

We overlook the Social Sciences as we just don’t understand why we need them. We are told to suck it up, but rarely are we given instruction on exactly what we are sucking up, and never are we given the possible consequences of sucking this unknown thing up. The Social Sciences give us both, and give us ways that others have dealt with that magical thing that lays out there in the either waiting to be sucked in any direction. Again, FoxNews would have you simply believe that we are all weak and vulnerable if we dig into the abstract nature of feelings and how we deal with the world around us. They refuse to celebrate failure, to celebrate the fact that strength and experience comes from, at first, a weakness.

Don’t think I’m just trying to pick on FoxNews, but to be fair, they loudly tout these stances, these archaic ideals that died when Kennedy was shot. The push back by the right on common sense is nothing more than an attempt to institute an ideology that has no productive future. Actions and ideas that appear to be nothing more than the obvious way to deal with issues are questioned, ridiculed, deemed as a way to destroy the family or society, and dismissed. For example: gay marriage. In what way does gay marriage hurt our culture as a whole? When people who sexually associate themselves with others of the same sex, do they not still spend money? Do they not still pay taxes? Do they not still work to earn money and contribute to the culture? If they do all of these things, and they do so with the same faith and confidence in the system as anyone else, why exactly is it evil to allow them to enjoy the fruits of what they work toward? Is it really because of some archaic rule that has been misinterpreted for 2000 years? Or is it really about fear – fear of change, fear of losing influence, fear of losing something that you never really had in the first place?

Education has been placed in the same box of fear. As time has progressed since we first constructed the current education model, we have seen our culture move from an industrial revolution to urbanization to modernization to the atomic age and finally through a digital age, but education has remained relatively the same. There has been little growth and innovation in education while the world around it changed dramatically, and the only explanation for it is fear. Fear of change and new ideas. Fear of what education will produce. Fear of a rationally thinking, critically engaged mind that asks questions about established pillars in our culture which leads to a larger fear of losing influence over large swaths of people.

Education is paramount to a great culture. Education gives us not only the Maths and Sciences that engineer the great achievements of cultures, it gives us the arts and social sciences that help us engage with our culture and represent our culture through basic human desires.

The strikes we have seen in Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, and soon Arizona are reactions to the larger problem of leaving education to its own peril. It is a way of thinking that has been dominant for more than 20 years. The voices are growing louder, however, and voices like Mrs. Devos will continue to lose influence.

If you want teachers to care for their students and their well being, Mrs. Devos, then your criticism should be directed toward your own political party who has, in the case of Oklahoma and so many other states in our great nation, gutted education to a point where it is not feasible to establish the future of our culture. A culture, by the way, that gave you the smart phone you carry, the fashion you style in your clothes, and the freedom to voice your opinion, even if it is ill informed and demeaning.