Category Archives: politics

A lesson in politics from Noam Chomsky

This whole interview with Chomsky is worth reading, regardless of your political leanings. Some of the things that struck me were:

On how the left should be:

Well, there is a traditional left position, which has been pretty much forgotten, unfortunately, but it’s the one I think we should adhere to. That’s the position that real politics is constant activism. It’s quite different from the establishment position, which says politics means focus, laser-like, on the quadrennial extravaganza, then go home and let your superiors take over.

The left position has always been: You’re working all the time, and every once in a while there’s an event called an election. This should take you away from real politics for 10 or 15 minutes. Then you go back to work….The left position is you rarely support anyone. You vote against the worst. You keep the pressure and activism going.

On Hume:

We can go back to my favorite philosopher, David Hume. His Of the First Principles of Government, a political tract in the late 18th century, starts off by saying that we should understand that power is in the hands of the governed. Those who are governed, they’re the ones who have the power. Whatever kind of state it is, militaristic or more democratic, as England was becoming. The masters rule only by consent. And if consent is withdrawn, they lose. Their rule is very fragile.

On the letter controversy:

But now segments of the left are picking up part of the same pathology. It’s harmful; they shouldn’t be doing it; it’s wrong in principle. It’s suicidal. It’s a gift to the far right. So here’s a quiet statement saying, “Look, we should be careful about these things and not undertake this.” Should’ve been the end. Then comes the reaction, which is extremely interesting….This criticism is much to the pleasure of the right wing, which hates these statements. So it’s another massive service to the right wing. … You want to play their game? Do it straight. Don’t pretend you’re on the left.

On how to participate in politics:

Well, we have no shortage of immediate ways of getting involved. But immediate changes are another story. There’s kind of an instant gratification culture. I worked for Bernie Sanders, he didn’t win. I’m going home. That’s not the way political change takes place. It takes place step by step, small changes to bigger ones, and so on.

On personality politics:

I’m not much interested in his (Joe Biden’s) personality. I don’t have any opinion. I’m interested in how things get done. And the way things get done is not by Biden having a religious conversion and saying, “Oh, we’ve got to really work on the climate.” That’s not what happened. The DNC probably hates the program, but they have no choice, because their popular base is not only demanding it, but is working constantly, hard, to force them to do it. That’s politics. Not the personality of leaders. I don’t know what’s in his mind. I don’t care, frankly.

On social media:

Social media, like most technologies, are pretty neutral. What matters is how you use them. You can use a hammer to build a house; you can use a hammer to smash somebody’s head in.

Social media are being used in very different ways. They’re used to organize activists, set up demonstrations, to give people the opportunity to interact, think, develop opinions, deliberate. But they can also be used to drive people into bubbles in which you hear only the same thing over and over. Your prejudices get reinforced, and you hate everybody else. They can be used either way. And they are being used both ways.

So the question comes back to us: How are we going to use the technology that’s available? It doesn’t care. We can use it any way we like. The net effect of social media probably, by and large, I suspect, has been mostly negative. Doesn’t have to be, but I think that’s the way it’s turned out.

On his legacy:

I don’t really think about a legacy. What I’m interested in is the people who are doing things. Mostly their names will never be known. I’m sure you can’t tell me, or I can’t tell you, the names of the kids who sat in at the lunch counter in Greensboro. These are the people who carry things forward. If there’s a legacy of people who try to do what they can to stimulate it, it’s theirs. The ones I most respect in the world, I can’t remember their names.

I don’t agree with all of Chomsky’s beliefs, but I do agree with his approach to politics. You can draw those lessons from the interview. I’ve extracted some of them, but it’s worthwhile to read the rest of it.

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How would proportional representation have shaped the last Canadian election’s results?


Changing the way Canadians get to decide who forms the government federally has been a hot topic for some time. Before the last election, the government tried and failed to implement reform. There hasn’t been much talk about it recently, but it is a subject for debate that is not going to go away.

If you have an opinion about this one way or another, I recommend you review this: How would proportional representation have shaped this election’s results? | CBC/Radio-Canada.

The CBC ran the results of the last election through alternative forms of representation and analyzed the results. It is fascinating to see how representation changes, depending on the format followed. Kudos to the CBC for a superb visual representation.

I think reform is needed. I am still in favor of having a local MP and having the ability to have him or her voted out of office by the constituents of the MP’s riding. But I am also in favour of the percentage of each party’s MP aligning with the percentage of national votes that they received. Obviously I need to think about it some more.

In the meantime, take a look at what CBC has done, and decide for yourself.

(Image via Owen Farmer)

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Discrimination in design can come in two forms


Discrimination in design comes in two forms. One is through direct action. When you see benches designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them, that’s one example. Many more examples can be found in this ProPublica piece: Discrimination by Design — ProPublica.

Ignorance is the second way discrimination can occur in design. Just this week Twitter rolled out an audio feature that is inaccessible for deaf people. No one at twitter set out to discriminate against deaf people. The designers at Twitter just didn’t take them into account. (Apparently Twitter doesn’t have an accessibility review team for their software updates, which is bad for a technology company as large as they are.)

Keep in mind both forms when you see something that seems designed to discriminate against certain people. It may be intentional, or it may be an omission. Either way, steps should be taken to eliminate that discrimination.

(More on twitter’s audio tweets, here.)

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Canadian Protesters: know your rights with this one page sheet

The Canadian Civil Liberties association has a nice one page sheet of them, here.

Thinking about the Iowa caucus

After last night’s debacle at the Iowa caucus for the Democrats, there are going to be many hot takes published on what should change. I suspect many of them will be bad. The following is pretty good, I think.

Something should change, though. That was an embarrassing disaster.

— Read on http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/1/31/21087017/iowa-caucus-democratic-primary-2020

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The effectiveness of Bernie Sanders

Whatever else you think of Sanders and his politics, if you think he is ineffective, then I recommend these two pieces:

  1. Vox.com
  2. Politfact.com

I used to wonder if he was effective, but not anymore. Based on those piece, I think he has been effective, and if anything, very effective in certain years.

 

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How would proportional representation have shaped Canada’s recent election’s results

This is really good work done by CBC on the recent Canadian election:  How would proportional representation have shaped this election’s results? | CBC/Radio-Canada

Anyone interested in moving passed First Past the Post should read this.

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The thing I think about when I think about the Clintons

Is this piece by Josh Marshall: The Joy and the Drama | Talking Points Memo

It perfectly captures the essence of Bill and Hillary Clinton as political figures. And it rightly contrasts them to the essence of Barack Obama.

 

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Strategic Voting in Canada – some thoughts

First off, there are sites like this one that claim to help you if you want to decrease the chances of a more right wing politician winng election in a specific riding: Strategic Voting 2019 Canadian Federal Election | don’t make a statement, make a difference.

You can use the site that way. But I’d argue you can use it another way. If you want to vote non-strategically, you can look at the site to see who is likely to win and then use that to vote for the party you prefer (assuming you are considering more than one). If you are unsure whether or not to vote NDP or Green, you might choose to vote Green and boost their vote count if you are pretty certain the NDP is going to win. Likewise, if you are a right of centre voter and you think there is either a strong chance or no chance the Conservatives will win, then you may feel more strongly to vote for the Conservatives.

Of course you don’t have to do any of those things. You can vote for your preferred party. You can vote for your preferred candidate. You can cast a protest vote for a more extreme party knowing it is unlikely they won’t win but as a way to indicate your displeasure.  Vote how you think best. It is your vote, and you can use your vote to participate in the electoral process the best way you know how.

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The greatest thing Obama did

Is the one thing about the Obama legacy that can’t be repealed. Namely this:

There is no mystery about Barack Obama’s greatest presidential achievement: He stopped the Great Recession from becoming the second Great Depression.

Obama did many important things, Obamacare being the obvious. As someone who had seen many failed attempts at achieving this, to see him team with Pelosi and others to achieve this was astounding.

That said, there would have been nothing accomplished by Obama if the US spiralled into a second Great Depression, dragging down the world economy with it. I continue to see criticism of the actions taken by his team then, especially among progressives. They argue that more should have been done. You can google “Obama terrible” and find pieces like this.

Time will tell, but so far Obama is holding up as anything but terrible. I predict he will rise in Presidential standing in the future. Meanwhile, the world is in much better shape due to the actions he took in the early stages of his presidency to avert worldwide economic disaster.

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A good profile on Jimmy Carter, who is 95 years young today


This recent piece in the Washington Post is a reminder what a good man and what an under appreciated President that Jimmy Carter was: The un-celebrity president: Jimmy Carter shuns riches, lives modestly in his Georgia hometown – The Washington Post.

He was dealt a bad hand a number of times, but he achieved greatness too. His greatest deed may have been to allow the United States to transition from the debacle that was the Nixon Presidency.  Like Obama with the Great Recession, he saved the country from those that would harm it.

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How well did the current Canadian government keep it’s promises?


Pretty well, according to this: Did Trudeau keep his 2015 election promises? Mostly, a new analysis finds | National Post. 

How did the National Post determine this?

The Trudeau government’s result is based on a platform-monitoring tool called the “Polimetre,” which is managed by Universite Laval’s Centre for Public Policy Analysis.

The same group also assessed the previous government lead by Harper and found he mostly kept his too.

I think this is encouraging. Regardless of what you think of any government, it’s important that what they promise aligns to a strong degree as to what they do. This builds trust in government and the process of how governments are elected.

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Assessing the Speaker of the UK House of Commons, John Bercow


This is a good piece: How bad is Bercow? – UnHerd.

Bercow is a controversial figure, and as you can guess, many think he is a bad thing. But the UnHerd piece looks back over numerous Speakers of the House of Commons and gives a kinder assessment. Given that we are going to be reading alot about the House due to Brexit, it might be a good time to become better aware of the man and the role.

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Howard Schultz is running for President. Here’s something you might want to read about him….

If you are seriously considering Howard Schultz run for president, you should read this:   How Howard Schultz Left a Bitter Taste in Seattle’s Mouth – POLITICO Magazine

I think he doesn’t have a chance, although he could help the current President get reelected.  I thought that before, and I thought it even more after reading the piece in Politico. Here’s hoping he drops out.

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Beyond Twitter, or how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Mastered the Politics of Digital Intimacy using Instagram.

An interesting development. Ocasio-Cortez is using Instagram in a way that may bring on the new version of the fireside chat. For example:

A few days before Thanksgiving, newly elected New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went live on her Instagram feed to cook dinner and chat with her hundreds of thousands of followers. She took questions on topics ranging from the challenges of entering Congress, to the specifics of progressive policy goals like the newly dubbed #GreenNewDeal, to whatever else came up. She made mac-and-cheese in her Instant Pot. The next day she used Twitter to thank attendees of the Instagram Q&A, but if you’d missed it, too bad: Instagram Live Videos are only available after the fact if the account holder chooses to save a replay and make it public. The same is true with Instagram Stories, which by default vanish from the site after 24 hours, unless the user saves them as a “highlight.” Right now, Ocasio-Cortez has only five of her many stories saved at the top of her account. If you want to keep track of the congresswoman-elect, you’d better stay logged in.

It will be interesting to see how this form of communication develops. For more on this: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Mastered the Politics of Digital Intimacy – Pacific Standard

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The Disaster of Richard Nixon, and thinking about US presidents

A good book on something that people needs to be reminded of:  The Disaster of Richard Nixon | by Robert G. Kaiser | The New York Review of Books.

No matter how bad the current president is, longing for bad former presidents is nostalgia at its worst. It’s good that works like this are frequently published to remind us and give us perspective.

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Who is Jeremy Corbyn?


It’s odd but this piece by Andrew Sullivan on Jeremy Corbyn, Face of the New New Left does a better job of explaining the current head of Labour in the U.K. than many other pieces I’ve read. Knowing Sullivan, you may be skeptical, but there is plenty of objective detail here.

Corbyn’s time is coming. Read this to better understand him.

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Why does this not surprise me? Jacobin Accused of Reneging on Wage Deal

The owner of left-wing magazine Jacobin stiffs his workers for his play to take over other property.

In his bid to take over the historic British left-wing magazine, The Tribune, Jacobin publisher Bhaskar Sunkara is being accused of reneging on wage deal by employees of the paper, who kept the publication alive during struggling times. Tribune was once the home of such greats as George Orwell and has since become the leading publication associated with the influential Momentum faction within the Labor Party.

For the details, see this: Jacobin Accused of Reneging on Wage Deal in British Takeover of Tribune Magazine – Payday Report

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A good clear look at Antifa

Can be found here: Unite the Right rally: the counter-protesting group Antifa, explained – Vox.

It covers the things most people can agree with (opposing Nazis) and other things many people would disagree with (opposing liberalism).

Antifa is a term taking in many different groups, some very fringe, some violent.

Read this post before just assuming they are simply positive (or simply negative).

On gun control and the Overton Window

In reading this: Trump: “THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!” – Vox,  I’ve come to the conclusion that progressives in the U.S. are making a mistake by not looking to shift the Overton window, especially on the issue of gun control. If anything, they have an opportunity at this time to shift the Overton window immensely. Moreover, what they should recognize from watching Trump is that you can shift the Overton window in all sorts of ways with very little pushback. Progressives should line up and say that nothing moderate will ever work. That’s what Justice Stevens argues, and more progressives should line up with him and force the Overton window all the way over if they want to be successful. Moderation is not working and has rarely worked.

 

It’s Time for You to Run for Office. Yes, you.


Great advice: It’s Time for You to Run for Office. 

Don’t see politicians that represent you or the groups you feel represent you? All the more reason to run.

Don’t get me wrong: running for office and doing the job while you are in office are both difficult things. But if you are the type of person who want to make a positive difference and you are also the type who likes a challenge, then what’s stopping you?

The worst ever president of the United States of America is…

…likely this guy: James Buchanan.

James Buchanan

And this piece makes the case for why he — and not the current guy — is the worst: No, Trump isn’t the worst president ever – Indivisible Movement – Medium. In a nutshell:

In order to wrest the title of worst president from Buchanan, a contemporary commander in chief would need to wreck the economy, revoke all human rights from an entire race, violate the constitutional separation of powers, and plunge the country into a ruinous civil war that kills nearly 2% of the US population.

With all the staggering incompetence and corruption of the 45th presidency, it may seem hard to believe anyone could be worst. I believe in time Trump will be in the bottom 5 presidents. But to wrestle the title of worst President ever, he still needs to do worse. Let’s hope he does not.

The comeuppance of Silicon Valley

It’s not in full decline, but Silicon Valley is on its heels these days, whether due to the practices at Uber or Facebook or Google or …well, the companies that belong there as a whole. Here’s three pieces that all touch on the some of the problems there, but really I could have put three dozen recent articles instead of just these three:

  1. There’s Blood In The Water In Silicon Valley
  2. Privilege and inequality in Silicon Valley – Tech Diversity Files – Medium
  3. Silicon Valley is confusing pseudo-science with innovation – The Verge

Everything I see tells me that they are not equipped to deal with the challenges on their own. If this is true, then expect these high tech companies to come in for a political bruising soon.

On the recent German election

Good news: Merkel won by moving to the center.

Bad news: AfD, a far right party, has surged and won seats.

This could either be a blip and AfD could fade after this election.

Or it could be the start of big and bad changes for Germany, Europe and the world.

For more on this, see this good piece: Angela Merkel wins 4th term as chancellor of Germany in Vox

Some somewhat objective thoughts on the new Trudeaumania

Lots of chatter on this recently, Justin Trudeau: Canadian Prime Minister, Free World’s Best Hope? – Rolling Stone.

It’s good that the world thinks highly of our leaders, whomever they are. Canada is a significant nation in the world with the ability to influence other nations, and having a leader that is looked up to makes a positive difference.

As a Canadian citizen, I’m more interested in the substance than the PR. And I’m more interested in what the government is doing, not just the Prime Minister. I try to look at the government’s policies, competency in executing on those policies (either through legislation or direction to federal agencies), and how the government supports democracy (through actions to make our country more democratic) or hinders it (by making the country less democratic or by being corrupt).

That means I spend less and less time reading pieces like this, which are along the lines of “if you people were as smart as me you’d realize how bad Trudeau is” . Instead, I look to sites like this which track the government’s progress. For example, this site, TrudeauMeter, has ongoing ratings of the government. Other commentators, like John Ibbitson, provide periodic ratings: Video: Opinion: John Ibbitson rates the Trudeau government as Ottawa wraps up for the summer – The Globe and Mail. Finding sources of information you find comprehensive and objective are always your best bet.

If you don’t support the Liberal government’s policies, then I can see why you would not want the government in place.  Likewise there will be times when you do support the government’s policies but you feel the level of corruption or incompetence is so high you want to turn to a different group. If you are going to rate the Prime Minister and his government, those are good criteria to evaluate them on, not PR like the Rolling Stone magazine, or any other specific good or bad focus pieces on them. The government works for you, and if you are a good boss, you evaluate them mainly on the entirety of their efforts, not just things here and there.

Some other thoughts on Trudeau:

From what I can see so far, his government is starting off unsurprisingly: being successful over things the government has control over (like spending) and having less success over things that requires working with other groups. I suspect they will make no progress on electoral reform unless there is a major push from Canadians. Likewise, there are so many issues and problems with regards to Aboriginal peoples that any progress there will be modest, at best. I wish neither of them were true, but I am not optimistic on those fronts.

I suspect that as long as the economy is doing fine, the government does not appear corrupt or incompetent, and people aren’t tired of his government, then Trudeau and his team will be in power for some time to come. The first one, the economy, will be the one that is most likely to hit him. Corruption takes time to seep in (although major scandals can occur at any time and make the government appear corrupt), and government fatigue takes longer still. Whatever you thought of Chretien or Harper, that was true for them and I suspect it will be true for Trudeau as well.

I will continue to ignore articles that underestimate Trudeau (like the one above). He’s flashy and sometimes appears smarmy, but he’s smart, he has a good team, and politics is in his DNA.  If you oppose Trudeau, underestimating him only works to his advantage and not yours. In addition,  he is as much his mom’s son as his Dad’s. The combination makes him much more effective than his Dad could ever be. His Dad may have had a higher IQ than him, but he has a higher EQ than his Dad ever had and that will make him more challenging to defeat than people who approach politics intellectually realize.

Likewise, I will continue to ignore articles that compare Trudeau to Trump. There is little if anything to be gained by them. Trump is an anomaly. Almost any leader looks good in comparison to the 45th President of the United States.

I like Trudeau for alot of reasons.  That said, it doesn’t matter if I like him or not, anymore than it matters that you dislike him or not. What matters is his ability to do the job. He’s not an entertainer: he’s an elected official. When the next election comes, it won’t matter how good or bad Trudeau’s PR is. What matters is that in comparison to other politicians looking to lead the country, is the government he proposes to lead the best one for the job based on the criteria I have.  That’s the only thing that matters.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a candidate right out of a Philip K Dick Novel

Melenchon hologram
In France, politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon plans to be in seven places at once using  something similar to a hologram. According to Le Parisien:

Strictly speaking, these are not holograms. Jean-Luc Mélenchon will be present in seven different places thanks to … an optical illusion discovered for the first time half a century ago by an Italian physicist

Virtual Mélenchon reminds me of the politician Yance in Philip K Dick’s novel, The Penultimate Truth. We may not be far off where we get virtual candidate that look like people but behind the scenes we have AI or some combination of AI and people.

For more on the technology, see the article in Le Parisien. For more on Dick’s novel, see Wikipedia. Read up now: I think we can expect to see more of this technology in use soon.

Eric Holder has a new role – defending California against the Trump Regime

The State of California has a new lawyer to represent it: Eric Holder. The New York Times has the details, here. A good piece, showcasing what we can expect from that State while Trump occupies the White House.

As an aside, I found it fascinating to see how Americans perceived Holder. For a number of Americans, they saw him and his Justice Department as inhibitor of liberty due to how his department cracked down on leaks, among other things. For African Americans, they likely saw him as a provider of liberty, as his DOJ went after those looking to restrict their voting rights.

I think both those activities reflected the wishes of his boss, as well as his own goals.

I think he will be formidable in the next four years as he and his law firm defends the interests of California. It will be interesting, for certain.

Shocked by the image of the Syrian boy in the rubble? Here’s how to help | World news | The Guardian

Syrian civil war as of 08-2016

There is much outrage over the images of dead and injured children. If you feel compelled to do something, here’s a good source of information on how: Shocked by the image of the Syrian boy in the rubble? Here’s how to help | World news | The Guardian

If you are wondering why it is so terrible, especially around the city of Aleppo, then you can read this: Lina Khatib on the Battle of Aleppo – Council on Foreign Relations Lina Khatib on the Battle of Aleppo – Council on Foreign Relations.

Khatib argue that because Aleppo is seen as crucial for success by both regime and opposition forces, much terrible fighting is occurring there. To add to that, partners and proxies are joining the fight, turning it into something that looks like a modern day Stalingrad. At this time, there does not seem to be many (or any) good diplomatic or military solutions. Hence the terribleness that is happening.

 

 

 

 

Democracy in action – An Introduction to Field Organizing

If you want to do more than vote in an election, especially if you are an American, then read this: THIS ELECTION IS FREAKING ME OUT, WHAT CAN I DO!? (An Introduction to Field Organizing). Obviously this is geared towards Hillary Clinton supporters for president, but read it regardless of you who you plan to vote for and at what level.  It should help you get to the point of at least knowing the right questions to ask and where you might go next to get more involved.

Voting is important, but there is much more to democracy than that. If you step up, your involvement will make a difference, regardless of your role. Good for you for taking that next step.

Nate Silver and Paul Krugman on the importance of good models to understand and predict

This piece by Nate Silver, How I Acted Like A Pundit And Screwed Up On Donald Trump in FiveThirtyEight, is ostensibly about how he messed up in his predictions on the rise of Donald Trump. What I think is worth reading is how he goes about his work and what he learned from his mistakes. Specifically, it’s a great study on how important models are and how a good model works and what it can tell us.

Related, Paul Krugman talks about his model here: Economics and Self-Awareness in The New York Times. Like Silver, he uses models both to understand and predict. Obviously they are modelling different things, but in both cases good models are the basis of their thinking and the work they do.

It’s likely too much to ask now, but eventually anyone doing analysis and making predictions should have to disclose the models they are basing their decisions upon. The opinions of anyone not having such models are likely not worth much.

A better way to follow the US presidential race…

..is to follow this, from Bloomberg:  Who’s Winning the Presidential Delegate Count?

You can still read the news and follow along, state by state, but what really matters more and more is the delegate count.

One thing that surprised me: right now, Ted Cruz is alot closer to Donald Trump than I imagined. Obviously there is a way to go still, but he is doing well. Will Cruz win? I think the odds are against him, but right now they are not insurmountable.

As for the other side, I believe Hillary Clinton is going to win, regardless of the Michigan surprise showing of Bernie Sanders. Sanders is performing better than many imagined, but she has a big lead in delegates and that will only get larger as we go along.

How to tell who the next president of the US will be (ahem, Hillary Clinton)

There’s two ways to tell who will be the next president of the United States.

  1. Listen to the pundits: The Most Likely Next President Is Hillary Clinton – Bloomberg Politics
  2. Follow the betters: 2016 Presidential Election – Next President bet | betfair.com

In this case, at this moment, they are both in agreement: Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. Now, the election is so very far away, anything can happen, a week is a long time in politics, blah blah blah, but right now it is hers to lose.

If you ask me, ignore the pundits and follow the betters: the latter are rarely wrong. Read the pundits if you want to know why she is winning.

 

Detroit: imploding city

While I knew things were rough in Detroit, this story, Volume of abandoned homes ‘absolutely terrifying’ (from DetroitNews.com), gives you a context of just how incredibly bad it is. Two take aways from that story. First, this statistic:

Since 2005, more than 1-in-3 Detroit properties have been foreclosed because of mortgage defaults or unpaid taxes

Two, this map of foreclosures:

The situation is terrible, but the story is worth reading and the visuals (e.g. a bigger view of that map) really illustrate the damage. Worth reading, especially if you have recently read some pieces, as I have, of good news coming out of Detroit.

The best thing you will read about the upcoming 2016 US Presidential election (and why you can pay much less attention until then)

Check out this map:

And then read this piece by a very realistic US Republican on the upcoming US presidential election: A reality-check on the 2014 results

If you are a fan of Hillary Clinton* then it is great news. If you are a supporter of anyone else, you will see why it is going to be very difficult for anyone from the GOP to become president in 2016.

But don’t take my word for it: read the article. Bookmark it until next year. It’s very likely going to be true, regardless of the thousands of articles and millions of words that will be written between now and election day.

(* Yes, in theory, Bernie Sanders could be the nominee. In practice, I think it is very unlikely.)

Obama’s moneyball approach to diplomacy

This Vox piece on how Obama does diplomacy is good. While it focuses on Iran, it’s a much broader and more thoughtful analysis of how Obama approaches foreign affairs. Key quote:

Obama’s “undoctrine” starts from the position that there is no need to find a universal foreign policy framework. It’s enough to find specific wins, he believes, and minimize losses.

In his view, foreign policy isn’t a matter of showing strength or trying to make sure that every US action furthers its interests around the entire world. It’s a moneyball approach to foreign affairs: Don’t focus on playing a beautiful game, focus on racking up points at the lowest possible cost. To Obama, that’s how you win.

Obama plays to win, so this shouldn’t surprise people.

A good Vox piece.

This is why we can’t have interesting politicians or politics

Vox has a good piece on the mistake that Obama recently made (“Randomgate”) and how the resulting follow on stories about that mistake illustrates why we can’t have interesting politicians. Their conclusion?

Long-term, the problem here isn’t just news consumers find themselves listening to bullshit gaffe stories. It’s that politicians learn the same lessons over and over again: unscripted moments are dangerous and generally to be avoided. Don’t give interviews and don’t stray from talking points.

The media will bemoan lack of access and robotic, scripted answers. But it will also punish deviations from the script. And it will do so in the most trivial ways. No minds were changed during Randomgate and nobody learned anything. A couple of spokespeople had a bad afternoon. Some websites (including this one) got some extra pageviews. And every politician learned to be that much more boring in the future.

I think this way of dealing with politicians doesn’t just make them uninteresting: it also make our politics dumber. Here’s hoping this changes, though if anything, I think it will get worse before it gets better.

Rockstar

Obama, of course

YouTube gets politicians in trouble around the globe…this time in Iran

FP has the story of how YouTube is making life difficult for Iranian politicians. Clearly no politician is safe anywhere these days. And this is not a bad thing. See:

Mohammed Khatami’s macaca moment | FP Passport

P.S. Some of you might think: whoa! what did I miss? Read the article in FP for the details. (It’s all relative.)

First Faith Hill, and now Sarkozy’s getting Photoshopped!


From globeandmail.com: Magazine Retouches Sarkozy’s ‘Love Handles’

We see Paris-Match retouched the French president’s body to look more buff! And they have the proof!

Sheesh!

Politics, Sunlight, and Web 2.0

Sunlight Labs is

a Sunlight Foundation pilot project to prototype tech ideas to improve government transparency and political influence disclosure. We also provide technical support to Sunlight Foundation sponsored projects.

Politics is going to get more interesting.