Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: You’re Missing the Real Issue

Hacking

There are two groups of people that are upset by the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal rocking the world right now. There are those upset because they are just now realizing that they have no privacy on the internet, those that are upset that Facebook sold that information to a foreign individuals and governments to try and influence elections.

The former group’s outrage is based off their own ignorance. No, those posts you put on Facebook telling them they can’t use your information didn’t do anything. The fact that you thought it did would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. You don’t get privacy on the internet, especially when you are using a free service. That’s not going to change, nor should it. It’s what allows services like Facebook to make money while offering a free service.  

The second groups concerns have more merit, but what is going unaddressed is the disturbing underlying reasons on why this is such a problem. No, I’m not talking about the overall plethora of groups that have probably been doing this long before the 2016 election. And no, I’m not talking about the fact that Facebook could have and should have done more to prevent this.

What I’m talking about is that sad fact that this might be an effective way to influence elections in the United States. The founding fathers knew that the republic that they had created was entirely dependent on a well-educated populace to be effective.

That well-educated populace would not be susceptible to such rudimentary tactics by foreign entities to influence our elections. With all the ways the people can access information today there is no reason for people to be swayed by biased or outright false ads on a social media platform. With the information available people can independently verify or determine where each candidate stands on each issue and be able to determine the truth behind any other claims being made.

But the sad fact is that a large portion of the country is unable or unwilling to do this. This leads to a large portion of the country voting in an election that they really don’t know much about.

And yes, the way that Facebook sells ads on their platform needs to be addressed. But unless we address the underlying issue that makes Americans so susceptible to attacks like this we can rest assured that Cambridge Analytica won’t be the last group to exploit it.

Chemical Warfare: The “Red Line”

Missile Strike.jpgThe coalition strikes in Syria has been subject to a lot of scrutiny and speculation on what is going to happen next. Realistically though, not much is going to change. The fact that the United States didn’t act alone all but assures that.

There isn’t much worry about what Syria is going to do in response, mainly because there isn’t much they CAN do in response. They are going to rely on other countries that support them, like China or Russia, to respond for them, with the only country that might even think about doing something being Russia.

And while the recent strikes are sure to raise tensions, especially between the United States and Russia, I don’t foresee anything else happening, in part because tensions with Russia were so high in the world to begin with.

Russia doesn’t want to get involved in World War III more than any other country in the world, and they know any direct action against United States troops will lead to just that. And by not acting alone, the world has shown that they stand behind the United States against Syria and Russia when it comes to chemical warfare.  

What this latest strike has shown, and will continue to show, is that the United States and President Donald Trump are serious about cracking down on chemical attacks throughout the world. It shows that if chemical weapons are used that the United States will respond. It’s a welcome change in policy from the Obama administration who had set a “red line” on chemical warfare only to back down when the illicit weapons were used.

Quickly, efficiently, and lethally responding to chemical warfare isn’t a partisan issue. If you don’t think that chemical attacks should be retaliated against with lethal and overwhelming force, then you are a part of the problem. Because as the saying goes, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

Addressing the ever rising costs in college education: what can be done?

 

College
Photo Credit: Link

There are two resounding questions when it comes to college education costs in the United States.

The first question, with the cost of college tuition ballooning over the last 30 years, is going to college still worth it? The resounding and oversimplified answer is yes. If an individual goes to a public university close to home, they can graduate while spending 40 thousand dollars. That’s without any sort of financial aid, and not accounting for any room and board.

The average difference in salary for a four-year graduate compared to an individual that only has a high school diploma? On average 30 thousand a year.

income by education

Yes, this is over simplified, it doesn’t consider what kind of degree you get, or if you don’t have the option of going to school close to home. But it proves a point, if you go to school for the right degree it’s worth it even if you end up over 100 thousand dollars in debt.  

The second question is more divisive, what, if anything, should the federal government do to address the ever-rising cost of college tuition? This is where I propose a more radical solution. College costs have tripled in the last 30 years, even when accounting for inflation. This is absurd.

tuition prices

It is also absurd to expect the federal government to foot the bill for a public institution and expect that colleges won’t take advantage of this by raising their rates further. There is a far simpler solution to keep college tuition under control.

Set federally mandated tuition caps for public universities. Set limits on the amount of fees that they can charge their students. Set limits on how much public universities can charge for textbooks in a year. Colleges can do this and still stay in business.

As an example, military students using tuition assistance have their cost per credit hour capped at 250 dollars. Schools know this and want the students to attend their universities anyways, so many of them lower their tuition rates to these students. Why aren’t school willing to do this for all their students? Because they don’t have to, and they want to make as much money off each student as possible.

Schools now have the same mindset as every corporation in the United States, how can we make the most money. When it comes to higher education that shouldn’t be the case. And it doesn’t have to be. It is time for the federal government to step in and regulate these schools, so everyone has the chance to further their education after high school.

Politics and Religion: A quick take

Supreme Court
Photo Credit: Mark Fischer

Politics and government. The two are inexplicably and forever intertwined despite the perceived “separation” of church and state, a phrase that occurs nowhere in the Constitution. For clarification lets quote what the First Amendment does state regarding religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

It’s been that sentence that has been used to take religious monuments out of parks, God out of school, and just about every other rule exorcising religion from every aspect of government life. Yet look at Congress. Religious symbolism is abound. They pray before every session. You see freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it.

It just means that the government won’t officially endorse any religion, and that you are free to practice whatever religion that you choose. That’s why the phrase “under God” remains in our Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” remains on our currency, and Moses and the Ten Commandments will remain in the Supreme Court.

The military prays at just about every military function. There is a book of faith at the POW table. The phrase “so help me God” is in the oath of enlistment.

Just because someone doesn’t like it doesn’t mean that the entire country bends to accommodate them. Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it. Pray where you want. Be who you are. Believe what you want to believe. This is America that’s your right. Just don’t try to infringe on anyone else’s right. And don’t freak out anytime you see religion or God at a government building or event, freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it.

Gun Control: Long Overdue

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A few weeks ago, I provided a rational look at what will probably happen regarding gun control legislation in the United States. Now I’m going to provide a more in-depth look to what should happen, even if it won’t.

 
Full background checks should be federally mandated without exception. This means no exceptions for private sellers. Every firearm should be registered. Assault style weapons should be banned. Magazine capacities should be limited. Bump stocks should be banned. A strict limit of one gun per individual should be enforced. Ammunition sales should be regulated. Ammunition limits should be enacted. A violation of any of these should result in a felony conviction with a lengthy prison sentence.

Why should all this happen? Because gun control legislation works. Don’t believe me? The United States ranks 83rd in it’s per capita homicide rate, coming in at 4.9 homicides per 100,000 people. Just about every developed country has fewer homicides. And 69 percent of homicides in the United States were caused by a gun.

Four countries with some of the strictest gun control legislation it the world are, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. They rank 138th, 163rd, 157th, and 188th respectively in their per capita homicide rate. Japan’s homicides per 100,000 people sits at 0.3. That’s in a country where almost no one has a gun.

Putting that into perspective, if the United States had the homicide rate of Japan there would be 14,982 less homicides per year. That means over in just under 67 years, 1 million more people would be alive.

The argument that humans will just find another way to kill each other is nonsense. It’s been statistically proven false time and time again. Try and prove me wrong. Find me one developed country that passed significant gun control legislation and the murder rate didn’t drop.

The argument that the Second Amendment was created to ensure that every man could carry a gun is oversimplified. The Second Amendment was created so state militias wouldn’t be replaced by a Federal army. It seems to have worked well.

With the overwhelming statistical evidence to support the fact that the United States would be much safer with much stricter gun control laws you would think that passing significant legislation on gun control would be a no brainer. But it’s not.

In my previous article I mentioned the NRA having a significant influence on this. While that’s true there is something else even more significant at play here. The fact that 42 percent of American households have a gun in it.

People don’t want the government coming in and taking away something that they feel entitled to. It doesn’t matter if it will save a million lives. It doesn’t matter if it means kids can go to school without getting shot. America is addicted to its guns just as much as it is to its opioids, and withdrawal can be a bitch.

Trump’s Transgender Policy: The Rational Solution

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The White House has passed a new policy “banning” transgenders from serving in the United States military, “except under a few limited circumstances”. Without getting into the controversial and often bigoted debate about whether transgenderism is a “disease” or “mental condition” let’s break down the new policy.

If you take an objective look at it, what it does is prevent individuals from transitioning genders while they are in the military. Which falls under policies currently in place for military members already.

Don’t believe me? Military members are kicked out if they are not deployable for 12 consecutive months. How long does it take to transition? Best case scenario is two years. For those two years they are nondeployable. So, under current policies they should be kicked out.

As far as it being a full “ban” on transgendered individuals, it’s not. When you look at the exceptions made all they do is ensure that individuals can’t transition after they join. Let’s break down the “limited circumstances” that the White House has outlined.

The first exception laid out by the White House policy is that individuals who have been “stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession” may join. In layman’s terms, if an individual fully transitioned 3 years ago they can join the military.

While an argument can be made on whether this is necessary, it is hardly the only thing that can require a mandatory waiting time. For instance, anyone who has gotten LASIK or PRK must wait 12 months before they are eligible to join.

Now 36 months is overkill to ensure that no unexpected health issues arise from the transition process, but so is 12 months for eye surgery. That’s just how the military does things. Should the mandatory waiting time probably be less? Yes, and it might change after the courts get a hold of it.

The second exception is for those individuals that “do not require a change of gender”. Now this reeks of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but once you get over the guttural response to the wording, you can understand why this is a necessary provision. If an individual wants to join the military and is willing to forego the medical process of transitioning they should be able to do so. In an idealistic world this wouldn’t be necessary, but in an idealistic world we wouldn’t need a military.

The final exception is for those transgender individuals that are already in the military. They can stay in. This is the right thing to do. You don’t tell people they can do something, then kick them out for doing it.

So, while media sources go nuts on this new policy, President Trump is right when he says it’s what senior military leaders want. They are tired of having a force that isn’t fully deployable. And transitioning members only add to that number.

Omnibus 2018: An example of Republican Hypocrisy

 

Trump signs bill
Photo Credit

 

2,232 pages. The largest funding increase in United States history. Less then 24 hours for Congress to read it before voting. Everything the Republican party has stood against for the last 10 years. It’s hard to imagine voters in 2016 imagined this when they gave the GOP control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. It’s also hard to imagine that this November voters are going to be forgiving.

I am a fiscal conservative. But it seems to me that the Republican party is no longer the fiscally conservative party. After years of President Obama and the Democratic party lowering the national deficit, I had high hopes that the Republican party would come in and finish what Obama started. I was dead wrong.

The deficit is back over a trillion dollars, and the debt is over 21 trillion. President Trump has stated that this will be the last time he signs a bill like this.  I believe him. Why? Because the Republican party is going to lose control of the House, and likely the Senate in November, and Democrats aren’t going to make the same mistakes the GOP just made.

You see if Trump was presented with another massive spending bill he would sign it. But he won’t be presented with one. Democrats won’t give him that chance and come 2020 Trump won’t be sitting in the White House. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying a Republican won’t, but I don’t see any path for another 4 years of Trump.

The number one priority for our country right now isn’t to build up our military, our even to create a path to citizenship for DREAMers, although both are noble goals. The number one priority should be getting our massive debt under control. If not, it will cripple our military, our economy, and our country. Why can’t the Republican party see this?

Is it as simple as Democrats state, and Republicans will say anything to get elected? Or is there something else that I’m missing?

Common Sense Gun Laws: Where are they?

guns-36922_960_720Gun control is by the far most divisive issue in politics right now. After Parkland and more recently the shooter in Great Mills, the question remains are tighter gun control laws needed to help reduce the chance of these tragedies from happening in the future? And without a doubt the answer is a resounding yes.

Do we need a ban on all assault rifles? Maybe, but realistically that’s not going to happen in the United States without a repeal of the Second Amendment which isn’t going to happen. But what can happen and should happen is far simpler and should be a lot less partisan.

All firearms should be registered. We register our car without even thinking about it but when it comes to registering a device that’s sole purpose for being created was to kill things people freak out. I’m not saying that we take those guns away, or even limit how many you can own. But they need to be registered to an individual.

When the gun gets registered to an individual it makes it far easier to hold individuals responsible for shootings that occur by somebody that shouldn’t have had a gun. If an individual doesn’t do the right thing when they sell a firearm and that firearm is used in an illegal act, both individuals get held responsible.

Furthermore, if an individual gets charged with a crime, like domestic abuse, that would have precluded them from buying a gun in the first place, it can be taken away before anyone gets hurt.

Which leads straight to my second point, a background check should be conducted every time a gun is sold. No exemptions for gun shows. No exemptions for military. No exemptions for private sellers. No exemptions. If a gun gets sold a background check gets done. Every time a firearm is sold. And after that background check gets conducted the firearm can get registered to the new owner.  

It’s just common sense. You can make the background checks as tough as you want, but if you have loopholes as blatantly obvious as “if you buy a gun from a private seller or a gun show you don’t need a background check”, then you aren’t doing anything to prevent individuals who shouldn’t have a gun from getting a gun.

Universal background checks and registering firearms, these two things shouldn’t be partisan, they’re just common sense. Does the NRA hold that much power over politicians that common sense gun laws can’t get passed, or is there something else that I am missing?  

What do you think? 

Can Trump just fire DeVos already?

 

354px-Betsy_DeVos_by_Gage_Skidmore
Photo by: Gage Skidmore

It’s beyond time to fire Betsy DeVos. Her latest comments on 60 minutes just highlight what most in tuned individuals have been saying about her since the start, she doesn’t know what the hell she is doing. But don’t take my word for it, lets look at some shining examples of her ineptitude since being nominated.

Shining example number one, she made it harder to prosecute sexual assault on school campuses. In a country where only 31 percent of rapes are reported, and only 0.7 percent result in felony convictions, is it really the time to bring about additional protection for rapists? The guise of protecting those falsely accused falls flat when you consider that of all rape accusations, just under six percent are false.

This just doesn’t make any sense. And what does DeVos have to say when asked if the number of people raped and the number of people falsely accused are the same? “I don’t know”. Well DeVos, all of the United States, myself included does, why don’t you?

Example number two, she thinks grizzly bears are attacking students in Wyoming schools. Well not attacked, but that’s only because all the teachers have guns in Wyoming right? If not, those bears would be chomping at the bit.

Moving on to example number three, she didn’t know that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was a federal law. You know the act that requires public schools in all 50 states to provide education to students with disabilities? Not that it’s important for the Secretary of Education to know these things…

One last example of her incompetence, she has never “intentionally” visited an underperforming school… yet she wants to slash their funding. Yes, it’s important to know what the best schools are doing, but unless you know what underperforming schools are doing you have nothing to compare it to. You have no idea what makes the best school the best. So how can you propose legislation and work on changes without knowing what makes the best schools the best?

The good news for the United States, even Donald Trump seems to be distancing himself from DeVos, hopefully a sign that he’s about to tell his Secretary of Education his two most iconic words “you’re fired”.

 

Secure the Border – Without a Wall

WallPresident Donald Trump’s proposed border wall could end up costing taxpayers 70 billion dollars to build and an additional 150 million dollars a year to maintain. While securing the border is a common sense goal, building a wall is an archaic an ineffective way to do it.

The President should be seeking 21st century solutions to 21st century problems. Instead of investing 70 billion dollars on a wall it could be invested in personnel, sensors, drones, and other technological equipment to more effectively secure the border.  

Start by simply spreading the initial funds out over 50 years. That’s 1.4 billion dollars a year. Then you can add in the 150 million dollars that it would cost to maintain the wall. That gives you a little over 1.5 billion dollars a year to devote to border security for the next 50 years.

When you look at the fact that border patrol agents make, on average, 77,000 dollars a year, that means with just the funds for the wall you could hire 20,130 more border patrol agents for the next 50 years. Or you could hire 10,000 more border patrol agents and use the rest of the money to invest in technological solutions to securing the border.

Pair this legislation with a bill for DREAMERS so both sides get a political win while solving two issues that this nation is currently facing. This is a plan where both sides win while giving something up.

So, while the GOP feels like they are losing by giving up on the wall, they get much needed funding to secure the border that they wouldn’t be getting otherwise. And in exchange for this border funding Democrats get to present a permanent fix for DREAMERS allowing them to become full fledged citizens.

Trump gets to secure the border and Democrats’ get to help out DREAMERS, what’s not to like?