Josh: The Podcast, Episode 65: And we’re still talking about intellectualism and discourse (sigh)

We talk about NPR tweeting the Declaration of Independence, Trump body slamming CNN and CNN threatening to dox a reddit user.

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NPR Tweeted The Declaration Of Independence And Some Trump Supporters Were Offended

Trump tweets mock video of himself attacking man with CNN logo over face; network responds
How CNN found the Reddit user behind the Trump wrestling GIF
Text of the Declaration of Independence
Josh: The Podcast, Episode 13, in which I read the Declaration of Independence
Me on Cesspool
The Book Lady
Live Oak Public Libraries
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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Reinventing the pizza, not the pizza box: Discourse in the wake of the Scalise shooting

Hop on in here around 55 minutes and give it four minutes or so. Ryan Singer and Johnny Z are discussing how we deal with each other, and right before the 58 minute mark, Singer comes up with this analogy:

"It doesn't matter if the pizza box changes, it's the pizza."

The pizza box, he says, is technology and society and who is president at any given time and what sorts of structures we live in, but we're the pizza.

It doesn't matter how fancy the box is, if the pizza doesn't change, it's still the same old pizza.

Singer's point here is that you can dress us up any way you want. You can make us high tech, you can let us read minds, you can make us invisible with mirrored clothing. Unless the change happens inside, we're still the same ol' same ol'.

The country saying for this is lipstick on a pig. You can dress it up all you want, it's still a pig.

If you're an asshole, you can put on a shirt that says "peace, love and tie dye" and go to yoga class and say "namaste," but you're still an asshole.

It doesn't matter what's going on on the outside.

Last Tuesday, June 13, was a quiet night at work. It might have been the quietest night of the Trump administration. The Calder Cup final wrapped up (that's the AHL championship — minor league hockey), but there was little else of note in any of our markets.

The next morning, we woke up to news that Rep. Steve Scalise and four others had been shot while practicing for the annual Congressional baseball game. Despite once being tied to White Supremacist David Duke — charges stemming from when Scalise thought he was attending a campaign rally that turned a little more sinister — he is generally well-liked by his colleagues in the House, whatever their party affiliation.

Something feels different about this than when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in early 2011.

In the Giffords shooting, the gunman had shown anti-government leanings, posting about mind control and that kind of things. He was out to get someone in the federal government and an opportunity presented itself with the Giffords rally.

In the Scalise shooting, someone who was politically active in a traditional sense — the gunman had volunteered on the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Sanders didn't equivocate on his views here) and had left home to be closer to Washington, where he apparently thought he could be more useful as an activist — went looking for Republicans to shoot.

In the Giffords case, the shooter was paranoid and looking for a way out. In the Scalise case, the shooter had tried to take a traditional route and given up.

The problem with dialogue in this country for the most part is we're no longer listening to each other. We're waiting for the other person to stop speaking so that we can start.

I'm generalizing, of course. There's good discussion and reasonable debate happening every day in every city.

It's just rarely on display in public. And never at the federal level.

Reaction since the Scalise shooting has been a little different. Apart from the partisan wrangling over guns — some of course calling for tighter gun control and others saying we should allow Congress to carry weapons — there have been calls for partisan unity that have been muted, where normally these are empty and grandstanded.

"We are united in our shock. We are united in our anguish," Speaker Paul Ryan said. "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."

Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, warned about a "deterioration in the manner we talk to each other."

Even President Donald Trump, not exactly known for muted responses and calm, non-partisan rhetoric, had only this to say:

This is a good time for a period of reflection for all of us. The seasons are changing. If you're reading this the day it publishes, the solstice is tonight just after midnight Eastern.

Take a couple of days and decide if you're going to spend the rest of your life speaking at — or worse, shouting over — people you disagree with, rather than actually listening to what they're saying and perhaps even taking it to heart, and letting it change your mind if it strikes that chord in you.

It's certainly time for our national pizza to evolve. Is it time for your pizza to change, too?

Some related stuff you might like:
Civility in disagreement
I was on Me & Paranormal You talking Freemasonry

Culture vs. Politics: What do you want from your leaders?

In one of his shows last week (watch/listen above), level-headed conservative commentator Ben Shapiro took on President Trump for retweeting a gif of himself hitting a golf ball that ultimately hits and knocks over Hillary Clinton.

I'm not going to dignify the tweet with a link or an embed; you know where the president's account is.

Anyway, Shapiro pointed out that the tweet's fine if you're a fan wearing a Republican jersey. But when you're the President of the United States, you need to have a higher standard for yourself.

A week later, the president was battling NBA and NFL players. On Twitter. Because he's got that kind of time and energy, but not the sort required to help write legislation.

It's the same medium he used to hand the North Korean dictator a schoolyard nickname. A Korean diplomat says there's no way Kim Jong Un laughs it off. He's going to attack the US because the president can't shut his twap (see what I did there?).

To be totally honest, I had this post written it what I thought was its entirety and scheduled and then the weekend in Trump vs. NFL happened.

It's really a continuation of the rest of the post. Is it an interesting cultural phenomenon? Perhaps. If NFL owners fired everyone who knelt or sat and went to find replacements, maybe some people would be happy, but to be frank, the quality of play would drop drastically.

If you're Walmart and you need 200 new greeters, it won't be hard to find. Finding 200 NFL-quality players who aren't already in the League (and you have to leave out the ones who would kneel or sit, I suppose), the product becomes more like a second-tier league.

If you're an NFL fan who doesn't watch the CFL or AFL, you're not going to watch an NFL full of players who didn't make the cut the first time (or second or third time) out. You certainly won't pay current ticket prices or buy subscription packages.

The league would lose more money in diminished quality than it is from people who are willing to vote with their dollars. We're too lazy as a nation to do much more than complain. When it comes to actual action, we're pretty lax. If your habit has been pizza, beer and buds on Sunday, you're not getting together to watch Netflix and chill.

I write about discourse a lot here.

Apart from that, it's simply not something that should be on the president's radar, never mind the focus of his ire. Puerto Rico is in huge trouble. Southern states are still recovering from Harvey and Irma, requiring federal intervention (I just got an email from my Congressman this evening about people available to help apply for assistance). He could be working on health care or tax reform or figuring out how to handle North Korea diplomatically instead of having a slap-your-dick-on-the-table contest with Kim Jong Un.

Donald Trump is a cultural icon, no doubt, but he's not a leader. If your boss said to you a lot of the stuff the president says to everyone, you'd be filing complaints with HR and probably taking your company to court.

Disagreement is one thing, belittling is another.

We need leaders who can lead, not who can yell. Being louder doesn't make you correct, it just makes you louder.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 66: What we’re reading

I've been taking a lot of input this week. What are you reading?

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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Bright Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
Rat Bastards: The South Boston Irish Mobster Who Took the Rap When Everyone Else Ran by John "Red" Shea
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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Josh: The Podcast, Episode 63: Find that one thing — a conversation with Jeffrey Sass (plus book giveaway!)

Jeff Sass has had an interesting journey, and the jumping point that led him through the rest of his career (so far) was a stint at Troma, a studio that has for 40 years made gloriously bad movies. His book, Everything I Know About Business and Marketing, I Learned from the Toxic Avenger, came out in May.

He's been ahead of the tech curve a few times, including having the Toxic Avenger (a Troma superhero) do an online Q&A in 1994, creating CD-ROMs, getting into virtual reality in the late 1990s, creating an online/SMS price comparison tool in 1999/2000 and getting into the top-level domain space as soon as ICANN opened it up in 2011. He gives us a look at what he thinks is coming next.

He is currently the chief marketing officer for the .CLUB domain.

We talk about the book, including the process and tips for people who might want to write a book; what Jeff thinks is coming down the pike in the tech space; and finding the one thing that makes you love your job, your partner or anything else that you might not be feeling passionate about.

We're also giving away a copy of the book; listen all the way to the end of the podcast to find out how to win.

A couple of corrections/updates: We name the author of Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit Steven Pressman; it's the great Steven Pressfield (whose work is mentioned with some frequency on this podcast). Also, Alphabet (Google's parent) announced it sale of Boston Dynamics after this podcast was recorded.

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Jeff Sass: Book | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Entrepreneur article on negotiation and traveling as a vegan
Cesspool podcast
Changing the pizza: Civility after the Scalise shooting
Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit by Steven Pressfield
James Gunn | "Guardians of the Galaxy"
Troma | TromaNow | YouTube channel
"Reading Rainbow"
William Shatner
Tim Ferriss
Demi Lovato | Fan club
Chris Brogan
"Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD"
"Curse of the Cannibal Confederates"

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Hey there! It's February, 2018, and we're rebranding the podcast. The first episode of the Better Humanhood podcast is coming soon! You won't have to do anything! The episodes will come in the old Josh: The Podcast feed.

All the Josh: The Podcast episodes are archived below so you can catch up, or listen again to your favorites. Go here for the JKWD podcast.

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Better Humanhood Podcast Episodes:
Episode 1: Being a mensch
Episode 0: Statement of Purpose

Josh: The Podcast Episodes:
Episode 79: Hiatus; see you in April!
Episode 78: Vegas shooing, self-love and racquetball
Episode 77: More oomph in your day, more love in your week
Episode 76: Culture vs. politics, and a new year refresh
Episode 75: Gratitude, racism and free bananas
Episode 74: Of hurricanes and immigrants
Episode 73: Show some love today
Episode 72: Family eclipses politics (with or without the commas)
Episode 71: Your racist friend. Plus: team people
Episode 70: Immortality, nukes and Trump chicken
Episode 69: The Mooch, the muse and showing up
Episode 68: Health care! Creativity! Routines!
Episode 67: Frogs, health care and Dudesons
Episode 66: What we're reading
Episode 65: And we're still talking about intellectualism and discourse (sigh)
Episode 64: Health care, jury duty and the American Prohibition Museum
Episode 63: Find that one thing — a conversation with Jeffrey Sass
Episode 62: On compassion and love
Episode 61: Balance and being in the world
Episode 60: Kaua'i oddities, plus love > fear + anger
Episode 59: No one gets out of this life alive
Episode 58: Hiroo Onoda and the art of purpose
Episode 57: On a chair in the sky
Episode 56: 100 days and "Iko"
Episode 55: Shortcuts
Episode 54: Mistakes, bad guys and Bill O'Reilly; plus, March for Science
Episode 53: Thanks for a year; plus baseball, health care and the flu; Passover and the Luv Guv
Episode 52: Talkin' Baseball
Episode 51: Language, AHCA and no apologies
Episode 50: Telling stories
Episode 49: St. Patrick's Day in Savannah
Episode 48: There is not a finite amount of awesome in the world
Episode 47: Our crazy brains
Episode 46: The repressive/regressive left, Milo, art and superheroes
Episode 45: Chillin
Episode 44: Presence
Episode 43: Participate
Episode 42: Now we know
Episode 41: Stay Vigilant
Episode 40: Black helicopters
Episode 39: Ethics, facts, nuance and where we need to get
BONUS episode! Getting silly with Jenny Shear and Kelvin Ringold
Episode 38: Chris Malone returns
Episode 37: Alison Donaghy
Episode 36: Ash Said It!
Episode 35: Maximiliano Campos
Episode 34: Time keeps on tickin'
Episode 33: Happy Thanksgiving
Episode 32: A Bill of Rights problem. Plus: Creativity, fear and hard work
Episode 31: Parsing the election
Episode 30: Running, voting and rambling
Episode 29: Empathy
Episode 28: Peaceful transfer
Episode 27: Hurricanes Blow
Episode 26: Debate talk (sigh) and Hurricanes
Episode 25: Dan Lovell (Part 3 of 3)
Episode 24: Dan Lovell (Part 2 of 3)
Episode 23: Dan Lovell (Part 1 of 3)
Episode 22: Chris Malone
Episode 21: Back in the 912! With beer!
Episode 20: 2016 goals check-in
Episode 19: Time out
Episode 18: A monologue about dialogue
Episode 17: Nothing is irreversible (well, almost)
Episode 16: A Viable Third Party By 2020?
Episode 15: #FreeMilo, flag-burning, the RNC, intellectual property and more
Episode 14: Here come the conventions!
Episode 13: Declaring Independence
Episode 12: Hello, Birmingham. Plus: Kids shooting kids (again)
Episode 11: Halfway to
Episode 10: Get on team people, and maybe pontificate less
Episode 9: Setting the agenda, plus a new podcast
Episode 8: Books, the media do their job and how you can help the show
Episode 7: Gun Control and Summer Beers
Episode 6: American Cockroach Awareness Week
Episode 5: Kelvin Ringold stops by
Episode 4: On running, neighborhood improvement and Trump's army of bullies
Episode 3: On revolution and creating
Episode 2: Of Earthquakes and Gardens
Episode 1: Impossible
Episode 0: Introductions

The presidential race and the problem with politics in the US

Note: This podcast was recorded before Ted Cruz's Super Saturday victories and Ben Carson dropping out of the race.

We have problems with our politics these days. I've been holding off on posting about it because I'm not sure I've had reasonable words, but comedian (and UFC commentator, etc.) Joe Rogan and former CIA covert operative Mike Baker really get it right.

Baker, who is more a rationalist than anything else (he has operational issues, for example, with Hillary Clinton — he explains in plain language what happened with her email), spells out the issue with anyone willing to run for the presidency: "There's a certain personality type that's way up its own ass that allows you to think, 'Yes, I should be president of the United States.'"

"We're down to assholes, basically," agrees Rogan. "Bernie Sanders seems like an old kook, he doesn't seem like an asshole," but he doesn't seem to think we should really be voting for anyone who would actually want the job.

That all happens in the first few minutes of the podcast, by the way. You needn't put yourself through very much of the video above (the first five or seven minutes will be plenty to get you started) to see where they head with the conversation.

Let me be honest with my perspective, before we get too deep in here. I'm a disenchanted liberal. I grew up in a strictly Democratic household, and identified as a Democrat until about 2000, when I really saw Ralph Nader's point. Barack Obama brought my back into the party, but quickly lost me (here's my very hopeful post after his first inauguration, and my jaded look forward after his reelection). I now live in a state with open primaries, so I have no need to register for a party ever again. In political "quizzes," I match up as a left-leaning Libertarian.

Louis C.K. — another comic — writes, in what I think is a really important rant about Donald Trump, puts it nicely:

When I was growing up and when I was a younger man, liberals and conservatives were friends with differences. They weren’t enemies. And it always made sense that everyone gets a president they like for a while and then hates the president for a while.

Around 11 minutes into his discussion with Rogan, Baker points out that somehow compromise is now seen as a weakness. And that's really a major problem for me. That's what we're built on: discourse and compromise. The rhetoric from both sides these days is not only angry, it's vindictive. And that's our fault as voters.

It's been pretty well figured out, I think, that to win a primary, a candidate has to move toward an extreme, and then will have to move to the middle to win a general election. What we don't know is what happens when the president gets into office — on Day 1, is he handed a book (he, here; we haven't had a she yet) of what we know and then he has to look back on his campaign promises and say, "Holy crow, we can't do that!"

Baker says soon we're going to need an end to the two-party system, to really have stronger other options. He also goes on to say he thinks presidential candidates should have to disclose who they'd like in their cabinet: after all, presidents don't know everything about everything, they take advice from their circle. Rogan goes even further, saying maybe we should eliminate the position of president, instead making decisions by committee.

We sort of do that, actually. We need a point person, and the president sort of acts as CEO — the board (cabinet, generals, etc.) gives him all the options, and the president has to make the final call. For example, Baker points out, there's a lawyer in the White House who advises the president on whether the secondary casualties that would result from going after a "high-value target" make it a doable operation.

As for Trump, Rogan says that people like him because he "talks shit," which he clearly does. Personally, I don't want someone who's verbal political tactics are a great way to get into a bar fight. "There's so many goofy white guys who are ready and psyched to have a reality star as president," he says.

C.K., in his rant, calls for people to just read up a little on Trump. "If you do vote for Trump," he writes, "at least look very carefully at him first." Here's a guy who has said he likes people who weren't captured, but further, that John McCain, who was the target of that criticism, "has to be very careful" for criticizing the candidate and that "he'll find out" why. I don't know about you, but the way I read that, any US soldier who gets wounded or captured is going to be in trouble, and that if you say anything bad about Trump, you'd better be prepared for...something.

We do know that Trump wants to change libel laws (that's a conservative publication I linked to, by the way). The Daily Beast (which claims to be independent but seems to lean liberal at a quick glance) has a good explanation of our current laws and Trump's proposed law.

Whatever you think of the Chronicle's take on Trump gutting the First Amendment, I can say that I watched his Super Saturday rally and noted that Trump said, before taking questions, "you know the press is among the most dishonest people created by God, so I would love to take a few questions from these dishonest people." Start around 12:37 here:

If I'd have been there, I probably would have left. As a voter (and Jew and member of the media), I'm scared of Trump; as a journalist, I'm over him. If you could get me to go to cover a rally, I'd be there with duct tape over my mouth.

I'll close with Baker talking about Trump and the American Dream. Baker served the US as a covert CIA officer abroad for many years, and now runs an intelligence agency called Diligence LLC (around 51 minutes into the conversation).

How does it happen that this country — this fantastic country, and again I've spent most of my life overseas — I can go to the deepest darkest shithole out there, somewhere out there [in the] middle of nowhere, and someone will say, "if I go to America and I can work this hard and I can do really well, I just have to, you know, if I can get to America," they still — people out there in the middle of nowhere — still believe the American Dream.

And yet you worry about it, because I think we seem to be giving up on it here. If this is the best we've got, if we're willing to follow this guy down the tunnel, I don't know where we're heading, but it's not good."