Considering Orlando

Ck3Ve0CVAAA8UZLA week ago today, I woke up, like the rest of the world, to the news of Orlando. I didn’t really feel surprised. I think we’ve stopped feeling surprise at these kinds of stories. They’re happening too often. What I did feel was sad and hopeless.

We’ve become resigned to the fact that nothing will actually change after this. This semi-regular horror is just the way of the world, it seems. Our new normal.

But why is it that 1 man can kill 49 people and injure more than 50 more others and we consider that normal? That it’s semi-regular? Why can’t we fix this? Why can’t we even talk about fixing it?

That is what Senator Chris Murphy spent 15 hours talking about on the floor of the Senate Wednesday night.

At the end of his filibuster, the Senate agreed to vote on some gun control bills, aimed to stop terrorists from purchasing guns.

President Obama explained why he thought a bill like this was necessary at a PBS Town Hall just few weeks ago:

“I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I got people who we know have been on ISIL Web sites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun. This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk in to a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much — as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing’s prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.”

The bill in question is being referred to as “No Fly, No Buy,” meaning that if someone is on the No-Fly List they also shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. The NRA issued its own statement on this issue this week, stating:

“The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period. Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing. If an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist. At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed.”

This bill was introduced a few months ago and the argument was about due process. Many Senators were concerned about how to protect the second amendment rights of citizens who may unfairly end up on the so-called “No Buy” list, but were not actually terrorists. That seems like a healthy conversation to have: how to protect the public good while safeguarding personal freedoms.

Except they didn’t have that argument, and the bill didn’t go anywhere.

This is why we haven’t made any progress curbing gun violence. We don’t reach solutions, we drop bills. We don’t have civil debates, we stop talking. We don’t discuss our options, we ignore problems.

Since 1996, the Center for Disease Control hasn’t even been able to research gun violence or anything that could lead to gun control. Technically, President Obama lifted the research ban in 2012, shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, but fear of funding cuts from Congress meant the CDC still hasn’t conducted any gun violence research. The American Medical Association announced last Tuesday that they are calling gun violence a public health crisis and will be lobbying Congress to lift the ban on gun control research.

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on four different bills concerning background checks on gun purchases. And while it feels like a victory that these bills are being debated, the overarching assumption is that they won’t pass, and will probably die in the Senate.

I don’t know when we’re going to decide that we’ve had enough. That people’s lives are important enough to at least try to curb gun violence, to pass a bill, to do something.

At least this time, we’re having a conversation. We’re having a debate. But it would be nice, for once, to have some action.

Considering the Middle of the Cookie Dough Oreo

Last month, the Cookie Dough Oreo was announced. Like many cookie-dough loving, Oreo eating people, I was ecstatic. It’s basically the magical cookie you never knew you wanted, but once announced realized you always hoped for.

Going to the store became a hunt for the Cookie Dough Oreo, but to no avail. Oreo’s evil marketing campaign announced the Oreo flavor weeks before it was released. While scouring the internet for the release date, I ran across a few reviews. I was devastated to discover no one was overly fond of the new Oreo, saying that “Cookie Dough” tasted more like coffee than anything else.

So I gave up on finding and enjoying the Cookie Dough Oreo. What was the point?

A few days later, I received a text from my friend saying he had found the cookies.I didn’t want to be Negative Nelly, so I chose not to disclose what I knew about the horrible flavor. Plus, I still wanted to try them. Maybe they wouldn’t be that bad?

And they weren’t. They were pretty good, especially compared to what I was expecting. So I ate too many. Friends were not so impressed, however. Not having heard what I had about the cookies, they were disappointed.

Experience is all about perception and expectation. If you expect something to be bad, you will only see the negative. If you expect something to be good, you will only see the positive. Look at basically any political debate right now and you will see that that is true. If we try to remove expectation and remove our own biased perceptions, we achieve objectivity. This is nearly impossible as human beings, but as I go through this blog, I think that is basically my goal. I try to remove my bias and my expectations and consider the middle of an argument, and of the Cookie Dough Oreo.

Considering Bill O’Reilly’s Superbowl Interview

Each year, on Super Bowl Sunday, the President grants an interview to the network airing the big game. Since that channel was Fox this year, Bill O’Reilly conducted a 10 minute pre-game interview with the President.

Much like Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck, I’ve never dedicated a lot of time to understanding Bill O’Reilly. He is objectively combative, often arguing with his guests. Those who watch him love this about him, and his critics (me) detest it.

For those who haven’t seen the interview, let me try and summarize it.

O’Reilly begins by saying he wants to get the President “on the record” about a few things. He then asks about the botched healthcare roll out, Benghazi, and an IRS scandal. The President replied by saying they tried to fix the website as fast as possible, called Benghazi an act of terror the day after the attack, and there is no IRS scandal.

Many commented  on O’Reilly’s interrupting, with one newspaper reporting it happening 42 times in 10  minutes. Many headlines included  President Obama’s criticism that scandals keep arising because Fox keeps bringing them up.

With that summary, I will try to consider the whole interview from the middle.

In days leading up to the interview, O’Reilly said he wanted to be “precise” and ask poignant questions that wouldn’t let the President speak too long. Pundits, especially O’Reilly, do not usually have one-on-one  interviews with the President, so he wanted to keep control of the 10 minutes he had. And yes, our President has been known to struggle with short answers (see the first debate with Mitt Romney). So from O’Reilly’s view, he wanted to keep the President on point. I can sympathize with that.

Now on to the point that O’Reilly was trying to stick to. Not being a regular O’Reilly viewer myself, the questions kind of confused me. rolled out 4 months ago, the IRS story broke about 9 months ago, and the embassy in Libya was attacked 17 months ago. Each of these subjects have had their own separate hearings. Why bother talking about them?

First of all, further research proved I was wrong. It seems congress, and particularly House Republicans, are reintroducing the IRS scandal. So that question makes more sense.

As to the other questions, Fox News analyst, Howard Kurtz, hypothesized as to why O’Reilly asked what he did. CNN aired an exclusive interview with President Obama the Thursday and Friday before. This interview was longer, and more in depth. As Kurtz points out, “CNN’s Jake Tapper…asked solid questions but made little news.”

Sensational questions sell. Long interviews do not.

There may be another reason besides ratings why O’Reilly legitimately thinks the President hasn’t discussed the other “scandals” before: O’Reilly might watch Fox News and/or MSNBC.

A new study shows that those who watch Fox News as their primary news source actually know less about national and international events than those who watch no news. MSNBC viewers also knew less than the news-less about international events, although do a little better on national events.

These news stations are fun to watch for us political nerds. However, they not only polarize us, they don’t seem to keep us informed very well, liberal or conservative.

I will say this post was kind of hard. I had to work not to jump down O’Reilly’s throat as he kept interrupting the President. Looking for his point of view took more time than anything else so far. This project of impartiality is way more time consuming than I thought! It began with attempting to watch the interview without bias, and then hours looking for answers to the question “Why did he do that?”

What did you think of the interview? Do you think there is a place for biased news channels in our media?

Considering Social Media


I recently read an article titled 8 Things Your Brain Does Wrong Every Day. The article states that “we naturally gravitate towards things that we agree with or that reinforce our existing beliefs.” This is never more apparent than when using social media.

Everyday we friend, follow, and add people to our networks who we know will validate our ideas. Transversely, we hide and unfollow those who challenge those ideas.  Even which “news”  channel we watch – Fox or MSNBC? –  shows bias. We gravitate towards what we already agree with.

With that in mind, I decided to begin my impartiality experiment by purging my Twitter Feed and Facebook Timeline of bias. Mainly, this meant unfollowing liberal media outlets. Like most people, I use Twitter for most of my minute-to-minute news. Early yesterday I began unfollowing A LOT of my social network.

I said goodbye to Mother Jones, MSNBC, Rachell Maddow, DCCC, and other “liberal” groups. As I went along, determining whether groups were “liberal” or not became more difficult. Certain news outlets (Huffington Post, Buzzfeed) and journalists (Paul Krugman) were confusing. Biased or not? Other hard ones were Planned Parenthood and the Brady Campaign (A group pushing for stronger gun control legislation). These are nonprofits that liberals support, but does following them show a liberal bias? 

Simply unfollowing the questionable users seemed like the best answer, except for one problem: Purging people from my timeline was really hardI began to feel extremely guilty. By unfollowing “my network” am I revoking support and not being true to them and subsequently myself? I realized my political affiliations have become a huge part of who I am. Stupid as it sounds, I felt like I was denying a part of my identity by removing people I believed in from my newsfeed. 

This stressful response surprised me. I did not expect to care that much about the purge. This was a testament to how much I identify with my social media. The irony, of course, is that none of these people know I exist, let alone care whether I am following them or not.

After tearing of the band aid, I think I was able to remove all bias from Twitter. I kept most the news outlets, but removed the political pundits and columnists. I kept following both Republican and Democratic politicians, although I may decide to unfollow them later.

I forgot to check, but I would guess I unfollowed about 15-20% of my newsfeed. I used my new Twitter feed during the Super Bowl, and I didn’t seem to miss  anything – even caught Hilary Clinton’s Fox News zinger! Twitter honestly kind of seems less cluttered, but that could be my imagination.

I’ll update soon to talk about how I feel about my new unbiased Twitter feed.

Do you think purging Social Media of bias is a good idea? Would you ever do it? Let me know!

Considering Mitt


The inspiring spark for this experiment and subsequent blog was the movie, Mitt. I’ll dive into that surprisingly emotional experience in a moment. First, some background.

For those who don’t know, Mitt is a documentary that follows Mitt Romney from the 2008 campaign to the 2012 elections. The filmmaker was given unprecedented access during intimate Romney family moments throughout both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. The goal was to make this hard to relate to candidate relateable.

In 2012, I interned Obama headquarters from September until the election. I was fully immersed in the campaign during  the 47% video and all the debates. It was an exciting, emotional time in which I grew to deeply dislike this man, Mitt Romney.

Flash forward a year and a half later and I’m watching Mitt. Within minutes I found myself rooting for this guy I had worked to defeat in 2012. My change of role was unsettling. During the campaign the candidate was criticized for being clueless and out of touch, but he certainly didn’t come across that way in the hotel room with his wife. He, himself, thought President Obama and his administration were out of touch.

Then, the movie began to show some policy. It tried hard not to be political, but even so, I found myself sympathetic to Romney’s policies for the very first time. Even though I never really considered Romney a bad guy, I was suddenly realizing he may had even had some good ideas. And that concept was freaking me out.

I felt like watching some Daily Show just to remind myself why I was right and why it was  good that he didn’t win the election. No matter what I reminded myself about Binders Full of Women and 47%, I couldn’t get rid of a nagging thought: What if he was right… and Obama was right… what if neither of them were totally wrong?

This questioning led to more: What if we lived in a society where, after the election, President Obama appointed Romney as an economic adviser? Half the country voted for him. Is it really that crazy to have his ideas be part of the political discussion? And the answer is, for right now at least, yes, it is.

Have you watched Mitt? What did you think of it and/or the 2012 campaign in general?