Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 29, 2010

Halloween approaches and that is the time for children and the young of heart of make believe. The midterm elections approach on November 2nd with signs that Fright Night can still be avoided:

Boot Camp
Recently in Kentucky a supporter of G.O.Tea Party senatorial candidate Rand Paul was videotaped pressing his foot on the head of a woman who had presumably not drunk the G.O.Tea. The woman’s glasses were crushed and she suffered a concussion.

The big footed miscreant’s explanation was that he was a “big guy” and couldn’t bend down to restrain her. And that is why he used his foot. And while the symbolism of the moment is inescapable, we are still waiting for someone from the Rand Paul camp to, at the very least; disavow the actions of this Kentucky Stomper.

It looks like we will be waiting for a long, long time.

Shake me, wake me……
The political pundits of every stripe and color predict a G.O.Tea Party avalanche on November 2nd. While Meg Whitman’s millions will not win her the gubernatorial election in California, Sharron Angle’s mindlessness has her substantially ahead of Harry Reid.

Carl Paladino’s anger may not win him the governor’s mansion in Albany but President Obama’s former senate seat in Illinois is in serious jeopardy.

It may be useful to ask at what point this “change” take place. Less than two years ago this country was celebrating the breathtaking spectacle of a young, progressive African American becoming President of the United States with the promise of transformative change that would benefit all Americans.

At what point did ignorance trump knowledge and insight? At what point did it become acceptable to run for the United States Congress (Rich Iott from Ohio) with an acknowledged practice of dressing up in Nazi S.S. uniforms.

At what point did a G.O.Tea Party candidate office (Jon Runyan of New Jersey) state without fear of criticism or retribution that his favorite Supreme Court decision was Dred Scott (that is the one which held that no black man had rights that a white man need respect).

These anecdotal nightmares are just the tip of the iceberg. There are over 750 G.O.Tea Party candidates for Congress and state legislatures that are on record as being against any kind of energy reform initiatives – the kind of legislation that might make this country less reliant on fossil fuels and……..oh yes, help save the environment of this planet.

Steven Thrasher in his September 29, 2010 Village Voice article “White America Has Lost Its Mind” http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-09-29/news/white-america-has-lost-its-mind/ identifies the point as a few minutes after noon on January 20, 2009 when Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States.

It is hard to believe, however, that all of this bile and anger and stupidity and self-destructive dumbness metastasized so quickly.

These poisonous wellsprings disguised as patriotic crusades to “take back America” have been around all along. Perhaps the Obama inauguration motivated some aspects of the right wing of the right wing to come forward, but the madness has been around us for a long time.
How long it will stay with us is now the question.

A Question?
Assuming a worst case scenario on November 2nd, the G.O.Tea Party will take full control of the House of Representatives and will also effectively control any legislative initiatives that take place in the Senate.

Continuing with this nightmare, there will be governors and attorneys general and state legislators throughout the country who have also drunk the G.O.Tea and will be railing against the “leftist Marxist” in the White House.

We will see efforts to repeal the recently passed healthcare bill as well as the financial regulatory reform legislation. Environmental initiatives will be gutted and President Obama will be checkmated on any move to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.

In just a few years we will see the economy of this country rocked like never before with the standard of living diminished for all except the very rich. Ignorant American children will graduate from high school believing that creationism is a scientific theory and the continued deterioration of this country’s national security will continue due to mindless military incursions in the name of some unknowable war on terror.

In just a few years your children will ask you what did you do to prevent this catastrophic scenario. Especially when you could see it coming.

What will your answer be?

(Try to) have a great weekend and DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!

Point of View Columns

Modern Day Fairy Tales

When we were children we listened to fairy tales and fables. Cows jumping over the moon and gingerbread houses and magic beans were all part of our nightly fare. As parents, we have told these magic nighttime stories to our children replete with goblins and fairies along with wizards and warlocks.

It all seems to be perfectly harmless. After all, reality is always lurking outside the door, waiting to ensnare children in the coils of responsibility and sober reason. Some mystical escapism tempered with the lessons of the day has been a timeless combination that continues to this very day.

The only problem with fairy tales and fables is when children become adults and still believe them. Women waiting for Prince Charming and men searching for Cinderella can really be quite sad in reality. Political candidates invoking the boogie man and trolls under bridges along with pots of gold at the ends of rainbows are really quite dangerous given the gravity of the problems and challenges facing this planet.

I imagine that all of us wish the travails of Mary and her little lamb and little Miss Muffett and her arachnophobia were the biggest problems of the day. But these are grim times and not Grimm times – there is a difference.

The G.O.Tea Party has sauntered its way to the presumed precipice of victory on November 2nd by peddling fairy tales and fables that, repeated enough times, have taken on the aura of reality. The fable of “death panels for grandma” ranks right up there with the seven dwarfs, but somehow too many of the American people believed and of an important end of life counseling feature of the original healthcare bill was eliminated. And those of us living in the real world must suffer the consequences.

There have been so many “statements” and “inquiries” regarding President Obama’s nativity that questions of his citizenship have the same currency as the NORAD tracking of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Most adults know that the NORAD tracking is just for the amusement of children. The damnable questioning of Barack Obama’s citizenship is shameful and stupid, but more people question his birthplace today than when he ran for President two years ago.

The G.O.Tea Party and its cohorts (with brown shirts and sheets and torches and pitchforks safely tucked away for the moment) would have us believe that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party have embarked on a left of liberal, quasi-Marxist legislative agenda that will subvert the rights of every citizen.

Like the three little pigs hovering in their brick home, the G.O.Tea Party adherents believe that Big Bad Obama will huff and puff and blow away all of their freedoms. The fact that there is no proof of such an agenda has not deterred the proponents of these diatribes and the lack of reality has not caused true believers to even pause and wonder.

The stimulus package in all likelihood saved the American economy from cratering and collapsing. There is no doubt that the Obama Administration saved the American auto industry and the millions of jobs related to an industry that has been the very embodiment of Americana for over a century. How that translates into taking away freedoms, aside from the freedom to be poor and unemployed escapes me. But then reality escapes most of the G.O.Tea Party, so we are even.

Mice running up clocks and spiders washing down water spouts may be great conversation points for five year olds, but it is not helpful to the national discourse. Advocating the dismantling of the United States Department of Energy and the United States Department of Education are stories to scare children at night – they are not part of a useful political agenda when this country’s energy policies are in dire need of reconfiguration and this country’s education system teeters between world class quality and dysfunction (depending on where you live and how much money you can spend).

While Halloween is fittingly two days before the midterm elections, even Christine O’Donnell flying by on a broom can’t make reasonable people believe in these fairy tales. We are living in very difficult times with an uncertain future.

This cannot possibly be the time for fables and confectionery stories that make us feel good right after we have our warm milk and cookies. The fact that the Obama Administration has tackled the structural problems in this country’s economy is not a cause for alarm, no matter what is said in the multimillion dollar advertising campaign funded by individuals and corporations that have made billions by reason of these structural problems.

What is important now is for people who are awake and in possession of their wits to go and vote. Too many people who want to believe the G.O.Tea Party fairy tales are going to vote, supposedly in record numbers – with their anger and their refusal to acknowledge the fables that they have been fed for what they are – cynical lies intended to distract voters from reality.

And the reality is that the day after the election, if too many people believe the fairy tales, there will be a real nightmare that will not end.

Be My Guest

Warning: A Republican Pledge to Do It Again – A Guest Column by Congressman Gregory W. Meeks

Candidates, activists, party operatives, and especially the so-called independent expenditure committees, are locked in a fierce struggle to define the 2010 midterm election: Democrats say it is about a choice between going forward with the rescue, recovery and reform policies of President Obama and Congressional Democrats that broke the back of the worst recession in 80 years.

They maintain that these policies are pulling America out of the ditch into which the Bush Administration drove the country assisted by Congressional Republicans who were then in the majority of both the House and Senate. Republicans want to make the election a referendum on what they contend is the failure of President Obama and Congressional Democrats to right in just 20 months the disasters accumulated during the eight years Republicans controlled the White House and the Congress.

Conservative and rightwing independent expenditure committees, set loose by a recent 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision that accords to corporations the same free speech rights the Constitution guarantees to individual citizens, are spending tens of millions of dollars accusing Democrats of implanting socialism, restoring “big government,” looking out for “their own,” imposing a stimulus package that “hasn’t created one job,” being “Washington insiders,” bailing out Wall Street, taking over the health system, and so on. Financed by some of the wealthiest individuals and corporations in America, these outfits are outspending Democrats 9 to 1 apparently based on the belief that voters will believe lies told often enough.
Democrats are supposed to be super-vulnerable.

In part because young people, African Americans, Latinos, union members, and suburban women are said to be disinterested or disaffected, predictions have Republicans blowing out Democrats and regaining control of the House and maybe the Senate. So, why the hysterical rhetoric and record rate of spending?

Many of the races on which Republicans staked their return to power are tightening. A number of Democratic incumbents thought to be sure losers have pulled even or gone ahead. Signs abound that Democratic constituencies are interested in the midterm election and intend to vote. Moderates and independents may be having second thoughts about Republican candidates. More and more voters seem to be asking themselves whether they really want Tea Party Republican who want to abolish the U.S. Education Department, repeal health care reform and the 14th Amendment, think unemployment benefits are unconstitutional, question the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and would require teaching creationism, to be in a position to cast the decisive vote on Supreme Court nominees, science funding, aid to education, or nuclear arms reduction treaties.

The fact is the 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 37 senators to be elected on November 2 will decide whether policies are adopted that help the recovery or hurt it; restore tax equity or widen it; protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security or jeopardize them; address climate change or ignore it; end our involvement in two wars or extend it.

Democrats have been upfront about their commitment to continue moving the country in the new direction they articulated to voters in 2006 and 2008. Republicans have been less candid, preferring instead to defeat or obstruct Democratic efforts for electoral gain.

Early on, Republicans staked their electoral hopes on fanning the flames of division. They opened the doors of their party to extremist Tea Party candidates (The New York Times reports that 138 Tea Party activists are Republican nominees for House or Senate seats).

Everything was going fine until Republican leaders began to be asked about what they would do if they regained the majority. Thinking it unwise to run as the “party of no,” House Republican leaders apparently decided they needed to issue a manifesto of intent.

So, they issued “A Pledge to America.” Rarely have so many pages been devoted to saying so little or to repackaging so many recently failed policies. At the rollout, Minority Leader John Boehner said, “The point we make in this preamble to our pledge is that we are not going to be any different from what we’ve been.”

Republicans controlled the House and the Senate during six of the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency. They controlled the House all eight years.

What did that get us? A $2.3 trillion tax cut that went overwhelmingly to the rich and turned a record surplus into a record deficit; two unfunded wars that added at least a trillion dollars to the deficit; an unpaid Medicare prescription benefit that added another half-trillion bucks to the deficit; non-enforcement of environmental, workplace, and consumer protection laws; and de facto deregulation of the energy and financial services sectors that resulted in the near-collapse of the global financial system and the worst recession in generations.

And the leader of House Republicans, who would become Speaker of the House of Representatives if they retake the House majority, pledges “we are not going to be any different from what we’ve been.”

Voters should take him – and them – at their word. Want proof? They would make the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of Americans permanent, adding $700 billion to the deficit – almost $4 trillion over ten years.

Voters shouldn’t let disinterest or disappointment to induce them into staying home and helping give the reigns of congressional power back a party that pledges to repeat the disasters it inflicted on our country just a few years ago.

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks represents the Sixth Congressional District in Queens, New York

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 22, 2010

November is nearby and so are the midterm elections. Rhetorical pyrotechnics, no matter how brightly they coruscate in the sky, do not seem to be enough to awaken the somnolent legions of progressives and moderates who are ceding the high ground and the low ground to the right wing of the right wing. Winter may come early this year and for years to come if the G.O.Tea Party has its way.

Race and the Tea Party

Recent news reports have highlighted the apparent attraction that the Tea Party has for angry voters. That anger reportedly stems from the maddening perception that the government interferes too much in the lives of Americans and that the principles of the Founding Fathers should be the sole guiding principles for all governance.

It might be useful, however, to consider the rational basis for this anger and what kind of voter the G.O.Tea Party has attracted. After all, there are some fairly subtle constitutional debates that arise when considering the strict interpretation of the United States Constitution given that it was written over two hundred years ago at a time when slavery was legal, women could not vote and rapacious and persistent genocide was being perpetrated against Native Americans.

Most historians and legal scholars would agree that the unique exceptionalism of the Constitution is that it is an organic document, designed to change. This change can take place through judicial interpretation or amendment. The idea of the Founders was to create a document that could evolve and adapt over time. Otherwise, we would be living in a country where slavery was legal, women couldn’t vote and the physically disabled would not deserve any special consideration as a matter of law.
Simply put, the Constitution was never meant to be the Ten Commandments.

The flawed constitutional analysis of the G.O.Tea Party is paired with a mystical desire to “get government out of the lives of Americans”, even though it is very unclear what aspect of government should be out of our lives. Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for senator in Kentucky believes in removing government from our lives. This would be the same Dr. Rand Paul that accepts Medicaid and Medicare payments for fully 50% of his patients.

Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for senator in Nevada receives medical insurance and healthcare coverage through her husband’s federal pension yet she is part of the G.O.Tea Party movement to get government out of our lives.

Would it be the government that devised and implemented the G.I. Bill that is absolutely responsible for the creation of a true middle class in this country? Would it be the Food and Drug Administration that is responsible for making sure that market forces don’t result in a failure to adhere to basic health standards in the production and delivery of what we ingest daily?

Perhaps the G.O.Tea Party would eliminate unemployment insurance (that would be Joe Miller, G.O.Tea Party candidate for senator in Alaska)? That is the government program that has helped countless millions of Americans and their families avoid homelessness and hunger during this economic depression.

Perhaps G.O.Tea Party is in favor of eliminating farm subsidies that skew and destroy agricultural economies around the world? Not likely.

So what aspect of government should be out of our lives? The military? The Federal Aviation Administration? The U.S. Parks Service? The Army Corps of Enginers? The Postal Service? It is difficult to understand how these critical government services are the source of such rage.

Perhaps we should examine this rage more closely. Since its inception, barely three months after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the Tea Party movement has attracted overtly racist supporters, including some of the most dangerous white supremacists in this nation.

Tea Party rallies have featured President Obama being lynched in effigy, dressed in Africa garb and painted like a minstrel. Questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace and mocking his name are all part of a racially-based disaffection with this President that transcends policy differences and constitutional debates.

Congressman John Boehner, who is salivating at the prospect of becoming Speaker of the House as you read this column, was quoted as saying that President Obama could save money on his inauguration by having a “fried chicken dinner”. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he and his G.O.Tea Party cohorts intend to teach Barack Obama a lesson (blessedly, he did not refer to the President of the United States as a “boy”).

If the policy differences regarding the presence of government are false straw men, and if the constitutional debate is at best the result of subtle philosophical perspectives regarding the United States Constitution, what is all the fuss about? Clearly the mere presence of a black President of the United States has been enough to throw logic, common sense, good taste and equanimity out the window.

And the silence in the presence of this onslaught is deafening.

Driving Miss Ginni Crazy

Last week in Point of View’s “Weekend Edition” I wrote about Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pointing out the disquieting aspects of her raucous and loud rhetorical attacks on the President of the United States while her husband sits on the Supreme Court. The ensuing free speech debate was discussed and ultimately tabled.

This past weekend Ginni Thomas took time off from attacking Barack Obama to call Anita Hill at 7:30 in the morning to demand an apology from her. The news reports of this bit of unfathomable hubris read like something from the National Lampoon, except that it was real. One wonders at the source of her empowerment.

Is it because, as a new leader of the right wing of the right wing she felt that she could simply call Anita Hill and demand that she apologize to her husband? Did Ginni Thomas take her “Miss Daisy” pills that morning and decide to put an uppity black woman in her place?

Or was she channeling Michael Corleone from Godfather II who famously said, “Today we take care of all family business”? Perhaps she was giving us a prequel of a Tyler Perry sequel, “Diary of a Mad White Woman”.

Maybe she was just warming up for the glow of victory that she anticipates on November 2nd?
I only hope that she is disappointed when she wakes up on November 3rd. Instead of Miss Daisy pills perhaps she will be eating humble pie.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

This Is Not A Test!

At the height of the Cold War, there was something called the Emergency Broadcast System. It was the mid-century version of high tech emergency preparedness and it was designed to disseminate rescue and relief information to that portion of the American population that was not incinerated by a Soviet nuclear attack.

There were Emergency Broadcast channels on the radio and this nation’s television stations were geared up to calm a suddenly radioactive countryside.

Every now and then there would be a “test” of the EBS and high pitched tones amidst the static gave jittery citizens assurance that radio and television stations that survived a series of thermonuclear blasts would be beacons of hope as the nuclear winter approached.

After the “test”, listeners and viewers would be told that this was a test and that, if this was a real emergency life saving instructions would be dispensed. Thankfully the EBS was never used. Thankfully the United States and the Soviet Union stepped back from the nuclear precipice. Thankfully sanity had a momentary reign.

And now, there is another disaster looming, and this is not a test. The rising tide of the G.O.Tea Party activists abetted by millions of anonymous dollars from even more anonymous corporate sources have set the stage for a legal coup d’etat. The inevitability of serial electoral victories by the right wing of the right wing are broadcast hourly by Fox News and CNN and MSNBC and every other electronic media outlet with an audience of more than a dozen.

We have been assured that the accuracy of modern polling is so exact that there is no possibility of the equivalent of “Dewey Defeats Truman” headlines on November 3rd.

Perhaps it is this contrived inevitability that has dampened the enthusiasm and dulled the wits of the progressive and moderate factions of the American electorate. These same absolutist polls also assure us that these progressives and moderates lack the “enthusiasm” to come out to vote on November 2nd, while the G.O.Tea Party adherents, pitchforks and torches in hand, are set to appear at the polls in record numbers and will bring about a new and unprecedented era in political lunacy in this country.
The wonderment is not that this country has brought forth full-grown personas out of nowhere, like a team of Aphrodites walking from the brow of Zeus.

This country has a history of supernovas coming from nowhere and blazing across the sky of the public’s perception. President Obama comes to mind in this regard, but obviously his star came from a very different point on the horizon.

It may be amazing that Sarah Palin endorsed candidates like Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Christine O’Donnell and Linda McMahon may soon be in the United States Senate, but we shouldn’t be amazed if it happens.

Countless millions of dollars in cash and free air time donated by Fox News have combined to make political stars out of individuals that aren’t ready for prime time by any stretch of the imagination.

It is amazing that progressives and moderates are not motivated to vote on November 2nd. Whatever the dissatisfaction may exist because of various legislative initiatives that have not come to pass, it is very clear (because the G.O.Tea Party candidates are very clear and articulate in this regard) that there is an intent to dismantle as much of the governmental apparatus as possible.

The fact that this governmental apparatus has allowed Americans (including all of the G.O.Tea Party candidates) to enjoy a quality of life unequaled in world history is clearly irrelevant. Taking back America means taking this country back to a time when racial segregation is a state matter, corporations can make unlimited anonymous contributions to skew political campaigns and when Social Security was debatable and Medicare was part of a communist conspiracy that should be opposed at all costs.

THIS IS NOT A TEST and the G.O.Tea Party is no joke. Despite the fractured syntax and ignorance of basic items like world events and the United States Constitution and American history, these men and women mean to remake this country in their own benighted vision and we will all be truly worse off for their victory.

For men and women who are eligible to vote to suggest that they are not sufficiently inspired by President Obama would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. If the changes advocated by the G.O.Tea Party are implemented it will take more than another set of elections in 2012 to right the wrongs and repair the damage.

Consider how difficult it has been to redress the damage done by 8 years of George W. Bush – and he is considered a suspicious moderate by the G.O.Tea Party faithful!

During the next few weeks every Point of View column will focus on the importance of voting as well as the importance of understanding the G.O.Tea Party agenda. How you vote is up to you.

But remember—-THIS IS NOT A TEST!

Be My Guest

Can We Talk? A Guest Column by Herb Boyd

Don’t you know that: “If they come for me in the morning, expect that they will come for you at night.”

“Hands off our leaders,” was one of several demands posted on a demonstrator’s sign during the recent “One Nation Working Together” rally in the nation’s capital.

When asked what leaders she was talking about she answered: “All of them.” She quickly ticked off the names of Representatives Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters. “And the other members of Congressional Black Caucus, and statewide Latino and Black Caucuses,” she added.

The total members of the House of Representatives is (435) fewer than ten (10%) percent, (42) are members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) but of that number it is disturbing to know how many CBC members are under serious ethic investigation.

Last fall, thirty (30) members of Congress were brought up for investigations by the House ethic committee; eight (8) of them (27%)were CBC members, including Donald Payne, Gregory Meeks, Bennie Thompson, Mel Watt, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Carolyn Kilpatrick, Charles Rangel, and Maxine Waters. Although they have been summoned and two (Waters and Rangel) have to date been brought up on charges, according to U.S. canon’s of laws they must be presumed to be innocent unless proven to be guilty after charges and investigation.

Unfortunately and historically, indictments of African Americans and Latinos are most often than not tantamount to convictions before the fact. This disproportionate rate of allegations against long serving elected officials of color where many of the charges are baseless and trivial makes it all the more unreasonable to think that we today live in a post-racial society.

Moreover, it is difficult to separate and discern the degree to which these accusations are related to the ongoing vile, vicious, unpatriotic and blatantly racist attacks on our President Barack Obama.

But if our elected officials of color are to be open game for Congressional and Statewide committees then it stands to reason that the first black President and the first black Governor in the history of New York, David Paterson can and will be publically assailed, ridiculed, insulted, and lambasted from every nook and cranny. And then it obviously also stands to reason that no one in our communities is or should feel safe from the same.

To a great extent, the corporate media has taken its cue from or leads Congress in aggressive attacks on elected officials of color especially Black politicians. Of course most will agree that the New York Post has its own agenda and needs no prompting from anybody for its wholesale assaults.

If the mainstream media chooses to target an individual or organization, it’s a good chance they will come up with something, even if they have to make it up as they go.

You will hopefully remember that a few years ago The Daily News, with an aggressive “fishing expedition” assigned reporters to dig into the financial affairs at the Apollo Theater. Out of this scurrilous mission they brought back a pack of unsubstantiated charges of wrongdoing against one of our most esteemed national leader Percy Sutton and Congressman Rangel that was enough to earn them a Pulitzer Prize only to find out after the fact following a thorough, time consuming and very costly (to state tax payers) investigation by the NY State Attorney General that all of the charges were false and baseless.

Of course, during the two plus years of investigation Mr. Sutton and Mr. Rangel were dragged through the public mud in with full pages of attacks over many months with only a one day, small paragraph of retraction on their innocence.

No less nefarious is The New York Post,
particularly with its Page Six slander and character assassination of the Rev. Al Sharpton which was matched by the New Yorker magazine cover with its so-called satirical send-up of President Obama and First Lady Michelle.
All of these nasty depictions and insinuations were brought to mind again with the barrage of demeaning emails sent by New York state Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.

Paladino is just another example that racism is alive and well in America. And with each inane utterance, each absurd word the media provides him coverage thereby giving credence to his crazed and ridiculous conclusions.

African American institutions, and media including the stalwart Amsterdam News and now especially the NY Carib News, are not immune to media or House ethics machinations, in fact there is an all out effort underway to destroy the NY Carib News, because it has successfully promoted international unity of countries of color. We need to support and standby Carib News and the Rodney Family now more than ever.

A few weeks ago on the front page of the New York Times, above the fold in space usually reserved for national and international stories, The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, one of our city’s most important community service organizations, its tough, but highly respected President Lloyd Williams, and one of our city’s most important and straight forward council members, Inez Dickens (who has always fought for the interest of our communities) were attacked and implicated on groundless irregularities and accused of shady dealings between Dickens and the Chamber.

Dickens and Williams were mainstays in turning Harlem around for the better. They have lived here with their families for generations and the Dickens’ and Williams’ families remained in our community in bad times as well as good as has the Rangel, Paterson, Sutton, and Wright families (Dickens and Williams are not for sale, as are too many others). They have all truly “CAST DOWN THEIR BUCKETS.” They are not here as are some others because “Harlem is now in vogue.”

The targeted attacks on Dickens and Williams are because they are strong supporters of Charlie Rangel and Charlie is to powerful, independent and un-bought.

Nonetheless, charges such as that in the New York Times, however baseless, are incriminating and the victims have little recourse and often have to suffer the humiliation and indignities without a chance to prove their innocence.

And a close reading of the article attacking Dickens, Williams and the Chamber, individuals and an organization that have been so dedicated to the empowerment of our community, reveals all sorts of misguided conjectures and contradictions that even the writer admits are without merit.

For example, what the Times reporter, attempts to do is to show an assignation of corruption between the GHHDC and the Majority Whip of the City Council, Inez Dickens. “A review of the public record makes clear the decision to award the money [a $2.5 million forgivable loan] came just as the [Bloomberg] administration was in the final push to gain City Council approval for one of its largest and most controversial neighborhood rezoning initiatives, a plan to change the rules for development in an area that straddles 125th Street,” Buettner wrote.

For the Times reporter the timing of the deal was propitious but a few paragraphs later, he cites a comment, a spokesman for the city’s Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), who said “there was no connection between the capital improvement grant and the Dickens’ support of the re-zoning plan,” in fact the grant approval took place over a year before the re-zoning plan was approved.

But by then the damage intended, had been done.

There’s a simple answer to this problem, an easy way to deal with mean-spirited Congressional committees and menacing media, and even right wing groups, such as the Tea Party, and that’s unity.

If Black, Latino, and Asian elected officials, if our important community institutions and organizations were united with a resolve that an attack on one is an attack on all, then they could and would possess the strength not only to withstand those attempting to harm and destroy them, but also the means, will, support and power to fight back.

Those under attack have every right and responsibility to resist; every right to voice their position on an issue; every right to insist on the necessity to speak truth to power.

The demonstrator at the October 2 rally in Washington, D.C. had it right—“Hands off our Black leaders!” and off of our cherished Black organizations and institutions too.

How can you fight back against these negative trends? You can do so immediately by remembering to vote on November 2 and by reminding your family, friends, neighbors, church members, co-workers, etc to do the same.

An historic march to Washington in October is one thing; but a march to the voting booth in November is the real thing.

There is an old saying “that the enemy of your enemy may be your best friend.”

Remember: “If they come for me in the morning, expect that they will come for you at night.”

Herb Boyd is an author, activist, teacher and journalist. Herb Boyd is a resident of Harlem, New York

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 15, 2010

The miraculous rescue of the Chilean coal miners reaffirms the potential for triumph in the human spirit. The spiraling inane insanity of political discourse that has conferred legitimacy to birthers and tea partiers and Nazi wannabees is breathtaking in its capacity to dismay. And the beat goes on:

Clarence and Ginni
A few mainstream news articles have begun to focus on the rather interesting story of Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The facts are that Mrs. Thomas, affectionately known as Ginni, is the founder and head of Liberty Central, a nonprofit political action group that committed to “ending the tyranny of Barack Obama” and other right wing of the right wing principles.

While no one can deny the freedom of speech rights of Mrs. Thomas, the appearance of propriety is critical to the legitimacy of jurisprudence and there can be no doubt that the spouse of a Supreme Court justice appearing of Fox News with a Lady Liberty crown and braying about the need to reclaim America and hurling epithets at the President of the United States has to cause one to wonder.

I wonder, for example, if there is any way that a nominee to the Supreme Court would be confirmed if their spouse engaged in these kinds of high profile political forays – regardless of political affiliation or philosophical point of view.

Further, there is the very real matter of the Citizens United case which was decided by the Supreme Court. Citizens United held that corporations can make unlimited campaign and public contributions since corporations have the same rights to free speech as citizens.

This contorted perversion of the Constitution has not only skewed the political landscape throughout this country, it also legitimized an unlimited flow of funds to —- you guessed it — Liberty Central, a 501© (4) corporation that does not have to disclose its corporate donors, including the two companies that provided her with $550,000 to get her hatchet job operation started a few years ago.

One would think that, at the very least, the esteemed Justice Thomas (the favorite Supreme Court Justice of Sharron Angle, by the way) would have recused himself from the Citizens United case as its outcome directly affected the work of his wife. But there is no shame and very little observation of propriety on the right wing of the right wing and Justice Thomas chimed in with his fellow Blocks of Granite on the Supreme Court, Justices Roberts, Alito, and Scalia to make certain that this godforsaken decision went forward.

What is most distressing is that the Thomas-Thomas-Liberty Central connection is not news and has not been revealed through investigative reporting. These facts are known and have been known for quite awhile.

And then think about the hue and outcry if the wife of Justice Stephen Breyer, a noted progressive on the Supreme Court, was a regular contributor to Truthout or The Huffington Post or Point of View.

Clearly we are in an era where the right wing of the right wing doesn’t even pretend to adhere to basic principles of propriety and decency. And just as clearly, the progressive cohorts in the political fray have yet to find their voice.

Dazed and Amazed
Every day there are polling reports and surveys to the effect that Republicans and their Tea Party progeny are “enthusiastic” about voting in the November 2nd midterm elections and Democratic Party supporters are lukewarm and reluctant on the subject.

I confess to being dazed and amazed by this continuous news flow. The G.O.Tea Party has been very clear in setting forth its agenda to roll back each and every legislative achievement of the Obama Administration to date – from health care, to nuclear disarmament, to equal pay for women. The right wing of the right wing has declared its intention to dismantle key elements of government like the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.

Some avatars of the right have questioned the constitutionality of unemployment insurance (Joe Miller – Alaska) and the need for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Rand Paul – Kentucky). Others have engaged in such reprehensible personal conduct (Carl Paladino – New York) and have made their fortunes promoting misogyny and violence (Linda McMahon – Connecticut).

And I am dazed and amazed at the reported apathy of the progressive and moderate sectors of the electorate. Can it be that people simply don’t believe Joe Miller when he says that he thinks that unemployment insurance is unconstitutional and that he will not vote for any legislation that is not expressly permitted in the Constitution (a document that was written over two hundred years ago)? Can it be that the promise of Senate and House of Representatives populated by former witches (Christine O’Donnell – Delaware) and Nazi wannabees (Rich Iott – Ohio) is not enough to get people to go to the polls and vote?

I understand that political battle fatigue may have set in given the all out assaults from the right wing of the right wing and its Fox News megaphone. But now is not the time to retreat and hunker down. There is a promise of a darker tomorrow on the horizon. Stemming the tide of witches and wrestlers and Nazi wannabee and strict constitutional constructionists is not simply another cause.

There is a cause for alarm right now and if there was ever a time for mobilization and taking a stand against the outrageous proposition that this country was better in some mythical past, now is the time.

Or to be perfectly accurate, November 2nd is the time.

Burn Baby Burn
Recently, in Obion County, Tennessee a residence burned to the ground while the fire department stood by. What was the reason for their inaction?

The owners of the home had not paid an annual $75 fee for fire protection service. The family in question had paid in previous years, had forgotten this year and offered to pay on the spot. The firemen refused the payment and the home burned to the ground.

That eloquent voice of the right wing of the right wing, Glenn Beck, praised the Tennessee firemen for standing up for what is right and teaching a lesson to Americans who would “sponge” off their fellow citizens. As bizarre and heartless as this statement seems, Mr. Beck was supported by his fellow travelers who call themselves conservatives and libertarians.

Terms like cruel, heartless and clueless come to my mind. But keep in mind that the point of view expressed by Mr. Beck and his colleagues is held by many who would put into action these views if the G.O.Tea Party and the Blocks of Granite on the Supreme Court have their way.


Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Topless and Bottomless

It would be wise to simply abandon all sense of outrage and disgust while observing the mosh pit that passes for political discourse in America in 2010. Clearly the sky is the limit when it comes to outrageous and bizarre statements that are fobbed off the American public as facts. Consider:
• President Obama was not born in the United States
• President Obama is a Muslim
• The initial health care proposals included “death panels” for senior citizens
• The B.P. oil spill was an act of God

All of these statements of “fact”, and many more are part of the talking points of many Republican candidates running for governor, senator and Congress. That these “facts” are patently untrue has not moved the leadership of the Republican Party to distance itself from the members of their party responsible for these statements, much less correct them.

There is not the least bit of challenge or suggestion that accuracy might be useful that has emanated from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele or Representative John Boehner or Representative Eric Cantor or Senator John McCain all known as leaders of the Republican Party.

The silence of the elephants is astounding as it is absurd as Republican candidates call for the dismantling of the Departments of Education and Energy (Angle – Nevada), question the constitutionality of unemployment insurance (Miller – Alaska), publicly refer to homosexuality as an “identity disorder (O’Donnell – Delaware) and question to viability and rationale for the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Paul – Kentucky). When it comes to outrageous comments and points of view, the right wing of the right wing is topless. But it is also bottomless.

We have now learned that Rich Iott, the Republican Party candidate for Congress in Toledo, Ohio, regularly attends Nazi reenactment activities, in some instances wearing an
SS uniform, presumably to enhance the authenticity of the moment. The fact that he is part of a society that conducts historical reenactments of a German SS division did bother Representative Cantor enough to express his distaste – being one the few Jewish members of the G.O.Tea Party Congressman Cantor’s response was somewhat predictable. Although neither Congressman Cantor nor any other Republican seemed to have any problem with Confederate heritage celebrations in Virginia – I guess it depends on which end of the whip one stands.

And so we see that the right wing of the right wing is not only topless, it is bottomless. And through some strange hypnotic force that renders logic, common sense and intelligence inert, the right wing of the right wing is calling the shots for the entire Republican Party. There are more sightings of unicorns and griffins than there are of Republicans who believe that there is a limit to the amount of hate and ignorance that is being injected into the American political blood stream.

Whether it’s Dinesh D’Souza recreating an imaginary communion between President Obama and his father in a cemetery to Rush Limbaugh hoping that the President of the United States “fails”, no member of the G.O.Tea Party feels compelled to say that enough is enough.

Meanwhile, as this topless/bottomless maelstrom ravages the intellectual countryside of this nation, the Democrats remain mute and muted. The silence of the donkeys is remarkable given the vehemence and intensity of the attacks perpetrated by the right wing of the right wing. I am amazed at poll results that show Tea Party adherents exceeding Republicans in their interest in voting in the upcoming elections while Democrats lag far behind both. What could the progressives and moderates be thinking?

Could dissatisfaction with the less than perfect presidency of Barack Obama be reason enough to sit by and let Sharron Engle and Linda McMahon and Sarah Palin become the voice of the future? Could the fact that the Democrats have not been able to fully revive the economy that was truly moribund at the end of the Bush Administration be reason enough to return to the policies that damn near cratered the economy in the first place?

Isn’t the prospect of birthers and witches and know-nothings and Nazi reenactment enthusiasts and Confederate heritage aficionados enough motivation to simply walk to the polls and say “enough is enough”?

Thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of earlier this year, millions of anonymous corporate dollars from the Koch brothers and the Scaifes and the Chinese are flowing into the coffers of G.O.Tea Party candidates as you read this column.

Fortunately, it is still a nation of one vote per person, but money doesn’t talk, it shouts in stentorian tones, and it seems to be drowning out the voices of reason and sanity across this country.

There are barely three weeks before the midterm elections. The members of the right wing of the right wing and their Tea Party cohorts are sharpening their pitchforks and fueling their torches in anticipation of a raucous victory celebration on the evening of November 2nd.

Right now, there is still time to create an unhappy ending to the G.O.Tea Party dream, which would be America’s nightmare if it comes true.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 8, 2010

The cool weather presages the changing of the leaves and the hint of the first stirrings of what will soon be winter. As the days and weeks rocket past our observation point, it is time again to consider some of the events of the past week:

C’mon LeBron – Part II
Recently, in continuing his “Ain’t I Great?” tour of the planet, LeBron James was quoted as saying that he thought that race (specifically his being an African American) was a factor in the outpouring of antipathy that was directed at him when he announced in the third person his departure from long suffering Cleveland to the sunny and seductive climes of Miami.

There is no doubt that loud and vociferous cries of betrayal and assorted calumny rained down upon the head of the self-proclaimed “Chosen One”. But I don’t believe that I heard a single commentator, fan or sports nut deny James’ right to work wherever he wants. I do know a lot of people who thought that his departure seemed disloyal to the fans in Cleveland who lived and died with his every crossover dribble – and his orchestrated departure courtesy of ESPN seemed pretty cheesy – to be kind.

And I do I think that King James is treading on very thin ice when he plays the race card on this one. He should ask the O’Malley family that moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles how welcome they are in Flatbush more than fifty years after the move. He might ask Art Modell, who moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore about twenty years ago. It wouldn’t be wise for anyone named Modell to be seen walking along the shores of Lake Erie. He might also want to ask the Irsay family, whose patriarch moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis almost thirty years ago when was the last time they had crab cakes in Maryland.

The point is, sports fans are notoriously nuts. The word “fan” comes from the word “fanatic”. All of the team owners mentioned are white. The elaborately tattooed and spectacularly unringed King James hasn’t received a tenth of the opprobrium that has been visited upon the O’Malleys and the Modells and the Irsays.

It should also be pointed out that Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley have also been critical of James, publicly questioning his competitive fire and his championship cojones. The last time I checked, Magic, Michael and Sir Charles were all certified African Americans, so it is difficult to see how their criticisms would be racially based.

There are too many instances of racism and racist behavior in this country for LeBron James to be crying wolf because his feelings are hurt. He made his decision. He is making his multimillions. Good for him.

But too many men and women and children still suffer the very real slings and arrows of truly racist behavior for an enormously gifted athlete, who would make Croesus look impoverished, to claim that he is suffering the lash of racism because some sports fans do not adore him anymore.

C’mon LeBron!

Dream A Little Dream With Me….
There are news reports and pundit ponderings to the effect that President Obama should consider having Secretary of State Hilary Clinton be his Vice Presidential running mate in 2012, switching Vice President Joe Biden to the office of Secretary of State.

My first thought when I read this was, when I grow up I want a job that allows me to get paid to just think up stuff. By all accounts Secretary Clinton has done an outstanding job at the State Department as the Obama Administration has sought to deal with the rubble and detritus of the damaged international reputation of this country, one more going away gift from President George W. Bush.

Further, it appears that President Obama and Vice President Biden enjoy an excellent working relationship and several recent books indicate that Biden is a real partner (albeit junior) who is involved in all serious policy discussions. So why change these horses in the middle of the stream?

It seems that some journalists have deadlines and sometimes there isn’t enough subject matter for the moment….and that’s when it’s time to make up stuff.

And that’s the job I want when I grow up.

Keeping Hope Alive
Continuing on the theme of the value and potential validity of a Clinton-Biden role reversal, other great minds have determined that the sights must be set higher in planning the Hilary Clinton Restoration. The prevailing thought among some hardcore Clintonistas is that Secretary Clinton will be positioned to run for President in 2016 whether or not she switches roles with Vice President Biden.

The argument progresses with the observation that Hilary Clinton will be 69 in 2016, younger than when Ronald Reagan was first elected President (and we all know how well that turned out). Further, so the theory goes, Secretary Clinton will be possessed of such national and international stature by 2016 that her election as President would be foreordained – almost a coronation.

I would suggest that there may be a few tiny flaws with this paroxysm of Clintonmania. First, on numerous occasions Hilary Clinton has categorically denied any interest in running for President again. Even accounting for the fact that she couldn’t very well say anything else at this time, one can imagine that she has already considered some other countervailing forces.

As time progresses between now and a putative campaign in 2016, Hilary Clinton will not be the only one getting older. Her original base of support is getting older and I cannot imagine that she wants to be known as The Last Gasp of the Baby Boom. There are other younger potential candidates who probably are not interested in waiting another 12-16 years before running for President and will portray Hilary Clinton as part of the Old Guard, an irony that would be impossible to ignore or counter.

Finally, this discussion about Hilary Clinton and 2016 has a sinister tone to it. It is almost as if some cohorts in the progressive wing are willing to write off 2012 and President Barack Obama, even before the 2010 midterm elections. If too many eyes are on the 2016 prize, it may come to pass that the opportunity to continue progress in 2012 will simply evanesce and the 2016 “prize” will be fool’s gold.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

A Public Service Announcement


It appears that the silly season has come to an end and now the politics of America is infused with deserved life and death gravity. We have been inundated with 24 hour news reports of G.O.Tea Party nympholepsy – witches in Delaware, wrestling impresarias in Connecticut, wannabe thugs in New York and know nothings in Nevada.

For those who appreciate the history and the present tense of politics and political discourse this tsunami of silliness has been nothing short of entertaining. But it is not entertainment. This is not “Dancing With The Stars” with lecterns or “American Idol” with teleprompters. It is a very serious time in this country and there should be no doubt as to what is at stake in the November 2nd midterm elections.

The call to “take back America” is not a slogan; it is a philosophy that encompasses moving this country back to a place in time. It is a place where civil rights and women’s rights are subject to question and debate – again. It is a place where compassion and common sense, embodied in government programs like Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection and healthcare would be eliminated or eviscerated.

It is a dada political world in which we find ourselves. It is a world where no sense makes sense. It is hard to imagine that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have millions of followers, but they do. It is difficult to believe that Americans value the judgment of Rush Limbaugh. But they do. And they vote.

And that is the point of this public service announcement. This announcement does not require a video loop of a flag waving with the national anthem playing in the background, but it is important to note the importance of voting. It is always been important, but now more than ever it is crucial that we all exercise our right to vote.

It has become a cliché, but some clichés are true. It is true that many people died for the right of all American citizens to vote. The wars, foreign and civil, and internal struggles that granted suffrage to all citizens as a matter of right were not victimless.

As a black American, I am particularly mindful of the unnamed men and women, for whom no monuments have ever been erected, who lost their livelihoods, their homes and their lives so that all I have to do is walk to a polling station, sign my name and vote.

To squander this right due to apathy or dissatisfaction with the current choices is to miss the point. Politics and governance will never be about perfection – it will always be about the art of the possible. Further, and as importantly, there are millions of American men and women who have an agenda – however misguided, misinformed and bizarre it may be. Those who sit at home on November 2nd due to apathy and dissatisfaction with the current choices are in effect handing over their hard-earned right to vote to Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and the Tea Party zealots who do believe that their vote makes a difference.

A regular reader of the Point of View knows that I am not a supporter of the Tea Party or Sarah Palin or the G.O.Tea Party. But I have to respect their commitment and dedication to changing this country to suit their vision and will. And it is very clear to me that whatever the outcome of the November 2nd elections that the right wing of the right wing and their subterranean billionaire supports have indeed changed this country and the fundamental character of national discourse.

Infinite questioning of the citizenship of the President of the United States, seriously considering the repeal of the 14th Amendment, legalization of guns in bars, debating the need for the Departments of Education and Energy – these are all fundamental changes. The line has been drawn deeply in the sands of the national town square.

It would be a frightful shame if those with the right to vote and the desire to see change of another fashion were to sit at home on November 2nd. You can be certain that the zealots with a different vision will be at the polls voting early and……often.

Think about it and don’t wait until November 3rd to act. Wishing that you voted will turn out to be the saddest wish of all.