The top ten stooges of 2016

Time again, kids, for our annual top-ten list. As before, these aren’t necessarily the worst human beings we covered last year; they’re people whose deplorable activities stood out in some way or another. One more thing: this time around, we’ve decided to forego the old cranks and creeps and focus instead on relatively youthful stooges – young-to-middle-aged characters who are especially worth keeping tabs on because their most high-profile and influential stoogery probably lies ahead of them…alas. Anyway, here goes:

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Max Blumenthal

To quote Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Max Blumenthal “is quite simply one of the most biased, anti-Semitic, terrorist-defending, Israel-has-no-right-to-exist haters out there.” And here’s what fellow leftist Eric Alterman had to say about Max’s 2013 anti-Israel screed Genesis: “this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.” The vile spawn of ethically bankrupt Clinton lackey Sidney Blumenthal (one of the slimiest operatives ever to set foot inside the Washington Beltway), Sonny Boy routinely equates the Jewish state with Nazi Germany; this year he praised a massacre of IDF soldiers by Hamas commanders. In short, he’s as low as they go – and a dyed-in-the-wool chip off the old block.

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Nick Dearden

In 2016, while other fans of chavismo hid in shame as the system they’d celebrated brought the Venezuelan economy to its knees, British activist Nick Dearden was actually cheering what he described as that country’s “food revolution.” What on earth was he talking about? Answer: a new law that bans genetically modified seeds and prohibit the sale to corporations of “indigenous knowledge” in the field of agriculture. The result, Dearden enthused, would be “a truly democratic food system” that made the Bolivarian Republic “a beacon of hope.” Tell that to all the people who are eating their pets and breaking into bodegas to steal bread.

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Malcolm Harris

When Occupy Wall Street went bottom-up, blame focused largely on Malcolm Harrisa founder of the movement who’s been accused by fellow left-winger Mark Ames of exploiting OWS to “build his own brand.” Meaning what? Well, when leaders of Occupy Redlands in California invited Harris to give a lecture, they heard back from a speakers’ agency: the fee would be $5,000, plus travel and hotel. This year Harris wrote a piece called “Who’s Afraid of Communism?” – a call for millennials to reject capitalism and take a fresh, “nuanced” look at Mao and Stalin. When the Revolution comes, will he still be allowed to charge five grand for a speech?

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David Sirota

In June, we met chavismo enthusiast and former Bernie Sanders flunky David Sirota. Described by Newsweek in 2003 as “well schooled in the art of Washington warfare,” by the New York Times as a guy with a “take-no-prisoners mind-set” toward Republicans and centrists, and by election expert Nate Silver as a dude who plays “fast and loose with the truth,” Sirota wrote an article after the Boston Marathon bombing expressing the hope that the perpetrator was a white American. Like Dearden, moreover, Sirota has cheered Venezuela’s “economic miracle.” Of course, the only “economic miracle” in Venezuela is that the country, despite its massive petroleum resources, now has to import oil. 

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Colin Kaepernick

On August 26, San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick protested racism in America by refusing to stand up for the National Anthem before a game. This started a trend that has spread to a variety of sports at every level. Whatever one thinks of it, one part of this episode is unambiguously contemptible: at his press conference that day, Kaepernick wore a T-shirt covered with pictures of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. The message was clear: the U.S. is a contemptibly racist nation and Cuba a model of racial harmony. Pure Communist propaganda, of course: in reality, aside from being a totalitarian state, Cuba is a country where intense racial prejudice is still a fact of life. Too bad Kaepernick is so ill-informed – and that his ignorance has given rise to such a divisive movement.

Five more tomorrow.

 

A “football voice on social issues”?

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Colin Kaepernick

Colin who? For those who are not fans of American football, the name of Colin Kaepernick was, until recently, entirely unknown.

That changed on August 26, when the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers refused to stand up for the National Anthem at a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers.

His explanation: the U.S. oppresses black people. Kaepernick, whose biological father was black and biological mother white, was raised in Wisconsin by adoptive white parents who took him into their family after losing two children to heart defects.

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At a 2014 game, Kaepernick stood for the anthem

Pretty much everybody in the football world had an opinion about Kaepernick’s action. So did countless politicians and commentators. Most acknowledged the obvious fact that Kaepernick has a right to his opinion and a right to decide not to stand up for the National Anthem. Views differed, however, on whether his opinion was correct.

Some compared him favorably with Muhammed Ali, who was stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. Writing in The Guardian, Les Carpenter described Kaepernick as “a rare, strong football voice on social issues.” Others echoed these judgments.  

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Alejandro Villanueva

Then there were those like Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who served in the Army in Afghanistan, and who in response to Kaepernick’s action told ESPN that the U.S. is the best country in the world. “I just know that I am very thankful to be an American. I will stand very proudly, and I will sing every single line in the national anthem every single time I hear it,” he said. “I will stop whatever I am doing, because I recognize that I have to be very thankful to be in this country.” Kaepernick’s birth mother spoke up against him, too, tweeting that “there’s ways to make change w/o disrespecting & bringing shame to the very country & family who afforded you so many blessings.”  

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Kaepernick’s house

Critics were also quick to point out that the country whose anthem Kaepernick refuses to honor has made him rich. Photographs of his 4600-square-foot San Jose mansion, which he bought in 2014 for $2.7 million, appeared all over the media. Accusations of hypocrisy and ingratitude swirled. And anger mounted among gridiron junkies. How could a man to whom his country had given so much treat its flag with such disrespect? Had he given no thought to the innumerable members of the American military who were no longer able to stand for the anthem because they’d lost their legs on the battleground fighting under that flag?  

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Nessa Diab

The story seemed about to die down when more information materialized. In a widely quoted story, sports blogger Terez Owens wrote that it was actually Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa Diab (known popularly as Nessa), a devout Muslim, Berkeley grad, and You Tube star turned MTV personality, who had talked him into staying seated for the anthem. Football experts offered another theory: Kaepernick is a third-string QB whose performance on the field has been less than stellar; was his anthem sit-down a desperate effort to force the front office to keep him on the roster, for fear that firing him might be construed as punishment for his opinions?

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Kaepernick in his Castro T-shirt

Then there was the T-shirt. Kaepernick held a locker-room press conference after his fateful action. He was wearing a T-shirt. And not just any T-shirt. This one featured several pictures of Fidel Castro with Malcolm X.

Apparently, then, Kaepernick is a fan of the murderous Cuban dictator. Like a considerable number of other people in the Western world, he would seem to have a rosy – and deeply misinformed – picture of Cuban life under Castro. The preponderance of immediately available evidence suggests that he is one of many millions, indeed, who have bought the Cuban line that the Castro regime, among many other magnificent accomplishments, has created a colorblind society. Alas, that is a lie. A big one. In fact, official racism is fierce in Cuba. President Obama even mentioned it in his Havana speech last March. The other day, Mark Hemingway, in a piece about Kaepernick, cited a 2013 New York Times article whose headline says it all: “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun.”

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Castro with Malcolm X

(Of course, to the extent that the headline hints that Cuba’s revolution has benefited anybody other than Cuba’s elite, that’s a problem. But it’s also a blog entry for another day.)

So it goes. Colin Kaepernick won’t stand up for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the National Anthem of the democratic nation in which he lives and thrives far beyond the imagining of most people on this planet. But he wears with apparent pride an item of clothing celebrating a man who has oppressed an entire country for over half a century, denying its citizens even the most basic elements of freedom and human rights, all the while cruelly punishing dissenters with imprisonment, torture, and even execution.

We can only hope that Kaepernick will soon supplement his athletic skills with a more sophisticated and comprehensive understanding of the very real differences between the U.S. and Cuba. And that, if he doesn’t, the young people who look up to him as a sports hero will know better than to adopt his benighted political views.