Month: March 2017

How To: Navigate Policy (Discussions)

It’s true: the nitty gritty of the policies and programs that impact our lives are complicated as all get out. It’s a lot like trying to explain the mechanics of an entire house – plumbing, HVAC, heating, electricity, construction, foundation. Each one of those systems is its own area of expertise that a person can spend years learning and memorizing. Just like politics, the technical aspects of those are constantly changing with new information and developments, which means that to truly know what’s going on, you have to be constantly learning.

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How To: Separate Real and Fake News

Separating fact from fiction is one of the most important tasks we have as citizens. Sure, there’s the high-minded political philosophy that we must seek truth to be whole, but I’m just talking about practical terms. Frankly, if we don’t know what is actually happening day to day in our lives and in the world around us, we’re going to make some really bad decisions. Maybe it’s deciding that we can perform field operations because we’ve watched a lot of Grey’s Anatomy. Maybe it’s deciding that we should try driving stunts because it looked super cool in the most recent Fast and Furious. Or maybe it’s sending thousands of servicemembers to distant lands to die.

Fake news isn’t dangerous because we disagree with it; it’s dangerous because it changes our reactions. It keeps us from seeing problems we need to fix, and turns things that are harmless into urgent issues. Indulge in fake news, and suddenly we’re tilting at windmills and ignoring bandits and thieves.

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How To: Remember Why We Bother

Politics is a gross, messy thing, like cleaning cat litter or moving dripping garbage or doing your freshman bio fetal pig lab barehanded because you don’t have latex gloves that fit. And just like those gross, messy things, politics is necessary. You could ignore the cat litter or the garbage or the fetal pig lab, but consequences will pile up in ways that will only make the final and inevitable reckoning worse.

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How To: Define A Scandal

Who doesn’t love a political scandal? In our Age of Outrage, there’s almost nothing that we want more. Scandal comes from feet on the Resolute Desk or the Oval Office couches, from vouching for friends or appointing them to your Cabinet, from firing Deputy Attorneys General because they wouldn’t affirm your political goals, and from sexual harassment with a cigar. In fact, it almost seems like we can turn anything into a scandal, which has the disconcerting effect of making almost anything normal.

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A Programming Note

So I didn’t get around to posting this Tuesday, and last Tuesday, I didn’t get a full video up. This isn’t a planned trend as much as an impromptu reshuffling of my life and schedule; it’s hard to get one’s footing upon starting a big project with big goals and lots of snark. So I’ve decided to reformat for the time being.

First: I’m going to be writing at least once a week, with a post on Tuesdays, but there can be posts at random between the “official” ones.

Second: I will be aiming to do a longer video (15-20 minutes) once a month rather than once a week, because the quick turnover is killer!

Third: I will be trying out a weekly podcast (again, 15-20 minutes) around March 23, because I am obviously deeply in love with the sound of my own mellifluous and terrific voice. /sarcasm

Fourth and finally: I started with the idea of asking questions and answering them, and I don’t want to lose that fundamental idea. The willingness to question what we think we know, what we believe, what we want and what we need from each other is a major part of being good citizens. I’m just gently shifting how we approach those kinds of questions here. But feedback is always appreciated, and I hope that these new efforts will help this project contribute to a healthier and more empowered civil society.