Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Hunger Games And Children: Who Should See This Movie?

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

The Hunger Games premise is not for the faint of heart: children are offered up as sacrifices to appease the central government gods who control 13 districts. [See more about an explanation of the movie in Part I of my Hunger Games Series.]

Here are the tributes:

You’ll note that some are babies. And, in fact, in a wrenching scene one of the youngest of them dies a brutal death. And the protagonist Katniss Everdine gives the child funeral rites even though she is a competitor.

The kindness in the midst of the brutality causes a riot in the dead girl’s district.

It is a lot to take in for an adult. For a child? Well.

Not all children should see this movie. In fact, children under 10 – 12 shouldn’t see the movie no matter their constitutions. There is some good reasoning here as to why.

One of my older children (14) is especially sensitive and won’t be seeing the movie either until it’s on a small screen, the movie can be stopped, and the issues explained. Also, the books must be read first.

My twelve year old daughter did see the movie. She’d read all the books and didn’t seem to grasp the horror of forcing children to fight each other to the death.

She sat curled into my arms at a couple points during the movie. Seeing is believing, evidently.

While the filmmakers did their best to minimize the blood and gore, the graphic nature of kids breaking necks, stabbing and slashing, poisoning, etc. disturbs all but the most detached.

The books are actually more graphic and distressing. As I shared in my previous post, I was so sickened by the premise that I put the book down.

Many books deal with children as protagonists in life and death situations — Lord of the Rings (in the books the Hobbits were coming of age), Ender’s Game (6 year old protagonist), Black Beauty, Lord of the Flies, etc.

Children read these books, evaluate them, and process them on a different level. Their lack of life experience is a help here. In books, one imagines what one has experienced and apply it to the reading.

The movie gives no such room. The violence is there to see.

There is great risk watching the movie Hunger Games of becoming the voyeur watching the reality game. The American audience, especially, weaned on Survivor, the Bachelor, etc., can be immune to the human difficulty and suffering.

Children are used as pawns and killed while, as a friend stated, trying to hold on to their humanity. This is a subject only the more mature can process. Beware of robbing your child’s innocence with this movie.

If you doubt your child’s ability to handle it, wait.

[More about the cultural relevance in the next installment.]

School Choice And Education Reform: It’s Personal

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Like health care, education affects everyone. Like the new Obamacare, education sets central recommendations, controls choices and creates a bureaucracy.

The government way is one-size fits all.

The problem is that just as every patient is different, so is every student. Patients and students need MORE choices not less.

In education, teachers unions and state and federal bureaucrats have powerful incentives to keep things the same.

Unfortunately, same harms the powerless–our future generation.

Education reform is an easy issue to get worked up over and then do nothing. There are multiple reasons for this:

1. Education reform can take a long time — by the time motivated parents take on a certain issue, it is likely their children won’t benefit and once the child is done with school, the parents are simply relieved.

2. Parents have kids in the system — Yell at he warden, beat up the prison guard, and see how comfortable your stay at the clink is. Parents worry about their children being at the mercy of angry educators. They have good reason to be concerned. Teacher retaliation is not theoretical. It’s happened.

3. All ed reform seems to be trimming around the edges and not overhauling central issues.

4. Teachers unions actively fight against any meaningful change. Kids are caught in the middle.

The solution to this problem is to create more flexibility. One proposal in Texas is to have the education dollars follow the child.

I like this solution. Here’s why:

1. Education is still industrial-revolution ready, but less useful for the technological age. Money could be shifted to education focused on modern economic needs.

2. Children are diverse and learn differently. I have an Asperger’s/Autism student, a GT student and a kid who I’m still trying to pin down. The education system is perfectly suited to the middle of the bell curve. What about all the kids who are outside the middle? What about the kid who needs far more structure verses the kid who is so self-motivated he or she could be a college grad by age 17?

3. It’s market-based. Success breeds success. Money will go towards the best solutions.

I wonder why teachers unions are so insecure about their ability to keep and serve students? Why don’t they believe they’d be as competitive as private schools if they’re loosed from all their educational shackles?

Bad teachers would likely have a tougher time. Isn’t that a desirable outcome? Don’t we WANT good and great teachers? Don’t we want to eliminate the bad eggs?

My uncle who has been a Superintendent of Schools in Michigan and has been a part of nearly every ed reform change over the years says that people just want to talk about it but not really effect real change.

That’s probably true. It is patently unfair, though, that wealthy folks (like the Obamas) can put their kids in private schools that succeed while forcing the poor people to stay in failing schools. It is patently unfair that tax paying parents get no benefits while home schooling their own children.

People vote with their feet while resources are being thrown down the gluttonous public maw of educational failure.

It is time to become more innovative, not less, with education.

Working with National School Choice Week has been eye-opening. There is much work to do.

Choice is the answer.

More at and

A Politician’s Quick And Dirty Guide To Social Media

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Social Media: At least you don’t have to touch people

Google added it’s new social network to the interwebs two weeks ago and I considered writing a post that addresses only Google Plus. Then, I reconsidered. Google + needs to be talked about in the context of everything else out there.

First, a couple overarching principles for every social network:

1. Don’t be a jerk. It should go without saying, and yet…
2. Pretend you’re talking to a person face to face.
3. Nothing can ever be taken back ever. It’s the internet.

One big mistake politicians make is ignoring social media entirely.
A good politician will recognize that most public relations now is done through social media. That is, communication from the pol to his constituents happens on a much greater scale and more quickly and directly via social media. Yes, phone calls, hand shakes and kissing babies still matters and it matters a lot. But the fact is, politics is a lot like church: most folks hear the pastor give the sermon and never interact with him. There are a few true believers in the Amen Pew and they talk to everyone. Social media reaches the Amen Pew. Why wouldn’t a politician have a communications strategy for these true believers (and skeptics)? It’s really short-sighted and yet, many politicians still regulate their social media staff to an after-thought.

Here’s the perspective you should have on Social Media from Gary Vaynerchuk:

My suggestion? Integrate social media with communications. In fact, a comms director who is social media ignorant shouldn’t be a communications director. In the political space, a comms director who doesn’t know the major new media players like bloggers (at whatever level the politician is at) shouldn’t be employed, either.

Social media and new media relations isn’t magical, but it requires work just like it requires work to form relationships with journalists. The lines are blurring and journalism has become more democratic and diverse. A blog can be far more influential to the type of people a politician wants to reach to influence who will then influence the people he wants influenced.

Now, to the social networks.

I’m starting with Facebook because right now, it’s the juggernaut. Here’s a couple of rules.

1. Only follow close personal friends and family on your Facebook account.
This is yours. If you’re not into social media, don’t sweat it. Just don’t do it. There is no harm to not having a personal Facebook account. (This will cause some social media folks to howl, by the way, but my rationale is this: there are so many other social networks with which to engage people. A politician needs to have his real life too. Keep your FB account that life.)

2. Set up a public page aka Fan Page.
If you want this to grow, you have to feed it. Facebook pages are not magical wonderlands where followers just sprout out of nothing. Even the biggest named person has to give something to get something. The Fan Page is a good place to put ALL press releases. It is a good place to get feedback on certain pieces of legislation. It’s a good place to explain your rationale for a decision you’ve made.

3. Interact there.
Facebook has some nice tools for social engagement. You can create events there and schedule them that will invite your fans. You can do nice targeted advertising. You can have more inclusive and cohesive conversations then say Twitter.

All this said, Facebook is my least favorite social media application. Why? They don’t let you easily export your data. It’s clunky. But everyone is there.

Good example on Facebook: Sarah Palin.


1. Be honest about your account.
That is, if you have your own Twitter account, fine, but run it yourself. Don’t know about Twitter and don’t care? That’s okay. A Twitter account can be run by your comms director or whomever you trust, but make clear that the account is being run by that person … or a person other than you. You can also name the account @JoePoliticsNews or some such. That way, people know it’s about you but not necessary from you.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, for example, has a bunch of accounts. His staff runs one. He has his personal account (puppies!). And there’s an election news one, etc. If you don’t know about Twitter, or are a communications person, follow his accounts to get a feel for how a major politician can use Twitter to interact.

Another example is Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey. He interacts. So does Representative Thad McCotter of Michigan. These guys use Twitter and talk to their constituents and anyone else who will listen. There are quite a few pols who do this well.

2. Either follow everyone or follow no one.
Either follow the world (highly recommended) or follow no one. I strongly advise against following porn stars, hookers and underage girls. (You’d think some things don’t need to be spelled out and yet they do.) Twitter clients allow for lists so a politician or his staff can follow journalists and influencers without offending their constituents by not following them. So, my ultimate recommendation is to follow everyone. Just because you follow them all doesn’t mean you have to pay attention to them all. It’s just polite to be friendly.

3. There’s no wrong way to tweet. Oh wait, yes there is..
Here’s some guidelines: Be friendly and helpful but not overly personal. Boundary issues? Twitter is not for you. Be honest and engaging. Every once in a while get into conversations with folks. I’ve asked Representatives and Senators questions and Twitter gives them a good forum to give unspun answers. Sick of the media twisting your words or meaning? Well, judiciously use twitter to tell people what’s up. If you are inauthentic, Twitter will reveal you. It is a social medium. It is also a really good way to provide information and to be a news stream. Use it!

Bad example: Anthony Weiner. Don’t be that guy. Please. Spare us all.

Google +

Intro: You’re asking, What the heck is Google + and why should I care? Google + is a brand new social network created by Google (duh). It is a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook in some ways and a completely new thing in others. Like Twitter as many people as want to can follow you — millions even. Like Facebook, you’re limited about who you can follow to 5,000 people. In addition, of those 5K people, you can organize these folks into circles. Just like real life, Google + allows you put people into categories and interact with them (and only them, if desired) in those circles.

Why do I love Google + for Politicians?

1. Google + lets you tailor messages to the people you want to reach.
Want to tell the whole world about your new legislation? Make that a “Public” message. Want to share a message with key activists, donors, etc? Create circles for them and communicate with them. Want to send out a press release? Create a circle for the press (I have one of about 500 people right now, myself and include bloggers in that circle, fyi) and send the press release that way. And guess what? Those people can communicate back with you easily.

2. Google + allows for this new thing called “Hangouts”.
Hangouts are like a Skype conversation but for up to (for now) 9 people. I say for now, because a business version of Google + is coming out and I’ll bet that they allow dozens if not hundreds of people on a Hangout. We’ll see. But for now, Hangouts would be a wonderful way for a politician to meet with his constituents without leaving the comfort of his office or home. You know those key activists you meet with weekly? How about having a Hangout? You know those donors in five different counties (states)? Meet in a Hangout. You know those key reporters who you want to talk to and don’t want to repeat yourself ten times? Have a Hangout and talk to them. Have a constituent group who is hopping mad about fill-in-the-blank and so much so you worry about your personal safety? Have a hangout and talk about it with people and be safe.

Details about a hangout. Google makes it so that whomever is talking has the camera on them. Anyone can share a YouTube. So, if you’re on the road and your campaign manager wants to show you the latest ad, he can. Links can be shared. The possibility for this tech and politicians is endless.

Here is Michael Dell in a Hangout. He plans to use them for customer service:

3. Google + allows for a great way to share extended thoughts.
More extensive than Twitter. Less static than Facebook. More privacy controls than all of the above. Google + has less limits and yet more controls. This is essential. Newt Gingrich has already had a hangout on Google +. Other politicians are jumping on and trying it out. Early adoption celebrities (who face many of the same security and need-to-connect-with-the-public issues) are really enjoying the medium.

All in all, though it’s early, I feel that Google + has the most to offer politicians. The short coming? While Facebook has 750 million people on it (600 million check it monthly anyway) and Twitter has around 60 million active users, Google + has probably around 15 million … after two weeks. It took Facebook and Twitter years to get that many folks. I predict serious growth right now. Google has 193 million users monthly (as of last November). That’s a lot of people. And even more use Google to search.

Google + integrates with other shared services as well. Unfortunately most government folks cannot use many of these tools, but for real life users they’re valuable and make Google products sticky.

There are other social media too.

Foursquare: Foursquare and Gowalla are location-based social media and useful for politicians who want to tell people where they are.

LinkedIn: Businesses and job seekers use LinkedIn. It’s the mature social network for business types. I haven’t seen a lot of political uses for it other than networking and following people important in the business world.

Are shaking hands, knocking on doors, kissing babies and taking pictures important? Yes. Absolutely. They’re essential especially for lesser known politicians.

Can social media make a huge different in a politician’s scope of influence, connection to constituents, and control of the message? Yes. A million times yes.

Whereas social media was a catch phrase a couple years ago, it’s real life, now. Companies are very effectively using Twitter, for example, to do consumer outreach and conduct customer service. Celebrities are very effectively using Fan groups on Facebook to give followers special deals.

There are so many innovative ways to use social media and yet, at its fundamental level, social media is all about a politician’s stock in trade: influence and talking to people.

Educate yourself. Need some help and training? Worried that the “social media expert” is hosing you? Email me at melissa.clouthier at or call me at 713-306-8867.

Social media is a really fun, direct way to communicate from the comfort of your home and jammies. Why more politicians don’t embrace it, I don’t know. But it is a natural fit for the politics business and the innovations that are coming along will make it even easier to be more efficient with your politicking.

Evil Political Ads

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Outright lying and implying that a candidate would not want to help a rape victim…too far.

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When Campaign Ads Go Too Far

By Timothy Dalrymple, October 22, 2010 12:12 am

A recent transplant from Boston to Atlanta, I have not lived in Georgia long enough to feel invested in the local politics.  I should care more than I do, since the local elections will influence the life I lead, but I tend to focus on national political issues. Several recent ads, however, have truly disgusted me.  They raise again this issue: What are the ethical principles that govern political rhetoric?  When is it rhetoric as usual that we simply accept and shake our head at, and when is it so dishonest or unfair that it should not be tolerated?

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Americans Are Experts At Nukes. Interesting data visualization of nuke tests via @sidburgess

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Sid is freaked out. I am encouraged. One, citizens of the world seem to comprehend the whole mutually assured destruction thing. Two, Americans are very thorough about testing technology.

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The Explosions of Every Nuclear Bomb to 1998

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Conclusion: Tea Partiers Need More Drums And Catchy Phrases #teaparty

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Leftists love yelling things like Justice NOW! Well, I believe in justice too. On 9/12, I want to yell justice for all! or something like that. We need better chants.

Also, huge props to Katy Bedingfield, my friend from North Carolina who blogs locally. Those people are brave.

Amplify’d from

Illegals and Communists Protest Arizona Law in Raleigh (Video)

by Katy

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Another Progressive Who’s Really A Commie

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Is there even a difference?

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Howard Zinn, “Outed” as a Communist and a Liar

By: Trevor Loudon
New Zeal

Howard Zinn, the prominent “progressive” historian who died early this year, has been “outed” as both a communist and a liar.

The prominent “progressive” historian Howard Zinn, whose books are force-fed to young people on many college campuses, was not only a member of the Moscow-controlled and Soviet-funded Communist Party USA (CPUSA) but lied about it, according to an FBI file released on Friday

Zinn taught in the political science department of Boston University for 24 years, from 1964 to 1988, and has been a major influence on the modern-day “progressive” movement that backed Barack Obama for president.

Although Zinn denied being a member of the CPUSA, the FBI file discloses that several reliable informants in the party identified Zinn as a member who attended party meetings as many as five times a week.



Us And Them | Liberty Pundits Blog

Monday, July 19th, 2010

America is at war but it’s not left versus right. It’s Us and Them.

Yes, the Car Dealer Job Losses Were Politically Motivated

Monday, July 19th, 2010

But the retribution is not what you think. Go read the whole thing:

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GM – Chrysler Dealer Closings Was Politically Motivated Retribution; Obama Does Not Care About Jobs

Who, with a straight face, can say that President Obama cares about creating jobs? The man has shut down the oil industry in the gulf. He has passed a health care law that increases business costs thus limiting job creation. And now, his administration is exposed as needlessly shutting down dealerships costing “tens of thousands of jobs“.

The fact is, in order to get the reordered society that Barack Obama seeks, some of the little people have to be lost in the shuffle for the greater good.



Riehl World View: Texas Capitol: Where Term Limits Meet The 2nd Amendment

Monday, July 19th, 2010

I love Texas. A lot.