Barbarians At The Gate

Do you know what the most crucial component of social media is?

In a world where the internet provides us with news every hour of every day and countless views on every subject, it’s the ability to leave a comment that has proven so invaluable to the average person online. It is the means by which we can, among other things, challenge established ideas and openly question political and religious dogma. The anonymity that most online comment platforms provide allow us to ask hard questions and discuss social issues without fear of being ostracized or ridiculed. We are able to interact with people around the globe for the free exchange of information. There are few tools that can give one person so much ability to have their voice heard. It may be the one of the few instruments for social change that rivals the effectiveness of the ballot box.

The ability to leave a comment, however, is also perhaps the most insidious and destructive component of social media. It gives the angry, spiteful, bigoted and ignorant among us all a method to spew hatred for its own sake. Blogs, online media outlets, Facebook, Twitter, digital newspapers, etc. have all had to contend with this problem. It’s a new kind of predator that exists only in cyberspace: the troll. We all know what one is. The dictionary refers to a troll as an ugly creature from Scandinavian mythology that typically lived in caves or under bridges and was rarely helpful to humans. In some stories, the troll would exact some kind of task or toll from unsuspecting travelers who dared cross his path.

It’s no wonder that the troll was the perfect choice to describe the vilest inhabitants of the internet. Wikipedia describes an “internet troll” as a person “who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.” Suddenly, the verb “trolling” takes on a much more sinister meaning than just quietly searching for fish. It becomes synonymous with people searching for conversations to infect with hate and rancor.

There is nothing good about a troll, not one thing, so I’m utterly astonished at how many there seem to be out there. Some people will read articles posted online and in their own twisted minds conclude the writer is making a personal attack on them. Safe and secure in our Liquid Crystal Fortresses, many of us have become unbelievably thin-skinned.  So it was that I found myself in awe lately while reading my own comments page. It’s unnerving and I believe everybody who takes the time to post or reply to comments on a blog has had this feeling. You write something, not even anything incendiary or controversial, and then POW! You feel like someone reached through the screen with and swung at you with a baseball bat. Wow. Unsettling, isn’t it? So as a public service to one and all, let’s get a few things crystal clear, shall we?

There isn’t a single blogger I know, amateur or professional, who doesn’t appreciate positive and grateful commentary. Even comments from those who disagree with you but have something intelligent and logical to say are of great use because in no small measure, that’s how we learn things. That’s what democracy is all about. As for myself, I like to think I’m a fairly tough cookie. I really don’t care what you say about me personally. I’m a big boy who understands that writing about politics will subject you to a lot of abuse. But even if you disagree with everything I write, making a strong and compelling argument will get you a lot further and a lot more respect than just calling me a f***ing idiot.

As to my most recent blog, I find it wildly ironic that so many supporters of Donald Trump, a man who insults everybody under the sun, uses 5th grade name-calling and boorish tweets as the centerpieces of his campaign, has put forth no serious or credible policy proposals and as I previously wrote, “makes racism, sexism, misogyny, nihilism and ultra-nationalism the pillars of his candidacy” are upset when somebody says their support of him is stupid. It amazes me just as much when people perceive I am actually telling not to vote for whatever third-party candidate they want to. It’s your right as an American to vote for whomever you please so long as they meet the qualifications set forth in Article II of the Constitution. What I do state unequivocally is that such candidates have no mathematical hope of winning the Presidency and that is an inescapable fact. In any case, if I bruised delicate feelings, then mea culpa. I’m not trying to change your mind. That appears to be a lost cause which is why the piece was written to begin with. I will, however, point out how completely absurd your support for Donald Trump is or how a vote for anyone else under in the present political system will accomplish nothing…at least not this year.

On the other hand, there were far too many individuals who made comments, and not at me, but at others that crossed an intolerable red line. There is a maxim on the internet of “Please Do Not Feed The Trolls”. Good advice. Well, just this once, I’m going to. So here it is.

Do not call any woman who reads and comments online, or anywhere else for that matter, the C-word. Ever.

It’s galling that somebody needs to make this plain to grown people and to do it this clearly and forcefully. It apparently has to be done, though, so I may as well do it. That is a repugnant and disgusting term and you are scum if you use it. Believe me, I’m no choir boy when it comes to cursing up a blue streak. I freely admit there are plenty of times I need to wash my mouth out with soap. But on a public forum, what kind of person in God’s name uses that word in so cavalier a fashion toward people they don’t even know? I know what kind does and probably so do you. They are little people, in mind and everywhere else, who are threatened by intelligent women with an opinion regardless of what that opinion is. For context, see Scott Baio. And by the way, you shouldn’t even use it when talking about the candidate, either. Granted she is in politics and is therefore is open to scorn and derision from her detractors. Love her or hate her, there is no doubt she can take care of herself. But I don’t care if you’re madder than holy hell about whatever offense you think she has committed or whatever character flaw you perceive she may have. Were you raised in a barn?

Some readers of late may have been put off or offended by the liberal use (forgive the pun) of the F-Bomb and my sarcastic tone; that it perhaps detracted from the argument or obscured what were otherwise good points. Those are very legitimate critiques and I heard those of you felt that way. Fair enough. To be honest, however, being a little profane and snarky was kind of the point. Given the subject matter, my aim was to shake the reader up and I seem to have succeeded.  But don’t believe for a second that gives anyone carte blanche to be abusive and needlessly vulgar. It’s like people using the N-word when talking about President Obama. It was rotten in 2008 in and it’s rotten now. And while we’re on the subject, do not use racial or ethnic slurs at people you think are supporting Hillary Clinton simply because they are black or brown because yeah, I’ve had to read that garbage along with everyone else. Do you talk to people like this in their face? Probably not, but if you do, I suggest having your Thorazine intake adjusted.

I want to get your attention because with so many pundits on TV and online who analyze absolutely everything about this year’s election, it’s hard to make even one singular point unless you metaphorically slap somebody in the face. I want to use words like a proverbial bucket of ice water and pour it over the reader’s head when discussion, debate, reasonable arguments and well, just being polite haven’t worked. When facts are dismissed as “your opinion”, “talking points” or just “lies”, I will sometimes write like my keyboard is on fire because like so many of you, I also get angry.

But I will never deign to use bile and filth aimed randomly and applied at point-blank range like a shotgun to demean people who are just trying to put their two cents in. If everybody were to think and speak a little more sensibly and calmly, for lack of better terms, maybe the climate of political discussion everyone finds so abhorrent wouldn’t be so negatively charged. It would be so much easier to make our stands as voters and citizens. How’s THAT for a contrary idea?

Aristotle once said “Anybody can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

In short, if you’re just a troll, if you can’t stop hating and denigrating ordinary people using the most base and contemptible terms possible because they disagree with you, then yes, you are a moron, you are stupid and yes, you deserve every rotten epithet I can muster. Your bridge is over there. Go crawl back under it.

NOTE: This was dedicated to readers who made comments and then were verbally abused. You didn’t deserve to be. The offending trolls have had their comments deleted.

The Moron’s Case For Hillary Clinton…because some of you really are that stupid.

An old colleague and I were having breakfast this morning when he looked up at the news (I can’t remember which network …MSNBC, I think) and noticed a split screen of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. He lamented long about how terrible both candidates are in this election and I guess we just have to choose the lesser of the two evils or, as he put it, “…put on a blindfold and just pick. It doesn’t really make any difference.”

And that’s when I went off.

I am really sick and tired of people saying both candidates are equally horrible choices, how much America thoroughly hates both of them to the core, that there’s not a single positive trait in either one of them and wow, if only we had voted for that guy behind the deli counter or the neighbor’s cat, America would be WAY better off.

Fuck you. Fuck the deli guy and fuck your neighbor’s cat.

There are only 2 candidates who stand any mathematical chance of prevailing in this year’s election and one of them is, in fact, eminently qualified to become the 45th President of the United States, perhaps more so than any of the other 44 previous office holders. She (that’s right…SHE) has been dedicated to public service in one capacity or another since 1971.  Her accomplishments are tremendous. To name a few (edited from the list once provided by Daily Kos for space):

  • First ever student commencement speaker at Wellesley College.
  • Distinguished graduate of Yale Law School.
  • Editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action.
  • Co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
  • Former civil litigation attorney.
  • Staff attorney for Children’s Defense Fund.
  • Faculty member in the School of Law at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
  • Former Director of the Arkansas Legal Aid Clinic.
  • First female chair of the Legal Services Corporation.
  • First female partner at Rose Law Firm, the oldest and one of the largest law firms in Arkansas.
  • Twice named by The National Law Journal as one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.
  • Former First Lady of Arkansas.
  • Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983.
  • Chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession.
  • Created Arkansas’s Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth.
  • Instrumental in passage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  • First Lady of the United States.
  • Promoted nationwide immunization against childhood illnesses.
  • Successfully sought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and childhood asthma at the National Institutes of Health.
  • Worked to investigate reports of an illness that affected veterans of the Gulf War (now recognized as Gulf War Syndrome).
  • Helped create the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice.
  • Initiated and shepherded the Adoption and Safe Families Act.
  • First FLOTUS in US History to hold a postgraduate degree.
  • Helped create Vital Voices, an international initiative to promote the participation of women in the political processes of their countries.
  • Two-term New York Senator and the first ex-FLOTUS in US History to be elected to the United States Senate.
  • Served on five Senate committees: Budget (2001–2002), Armed Services (2003–2009), Environment and Public Works (2001–2009), Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (2001–2009) and the Special Committee on Aging.
  • Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
  • Leading role in investigating the health issues faced by 9/11 first responders.
  • Worked with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York on securing $21.4 billion in funding for the World Trade Center redevelopment.
  • Former United States Secretary of State.
  • Brokered a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas in 2012.

Go ahead and try to show what the other candidate has done in the public interest during his whole worthless life.

Go on.

Try.

You can’t and why?

The other candidate who is supposedly “equally bad” is a real estate developer and television personality who was born into a family whose wealth has been estimated to exceed $300 million and makes racism, sexism, misogyny, nihilism and ultra-nationalism the pillars of his candidacy.  So far he has called for:

  • Building a wall across the southern border that Mexico is supposedly going to pay for.
  • The deportation, by force if necessary, of 11 million undocumented immigrants (and stop saying “illegal”, you jackass).
  • Banning and deporting all members of a religious faith that total over 1 billion adherents worldwide, even if they are American citizens, because “everybody knows” they’re just a bunch of murdering terrorists.
  • Lists among his associates known white supremacists and eugenicists.
  • Speaks admiringly of ruthless foreign despots and encourages espionage against the United States by hostile governments.
  • Ruminates about not defending our NATO allies against Russian invasion.
  • States openly and freely that using nuclear weapons should always be an option simply to make him more “unpredictable”. That’s not a strategy. That’s insanity.

Did I mention his blithe refusal to offer concrete policy proposals on how any of this neo-Nazi wish list could possibly be achieved? And all the while still finding the time to be rude, nasty, loud, mean, cruel, hateful and boorish.

And it’s still August.

But they’re supposedly “equally awful” and “everybody hates them both”. Yes, you can’t vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump because, you know…emails. And Benghazi. And Foundations. And Wall Street. And secret assassinations. And pantsuits. And, and, and.

OK, listen up. Nobody cares about emails that show Bono wanted State Department assistance to stream his music from the International Space Station. You should thank Almighty God and Jedi Jebus he failed. So far all we have seen is a public official in extraordinary circumstances who should have known better demonstrate “extreme carelessness” to which I believe she has owned up to sufficiently and which, by the way, no wrongdoing was ever uncovered even after a year-long investigation by the FBI for the love of God. We all know that trustworthiness is important in a President. But if absolutely no slack is given at all, and I mean none, if this is how we treat people who make public service their life and profession, then you will always get “crooks” as politicians because who in their right mind would want the job? It’s like being a firefighter. When there’s a fire everybody runs out. You run in. It’s a maniac’s job but it has to be done so let’s have the best do it and not get wrapped up in what amounts to paperwork. That’s all this really is. Paperwork. You would rather stay at home or vote for someone George Orwell or Edgar Allan Poe couldn’t have dreamed up over emails? Then you’re even dumber than you look.

Furthermore, I want to know why everyone has their knickers in a twist over the tragic deaths of 4 State Department personnel in Benghazi in 2012 when nobody raised a peep about, count ‘em, 241 armed and ready US servicemen who were blown to bits by a suicide bomber in Beirut in 1983? Well? WHY NOT? We all know why but I won’t denigrate the deaths of brave people serving their country in the diplomatic corps and the military while performing what is often a filthy and difficult job. But other people love to bring it up as often as possible as a political weapon. They want you to believe she is some kind of cold and diabolical monster without any concern for the lives of people who often must work in really dangerous places in the name of peace and diplomacy. That is also a load of steaming horseshit and if you spread it around then you ought to be ashamed to show your face in public. So please stop. Now.

I know, I know. Damn it all! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just forget all of that pesky accomplishment stuff of hers and remember that what really matters is the thrill of waiting for indictments which makes for great television? That way we could finally “lock her up” and enough with these stupid women who think they can run a country. Well, enough out of YOU, you moron. This isn’t the lesser of two evils. This is a choice between one great and qualified candidate for the nation’s highest office who you really should be excited about and a dolt with a bad toupee who if you were honest with yourself you wouldn’t trust to manage a Dairy Queen much less the Oval Office.

And by the way, don’t give me any of your crap about Bernie, Martin, Ted, John, Marco, Jeb, Chris, Rand, Carly, Ben, Lindsey or any of the others because they aren’t running anymore. And I certainly don’t want to hear some fantastic load of tripe about Gary or Jill because they can’t win either and that’s simply the way it is. Deal with it. Those two are just like all of the other hundreds of people legitimately on the ballot to become President in November who are never going to get within spitting distance of the White House. Ever heard of Rod Silva? Me neither, but he’s running for President on the Nutrition Party ticket. Don’t believe me? Look him up. Here’s the bottom line: only two people can win and it’s not going to be anyone on this Rogue’s Gallery of wannabes…or the guy behind the deli counter or your neighbor’s cat so wake up.

We have a great opportunity here, people. We also have the potential for real catastrophe and that’s not being hyperbolic. You know damn good and well which is which.

Don’t be stupid.

Thank you.

 

I really, really, really, really, really, really like you: The Facebook Election

Here’s a sobering thought. Although little has been made of what the FiveThirtyEight blog once termed “The Facebook Primary”, that is the process of trying to extrapolate votes, election trends or general support for a candidate based on “likes” on his or her Facebook page, it is curious to see just how much support there may be for a candidate based solely on Facebook likes. Of course, this metric ultimately isn’t very reliable as it pertains to actual votes. The Pew Research Center states that 58 percent of American adults use Facebook. However, in what I will call “The Facebook Election”, one must note how many Facebook users are NOT over 18 and therefore cannot vote but are still politically aware and active to the extent that they can. Facebook provides the medium for which this group can express their views.

Further, according to FiveThirtyEight, users are in general “…disproportionately young (although not as young as users of other social media networks), low-income and female”. And because Facebook likes are obviously not votes and because Facebook use, regular or casual, is not a representative sample of the electorate, any discussion of a candidate based on support in social media must begin from the premise that there are limitations on what may or may not be extrapolated based exclusively on Facebook likes.

Much of what Facebook brings to the table is what one erstwhile popular comedian once termed an enhancement of personality. Beyond the ability to comment on posts and express views, Facebook likes may reflect what people in general may think of a candidate simply as a person. I became curious about this one metric and found some interesting numbers. As of March 31, 2016, Hillary Clinton had 3,078,534 likes on their personal Facebook page while her opponent for the Democratic nomination Bernie Sanders had 3,721,242 likes on his. These numbers are deliberately not taken from any campaign page, as many of these are simply unofficial groups of supporters or localized campaigns, but from a candidate’s own official “personal” page.

What does this metric indicate? Well, for one, depending on the number of likes Sanders had prior to his candidacy, it’s fascinating to see how much support he has garnered, especially from the young and tech-savvy, 2 demographics that skew strongly in his favor. It also would indicate that Hillary Clinton is not nearly as despised a public figure that some within the media or her opponent’s campaign would lead the public to believe. However, these numbers of likes are not necessarily large. Neither candidate can boast the numbers of likes of the New Orleans Saints, the lackluster NFL franchise who went 7-9 last year and missed the playoffs, with 4,063,945 as of this writing. Nor are either them as popular as comedian Seth Rogen, whose was most recently famous for playing a man who among other things threw up during a Christmas mass in the movie The Night Before, with 4,291,154 likes. Go figure.

Now here’s where it get’s interesting. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has 6,816,379 Facebook likes as of March 31, 2016. This is more than both Democratic candidates combined by over 16,000 likes. Granted he was a popular celebrity before his run for the White House, so that certainly padded his numbers. Also, if it’s any comfort to people who find the idea of a Trump presidency nauseating, take comfort in the knowledge that all 3 candidates combined still do not challenge the Facebook popularity of Avenged Sevenfold. No, I’ve never heard of them either, but they’re a California-based heavy metal band that hasn’t recorded anything since 2013, if you must know. But considering all that the media has made about Trump’s lack of any redeeming qualities as a person, much less his qualifications as contender for the presidency, coupled with the ability to un-like any Facebook page, this number jumps out at me. If the Democrats, and Bernie Sanders in particular, are going to assert how much popular support they enjoy based on social media and go on to use the idea that they have far greater advantage in November over the Republicans as a talking point, then somebody within their campaigns needs to rethink using the concept of social media popularity as an electoral strength.

Who do 58 percent of American adults, especially young, low-income females, like?

Donald Trump, it would seem.

I, Berniebot

There has been a surge in outbreaks of violence at Donald Trump rallies over the last few months; violence that in no small measure are being encouraged by the candidate himself. It has even been suggested that such incidents are being wholesale underwritten by the Trump campaign, up to and including now famous offers to cover his supporters’ legal fees if they are arrested and charged with assault. What these displays have done that is positive, however, if anything truly positive can come from a riot, is to provoke a wide national discussion about civility, or the lack of it, in the current presidential election cycle. But while Trump is pilloried in the national media for his supporters’ epileptic outbursts of rage, another type of violence has been going on for months unchecked and virtually unreported.

The crusade to elect Bernie Sanders the 45th President of the United States, and it is a crusade, has generated its own ranks of angry supporters engaging in vitriol which has often devolved into downright hate and abuse. It is not the streets or in his opponent’s campaign rallies that these zealots wander, but on the pages of Facebook, Twitter feeds and blog articles written on the premise that any attempt to stop Bernie Sanders is a useless, ill-fated, stupid and futile gesture. Hillary Clinton is a monster. This can be easily demonstrated even to the meanest observer by the fact that she gave paid speeches (that’s right…speeches) before Wall Street executives. She and her husband have a foundation. A foundation! Surely there can be no greater disqualifier to the nation’s highest office than being associated with a foundation. But there is. Worst of all, her campaign has money, lots of it, and it comes from just the worst sort of people. Nobody is quite sure who entirely, but the mere existence of a PAC to Sanders is damning enough.

These and other exhortations that in their totality sound eerily like passages from Quotations of Chairman Mao have made the Sanders campaign into a virtual caricature of itself. People have come to expect wide-eyed throngs at rallies for the candidate. What has been unexpected, the upset in Michigan and run of low delegate contests in the West notwithstanding is that Sanders is rapidly losing any hope of securing the nomination. National perceptions of Bernie Sanders, which translates into votes and the resultant delegate math, may at this stage have left his campaign hopelessly crippled, or more to the point mortally wounded.  Like the ill-fated emperor in Julius Caesar, those who are the most steadfast and loyal, those who are closest to him, may be the very ones that wielded the daggers.

Back in July, I wrote a brief observation that garnered little attention which stated using no offensive terminology that I was just not feeling the Bernie Sanders mojo and I wasn’t. I’m still not and that is the fine point of it. To be a Bernie Sanders supporter is to be all about political revolution. It’s not about fixing or reforming Washington politics or ending the crippling gridlock that has plagued Congress for years. It’s not about compromise or bipartisanship. It’s about blowing up the system completely. It’s about approaching every issue that confronts this nation, from the environment to taxes, Middle East policy to guns, healthcare to energy, as a simple matter of income inequality. You aren’t even a Bernie Sanders supporter. You’re a believer. It is a movement that claims to be an honest, sincere and legitimate effort by Sanders to upend the system in Washington. But by the same token, every political candidate in every election, regardless of party or ideology, says that Washington is broken, corrupt beyond repair and needs to be ripped out like a moldy, old rug. So…you want to be President? Well, strange line of work you want to be going into, then.

I should like to state unequivocally that I wrote this long before his campaign and its accompanying hashtag became a national sensation on social media to propel the self-described democratic socialist to national prominence. It was clear at least to this observer that the entire Sanders campaign appeared to be little more than a figment of MSNBC’s fevered imagination. The classic, liberal Democratic candidate, with a curious and somewhat uncomfortable appeal almost exclusively to progressive, college educated white voters under 40, lay firmly in the fact that he wasn’t even a Democrat. Bernie Sanders had only become a Democrat in 2015, being an independent and a member of the old Liberty Union party prior to that. The move looked cynical. It appeared quite clear to almost everyone at the time that running as a Democrat was the only way he logically compete for the Presidency. How quickly we forget.

Of course, no discussion of Sanders’ quixotic campaign would be complete without noting the endless hashtag advocacy mentioned earlier that has become a hemorrhoid on the rear end of political discourse on social media. It is unbelievably irritating and nothing seems to relieve the “Berning Sensation” to coin an overused phrase. Virtually anything can be said, regardless of how outlandish or offensive, if one simply follows the statement with #FeelTheBern. It’s like Catholic indulgences in the Middle Ages. There is no sin that cannot be expunged with just a simple hashtag expressing the love and support you feel for your beloved candidate. You could put a picture of your child holding her new puppy or a statement wishing someone a speedy recovery after an appendectomy and invariably some moron would come along to post “F*** YOU! #FeelTheBern”.

A friend of mine recently described Bernie Sanders online media enthusiasts as “smug, entitled, clueless, and overall annoying”. Another friend showed me a screen print from a so-called “liberal chat room” demonstrating how she was subjected to interminable abuse from male Sanders supporters incensed at Clinton’s interruptions of the Revolutionary Leader at a televised debate, something permissible to him but never to the unrighteous. Even on her own Facebook page, my friend found herself on the receiving end of needless haranguing after posting an article from the blog Blue Nation Review that had the heretical temerity to question Sanders’ integrity. Any argument that was brought up to defend the author’s viewpoints or, heaven forbid, show any support for Hillary Clinton, was met with a barrage of insults and name-calling more suited to an elementary playground. One especially passive-aggressive Sanders supporter went so far as to dismiss any statement favoring Clinton as illogical and made only because my friend had “an emotional investment” in Clinton. Only by divorcing herself from emotions could she make a rational argument, which naturally would bring her around to Sanders. It was like listening to Spock with no Dr. McCoy to even him out.

On November 7, 2012 Rachel Maddow said: “…In this country, we have a two-party system in government. And the idea is supposed to be that the two sides both come up with ways to confront and fix the real problems facing our country. They both propose possible solutions to our real problems. And we debate between those possible solutions. And by the process of debate, we pick the best idea. That competition between good ideas from both sides about real problems in the real country should result in our country having better choices, better options, than if only one side is really working on the hard stuff.” This is the problem so many Sanders supporters fail to comprehend. There is one small obstruction to the glorious revolution that will reshape the future of America: the Republican Party. Like it or not, there is a firmly entrenched, well-funded and frankly rather numerous party that stands in solid opposition to everything both Democratic candidates want and stand for. For her part, Hillary Clinton, as unpopular as the notion may be with the progressive activist wing of her party, is keenly aware of that fact. Bernie Sanders, however, seems only keenly aware of Hillary Clinton.

This past January, in an installment of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell”, MSNBC asked for representatives to appear from both campaigns to discuss foreign policy. The Clinton campaign sent Christopher Hill, a lifelong diplomat who served as deputy Secretary of State, former US Ambassador to Iraq, Korea and Poland and is currently dean of the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. The Sanders campaign sent…nobody. Thom Hartmann, a progressive radio commentator, volunteered to offer his thoughts as a supporter. Does anybody see the problem here? Again, this is a cult of personality. The Bernie Sanders message is about domestic oligarchy and doesn’t concern itself with the intricacies, nuances and sheer complexity of American foreign policy. It’s just about War and Peace broadly. Occasionally it may drift to his opponent’s vote on the Iraq War in 2002 if he’s in a particularly feisty mood. But that’s really it.   Fundamentally, the Sanders view on foreign policy is the same as his take on domestic issues: Are the rich or corporations involved? Then it’s not important.

Regardless of whether one believes in the ideas of his campaign or not, the question of judging Sanders as a candidate on the merits has become a dangerous game if one wants to tackle it online. There is genuine violence that occurs every day in the relative physical safety of social media. It is violence directed against Hillary Clinton and anyone who supports her that has been generated by many backers of Bernie Sanders. Although obviously not all Sanders supporters are like this, online cooler heads are very much in the minority. Primarily driven by young, college educated white men, the so-called “Berniebros” or “Berniebots” do not allow for the possibility of eventual party unity and that it a concern that must be discussed immediately, before Donald Trump locks up the Republican nomination. These fanatical Sanders supporters, who are legion on social media, are so caught up with the cult of personality that is his campaign (or crusade, or revolution, depending on your perspective), that they cannot conceive of an America that does not include a President Sanders after the election. The “Bernie or Bust” crowd from within the Sanders movement, sworn to vote for him or nobody, has enormous pitfalls inherent within it. As Bill Maher noted, “They’re revolting against the plutocracy. No, actually you’ll be helping elect a plutocrat who’s revolting.” It is, to use Trump’s own words, “a mess…a disaster” just waiting to happen.

The bile from these “Berniebots” is often directed straight at women and people of color. One begins to wonder if the Sanders campaign feels such people support Clinton because they are women or people of color and therefore are corporate trolls like she is who must be eradicated. There are strong racial overtones in this rhetoric that cannot be ignored. Statements such as “We are now moving out of the Deep South and into states more favorable to us” do not subtly imply that “us” are generally white and that is no way to build a coalition for victory in November. The “Berniebots” are approaching the election with all the enthusiasm and poor judgment of a fraternity keger and are beginning to rival Trump’s campaign for rancor. It is time for such people to be called out for what they are: mindless diehards who in their zeal may hand the White House to the GOP if their attacks continue to divide the Democrats. It is the Last Stand of White Male Privilege and it is coming from the left. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy died trying to stave off this kind of division almost 50 years ago. It’s very disheartening to think that perhaps they were spared in not being able to see the great progressive movement come off the rails like this.

Say what you will, but Hillary Clinton supporters do not even come close to this kind of anger. Any objective observer can go on Facebook and Twitter and see whose supporters are the loudest and most petulant. Remember that she has a campaign. Bernie Sanders has a movement, perhaps even a cult by the Oxford definition standard.  Certainly he has a revolution and thus believers and followers. Any opponents to the cause are thus being inordinately harassed, harangued and abused in an attempt to purge heretics from the pure faith and it needs to stop. Bernie Sanders is a good, decent and thoughtful man who wants only the best for his country. He needs to tell the more fanatical elements of his movement to back off, relax and remember who the enemy really is.

Hint: it’s NOT Hillary Clinton. It’s a loudmouth carnival barker with a bad toupee who will be very, very dangerous if allowed to reach the White House.

Contrarian Quick Take: Article II, Section 2

I didn’t watch the GOP Debate, which again are not debates but essentially WWF matches with suits and ties, and also apparently a form of self abuse I do not wish to indulge in. I would rather swallow glass. Instead, I found much better fare in the MSNBC College Tour Special with Bernie Sanders. It’s amazing how soothing it is to hear a reasonable person speak reasonably about the issues. I did, discover, however, one critical aspect of the junior senator from Vermont’s platform that in one fashion or another will probably doom him in a general election; one that until tonight has been largely glossed over by the mainstream media.

The role of the President as Commander-in-Chief is clearly one that if Sanders could work his will would be divorced entirely from the job as Chief Executive. He has very few substantive stances on foreign policy issues other than he voted against the Iraq War. That fact will carry him only so far against any GOP nominee, as I think Americans in general want to feel safe and be confident that there is no nation or group they cannot demolish on the world stage, anywhere at any time, militarily.

Sanders was clearly extremely uncomfortable with Chris Matthews’ line of questioning and awkwardly pivoted from the discussion about being Commander-in-Chief to what he stated is unequivocally far more important. You guessed it: Wall Street. Campaign finance reform. Millionaires and billionaires.

Sooner or later, Sanders must realize that either Hillary Clinton or the Republicans are going to press him about what he is going to do as President if he is brought to the situation room because America is under attack. Terrorists are not going to care about his vote against the AUMF or the Patriot Act 15 years ago. His campaign and their supporters must come to grips with the reality that Sanders will be pressed about this hard and mercilessly. Matthews went easy on him. Clinton will be vicious. The Republican nominee will be savage. The voters? Cruel, relentless and totally unforgiving.

Let’s not even ponder what will be going through the minds of the ones carrying out an attack.

All Will Be Revealed…Maybe

Vassar-CollegeThe following is from a letter sent to the alumnae/i of Vassar College and to the parents of the students currently attending the college from President Catherine Bond Hill prior to a discussion to address “…current issues and tensions within our community related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”  This writer is taking no sides in the current debate (yet), but feels that all sides require an airing out, since constructive engagement is clearly the only thing lacking at this juncture. As such, in the words of Shakespeare, “Judge when you hear”:

Vassar has as an abiding principle of “going to the source.”  As you likely know, it comes from history professor Lucy Maynard Salmon, who at the turn of the 20th century encouraged her Vassar students to use primary sources to do their research.  With so much being written in the media and on social media about these issues at Vassar, much of it without the benefit of primary sources at the college, we want to provide our alums and parents the opportunity to hear what is really happening on campus.

I would suggest that the op-ed about Vassar earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal fell far short of the principle of going to the source.  It would have been useful for the authors to come to campus to find out for themselves what is actually going on before writing the piece.  I have extended an invitation to them both to come to campus next week to meet with students, faculty, and members of the administration during our annual All College Days.

If they accept, they will see a vital community, grappling with some of the toughest issues of our time.  Activist students, supporting a variety of issues, are not necessarily committed to dialogue.  And, encouraging balanced programing and opportunities for discussion has been difficult.  But, we are making some progress.

Earlier this week, Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist and political analyst, spoke out against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to a supportive audience. Late last month our Jewish Studies program sponsored a lecture by anthropologist Aomar Boum, who discussed his research at the United States Holocaust Museum detailing a partnership between North African Jews and Muslims to fight racism and anti-Semitism.

In late January, with support from my office, the elected leaders of our student government, the Vassar Student Association, along with members from a variety of student groups with differing views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, attended a training provided by the National Coalition Building Institute on addressing difficult issues. These kinds of events make us hopeful for even more productive and respectful exchanges.

This is not to say that we do not face difficult issues, we absolutely do. And, this includes incidents of anti-Semitism. Such incidents are in violation of our college regulations and policies and we do not tolerate them.  We denounce them. A recent e-mail I sent to the community denounced anonymous anti-Semitic comments on the social media platform Yik Yak, and our Dean of the College emailed students this week, urging them to treat each other with the respect that is called for by, and is central to, our code of conduct as a community. I have called on our students to think about the impact of their actions on others in our community.  I also have asked our community to call out actions that offend and harm others.

The recent speaker to campus who has attracted so much attention has also spoken at Harvard, Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, and Wellesley to name only a few institutions both in the United States and abroad.  As academic institutions, we must be committed to academic freedom and free speech.  Just as I objected to the call for the American Studies Association boycott of Israeli academic institutions, I will defend the faculty’s right to bring speakers of their choice to campus.  I also will let the faculty who invited the recent lecturer speak for themselves.

Along with many others in the Vassar community, I am dissatisfied with the range of perspectives being presented on campus regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we are working to fill this gap.  While many people on campus work hard to do this, the megaphone effect of those who think they know what is going on but really don’t, damages those efforts. As I have said before, Vassar deserves, and demands, better.

The real tragedy here, of course, is that Vassar College needed to have this conversation at all. But it is foolish to assume that in the great halls of academia where freedom of thought, inquiry and opinion reign that prejudice does not exist. It does. It always has and it always will. Perhaps some important perspective will be found in the days and weeks to come and perhaps not. One thing is certain. A great institution of higher learning has some explaining to do.  Such explanations, however, will do little if people of good will are unwilling to listen. This is essential as listening is the foundation of understanding. It is necessary as understanding leads to healing.

We must remember, however, that bigotry, hatred and anti-Semitism are intolerable in a civilized society. As such, if there is a cancer in this place which so many of us love, it must be cut out, as surely as if were afflicting our own bodies. But a biopsy must nevertheless be done to determine how extensive the problem is. Is it a powerful malignancy comprised of many or the benign idiocy of a few? This we will determine. Some have suggested the patient is already too far gone; that we should now turn our backs and focus our efforts on those still worth saving.

I defy this notion.

Until Vassar College is dead and relegated to history, I, for one, will not allow those who seek to rip us apart because of our religious beliefs, who want wholesale bigotry to define this community, who have already decided that it is an irretrievable cesspool of prejudice or want only their side to be heard and no one else’s any semblance of victory of comfort.

We are Vassar. We are many and we are strong. Do not fuck with us.

The Fall of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and the New Decade of Republican Dominance

One observer noted in regard to the New Hampshire Democratic debate on MSNBC: “The debate was revealing, but the questions were even more so; arguments about how to arrange the deck chairs gave way to the realization that the Titanic is sinking.” It is heartbreaking to admit, but it now appears that the Democrats as a party are at least as splintered and dysfunctional as the Republicans are and perhaps even more so. This is especially agonizing as progressives have long been pointing and laughing at the GOP as a hopelessly fractured party; one that is ripping apart at the seams as more moderate factions within it are beaten mercilessly into submission by Tea Party extremists, rendering the entire GOP as impotent on the national stage. Democrats have become complacent in the Obama years as they have watched the right often flail in the wind as they attempted to impede progressive causes such as the Affordable Care Act, voting rights, environmental protection, gun safety, violence against the African-American community by police, reproductive rights, gay marriage and other important issues.

Now it appears that the shoe is on the other foot and it could not have happened at a worse time. In this election cycle, it is the Democrats who are becoming useless and impotent as their party becomes more and more splintered. Moderates in that party are now being beaten mercilessly by extremists on the left and to make matters worse, Democrats seem to believe that having the party collapse beneath their feet is a good thing, equating implosion with “robust discussion”, because you know…”The Establishment”! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK! Cue horror movie theme music with the deranged killer ripping off his mask to reveal the face of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Make no mistake. The Republicans are beginning to smell blood in the water and bile on the beltway. They realize that this is the moment they have waited eight long years for. They know that despite the handshakes and smiles on TV between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, their respective supporters loathe each other. On the GOP side, the vitriol generally comes from the candidates themselves. On the left, it comes from supporters of the two candidates against each other and few are willing to acknowledge the consequences if this behavior continues. Now, Democrats will of course say they want so-and-so to be the nominee but will support whoever is eventually on the ticket.

Anyone who believes that is delusional. It’s their candidate or nobody. Well, guess what? Nobody is going to wind up being a Republican. When Inauguration Day in 2017 comes, that man will have nobody to thank more heartily than progressives who hate each other more than a man who wants to take America to a 1950’s television sitcom world that Republicans believe was real but never actually existed.

I have seen nothing in the press, social media or polling data to even remotely suggest the Democrats will unite around their eventual nominee. This isn’t 2008. Each campaign’s supporters are using the tactics that the GOP developed and each is following that playbook to the letter. To Sanders supporters, Clinton is untrustworthy, endless scandals make her too much of a liability and offers nothing except what amounts to an Obama third term. Besides, she’s in bed with corporations and Wall Street. Clinton’s supporters say Sanders is an avowed socialist who Americans simply will not support in a general election with a plan for massive social programs that will never get past Congress. Besides, does he give any indication he’s the guy you want when that phone rings at the White House at 3AM? Karl Rove would be proud to call himself a Democrat today.

I hate to be a whinging pom, but it seems to me that Sanders supporters will not have any qualms about staying home on Election Day because they can find nothing positive about a Clinton presidency. In turn, Clinton supporters will all too gladly stay at home on Election Day because they can find nothing positive about a Sanders presidency. But I guarantee you the Republicans will not stay at home. They may not like their eventual nominee, but their blinding hatred of the Democrats is far, far stronger than the Democrats inevitable milquetoast support of their eventual nominee. Beware the power of the angry, white, male voter. He is a conservative who never liked Hillary Clinton and sees Bernie Sanders as a Communist and has far more fight left in him than the mainstream media is prepared to acknowledge. His fury, and those who feel as he does, will surely rocket the GOP all the way to the White House in 2016 as Democrats bludgeon their own to the point where it will be only a weak, battered and exposed shell of a candidate who actually makes it to Philadelphia this summer. The social media and beltway press infighting among progressives is exactly what the conservatives have been dreaming of.

“I,Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God.”

Don’t like it? Get used to it. It’s probably going to happen.Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States unless the Democratic Party begins to find something good, genuine, decent, intelligent, positive and exciting about one of their candidates and begin to coalesce around that person. Not later in the primaries.

Now.