When Not To Talk Politics With Family

Tonight I was visiting my cousin that lives nearby. Her mom, my aunt, happened to be visiting her. What was intended as a pleasant visit quickly turned into a heated argument.  Having a graduate degree in political science seems to be a lightning rod towards political assessment. Based on that education qualification I seem to be bombarded with political affiliation questions as if I am the official spokesperson for all politics. I typically assess that all politicians rarely do much in the form of actual draft legislation. It is the people behind the scenes that actually do most of the real work. But I digress. An argument ensued because I was being candid and shared my critically laced viewpoint as academically possible all while presenting a similar discussion of the opposing parties.

 

My aunt is an individual that loves watching Sean Hannity and Fox news religiously. In fact, each time I hear her talk she is spewing anti-Hillary rhetoric and an occasional jab at Obama with racial undertones. I pay no attention to the noise because I believe in freedoms of speech and decorum for each person to be heard – requiring that they listen in return as a caveat; which in this case didn’t occur. I replied my aunt, “what did Hillary do for you to be so angry with her?”  She couldn’t answer and immediately switched the subject towards Trump. She said, “Trump has done more than any other president in history.”  Naturally, I disagreed and said, “I’ve not witnessed anything earth-shattering that would surpass other presidents.”  I could see the veins pop out of her face and neck with a burst of anger and disgust when she yelled, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? You are the first person that has ever said anything negative about Trump. Even people I know as Democrats have praised Trump!”  I said, “everyone is entitled to opinions, but can you tell me one thing the President has done?” She couldn’t name anything and placed the blame on me as to what is wrong with this country. I sat and let her unleash her barrage of fueled Fox rhetoric without one ounce of law, policy, or comparison that would shed an instance where President Trump has done anything she claimed that had been done. I basically took this instance as an individual looking for for an argument for the pure sake of arguing.

 

I avoid political discussions with family members because it does always leave a sour taste when debating about any President or political leader. I give points where they are deserved and of course, reflect on how things could be a bit better diplomatically to be fair and allow the ability for others to share openly without scorn or ridicule. But one thing was evidently clear that when one disagrees politically, the assumption is there is a political motive. This is not always the case. I would be equally as critical of Democratic, Libertarian, and Independent leadership as I would any Republican. But this seems to be the apex point of arguments that a political compass determines influence and the way individual answers politically minded questions. Fairness is something I strive for. It is when one drinks the cool-aid of one-sided politics then constituency is ultimately alienated. Basically, people love to argue as if they are winning or increasing their political know-how.  This is why, I believe, there is political indifference in America because we do not listen to one another. Additionally, as Americans, we once were a nation of diplomacy and bipartisanship. No longer. We much rather take our frustrations out on social media, each other, or on bumper decals affixed to cars/trucks and taunt how idiotic minded people are; at least that is how others describe it to me. And we wonder why very few enter politics?

 

Eventually, my aunt left fuming that I didn’t agree with her, or something to that effect. She was visibly worked up that I challenged her. I don’t expect any individual to read a Cliff-notes version of politics taught by a television commentator using carefully constructed clips to educate the public. But the reality is media has become the classroom of learning and its showing cause and effects. I am not angry, disappointed, or upset with her. As I said before, everyone is entitled to his/her beliefs and opinions. That, to me, is what real freedom is all about. Naturally, I would have relished in a moment of overall fairness that my side could have been constructively heard and recognized. There was a time where we could “agree to disagree.”  That time seems to have passed long ago. Afterall, politics is nothing anyone should get worked up about. The beauty of law, public policy, and elected officials is that they or it can be replaced at the swipe of a pen or the pull of a leaver, unlike the permanent corporate fixture.

 

A talking point as to why I am writing this is to share that some people in crazy moments like to argue just to argue. I’ve never really understood that rational about such dialog? I guess some people want to feel intellectually gifted or academically equal as if I am prejudging them? I enjoy a good debate here and there as long as the debate facilitation is constructive and doesn’t become personal or off-topic. It is no secret that I enjoy the academic world of debate and try to apply where and when possible such conduct of viewpoints. To me, there is no winner. There are moments of victory to prove a point. But ultimately the greatest takeaway is when both sides learn from one another to effectively make an issue better and relevant for all. Wishful thinking on my part. But I still have hope for humanity.

Coincidental Trump Followers

Over a year we have rehashed and overanalyzed the Presidential election of Clinton vs. Trump to the point that the average citizen is sick, tired and wishes to move on. Additionally, there is almost a bizarre method to attempt to get into the mind of voters and dissect why they voted the way they did? What was intended to be a landslide victory for one party took a sudden turn to elect what people describe as a country critically divided and with outside election influence?

While it may be true that the nation is politically and socially divided. There may be some rather obvious reasoning as to why there are Trump supporters? I remember a time where Senator Jesse Helms would win by a landslide in a state where Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans. Yet if you asked any North Carolinian how they voted you wouldn’t hear the name Jesse Helms at all. It is a cryptic and secretive voter scheme to protect the politician that people love to hate. It is somewhat like a Trump rally. You may not know any Trump supporter but are surprised to learn of an unsuspecting individual that attended. This is how and will remain the taciturn election cycle.

But the Trump election is somewhat similar to the Helms scenario. Perhaps Trump supporters are slightly xenophobic, conventionalists, or seek strict societal controls? Trump supporters are far less inclined to care about who is not telling the truth, facts, sexual improprieties, corruption, political correctness, or free press. Sure, these descriptions follow an ethical rule, but to Trump supporters, these issues don’t put food on the table or hold much merit.

I was recently at a Target store and overheard two African American women carrying on a conversation. What made this particular conversation stand out was the two were using colorful words such as fuck, bitch, shit, motherfucker and other expletives somewhat loudly where others could hear – including children. I looked over at other patrons watching body language and facial expressions which ranged from deep glares to curled lips. As the two women walked towards the checkout, I could overhear a woman saying to another man “people like that are the reason our country has so many issues.” It was a stark and loose comment that perhaps Trump supporters may have considerable prejudiced viewpoints mixed with authoritarian aggression such as social manners and common courtesies while in public. However, I wonder what would have happened if the two African American women would have been Caucasian? Would anyone notice or express similar facial expressions? Trump supporters will argue that the ‘N’ word should never be used. Yet pop culture continues to frequently use the ‘N’ word in lyrics and conversation. It fuels the opposite as double standards amplifying a further divisional standard.

This brings me to the Trump allegations of sexual harassment and improprieties. The typical Trump supporter doesn’t give a hoot about Stormy Daniels or the list of Trump sleepovers or issues. Why? Because most Trump or conservatives firmly believe consent between two people is just that. It is the attitude that private matters between two parties are none of our business.  Basically, you can claim to be a virgin one moment but cannot declare a mulligan to reclaim your virginity. It is not up to public inspection. The average conservative politician may voice concern about a sex allegation but usually finds the words, “the victim shouldn’t have allowed herself to become vulnerable” or something closely related to that effect. Conservatives and Trump followers think that sex crimes belong in one category where overwhelming evidence demonstrates the classical rape sequence. Anything beyond that is he said – she said story. Social justice warriors are attempting to change that by challenging judges that don’t rule the way they deem necessary and fair. But time will ultimately tell when Trump styled judges eventually find their way to the bench to dismiss or overturn based on evidence or conditions.

As for facts, free press, and corruption it can be argued that politicians have been violating this for eons and will continue to do so as a right of passage or interpretation. Let’s face facts that lobbyists and dollars run the nation – not politicians. American political corruption has been the core of our institution, and a catalyst for pop culture television shows ever since the introduction of the West Wing. As Americans, we love a scandal so much that the Trump administration has made a complete four-year live television series keeping scandal in news headlines. It is so compelling that we have no idea what legislation has been introduced and passed over the past year. In fact, we can barely name any of the Trump cabinets – unless they are under investigation.

A reason the country is divided may be because of how we have separated the dialog. Our advocates are the press with questions not of the typical American individual – but representing particularly social justice or trending feeds. The average American is not glued to Facebook, Twitter, or other social justice sites. Americans are fighting legal battles, high-interest rates, watching Family Guy, and just barely above water avoiding any mention on social media as it may be the result of not having a job. In contrast, the Trump supporter is engaged with any tactic necessary to introduce or forward anything that appears real, truthful, and conventional. Afterall, that is what typical America seems to want no matter what the cost.

What is a landslide is how we embrace media and television to watch a scandal unfold and change right before our eyes. We are no longer concerned for the poor, homeless, wrongfully convicted, starving, needy, and the impoverished. As long as we have our reality television show filled with distractions and unfounded analysis so will the rhetoric of blended real and fake information.

The Social Media Carousel

Following the news is much like watching an old-fashioned style carousel. While you may focus on a particular rider or object, there are plenty of distractions along the course of the ride. Decades ago our news was filled with somewhat credible and journalistic issues. Game and cooking shows could take our mind off of severe problems while soap operas would introduce a moment of drama to be shared with those that shared similar television interests. Naturally, there was Donahue or the Morton Downey Jr. show, which were the first talk show formats that included audience participation. Seeking tabloid journalism was as easy as standing in the checkout lane at any grocery store USA. That form of journalism was shunned but still a part of the gossip world. Overall the decorum of gossip entertainment and social etiquette is contrasting different than today’s standards – or lack thereof.

With the introduction of cable, satellite and streaming media content the world of news has become more of an entertainment value. Newspapers that once provided journalistic standards are barely surviving and slowly being replaced with opinion-based talk shows. Decades ago popularity of an individual could be solely based upon if you encountered a busy signal trying to reach a friend or by a frenzy of a pop culture performer appearance on your favorite television program. The internet and streaming media has removed the anticipation effect and replaced it with a 24-hour social media tracking device with special mobile alerts to keep individuals informed. If The Beatles would have been as popular today as they were fifty years ago, then JFK Airport would be empty except for the hordes of paparazzi trying to get an exclusive photo to post it on the internet.

Americans have desperately been trying to “cut the cord” to expensive cable or satellite television subscription services. Folks have resorted towards streaming media content or social media for what they consider as credible information with a feeling of being heard or connected. The United States was founded on the pursuit and discovery of freedoms. One of those foundations is the free enterprise system. However, that free enterprise or accessibility indeed isn’t free. What used to be free television with rabbit ears and a bit of tin foil has become an al la carte cash cow for social media content providers, television networks, and internet providers. If you want to skip past the commercials, be prepared to pay a premium fee. But finding credible news or events that impact community or awareness is now buried behind the Kardashians, Twitter rants or whatever was the buzz feed from TMZ.

Americans cannot cut the cord or change the level of dignity because we desire to keep up a war on something. It is embedded in our DNA and fabric as a nation to be fighters. We find it difficult to determine what we are fighting for and how to follow a particular platform. This is why politics is broken, social movements have division, and society desires to blend only if they think like me. We love to gossip and read about it. Otherwise, the National Enquirer would have been bankrupt decades ago. The risk of bankruptcy is local newspapers, libraries and the arts in general. Apple and Samsung will continue to profit because something new will be released to capture our eye. Somewhat like the carousel but without it ever stopping. We are all riders attempting to influence others to join us as long as maintain Facebook, Twitter, social media, dating sites, and receive our news from Apple or Samsung and its subscribers. President Trump has been smart (and I use that term loosely) enough to watch us all fall into the trap of “what will he say or Tweet next”?

Technology hasn’t made us any smarter or better multitaskers. In fact, I would argue that social media, television, mobile devices, computing, and other factors have developed us as codependent attention deficit thinkers seeking the quickest remedy with not credible returns. This is not to suggest to turn back the clock. However, it is a warning that we should tone down our rhetoric and use a bit more decorum, comprehension, and listening skills. Whoever is on television today will undoubtedly be on tv the rest of the week because the internet and subscription services never die.

Perhaps that irrational gossip-laden program can be replaced with random acts of kindness such as providing your dog or cat more attention (I doubt they watch television or play on the internet). Calling a friend or family member on the telephone (no texting allowed) and listening to them. Reconnecting with family and loved ones that typically hear from you on holidays. Sitting down with your favorite book or newspaper and that homemade cup of coffee that didn’t cost you $5 with your name scribbled on the side of the cup. Enjoying a moment of sanity in your world may bring you to the reality that you are no longer are on the carousel. Enjoy it while you can.

Fake or Credible Internet?

Executives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google appeared today before Congress to discuss issues of possible Russian election interference. What I learned from that discussion was that internet providers are not as transparent as they claim to be. It has been a long-standing unwritten policy that the internet will not be controlled by anyone or any company. What we perceptively learned today was that the big internet giants have an interest in revenues and public image. Naturally, they do not wish to be labeled as “controllers of free speech.” But what about television, mail adverts or newspaper media flyers. They are regulated by many rules and regulations, and the deliverables of that particular irregularity or false product could be held liable for distribution not to mention investigators will be serving search warrants and filling up evidence boxes for later court dates. Such false advertising or false production is similar to snake oil pitches. Eventually, the salesman and the product can be banned and criminally charged if it causes harm.

The internet can be a dangerous place. It does have a unique mystique about it, and the data it collects and shares can be compared to a diamond mine depending on how one desires to implement a plan. But the internet today is not the porn hub central that once was deemed the 1990’s deviant playground. Today, the internet has become a part of our connected world with ala carte news and home appliance device connectivity. This is a differing contrast to European and foreign markets that protect user information. The internet has become dangerous because we have created conditions for it to be hazardous. Without fundamental enforceable law and boundaries, we have allowed the internet to be policed by not companies and people but instead analytics and software. This is not to imply a conspiracy theory of artificial intelligence taking over the world. Alternatively, the implication is that software is not human enough to determine what is real versus what is not. But to take that argument a bit further, many Americans have difficulty in distinguishing between fake or credible.

Based on that little snippet of discovery it will be hard-pressed for any prosecutor to effectively rule on the Russian election hacking issue. Not because of evidence, but because of the complexities of election laws differing across state lines and internet data servers that typically reside outside the United States as a form of redundancy and backup qualities. Let’s not mix up collusion with election tampering. Collusion is a secretive path to data where tampering is a physical adulteration of data. But I think it is equally important to ask tech giants to disclose to government or a branch of oversight how it maintains its secretive or propriety paths. For example, today I performed a random search of Kevin Spacey and Anthony Rapp separately. What I quickly discovered was that Spacey had all the press information while Rapp had similar linkage. There was not one negative search story about Rapp to include alternative viewpoints or discussions. Why? Is it that analytics immediately point to what is deemed credible or is it what tech giants want us to read?

Overall, it is very complicated, and any legal ramifications about internet tampering will ultimately set a new precedent of how we or others police credible data. Another question to ask ourselves “does metadata exclude opposite viewpoints on purpose because it deems them as false?” This would be the argument I would introduce because not one blog or publication raised issues with Rapp. I am not attempting to slam Rapp. I am only using this as a prime example of how information seems adulterated and selectively scrubbed while searching for it.

The bottom line is that tech giants have an agenda and we the people are its product. Naturally, there won’t be much transparency from tech giants because that would remove a large slice of income and data collection from its grasp.  Google, Facebook, and Twitter currently monopolize our data where we do not own ourselves or our privacy any longer. Until someone breaks up the monopoly or peels back the onion of these companies, we will continue to witness distortion and snake oil pitches that seem all too real. Perhaps the internet and another nation adulterated our recent election by creating emotional harm. At what point will it become perilous where many people die or are harmed because the internet has succeeded credible standards seemingly no longer used because it’s not technical or high speed sufficient?

Apple Losing its Appeal?

I am a fan of Apple products. In fact, I have been a fan so long that I still remember my first Apple computer purchased in 1987. Owning an Apple during that time was radical because it was molding and changing a new market of home users. Over time Apple pushed the envelope again and again. But when it came to my phone I was a hardcore Blackberry user. I was convinced that nothing would ever replace Blackberry devices and that they would forever rule the world. I was surely wrong about Blackberry. Today I use an Apple iPhone 6 Plus in conjunction with my Apple Watch and enjoy them both. I was indoctrinated from Blackberry to Apple that I would be a happy customer, and so far I have been pleased.

Today Apple unveiled the iPhone 7 and a new watch. In a nutshell, I was not impressed and left feeling deeply disappointed. In viewing the reaction of audience members during the presentation, it almost felt like a scene of canned laughter and applause for a television sitcom. I became a bit flustered that each of the new qualities Apple introduced is the standard to competing phones. It had me questioning, “why am I still loyal to Apple?” For starters, the customer support is rock solid. I have never had an issue with an Apple product that could not be resolved with a quick call to Apple technical assistance. Additionally, the ease of use without having to hire a nine-year-old to help you figure out how to use a feature has been a relief. But Apple thinks that all of its users are or will be some amateur turned professional photographer. This is simply not the case with me. I don’t plan on creating any home movies. While I am appreciative towards Apple’s efforts in creating an entertainment device, I would have wished for some practical convenience features.

Many of us professional business users tend to wear the battery life out of our phones. I would have liked to have seen a wireless battery charging platform or something similar to a Tesla charger for the iPhone that will bring your battery life to 70% in 5 minutes. While it is true that Apple extended battery life maybe an hour longer, I remember that same conversation a few iPhones prior where there was a battery flaw causing a replacement recall. Okay, the new home button is no longer an actual button. So what!? Sure, I get haptic feedback which I rarely if ever use. Then the huge announcement that the iPhone 7 is water and dust resistant which is a far cry from waterproof. To me, this only means that once again I am at the mercy of purchasing another Apple condom or similarly based Otterbox.

If Apple wants to impress me, then begin creating devices that don’t crack or break when you accidentally drop them. We live in an active world where Apple claims to be a part of but creates devices corresponding to the children’s egg-and-spoon race. Apple must create a game changer scenario where its devices are durable for a family and practical world free from required and bulky Otterboxes. Why should my prescription eyeglasses be more durable than my iPhone? Once Apple personally answers that question, then maybe I will be awed and impressed.

A part of me would like to buy the new iPhone 7. The practical part of me says it is not worth the move yet. I cannot see the benefit of upgrading my nearly two-year-old iPhone 6 plus. I think I share the sentiment because Apple is struggling and flatlining among many of its loyal users. Sadly the observation I am witnessing is akin to the once dominant Blackberry device. As the mobile device community grew and became radically diverse, it left Blackberry far behind. My fear is that Apple is losing its creative edge allowing other devices or technologies to overshadow its long-standing innovative side.

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