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Much is being made of a private fundraising dinner for Hillary Clinton being promoted by George and Amal Clooney. The actor and his wife, a renowned human rights lawyer who represented Julian Assange over the Wikileaks scandal, have been drawing some harsh criticisms from fans who feel that the couple’s charitable work and human rights activism is being diminished by supporting a candidate for President who has a very chequered record. Organized by venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, an Iranian-born billionaire whose business partner worked with Goldman Sachs for years, the fundraising dinner promises people a direct meeting with Clinton herself, all for the low price of $353,000 per person. The money raised at the April 15 event will be donated to Hillary Victory Fund SuperPAC, which, as the name suggests, is working to secure the Democratic nomination for President for Clinton, similar to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

While that specific event is getting most of the attention, there is a separate dinner one can attend, only this time the price is discounted to just over $33k. You know, for those on a budget. When? The very next night, April 16.

These types of events stand in stark contrast to the fundraising efforts of Clinton’s opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is trailing Clinton by just over 200 pledged delegates heading into April. It’s a daunting but technically surmountable deficit for the populist prophet. In January and February — and likely March — the Bernie campaign outraised Clinton by significant margins, making a fundraising dash necessary for her to stay competitive heading into the last three months of the primary season. How has Bernie been out raising his opponent? By accepting small-dollar contributions from his supporters, totalling over 5 million individual contributions from over 2 million individuals. That’s not the case for Clinton, who has been criticized by Sanders and his supporters for depending on fewer, but more wealthy, donors.

Over the course of the nominating process, Hillary Clinton has outraised Bernie Sanders $223 million to $140 million, with $62.6 million of Clinton’s total being funneled through super PACs. Bernie, meanwhile, has denounced all super PACs. Bernie doesn’t want super PAC money, and Clinton is willingly accepting it. This has resulted in the following differences, with all information coming via OpenSecrets.com, unless otherwise noted:

  • Hillary Clinton has had been the recipient of at least 20 donations totaling $1 million or more (via New York Times). Bernie has received exactly zero donations at that amount, and those totals haven’t been updated since February, so expect that gap to widen — especially since the limit on individual contributions to a federal campaign max out at $2,700 to a candidate’s campaign, which means Bernie won’t ever see a million dollar donation unless his stance changes on super PACs.
  • Clinton has raised 73% of her money through large donations ($200 or more), while Bernie has only raised 31% of his funds from such donations.
  • Clinton’s largest contributor is Soros Fund Management, having contributed over $7 million alone. Bernie’s largest contributors are employees of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, Inc., at $254,000 dollars between them. His top 20 donors (or groups of donors) total just over $1.2 million in donations, or roughly 18% of what Soros Fund Management alone has given Clinton.
  • Each of Clinton’s top 18 contributor sources have individually donated more than all of Bernie’s top 20 combined.
  • Clinton’s top 20 contributors have donated over $48 million alone.
  • The industry leading the way in funding Clinton’s campaign would be Securities and Investments, eclipsing $21 million. This compares to Bernie, with retirees and educators being the largest donor pools, coming in at $3 and $2.5 million respectively.

Reliance on big donations is Clinton’s biggest weaknesses in the Democratic nominating process — aside from perhaps her handsome speaking fees from Wall Street — and they might also be the only things that can stand in her way of securing the Democratic nomination for President. Despite being a huge weakness, Clinton is also justifiably dependent on those types of donors, and forgoing them may cost her the nomination anyway. In other words, Hillary Clinton might need to eliminate her dependence on large donations and super PACs in order to defeat Bernie Sanders, but doing so might cause her to lose to Bernie Sanders, who has won 6 out of the last 7 primaries and caucuses. That’s the case we intend to make below in defense of Clinton’s fundraising strategy.

Clinton wasn’t supposed to have to spend $100 million to become the nominee, but here she is doing just that, making fundraising a huge priority. It’s a catch-22 if ever there were one, which is why some people might have a little sympathy and be forgiving toward her. Let’s go over some of the reasons one might be forgiving on this issue.

She has a ton of existing relationships that need cultivating

Between being a high-powered lawyer, the First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, a Senator from New York, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has built a lot of very meaningful and influential relationships with a lot of important and influential people over the decades. Those folks have invested a lot of time and money in helping her career along the way, and they seem intent on helping her make it back to the White House.

Is there some quid pro quo going on? Almost definitely, but this is politics in America, and it goes far beyond just campaign contributions. Her large donors are the same ones keeping Republicans out of office all across the country, making this a case where the argument can be made that the ends justify the means. If they’re pressuring her to win, it’s no wonder she’s relying on them to help fund her way.

She has to defend herself against Republican attacks

Whether you attribute it to sexism, political opposition, or just a general dislike of her, the Republicans will stop at nothing to bring Clinton down. At least $3.3 million dollars has been spent by super PACs in opposition of Clinton’s bid for the White House, all from right wing PACs. Bernie Sanders has only seen about $55,000 spent in opposition to him, including $10,000 from a PAC supporting Martin O’Malley.

There is a huge discrepancy for a few reasons. The first of which is that Hillary Clinton has more skeletons in her closet than Bernie, between her using of a private email server for official emails while Secretary of State to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. Naturally, people can fan a flame when there is already a fire, but are they skeletons democratic voters should be concerned with? Probably not, though Buzzfeed does remind us that the latter half of April will see one more round of depositions from Clinton and her aides about her preference for a private email server. Will anything come of it? No, probably not, but there is still that cloud over her head. Benghazi, on the other hand, is all but a non-issues for most Democrats, even though Republicans are expected to hit her hard with it should she be the Democratic nominee for President.

Democrats and progressives all have their own reasons for not like/trusting/wanting Clinton, but those aren’t relevant to this particular argument.

Couple that with the understanding that Clinton has long been seen as the eventual nominee for the Democrats, and it’s not surprising that Republicans have been gunning for her every step of the way. Those two factors alone would push the amount of money needed to defend her image into the tens of millions of dollars range.

Bernie Sanders has an incredibly clean record, in contrast, which is probably why he polls much better in hypothetical head-to-head matchups with Republicans than Clinton does. However, he can expect to see an increase in the use of the words “socialist” and “communist” if he makes it to the general election, once Republicans do turn their attention toward him. Our thoughts are that those words are next to meaningless for most people who paid even the least bit of attention during high school. Combine that with the fact the Republicans have overused the word so much the past 8 years that its efficacy as an insult is rapidly deteriorating.

Still, Clinton walking around with the target that she does puts her right in the sights of the GOP, and that takes money to survive.

She’s been around so long that it’s hard to consistently generate much enthusiasm

This is a completely backhanded defense, admittedly, but it’s also completely fair and unbiased. Hillary Clinton has been one of the world’s most notable, powerful and influential people of the last 23 years — and the most in all regards as a woman. She’s been involved at the highest levels of global politics since 1993, campaigning for her husband’s initiatives while he was President, casting important votes on bills as a Senator, and helping President Obama accomplish many goals during his presidency. This of course ignores everything — good and bad — about her time as Secretary of State. All that and this is also her second presidential campaign.

When you’ve been that involved and that important for so long, it’s nearly impossible to generate as much grassroots excitement as what Bernie Sanders has managed. Interestingly, he’s actually been involved in national politics since 1991, a full two years before Clinton. He was in the House of Representatives from 1991 to 2007, when he moved over to the Senate. His profile just pales in comparison to Clinton’s — even if his accomplishments don’t — hence why so many people are feeling the Bern.

Clinton is the known commodity, and people rarely get excited for the known commodity. Where Bernie routinely attracts over 10,000 supports — and occasionally 15,000 — to his rallies, Clinton has to methodically and systematically target likely supporters through traditional canvassing and media advertising, both of which cost big bucks. Word of mouth is helping her opponent right now, which means Clinton herself has to spend more money to defeat that grassroots exuberance.

Now, this experience or exposure does not automatically make her qualified to be President. That’s a debate for other people to have. Our argument is simply that this makes it difficult for her in some ways to fundraise like Bernie, from everyday people who he represents.

It’s win or bust

Hillary Clinton’s political career is hanging in the balance of this election. If she doesn’t secure the nomination to represent the Democratic Party in the general election, she can probably kiss any chance of holding public office or an important position in government again. Which is when we get back to those important connections that have helped fuel her campaign. She is, for better or worse, indebted to a small group of influential people who’ve helped her political career grow over the years. Clinton’s rise to such great heights has been impressive, especially when you consider how difficult it is for women to ascend to the top-most levels of American politics. She’s closer to being President than any woman has been before, with a not-so-small bit of thanks to those people who have been supporting her over the decades.

And that’s stressful. She’s not only facing media scrutiny and Republican attacks, but she probably also feels a great deal of responsibility to her friends and allies. They’ve stuck by her for 20+ years, and there is no way she is prepared to let them down. Beyond just those individuals, she also has the weight of the entire Democratic establishment hedging their bets that she’s the best candidate to win the general election. To meet all the expectations before her, is it really fair to judge her for not playing by Bernie Sanders’ rules? Isn’t meeting her legal obligation enough? She has debts to pay, and the only way to pay them is to win.

We’re rewriting the rules on her

Which brings us to the last part of the discussion. Hillary Clinton hasn’t broken any campaign finance laws that we know of. The standards by which we are judging her are the standards of her opponent, not the law. Kudos to Bernie Sanders for running a campaign without a super PAC and by only accepting donations from everyday people, but Hillary Clinton isn’t Bernie. She has a lot more pressure and a lot more expectations driving her, forcing her to tap into every fundraising source that she’s able to tap into.

Everyone knows the Republicans will be tapping into super PACs and large contributors, so to stay competitive Hillary Clinton is likely to have to play by the same rules. Because she’s such an easy target for the GOP, and because she can’t generate the same type of grassroots support as Bernie Sanders or, and we hesitate to use his name in comparison to either Democratic candidate, Donald Trump, it seems forgivable that she’d need to utilize all means possible to finance her campaign. She has to campaign like a Republican to beat the Republicans.

Whether or not  to accept these defenses is up to the voters, and it’s not something a website with a funny name can decide for them. Men’s Trait is 100% in support of comprehensive and meaningful campaign finance reform, including a constitutional amendment that completely eliminates all outside funding for political campaigns, so don’t look at our argument as an endorsement of the behavior. We are proud that there is a politician willing to fundraise the organic way and freeing himself of obligations to powerful elites in the form of Bernie Sanders, and it’s a shame Hillary Clinton can’t do the same. But, again, she’s indebted to the process and to people who’ve hitched their wagons to the Hillary-Clinton-for-POTUS train.

When it comes to being a trailblazer in forgoing traditional campaign funding, Hillary Clinton isn’t the type of candidate who could walk the walk on campaign finance reform. She’s simply too much of a politician to be a leader in this regard. As it stands today, Clinton’s only option is to run a campaign that exploits all existing campaign finance laws to their fullest extent. Bernie Sanders has proven that he can successfully run a campaign outside of the norm, but he benefits from luxuries that Clinton doesn’t. His record is far cleaner, especially while Clinton is facing scandals in the form of her private email server and her role in Benghazi, and Republicans either haven’t been going after him to the same extent or they can’t find things to fault him over. He’s also able to generate more word-of-mouth buzz and energize large swaths of the population just by being different and genuine.

Hillary Clinton is too entrenched in Washington politics to be a trailblazer right now. Her party is counting on her, and so are a lot of longtime allies who’ve been supporting her and her career for decades. They’ve all made investments in her career, and it’s now or never for them to see a return on that investment. Those are legitimate complaints against her in their own right, but they’re also really strong defenses for why she needs to exploit a fairly lax set of campaign finance laws to the best of her ability. For her to secure the nomination, and then go on to win the presidency, she needs all the money she can get.

Judge her for getting herself in this position, or for being the type of politician who’s beholden to outside interests, but try not to hold it against her for playing the game. She’s just trying to win the Presidency.

Movies & Television

Should fans care that Deadpool was nominated for a Golden Globe?

Deadpool is the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture, and that a superhero movie has been nominated for anything other than its effects.

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deadpool-gallery-03-gallery-image

Image: 20th Century Fox

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) announced Monday night its nominations for the Golden Globes, and amidst the usual gossip of snubs and surprises, the biggest shocker came in the form of nominee for Best Picture – Comedy/Musical, Deadpool. This marks the first time that a superhero movie has been up for Best Picture at the Golden Globes, and honestly one of the few times ever that a superhero movie has been nominated for a major award for anything other than its effects. The question is, should we, as fans, care?

Now first off let’s just say that Deadpool was a hell of a movie. It zipped back and forth between crass and witty in a wonderful comedic ride that stayed true to the heart of the titular character that even the best of superhero films struggle to accomplish. The story of how the film came to be made probably deserves a documentary all it’s own, with the climax, of course, being the moment the test footage was leaked to an adoring public. No one is trying to say that Deadpool didn’t deserve to be nominated as one of the best comedies of the year.

However.

The Golden Globes have been notorious for years as the ultimate “Who Gives a Shit” awards. The Oscars have a voting pool of over 6,000 members, the Emmy’s have more than 18,000 members, and the Screen Actors Guild gives a vote to each of its 165,000 members. And how many people vote on the Golden Globes? 88.

And these are 88 people with some of the most tenuous of credentials possible. To become part of the voting bloc, an applicant must first be sponsored by two people who are already a part of the HFPA, but after that, all they must do is produce four published articles a year. This combination of nepotism-based admission and one of the lowest bars imaginable to maintain membership has always marred the Golden Globes and kept them from being truly respected as an award. Thus, them nominating anything for anything has very little meaning to it.

However.

As we said earlier, Deadpool‘s nomination marks the first time a superhero film has been up for Best Picture. In a way, it is a huge accomplishment for a genre that has always been viewed as merely action spectacles with little substance. Every year superhero films have managed to take a few steps closer towards wide-spread critical legitimacy with recent films beginning to take on serious topics and truly explore the emotional complexities of its characters.

When viewed from that light, Deadpool‘s nomination for Best Picture, even if only for a Golden Globe, could, in an incredibly optimistic, best-case scenario, serve as a precedent for future superhero films to earn awards beyond Best Visual Effects.

Which brings us back to the original question, should fans of superhero films care that Deadpool was nominated for a Golden Globe?

Sadly, no. While Deadpool is no doubt deserving of the honor, even should it win the award – it won’t, it’s going to go to La La Land, we’re calling it now – the Golden Globes simply aren’t respected enough for their opinions to sway any of the other award communities.

If you are one day hoping to see all of the Avengers (or the Justice League . . . I guess) on stage accepting the Academy Award for Best Picture, then please, don’t hold your breath.

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News

Reasons to take a news break over the holidays

I am determined to have a Trump-free holiday. I wanna focus on the warmth and fuzziness of family and friend togetherness instead. It will be a total and complete news break.

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Image: Twitter

Donald Trump has taken up residence in my brain and is making himself at home. And he’s invited Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, and all his other white nationalist friends over too. They’re even tickling my brain and invading my dreams. Well, as the holidays approach, I say “NO MORE!”

That’s right. I am determined to take a “Trumpcation” (A portmanteau of “Trump” and “vacation”) during the forthcoming holidays. Chanukah and Christmas overlap and, as a Jew who celebrates both, that means that my Trumpcation will last for a full eight days. That means no reading about him, no talking about him, no going out of my way to check his Twitter to see the latest gaseous explosion that spurted up out of his mind. Now the man is so ubiquitous right now that it’s impossible to completely avoid him, so if he comes up in a conversation or happens to be on TV, that’s fine. But other than that, I am determined to have a Trump-free holiday. I wanna focus on the warmth and fuzziness of family and friend togetherness instead. It will be a total and complete news break.

Of course, that is what I said two days before Thanksgiving. I planned to spend the entire weekend in a Trump-free bubble. I thought I had prepared by blocking his Twitter feed and yet the Twitter feed did not block me. Facebook friends posted screen caps of his latest bilious Tweets. Relatives and friends brought him up in nearly every conversation. His orange visage glowed forth from every TV I passed. And, of course, once somebody brings him up, I’ll be knee-deep in an endless conversation about our rage, our sadness, and our fear. Because I am a hopeless news junkie and I maybe have a masochistic streak where I fill my head up with the scariest news stories I can.

Intellectually, I know that it is high time for a Trump break. Writer Martijn Schrip, of the site High Existence, makes the argument that taking a news break is good for the brain.  He states that too much Facebook checking for the latest horrible newsworthy event makes us neglect the issues in our own lives in favor of the bigger problems facing the world. In addition, too much reliance on news makes us “junkies” looking for our next fix of information. People go to the restroom solely to check Facebook and whip out their phones whenever they see someone else on their phone, as if it’s a Pavlovian response. For me, it gets rough because one of my first acts when I wake up is to check Facebook. Since I have so many friends ( ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)) and am following so many pages, my brain gets inundated with a typhoon of information, think pieces, rants, and listicles. And since Trump is everywhere, he is usually the first thing I see every morning. Talk about a great start to my day….

It’s rough, guys. My way of coping with my intense fear of what’s coming is to constantly see what Trump is up to. His Twitter feed gives me a weird feeling of control. I know I don’t actually know what he’s doing but, since he Tweets so often, I trick my brain into feeling like I’m keeping tabs on him. I’m obsessed with seeing what new policies he is adopting or which old ones he’s backing away from. That’s how I cope. I enmesh myself deeply in Trumpism so I don’t forget that he’s out there.

But this may have the complete opposite effect, unfortunately. For all of my posting the hashtag #ThisIsNotNormal, I feel as if my constant obsession with the latest outrage is normalizing him in my mind. And that is not okay because this may lead to me passively accepting whatever horrible thing ends up happening.

I wish it were possible to be on Facebook for even a day and not run across his scowling face. Before Thanksgiving, my thinking was that I can avoid him for a few days and know that he would unfortunately be there when I got back. But, alas, this was not to be. But I am determined to actually do it for the eight days of Christmakkah (A portmanteau of “Christmas” and…oh you get it). If I run across his name or face on social media, I will quickly scroll past. I’ll change the channel if he’s on TV. It’s going to be tough but I think it’s important to try. I need to keep my brain sharp and ready to fight.

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Opinion

Real talk about identity politics

This piece is a quick and dirty run down of what identity politics is and what it’s about.

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The term identity politics inhabits a similar space that political correctness did in the 90s when some people were like, “Oh shit! Words matter!” and other people were like, “I am confused and resistant to change.” This piece is a quick and dirty run down of what identity politics is and what it’s about.

First of all, while the rise of the term “Identity Politics” in popular discourse is relatively recent, the idea that groups of people will have shared perspectives and experiences based on aspects of their identity, which will then affect their political goals and positions, is pretty old. The Civil Rights Movement, suffragettes, even the Huguenots incorporated aspects of identity politics. Of course, this is also true of the Nazis, the Cultural Revolution in China, and the KKK. However, most of the time you will see the term used is in regards to those who are marginalized in some way: minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, women, and more.

To understand how identity politics function, you need to understand what I mean by marginalization. Marginalization doesn’t mean that the people in these groups are never wildly successful, never assholes, or don’t contribute to oppressing others. Indeed, many suffragettes were racist AF and the Civil Rights Movement had issues with sexism. What marginalization means is that it is culturally acceptable in large and small ways, consciously and unconsciously, to limit how certain people interact with the world. This can mean fewer opportunities, curtailing of civil rights, the threat of violence, or discounting and/or appropriating their contributions.

Another factor of marginalization and how identity politics function is that individual achievement alone does not erase problems with marginalization. Female Olympic athletes are still picked apart for not being properly made-up or skinny enough, despite exemplifying physical prowess. President Obama still faces racism as one of the most powerful men on earth. Yes, gaining power, wealth, PhDs, sponsorships, etc. may lessen the ways an individual is affected, but they do not make a systematic problem go away.

So if you are a marginalized person who is ignored, not taken seriously, or threatened, you can find people with similar backgrounds and views to organize and create coalitions. You figure out how to best get your interests taken care of, whether it’s through piecemeal legislation, all out protests, lawsuits, awareness campaigns, etc. Several people whose individual concerns were deemed unimportant become a larger political entity that demands attention and creates change.

Sometimes people take action organically without a ton of planning, and sometimes they are highly organized. That doesn’t mean everything always goes smoothly, of course, because shared perspectives do not translate into everyone in a group having the same beliefs. People will have different ideas about how to get things done; the classic example in the U.S. is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Malcolm X. People within a group will also have their own prejudices, which can limit their effectiveness and cause further conflict.

If it sounds like identity politics is flawed, messy, and uncomfortable that’s because it is. There are also people who consider it the purview of the frivolous, overly sensitive, and divisive. So why bother with identity politics? Especially when they apparently need a whole article to explain the basics without a single gif or picture?

via GIPHY

For one, people engage in identity politics all the time; it’s just usually considered less controversial if they say, “as a parent,” or “as a small business owner” when explaining their perspectives, indeed if they note their identity at all. We may as well talk about our politics accurately instead of pretending some people are objective and neutral while others who have different views are advocates of special interests or worse, maliciously divisive.

This brings me to my second point. Those who believe that talking about marginalization causes societal fractures are usually those who haven’t had to deal with it. The fractures were already there; it’s just that these people weren’t aware of them. No amount of playing nice, conforming, or achievement protects you. Think of the sexual harassment of female Fox News anchors, or the treatment of Tim Scott, the only black GOP senator. Having an education, good job, and loving family did not save Sandra Bland.

To assume that party politics and platform building is neutral or more serious when they do not include different perspectives is disingenuous at best and bigoted at its worst. (Think of Gov. Mike Pence’s policies targeting the LGBTQ community and punishing women who have abortions.)

Identity politics isn’t some kind of silver bullet against every ism or injustice. Like I said in the beginning, identity politics are also at play in hate groups and dangerous nationalism. Who you are and what’s important to you shouldn’t overtake the rights and liberties of others. But identity politics can help us recognize and address problems even when they don’t directly affect us, and help us make an impact in our own society.

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