Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 29, 2011

This week the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and the Teapublicans are furious because the American people will now have access to health care like most of the developed world already does. Something Un-American about that, to be sure. Meanwhile, Facebook had a curious historic moment when its management team joined the 21st century. And finally, spitting and cursing and fuming into the night, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gives a daily reason why there should be term limits at the highest court in the land.

The Stopped Clock Theory

This past week Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts proved that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. In his relatively short tenure Justice Roberts has already proven himself to be one of the most partisan right wing jurists in the history of the court. And while the Citizens United decision has unleashed untold harm to American democracy, the upholding of the Affordable Care Act will do much to preserve the lives and the quality of life for hundreds of millions of Americans.

Clearly, while the Roberts court taketh away, it occasionally giveth. Upon reflection there was no rational alternative but to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act but that hasn’t stopped Roberts and his Terrible Trio of AlitoScaliaThomas in the past – the daylight robbery of the 2000 presidential election immediately comes to mind.

Nevertheless, June 28, 2012 was a great day for the American health care system.
And now we are witness to the Teapublicans, led by their marionette candidate Mitt Romney, promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with promises of untreated disease, misery and hopelessness.

An interesting choice.

Facebook Ever Forward

Last week Facebook got around to joining the 21st century by appointing Sheryl Sandberg as the first female member of its board of directors. That sentence bears re-reading, several times. Facebook is acknowledged to be on the cutting edge of the new media for the new age.

Yet, its board of directors, all male until this past week, had a composition that would have made J.P. Morgan or Henry Ford very happy campers. Unfortunately,
Facebook is not unlike so many successful American corporations who feel that diversity issues are addressed by having a couple of left handed people on the board or one lonely woman or one Magic Negro.

Facebook has changed the way that we communicate. Perhaps it is finally time that Facebook also begins to change. And hopefully other corporations will take note.

Get Shorty

At the age of 75, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has had a direct and filthy hand in some of the most horrible decisions in the history of the court. While the Dred Scott decision is the all time worst, the theft of the 2000 presidential election ranks up there, as does the Citizens United decision. And Justice Scalia paw prints are all over these decisions.

Now, in a dissent to a decision partially upholding the abhorrent Arizona anti immigration law, Justice Scalia seized upon the opportunity to criticize and castigate the president of the United States for his executive decision regarding the children of so-called illegal immigrants.

This would be the same Antonin Scalia who pantomimed his displeasure during President Obama’s State of the Union address a few years ago. Clearly disgraceful disrespect for the president goes hand in hand with his disrespect for the Constitution and the people of the United States.

Have a great weekend!

Be My Guest

Be My Guest Column by Herb Boyd

AG Holder Under Fire

Still smarting from setbacks a week ago, the Obama administration received another withering blow from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday when it voted 23 to 17 to favorably report a contempt resolution against Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder was cited with contempt of Congress over statements made regarding Operation Fast and Furious, in which agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives rather than confiscating illegally purchased weapons chose to track the weapons to the traffickers with the purpose of dismantling their networks.

The experiment went awry when agents lost track of the weapons and one of them apparently was used in the slaying of U.S. border agent Brian Terry.

Basically, Holder was cited with contempt for failing to turn over documents requested by the committee, though during the year and half investigation, the Justice Department reportedly submitted 7,600 documents, including details of Operation Fast and Furious.

But the furor arose because the Department at first denied the botched experiment of “gun walking” (tracking the illicit movement of the weapons) and this triggered a further investigation by the committee.

On the heels of the committee’s vote, President Obama invoked executive privilege to withhold the documents the committee is seeking, documents that are generally off-limits to Congress.

“The president has asserted executive privilege,” wrote Deputy Attorney General James Cole in a letter to Issa. “We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the committee’s concerns and to accommodate the committee’s legitimate oversight interests.”

Rep. Darrell lssa (R-Calif), chair of the committee, said Obama’s action was “an untimely” assertion of privilege.

On Tuesday, Holder and Issa met for 20 minutes without reaching any kind of resolution on the dispute.

Holder insisted that he would not turn over documents related to the gun-smuggling probe unless Issa consented to another congressional briefing on the Department’s material. He wanted some guarantee that the transfer of records would be enough to stand down the subpoena.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), appearing Wednesday evening on PBS’s Newshour in a debate with Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), both of whom sit on the committee, took strong exception to the contempt charge.

“I think we have to look at the totality of the Constitution here,” he asserted. “Congress has a right to compel the production of papers and to compel witnesses before the committee. That’s an Article I right. At the same time, the administration, Article II, has the right under the Constitution to say, look, we’re invoking executive privilege — that doesn’t mean just the president, the executive branch privilege — and say, we’re not going to produce that for our own reasons.

“Now, the next step then would be to go to the court. And I would hope that, if we can not resolve this that the one concession that would be made is that we not pursue by resolution a criminal matter. We can pursue a civil matter, have a court make a decision, saying, OK, produce the documents, and then we come back to the court enforcing a resolution of Congress.”

The next move was the House of Representatives findng the Attorney General in contempt. This action is unprecedented in American history and could force further negotiations.

Point of View Columns

Dark Shadows

Within the next few days the Supreme Court of the United States will issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. Very shortly we will come to understand if there are any limits to the conservative partisanship that has defined the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito right wing of the right wing of SCOTUS. During the past decade the emboldened conservative cabal has stolen a presidential election and opened the floodgates through which corporate cash now flows into American politics. It now threatens to withhold healthcare from the American people.

The motives that the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito right wing of the Supreme Court are clearly partisan and reflective of a conservative philosophy that is so mean spirited that it would have to reach up to be low. The right wing of the right wing, through its black-robed accomplices has sworn to doom the Obama presidency to failure. The Affordable Health Care Act, passed in 2010, has already saved lives and preserved the health of millions of Americans. By eliminating this signal legislative achievement the motive is to drive a blow into the solar plexus of the Obama Administration.

But there’s more. During the past several years there has been an evolution – or devolution – of conservative philosophy. Staunch conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan wanted to limit the role of government. But the brand of conservatism that they espoused had some measure of mercy and compassion for those that were less fortunate.

Certainly Reagan and Goldwater opposed the expansion of the social services safety net. Today’s conservatives are seeking to shred it, watching the young, the elderly and the poor tumble into the oblivion of hopelessness while the wealthy watch impassively, if they even bother to watch.

It is a wonder that, of all the so-called developed countries in the world, the United States is the only one without a universal healthcare system. It is amazing that the self-titled greatest nation on earth has almost 20% of its population living without medical insurance while almost half of its population is underinsured. And it is cruel irony that the country that is possessed of the most advanced medical technology on the planet denies access to that technology to so many of its citizens.

That a reputedly civilized country could even argue about the entitlement of every citizen to healthcare is a condemnation of the sense of morality in this country. The fact that the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito Gang of Four will attempt to wrap gossamer threads of bogus legal logic around the meanness of this neo-conservative philosophy is simply shameful.

No matter the decision of the Supreme Court we will still be subject to the whims of the right wing Gang of Four that will probably be on the bench for another two decades. That would be twenty more years of stealing elections, depriving Americans of basic human rights and degrading desecrating the political system.

The Gang of Four has proven itself to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Teapublican Party and even if the Affordable Health Care Act survives the scimitar wielded by the Supreme Court this time, it will not be the last time.

When people seriously question the importance of choosing between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama they should think about what the next twenty years will be like if the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito wing is increased by two more right wing zealots. President Romney will certainly do the bidding of his Teapublican handlers and present as Supreme Court justices zealots who will salivate at the mere thought of limiting the reproductive rights of women, rolling back the civil rights laws and eviscerating any and every law that even hints at controlling corporate conduct.

We should always remember that the 2000 presidential election was stolen and that this theft was the handiwork of the right wing of the right wing, both on the Supreme Court and in hallways and corridors of power. We should always remember that the Citizens United decision has already warped and skewed the political process so that billionaires use the power of their cash to drown the voices of the electorate.

And we should always remember that it is the President of the United States who nominates Supreme Court justices. President Obama can point to Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as his nominees who currently sit on the Court. Mitt Romney can point to the RobertsScaliaThomasRoberts Gang of Four as his prototype for future justices.

We have already seen the cataclysmic damaged wreaked by this Gang of Four. The Affordable Health Care Act may survive this week, but the battle for its existence will continue. The battle for rights and justice in this country will also continue as long as the Gang of Four sits on the bench.

Remember November 6th!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 22, 2012

Shelden Adelson is one of the wealthiest men in America. He thinks President Obama should be defeated and is prepared to spend $100 million to make that happen. Welcome to the 21st century edition of the American Way. Meanwhile Professor Frederick Harris of Columbia University seems to feel that trashing the Obama presidency is his way of exercising academic freedom – but whatever happened to responsibility? And finally, Adidas came out with a sports shoe that has shackles attached……really. Protest was predictable. What was also predictable is the lack of attention to the context in which such a product could be sold.

Can You Spare $100 Million?

For those of you keeping score at home, the Citizens United decision by the rightwing of the rightwing of the United State Supreme Court has opened the way for unlimited sums of money to be spent on campaigns by individuals and corporations. By equating the uncontrolled expenditure of money with freedom of speech the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito cabal has guaranteed is that the only remaining question will be the extent to which abuse and excess will be seen.

Working hard to be the Poster Boy for Campaign Excess is Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is reported to be worth $20 billion, made his fortune as a glorified bookie and innkeeper, building and operating hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and now Macao.

Although his enormous wealth continues to grow exponentially, he has come to the conclusion that President Obama is bad for business and so he has announced that he is prepared to spend $100 million to defeat him in the upcoming election. And, we should all keep in mind that $100 million for Sheldon Adelson would be about $40 for a middle class family in this country.

In other words, wealthy individuals and large corporations can skew the political process and screw the American people for an investment that is less than a pittance for them.

And, thanks to the Citizens United decision there is nothing wrong with this.

The Revenge of the Little People

Dr. Frederick Harris is the director of the Center on African American Politics at Columbia University. In the midst of his sublime isolation in his ivy covered ebony tower he has published a book which asserts that the presidency of Barack Obama is a “disappointment” and unworthy of the struggles and sacrifices of the civil rights movement.

Dr. Harris must have uncovered some heretofore unknown document which sets forth the election of a black president as a stated goal of the civil rights movement. The election of Barack Obama is clearly related to the civil rights movement in that advances in voting, employment and academic opportunity helped to create an environment in which he could have been elected. But to suggest that the election of a black president has ever been a goal of the civil rights movement is not supported by any real evidence and makes no sense.

The problem with Dr. Harris, as with other ebony tower occupants, is that he will be taking no responsibility for the negative impact of his book as the presidential campaign begins in earnest. To the extent that some people will read his book and even fewer people will pay him any attention. Dr. Harris can serve to erode the edges of Barack Obama’s support at a time when literally every vote counts.

The inauguration of President Mitt Romney might be a bit bothersome for Dr. Harris but he will still be a tenured professor at one of the leading universities in the world with all the compensation, benefits and trappings that go along with the package.

But I would ask him the same question that I would ask Dr. Cornel West and the other Ebony Tower rock throwers – if Barack Obama is defeated and a Romney Administration takes over in 2013, what will you say to the millions of Americans who will suffer – many of them black – when Mitt Romney keeps the draconian promises that he has made during this campaign?

I’m just asking.

Shackled to Stupidity

This past week we learned that the Adidas shoe company had planned to sell a sneaker that featured ankle shackles. It is not clear if the shackles were meant to invoke images of slavery or prison but the uproar was both predictable and puzzling.

Wearing prison garb, complete with bandanas and sagging, oversize pants has been in fashion in the black community for years. Ankle shackles would just seem to be the next logical fashion step to take. High profile individuals like Jay-Z and Kanye West have made fortunes promoting misogynistic and violent behavior in the black community. When Jay-Z and Kanye West recorded and released “Niggas in Paris” last year there was not even a peep of protest – anywhere.

We are now supposed to believe that Adidas was misguided because it did not have a more diverse marketing team. Given the self-degradation and stupidity that has been created and sold by black people during the past thirty years, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were black people in the room at Adidas on the day that sneakers with shackles were approved.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

The Four Million Man March

Here’s a number to ponder – 4,356,927. That is the number of times people have been stopped and frisked during the ten years of the administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Keep in mind these numbers do not come from North Korea or Syria or the Gaza Strip. Over four million times in the past ten years New York City residents have been subjected to this highly questionable and absolutely intrusive police behavior. And, by the way, 80% of the individuals stopped and frisked are black and Latino men between the ages of 18-34. Do you detect a pattern here?

Outrageous strategies conducted in the name of some special purpose seem to be insulated from criticism. Waterboarding and other forms of torture have been justified in the name of national security. Mayor Bloomberg has sought to justify the stripping citizens of their personal dignity and human rights with the fig leaf of crime prevention.

The problem is that too many outrages have taken place in the name of crime prevention. That is why over the last century courts have ruled that homes cannot be entered without a warrant, that suspects cannot be questioned without having been given access to an attorney and why people cannot be beaten until they confess. There is no doubt that crime prevention would be a lot simpler if these restrictions on police conduct were not in place.

But the Constitution of the United States is not a pesky detail to be ignored or avoided whenever it is inconvenient. And the rights conferred to American citizens by the Constitution are worthless if they don’t apply to all American citizens.
The constitutional rights are not the sole possession of the white and wealthy.
Police intrusion for no reason except skin color or mode of dress should not be the sad inheritance of young men of color in New York City.

Here’s another number – 685,724. That is the number of people who have been stopped and frisked during 2011. Apologists for Mayor Bloomberg, a surprisingly number of whom are currently black and formerly prominent, drink the Bloomberg brand of Kool-Aid and point to suspect statistics that are supposed to describe a decline in the crime rate that is supposed to be totally attributable to Stop and Frisk.

But even if those statistics are true, and there are numerous law enforcement experts who dispute the statistics and the conclusion, how can the daily humiliation of thousands of human beings be justifiable? The fact that many criminal acts in New York City are committed by black and Latino young men does not mean that all, or most, black and Latino young men are criminals.

I cannot imagine the Justice Department going to Wall Street to stop and interrogate virtually all well-dressed white men between the ages of 30 and 50 just because most white collar crime is committed by that demographic cohort. How unfair and how outrageous would that be? About as unfair and outrageous as New York City’s current Stop and Frisk policy.

The worst part about this institutionalized degradation is that is turning an entire generation of young men into permanent suspects. It can only damage self-esteem and fan glowing coals of resentment and distrust that will burn for a lifetime and be passed on from generation to generation.

The men and women of the New York Police Department have a difficult and challenging task in protecting the citizens of New York City. Why Mayor Bloomberg wants to make their lives more difficult is incomprehensible.

There is no doubt that Mayor Bloomberg is a brilliant man and an incredibly successful businessman. There is also no doubt that there is an indelible tattoo of stubbornness that he doesn’t even try to conceal.

Instead he and his enablers are the perpetual organizers of a four million man march that will haunt the present and the future. The four million intrusions in to the lives of presumably innocent young men visit too many of them over and over until their only view of law enforcement is soaked in subdued rage and resentment.

If Mayor Bloomberg and his enablers wanted to create a generation of resentful and criminally-inclined young men who are leery of law enforcement and law and order, they couldn’t have come up with a better strategy than Stop and Frisk.

We will all grow old and die before Michael Bloomberg will admit that he is wrong. But he is smart enough to find a way out of this immoral morass.

It is way past time to stop Stop and Frisk.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 15, 2012

There’s an old line that has been heard in bars since time immemorial – “It gets late early”. The presidential election is still five months away but too many Democrats seem to think that they can take their time supporting President Obama. Incredibly, the Ku Klux Klan has applied to adopt a highway in the state of Georgia and that just sounds like a punch line waiting to happen. And finally, in a typically self-serving moment, Mitt Romney contends that one of the qualifications for president should be experience in the running a business. Inquiring minds might want to ask what about other worthy occupations, like fireman, cowboy and astronaut?

It Gets Late Early

Ever since Barack Obama became president criticism and insults have been hurled at him on a daily basis. It is true that calumny comes with the territory, but being called a liar from the floor of the Congress while giving a speech or being interrupted by a reporter during the middle of a presentation is pretty unique stuff.

President Obama has soldiered on through racial slurs, doubts about his citizenship and demeaning comments about his wife and children. Too many Teapublicans lap this stuff up, salivating at the mere thought of the next Fox News broadcast. The more reasonable minority of Teapublicans (the definition of an oxymoron) claim that remarks are being taken out of context or that President Obama and his supporters are “thin skinned”.

In the midst of this rhetorical melee one wonders when the president’s supporters will find their collective voices and put on their Big Boy and Big Girl pants and join the battle. President Obama really shouldn’t have to respond in kind to these tidal waves of scurrilous attacks but there is nothing to stop leading Democrats and progressives from pitching in.

It seems that too many people feel that engaging in this kind of battle is demeaning and unnecessary. But the fact is that lies that are unanswered become the truth. As long as the right wing of the right wing continues to articulate the prevailing narrative regarding President Obama we run the risk of that narrative becoming reality for too many voters.

And, as the saying goes, it can get late early.

KKK Trashkeepers

Some stories are too stupid to be anything but the truth. Last week the Ku Klux Klan (yes, THAT Ku Klux Klan) made an application to the state of Georgia to adopt a highway in order to keep it clean.

One can presume that as its first step in keeping trash off the highway will remove themselves.

The World According to Mitt

Now that he is the presumptive Teapublican Party nominee Mitt Romney seems to be getting a little full of himself. At a recent speech he contended that he thought that a career in business should be a qualification for being president. This is a qualification which neatly fits his personal narrative (while all President Obama did after law school is try to rebuild communities and help people).

Why this country has fallen in love with the concept of businessmen as governmental leaders is a mystery. Dwight Eisenhower presided over one of the major economic growth periods in American history and he was certainly not a businessman. Bill Clinton presided over one of the major economic growth periods in American history and he was certainly not a businessman.

Aside from the snide, self serving convenience of Mitt Romney’s proposition, taken to its logical extreme it is absurd. In Mitt World the president should have had experience as a soldier, doctor, community leader, teacher and homemaker in order to be qualified.

Perhaps Mr. Romney should take a moment to explain how his experience at buying companies, stripping them to bare bones, firing their employees and then selling the parts at a huge profit qualifies him to be anything other than a miserable (although rich) human being.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Unintelligent Design

On January 20, 2009, Senator Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader of the United States Senate and at that time the presumptive leader of the Republican Party stated that the number one goal of his party was to make certain that Barack Obama was a one-term president. Notice that he did not mention improving the lives of the American people or repairing an economy wrecked by eight years of Bush Administration wrongheaded policies. Insuring the defeat of Barack Obama was and still is the only goal of the Republican Party, even if it comes at the expense of the American people and the future of this country.

This country began with partisan politics always being a key element in the governmental process. It was not always polite; sometimes it was ugly and at one point partisanship even led to a civil war. Nevertheless, partisanship somehow made way for the transcontinental railroad, the industrial revolution and the progress of the United States to the status of a world power.

Since the election of Barack Obama, partisanship has taken a malevolent turn that is simply unprecedented in the history of this country. The 2009 stimulus bill was the last major bipartisan initiative that had as its goal improving the economy and providing jobs in the public and private sectors. Since then Republicans, now carrying the Teapublican banner have objected to and obstructed almost every legislative proposal that might address the lingering effects of the mismanagement of the national economy by the Bush Administration.

It is not news that the party that does not occupy the White House will regularly oppose the proposals of the president. What is unprecedented is that the Teapublicans have opposed all Obama Administration proposals in a time of grave crisis without offering serious alternative solutions.

For example, the so-called Ryan Budget Plan would eviscerate most federal programs while hollowing out the public sector at the state and local levels. This sham of a plan would also shred a social services safety net that has built up over the course of a century. The Ryan Budget Plan is not a serious alternative solution as it will never garner bipartisan support and could only be put into action if the Teapublicans assume the majority in both houses and the White House and then bludgeon the country into submission.

Employing this scorched earth legislative strategy, the Teapublicans are more than willing to engage in distortion and misrepresentation when it serves their purposes. For example, the bailout of the automobile industry clearly saved a major American industry from certain demise. Just as clearly, at least one million private sector jobs related to this industry were also saved.

The Teapublicans act as if the benefits of the automobile industry bailout are unimportant. In the alternative they will claim that the bailout was unnecessary and that market forces would have created a solution if they were allowed to prevail. Of course the shuttered steel and textile plants and the generally atrophied industrial sector of this country speak to the reality of market forces when they are allowed to prevail with no oversight.

Meanwhile, it what can only be described as a vicious strategic ploy, the Teapublicans have reduced revenues to state and local governments by reducing federal spending. The result has been firing of hundreds of thousands of public employees resulting in higher unemployment rates, stagnating economic conditions and reduced government services for the American people.

The general malaise of the American economy has been placed at the doorstep of President Obama as if the Teapublican DNA is not part of its parentage. Every negative occurrence in the economy has been blamed on the Obama policies even if the true causative factors were born in Teapublican back rooms.

Interestingly, when the economy shows signs of improvement President Obama has been termed irrelevant by the opposition party. On the Planet Teapublican, only blame can belong to Barack Obama.

And in the process millions of Americans remain out of work, millions of students have their financial ability to attend school jeopardized and the young and the old and the sick and the needy find themselves standing on shaky ground as they await the next Teapublican aftershock.

Planning to wreck the economy in order to defeat a president is wrong. It is shameful. And the reckless Teapublican strategy that is wrecking lives and destroying businesses has to be revealed for all to see.

Remember November 6th!