Point of View Columns

Dinkins Deserved Better – Shame on the New York Times

There are few things in life of which you can be sure. One is that what you read below will never appear in the New York Times.

On November 24, 2020, less than 24 hours after former New York City Mayor David Dinkins dies, the Times published an article by someone named Robert McFadden which was somewhere between a faux eulogy and a factually challenged hit job. Typically, when public figures pass away the initial articles gently memorialize the departed individual, Opinions are like navels – everybody has one – and usually the opinion pieces come after a respectful pause – of at least a few days.

The Times sought to recycle half-truths, falsehoods and the opinions of Mr. McFadden which, because the article appeared in the so-called newspaper of record, too many people will take this savaging of Dinkins to be true.

A full refutation of the Times article would give that article too much credit and credence but there are 10 points in this piece that warrant comment.

  1. McFadden states that Dinkins was “turned out by voters after one term….” The reality is that losing by 50,000 votes out of 2 million cast is not being “turned out”. And when the Trojan Horse of the Staten Island Secession Referendum which supercharged the conservative white vote in that borough it is a wonder that Dinkins only lost by 50,000 votes.
  • Ed Koch and Fiorella LaGuardia, imperfect mayors that they were, were certainly more flamboyant than Dinkins. Flamboyance is not a character trait that distinguishes a public servant – keep in mind that Trump is flamboyant. But to suggest that they were “Gullivers bestriding him” is simply unkind and unworthy. And who, exactly are the “many historians and political experts” who expressed this opinion?
  • To describe Dinkins as a caretaker mayor is simply a false and unsustainable narrative which may reflect Mr. McFadden’s opinion. Again, opinions are like navels – everyone has one. But he is not entitled to his own facts. Unless he is simply willing to ignore (a) the Safe Cities Safe Streets program which added tens of thousands of police to the NYPD and began the decline in the crime rate which skyrocketed under that Gulliver named Koch and for which Giuliani later claimed credit (b) a renewed focus on childhood education which the childless Koch never advocated (c) established New York’s first Minority and Women’s Business Program which became the largest such municipally based program in the United States – a program that was working so well that other “Gulliver” Giuliani ended the program within an hour of his taking the oath of office (d) brought the Democratic National Convention to New York at a time when New York needed some positive perspectives on the national stage (e) establishing the Civilian Complaint Review Board over the virulent opposition of too many members of the NYPD, (f) establishing the inclusion of the LGBTQ  community in the administration of the city (g) establishing the National Tennis Center – the home of the U.S. Open – which has brought billions of dollars to New York over the past two decades and (h) in what is a shocking reflection of how skewed the McFadden article is, there was literally no mention of the fact that Dinkins led the city with calm poise in the aftermath of the first World Trade Center bombing in February of 1993, the largest act of domestic terrorism in the city since the Wall Street bombing in 1920. Caretaker indeed.
  • And not to dwell on McFadden’s false and dishonorable narrative, but a “caretaker” does not restore class and dignity to the office of mayor as Dinkins did. And a “caretaker” doesn’t manage the city through a horrific financial crisis and lay the foundation for the economic recovery for which that “Gulliver” Giuliani claimed credit.
  • McFadden refers to the revitalizing of Times Square as a minor accomplishment. The truth, of which he must know, is that by 1990, under the leadership of that other “Gulliver” Ed Koch, Times Square was a neon Sodom and Gomorrah and the Times Square Business Improvement District which was totally supported by Dinkins transformed that area into a global tourist destination – ranking favorably with the Ginza in Tokyo and Trafalgar Square in London.
  • McFadden refers to the “insurmountable legacy of Crown Heights” as being the reason for Dinkins being a one term mayor. The reality is that Dinkins received the same percentage of white votes and Jewish votes in 1993 as he did in 1989 the difference was turnout, and without belaboring the point one can ask why then Governor Mario Cuomo supported such a measure on the ballot when it would clearly not be to the benefit of his fellow Democrat Dinkins.
  • The McFadden article is proof in black and white (no pun intended) that race was always the prism through which Dinkins was viewed by the New York press – the City Hall press corps was virtually all white at the time and seemed to be committed to fully displaying his missteps and downplaying his successes and achievements. If Dinkins walked on water the headline in the New York Times would be “Dinkins Can’t Swim”.
  • Somehow, in his narrative of the Dinkins years Mr. McFadden couldn’t find space to mention how the City Hall police riot at which Giuliani was a keynote speaker inflamed the passions of race in this city. Cars were overturned, bystanders were assaulted and Dinkins was hung in effigy as he was referred to as ‘the washroom attendant” (meant to be a racist insult and in this context sounds a lot like that “caretaker” characterization) by predominantly white police officers, too many of whom were on duty at the time.
  • Finally, McFadden’s gratuitous insult to the Dinkins administration by describing his cabinet as a group of “goads, gadflies and bureaucrats” is one of those alternative reality comments that barely deserves a response. Let it suffice to say that Carl Weisbrod, Kenneth Knuckles, Sally Hernandez Pinero, George Daniels, Betsy Gotbaum and Peter Sherwood – all of whom have gone on to outstanding careers – would find his characterization as shameful and laughable were it not for the intent to further demean a man who was both good and great.

David N. Dinkins was deserving of better. The people who supported him and worked for him deserved better. The people who supported and loved him deserved better. The first Black mayor of the City of New York who served with dignity during some very undignified times deserved better.

The City of New York deserved better.

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Point of View Columns

A Race to the Precipice

This country has now reached that tragic and fearful moment where no sense makes sense. When madness is cloaked in normality there are no more norms, there are no more traditions and most importantly, there are no more laws that need to be observed, much less obeyed.

It has been part of the bedrock of American mythology that the Constitution is a wondrous document created by white slave owners and their enablers. That is certainly an overstatement but the Constitution has served as the governing document for these United States for over two centuries – a Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Great Recession.

And then along came Trump.

It should be made clear that Trump is not an evil genius – so comparisons to Hitler, Stalin, etc. are way off base. Trump is the symptom of a malady that has been coursing through the American body politic since the founding of the Republic. A nation which embraced epic genocide and massive land theft in the name of a white EuroAmerican supremacist concept of manifest destiny does not all of a sudden become well.

A country which embraced race based chattel slavery and then countenanced race based discrimination and injustice for centuries does not all of a sudden become well.

A country which to this very day embraces the concept of a second class of citizenship for all women does not all of a sudden become well.

There have been efforts at recovery to be sure. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were a good start – of sorts. But all the good will that gave rise to that good start were trampled in the rubble resulting from the deconstruction of Reconstruction.

In the modern era we have seen reparations for Japanese Americans, Supreme Court decisions affirming the basic inhumanity of state-based segregation and the President of the United State proclaiming that “we shall overcome” as he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and then signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But much in the same way that some therapeutic treatments result in negative side effects, those steps towards something resembling progress revived and restored the malady of racism and supremacy. The therapy of progress created the side effects of a renewed commitment to advancing fake grievances and revived opposition to the notion of liberty and justice for some.

As this nation seemed to progress to some semblance of a better state the side effects festered and grew stronger antibodies to that progress. The Republicans did not help with their dog whistle politics, stirring this toxic brew of racism, sexism and supremacy with calls for “Law and Order” and Willie Horton ads.

Barack Obama became president and the dam broke. The streams and rivers of race hatred and misogyny in this country became a flood – Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, the Tea Party were all further symptoms that the progressive vaccine was not working and the side effects had now become the malady that has been raging through this country.

And then along came Trump. It was more his megalomania that his falsely reputed skills as a marketer which brought him to the fore as the leader of a movement, indeed a crusade, to reclaim America in the cause of white male supremacy. He clearly craves attention like an addict needs his next fix and Trump discovered that he could not only get attention, he could receive adulation for spouting principles that he barely comprehends.

And now, after six years of overdosing on adulation, the favorite drug of megalomaniacs, he simply cannot turn it loose. Unfortunately for the people of America there is no rehab clinic for megalomaniac presidents and as a result Trump gets to play out this insane tragicomic opera of setting the world on fire as he resists losing his drug dealer – the drug dealer being the adoring MAGA hat-wearing citizens of Trump Nation.

And so as far at Trump is concerned, the Constitution is just a piece of parchment. For Trump presidential traditions are incomprehensible and meaningless. And if he sets the world on fire with reckless international actions it matters not to this man.

The question for Republicans and other Trump supporters is this – are antiabortion judges and massive tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the history of the planet worth the systemic dysfunction that Trump has brought about? Are the gutting of environmental protections of the air that we all breathe in the name of even more profit and the stamping out of even the pretensions of racial progress and gender equality worth turning the governmental apparatus of this nation into wreckage, perhaps beyond repair?

No one can truly know how this is going to end.

What we do know is that this madness will not end on January 20, 2021.

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Point of View Columns

Four More Dark Days in America

November 10, 2020

10,110,552-238,251 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Like one of those cataclysmic forest fires that progresses inexorably leaving those in its path frozen with a combination of fear and awe, the Revenge of Trump continues unabated. Even as he continues to accede to the fact that he has lost the election to Biden, making him a “loser” by his own definition, he now endeavors to deconstruct the government.

Having already decimated the leadership of the Defense Department so that the leadership of the Pentagon is composed of men who seem to have sworn an oath of allegiance to Trump. Is this the beginning of some sort of 21st century version of a coup attempt? No one dares to articulate the thought.

Lost in the shuffle is the fact that the future of the Affordable Care Act was argued before the Supreme Court today. Amazingly, in the middle of an epic pandemic the Trump is arguing to strip over 20 million Americans of their current healthcare coverage.

Perhaps more amazingly, it appears that there will be a sufficient number of Supreme Court justices who will vote to keep the Act in existence because of a technicality. Namely, Congress could have abolished the Act if it had chosen to do so and that the Supreme Court was not going to have the blood of 20 million Americans on its hands.

It is rumored that heads will roll at the CIA and FBI and Homeland Security, a kind of ethnic cleansing where the dominant ethnicity is the Trump Tribe. What this means for the country between now and January 20, 2021 is difficult to predict since literally no one has ever seen anything like this in the United States.

To our friends in Zimbabwe this is very familiar.

November 11, 2020

10,258,090-237,655 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

The day begins with the report of another 100,000 pandemic infections. There is no doubt that we will be at 11 million before the end of November and the death count moves inexorably towards a quarter of a million.

Meanwhile at the White House……..Vice President Pence, the head of the COVID-19 Task Force cancelled his Florida vacation because of………….the weather. The pandemic is clearly not his concern.

Meanwhile at the White House …..Trump came out of hiding to show up late at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery and then went back into hiding. Not a word about the plague that is ravaging the entire nation. Not a word.

But he did find time to petulantly tweet about the unfairness of the election and to continue to perpetuate non-existent voter fraud tales. And his ransacking of the leadership of the Defense Department has to make everyone wonder if the unseen hands of Steve Bannon or Steven Miller have some kind of bizarre “Night of the Generals” plot.

And if that sounds crazy, because it is.

But that doesn’t mean that in Trump World it can’t be true.

November 12, 2020

10,402,273-241,808 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Trump continues to pull a presidential temper tantrum – certainly the epic presidential temper tantrum in American history. He continues to refuse to allow for Biden to receive presidential briefings and continues his order to the General Services Administration to deny the Biden transition operational funding as required by law. Trump now reminds of the hotel guest that is about to be thrown out and is trashing the room before leaving.

Trump is now following the playbook developed over the years by the likes of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia after losing an election. It goes something like this:

  1. Refuse to concede
  2. Accuse anybody and everybody connected with the electoral process of fraud.
  3. Attack the press.
  4. Attack the press.
  5. Vilify all opponents.
  6. Attack the press.
  7. Behave as if he won the election.

Reading and watching the news it would seem that Trump has hit all seven points of the Dictators Playbook. It remains to be seen whether he has the skills to make Number 7 last.

And amazingly, despite the fact that a COVID-19 firestorm is raging throughout all 50 states, the silence from the White House is deafening. And Trump is clearly giving the message to all who didn’t know already – when it comes to welfare of anybody not named Donald Trump – he really doesn’t care.

Meanwhile a true humanitarian disaster now exists in the United States. The Doctors Without Borders physicians, who usually show up in tragic disaster in places like Niger and Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Congo are now in Michigan. And that is not a misprint – the United States is now in COVID Hell.

And, by the way, as of today more world leaders have congratulated Biden than Republican senators.

No further comment necessary.

November 13, 2020

10,555,435-242,435 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

COVID-19 pandemic hospitalizations are now officially out of control throughout virtually every state. The White House remains eerily silent as if Trump is taking out his tantrum on America by turning his back on the country that has made him The World’s Biggest Loser. And all the while the death toll rises.

And a few drops of water in the Republican desert of servile stupidity – some Republican senators seem to have finally seen the absolute madness of denying Biden presidential security briefings and transition funding and saying so. Trump remains the petulant infant who is going to sit on the ball if he isn’t allowed to play

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The Night of the Election, the Morning After and After That

November 4, 2020

9,580,00-234,000 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day

Last night blended into today and now it is literally a blur. In the entire history of the United States the greatest number of Americans voted. And as a result, it has resulted in a merger of madness and purpose and blind ambition – here’s what has happened last night and this morning in real time –

  • 9.15 – Literally could not watch until after 9pm
  • 9.21 – Biden wins Colorado, Trump wins Florida. Biden wins New York, New Jersey and Connecticut – no surprise there. In addition to Florida Trump wins South Dakota and West Virginia……no surprise there either
  • 9.36 – Alternating between packing a Go Bag and looking forward to transition but….it is too early to call. But after all is said and done Jaime Harrison is toast in South Carolina – after all, South Carolina is the home of Fort Sumter – 2 Black senators – no way!
  • 10.01 – Hickenlooper wins in Colorado. Trump still leading in Wisconsin. Trump is slaying Biden in Virginia and when did Pennsylvania became so important?
  • 10.15 – Reminding myself to remember the millions of mail-in ballots and what about those 100 million early votes?
  • 10.40 – Trump still leading in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – find myself praying for the early/mail in ballots
  • 11.02 – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania trending towards Trump – this is what the apocalypse looks like in real time without special effects but with t.v. commentary
  • 11.47 – Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse Biden surges in Virginia and in the national vote
  • 11.52 – Biden gets Virginia and is closing fast in Arizona…. keeping hope alive. This is what madness looks like without the special effects
  • 12.13 – Trump picks up Utah and Indiana – Biden gets Minnesota – it’s going to be a bumpy ride
  • 5.45 – Awoke from a dreamless sleep to a waking nightmare. Trump has declared victory even though no one else, including the networks have. Biden has the Electoral College lead – many millions of votes still to be counted
  • 6.35 – The words of the day – Wait and See!

November 7, 2020

Fittingly, the news that all credible news sources and networks declared Joe Biden to be the winner of the 2020 presidential election was announced close to noon. People all over the world – literally – celebrating. Church bells rang in Paris, fireworks in London, and madcrazy celebrations in every major American city, from Atlanta to Los Angeles to New York. The only thing missing was a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square.

In the midst of the jubilation it almost felt wrong to mention that there are over sixty million Americans who, after four years of seeing this man almost every day, think that he should still be president. It is also useful to remember that Democrats have not taken the Senate and have actually lost seats in the House of Representative. The vaunted Blue Wave barely made it to sure.

In what could only be described as True Trump, Trump refused to acknowledge defeat and went golfing – without a mask, of course, And before the day had ended he started spreading and spewing lies and falsehoods regarding nonexistent voter fraud. Clearly he will not go quietly.

And what should be clear is that Trump will no longer be President on January 21st, but he is not going away. Like Jason in the Halloween movies, he is not going away

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A View on Some of the Last Days Before the Election

October 26, 2020

8,636,169-225,230 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Sometimes it just becomes impossible to watch the Trump Train Wreck. Today Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court concluded. There wasn’t even a fig leaf of propriety or recognition of the fact that this is simply a naked power grab by Senators who represent a minority of the American population to ensure that the Supreme Court will have a right wing of a right wing perspective for at least a decade.

And in a satanic bit of irony, Clarence Thomas, arguably the most rigidly conservative justice on the Supreme Court, administered the oath to now Justice Barrett. It would appear that Chief Justice John Roberts had a conflict (of conscience) in his schedule.

The fact that the Republican majority in the Senate represents only a minority of the American population and that Trump was elected without winning the popular vote are red alert warnings that minority rule is now a reality. Even though a majority of Americans pay a majority of the taxes and create and manage a majority of the economy, this overwhelmingly white right wing minority has managed to maneuver the system of government to its advantage.

What we now know is that even if the Democrats win the Senate and the presidency and hold on to the House, there are a number of right wing pillars built in to the American government that will require the Democrats to make some hard decisions. In other words, Democrats will need to adopt the bare knuckles approach to governance that has been the Republican strategy for decades.

Clearly bringing a bouquet of constitutional propriety flowers to a gunfight has an inevitable and sadly predictable result.

October 27, 2020

8,704,606-225,735 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

 There is no way to explain or expect the outrages that spew almost hourly from the House of Trump. A video has appeared of the First Son-in-Law (and Son of a Convicted Criminal) saying in effect that there are Black men and women who just don’t want to be successful in spite of all the wonderful things that Trump has done for the Black community.

One would hope that a man who was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth and has never had to work for a living would be more generous in his comments about anybody who is struggling to earn a living and make a life in these days and times. But for a privileged, coddled, swaddled and entitled talentless white inheritor like Jared Kushner to suggest that some Black people are not in his economic stratosphere because they just don’t want to be successful is not only stupid – it is shameful and racist.

Kushner’s comment harkens back to the days of Zip Coon, Stagger Lee, Sambo and all of the caricatures of lazy, shiftless, watermelon eating lazy Black man (or woman). Who knew that an intellectually incurious son of fortune would be able to unearth such unfortunate memes?

Team Trump never ceases to surprise and shock and…. disgust.

Meanwhile, providing further proof that Black Lives Really Don’t Matter, last night several Philadelphia police officers shot a 27-year-old Black man to death in a volley of at least a dozen shots. The young man was wielding a knife but had not harmed anyone and did not appear to present a clear and present danger to the police officers. But a seemingly angry Black man with a weapon was clearly a lethal threat per se to these white police officers – so that young Black man had to die.

The more things change the more things simply do not.

It has been good to see Barack Obama barbecuing Trump at every rally these days. He brings to mind that White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011 when he virtually stripped Trump naked, leaving him shamed and humiliated. Indeed, that may be the animus for Trump deciding to run for president and seeking to erase Obama from history. Hell hath no fury like a shamed megalomaniac.

Obama almost certainly struck a Trump nerve when he said that Trump was jealous of COVID-19 because it was getting more media attention than him Of course, sometimes the truth is said in jest.

And sometimes the truth is just the truth.

October 28, 2020

8,836,861-227,409 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

And this is the day that that White House Office of Science, Health and Technology lists ending the COVID-19 pandemic as an accomplishment of the Trump administration.

And this is the day after 985 Americans died from COVID-19 with every indication that there will be many more thousands of American deaths in the days and weeks to come.

And this is the day that CNN national polls indicate that Biden has a 12-point lead over Trump. Which immediately sends Democrats into a 2016 déjà vu panic attack. There are too many nightmarish memories about unopened bottles of champagne and lost opportunities.

What we know now is that a decade of economic expansion in America has been eradicated. And we know now that millions of Americans have lost their jobs – perhaps forever – and hundreds of thousands American small businesses have simply evaporated, taking their jobs with them. And we know now that giant corporations in the airline, hotel, leisure and entertainment industries are standing at the precipice and leaning the wrong way.

And all of this has happened with Trump being president for a little less than four years. The blood runs cold at the thought of what havoc he could wreak during another four years as president.

October 29, 2020

8,859,300-227,701 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

In what may be a sure sign that the apocalypse is imminent, today television ads promoted the Joel Osteen Inspiration Cube for $39.99. It just may be that the end is near and Reverend Osteen sees this as an opportunity to cash in on the misery, dysfunction, confusion and fear that spreads across the land.

In a way, one has to give Joel Osteen for seeing a market opportunity and then seizing it. On the other hand, it is more than sad that this rank commercialization of the spirit is considered right and righteous.

These are, in the words of Roberta Flack, trying times.

And now, we are officially in the final days of what seems like the longest presidential campaign ever. It also feels like the most important presidential election ever – at some point in the future historians may argue if that is in fact true -but right now we know that it is true.

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OK…Not the Last Presidential Debate in American History

As the last presidential is about to begin, the question is…. can Trump’s behavior be any worse than the last time. Here is what happened in real time? The other question…how many voters just can’t stand Trump being president anymore?

So here’s how it went…..

  • Trump start the debate with a serious smirk…its game on.
  • Trump begins by deflecting COVID question by Kristen Welker (more on her later) – Biden pummels Trump on this item
  • Trump talks about vaccines in the future and aspirational ventilators-vaccine is a few weeks ago- but there is no guarantee while still denying science
  • Biden continues to stay on message
  • Trump – Biden is a corrupt politician…. a case of the very black pot calling the kettle black
  • Trump continues to muddle facts about the pandemic – Trump – we are learning to live with the pandemic – Biden – people are learning to die with the pandemic
  • Biden is staying on message while Trump is simmering.
  • Trump is pretending to be polite…how long can he last?
  • Biden is clearly doing a rope a dope, letting Trump Be Trump
  • Incredibly, Trump doubles down on attacks on Dr. Fauci
  • Trump continues to simmer
  • Trump tries to attack Biden on campaign financing – Biden counters with the fact that his average contribution is $43
  • Trump dances on the hot coals of his tax returns and weaves the myth of his being prosecuted by the U.S. government
  • When the subject comes up, Biden flips the script on Ukraine and starts talking about Trump and China
  • Trump starts dancing on the hot coals again when talking about the Trump Organization’s international activities
  • With 50 minutes to go Trump continues to simmer…will he blow?
  • Biden pivots the debate to talking about the American family – pure genius!
  • With 45 minutes to go Trump is ready to blow
  • Question regarding North Korea get Trump to seriously waffle
  • Question on healthcare is right in Biden’s wheelhouse – his take away…healthcare is a right, not a privilege
  • Biden continues to be excellent when speaking directly into the camera…someone should have told Trump about this technique
  • Kristen Welker is conducting a master class in Moderator 101
  • Trump goes to attack Democrat states and cities…Biden states that he will be an American president
  • Regarding the issue of race in America – Biden acknowledges the “talk”, Trump compares himself to Abraham Lincoln
  • Trump dodges the question on systemic racism – Biden says that Trump is not a dog whistle, he is a foghorn
  • Trump – I am the least racist person in this room
  • Trump claims to be an environmentalist as his administration continues to dismantle environmental rules and regulations
  • Trump caricatures climate change
  • GREAT closing statement by Biden
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Voter Suppression in the Era of James Crow

The pandemic days continue inexorably and the country has now reached the point where 1,000 Americans dying every day to be part of the so-called New Normal. There is no national day of mourning. There are no words of condolences from the White House. There is no resolution of mourning from Congress. It seems that 1000 Americans dying every 24 hours is considered not worthy of note.

And this obliviousness to this massive and continuous loss of human life may be one the worst residual effects of this pandemic – hopefully not the longest lasting.

As the voting in America continues it is now clear what voter suppression looks like. It is important to note that we are now in the second now in the middle of the second national election since the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

It is important because in the 2016 election, a noticeable decline in the Black vote was observed. Many observers attributed the decline to the lackluster campaign of Hillary Clinton combined with the absence of Barack Obama on the ballot.

But those many observers failed to observe that the purpose of the Voting Rights Act was to protect Black voters and that when those protections were suddenly removed the racist tendencies of the right wing of the right wing were immediately released and the ensuing New James Crow policies most certainly suppressed the Black vote.

Having had four more years to refine the James Crow policies and procedures it is clear that voter suppression is different from the Jim Crow policies and procedures of a half century ago. In the days of Jim Crow Black voters had to risk their jobs, their homes and in many instances their lives for just trying to register, much less vote.

In the days of James Crow, the polling sites have limited hours and a limited number of locations. Black voters are no longer concerned with losing their jobs because they voted. Black voters are now concerned with losing their jobs because they had to stand in line for ten hours to cast a vote – an excuse which might not be acceptable to many employers.

And those Black voters who are self-employed or are business owners have to be prepared to lose a day of income during a pandemic – a new kind of poll tax in the James Crow era.

As some observers marvel at the dedication and enthusiasm of American voters, other observers in other parts of the world wonder at the antediluvian voting process in this country. In many countries voting takes place on weekends or a national holiday. In some countries voting is conducted online. In many countries voting takes place on multiple days in order to make it convenient for voters.

But in the era of James Crow, the bedsheets have been replaced by pinstriped suits and Ivy League jargon. But the burning cross of voter suppression continues to burn bright.

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The Night of the Town Hall Duel

Say this for the year 2020, it wandered over into Weird World early in the first quarter and just stayed there. The list of uniquely strange occurrences and events seems endless, with most of the items on that list not being good – at all. And then, last night, America was presented with Dueling Town Halls featuring Joe Biden and Trump.

A bit of background – last night was supposed to be the second in person debate between Biden and Trump. And then Trump had the bad luck of being infected and hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus that he had alternately mocked and dismissed.

Upon his near miraculous recovery (according to Trump) it was finally proposed that the debate be a virtual faceoff in order to protect the health of all involved. Not surprisingly, given his total meltdown in the first debate, Trump leaped at the first opportunity to say no, not realizing that this just made him look weaker and smaller than he appeared at the first debate.

So while the respective campaigns work to iron out the arrangements for a second debate, the news departments of the ABC and NBC networks management to set up dueling town halls last night with both beginning at 8pm EST – Biden on ABC for 90 minutes and Trump on NBC for 60 minutes. So for an hour viewers could channel surf and watch random excerpts of the performance of each candidate.

Here are some real time observations:

Trump

  • Lies, damn lies and outright lunacy.
  • Bluster and continued attempts to bully NBC moderator Savannah Guthrie – looks like he picked the wrong female to bully
  • Very early on Trump seems to be flustered by questions ranging from his handling of the pandemic to his tax returns
  • When Trump cannot or chooses not to answer he goes on attack – he doesn’t attack the citizens asking questions, but he tries his “fake news” routine with Savannah Guthrie – she remains unfazed
  • He gives off the impression of suppressing white hot rage and anger about almost everything
  • The thought occurs, Trump probably will get higher ratings than Biden – train wrecks are always more interesting
  • When asked about QAnon and white supremacist groups he claims ignorance but presents himself as an expert on ANTIFA which he states is a greater danger although the FBI has publicly stated that white supremacist groups are a mortal danger to this nation
  • He continues his freestyle rants about conspiracies and fact-free nonsense which must entertain his followers at his rallies, but at the 45-minute mark it becomes almost impossible to watch or listen
  • Which leads one to wonder – who are the people who hang on to and believe his every word?
  • As the sixty minutes with Trump stagger to a merciful end the NBC Fact Check Machine threw up
  • One can be sure that as soon as this monstrosity of an event concluded Savannah Guthrie took a long shower and burned all of the clothes that she had been wearing.

Biden

  • Biden starts off with an advantage for most viewers, simply because he is not Trump.
  • He conveys a much more level mood – no mood swings for Joe. And also no shouting
  • While Trump viewed every question as adversarial, Biden treats each question as an opportunity to share his vision on the subject matter. It remains to be seen on November 4th which is the better approach. It is already clear as to which one is more watchable.
  • By agreeing to 90 minutes, 30 minutes more than Trump, Team Biden trumped Team Trump by providing Biden with 30 minutes with the relatively undivided attention of viewers who care about debates and the election and the future of this country.
  • During those last 30 minutes Biden also put his hand on the Court Packing Tar Baby. While virtually every Democrat with a pulse is seething over the Republican piracy of the Supreme Court vacancy occasioned by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the idea of expanding the Supreme Court to restore some ideological balance seems too extreme to too many Americans two weeks before the election. So Biden ducked and dodged and promised to definitive answer within a week.
  • Prediction – he will not provide a definitive answer within the week.
  • Prediction – if the Democrats win the presidency along with control of the Senate and the House an expansion of the Supreme Court will certainly be considered – and everyone knows that, presented with the same fact pattern, the Republicans would not hesitate to expand the Court.

Now there is supposed to be a second debate on October 22nd and we will see how Trump manages to slither out of that one.

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Point of View Columns

Another Long Weekend in the Life of America

October 9, 2020

7,607,848–212,789 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day

Much of the news of today centers around the foiled plot by white militant militia members to kidnap and kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer. The central grievance of these misguided miscreants? She wanted the citizens of Michigan to wear masks in the middle of a pandemic.

And so, in this crazed climate created by the Instigator in Chief, some very committed militia members who have been mesmerized by Trump’s multiple dog whistles figured that it would be a good idea to kidnap and kill Governor Witmer, in the process inspiring other militia groups to take over state governments around the country. After all, Mr. Good People on Both Sides had provided a veneer of presidential acceptance that heretofore had never existed.

So with the tacit (certainly not spoken) approval of Trump, these good Michiganders did a third rate imitation of ISIS right down to learning how to make IED’s with shrapnel covers. They also staked out Governor Witmer’s summer home and by the accounts of the indictment were not too far from carrying out their infernal plan which, if consummated, would have killed not only Governor Witmer, members of her family and almost certainly multiple members of the law enforcement.

Fortunately for Governor Witmer – and the nation – the FBI and Michigan state law enforcement units were able to apprehend these clown criminals before they could commit their evil deeds. It turns out that they liked to communicate via the secure communication tool of Facebook.

While Governor Witmer received messages of support and commiseration from leaders of both political parties, why are we not surprised by the fact that Trump responded by tweeting that she had been a terrible governor. Which in Trumpspeak means that she deserved whatever could have happened to her.

It makes the blood run cold to realize that there is a very real possibility that this very damaged human being could be President of the United States for another four years.

Clearly this country stands on the precipice of an existential disaster.

 October 10, 2020

7,669, 411-213,837 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day

Today we learned that months ago the CDC was prepared to issue national guidelines that would mandate that masks be worn by passengers on all public transportation throughout the United States. However, members of the Team Trump intervened and prevented that mandate from going out the rationale being that states and localities should determine the best protocols for their respective public transportation systems.

Considering that the VOVID-19 is a national threat it certainly would make sense for there to be a national policy, particularly with what is now considered the most effective means of preventing the spread of the virus. Serious public health officials are unanimous in stating that the wearing of masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing are the most effective means. This is not a strategy that could be different in Georgia as opposed to Wyoming as opposed to New York. Like the virus, science does not operate on a state by state basis.

This story provides further proof that Trump and his minions are literally and actually responsible for the death of many thousands of Americans who could have been saved but for the politicizing of the response to the pandemic. Rather than looking through a lifesaving lens, Trump has only his myopic reelection vision to the exclusion of logic, common sense or care for the well-being of human beings.

And just to keep things interesting Trump has organized another super spreader event at the White House, another campaign rally with 2,000 people who will probably have a dozen masks between them. Doing his best Juan Peron imitation Trump will speak from the Truman balcony (which probably has poor Harry spinning in his grave every time his name is mentioned in connection with the Clown and President).

What is also interesting is that there is no evidence that these rallies are helping Trump’s campaign or his reelection efforts. The people in attendance are already supporters and certainly are not further motivated by a rally where Trump will say the same things that he has been saying since 2005. Indeed, reports indicate that many people in Trump Nation just want to see their Fearless Leader in the flesh and typically leave long before Trump finishes his rantathon.

But the rallies feed his inner megalomaniac. The rallies address his need for reaffirmation that he is an Important Man instead of being a poor excuse for a human being.

In a very real way it is all very sad…. sad for the nation and actually, very sad for Trump.

October 11, 2020

7,755, 527-214,735 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day

The Hatch Act says, among other things, that federal facilities are not too be used for political events. The last time anyone checked, the White House is a federal facility, owned and maintained by the United States government.

Yet, yesterday Trump hosted a totally partisan “rally” at the White House attended by Blacks and Latinos for Trump. Of course the U.S. Justice Department should be looking into this total misuse of federal resources but, of course, the Justice Department is headed by William Barr, Trump’s toothless lap dog, so there is no chance that there will be any examination/investigation by the Justice Department. And in what is one more sign that Trump is debasing the core institutional values of the American governmental system, there really has not been an outpouring of outrage and criticism at the brazen act of lawlessness. In the Age of Trump lawlessness is the New Norm.

And in a show of truly blatant disrespect for a man who has spent a lifetime earning international respect, the Trump campaign aired a video featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci speaking about the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic in a positive way. The Trump campaign spliced that comment into a campaign ad making it seem that Fauci was praising Trump which was simply not the case.

Clearly the Trump campaign is the true reflection of its candidate using anybody and anything for his benefit regardless of truth, validity or relevance.

October 12, 2020

7,763, 371-214,776 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

For over a century this day had been known as Columbus Day. It was a day initially meant to honor Italian heritage at a time when Italian Americans were subject to especially harsh discrimination (including a lynching of Italians in New Orleans in the latter part of the 19th century).

This was a particularly benign holiday and an occasion for many to have a day off from work or school. But as the myth of American history transitioned to the truth of American history, it became clear that Christopher Columbus was the advance guard of European genocide, slavery and violent colonization and that Columbus himself enslaved, tortured, killed and robbed the indigenous people that he encountered during his first voyages to the so-called New World.

Today, many people are beginning to refer to this day as Indigenous People’s Day, using it as an occasion to remember that there were tens of millions of indigenous people in what is now North and South America before the appearance of Europeans. And in remembering their existence it becomes possible to also remembering the devastation of their civilizations as part of the Original Sin of America.

The day also begins with the confirmation hearings pertaining to the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. While it is clear that her confirmation is a fait accompli if there ever was one, it does offer the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee an opportunity to lay bare the naked determination of the Republicans to stack the Supreme Court with an iron clad 6-3 super conservative majority for at least the next decade if not more.

Judge Barrett’s opening statement contained the expected platitudes about being committed to fairness and impartiality. But she also stated that she believes that the Supreme Court should apply the law as written and not try to inject policy into judicial decisions. Of course, on the planet on which Judge Barrett lives, banning abortion, gutting the Voting Rights Act and eliminating the Affordable Care Act are not policy decisions, but merely the application of the law. The fact that important policies are affected are, Judge Coney would have us believe, is merely incidental.

And there is no truth to rumor that Judge Coney also has a bridge in Brooklyn that she would like to sell.

As the hearing goes forward it turns out that the future of the right wing of the right wing reimagined Supreme Court will encompass the obliteration or invalidation of accepted policies and principles including the right of a woman to choose, the right of consenting adults to use contraceptives, civil rights laws to protect Black Americans, the remaining protections of the already gutted Voting Rights Act, affirmative action in the workplace and in academia and the right of consenting adults of the same gender to love and marry.

And that is just a warmup.

The title of a Billie Holiday song comes to mind, “Detour Ahead”.

Detour indeed.

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Point of View Columns

When a Debate is not a Debate

The first and only debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence promised to be more coherent and rational if only because Donald Trump was not in the room. Of course by now most observers understood that Pence was Trump Lite, perhaps more palatable but still with the same message.

That having been said, the debate promised to reveal actual policy concerns instead of personal differences.

Here’s what we learned in real time.

  • The debate rules agreed to by both teams required that all in attendance would wear masks. The Biden-Harris team insisted that there be plexiglass partitions separating Harris and Pence and while the Pence team acceded to this demand they thought it smart to mock Kamala Harris for wanted to be protected from a man who has been in close proximity to a current COVID-19 patient (that would be Trump). But that is what logic looks like in the Land of Trump.
  • From the very beginning Susan Page seemed to be a better moderator than Chris Wallace by taking charge of the proceedings in a fashion that seemed to escape Wallace. Of course, she did not have a raging bull named Trump pawing the ground while panting and sorting and clearly that would make a difference.
  • The first question addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and the way that the Trump administration has responded. Harris immediately drew blood by stating that the incompetence that she outlined meant that the Trump-Pence team had “forfeited the right to reelection”. Ouch.
  • That initial comment left Pence shaking his head and, as it turned out he spent a lot of time shaking his head while Harris was speaking. That is, until a fly seemed to find some kind of fascination with the top of Pence’s head.
  • When Pence was asked about the globally high pandemic death rate in America he pivoted and stated that Trump has put the health of America first. He then went on to blame China and predict that there would be vaccines available before the end of the year. He went on to state that the Biden COVID plan was actually the Trump plan and accused Trump of plagiarism, in the process alluding to a plagiarism incident involving Biden when he was in his early twenties. Once again providing the Trump-Pence team when given a choice, will always go low.
  • Harris retorted with haymakers detailing the incompetence and malpractice of the Trump administration during the pandemic. Pence then wrapped himself in the flag and stated that for Harris to criticize the Trump administration was “an insult to the American people” although it was never clear why that would be the case.
  • When asked about the viability of a vaccine, Harris stated that she would take a vaccine that was endorsed by Dr. Fauci but would not take a vaccine recommended by Trump. Pence, seemingly affixed to his high horse, accused Harris of “playing politics with people’s lives” although again, it was not clear why that would be the case.
  • Notably both Pence and Harris absolutely dodged the question about whether they have had discussions with Trump and Biden respectively regarding 25th Amendment issues given that on January 20th either man would be the oldest person ever inaugurated as president. Interesting duck and dodge.
  • The debate settled into a traditional thrust and parry with neither side drawing blood. Harris claims that the Trump promise of a healthcare plan to replace Obamacare is imaginary, Pence basically pirouettes and doesn’t respond.
  • Pence goes on to introduce a bit of magical thinking by claiming that the environment is better since Trump became president which is simply not true. And when asked about climate change Pence spins again and starts talking about tax cuts.
  • When asked about how the Obama administration handled ISIS Harris deftly ducked and dodged into a conversation about Trump referring to veterans and dead American war heroes as “suckers and losers”. Ouch.
  • Pence starts to look like Trump in try to talk over the moderator but Susan Page is no Chris Wallace.
  • Pence then executes another pirouette from a question about Roe V. Wade to talking about Isis and Iran – the connective tissue being apparent to nobody but Pence. But he does take the time to explicitly embrace a ban on abortion.
  • As should have been expected, Pence denies the existence of systemic racism in America – and why did he do that?
  • Pence walked into a buzz saw named Harris who almost certainly was waiting for this moment, nailing Pence to Trump’s praise of white supremacists with his “good people on both sides” comments after Charlottesville.
  • Pence, pinned against the ropes executes a clever deflection by attacking Harris on the Black incarceration rate in San Francisco while she was District Attorney – nowhere near a mortal blow but certainly on that had to leave a mark.
  • The debate ends with Harris repeatedly lecturing Pence on the fact that she will not be lectured to.
  • Pence waffles on the peaceful transition of power question and it would seem clear that even in the face of an electoral landslide it will be more than a notion to pry Team Orange out of the White House. Of course, by that time many of the White House staff may just be in the final stages of COVID-19 recovery.
  • The debate ends and Harris is greeted by her mask wearing husband and Pence is greeted by his maskless wife, despite the very strict pre-debate guidelines. What is it with masks and these people?

It is clear that this was not your typical college or university debate team type of debate. It was a series of suitable sound bites with the opponent simply being the foil for yet another talking point.

Of course that is why, in 2020, a debate is not a debate.

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