Pages Menu
TwitterRsslogin
Categories Menu

Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 5 comments

Student Rioters are Betraying Progressive Principles

 

 

A few days ago, an outspoken media personality who also happens to be an attention-starved right-wing extremist was invited to speak at Cal-Berkeley, one of the most liberal institutions of higher learning in the United States.

Milo Yiannopoulos, an admitted protagonist-agitator, who’s best known for spiking the witch’s brew of noxious deceit oozing out of the sewer pipe called Breitbart.com, was to appear at the university on Wednesday.  Given his toxic background as a provocateur personified by divisive opinions on gays, race, gender, and religion, protests were expected.

However, no one foresaw that a two-day riot would erupt, forcing university officials to capitulate to the angry mob which was comprised almost entirely of students and faculty.  Accordingly, the invitation sent to Yiannopoulos was withdrawn, citing “safety concerns.”  A swarm of media attention ensued to cover the controversy.  Hence, someone who had previously been unknown to most Americans catapulted overnight to near the top of every social media platform.  Largely anonymous aside from a few basement-dwelling gamers and conspiracy kooks, Yiannopoulos couldn’t have asked for more grandiose introduction to national prominence, unless his name popped up in lights on the marquis of “A Star is Born.”

Call this abomination what is was — not a victory for the left, but a counterproductive embarrassment and humiliating defeat for all progressives.

This is the latest sad chapter of a much longer and more troubling trend happening on many college campuses, which is the threat to free speech.  Since the 1960’s, an era of innumerable Vietnam War protests, American colleges and universities have become increasingly liberalized — particularly in the social sciences.  There are valid reasons for various departments to lean left.  While conservatives tend to gravitate to business school, or study law, or medicine, liberals are drawn naturally to the arts and sciences (with exceptions, of course).  I’d even go so far to argue that inquiry is, by design, an inherently liberal pursuit because it invariably calls the status quo and many of our conventional belief systems into question.  And so, leftist activism has fertile traditions deeply rooted in academia.  By extension, it’s easy to understand why youthful idealism would ignite on campuses like Berkeley with a combustible passion for many progressive causes.

Yet somewhere along the way, a long time after liberals won the right to protest and even spout off radical ideas, some of us devolved into what we’d once feared the most.  Now, intimidation doesn’t come from authority figures, such as campus police or university administrators nor the surrounding communities.  Bullying comes from within our own ranks.  Fact is, free speech has been hijacked in recent years and the problem appears to be getting worse.  Liberals in many areas, once arm-to-arm on the front lines of the free-speech and free-thought movement, now demand that dissenting voices be silenced, which is precisely what we’ve witnessed at Berkeley.  By doing this, we are undermining the very foundation on which liberal free thought is based.

Let’s be clear.  Colleges and universities should not be cradles.  Instead, academic institutions should be mental minefields ready to blow up bad ideas in a moment’s notice.  Bad ideas are best exposed by scrutinizing them and exposing them as such, not by heavy-handed censorship.  Indeed, knowledge, skills, and perseverance must be put to the test.  “College in an earlier time was supposed to be an uncomfortable, experience because growth is always a challenge,” Dr. Tom Nichols, professor at the U.S. Naval War College wrote recently.  “Now, attending college involves “the pampering of students like customers.”

Education demands that we constantly push ourselves to new heights.  It’s vital that we place odd people with seemingly strange ideas in front of the classroom and under the microscope so that we can bear witness and potentially learn.  This is especially true for those with whom we disagree.  It’s even more vital to subject ourselves to thoughts we might at first consider to be absurd, objectionable, and even obscene.  All great ideas start out as blasphemy.  Assuming we believe that facts will come out and truth prevails, the very worst thing that can happen to a bad idea or a flawed argument is intense scrutiny.  Hence, assuming we’re convinced Yiannopoulos is something of a crackpot, his ideas should have been given the chance to be voiced  If those ideas don’t stand up to the heat lamp of truth, they melt down.

This is even more profoundly important at a state university, in other words, a school that’s publicly funded.  One might argue that private schools (and particularly religious-based institutions) have every right to limit free speech, if they so wish.  They might even limit speakers and guests to those who conform strictly to the university’s codes and ideals.  Public schools like Cal-Berkeley, however, are obligated to expose students to the widest possible spectrum of people and ideas.  Sure, protesting such an event is fine.  Silencing a speaker is not.

Years ago, my outlook on life changed when I attended a university lecture by writer Raymond Bonner, the famed New York Times foreign correspondent who broke many of the news stories which exposed the dark and dirty things happening in Latin America at the time, largely engineered by the Reagan Administration (illegally, we’d later discover).  I went into that lecture thinking one way about the issues, and came out afterward as a changed person with very different attitudes about the world.  Such is the power of inviting guest speakers and openly exchanging ideas.  This is the purpose of higher education.

Some will argue, at times there are justifiable reasons to limit free speech, even on college campuses.  The hate speech” victim card gets wrongly played.  But these objections ring hollow and make the protesters seem petty.  British author David Irving has written prolifically on World War II, yet is also infamously known as the world’s leading Holocaust denier.  To many, he’d certainly qualify as a proponent of hate speech.  Years ago, Irving toured the United States and spoke to students on several college campuses.  It took some time, but eventually, his “research” was exposed as fallacious and he was openly discredited in a very public trial that took place in London.  Had Irving not been given a university platform, he might have remained hidden on the outer fringes and made quite a nice living at the expense of those who suffered unspeakable horrors.  Hence, subjecting Irving’s words and ideas to scrutiny became truth’s most powerful weapon.

From what I’ve seen of Milo Yiannopoulos, he can easily be dismissed as just another punk.  There’s nothing remotely credible about any of his ideas, particularly on politics and society.  He’s engaged in crude look-at-me tactics.  He written and said outrageous things, purely to gain notoriety.  Yet for all his pernicious pestilence, Yiannopoulos should have just as much right to speak and be heard at a public university as anyone else.  Free speech means exactly what it says — the right to speak freely.  That means without interruption nor intimidation.

Unless we all have it and defend its practice, none of us enjoys free speech.  That’s the reminder we progressives must take away from the Cal-Berkeley embarrassment.

 

Comment below or follow the discussion on Facebook HERE.

Read More

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

Democrats Offer the Right Message, but Have the Wrong Messenger

 

 

Last night, Rep. Nancy Pelosi held a nationally-televised “Town Hall Meeting.”

Overnight television ratings were’t available at the time of this writing.  However, one presumes the hour-long Q & A session with the House Minority Leader taking center stage probably drew a few million voters.  It’s also a valid guess that just about everyone tuning in to watch Pelosi were Democratic loyalists, and/or voters repelled by President Trump.  It’s highly doubtful that many independents or Republicans watched the telecast.  I’d even go so far as to say the number of opinions swayed by Pelosi’s remarks during the town hall meeting could probably fit into a telephone booth, assuming there were still any phone booths around, which precisely makes my point.

This begs the question all Democrats should be asking, namely — what in the hell was Nancy Pelosi doing on that stage?

Incredibly, the Democrats never seem to learn the lessons of history, even when it’s a hard reality to face and a bitter pill to swallow.  Despite Republicans offering a dreadfully-flawed candidate at the top of their party ticket stained by the highest negatives in American political history, Democrats still got whipped in the election — at every level.  Republicans won the presidency, the House, the Senate, plus an overwhelming number of gubernatorial slots and state legislatures.  Democrats, who spent just as much money nationally as the Republicans (arguably more, depending on metrics), were humiliated.

Democrat defeats weren’t due to spouting the wrong message.  Not at all.  On virtually every issue, Democrats enjoy the majority support.  Do Americans favor raising the minimum wage?  Check.  Do Americans favor responsible gun legislation?  Check.  Do Americans believe in climate change?  Check.  Do Americans want to improve our national infrastructure?  Check.  Do Americans want to protect a woman’s right to chose?  Check.  On nearly every issue, the Democrat message wins the hearts and minds of most people.  Accordingly, since the message wins the popularity contest (and by an overwhelming majority on some issues), the explanation for disproportionate losses must lie elsewhere (yes, gerrymandering has a lot to do with it).

Here’s a novel thought:  Perhaps it’s the messenger.

Given the mass rebuke of Democratic candidates across the board, in all regions of the country, one might have expected plenty of heads to roll after the disaster.  Certainly, it seemed reasonable to expect Democratic Party leadership to gracefully step aside and allow a younger, more energetic crowd with new ideas — not only about how to govern but how to campaign — to step forward and carry the progressive torch.  But instead, Democrats gave virtually all its leaders a contract extension.

Using a sporting comparison, there’s a reason why the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars fired the entire coaching staff after the team finished 3-11 last season.  Even though they’re all probably good and decent people, each talented and knowledgeable in his own right, the ax fell because coaches failed to accomplish their objectives.  Not only did they fail to win, they also lost badly.  Yet, Democrats continue to slumber blindly onward with the same impotent leadership, oblivious to how much of the country sees them.

One of the very first acts by Democrats who assembled in the new congress in early 2017 was to re-elect Nancy Pelosi to what amounts to the de facto face of the party, along with Chuck Schumer, her counterpart in the U.S. Senate.  One might argue there’s justification for choosing Pelosi (and Schumer) and allowing them to continue in their leadership posts.  After all, congressional staffs are immensely critical in the legislative process and it would be hard to argue there are better staffs than Pelosi’s and Schumer’s.  There’s also long traditions in congress, which reward seniority.  Political insurrections might happen in some elections, but they aren’t common on Capital Hill.

Yet, television and town halls require a completely different skill set than the wonkish acts of governance.  If President Trump’s election victory teaches us anything — it’s that we’ve now rocketed into a completely new age of political marketing and showmanship.  Voters aren’t interested much in policy details and studies, nor even facts.  I know, that’s a frightening conclusion.  But no once can refute it.  Facts don’t matter.  Instead, they want a circus.  So, Democrats need to give it to them — wild tigers, elephants, trapeze artists, and even clowns.  That’s how to create the Big Tent and win election victories.

Fortunately, Democrats have a number of outstanding ringmasters ready and eager to spread the progressive message.  Instead of Nancy Pelosi, Democrats would have been advised to offer  the town hall spot to Sen. Al Franken, or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, or Sen. Amy Klobuchar, or even Sen. Cory Booker (despite his inexplicable vote against allowing pharmaceuticals into the United States from Canada, which angered many on the Left).  Want to pick a better national spokesperson for the party then Pelosi?  Here’s how to do that:  Pick up the congressional phone book, open it up to any page, and point to any name.  It’s that bad.  It’s that dire.

To be fair, Pelosi is right on most issues that matter.  She was way ahead of the rest of the country on civil rights.  She’s also done admirable work in the past and can continue to be a political force.  Yet, when picking a champion for change, it’s baffling why someone was selected who has such high negatives.  Pelosi is the anti-populist.  You know it’s “game over,” when Sen. Mitch McConnell is out-polling the Democratic Minority Leader in national polls.  Why even bother holding a town hall if it’s going to be fronted by someone considered by a majority of voters to be a pariah?  It’s self-defeating.

Still, the Democrats not only refuse to clean house.  They won’t even look at themselves in the mirror.  Even with what would seem to be overwhelming advantages coming up in the next election (2018) given the chaos we’ve witnessed in recent weeks, Democrats could very well blow it again unless some key lessons are learned from recent history.

Nancy Pelosi’s mystifying showing at a town hall meeting might not seem like a very big deal in the grander scheme of bigger issues.  Yet the truth is, it’s yet another painful indication that Democrats remain completely oblivious to how they’re perceived and what’s going on across America.

 

Read More

Posted by on Nov 9, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 4 comments

The Political Fallout

 

nuclear-mushroom-cloud

 

Continuing with more random thoughts on the stunning results of the 2016 presidential election:

 

HILLARY CLINTON WON

The way we elect American presidents must be closely re-examined and perhaps overhauled.  Fact:  Hillary Clinton won more votes than Donald Trump.  While the poll numbers are still rolling in, the final tally will undoubtedly show that the Democratic candidate won the votes of more Americans than the Republican candidate.  This has been the case in 6 out of the last 7 presidential elections.  Aside from the timing of this partisan comment, there is something inherently wrong with a broken system where a majority of Americans voting in favor of one candidate over another doesn’t translate into that candidate being elected.  This system isn’t just flawed.  It’s broken.  The electoral system must be changed.  It’s time to create a bi-partisan national commission to implement a better way to elect our leaders.

 

A GENERATIONAL DIVIDE

We of a different generation often beat up unmercifully on Millennials.  We still think their music sucks and we’re totally convinced they spend far too much time worrying about the latest bullshit trend on social media.  But, for the most part, Millennials in this election got things right.  Younger people have the most at stake personally when it comes to politics.  Their future is in jeopardy.  We now have a president-elect who denies global warming, who intends terminate women’s reproductive rights, who resorted to a gutter level of personal conduct that’s unprecedented in American political history, who adheres to a set of core beliefs grounded in the distant past rather than the future.  For the most part, a majority of young people REJECTED that message and that candidate.  My generation can’t be so proud of itself.  In fact, we should be ashamed.  We’ve burned up the planet, poisoned the air and the oceans, empowered the banks to tether you by the balls, and now we’ve just given you Donald J. Trump for President.  Here’s a shout out to young activists who are committed to progressive causes — get involved.  This isn’t a plea.  It’s a fucking obligation.  Our future depends on you.  We hope that you can become the greatest generation.  Please.

 

JEB BUSH WAS NOMINATED, AFTER ALL

An uninspiring presidential candidate with a famous last name was once thought to be the inevitable nominee of his party.  And, turns out, she was.  Hillary Clinton turned into a Democratic reincarnation of all the stupefying negatives of Jeb Bush, earlier perceived as the heir-apparent to the presidential thrown.  Like Bush, Clinton often had difficulty connecting with average voters.  She, and her complacent campaign staff, distanced the candidate from questions and scrutiny.  While Donald Trump was basking in the glow of unprecedented media coverage, Clinton was tightly controlled.  She held virtually no press conferences.  She sequestered herself away from media while traveling.  Everything was carefully orchestrated by the handlers and “experts,” leaving the average voter with the (accurate) perception that Clinton was hopelessly out of touch with people living and working on Main Street.  Unfortunately, the political machinery of the Democratic Party didn’t weed out the mediocrity of candidate Clinton in the same manner Republicans were able to quickly expunge Jeb Bush from the national political scene.

 

POLLSTERS EATING TRIPLE HELPINGS OF CROW

I lost whatever sliver of respect I still had for pollsters way back in 2004, after most of the pundits that year predicted the election of John Kerry.  They were wrong back then.  But this time, they really blew it.  Witnessing the polling group and website Five-Thirty-Eight have the audacity to continue posting flawed “data” last night, all night long, in the midst of such a massive slap in the face to their credibility was excruciating.  Sure, surprises do happen.  But national pollsters should have been able to employ more accurate survey methodology and at the very least factor in outlying habits of key demographics that might not align with traditional ways of conducting polls.  Move over Hillary.  The night’s biggest losers were the pollsters and pundits.

 

A NATION OF ANGRY VOTERS HYPOCRITES

The 2016 national electorate has been widely described as “angry.”  That’s certainly accurate.  What’s grossly inaccurate, however, is the mainstream media’s portrayal of widespread anger being almost entirely monopolized by the Trump campaign.  That’s simply not true.  Plenty of Clinton supports were angry, too.  In fact, Bernie Sanders supporters were arguably the angriest constituency of all.  We continue to demand a complete overhaul of the economic and political system of this country.  Many die-hard Clinton supporters were also angry, as well as horrified, as the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.  And so, like me, we rallied around an admittedly-flawed, often wavering compromise of a presidential candidate who wasn’t so much an inspiration, but a desperate firewall.  The 2016 election will INACCURATELY go down in history as a popular manifestation of intense voter anger with Washington and the rest of the political establishment and elites, supposedly targeted at both parties.  But if voters were so “angry.” then why did they end up doing what voter inexplicably do every election in my memory, which is RE-ELECTING establishment politicians, namely incumbents in overwhelming numbers?  Fact:  There were NO SURPRISES in congressional, senate, or gubernatorial elections.  None.  The establishment won, once again.  Big surprise.  So, quit the the “anger” bullshit.  Voters must not be too angry, after all, since they re-elected 95 percent of the incumbents who were running for re-election.  I could have gone along with a massive political sweep and housecleaning.  That’s DIDN’T HAPPEN.  Hypocrites.

 

WHITELASH

Trump’s victory is being described by some as the last gasp of a frightened segment of the population — namely older Whites — soon to be outnumbered by looming horizonal shifts in racial and cultural demographics.  I previously thought we are becoming a more tolerant nation, a more secular society, a more empathetic people to the struggles of others.  But, alas we are not.  We’re stooped and stymied in the same ugliness that once engulfed other advanced nations in similar scary times when an imperfect storm of seemingly unlikely events creates an unforeseen political pox.  I can’t even begin to understand what it must be like to be an immigrant, a Muslim, a responsible journalist, a social worker who deals with family crisis’ and wakes up this morning in a different America than we thought, just 24 hours earlier.  I cannot fathom the fear.  I cannot fathom the disappointment.  I can only fathom my own sense of shame.

 

More to come…..

 

Read More

Posted by on Nov 9, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 6 comments

The Mourning After

 

110112_arizona_crowd_ap_605

 

The talk this morning is of conceding a bitter election defeat and bringing a divided country back together again.

Fine.  I’m willing to go along with that.

But first, some fingers need to be pointed.  Names need to be called out.  The guilty should be identified.  Heads must roll.

Let’s make one thing clear.  The floundering Democratic Party establishment failed us.  They had the money.  They had the machinery.  They had it all.  All the so-called elites, the political operatives, the sycophant enablers, the corrupt party leadership — they all fumbled what should have been a rout of epic proportions.  This should have been as ass-kicking.  Well, I guess it was.

Democrats were all but gift-wrapped what should have been a massive electoral landslide of 1964 proportions with the nomination of a candidate as vile as Donald Trump.  This should have been a slam dunk, a grand slam, and a hole in one.  Instead, it turned into a pick-six and a strike out and a triple bogey.  And we, those of us who adhere most stridently to progressive values, we will ultimately end up paying the heaviest price for the failures of our failed “leadership.”

We told you so.  Democrats had a golden chance to nominate a thoroughly likable and trustworthy presidential candidate who, even with what some might consider far-Leftist views, still enjoyed widespread high marks for integrity and the respect of his political adversaries.  But now, all the evidence plainly shows the Democratic National Committee conspired against the more electable candidate.  Accordingly, in the face of such an embarrassing defeat, every DNC executive should resign immediately.

Moreover, the Democratic Party must completely expunge its congressional leadership.  All of them.  They need to go.  These names have become politically toxic to a majority of Americans.  Sen. Harry Reid can’t retire quickly enough.  Rep. Nancy Pelosi must be stripped of her minority post in the House of Representatives when Congress re-convenes next January.  Anyone in a position of power in this party must step aside for their failures on such a massive scale.  Debbie Wasserman Shultz should be recalled by her constituency.  Donna Brazille, whom I once greatly respected, should never be allowed to work again in a position of trust.  John Podesta will go down in history as the campaign chairman who couldn’t manage a used car lot.

Democrats absolutely blew the presidency.  They blew control of the Senate.  They blew the chance to pick up substantial seats in the House.  Democrats blew it in all the state races, as well.  Once again, they failed to pick up any significant victories in gubernatorial elections or winning control of state assemblies.  Despite enjoying all the advantages of a well-oiled machine, they crashed the family car into a tree.  Now, we the progressives will take over the drivers seat.  My message to the Democratic establishment:  Get out of the car.  You can walk from here.  In fact, take a hike.  We’re taking over.

Here’s a call out to all my fellow progressives, especially younger people.  Now, it’s time to step up.  Big time.  Yes, many of the previous generation, my generation, let you down.  So, your time has come.  We are counting on you.  We need you.

I’ll be looking ahead for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to take over this movement, which includes the millions of Bernie Sanders supporters who now desperately crave a new voice and guiding light.  We need Rep. Gabbard and other new voices not only to step forward and be heard, but to articulate a message to Americans that progressives stand for causes which are vital to our future — equality and protection for all, inclusion both economically and politically, dedication to a clean environment, and other virtues which are now seriously in danger with the election of Donald Trump.

We must not merely accept defeat gracefully.  While we must adhere to the principles of a peaceful transition of power, we must also retool our message and (most important) replace our messengers in order to reverse the terrible pain of this awful moment.

More thoughts to come……

 

Read More

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics, What's Left | 18 comments

Dear Mexico: Please Accept Our Apology

 

USMexBorder_183004973

 

Given our treatment of them, Mexicans should despise Americans.

Think about it.  Put aside your gun for a moment, set down that can of Coors, and press the mute button on Duck Dynasty for the next five minutes.  I promise, no one’s going to run away with your precious prides and joys.  Now, let’s talk about something really important — our neighbors.

We treat Mexicans like shit.  We treat them like shit over here.  We treat them like shit over there.  We treat them like shit when we trample all over Tijuana on weekends and then vomit in the streets.  We treat them like shit when we bargain with the shopkeeper relying on that giant cruise ship you’ve stepped from for a couple of hours, hoping he sells enough nick-knacks to feed his family this week.  We treat the poor working-class peasants like shit.  Even a former Mexican president gets treated like shit.

Read More
css.php