Point of View Columns

The Know Nothing Party

Ignorance does not necessarily indicate stupidity. There are inhabitants of the Amazon River basin who are not adept in the wonders of the internet and there are residents of the Vatican who are ignorant of the lyrics to the latest songs by Jay-Z. Not knowing something does not make those Vatican priests and cardinals stupid. And some things may not necessarily be worth knowing anyway (early Jay-Z lyrics for example).

However, to steadfastly refuse to learn about important matters is a bright red letter indication of stupidity. It is terrifying to learn that on matters of simple, basic science half of the major candidates for the G.O.Tea Party presidential nomination embrace ignorance and the other half (with the exception of Jon Huntsman) waffle on the subject so as not to offend the know-nothing right wing of the right wing.

Consider their positions on evolution, a basic scientific principle that has been considered settled for over a century:

Rodeo Rick Perry – “God is how we got here”.

Herman Cain – No clear position regarding evolution and creationism, but he is prompt in stating that he believes in God whenever an evangelical Christian is in the room.

Michele Bachmann – She is a staunch and devout believer in creationism and intelligent design and an adamant opponent of evolution. She believes that students should be presented with both “theories” and allowed to choose. I wonder if that same “choose from the menu” approach could be applied to spelling or history or mathematics.

Newt Gingrich – Newt believes that both evolution and intelligent design are true. Evolution should be taught as science in Newtworld, and intelligent design should be taught as philosophy.

Mitt Romney – Magic Mitt walks the tightrope and states that he believes that God used evolution to create the universe. We should remember that his faith also teaches that the Garden of Eden was located near Joplin, Missouri.

Rick Santorum – The deposed Pennsylvania senator totally opposes evolution. His position on gravity has not been disclosed.

Ron Paul – The father of Rand Paul doesn’t believe in evolution and doesn’t believe that candidates should be judged on matters of science. This may explain his belief in Voodoo economics.

As the 2012 presidential sweepstakes start to gain some form and perspective we are seeing a surge of ignorance that may be a greater threat than the most virulent aspects of the right wing of the right wing. Being in thrall to multinational corporate profit is bad enough. Labeling attempts at providing a decent life to American citizens as “entitlements” is awful enough. Racially tinged questioning of the citizenship of the President of the United States is abominable. But embracing ignorance as a governmental policy is potentially destructive.

We are the unwilling witnesses to a movement that wallows in stupidity and wears ignorance as a reverse image badge of achievement. Opinions are like noses, everyone has one. But facts are not personal. History, facts and science are not subject to majority rule.

At a time of unprecedented challenge and adversity the media is flooded with the pronouncements of men and women who would lead this country through sound bites and factoids and pure fallacy. This reverse elitism, glorifying knowing nothing, can only lead to a downward spiral in every aspect of this country’s culture, educational system and ability to be competitive in a global marketplace where competency is the lowest common denominator and excellence is the lowest rung on the ladder of achievement.

The world ranking of American students in key areas such as science, math and basic literacy continue to plummet in comparison to the rest of the industrialized world. One would think that it would be ill-timed to publicly contest such well-settled issues as evolution, the hideous immorality of American slavery and global warming.

Yet the G.O.Tea Party careens towards the abyss espousing such notions.
And lest we think that ignorance is confined to the arena of science and history, consider the recent debt ceiling debacle. Contributing to the political dog pile that posed as negotiation was the Tea Party position that failure to raise the debt ceiling would not result in the United States government defaulting on its debt obligations. It was this staggering level of stupidity at the highest levels of the American political system that resulted in the downgrading of the United States credit by Standard & Poor’s.

As the upcoming campaign bubbles and boils and simmers by turn, it is clearly too much to ask for dignity and decency. We should be able to ask for the absence of stupidity and ignorance. Sadly, where the G.O.Tea Party is concerned, that may be too much to ask.

Be My Guest

Be My Guest Column by Renee Collymore

“Give ‘Em Hell, CWA”!

Two weeks ago, I made my presence on the picket line in support of the Communication Workers of America (CWA), as they fought for a fair contract against the corporate giant, Verizon.

CWA is one of the bravest unions in our City and I couldn’t let them fight alone. Am I biased? Maybe so, for they were the only labor union that courageously endorsed my candidacy when I ran against for the seat of Democratic State Committeewoman/District Leader in 2010. For days, I decided to join this strike to help defend the great working class people of our City as I also began calling on all of my political colleagues to meet us in solidarity.

As thousands of workers took to the streets, repeating the call-and-response chant “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like”, my mind began to recall the greatest labor struggle of all times, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters against the Pullman Company, which was led by Harlem’s, A. Phillip Randolph.

Randolph, along with friend and colleague, Chandler Owen, created several labor unions, of which the first was called the United Brotherhood of Elevator and Switchboard Operators, then formed the first black socialist political club in the 21st Assembly District in Harlem, NY

What I admired about the porter’s union was that, it wasn’t a large union and at it’s height of power and influence it had only 15,000 members, after which the membership dropped to 2,000. Nonetheless, their victory was not because of numbers, but because of the great leadership and the skillful ability of men, who were otherwise known to be “uneducated blacks”, to successfully implement the strategy of collective bargaining, as well as the capability to promote the idea of labor unionism amongst black workers in 1925.

45,000 CWA workers went on strike because ,although, Verizon has made record profits, according to the union, Verizon had refused to bargain. as well as attempting to slash sick days, to send jobs overseas and cut health benefits.etc. The demands of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters consisted of recognition of the union, a minimum monthly wage of $150, a basic work month of 240 hours, compensation for “deadheading”, and an end to “doubling out”, conductor’s pay for conductor’s work and that porters be treated like men,

Ultimately, the first-ever agreement between a union of black workers and a major corporation was signed and it called for a reduction in the work month from 400 to 240 hours and an annual wage package of $1,250,000. After the longest battle in American labor history, which lasted 12 years, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters had been finally recognized. Not only that, but the Brotherhood had become a full-fledged member of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and also made it possible for blacks to win a place in American society, where the Pullman Company of old would never have imagined their victory in a million years.

The Labor movement was the first anti-poverty program and if it wasn’t for Labor, people would be selling apples on the street, for a living, like most folks did in the 20s. Union members represent the working people of our nation and without the working class, corporate giants, would not be where they are, without us.

As I marched over the Brooklyn Bridge with the members of CWA, I saw the victory of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters as they struggled for basic and respectful rights, human rights within the workforce. I saw my friends, neighbors and relatives sacrificing their weekly paycheck, in unity, for right to be “treated like men”, and not work horses, but honorable members of a nation. The CWA strike of 2011 was a fight for the future of our country and will be remembered as a triumphant moment in labor, just as the heroic battle between the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the corporate giant of that day, the Pullman Company. We must demand respect now, for the sake of our children and our children’s children.

Give’ em hell, ya’ll…Give’ em hell!

Renee Collymore, president and founder of the Parliament Democratic Club in Brooklyn, is a leading rising star in the City of New York. She made her splash into the political arena when she ran for public office against an incumbent for which she’s earned the respect of politicians and power brokers alike. She’s continues to build recognition amongst her peers as she passionately fights for her coomunity. Renee can be reached on Twitter @reneecollymore and on Facebook.

Be My Guest

Be My Guest Column by Congressman Gregory W. Meeks

A Difficult Vote vs. Definite Default

In the dozen or so media interviews about the highly controversial bipartisan compromise to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, interviewers have been far more interested in the fact that I was the only New York City Democrat who voted yes than in what is actually in the bill. They seemed surprised by my comment that I do not base how I vote on how others are voting, but on whether or not a bill serves the interests of my district and is good for the country.

Even though 94 other House Democrats and 45 Senate Democrats agreed with me, while 95 House Democrats and 6 Senate Democrats did not, some commentators seemed surprised when I argued that the achievements of the Budget Control Act of 2011 outweigh its deficiencies.

Liberal critics of the bill contend that President Obama and the Democrats whose support supplied the margin for passage in the House “surrendered to hostage takers” (the House Republicans — many of them Tea Party Republicans — who tied raising the debt limit to cutting “trillions” in federal spending and refused to consider revenue increases under any circumstances). This argument works only if context and facts are left out.

Remember that the House vote occurred a scant 30 hours before the August 2nd deadline for raising the debt limit. The Senate voted the next day with about 10 hours to go. The President signed the bill into law with only 6 hours left.
If Congress had failed to act, the U.S. government for the first time would have defaulted on its debts. The results would have been catastrophic.

For example, the federal government’s August commitments exceeded $306 billion with only $174 billion in expected revenue. Without the legal authority to borrow the funds to make up the difference, although the federal government could have paid the interest on the national debt and covered its monthly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid commitments, it would have had nothing left to pay veterans’ benefits, vendors, contractors, or fund federal agencies.

Default would have jeopardized the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government. Interest rates would have gone up for every level of government, every American with a credit card, car payment, mortgage or student loan, and for every business that relies on a line of credit to meet payroll and operating expenses. Pension plans would have been devastated.

There were no alternatives to the compromise bill that could pass both houses of Congress. Congress could either pass this bill or allow America to default.
Is it a perfect bill? Does it include everything I wanted and exclude everything I oppose? Like every bill to come up for a vote during my 13 years in Congress, the answer is no. But, did it raise the debt ceiling, avert default, protect key entitlements, and stop House Tea Party Republicans from repeating their hostage-taking performance during next year’s election? Yes.

In return for raising the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion over the next 18 months, President Obama and a majority of congressional Democrats agreed to cut defense and non-defense federal discretionary spending by a similar amount over the next ten years. The bill outlined $900 billion in cuts. The remaining $1.5 trillion in cuts will occur through a joint House-Senate committee process.

True, the bill does not include revenue increases. Instead it empowers a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to put everything on the table in proposing additional cuts: entitlement programs; defense and non-defense discretionary spending; and revenue increases, including reforming the tax code, closing tax loopholes, and eliminating tax subsidies for corporations and special interests.

This 12-member committee consists of three members from each party from both the House and Senate. In my view together with an enforcement mechanism also contained in the legislation, this committee creates a dynamic that will pressure both sides of the aisle to grapple with America’s fiscal reality and very well may become a vehicle for the kind of “grand bargain” President Obama has been seeking. How?

The committee must recommend $1.5 trillion in additional cuts to the full Congress by November 23 of this year. Congress must hold an up or down vote on the recommendations by December 23 of this year.

If the committee fails to reach an agreement or if Congress rejects its recommendations, an enforcement mechanism triggers across-the-board defense and non-defense spending reductions beginning in 2013. Half of the cuts must come from domestic programs and half from defense.

Social Security and Medicare benefits, other low-income programs, and Pell grant funding, are largely protected. Unlike the debt ceiling vote, the second round takes place on a level playing field of equal representation of Democrats and Republicans outside of the regular appropriations process.

This unique process which President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders insisted upon checks the power of the most extreme faction of House Republicans and the House Republican majority. It also offsets the filibuster that Senate Republicans have blatantly used to obstruct the President’s agenda.

The joint select committee, the up or down vote, and enforcement mechanism could and should help Democrats and Republicans who are open to a balanced compromise succeed in reducing the deficits in our budget and our politics.

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks represents the Sixth Congressional District of New York and sits on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 26, 2011

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial has been postponed giving us an opportunity to think about the other men and women who should be remembered. The Tea Party stalwarts are whining about being called terrorists and we can reasonably ask, “Why?” And finally, Nick Ashford died this past week. Another artist-hero has died and once more we should be thankful for the musical gifts that he bestowed during his lifetime, gifts that will most certainly live on.

In Memoriam

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial has been indefinitely postponed due to Hurricane Irene. When the dedication does take place it will be an important and historic event.

The honor to Dr. King is important. It is also important that in honoring Dr. King the thousands of unnamed men and women who sacrificed and supported the civil rights movement are also remembered. Most of us are familiar with names like Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Dubois and Rosa Parks. But the movement that changed a nation and changed the world was powered by men and women named Liuzzo and Green and Cheney and Schwerner and Goodman and Sherrod.

There is a tendency in this country to sanitize the less pleasant aspects of this country’s past. The Disney-like version goes like this: “There was racial discrimination in this country and then Martin Luther King came along and gave a great speech. After that the Civil Rights Bill was passed and justice prevailed.”

Aside from being wrong, this sanitized version doesn’t tell the truth – that millions of men and women and children, black and white, united against tremendous and brutal and cruel opposition to change this country. This change took place over a period of over 50 years and the struggle is not complete.

Change in this country does not come about easily or quickly. Change does not come without pain and dedication and sacrifice. Change is not brought about by the few. It is brought about the many.

Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without demand”. It is a lesson that needs to be relearned right now.

If the Shoe Fits….

The G.O.Tea Party zealots have been weeping crocodile tears over being labeled “terrorists” by Democrats. They have also been accused of using terrorist tactics in connection with their debt ceiling debate antics and hijinks.

One G.O.Tea Party Taliban wannabees even confronted President Obama in Iowa over the matter. Presumably he wanted an apology from the Commander in Chief for his hurt feelings. President Obama finessed a response that sounded like, “No one said you were terrorists, just that some of you were acting like terrorists”.

I wish that President Obama had channeled his inner Bob Marley and just said, “Who the cap fits, let dem wear it”. After all, the right wing of the right wing held this country and its economy and its people hostage during the budget ceiling debacle.

It is true that they didn’t use the threat of bombs. Instead they threatened to collapse the economy of the planet, a goal that would certainly coincide with that of Osama bin Laden or The Jackal. The right wing of the right wing made non-negotiable budget demands that required grievous cost cutting that will negatively impact upon the lives of millions of Americans.

Sounds like hostage taking and terrorist tactics to me. “If the shoe fits, let him wear it”. And stop whining.

In Memoriam – 2

Nick Ashford died earlier this week. With his wife, Valerie Simpson (who celebrates her birthday today); he wrote such songs as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Solid as a Rock”, “I’m Every Woman” and so many others. The lyrics he wrote were poems that blended with the music using art of phrasing and symbolism in a unique fashion.

One has to wonder if the work of Ashford and Simpson, or Smokey Robinson or Holland-Dozier-Holland would be welcome if presented as original music today. Today it seems amazing that they could write tremendous music without ever mentioning niggers, bitches or guns.

With that said, we are thankful to have been the beneficiaries of the artistry of Nick Ashford.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

The Great American Circus

Thanks to the great political cartoonist Thomas Nast the elephant has been the symbol of the Republican Party for over a century. Now that it has morphed into the G.O.Tea Party it should come as no surprise that there is a circus-like feel to the presidential nomination sweepstakes that is inflicted upon us on a daily basis. The only problem is that there are too many clowns and not enough elephants.

It seems that every few days another Republican decides that they are prepared to be the Leader of the Free World even as we either gasp in horror or smother gales of laughter at the thought. We would, however, be wise not to be too ready to laugh – even clowns, especially clowns, can be dangerous.

Like a circus car from which emerges an endless parade of clowns, the G.O.Tea Party circus is providing us with mirthless images that would be laughable but for the danger that they represent. In no particular order, consider some of the members of the current lineup:

-George Pataki – The three time governor of New York State is known for having defeated Mario Cuomo and using a ramshackle collection of budgetary quirks and tricks that resulted in near financial disaster for the state. A disaster, it should be noted, that is (and will be) affecting millions of New Yorkers for decades. Wonder what he might do as President of the United States?

-Sarah Palin – If you subtract the time that she spent running an unsuccessful campaign for Vice President, she spent less than two years as governor of Alaska before resigning to make some money. Well known for knowing very little, she has not let ignorance get in the way of her grand ambition to be somebody. She can be laughable when referring to being able to see Russia from her kitchen window as being part of her foreign policy qualifications and kind of sad when she cannot recall a book that she has read or a newspaper that she reads regularly. But she has a darker side – such as when she tells followers to “lock and load” and then puts a bull’s eye on the offices of political opponents. Ask Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

-Ron Paul – If you ask Ron Paul nicely, he will be glad to tell you that the United States doesn’t need a Department of Education or a Department of Energy even though the quality of education and access to energy are keys to the progress of this country for the balance of this century. Actually, you don’t even need to ask Mr. Paul; at the drop of a dime (or a penny) he will tell you that government is the problem and that its elimination will cure what ails us as a nation. He doesn’t bother to explain how the health, education and welfare of this nation will be maintained without the presence of a strong national government. But that’s what makes him such a loveable clown.

-Rick Perry – Rodeo Rick Perry has galloped onto the national stage with his six guns blazing. In one week he has suggested that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board may be contemplating treason and has expressed his doubt as to whether President Obama loves America. That’s pretty hilarious stuff from a clown who has suggested that Texas secede from the United States. And the really funny thing about Rodeo Rick is that he’s just getting started.

-Michele Bachmann – Where does one start when writing about the Queen of Clowns? She mixes up John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer, and celebrates Elvis Presley’s birthday on the day that he died. What a hoot! The fact that she takes herself so seriously should be a warning that there she is actually a zealot who has misplaced her big nose. But the fact that she has proclaimed that she is on a mission to make this country a Christian nation that is governed by Christian ideals has a Taliban-like ring to it that is not funny at all.

-Herman Cain – Mr. Cain’s idea of a powerful campaign slogan is that he has no experience in government at all. Close your eyes and imagine your brain surgeon telling you that his/her major qualification is that he/she never went to medical school. Being the chief executive of a successful chain of pizza parlors that mock Italians is a qualification of sorts although I think that if Mr. Cain was the head of “Yo Mama’s Chicken” instead of “Godfather’s Pizza” he wouldn’t be getting a pass.

-Mitt Romney – Mr. Romney is the magical clown who wants us to believe that the universal healthcare program that he advanced as governor of Massachusetts has nothing to do with the universal healthcare plan advanced by President Obama. Mitt, the Magic Clown would also have us believe that in his career as a businessman he “created jobs” when the business model of his company was to acquire businesses, sell off the assets and fire the employees. Of course the fact that Mr. Romney can be a magician and a clown shows a real skill at multi-tasking.

There are other candidates and would-be candidates running around the G.O.Tea Party circus tent. Someone played “Send in the Clowns” and the right wing of the right wing adopted it as their anthem.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 19, 2011

One of the important things about history is that it reminds us that there isn’t much that is really new. In that vein, President Obama (and all of us) should check out a speech given by Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 – it could have been written tomorrow. Meanwhile Rodeo Rick Perry, the erstwhile governor of Texas and now a contender for the presidential nomination of the G.O.Tea Party has been running around the country with his mouth ‘a blazing. I don’t think that it will be too long before he shoots himself in the foot while trying to put it in his mouth. Finally, I am assuming that the Barnum & Bailey Circus has imposed a hiring freeze. That is the only explanation for Dr. West and Mr. Smiley running around America like a bunch of clowns on their “Speaking Truth to Empower” sham of a tour. Where’s the delete button when you really need it?

Wise Words to the Wise

The deluge of hate, calumny and rage that has poured upon Barack Obama since he became President of the United States is not without precedent. Historians refer to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln for an analogy but 74 years ago Franklin Roosevelt was the object of furious opposition to the change that he advocated and articulated. President Obama would do well to consider the following:

“For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent………………..For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up…………….We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace‹business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering…………………They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been as united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred.”

It’s pretty amazing that these words, spoken 74 years ago, could be spoken by President Obama tomorrow with incredible accuracy and relevance. Perhaps it is time for an encore.

Rodeo Rick!

You have to hand it to Rick Perry – the man certainly knows how to make an entrance. In his first week as an official presidential candidate he managed to question whether President Obama “loves America”. Presumably Governor Perry’s love for America is a fact of nature.

He also contended that the monetary policies of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were “treasonous”. He went even further, darkly muttering that Chairman Bernanke would get treated “pretty ugly” if he ever came to Texas. Many will recall that the last prominent federal official to be treated “pretty ugly” in Texas was John F. Kennedy, making Perry’s remarks all the more awful.

Just getting warmed up, Rodeo Rick said at a New Hampshire campaign stop that evolution was a theory “with a lot of gaps”. You probably did not know that, in addition to being governor of Texas, Rodeo Rick Perry was a noted geologist, paleontologist, archaeologist and anthropologist with all the credentials necessary to question the validity of the theory of evolution. By the way, he also thinks that Adam and Eve walked with the dinosaurs.

Rodeo Rick also said that the American military did not respect President Obama since he never served in the military. It may come as some surprise to Governor Perry that Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson were all wartime presidents and that respect from the military was never a problem for them. The right wing of the right wing icon Ronald Reagan never served in the military and what little military record that George W. Bush had is best forgotten.

In trying to outdo….himself (????) Rodeo Rick also contended that “America needs a president who loves America”. When asked whether he believed that President Obama loves America he replied, “You have to ask him”. And so Rodeo Rick has staked out the neo-birther position of no longer questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth, questioning instead the location of his heart and the coordinates of his allegiance.

I think it is just a question of time before the presidential campaign of Rodeo Rick Perry explodes from bombast and idiocy or implodes from the weight of hypocrisy and illogic.

A Damned Shame

It has been said that there are lies and then there are damned lies. I would amend that statement by adding, some things are a shame while other are a damned shame.
Into this latter category I would place the Tavis Smiley-Cornel West “Speaking Truth to Empower” speaking tour, appearing in a hole in the wall near you soon.
During the past few months Dr. West and Mr. Smiley (reminds one of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde???) have gained more attention than they could ever deserve by attacking and sliming Barack Obama.

While President Obama should never be immune to criticism but calling him a “lap dog of Wall Street” and implying that he has somehow betrayed black America presumably because he did not become a civil rights leader on January 20, 2009 is just plain wrong – and in the current political climate, dangerous.

The fact that Dr. West and Mr. Smiley are the arbiters of blackness would be laughable if it were not so pitiful. Their irrational, barbershop quality rhetoric directed at President Obama would fit in well at a Tea Party rally. They are getting the same attention as a “Man Bites Dog” story and seem to be satisfied with the attention as long as their names are spelled correctly.

Cornel West, while he may have missed a haircut or two, hasn’t missed a meal in a long time. He is a comfortably tenured professor at an Ivy League university that has never been mentioned in the same breath with Howard University, Morehouse College or Medgar Evers College when it comes to be centers of higher education for black Americans. Tavis Smiley has a list of multinational corporate sponsors whose predatory tactics have caused more suffering in the black community than all of the lies and half-truths he has broadcast over the years.

It is, however, a shame that some people will listen to this daffy duo. It is a damned shame that some people will not vote for Barack Obama in the 2012 election having mistakenly placed their faith and trust in these poseurs. And it is truly a damned shame that West and Smiley might in some way contribute to the election of Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney or Rick Perry as president of the United States.

Unlike Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. West and Mr. Smiley will be just fine. But many of us may suffer from their prideful misdeeds.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Once Upon A Time…….

For weeks I have been debating with myself about writing this particular column. Two months ago I read “In the Garden of Beasts” by Eric Larson. The book chronicles the experiences of the American ambassador to Germany whose arrival coincided with the rise of Adolf Hitler to power.

The book is particularly powerful in its rendering of the initial response of the German people to the rise of Hitler. He was viewed as being something of a radical but there was supreme confidence that the institutional traditions of the German republic would bring Hitler and his brown shirted followers into line. His rhetoric and writings were dismissed as…..rhetoric and writings in support of political ambition. No great sin. No great crime.

In reading the book a chilling recognition accompanied every page – radical and overheated rhetoric was rationalized even as the authors of this hateful prose were explicit in their beliefs and goals for the coming of the Third Reich. And then…………..it was too late.

Most readers would write off any comparison of the early days of Nazi Germany to the times in which we now live in these United States of America. Except we read and hear the messages every day and any sane and rational person would have to wonder, what is the end game?

Michelle Bachmann is a radical Christian evangelical. This means a lot more than her believing in the teachings of Jesus Christ. She believes that the United States is a “Christian country” and that it should be governed according to the precepts of Christianity. It is as if the Taliban joined the G.O.Tea Party and substituted a cross for the star and crescent.

If questioned on the subject, she and her androgynous husband will state that “the American people don’t care about such things, they care about jobs”. Read “In the Garden of Beasts” and you will see similar responses from the supporters of the radical movement that ultimately became the Third Reich.

This country has never seen such a powerful doctrine of religious supremacy promoted at the national level. Texas Governor Rick Perry is running for president because God told him to do so. Beware of the zealots, they are always more dangerous than the cynics or the apathetic. And he is already catapulted to being a leading Republican candidate within moments of the announcement of his candidacy.

The battle cry of “taking back America” masks an agenda that ultimately creates an “us-them” scenario that has not been seen since the 1860’s. The G.O.Tea Party circus is about a lot more that making Barack Obama a one-term president. The radical evangelicals are riding the wave of racist-white-hooded tinged hate of Obama into a tsunami of creationism, dominion philosophy and Christian supremacy.

Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons and atheists have very good reason to be worried about the coming days in America. But middle of the road, progressive and tolerant Christians should not feel smug or secure – dominion philosophy does not countenance debate, dissent or difference. After all, evil prevails when good people do nothing.

Michelle Bachmann believes that gay men and women are in league with Satan. Jon Huntsmann and Mitt Romney believe that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri. Rick Perry believes that God has a mission for America (and presumably he is the leader of that mission).

Given the deep financial funk in which the United States is wallowing, the rest of the world must view the opposition to President Obama as being launched from some insane and nihilistic platform. Could the most powerful nation on earth, the planet’s largest economy, be considering the leadership of devout Christian dominion advocates at a time when logic, rational thinking and intelligent strategic planning are the last assets in the arsenal?

The antipathy against President Obama has clearly made a significant portion of this country cross-eyed crazy. In a time of deep economic crisis and global security dangers it is useful to pray. Waiting for miracles may not be such a good idea. Certainly it is written that God helps those who help themselves.

To be fair, the Bachmann-Perry-Santorum right wing of the right wing has never openly advocated extermination of anyone. This wing has, however, advocated the reduction of social services that will, in a logical progression, result in the deaths of men, women and children who are denied housing, healthcare, education and a basic social safety net.

The Bachmann-Perry-Santorum right wing of the right wing should be seen for what it is. Read “In the Garden of Beasts” and then look around. And be very afraid.

Be My Guest

Be My Guest Column by Jacques Gaspard

“Death by Tea Party” – A Commentary

While I agree with the premise of your article, the President has to step up his game and stop reacting to his adversaries. President Obama has to understand the gravity of the hostile environment toward his presidency, and take proactive actions to minimize the dire consequences. He ran a flawless campaign to get elected but seem to be underperforming in his management of the Presidency.

The president seems to always be two steps behind in this game of political chess; he was outmaneuvered during the last impasse where he had to back away from his objective of not extending the Bush tax cuts for all income groups just so he can extend unemployment benefits to the long term unemployed.

While his decision was humane, he allowed himself to be backed into a corner and did something that further contributed to the deficit and not benefit the long term economic health of the country. In this latest debate over the debt ceiling, he assumed that his adversaries would do the right thing and raise the debt ceiling to keep America from defaulting on its obligations to its creditors, again he underestimated his opponents desire to make him look weak and destroy his presidency.

The President was once again outmaneuvered this time around by caving in on an agreement that pleased no one. The President and his advisors have to get ahead of the game and not allow themselves to get cornered by his adversaries in addressing these critical policy issues. The President had two third of the American public backing him up on moving forward with a balance approach towards debt control which is to reduce spending and raise revenue.

This approach would have allowed the United States to reduce a bigger chunk of the deficit; instead he chose to follow congress’ lead and punt this very important debate to a committee that more likely will end up making more cuts and not fully accelerate the rate of debt reduction or invest in job creation. I hope I’m wrong in this assessment, but watching the turn of events over the past few years, I’m not betting on black.

Furthermore, with unemployment still at 9.2% and about 20% in the African-American community the President cannot afford to sit on the sideline and wait for the next election for him to take action in addressing these challenges. More tax cut policies and trickle down economics doesn’t seem to provide enough incentives for companies to stop hoarding cash and put people back to work.

Similarly, the Keynesian approach seems to have limited success in today economic environment, so logic would dictate a more balance approach to addressing our economic challenges. Rather than more deficit expenditures on new government programs, the President should work to raise more revenue through tax reform and invest in critical infrastructure projects that will create jobs. This deficit neutral approach would provide certainty to taxpayers regarding the tax code; address the unemployment challenges; thereby, creating more consumer demand that should contribute to the long term growth in the economy.

Finally, it’s important to note that President Obama’s adversaries will not go away and will more likely continue to work toward his demise. Therefore, the President must stick to his convictions and lead in a manner that requires cooperation more than compromise.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 12, 2011

One of the (many) definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result while expecting a different result. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and Lieutenant Governor while serving with Governor George W. Bush, is now going to run for president. Sound familiar? Could this country actually elect George Bush’s lieutenant governor? The G.O.Tea Party had a debate in Iowa yesterday, and the theme song “Send in the Clowns” played in the background. And finally, Mitt Romney has announced that “corporations are people”, confirming his belief in the lousy Citizens United Supreme Court decision as well as confirming his permanent confusion regarding the reasons why corporations even exist in the
first place.

Déjà vu?

One of my favorite Yogi Berra quotes is “…it seems like déjà vu all over again”. The much anticipated entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry into the G.O.Tea Party presidential race is one more sign that the Republicans are determined to do their very best to re-elect Barack Obama.

Let’s see…..Rick Perry was lieutenant governor when George W. Bush was governor. President George W. Bush presided over multiple disasters – 9/11, Katrina and the collapse of the American economy come to mind. Former Texas Governor Bush led this country into not one, but two misguided and mismanaged wars costing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. Rick Perry has never breathed a word of dissent regarding the policies of President Bush.

Let’s see, Governor Rick Perry declared that Texas should seriously consider seceding from the United States. The last time that was tried 600,000 Americans died. Clearly secession is not a term that should be bandied about, even for rhetorical effect.

And, it should be noted that Governor Perry has stated on numerous occasions that serving as governor (and presumably as president) is part of a plan to fulfill his Christian mission. While we should respect any person’s religious beliefs we should be wary of anyone seeking to advance their Christian, Jewish or Muslim mission through holding public office.

Barack Obama is certainly losing sleep (and gaining grey hairs) over the many challenges his Administration has been facing. He shouldn’t lose any sleep over facing Rick Perry in a presidential election.

Would You Like a Clown with that Pie?

A veritable gaggle of G.O.Tea Party presidential candidates showed up for a “debate” in Ames, Iowa yesterday. The word “debate” is in quotes because it was really not a contest of ideas, rather it was a competition for who could blame President Obama the most with a sub contest for catchiest sound bite. Mitt Romney muttered something about not eating “Obama’s dog food” – a real head scratcher.

Newt Gingrich railed against “gotcha questions” from the media. Presumably he is growing weary of explaining how he served his former wife with divorce papers as she was waking up from cancer surgery – and how he and his wife managed to get a $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany’s and still be part of the middle class – and how his entire senior campaign staff just got up and walked out after working for him for………2 weeks.

Michelle Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty had a veritable Twin City Smack Down, but it was very hard to imagine any of the candidates on the Ames stage actually being on the world stage – without a clown suit.

Corporations Are People?

Campaigning in Iowa last week Mitt Romney stated that “corporations are people”. I guess it is now official. In the Citizens United case the United States Supreme Court led by G.O.Tea Party stalwarts Alito, Scalia, Roberts and Thomas ruled that corporations have First Amendment rights including the right to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns.

Now the former governor of Massachusetts has gone a step further by stating that entities that only exist by reason of law are actually people. Presumably he means that corporations have rights and are entitled to safeguards that were previously reserved for human beings.

During my first year at Harvard Law School we were taught that corporations are simply a creation of the law. Clearly Mr. Romney, the G.O.Tea Party stalwarts on the Supreme Court and the right wing of the right wing intend to rewrite law to suit their own purposes.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Death by Tea Party

As this column is being written we seem to have avoided The Rapture and Armageddon is probably several months away. Nevertheless, during the past two business days the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped by over 1000 points and Standard & Poor’s has dropped the AAA rating of United States debt for the first time in history.

To paraphrase an old line, the G.O.Tea Party will try to pour water (or something like it) on our heads and tell us that it is raining. The canned caterwauling of the right wing of the right wing is already claiming that these financial calamities are totally the fault of Barack Obama because the events happened “on his watch”. Of course, as usual, the G.O.Tea Party is allergic to facts and deathly afraid of the truth.

The dangerously bad economic news of the moment is totally and absolutely due to the Congressional hi-jinks perpetrated by the G.O.Tea Party during the debt ceiling debacle. While Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell would mouth the right words about avoiding default, they did nothing to quiet the Kamikaze Korner of the right wing of the right wing that seemed to welcome the idea of default.

The rest of the planet (and Standard & Poor’s) saw leaders of the American government playing with matches in an ammunition dump. These same leaders, Boehner and McConnell included, showed absolutely no inclination to engage in rational dialogue with President Obama by refusing to consider any tax revenue increases even if it meant damning the country into economic hell. And by Friday, August 5th, the heat that you felt wasn’t the dog days of summer; it was the fiery breath of an economic hell storm that is the clear progeny of the right wing of the right wing.

In the past that I have written that the G.O.Tea Party is so offended by the idea of the President of the United States being Barack Hussein Obama that it would seek to destroy American rather than see him lead it. I thought I was engaging in rhetorical hyperbole of the type that the right wing of the right wing has mastered. But I was wrong.

When irrational actions take place it becomes necessary to determine the irrational basis for those acts. John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Michelle Bachmann have to be held accountable for their actions. By engaging in an adolescent game of “chicken” with the greatest economy in history the right wing of the right wing and its supporters and enablers have wreaked havoc on the people of this country and on the global economy.

They have to know what they are doing.

The G.O.Tea Party blaming Barack Obama for this country’s latest financial woes is like the arsonist blaming the fire department because the building that he set on fire burned down. That would be the same arsonist who also stole the fire hoses and let the air out of the tires of the fire trucks.

They have to know what they are doing.

The financial debacle is not just a matter for historical reporting or historical analysis. Real men and women are losing their jobs because of this plummeting spiral into which America’s economy has fallen. In the days and weeks to come homes will not be purchased, companies will not open or expand. In the weeks and months to come flickering hopes will be extinguished by the icy breath of a recession that will not go away because it is welcomed by the G.O.Tea Party.

They have to know what they are doing.

In effect the right wing of the right wing is engaging in the “honor killing” of the United States. Rather than see this country under the leadership of a black American named President Obama they would kill it – not through bombs or guns, but through slow, but thorough, economic strangulation.

As the life’s breath wheezes out of the American people their strategy is to “blame Obama” even as they tighten the noose with every nihilistic tactic, with every statement of nullification. The only thing that matters to them is to build a pyre high enough and flammable enough to consume the Obama Presidency – using the American economy as fuel and the American people as kindling.

They have to know what they are doing.

For too long the Democratic Party, progressives and those of us interested in our own survival and that of our children have allowed the right wing of the right wing to dominate the center stage of public discourse, in the process setting the agenda – no government revenue increases, no public spending to stimulate the economy, no increase in the size of government (even for food inspection, airline safety and education) – no, no, no.

The miasma of negativity has traversed every part of this country. The right wing of the right wing is, in this country, entitled to its point of view. It is not entitled to dominate.

Remember – They have to know what they are doing.