Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April29, 2011

Twin currents of nausea and anger have been flowing due to the spectacle of President Obama being forced to submit his Hawaiian birth certificate for public approval while Donald Trump continues to bleat his stupid and racist rants. Meanwhile the Royal Wedding is now history as we await the launching of the last Space Shuttle.

Obama’s Birth Certificate – the Degrading of America

This week the President of the United States sent his personal attorney to go to Hawaii and retrieve the long form of his birth certificate. This needless errand was completed in order to allow President Obama to publicly show his birth certificate to the entire planet.

The errand was necessary because of the incessant baying and howling of racist idiots and idiot racists who have been mired in the muck of their own disbelief ever since the evening of November 4, 2008. From the moment that a black man was elected President of the United States there have been millions of white Americans who simply have not been able to accept the reality of the election results.

“There must be some kind of mistake” has been the rallying cry for these unfortunate men and women who clearly exist in a parallel universe of their own making. Hence the call to “take this country back” from the black interloper masquerading as an American citizen.

What started out as the squawking of a few fringe sparrows questioning the locale of President Obama’s birth morphed into a great howling banshee of stupid that seemed to intrude into the very brain cells of people who were thought to be reasonably intelligent.

How else can one explain over 25% of the American populace questioning the citizenship of the elected President of the United States?

Too many black Americans have experienced the same questioning of their credentials in the work place, in the university, in a restaurant and certainly late at night in the blinking light of a police car.

That the President of the United States has had to undergo this same experience while in the White House may be embarrassing for him, but it is truly degrading for America.

Mother of God, is this the End of Trump?

Donald Trump reminds me of a bad rash or a foul smell that will just not go away. He left the realm of common sense and good taste a long time ago, as is his right.

I don’t think that it is his right to demean and insult Barack Obama because he thinks that the spotlight of attention that his attacks attract will somehow enhance his ability to continue his huckster hustler lifestyle.

“Donald Trump is now demanding to see Barack and Michelle Obama’s marriage license. Given the high incidence of out of wedlock births in the black community, he feels that it is only reasonable to inquire as to whether or not the First Couple is living in sin in the White House with their two illegitimate children.”

When I shared this “report” with a select group of friends yesterday the reaction was complete outrage. That this “report” is totally fabricated is not the point. This “report” actually makes sense in a world where a hustler huckster can insult the President of the United States demanding to see his birth certificate, transcripts from college and law school – and soon his marriage license.

One can hope that this hustler huckster will go away, but like that rash or that bad smell, it isn’t likely anytime soon.


And now the newly-minted and newly married Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have completed their nuptials. And soon the last Space Shuttle flight of this generation will take off. The earthly celebrations will continue while the celestial journey begins.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Slipping Into Darkness

The swirl of the endless news cycles takes on an almost kaleidoscopic effect as we endeavor to make sense out of events and statements that simply make no sense. Is it true that Donald Trump, who became a parody of himself years ago, could be considered by some to be a serious candidate for President? Apparently the answer is a nerve jangling “yes”.

The Center for Disease Control reports that on an annual basis 76 million Americans will be sickened by food that they eat, 300,000 will be hospitalized and 5000 will die. Yet, one of the results of the budget “compromise” of a few weeks ago was that $10 million that funds food inspection will be cut from the federal budget. Clearly no sense is making sense in this parallel universe in which we find ourselves.

However, if we take a moment to consider the import and meaning of this constant flow of information we find that we have a right to feel unsettled and unbalanced. There are powerful political forces at work in this country, some marching under the banner of the G.O.Tea Party, but not all of them.

These forces are determined to carve, pare and eviscerate local, state and federal governments so that they will be able to provide only the most basic services – defense, fire and police protection and a bare modicum of education.

Expenditures on the aspects of government that define a society – healthcare, comprehensive education, social services for those in need, infrastructure, protection of the environment, preservation and support of culture and the arts – all would be severely reduced, privatized or eliminated in the brave new world proclaimed by too many already. And too often the response from centrists, progressives and the left wing of the left wing is garbled and muted at best.

The entire notion that those with wealth and privilege also have a responsibility to the greater society has been turned on its ear. Too many of the wealthy and the privileged have found their voices and their reason for being – to preserve and safeguard their wealth and privileges from the grasping and shameless hands of the poor and needy and the government that supports them.

The fact that large corporations now hire hundreds and spend millions in order to find a way to avoid paying taxes is public knowledge.
If we take a moment to ask where all of this is leading, we may not like the answer.

The fact is that this country is prepared to spend blood and treasure on an endless series of endless wars with no direct relationship to the security or safety of its citizens. Yet this same country is not prepared to invest the billions of needed dollars for education, infrastructure, environmental protection and the development of alternative energy strategies.

This stampede towards stupidity is not without consequence. This country is growing poorer and weaker and less educated and less healthy by the moment. The neglect and consequent decay of the infrastructure is ignored at great risk to future generations that the G.O.Tea Party claims to revere by reducing the budget deficit.

And I wonder how future generations will feel about receiving a bequest of antiquated railroads and airports, leaking water and sewage systems, inadequate energy supplies, collapsing highways and wretched schools.

Historians will look back on this time and wonder how it could be possible that over 300 million could collectively embraces policies that contained the seeds of their downfall. Multiple wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya with no funds for schools, bridges, airports, education or healthcare seems like a recipe for domestic disaster. And it is.

As citizens in this country we have a right to consider the entire spectrum of political thought and philosophy. However, as citizens of this country we also have the right to speak out against cruelly cynical and selfish philosophies that will eliminate even the glimmer of the promise of hope for current and future generations if they are fully implemented. And even as you read this column this edifice of idiocy is being constructed brick by stupid brick.

Slogans and sound bites have replaced serious thought. Skill at marketing ideas seems to triumph over logic and basic principles of self-preservation.

It is never too late until it is too late and it is getting late early.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 22, 2011

Easter and Passover are being observed as this week comes to an end. We also observe that John McCain is in Libya calling the anti-Gaddafi rebels his “heroes”. Really? A great circus movie, “Water for Elephants” opens this weekend but it is being eclipsed by the Republican circus featuring clowns for candidates. And by the time you finish reading this column the price of gasoline will have been raised again. Just another week on the Planet Earth.

Send in the Clowns (Part I)

There has been tremendous pressure on the Obama Administration to do more to support the rebels who are waging a war against Muammar Gaddafi that is not going well for them. Clearly, in response to this pressure a decision has been made to send in the clowns.

That can be the only explanation for the sudden appearance of Senator John McCain. He landed in Libya earlier today and immediately announced that the insurgents were his “heroes”.

One wonders if his dimming memory recalls American support of the mujahedeen in their battle in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. They were also the “heroes” of inveterate jingoists like John McCain.

Of course, these “heroes” morphed into the Taliban (who are killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan) and Al Qaeda (which is responsible for 9/11 amongst countless terrorist incursions around the world).

The Libyan rebels may be noble Washingtonians and Jeffersonians for all we know. Or they could be the spiritual cousins of Osama bin Laden. The point is we just don’t know. And John McCain certainly doesn’t know.

This might not be the best time for the United States to get entangled in another alliance that leaves bite marks on its posterior.

Send in the Clowns (Part II)

It is safe to assume that the Republican Party will run a candidate for President in 2012. It is also safe to assume that the right wing of the right wing and the G.O.Tea Party element of the Republican cohorts will ensure that this candidate will be against healthcare, environmental protection, taxes and abortion. What this candidate will be for is open to speculation.

In looking at the array of potential candidates it would seem that the greatest danger facing Barack Obama is complacency and overconfidence. Donald Trump swears that he would make a great Chief Executive. But The Donald may have to contend with the hundreds of not so silent contractors who built his New Jersey casinos and never got paid and the thousands of sullen holders of bonds in various Trump enterprises who lost every penny in the multiple Trump bankruptcies during the past two decades.

Sarah Palin is probably eternally discredited after her misbegotten star turn in the Tucson Massacre aftermath and Mitt Romney is without a political (or moral) compass and cannot recant his Mormon religion, thereby disqualifying himself in the eyes of the powerful Christian evangelical sector of the right wing of the right wing.

Only Michelle Bachman takes Michelle Bachman seriously and Herman Cain has yet to demonstrate how being the CEO of a chain of pizza shops qualifies him to be President of the United States.

There are other would be aspirants – they remind me of the circus car with an endless number of clowns exiting the doors of what appears to be a compact. The G.O.Tea Party has clearly taken on the challenge of entertaining the America public instead of challenging the American public with new ideas and emergent policies.

Gas Pains

As you read this column the price of gasoline is going over $4.00 per gallon across the country. Republicans, pundits and ordinary citizens have joined in a chorus to demand that President Obama “do something” about these rising fuel prices.

In response he has directed Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate any instances of fraud, collusion, speculation or price-fixing. That pretty much describes day to day operations in the oil industry.

Of course, when President Obama has proposed sustainable energy alternatives and conservation strategies he has been opposed by many of the same Republicans, pundits and ordinary citizens that now want him to “do something”.

Perhaps magic is what they have in mind.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

The Big Frame Up

As this column is being written Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services cut its outlook on the United States to negative, warning that the U.S. fiscal profile may become weaker than that of other major countries if the budget deficit cannot be “tamed”. This bit of news raises the specter of the credit rating of the United States being downgraded from Triple-A.

By the time you read this column the “budget hawks” will be circling and preparing to swoop down with the only “solution” to the budget deficit – too much spending on social services, infrastructure and investment in the future of this country. This “solution” would cripple this country and deface its future far more than any credit rating downgrade by a discredited credit agency but that is not how the discussion will be framed – it’s a frame up.

Keep in mind that Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services is the same S&P that routinely gave favorable ratings to the noxious and toxic mortgage related bonds peddled by Wall Street firms. Those would be the same Wall Street firms that successfully bet against the economy of this country and reaped billions when the economy crashed. And S&P was more than an enabler; it has been a willing co-conspirator in the fleecing of investors from around the world.

That S&P has any credibility in the current debate regarding the United States budget and its deficit borders on the absurd. The fact that S&P alumni are not standing in a lunch line in orange jumpsuits in a federal facility is a testament to how people can benefit from the Big Lie.

Meanwhile the budget hawks will attack with this latest report from S&P grasped firmly in their talons. Their “solution” will be that it is necessary to cut expenditures and the cut taxes. Whether it is Planned Parenthood or NPR or assistance for homeless veterans, the budget hawks will demand that a cleaver be wielded and that all expenditures be put “on the table”.

Increased taxes will not be “on the table” of the budget hawks. Increasing revenue to government is anathema as far as they are concerned and any solution that calls for increased taxes is considered unworthy of discussion and is not subject to negotiation.

It is at times like this that an historical perspective is useful. Using the so-called philosophy of the budget hawks and the G.O.Tea Party, the additional governmental expenditures that helped to build the transcontinental railroad and the Panama Canal would have been rejected, thereby retarding the progress of this country in countless ways.

This would be, of course, very similar to the current cutting of the federal budget to eliminate funding for high speed rail and the expansion and improvement of the interstate highway system.
If the pseudo-philosophy of the G.O.Tea Party was employed in the past, the large governmental expenditures that literally saved the lives of the grandparents of their members – expenditures for the WPA, Social Security, the CCC, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hoover Dam never would have been made.

It is impossible to imagine Michelle Bachman supporting the governmental expenditures that funded the G.I. Bill and changed the lives of tens of millions of Americans. Clearly Rand Paul would not have supported the creation of tax revenues that resulted in the NASA space program that accelerated technological advancement in this country, creating the environment for the advancement of personal computers and the internet.

And now here comes the big frame up. S&P, the handmaiden and enabler of Wall Street makes a pronouncement that unless the budget is “tamed” the credit rating of the United States will be downgraded. Wall Street firms and major corporations that have never been enamored of taxes of any kind (e.g. General Electric paying NO taxes on billions of dollars of revenue and profit) are financial supporters of the G.O.Tea Party.

The G.O.Tea Party, waving a cash-stained and morally tattered banner of patriotism will parade on Capitol Hill claiming that “taming” the budget is a national priority and that it can only be “tamed” by cutting the budget. Once again, no new taxes can even be considered.

This bit of bamboozling is so transparent and so barren of subterfuge it is a wonder that anyone is taking it seriously. But logic has been cast aside and we are faced with a framed up debate on how to cut a budget that has increased in part because the population of this country is now one third of a billion people.

The budget has increased in part because services for the elderly, the disabled, the poor, the young and the homeless are now part of the national rationale for a civil and compassionate society. The deficit has increased in large part because of mindless wars, irrational tax cuts and an engineered collapse of the national economy that almost worked.

If the truth is supposed to set us free it would seem that lies are meant to entrap and enslave. The big frame up has to be seen for what it is. In this instance time is not our friend.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 16, 2011

The weekend begins with an affirmative answer to the question of whether it the Japanese nuclear disaster can get any worse. Meanwhile, in America, the budget debate has morphed into a war on America, a “birther” bill drafted by lunatics has been passed by the Arizona state legislature and Donald Trump is working diligently to prove that not only is he a posturing, self-promoting clown, he is also a racially insensitive clown. Just another week in the United States of Crazy.

The Budget as Warfare

In the latest episode of “The Perils of Pauline Come to Washington” the G.O.Tea Party and its Republican puppets threatened to shut down the federal government closing national parks, withholding paychecks from the families of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and generally throwing the entire country into the churning maw of chaos.

This Tea Party-made disaster was averted with a budget settlement that called for almost $40 billion in budget cuts and absolutely no increase in taxes for the beleaguered and oppressed billionaires and millionaires and mega-corporations of this country.

Some of the budget cuts included the evisceration of a high speed rail construction program that would have provided thousands of jobs and begun the process of bringing the American transportation system into the 21st century. Cuts were also made to the food inspection apparatus of this country which should give all of us comfort the next time there is a salmonella or E-Coli outbreak in this country.

The G.O.Tea Party is engaging in a guerilla war on the people of this country and it is about time that the truth be told. The budget debate is not about dollars and cents – it is about changing the priorities of federal government from its constitutional mandate “to promote the general welfare” to a frugal maintenance operation that will simply provide a platform for the wealthy to get richer and for the rest of the population to simply subsist.

There have been recent announcements about the improvement of the economy. It has improved, but this country is recovering from truly epic devastation – please go to a link from the Huffington Post to see visuals of what foreclosures, unemployment and the gutting of state and local budgets has wrought – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/13/americas-foreclosure-ghost-towns_n_848715.html?icid=main%7Chtmlws-main-n%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk3%7C209993#s264057&title=Northern_California .

It is past time for the people who presume to lead and govern to realize that there is a new and pernicious civil war going on in this country and that it is time to fight – before it is too late.

Birthers Gone Wild!

The state of Arizona has an unemployment rate of 9.6% and the second highest foreclosure rate in the country. As demonstrated in the Tucson Massacre a few months ago, violent crime is a real problem in that state.

In response to these daunting challenges the Republican-controlled Arizona state legislature decided to tackle the most pressing problem of all – requiring that presidential candidates prove that they are natural born citizens of the United States. This “birther” bill is, of course, the demented spawn of the Tea Party lunatics who refuse to believe that Barack Obama is the legitimate president and want to make damn sure that this travesty is never visited upon the American people again.

And all the while the unemployed remain unemployed, more people lose their homes. And more people lose hope. It is a disgrace.

The Clown Channel

In his continued commitment to self-promotion, it has been reported that Donald Trump is going to launch The Clown Channel, starring none other than Donald Trump. As he continues his fake dalliance with presidential ambition he has flogged the eternally dead horse of Barack Obama’s birth to the cheers of the G.O.Tea Party boobs. Only the Donald’s hairdresser knows for sure how this qualifies him to be the leader of this country.

And this past week, when asked what kind of support he could expect from the national African American electorate, he responded that he had “a good relationship with the blacks”. We can assume that his good relationship with “the blacks” stems from the fact that he speaks the language of “the blacks” and that he knows the ways of “the blacks”.

“Bwana Trump for President” should be the headline for next week.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

The Day of the Living Dead

Last weekend America was treated to a spectacle right out of Alice in Wonderland. A budget compromise that left the blood and hopes of the poor and needy on the floor was pitched by the Democratic Congressional Committee as a victory by limited the slicing and dicing of the federal budget to “only” $38 billion while tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires remain the most sacred of cows.

The Democratic Party controls the Senate and the White House. The Tea Party Caucus of the House of Representatives, headed by that anti-genius Michelle Bachmann, consists of 85 members, at most. Yet the Tea Party, playing Pinocchio to the Koch brothers Geppetto, has hijacked the national debate on policy, budget and the future of this country.

Somehow the Democratic Party has mastered the art of the Rope a Dope, minus the rope. And as a result the defeat of the horrific proposal to defund Planned Parenthood is viewed as a triumph. The mindless ambition of the G.O.Tea Party to defund the newly minted national healthcare program is a shortsighted as it is Neanderthal in motive and intent.

The fact that these proposals ever saw the light of day is shameful. Viewing their (very) temporary defeat cannot possibly be seen as much of a victory.

We continue to wait for President Obama and the leadership of the Democratic Party to come to their collective senses and realize that there is no bargaining with maniacs. We are watching the fabric of the social net being shredded, bit by bit, and deferring the next thrust of the blade is not a cause for celebration.

And still, there is no collective voice from the party that controls the White House and the Senate that says “enough is enough”.

I have written previously that the budget agenda of the G.O.Tea Party is not about fiscal matters but rather it is about a social agenda that is slanted towards meanness and away from compassion.

The G.O.Tea Party barely blinked at the near billion dollar cost of the Libyan incursion but it froths and foams at the mouth at the mere thought of millions going to NPR or Planned Parenthood.

Indeed, the attempted defunding of Planned Parenthood is a textbook example of the disgrace that is the G.O.Tea Party. The attack on this universally acclaimed women’s healthcare program began with the lie that federal funds were being used to fund abortions.

It’s a lie because the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, prevents the federal funding of abortions. It is also a distortion in the bargain because less than 20% of the services of Planned Parenthood involve abortion. The rest of that organization’s programs involve birth control, sex education and basic healthcare for women who cannot afford it elsewhere.

When Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood in 1946 it was seen as a progressive and positive step in providing healthcare, birth control and sex education for women – all of which are indispensable elements in the liberation of women.

Who could imagine that less than 70 years later there could be a serious proposal by a major political party to defund the laudable efforts of this organization?

While we have read muted protests and muffled objections, I continue to wait for leaders of the Democratic Party to draw the line in the sand and say “no more”.

In the instance of Planned Parenthood, it is shocking to see female members of the G.O.Tea Party (like Michelle Bachman) ranting against Planned Parenthood like a cheerleader from some forgotten nightmare – and no element of the progressive women’s groups and organizations will confront these abominable policy proposals being advanced by women.

It is clearly past the time to take the Tea Party and its cohorts and fellow travelers seriously. Wishing and hoping that they will go away is a waste of valuable time. Their agenda is as clear as it is despicable.

Dismantling social services while labeling them “entitlements” is a bit or rhetorical trickery that belongs in the circus but not on the national stage. The quality and availability of social services are what define a country and a society – they are not privileges or favors from the wealthy to the poor.

Portraying taxes as punitive by their very nature is not only wrong; it distorts the notion of a social contract. Companies like General Electric spend millions of dollars, not on research and development, but on tax departments that too often successfully reduce their tax obligations to zero – this is corporate social irresponsibility and we all pay for it.

Yet the G.O.Tea Party and its Koch brothers financiers believe that this is kind of business agenda that make sense for the future.

The current political arena seems like some bizarre version of a “Night of the Living Dead” scenario, except that it is taking place in broad daylight.

It is time to be afraid, very afraid.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 8, 2011

The weekend begins with another nuclear catastrophe being barely avoided in Japan while the Congress has the entire country teetering on the brink of another kind of catastrophe, this time totally manmade as the federal budget impasse threatens to bring this country to a grinding halt. And what is the response of the right wing? Let’s take another look at Barack Obama’s birth certificate! The lunatics have slipped their leashes and are on the loose.

Cruel but not so unusual….

As you read this column the federal government is at the brink of a shutdown engineered by the right wing of the right wing of the G.O.Tea Party in Congress that is insisting upon draconian cuts that will impact on everything and everyone from Planned Parenthood to National Public Radio to homeless veterans.

In adopting this scorched earth version of negotiation, these avatars of social pain and relentless injustice are willing to shut down the federal government even if that means that all Americans will suffer, including the spouses and children of military personnel who are fighting wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere at this very moment. The mirror has not been made that can withstand the visage of these twenty first century fanatics.

They have cloaked their social agenda with budgetary robes. But it is clear to any keen eye that it is not the budget that is out of balance in their eyes. The right wing of the right wing is focused on the imbalances in governmental priorities that deem social services for all citizens to be important instead of continuously glorifying and enabling the endless accumulation of infinite wealth.

The use of words is very important in a society with so many forms of communication. Employing the word “entitlements” to refer providing social services to the citizens of this country is a tactic which is meant to invoke thoughts of undeserved and unearned privileges. Parents warn their children against feeling “entitled” and teach their sons and daughters that they must earn what they receive.

By using the term “entitlements” the right wing of the right wing seeks to demonize the recipients of social services as being undeserving of the unearned services and benefits that they receive. And, of course, these services and benefits are derived from the beneficent largesse of the tax-oppressed billionaires, millionaires and corporate plutocrats who have already suffered much too much.

Tax “relief” for the wealthiest people on the planet and reduction of “entitlements” for those in need of services are the lines of demarcation within which the budgetary battles take place. We have now entered a Dada phase of politics in America where no sense makes sense.

Birther Redux

Sometimes stupidity persists to the point that it seems to be immortal. But typically, stupidity has its Achilles heel – the truth.

In the midst of budget crises, wars and revolts from Libya to the Ivory Coast to Afghanistan to Mexico, while we are wondering if the next rainstorm will contain radiation courtesy of the disaster in Japan, Donald Trump and other half-wits are willing to content themselves with beating the dead horse known as the Obama Birth Certificate Controversy.

In point of fact there has never been a controversy over the site of Barack Obama’s birth. Yet the same people who brought you the Swift boats and the resurrection of Elvis Presley would have you believe that there is some real doubt regarding President Obama’s birthplace, the notion being that if he wasn’t born in America then he shouldn’t be President and his entire presidency is, therefore illegitimate.

I can only wish that The Donald and Mike Huckabee and all the other bearers of this tattered and stained banner of lies would use the internet. Barack Obama’s website has been online for over three years. Here it is again http://www.fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate
These clowns won’t let something like the truth get in the way of a good lie, but at least we know that these clowns are lying.

Have a great weekend!

Be My Guest

Be My Guest Column by Bill Ayres


In case you have not noticed it, there has been an economic recovery. In the past two years the stock market has had a dramatic recovery, with the Dow-Jones Industrial average almost doubling. Corporate profits were $1.659 TRILLION in the third quarter of 2010, the highest on record and 28 percent higher than a year ago. CEO salaries are once again in the superstar category and they have just had the Bush tax cuts extended. The top five percent of earners are doing quite well and the top one percent is doing extraordinarily well.

Big business takes care of its own and so does our government. After all, the super rich are the biggest contributors to campaigns for the Republican Party and increasingly for the Democratic Party.

In the meantime, we still have almost 9 percent unemployment, almost half of which is long –term (more than six months). The real number is 15 percent when you count those working part time who want to work full time and those who have left the workforce as discouraged workers. Behind those astronomical numbers are millions of tragic stories that we all know and which many of us live. Most economists do not see those numbers dropping very soon. Why? Why do we have another jobless recovery? Why does our economy pay half of our workers pitifully low wages? Last year the median annual wage for American workers was less than $ 27,000. Try feeding and housing a family or even one person on that.
With all this business profit you would think that companies would be hiring millions of workers including ones they let go when the economy hit rock bottom. Not so! Since then almost half a million of the net jobs created were temp jobs. Why? Nearly half of all the income that the top 500 companies make these days comes from overseas. They are registered as American businesses often with familiar names but increasingly they rely on foreign investments for their profits and they often pay little or no taxes on that income.

The great breakthrough for many of them during this Great Recession is that they learned they can do more with less in America, especially less full time workers with hefty benefit packages. They laid off millions of workers at the start of the downturn and found that they can do very well with less full time workers, more part time workers and requirements that their employees perform at a higher level than ever before for the same or less money. Who stands with American workers in our time of dire need?

Obviously not big business, they do not see it in their best interest. They used to when they needed workers but now they need less and less American workers. Many of us are becoming expendable.

The federal government has not seen fit to create massive numbers of new jobs, has not invested sufficiently in green jobs and infrastructure, has not made it any easier to join a union and has not sent any of the corporate criminals to jail who created this whole financial mess that has also cost millions of additional jobs around the world.

The federal government does not stand up often enough for American workers. More and more, they stand for their high roller supporters. Whose side are they on?

In 1970 some 25 percent of American workers belonged to a union, made 20 to 25 percent more income and had much better benefits than non-union workers.

Now only about 7 percent of non-government workers are in unions and the 25 percent of government workers in unions could soon be an endangered species if ultra conservative governors with budget deficits have their way and create a climate that will strangle the unions.

Unions which used to stand for workers still do but even as they continue to be a political force for worker rights their numbers have dwindled.
So, if business does not stand for the 95 percent of us and the Democratic Party only partially supports us and labor unions continue to lose power, who stands for the vast majority of Americans who are not the super rich and the super stars?

Is there any one force that can stand up against the power of unjust globalization, multi-national corporations that do not have our best interests at heart, unpunished financial criminals and politicians that are on the take?

There is only one answer, the people, the 95 percent of us who have been left out of the action and face worse times ahead. Community organizing on a mass level among citizens across the country around common themes and goals is a daunting task but it can be done and was done during the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement.

There are already many movements that sometimes work together on issues: hunger, poverty, health, workers rights, immigration, jobs, housing, childcare, women’s rights, civil rights, food, agriculture, nutrition, the environment and more.
All too often however, we work in silos and we do it from the top down not from the grassroots up.

It is time that we unite, agree on an agenda for real change, agree to disagree where we can not find common ground, work for bottom up change in local, state and federal government policy and law and learn to tell our story framed to reach a variety of our constituents.

We certainly have many deep disagreements but the future of our nation is at stake. Nothing less than a national movement that unites many movements and thousands of community and state based organizations will succeed.

If we truly believe that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave we must get off our couches and organize for a real economic recovery and revival. Whose side are you on?

Bill Ayres is a noted author, activist and the Executive Director of World Hunger Year, Inc. http://www.whyhunger.org

Point of View Columns

A Celebration From Hell

I do not generally engage in forecasting and prognostication, but I can safely predict that on Thursday, April 7, 2011, there will be multiple celebrations throughout the southern states of this country noting the commencement of the Civil War. That such appalling and offensive revelry will be done in full view of the American public and the world is shameful.

Yet, this Thursday fools, buffoons and adherents to a cruel, vile and false version of history will parade down streets and in “secessionist balls” reveling in some romantic notion of states’ rights and the preservation of the “southern way of life”. In no other country on this planet is treason celebrated without censure and punishment.

Yet in the United States traitors, war criminals and slave owners like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis are honored with their names on streets, boulevards and universities – indeed their portraits are still hanging in state capitols rather than being strewn on the trash heap of history where they belong.

And all the while black Americans are treated like the non-persons that the original Constitution of the Confederate States of America proclaimed them to be.

This is not simply a matter of racial sensitivity or political correctness. The mindset that celebrates treachery and treason cannot be fully committed to a truly united United States of America. The man or woman who believes that the “southern way of life” should be honored and glorified cannot also believe in racial equality or diversity in the twenty first century. There is simply no middle ground.

At the outset of the Civil War there were nine million people living in the South and four million of them were slaves. Four million black men, women and children were owned by white men, women and children and they had the same status as horses, cattle or other chattel.

Slaves were routinely beaten, tortured, killed and abused. Families were torn asunder to satisfy gambling debts, settle estates or to liquidate assets for an investment.

There was nothing good, pleasant, uplifting or ennobling about the peculiar institution of slavery in the United States. And the Confederate States of America was formed in order to protect and preserve the institution of slavery.

The Civil War had many ancillary factors that contributed to the bloodiest conflict in American history but there should be no doubt that slavery was the central cause. All sane and honest historians agree that but for slavery there would not have been a civil war.

And we should be clear that while slavery ended with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States the spirit and heart of the South barely changed for more than a century. The Ku Klux Klan and its adherents tortured maimed and massacred black people with impunity throughout the South and beyond. Jim Crow laws not only segregated just about every aspect of life in the South, it degraded and debased the dignity of black men, women and children as a matter of law.

And it has only been in the last fifty years that real progress has been made although if you scratch beneath the surface in too many corners and nooks and crannies in the South the vile stench of racial hatred and white superiority wafts into the political atmosphere barely disguised with fig leaf phrases like “states’ rights” and “taking America back”.

It is amazingly sad that men and women of good will sit by idly while this celebration from hell takes place. We do not have to be Jewish to abhor the Holocaust. We do not have to be Native Americans to decry the genocide perpetrated against the original residents of this continent. We do not have to be Tutsis to denounce the mass killings in Rwanda.

Why then is there such deafening silence in the face of this ghoulish perpetration of the myth of the Confederate States of America and the celebration of a way of life that trafficked in human flesh and blood for centuries? I would hope that people – regardless of their political persuasion, could coalesce around the basic principles of decency and justice.

It is not right for the secessionist celebrants to dance on the graves of the men, women and children who suffered and died because of the southern “way of life” Their celebration is indeed ghoulish and mawkish and all the more wrong because they know better.

Their celebration is truly a celebration from Hell.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 1, 2011

The weekend begins with April Fool’s Day and, incredibly enough, more birther madness. Barack Obama has been President of the United States for two years and 2 ½ months and there are still some people who just can’t let it go – “this must be a mistake” is their line of reasoning.

Meanwhile we continue to try to make sense of the Libyan conundrum and the slippery slope to which it leads even as the fiscal conservatives on the right wing of the right wing are notably silent about the cost of this venture.

Birther Madness —Really??

This week we were subjected to the renowned genealogical expert Donald Trump proclaiming that there are “serious questions” regarding the location of Barack Obama’s birth. He falsely stated that President Obama’s birth certificate has not been made available to the public (it has been online for three years).

Presumably, on the Planet Trump “reasonable people” have a right to question Barack Obama’s place of birth without a shred of evidence to support that question – and presumably these “reasonable people” can also question legitimacy of his presidency rather than consider the policies and accomplishments of his Administration.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Trump brought his own birth certificate to one of his endless series of television appearances. Interestingly enough, the document that he brought was not an official birth certificate – he brought a document that stated that he was born at Jamaica Hospital in New York, but an OFFICIAL birth certificate in New York City can only be issued by the New York City Health Department – and he did not bring that birth certificate.

Perhaps The Donald is laying the groundwork for a new television show, “The Secret Alien”.

The Libyan Conundrum

At the beginning of the week President Obama addressed the nation to explain the policy underlying American military intervention in Libya. The president was eloquent and factual and referred to the prevention of a human tragedy in Libya if the United States had not intervened, working in concert with its NATO allies.

Barack Obama was elected to make the hard decisions that few of us would aspire to consider, much less make. The commitment of military personnel and resources should never be taken lightly. The Defense Department estimates that $600 million dollars has been spent so far and that the upcoming tab will be in the neighborhood of $40 million per day.

There are CIA operatives in Libya now and sadly, it seems that it will only be a matter of time before there are American casualties to add to the mounting number of Libyan dead and wounded.

Accepting President Obama’s sliding scale for applying military solutions, it is still not clear as to what this country should do in Syria where there is a revolt brewing at this very moment and the Assad family that rules the government shows no signs of leaving.

And what about Egypt, where revolt is simmering again as the promise of revolution has not been realized with the departure of Hosni Mubarak?

And, as we have noted before, what about Cote d’Ivoire where the head of state, the loser of an election in November has simply refused to leave, precipitating a civil war with civilian deaths being recorded every day? And what about Zimbabwe and Yemen?

This is the slippery slope that beckons. We can only hope that the president treads carefully.

Budget Mystery

As the Libyan conflict has played out there has been little, if any concern expressed by the right wing of the right wing regarding the cost of this expedition.

As noted, over $600 million has been spent to date with no ceiling or final price tag.
Nevertheless, the same fiscal conservatives who have proposed to defund Head Start and food stamp programs along with NPR have expressed no criticism of President Obama spending hundreds of millions of dollars without explicit Congressional approval for a military purpose.

The irony is certainly self-evident. Enough said.

Have a great weekend!