Tuesday, January 26, 2016

FOX News and Trump

So, I can't help but relish this.

Three quick observations:

1. Any one who held the idea that FOX News was a news organization has to abandon it now. These press releases coming out of FOX News on Trump and the GOP Iowa debate are simply... well... hilarious in their stupidity.

2. This total breakdown in a party system, general nomination election tradition and news coverage are the chickens coming home to roost for the silly cable news companies. Now the monster has escaped its shackles after years of the anti-intellectual fact-less sludge CNN and FOX have been peddling as "news" for the past decade-and-a-half.

3. Prediction: this will hurt Trump. He'll likely have to back off his declaration that he'll skip the debate and hurt his "strong, independent and determined" image. Or, he'll follow through, skip it and leave Ted Cruz to be the focus of a couple of hours coverage. Either way, I bet it costs Trump Iowa and, in the long run, the momentum in the GOP primary season.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

What do the Serial podcast phenomenon and the 2016 election have in common?

Like so many people out there, I fell victim to something last year. Serial fever. A friend told me about the NPR offshoot podcast. I listened to it on a flight on a business trip and that was it. Hooked. Over the next year I listened and read about the Adnan Syed case every chance I could.

And Serial has left its mark. Undisclosed and Serial Dynasty followed it and went deeper into the details of the case, exposing all manner of information about it. Its listeners, bloggers and podcasters have even helped uncover new evidence that are being used in legal efforts which (we'll see next month) may even help to exonerate Mr. Syed.

What Serial and its followers have shown is that the mass communication enabled by the internet through podcasts, email, blogs, forums, and tweets make a real difference. And they make a difference outside of traditional roles and methods.

And so it is happening in politics around the world.

Just look at the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump phenomena.

Though these two men have virtually nothing in common whatsoever, they do both demonstrate one important thing. Like the Serial phenomenon and its effects on a legal case, their campaigns are challenging traditional roles and methods. Indeed, at least for Trump, they are existing almost entirely outside traditional roles and methods.

Traditionally, the Democratic and Republican parties could stop these two candidates who, at least in the case of Trump, actually threaten the viability of their entire organization.

But they can't control it anymore. The nature of the internet as a tool and its capacity to enable collaboration, cooperation and organization are replacing traditional political parties. And the media, in trying to keep eyeballs on TV screens are chasing the story. We are just seeing the beginning -- and actually saw its earliest hints in the elevation of Barack Obama in 2008. But now it's really on. And I'm not sure political parties will survive at all. Just like Serial has hurt the elite-centered role for lawyers and police officers in discussions of legal matters, party officers' capacity to affect which candidates represent a party is completely over.

Now this isn't exactly a new revelation. And whether these are actually good things is a whole other thing. We'll just have to watch. But the end of political parties in American -- at least as they've existed since the turn of the last century will have serious repercussions. Let's just hope it's not President Moron.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bananas are in trouble!

Really neat podcast this week from Bloomberg's Odd Lots, a fun business pod cast. Maybe we'll have to find another staple fruit if the monoculture banana dies out! Oh no!

And, Dan Carlin just posted his 300th Common Sense podcast. Without a doubt my favourite podcast on the entire internet. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

So many surprises recently

Spent the day walking around knowing that I'm in agreement with Conrad Black. Mostly anyways. Not a pleasant feeling.

Monday, January 4, 2016

An open letter to CNN and the rest of the "news" media

Dear CNN and MSNBC: (FOX News, if your producers can read, I guess you too.)

I will offer any of you my eternal viewership and loyalty if you agree to do just one thing:

When you next interview any of the presidential candidates, of either party, please please please ask him/her this question (or a variation thereof) before you begin to ask any questions related to Bill Clinton's sexual history,  "the war on women", Donald Trump's wall, or Bill Cosby.

"What specific actions would you take as president to ensure a soft landing in the escalating conflict between Sunnis and Shiia in the Middle East, in particular between Saudi Arabia and Iran?"

This is the most important question for any candidate in the 2016 election. And I bet that none of you come close to asking it.

Please prove me wrong and -- for just a moment -- do what a responsible media organization is supposed to do. It would be great to watch American political news on American TV again.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A broken clock... Twice a day... You get it

I consider myself a "modified libertarian"... basically I think the government should do three things only: fight wars, protect the populace and its property, and ensure basic rights for all citizens. And it should only pass laws when there is a clear, demonstrable reason for them to exist.

But usually I think libertarian "thinkers" are bogus. Because they never admit that the libertarian ideal, like the communist one, is fundamentally impossible and has limits in its possible application.

It is a general philosophy, not a governing principle.

So, despite our mutual obsession with baseball, I usually don't agree with George Will. I read him regularly because I find him interesting. I just usually also think he's wrong. But not today. His piece in the National Review this week is excellent and is a compelling kinda-scientific justification for why the state should be as small and uninvolved as possible in society.

Check it out here.

The media and the monster it has created.

Today I was the fortunate recipient of a fun multimedia coincidence.

I watched the great documentary "Best of Enemies" last night. It deals with the intellectual rivalry and, in particular, the 1968 debates between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. It's an excellent look at the changes in American media coverage and how ABC's use of the Vidal-Buckley "pundit battle" to grab ratings changed U.S. networks' coverage of nominating conventions and helped start the commentator-focused political media we know today.

This morning, I undertook my regular Sunday routine and, armed with a half-pot of coffee, sat down for my regular forehead-slap-inducing Sunday talk show review. On Meet The Press the excellent Yahoo! News writer, Matt Bai talked about his newest column about Donald Trump. Bai argues that Trump is a creation of the modern American political media and its focus on style and  over substance.

The confluence of the two together put some things in perspective. First, Bai is unquestionably correct in his piece: Donald Trump's success can, at least in large part, be credited to the ridiculousness that the conflict-obsessed political media has allowed to grow in American politics. But, combined with the history of the conflict obsession -- started in large part by the Buckley-Vidal conflict -- something else is clear.

To paraphrase something Buckley said at the close of the film: enlightening political discussion is far less likely to engage the audience than a cynical and attack-filled political argument.

And for the past forty years, America's media has been taking the path of least resistance: treating its democracy like a sport to be followed and cheered (or more frequently booed) rather than as a delicate system that requires thought and intellectual participation.

As Bai points out, the media -- and indeed, the entire country-- now have to deal with the consequences of forty years of news producers' cupidity and recklessness.

Donald Trump is a creation of the media. The question is: will the news media finally learn its lesson and focus once again on policy and philosophy rather than the personal scandal and blustery conflict?

I somehow doubt it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Okay. So the whole "I'm going to start blogging again" plan didn't go so well last time. Work got crazy. Life got crazy. But now I'm back. And this blog is going to change a bit.

Basically, instead of always trying to always shoot for a longer, attempted opinion piece each time, I am going to try and just post more content (mostly stuff I've discovered and found interesting) about more things and just do one long one at least once every few weeks.

So stay tuned.

Friday, July 17, 2015

American politics has been kind of boring lately...

So there is an election coming. Not just in the United States, but up here in Canada too. In fact, for the first time in my American politics obsessed life, I'm actually more excited about the Canadian one for a change.

Down south, the biggest political story so far is some variation of Republicans tripping over themselves to alienate women, latinos and African-Americans as quickly as possible. Whether it's the new anti-abortion laws at the state level or the possibility of "religious freedom" laws that allow conservative businesses to fire their un-married pregnant female staff, the GOP seems determined to make their base as small as possible. Then there's Donald Trump and Mexicans (I will not be discussing that idiot again) and the party's continued objection to same sex marriage and prison reform; Republicans seem determined to only dominate the shrinking old white men vote once again.

So basically, unless it's Jeb or maybe Rubio, this is Hillary Clinton's race to lose. The next nine months and five hundred-or-so million dollars are just distractions.

Honestly, American politics is a little boring lately. The media is focusing on the ramblings of the professional moron who shall not be named and the fun (though likely pointless) Bernie Sanders campaign. Basically, rather than cover anything important for more than about twenty seconds, CNN et al prefer to cover the minutiae of idiots or the delusional hopes of progressives.

But, here in Canada we have a real race for the first time in quite a long time.  There's an incumbent Conservative Party beset by scandal and a shrinking economy, the historically socialist NDP party trying to continue its expansion into the mainstream, and the traditionally dominant party of the country, the Liberals, trying to find themselves. If the polls are any indication in the lead up to the October election, it'll be a very close race.

So I'm going to try to focus on that a little here over the next little while as well as the American stuff.

Stay tuned.