Point of View Columns

In the Presence of Genius

In the daily tsunami of news about Colombia hookers and Mitt Romney’s dog the announcement of the appointment of Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim as president of the World Bank seems to have gotten lost. And that is really too bad. By nominating Dr. Kim President Obama has once more demonstrated that he really is about transformational change. Supporters of Barack Obama who complain of frustration and disappointment should take a closer look at Dr. Kim and the World Bank.

We know that the World Bank, which has been in existence for over sixty years, is a global institution with 187 members that has as its mission sustainable growth and development throughout the world. Currently, the World Bank engages in the financing of over $60 billion projects and initiatives every year. There has been nothing like the World Bank in the history of the world.

And speaking of history, every president of the World Bank has been the nominee of an American president. Every president of the World Bank has also been a white male who has been an alumnus of the permanent corporate/governmental complex. The presidents of the World Bank have always been more comfortable in the corridors of power in Washington and New York than in the shacks and villages of the developing world.

And now President Obama has nominated Dr. Kim who is the very brilliant president of Dartmouth College. But if Dr. Kim had the Dartmouth presidency as the main reason for his appointment it would be understandable to view his selection as World Bank president as more of the same, no matter how brilliant he might be – indeed, many of the World Bank presidents have had a reputation for brilliance. But Dr. Kim is so much more.

Jim Yong Kim is an anthropologist and a medical doctor. He is the recipient of a MacArthur (“genius”) fellowship for his transcendent work in personally addressing the problems of the world. It was Dr. Kim who developed a cost-effective process for treating tuberculosis in the slums of South America. And it was Dr. Kim who established a successful initiative for addressing HIV/AIDS in Africa that is estimated to have saved over seven million lives.

Developing countries have complained about the process by which Dr. Kim was selected – another American chosen by the American president. Alternative candidates with significant support included Ngozi Okongo-Iweala, the Finance Minister of Nigeria and Jose Antonio Ocampo, the Finance Minister of Colombia.

These individuals are certainly outstanding and their credentials are meritorious, but at the end of the day the selection of either of these individuals would have represented the selection of another veteran of the global finance cadre that is comprised of economists and ministers of finance and development bank executives.

The optics would have changed but the narrative would have remained the same.
Dr. Kim has actually walked in the villages where people are needlessly dying of curable diseases. He has seen firsthand the impact that clean water can have on a child. He has seen men and women die because of ignoble and ignorant governmental policies and he has engineered solutions that have worked.

The developing countries that have complained about Dr. Kim’s appointment are half-right. The process for selection should not just be an American prerogative that brings to mind Theodore Roosevelt’s mission to aid his “little brown brothers”. It is certainly time for someone other than an American to run the World Bank just as its time for someone other than a European to run the International Monetary Fund.

But it is also time for someone other than another finance minister to run the World Bank. It is time for someone other than another economist to run the World Bank It is clearly the time for leadership that is directly connected to the misery and poverty that still reigns over this planet – and not by virtue of fact finding missions, conferences and power point presentations. It is time for a change in leadership at the World Bank – the mixed results of the World Bank over the past half century prove that point, and Dr. Kim represents that change.

Dr. Kim’s appointment also tells us something very important about President Obama. By this selection Barack Obama demonstrates his understanding of transformative change. It is not enough to keep doing the same thing over and over again. And it is not enough to change the optics. The World Bank is historical for many reasons – it should be historical for its future record of success.

When supporters of Barack Obama begin to sip from their cup of disappointment and frustration they should answer this question. Can anyone seriously imagine Mitt Romney selecting Dr. Kim?

The Teapublicans are right in characterizing President Obama as an agent of change. And it is the type of change that this country and this world absolutely needs.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 27, 2012

The spirals of political controversy begetting bombast and strategies that can’t possibly make any sense continue unabated. We now know how Mitt Romney’s dog must have felt as we are strapped to the roof of his rhetoric and forced to face the gale force of his pronouncements. This week he proclaimed that he will build the controversial XL oil pipeline himself……really?

Clearly it will be a while before any Secret Service agents go to Colombia again. So where will they go for fun and frolic now? And finally, the Teapublicans are supposed to be toying with the idea of Florida Senator Marco Rubio as a vice presidential candidate. Do they believe that speaking Spanish automatically makes you dumb as a stone?

Mitt the Builder

Mitt Romney has spent a good part of his business career doing a decent imitation of Ras the Destroyer (from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man), tearing down and selling more companies than he built up. But Romney is proving that if you live long enough, transformation and redemption are possible.

He has now waded into the XL oil pipeline controversy and stated that if he is elected president, he will build it himself. It is not clear if he plans to start up the Romney Pipeline Construction Company and have the federal government give it a sole source contract – a la Halliburton.

Or, in the process of shredding the reams of scientific studies that predict that such a pipeline has the very real potential for a very real environmental calamity through much of the middle of the United States, President Mitt Romney might decide that paying Americans to build the pipeline would be a great jobs program.

But wait, doesn’t that sound like an Obama stimulus plan?

In any event, the idea of Mitt the Builder is as much a fantasy as the idea of Mitt the Job Creator or Mitt the Friend of the Middle Class.

Welcome to Mitt World!

Colombian Hat Dance?

Much has been written about the Secret Service fiasco in Colombia. Last week in Point of View it was pointed out that the Colombian Hat Dance obscured the fact that President Obama and the United States seem wedded to a shriveled remnant of the Cold War in continuing to oppose Cuba’s participation in the Western Hemisphere family of nations.

Not enough has been written regarding confirmation that the Cartagena Follies were an aberrant act by a (very) large group of rogue Secret Service agents, or is this just the first time that Secret Service agents have been caught in the act – so to speak? It is very hard to believe that what took place in Colombia was the first time that a Secret Service presidential advance team took advantage of being in Bangkok, Manila, Paris, Rio de Janeiro……you get the picture.

It will take a lot more than a blanket denial by the Director of the Secret Service Sullivan to make us believe that presidential trips abroad are just another term for party time down at Secret Service headquarters.

Marco Rubio? Verdad?

Mitt Romney and his fellow travelers in the G.O.Tea Party are engaged in an old fan dance that they have dusted off for 2012. Every presumptive presidential candidate in either party has always dangled the names of prospective vice presidential nominees as a way of giving a shout out to various and varied interest groups.

Right now the flavor of the week is Florida Senator Marco Rubio. If “thinking” is the right word, the Teapublicans are thinking that having a Latino as a vice presidential candidate will allow them to make major inroads into the Latino vote that went heavily for President Obama in 2008.

They seem to believe that somehow the virulent and toxic anti-immigration (read anti-Latino) sentiments expressed by the Teapublican Party zealots will be forgotten because the Republican vice presidential candidate can say “Hola!” A similar strategy would be to get Clarence Thomas or Condoleezza Rice as the vice presidential candidate in order to make inroads into the black community.

You can already hear shouts of Nunca! Nunca! (Never! Never!) greeting the idea of a Rubio vice presidential candidacy.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Beware of the Zealots!

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has gained quite a bit of fame and notoriety by proposing a budget plan that proposes to virtually dismantle the federal government as we know it, all in the name of fiscal probity. It is not clear however, that cutting or eliminating funding for infrastructure development and repair, diminishing support for higher education and shredding the social services safety net upon which so many Americans rely illustrates adherence to basic principles of fiscal probity – or common sense for that matter.

Instead of wearing a silly tri-corner hat and carrying an effigy of President Obama hanging from a noose like some of his Tea Party supporters, Paul Ryan has put some lipstick on the right wing of the right wing pig by cloaking his draconian solutions in the garb of “sensible” budget solutions. These solutions are sensible only if you have taken leave of your senses.

There is no doubt that the current budget deficit is a matter of serious concern and warrants attention within the context of long term strategic solutions. There is also no doubt that the cause of the deficit is directly connected to a decade of unfunded wars that have depleted the federal treasury and the national economy. And there is no doubt that the current deficit is not due to the unrestrained charity of the government at the local, state and federal levels.

It is painfully clear that the root cause of the deficit is also directly related to a series of tax decreases that have not produced promised job growth and shared economic prosperity. The obvious result of these tax reductions has been the enrichment of a tiny portion of very rich Americans, in the process reducing available resources for most Americans who rely upon the range of services that government properly provides.

For over two decades the wordsmiths of the right wing of the right wing have used the term “entitlements” to refer to social services. The not so subtle implication has been the beneficiaries of these unearned and unwarranted services are in the same category as children who feel “entitled” to dessert or an IPod even if they haven’t done their homework.

Twenty years of rhetorical warfare have produced the intended result. The national debate accepts as a given that social services must be reduced in order to address the budget deficit. Somehow social security for the aged and the disabled, affordable health care for all Americans and quality public education for all Americans are “on the table” when it comes to reducing government expenditures.

No one from Congressman Ryan’s office has yet to explain how a country that is sick, uneducated and heartless can be successful. No one from the right wing of the right wing can explain how a country with crumbling bridges, decaying transit systems and urban infrastructures that date to the 17th century can be successful in the 21st century.

And all the while the concept of increasing governmental revenue through additional taxes has been “labeled” extreme. Ronald Reagan was once accused of touting “voodoo economics”. Paul Ryan is now peddling a 21st century of voodoo economics that is supposed to make us believe that by slashing social services, increasing military financing and steadfastly reducing taxes this will be a better country.

And now, Representative Ryan has played the “God” card in support of his shameful attempt to carry out Grover Norquist’s dream of “shrinking government to a size that it can be drowned in a bathtub”. Paul Ryan has actually said that his godforsaken budget plan was inspired by his Catholic faith.

Zealots of every faith tend to send up clouds of fake holiness when they need to distract their audience from the lack of logic or intelligence of their particular political agenda. There is nowhere in the Scriptures or in the Gospels where it is said that it is a good thing to not feed the hungry or clothe the poor. Nowhere in the teachings of Catholicism will Paul Ryan find a directive that the wealthy should not share their blessings with those less fortunate.

If Paul Ryan and the right wing of the right wing want to advance their horrific attack upon government services in the name of their G.O.Tea Party agenda they should continue to do so. It is profane and sacrilegious and offensive to men and women of every faith for Congressman Ryan to use the same words employed by the Crusaders when they committed atrocity after atrocity in their march to Jerusalem – “Deus lo Volt” – God Wills It!

I for one do not believe that Congressman Ryan knows the will of God, especially when it comes to the federal budget.

Remember November 6th!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 20, 2012

Contemporary commentary can sometimes be a sad litany of lurching steps that are taken in the direction of injustice, sometimes in the name of justice. In New York City, a “Stop and Frisk” procedure by the NYPD has resulted in hundreds of thousands of black and Latino young men being stopped and frisked without probable cause. The official reaction is that the declining crime rate justifies turning New York City into a police state. Meanwhile last year there were 5000 gun shows in the United States! That comes to about 13.69 gun shows per day. The NRA doesn’t think that’s enough. And finally, the Teapublicans in the United States Congress want to cut food assistance to needy Americans by redefining need instead of addressing the need. Where are the compassionate conservatives when you need them?

Stop Stop and Frisk

For several years the New York City police department has carried out a “Stop and Frisk” policy whereby individuals can be stopped and frisked on the streets of New York without probable cause. Last year over 600,000 people were stopped. Over 80% of these individuals were black and Latino young men and it seems that the only “probable cause” was that they were black and Latino young men.

New York City officials including the mayor and police commissioner cite the decline in the city’s crime rate as justifying this step that comes perilously close to the slippery slope of the police state. Given that only 10% of the over 600,000 “stops” resulted in probable cause for arrest that claim is tenuous at best. There was also no snow in New York City this past winter and there may be a time that “Stop and Frisk” is credited for this meteorological phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the cynical final spiral of the policy underlying “Stop and Frisk” is that if everyone was arrested, the crime rate would disappear. Constitutional rights cannot just be an inconvenient obstacle to law enforcement. Constitutional rights are part of the laws that are supposed to be enforced.


The National Rifle Association had its annual convention in St. Louis last week. In celebrating the cult of guns, the NRA has shown itself willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of men, women and children on an altar built with assault weapons, armor piercing bullets and a skewed interpretation of the second amendment to the United States Constitution that never contemplated the carnage that has been carried out in its name.

The NRA is proud to tell you that there are over 5000 gun shows in the United States every year. That comes to 13.69 guns shows per day in this country, every day. And it is at these gun shows that whatever limits and controls on the sale of weapons go up in gun smoke. Any fool meditating on committing felonies can stroll into any one of those 13.69 gun shows and purchase enough weaponry to replicate Virginia Tech, Columbine or any of the other countless massacres that ring up the NRA body count scoreboard.

While most Americans favor some kind of control on the sale and use of guns, the United States Congress has shown no interest in even minimal control of assault weapons and the NRA body count scoreboard total continues to rise.

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake

The Teapublicans in the House of Representatives have now come up with a proposal to cut federal expenditures for food stamps over the next five years. This proposal is not based upon some dramatic improvement in the American economy.

Instead, it is based upon the truly mean spirited notion that Americans are simply too dependent on the largesse offered by the federal government.

Incredibly, these self-satisfied and overwhelmingly comfortable gaggles of Babbits cannot even contemplate the idea that the men, women and children who rely upon food stamps are not dining at groaning banquet tables. Social responsibility entails providing for that portion of citizens who need help caring for themselves. Clearly compassion does not translate into the very special language spoken by the denizens of the G.O.Tea Party.

Have a great weekend

Point of View Columns

Alone at the Summit

The news from the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Columbia is not that men patronize prostitutes. It is not that Secret Service men patronize prostitutes – even while they are supposed to be protecting the President of the United States. There are enough big head-little head commentaries in that story to fill several columns.

The big news is that President Obama found himself shackled to an ancient Cold War policy towards Cuba that left him, and the United States, alone at the Summit of the Americas. Indeed, it was unnerving and disappointing to see an undeniably brilliant man advocating an undeniably stupid policy.

Virtually every country in attendance at the Summit of the Americas recognizes Cuba and engages in diplomatic and trade relations with that country. Virtually every country in attendance, that would be every country in the Western Hemisphere, has gone on record as refusing to attend another Summit of the Americas Conference is Cuba is not in attendance. And there was the President Obama vetoing the prospect of the Republic of Cuba participating in the next Summit.

This raises the question; will the United States boycott the next Summit? Will the United States also demand that Cuba be ejected from the United Nations? Will the United States withdraw from the U.N. if its demands are not met?

Questions cascade from Colombia that have nothing to do with who is protecting the President of the United States. One has to wonder if this is just the first time that the guardians of the presidency have been caught.

One also has to wonder as to what it is about Cuba that keeps the United States frozen in a time of finned Cadillacs and charcoal filter cigarettes while the world has moved on. Over 50,000 Americans died in Vietnam and the U.S. has diplomatic and robust trade relations with that country. The leadership of the Soviet Union threatened to “bury” the United States, and its historical descendant, the Russian Republic, is a part of full diplomatic and economic linkages.

The People’s Republic of China is a communist country, its booming economy notwithstanding. Yet the United States would never think of terminating diplomatic relations with China – communism be damned.

Yet, the United States still does not have an embassy in Cuba. Travel to Cuba by American citizens is still wrapped in layers of red tape and rigmarole. Trade relations are subject to draconian regulations and restrictions meant to strangle the Cuban economy. All the while, almost every nation in the world recognizes Cuba as an independent country and engages in diplomatic and trade relations with that country.

Consider the fact that Spain, the country which claimed Cuba as its colony for three centuries and fought a vicious counterrevolutionary campaign against the Cuban people has a full and complete diplomatic and financial relationship with Cuba. So what is the matter with the United States?

A cursory review of history will indicate that for the first half of the twentieth century the United States subjected Cuba to political interference and economic intervention. This interference and intervention led to tremendous financial advantage for American businesses and even the American mafia. At no point did American policy ever sound even a faint note of concern for democracy or human rights in Cuba.

Since the Cuban revolution, Cuban emigrants to the United States, most of whom held privileged positions in the “old Cuba”, have ranted and raved about the horrors of Cuba under the post revolutionary rule. To an unbiased ear, they sound like for beneficiaries of privilege who long for “the good old days”.

And all the while the Cuban people have higher literacy rates and lower infant mortality rates than were ever enjoyed during the heyday of American sponsored Cuban dictators. Indeed, as this column is written, every Cuban citizen has a primary care physician, something that Americans only dream and fight about.

The shame of it is that President Obama and the United States are fighting a battle that is frozen in the amber of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The entire planet has moved on. Los Cubanos, those Cuban emigrants who froth at the mouth at the mere mention of Fidel Castro, are now old men harboring the fragments of dreams that belong only to old men.

If there was ever a time to move on when it comes to Cuban-American relations, now is the time. There is nothing noble about holding to policies that perpetuate injustice that is now over 100 years old. There is everything noble about moving forward to a future that adapts to reality. We have done it with Vietnam, Russia and China, why not Cuba?

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 13, 2012

And now Saint Santorum is free to commune with all the other angels in his very interesting mind now that he is no longer a candidate for president. We might be inclined to breathe a sigh of relief except that Lady Macbeth Palin seems to think that Congressman Alan West might be a great candidate for vice president – and which way will the Mitt Romney weathervane blow on that one. And meanwhile, the Tennessee State Legislature seems intent on making sure that any child that goes through the public school system in that state will come out of it dumber than a bag of hammers.

Saint Santorum – R.I.P.

It appears that Saint Santorum, who walks with God and talks with God, is no longer running for president with God. His mean, near-hysterical rants against contraception and gay marriage were carried with the voice of someone with something deep and dark in their own soul. Who knows?

What we do know is that he has succeeded, along with other Tea Party evanzealots, in painting Mitt Romney in the far right corner of the national discourse. If he loses the election, Mr. Romney can thank, in no particular order, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain (yes, Herman Cain), Ron Paul and Saint Santorum for moving every major issue so far to the right that he can’t even spell “middle ground” in the general election.

It remains to be seen whether his “etch a sketch” strategy will work. But the record shows that in order to win the G.O.Tea Party nomination he favored – 1) a draconian anti-immigrant policy, 2) the total defunding of Planned Parenthood, 3) an absolute ban on federal funding for contraception, 4) an ironclad pledge not to raise taxes on anyone under any circumstances and 5) unequivocal support for the Ryan budget plan which calls for the evisceration and elimination of most social services and a host of other programs including the National Endowment for the Arts.

That sounds like a lot of baggage to carry all the way to November 6th. It will be interesting to see how Romney’s “etch a sketch” ploy works in the real world.

What’s Crazier than Alan West? Nothing!

Alan West is a Teapublican congressman from Florida who is known for bragging about carrying a concealed gun to public events. He has also called President Obama a threat to national security and may, on any given day, give the impression that he has taken leave of his senses.

Most recently, Representative West has stated publicly that there are 77-81 members of the Communist Party serving in Congress and that they are all Democrats. One wonders how far he is going to take this crude impression of Joe McCarthy, but as of the writing of this column he remains steadfast an unapologetic.

Into this unfortunate maelstrom marches Sarah Palin, who has yet to wash the blood of Tucson off her hands, suggesting that Alan West would be the perfect Vice Presidential running mate for Mitt Romney. And in the ensuing hush, all you can hear are the crickets chirping.

It is hard to believe that Mitt Romney would be so stupid as to select Alan West as his running mate. But then again, it is hard to believe that John McCain was so stupid as to select Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Somewhere the Obama campaign team is lighting candles and chanting incantations that sound a lot like, “Do it, do it!”

The Tennessee Waltz to Dumbness

The Obama Administration’s campaign to improve public education in this country is entitled “The Race to the Top”. Given that the United States is ranked 26th globally in terms of the performance of its K-12 students, it would seem the absolute wrong time for any responsible public officials to engage in a “race to the bottom”.

However, that is exactly what is taking place in Tennessee where the state legislature has passed legislation permitting public school teachers to present “alternative perspectives on controversial scientific topics”. The translation of this legislation is that it will permit public school teachers to present alternatives on “politically controversial” topics such as evolution, creation and global warming.

Scientists around the globe have settled on the issue of creation and evolution for over a century. While there are debates on the severity and causes of global warming, there is no serious question that global warming is taking place.

In Arizona legislation has been signed into law that defines life as beginning on the first day of a woman’s missed menstrual period. Soon there will be questions about whether the earth is round (or flat) and after that the race to dumbness will be a mad sprint to nowhere.

The saddest part of this story is that there are young men and women who, believing that they can trust their teachers will grow up ignorant even as they go to school. And what this country can ill afford is more ignorance.

Have a great weekend?

Point of View Columns

The Teapublican Circular Firing Squad

The G.O.Tea Party Presidential Klown Kavalcade has alternated from being comical to darkly dangerous to farcical to appalling. The constant lurching to the right wing of the right wing has turned the party that was founded around the concept of abolishing slavery to a gaggle of mean-spirited Teapublicans for whom no excess is excessive as long as it is cloaked in the threadbare cloth of conservatism.

The Teapublican Party embarked on an unprecedented strategy of intransigent partisan opposition from the day that Barack Obama was inaugurated as president. There is no policy, no program, no legislation, and no appointment that they have supported if it was seen as part of the Obama Administration. Clearly condemning President Obama to failure as a one term president has been more important than the health and welfare of the American people.

In their gleeful haste to unseat Barack Obama at all costs, the Teapublican candidates have relentlessly attacked each other as being undeserving of wearing the mantle of the G.O.Tea Party Avenger. It is not enough, in this Tea Party parallel universe, to simply defeat Barack Obama. It is of even greater importance that every policy of his be reversed and that the country is subject to reverse social engineering – eradicating every concept of a shared national purpose, compassion and social connectivity.

Saint Santorum has been almost hysterical in his claim that President Obama represents the greatest danger to this country in modern history. His hysteria at the prospect of a second Obama term in office is matched only by his horror at the idea of contraception and the right of women to choose how to live their lives. In Saint Santorum’s world, women have the right to bear children, home school those children and presumably fix meals for their lord and master and his progeny that she has been blessed to bear. And all along he continues to attack Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich has been a walking dead candidate for months, but thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision regular transfusions of billionaire dollars from the outer fringes of the right wing have kept him standing. And so Mr. Gingrich, who presents himself as the smartest person in the room, continues to prove that he is definitely not.

He has shown a remarkable ability to distort and misrepresent the facts, however. His views on the Obama Administration foreign policy have only served to bring clouds of confusion into international dialogue with bellicose rants about Russia, China and Iran. And all along he continues to attack Mitt Romney and Saint Santorum.

Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney has declared Russia as America’s number one geopolitical enemy (leaving some to wonder who is number two, and so on). Aside from revealing a thought process that would be more fitting during an episode of “Mad Men” in the 1960’s, Mr. Romney has shown himself to be willing to say just about anything to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for bile that exists on the right wing of the right wing. And all the while he continues to criticize Saint Santorum and Newt Gingrich for having the nerve to continue to run against him.

Ron Paul continues to be the ultimate outlier, attacking anybody and everybody. In Ron Paul’s world it is clearly each man for himself and women and children had better watch out.

This circular firing squad that the G.O.Tea Party has organized shows no signs of winding down anytime soon. While the nomination of Mitt Romney seems inevitable, it is not inevitable that the Teapublican zealots will embrace a man who has been compared to a well-lubricated weathervane when it comes to his political position(s).

Indeed, it will be interesting to watch when the Klown Kavalcade comes to Tampa for the Republican convention this August. It is hard to believe that the end of what promises to be raucous and riotous proceedings that the Teapublicans will come together and be the wind under Mitt Romney’s wings.

It is quite possible that the true believers, following Saint Santorum as their good shepherd will simply walk away from Mitt Romney and either stay home or run a quixotic third party campaign.

While this scenario makes no logical sense, to quote former president George W. Bush, never “misunderestimate” the zealots.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 6, 2012

The right wing of the right wing rests its warped hopes for the future of this country on the conservative cabal that currently occupies four seats on the Supreme Court of the United States. While almost casually planning to eviscerate or eliminate a national healthcare bill this same cabal has now given police permission to strip search citizens without any probable cause to do so. Meanwhile, Representative Paul Ryan has presented the Teapublican vision for the future in a budget presentation that alternatively makes the blood boil and the blood run cold. And finally, we are just learning that Kenneth Chamberlain died in November 2011. Sadly, we enter his name in the ledger of black men killed by the police in highly questionable circumstances.

The Strip Club

As you read this the Supreme Court of the United States has already decided that the police in any jurisdiction in the United States can conduct a strip search on you even if you have been stopped for a minor infraction. That an American citizen can be forced to disrobe and be subject to bodily inspection without any cause whatsoever would seem to be an impossible position to uphold or defend, even for the Conservative Cabal.

At least ten states have specific restrictions regarding strip searches of arrested (but not charged or convicted) individuals. Most police forces also have very strict guidelines regarding strip searches.

By opening the door to this most invasive form of police conduct, the Supreme Court is also opening the door to unnecessary abuse and misconduct.
And all of this is in the name of justice.

Ryan’s Express to Hell

Representative Paul Ryan is presented to us as some kind of self-styled expert on the federal budget. It is clear that his primary credential is his ability to keep a straight face while proposing the most draconian federal budget in American history.

A close analysis of the Teapublican budget “proposal” shows an absolute willingness to cut or eliminate almost every aspect of the “safety net” that has been put together over the past century. Care for the children, the elderly and the environment all are on Ryan’s chopping block. In Ryan’s World there is no money for infrastructure repair/replacement and no reason to invest in the education of American citizens.

The Koch-sponsored Teapublican budget offers lower and lower taxes, a Medicare structure that barely survives the amputations administered by Dr. Ryan and his team and —of course, an increased budget for defense. Presumably a dumbed down, sick and decaying America will have war as its primary occupation in the World According to Ryan.

That Mitt Romney would term this budget “marvelous” should tell you all that you need to know about the presumptive Teapublican nominee for president. The G.O.Tea Party is asking us to drink sewage but to believe that it’s a health drink and that it’s good for us.

Death in the Shadows

On November 19, 2011, Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., age 69, was killed by the White Plains police. The police were responding to a call from a medical alert company requesting that they check on Mr. Chamberlain (a retired United States Marine), who was a heart patient. Although Mr. Chamberlain indicated to the police that he was alright and did not need assistance the police insisted on entering his apartment, finally taking the door of his apartment off its hinges. Mr. Chamberlain was tasered, shot with a bean bag and then fatally shot by the White Plains police. For details of this tragedy please go to http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/marine-veteran-kenneth-chamberlain-sr-killed-clash-police-responded-medical-emergency-article-1.1055569 .

It is sad to realize that it took over four months for this questionable killing of a black man by the police to come to light. It took almost a month for the questionable killing of a young black man, Trayvon Martin, to come to light.
We have to ask, how many other tragic and avoidable deaths lie lurking in the shadows of this country?

Happy Easter!

Point of View Columns

Are Women Missing in Action?

It is time to stop thinking that the spectacle of the Teapublican Party lurching ever farther to the right is a momentary phase that will soon be corrected by more moderate factions within that party and within this country. And while the cold blue flame of hatred for the very existence of Barack Obama in the White House may have fueled the initial conflagration, the fire has spread through a forest of policy issues, incinerating everything in sight. For an example we need look no further than the undeclared war on women that is now in full view.

During the past year we have witnessed the right wing of the right wing make the eradication of Planned Parenthood an article of faith during the Teapublican presidential campaign. That would be the same Planned Parenthood that provides millions of women with affordable health care that would otherwise simply not receive. While less than 5% of Planned Parenthood’s services have anything to do with the termination of pregnancies, the holy warriors of the right are demanding the death of this provider of vital services for women and girls – without any thought of accommodation or compromise.

Numerous local and state legislatures have engaged in the hideous charade of protecting the rights of the accused while redefining and restructuring the definition of rape. The results of this gerrymandering of the borders of sexual conduct will only make it more difficult for female victims of sexual abuse and rape to obtain justice. And the clear result (and the intent of the proponents of these changes) is that even more women will remain in the silent shadows of shame and fear knowing that Teapublican justice for women in just a hologram and not really there.

We have seen Saint Santorum and his fake apostles rail against contraception because it enables people to “engage in sexual behavior that they shouldn’t be doing”. It would be bad enough if this latter day Savonarola was content with controlling the sex lives of men and women. What is clear from his comments and those of his believers is that women should accept pregnancy that is the result of rape as a “gift from God” and that abolishing contraception will return women to their rightful childbearing, obedient and disenfranchised status.

As you are reading this the Teapublican majority in the United State House of Representatives blocked the attempt to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. This Act has been deemed responsible for reducing domestic violence rates by 58% since it was initially passed (with almost unanimous bipartisan support) in 1994 (how times have changed). That there could be any political philosophy that argues against preventing rape and violence against women is obscene. That the sewage-filled mainstream of American politics can seriously discuss denying health care to women and referring to pregnancies that are the result of rape as “gifts from God” is blasphemous and monstrous.

There is one thing missing from this sad and dismal landscape. Where are the female warriors who are leading the hand to hand battle to wrest the self-righteous standard from the clutches of the self-appointed wardens of women?

Where is the Queen Boudicca or Golda Meir or Harriet Tubman or Benazir Bhutto?
It is difficult for me to imagine Margaret Thatcher or Carrie Nation or Mary McLeod Bethune standing by in muted protest while the rights of women were being sacked and pillaged in broad daylight. Perhaps the successful struggles for the rights of women have left the movement tired and satisfied. Perhaps there has been a feeling that rights, once obtained, could never be taken back.

Frederick Douglass correctly stated that power concedes nothing without demand. The companion thought is that rights are never retained without power. And certainly, the history of humanity shows that the rights of women have never been freely accepted or granted. And so, the Teapublican assault on women should not have been a surprise.

Nevertheless, the “muted protest” of women is puzzling in the extreme. The Teapublican agenda regarding women is clear in its steel-toed strategy, kicking women back into line and into the 19th century. Misogynist and sexist thoughts that could not be openly spoken in the public arena a few years ago are now part of the public policy debate.

On this Planet Earth nothing is promised, nothing is guaranteed and nothing is forever. Women and men who believe that the rights of women are firmly embedded in the rights of all humanity need to wake up as the Teapublican fires threaten to burn down the forest of rights that it has taken so long to establish and preserve.

Remember November 6th!