Protesting is more American than apple pie or the NFL

american, apple, pie, flag

Clete Wetli, Contributor

While the Idiot-in-Chief was visiting Huntsville, AL last week to support Bigly Luther Strange for Senate, he took a moment from his usual and meandering cacophony of self-adulation to encourage the NFL to fire players who engaged in the political protest of kneeling during the National Anthem. Although most Americans use that anthem time to down another beer or have another bong hit before the game begins, Trump thinks that kneeling during the anthem makes athletes traitorous, un-American enemies of the state.

The crowd cheered loudly when they heard Twitler make his proclamation and screamed in approval when he advocated harder hitting in professional football. Perhaps, his supporters already have traumatic brain injury in common with many veteran players and feel that if they must live with it, so should everyone else. Like all of Dolt 45’s experiments in extemporaneous speech it was replete with juvenile insults, fictitious assertions, embarrassing machismo, and enough non-sequiturs to qualify for any number of pathological psychological diagnoses.

However, it was his stance on peaceful protest that had America shaking its head. Of course, no one expected the dolt buffoon to be familiar with laws that explicitly prohibit the President and other government officials from trying to influence the personnel decisions of private companies, like the NFL. The Orange Menace barely speaks in coherent simple sentences as it is. What was amazing was that he didn’t understand why protesting is a sacred constitutionally protected right in our democratic republic.

It never occurred to The Drumpf that America was born in protest. That our country’s greatest achievements are the product of peaceful protests and demonstrations. Protest is the oxygen of our democracy. Some attend rallies and hold signs, some write, some sing, some paint, some seek public office, but protest against politicians and the government is the very real and necessary expression of freedom and independence. More so, when it is a minority opinion or deeply unpopular view.

Tragically, many cities across the US have passed a myriad of ordinances that restrict the right of peaceful protest by charging permit fees and imposing other undue burdens designed solely to quell freedom of speech and expression. Regularly, people seem increasingly ready to advocate censorship if it means being exposed to an opposing view. This is a dangerous trend that diminishes public discourse and threatens our freedom and independence.

For its part, the NFL responded to Trumpzilla by standing in solidarity with the players who chose to take a knee. Many in the NFL may not have the same political views as the protestors, but at least they understood the importance of protecting their right to express themselves.

Ironically, the outrage that’s being expressed by many on the alt-right is humorous since they amass weaponry under the protection of the Second Amendment in case they feel they need to take up arms against the government. That’s patriotic to them, but protesting institutionalized racism and discrimination merits termination from your job?

Too many people believe that because they can block someone on social media that it should be the same way in real life. They also love the algorithms that ensure that they are only fed content that they are sure to like. But that type of groupthink isn’t what makes a representative democracy strong and vibrant. It’s antithetical to progress and growth. Instead, we should be listening to opposing views even more and protecting people’s rights to expression. If you disagree with professional athletes taking a knee during the anthem, then make your case on why they are wrong. We’d love to hear it. Firing them or banning them is what they do in dictatorships.

Protest is as American as apple pie and the NFL. Well, apple pie is as American as French Fries, but that’s another story. In the meantime, Trump really needs to shut his French-fried apple pie hole and figure out a way to keep his soul-mate in bad haircuts, Kim Jung-Un, from starting World War III.

Clete wrote something that offended me- I’m going to my safe place

facebook, censorship, intolerance

Clete Wetli, Contributor

I was incredulous this last week when the morons at Facebook banned me from posting to groups for a week because they claimed my article link had either offended someone or it had been reported as spam. Are you fucking kidding me? Honestly, it could have been Franklin’s piece, our Canine-American editor, but what kind of anencephalic idiot bans a liberal Yorkie, without an opposable thumb, that can type?

Over the last few years, some very fragile and whiny liberals have politely requested that I not post on their groups because they felt my posts were “off-topic”. I’ve complied, even though I felt their polite censorship was counter-productive and ridiculous. Oh, the horrors of having to endure an opinion that isn’t exactly the same as yours…

One of the reasons mainstream Americans can’t stand liberals is because of this kind of stupid shit. When did we get so overly-sensitive that we feel it’s imperative to ban or report someone who doesn’t share the exact same view we have? I know it’s really difficult to just scroll past an opinion article on a Facebook group that was set up for community organizing, but do you really think that it’s a good idea to report or censor that person who’s on your side?

If what I just wrote offends you, then please go to your fucking safe place and watch your puppy video and use your inhaler until you think you can handle more. C’mon folks, we’re better than this. I thought Democrats and liberals were all about free speech. Apparently, that’s only true if people agree with you.

This is exactly why I’ve spent the last several years going on the Dale Jackson Show on WVNN as a weekly guest and hosted my own liberal talk show for a year on that hard-right conservative station. Dale Jackson, unlike some liberals, actually welcomes opposing points of view because it makes for good radio and entertaining, thoughtful, and confrontational debate. Yet, many liberals are too afraid to even talk to Dale and that, my friends, is another big reason we keep losing.

It’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and troll and complain about things you don’t like. It takes a little courage to articulately express your opinion and engage in some meaningful debate. So, whoever decided to turn me or Franklin over to the Facebook gestapo- you won for a very brief moment, but we will be back. You can stew in self-righteous anger and indignation and file as many complaints as you like.

Or, maybe you could try writing an opposing opinion or going on a talk show and defending your viewpoint. Maybe, you could do something more than filing an anonymous complaint or showing up to rallies with twenty people sporting clever hand-made signs bitching about the injustices of the world.

Look, I get it, but liberals need to get the fact that you can’t preach tolerance while practicing intolerance. People have written some truly nasty commentary on my work and expressed some morally bankrupt opinions on my Facebook page. You know what? I let them. I heard them. I engaged them. I may not have changed their mind, but I let them talk. I let them because people could then see the folly of their arguments and the flaws in their points. They were self-evident. That’s what free speech is all about. You know what else? I learned a few things from the people I vehemently disagreed with. It made my points stronger and my arguments better.

Enjoy your safe space, my deeply offended friend. When you come out, you’re still going to have to deal with reality and deal with opinions you don’t like. If you’d like to actually start winning some elections, it would be really fucking sensible to quit censoring folks that are on your side and learn how to listen to those you oppose.

If you think I’m offensive now, just wait until my book comes out… Until then, feel free to boldly make your anonymous comments and complaints to Mark Zuckerberg, the guy who sold ads to Russians who posed as fake Americans to meddle in our election for Trump.

That’s all, snowflake, you can go cuddle with your puppy video…

I know you are, but what am I?

trump, strategy, blame

Franklin, Contributor

The imbecile just tweeted a fake GIF of himself hitting Hillary in the head with a golf ball. The moron just flipped on the Paris Accord and flopped back again and may still waffle in the wind depending on his whim. The douche canoe (yes, I heard that pejorative slang once before) is making the entire UN nervous because they think he’s exactly as stupidly unpredictable as Kim Jung Un and no one really wants the war that will ensue over two small penises bragging over which one’s bigger. Oh, the crowd was the biggest ever, regardless of the event, and his hands are bigly huge, the biggest if you look and you know what that really means.

No matter how much time elapses, Trump still epically sucks, he’s blindingly incompetent, grossly thin-skinned, and we know he’s, without one doubt, the very worst we could have elected to lead our great nation.

He just called the pathologically maniacal leader of North Korea “Rocket Man” and taunted him for having long gas lines in his country due to the sanctions we’ve imposed. Of course, that’s the path to mature diplomacy. He embarrasses our nation daily and his supporters find it cause for celebration as they spit on every institution we hold dear.

It makes one wonder if America finally got the president it deserved after decades of celebrating intellectual mediocrity and making excuses for collective complacency. I mean, there’s no still no excuse for Honey Boo Boo or The Apprentice. We’ve yet to figure out that the world doesn’t hate us for our freedoms, they hate us for our arrogance, ignorance, and delusional sense of superiority.

I’m a Canine-American, a lowly dog as they say, and even I know better than to shit where I eat. I am amazed at the Trumpster humans and their willingness to blindly follow the Orange one. They believe he is one of them, although he has never felt a day of their struggle or an ounce of their pain. They tuned into his show and think that his ability to fuck people out of their money makes him a successful businessman. Enough time has passed, but it still feels surreal that he won the presidency.

Each day, each hour, he finds new ways to demean the office and to destroy the things that made our nation strong and enviable. He is an open wound that festers and tolerates no ointment or salve. He is the personification of malignancy posing as buffoonery.

What he lacks in wit, he makes up for in juvenile immaturity and reckless, stubborn arbitrary decision making. Thank the Almighty, he doesn’t drink, but he sure makes everyone else have a few more than they had intended.

Somehow, some way, we will survive him. Maybe, it’s the wake-up call our nation needed to put down their over-priced lattes and smart phones and give a real damn about what’s going on that truly matters. Maybe, as we float from one cringing moment to the next, we may again learn to value relevant experience, statesmanship, and wisdom. Maybe, politicians will learn to talk more directly about their genuine values and thoughtful plans instead of worrying about how it will play in the polls. Each time I see Trump snuggle with an evangelical, it makes me want to eat the stuffing in the couch.

Indeed, the anomaly of the asshole we call the Trump should teach us all something about the strengths and fragilities of our republic.

Yet, I can’t help but worry that we are on a dangerous precipice. This is either our moment of existential truth or our moment of inevitable, self-imposed doom.

Somehow, we’ve got to change the conversation and get our country back on track, but not backward. I can’t have another debate with a Trump ass-licker that simply amounts to “I know you are, but what am I?” or “Some Democrat did it, too”.

I need to install a count-down clock before I lose my mind. I never thought we’d see the day where George W. looked like a genius in comparison. Maybe, he just didn’t have Twitter.

Stop Hating the Media

stop, hating, media

Clete Wetli, Contributor

The legendary newspaper titan and the inspiration for the term “yellow journalism”, William Randolph Hearst, must be smiling from his grave. Although excoriated for his enthusiastic embrace of sensationalism, Hearst knew intrinsically that dramatic conflict and hyperbole was a guaranteed money maker. It’s what most people wanted and he delivered. However, the profession of journalism pushed back against Hearst and, for a considerable time, protectively preserved its categorical and significant distinction from entertainment. Once twenty-four-hour cable news and the internet hit the scene, the rules changed again. Now, most people who think they are watching news are instead consuming opinion and debate on news stories they never watched or read to begin with.

Discussion of policy is simply the arena or staging ground for the combat. It has become increasingly irrelevant to most of the spectators. The focus is on the contenders and their ability to engage in “one-upsmanship” and contemporaneous snark. Hearst would have adored Trump, just as most in the media did and still do. Love him or hate him, he’s a cash cow.

So, stop hating the media. This is what consumers want. They demand it. In fact, they are doubling down on their commitment to it. They’ve never had more choice, more control, or more availability. Those who deny this reality will continue to lose influence in the realm or public opinion, political power, and policy advocacy.

Rather than hating the media, it’s time to embrace it and get better at manipulating it. Trump won because he played the media like a fiddle. Clinton lost primarily because she never found a way to generate genuine excitement for her campaign because of her understandable fear and disdain of controversy. Trump lives on controversy. Clinton saw the campaign as a format to exchange ideas, Trump saw it as a mixed martial arts cage match.

As liberals decry the deterioration of objective journalism, conservatives have not only cheered its demise, they have built an impenetrable echo-chamber of confirmation bias that caters exclusively to its base. They embrace the sensational, albeit nonsensical, war they’ve started with truth and facts. They appeal to emotion and shamelessly recognize fear as the most powerful one that influences human behavior and decision-making. This is precisely why they continue to win in spite of the truth and the obvious viciousness and impracticality of their ideas in a democracy that was designed to serve the diversity of its citizens.

Stop hating the media. Learn from it and get better at messaging, marketing, and manipulating the debate. Stop with the intellectualizing and ivory-tower politically-correct condescension, regardless of its moorings in undeniable ideological truth. Whether liberals like it or not, the television ratings matter far more than being correct. It isn’t selling out to accept this fact, it’s a realization that the environment has changed and learning to win in a new landscape.

Yes, ultimately, the policies and ideology matter. But, as Alec Baldwin once said in the classic movie about sales, Glengarry Glen Ross, “Coffee is for closers.” Right now, liberals aren’t closing the deal and they’re spending too much time bitching about the rules in a game they don’t fully understand. If you can’t win, then no one’s going to care about your brilliant ideas and they will drink every last cup of coffee just to spite you.

It’s time for liberals to work on their brand and aggressively market the ideas that made America great in the first place.  It’s time to learn a few things again from P.T. Barnum. Why do you think Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore rode a horse named Sassy to his polling place in the primary? Yes, it was ridiculous, but he won that news cycle hands down. Just mull that over a minute.

Stop hating the media. It’s time to own it.

Opioids killing more people than at height of HIV/AIDS epidemic

opioid, epidemic

Clete Wetli, Contributor

In June of this year, Blue Cross/ Blue Shield released a mind-boggling report that more people are dying annually of opioid overdoses than were dying during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America. Certainly, more died of overdoses than were killed by terrorists. Some 33,000 people are dying every year and it’s now one of the leading causes of shortened life expectancy. Yet, we’re more worried about spending gazillions on our bloated defense budget and finding new and interesting ways to incarcerate people unless they’re white collar criminals.

We wrongfully stigmatize those with addiction by rejecting that it’s a disease. We tend to assign the cause of addiction almost always to a lack of will or irretrievably flawed moral fiber. Now, the problem is that many of the human beings addicted to these drugs weren’t exactly the type of people that most associate with addiction or drug-seeking, hedonistic behavior. A good many of these folks were prescribed these drugs legally for legitimate medical issues, but find themselves rapidly and hopelessly addicted. When the prescription can’t be refilled anymore, they seek whatever they can to stave off withdrawal. They buy pills off the street or inject heroin for the first time.

How many people have to die or go to jail before we get serious about treating addiction in a humane and sensible way in this country?

Sadly, since Nixon first declared the War on Drugs in 1972, the issue has been hyper-politicized and millions of Americans have needlessly died or suffered so politicians could win votes. Of course, doctors and Big Pharma wipe their very sterile hands of all this as they exchange money for their respective expert services. The biggest secret is that dentists are usually the biggest offenders. Who wants to settle for Naproxen when the tooth doc is offering a Percocet? We’ve been conditioned to believe that the only real pain meds that work are the ones that are only available by prescription.

Sadly, the Drug War has had a slew of unintended consequences like no-knock warrants and civil asset forfeiture. But there’s so much more. See what happens if you’re driving and happen to get pulled over by a cop and you have one of those pill organizers on you- the kind that have a compartment for each day of the week. If you don’t have your prescriptions handy, you’re going to jail. When it comes to drugs, you are guilty way before anyone ever thinks you may be innocent.

Yes, there are those too that just want to chase the dragon and get fried out of their minds. These are the people who need our help and who need therapy. Yes, they need to suffer the consequence of their actions, but they also shouldn’t be treated as sub-human and dispensable. When given a real chance and some genuine hope for a better future, people do recover from addiction. It’s not pretty and it’s messy and sometimes it takes a long, long time.

We tend to lump all these drugs together and, ironically, refuse to stigmatize legal drugs like alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine because most folks really like those chemicals. Well, alcohol is different because law enforcement pays the bills off of DUI’s.

Isn’t it time we quit painting it all with a big broad brush and use some evidence-based practices to deal with individual situations in their context? It seems like so many other countries have a handle on this, but we can’t ever seem to find solutions that don’t end up with more people dead or in jail.

Let’s quit wringing our hands and shaking our heads. It’s time to be fucking outraged because this is a crisis we can do something about. It’s going to take some political courage, a bunch of money, and an army of addiction counselors. But, it’s worth it. Let’s quit treating addicts like criminals and actually help them recover.

We can start by holding doctors and Big Pharma accountable for their role in this epidemic.

Like coffee? You better save the killer bees

coffee, killer, bees

Jerry Waters, Contributor

I was recently horrified to discover that man-made climate change is threatening the very gasoline that fuels human existence: coffee. These dreadful tidings are enough to move the hands of my personal Doomsday Clock rapidly forward to display a quick two seconds to midnight. Folks, this is a DEFCON 5 situation that requires immediate attention and the kind of rapid global action that can only occur after unhealthy abuse of espresso.

So, the problem is that rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns have already begun to affect the Latin American coffee crop. The biggest pollinator of coffee crops happens to be the killer bee whose work is vital for high commercial yields. Aside from temperature and precipitation changes, the killer bees are also losing habitat quickly due to humans destroying their homes.

Compounding these issues, killer bees really don’t much like humans messing with them and beekeepers aren’t exactly fond of handling critters with “killer” as their descriptive moniker. As all these compounding factors threaten coffee production, it is feared that if some major corrective measures aren’t taken that the industry could have some very rough times ahead.

As I write and sip my very bold Colombian morning blend, it drives home the point about how interconnected we are as a planet. I never thought that I would be thanking a killer bee for my morning joe, nor did I imagine that I would suddenly be very concerned about her survival. In fact, too many Americans are blissfully oblivious to the rampant global destruction that’s caused by their unquenchable consumerism.

As my java kicks in, I think that all coffee-loving Americans need to start doing their part to ensure that the international companies that bring us all these products we desire are doing it in an environmentally responsible way. This revelation about the contribution of the killer bee to my caffeine addiction brought home the reality of the fragility of our ecosystem.

From the Pacific Trash Vortex to the earthquakes caused by fracking, the selfish human desires for profit and self-indulgence are wreaking havoc on our planet. Of course, it is politicized because it costs more money to ensure that the utilization of natural resources doesn’t result in their depletion or become the catalyst for a chain of events that harm other living things and biomes.

Somehow, we all keep forgetting about our symbiotic relationship with the killer bee.

In this age of seemingly infinite consumerism with the carcasses of plastic bottles and K-cups seemingly everywhere, I can’t pretend to know any quick fix or magical solution. I think it simply begins with awareness followed by a personal commitment to think about the consequences of your lifestyle choices. Maybe, it starts with finding out if your coffee is produced by a responsible grower who doesn’t exploit his workers in the fields and understands the great value of the killer bee to the yield of his crop.

So much of this debate over man’s impact on the climate is absurdly obvious as we continue to pave and clear-cut and mine and try to force nature’s hand. As a species, we’ve got to become much more aware of our footprint and we must commit to preserving the delicate balance of our planet. We have no choice but to inject politics into the debate or we risk more profiteers, like Trump, shredding global agreements to curtail pollution.

I can probably live without my iPhone and certainly don’t need a toaster connected to WiFi, but when you start talking about coffee shortages, you have my undivided attention. So, let’s make sure we do everything we can to help the killer bees keep killing it.

Stand in solidarity with us. tea drinkers, because you may be next. Maybe, this is what folks mean when they say I need to get “woke”…

Read more on the Coffee Loving Killer Bees

Death to the Starving Artist Myth

van, gogh, ear

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

Last night I was bemoaning the existence of the starving artist. For those who know me well, this is a common complaint and I am sure I sound like a broken record playing the same scratchy tune. I am also an artist but as I encounter my own kind in the world of business, it baffles me why romanticizing starvation and poverty is a winning strategy. So when I was playing that scratchy tune for my loved ones to listen to for the umpteenth time, I realized something about myself… I am an entrepreneur who happens to be an artist and not an artist dabbling in the world of business. I have some advice for my fellow creatives, entrepreneurs and starving artists: starving isn’t sexy.

I know that TV shows, plays and movies love the idea of impoverished artists struggling to create art at the expense of financial security and creating “art for the sake of art” alone. This idea normalizes the inability to support one’s self and artists have embraced this stereotype. I mean without this stereotype, we wouldn’t have Rent!  I know all throughout our art history lessons, we have heard about Van Gogh and his ear-munching mania and Edgar Alan Poe and his infamous death knell but the only death knell I hear around here is for your career. I understand that creating this idea has helped Hollywood but it is not helping you, my fellow artists.  It is not aiding in you in selling art or for marketing yourself in a winning way so please do us all a favor and step away from the stereotype.

So how do we usher in an age where we stop romanticizing poverty? We start treating your art as an actual business. So, repeat after me: “I am a f*cking entrepreneur.” And now that you have had that self-empowering mantra, you then prepare and plan for your career like you are fortune 500 company, well… because you are. Please follow these helpful hints to rock your art career in a big, bad way:

  • First conquer branding: Come up with your colors, mood, look and narrative that you will sell to the world and implement it. And that narrative had better have nothing to do with ramen noodles and homelessness. I don’t care if you are actually eating ramen noodles, the world needs to never know about it. You are successful, sexy and creative and you need to own it.
  • You will also need consistency, planning and follow-through. Big business, galleries and the general public have no use for your flighty ass. Finish a project before you start another. I understand creative ADHD. I fight it all the time. Find some discipline, rock your career like a Virgo and get it done and get it done on-time.
  • Promote yourself like Picasso. Picasso was the master of self-promotion. No other artist in the 20th century, not even Dali or Warhol, could hold a flame to Picasso’s shameless self-promotion and we all know his name now for his efforts. Take a lesson from history and put yourself out there and do not fear rejection. Get used to wearing rejection like a warm, fuzzy sweater you wear on cold, rainy days. You will be rejected and you will keep on living. The art world needs to know your name before they accept you. They need to know you are financially viable and not one of those starving artist types.

These tips certainly aren’t the answer to everything but it is a good cursory start to kicking that stereotype to the curb and starting to own your career and its subsequent success. I will quietly step-down from my soap box and tell you to rock on self-promoter and make the art world your b*tch!

Profiles in Poltroonery Starring Betsy DeVos Or “Another weak, another blow too pub lick edjucashion!”

betsy, devos, bears

Franklin, Contributor, 10 out of 10 grizzly bears approve this message.

This week, Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, known unofficially as the Bane of Public Education, announced that she had no desire to go after student loan lenders who engage in unfair or fraudulent business practices. You know, like banks that gave out high interest loans to attend the fabled ivory tower of higher education known as Trump University. In a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she told the watchdog agency to back off as part of a broader Republican effort to stymie the agency’s investigative and enforcement capabilities.

DeVos hates consumer financial protection almost as much as she hates public education itself. Her letter to the CFPB came on the heels of her stunning decision to revisit Title IX sexual harassment policy in public education. Apparently, DeVos is very concerned about the rare occurrence of false allegations of assault, rather than the thousands of sexual assaults that do occur or the untold number that are covered up or unreported.

DeVos has spent her entire silver-spooned career fighting for the rights of the wealthy elite to soak up taxpayer dollars so that their children can go to private or charter schools with their tuition subsidized using public funds. This is vitally important because without those subsidies they cannot escape the shame of enduring education amongst the commoners without great inconvenience. Indubitably, this must be prevented at all costs. After all, what’s the point of being filthy rich if it doesn’t come with privileged entitlement? Why should rich people have to pay taxes that fund public education and then also have to pay for little Randolph Ellington Snodgrass, III to go to Fancy Pants School for Gifted Lads in Uniforms? Everyone knows that Master Snodgrass could not possibly endure a ride on a filthy school bus surrounded by grubby plebians…

Yes, Betsy DeVos understands the controversies of our modern age. That’s why she feels it’s important to teach kids creationism as divine truth and evolution as an unproven theory. Who needs national educational standards? According to DeVos, rural Mississippi will teach the “3 R’s” even gooder than they do in New York City without pesky interference by the Department of Education! Besides, if they don’t like that in Mississippi, they can always see if there’s an opening in the Fancy Pants School for Gifted Lads in Uniforms.

As the heiress to the Amway fortune and sister to the founder of mercenaries known as Blackwater, DeVos own “business career” is a shining example of nepotistic hegemony and snake-oil salesmanship. Using Amway money, she helped finance a company called Neurocore which has a bunch of “brain performance centers” offering biofeedback therapy for mental health disorders, which is about as effective as “praying the gay away”, but with much more technology and even fewer positive results. It must be effective because it’s expensive, right?

During her confirmation process as Secretary of Education, she didn’t hesitate to teach America’s children the value of plagiarism and her firm belief that all schools should be armed to the teeth in case of grizzly bear attacks. Her genius agenda for public education basically consists of defunding public schools and paying teachers even less while ensuring rich white folks can get “school choice” vouchers so they can choose to self-segregate.

After six months of praising Trump’s every move, she is finally enacting her own agenda to ensure that America’s kids will never be exposed to dirty words like “climate change” or “evolutionary biology” ever again.

So, it is with great amounts of wine, as I weep uncontrollably for our nation, that I bestow upon Betsy DeVos the very first Profile in Poltroonery. We can’t wait to see what you do next year. Maybe, you’ll get rid of science in schools altogether so that children have more time for mandatory Christian prayers. Maybe, you’ll ditch the metric system and replace it with cubits. Betsy, you put the k in education!

Damned if you don’t

school, closings, weather

Clete Wetli, Contributor

Last night, we got the message that the City of Huntsville cancelled classes due to the potential of severe weather as Hurricane Irma was predicted to bring heavy rain and wind into the Tennessee Valley. The kids were jubilant, the adults not quite so much. Then, on social media there was great bitching and anguish over the decision. Most folks were very upset because they felt that the severe weather threat was overstated and that they were now forced into spending some unplanned time with their kids. They were irate because, in many cases, it would mean having to take a day off work presumably without pay.

The best part was inadvertently listening to WVNN conservative talk show host Dale Jackson picking it as his “Number One Thing You’ll Be talking About Today” and excoriating the school administrators for the decision by calling them cowards. I was scanning stations while I was coming back from the store with bread and milk so that we could make milk sandwiches should Armageddon begin. Mind you, Jackson has no kids, but he’s quick to disparage the school system for their decision to err on the side of abundant caution. He thinks the whole decision was based on their fear of lawsuits from angry parents.

I think too many parents would be angry no matter what decision they made. In this case, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey had already made an emergency declaration before the storm changed intensity and direction. This means that cancelling class would not require a “make-up” day. The school systems made their decision yesterday based on the forecast that included wind advisories and a tropical storm watch for the area. Of course, things changed and the forecast wasn’t entirely accurate.

Cue rage and rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth and cursing in foreign tongues! How dare they!! Yes, Dale Jackson was right, this is the number one thing you should talk about today- not disaster relief, not Equifax’s hack, not tax reform, not 9/11 memorials- yes, we should burn the effigies of school administrators and be sure they hear our feverish outrage!

Alrighty then. Now that your done foaming at the mouth, you may wish to consider that if this is, indeed, your number one issue for today, your life is darn good. I have a feeling that later in the day, that will change after your kids complain about being bored and not being able to go outside because it’s raining. Or, you’ll stay enraged like Dale Jackson, who remains completely unaffected by this issue, and gripe incessantly to ever person who’ll listen because that’s sort of y’alls happy place. Ooh, I bet your pissed I used the colloquial word “y’alls” in a sentence, too…

C’mon, whatever happened to our ability to just roll with things? I mean, they made a decision on the best information they had at the time and, yes, they erred on the side of abundant caution. I may be going out on a limb here, but I prefer that rationale over making decisions out of carelessly embracing risk or being completely unaware of severe weather threats or using a Magic 8 Ball for major decisions.

Yes, you will have to interact with your children if you’re able to pry the cell phones out of their hands. You will feel intense guilt as you binge watch Game of Thrones or whatever other non-productive thing you do on a Monday when you should be working. Some of you will even declare at 2:20 that it’s 5 O’clock somewhere. Eventually, your outrage will subside or it will grow as you begin to seriously contemplate a career change as a right-wing talk radio show host.

So, let’s lighten up on the school system. They’re doing the best they can. Those poor folks are truly damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Remember, they’re dealing with your genius angels every single day. Yeah, your genius angels and those bratty moron kids down the street, yet teachers have to do all of that completely sober. So, you’ll make it through this one unplanned day. Remember this afternoon that it’s probably 5’Oclock somewhere and toast the school for unplanned family time.

I wonder what Dale Jackson’s “Number One Thing” will be when he finally does have kids? Probably, complaining about how that Hawaiian Punch cartoon character on his kids juice boxes turned them into liberal snowflakes. Well, we can only hope.

The Unholy Power of Confirmation Bias

confirmation, bias, facebook

Clete Wetli, Contributor

There is new evidence that the Russians interfered with the 2016 U.S. election by purchasing targeted social media ads to promote misinformation and fake news. Obviously, there are troubling questions about how they knew which specific geographic targets to select and if that was coordinated using people from Trump’s campaign apparatus or from the info they hacked from voter registration databases. As more investigatory details emerge from the Russia probe, what remains clear is that many Americans are gullible because they are entrenched in confirmation bias.

They were ingenious because most of these ads didn’t mention candidate names or political parties. Instead, they focused on divisive social issues and were designed to spark outrage. Of course, the outraged viewer often shared the planted post and it soon had a viral life of its own as post shares increased exponentially.

Confirmation bias certainly isn’t new, but the way political strategists have learned to exploit it is groundbreaking. Typically, this phenomenon has been associated with scientific research to describe the tendency of people to interpret information, especially ambiguous information, in a way that reinforces their preconceived ideas or beliefs. More recent research of confirmation bias has shown that it affects everything from selective memory to food preferences, and most importantly, political views.

Prior to the rise of social media and endless cable news cycles, the problem clearly existed, but had not metastasized into the malignant epidemic that is abundantly evident today. Much of this spurred by the algorithms in search engines and social media platforms that try to hypothesize what information and advertising you would most like to consume. Often, we share articles and information we like with our friends on social media and most of these friends hold a similar political belief or worldview. This effect can cause people who had little interest in voting to decide to finally get involved. This happens on both sides of the aisle. During this last election, the Russians figured out how to rile up Trump’s base enough to get them to the polls in the targeted districts that swung the Electoral College in Trump’s favor.

The unholy power of confirmation bias is immutable and dangerous. It causes people to reject contradictory evidence and to eschew diversity of thought and opinion. Right now, it can be seen in the extreme polarization of partisan politics. Although conservative and liberal ideologies have little in common, they do, indeed, have things in common. However, in today’s political environment it is becoming a rarity for the extremes of both sides to admit any commonality at all.

For liberals, it’s important that we realize the power of this phenomenon and to avoid the “echo-chamber” trap that conservatives fell into long ago. It may mean liking some conservative Facebook pages or a friending a political figure with opposing views. Sometimes, your peers will question those choices, but it’s important to tell them that you are doing it to simply consider opposing views and to learn what others are thinking and why.

The Russians knew that Americans were lazy consumers of news and opinion. They exploited that as they actively interfered in our election. Our best defense against this intrusion is to learn to not believe everything we read at face-value. We need to do more research and read from different sources. We need to expose ourselves to different points of view. Occasionally, we can recognize commonality or even validate a sound position from our opposition knowing it didn’t come from “our” side.

Lately, there seem to be too many politicians that are solely focused on preaching to the choir. They aren’t engaging in substantive debate with the opposition because they feel the will learn nothing useful. They’re certainly not trying to genuinely understand the foundation of opposing views. Yet, that’s the key to winning the debate and finding common ground if, and where, it exists.

A little skepticism never hurts. For liberals to win, we can’t just exclusively listen to each other, we’ve got to hear from the other side periodically. Even my crazy conservative neighbor is like the clichéd broken clock- he’s right twice a day. Although the sooner we replace him, the better.

Facebook faces backlash over Russian meddling