Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 30, 2011

The year moves on inexorably and Herman Cain (“Herb Cain” on the Planet Palin) has boldly declared that black Americans are “brainwashed” and should consider joining the Republican Tea Party. One has to wonder, what is in that tea he’s drinking? Meanwhile, one G.O.Tea Party candidate after another makes the pilgrimage to New York to meet with Donald Trump – what’s up with that? Didn’t he leave the national stage accompanied by hoots and catcalls several months ago? And somewhere in the news there’s a continuing story of over a dozen Americans dying of the food borne illness Listeria with no end in sight. Yet it is the G.O.Tea Party that has proposed cutting the budget of the Food and Drug Administration. Bon appétit!

Herman Cain’s Dirty Laundry

You have to hand it to the G.O.Tea Party when it comes to comedy. I don’t know which was funnier this week, Sarah Palin referring to “Herb Cain” as the flavor of the week or Herman Cain claiming that black Americans are brainwashed into not considering the Republican Party.

I must confess that I was not aware that Mr. Cain, in addition to parlaying an ongoing ethnic slur into a corporate pizza empire had a flair for comedy. Or perhaps he is suffering from brain shrinkage after going through the right wing of the right wing washing machine.

Of course there is nothing funny about the confederate flags and racially offensive posters that flourished during the early days of the Tea Party (please keep in mind that the “early days” were last year). The fact that some of the leadership of the Tea Party is sufficiently media savvy to dissuade their followers from such overtly racist expressions has not persuaded most black Americans that the hearts of the Tea Partiers have changed.

Aside from many black Americans being a bit touchy when it comes to overwhelmingly white crowds carrying nooses, confederate flags and pictures of the black President of the United States photo shopped with a bone through his nose, the hallmark of the G.O.Tea Party is to reduce the role of government in the lives of Americans.
Clearly one of the prerequisites for Tea Party membership is amnesia as there are very few Americans alive who have not benefited from the role of government in their lives – fathers and grandfathers who went to college via the G.I. Bill is just one example – and are willing to believe that the economy, infrastructure and institutions of this country the result of plain, old hard work.

Black Americans by and large have not indulged in this amnesiac fantasy. The federal government has established and safeguarded rights and opportunities that would simply not exist if it were left up the states and individual communities.
The benefits from government are not limited to welfare and food stamps – federal housing programs have transformed urban areas, federal support for historically black colleges and universities has changes the lives of hundreds of thousands of men and women and the list goes on.

Herman Cain must be kidding if he thinks that the aversion of black voters to the Tea Party is based on “brainwashing”. It is based on seeing the G.O.Tea Party for what it is. Perhaps it is Herman Cain who has come through the wash cycle.

The Trump Pilgrimage

Incredibly, one Republican presidential candidate after another flies to New York City in order to have an audience with………..Donald Trump? One day it’s Rodeo Rick Perry, then Sarah “Mama Grizzly” Palin and Herman (or is it Herb?) Cain is due early next week.

Would they be asking Mr. Trump about his solutions for the economy? His multiple business bankruptcies don’t seem to be useful strategies for the federal government. Certainly his ability to degrade the public discourse through his hurling “birther” mud at President Obama doesn’t seem like much of a reason to warrant these pilgrimages.

If these G.O.Tea Party candidates believe that being seen with a living, breathing punch line boosts their electoral prospects, they are making a very clear statement about their judgment. They have bypassed sublime and gone straight to ridiculous.

Tea and Listeria?

Sadly, during the past week over a dozen Americans have died from listeria, a food-borne illness. This time the culprit seems to be cantaloupes, but despite the best efforts of the Food and Drug Administration, thousands of Americans die from the food that they consume.

Amazingly, the G.O.Tea Party members of Congress have proposed to reduce the funding for the Food and Drug Administration. In the universe of the right wing of the right wing, the FDA represents the kind of government interference in the private sector that should be reduced, until it can be eliminated.

Over 105 years ago Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle”, detailing abuses in the food industry. Those details so horrified the nation that the regulation of food began on a national scale, culminating in the FDA, along with local and state initiatives.

Perhaps “The Jungle” should be required reading for the G.O.Tea Party.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Time to Take Off the Gloves

We know the movie genre. The good natured hero endures endless taunts and jibes from the loons and goons at the bar. He remains impassive, even oblivious as the insults rain down. The more intrepid tormentors may toss an ashtray or splash a drink in his face….and then it happens……….the hero has had enough and he takes on all comers, beating into submission those who don’t beat a hasty retreat.

During the past two and a half years Barack Obama has been the object of a constant deluge of scorn, disrespect and outrageous rhetoric. He has been labeled a communist, a socialist, a fascist and the anti-Christ. There have been outrageous (and potentially dangerous) allusions to “the blood of tyrants (guess who?) watering the tree of liberty” and even his citizenship has been questioned.

Through it all President Obama has maintained his seemingly eternal cool. He did deliver a pretty humorous backhand to Donald Trump, but even attacks on his wife and his two daughters have barely gotten a rise out of him. But something must have clicked during the past few weeks because he is now on the offensive.

While touring the country President Obama derided Rodeo Rick Perry as the governor of a state that is “on fire while he refuses to believe in global warming”. Ouch!

He appeared at the annual Congressional Black Caucus dinner and exhorted the crowd to “stop whining” and to “put on their marching shoes”. One can imagine Travis Smiley and Cornel West wincing as President Obama assumed the mantle of leadership that has not always been so evident.

He has asked crowds to look at the current roster of Republican presidential candidates. And he commiserated with Republicans who have such an array of poor choices. He also took time to criticize the debate crowds who cheered the prospect of uninsured Americans dying and who booed a gay American soldier who was serving in Iraq.

On that last item, it should be noted that on three separate occasions the nine Republican presidential candidates have had an opportunity to demonstrate compassion, intelligence and an adult mentality. At recent debates the crowd cheered when Rodeo Rick Perry bragged about having presided over 243 (now 244) executions in the state of Texas. Where was the Republican who might caution against celebrating the death of another human being? Not one of the Noble Nine uttered a word.

On another occasion Congressman Ron Paul was asked whether he believed that an uninsured American should be allowed to die in the emergency room. Before he could answer G.O.Tea Party zealots loudly cheered the notion. Neither Congressman Paul nor any of the other candidates would say a word about compassion and the need for a civilized society to find a way to take care of men, women and children in distress.

And last week, a U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq asked a question regarding gays in the military via video conference during another G.O.Tea Party crazyfest. He was roundly booed by the audience and not a single member of the Noble Nine – all of whom proclaim to be patriotic Americans – would take the audience to task for dishonoring a man who was risking his life in the belief that he was protecting the rights and liberties of the braying mob. No profiles in courage in that bunch.

And so it seems that President Obama is not going to play rope-a-dope anymore. It might seem presidential to be above the fray, but the fray is too loud and too much a part of the daily national and international discourse. When the Noble Nine continue to repeat untruths it is important for supporters of the president to speak up. But it is also well past the time for the president himself to speak up.

It is clear that the entire timetable for presidential politics has changed. No sitting president can employ a Rose Garden strategy, staying in the White House and making a few speeches in the months just before the election. The Republicans have been running against Barack Obama since January 21, 2009 – the goal has been to make him a one-term president regardless of anything he might have achieved.

This mindless negativity has impaired the federal government and the United States at every turn. The debt ceiling debacle is just one example, the recent near disaster regarding the funding of the Federal Emergency Management Administration is yet another. The G.O.Tea Party has adopted a destructive strategy that includes blaming all consequent suffering on Barack Obama.

It has been time to take the gloves off for a long time. Now that Barack Obama has done so, things should get interesting.

Be My Guest

Be My Guest Column by Dr. William Pollard

Reflections on 9/11

A quiet, bright, sunny, September morning.

People were going about their routine business. The warm sun’s glow seemed to comfort all.

Suddenly in a horrifying instant the peace was shattered — a loud explosion, screams, flames spewing out of windows, smoke clouding the streets obscuring vision amidst the panic and chaos.

Sirens screeched as police and firefighters rushed to the scene while people frantically searched for loved ones in the mass of confusion.

In that terrible moment more than brick and mortar, more than glass — even more than lives were shattered. Peace and hope and freedom from fear were also torn apart that September morning.

The Date: September 15, 1963
The Place: 16th Street Baptist Church; Birmingham, Alabama
The Dead: 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins; 14-year-old Cynthia Wesley;
14-year-old Carole Robertson and 11-year-old Denise McNair
The Injured: Some 20 others, 10-year-old Sarah Collins who lost her right eye

This act of terrorism was by no means the first on American soil and far from the first in Birmingham, where there had been three other bombings in 11 days following a federal court order that had mandated the integration of Alabama’s school system. In the previous 18 years there had been at least 50 bombings there. It should come as no surprise that the town was nicknamed “Bombingham.”

Subsequent violence in the city led to the killing of two Black boys, one by police bullets, prompting the National Guard to be summoned in to restore order.

This came just thee months after the assassination of Medgar Evers, for whom the college is named. Evers was a civil rights activist and an NAACP Field Secretary.

As we mourn the losses of those who died on September 11, 2001, and honor those who were involved in heroic acts on that day, we should not lose sight of the fact that acts of terrorism in America did not begin on either of those September days.

The moral outrage over the vicious murder of four little girls who were sitting in Sunday school, led to outrage around the country. It helped provide a momentum of support behind the struggle for equal rights and end to segregation. Within two years there came passage of the Civil Rights act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Bill of 1965.

What then has been the legacy of September 11, 2001? What can we point to that has spawned some lasting good?

Many may express despair with reports of acts of harassment and violence against Middle Eastern and Muslim people here in the United States. Or the feelings and attitudes of apprehension and suspicion that many harbor since the September 11 attacks. Those unfortunate facts cannot be denied.

Then came the 10th anniversary commemoration. I was stuck by the images of the powerful and tasteful memorial at the World Trade Center site, as well as the progress made on the new towers being built. It occurred to me that we are all in a rebuilding process.

It is a rebuilding of the spirit of America and of freedom that cannot be destroyed by bullets or bombs. It is a freedom that the people in Birmingham and places throughout the south sacrificed so much for. They managed to build more than the buildings – they rebuilt their faith and dedication to freedom.

And that is what I see happening here in New York City.

When you look closely — when I walk the halls of Medgar Evers College and the streets of its Crown Heights community, I see something happening. I see a glass that is more than half full with students and faculty, and staff and folks on the block, learning, working, playing and living together. People who are trying to manage, people trying to succeed and excel.

The rebuilding is usually not a dramatic process, but it is evident in those most simple, routine, things.

After all isn’t that what freedom is — being able to go about your routine in peace? Shopping, working, playing, socializing, traveling – even going to Sunday school on a bright September morning?

And although there is still much rebuilding to do, when I look at Medgar Evers College’s diverse community I know that we are all sharing in the rebuilding Medgar’s dream and that of many others out of the some dark days of our past.

Dr. William Pollard is president of Medgar Evers College – http://www.mec.cuny.edu

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 23, 2011

As the week meanders to an end this country continues its love affair with death – another week, another two state-sponsored executions. But the fact that only one execution was the subject of protest tells a lot about this country’s ambivalence when it comes to killing people. Meanwhile, Rodeo Rick Perry has been bamboozled and hogtied by the right wing of the right wing of Israel and they have him spreading the gasoline of incendiary rhetoric in the most flammable region of the world – Yee Haw! It is also clear that now is the time for Ralph Nader to stop before he does more harm to this country than he did in 2000.

In Love with Death

This past Wednesday morning there was a wave of national protest aimed at stopping the execution of Troy Davis in the state of Georgia. Much of this protest against Mr. Davis being legally put to death has been based on claims that he is actually innocent of the murder with which he has been charged.

Meanwhile the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer in the state of Texas was accompanied by the sounds of silence. Mr. Brewer, who is white, was convicted of the particularly gruesome murder of James Byrd, a black man. Mr. Brewer was convicted to wrapping a chain around Mr. Byrd and dragging him to death from the back of a pickup truck.

There are 137 countries on this planet that have outlawed capital punishment. Australia banned the practice in 1984, Bulgaria in 1998 and Russia (as a matter of practice if not law) in 1999. None of these countries are thought of as being particularly soft on crime.

Nevertheless, this country continues its dance of death, joined by its dance partners – China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In 2007 88% of all state sponsored executions in the world took place in three countries plus the United States of America. It is certainly a dubious accomplishment.

It is more than odd that, in a country where the sanctity of life is regularly proclaimed and defended (witness the ongoing choice-right to life debate); those who announce themselves to be “pro-life” are decidedly “pro-death” when it comes to capital punishment. Witness Texas governor “Rodeo” Rick Perry who will proudly let anyone know that 243 human beings have been put to death while he has been in office (that comes to a state sponsored killing every other week for ten years) – and he hasn’t lost a minute’s sleep about it.

It seems that the occasional protest against the execution of someone who may be innocent misses the point. Capital punishment is a state-sponsored crime. Whether it is the possibly innocent Troy Davis or the admittedly guilty Lawrence Brewer, it is wrong for the government to put people to death. People who only rally around the “innocent man” actually do a disservice to the cause of abolishing capital punishment and they should make up their mind – either the death penalty should be a part of this society, or not.

Perhaps it is just finally time for the United States to drag itself away from this medieval relic. And the occasional protestors would have a much stronger argument, and much broader support, if they opposed all state sponsored murders, instead of just a select few.

Rodeo Rick is Loco!

The misadventures of Rodeo Rick Perry in his quest for the presidency would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. His latest gaffe was to allow his campaign to be hijacked by the right wing of the right wing of Israel.

While it was clear that he knew next to nothing about the Arab-Israeli conflict except that Israel is always right, that didn’t stop him from opposing any accommodation or recognition of the Palestine Authority. He made sure to also say, “Who cares what the Palestinians think?”

One shudders to think what Palestinians and their supporters will think about the United States with Rick Perry as its president. We should also worry about what they will do. There’s a line from a Janis Joplin song, “…….freedom is another word for nothing left to lose…..”

It is Time for Nader to Stop

Ralph Nader was rightfully called a hero when he almost singlehandedly took on General Motors and exposed the company’s treacherous safety practices in his historic book “Unsafe At Any Speed”. Mr. Nader was rightfully called a villain, and worse, for his vainglorious presidential candidacy in 2000 which siphoned just enough votes from Al Gore, giving the Republican Party just enough leverage to be able to steal the election for George W. Bush. And we all know how that turned out.

Now, Ralph Nader is calling for a series of primaries against President Obama in 2012. These primaries can only weaken the candidacy of President Obama and could very likely result in the inauguration of President Perry or President Bachmann or…………. On that very sad day in January of 2013 Mr. Nader might be satisfied that he proved his point – but the rest of us will suffer from his self-indulgence.

It is time for Nader to stop…………..now.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

No One Said It Was Going To Be Easy

Barack Obama began his presidency seemingly riding on a tidal wave of hope for change. One could almost perceive an aura of infinite possibility accompanying him. After he took the oath of office, President Obama was greeted with a virtually unprecedented barrage of obstruction, his every step mined with ardent wishes for his failure – the country be damned. The kamikaze role of the right wing of the right wing will be recorded by history as one of the lowest moments of the Republic.

As soon as Barack Obama became president Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proclaimed that the goal of the Republican Party was to make sure that President Obama only served for one term. Rush Limbaugh, fresh from eluding criminal drug charges, infamously brayed that he wanted Barack Obama “to fail”. This was being said as the economy of the United States wavered on the brink of catastrophe – yet the “failure” of Barack Obama was more important than the future of this country.

These and other incendiary remarks lit wildfires of looniness and lunacy across the country, culminating in a Koch Brothers-bankrolled pseudo grass roots movement known as the Tea Party, and better known as the G.O.Tea Party. The grand strategy of the G.O.Tea Party has been to hobble, cripple and hamstring the Obama presidency, even at the expense of further pain and misery being suffered by the American people.

It is within this context that I read the reviews of “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and The Education of A President” by Ron Suskind. Mr. Suskind, who is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, has studiously researched the inner workings of the Obama White House, especially when the tsunami that hit Wall Street was at its peak. And Mr. Suskind does not paint a pretty picture.

“Confidence Men” makes the case that the economic team that was assembled by President Obama was not the right team and that, in any event, was dysfunctional. We learn that, as Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner essentially ignored a directive from President Obama to assess the advisability of reorganizing Citibank because he didn’t think it was a good idea. Larry Summers, then Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors denigrates President Obama’s skills and acumen, comparing him unfavorably to Bill Clinton.

More telling is that, faced with the most dangerous economic crisis in the history of the United States, there was no overarching philosophical goal. The strategies employed were reactions to the events of the time, but the philosophical goal seems to have been missing.

This is an interesting observation because there has been much greater clarity from this administration when it comes to health care and foreign policy, for example. There was a goal to establish a healthcare infrastructure that would cover all Americans and the recently passed legislation is certainly moving the country in that direction, perhaps inexorably.

In the area of foreign affairs, the Obama Administration has clearly embraced the goal of establish a more collaborative and less combative foreign policy. Thankfully this country has moved away from unilateral days of Bush-Cheney to a multi-lateral process that preserves American security as well as restoring this country’s battered image abroad.

I think that is why “Confidence Men” is all the more troubling because it is not only the Obama Administration that didn’t have a philosophical goal at a crucial time, the Democratic Party and the progressive community seemed to come up short. The Republican, and now G.O.Tea Party goals, simplistic as they may be, are clear and can be summed up as the 3 M’s – Minimum taxation, Minimal regulation, Maximum profit. It may be that the progressive stance is too nuanced for the hand-to-hand combat that characterizes these days and times.

My final thoughts on “Confidence Men” are that I keep waiting to learn about the absolute Obama loyalists in the rooms where the decision makers decide. Where are the men and women who have his back? Where is his right hand man/woman who demands loyalty and support of the president?

I am once more reminded of the old saying – sometimes it seems like Barack Obama is in a chair fight and everyone has a chair but him. If he ran his campaign the way he has been running his presidency this column would be about President John McCain and Vice President Sarah Palin.

The Obama campaign was historic. The Obama campaign was also coldly efficient, calculating and focused – at all times. It is time to unsheathe those weapons again – and not a moment too soon.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 16, 2011

This week it was hard to watch the Tea Party “debate” (and when did the Tea Party get on a par with the Republican and Democratic parties anyway?) and not experience amusement and dismay – cheers for executions and the death of the uninsured, a debate on HPV immunizations that morphed into a discussion of Rodeo Rick Perry’s price tag. What a show! Speaking of HPV immunizations, it seemed that Michele Bachmann decided to add medical opinions to her bizarre repertoire and then she remembered —that’s right, she’ not a doctor! And then James Carville channeled his inner Prince and encouraged the Obama Administration to dance to “Let’s Get Crazy”.

The Tea Party Asylum

In watching the nationally televised Tea Party “debate” it was hard to decide the worst of many evils. In a craven quest for ratings, CNN decided to broadcast a Tea Party “debate”, automatically putting it on a par with the Republican and Democratic parties. This, despite the fact that the so-called Tea Party caucus in Congress numbers less than thirty – and all of them were elected on the Republican Party ticket!

CNN decided to reward the loony, gun-toting, racist-sign carrying, myth-mongering right wing of the right wing with its very own national television show. And that is how fanatics get empowered and gain an impossibly bloated image of themselves.
And what about the “debate” itself? It was hard not to be appalled by Rodeo Rick Perry bragging that 234 human beings had been executed in the state of Texas while he has served as governor. Doing the math, that comes to government-sponsored killing of a human being every other week. And the crowd cheered.

Ridiculous Ron Paul was asked what role government should have if an uninsured person was seriously injured. This elected official of the federal government blithely stated that freedom entailed risk. When asked if the government should let this hypothetical person die, members of the crowd brayed “Yeah” – Congressman Paul didn’t distance himself from that remark.

And who can forget that Madcap Michele Bachmann implying that Rodeo Rick Perry ordered mandatory HPV immunizations in exchange for a $5000 campaign contribution from a pharmaceutical company. Proclaiming his commitment to the sanctity of life (strange words from a man who boasts of executing hundreds of human beings), Governor Perry pronounced himself “offended” that Congresswoman Bachmann would think that he could be influenced by $5000. Presumably he was “offended” by the low price.

Paging Dr. Bachmann?

Not content with slamming Rick Perry for trying to protect young girls from cervical cancer, after the Tea Party “debate” Michelle Bachmann announced that the HPV immunizations posed serious “side effects”, quoting a miscellaneous and anonymous “mother” who told her that her daughter suffered from “mental retardation” after receiving an HPV vaccination.

When faced with a firestorm of outrage from the scientific community for promoting an absolute fallacy (there is absolutely no record of any incidents of mental retardation – or anything similar – as a result of HPV vaccinations), Madcap Michelle retreated just a teeny tiny bit by stating “I’m not a doctor”.
Clearly she isn’t a doctor. Just as clearly she has only a distant relationship with the truth and an even more tenuous connection with reality.

Fire, Indict and Fight!

This week, that Ragin’ Cajun James Carville published some advice for President Obama that can be summarized as “Fire, Indict and Fight” – http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/14/opinion/carville-white-house-advice/ – he basically thinks that the President should fire his economic staff, direct Attorney General Holder to start indicting the Wall Street satraps who have direct responsibility for the financial meltdown that precipitated the current economic crisis.

And finally, he urges President Obama to take on the right wing of the right wing and the G.O.Tea Party and fight.

As Prince has said, “……….let’s get crazy, let’s get nuts.” Given President Obama’s plummeting poll numbers and the fact that 2012 is right around the corner, perhaps he should listen to Mr. Carville.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

The Road to Nowhere

It is very clear that just when you think the political scene cannot get any crazier, it does. The Teavangelical wing of the Republican Party has not only hijacked the party, it has dominated political discourse with a philosophy based on mini-facts and micro-knowledge. It is a scenario that could be the result of collaboration between Mel Brooks and Franz Kafka.

Consider the latest misadventures that are dumped in front of us on a daily basis. Just a few weeks ago Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was the belle of the ball. After winning the absolutely meaningless Iowa straw poll some of her supporters were measuring the White House windows for red, white and blue Tea Party drapes.

And there she was, on the cover of Newsweek, national talk shows – all the time proving that when you don’t know what you are talking about it is better to be quiet. Ms. Bachmann proclaimed that the credit rating of the United States would not be damaged by a budget debate-fueled default. And then the U.S. credit rating was downgraded just for coming close to default.

Her proclaiming the national gay community as being in league with Satan was somehow considerable a passable point of view for a national political candidate. And she never backed away from that position. And, of course, she continued to announce that God had instructed her to run for president which, in the many empty rooms in her mind, should have settled the entire matter and made the actual campaign and election a mere formality.

And then, Rodeo Rick Perry jumped into the race with his spurs jangling and his six guns shooting. This would be the same Rick Perry who publicly entertained the advisability of his state seceding from the United States.

The current governor of Texas crowed that while he has been in office his state has led the nation in the creation of jobs. However, Rodeo Rick has neglected to mention that Texas also leads the nation in minimum wage jobs and if the Texas model were to somehow be applied nationally, it could only work if oil is discovered in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona and most of us could find a way to work for less than $10 per hour.

Not content with shadow dancing with the truth regarding his so-called job creation skills, Rodeo Rick has also proudly proclaimed that he doesn’t believe in evolution or global warming and the United States Departments of Education and Energy should be dismantled. And, by the way, Social Security should also be dismantled and handled at the state level.

The breadth of his bizarro approach to the issues and challenges that this country faces would be laughable except that he is serious and he is also now the leading candidate for the G.O.Tea Party nomination. He has somehow managed to outcrazy Michele Bachmann – no mean feat – and the zealots of the right wing of the right wing are following their man like lemmings headed for the cliff.

I am just fine with Rodeo Rick not believing in evolution even though there is over a century’s worth of science that he is choosing to ignore. But it is criminal for believers in intelligent design to have their faith-based beliefs taught as science. Indeed, it is as criminal as advocating the dismantling of the Department of Education at a time when educational system of this country is facing unprecedented global challenges.

Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania are all considered to be developing countries. They all have ministries of education. Japan, China and Germany are considered to be developed countries. They all have ministries of education. In what parallel universe could it make sense for the United States to abandon its efforts to establish a world class national educational infrastructure?

Rodeo Rick has mangled history in order to compare global warming naysayers to Galileo. He would do better to liken these pseudoscientific scientists to Jim Jones serving Kool-Aid to those who would believe.

And what must the rest of the world think? The leading G.O.Tea Party candidate does not believe in evolution or global warming, thinks that the Social Security system is a “Ponzi scheme” and has warned the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank against “treasonous” acts.

Imagining Rodeo Rick Perry on the national stage might be the stuff of late night humor, but we ignore or laugh at zealots at our own peril. Imagining Rick Perry bringing his faux Wild West demeanor to the global stage is the stuff of nightmares – and we would be wise to wake up before this nightmare comes true.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 9, 2011

Everyone over the age of 40 remembers where they were on November 22, 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Everyone over the age of 15 remembers where they were on September 11, 2001 when the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists. Today’s Weekend Edition of Point of View provides a retrospective as to the meaning of that terrible day.

Where America Was. Where is America Now?

On the evening of September 10, 2001 Michael Jackson performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City, providing the 18,000 people in attendance with a brief and shining demonstration of true genius. At least one young woman attended that concert and partied afterwards. As a result she was too tired (and hung over) to go to work the next day.

She worked in an office near the top of one of the Twin Towers. Going to see Michael Jackson saved her life.

A young man had a job interview with a firm in an office near the top of one of the Twin Towers. His appointment was for 9 a.m. He wanted to make a good impression so he got to his appoint about 15 minutes early. He was killed trying to make a good impression on his prospective employer.

The stories of 9/11 are full of pain, grief, sorrow, anger and the realization of the random nature of life on this planet. The smallest change in routine could have resulted in life or death that day – as is the case every other day of our lives.

But it was the random nature of the unknown rage from an unknown land that troubled and tortured Americans in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It was beyond belief that there were people in this world who hated the greatest country in the world so much. It was beyond belief that we were so vulnerable.

And after the cries of pain had been silenced and the tears of grief and sorrow had dried anger took center stage. We had been attacked by enemies. The enemies must be slain.

But these enemies wore no uniform, had no nationality and carried no flag. Al Qaeda doesn’t even have a motto. We learned that Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, sheltered by the Taliban – so there was a target for the cold steel of anger that had been forged in the fires of 9/11. Except……

Except that, in going after bin Laden it became to kill many thousands of Afghan men, women and children. Some were enemies of this country. Many more fell into the awfully banal category of “collateral damage”. And then…..

The government of the United States decided that this was an opportune time to ramp up the Big Lie. A key plotter in the 9/11 tragedy was Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi despot. It wasn’t enough to pursue bin Laden, the downfall of Hussein was critical to the safety of the United States and was important in avenging 9/11.

And so 9/11 and the so-called War on Terror became the password that unlocked all of the horrors of war. “Collateral damage” claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and so too many other places. The War on Terror excused the suspension of constitutional rights for Americans and human rights for suspects who were subjected to torture in black holes around the world through a process called rendition.

In times of tragedy friends, families and communities come together. Differences were forgotten in the aftermath of 9/11 as we realized that the terrorists were didn’t care about our color, religion or national origin. We were targets and that was enough. And for a while, it seemed that silver lining on the cloud of 9/11 would be a different sense of a national community.

But the anger morphed into war and the war morphed into horror. And then there was revulsion and shame. And those who were expressed revulsion at water boarding and torture and rendition and mindless war found their patriotism questioned by those who felt shame in their heart of hearts.

For the first time since the American Revolution the United States pursued war(s) without raising funds for the war through taxes. Combined with the Bush tax cuts, the wars drained the national treasury and turned a multi-billion dollar surplus into a multi-trillion dollar deficit.

The wars created a schism in this country as it became clear that both wars were pathways into a bloody morass with no way out – the fact that the war in Iraq was based on pure fabrication made matters worse. The schism resulted in Americans questioning the patriotism of other Americans and this schism set the stage for the Tea Party radicalization of American politics who now want to “take America back”.

We know now that the goal of Osama bin Laden was not to simply destroy the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. His real goal was to destabilize the United States.

It remains to be seen if that goal will be achieved. We still have the ability to prevent that goal from being achieved – but it will require will as well as power.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Pirates on the Potomac

The 9/11 terrorist attacks will be recalled this weekend, along with the death and pain and sacrifice that will forever be associated with that day. It is, therefore, more than a little ironic that after a decade of battling against terror we find the terrorists are safely encamped on Capitol Hill.

Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda cohorts had declared war on the United States long before the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The 9/11 attacks were their most spectacular achievement, but the attacks were only part of a larger plan – to humble, cripple and ultimately destroy the United States. Their tools of destruction were exceedingly crude given their lofty goals – some hijacked planes, smuggled bombs and random assassinations.

In their most hate-infused dreams bin Laden and Al Qaeda could never have dreamed of wreaking the havoc that is now the calling card of the G.O.Tea Party. In early August Osama bin Laden must have been chortling from his watery grave at the bottom of the Indian Ocean as he watched the likes of Cantor, Bachmann, Palin, Paul and Boehner threaten to collapse the entire economy of the United States during the budget ceiling battle – endangering the global economy in the bargain.

Terrorists are known for taking hostages because they assume that their adversaries actually care for the hostages while they do not. The result of this lopsided equation is that terrorists refuse to negotiate while their adversaries work for a solution, all the time whittling away at their own position. Sound familiar?

During the entire debt ceiling “debate”, the G.O.Tea Party zealots refused to negotiate any aspect of their no-new-taxes mantra, arguing that the only budget balancing strategy that they would accept entailed cutting budgetary allocations that support the rapidly fraying social safety net in this country.

Although the debt ceiling has been raised 87 times since World War II, the Teapublicans used this fairly ordinary budget device as a dagger to be held to throat to the United States, threatening to sever the financial arteries that allow this economy to function.

That the ensuing damage to the American economy would be “on Obama’s watch” was all the justification that they needed for such irresponsible conduct. And President Obama, the reasonable adversary, did indeed negotiate with the terrorists that wore suits and ties and pearl necklaces, because he clearly cares for this country more than the G.O.Tea Party will ever do, their sanctimonious and self-serving pronouncements notwithstanding.

Having paraded a menagerie of madness before the world stage, it is no wonder that Standard & Poor’s lowered the credit rating of the United States for the first time in over 80 years. And it is no surprise that, having run through the financial china shop and created pure havoc, the G.O.Tea Party then trumpets the credit rating debacle as the fault of Obama for failing to show leadership. As noted before, the Teapublican story line is like that of the arsonist who blames the fire on the fireman.

Not satisfied with the heartless savaging of the economy and the brutalizing of the American budget, the G.O.Tea Party found new hostages at the end of the month of August. As a result of Hurricane Irene millions of Americans on the East Coast of the United States were seriously affected by storms, wind and floodwaters. Having worked in a community after a devastating flood I can attest to the misery, frustration and helplessness of the victims.

And these victims were perfect hostages for Congressman Eric Cantor who, sinking to a new low even for the G.O.Tea Party, announced that additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) would only be approved by the House of Representatives if further budget cuts were instituted immediately.

Clearly Representative Cantor and his cohorts see misery as an opportunity and pain as a platform for their godforsaken agenda.

It is very clear that the spirit of heartlessness and selfishness which inspires the leadership of one of this country’s major parties is akin to the spirit of the pirates of another era and the terrorists of this era. Of course the pirates of long ago made no pretense of their mission – to get as much treasure as possible by being willing to kill or destroy anyone or anything that might be in their way.

Modern terrorists claim to be motivated by an ideal which can justify the most hideous of acts carried out in its name. The G.O.Tea Party terrorists lay claim to the high moral ground of reducing a governmental system that has produced a higher quality of life greater than that of any nation in the history of the planet. These same terrorists also have targeted the hope that sustains Americans who have not achieved that quality of life as yet.

As zealots, the Teapublicans have no hesitation or shame in targeting the weak, the sick, the poor, and the elderly — the defenseless in this society. In their immoral construct, the victims of a hurricane are perfect hostages to advance their goals. In their ultimate vision government will not take care of those who cannot take care of themselves and will not help those who want to help themselves.

These G.O.Terrorists are building a monument to pain and heartlessness, unless they are stopped.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 2, 2011

Congressman Andre Carson raised eyebrows by raising the curtain on the Tea Party and pointing out the clear and present racist tinge to this Astroturf movement. After all, if it walks like a duck……. While millions of Americans recover from the fear and pain and frustration of an earthquake and a hurricane, Saint Michele Bachman proclaims these calamities an act of God and then says she was just joking. And all the while Magical Mitt Romney busily oversees the $12 million expansion of his West Coast home while making sure to let the rest of us know that we will have to endure financial pain and sacrifice.

If It Walks Like a Duck………

I must applaud Representative Andre Carson for having the audacity to finally say publicly what many black Americans have felt for a long time – there is an undeniable racist odor about the Tea Party. Speaking about the G.O.Tea Party Representative Carson said, “some of them would love to see us as second-class citizens” and “some of them in Congress right now of this tea party movement would love to see you and me … hanging on a tree.”

Predictably, the Teapublicans and their fake grass roots, Koch-sponsored “movement” yelped like scalded cats. Yet I wonder if you could find even a respectable minority of Tea Party zealots who believe that it is offensive to fly the Confederate flag at public events. Ask the current G.O.Tea Party presidential herd of candidates if they believe that there was anything oddly offensive about the two year questioning of the citizenship of President Obama.

What about the gross caricatures of the president that resembled the images from posters advertising minstrel shows? And what about the Tea Party battle cry of “Taking America Back……..”….from whom?”

And speaking of taking America back, there is a strain of nostalgia in the Tea Party rhetoric that romanticizes a simpler, better time in America. The problem is that in that simpler, better time, America’s so-called Greatest Generation did indeed hang black Americans from trees, relegated black Americans to the back of the bus, the back of the movie theater and to the back of the country. In that simpler, better time the pain and tragedy of American racism was a daily part of life for millions of black men, women and children.

There is certainly a bizarro political philosophy that is a part of the Tea Party strategy – a kind of states’ rights, libertarian, but leave my benefits alone – approach to government. But there is also a slimy, sleazy racist aspect which empowers the unprecedented insults and disrespect directed at this president. And it is this mindless hate for Barack Obama that propelled this country perilously close to a credit default that would have wrecked the global economy.

To Representative Carson goes the Point of View Honest Man of the Week Award. The Point of View Honest Woman of the Week Award goes to Congresswoman Maxine Waters who said, “The Tea Party can just go to hell!”

Just Joking?

Michele Bachmann has told anyone who listens, or doesn’t listen, that she makes all major decisions in her life based upon what God tells her to do. That is how she chose law school and her husband and it was God who told her to run for president.

So it was with some interest that we heard her exclaim that the recent earthquake and hurricane that affected the lives of approximately sixty million Americans was an “act of God”, retribution for the budget and debt policies of the federal government. I was immediately reminded of Pat Robertson’s proclamation that Hurricane Katrina and the devastation visited upon New Orleans and the Gulf states was God’s punishment for national abortion policies.

Clearly God chooses zealots as His messengers, and Michele Bachmann is no exception. Except…..there is a certain callous heartlessness in proclaiming that the death of 43 men, women and children and the destruction of over $12 billion of homes and businesses is God’s work – where is her expression of Christian charity in the face of God’s disaster?

And then St. Michele said that she was just “joking”. So we are led to the conclusion that, in the G.O.Tea Party bizarro world, the death of innocents and the devastation of communities is suitable material for humor. What a funny gal!

Mitt the Builder

While hurricanes blow, earthquakes tremble and forest fires burn Magical Mitt Romney has been busily expanding his West Coast home to the tune of $12 million. As a mega multimillionaire, Mr. Romney certainly has the resources to build a dozen such homes all over America.

Perhaps this is part of his personal stimulus strategy – getting millionaires and billionaires, whose fortunes are safeguarded by the no-tax G.O.Tea Party, to build summer homes, condominium towers, super cottages and McMansions all over the country.

Presumably this will offset the pain of the fiscal austerity that Mitt Romney preaches, pain that will never get past the gates of his mansions and those of his fellow millionaires and billionaires.

Happy Labor Day and have a great weekend!