Monday, January 25, 2016

The Silence of the Sheldon

I have to admit, as the unofficial guy who watches Sheldon Adelson’s anti-online-gambling crusade online, I am a bit bored.  I regularly monitor (and troll) his online activities, and recently, there hasn’t been anything happening of note.  Actually, nothing of non-note, too.  Just nothing.

His Coalition to Stop Online Gambling website hasn’t posted anything new since mid-November, when Nevada AG Laxalt came out in support of his ill-fated RAWA bill in the House.  The CSIG Facebook page hasn’t posted anything since January 12, and they were very regular before that.  Granted, much of what they’ve posted since November has been rehashed trash that’s been roundly rejected and proven false.  But even this gets few likes and the only comments to be found are mine and fellow trolls of the Coalition to Counteract the CSIG.

How can we counteract bupkis?

Like a parent with young children, silence tends to make me worry.  In the past, when I didn’t see any signs of life on the sites, and things were this quiet, it was only a matter of time before Sheldon & Company sprang forth with a new co-sponsor, or a new survey, or something that showed that his “whatever it takes” mantra was back on the firing line. 

But now?  Perhaps being 0-for-2 with his insipid RAWA, getting less support each year, means that’s he’s re-thinking the battle.

Or maybe he’s just busy with everything else in his life.  He’s got his eye on Rubio the Republican Primary (another area his batting average is 0-for).  You all know he bought (another) newspaper.  But he’s also…

  • Trying to educate/pressure the LVRJ’s Editorial Board to reconsider their stance on medical marijuana in Nevada.
  • Flying Republicans not running for President (this year, anyway) to Israel.
  • His Bethlehem Sands casino in Pennsylvania got fined (again) for underage gaming, so perhaps he’s “thinking of the children!”
  • His newspaper in Israel is busy calling for assassination of Swedish officials.
  • His casinos aren’t doing all that well – LVS Corp is off 33% from a year ago, and it’s lost HALF its value since 2014.  Boo-frickin’-hoo.
  • And he’s got some legal problems.  Here, here, and here.
So yeah, maybe he’s too busy to worry about the potential for Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, California, and other states to legalize online gaming.  He’s certainly said nothing about Daily Fantasy Sports, an area I thought certain he’d weigh in on just because (a) its potential to take $$$ away from land-based gaming, and (b) DFS’s legality (as a gambling concerned) has been challenged in several states.  Plus (and this is the big one for me), DFS attracts TONS of young-adults aged 12-17 (perhaps 20% of the total in standard Fantasy Leagues) and for someone concerned “about the children” this seems like it should be an area of concern for him and his coalition.  But nothing said.  Just [crickets].
So where is Sheldon, and what’s he up to?

I do have one theory.  Years ago, on vacation in Las Vegas, we stopped by the Venetian (for the gelato) and saw a man doing the “Human Statue” thing.  He stands silent and motionless for quite some time (almost a half-hour), then at the end his assistant comes out to scoop up the tips and they leave, breaking the spell.

Look closely – it kinda looks like Sheldon, and the jester could be Andy Abboud*.  Works for me.  Unless I hear something from him or CSIG soon, I'll have to assume this is how he’s making up for Macau’s revenue drop.

* the jester could also be Marco Rubio, since he’s never in the Senate for votes.

Monday, January 18, 2016

“Not As It Was,” but “As It Could And Must Have Been.”

As I mentioned yesterday, I am changing the way I do “dialogues” on Facebook.  Of course, what I call dialogue some might call “trolling,” but we can agree to disagree.

Can’t we?  Maybe not.  If we agree to disagree, we can keep talking.  If we don’t, there’s no discussion at all (maybe an echo chamber is all), and there can be no progress.

I think that’s key to the whole Facebook/Social Media thing I discussed yesterday.  Can we have “effective communication,” whether the subject is political or not?  In a conversation over the weekend, I began to wonder if there had been any research on that subject.  I even Googled, “social media stifles effective communication” to see what popped up.

There’s a shitload.  That’s the good news. 
It’s not terrible conclusive.  That’s the bad news. 

This is not terribly surprising, as social media like Facebook is relatively new.  I remember doing research on television’s effect on perceptions in the Eighties, and TV had been around for more than three decades.  I am going to talk about some of that research, along with something else I am currently reading that gave me insights as to my “new direction.”

One report that was at the top of the Google list (for me, your results may vary) was done here in the Northwest by Quinn Thomas, a Public Affairs organization HQ’d here in Oregon.  Entitled, “NEW REPORT: Social media and public opinion,” it did what good research is supposed to do – offer insight and raise even more questions on the subject.  You can download the report for free here.  It’s an interesting read.

Caveats:  the study centered on users here in the Northwest, and, as the report indicates, we are not exactly the makeup of the rest of the country, so you can’t read that into it.  We’re a bit more liberal, younger, more professional (especially as how they targeted participants – it just worked out that way).  Still, what I took from it was that even as we SAY social media has influence, we aren’t really sure that true. 

More specifically, we say we’ve changed our mind or become more informed about a subject, but those other guys…I dunno.  Sounds right.

This was in the report.  Agree 100%

One must remember than Quinn Thomas is a PR firm, so, their ultimate users of the report (clients who want to use social media for a specific purpose) have ulterior motives, to be sure.  Still, this take-away from the report hit me like a ton of bricks:

Where it (social media) doesn’t seem to have as much traction is as a forum for civic dialogue. What is often held up by digital innovators, technologists, and communications professionals as the revolutionary force behind social media’s success appears to be the public’s least supported rationale for using it.  At the end of our analysis, that is perhaps the most concrete counsel we can provide in helping others avoid the mistake of thinking a Facebook page or a Twitter handle is an easy solution to communications or engagement challenges. (emphasis mine)

There were also a couple of quotes used in the report from participants that summed up nicely the conflicting views of the value of social media.  Both of these quotes come from younger (under 30) Facebook users.  Consider:

“I think social media is an ideal location where you can plant a seed and expose people to new information. It’s a great place to be exposed to new information, but not necessarily form new opinions. It plants a seed. Then you can go from there.”

“I kind of take social media with a grain of salt. It is like the writing on a bathroom wall.  It is not necessarily information, but it is not necessarily misinformation. It is opinions.  It is social before it is media.”

Go back and re-read both quotes.  What are they really trying to say?  Social media works, but it doesn’t; it’s there, and it’s not there.  You can get new info but it won’t change anything, unless it’s something something something.  I am confused.

Well, I was confused.  Then I came across a section from a book I’m reading, and it all makes sense.  “A Man of Misconceptions” is the story of Father Arthanasius Kircher, the legendary 17th-Century Jesuit priest who was a great genius and/or colossal crackpot…or both.  Living in an era of radical transformation, especially in the realm on understanding and knowledge (the scientific method has just been introduced, changing the way we understand things from interpretation to observation), Kircher was prolific, writing about a vast variety of subjects (in lengthy, well-illustrated 900-page tomes), getting some things very right and others horribly wrong.

The part that jumped out at me in regards to our current discussion of Facebook conversations (and the way things are) was Kircher’s book “Latium,” a study of the area around Rome.  Kircher claimed Noah first settled in the region, his traits and qualities serving as the inspiration for Roman and Greek mythology.  But what struck me was Kircher’s own description of the engravings and maps depicting the region “not as it was,” but as it could and must have been.”

I think that’s what the quotes above are trying to say.  I think we WANT Facebook (and main-stream media) to be both informative and effective, to give us enough information, the “right” information, the most useful information…but we have trouble with that.  Anything that seems to contradict what we already believe, we discard.  We embrace what we already know.  We tell things not as they are, but "as they could and must be,"

We all do this to an extent.  We're human.  So it goes.

Therefore, I will still try to “find common ground” with MOST anyone.  I remain optimistic about this.  But I will not join into some subjects, nor “dialogue” with everyone. 

Some subjects, alas, are too complex and/or too explosive to discuss online.  That’s just my opinion.  It’s just not worth the time and effort to go down certain paths.  So I won’t.  You’ll see where I avoid comment.  Enjoy.

There are also some responders who I will no longer bother with.  Brick walls are brick walls.  If I see a change, maybe I’ll join in, but not until.  Not that you’ll notice.  Or care.

Otherwise, let’s keep it going.  I'll be picking my battles carefully.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Progress Report – New Year, New Rules

To be honest, I should put the word “Progress” in quotes.  As in, not much, really.

Also to be honest, I wasn’t going to do this at all.  At least, not yet.  My first post of 2016 (New Year, New Rules) was about the changes I was going to make in my approach to social media.  The reasons were clear – I was getting frustrated and new that something had to change.  I decided that what would change would be me, and my technique, hoping that others would follow suit, and we could have rational, civilized discussions.

I was burned out by the first weekend.

I hit the “third rail” of topics on social media over those first few days of January.  No, not money, sex, and religion – guns, ACA (that’s ObamaCare to some of you), and football.  Honestly, football was the worst of the three, but the others were no picnic.  The reason for the burn out is simple:  I forgot that it takes two to tango, or to have a dialogue.  Some folks don’t want dialogue unless theirs is the only talking point.

Not everyone was like that.  Sure, the folks who agree with me were pleasant and charming, and, of course, correct.  Even MOST of those who took an opposing viewpoint were civil, forthright, and brought evidence to back up their point.

But not everyone, and that was my initial concern.  I thought that by making certain my posts and responses were respectful and well-thought-out, others would do likewise.  It didn’t always work, to the point where it was asked more than once if, we could ever find common ground.

On some issues, sure.
On all issues, no. 

We’re all a bit different.  We may think alike on some things, and differently on others.  Sometimes, very differently.  That’s OK.  I have spoken about being “weird” and a bit different from others, and the truth is we all have a little weirdness in us.  We’re ALL a bit different, and admitting this is the first step to making common ground.

My big lesson in “we’re all the same except where we differ” came nearly 25 years ago.  I was managing a new public radio station in Louisiana, and the format covered “the big three” – news, classical music, and jazz.  Public radio, by its very definition, aims for audiences that are not served by commercial stations, which was one reason we played both jazz and classical music.  This didn’t seem to bother the jazz fans too much (they’re used to it), but the classical fans were, to put it mildly, in an uproar.

I attended a local classical concert and after the show was cornered by many of our listeners.  The point they wanted to make was simple – it was “easy to see” that “everyone” (their word) enjoyed classical music, so why didn’t we play more of it? I argued that we had a variety of audiences to try to please, etc.  It went like this…

PATRON 1:  But everyone wants more classical music.  We ALL agree.
ME:  Well, it’s obvious you like classical.  We’re at a concert! 
PATRON 1: Yes, and it’s wonderful.  Add more classical.
ME:  We can’t.  There’s no room in the schedule to add more.
PATRON 1: Sure there is.  Get rid of that darned Car Talk program.  It’s awful.
PATRON 2: No it’s not.  I LOVE that show, it’s funny.  Get rid of the Metropolitan Opera.
PATRON 1: Not the opera. Everyone loves opera.
PATRON 2: I sure don’t.  It sucks.
PATRON 1: You suck.
PATRON 2: Fuck you.

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but you get the idea.  In fact, as I was finishing this post, there were two discussions online just like this that were being played out by individuals who I have either (a) agreed with in the past on most everything, and (b) disagreed on most everything.  Just to reaffirm that even those who agree on some things can disagree on others (and in one case it was almost worth getting some popcorn).

We can’t possibly agree on everything.  We can continue to be civil.  Therefore, I will continue with my plan, but with modifications.  I will discuss the changes I plan to make, and what changed in me, tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Unconventional and Contrarian, Part Two

When we last left our hero (that’s me), I was working for the Ann Arbor Bank, a far cry from my original desire to make it in the radio business.  I did try to get back to it a couple of times – once with WAAM, the same station that canned me in ’72, and with my university’s public radio station, WEMU.  I fared better in public radio than at WAAM, as I got canned again.  It happens.  Undaunted, upon my graduation I applied for several jobs in radio, both commercial and public, on-air and in management/production (as I had my previous bank management experience to go with my radio background).

This was the last year of the Carter Administration, and my luck was zilch.  More than 300 applications, resumes, air-check tapes, and nothing to show for it except a horrendous postage bill.  After three months, we were getting a bit desperate – my wife was being squeezed out of her job, so something had to happen, and quick.  SO I started applying for other management-type jobs locally, including a blind box ad that listed three potential positions.

It turned out to be the Ann Arbor Bank, the same bank I left to go back to school.  The reason I left was that my rapid advancement had been halted because I did not have a degree (even though other managers also had no degree).  Feeling slighted (and a bit screwed), I quit, vowing never to return.  When they called I could not understand how they knew I was unemployed (and desperate), but they invited me in for a chat.  It turned out that two of the three positions they listed were filled, but they had a job for a manager of their ATM department, and “what would it take to bring you back?”  I mentioned a dollar figure that was about twice what I was making two years prior, thinking that would end the discussion, and to my surprise, they said, “Great!  Can you start immediately?”

I did mention I was desperate, yes?  So I took the job, and discovered why the offer was so generous.

The bank had just entered a “brave new world” of off-site ATMs to complement their branch
It wasn't THIS bad, but pretty bad
locations.  The department was already under-staffed to handle the load of the branches and now had to process everything from the off-site machines as well, and since most were located within walking distance of the University of Michigan, and we had the majority of students as our customers (and almost all of them had ATM cards), the machines were, in a word, busier than shit.

And that wasn’t the worst thing – we eventually hired more staff to handle the transaction load, but the new machines were of a different brand than our branch machines, and they were not as reliable.  When the machines went down during normal banking hours, I was the one who went to the site to make minor repairs, restock or reset the machine, and to meet the technicians to fix the machine when it was beyond my ability.  After hours work was the duty of our paid-volunteer crew made up of bonded senior employees looking for extra cash.  However, the increased workload and continued failure of the new machines caused several to drop out, causing a volunteer shortage, meaning I had to be the 24/7 maintenance guy.  That did not sit well with the spousal unit, nor with me.

So I was able to get bank management to increase the pay rate for volunteers, and began to recruit.  My first couple of memos met with little response (OK, none whatsoever), so I got weird.

I sent memos out on colored paper.  I sent a memo out typed sideways.  I sent one on a diagonal.  I sent one where the type went around in a spiral.  I sent one with the headline in cutouts, like a ransom note.

Two reminders.  First, this happened in 1979, long before computer terminals replaced typewriters.  I had an IBM Selectric at my disposal.  Second:  this was at a very, very, very conservative institution.  A very old, very traditional, very conservative, very stodgy bank.

The memos got noticed.  The memos were different.  The memos got people talking, and more importantly, they brought new volunteers to the maintenance team.  My weirdness worked wonders…until I took it a bit too far.

I typed up my new memo in the regular, old-fashioned way.  No colors, shapes, weird fonts, or anything like that.  The headline was the only thing different.  Instead of something drab like, “More Volunteers Needed,” I wrote:

“For Your Erotic Pleasure”

That earned me a trip downtown to see my boss.

Jerry Bies was a typical conservative banker.  Dressed as always in grey, dour, business-like, with a cup of sharpened pencils on his uncluttered desk, Bies held my most recent memo in his hand as if it contained Anthrax.  “This is reprehensible,” he said, “and not in the best interests of this institution.” I explained the need to capture the attention of busy executives who received several such memos every day.  “This is not the way to do it,” he calmly explained.  “You must stick to the standard ways, and if your message is important enough, people will read it.  Like this one.”

Jerry held a memo from Robert Bring, the Senior VP of Commercial Loans.  Now, you can’t spell BOB BRING without “boring,” and his missives were as dull and plain as the man himself.  I quickly grabbed the memo and faced Bies.  “So if this is the way to do it, then you’ll have no problem telling me what Bring said.  Did the prime rate go up or down, and how much?”

“That’s not the point I am trying to make.  What I mean…”

“That IS the point I am making.  If you don’t read it, it’s worthless.  So is prime up or down?”

It was hard to tell from Jerry’ furrowed brow whether he was trying to remember what prime was or he was trying to decide what the hell to do with me.  For thirty seconds he sat there, consumed in thought.  I let him simmer.  Finally, he said, “Fine.  Do whatever you want, but no more sex.  I’ll just tell the President it was a typo or something, and you meant EXOTIC.  He probably never read it.”  A pause.  “His secretary sure did, though.  Thought it was a hoot.”

So I continued my weird ways, but I eventually left the bank, went back into radio, etc. etc.  Life was good.  I stayed weird (obviously).  And you know the best part?

Bob Bring sent out his next Christmas Greeting memo on colored paper.  Folks were amazed.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Unconventional and Contrarian, Part One

I think I have always known I was weird, but I didn’t fully embrace my weirdness until later in life.  I had a few early shots at it, which no doubt secured my weirdness in place as it is now.  This story and the one that follows tomorrow should help to explain.

Before we begin, let me tell you that during this post I will conduct a magic trick that works thanks to the power of the Internet and the various “waves” that are transmitted as you read this.  First, you will need to find yourself a wind-up watch that is no longer operational.  A digital battery model won’t work – I’m talking about one of those old Timex watches that you had to wind every day, like you had back in the 70s…when I first did this trick on the radio (amazingly, radio waves and the Internet have the EXACT SAME AFFECT on your old watch – true!).  Take the watch and hold it in your hands like in the picture.  Scroll down to read the rest of my story as best you can (use your teeth or something).

When I was a teenager, I wanted desperately to fit in with everyone else.  So did everyone else, I suppose – it’s what teens do.  In my case, I was already “weird” and “picked on” (glasses, fat, geeky…isn’t that enough?).  I actually went out for the basketball team not because I loved basketball (I did) or that I would actually make the team (I did not) but because my Dad was a 2-time captain of the team back in the early 40s (when short and slow guys could play the game).  I never found anything to “belong” to until I discovered the Magic Club, and from there I found the Radio Guild, and it was a short jump to stagecraft and the theater and I even got a part and so lost some of my shyness and gained confidence and found what I hoped would be a potential career.

I set out in college to make it in broadcasting, and half-way through my studies I decided that while college radio was fun, actually having a real, paying commercial DJ job would be a big step for me.  So I got one, albeit a part-time bottom-of-the-barrel weekend shift at a middle-of-the-road AM station.  But to me, this was a big deal.

I worked the 6pm-Midnight shift on Sunday, the absolute graveyard of radio.  Hell, my show came on AFTER the two foreign language shows the station aired – the Czechoslovakian Hour and the Spanish show (and I had to do the call letters in both English and Spanish – and I still can).  Still, I tried to be entertaining and witty and all that in between playing the sort-of hits of the last 60s and early 70s as long as they weren’t too “rock-and-roll-y.”  Before I went on for the first time, I asked the Program Director for some guidance as to how to best “amuse” my audience, but not much in the way of direction was forthcoming.  “Just be yourself,” he advised.

So, eventually, I did.  My weird self.

After two successive Sundays of saying “that was Bobby Goldsboro, and Honey” and “Here’s Johnny Mathis,” and reading the weather, I decided to add some spunk to the program, thanks to an old friend from the high school magic club.  He told me of a trick that you could do with an old windup watch to make it start up again, and agreed to be a special guest on my show and do the trick using the power of radio waves (remember, they work just like the Internet – you are still holding that old watch, aren’t you?).  I started hinting that “something special” was coming up later in the evening, dropping hints beginning at 8:15, and every 10-15 minutes or so that I was going to do something that, to my knowledge, had never been attempted on live radio before.  At a little after 9:00 he showed up and I had him on briefly to explain the trick, imploring listeners (all 70 of ‘em, if that) to grab a non-working watch and be ready to be amazed.

At 9:15 we stopped the music.  He explained how he was learning the secret of controlling radio waves for the “powers of good” and although he had not perfected his technique to offer world peace just yet, one thing he COULD do was revive old worn out watches, and that was something.  He went on for a couple of minutes, explaining how to hold the watch as I demonstrated earlier in this post, and blah blah blah (actually just killing time to let the “magic” work).  He then said the magic words (and I obviously remember them just as well as I remember his name, which you might notice has been absent from this story).  And we asked the listening audience to open their hands.

Of course, the watches were working.  It IS magic, after all.

If you haven’t guessed, the secret is this:  the warmth of your hands acts on the spring, causing it to relax a bit, and, even if dead, it will cause the operation of the watch to reactivate…for a little while, and then, of course, it goes dead again.  But long enough for people to call into the station, excited as all hell, because IT ACTUALLY WORKED.  I had never been shown how to take the feed from the phone and put people on-air (by design, I assume) so all I could do was start a record and talk to people while it was playing and hear their exclamations.  I came back on after the record and said on-air what people were saying, and I was excited and happy and proud, and I thought I had a great show.

So when the Program Director called me on Tuesday following my show, I wanted to be sure he knew all about my successful magic trick.  Oh, he knew all right.  He started out by saying he had not actually heard the show, but heard about it from someone else, and asked me if I had anything planned like that for this upcoming Sunday.  I told him no, not yet, but I could…

“Good,” he said, “Don’t do anything like that again.”

I started to ask him why, but he just said, “Just be yourself – announce the songs, do the weather, but don’t do anything like that again.”

I hung up, dejected, and then realized he had not said, “If you plan to do anything like that again, ask me” or, “If you want to do something like that, be sure to get my OK.”  Just, “Don’t do that again.”  So I did my Sunday show “straight and boring” and really wasn’t that surprised when he called me during the show to ask me to come to his office on Monday.

I was a little surprised when he told me that he had to let me go, not because I was doing a bad job or anything like that, but because of budget cutbacks – they had to hire another sales person, and that meant they had to let someone else go, and I was low man on the totem pole, so, yeah, thanks, and good luck.  I was surprised a bit more when, on my way home (as I still had the radio set to that station), I heard a promo for the new guy “starting this Sunday at 8pm, right here on…” and I quickly turned the radio off.  Of course the new guy couldn’t have started any sooner, and that’s why I got to do one last show, and it all made sense.  I had injected my weirdness where it wasn’t wanted, and paid the price, despite what I thought was “success.”

And this was a tremendous setback to my weirdness.  I stayed in college another year, but then dropped out (lack of money as well as lack of desire), got into banking of all things, got married, got promoted a bunch at the bank up to a certain point, then went back to school to finish my degree and gain a business minor and then went back to the bank…

…and I regained my weirdness, embracing it with everything I had.  And how did I do that?  That’s coming in Part Two (hint:  it’s not magic).  Just watch. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year. New Rules.

I made a vow just before Christmas that I was going to stop picking fights online.  It seems like every time there’s a terrorist attack or mass shooting or some calamity like a Presidential debate where there’s accusations and incriminations and blame is tossed all around, our national dialogue dissipates to the level of seven-year olds on a playground.

He: Did not!
She: Did so!
He: Uh-uh!
She: Fuck you!

And so on.  Amazingly, I was able to refrain from making comments, snarky or otherwise, all the way until New Year’s Day.  Then, I remembered that it’s an election year, with 11 months to go at that, and realized that there was no way I was going to stop from hitting the keyboard in response to something or other (especially once I saw the pix of the guy doing the skywriting above the Rose Bowl). 

So…to keep my frustration level and blood pressure low, I have decided to implement the following rules for online rhetoric.  I will play by these rules and I expect others I troll converse with to do likewise.  I’d rather continue discussions in a calm, rational manner, as I believe we all can learn from each other (even if the only thing you learn is that I am an opinionated old curmudgeon).

So here are the rules:

  1. No inflammatory statements.  Keep Calm and all that.  Reason and common sense should be the guidelines.
  2. No “ALL” inclusive statements.  All liberals, all Muslims, all Republicans…no, it’s NEVER everyone.  Avoid always and never, too (except when saying that’s it’s never always).
  3. No labels and no name calling.  Unless someone is self-labeling, don’t call them by something that could be construed as derogatory.  Lib-tard, Red-neck, etc. is kinda obvious, but Liberal and Conservative is subjective…really, it is.  Avoid it.
  4. You are not a mind reader and you cannot predict the future.  Talk about the action, not what someone is “going to do” unless it’s got a HR or S bill number attached to it.
  5. If you disagree, explain why.  Links to credible sources helps.  I said CREDIBLE.  News sources are OK (yeah, even Fox), but punditry is weak.  Left or right, thank you…consider ORIGINAL sources, not someone who comments on someone who comments on something someone else wrote.
  6. If you don’t think a proposed solution is viable, offer an alternative. We’re trying to progress the situation, and doing nothing (status quo) is an alternative, but rarely does someone say, “I like things the way they are.”  Usually they just argue as to how stupid your plan is, and don’t offer an alternative.  Ergo, the “alternative” is doing nothing.  And I will label you a “do-nothing-er” unless you provide an alternative solution.  And then we can argue about THAT.
  7. No false dichotomies.  Few things are rarely as simple as “either this or this.”  And sometimes doing both is the right thing.  Or neither.  Why can’t we fund this AND that?  Perhaps those are two separate debates?  Be prepared to explain.  Example: “We shouldn’t help the (a) immigrants, (b) low-income children, (c) homeless vets, (d) orphaned animals in shelters, (e) seniors.  Instead, we should help the (a) vets (b) kids (c) seniors, (d) refugees, or (e) dogs and cats.”  Also, explain why we’re not already doing the thing you think we should be doing.  Chances are the folks holding up that which you want are also the folks holding up the other one, too.  Surprise!
  8. If you’re going to cite “facts” be prepared to provide evidence.  Remember – the more outlandish the claim, the more unbiased/accurate/verified sources you’ll want to bring to the table.  If something has already been shown to be untrue, don’t rehash.  If something you call evidence is something that someone said someone said about a rumor that someone said once…bring something else to the table, huh?
I’m sure you might want to add to this list.  I welcome that.

Here’s an example of something I see all the time, and I will try to illustrate the right way and the wrong way to converse, given the original statement.  The “Obama is a Muslim” comment is certainly a common one to many political posts, and it violates many of the above numbered points, most specifically,
a)    It’s not true (if it is, he’s the world’s worst Muslim), and more importantly,
b)    It implicates that there is something wrong in being a Muslim.

A better comment would be: “I believe that Obama has created a policy that is favorable to Muslims.”  Not perfect, but it’s not name calling.  Of course, you’d also have to explain how, exactly, the program is favorable to Muslims to the exclusion of others, and, what, exactly, would be wrong with that.  Good luck – and be sure to cite your sources.

It’s gonna be a long year.