Short update: Eat Pray Vote

Another short blog update. As of a few days ago, I have joined the Eat Pray Vote team and I will start contributing there on a non-regular and non-committal basis. One might fear that someone loses his voice when mandated to comply with the editorial policy of a bigger website, as such, I’ll keep this blog. I will thus post excerpts here as well as stand-alone articles that I might not deem fit for EPV or simply because I want to.

A party of contempt

Democrats can’t seem to shrug their mage of pretentiousness and contempt, time to lose the ‘I mean, have you seen the other guys’ slogan.

Last December, as the dust from the US election had settled and people were slowly – perhaps worryingly – starting to accept and normalize the results, I wrote a short letter to a prominent Dutch daily (De Volkskrant, which translates to The People’s Paper)De Volkskrant, a centre-left leaning morning newspaper from Amsterdam, had joined the majority of self-respecting newspapers in showing their adversity towards the new found president. In my letter, I wondered whether Democrats had learned from the disastrous election, as many had already done or were going to. I wrote about the Democrats ‘adapting to new voters’ and the Republicans playing a ‘strategic game’ in picking up where the democrats left off, claiming to ‘get to work’ for the beat-down man whom they have so long beaten down. What struck me then, however, was the arrogance and pretentiousness with which Democrats continued to campaign and play their politics. What strikes me now, is that contempt is increasingly becoming their most recognizable trait.

Contempt found its way into the Democratic party during the past election. Of course, some may be justified when opposed by a GOP-candidate who yelled, ranted and contradicted himself at every turn. Slowly, however, the sentiment was becoming part of their brand, evidently pushing the good bits out. One might wonder what happened to the party that once was and to a lesser extent, still is, the party of tolerance and diversity. Besides their values, the Democrats form the only kind of effective opposition against the Republicans – if furthering divisions within the Republican party itself aren’t enough, of course – and as such need the votes of many Americans to truly counter the GOP-controlled parliament.

Sending only a meager message whilst taking the time to wonder why you’re ‘not fifty points ahead’, did not work. Now, don’t get me wrong, some contempt may be justified, but voters notice and voters care – rightly so. It’s time for the Democratic party to strap on its old pair of working boots and regain its place not only as the party for professionals, and the ‘higher-minded’ but as the party for low-income families who struggle in this day and age. It’s time that Democrats show not only what good globalism and internationalism has brought but acknowledge that those developments bring problems too, now that the US’s manufacturing industry has disappeared and its service industry flourished. It’s time for a Democratic party that does not reach and fail in its feeling of superiority over the others, but for a Democratic party that can turn to the majority that so needs them.

Twitter transparency reports

Some interesting stats.

Twitter has recently (March 21, I only found out a short while ago) posted their latest transparency reports, covering the latter half of 2016, a telling time of deepening divisiveness in politics. As a result, politically motivated hateful speech has run rampant and the figures regarding governmental removal of tweets promise to be interesting. Furthermore, following the U.S. election and preceding an interesting European election season, pressure has been building on companies that hold lots of user accounts – such as Twitter and Facebook – to counter hate speech with European officials brawling that in case these companies do not forcefully remove content, penalization follows.

Effects of this growing distrust shows as Twitter is especially happy to show that their spam filters have blocked 376,890 terrorist-linked accounts. More interesting seems to be that governmental inquires have increased by seven percent.

Front-runner – not a good thing – in terms of absolute numbers is once again Turkey, whose growing authoritarian regime issued 3,076 removal requests over the past six months (note that the vote for the Turkish referendum was on the 16th of April, full data for that period is not available yet, although it promises an even stricter cut-down on tweets). 72.5% Of Turkish requests were issued by the government itself, the other 27.5% were issued by court order. Comparing to France and Germany, we see that 0% of all requests were issued by court order, exemplifying increasing politicization of the judiciary branch, common steps toward an authoritarian crack-down.

Coming back to France and Germany, we note that they have both issued a high number of removal requests relative to the rest of the European Union, with 1,334 and 236 requests respectively (France’s numbers are more than twice as high as Russia’s). France’s numbers can initially be seen as a result of dreadful terrorist attacks over the past few years, note, however, that only 21% of the request were complied with, meaning that not all were deemed to conflict with Twitter’s agreements – which terrorist-linked tweets do. However, when put in relative context – with regard to the number of inhabitants – the stats show a rather equal removal of tweets over the European Union, fairly little.

Only a short evaluation, but some very interesting data indeed, check it out

NBC could have considered a different format on Alex Jones

Megyn Kelly’s one-on-one prime-time interview with Alex Jones appears flawed from the beginning. Which is to say that NBC’s goal is noble, its execution is badly thought out at best.

Since the beginning of the Internet and eventually mass-adaption of this new technology, every info needs a ‘-tainment’, causing shiny capitalized headlines to leave objectivity and truth in the dust. Reporters have to be opinionated and their role as an interviewer has adapted into a new role as debater, rebutting arguments for the pleasure of the viewer. Polarization of the media landscape is frankly inevitable as outlets can only entertain when taking a firm stance and causing controversy. In this Fox News vs. MSNBC feud, one reporter, having stood on both sides of the aisle, hopes to transcends such standards.

Megyn Kelly has been teasing her controversial interview with Alex Jones, which airs upcoming Sunday, for two days now. The interview seems flawed from the beginning, judging from Kelly’s less than impressive track-record as a sloppy interviewer displaying little force when it comes down to complex problems – and, I may be mistaken, but her most recent teaser appears to confirm my suspicions.

Alex Jones, hard-right conspiracy theorist and Trump-lover, best known for dismissing the Sandy Hook shooting as a hoax (although he later nuanced his statements) and recently for receiving temporary press access to the White House, has been rightfully criticized and dismissed by people on both sides of the aisle. His follower base has however been steadfastly growing, further upping his website to the mainstream.

It seems only logical that many have taken to social media to decry Jones’ appearance on NBC as free prime-time coverage, himself being a true craftsman of verbal twisting and tuning, dodging questions and plain lying. Kelly and NBC have tirelessly rebutted these comments noting that it is her job as an objective journalist to cover a person to whom the President promised not to “disappoint”.

Jones’ prominence in the political landscape is not be misunderstood. On the other hands, this interview sends the message that theorists and haters such as Jones are worthy of receiving prime time television in the confusing 2017 of alternative facts.

All in all, NBC should now air the interview. Not doing so would result in immediate backlash from Alex Jones and his base. However, I would have advised against the format beforehand. Instead of a one-on-one, one-hour interview, in which a man as disconnected from reality as Alex Jones can’t possibly be persuaded to engage in a rational dialogue, NBC may opt for a profile of Alex Jones, rebutting what is false and explaining his increasing popularity among so many and their most important representative, the President.

NOTE: Been having a very interesting discussion on Reddit here!

Sessions hearing

Sessions hearing will most certainly show exceptional craftsmanship in the art of dodging questions.

This will be the first of those short comments I talked about in a previous ‘technical update‘. Note again, these comments have a more reactionary – and I presume more traditional – blog-like nature. Please note that this article was written before the hearing.

James Comey’s testimony last week drew 19 million live viewers, causing CNN to cry impeachment and Fox News to denounce Comey as the ‘grandstander’ that he seemingly is. As a Dutchman, the mainstream media landscape in the United States seems almost binary compared to the relatively neutral outlets in the Netherlands – of course, there are the inevitable exceptions, however, nothing as extraordinarily disproportionate. Let us reserve these objections – or qualities, as some make the ridiculous claim that ‘choice’ is a good thing – for another time.

Whichever side you occupy, Comey’s testimony undoubtedly raised questions concerning the role of attorney general Sessions with regard to Trump’s two current scandals: whether his campaign colluded with the Russians and whether the investigation concerning possible collaboration is a casus for Trump obstructing justice. Both being reason enough for impeachment and conviction.

Today, the thirteenth of June, is the day Sessions will testify before the senate intelligence committee. As a long time Trump ally, his senate hearing will most certainly showcase a particularly exceptional piece of verbal twisting and -turning. Whether Sessions dodges or answers is the real question, lawmakers better adapt their inquiries as to pressure him to dodge or answer.

In March I wrote about Sessions’ ‘Russian love affair’. Sessions, known for preparing extensively, walked through his senate hearings rather unscathed. With Democrats accepting him as the best they were going to get and Republicans lauding him at every turn. That is, of course, except for failing to mention his meetings with Russian ambassador Sergei Kysliak, causing him to finally recuse from all ongoing investigations with regard to the 2016 campaign. The scope of this recusal is still unclear, with Rosenstein also unable to dwell on it earlier today. Sessions will most certainly dodge most questions concerning the campaign, claiming that he recused from the investigations and therefore has no insight. Lawmakers should thus try and clarify the scope of his recusal as well as press for definitive answers concerning a rumored third meeting with Kysliak which could possibly make his recusal meaningless.

An interesting, albeit a little long, article from The Washington Post. 

A short update concerning the blog

As some may have noticed – a little enthusiastic here as stats don’t show a large number of regular visitors – I haven’t been posting much as of late. As I do not wish to disregard this website, my aim is to once again start writing bigger articles on a more or less weekly basis. Besides, as I do not see this covered on other political blogs and sites, I’d like to work on a series of some kind. Namely a weekly update on Dutch politics; short, concise and inevitably opinionated.

Furthermore, the plan is to start using this website more for shorter commentary. These undefined comments – occupying the rather vast void somewhere in between a facebook-post and a proper op-ed – will mostly concern with reactions on other articles, notes and interesting references that might interest some of you. These short comments can be found on the blog page only, links to the bigger- and probably more formal articles can be found on the home page as to allow for efficient reading.

The goal is to grow a larger audience and with that engage with my readers more, hope to see you all follow this blog!