What does it take to have a hard conversation?

Today I listened to some co-workers share some real, honest and emotional concerns, struggles and worries.  The experience was powerful.  That phrase is overused and I know I sound like some social justice warrior millennial weirdo.  I promise to stop.

Some of them talked about issues and I really identified with how hard it probably was to share the things they shared.  It isn’t hard to share that you’re thinking about being the fat guy in the room, or that you think people see you as weak because you had a C-section or that you have any other of a thousand issues that you feel make you stand out or feel uncomfortable. I didn’t see these people that way, but they sure saw themselves that way.  I sure could identify with thinking about being the fat guy in the room, but honestly I didn’t have the courage to say it.  I admired how courageous they were to share some stuff that wasn’t easy for them.

These things need to be talked about.  How can we create a place where we can all share things that we’re not really comfortable sharing?

I spent some time thinking about what you need to have in place before you can have a real, honest and open conversation.  I listened to people share things that made them worried or feel alienated.  I think it all comes down to trust, understanding and respect.

Only when you think someone will accept you unconditionally for who you are do we draw back the curtain and show our real self a little at a time.  We have to be convinced that our friends will stay friends.  When you trust them, and they respect you, understanding is the product of a real conversation. Simple recipe, difficult to find the ingredients.

The internet and social media isn’t a place where we have these conversations because there is no trust, respect or understanding.  People don’t see each other as people but as the other side of the coin.   The enemy.  The problem.  We don’t see and don’t know that the guy who we call names is really a man in Vermont who works two jobs to feed his kids because his wife committed suicide.  We forget they are people with real life stories and experiences.

Maybe I wasn’t so far off when I said we need sensible controls on speech (or not…because limiting freedom of any kind is only guaranteed to hurt people and fail miserably…it was satire, people).

I’m sure glad I’m not on social media.  It’s nice to have a real conversation once in awhile.

I can’t post anything lately without getting political, so here you go.

There isn’t much to say about Hillary because we have had decades to learn everything we need to know.  Nothing new can be said.  Here’s a completely authentic real human reaction to a scripted balloon drop.  Not forced at all for the cameras.

giphy

We don’t know as much as we should about The Donald since he’s really only been a political figure for a short time and the media sucks at covering him.  Here’s a video to watch with a critical eye if you are a Trump supporter and an open mind if you are a Trump hater.

 

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Crooked Hillary still crooked

Hillary Clinton gave a pretty average speech today.  Is she a great orator?  Nope.  Low Energy. The delivery was nothing that will be remembered.  When you struggle to emulate human emotion, public speaking probably isn’t your thing.

One line that some folks in the main stream media thought was great was Hillary saying:

“In this campaign, I’ve met so many people who motivate me to keep fighting for change. And, with your help, I will carry all of your voices and stories with me to the White House. And you heard from republicans and independents who are supporting our campaign. Well I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

Her entire speech was just her reading words on a teleprompter.  Did she really mean that she wants to be “a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents?”  When she listed out her enemies a few months ago, it would seem that Hillary wasn’t on the same page as Hillary of today. When you laugh, smile and lump Republicans in a list of proud enemies that includes Iran, it might make your pitch seem just a little hollow.  Just a little.

She’s dishonest, conforms to the crowd and what she thinks they want to hear, and that’s the biggest problem in politics today.  Perhaps the only thing larger than the national debt we’re passing on to our kids is the honesty deficit we run in Washington.

Oh, and you won’t hear it from the media, but Hillary plagiarized a line in her speech from Alexis de Tocqueville when she said “that America is great – because America is good.”

Perhaps the only truth she told on the stage was this:

“But here’s the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump. This is it.”

And that reason alone is why I’m #MAGA.  I’d rather have one person being who they really are than Hillary who’s only consistency is Crookedness.

The DNC – Does Not Compute

The DNC, ever critical of any kind of border protection and toting the tiring slogan “build bridges, not walls.”  That DNC.  Does.  Not.  Compute.

They built an 8 foot high, 4 mile long wall around their convention.  No bridges were built to facilitate the Bernie Sanders supporters arrival.  The Bernie Barrier actually kept out the people who supported the DNC.  They just didn’t support the candidate that the DNC wanted.

Not only did they build a wall and not a bridge, they actively suppressed the First Amendment within their own convention.  They took signs from Bernie supporters and threatened to pull credentials from any delegate who didn’t conform to Hillary’s vision for America.

High walls keeping out those they don’t want, suppression of free speech of those they don’t agree with…that’s the Democratic National Committee.

If you supported Bernie Sanders and you’ve read the DNC emails, the only choice you can support in the upcoming election is Jill Stein, Gary Johnson or even the Donald.    Remember that Bernie Brigade.  Hillary worked with the DNC to kill your movement.  I’ll never vote for a Democrat again, and I’ve voted for Democrats.  You lost me.

Me, I’m #MAGA.

African-American is a super racist term

See if you can guess who said the following:

“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all.”

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Hillary Clinton
  3. Barack Obama
  4. Joe “The Villages” Biden
  5. George W. Bush

Who was it?  You didn’t get the right answer.  Trust me.  Here’s more of the same speech to help you figure it out:

“This is just as true of the man who puts “native” before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance.
“But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.
Any guesses?
You’re still wrong.
“The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English- Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian- Americans, or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality than with the other citizens of the American Republic.”
“The men who do not become Americans and nothing else are hyphenated Americans; and there ought to be no room for them in this country. The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic. He has no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American.”

 

This speech was given in 1915 by Teddy Roosevelt.  The more I read about the man, the more I admire him.  I wish we could very much do away with the use of hyphenated-American and just go back to being Americans.

 

It’s really easy to be sold on the idea everyone else is an asshole

I couldn’t dare say that I have a favorite Jim Harbaugh quote.  Just like Michael Bolton from Office Space, I have the same answer. I like them all.  I celebrate the guys entire catalog.  One of Coach Harbaugh’s great ones is “Do not be deceived. You will reap what you sow.”

It is really easy to be deceived these days.  You can’t spend more than a couple minutes on the internet or watching the news without seeing some truly horrible story about some disturbing person, group or action.  We have the entire wealth of human knowledge at our fingertips, yet we use it to share pictures of cats, argue, hide behind anonymity to say horrible things and spread the latest positive or negative note left on a receipt.  Where have our people skills gone?

I’ve started to tune more and more of this stuff out.  I’ll be honest, I’m worried about the character, intellect and values of my fellow Americans.    I think all our founders would be horrified to see what the world is like today.

I can’t imagine a time where I had more anxiety about our nation as a whole.  Are the pillars of our society really crumbling as badly as we’re being told?  Every conversation is framed as binary with two sides where two people of varying degrees of expertise come on to give a couple talking points, blame the other side, and we move on.  I don’t have to go into detail here about what a lousy job our national media does, you’re living it right there with me.  Rational discourse and a unifying message has been absent for a long time.  I think this is more a result of the lack of any kind of leadership from our elected officials and the media narrative, but undeniably it is true. The nation is more divided today than 8 years ago.  Of that there can be no question.

Why does the media do this?  It drives ratings.  We eat it up.  Most of our political leaders are weak, naive, and out of touch with the American people.  Protest marches of a couple dozen people, often paid professional agitators, get media coverage.  It doesn’t matter that I’ve had more people at a birthday party, the media covers what people tune into.  People want to hear more about the negative stories or else they wouldn’t get covered.

Is this ultra-divisive binary America a reality?  Yes and no.  I think that the media are really fermenting two camps in this nation who are more and more convinced that the other side is the enemy.  I think we are fracturing as a nation, but more as a result of what the media is telling is.  When you hear something is a certain way, you start to accept it.  Tell people enough times that people enjoy listening to Barbara Streisand and even the most absurd distortion of reality becomes truth.  Propaganda about the political viewpoints you don’t agree with are being bombarded at you constantly. The other side is dehumanized, marginalized and often made to be the enemy, not the opposition.  I don’t think the media is sophisticated enough to realize what they’re doing.  If they did realize it I don’t know that they’d care.  They care about ratings.  They never ask the most important question.  If the other side is the enemy, what do you do with an enemy?  Human history provides and easy answer.  You destroy them.

Not good.

The path is very clearly laid out there that come November, half of the country is going to feel their way of life is in grave jeopardy from the other half.  That doesn’t lead to anything positive.  In fact, it will lead to actual conflict like this country hasn’t seen in generations unless the media narrative changes.

I always try to lower my anxiety about the future by remembering that there are so many good people in this world and that we can actually put aside our differences and live together. Drive down the freeway and you see pretty much everybody behind a deadly 3,000 pound missile driving responsibly. Everybody is out on the freeway from all colors, creeds and politics of our nation.  Drivers from all sides of the political spectrum.  Drivers with and without licenses. Some speaking English, but not all.  Bumper stickers from the dumbest to the most brilliant commentary.  Yet it is 1 car in 1000 that is driven by some crazy, reckless asshole.  Yet which driver makes the news?  The crazy reckless asshole.

People I know and call good friends almost certainly don’t agree with my political viewpoints.  I think we tend to forget that we probably all know people who own AR-15s, smoke marijuana, or are on welfare.  I’m one of those.  We all know people who believe that gay marriage is both right and others who think it wrong.  Some agree with Black Lives Matter.  Some don’t.  We just don’t’ realize that the people we’re being told is the enemy by MSNBC or Fox News are our fellow Americans who we BBQ with, work with and enjoy being with.

I’m going to make it a goal to talk friendly politics more often this year so that people don’t’ always assume that a person who owns an AR-15 and thinks that building that wall on the border is some distant NRA nationalist weirdo with a third grade education living in West Virginia.  I don’t expect everyone to agree, but at least they might stop thinking about the other side as the enemy.  We all need to start working together and having the conversation that the national media and our leadership isn’t capable of having.

Patrick Henry famously drew on a phrase from the Bible in his last public speech.  Barely able to stand, he said, “Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.” When the “Firebrand of the Revolution” had said his last, Henry collapsed into the arms of friends and was carried almost lifeless into a nearby tavern. He lived only a few months longer.  With the little strength he had left, this idea is the one he felt most compelled to share with us as his last.

I hope our nation hears the words of Patrick Henry and takes heed.  If we don’t, we’re in some serious shit.

 

We’re going global, people. Del Boca Vista Phase III just wasn’t enough.

It’s Time for Common Sense Speech Safety Laws

We need sensible speech control

I’m a huge supporter of the First Amendment, but we need more sensible controls on the First Amendment when it comes to freedom of speech.

Seriously? 

Oh yes.  Seriously. In no time in America since 1776 has America been more divided than it is today.  That’s a direct product of easy access to mass media by people who seek to do evil through misinformation and fanning the flames of hatred though biased speech.  People can jump on the internet today and give an opinion as if it is fact.  Often these people are willful dumbasses, ignoring basic facts that they either don’t know or chose to ignore.  You know, like writing a blog where they do things like talk about the division in America today but fail to mention the Civil War as a period of greater division between today and our founding. Like I just did.  Did you catch it?

How can someone really be in favor of the elimination of a Constitutional right?  I’m not talking about elimination.  I’m talking about sensible, common sense middle of the road laws that we can enact that both respect the First Amendment while keeping our children and communities safe.  When you think about it, it is just common sense.  I think we can all agree that  things like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TV and other forms of social media aren’t anything that the Founding Fathers could have conceptualized.  The eighteenth century had nothing like this at all.  Letters took days, weeks and even months to travel to the eyes of readers.  Speech was only possible at the town green or in the meetinghouse within actual earshot of the listener.  At best, a moveable type printing press could produce things like Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet Common Sense a few thousand copies at a time and even then over days and weeks of work.  Very few people were even literate, a natural and sensible restriction on speech at the time.  The framers never intended freedom of speech to apply to high-speed, military grade forms of communication capable of dispensing high capacity files of text and videos easily accessible to the entire population.  The consequences of easy access to such weapons of mass misinformation today is sadly obvious.  President Obama has had to give yet another eulogy after an extremist (who’s name I will intentionally never mention),  was given easy access to free speech media produced by groups like Black Lives Matter, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton Gun Club and other militant black free speech groups.  Those words inflamed him to the point he decided to kill 5 police officers.  I think we need to look at some sensible controls on speech to prevent the radicalization and spread of dangerous and violent thought.

It shouldn’t be easier to share your opinion with millions of people than it is to buy a sandwich.  Buying a sandwich requires you to put on pants (or even a shirt at your more high brow places), have money, be able to locate a place that sells sandwiches, and complete a social interaction with another human.  You can just jump on YouTube in your underwear, hit record on your smartphone and share it with millions.  I might be in my underwear right now writing this.  Who knows.  Facebook probably knows because they have access to activate your desktop camera and microphones remotely.

I know extremists say that the First Amendment protects the absolute right to offensive, wrong, nutty, irresponsible and annoying speech.  What about my right to be free from ideas I don’t like? What about my rights to be safe from people who use hate speech to make things more dangerous for me?  WHAT ABOUT MY RIGHTS?

Much of the information out there today isn’t accurate.  At all.  People share opinions riddled with misinformation, intentional deletion of facts and this only makes things more dangerous for our nation as a whole.  People often just make stuff up.

If we’re going to allow the average person to have access to so much military-grade technology, it should come with some common sense regulations.  We need  to make sure that speech is only shared by those who are giving accurate information in a safe and sane manner with the goal of furthering the conversation.  Here’s what I propose:

  1.  Universal background checks on people wanting to use electronic media.  We need to make sure that only sane, law abiding people have access to freedom of speech in the electronic age.  It shouldn’t be easier to share an opinion than it is to buy a sandwich.
  2. A basic, common sense test on the safe operation of speech.  A simple test, created at the state level, could assess a persons knowledge of speech and their responsibilities when using that speech.  Upon paying a small fee of $25, the person would be given a Speech Safety Certificate good for five years from the date the test is passed.
  3. High capacity speech should be more strictly regulated.  Anything over 1200 words or videos over 5 minutes can be much more dangerous, giving the speaker, writer or creator a longer opportunity to inflame passions of an audience.  Only government approved agencies should have access to high capacity speech. Twitter, with the 140 character limitation, is a perfect example of intelligent, well developed and rational discord.  Nobody needs more than 140 characters to express an idea.
  4. Assault speech should be banned.  Assault-style speech, such as speech using only black letters, all caps and with improper grammar, punctuation or excessive exclamation marks should be banned.  It only serves to hurt people.  Nobody needs assault speech.  A simple list of offensive speech features could be used to eliminate the most dangerous types of speech on our streets.
  5. Speech should be regulated in patchwork style, with cities, states and other localities able to enact more strict laws to accurately reflect the values of their community.
  6. A sensible cooling off period of 10 days should be enacted on all speech.  We don’t want people to get a hold of speech when they’re angry.  Give them time to compose thoughts, do research and eliminate the danger of angry speech.
  7. The right to speech within the home should still be free.  If someone wishes to carry speech with them into the streets, they should have to obtain a permit from a local law enforcement agency, pass another background check, pay a fee, undergo training and carry liability insurance for any damage their speech may do to innocent bystanders.

These common sense measures would be a great step towards safer communities.  I really appreciate the groundwork being laid out by groups like the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Bloomberg’s Every Town and Mom’s Demand Action.  They’re very clearly paving the way to sensible elimination of the Constitutional rights of Americans in the modern age, just like the framers intended.

What the hell does Amy Schumer know?

Welcome, newcomers. The tradition of blogging begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!

Today I direct my considerable ire at celebrities.  In the end, they’re not the real problem.  Like an M. Night Shayamalan movie, there’s a twist to this post.  You probably see it coming even now, but hey, at least I didn’t charge you $10 and steal two hours of your life.

So, on the topic of celebrities…what in the hell are we thinking as a nation when we give these people’s thoughts any serious consideration?

What do celebrities know?  Really?

Dennis Rodman (AKA “The Worm,” famous for rebounding, tattoos, wacky hair styles and dressing like Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner), went to North Korea to help bring peace and understanding to the region.  You know, North Korea, where only officially approved government hair cuts are allowed.  Really.  You get one choice.  You’ll never guess which one.  He came back singing the praises of North Korea, declaring that Kim Jong Un “He don’t want war.”  The media actually covered it.  Real media.  That it itself gives some feel of validity to his visit, opinions and the story.  Yet, it seems as if his diplomatic mission may not have succeeded. Shocking.

Matt Damon protests constantly about the evils of Wall Street and guns.  You can really tell he has a depth to his beliefs when he talks about income inequality while making 10 million dollars a film.  He has done work on multiple films critical of Wall Street, which is in keeping with his personal beliefs, so we can applaud him, right?  Don’t clap too hard.  He’s also the voice of TD- Ameritrade, a stock trading firm. In fairness, he said he’d donate the money to charity.  That said, I wouldn’t take money from the Clinton Foundation, even for the Human Fund, and I need money a whole lot more than Matt Damon.  Not only would I refuse it on principle. I also wouldn’t take it because I don’t want to end up like Vince Foster.  Apparently, like Hillary Clinton, he’s against Wall Street…up until the point that they offer to give him money.  There is also a certain tragic hypocrisy when he is at the opening of a film where is paid millions of dollars to personally glorify uses of firearms (and cars, knives, fists, etc) to kill people and then says that he supports Australian style gun control.  If you don’t know, in Australia, gun control looked like massive confiscation.  Everybody’s guns got taken away.  And it did nothing to lower the crime rate.  Probably because the pimps, drug dealers, smugglers, poachers, etc. who owned guns didn’t bother to follow the law.  I know that it was hard to see that coming. I don’t expect Matt Damon to be a policy expert on gun control.  He’s a successful and busy guy.  But perhaps the media should spend a little more time covering the University of Melbourne research that showed “There is little evidence to suggest that it [national gun confiscation] had any significant effects on firearm homicides or suicides,” but what fun would that be?  Sounds like you might have to think to read that.  Yuck.

Amy Schumer, a self-described “whore,”  talks about gun control.  She grew up as a rich white girl in New York.  She’s cousins with anti-gun crusader Senator Chuck Schumer.  Oh, and she’s never actually fired a gun and knows nothing about them.  If having no exposure to a subject makes one an expert, then I’m an expert on time travel and landing on the moon.  She’s very talented at creating surface level understanding of content with deceptive video shorts.  She really knows much less about the world than any of the strippers at your local gentleman’s club, but does it with about as much class.  Is this the person we should be paying attention to in any policy conversation about anything?

magic-8-ball-no

Mark Zuckerberg slammed Donald Trump for wanting to build a wall to help enforce immigration laws.  Any guesses as to what he has built around his own home?  Oh, and not only did he build a wall, he bought the homes of his neighbors to have even further control over who lives around him.  He’s like Marie Antoinette, but without the same hair.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Well, you know, that’s just like, your opinion, man. 

wellthatsjustlikeyouropinionman

Some will wrongly accuse me of saying that celebrities shouldn’t have opinions or shouldn’t share them.  That’s not what I’m saying.  They should have opinions.  The First Amendment protects offensive, stupid, wrong and insane speech.  Maybe you see this blog post as insane or offensive.  They should share their opinions, however misguided or wrong others might view them.  We should just remember that the next time we hear a celebrity give us their opinion that it is the opinion of someone who pretends to do things, makes sex jokes for a living, or grabs a ball for piles of money.  These aren’t people who know any more than you do about these issues.  They probably know a lot less.  They are surrounded by people who adore them.  They have private security who protect them.  They have a bank account that is bottomless.  They travel from place to place in a private jet, protected by an armed personal security detail and exist in an echo chamber of agreement.  They share virtually nothing with you or I.

Some will wrongly accuse me of being some kind of communist for picking on Amy, Matt, Mark or Dennis because they’re rich.  This has nothing to do with that.  I applaud their achievements and very much wish I was also rich.  They’re not bad people because they are wealthy.  They are not bad people.  They’re just not any more informed on the topics they often speak out on than you are.

What insight do celebrities have that we don’t?  Did Dennis Rodman acquire some meaningful experience in foreign relations at a tattoo parlor?  Did Amy Schumer finally crack the code on ending violent crime in the middle of a set on having a three way in an alley by a dumpster?  We should listen to people who know more about the issues.  I’ve listened to many black men over the last few days who have changed some of my thinking on racism and the police.  When I hear from a surgeon or a lawyer that they feel they are wrongly stopped and fear the police because they are black, I think we need to listen.  We just need to listen to the right people. Sadly, these people never have their voices added to the national conversation.  Instead, we have a media who looks for the sideshow and the celebrity.  They want ratings, not solutions.  They seek profits, not change.  The larger problem is that the media covers these celebrity opinions like they have some extra merit, and the bigger fools are the ones who eat it up.  That’s us.

Celebrities are either intentional hypocrites or naive failures.  Either way, unless they’re performing like a trained whale at Sea World, they’re probably best ignored.  Unless that is, we’re going to solicit advice from Shamu next.  Which may not be a bad idea.  It seems that there is much untapped knowledge in Paul the Octopus (RIP) or Orlando the stock picking cat .  It worked for the World Cup and stock market investing.

Maybe celebrities can teach us something, after all.  Pick a ball, Amy.  On second thought, someone get me Orlando the stock picking cat.