A Scientific Approach to Journalism That Can Mitigate Partisanship

One of the things that stands out for me during the Trump presidency is the number of hypotheses or narratives relating to Trump and the news involving him, most notably the Trump-Russia story.  By narratives, I mean the construction of a story outline that will help explain events, and also place the key people in roles–all of which provide a context that provides meaning and explicates the people and events. For example, one narrative has Trump as someone the Russians manipulated via blackmail, using Trump to achieve their objectives, including weakening the U.S. Another narrative places Trump as a great business man and deal-maker, who has made enemies of the elite out of resentment that Trump has proven them wrong. The Russia story is merely sour grapes.

Now, my sense is that all of these narratives are driven by some combination of the individual’s political biases as well as their ability to objectively perceive and analyze the world. (By the way, the same applies to me and the running hypotheses I have formed.) Which individuals and narratives stem primarily from the latter? Which ones do facts and logic support the most? Which ones are baseless and unreasonable, so much so that we could dismiss them? The answers aren’t clear or easy to answer. Because of that, judging these narratives and assessing the credibility of the individuals that embrace them can be really difficult. The result can be confusion and a sense of being lost in a sea of information. This is especially true for those not tracking the various stories on a regular basis, seeking a variety of sources.

In this thread, I’d like to suggest a solution to this as well as present the benefits for doing so. Continue reading “A Scientific Approach to Journalism That Can Mitigate Partisanship”

A Discussion About Political Christianity Vs. Religious Christianity

In this thread, I want to share my thoughts on how I understand the type of data below about evangelical Christians. (From NPR, 10/23/2016::

In 2011, 30 percent of white evangelicals said that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” Now (2016), 72 percent say so — a far bigger swing than other religious groups the poll studied.

To understand what’s going on here, I think breaking Christianity into two  forms –political and spiritual–is the most useful way to explain this.  Continue reading “A Discussion About Political Christianity Vs. Religious Christianity”

2017 NFL: General Thread

Thoughts on Mike Vrabel as New Titans Coach

I know little about Vrabel, but the fact that he’s a former DC makes it harder for me to get excited–namely because I’m fixated on developing Mariota. My hope is that Vrabel is good leader, organizer, excels with communicating and working with people, and will hire a good OC. Really, I think a lot comes down to who he hires and the system they’ll put in place. I was leaning toward an a really good west coast OC, because I think Mariota needs to work on throwing with his feet (and I suspect this will help with accuracy, especially on the deep passes). But I don’t care what system he plays in, as long as he improves his footwork. Having said that, I could see Mariota thriving in a spread-based system, which might not really help his footwork. I have mixed feelings about that. My preference is he plays in a system/for a coach that works on his footwork.

Another reason I’m lukewarm on Vrabel is that he doesn’t strike me as a great DC. But as I alluded to earlier, I don’t think he needs to be a great coordinator to be a really good head coach, assuming he brings in the right people.

This Should be a Major Goal for the NFL

Here’s the goal: The NFL should work to ensure that the highest number of teams have a good OL (or something similar like insuring that most teams have a competent OL at least). This thought occurred to me while listening to Mark Schlereth’s comments, regarding the declining NFL viewers. If I recall correctly, he mentioned that the quality of play has diminished, and he pointed to the OL play, mentioning you don’t notice the OL when they don’t play well, but you do, when they perform badly. While I think this is true, for me, I’m actually noticing good OL play because it seems more like the exception rather than the rule. (Well, maybe the bigger reason is that good OL play stands out in contrast to the Seahawk OL.) This is really bad for the league, and it’s believable that this has lead to declining interest. For me, bad OL play makes football almost unwatchable. On the flip side, good OL–even dominant OL play–makes for better offense, and I assume fans like that. I would much prefer more offense due to good OL play rather than adjusting rules to help the offense.

If I’m right, how exactly would the NFL go about trying to achieve this? Here are some ideas:

  1. Change the CBA to allow for more practice time. This seems especially crucial since colleges supposedly aren’t doing a good job of developing linemen;
  2. Increase the talent pool for linemen. One way to do this is to create a developmental league, with special emphasis on developing the OL. Another idea is to send NFL OL coaches to provide workshops to college and pop warner leagues. These coaches can not only train players, but help develop line coaches.

I spoke about not wanting to change rules to give more of an advantage to the offense, but if nothing else works, I’d considered changing rules to help the offensive linemen.

 

2017 NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship

I can’t remember a time when I was more annoyed at the results of a game when the games didn’t involve my favorite teams.  I wasn’t just annoyed, but I was angry. Right now, I’m seriously thinking of not watching the Super Bowl. What’s different is that, in one case, I was annoyed because a team (Pats) won, more than the team (Jags) I rooted for lost, and in the other, the team I rooted for (Vikings) seemed to self-destruct. (I say “seems” because I stopped watching the game after Keenum’s INT, and I just fast-forwarded the game and saw the blowout score.)

Putting aside these bad feelings, let me say a provide, more rational comments:

  1. What can you say? Belichick is  the a great coach–maybe the best coach of all time, in any sport. I don’t think the Jaguars have a great defense, but they’re very good, and the Patriots dismantled them without Gronk for most of the game. (What the heck was with the Jaguar penalties? By the way, for a good defense, they sure seem to have trouble defending deep passes–either giving up completions or getting penalties. Also, as good as the four four is, both the Patriots and Steelers were able to stymie them and consistently give their QBs good pass protection–especially from the interior. The contrast with the Seahawks OL is quite stark for me.)
  2. I’m giving credit to Doug Pederson. Mike Lombardi mocked and ridiculed him (He recently admitted he was wrong), and I sort of bought into this. I think Pederson, for the way he’s using Foles, is unbelievable. Foles looked utterly terrible against the Raiders–I thought the Eagles had zero chance. But RPO plays and whatever else seems to have totally transformed Foles. Give credit to Foles as well.

Certified Copy (2010)

Certified Copy (2010)

Dir. Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, etc.

75/100

I’d recommend this to Penny, Grace and Kevin. I’d probably recommend this to Chris, Mitchell and Tony as well. I’m not sure if the last three would really like this, but I’m pretty sure they would find this interesting. Jill has a decent chance of being interested in this. No to Don. Larri has a very slim chance of liking this. Not sure about Marc.

**

The film begins with a writer (Shimell) talking about his recent book about art forgery. His book deals with the differences between the originals and copies–namely, why and if the originals are superior. Later he meets one an art collector (Binoche). They go for a drive, and thus begins a long conversation about art, which reminded me of films like My Dinner with Andre, Mindwalk or even Before Sunrise/Before Sunset films–especially when the conversation turns towards husbands and wives.

Having said all this, the film isn’t as straightforward as I’m making it sound. There is an element of mystery, and I don’t really want to say much more. I will say that there is a kind of mystical poetry in the film–the layers of ideas and the way ideas are expressed and overlap in different ways.

There is a lot to process in the film, and, unfortunately, I haven’t finished processing the film, so I don’t really have too much more to say.

***

While I don’t have much to say, I want to leave some questions, as well as do my best to respond to them. The first, and probabably most obvious question, is whether the James Miller, the writer, is the woman’s (Binoche; called Elle in the credits) real husband. I understand that critics have debated this point (which reminds me of Last Year at Marienbad–there are similarities with that film), and I’m not sure it’s really crucial. I tend to think that he’s not the husband, but sort of becomes the husband while remaining himself at the same time. (This is the poetic mysticism that I referred to earlier.) Being both isn’t possible, but there’s a sense that that could be the case.

This raises another question: how does their relationship/situation relate to the earlier question about original art versus copies of them? One person I knew interpreted the second half of the film to be a sort of test case for the question of the first part. Is the Miller–a copy of the husband–just as valid as the real husband? I’m not sure I agree with this reading, but it is interesting, and there might be something to this. (I still haven’t worked this out.)

I really should see this again and spend time thinking about it.