The Martin O'Malley Scenario

Imagine for a moment that inquiries into Hillary Clinton’s email use develop into a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, newly-released State Department documents uncover that elusive smoking gun on Benghazi. Independents sink her favorability ratings and “untrustworthy” emerges as an even bigger buzzword.

Meanwhile, moderate and non-white voters fail to embrace far-left Bernie Sanders. Nor is the establishment, which has uniformly endorsed Clinton, about to jump ship for a self-proclaimed democratic socialist.

The party is divided and anxious, raising the possibility of depressed Democratic turnout in the fall.

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Reinventing Cable

Cable is broken.

Young people reject its inaccessibility. Consumers loathe its inflexibility. The tasteful and technical among us scorn the clunky, slow interfaces.

But cable companies have done little to stem its decline. With archaic technology, outdated business practices, and insipid marketing, they're losing millions of viewers and jeopardizing their futures.

They need to update their services for modern world, and tell a new story. Cable's inherent strengths just aren't being put to use.

I'll focus on Comcast here. The same principles apply to any cable or satellite provider with an outdated business model and declining subscriber count.

I intend to take something stale and boring and make it fresh and beautiful. What follows is a comprehensive plan to reinvent cable.

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Dogmatic rationality

All indicators suggest that humans have reached a peak state of rational thinking, able to solve any problem. We have through natural selection and the advance of civilization come to a specific set of truths, which we call axioms because they are verifiable and thus indisputable.

What happened to critical thinking?

Rationality has evolved into a forbidding concept — one without room for nuance or debate. Because of its cold factuality, it seems an iron will, fatalistically imposed upon us. It appears so self-explanatory as not to be worthy of debate. We accept a particular definition without actually taking time to explore what it is or what the consequences are. We unquestioningly accept the proclamations of authority figures and "experts" and to do otherwise invites accusations of heresy. In other words, the modern idea police have instituted a dogma. This time the expectations come not with any spiritual authority but through appeals to expertise, and when necessary ridicule and coercion.

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Analog and digital

It is possible to make a number of competing claims about the nature of our lives and our Universe. It is easy to be confused about these, especially because most people are not experts in any given technical field. An area where this is particularly acute is in the distinction between analog and digital.

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Figurative Nazis

We have a World War II problem. We employ the same clichés time and time again - and it's unacceptable. Specifically, we compare everyday trials and tribulations to people, events, and organizations in the Third Reich. Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Nazis are the popular three.

These are so common as to not need repeating here - and that's the problem.

To compare any situation to one of the most horrific and tragic situations in our known history is to lessen its import and elevate trivial situations to the catastrophic. Intellectually, it's an unhelpful way of looking at most situations.

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Tax reform

Conservatives have won the debate on taxes—for now. No one likes to pay for things, and anti-tax zealots have tapped into this frustration and anger to set the terms of the debate. They've framed every tax increase as government overreach and an assault on liberty, and voters have lapped up their rhetoric, sometimes against their self-interest. Ted Cruz comes to mind, with his utterly logic-deprived and thus unworkable "close the IRS" demagoguery.

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Existence

What is existence?

It's is a simple yet profound concept - something we intuitively grasp yet cannot by definition fully comprehend.

I'll throw out a partial, inexact definition - limited by the English language and by the limited capacity of my mind. Simply put, by existence I mean everything.

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Reinventing programming

Friendly. Collaborative. Inspiring.

When you think of programming, do any of those words come to mind? Probably not.

When we talk about the accessibility of computer science  and technology in general – we often frame the our concerns in one particular way: How do we get more women in the industry? That's a problematic approach. For one, it suggests that women are at fault for simply not realizing the virtues of programming. It's borne of a paternalistic instinct: that we know what's best for you, and that if you only learn Java you'll make tons of money and find a nice man. This is obviously a poor way to change an industry, let alone human behavior.

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The future will be nuanced

We frame views about the future in a dichotomous way. Either you are optimistic or pessimistic. You need to make a fundamental and overarching judgment about how things will end up. So which will it be?

 

Optimism is a false way of life

If I have to hear "it will all work out in the end" one more time...

Optimism is based on deluding ourselves into thinking that all will end well when it may very well not (what to make of all the tragedy befalling others around the world?) At least in the West, there is a strong cultural bias toward optimism. We face immense pressure to see the rosiest possible outcome even when that outcome is a distinctly unlikely one. I've heard that there's a biological advantage to optimism. But that doesn't make it morally correct or even factually accurate. Nature picks winners and losers by a somewhat different scale than human society does; we are no longer bound by pure natural selection.

 

Pessimism isn't any better

Pessimism relies on the delusion that all will end poorly when it may very well not (surely there is some good with all the bad). There is a strong cultural bias against pessimism, although it has been fetishized in certain circles. And for their part, the media are all too happy to peddle hyperbolic narratives that draw views through fear. Self-described "religious prophets" eagerly predict the end of years. Doomsday prophecies hold a certain allure, if only so we can lambaste their lack of hope.

 

Problems with these two philosophies

  • They are inconsistent with reality, since there is plenty of good and plenty of bad out there
  • They demand making a firm decision about a future that is incredibly complex and inherently unknowable
  • They demand making a firm judgment of human nature as either fundamentally righteous or fundamentally flawed, when in fact we regularly see strong evidence for both conclusions
  • They lead to a black and white way of thinking that is dangerous to mental health (contributing to depression and anxiety) and decision making (disallowing the possibility of compromise)
  • They lead us to make character judgments about people in the other camp, as I often do myself, viewing them as either overly sanguine or excessively gloomy, clouding our ability to empathize and preempting discussion of substantive issues

Embracing realism

There's no need to choose one extreme or the other. I believe there is plenty of good and plenty of evil out there, and that people can embody both extremes, sometimes even at the same time. I believe our future is messy and indeterminate and that it will include various triumphs alongside plenty of moral lapses. I have a responsibility, difficult though it may be, to assess situations based on their merits rather than a rigid structure of upward or downward forecasts. This is more intellectually honest and more psychologically healthy.

This is a work in progress for me. I will be the first to admit that I have found this difficult, because I have historically lean toward pessimism. I often jump to the worst possible prediction, assuming that "it won't happen," "it will go poorly," or "I'll fail." Overcoming this requires the self-confidence not to be limited by past experience. It requires an honest look at facts. And it requires a realization that I need not always be pessimistic - that, as a matter of fact, I can be realistic.

For someone who has been pessimistic for years, realism feels overly cheery. To view a situation based on its merits seems to give it too much credit. This is the struggle. I won't say there's an easy or quick way out. But I won't call it impossible either.

 

 

Drafted: September 7, 2014

Refined: October 16, 2014

Revisited: January 22, 2016

Organic antidepressants

Depression is a remarkably complex disease with many causes and many possible treatments, different for every individual. I've realized rather recently that two major antidepressants are actually very simple. We just need to realize they're there. Once we do, and once we start acting upon them, they make a sizable dent in the issue, and help us explore issues and treatments more adeptly.

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Compassionate quality

How do I want to achieve my goals? As I wish we all said, I refuse to achieve at all costs. I refuse be a relentless executive who squashes the hopes and ambitions of others, and who is rude and unforgiving. I'm not here to make enemies. I'm not here to be mean and personally offensive and to call people worthless, or to think that in the first place. I'm not here to hold grudges. That's not why I'm on this earth. I don't simply want to land on the nice side of things. I actively choose to do so. I refuse to be cowered by how "leaders" have achieved their goals in the past.

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Quality journalism

What we read, like what we eat, matters. It shapes our approach to life and our view of others. It can help us sympathize or demonize. Our clicks determine which organizations stay alive and which collapse. Let us be mindful of the consequences and make smarter choices.

As a direct result of our media consumption habits, the landscape has changed. Not all blogs or magazines or even, sadly, newspapers can be trusted.

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