Just another version of Shawn Dobbs

Leave campaigning to the Republicans

This is from an article published in the UNO Gateway student newspaper, 01-18-12.  The newspaper article was titled “Obama’s strategy in 2012: Anyone but Obama!”

The Gallup daily tracking poll has been tracking the political leanings of U.S. citizens since the 2008 election, and has come up with some interesting results.  Since 2008, the percentage of people who call themselves conservative has increased by 2% while people who call themselves liberal has decreased by 1%.

Within the GOP, voters have reflected this trend almost exactly.  Registered Republicans who consider themselves conservative has grown 3% since 2008, while registered Republicans who call themselves moderate has decreased 3%.  The final totals stand thusly- Republicans who consider themselves conservative make up 68% of the party, while moderates make up only 26% of the party.

On the other hand, Democrats are becoming increasingly out of touch with the values of the general public.  Registered Democrats who call themselves conservative (by democratic standards) have dropped 3%, while those who call themselves liberal has increased by 2%.

This should be the first thing Republican strategists look at in 2012.  Given the state of the economy, fiscal conservatism has become a prerequisite for gaining the nomination, while social conservatism has been placed on the back burner.

This puts Santorum, Huntsman and Perry squarely out of the running, as reflected by their dismal performances in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Of these three, only Huntsman has been able to face reality, finally throwing in the towel Monday morning.  Santorum and Perry are still trudging along under the delusion that they are bringing something new to the table. When in reality they are both merely watered-down versions of Gingrich, the only candidate besides Romney with a full understanding of the multitude and importance of the issues facing the nation today.

They have been trumped by the more fiscally conservative positions of Romney, Gingrich, and Paul.  Of these, Romney remains the most moderate.  So why is it that a moderate like Romney (Moderomney, if you will) is gaining momentum with every passing day?  It’s as if he has channeled the spirit of Secretariat in the GOP race.  The answer is fragmentation.

The base of the GOP is more conservative than Romney, so they vote for more conservative candidates.  Many flock to Newt Gingrich.  Many flock to Ron Paul.  Hardline social conservatives flock to Rick Santorum.  Pigeons flock to the empty lot that, until just a few days ago, housed Huntsman 2012 HQ.  What this means is the base of the GOP has divided its votes amongst the true conservatives, paving the way for Moderomney to win with ease.

Looking ahead to Nov., these numbers indicate for conservatives to pull off a victory, they must nominate someone who espouses the conservative values of the base, or this election cycle will go down in history as “2012: 2008 Part Two.”  In an atmosphere this politically charged, Conservatives have a unique opportunity to present to the American public someone who represents their values, someone who is as conservative as the majority of Americans claim to be.  The current President is as far left as any President has been, and the Democrat party is continuing to move in that direction.  For the GOP to pull out a victory, they must highlight this important difference.  The GOP’s values are shifting in tandem with the public, while Democrats are becoming more radically disengaged from the public.

To avoid living 2008 all over again, Conservatives have to unite behind a Conservative.  Without a true conservative candidate in the race in Nov., the voting block giving the GOP its fire right now will become disillusioned, and the party’s chances of gaining the White House will fizzle.

Republican voters are split, and the current situation benefits only one candidate- President Obama.  The President’s strategy for the rest of the year has already been determined by his contenders- he can just sit back and watch.  “Anyone but Obama” is the most assured way to receive only Obama.


Cat and Mouse

Published in the UNO Gateway student newspaper, 01-30-12, Literary column.



It had started as a game, or rather a distraction.  Maybe both.  I really should have been studying, but then again the cat needs attention.  How could I call myself a responsible owner if I didn’t at least play with the thing once in a while?  If the times that we played happened to coincide with the times when I should have been working, then so much the better.  At least it took my mind off of things.

Being a student, I naturally had no money for exquisite toys or tasteful cat nips, but I did have one advantage, and that was an unbounded imagination.  I recalled that my grandmother, who knew a great deal about animals of all sorts from her experiences working at the zoo, had mentioned that cats love us because they think we are cats.  They are unable to differentiate species.  If this was true, and my cat couldn’t tell a person from a cat, then certainly she couldn’t tell a mouse from a drawing of a mouse.  In no time, I had crumpled up a scrap of notebook paper, attached a string to one end, and glued two pieces of felt for ears and a button that made for a bulbous, oversized nose.  We had a mouse.

It was a rather ragged looking mouse, a pauper when compared to the fine princely toys of the aristocratic feline breeds, but it was the best my meager budget could afford.  It had been an old weathered notebook, so the mouse had a wrinkled, sickly hue, not so much white as it was grey, with splotches of urine-yellow dotted about.  I had bunched the paper into little knobs at the bottom for paws, so it looked like a peg-leg old sailor mouse, aged and worn.  In truth, it was something of a stretch of the imagination to even call it a  mouse, but a mouse nonetheless it was.

What fun we had with that mouse!  I’d pull it along by its string tail, and Annie cat would chase it round and round, never once questioning why the mouse was always running backwards.  The mouse would stop and quiver, hoping against hope that the monstrous carnivore would just stalk past, on to bigger game.  But invariably Annie would always pounce unexpected, and dash that mouse’s brains against the floor!  She even tore an ear off and taunted the mouse with it, dangling it just out of reach.  The mouse watched, helpless but unafraid, letting out not one squeak of fright or fury.  He was stoic, brave- the Vincent van Gogh of the rodent Impressionist movement.   He was revered in the house as an altruistic, honest mouse, who had lost his ear in noble service to a great cause.  But Annie never let up.  Not impressed by the mouse’s honorable sacrifice, she continued to prey.

We both knew it would happen.  Cat-and-mouse can remains a game only so long as both players view it as such.  After Annie devoured the altruistic mouse in his entirety, button nose and all, I shed a brief tear for his ennobled spirit, and quickly began work on the next playmate, a twerpy, uncouth canary.  The canary would take me a few days, though, since I wanted it to at least minimally resemble the actual bird, and I had to wait until payday to get the feathers from the craft store.  Until then the partly-hatched canary sat in a corner, naked and ashamed, longing for wings and tawdry ornamentation.

In the meantime, Annie had become distinctly uncomfortable.  Since ingesting the mouse she had eaten nothing, and often gave long, low groans of a ghoulish tenor.  I was afraid she was sick.  She would sometimes hack and cough as if she had been the Marlboro Man’s feline companion.  She grew irritable and discontent, and edgy.  She eyed me with a curious intensity as I shaped my canary out of cloth and paper.

After a few days Annie seemed back to her usual self.  She had had quite a fit during the previous night, so awful that I feared she would choke and I would be left alone, just me and the skeleton of my canary.  But after one last awful “houghchauhf!” she laid peacefully at the foot of the bed, and awoke spry as a kitten in the morning, begging for her food.

I had yet to obtain the feathers for my canary.  Annie, though no longer sick, seemed to have lost interest in me as a companion for the time being, so if she wasn’t going to rush me, I wasn’t going to be rushed.  I could often hear her tumbling around in other rooms of the house, quite viciously at times, so she had obviously found other means of amusement.

Finally, during one her fits of excitement, Annie went too far.  I heard the paddapaddapadda of her paws across the floor, then the frantic skittering of her claws on the hardwood trying to bring herself to an abrupt stop (she apparently had not studied Newtonian physics), and the final FWUMP! of inertia being halted in its tracks, followed by a thunderous crash and a torrential downpour of shattered glass.  I rounded the corner furiously, ready to leverage punishment and retribution on the creature who dared bring this storm breaking the silence of my peaceful paradise.

I paused, however, as I glared down and noticed that there were actually two creatures to be held responsible.  Annie sat, proudly cornering a quivering, wretched-looking mouse, frozen in terror.  He had heard his death-knell and was too terrified to even make a feeble attempt at escape.  Looking at it, I felt a mixture of pity and, surprisingly, of fear.  It really was quite a wretched mouse; it looked as though had Annie not got it, it wouldn’t even have made it the rest of the day.

He had only one ear- the other had obviously been violently torn off some time ago.  He was old and frail.  I could see his bones underneath his stretched, wrinkled skin as he cowered there.  His bulbous blotch of a nose was so large it threated to pull his head into the dirt whenever he peered out from behind it.  His skin was thin and dry as cracked leather, and his fur looked as if that leather had been stretched far too thinly over an old work boot.  It was beyond dirty.  The original color was indeterminable, and what was left was a monotonous undetermined color.  If he had been a crayon he would simply have been labeled “filth.”  Patches of what looked like stale urine dotted this hideous coat, and I felt a growing sense of dread as I looked closer and saw that instead of paws, he had for gnarled stumps for feet, like a peg-leg old sailor mouse, aged and worn.

There was no doubt then.  I knew this mouse.  Without a second’s hesitation I tore from the room to where my half constructed canary sat.  I had once been proud of this second creature of mine, feeling God-like as I had eagerly awaited the day I could feather him and present him to Annie.  Who was I to think that I could imitate a deity, granting life where I so chose?  The things I had considered monuments of my heavenly intellect were now demons of haunting idolatry, mocking me in my imperfect imitation.  I tore the canary from its perch and set it ablaze, hoping the flames would burn hot enough to purge this monster of everything it stood for.  Annie sat and watched, calm and patient as Chronos himself, merely observing the frenzy and the beauty of my creation’s destruction.

More on Social Media

This is from an article I wrote for the UNO Gateway student newspaper (published 02-01-12), posted here for your viewing pleasure!  The article in the newspaper was titled “A realistic approach to social media, please!”

Many classes embrace social media as the new norm.  To be taken seriously, a company must have both a physical presence and an online presence.  Any business nowadays knows this.  No start-up would think of opening its doors without a website or at least a Facebook page to accompany it.  Social media has become integrated as a large part of our culture; it is an extension of our selves, a means of building and maintaining relationships, both professional and personal.

Sure, most teachers don’t allow texting, Facebooking, or Tweeting during class (although there are exceptions), but it’s been recognized that social media contributes to the learning environment in new, exciting and unique ways.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across a textbook with an introduction that not only advocated the rejection of social media, but actually encouraged readers to phase out their online presence via Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, etc.  In fact, heralded it as a “ray of hope” that some would do so.  This got me thinking…

We all know someone who *gasp* doesn’t have a Facebook.  Usually it’s our great grandparents or our great aunt twice removed.  We expect some people to be resistant to change.  For some, new technology is just a hassle.  Our parents and grandparents have lived for decades with only the telephone as the quickest means of communication.  Obviously the world didn’t stop turning then, so what’s the big deal?  Is it just a passing fad?  The aforementioned textbook goes on to say that we, as a society, have reached a “saturation point” with social media.  We simply won’t tolerate it any more.  Everyone’s had his or her fun with it. It has outlived its usefulness, on to the next.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sure, we all get tired of hearing about how well your best friend’s crops are growing in Farmville, or who got 250 million points at Bejeweled, or who was able to use the word “zygote” in WordsWithFriends.  But just because millions of us waste our time on trivial mind-numbing games doesn’t mean the idea has gone the way of the Furby.  Far from it.  What we are seeing is not a saturation point but rather a turning point.  Social media has been pushed to its fullest capacity as far as entertainment value is concerned.  We have reached the point where social media has been transformed into something entirely different from its original conception.  It is now a powerful tool to be utilized and molded to suit our needs as sentient beings in the information age.  We are just starting to make this turn- we have not yet fully passed the turning point of putting social media to productive use.  We are still so flooded with messages from Farmville and beyond that it is hard to keep focused on the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that social media is a useful tool in building healthy relationships, both professional and personal.  If you feel like all of your friends on Facebook are superficial acquaintances, it’s probably because they are.  Many of us haven’t been taught how to effectively promote social relationships or interact on a personal level at all, which makes it impossible to utilize social media effectively.  Being neighbors in MagicLand or CityVille does not make you neighbors in real life.  Giving your neighbor in ZooWorld a new panda for their zoo does not give you grounds to be offended that you were not invited to your ZooWorld friend’s real-life bachelor party.

Having a Facebook page does not mean you have become an excellent communicator.  An excellent communicator is able to use a Facebook page to effectively maintain solid, lasting relationships with other people.  That’s what Facebook is about.  Effective communicators understand that our online personas are an extension of our actual personas.  Effective communicators understand how to build relationships and how to enhance relationships, both in person and online.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  They work together in a way that allows us to maintain a relationship regardless of distance, and that is the beauty of social networking. It is the responsibility of the individual, family, and community to promote healthy, respectful, and ethical social skills. We are social creatures, and social media allows us to create, define, and enhance those relationships we care about.

To avoid the problem of impending social media ‘saturation,’ these lessons need to be understood at an early age, and these values emphasized in our culture.  We need to fight back against the jaded view that all users of social media are simply wasting time and that this is a passing annoyance that will fade in time.  This attitude only serves to further our lack of social competence and leaves no room for the possibilities that social media presents.

Twitter in 300 Words


For a long time I was one of these people:

“I have Facebook.  Why would I need Twitter?”

I knew how to send messages, look up funny things, and find bands that I was interested in.  That’s what social media was for, right?  It didn’t really serve any purpose, but it sure was a great way to waste time!  Of course, that was before I understood the “social” part in “social media” and certainly before I had ever heard the term “Web 2.0.”  I could never understand what the big deal about Facebook or Twitter was, or how people ended up with so many friends and followers.  Why would anyone even want that many friends?  Why didn’t anyone care what I ate for breakfast or what my new shoes looked like, but other people were getting hundreds of comments?

Today I take a different approach, and though I wouldn’t consider myself a social media guru, I have finally come to the point where I don’t want to throw a celebration every time I find out someone has added me as a friend or started following my tweets.  The social aspect and the importance of it have become clear to me.  The opportunity to interact with other people is something I’ve learned to appreciate as I’ve learned to do.  I am able to maintain mature personal relationships, relationships that are based on more than “Liking” each and every status update.  I am also becoming more proficient at interacting professionally.  This is a new skill, and it comes slowly.  I have realized that social media is a way to get a message out, and a way to receive the message others are trying to get out.  It is this mutual respect of individuals and their ideas that give social media its value.

What I Found Today


What do you see?

A dog?  A wolf?  A person?  Something else entirely?

How about hope?  Love?  Brotherhood?  Faith?  Humanity?

That’s what Ricky sees, and after talking with him, that’s what I saw.

Ricky Murphy is the artist behind this photograph, and every photograph, at What I Found Today Productions (managed online at  Simply put, What I Found Today is a new way of looking at the world.  I mean this in more than the sense that Ricky’s photography brings out things that most people otherwise would not be able to see.

“It’s not about what I see.  It’s about what everyone else sees; allowing people to see this amazing world…I found the biggest icebreaker in the history of the world- ‘what do you see?’”

Let me back up a few steps and explain a little.  Ricky takes photographs.  Much of what you’ll see at looks less like a photograph and more like an oil pastel, or a water color, or even a computer generated image.  But make no mistake, photographs they are, of every-day objects.  Some seem logical- trees, clouds, nature.  Others are less conventional- rust; cement; brick walls; dirt on the floor.  Ricky takes photographs of these objects in order to make more obvious to us what he sees instinctively.  Ricky looks at the world differently, and in this way teaches us to as well.  However, Ricky teaches us how to look at the world differently in a much more meaningful and no less artistic way.  The photograph itself is only the first part of Ricky’s artwork.

The second part of Ricky’s artwork lies in his method of promotion and distribution.  The photograph above, and every photograph on, is distributed for free.  The customer simply pays printing and shipping costs, and becomes owner of a truly unique piece of work.  Ricky can print his photographs onto any medium the customer desires.  Why give it away for free?  Because, as Ricky explains,

“Let’s put it this way: most people who are artists struggle throughout most of their lives trying to get their name out there and get recognition.  Now, that’s why I came up with the idea that I should take my photography and just give it back to the world, because I am not the artist.  The world is the artist…so it only seems fair that I should give it back to the world that gave it to me.”

There’s no catch, but Ricky does ask one favor: that if you accept his artwork, you repay him by doing one thing:

“…doing what we all should do, and can do very easily.  Pay it forward.  That’s it…and pay it forward, meaning even the most random act of kindness is amazing.  Even just holding the door for someone is an amazing thing.  If people just did small things for a random person that they don’t know, it really comes back.  We need to stop thinking about ourselves.”

If you can’t think of a way to pay it forward on your own, Ricky suggests this: determine for yourself what you believe the value of his photograph to be, and after you have received it donate that amount to a charity, or simply to an individual in need.

Besides paying it forward to his customers, Ricky is actively involved in local charities.  He is preparing for a charity show in April, and frequently donates his artwork to charitable causes and nonprofit organizations.

This is the true art in what Ricky does.  Most of his artwork has not been distributed because of people finding his web page.  Ricky is one of the most dedicated, hardworking marketers I’ve ever seen.  He is able to distribute his work because he has rediscovered the lost art of conversation, and truly cares about each individual that his art reaches.  By showing this basic interest in another human being, Ricky has been able to touch people’s lives in a very significant way.  He has had complete strangers open up to him about their deepest fears and innermost secrets.  It is this opportunity to form a real connection between two people that Ricky values above all else.

To hear from his own mouth how and why he does what he does, Ricky has taken the time to explain the conception of What I Found Today, as well as its meaning and significance, in a YouTube video (  Below are all the ways you can contact Ricky for more information, to obtain one of his photographs, or just to talk.

Via Facebook

Via E-Mail

Via Twitter


Via Telephone

(402) 612-9595

Hello world!

Hello world!  I am currently a junior at University of Nebraska-Omaha, majoring in Journalism/Public Relations.  I compulsively read the news and follow political, tech, and climate stories.  I hope to promote both non-profits and the city of Omaha through blogging, as well as spread worthy news and opinion regarding the topis mentioned above.

If you have any interest in the same things I do, feel free to follow me and I will gladly follow you in return!  I love meeting new people, hearing new opinions, and despite the prevalence of social media and the multitude of uses for it, nothing beats a good conversation!  I look forward to reading and being read, and meeting all of you!  Happy reading!



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