Last year was just nuts. We can all agree 2016 was just a banner year for nutty behavior in America, the election driving us madder until the crescendo in November. It didn't die completely after.

One of the memories that stands out distinctly for me were the Facebook interactions at that time. The feeling of people taking their corners was palpable. I was friends with some people at the church we'd just started with the year before, and some were giving me a glimpse into the meme-verse of conspiracy mania. Online, Hillary Clinton is like Lord Voldemort and The Emperor plus a vagina. There is no scheme too sinister or wildly implausible that she could not be behind, and I got to see a good number of them.

As an aside, memes are a great modern rhetorical tool. They're visual, so they're catchy. The letters are big, and you can read them in under 8 seconds. They're generally crafted well enough to have some snark and sting. And, it's the beginning and ending of an argument you have no part in. Take it in, there's no references, just the shock. It you're stumped, just put "Benghazi" at the bottom and post it live.

While friends in one corner were sharing headlines about Vince Foster and Podesta's satanic rituals, friends in another corner were fully activated by Bernie Sanders, energized on a moral crusade to finally turn America into Northern Europe. It wasn't the "let's help the homeless and unfortunate" soft love of socialism, but a more visceral "burn down the capitalist machine" and "fix our broken system of wage slavery" vibe. The Berniest of bros would post several times a day, also piling on to their anathema Hillary Clinton, the representation of Wall Street and all that is wicked in the Democratic party.

If you remember this time, and it gets you revved up at all, you were probably in a few heated online exchanges. If you were, I can predict a few things about your exchanges without even knowing you or your friends:

  • Your exchange didn't change anyone's mind
  • You were still worked up after your exchange - exchanging comments did not ease your mind
  • You talked to others about it later on

That's what I remember at least. I recall my church friend sharing articles from an unknown website that used a random tweet for it's only source, and I tried to convince him that wasn't a reliable place to get news. He responded with another article from a similar source and an even weaker source. Afterward, I felt anxious that people are so easily misled, and honestly a little concerned about the man's judgment and intelligence.

When I look back at it now, at no point did I feel like it was a conversation. What it felt like was a sparring match of bumper stickers and sound bytes. People would start with the intention to steer their friends on the right course, but eventually give way to stating their own truths as acts of self-identification.

Facebook Friends

There was a guy I worked with briefly - we met one or two times in person, mostly coordinated over email. I somehow ended up friends with him on Facebook, and really liked the stuff he would post. We'd exchange comments on occasion, and I felt like I could relate with the guy a good deal on various subjects.

After several years of seeing him on Facebook and trading comments, I ended up working at the same new company as the guy, and ended up seeing him in person on the job. I'm pretty good with faces and names, and immediately knew it was John. "Hey John", I started, and could tell he was blanking on my face. I tried to help him, and it was still wasn't registering. "George Kovats... we worked together back at the old company..." He eventually registered it, like I was dredging up a kid in the back of a class he barely remembered.

I unfriended him from Facebook immediately that night.

John was by no means in any wrong, he was legitimately just a guy I worked with a few times at one company. He wasn't snide or dismissive, actually quite open. But in some odd way, I felt our online interactions were the basis of some connection that didn't exist. I'm an adult, and I confused Facebook friends with real friends. It felt silly - not that there's some high bar one must meet to ever earn the title "friend", but that a connection on Facebook doesn't really have any actual social capital. Surely, it doesn't have to, either. But at the time, for whatever reason, it felt dishonest being connected online to a person I shared no relationship with in real life.

Different Objectives

What's become more clear to me over time is that Facebook, and surely the other social platforms as well, are used to achieve different goals for each user. If you spend any time on the site or app, you probably already see patterns among your own friends. For some people, it's a place to compare your life with others and keep up appearances. Here's my handsome husband, my lovely kids, my recent manicure, the front lawn, a spa day, a happy life. For some, it's an outlet of your life style, whatever it is that motivates you. A lot of fitness folks fall into this category, posting run times and gym pictures to keep themselves motivated. And of course, there's the political folks, sharing headlines and images from their favorite arguments around the internet.

Did you know 2/3 of Americans get their news from social media? That's fucking sad, isn't it? The answer is yes. Yes it is.

At some point, I realized Facebook truly wasn't a conversation anymore, it was a content and self-expression engine. Like with bumper stickers, people aren't looking to debate their High School Honor Student or how they rescued their West Pomeranian Shitzu, they're looking to reinforce these parts of themselves. The act of posting to Facebook is just reinforcement of their thoughts and values, and the comments are attention.

As Facebook drew less pleasure for me, I began to follow the KonMari "discard what does not bring me joy" method and started muting everyone who posted things that perturbed me. I ended up with a small, narrow group of people who generally posted very similar content, usually with some thought and commentary. It was good for a time, until I learned my brother had moved into a new home from my mom, and when I went to look for any posts I'd missed, I saw that I'd unfollowed my own brother at some point in a massive purge.

This was a wake up call for me.

After listening to a repeat episode of Hidden Brain which reminded me that social experiment had proven Facebook makes people less happy, I was convinced. It had to go.

Post Facebook (posts)

Immediately, I noticed after quitting Facebook that I no longer had a go-to distraction whenever I had access to an internet browser. It was literally the URL I would go to whenever my brain wanted a brief Pavlovian moment of distraction. I now had to find some online periodical or rotation of news I care about to possibly fill the void (still looking).

Also, I've returned to my blog for self-expression. Sure, people need to express themselves through writing, crafts, art, and other means. But Facebook had become a very cheap form of self-expression, where most of the posts were just repackaging content from around the internet, or light commentary on pictures taken from a phone camera. It always irked me how a conversation on Facebook had to remain sparse and skip a lot of context and nuance.

For example right now, someone is posting something about the sexual assault revelations from Louis C. K., and it has to be quick and to the point. In a blog post, you can see the person covering the complex range of emotions for a fan who admires the comedians perspective and body of work, but can only recoil in disgust at his alleged behavior with these emerging women. But in social media, it's an emotional, pointed missive. The disagreements are equally trite.

Not everyone is a writer. Hell, I'm not a writer. But for all that people leave commentary all over the internet from day to day, there's so much a dearth of people's actual thoughts. It's people's emotions that often boil down to emojis or colloquial slang.

As for Facebook itself, we can see it's taken on a very savvy role in this new world where information is like yesterday's oil. It's become so canny at knowing it's users, journalists literally have to tell us that Facebook is not listening to your conversations. The investigations into last year's election hacking revealed that Russian trolls motivated two groups of people in Texas to protest each other over fake causes. Facebook testified to Congress they have at any time around 500 million active buyers of ads on their platform in target categories as detailed and esoteric as Housemate-based households and Family members of Expats.

As for the friends and family I left on Facebook, I added as many as I could in my email contacts and will try to stay in touch the old-fashioned way: a catch-up email every 3 years. Yeah, I'll their cat's Bat Mitvah pictures and various filtered selfies, but they can always mentally add one Like button from me, and it'll almost be like I never left.

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Let's face it guys, we're not hunter-gatherers anymore. Sure, some of us still like the sport of it, but it's mostly for fun, and to connect us with ancestors who relied on these critical parts of life in order to get by.

We look back fondly at these manly men we come from. My dad was more man in his left toe than I am after 2 shots of Jack. I'm sure he felt this way about his dad in some ways, as it's probably a natural part of life. We respect the struggle our fore-fathers had to bear so that they could give us our lives of convenience today. These were men. Real men.

Of course we've moved far from the more necessary gender roles of struggling times, and today's society works to balance expectations and opportunities between men and women. In part of this, we guys sometimes feel we're slipping away from our dads and how they defined manhood. We once romanced ideas of taming the Western frontier and fighting Indians like John Wayne (or as contemporaries would call it, genocide). Today, parenting has shifted from the harsh lessons of self-reliance to raising more emotionally aware young men who engage with technology more than the outdoors and hard labor.

So who killed John Wayne?

Yes, social roles have been changing for women and men, and it seems today's dads are different from the fathers who've raised them. Some guys struggle with this trend, which on the basis of nostalgia makes sense.

But I draw a bold, indelible line when blame for this trend is put on women. By this measure, things like Gamergate, the Men's Rights movement and the "Manosphere" are tragically disappointing.

Look, women didn't kill John Wayne or create gentile fathers. How you act as a father is entirely a personal choice. There were loving, sensitive fathers back in the early 1900's (when popular opinion was that affection could literally harm a child), just as there's rough, utilitarian fathers raising children today. The roles you strike within a relationship are also personal, and can be as conservative as June and Ward Cleaver or as progressive as the hippiest, free thinking dream imaginable. The difference is, while at one time there were strong forces to divide labor along gender lines, now we have more of a choice.

The Women's Rights movement was driven by legitimate justice, working to achieve voting privilege, access to education, and freedom to work as mothers and exercise control over reproduction. After 100 years of active work in the U.S., women still earn 4/5ths the pay of men in similar professions, they make up less than 20% of U.S. elected officials and only 14% of Fortune 500 executives. Even as far as women have come, they're still limited in economic and career mobility.

By contrast, the Men's Rights movement arose as a counter-movement, asserting Feminists have gone too far and that they desire ultimate power in a zero-sum contest. Started somewhat in earnest by former feminist Warren Farrell, it's become a lightening rod for misogyny and male frustration in the 21st century.

One of their chief claims is that women hold too much control through sexuality. Without parsing the supply or demand side of this claim, what's clear is that women receive the lion's share of sexual assault and demands on personal attire. 92% of cosmetic surgery is performed on women, and studies show the biggest reason they elect to change their appearance is low self-image. Sure, some women may use looks to their advantage, but as much as some men undoubtedly shape and create pressure to fit the current model of beauty. But calling women "too pretty" is not an indictment of women alone.

Gender roles come from society (which includes you)

If you're bitter about women because you feel jilted by some imbalance of perceived gender social roles, you have a choice. Men don't have to bottle up emotions, tough out all pain or earn top salaries, just as women don't require fawning, gentile attention, constant compliments or exclusion from manual labor. In truth, you'll find no greater ally for changing gender roles than women. They know a thing or two about shitty social expectations.

If you're dejected by failures to curry female attention, welcome to the eternal (straight) male condition, population: all sexual living organisms. It always feels incongruous seeing men with poor female relations resorting to contempt, as if that's a solution. Like the adage goes, you'll catch more flies with honey (than chauvinism).

Most guys have at least a mother, a sister, a wife and / or a girlfriend they love. If you do, you'll no there's no good reason to fuss over a single chromosome (which - to be biologically accurate - comes from the male sperm). If you don't, I highly recommend them; they dramatically improve life.

But if you don't feel manly because you don't resemble the masculine shadow cast by your father, then go out and fish for trout, hunt for deer, and / or fix a lawnmower. And above all else, treat women with respect. Because by old standards or new, that's always been the manly thing to do.

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I've heard and seen several declarations over the past few months that Science is losing ground with Americans, and we're all becoming "anti-intellectual." It's as if the Tea Party, Ken Ham and Jenny McCarthy have somehow moved us all back intellectually, back into a realm where research and evidence is trumped by our gut.

Sure, it doesn't look good when many of the Republican candidates running for the U.S. Presidency are staunchly against scientifically supported viewpoints across a number of topics (climate change, evolution, vaccines, and GMO's). From the European perspective, it's alarming that no major GOP candidate supports evolution, and several flatly refute it. In the scientific community, it's effectively the bedrock of all genetic research.

Then we see a Senator using a snowball to disprove global warming, a measles outbreak happens in California pockets of anti-vaxxers, the "Food Babe" becomes a thing, facts seem to be almost completely absent in popular politics, and suddenly empirical science is under attack.

But fear not, because…

We've always been panicky, emotional idiots

Let's start with the secular and the non-secular. If you look at the trends, acceptance of a non-theist based human evolution is trending up and theist creationism is trending down (both slightly, but enough). General religious practice (which is not antithetical to scientific belief) in itself continues to trend downward. For every meme about growing up Baptist, Jesus and angels, there's a meme or following for Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and SpaceX. And in truth, many spiritual people balance their faith with full respect of forward scientific research.

And yeah, we've had a bad go on vaccines in the last 15 years, but a lot of that has been fueled by the massive growth of the pharmaceutical market, and its subsequent rash of drug recalls. That's the backdrop from where people view our growing vaccine schedule for infants, which went from 6 vaccines in 1995 (about 18 injections) to 14 vaccines in 2014 (about 34 injections). In that timeframe, 14 new vaccines were released, which is a lot to take in. Corporate greed and its rush to market casts a large shadow, and a small nugget of psuedoscience sparked a ready backlash against time honored vaccines.

The good news is that it was very small backlash, and the vast majority of parents continue to vaccinate their children. In truth, the CDC remains among the highest trusted Federal agencies (with NASA following close behind), and it's done a commendable job demonstrating the safety and importance of childhood vaccinations.

Today, we just see more stuff

The general truth is that with the expansion of the media and it's focusing lens on our daily life, we have access to more shared knowledge as well as scandals and concerns. Documentaries like Supersize Me and the like feed things like "The Food Babe", which just occupies a space of niche psuedo-nutritionists who've always thrived. This is just a continuation of the Adkins diet, only that guy kinda had a lab coat feel. The "Food Babe" is just, well, a self-described "babe" with no credentials and Kardashian appeal. When has that ever gone out of style?

Nutrition in the public sphere has generally been about the loudest voices, not the most credible science. It has a veneer of empirical evidence, but it comes to us through gossip and infomercials. We have a unique relationship with food, which makes it a bad litmus test for scientific trust (in my mind).

Politics is even worse. Sure, no GOP candidate wants to outright support evolution, because they know their voters. Republican voters trend more theist, and therefore largely believe in some form of God-based creation of life. Even in general, our country is largely Christian by self-identification (around 71%), and compared with other countries we're quite avid attendees of church (39%, only beat by the Irish, Maltese and the Poles). This shouldn't much a surprise – the whole idea of the country started by worshipers seeking religious freedom.

Finally, if you feel the environment is a cause that shows how little we respect science, the general public struggles most over the _long-term projections _of climate change, not the immediate effects. Three out of four Americans want the EPA to do something about smog, because smog exists right now, and it's immediately visible. But if you mount an argument that airplanes, cars and coal factories will sink Miami in 20 years, it's an argument we can dismiss, because Americans are exceptional at dismissing issues until they're staring us in the face. For this one, I won't link articles, just raise 3 points: World War I, World War II and our National Debt. Oh, and those 15 pounds we put on since the 90's.

We're not dumber, we're just mistrustful

The truth is we know a lot more than we ever did as a society, and while that's helped us a lot, it's also exposed a lot as well. Across the board, nearly every public institution and authority has lost some trust with the public. The result causes a lot of debating and noise, but that's just a part of the process. We're not always going to get it right, but at least we're engaged, enough to question authorities now than we ever have.

As one of our smartest Americans once put it:

"Don't just teach your children to read…

Teach them to question what they read.

Teach them to question everything."

– George Carlin

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First, what is the 2nd Amendment?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Basically, we get to have guns, but not unlimited access to guns. The Supreme Court in 2008 puts it like this (via District of Columbia v. Heller)…

The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm … for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. … Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose…

So if you're a law abiding citizen, you can own firearms for lawful purposes: hunting, self-defense, and sport. Currently, "warring with the National Army because I don't like the government" isn't a protected right.

So what is gun control? Maybe you already know. If you're a gun enthusiast, you might say it's proper sight alignment and sight picture, or the slippery slope toward a total gun ban. If you're reeling from one of our nation's bi-monthly mass shooting, you might have a foggier idea about what it really is. It all starts with the 2nd Amendment, which has consistently been interpreted to mean that citizens have the right to own firearms (most recently by the Supreme Court in 2008 via District of Columbia v. Heller), but not without some restrictions.

First, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, dictates what's legal and what's not. So owning a 9mm revolver for home defense and sport, legal. Owning a 12 pack of hand grenades, not legal. The automatic Colt M16 combat rifle released in 1960 _not legal, _the semi-automatic Colt AR-15 released 3 years later legal. The government is also allowed to deny ownership of guns to categories of people, mainly felons, people with mental illnesses, illegal immigrants and veterans with a dishonorable discharge. So if you commit a gun crime or have a history of psychiatric conditions, for public safety, the FBI will not approve your background check for gun ownership.

In short, gun control is how the government tries to make sure guns are used lawfully, and not for committing crimes. It's keeping guns from the "bad guys" and balancing rights with public safety (hence keeping belt-fed guns and bombs out of general public use).

Where criminals get their guns

So where does the problem of keeping guns from the "bad guys" start? First off, let's omit good guys who go bad – lawful gun owners with no history of violence that decide to commit crimes. Sadly, many mass shooters fall into this bucket, which is why they're often a red herring in the gun control debate.

Let's assume you're a "bad guy" – someone with intent to commit a crime, and you have a criminal record. You need to get a gun, and here are your options.

Buying from a gun dealer

The first place guns are sold is through gun dealers that are issued a Federal Firearms License (FFL) by the ATF. This is referred to as the primary gun market, and makes up about 60% of gun sales. Right now there's over 140,000 FFL gun dealers in the U.S., and only 1000 ATF agents to enforce regulations. If 140,000 sounds like a lot, many operate without storefronts, often from private homes or even on the road. At best, a dealer may be inspected once a year, so some skirt regulations altogether, skip background checks and even traffic guns to Mexican cartels (where demand is huge). These dealers can often be black market dealers with a legitimate license and really bad bookkeeping.

Assuming you're at a legitimate gun store, and since it's post 1998, you'll have to pass an instant FBI background check. Nowadays this often takes less than 5 minutes. If you pass, your gun's serial number and your info is written on paper, mailed to the ATF, and stored on microfiche. Why microfiche? Because the 1986 Firearms Owners' Protection Act (aka FOPA) prohibits any national gun registry, so the ATF gets by with 19th century technology. In the event you somehow pass this check and commit a crime, if law enforcement finds your weapon, they'll make an often futile attempt to trace you through the ATF microfiche system.

To see how futile this is, try hastily writing down your vehicle's VIN number and ask someone else to read it.

…through a friend

But, likely, with a criminal record you'll fail the background check. No matter – FOPA also requires the FBI to destroy any evidence of your failed background check within 24 hours. No authorities alerted, no record to be used against you in court. If you're still really intent on getting the gun at that store, you'll simply need to conduct a "straw purchase" – you just give money to someone else who buys the gun for you. You could be the next serial gunman, but at worst your straw purchasing friend may face a misdemeanor (see 2014 Abramski v. United States).

…through a guy on the Internet

If you don't find an accommodating FFL dealer, what you'll likely do is buy your gun from a private seller, also known as the secondary gun market (accounts for 40% of gun sales). You can try Armslist, the "Craigslist for guns", or a number of  local papers to find folks who grow tired of their revolvers, pistols, shotguns and rifles. Unless you're buying or selling a special category weapon (submachine guns, explosives, and special long barrel weapons), the ATF doesn't govern your transaction. Some states require you to do your gun sale through a FFL gun dealer who performs a background check, but it's so few that you're guaranteed the next state over does not.

…through a "gun enthusiast"

If you don't like what you're seeing in the private listings, you can always go to a gun show. There, while you'll find many normal FFL gun dealers, you'll also find private sellers who use the ATF's vague language for what constitutes a gun dealer and claim to be "casual enthusiasts". As such, they bypass all FFL gun dealer laws – no background checks, no registration. If, say, you live in New York where high-capacity magazines aren't available, well come down to Tennessee and grab a 33 round magazine for your Glock. The only law casual dealers must follow is they cannot knowingly sell to a felon. And as long as your criminal history doesn't come up in conversation, they won't ask.

The sad reality is…

We don't have effective gun laws. Gun rights supporters have fervently fought so hard to keep firearms free of regulation and easy to purchase that there's almost no accountability, tracking or barrier to criminal gun sales. In the few places where gun regulations could work, there's so little oversight that corrupt gun dealers flourish and feed a thriving black market for firearms. In the end, the U.S. has almost half the world's civilian-owned firearms and 2-4 times more gun deaths than any European or Asian country (Montenegro comes close, but it's still recovering from civil war). Uruguay, Barbados, Chile, and Peru all have fewer gun homicides than the U.S., while being significantly poorer and with much weaker police enforcement infrastructures.

I'm a former Marine with two pistols, a rifle and a Concealed Carry Permit. I whole-heartedly embrace a citizen's lawful ownership and use of firearms, but the landscape of gun and ammo sales in America is recklessly tilted toward ease of sale over public safety and crime prevention. While the NRA may drum up a great debate using fears that have no basis in public opinion or reality, it profits entirely from the controversy it instigates and the gun manufacturers that support it, acting as a PR firm for reckless gun marketing and fear mongering.

Americans will always have gun ownership, but we could do much more to ensure that ownership is kept safe, lawful and responsible. A public that doesn't feel safe will always move to the fringes, but avoiding gun violence only helps bolster the rights we agreed to at the dawn of our nation.

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Not much can be said about Trump that every news outlet and himself haven't already said. He's found a winning recipe that taps into 3 near limitless resources: public disdain for politicians, American xenophobia, and his own wealth. Come for his brute attacks on fellow politicians, stay for farcical stance on immigration.

There's a lot of speculation as to how his campaign charts it's disastrous course through the GOP primaries, and most expect the bubble to burst in his popularity, but we're well past our faddish short flings with GOP candidates in the last go. It seemed Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorium all struggled and eked their ways to the spotlight for short runs, but Trump's been solidly leading polls for almost 3 months. News outlets have fawned over him in both horror and awe of the things he says, and with bewilderment over his ability to avoid a complete collapse.

And with his popularity, he has a stranglehold on the Republican party. He freely admits he's not bound to any party, and if they go with someone else he'll gladly divide up their vote running as an Independent. If they do embrace him – either through a primary victory or loss – he could take the party conversation to a place that'll effectively ruin any chance of a Latino vote for years to come. It's like a story book romance where the Billy (ala voters) is clearly meant to talk to and cozy up with Suzy (ala Jeb Bush), but is fixated instead on a wild-haired rich girl with Turrets Syndrome (ala Trump). Artful analogy, I know.

One thing is for certain, he's entertaining. I'll take 10 press conferences with him at the podium any day over 1 with Scott Walker. Or hell, maybe even Rand Paul, a guy I think I like (generally). It's because he knows what this whole thing is – it's a show. People don't give a crap about your platform in general, so for a while he didn't even bother with one. His platform is his mouth, and whatever gut check, unsanitized, wildly skewed thought that passes through it and out into the world. His website is the most bare on actual Presidential campaign substance – for a while it had nothing. Now at least it has a "Positions" page, which as of today, there is 1: Immigration Reform. (Worth noting: for a New Yorker, _really? _This is your 1 position? America's most famous port of immigration for the 20th century and one of its most diverse cities?)

The man is a walking show, in an arena of polished automatons in suits with an unhealthy middle-class fetish. Maybe at some point people will start thinking differently and weigh him with more serious, rational thought. But for now, it's still kinda fun to watch and wait for what he'll do next.

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In 2015, when you say Scott Walker, most folks think (favorably or with disdain) about the heated 2011 recall election he faced as Governor of Wisconsin after facing down public unions.

He proposed and signed the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which was a big blow to public employee collective bargaining, pensions and healthcare. The result was the third ever U.S. Governor recall election, in which Walker drew crazy amounts of outside support, and after raising 7 times more money than his opponent, he won the election.

From the outside in, non-Wisconsonians saw his fight with public unions as a bold, neo-conservative throat-punch to established institutions. Apparently, so did political interest groups. Truth is, Walker was a conservative poster boy from the very beginning. With his father a Baptist preacher, Scott learned how to move a crowd from an early age. He caught the political bug early on, became an Eagle Scout, and immediately after enrolling in college started flexing his muscles on the student government. His bid for student President drew record votes, largely because of his furious campaigning and divisive platform. For Chrissakes, he ran on a Pro-Life platform… in a Student Government election.

After unpleasantness, likely Walker's disdain with his College and hunger for a career, he took a gig with the Red Cross before running for a seat on the Wisconsin State Assembly. We walked all over his district to drum up support, but fell short making the push for a conservative candidate in a very blue area. Ultimately, he had to move and retry in a different district with better results. From there, he'd move to a position as a Milwaukee County Executive, and then after two tries, finally the governor's office. He was 43 when he took the oath for the governor of Wisconsin.

Kill the Unions

He's known, and praised, for striking down public unions, and the huge backlash it stirred up. I even entered this little summary biopic with this fundamental understanding of Walker. He's an ideologue who is after absolute, free-market capitalism. But, maybe it's not so sinister.

On the one hand, Wikipedia says he walked into a $3.6 Billion budget deficit back in 2011, which apparently he touted later on. In truth, his turn around from that figure is less impressive, but nonetheless worth nothing. It's well known that state pensions and healthcare promises years ago continue to be a huge drain on states across the nation today, and as much as I dislike the idea, curtailing these costs can save state budgets. Of course, to counter this, Walker ushered in hefty tax cuts as is popular in every partially budget-conscious conservative's handbook.

But down the line, Walker runs on just about every conservative platform you can think of.

  • Voter ID laws
  • Abolish Abortions
  • Kill the Unions
  • "Right to Work"
  • Increase criminal sentencing
  • Privatize public institutions
  • Shrink government

He learned early on the beautiful magic corporate money and politicians when he worked with ALEC, the for coporations and politicians, to help private prisons increase profits by keepining inmates locked up for longer terms. And he's got all the folksy Christian talk to make him as "down home" as need be for the reddest of state fairs. One could almost argue he was raised form a ThinkTank gelatinous vat to become a 2016 Presidential hopeful.

I don't like Scott Walker, but I get him

There's no false pretenses with Walker. He's through and through a full-on, hard-core Christian Conservative. You can say he's swayed by corporate masters, but with a platform as pure as his, who wouldn't draw crazy special interest funding. This guy makes no qualms about anything. He's nothing if he's not consistently a hard-core Neo-Con.

The larger question that he'd face in 2016 is "Can he govern the greater U.S.?", and so far with a fairly cloistered upbringing and an entire political career in a state that's nearly 90% white, I doubt it.



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Seriously, like, we still have no idea who you are or why we continue to see you on TV. Well, apart from the latest news that is.

You were the original "no one to someone", before Paris Hilton made it cool. There was always something about seeing you after those first few commercials.

At first, there was a story. You ate sandwiches, and you lost weight. It qualifies for a generous kudos, maybe as a light human interest story in some PM news show. When you couch the story in a marketing campaign, it's less moving. It's less a triumph and more of the guy in the crowd who vouches for the snake oil's health benefits.

And then you kept on appearing on TV. Yes, I get it, you have a healthy BMI and want us to eat your sandwiches. Loud and clear. Occasionally you appeared outside of ads, and it was a friggin' mystery. You managed to foster your one, marginally impressive story into 15 years of product marketing and get rich in the process. I remember when Subway had all the Olympians doing their ads, these finely tuned athletes promoting the "healthier subway lifestyle", and then it'd cut to your doughy, pale mid-western image without any segway. I don't mean to sound harsh, but I too would look doughy standing next to Apolo Ohno.

It'll be hard to get an accurate read at this point on the work done by the Jared Foundation. I don't want to besmirch an organization if it does good work and isn't a vessel for building personal presence and wealth. What I know is, good or not, it appears an extension of all the work you did to remain a celebrity-esque public figure for Subway. And if you dig to its core, it was all for something you achieved in 1999. No parade should last that long.

I won't say it's "comeupins", but part of the schadenfreude thrill in seeing you stepping down as head sandwich shiller is our public fatigue with your presence. Trust me, folks would be thrilled to see Paris Hilton in some similarly terrible news story, just as we did with the Duggars, Jon & Kate + 8, and other unnecessarily popularized figures. In your case, I hope you find help eventually (assuming we can imply the worst from your guilty plea), and that some day you find a new path.

And if one day you don't have a media following, stick with it. You can join us in mocking everyone else chasing cheap attention.

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Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz, known amongst friends as "Raph" and for his trademark Sai daggers, was born in 1970 to employees in the oil industry of Alberta, Canada. They were both U.S. citizens, so don;t even try that "long form birth certificate" crap on him; Ted is 110% legit.

His educational upbringing is practically socialist, it's so good. He left a lasting legacy for the Harvard debate team, and would later have to murder 6 hippies to shed his perceived liberal street cred. Seriously, the guy was like an Ivy League unicorn.

After several failed barber-shop quartets, Cruz gained employment with a law firm heavily involved in DC politics and carny rights. He actually helped with drafts for the Clinton impeachment, and eventually landed on the Dubya legal team, where he helped with the Supreme Court case that got his employer into the White House. Years later, that same Supreme Court would green light gay marriage, and he promptly proposed impeaching the Justices responsible.

After several years serving as Texas' Solicitor General, he won a seat in the US Senate, where he earned the nickname "Lazlo" for his terrible attendance record. In 2013, he maneuvered a standoff over the federal budget in an attempt to defund Obamacare, but really it was more of a publicity stunt without an endgame and ultimately cheesed off a bunch of fellow Republicans. That trend of pissing off folks in the GOP has pretty much continued since then.

In short,

  • He loves freedom.
  • He despises Obamacare.
  • He really wants that Keystone Pipeline thing.
  • His hot dog eating record in 2 minutes is 35.
  • He sees all the crazy smog and climate change, but doesn't think its because of the tons of toxic chemicals we spew into the air every waking moment.
  • He talks almost as much smack with his own party as he does against the other party. The donkey one.
  • "President Cruz" sounds neat, but will likely only exist in Fan Fiction.
  • If you've never served in the US Senate, he's only voted on bills like 6 more time than you. Check out his voting record – it barely needs pagination (see here for contrast).


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ADHD. The disorder, the myth, the legend.

Lil' George's behavior was crashing and burning when he hit kindergarten. "We had trouble keeping George in his seat today." "George hit another student and was touching others throughout the day." "George was disruptive in class, interrupting others and constantly out of his seat." "George bit a girl at lunch today." The steady stream of bad news we received from his kindergarten teacher in his take-home notes would make you think the boy has anger issues, perhaps lack of boundaries or discipline at home. From the outside in, I know I would have questioned the parenting of the child myself.

George by nature is sensitive, talks to everyone (everyone, to a fault), hugs almost everyone, and is by all accounts a sweet boy. This isn't parent bias, it really is how he's regarded. It was the saving grace that gave his teachers patience through the erratic bursts of misbehavior.

For me, as a parent of much stricter, "old school" parents (the kind that made use of belts, spatulas and handmade paddles), it was a devastating conundrum. At this stage, with a 6 and a 5 year old who're starting to assert independence and form personalities, discipline at home is put to the test. When I received bad news, George was punished. I would take away toys, ban TV, give him writing drills and sometimes spank him. I still had this terrible idea in my mind passed down from father to father that spanking was the "ultimate discipline". I'd soon realize the hypocrisy of hitting my child to deter him from hitting other children.

No matter what we did at home, the effects were short term at best. George would promise to do better, a day would go by, and the notes home would continue. I would have gone mad had my older daughter not been doing fine in her class. She'd get an occasional note, we'd levy a punishment, talk it through, and she'd adjust her behavior. By contrast, it was magical.

When you know there's a problem

About 2 months into kindergarten, after receiving another note for disrupting class, as we started to talk with George, he broke down and started crying over how bad he is and how he didn't deserve any privileges. Nothing stops you in your tracks like seeing a 5 year old boy in tears, beating himself up for being a "bad person".

Immediately, I found and scheduled time with a child psychologist. At first, he walked us through the fundamentals of measured discipline and calm delivery. It was helpful, though it was mostly reinforcing a lot of what we were already doing at home (just with less yelling – I'm a yeller). We attended weekly sessions for about 5 months, until finally the psychologist basically said, "there's nothing more we can do here. Your next steps are diet and nutrition, and medication."

Medication. I was anxiously waiting for that shoe to drop.

At that time I was no stranger to the idea of ADHD. Anyone old enough to hear news stories in the 90's is familiar with the term and it's ADD predecessor, and likely familiar with the same "wow, being a child is now a disorder" cynical response – with good reasonRitalin flourished in the 90's, like Seattle grunge and slap bracelets. I never thought much of it, until my nephew Michael was diagnosed with ADHD at three years old, and my mom sent me a copy of a book on the subject to help show support.

A Rose by any other name…

In all of our sessions, the psychologist never fully diagnosed George with ADHD, and perhaps there's a clinical or technical reason for it. It didn't matter to me, I'd already been reading up on the disorder, trying to reconcile where my son was at and what could help. If you read through enough books and sites on ADHD, it's characterized at best as a wide-spectrum of behavioral patterns to varying degrees that generally subside in teen years, and at worst it's considered a myth to shill daily pharmaceuticals.

I didn't care if George's behavior – his nature – had a name from the DSM or a guy down the street. ADHD by nature is a _disorder_, and while I certainly won't argue it's not real, to me the disorder just means it's poorly understood (to prove this point, search for books on ADHD, and you'll find a deluge of all sorts ranging from self-help, to parenting books, to conspiracy books). Instead, my wife and I were looking for effective ways to help our son sit in class quietly, respect the boundaries of others, stay on task, and respond to us when we called his name. So, we took the next step and went to our pediatrician to talk about medication. If that could help George through his early years, we could ween him off an get him adjusted for adolescence.

Brain Chemistry

When you start on the road of medication through a pediatrician, your kid's brain effectively becomes a testing ground. The doc starts with a low dose of something general, sees how it goes, and adjusts. We were really hesitant about the idea – first my wife who had balked at the notion months before, and later myself, as I still struggle with the wisdom of using short term drugs to address something my son will need to adjust for his entire life. I don't recall what he started on – my wife picked up the prescription. What I do recall is George jumping wildly from one emotion to the next, crying occasionally to talk about common things. We hit a road bump, time to change course.

We eventually landed on a stimulant called Quillivant (in no way should you regard this as a promotion). He was wrapping up kindergarten at the time, so we skipped the medication for the summer and started back up in the fall for first grade. His first month was superb, and his teacher even nominated him for a monthly award, understanding his nature and the accomplishment it was to focus in the classroom. Success, right? Buy 4 more crates of this stuff and let's call the case closed, right?

Next month we went right back to the notes. Notes earned "write-outs" (he despised the tedious task of writing sentences repeatedly). Write-outs provoked him to balk at work, which earned more notes. You really couldn't connect every action with a cause, only to say we were right back in the same space as kindergarten. He had fortunately stopped hitting others mostly, but there were some classic notes.

"In gym class, George was running around with his shirt pulled over his head and one shoe in his mouth."

OK, that one made me laugh. I mean, you gotta admit, that takes some effort.

We'd meet with the school – which in all of this had been awesome – and would try to tell them everything we were doing on our end to keep George on the straight and narrow. Then we'd analyze the last few weeks, and Anna would say the medication is working, while I never saw the direct correlation. We kept him on to stay safe, and in time, he'd find a balance of good days and not so good days. With a lot of patience from his teacher and a lot of communication with her on strategies and the latest from both fronts, he was OK in the first grade.

A synopsis from year 3

Lil' George is now in the second grade, completing his second wkidseek of class. He's riding the bus, but in the front seat. He's had some issues in class, but we addressed them and he's responding. He's still on Quillivant, but at best it's giving him a dose of focus that lasts until lunchtime. He's pretty damn smart, so fortunately through all of this his grades and schoolwork were never really a problem (yet again fitting the typical bill sold as an ADHD child – "smart but scattered").

Does George have ADHD? I don't know, but he's certainly on the spectrum. I've met parents that say their children have ADHD, and in some cases their child's behavior never measured up. Or so it seemed – surely others could say that of my own for a 10 minute window. I will tell you George can read a book for hours, but the moment you put him in a room with distractions and tell him to sit down, he's inevitably in trouble. We tried Gymnastics yesterday, and he literally ran around the whole gym and took a dive in to the foam pit. I was mad, but the kid in me knew that was exactly what I'd want to do in his shoes. So no more Gymnastics. We'll stick to rock climbing class and the park for now.

Does the medicine help? Again, no clear answers. My wife thinks so, I have my doubts. Some will tell you – and I can vouch there's truth to it – that stimulants are temporary and tend to prompt exaggerated behavior when they wear off. For now, we've seen no side effects, which is typically loss of appetite. He'll polish off 3 slices of pizza if the mood is right. We may try other formulas or medications, but again my hope is he'll get mature enough to where he responds well enough to discipline and our expectations. For now we're hoping the medication is just the one small thing that tips the balance and helps him make the right decision.

What I can say has worked for us and getting George to focus and stay on task:

  • Occasional forcing eye contact and making sure we speak directly to him when giving instructions
  • Getting him outdoors and expending that energy whenever we can, because ADHD or not, it can only help
  • Coming up with consequences that work, which seem to change as they get older. Right now, his consequence is doing "laps" in our driveway, running from one end to the other for 20-30 times. I get no… OK, I get little pleasure from punishing George like this, but it's kind of a sneaky way give him some exercise and using up his energy while I'm holding him accountable for his actions.
  • Encouragement. I'm probably the "heavy" of his two parents, but I know he's hearing negatives a lot and reminded of boundaries constantly. I just make sure he knows none of this reflects on his character or makes him "bad".

And the most obvious one…

  • Patience. This one is tough for me, but if you take anything from the materials on ADHD, you'll know more than half of boys grow out of these issues in time, and anecdotally you'll find many parents see their kids getting better toward high school (though still with some struggles along the way).

In the end, my son is a brilliant little fire cracker. He's definitely a little weird, it doesn't help he's on the young end of his class, and he constantly finds new ways to do things that drive me nuts. But ADHD or not, he's just his own personality, and as with every other kid, is a unique set of parenting challenges to keeping him on the right path. I have no doubt, regardless of notes from teachers, he has a pretty good shot at being a happy adult.

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If there weren't shiny crystals of universal doom and really lax super-criminal prison protocols, Marvel and D.C. would have little to write about.

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