Monday, August 1, 2016

BERNIE SANDERS AND HIS PLAN FOR A TRUMP PRESIDENCY

First let me acknowledge that during the primaries I donated to the Sanders campaign and didn’t donate to the Clinton campaign. Let me also admit that I voted for Bernie in the California primary. But as I watched Bernie’s behavior at the DNC and that of his supporters, I’ve come to regret having supported or voted for him.

I don’t know exactly how much one has to make to be considered part of the one percent Bernie rails against, but I suspect I’m in it.  That said, I believe in many of the issues Bernie championed. A living wage. An affordable education. A fair and humane immigration policy. Real campaign finance reform.  Those are ideals to which I subscribe.

So I supported Bernie.

For better or worse Bernie didn’t get the Democratic nomination and, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Brad Marshall notwithstanding, he lost fair and square.  So why at the convention did Bernie look like he’d been coached by the same people who coached Johnny Depp and Amber Heard for that Australian apology video? He spent most of his prime time speech continuing to campaign for himself, and then gave Hillary a weak endorsement that amounted to little more than saying she, or for that matter anyone, was better than Trump.

During Hillary’s acceptance speech Bernie looked like a prisoner of war. And throughout the convention he stood silently by while many of Bernie’s supporters booed Hillary repeatedly, disrupted the convention with their protests, and claimed they would not vote for her even if that meant Trump won the presidency. Instead of leading his troops to the Hillary camp like a true general, two days after the DNC Bernie announced that he’s leaving the Democratic Party, essentially taking his ball and going home. 

What kind of leader does that? Could it really be that the only difference between Bernie and Trump is that Trump succeeded in hijacking a political party and Bernie didn’t? Say what you will about Hillary but after her primary loss in 2008 she too must have been incredibly disappointed, and yet she still proudly endorsed Obama, actively campaigned for him, and made sure all her supporters did the same. That’s actual leadership.

So Bernie, I wish I could have my vote back, and I want my money back too (I know, Trump would simply stop payment on the check).  And to the Bernie supporters who are sitting out this November or worse, I hope you’re not black, or brown, or Jewish, or Muslim, or an immigrant, or a woman, or have a disability, or are part of the LGBTQ community, or are any of the other things that make us such a magnificent melting pot nation, because at this point every vote not cast for Hillary is a vote cast for Trump and if Trump becomes President you, even more than most, are fucked.

And if you think you’re just casting a protest vote that won’t matter because no one would actually elect a vile, racist, sexist, anti-semitic xenophobe with no experience and a terrible temperament to the highest office in the land, you might want to read up on another political outsider, one who came to power in 1933 in the Weimar Republic by preaching fear, divisiveness and hatred. Because there’s no walking back from a Trump presidency.

I’m admittedly late to the party, but better late than never.

 #ImWithHer.

  


Sunday, January 18, 2015

GREG ANTHONY AND OTHER DANGEROUS CRIMINALS

The other day Greg Anthony, a basketball analyst for CBS and former NBA player, was arrested at a DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Washington D.C. and charged with solicitation of a prostitute “through the use of a computer”.

The article I read also stated that the D.C. police have arrested about 700 people in the past year for the same offense through various sting operations, and that this was an increase in the number of such arrests from the year before.  Simple math tells us that means tens of thousands of people each year are being arrested for the same offense through countless police sting operations in the United States.

I read the article with contempt, but my contempt wasn’t for Mr. Anthony. It was for the D.C. police department.  I have no particular sympathy for Mr. Anthony. He’ll have to sort out his actions with his family and his conscience.  But given the continuing wave of violent crime in major cities across the country, it’s truly discouraging that police claim they don’t have the resources to fight crime yet continue to expend valuable financial and human resources on prostitution stings.

First let’s understand the nature of the crime.  Apparently if I make contact with a woman on the internet, meet up with her at a hotel and have sex with her for free that’s not a crime. In fact that makes me a baller.  But if I make contact with a woman on the internet, meet up with her at a hotel, have sex with her and then pay her, I’m a criminal.  That’s lunacy. 

I’m not advocating for or against prostitution. However, when it comes to the legalization of prostitution, the statistics are clear and unambiguous. In places where prostitution is legal and regulated, the incidence of STDs decreases dramatically, as does the incidence of violence against prostitutes and for that matter, violence generally against women including rape, sexual assault and domestic violence.

Laws that make prostitution illegal aren’t designed to foster the public good. They’re vestiges of our Puritan ancestry, and our elected officials like them because these laws allow them to say they’re “tough on crime” come election time. Meanwhile, real crimes are on the rise and genuinely dangerous criminals run free because police are sitting in hotel rooms waiting for johns to pull out their cash (well, and other things).  

Not long ago, a friend of mine was home alone late one night.  He was reading in his study when he heard someone break into his house.  He immediately called 911 to report the home invasion in progress. By the time the police arrived almost forty (!!) minutes later, he had been hogtied, pistol-whipped, locked in a closet, and most of his cash and valuables had been stolen.  The perp was long gone.

My friend is lucky to be alive, but they’ll never catch whoever did it.  Unless of course the perp stops by the DoubleTree downtown and tries to pay for sex.  Then they’ll nail him dead to rights.



Saturday, November 8, 2014

THE STRANGE CASE OF #ALEXFROMTARGET

Gil Scott-Heron may have told us that the revolution will not be televised, but he didn’t say anything about social media.

On the morning of October 26, 2104 Alex Christopher LaBeouf, a normal, good looking sixteen year old living in Dallas went to work at his part time job at the local Target store. Like most teenagers his age he participated in social media, but his engagement was unremarkable. In fact, he had less than 150 followers on Twitter.

That afternoon, a fifteen year old girl named Brooklyn Reiff took a picture of Alex and tweeted it to her friend Alanna because Alanna had told her that Alex was cute. Then she forgot all about it, and him, unaware of the internet tsunami she had just unleashed.

Nothing much happened for a few days.  And then a teenager in the U.K. with the twitter handle @auscalum, who presumably thought the boy was cute and who was very actively engaged in social media, retweeted the photo. And all hell broke loose.

Instantly the photo went viral. The hashtag #AlexFromTarget trended through the roof. Alex’s own twitter followers grew from 144 to more than 600,000 almost overnight. Alex was invited to go on the Ellen DeGeneres show where he told Ellen, among other things, that he had received several marriage proposals.

That’s all good fun, right? You be the judge.

The folks at Target denied having anything to do with the viral meme. Yet recognizing a native integration opportunity when they saw one, themselves started tweeting about Alex and the #AlexFromTarget craze.

Bags of Bliss, an Australian manufacturer of pre-packaged maternity gift bags, has a Twitter handle almost identical to Alex’s handle. After gamely posting several times that they were not #AlexFromTarget they figured if you can’t beat’em join ‘em, and started advertising their product to a suddenly expanded customer base. 

An unknown social media marketing company called Breakr made the unlikely claim that they had orchestrated the entire thing to show brands and potential clients the commercial power of Fangirls.  When Alex, the girls who had originally tweeted the photo, and even Target denied any knowledge of Breakr the company backpedalled, leaving them with a black eye and the specter of dishonesty.

@auscalum, the young woman whose retweet started the avalanche, got so much hate content on her Twitter feed, including death threats (!?), that she temporarily shut down her Twitter account. Ironically, @auscalum reactivated her account to deny that she knew or had anything to do with Breakr.

A number of fake Alex accounts sprang up, the most egregious being one that created the handle @acl164 (Alex uses the handle @acl163) and started aggressively procuring follows and engagement from teen girls. Whether that user is a teenage boy, a pedophile, or something else remains unknown.

And what of the fate of young Alex LaBeouf?  Well, the jury’s still out. He’s still working at Target. He’s still posting normal tweets, albeit now to a whole lot more people. He still seems close with his family. But will his inadvertent celebrity help or hurt his development as a young adult?  Target will profit from all this free press, but will brands embrace Alex to endorse their products, or will he slink back into obscurity when his fifteen minutes (or fifteen seconds) of fame are up? 

Only time will tell. But the lesson of #AlexFromTarget is that the unintended consequences that can spring from social media should make us all tread very carefully as we are drawn to its siren song.




Friday, October 31, 2014

RUSSIAN ROULETTE IN A TIME OF EBOLA

Men are simple creatures. 

What man hasn’t played Russian Roulette at least once in his life for the sake of love or lust? Well, hopefully very few of us have actually put a bullet in a revolver, spun the chamber, put the gun to our head and pulled the trigger. Yet we’ve all done things to impress a lover that are so irrational and have such unnecessary downside, that in the absence of pheromones we’d never dream of doing them.

I’ve been riveted by the reckless selfishness of Kaci Hickox which has been playing out in the media. Ms. Hickox is the nurse who returned to the U.S. from treating Ebola patients in West Africa and is now flaunting her unwillingness to be quarantined during what we believe to be the virus’ incubation period.  I’ve also been riveted by the plight of her boyfriend Ted Wilbur, who despite all logic and any instinct for self preservation, has been cavorting around the state of Maine with Ms. Hickox.

I genuinely feel badly for Mr. Wilbur, who has found himself with a terrible dilemma. On the one hand he wants to be supportive of his girlfriend. From what one reads on the news Ms. Hickox is very strong willed (read: nuts). Shes likely being very vocal with Mr. Wilbur that if he loves her he needs support her as she experiences her fifteen minutes of fame as the potential Typhoid Mary of the 21st century. She’s probably telling him that if he’s not at her side then he, like the rest of the world, must be against her and doesn’t deserve her.

On the other hand, Mr. Wilbur knows that his girlfriend might have EBOLA!! Not a cold. Not the flu. Not even chicken pox.  EBOLA!! He knows that if she ends up having the virus, since he’s in close contact with her (read into that what you will), he is very likely to contract it himself.  So what’s a lover to do?

Ms. Hickox went to Africa to treat Ebola patients, which signals that she must have some general empathy for humanity as a whole. One would have hoped that she would also have had some concern for the emotional and physical well being of the man she apparently loves. After all the quarantine is 21 days, not 21 years.

But alas, it didn’t go down that way for Mr. Wilbur and thats where the pheromones kick in. So he's convinced himself that it’ll probably be okay, that Ms. Hickox probably doesn’t have Ebola, that if she has Ebola he probably won’t get it from her, and that even if he does, not everyone dies from it. 

I watch Mr. Wilbur put the bullet in the chamber and spin it, and as he points the gun at his own head I marvel again at the notion that love, and lust, are blind and illogical. 

In this case, hopefully it's Ebola free as well.










Saturday, October 18, 2014

THE CRAIGSLIST PERSONALS WAR OF WORDS

When the recent letter exchange between a young woman looking to marry and the response from a guy who’d read her post on Craigslist first hit social media, I thought the whole thing was a hoax and didn’t pay much attention to it.

In her letter, the woman claims to be beautiful, classy and articulate. She asks straightforwardly how she can go about meeting men who make $500,000 or more per year who might be potential marriage partners.  In his response, the guy tears her to shreds for her request.

As her letter and his response continued to go viral, I started to get intrigued.  What caught my interest wasn’t so much that the exchange had gone viral, but rather that both men and women were almost universally cheering the guy’s pistol whipping of the young woman.  

What if the whole thing wasn’t a hoax? As the father of three daughters myself, the young woman’s letter struck me as sad, yet weirdly innocent and heartfelt. She acknowledges that what she is asking will sound superficial. She wonders aloud what she may be doing wrong, and she talks about her ability to “keep a nice home and hearth”.  Based on her letter, she sounds like she's from relatively humble beginnings, probably not very well traveled or exposed to the world, and unclear on how to better her circumstances by using whatever assets she believes her upbringing or genetics may have given her.

The guy’s response is of a different kind altogether. The thrust of it, which in stark contrast to the tone of her letter is malevolent in the extreme, is that her beauty will fade and that as a result he is unwilling to buy (read marry) her but is willing to lease (read use) her until her beauty is gone.  He goes to unusually great lengths to underscore that he is the sort of man she seeks.  He talks about making more than $500,000 per year.  He insists that his net worth will continue to rise. He assures her he’s not “wasting her time”. He drops financial terms like “pump and dump” and “efficient markets” to prove his financial street cred, although he uses terms in such a clunky and rudimentary manner that I started to think he wasn’t an investment banker at all, but rather some guy who googled the phrase “is it better to buy a car or lease one” to pick up some financial terminology.

Maybe he is who he says he is.  For his sake I hope so, because his venom and vitriol makes me suspect that he hasn’t had success with women, especially beautiful ones.  And with his personality he’ll need every dollar he can make to find a woman who’ll tolerate him. The good news for this young woman is that he reveals himself to be the ultimate tool, so she can cross him off her list.

Which ultimately brings me to efficient markets, the concept with which he verbally rapes her. And since this guy’s social media cheerleaders haven’t asked the question, I will.

Why was this self-proclaimed rich and powerful investment banker trolling the Craigslist personals to begin with?