Differing Realities

America’s two major political parties have always had their differences, but recently they have drifted too far apart to the point where we no longer agree on what’s real.

It is well known that the United States is a very large and diverse country, so it’s no surprise that we have a wide range of ideologies. These ideologies have traditionally clashed, and disputed policy ideas have nearly always had some pros and cons, but now politics has moved past disagreeing on policy and toward disagreeing on supposed reality.

Consider Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson, a brilliant neurosurgeon who’s well-known for separating conjoined twins. His background as a neurosurgeon, however, does not make him qualified to speak on climate change. Carson has denied climate change, saying that he has not seen any “overwhelming science” demonstrating it, yet NASA says over 97 percent of active climate scientists agree that climate change is an urgent problem caused by humans. It would seem that the existence and cause of climate change would be easy to agree on yet Carson is not alone in denying it and the issue of our changing climate has somehow become a political issue divided by party.

Surprisingly the same can be said about the story of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old high school student who was arrested over the homemade clock that he brought into school due to fear about it possibly being a bomb. The left has come out in storm, calling this a clear example of “rampant islamophobia in America” and Ahmed has been rewarded with gift packs from large companies like Microsoft as well as a trip to meet President Obama in the White House. On the right, however, David Harsanyi has said that this is not a case of Islamophobia, but instead of “authoritarian bureaucracy in our public schools, of which there are endless examples.” Ahmed’s experience of being clearly racially profiled somehow turned into a political debate about whether Islamophobia is even real.

There are many more examples of arguments over what is seemingly fact, such as Donald Trump’s ridiculous comments on the tie between vaccines and autism or Ted Cruz’s disagreement on the legality of gay marriage, and it’s a serious problem.

I can’t even consider many of the GOP candidates because they don’t live in my reality. In my reality, climate change is real and is caused by human activity. In my reality, racism and intolerance are serious problems that are still very prevalent. In my reality, evolution is a well-established science. In my reality, vaccines do not cause autism. In my reality, there is a constitutional separation of church and state, and there is no war on Christianity. In my reality, President Bush did not keep us safe, and the war in Iraq caused far more harm than good. In my reality, the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage was perfectly legal under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

These are facts to me. They are lies to others. Until we can agree on what is real and what is fantasy, we can’t have meaningful policy debate.

The State of our Debates

“Let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

Vermont Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders gave this statement Tuesday night at the first Democratic debate, missing out on an opportunity to knock down Hillary for her email scandal, but succeeding in what people seem to value nowadays in politics: not following traditional or “great” politics.

There was a clear contrast between the first democratic debate and the previous two republican debates, and that is the democrats had class. You didn’t see the constant mudslinging and insults that members of the GOP took part in and the democrats kept their focus on the issues of our country instead of the issues with each other.

Of course there are plenty of republican candidates who would like to take things more seriously and have a meaningful discussion, but they can’t seem to be able to raise their voices above the rhetoric roars of some such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson, both of whom most likely wouldn’t be missed by any of the candidates if they exited the race. But that’s the issue, they currently lead the pack by a wide margin and to be perfectly honest it looks bad.

Sure, listening to Donald Trump bash Rand Paul for his polling numbers and Carly Fiorina describing a gruesome Planned Parenthood video that may or may not exist is entertaining, but the debates are not meant to be a circus show, they’re suppose to be a forum to discuss solutions to issues that actually matter to the American people. Not topics like defending Planned Parenthood and denying the right of marriage to gay couples, but instead topics like foreign policy, college debt, climate change, and the economy.

I feel that Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley summed it up best.

“On this stage you didn’t hear anyone denigrate women, you didn’t hear anyone make racist comments about new immigrants, you didn’t hear anyone speak ill of anyone because of their religious belief,” O’Malley said. “What you heard was an honest debate of what will move us forward.”

Keep the Internet Fair and Free

On February 26, 2015, we won the internet, and now presidential hopeful Jeb Bush wants to take that victory away from us.

That fateful day was the day that the Federal Communication Commission ruled in favor of net neutrality, the idea that internet service providers should treat all internet traffic and data equally. This may not seem like a big deal until you realize how abusive Internet Service Providers like Time Warner Cable and Comcast could be without such regulations.

Net neutrality prevents ISPs from implementing “fast lanes” that would allow them to speed up or slow down web sites, typically in exchange for money. For instance, Comcast could tell Netflix that it’s going to significantly drop the speed of its website if it doesn’t pay a certain price, in turn hurting both Netflix and consumers of media on Netflix. This could also give large companies an unfair advantage over others; for example, Netflix could pay Comcast a high price to get increased speeds over rival companies like Hulu and Amazon. This is especially detrimental to small start-up companies that simply wouldn’t have the capital to compete if large companies bought their way into these “fast lanes.”

Bush claims that by subjecting all ISPs net neutrality regulations, it prohibits one group of companies (ISPs) from charging another group of companies (content companies) which in turn hurts ISPs and hurts their ability to innovate and improve service. Although the first half of what he said is true, the regulations are necessary to protect an open internet and the interests of the people and in this case, other big companies. When it comes to innovating and improving service, ISPs stopped doing that a long time ago once they set up monopolies all across the country. They don’t need to innovate when they don’t allow any other viable options to compete with them. Additionally they are not trying eliminate net neutrality to create capital for investments, they are in it for profit not people.

Normally regulations like this would be seen as a fight between the people and big business, but this battle is being fought solely against ISPs. Companies such as Google, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Microsoft and many more have all come out in favor of net neutrality. This is one of the few examples in modern America where activists and large corporations are actually on the same side of an issue, so if nearly everyone is in favor of net neutrality, why is Jeb a supporter of its downfall?

One simple and major factor could be how much influence money has on politics. In 2014 alone, Comcast spent a staggering $17,020,000 on lobbying, and that is just one of many ISPs. That much purchasing power can create a lot of influence on government and politicians, which takes their attention away from the needs of the people and puts it toward the wants of their donors. But the fact is that the people are the ones who elect these politicians into office and our opinion matters more than any donation from a company, so Mr. Bush, here is mine.

The internet is, and should be, a level playing field where a small start-up can topple a large established brand. The internet should remain equal for all companies, and ISPs should not have the power to change that.  ISPs should not be allowed to set up “fast lanes” for some web sites and not all for others, and net neutrality should absolutely not be repealed.

The backward evolution of English

Awesomesauce, bruh, butthurt, manspreading and mkay are just a few of the latest additions to the Oxford Dictionary, and I’m a little butthurt about it.

The English language is constantly evolving, and it makes sense that the Oxford Dictionary would recognize new words and slang in order to keep up with the times, but adding slang like “beer o’clock” is not only degrading to the language but also to the reputation of the Oxford Dictionary.

According to Oxford University Press, the new words were added because they represent newer terms judged most significant and likely to stand the test of time. This basically means that if society uses a word enough, it gets added to the dictionary.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s literally killing me, and my use of literally was actually correct according to the Oxford dictionary. The word literally was used incorrectly so many times that the Oxford Dictionary give it a second definition:

literally 

informal Used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true: I have received literally thousands of letters.

Changes like this are slowly eroding the English language, and as more and more slang is added to the dictionary, it blurs the line between what language should be used in a professional environment and what should be used when talking to friends. If the trend of adding slang to the dictionary continues it will create the perception that certain words are more formal than they really are, creating situations where people unknowingly say things that aren’t appropriate in their given environment and potentially just making people seem dumb.

I’m sorry, Oxford, but the latest additions to your dictionary are “weak sauce.”

The Prevalence of Partisanship

It truly is a wonder that anything gets done in our government.

Extreme partisanship has been an increasingly prominent issue that I’ve been noticing lately. People are stubborn, that’s human nature, and it is understandable that people want to maintain a point of view and fight to prove the value of that point of view. But it seems that for many, maintaining and defending that point of view has become more important that actually solving problems. The desire to be right, to fight for what you believe in, has become so powerful in our society that it seems like compromise is becoming more difficult that ever to achieve.

Our government is the prime example of this extreme partisanship in our society. Earlier this week a bill proposed by a democrat regarding repairing our degrading infrastructure was blocked. This bill called for $468 billion dollars to be spent on repairing infrastructure that desperately needs work. In order to offset this spending, the democrats planned on eliminating a number of tax breaks that allowed large companies to get out of paying certain taxes. Due to the elimination of tax breaks for big businesses, the Republicans quickly shut down this bill, and the bill was denied with votes following party lines.

The fact of the matter is that our deficit is out of control and tax reform is one of the most important steps to work towards solving this issue. Sometimes each party isn’t going to get exactly what it wants, but living in a country that was built from compromise that should be expected. The problem is that compromise is becoming increasingly rare. By turning down this bill, and trying to find an alternative to limiting tax breaks for big business, the process of funding infrastructure repairs will be delayed that much longer, and I don’t know about anyone else but I am sick and tired of weaving around potholes.

All jokes aside, the continued partisanship expressed by congress and people in general (myself included) is truly detrimental to progress. The key to success in anything involving a group is consideration. You may not like an opinion or even think it is worth your time to think about, but give it a try. Disliking an opinion simply because it doesn’t follow your own will rarely end in a better situation, so let your opinions change, don’t become a victim of partisanship or stubbornness in general.

There are times when you will be wrong, there are many times that I was so sure about something and I ended up being wrong. But the key is to accept that you’re wrong and work towards making yourself right again. Don’t respond to controversy with more controversy, respond with a solution, or do like Obama did and respond with a joke. But in the end of the day, stubbornness and partisanship will always exist and will likely remain extremely prevalent in both our government and society. The internet is a perfect breeding ground for a new generation of biased and ignorant people who will follow and believe whatever is trending on Twitter or popular on Tumblr. We just have to try our hardest to remain neutral, remain bipartisan, and not let one opinion or one point of view define us for life.

Then again, who knows? I could be wrong. After all this is simply an opinion; to each their own.

A Lack of Productivity

I’ve never been good at finishing things ahead of time. In fact, this very blog post is the perfect example of my increasingly common problem of procrastination. I was given an entire week to complete the relatively simple and straightforward task of writing 3 blog posts. It is now the night before the deadline and I’m still typing away, oh how ironic.

Procrastination never used to be a problem of mine. It always felt nice completing a task with plenty of time left wide open for me to do whatever I please. My parent’s enforcement of this “work before play” rule was probably the main reason that I was so good at getting work done long before it was due. But eventually as I grew up and “matured” they stopped enforcing this rule, and soon after I stopped following it.

Ever since I began my life as a high school student, homework became a second thought that I would hold off on doing for as long as humanly possible. By no means did I stop completing work, I just didn’t complete work as well and as efficiently as I should have and as  I was assigned more and more homework each night, my habits of procrastination remained an issue. Sleep was a luxury as I began staying up late to complete work that I should have started on many hours earlier, and this trend of procrastinating on just about every task given to me is still alive today.

I have a part of my mind that still is focused and wants to make rational decisions and get things done on time, but at the same time I have this instant gratification driven side of my mind that would rather be entertained now than be productive for later. So often I turn in an assignment wishing that I had put a little more time into it or started it a bit sooner to insure that I don’t sell myself short but again and again the memory of how negative an impact procrastination has is overpowered by the urge to stay entertained.

But at the end of the day, procrastination is a unfortunate part of my that is here to stay, no matter how much I may want to eliminate it. I’ve tried many times to finish my homework as soon as I arrive home, but that oh so tempting laptop of mine always draws my attention long before a textbook will. The key to the issue of procrastination is finding a balance; allowing yourself to be entertained and have fun while not forgetting about the importance of completing work to the fullest of your ability, and I feel like I’m closer to achieving that balance than ever before.

Finally, my second Chronicle Assignment is complete and I’ve still got time to spare.

The perfect choice may not need to be perfect

I recently got my drivers license and after a brief period of excitement and celebration I realized that there was one crucial detail of the situation that I had overlooked: I could now legally drive but I didn’t have a car to do the driving in.

Buying your first car is a very difficult task that requires a series of very difficult decisions, and this decision terrified me. I knew I wanted the perfect car but like many other teenagers looking for a car, I had no idea what I was looking for. Sure I had heard that “Japanese cars are reliable” and to “Be careful with American cars” but I didn’t want a purchase as big as this to be decided by a few small testimonies. So I did what every other tech loving person would do, and went straight to the internet to do some research, and oh boy did I have a lot of research to do.

There was an army of cars in front of me and I hadn’t the slightest idea where to start. So I started narrowing it down and after hours of careful selection, I was left with a short list of cars with a long list of differences. I never knew there were so many features in a car and choosing what was important to me at a price that was manageable was an excruciatingly tedious task. So I scoured the internet for every review and comparison available until I was practically an expert on each car and that was the thought that had been floating in the back of my mind finally hit me: does it really matter?

Why do I need a car with a touchscreen or a car with heated seats? Why do I need a car with 170 horsepower and 200 lbs. or torque? I lost sight of the real reason that a car is necessary: to get from point A to point B. This simple task doesn’t require the nicest and newest of vehicles, just one that was reliable and can do what is needed of it.

So I summed up all of my research, chose what I thought was the best car for me, and went out and got it. No more stress, no more over thinking, no more indecisiveness, just a choice, and that choice ended up being perfect.

By no means am I suggesting that you go out and buy a car without first putting some time into your decision, after all it is a big purchase. Just don’t let yourself get obsessed with making your decision. Don’t forget about the real purpose of a car: transportation. Having the latest and greatest features may be nice, but sometimes something cool on paper may not be as practical in real life. But regardless of what you choose, you’ll likely end up with a car that you love, just like I did.

I’m happy with the car I chose, now I just need to think of a name.