Cory Leonard

Posts Tagged ‘strategies’

The Comprehensive Case v. Trump

In politics on September 16, 2016 at 9:58 pm


No need to rehash all my Tweets and posts from the past. Enjoy this marvelous summation from Peter Weher, a smart, thoughtful Republican:

The strongest case to make for conservatives supporting Donald Trump is a modest one. It goes like this: He is a deeply flawed man who is running against someone who is even more deeply flawed. Hillary Clinton is a person with liberal instincts who has been pulled further to the left in this campaign. She is also an ethical wreck whose career is laced with ineptitude, from HillaryCare to her handling of the Libyan fiasco, the Russian “re-set,” the Syrian civil war and spreading disorder in the world. So while Trump may be imperfect, the odds of him doing some good, on some issues, are better than in the case of Clinton. He is problematic; she is worse. And so, given the choice between two massively imperfect candidates for president, we are obligated to support the one who will do the least amount of damage and perhaps, if we’re lucky, a bit of good here and there.

This is a point of view held by some intelligent and well-intentioned people. It deserves a serious response from those of us who will not vote


And if you are still a discouraged Republican aiming for #NeverTrump, try this: strategic vote-swapping via  App. (How very 2016.)


What’s Behind the Natavism?

In politics on July 15, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Concerns and criticisms that are being channels by autocratic populists are real. Understanding what is really happening across Western democracies is an important starting point. In the U.S., Trump is changing the foundational beliefs of the Republican Party, turning inward in a nativist dream vision that he sees as a way to regain American “greatness”. James Traub explains in FP:

Illiberal democracy is a highly effective political strategy because many of the constituent principles of liberalism, especially the ones seized on by the populists, are intended to serve as bulwarks against majoritarianism. Perhaps the first liberal was James Madison, who in the Federalist Papers made the case that democracies, by their nature, endanger the rights of political minorities and must design institutions to protect those rights. Over the course of the 19th century, liberalism evolved to include advocacy of civil liberties, free markets, and activist government. The high-water mark of liberalism was the mid-20th century, when the world was threatened by the totalitarian nightmares of communism and Nazism. For its great exponents, like George Orwell, liberalism meant anti-totalitarianism.

That moment has long since run its course, and liberalism has taken on different meanings that are less urgent, less binding, and more deeply contested. Liberalism (as tolerance of others) isn’t working for the French or Belgians who look at the North African immigrants in their midst and fear another terrorist attack or for Germans who worry that refugees will upend their culture. Liberalism (as free trade) isn’t working for American industrial workers whose factories left town and reopened in Mexico. Other contemporary elements of liberalism, such as the cosmopolitan welcoming of diversity and difference, go deeply against the grain of the way most people live and will always be subject to charges of elitism. The New York Times’s Ross Douthat has pointedly argued that cosmopolitanism is an elite taste masquerading as a universal principle.

In short, there are good reasons why liberalism is in crisis and illiberalism in the ascendant.

The Trump File

In politics on January 4, 2016 at 3:02 am


The Republican Party has some boundary issues. And a major populism problem. And calling the insurgent candidate names doesn’t seem to be working–even as fears of European-style far right support in the US appear in his visage.

Will Trump win? Can he win? Polls are a leading indicator, although not an accurate one, according to polling superstar Nate Silver.

But now that David Frum has offered his own “neoconservative” analysis that is raising the volume (he’s not loved by all, I should note) on a donor-derived “class war” that is tearing the party apart, here’s a rundown of recent commentary that marks efforts to identify and address this 2015 US electoral phenom known as The Donald:

Dylan Matthews (Vox), I asked 5 fascism experts whether Donald Trump is a fascist. Here’s what they said.

To be blunt: Donald Trump is not a fascist. “Fascism” has been an all-purpose insult for many years now, but it has a real definition, and according to scholars of historical fascism, Trump doesn’t qualify. Rather, he’s a right-wing populist, or perhaps an “apartheid liberal” in the words of Roger Griffin, author of The Nature of Fascism.

Akim Reinhardt, Donald Trump is Not a Fascist or Your Next President

Trump is giving voice to some of the anger, fears, and frustrations that can be found in much of the United States, and which resonate most loudly on the right. And the voice he gives to them is largely unique, as other Republican presidential would-be’s stick much more closely to the established party line. And thus Trump finds his eager audiences, people on the right who are happy to hear someone acknowledge, validate, and champion their anger, fears, an frustrations in a way that no other big name American politician is.

Devin Foley, One sentence that explains Trump’s popularity: Keep in mind the mood of our times.

Whatever happens, for this particular moment of uneasy times there is a sentence from The New Dealers that seems rather relevant:

“The starveling saints may win shrines from posterity, but the full-blooded, hearty man is the hero of his own times.”

Whatever your position, never forget the power of mass human psychology and the potential of those who are able to exploit it.

Michael Lind, Interviewed by Brooke Gladstone, “Elite Traitors v. Fascist Morons,” (On The Media)

BROOKE: You say that these narratives that are put forward by the parties and repeated by the media not only fail to hold up factually but fail politically, too, because they leave a considerable swath of the public out in the cold? These are people who are too liberal to be conventionally conservative and too conservative to liberal?

LIND: That’s exactly right. Trump and Huckabee, two of the populists, have attacked the Republican party for wanting to cut social security and medicare, because their white working class voters depend upon it. The number of white Americans who want to combine less immigration with preserved or expanded social security and medicare is enormous. It’s nearly 50%. No one in either party represents pro social security anti immigrant voters. And yet they’re a huge part of the population. The conservatives have adopted the anti immigrant theme, but at the same time the mainstream conservatives all want to cut social security and voucher-ize medicare, which their own voters don’t want to do. 33% of Democratic voters want to cut immigration. Only 20% want to expand it. And yet that view is not represented in the Democratic party. When you get large groups in the population whose combinations of particular policies do not fit the combinations on offer by our two parties, you get a substantial part of the electorate turning to outsiders because of a lack of any other choices.

Ross Douthat, “The Secret of Trump’s Success” (NYT)

But for now support for Trump on foreign policy isn’t an endorsement of his policy vision. It’s more of a cathartic howl against twelve years of failure, which neither political party can quite call by its deserved name.

Damon Linker, “Can right-wing populism be stopped?”

No, what Trump’s supporters appear to want is someone to rail rudely against economic, racial, ethnic, and demographic aspects of contemporary American life that they find distasteful, dangerous, and unfair; to place the blame for these trends on somebody besides themselves (immigrants, liberals, big business, stupid people, Muslims, big government, the media, the president); and to promise a magical fix brought about by superhuman feats of commonsense competence. Trump gives them all of this, and his followers love him for it. That makes him a textbook example of a demagogue and them a political force that everyone from Aristotle to Alexander Hamilton would recognize as a mob.



  • James Zogby, C-Span Washington Journal, 12/15:  You have to “make him suffer in the pocketbook,” but regardless, “the Trump brand is destroyed.”
  • Michael Signer, author of the book Demagogue: The Fight To Save Democracy From Its Worst Enemies identifies John Fenimore Cooper’s four criteria required for a demagogue. “My study of demagogues shows that satire does not work… In Trump world, none of those things matter so when you lampoon him or when you satirize him or when you call him a clown or a carnival barker, none of that matters because they’re showmen, and they get how to agitate and connect with people in a way that ordinary mortals do not. So I think the thing is actually taking a demagogue seriously in their claims and educating the audience about how the demagogues claims and what they’re doing actually hurts the country, so that requires a slightly different approach: it doesn’t begin in this squawk of outrage, it doesn’t start with a temperament that the demagogue has initiated.”
  • Signer also writes in WaPo, updating his conclusion: “It was with demagogues in mind that the framers devised a series of constitutional checks and balances, including the United States Senate — which Madison described as a “necessary fence” against “fickleness and passion” — and the Electoral College, whose independent electors could, theoretically, stop a demagogue from becoming president…The American people understood what they were dealing with then: democracy’s enemy within. And we’d be wise to accurately diagnose it now. Trump is a demagogue. Not just in a casual sense, but in the most powerful meaning of the word, and he should be confronted as such.”
  • Just….wait…urges David Brooks, who suggested that the “pink rug theory” will be realized at a critical moment: “When this mental shift happens, I suspect Trump will slide. All the traits that seem charming will suddenly seem risky. The voters’ hopes for transformation will give way to a fear of chaos. When the polls shift from registered voters to likely voters, cautious party loyalists will make up a greater share of those counted.”
  • Damon Linker sums up the real challenge: “How can the members of this mob be persuaded to abandon their cultural populism and the candidate who assures them he will turn back the tide?I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure a list of sensible, wonky policy proposals isn’t going to do the trick.”
  • And finally, David Frum argues that “the Republican donor elite failed to impose its preferred candidate on an unwilling base in 2015 for big and important reasons,” leading to four possible strategies:
    • Double Down but maybe focus on someone other than Jeb, perhaps Rubio or Carson–and keep the same approach
    • Make Tactical Concesssions and go with Cruz and Christie campaign approach
    • Offer True Reform, addressing many concerns of the middle class with “a multiethnic center-right coalition”–as we have seen in other democracies recently
    • Change the Rules and concede that running one branch of the Federal government plus legislatures and governorships is an effective way to promote an agenda, “playing defense”

It now appears that Republic elites’ hopes for a quick burnout from the shining star will not occur. Now what?

It sounds like an urgent plea when Signer asks: “Who will confront him? Will our national hero come from the media, governing class, academia, or even among the Republican candidates?” But could Trump’s downfall come through co-option–with praise and flattery for his perceived strengths–and then we’ll see him turn into something less novel and powerful?

Lennon and McCartney as Models of Creativity

In ideas on August 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm

How does creativity work? Is the lone genius a myth?

But the Lennon-McCartney story also illustrates the key feature of creativity; it is the joining of the unlike to create harmony. Creativity rarely flows out of an act of complete originality. It is rarely a virgin birth. It is usually the clash of two value systems or traditions, which, in collision, create a transcendent third thing.

Shakespeare combined the Greek honor code (thou shalt avenge the murder of thy father) with the Christian mercy code (thou shalt not kill) to create the torn figure of Hamlet. Picasso combined the traditions of European art with the traditions of African masks. Saul Bellow combined the strictness of the Jewish conscience with the free-floating go-getter-ness of the American drive for success.

Sometimes creativity happens in pairs, duos like Lennon and McCartney who bring clashing worldviews but similar tastes. But sometimes it happens in one person, in someone who contains contradictions and who works furiously to resolve the tensions within.

via The Creative Climate –


Architecture & the merits of being a generalist – The European

In career on May 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm

The architect Reinier de Graff is a hedgehog–without apology:

I think that is what the architect and the journalist have in common. In a context hugely dominated by specialization, the generalist gets very strange opportunities. There are very few people left to connect the dots. Being a laymen with curiosity, which both of them often are, becomes a virtue.

via Architecture & the merits of being a generalist – The European.


On Good Teachers

In career on August 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm

What is it precisely that good teachers do? A new book by someone who may (or may not) be a “real teacher” explores this worthy question. To get a sense of who the author is, read Mark Edmundson’s piece on how to deal with “bores”–a great start.

Students, whose “spectacular hunger for life” is both promising and dangerous, must “slow it down and live deliberately.” There’s no better place than the college classroom to do so, Edmundson says.

Teachers, in turn, must remember their “primary job is not to help our students acquire skills, marketable skills, bankables. …We’re not here to help our students make their minds resemble their laptops, fast and feverish.”

His approach to the tension between career and professional training and broad education and learning, or a “real education”:

“It’s an education in which the student follows the Platonic injunction: Know Thyself,” Edmundson said in an e-mail interview from Nova Scotia, where he recently vacationed. “And also seeks to know the world. It’s not about career planning or preparation for success. When you know yourself career and success can follow with ease – if you want them.”

via Mark Edmundson’s new book calls for renewed emphasis on teaching | Inside Higher Ed.

He has some harsh words for college life.  His book is also a reasoned critique of the modern university, where:

students spend less time than ever on their classwork, and he writes of an implicit pact between undergraduates and professors in which teachers give high grades and thin assignments, and students reward them with positive evaluations. After all, given all the other amenities available through the university, the idea that “the courses you take should be the primary objective of going to college is tacitly considered absurd.”

via Mark Edmunson’s Essay Ask, “Why Teach?” | NYT


The inputs may also be a problem. How prepared are students that are the products of No Child Left Behind for university life?

Even during those times when I could assign work that required proper writing, I was limited in how much work I could do on their writing. I had too many students. In my final year, with four sections of Advanced Placement, I had 129 AP students (as well as an additional forty-six students in my other two classes). A teacher cannot possibly give that many students the individualized attention they need to improve their writing. Do the math. Imagine that I assign all my students a written exercise. Let’s assume that 160 actually turn it in. Let’s further assume that I am a fast reader, and I can read and correct papers at a rate of one every three minutes. That’s eight hours—for one assignment. If it takes a more realistic five minutes per paper, the total is more than thirteen hours.

Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. For much of the content I would give students summary information, sufficient to answer multiple-choice questions and to get some of the points on rubrics for the free response questions. That allowed me more time for class discussions and for relating events in the news to what we learned in class, making the class more engaging for the students and resulting in deeper learning because the discussions were relevant to their lives.

From what I saw from the free response questions I read, too many students in AP courses were not getting depth in their learning and lacked both the content knowledge and the ability to use what content knowledge they had.

via A warning to college profs from a high school teacher.

Volcker Plans to Restore Faith in Government

In politics on June 4, 2013 at 4:45 am

Volcker Plans to Restore Faith in Government -


He has a rule named after him–but it is being ignored.  He battled against inflation, and served as Treasury Secretary David M. Kennedy’s right hand.  He hoped that his descendents would avoid careers on Wall Street.  And now Paul Volcker aims to fix the way government works–all at the ripe age of 87.

Despite well-financed programs at Ivy League universities like Harvard and Princeton and elsewhere, in some academic quarters, “public administration is almost a bad word,” Mr. Volcker said in an interview on Tuesday at his office in Rockefeller Center. Too often, he said, the focus is on theory rather than the nuts and bolts of governance.

“We’re not going to be a think tank,” he said. Initially, “We’re going to be a catalyst, a coordinator, with a couple of senior people, a few junior people and some nonresident fellows.”

via Volcker Plans to Restore Faith in Government –


You’re Distracted. This Professor Can Help. – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education

In tech on May 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Now that you have read this online…go offline and contemplate what technology is doing to you: Information and Contemplation: a Reading List – A selection of readings from a course taught by David M. Levy at the University of Washington

Introduction to Contemplative Practice

  • Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn (pages 3-19)
  • Alfred W. Kaszniak, “Contemplative Pedagogy: Perspectives From Cognitive and Affective Science,” in Contemplative Approaches to Learning and Inquiry Across Disciplines

Smart or Stupid?

  • Adam Gopnik, “The Information: How the Internet Gets Inside Us,” The New Yorker (2011)
  • Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other (2011; pages 151-170)
  • Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (2011; introduction and conclusion)


  • Warren Thorngate, “On Paying Attention” (1988) in Recent Trends in Theoretical Psychology (1993; pages 247-263)
  • Antoine Lutz, Heleen A. Slagter, John D. Dunne, and Richard J. Davidson, “Attention Regulation and Monitoring in Meditation,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences (2008; pages 163-169)


  • Stephen R. Barley, Debra E. Meyerson, and Stine Grodal, “E-Mail as Source and Symbol of Stress,” Organization Science (2010)
  • Linda Stone, “Just Breathe: Building the Case for Email Apnea,” Huffington Post (2008)

The Body

  • Galen Cranz, The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design (1998; chapters 3-4)
  • “Is All That Sitting Really Killing Us?,” The New York Times, “Room for Debate” (2010)

Emotional Regulation

  • Chade-Meng-Tan, Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness and World Peace (2012; Meng, as he is known, founded Google’s mindfulness course, “Search Inside Yourself.”)


  • David M. Levy, “No Time to Think: Reflections on Information Technology and Contemplative Scholarship,” Ethics and Information Technology (2007)


  • Claudia Wallis, “The Impacts of Media Multitasking on Children’s Learning and Development” (2010; report from research seminar, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop)
  • Victor M. González and Gloria Mark, “‘Constant, Constant, Multi-Tasking Craziness’: Managing Multiple Working Spheres” (2004; paper presented at Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems)
  • David L. Strayer and Jason M. Watson, “Supertaskers and the Multitasking Brain” (2012), Scientific American Mind (pages 22-29)
  • David M. Levy, Jacob O. Wobbrock, Alfred W. Kaszniak, and Marilyn Ostergren, “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment” (2012; paper presented at Graphics Interface Conference)


  • David M. Levy, “More, Faster, Better: Governance in an Age of Overload, Busyness, and Speed” (2006; First Monday)
  • Judith Shulevitz, The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time (2010)
  • “The Unplugged Challenge,” The New York Times (2010)
  • Sabbath Manifesto (Web site)

via You’re Distracted. This Professor Can Help. – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Forget Having It All — Own What You Want

In career on February 15, 2013 at 5:26 am

How to juggle it all–and I do think that juggling, not balancing is the right metaphor here. Slaughter touches on a question that certainly hit my generation as well.

Slaughter: They wanted to open up the conversation around work and family. They wanted to hear more than what I and so many of my peers had been telling them, which is, you can do it. Our standard response had been, “You can do it. Its hard, but you can make it work.” That is, of course, true for some number of women, and that has been true of me as long as I stay in a more flexible job. I did make it work for two years in Washington. I just couldnt make it work for four, much less eight.But these younger women and men, in some ways, are the first generation that has watched a whole generation of working men and women ahead of them, because I didnt see working women. Im of the generation where I was still first. These young men and women, whether its their own parents or others, have seen it, and they dont like what they see or they are scared of what they see or, at the very least, they think, “What people tell me and the reality Im seeing just [arent] meshing.”There is a hunger to open this topic back up. Whereas many women of my generation told me after this article came out, “Well, thats fine, but it wasnt exactly news.” It was like, “We knew this. Weve been living this. Weve written these things before. You could have written this 20 years ago, and it wouldnt have been any different.” Every generation has to find it for themselves.

via Anne-Marie Slaughter: Forget Having It All — Own What You Want – Knowledge@Wharton.


Follow a Career Passion? Let It Follow You –

In career on October 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm

So now the NYT is introducing Cal Newport to the world. His small little blog will never be as unknown–but hopfully he’ll be able to continue offering insights

But this philosophy puts a lot of pressure on the rest of us — and demands long deliberation. If we’re not careful, it tells us, we may end up missing our true calling. And even after we make a choice, we’re still not free from its effects. Every time our work becomes hard, we are pushed toward an existential crisis, centered on what for many is an obnoxiously unanswerable question: “Is this what I’m really meant to be doing?” This constant doubt generates anxiety and chronic job-hopping.

As I considered my options during my senior year of college, I knew all about this Cult of Passion and its demands. But I chose to ignore it. The alternative career philosophy that drove me is based on this simple premise: The traits that lead people to love their work are general and have little to do with a job’s specifics. These traits include a sense of autonomy and the feeling that you’re good at what you do and are having an impact on the world. Decades of research on workplace motivation back this up. (Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” offers a nice summary of this literature.)

via Follow a Career Passion? Let It Follow You –