CDN: Winning in 2014 vs. Losing in 2016

Democrats face an uphill battle this November. Both the messaging environment and the electoral map favor Republican gains. Republicans face a similarly challenging map in 2016, defending 24 Senate seats. My latest piece at Communities Digital News explores how, for each party, the results that come in on November 4 will not be the final verdict on their 2014 strategies.

CDN: Political Ads Face Brave New (On-Demand) World

Nobody likes commercials, so viewers are finding ways around them – through DVRs and subscription-based on-demand programming.  That will make things tough for political advertisers – but certainly not impossible.  My latest column at Communities Digital News explores how political video advertising will have to adjust.  And they will have to – because video remains the best way to tell a story.

RIP, Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, has passed away.  Since he was best-known for protesting military funerals and anti-gay public statements, many are responding with hatred and vitriol.

Through his usually-hilarious and frequently-shared Facebook page, George Takei has been outspoken about gay rights.  His response:

Today, Mr. Phelps may have learned that God, in fact, hates no one. Vicious and hate-filled as he was, may his soul find the kind of peace through death that was so plainly elusive during his life.

Celebrating Phelps’s death will be fashionable, much more so than strongly-worded obituaries of the murderous dictator Hugo Chavez about a year ago.  This will be especially true for those who want to make a big show of their own acceptance of gay people.  (“Look, everyone! I hate this guy who hated gay people! I’M SO DOWN WITH THE RAINBOW!”)

First, the time to show you support your gay friends and family members is every day, when you interact with them and show them the same love and support you show all your other friends.

Second, when someone dies who said and did hurtful things, the proper response is not to celebrate but to hope that, at some point in their afterlife, they realize just how hurtful they were.  And, you’d hope that once they understood that, that they were sorry and able to let go of whatever was causing them to do it.

In other words, our reactions should have been exactly what Takei said.

Leave it to Mr. Sulu to steer the conversation in the right direction.



New Journalism and too many white dudes

Emily Bell notices a trend among the teams Nate Silver and Ezra Klein are putting together for their new, future-of-journalism companies: There are an awful lot of white guys:

Well, [Klein's] project X may now be called Vox, but the great VC-backed media blitz of 2014 is staffed up and soft-launching, and it looks a lot more like Projects XY. Indeed, it’s impossible not to notice that in the Bitcoin rush to revolutionize journalism, the protagonists are almost exclusively – and increasingly – male and white.

Bell recoils from Silver’s comments that he hired partially based on “clubhouse chemistry”: “A clubhouse. Do we really still have to have one of those?” Silver probably does, since he works at ESPN.  Since it’s a sports network, ESPN predominantly caters to men.

Yet Bell writes this from the authority of her dual posts at Guardian and Columbia University. This is not, apparently, the opening manifesto of her own journalism site.  Her screed is merely a complaint from these established beachheads, pointing out that the do-ers aren’t doing enough.

She’s probably right: There might be room for newer, more diverse voices in the marketplace the Kleins and Silvers are trying to occupy.  It’s just a shame she’s passing up such a great business opportunity.


Project Ivy and digital coat tails

Over at Communities Digital News, I have a new piece up about Project Ivy – the Democrats’ plan to deploy the digital tools that helped President Obama in 2012 and Terry McAuliffe in 2013 into down ballot races in 2014:

The data tools used this year may not help Democrats keep their hold on the Senate, or win more Governorships, or even gain ground in state legislative chambers. But all the data collected with those tools in 2014 will be mighty useful when a few hundred votes in Cuyahoga County could decide the White House in two short years.

Republicans may not need to match Democrats data point for data point to have a pretty good election cycle in 2014. But deploying their own tools with the future in mind will help build their abilities for coming cycles. 

You want more?  Here it is.

Democrats know they are facing an against-the-spread election this November. They’ll lose seats, but the question is how many. Dropping as many as five Senate seats to the GOP will look like a win if they maintain a voting majority for the next term.  And like a baseball team playing out the string with a 40-man roster in September, minor league talent in down-ballot races can help set the table for future victories.  Project Ivy isn’t really for 2014, it’s for 2016.

But if I bled Democrat blue there would be one major factor that rubs me the wrong way about Project Ivy: the name.

First off, ivy grows up, while the project takes high-level tactics and tries to push them down.  Maybe that strategy makes sense for Democrats, who put so much faith in federal government programs to cure the ills of small communities, but the metaphor is a bit off.

Second, remember Project ORCA? It was the widely panned GOTV app that Team Romney deployed in 2012, and was so named because the Obama team’s data processing system was nicknamed “Narwhal,” and orcas kill narwhals.  As it turned out, the narwhal was an octopus with tentacles everywhere, and orcas don’t do crap against octopi.  This metaphor is getting even more tortured, so let’s move to the point: A clever name often foreshadows failure.  The only political tactical operations with cool names that work are the ones you hear about after the election.

The best news for the GOP about Project Ivy might be the fact that the first news stories about it are in March 2014, and not the week after Election Day.

The right to discriminate

Kansas says that if you own a restaurant, your property is your property, even if you refuse to serve gay and lesbian couples.  Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern feels that’s an “abomination,” and Salon’s Matt Breunig calls out conservatives and libertarians who believe that discrimination carries its own consequences.

Breunig specifically calls out one of the most consistently pro-liberty voices on the right, Tim Carney:

This fact is important to remember as the state of Kansas considers enshrining into its law the right of public accommodations like hotels, movie theaters and restaurants to discriminate against couples in same-sex marriages. Under this law, a manager who spotted a same-sex marriage party dining at his restaurant is empowered to refuse them service and demand that they leave.

In his never-ending quest to be on the wrong side of history on all things LGBT civil rights, Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner took to Twitter to defend this legislation, perhaps hoping that he will get a mention in future documentaries about the bigotry of this period.

Suppose a gay wedding party goes into a restaurant, sits down, and prepares to order. The restaurant manager comes over and tells them that they must leave because they are gay. Angered by this bigotry, the patrons refuse to leave. Now ask yourself: What happens next?

Here’s what happens: The police are called, and the trespassers are removed from the premises.  Then, the incident gets a write-up in the local paper, and people stop eating at that restaurant because they would call the police to kick out a gay wedding party that was otherwise well-behaved.  The restaurant closes down, and the restaurant owner who called the cops either changes his mind or he goes broke and starves to death.

The idea that anti-discriminatory values have to be enforced is absurd.  If you’re a store owner that doesn’t like black people, go ahead and ban them from your store and see how that works out for you.  Don’t want Hispanic shoppers?  Hang a sign out front that says “No vendemos a clientes Latinos.”  Go for it.  I dare you.

No business owner in their right mind would do that.  And if they did, the people who shopped there would get funny looks wherever else they went.  Laws that tell us how we should live can mask social problems, but letting people figure it out for themselves non-violently tends to actually solve them.





The False Dichotomy of Science vs. Religion

Kudos to Science Guy (and Newhart nemesis) Bill Nye and Creation Museum founder  Ken Ham.  Many of those who disagree on the question of how the Earth was made don’t talk to each other.  These guys went the other way.  (And they got into it, too, the video at that link is almost three hours long.)  At the very least, that shows that both are sincere in their science-based approach to problem solving.

But there is a problem when this type of debate is played out.  Folks like Ham says the Earth is just 6,000 years old.  Folks like Nye says our world couldn’t have been constructed in six days.  Interlopers like to say this is science versus religion.  

So what’s a year, and what’s a day?  Those are pretty relative terms, since they are based on a single astronomical relationship: the Earth’s motions around the Sun.  Days are shorter on Saturn, and years are longer on Venus.  For a God who created the universe, these are small measurements.  

We do know that there are laws of physics.  When the crap hit the fan during the Apollo 13 mission, NASA was able to calculate a plan to use the gravitational forces of the moon to slingshot the spacecraft home.  The moon’s forces, though not completely understood, behaved in a predictable way.  The busted tin can with three astronauts on board reacted to those forces in a predictable way.   Astrophysicists call that science, but if you sit back and think about it, it’s a miracle.  (And not just because they math they got right was really, REALLY hard.)

We know that moons orbit planets, and planets orbit stars, and stars orbit giant mysterious centers of galaxies.  We know those galaxies stretch out over incomprehensibly vast expanses of the cosmos, yet form patterns as well.

How miraculous is it that those forces and reactions are intelligible?  How amazing is it that out of the black emptiness of space came the forces of gravity and dark energy that created suns, planets, galaxies, moons, asteroids, quasars, black holes and a bunch of stuff we haven’t even figured out yet?  

Read the first passages of the Book of Genesis, then read a scientific account of how planets are formed.  It’s great that Ham and Nye had a civil and good-natured, discussion about the origins of the universe.  But did they really have anything to disagree about?