Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Saving Our Future Generations





Deontea Mackey was a normal teenager, born and raised in Greenville county.  As a middle-schooler, he was an active leader in the Nicholtown Spinners biking club. Featured on local news and brought to meet with Mayor Knox White, Deontea was singled out as a promising young man, full of potential. The teen aimed to attend Clemson University, and he was on a path to accomplish great things with his life.

But then he joined a gang.

But then he got a gun.

But then, at age seventeen, he shot Greenville police Officer Jacobs.

But then he killed himself.

Every week, I volunteer at an elementary school, blocks from where Deontea grew up; blocks away from his felony and his suicide.

I walk into the fourth grade classroom, full of lively, hilarious, talented young kids. They bounce around, showering me with their enthusiastic hugs and bubbling, fast-paced stories. I love my crazy fourth grade kids. They are so smart and so sweet, and full of dreams for what their lives might be. As I look around their classes, it hits me--one of these could be the next Deontea Mackey.

While graduation rates have improved over the past five years, nearly 20% of Greenville county high school students still do not graduate from twelfth grade. This is a symptom of the fact that teenagers in Greenville county are slipping through the cracks. While some teens are on a track to success, there are others that have no career plan, no hope for their future, no dreams of building a stable life. Without hope, these kids may fall victim to addiction, gangs and hopelessness. These are problems that left unchecked, can undermine the stability of a city/community. How can our community identify these teenagers and provide opportunity for them to change the direction of their lives?

A fundamental tool any person needs for success is support--someone who believes in them, will help them make positive choices and that they can turn to for advice. Deontea Mackey should have been thinking about prom tickets, GPA’s, or college applications, not guns and murder. Instead, he found his support and advice in a gang.

There is no perfect, blanket solution to a problem so broad, involving so many different individual situations. However, one definite answer is people. People who take time to engage with teenagers, view them as more than a nuisance, and help them discover their capability--people who are willing to pour into messy, confused teens. Community leaders need to set an example for others by taking time to mentor at-risk teenagers or teens who feel directionless. The only key to this problem is people setting aside time to care about the future leaders of our world.

This was written in response to the prompt "What, in your opinion, is the greatest problem facing teenagers in Greenville county, and what solutions do you suggest?"

Friday, November 4, 2016

An Open Letter to Those Who Can't Find Good News Sources

Dear people who constantly post articles and videos full of false conspiracy theories:


Never fear, I'm here to help you! Obviously, you've never been taught how to conduct proper research, and as a result, have a very narrow-minded, tabloid worldview.

Let me explain some simple methods to help you understand the world better. For the past five years, I've been taught what sources are reliable. It's been drilled in my head, workshop after workshop, lecture after lecture. I've written countless research papers and never been docked for citing a questionable website. At this point, I could probably work as a professional source finder, because this is so integrated into my system.

However, I know many who do not understand what a credible source is. This election cycle, sites like Shoebat The Political Insider, The Conservative Treehouse, The Briefing, Rachel Maddow, and so many others have been passed off as factual on Facebook and similar networks.

Turns out, most of these are a bunch of crap that can be disproven with a simple Google search (imagine that--fact checking). So here's your basic guide to understanding what is a fact and what is not, because (shocking, I know), you can't believe everything you read on the internet!

1. Have you heard of this website before?

Is this a legitimate source that has been around for a long time? Do you know what its history is? Or it a random site that popped up on your Facebook feed? Or a random person's blog? (maybe you shouldn't even believe this article, idk.)

2. Is the title clickbait?

Here's some examples:
"Obama Shuts Down His Own Crowd After They Go Off on Elderly Trump Supporter--Just Watch This"
"The National Archives Checked for 2 Terabytes of Hilary Clinton Data--And Made an Alarming Finding"
"Michelle Stepped Up to Give a Speech--What Happened Next Will Shock You"

Stuff like that. If you think "OMG I GOTTA CLICK THAT LINK" then it's clickbait. Don't do it. It's the worst source ever. Throw it out immediately.

3. Look around on the website. 

There's a couple things to keep your eyes open for. An "About Us" section can be very revealing of a bias. And the site's other articles could also be telling.. Are they propagandist (more on this below), clickbait, or just plain stupid? Then don't think that the website is credible.

4. Is it propagandist?

In case you're not aware, a propagandist is someone that spreads propaganda.
This can come in many forms. If it's purposely agitating emotions, exploiting insecurities, capitalizing on the use of language, or bending the rules of logic, it's probably propaganda. A simple Google search of "How to spot propaganda" will bring you all kinds of examples and ways to avoid them.

5. Is this story anywhere else?

Conduct another quick Google search. Are other news organizations carrying this story? Is it being tweeted about? Don't believe things as hard fact until you can confirm it with a couple backup sources. In addition to this, don't ever get all your news from one source. Follow a variety of reliable organizations to keep your mind sharp.


If the article in question passes all of these tests, there's a good chance it is factual.

See, it's not that hard. Simply take some time to do some research, and you'll be greatly rewarded with the knowledge that you are posting a real article, and that you are right. It's so much easier than blindly believing everything you read. Good luck in all your knowledge endeavors.

Sincerely,
A Helping Friend

PS: Print out this super cool checklist to put by your desk, so you can always find good news sources!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Bush Advisor Leaves Republican Party, Reflecting Thoughts of Many Longtime Republicans


This is a piece I wrote a while back in regards to many longtime GOPers claiming support for Clinton. Maybe it's old news, but the points made are still relevant, especially as more Republicans are becoming Clinton voters.

A few weeks ago, Sally Bradshaw, a former top advisor to Jeb Bush, officially changed her party registration to unaffiliated. She even stated that she would vote for Hillary Clinton if the Florida race is close, adding that “we are at a crossroads and have nominated a total narcissist -- a misogynist -- a bigot. This is a time when country has to take priority over political parties.”
  
(cnn.com)

Bradshaw has worked in Republican politics for 30 years, working with politicians that include Haley Barbour, George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush, and Mitt Romney. While it seems unusual for a woman so high-up on the GOP food chain to leave her party, it is a story that many Republican voters can relate to.

After the Republican National Convention last month, when the reins of the party were handed over to Donald Trump, it is no wonder that many longtime Republicans are feeling betrayed. Trump’s worldview is a dramatic contradiction of Republican values and beliefs. He does not represent conservatism in the least. 

People like Sally Bradshaw, the Bush family, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, and Ronald Reagan have cast such a different vision for their party. A vision that does not drive voters away—a real Republican message.

In a February GOP debate, Marco Rubio explained that “Conservatism is about three things. The first is about limited government, especially at the federal level…It’s about free enterprise, which is an economic model that allows everyone to rise without pulling anyone down….And it’s about a strong national defense…that the world is a safer and a better place when America’s the strongest military and the strongest nation on this planet. That’s conservatism."

A genuine conservative Republican message is about making America a land where every person has an opportunity to rise up and thrive without pushing others down. It means getting the government out of people’s lives so they can flourish unhindered.

(msnbc.com)
Ronald Reagan gave vocalization to the Republican vision in his 1980 pre-election day speech. “That's why I've said throughout this campaign that we must control and limit the growth of federal spending, that we must reduce tax rates to stimulate work and savings and investment. That's why I've said we can relieve labor and business of burdensome, unnecessary regulations and still maintain high standards of environmental and occupational safety. That's why I've said we can reduce the cost of government by eliminating billions lost to waste and fraud in the federal bureaucracy—a problem that is now an unrelenting national scandal. And because we are a Federation of sovereign states, we can restore the health and vitality of state and local governments by returning to them control over programs best run at those levels of government closer to the people. We can fight corruption while we work to bring into our government women and men of competence and high integrity.”

Not only does Republicanism mean conservative policies, it also means decency and respect. This party was invented by people like Abraham Lincoln and other anti-slavery activists, who fought for equality and freedom. It is such a shame for Republicans to fall away from their roots and embrace an angry, self-centered, belittling position of a few. 

Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic, anti-women, anti-African-American rhetoric is a stark contrast to what the Republican Party was founded on and what it stands for today.

Just a few weeks ago, Trump caused an uproar by ridiculing Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim-American parents of a soldier killed in action in 2004. Mr. Khan spoke at last week’s Democratic National Convention, accusing Trump of having sacrificed nothing for his country. Trump, in typical fashion, could not let the insult slide, and he has created another mess for his campaign to clean up. The same thing happened with the Trump’s comments on sexual harassment, bragging about receiving a Purple Heart from a supporter, slew of conspiracy theories about a “rigged election”, and questioningwhy exactly the USA cannot use nuclear weapons. On top of that, it seems like the Trump campaign is falling apart.

And that is within forty-eight hours. For thirteen months, the Trump campaign has brought disaster after disaster, each farther proving Trump’s unqualification for the POTUS title, but each never changing the minds of his voters. Remember when Trump insulted a disabled reporter? Skipped a debate because Megyn Kelly was moderating? Called all Mexicans rapists? His entire presidential run has been full of hate and uncensored comments.

Many agree with Sally Bradshaw; there are too many flaws in Trump to elect him, even as a desperate alternative to Hillary Clinton. It is simply too risky.

What comes next for a fractured GOP? It is not likely the party will survive the election, no matter the outcome. Republicans like Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Mike Lee, and other Never-Trumpers may stage a party walk-out, and create a new Reagan-esque party. On the other hand, the radical Tea-Party Republicans, i.e. Sarah Palin, Chris Christe, and Donald Trump, could take leave to found their own party. Either way, the chances of the Republican Party remaining intact are very, very slim. When there is this much turmoil, the party cannot return to the way it was. 

A party split throws elections to the Democrats, of course, but their party is not looking too spiffy either. The 2016 election might be a growing pain for American democracy, and it is actually feasible that by 2028, we have a four-party system. Maybe Sally Bradshaw is wise to get out while she can, change her affiliation to independent, and refuse to support a volatile candidate.

Monday, July 25, 2016

America is Diverse...So Where Are Those Candidates?

America takes pride in its diversity.

It's been a theme throughout "cool" presidential campaigns this election cycle--diversity is one of the greatest features of our country. And I agree. The fact that we have so many nationalities coexisting in the same country is frankly spectacular.

Author of the hit musical Hamilton, Lin Manuel-Miranda, explains that his chiefly non-white cast represents "America now." That's fantastic.

Right now, during the Democratic National Convention, speakers are making a huge point out of speaking Spanish during their speeches, to show off their diversity During the Republican National Convention last week, several speakers name-dropped young, racially-diverse members of the party.

But if America is so very diverse, then where is that reflected in our presidential nominees? If we are truly so wonderfully full of contrast, then what are we doing with these candidates?

Everyone running in the general election is old and white.


No matter how this election swings, we are going to have an old, white president.

Donald Trump is old and white. His VP, Mike Pence, is old and white. Hillary Clinton is old and white. Her VP, Tim Kaine, is old and white. Even Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are old and white.

I myself am white, so maybe I can't say this, but I am young, and I am female. I don't want our first woman president to reach the White House on the coattails of her husband. I don't want a president who is positively ancient to be elected because they were the only choice.

Millennials are now the largest age group in our country--we want candidates closer to our age who understand our mindsets.

I yearn for people like Nikki Haley or even Cory Booker running our political parties. I have nothing against old, white people, but when everybody running for president is old and white, then we have a problem.

If America is really so young and diverse, then why doesn't our presidential election look like that? 

How did we get to this point? Where we feign appreciation for youth and differences, but don't embrace them in practice? And is there any chance of fixing this before November 8?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Republican National Convention: Charlie Kirk Highlights GOP's Diversity

 The Republican National Convention in Cleveland is in full swing, and I had the pleasure of livestreaming the convention as one of my young Republican heroes, Charlie Kirk, address those in attendance.



He told about the organization he founded, Turning Point USA, and combated claims that the Republican Party is merely old white guys. A transcript and video of his speech follows:

"Hello Cleveland! I am thrilled to be here. I’m from the great state of Illinois. The cool thing about Illinois is we have term limits—one term in office, one term in jail. It’s a little different than most.

When I was eighteen years old, I was gracious enough to start a national student activist organization that organizes college and high-school students on campuses across the country. Our slogan is 'Big Government Sucks,' and I apologize if that sounds a little caustic, but, you know, you here at the 2016 convention, I know you know that’s true [sic].

I founded Turning Point USA to tell young people in America that there’s a better way than big government and old school corruption. We essentially argue for free markets and free people on college campuses across the country, in the most treacherous terrain imaginable.

So we’re on these college campuses--and the media has been spinning this as well--we’re told frequently that the Republican party is a party of old, rich, white men. And I always respond. I say, 'Did you know that here at this convention and our 2016 field, it was the most diverse and youngest presidential field in American history?'

Only four Latinos have ever run for president of the United States. Two of them were in this election cycle: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. In fact, we had the first Latino-American ever to win a presidential preference primary or caucus. 

We had the first Indian-American to run for president in Bobby Jindal. 

The Democrats, on the other hand, they had Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders, by the way, is like three times my age. 

We have the only sitting U.S. senator under the age of 40. 

We have the youngest Speaker of the House since 1868 in Paul Ryan. 

We have three governors under the age of fifty: Governor Scott Walker, Governor Matt Bevin, Governor Nikki Haley. 

We have the two only Indian-American governors in Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley. 

We have nine U.S. senators under the age of fifty. 

We have the youngest woman ever elected in Congress in Elise Stefanik.

Who is the party of youth and diversity? We are the party of youth and diversity, not the Democrats. When you look at the Democrats, they embody old-school corruption and who has been there the longest. 

We believe in opportunity for all, and our party reflects that. We’re the party that believes in meritocracy and individual liberty and hard work can truly succeed.

We work on college campuses across the country. The only way we’re going to take back the youth of this country is to storm them, and that is how we’re going to make America great again."

Friday, May 13, 2016

When You Can't Handle Any More Trump, Turn to Local Politics

After a depressing week in national politics, I thought I would take a break and attend a Greer, SC forum for candidates running for state senate and Greenville's county council. While the hype was significantly less than a national campaign, it proved to be a fascinating peek into the complicated world of local politics.

First came the candidates for county council. Districts 18 and 21 were participating in the forum tonight.

County Council Districts 18 and 21 participated in the forum. (Greenville GIS)
District 18's sitting chairman is Joe Baldwin. His opponent, Mike Barnes, was unable to attend the forum. When asked to contrast himself with Mr. Barnes, Chairman Baldwin stated, "I have a proven record. I have actually been there and made tough decisions, both in the city and county level. I put a lot of thought into issues." Chairman Baldwin made several good points, but he was outshone by his District 21 counterparts.

District 21 had a more heated contest. The contenders, Lance Byers, Stacy Kuper, and Rick Roberts, were anxious to compare their records and win the council chair. 21's current chairman, Jim Burns, is not seeking reelection. Byers, Kuper, or Roberts will end up facing Bill Michaud, the Libertarian candidate for District 21, and one of two non-GOP potential chairmen. Each of these candidates was also asked to distinguish himself from his opponents. Mr. Byers listed his experience as a real-estate broker, an executive committeeman for the Greenville county GOP, and a board-member with the Salvation Army, before saying that he "has a passion for people and service". Ms. Kuper rattled off nine years of experience in local politics and leadership, claiming that she wishes to be chairman to serve the community, rather than for a "political endgame". She cited her work in the tech industry as a reason she would bring perspective to the county council. Mr. Roberts cited his work building two businesses as a reason to elect him.

Joe Baldwin, Lance Byers, Stacy Kuper, and Rick Roberts vie for their respective county council seats.
Topics addressed by moderators Steve Bruss, Rudolph Bell,  and Jason Zacher included housing growth, county funded roads, public transportation, and, especially, what to do to avoid a second Woodruff road (which, around here, is the southern, laid-back version of New York City congested traffic).

After the county council candidates spoke, it was time for the senate candidates. The South Carolina Senate districts represented are two major districts in Greenville and Spartanburg: 5 and 12.

Candidates from districts 5 and 12 were present at the forum (Carolana)
The two incumbent senators, Tom Corbin for District 5 and Lee Bright for District 12, were no-shows at the event, and their opponents took full advantage of the opportunity to slam their current senators. Participating was John B. White Jr. to contest Tom Corbin, and David McCraw, Lisa Scott, and Scott Talley to face Lee Bright.

While Corbin and Bright were not present, I had previously researched them. Corbin has supported senate bills overruling the Affordable Care Act, changing voting laws, and tax deductions for parents placing children in public/home schools. Last year, Corbin struck a nerve when he stated that "[Women are] a lesser cut of meat". Lee Bright, on the other hand, is the senator who recently introduced a Bathroom Bill to the SC Senate floor. He also supports returning the Confederate flag to the Statehouse.

One attendee at the forum displayed this anti-incumbent poster from the front row.
Candidate David McCraw came out swinging at Senator Bright in his first statement, setting the tone for the evening. Lisa Scott and Scott Talley followed McCraw's lead and attacked. Ms. Scott labeled Senator Bright's bathroom bill support as merely "grandstanding and getting headlines". All the candidates shared the opinion that a bathroom bill is unnecessary and a "non-issue".

Other controversial laws discussed included South Carolina's notorious road problems, industrial property tax, and the ethics bill. 

At the end of the forum, candidates were asked to differentiate themselves from their rivals.

Mr. White criticized Senator Corbin for not showing up in the Senate more, and claimed that, if elected, "I will be there....because we're serving you." He also listed his work as an attorney to be beneficial in a senate environment.

Moderator Steve Bruss posed questions to District 5 Senate candidate John B. White and District 12 Senate candidates David McCraw, Lisa Scott, and Scott Talley.

District 12's candidates all boldly declared themselves superior to the rest. Mr. McCraw declared that he is "a businessman...a veteran...[and] has never been in politics" and reminded the crowd that 39% of South Carolina's current senators are attorneys. "We need more business-owners who will take care of the people and the businesses, which, in turn, will take care of the state. Ms. Scott went over her track record as mayor of Duncan, a business owner, and a social worker. Her experience as a social worker taught her about "listening to people, solving their problems, mediating, collaborating, and forming partnerships." She also believes that as a woman, she can benefit the Senate, which currently only has three female members. Mr. Talley started out with a very Trump-ish statement: "We've lost eight years in District 12." He then continued to mention his experience in the South Carolina House, saying that "I was able to work with people, and that's something that our current senator has not been very successful at." However, he can "still take tough stands that got me criticized by the leaders of the House."

The election for all the candidates, county council and senate, who participated in the forum is June 14. The entire forum can be watched here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Annotation for Josh Earnest's Remarks on GOP Rhetoric

Last week, I watched a livestream for a White House press conference with President Obama and Press Secretary Josh Earnest. This back-and-fourth intrigued me, and I copied it down to analyze. Here's what I noted.





CNN Reporter Michelle Kosinski
        “We just heard the president say, in response to the same question, does he feel that Donald Trump and other candidates’ rhetoric has already done damage in terms of the US standing in the world. He unequivocally said yes right off the bat, but yesterday you said no, so how do you sort of smooth that out? What damage is done, if any, by this rhetoric already?”
(The statement she is referring to is here. This is an excellent question, and one that I’ve wondered myself.)


Press Secretary Josh Earnest: 
        “As I acknowledged yesterday, the fact is the president does get these kinds of questions from world leaders. (President Obama mentioned this too at the press conference, saying “I think that I’ve been very clear earlier that I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made. "I do have to emphasize that it’s not just Mr. Trump’s proposals.  You're also hearing concerns about Mr. Cruz’s proposals, which in some ways are just as draconian when it comes to immigration, for example.") 
        Secretary of State John Kerry was on television today just indicating that every conversation he has with world leaders includes a conversation about their concerns about the political rhetoric coming from the Republican presidential candidates. That is concerning. I think the point I was making is that that damage can be mitigated (seriously reduced), if not outright eliminated, if the American people choose to elect someone that’s serious about protecting American values and advancing American interests around the globe, in a way that acknowledges the important relationships we have with our allies and partners around the world. (Wow, what a long sentence. Funny how he doesn’t say WHO that person would be. Or what exactly advancing American interests around the globe is. Is he referring to world domination or…?)
         Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and the rhetoric of other Republican candidates, including Senator Cruz, doesn’t reflect that. (Kasich isn't mentioned at all in this speech, unless he counts as "other Republican candidates.") 
        That is harmful to the United States. But, over the long term, electing a successor to President Obama who understands how important those relationships are and how important it is to advocate for and defend consistently good old-fashioned American values (I don’t understand who he is saying is a good choice here. Whose American values does he mean? Republicans or Democrats? I assume he means his own party, the Dems. In that case, he’s probably pushing Hillary here. Bernie is too far-out there to represent "old-fashioned American values.)…that’s going to be good for the country and that will protect our standing in the world, and I’m confident this is an important part of the argument you’ll hear the President making into the summer and fall (I agree – this won’t be the last time we hear this argument/point of view).


M: 
         “This is confusing though, because I mean, I see you’re trying to make the point that you don’t want this rhetoric, that it’s not good, but when we’re talking about something like damage being done…I mean, you were quick to say yesterday, “No, I don’t think that the damage has been done”, while today, the President has been just as quick to say, “Yes, there is damage that has been done” (Hm there was a serious lack of communications between the two). So could you just describe what is the damage, because there are concerns out there…nobody’s been elected yet, so what is damaging? (She makes a good point here. No one is officially the president yet, so how and why are our candidates causing harm when they don’t have executive power yet?) What exactly is it and how does it affect US standing? Or whatever you see the damage being.”


J: 
        "When you have a political leader who is given a large platform and is using that opportunity to give voice to values that are inconsistent with the kinds of values that the American people have long stood and fought for (You’ll notice he never elaborates what these values are exactly; leaves it open to interpretation)…in some cases, we’re talking about values that American service men and women have fought and died for…that sends a confusing signal. And the fact that important conversations that are hosted by the President of the United States or the United States Secretary of State are clouded by these kinds of discussions, it’s not good. It’s harmful. It makes those meetings less productive than they would otherwise be (He’s saying that it takes up their otherwise valuable time. But how much time exactly do these remarks take up? I can’t imagine it would be so long)
        That’s what makes the stakes of this next election so important, and electing a president who does give voice to those values that we’ve long stood for, who does continue to see America as a beacon of human rights and fairness and justice and equality and democracy is a good thing not just for our government here at home, but for the standing of the United States around the world (He’s implying that government around the world is very anti-Republican values. While yes, I am very ashamed of the hate that is coming from my own party, I don’t believe he is giving Republican values a fair treatment or representation (though neither is the GOP right now)). 
 
M: 
        “You would say that the harm done is in time taken up in conversations?" (Funny thing – when I was watching this live, I was wondering the exact same question.)
J:  
        (He was flustered with this answer; it took him a while to get his thoughts together, and even when he did, it wasn’t quite coherent sentences.) “Well, I guess....and the questions raised in the minds of world leaders about what is it the United States is willing to stand for…given the platform that people like Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz have used to give voice to values, frankly, that most Americans don’t stand for (well that's true) …it’s harmful; it’s damaging. And that’s why it’s important to, in the President’s mind, to elect a president who understands that this kind of rhetoric is, in fact, damaging, and that electing a president who does demonstrate a commitment to core American values, again, is critical to making sure that we have a government that the American people can be proud of, but it’s also critical to soreing up the kinds of relationships that President Obama, over the past seven or eight years, has spent repairing.”
M: 
        “A couple of times, these conversations with world leaders have been brought up in terms of how this is harmful. So do you feel that these world leaders now see the US in a different light because of this election cycle?” 
J: 
        “I think you’d have to ask them exactly how it’s changed their view”(The farther into this question he got, the more flustered and upset he became).
M: 
        “You’re saying that there’s been harm and damage, so I’m trying to get a sense of what you see it being exactly.”
J: 
        “Look, I think I’ve taken a couple shots at trying to answer your question here, so you’ve got some material to work with" (Lol he is SO DONE at this point).