Paradox Project Podcast

The official podcast for the Paradox Project

Terrible Opinions

Matthias: I thought Lin-Manuel Miranda was rude when I first heard the story about he talked to Vice President Mike Pence from the stage when Pence saw “Hamilton.” But now that I’ve enjoyed his musical work and looked at his remarks in context, I’m more inclined to be OK with what he said.

Dina: I hate Disney because I had terrible experiences at Disney World and also Mickey Mouse is creepy.

Jordan: I understand what Rachel Bloom was attempting to do with her performance on Bill Nye’s new show (even though she obviously failed).

Bill Nye’s handmaid world

The big news this week was the GOP’s healthcare bill, a swap for Obamacare that hasn’t made anyone happy. Matthias talked about some of the reactions to the healthcare bill, including the vitriol directed at people like Mary Katherine Ham who are trying to be reasonable.


One of the accusations against the GOP is that they are trying to take healthcare from women in particular and that they are targeting pregnant moms. We touched on a comment in TV host Bill Nye’s new Netflix show that showed how progressives target moms and children. The former “Science Guy” suggested that the government start taxing larger families with “extra kids” because they are supposedly bad for the environment.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” has been a rallying cry for a lot of liberal feminists who think Republicans are on the verge of outlawing abortion and cutting off access to birth control (Spoiler: They’re not). Dina analyzed the bigger picture, looking at the dystopian story as a reflection of our world today because 2016 was a dark year and 2017 hasn't been much better. As world powers shift abroad and changes like the new healthcare bill disrupt their lives here, people feel less safe than ever. Jordan noted that recent TV has become increasingly dark and emotionally dense, whether it's "The Handmaid's Tale," "13 Reasons Why" or even the surprise hit "This Is Us," which told the story of a real, relateable family that was funny and enjoyable but still included themes of heartbreak, tragedy and loss. 


Katrina Jørgensen stopped by for what turned out to be a millennial-centric podcast episode this week, joining the Paradox team to share her experiences seeing Sen. Lindsey Graham navigate a South Carolina town hall. 

Terrible Opinions

Jordan: Conservatives really need to stop jumping on every Chelsea Clinton story. Yes, liberal media cover her, but progressive voters honestly don't care. 

Matthias: Android's cutesy confectionary-themed operating system names are annoying and uninformative. 

Katrina: I liked "Ghost in the Shell." 

At least one politician is listening ... 

Katrina talks about a town hall in South Carolina that she attended shortly after the GOP healthcare bill failed. Sen. Lindsey Graham talked about Supreme Court nominee Judge Gorsuch and worked hard to manage a screaming crowd that seemed primarily made up of Bernie voters. He pointed out that he got into trouble with Republicans for supporting President Obama's Supreme Court nominees, but he is always going to support qualified justices. 

Sen. Graham addressed millennials specifically, something that is unusual among politicians. One of the problems he mentioned was the shakiness of social security as well as the late retirement age expected for millennials. 

Old school management vs. millennials

We then launch into a discussion of millennial issues, most of which stem from a poor economy. Millennials have a reputation for being disloyal to the workplace, but often it's because jobs won't pay enough for them to take care of student debt or have basic things their parents had. Katrina talks about average income for millennials, which doesn't even guarantee them a middle-class life in the suburbs. 

We talk about student debt and the struggle of college graduates who were told that they just needed to get an education and a good job and comfortable life would be guaranteed. Jordan sympathizes with those who want free college (while disagreeing that free college should become policy) because a common millennial problem is graduating with a college degree and then struggling to find a job that pays well. Matthias talks about some of the difficulties of navigating the job market when employers have so much power to pick and choose among millennials who desperately need work. 


Kemberlee Kaye, Legal Insurrection editor and baker extraordinaire, joined us this week to talk about the GOP healthcare bill disaster, analyze why Republicans failed to reach everyday Americans, and answer the all-important frosting vs. fondant question. 

Terrible Opinions

Matthias: I shut down my political Twitter account this week, and I'm so much happier with far less politics in my life. 

Jordan: People need to stop abusing the word "humbled" when what they really mean is "my life is awesome and I needed to tell all of you." 

Kemberlee: Conservatives shouldn't mock Huma Abedin; instead, they should be supportive when couples are dedicated enough to try to make their marriage work. 

The lose-lose healthcare bill scenario

Matthias points out that the failure of the GOP healthcare bill is bad in the long term for Democrats since the Affordable Care Act likely won't survive without extra government intervention on its behalf. Kemberlee analyzes why the bill failed, noting that even though the bill was theoretically Part I of a three-part initiative, most people had no idea there was more to the plan because the GOP failed to communicate yet again. We all sympathize with Speaker Paul Ryan, who seems to be trying to find a compromise solution in a thankless task. 

You should have a real life

The Paradox team has been encouraging more discussion about fun interests far outside the realm of politics. Matthias and Kemberlee talk about their experiences with baking and what inspired each of them to learn. There is a lot of important discussion about buttercream frosting. 


Shoshana Weissmann was our guest this week to talk about how much she loves tofu, why the GOP fails to reach urban voters, and what keeps her going when politics is just too much. 

Terrible Opinions

Shoshana: I actually really love tofu even though no one else does. 

Jordan: I was offended by the meme that took the Nike logo on a picture of a woman wearing a hijab and added "if my husband says I can" because 1) you can't group all Muslim women into one stereotype and 2) some women (of a range of religions) decide to dress according to what their husband says. You shouldn't demean them for that decision. 

Matthias: The walk sign where the pedestrian figure was wearing a dress not only wasn't really feminist but also promoted a dangerous gender stereotype that wearing a dress makes you a woman. 

"We have to start showing up." 

Shoshana talks about the GOP's problem with reaching urban voters and why in the long term, it's not enough to reach only rural Americans. "Don't campaign in cities ... you can't win," she was told. Shoshana analyzes some of the reasons why Republicans appeal less to city voters and encourages people on the right to reach out to urban communities and spend time actually talking to voters and finding out what issues matter to them. 

Sewing and baking 

We talk about interests outside politics, including but not limited to: sewing, baking, tattoos, hair coloring, dresses, buttercream frosting. 


Terrible Opinions

Jordan is frustrated with seemingly engaged conservatives who act very puzzled when they hear the term "cisgender" and obviously aren't venturing outside their usual political bubble. Matthias didn't understand "Moonlight" and thought "Hacksaw Ridge" and "Lion" were the strongest films this year. 

Better late than never

As we finally discuss the 2017 Oscars, Jordan breaks down "Moonlight" and persuades Matthias to give it another look. We go back and forth on "Hacksaw Ridge," which Matthias loved and Jordan hated, and analyze why "Arrival" didn't quite work but was still a great film. Jordan rants about "Manchester by the Sea" and Casey Affleck, and we both agree that Denzel Washington was robbed of Best Actor for his rich performance in "Fences."

Why they invented Netflix 

Netflix may have been beaten to a Best Picture nomination by Amazon, but it's still making incredible cultural strides by appealing to demographics that are usually ignored. "House of Cards," its first hit original series, doesn't appeal to everyone, but it doesn't have to. Everyone in Washington watches it because the show was designed for a specific (and influential) demographic of TV viewers. "House of Cards" helped Netflix get noticed, and the streaming platform kept creating original content targeted to very specific subsets of its audience.

Matthias details his theory that Netflix aims to "serve under-served entertainment groups," creating content that appeals to specific subcultures. We analyze several Netflix series, including "The Ranch," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and the "Veggietales" revival. "Unbreakable," a witty, quirky Tina Fey property, was obviously created for a female audience, while "Veggietales" returned as a Netflix original for Christian viewers. Aziz Ansari's "Master of None" shows the lived experience of an immigrant's kid, while "The Ranch" is about a rural family in Colorado. 


Journalist and author Emily Esfahani Smith joined the Paradox team this week to talk about her new book, The Power of Meaning, and share insights from her research about why your main goal in life shouldn’t be simply happiness.

Terrible Opinions

Emily and Jordan both contribute pop culture opinions, while Matthias gets somewhat political. With just a few hours to go until the Oscars at the time of recording, Emily pans “La La Land,” saying it was a nice film but overrated and not Best Picture-worthy. Jordan thinks Carrie wasn’t the true protagonist in “Sex and the City,” instead arguing that Charlotte kept the show anchored and quietly influenced all of the other main characters. Matthias wants Chelsea Clinton to “slide into the background” for a while since everyone is still Clinton’d out after the election.

Meaning >>> Happiness

Emily talks about pursing happiness versus pursuing meaning in life and how research shows that the latter is actually much more satisfying in the long run.

As her book details, people find meaning through four pillars: belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence. To find meaning, we need strong relationships with other people; a sense of purpose in the work we do; an internal narrative that makes our lives into powerful stories; and experiences of beauty and/or religion that make us part of something bigger.  

We get more in-depth with questions like “Do people find meaning by looking for it?” and “How do you move forward and find a sense of meaning again after failure?” Emily describes how a “meaning mindset” is more important than results in a meaningful life.


Attorney and writer Gabriel Malor was our guest this week to provide expert analysis on the “travel ban” executive order and to explain why virtual reality games are dangerous (for him at least).

Jordan starts Terrible Opinions with a rant about how both the right and the left are way too eager to cry sexism when a woman, any woman, is in the news cycle. Gabriel says that President Trump will serve as a check on the people in his administration with white nationalist sympathies. Matthias points out that enforcing immigration law is a normal thing, not cause for panic the way people panicked this week as ICE agents did their job.

Gabe explains ICE has so much trouble deporting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. We then shift into the topic of the hour: President Trump’s executive order banning people from seven countries from coming into the U.S. Gabe gives a breakdown of the EO itself and then explains why the Ninth Circuit ruled against President Trump as well as why the ruling was made on shaky grounds and could be challenged in the near future.

We wrap up with some fun topics: “Resident Evil” and the survival-horror genre; virtual reality; and a quick preview of Oscar rants.  


Katrina Jørgensen, formerly with the Young Republicans and currently vigilant about foreign policy, dropped by this week to discuss the executive order banning refugees, immigrants and travel from seven countries as well as the unnerving change to the National Security Council. 

To open this episode, our Terrible Opinions range from resume submissions to F. Scott Fitzgerald (listen to see who thinks he's a terrible writer).  

As part of our topics, Katrina brings up two very important questions: 1) What is an effective means of protest? and 2) What would be a real sign that we're in trouble when it comes to Russia and Trump? 

She talks about the intricate U.S. immigration process when it comes to both legal immigrants and refugees, clearing up some of the myths around refugees and talking about her experience helping transplanted families in her community. 


Becket Adams from the Washington Examiner stopped by for our 50th podcast episode to talk about media bias, Meryl Streep, movies and why Twitter just isn’t as much fun anymore.

Terrible Opinions

Jordan kicks off terrible opinions by telling people to stop picking on Tomi Lahren and anyone else who tweeted something ridiculous and non-news-worthy a million years ago. Becket objects only on the grounds that that’s not a terrible opinion. We talk about the risks of having a Twitter account with countless tweets that could be taken out of context. Becket says what we’re all thinking: Twitter isn’t fun anymore now that every joking tweet between friends could be a liability.

Matthias brings us back to politics with his terrible opinion that he is apprehensive about Republicans repealing Obamacare. While Obamacare has had definite negative effects, we don’t know what effects its replacement will have.

Stop freaking out about Meryl Streep

Becket shares some of his experiences and insights as a reporter on the 2016 election, comparing Trump’s campaign to Clinton’s. He points out that the seemingly ridiculous Make America Great Again hats were ultimately a brilliant strategy, comparing them to the big scene in sports movies where the scrappy underdog team gets their own uniforms.

We talk about Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech, mostly to express exasperation at both the right and the left for losing it over her digs at Trump and (the people she perceives to be) his voter base. Becket’s advice for resisting Trump as needed: Pick your battles. He chides media for constantly being “at an 11” over every cabinet pick and tweet instead of digging deeper to find the real story and criticizing Trump on genuine grounds.

2016 movies

We wrap up by discussing movies we liked (or were disappointed by) in 2016, highlighting “Finding Dory,” “Captain America: Civil War” and “Rogue One.” Becket and Jordan disagree over whether “Rogue One” was a worthy addition to the Star Wars franchise while trying not to give away any spoilers since Matthias still needs to see it.


Terrible Opinions

Matthias kicks off Terrible Opinions with an optimistic outlook on Trump’s administration. He asks us what success or failure would look like with Trump, pointing out that having extreme rhetoric before he has even taken office will only undermine your credibility. Jordan and Brandon agree that even in a best-case scenario, surviving four years of Trump does not mean America should risk taking on four more.

Jordan shares a Terrible Opinion about “La La Land,” contradicting the critics by expressing her disappointment in the film’s downer ending. She criticizes the film for trading on classic Hollywood touches and charm, then sidelining its audience with a postmodern ending.

Brandon was apparently unwise enough to share a Terrible Opinion on Facebook this week and received many many responses to a status about the dangers of making depression trendy. We talk about how as a society, we celebrate too many things that shouldn’t be celebrated.

#RepresentationMatters for #GamerGate too

Brandon talks about his experience as part of GamerGate as an example of people being shouted down by the extreme left, saying that “GamerGate showed that people with a lot of different views can come together and fight for something.”

Matthias points out the privilege gap when it comes to male tech industry figures who elevate women: Men who have already built their careers and been successful can afford to pass up tech panels and other opportunities and point out women who can represent their part of the industry instead.

Jordan believes the problem comes from people who think “diversity” means shouting down other opinions and marginalizing groups instead of simply celebrating how far we’ve come. As an example of a small step forward, she shares what it was like to vote in an election with historic choices that let her see someone like herself on the presidential ballot for the first time.


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