Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 31, 2010

The first decade of the 21st century is coming to a close. As individuals we have been witness to births and deaths of loved ones and a mixed brew of success and disappointment.

Broadening the horizon we have seen historic changes and cataclysmic disasters that could not be contemplated on December 31, 1999– 9/11 became a noun and someone named Barack Hussein Obama is the President of the United States. And Sarah Palin was just as unknown as Barack Obama.

Popes and pop stars have left the stage and it seems as if the tragedies suffered by the people of the Congo and Haiti and Somalia and so many other places will never end.

We begin the New Year with expectation and hope and the realization that as with every day tomorrow belongs to us if we just seize the moment.

A Wake Up Call

During the contentious debates over the health care bill, a blatant lie circulated to the effect that it mandated that there would be “death panels” that would decide who would live and who would die in the Brave New World of Obamacare.

The facts rarely get in the way of a good story these days, but the fact is that the legislative proposal called for end of life counseling, a service that is certainly needed by patients and their families.

While this provision was removed from the bill that ultimately passed, Medicare has recently issued some new guidelines that would permit end of life counseling to be a service that would be funded by the federal government. Anyone who has ever had to address the needs and concerns of a family member at the end of their life knows how beneficial it would be to have some counseling in making the right decisions.

Every person should have every service that will help them to live and prosper. Perpetuating a vegetative state indefinitely is rarely what any person (or their family member) would want. But without counseling very few Americans know what to do and make decisions that are tinged with needless indecision, perpetual doubt and eternal guilt.

If just a single family is spared this unnecessary agony end of life counseling would be a good thing. The fact is that millions of Americans are in need of this service every year.

Be prepared for the right wing of the right wing to mount a mindless assault on this sensible and compassionate initiative. Perhaps 2011 will be different from 2010 in that progressives and men and women of good will find their muted voices and speak up and against the right wing of the right wing.

Rent A Slave Redux

This past week I finished reading Manhunt, by James L. Swanson (Harper Perennial). It is the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth and the ensuing 12-day manhunt to capture and kill him.

The book is painstaking in providing details regarding the mood of the United States in 1865. As the Civil War came to an end the book makes clear that the issue of slavery was the fuse that gave rise to the conflagration known as the Civil War.

As close to a half a million Americans died in combat, President Lincoln was clear in never recognizing the “insurgency” known as the Confederacy, refusing to remove any of the stars from the American flag that represented the 11 secessionist states.

The Confederacy was always considered a treasonous rebellion and it was never accorded any recognition of its claimed sovereignty. Booth and his cohorts were clearly motivated to commit murder in order to perpetuate their vision of white supremacy and eternal black slavery.

That the Confederacy and all that it stood for would be celebrated for 4 ½ years here in the 21st century is an obscenity. The revelers and faux historians can spout words like “heritage” all they want, but slavery and white supremacy were the foundations of the Confederacy. The spirit of John Wilkes Booth inspired the Ku Klux Klan in the 19th century and the White Citizens Councils in the 20th century.

And now it appears that Booth lives in the 21st century celebrations of a treasonous revolt that needs to be buried next to Booth.

New Year’s Eve

Point of View went online in late June of 2010. Since then there have been over 8200 visits to this site and the number grows by the day. I am most grateful for your interest, comments and support.

As we go into the New Year and the new decade we will continue to present points of view that I hope will contribute a positive tone to the discussions of the issues of the day. Stay strong!

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Rent A Slave….continued

During the past week I wrote about the reckless and pitiful sham of grown men and women dressed in antebellum costumes to commemorate and celebrate the secession of southern states and the commencement of the Civil War.

And brace yourself, for it appears that there are enough liars, obscurers of the truth and defenders of racism to sustain 4 ½ years of these celebrations.

In fact that the Civil War was the bloodiest confrontation in which this country has ever been engaged. Civil War casualties exceeded American casualties in all other wars combined. It seems heartbreaking and cruel that there would be fools so foolish as to celebrate the commencement of this carnage. Turning this country into a charnel house is not a cause for festivities.

But, of course, there is more that offends. That secession was all about the continued enslavement of black men, women and children is not subject to debate.

The writings of the Founding Fathers of the bastard Confederate States of America were very clear that the intent of secession and the ensuing war was to preserve the damnable and peculiar institution called slavery.

On March 21, 1861, Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the CSA wrote that Thomas Jefferson was “wrong in believing that the enslavement o the African was in violation of the laws of nature”. He went on to write, “Our new government is exactly founded on the opposite idea”.

This statement and so many others should be clear enough for the apologists for the Confederacy. The truth is that the southern states fought to the death to preserve slavery and their “right” to possess, own and abuse black men and women of African descent for eternity.

There is nothing noble about this heritage. And it is shameful that anyone would seek to glorify it or to put a spin on it.

The latest spin is to somehow turn the southern secession to a 19th century Tea Party rebellion against “big government” interfering with state’s rights. If I were a member of the Tea Party movement or its affiliates I would be disavowing this connection at every possible opportunity.

After all, could there ever be a time when state’s rights trumps human rights and civil rights? But the silence from the right wing of the right wing is deafening.

The problem with these “celebrations”, aside from their obscenity, is that it churns and distorts the truth. Too many Americans are already too ignorant of the history of this country. To articulate and perpetuate lies only serves to maintain and inflame the racial divide that is still very much a part of this country.

When Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour says that he doesn’t remember the civil rights era as being “all that bad”, there are some people who stop and listen and give this awful statement air time. I am sure that there were Germans who didn’t find the pre-war Hitler days as being “all that bad”.

Now, 150 years later, there are pseudo-historian buffoons across the South who plan to celebrate slavery, slaughter and residual animosities for the next 4 ½ years!

That any person of intelligence and goodwill, whatever their political persuasion, would celebrate such an awful aspect of America is a disgrace. That black Americans in particular have to bear witness to this blood libel for the next 4 ½ is a perversion.

I find it fascinating that the United States is the only country on this planet that permits the celebration of treason. I am not clear that the unsuccessful insurgents in any country would be permitted to prance around proclaiming the sanctity of their losing cause for 150 years. And yet, here in America, the offense continues.

In the most recent Point of View Weekend Edition, I suggested a proposition for these amoral secessionist revelers. Don’t stop at dressing up as slave owners. Get some black people to dress up as slaves – liveried servants, maids, butlers, chauffeurs personal attendants and concubines. Make the entire celebration authentic and, in the process provide much needed jobs for thousands of unemployed black people throughout the South.

Rent a Slave should be a big hit with these undisguised bigots. And, at the end of every assignment, the “slave” can be “emancipated” by the Rent a Slave customer. I can envision Frequent Slave Owner awards as well.

I might also suggest that O.J. Simpson be put into a work release program so that he can play the part of Nat Turner. That should add some further verisimilitude to this damnable madness.

These maniacs have no respect for history, morality, black people or these United States. They might as well wallow in it.

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Weekend Edition – December 24, 2010

Some observations before the holiday weekend:

Shellacking? What Shellacking?

Was it just last month that the right wing of the right wing was crowing about the “shellacking” that he had received at the hands of the voters? That “shellacking” now appears to be headed to the dustbin of history as the accomplishments of the Obama Administration speak louder than words.

Many observers, me included, were skeptical of the tax cut deal that President Obama brokered with Republicans who were still drunk from the wine of electoral victory. It turns out that Barack Obama was indeed able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

By getting the contentious issue of taxes off the table the Republicans were bereft of any rationale for opposing the consideration of the balance of the Obama agenda. And then the ball started rolling – passage of an historic food safety law, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t tell, the ratification of the START treaty and last, but not least, the passage of the 9/11 first responders health care bill.

In what seems like a blink of an eye, President Obama has indeed engineered the “change” that so many sought when they voted for him in November of 2008. When the Lame Duck Miracle is combined with the transformative national healthcare legislation, the rescue of the auto industry and the regulatory reform of the financial services industry it would seem that we are witnessing history.

I have no doubt that the disloyal opposition will seek to promote its obstructionist agenda in 2011. I also have no doubt that this President is fully capable of outmaneuvering that opposition.

Isn’t it great when the good guy wins every once in a while?

Rent A Slave Anyone?

This past week witnessed the shameful Secessionist Ball in Charleston, South Carolina. Grown men and women dressed up in antebellum costumes to commemorate the secession of South Carolina from the United States – the first step in what was the bloodiest war in the history of this country.

That secession and the ensuing Confederate States of America was all about the continued enslavement of black men, women and children is not subject to debate. The writings of the Founding Fathers of the bastard CSA were very clear that the intent of secession and the ensuing war was to preserve the damnable and peculiar institution called slavery.

Now, 150 years later, there are cretinous buffoons across the South who plan to celebrate the slavery, slaughter and residual animosities for the next 4 ½ years! There are mendacious and utterly false claims that secession and the confederacy were about state’s rights and a resistance to big government. Sound familiar?

It may sound familiar but it is a damned and damnable lie. That any person of goodwill, whatever their political persuasion, would celebrate such an awful aspect of America is a disgrace. That black Americans in particular have to bear witness to this blood libel for the next 4 ½ is a perversion.

However, since this is America, land of free enterprise, I have a proposition for these amoral secessionist revelers. Don’t stop at dressing up as slave owners and defenders of slavery. Get some black people to dress up as slaves – liveried servants, maids, butlers, personal attendants and concubines.

Make the entire celebration authentic and, in the process provide much needed jobs for thousands of unemployed black people throughout the South.

Rent A Slave should be a big hit with these undisguised bigots. There will be no need for field workers or heavy lifting, just “house” work. And, at the end of every assignment, the “slave” can be “emancipated” by the Rent A Slave customer. I can envision Frequent Slave Owner awards as well as Executive and Platinum Slave Owner status.

These maniacs have no respect for history, morality, black people or these United States. They might as well wallow in it.

Holiday Greeting

There is no way to wish away the harshness of this past year. But I do wish all the best to all of the Point of View readers in the new year (and to the right wing of the right wing as well).

Have a great weekend!

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Sarah Palin v. Michelle Obama? No Contest!

The former governor of Alaska has had a pretty nice run so far – especially for someone with no discernible talent or evidence of ever having had an original thought. There are many ambitious men and women who aspire to the national stage, and Sarah Palin has arrived, seemingly without effort or a defined strategy.

While the ultimate demise of John McCain’s presidential ambitions began on the day that he chose her as his running mate, Sarah Palin has given new meaning to the word “Teflon”. The fact that she might be responsible for the stunning defeat of the Republican ticket in 2008 has only burnished her star.

Most people who admitted on national television that they don’t regularly read newspapers, magazines or books would probably remove themselves from public view. Sarah Palin wrote a bestselling book (that was actually written by a ghostwriter).

Most people who admitted to a lack of knowledge of global events and geopolitics would just be quiet on the subject. The Mama Grizzly in Chief weighs in on such topics about which she knows nothing with ease that can only be described as breathtaking.

Lately, Sarah Palin has trained her sights on Michelle Obama. First she criticized the First Lady for stating during the 2008 campaign that, for the first time in her life, she was truly proud of America.

Mrs. Palin, either through ignorance or barely disguised racism, refused to understand the context of Mrs. Obama’s statement; that African Americans who have witnessed lynching and “No Colored” restaurant signs might not be that proud of everything American. But Sarah Palin was able to make her veiled attack without any serious criticism. The power of Teflon is indeed an awesome thing.

Now she is attacking the First Lady’s campaign against childhood obesity. She has mocked Michelle Obama’s efforts to get Americans to eat in a more healthy fashion and in the process has managed to distort this laudable campaign into another example of how government is endeavoring to control the lives of ordinary Americans. Presumably it is one more reason why this faux warrior queen wants to lead the battle to “take America back”.

This latest Sarah Salvo could be dismissed except that her stupidity trivializes the very serious health issue that Michelle Obama is trying to highlight. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 32.7% of adult Americans are overweight, 34.3% are obese and 5.9% are extremely obese. Further the NHANES reports that 16.9% of American children are obese. The number in low income communities and communities of color are even higher.

These are stunning – and damning – statistics by any measure. These numbers indicate an incredible health problem that threatens the fiscal and physical health of this country.

This is no laughing matter, this is not a subject for catty tweets. Perhaps Sarah Palin could put her political bow and quiver aside for a nanosecond and express some concern for the health and welfare of the people to whom she presumes to give advice, if not lead.

Here is a direct quote from Chairwoman Sarah: “Instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician’s or politician’s wife’s priorities, just leave us alone . . . ”

It would be shameful if government just sat by while children engorge themselves with Lil’ Debbies and Slurpies and adults Big Mac themselves to death. It is shameful that Sarah Palin would try to link a worthy effort to spread the message of health through nutrition to her perverted political worldview.

I have to wonder at what point this Elmer Gantry in high heels will meet her comeuppance. Is it possible for Sarah Palin to say anything about anybody at anytime without consequence?

Sarah Palin is a winking, malevolent comet blazing across the American sky. Clearly, the sooner that she burns out, the better.

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Weekend Edition – December 17, 2010

Some have said that the best part of 2010 is that it is ending. Nevertheless, we celebrate the gift of every day:

Happy Birthday BET?

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Black Entertainment Television. There is a lot to celebrate, but not everything.

As the first black-owned national television network, BET is undeniably an historical achievement. It has served as a unique and important news source as well as the launching platform for scores of black men and women in the journalism, entertainment and corporate management professions.

However, it was also BET that served as the spigot from which spewed some of the most racist, sexist, violent and misogynistic portrayals of black Americans in the history of this country. The music videos that have been the cornerstone of BET pioneered the popular and common usage of terms like “nigger”, “ho”, “bitch” into common parlance.

It is a noteworthy achievement, but certainly not a laudable one. It is fair to say that some of the music videos played on BET make “Birth of a Nation” seem like a Black History Month documentary.

There is no direct statistical connection between BET programming and the explosion of blood and gore in too many communities. But it stands to reason that if images of mindless violence are pumped into impressionable minds of adolescents, the results will be counted in numbers of body bags and shattered lives.

The disrespect for black women in these images has reached epic proportions, all in the name of “keeping it real”. The dumbing down of culture and language is undeniable and while BET cannot be held totally accountable for this tragedy, its contribution to the tsunami of ignorance, self disrespect and mindless violence that is sweeping across too many communities is a matter of fact.

The corporate achievement of Black Entertainment Television is undeniable. The damage inflicted by BET is also undeniable.

Senior executives of BET have been quoted as saying that they would never let their children watch the kind of programming that depicts violence and misogyny. Presumably it is alright to profit from letting other people’s children soak up the poison.

It is hoped that as the 30th anniversary of BET is celebrated that there may also be a new commitment by this company to instill more positive values in the community that has sustained it for three decades.

Tom Brokaw – The Aesop of the “Greatest Generation”?

Tom Brokaw has had an outstanding journalistic career including stints as a host for “The Today Show” and the anchor for “NBC Nightly News”. Then he decided to be a historian. And it’s a funny thing about history; it all depends on who is telling it.

Mr. Brokaw decided to describe the generation of Americans that came of age during the Depression and World War II as the Greatest Generation. Presumably, this was in comparison to the Baby Boomers who came of age in the Sixties and by his standards came up short.

After all, in the World According to Brokaw, it was the Greatest Generation that survived the Depression, fought World War II, conquering globally tyranny in the process. Then this mythic gathering of gods and goddesses established America as the transcendent and dominant nation on the planet providing a virtual cornucopia of goods and services and luxuries for its citizens and for all the people of the world.

A closer look tells a very different story. To be fair, we have to also recall the Greatest Generation countenanced the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, vociferously and violently supported racial segregation, gave birth to McCarthyism and participated in lynching until well into the 1960’s.

Under the benevolent hand of the Greatest Generation women were lucky to get half the pay for doing the same work as men. Environmental concerns were limited to Ansel Adams exhibitions.

There are many good things that were accomplished by this generation and all the generations before and after. But Tom Brokaw is walking on very shaky ground when he starts using the G-word.

Have a great weekend!

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In Defense of Barack Obama

During the past week, President Obama has been excoriated for negotiating a tax bill compromise with Congressional Republicans. Progressives and liberals have rhetorically flayed him for consorting dancing with the devil.

And what is the mortal sin that President Obama has committed? Agreeing to a continued tax reduction that is not limited by income – therefore millionaires and billionaires, as is their custom, will devour the lion’s share of benefits intended by this tax reduction.

This negotiated compromise also continues unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who have been out of work for far too long and it will also include a payroll tax deduction that benefits just about everyone with a job.

Candidate Obama promised to eliminate the “Bush tax cuts for the wealthy”. President Obama is aware that the results of the 2010 election were not so much a “refudiation” (apologies to Sarah Palin) of his policies as a reflection of American frustration with the economy.
The tax bill compromise is, in many ways, an incognito $900 billion stimulus package. If this second near-trillion dollar stimulus actually begins to revive the moribund American economy the words “hope” and “change” will no longer be banned.

And President Obama is also aware of something else: the average goldfish has a memory of 3-5 seconds. The memory of the American electorate is somewhat less.

If the economy does revive, the American people will start to retreat from the precipice of personal desperation where too many of us now reside. At that point no one will remember the tax bill compromise.

Let us remember that in less than two years the Obama Administration has fundamentally transformed the manner in which health care will be delivered in this country. As a result, the United States will finally be competitive with the rest of the industrialized world in this very critical area. It is critical not only with respect to the health of American citizens, but also with respect to the health of the American economy.

We also need to remember that the Obama Administration has instituted the first fundamental reforms of the financial services industry in over fifty years. This, of course, is the industry in which dysfunction and deceit served as the handmaidens to the disaster that has befallen this economy for the past three years. This reform has the potential to be nothing short of historic.

We also need to remember that it is due to the efforts of President Obama that the international prestige and influence of the United States has been positively transformed. While the problems of this planet seem to be intractablethe truth is that the United States is now seen more as a partner than an overlord, the World Cup and Olympic votes notwithstanding.

These accomplishments and so many more need to be remembered and recounted in order that the success of the Obama Administration can continue, and so that its errors and miscalculations can be revised without rancor.

The alternatives offered by Palin and Romney and Boehner and McCain and Pawlenty are worse than unpalatable, but the steady, corrosive, microcritiques of Barack Obama could make those alternatives a reality.

President Obama has clearly decided to pivot and comply with aspects of the Republican agenda in order to achieve the success of his presidency and its policies. When Bill Clinton did it in 1994 he was proclaimed a political genius for the ages. President Obama is using that playbook with slightly different terminology and there are too many who wish to brand him as a traitor to the cause.

Politics is rarely simple or simplistic despite the best efforts of some to reduce the facts and issues to the lowest common denominator. But it is true that winning is defining and losing can be death for the causes and issues that are important.

President Obama is intent on winning. Losing is not an option in these days and times. We will remember healthcare, financial reform, an improved environment and enhanced educational opportunities for our children.

If the “compromise” revives the economy, not even a bowlful of goldfish will remember.

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Weekend Edition – December 10, 2010

As the holiday season approaches the news is the gift that keeps on giving:

Nigeria – the new avatar of justice?

This past week saw the Federal Government of Nigeria issue a warrant for the arrest of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

For some, the only real surprise is that the Nigerian government filed charges ahead of the United States Department of Justice given the crimes that Mr. Cheney committed against the American people – his lies and deceptions that led to the disastrous war in Iraq being just one count in any indictment.

But the Nigerians have beaten America to the punch. The published facts indicate that during the time that Dick Cheney was Chairman and CEO of Haliburton, a subsidiary of that company is accused of paying over $100 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in as part of a successful effort to access a natural gas opportunity in that country.

Several Nigerian officials have already been accused and apprehended and one can only imagine the chorus of canary singing that is going on behind bars.

Statements by Mr. Cheney’s representatives refer to the Nigerian charges as “baseless” also pointing out the long and very public record of corruption in various aspects of the Nigerian government over the years. Nevertheless, Mr. Cheney and the rest of us should take this legal action very seriously.

Not too long ago the pharmaceutical behemoth Pfizer became embroiled in legal controversy stemming from charges of improper and unethical field testing procedures. Mr. Cheney will ignore Nigeria at his own peril.

It appears that Nigerian justice officials are willing to take on Dick Cheney, something no part of the American justice system has yet to do. Whatever the outcome, I hope that for once Dick Cheney will have to account for his actions in a public forum.

R.I.P.

Tradition used to put the initials “R.I.P.” on tombstones, a final prayer that the dearly departed would “rest in peace”. Yesterday two major legislative items seemed to have died unnatural and unnecessary deaths.

Through a series of arcane and incomprehensible parliamentary procedures the legislation that would have repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law that currently precludes gays to serve openly in the military was strangled in Senate red tape. Added to the charnel wagon was the legislation that would have provided federally funded healthcare for workers at the site of the 9/11 attacks who have suffered debilitating and sometimes fatal illnesses.

The arguments of the senators from the Party of No argued that now was not the time to allow American men and women to serve in the military without regard for gender preference or sexual orientation.

Of course, using that standard women might just now be finding their way to polling booths and the abolition of Jim Crow laws might finally be the subject of debate in Congress.

The Party of No also has argued that the funding of the aid for the 9/11 first responders is too expensive and that the City of New York and the State of New York should pay these costs. Using that logic, only the citizens of Hawaii should have paid for the health costs of civilian workers who assisted after the Pearl Harbor attacks.

We live in a time when no sense is sense. That so many have to suffer the effects of this callous madness is tragic.

Tax Daze

Finally, this past week President Obama negotiated a tax bill “compromise” with Republicans that essentially grants tax cuts to all Americans, including the millionaires and billionaires.

The President has been roundly criticized for “caving” on the issue of tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy. He likened negotiating with Republicans to negotiating with hostage takers and perhaps between the lines we find the reason for his backtracking on one of his major campaign pledges.

From Thanksgiving until the lighting of the White House Christmas tree yesterday, neither of the First Daughters, Sasha and Malia, was seen publicly.

Clearly the Republicans were holding them hostage and the tax cut “compromise” was the ransom that had been demanded. We all know that the Republicans are capable of dastardly acts, but now they have just gone too far!

Have a great weekend!

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