Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Atlantic "This is How A Revolution Ends" (Sanders Part IV)

The irrationality of the Sanders camp is now an open secret.  I have several friends who continue to be part of the cult movement.  To their credit, Sanders does indeed appeal to the liberal wing of Democrats, who are numerous in California, and there are more Northerly white states for him to mine: Montana and both Dakotas.  The math is against him, but "momentum" supposedly means something.

In the Atlantic, This is How a Revolution Ends, Molly Ball (I hope that's her real name! I love it!) spews the sarcasm:
This is Sanders’s last stand, according to the official narrative of the corrupt corporate media, and if there is anything we have learned in the past year, it is the awesome power of the official narrative—the self-reinforcing drumbeat that dictates everything.
Sanders is the victim of the corrupt mainstream media when he loses, but he's living proof of the validity of his "revolution" when he wins, apparently.
(Bernie-or-Bust supporter) Caldwell discovered Sanders last year through Tumblr and YouTube videos. She is an active member of three different Sanders-boosting Facebook groups and livestreams once a week “to motivate people to vote for Bernie.” It has changed their lives, being a part of this movement. Something like that doesn’t just end. Does it?
This passage made my skin crawl just a bit.  The internet has made it possible for like-minded people (like atheists) to find each other, which is great.  The downside is that it has created virtual cults.  Outside viewpoints can be ignored.  Insiders are praised for parroting the words of the leaders.  Doubt is discouraged.   The power to do this is a double-edged sword.  It inspires people to belong to something larger than themselves and to change the world.  That's good sometimes, but dangerous other times.  It's how "self-radicalized" terrorists are made.

Could the "nones" who are "spiritual but not religious" find this a satisfying alternative to religions, with their ancient dogma, political power, and trivial rules?
Prasad Paul Duffy, a 58-year-old spiritual activist and filmmaker with shoulder-length blond curls. He was sitting cross-legged and barefoot on the field before the speeches started. “It’s a tool of the 1 percent, the powers that be. It should be abolished.” Clinton, he believes, is “owned by the billionaires,” and he could never vote for her.

“I would vote for Trump,” Duffy said. “At least he’s challenging the status quo. He sees we’ve been sold down the river and we’ve got to get it back. I prefer Bernie’s means to Trump’s! Trump is being demonized in the press for similar reasons as Bernie is being ignored. They’re both challenging the system.
One of my nutty friends said that Trump would be better than Hillary, though for different reasons. If this Duffy had been watching the media instead of the internet, he'd see that Bernie hasn't really been ignored, and that Trump got rather honest coverage. If Trump comes across as xenophobic for wanting to build a wall or deny entrance to the country for any muslim, that's due to his own words. In a sense, all candidates challenge the status quo about something. Hillary is the exception for hinting at an Obama III presidency, but there's definitely a false equivalency between Sanders and Trump. Sanders is against the 1% and Trump was born into the 1% for one thing.

Fortunately, this guy is in the minority among Sanderites, but it's a sizeable and irrational minority. Some of my friends insist they'd vote for the Green Party candidate rather than either Clinton or Trump, even if it means Trump would win. I don't understand that logic, and I hope that once the primary is a dim memory they will see the choices more clearly.
As Sanders gave his usual 75-minute consciousness-raising diatribe in Santa Monica, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees, and people began to stream off the field. By the time he got to the climactic line—“In fact, we need a political revolution!”—the whole back half was empty, and the crowd was practically too sparse to give the requisite answering roar.
Ouch! Sanders "appeals" to young people, but does he know they don't have 75-minute attention spans? It doesn't sound like he puts on a very good show. I have to research which bands he hired and what they played. He's a septaguanarian. Does he know any of the musicians "those kids these days" know?

Or maybe after listening to him yell for over an hour it started sounding like "Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!"

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Cult of Bernie, Part The Third (with more math and some sad observations)

My primary is over and done with, as are the primaries of almost all of my friends.  Only a few states remain in the primary season:  3 non-states (Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia), California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and the Dakotas.  If the trends of other states continue, Bernie will win the white places (Montana and the Dakotas), Hillary will win handily in DC, and they will be virtually tied in California and New Jersey.  Puerto Rico & the Virgin Islands are rather a mystery to us.  Hillary won by a narrow margin in Guam & American Samoa, but those are Pacific & PR and VI are Caribbean, so I can't imagine any similarities other than being possessions.  I will just estimate a tie for those places.

SO if the margins follow trends, Hillary will win about 483 and Sanders about 450 (assuming the superdelegates are apportionate).  If I'm very wrong, the numbers could be the reverse.

... meaning they would finish with 2726 (Clinton) vs. 2022 (Sanders)... assuming the superdelegates who have already pledged to a candidate don't change their minds.  Almost all of them would have to do that for him to win, so he shouldn't hold his breath.  He's been calling them crooked, among other things, and that's not the way to win supporters.  A lot of superdelegates know him from Congress, since he's served in both houses, yet those who know both candidates have chosen to go with Clinton.  Math and logic say that he just won't win (even though technically he can), but I'm losing friends over this.

* * * * * * 
I have been feeling very alone since concluding that the Sanders campaign is a little too fringe for me.   There are supposed to be crazy HRC supporters but I haven't found them.  I belong to a couple of Facebook groups that lean in her direction but I haven't seen anything loopy there, and not even any anti-Sanders stuff until recently.

Recently we doubters have started coming out of the closet.  Of course I don't dare link posts like this poignant post by a disability activist who got blown off by Sanders's campaign.  My Sanderbot friends will say she's a shill for Hill, though I think it's important reading.

Sources that used to be considered non-Mainstream Media (abbreviated MSM by the kool-aid drinkers) are also publishing thoughtful articles about the campaign and the movement.  I don't imagine any Bernie-or-Bust cult member would care, but I share the quotations below:

Ideological liberals are among the loudest Democrats, but they are a minority within the entire party. And while that minority is larger and stronger than it’s been in a generation, it’s still not strong enough to steer the party alone. It still has to play coalition politics....
The simple fact is that there aren’t enough liberals to elect politicians outside of bastions in California and in the Northeast, and there never have been.
...For most of his congressional career, Sanders has been a gadfly—an ideologue pressing his colleagues from the left, with a base in one of the least diverse states in the union. The same qualities that make him exciting to so many Americans—his passion, his bluntness, his uncompromising views—make him ill-suited for the transactional politicking that you need to pull off a coup against an establishment figure like Hillary Clinton. 
Gadfly!  Yes, that's the conclusion I came to long before reading this.  Gadflies often have a legitimate gripe, but they aren't leaders.  In politics, people who disagree (ideally) work together to come up with solutions that everyone can live with.  Who would attack the very institution that gave them a platform?  Sanders is no Martin Luther King.  He's more like a Martin Luther -- starting his own religion because the Catholic Church wouldn't reform at the rate and extent he wanted.  (The Catholic church did in fact reform in response to his movement but it was too late - he took his supporters with him and started the Lutheran denomination.

Another Slate piece "Bernie, Don't Do This:"
In the past month, Sanders has switched gears, from a policy critique of Clinton to a process argument against the Democratic Party. The argument? That any outcome short of full deference to his campaign is evidence of corruption and betrayal....
...Sanders’ most expansive argument is against “closed primaries,” which have entered his stump speech as a fundamentally unfair part of the process. But closed primaries weren’t created in response to Sanders—they are a long-standing feature. Critically, they are far from the least democratic part of the process. That goes to caucuses, which by their design preclude the vast majority of a given electorate from participating. If closed primaries are undemocratic for keeping out registered independents, then caucuses are undemocratic for keeping out everyone. Yet Sanders hasn’t railed against them. And why would he? They’ve delivered his largest victory margins and have fueled his campaign.
Yes, the reformer only wants to reform those aspects of the process that didn't benefit him.  When this language started infiltrating his campaign, I took notice.  I liked him when he seemed to be supportive of poor people and blue collar workers, but now it's about what he wants for himself.  (Speaking of working people, I'm personally against caucuses because they disenfranchise the poor.   Voting can be done by mail, in advance or by stopping off at the polls on the way to work.  Caucuses favor people with cars, child care (or no children), and time on their hands.  If Sanders truly cared about election fairness he'd call for the end to caucuses)

Jessie Jackson, who is old, yes, but hardly part of the Oligarchy that Sanders thinks he'll overthrow, is piling on:
Jackson said he believes the Vermont senator has "every right" to remain in the race until someone has reached the delegate threshold to clinch the party's nomination. However, once Clinton becomes the nominee, Sanders must work to ensure that his supporters don't assume that the only option come November is to "stay home or support Trump," Jackson added.
This really means something because Jackson himself was once the outsider who shook up the party. It turned out that like Sanders, he did not have wide enough appeal to prevail.  If anyone knows what's at stake, it's Jackson.  And he represents a very important part of the Democratic party - the "black vote" that Sanders seems not to be able to reach.  Ignoring Jackson would just reinforce the impression that he is tone-deaf when it comes to race.  Black people were always poor and hopeless, and they are now less poor and less hopeless.  Sanders appeals to the white people who feel downtrodden, but only in the context of the privilege they used to enjoy. (There are articles out there somewhere about this, but I can't find them.  If any readers know of some, please post a link in the comments!)

Privilege -- it used to mean preppies who went to Ivy League schools as "legacy" students, and could count on a trust fund if they didn't feel like working.  People like Trump and the Bush family.  But in post-modern America it means not having to worry about the kind of adversity that minorities and women face.  If the law has never considered people of your ilk "property," then you have privilege, and Bernie is talking to you.   I disagree with the overuse of the word but it's the only one we have.

Though Sanders talks about the poor, he's talking to people who think they deserve more.  This op-ed I randomly found via google news really hits the nail on the head:
If Sanders’ tying of political violence to “high-crime areas” were his only racially tinged remark, one might give it a pass. But he has a history.  There was his infamous waving-of-the-hand dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s commanding Southern victories, which were powered by African-American voters.
Black lives matter, and so do their votes.

* * * * * * *

But even though some writers on the web have expressed doubts, I haven't seen much about the bad online behavior of Sanders's devotees.  Rushing the stage in Nevada and making threatening calls to DNC leaders are not the problem.  The cultish tactics that led to it are.  In the time that I've been writing these posts, I've been pondering my next step with my friends.  I like these people but I don't like what they've become.  They pass along screen shots, memes, and links to videos that agree with them without looking into them at all, and a lot of them really don't pass the test.

One friend who used to post pictures of activities with her children now only posts about the campaign.  She is obsessed to the point of spelling Clinton's name "Clin" in order to keep the full name from becoming a trending topic on Facebook, as if that matters.  She's livid that the media won't be doing exit polls for California, because she needs to know when to suspect fraud. I wanted to assure her that she'll find something to get angry about without exit polls, but I try to be nice.   She's still phonebanking, calling people in other states, and brags about donating money. The last time she posted about one of her children was when she took him door-knocking with her for "family time."

If you have read my other posts, you know that my biggest pet peeve about religious zealotry is the harm done to children.  I have now broadened my anger to any zealotry that harms a child.  Children can't vote, and they can't consent to being made tools of politics any more than they can consent to religious ceremonies or being held up as examples of perfect babies at anti-abortion protests.  Arguing with me on Facebook was also taking time away from her family, so I have told Facebook to hide her posts.  I almost unfriended her but I decided to take this incremental step, because I believe in incremental steps (If you haven't argued with a Sanderite don't worry if you don't understand that last part).  If I don't like the way she's jettisoned her parental duties in favor of Sanders, I really can't be a part of that.  My other friends have started sharing Sanders stuff to my wall so I changed my Facebook setting to require approval.  I am trying to spend time away from the temptations of the internet, so by the time I check in, several people have piled on.  They are thoroughly devoted, as much as a Jehovah's Witness or Pentecostal preacher.  There's no getting through to them, and I have a real life that needs me.

"Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." -- Matthew, 10:37

And now back to the true purpose of the internet: puppies and kittens

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Cult of Bernie Sanders, part deux

I wrote my previous post out of frustration.  As I said then, I have many friends on Facebook who are diehard Sanders supporters irrational zealots.   At least they are now.  I used to respect their intelligence and I thought they had good heads on their shoulders.  But now they show their ignorance of the American system daily and think they are experts about why it's terrible.  Well, of course it's not perfect, and there are many changes I'd like to see (including many that Sanders preaches about), but overthrowing it in a "revolution" just isn't a practical idea in a government that was intentionally set up to prevent revolutions.  We've had some bad leaders, but we haven't had a Hitler or a Stalin or Napoleon.  Nixon had the temperament to go into that territory, but he had his Constitutional limitations.  So does Sanders.  At the beginning of his campaign I was all for him, but as the campaign became more about him and less about principles, and was called a "revolution" rather than a movement, I soured on him.

But back to the cultish nature of the Sanders subculture.  The latest conspiracy theory demonized the Democratic leaders of Nevada, accusing them of cheating Sanders out of delegates.  After seeing their posts, I went looking for some verification.  I posted links to the Washington Post and other sources, but finally Politifact took on their claims.  I am relieved to see that Politifact thinks there were probably no folding chairs being thrown, but the accusations lobbed by the Sanders faction are also false:

Barring a total collapse from either campaign, this means that one candidate was to get seven delegates at the state convention and the other was to get five...But that model was essentially broken during the April county conventions, where less than half of Clinton’s allocated county delegates showed up, leading Sanders to declare a surprise victory and allocated delegate advantage over Clinton (2,124 to 1,792) heading into the state convention...
 ...The rules specifically lay out that all convention votes must be done by voice vote, and that only the convention chair can declare the winner or call for a more specific method of voting among the thousands of delegates.
The rules also state that any amendment attempts must be approved by two-thirds of the convention delegates — which would be difficult given the nearly even number of Clinton and Sanders backers present there were no last minute rule changes sprung on convention-goers — the rules had been publicly available weeks in advance, largely unchanged for three presidential cycles, and given to both campaigns....
(After the voice vote) Sanders supporters rushed the main stage, hurling obscenities at Lange and other members of the party’s executive board and booing over remarks from California Sen. Barbara Boxer delivered on behalf of the Clinton campaign.  None of the three Sanders supporters who spoke, including Nevada superdelegate Erin Bilbray, made any motion to amend the rules during that time, so they were approved as written.

In summary:
  • The rules remained in place because there was no motion to change them, although some petitions were received that could have supported the motion.
  • Sanders supporters did rush the stage but no chairs were thrown.
  • Clinton's supporters outnumbered Sanders's, giving her two more delegates due to the nature of the rules even though her numbers were only slightly larger.
  • The panel that examined the credentials of delegates was made up of equal numbers of Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters.
  • Rejected delegates, some of whom were Clinton supporters, were investigated.  Since 50 of the 58 contested delegates didn't actually show up, though, this issue is moot.
  • The convention ran over by 4 hours, and that was the reason for cutting it "short."  Since security was necessary, and the security guards were due to leave, the convention had to end.
This is pretty much the opposite of what the Sanders camp claims.  I think a voice vote when there are equal numbers on both sides is a terrible way to make a decision.  But...  it was the leader's right to stop there and not call for a paper ballot.  Since a two-thirds vote was required to change the vote, rather equal sounding voices were not sufficient, so I don't find this complaint compelling either.

* * * * *

Then there is Kentucky.  Clinton won Kentucky handily in 2008, thanks, I suspect, to bigotry against Obama.  The final tally put her ahead by a hair, but the Sanders zealots were glued to their internet the whole night, watching the television & their echo chamber for any sign that their paranoid delusions have merit.  A few of my friends shared this image:

Yes, it does seem strange that Clinton's vote total changed while Sanders's didn't.  Is that evidence of fraud?  No.  It's evidence of information being fluid and fallible as results come in.  (It happened in other states too - where mistakes were counted as evidence of shenanigans by the cult)  A quick trip to Wikipedia would tip off the skeptic:  The population of the entire county is under 20,000!  Fewer than 10,000 people voted in the November 2008 presidential race!  In that election, McCain took the county by a narrow margin.  This means the total votes should have been more like 5,000 for that county.  So which is more likely?  Election fraud?  Or a mistake on the part of the source of the image?  Or amistake on the part of the image and a mistake of interpretation on the part of the Sanders camp?

They also don't seem to get that Sanders has had a poor track record in black districts.  Yes, we still have segregation, which is bad in general but it does give minorities a voice.  They have clearly expressed their preference for Clinton.  This means that as you follow the vote tallies over the course of an election night, you might indeed see a jump for one candidate.  100% of a large district probably wouldn't happen, but as precincts come in the change in vote count will not be a straight line.  It will be a lumpy line.

Their math is also bad in almost every meme that has numbers.  Here's another one:

The first number refers to pledged delegates (not counting superdelegates), and the second number refers to California's total number of delegates.  For an apples to apples comparison, the California number should be 475.  That's still a substantial number, so why the fuzzy math?

If Sanders needs 318 to tie, it's not really 318.  If he won 318, Clinton would receive 157 thanks to proportional delegates.  So he's then behind by 157.  For him to overtake her by one delegate, he would need 397.  She'd then get 78, for a total of 396.  397 is 84% of the vote.  Not impossible, but not a walk in the park, either.  Of the 21 states he's won, the only state he won by that margin is his home state, Vermont.

College Humor pointed out the weaknesses in Berniemath a few weeks ago, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in:

Even if Bernie takes California by a margin of over 80%, there are only 306 more pledged delegates left in the primary process.  At present, she has 504 superdelegates to his 40.  Since he's been calling the system "corrupt" and accusing Democratic party faithful of being cheaters, Berniemath would require a change of heart from the very people he's attacking.

It's very possible that those 504 superdelegates haven't offered their support because they just don't like him.  If he said those things about me I certainly wouldn't switch allegiance.

So... there are 952 delegates left in the process, but five superdelegates have already declared for Clinton, so it's 947.  Bernie is 844 delegates shy of the amount needed to clinch the nomination.  That's 89% of all the delegates left.

I would not call for him to stop campaigning, but I am calling for his followers to think more critically.

Also, lay off the creepy peer pressure:

Monday, May 16, 2016

As an Atheist, Can I Trust True Believers in American Politics?

The 2016 primary season has cluttered my Facebook feed with cultish posts by supporters of Bernie Sanders.  While I agree with almost everything Sanders has said or done, and I would love to see our first openly secular president take office in January, the cultish nature of his fanclub has given me the willies. They are so unquestioning, paranoid and insular that they are starting to remind me of religious cults.

 And since I have a variety of friends, I have also seen cultishness on the other side.  They want to "Take America Back."  Blech!  And I also have friends who are extremely religious.  I haven't seen any political posts from them lately.  Ted Cruz's theology would have been appealing, but well... he's ugly.  Yes, it matters.  I am interested to see if his failure represents the death knell of fundamentalist political power or if he was just the wrong person for them.  Was George W. Bush the peak of their power?  After selling out the economy and jacking up the national debt with an unnecessary war, could it be that politicians who are "on a mission from God" are now laughingstocks, even among conservatives?

Well, I hope that political trend is over, but I'm not a big fan of Messianic leaders on the left either.

From a list of the qualities of a destructive cult, Bernie supporters among my friends have demonstrated those in italics:

  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  • The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
  • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before they joined the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and to radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before they joined the group.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.  -- No, but if you disagree, expect to be unfriended.
  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
Many of these do not apply, but the unwavering devotion, pressure to put in time phone-banking and knocking on doors, the attitude that they represent a "movement" that is superior, and relentless fund-raising and prosletyzing are true.

My friends who have become involved in Bernie's "movement" had not previously been involved in politics, or didn't even pay attention to it.  Now they're experts.  They're like teenagers who attended a Christian rock concert, went to an altar call, then couldn't shut up about Jesus even though they've never read the Bible, studied doctrine, or belonged to a real church.  They don't understand the primary system, and they can't see why a guy who joins the Democratic party just to be able to run for president on their side doesn't have the whole-hearted approval of people who have poured their hearts into the party for decades.  They are True Believers, zealous new converts set out to convert even more to their (supposedly) morally superior leader.

  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.  
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

  • Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality

  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
Every political candidate has to make money, but it seems the Sanders supporters are constantly reminding each other to make a donation, and they make a point of letting each other know when they've donated.  Unfortunately, a lot of them haven't studied election law and they have gone beyond the maximum individual donation of $2,700 per person.  And he has been too slow to send them refunds.  As a leader, and someone whose main platform is economic, shouldn't he 1) teach his na├»ve followers how to do this and 2) follow the law?

So... I find this campaign very creepy.  Sanders is no Messiah, and he's not running for King, yet he promises a "revolution" and promises to change things that can't be reversed with a flick of a finger. Vilifying the very rich and powerful borders on demagoguery.  The very rich will simply move their assets to off-shore accounts, or to The Netherlands (as Bono & U2 did).

I don't know Trump's followers well at all (thank the FSM!) but he has overpromised on so much that's totally impractical I have started to see the two campaigns as two sides of the same coin.  Being sure of yourself and unwilling to change is a good quality sometimes never.  As a skeptic I base decisions on facts and evidence, not dogma.  My best guess about Trump's dogma would be that he merely believes in his own intellectual superiority.  In Bernie's case, he believes in his moral superiority.  I see willingness to look at alternative points of view and gather evidence and change one's mind as a positive, not a negative, yet a Bernie-or-bust friend on Facebook vilified Hillary Clinton for supporting Goldwater over 50 years ago, when she wasn't even old enough to vote!  (I responded that she also changed her mind from shitting in her diapers to going potty on the toilet, but he never answered that one)

Religious zealotry is dangerous not because it's religious, but because it's zealotry.  2016 is making me very queasy.