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Columnists
Tyree: Can your family handle a day without complaints?

Did you notice that Thomas Lickona recently adapted a portion of his book “How to Raise Kind Kids” into the online “Time Magazine” article “How to Raise Grateful Kids in An Era of Thankless People”?

My own son Gideon is a gentle, cheerful, kindhearted lad; but I set aside the time to read the essay because I realize he is still a work in progress.

Even though Gideon has mostly outgrown the “This is the worst day of my life” tantrums, he is still prone to swiping my French fries, neglecting “thank you” notes, delivering perfunctory prayers (“Thank you for our food and our beds. Amen”), procrastinating about his burdensome chores (which require half a hand of fingers to count) and whining about clothes shopping trips that last longer than unlacing the left shoe.

Among the suggestions in Lickona’s essay was to take “the no-complaints challenge.” In this exercise, everyone in the family must agree to go 24 hours without complaining about anything.

Raising the issue of going cold turkey on negative vibes can stir up a storm of discord all by itself. (“Did someone say something about ‘cold turkey’? Is the microwave busted again? Didn’t that thing come from the Pilrgrims’ yard sale? The neighbors have a new kitchen and a new car and probably Paula Deen and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to manage those necessities for them...”)

Yes, if you’re going to plunge into smiley faces and fortitude instead of slowly weaning your family from self-centered habits, you need to find ways to lessen the shock. You might want to set the mood by streaming something like “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” or “Man, they said we better accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch onto the affirmative and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”

Your little cherubs will probably gush an enthusiastic pronouncement such as, “I’m so GLAD that Bobby McFerrin and Johnny Mercer aren’t here to get their feelings hurt when I crank up Black Sabbath to drown out their music!”

Break out all those uplifting posters, such as “If you can’t say something nice about suppertime telemarketing calls, the Washington, D.C. swamp, Fluffy’s hairballs and the creepy neighbor boy with the binoculars, don’t say anything at all.”

Of course, a little common sense is required if a family is to go all-positive. Or when the kids laugh about the 24-hour “ordeal” afterwards, they’ll say something like, “Ha! Ha! I wanted to complain about suspicious-looking mosquito crawling up your arm, but I just zipped my lip and went to my happy place.”

Classmates and teachers will notice a changed attitude in youngsters who have learned to eliminate their egocentric bellyaching. (“What do you want to be, Johnny—the class president or the captain of the football team?” “Nah, I wanna be a Stepford Wife.”)

I just hope that complaint-free days can be the beginning of a lifetime of putting things into perspective. If, instead, they become like Lent, followed by an outpouring of pent-up desire, things could get nasty.

“Why does the Sun have to come up so early? Why does it have to be 93 million miles away? Why does it have to possess a mass 330,000 times that of Earth? Why does it have be a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process?”


Columnists
Jensen: Crackdown on Facebook would be good ... for Facebook

From the moment Mark Zuckerberg began to read his opening statement, you knew he wasn’t going to change Facebook.

Clueless politicians made it clear they didn’t understand Facebook, so members of Congress were unable to drill down into details of Facebook’s business model and just how much of your personal information is owned by thousands of companies.

Perplexed members of Congress suggesting Facebook change its business model to “fee-based” don’t understand the advertising business and how many hundreds of millions of dollars and users they would lose.

Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana was most articulate when he told Zuckerberg his company’s user agreement “sucks” and if he doesn’t change it, Congress will.

Which would be good news for Facebook.

If Congress creates new laws that make it hard to compete in this industry, it will certainly make it harder and more expensive for competition to enter the arena, as Facebook already has the lawyers and billions of dollars to compete.

Does this mean Congress should do nothing?

Of course not.

The European Union has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law that requires that users must be able to exercise certain new rights, including: 1) the right to view all data that a company holds about them, 2) the right to demand that the company restrict the usage of or delete that data.

Companies that don’t comply with the EU’s rules face a hefty fine—either 4 percent of an entity’s annual total revenue or 20 million Euros, whichever is greater.

Zuckerberg knows this is a threat to his business, so he offered to “extend” the GDPR to the U.S. However, when questioned about the extent to which Facebook would “voluntarily” extend these protections, he was vague... very vague.

IT security expert Josh Marpet of Redlion.io puts it this way:

“Every time you have an interaction with someone or something, there is transfer. If your car hits another car, there is paint transferred from one car to the other. If your aunt hits your other aunt, there’s probably some family gossip which just transferred! And if you interact with a website, an app, or a technological service of any kind, there is informational transfer.”,

So what about all those free apps? Whatsapp? Facebook? WeChat? Snapchat? Linkedin? How do they make money?

You.

They track where you go, who you talk to, what you click on, what you don’t click on, what phone calls you make, and more., The better their demographic knowledge of you, the better to personalize ads sent to you. They can feed you news and stories to make your blood boil, or your heart sing.

If you want to protect your data, the obvious think to do would be to quit Facebook. But if you want to continue to see your friends and family and they’re all on Facebook, here are some rules to live by if you want to protect your data:

- Don’t post anything “public.”

- Don’t use any Facebook apps, like Mafia Wars.

- Don’t log onto everything under the sun using Facebook, because then they’re gathering more data about you.

- Use the Facebook privacy settings!

It’s well past time to push Facebook to have a paid version, with no ads and no data gathering. That way, users can once again be Facebook’s customer, not its product.

Unfortunately, Zuckerberg entered the Senate Tuesday hearing like a mouse and left Congress on Wednesday like a lion.

That should concern you.


Columnists
Polman: The GOP's 'hollow men': Spineless in the face of crisis

Whenever I ponder the despicable impotence of the congressional Republicans—especially now, as we lurch toward a national crisis long in the making—I am reminded of a famous poem by T. S. Eliot:

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw...

There’s a lot more, but you get the drift. And here’s a straw head in action, as captured Tuesday by a reporter in a Capitol Hill corridor:

Q: “Should the Senate act to keep Trump from firing Mueller?”

Sen. Orrin Hatch: “He’s not going to do that.”

Q: “Why do you say that?”

Hatch: “He’s just not going to do it.”

Q: “How can you be so confident?”

Hatch: “I’m quite sure he won’t do it. Unless there’s something else really bad that happens.”

Q: “Why not take up one of these bills to protect [Mueller]?”

Hatch: “I don’t think we should do that.”

Q: “Why not?”

Hatch: “Well, because I don’t think—I think it’s up to the president. I think he should—I don’t think he’s going to do that.”

Q: “But he has openly contemplated it.”

Hatch: “Yeah, I don’t think he’s going to.”

Q: “Has he told you that?”

Hatch: “No.”

As Trump creeps ever closer toward emulating the autocrats in Russia, Turkey, and Hungary, the Republicans who run a so-called equal branch of government continue to disgrace themselves and imperil us. Hatch was joined yesterday by the usual hapless suspects, all of whom meet T. S. Eliot’s criteria for hollow behavior: “Shape without form, shade without color / Paralyzed force, gesture without motion.”

Speaking of a paralyzed force, Senate “leader” Mitch McConnell was asked whether the chamber should take proactive steps to protect the federal investigation into Trump’s multifaceted scandals—most notably, Robert Mueller’s job. He replied: “I haven’t seen any clear indication yet that we needed to pass something to keep him from being removed because I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

How much “clear indication” do these people need?

Trump has already sought to fire Mueller at least twice before backing down, and during his tirade earlier this week, he said: “Why don’t I just fire Mueller? ... We’ll see what happens. And many people have said, you should fire him.” (Those “many people” are a distinct minority. The latest national Quinnipiac poll says that 69 percent of all voters, including 55 percent of Republicans, want Mueller on the job.)

Worst of all is their catch-22 reasoning. They say there’s no need to protect Mueller because Trump hasn’t done anything “yet” (McConnell) and because Trump won’t do anything “unless there’s something else really bad that happens” (Hatch). But if Trump lashes out by firing Mueller, it will then be too late to protect him. And what would congressional Republicans do if that happens? Would they perchance take action against Trump’s flagrant obstruction of justice?

Here’s an answer from the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn: “I’m not going to speculate as to what we would do.”

How about Paul Ryan? What did the soon-to-be-former House Speaker has reportedly decided not to run for re-election (as yours truly and others predicted), because it’s easier to cut and run than to stand and fight for the soul of his party. Freed from electoral constraints, Ryan could perform a public service by drawing a line in the sand against Trump’s authoritarian impulses, but that isn’t likely to happen—because 89 percent of grassroots Republicans endorse Trump’s cult of personality.

And that best explains the congressional Republicans’ calculated impotence. In a tough midterm year, they need the Trump cultists to show up on election day. If they dared to cross the Leader, they’d risk ticking off “the base” and depressing Republican turnout. It doesn’t matter that Trump is “losing his s—’t” (as one operative close to the White House tells Politico), because the enablers on Capitol Hill can’t conceive of putting the country first. Instead, it’s party tribalism uber alles.

But it’s Eliot who best captures the cowardice of hollow men:

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats’ feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar.