Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 31, 2012

When Ann Romney reminisces about going through hard times with Mitt, she recalls how, as a young married couple, they faced a financial decision which almost made them dip into their stock portfolio. A real down to earth couple, but only on the Planet Privilege. Meanwhile, Teapublican stalking horse Paul Ryan reminds us that “words matter”, and for once we should listen to him. And finally, as the Teapublican convention ends they will remind us that “they built it” from a Tampa convention center 62% financed with federal dollars. Their hypocrisy is stunning for its unfailing consistency.

I Loves You Mitt

Ann Romney has trained enough of her dressage horses to prance on command so she had no trouble being summoned to the Teapublican Party stage to proclaim that she loved her “Mitt”. While her ode to a man who “loves to fire people” was touching, it is fair to ask whether she accomplished her mission of humanizing Mitt Romney.

It is a near impossible task to humanize a person who does more than a passable imitation of an automaton. Mrs. Romney tried her best but it is fair to ask whether a person who lives in multiple mansions with millions stashed in Swiss and Cayman bank accounts and who also has cadres of servants and caretakers is really the right person to convince the American people that Mitt Romney is a down to earth kind of guy?

Just asking?

Ryan Unplugged

Paul Ryan, in preparing his Teapublican convention speech has proclaimed that “words matter”. We should probably take him at his word – and not only the words in his speech.

The words in his proposed budget, passed twice by the Teapublicans in the House of Representatives, calls for the virtual elimination of all federal programs outside of defense, Medicaid and Social Security over the next twenty years. Those words would result in a shredded social safety net, a crumbled infrastructure and income inequity typically seen in so-called banana republics.

We can only hope that voters take seriously the words of a man who hopes to be a heartbeat away from the presidency by January 2013.

We Didn’t Build It?

When President Obama underlined the fact that no company, large or small, was built solely by the owners (due to the existence of the extensive governmental and societal infrastructure of this country) by saying “You Didn’t Build That”, we were assaulted by the caterwauls of so-called independent Teapublicans who built their businesses on their own.

The fact that few businesses could exist without the transportation and education systems in this country along with the rule of law which allows commerce to take place has been lost on those who would attack the president just for saying “good morning”.

So it was more than a bit ironic that the Teapublican convention, full of delegates and supporters who have proclaimed their independence of and from any kind of government assistance, held their convention in an arena in Tampa that was 62% by federal funds.

As usual the Teapublicans ignore facts that would make their so-called truths inconvenient.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Hide The Klowns!

The delicious symbolism of a Hurricane Isaac bearing down on Tampa just as the Teapublican convention begins is clearly the product of a divine script. But rain and gale force winds cannot possibly hide all the Krazy Klowns that have descended upon this Florida city. The powers that want to be of the Republican National Committee have tried to hack into the GPS devices of the Krazy Klowns, but they are coming to town anyway. And there aren’t enough attics, basements and closets available to hide them all.

Congressman Ted Akins kind of jumped the gun with his “legitimate” rape rant, but it is not as if Akins is the source of shame and dismay in the Teapublican Party. His odious and Neanderthal perspective on women is shared by many members of the legions of the right wing of the right wing including the presumptive vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

After all, it is Paul Ryan who has joined Congressman Akins in co-sponsoring bill after bill calling for the ban of all abortions, even in the instance of rape and incest. After all, the Teapublican Party platform calls for the ban of all abortions, even in the instance of rape and incest. And Mitt Romney is on the record as seeking to limit reproductive choice for women only in the instance of rape and incest – a position Paul Ryan calls “a step in the right direction”.

As you settle back to watch the Teapublican Klown Kavalcade with a glass of wine (or strychnine) there is an interesting bit of information that the leadership of the RNC would desperately prefer that you ignore. The following individuals have all led Mitt Romney in polling for president – Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

That would be Michele Bachmann who believes that God wanted her to run for president – although obviously God did not want her to win. Herman Cain, the pizza mini-magnate who couldn’t seem to tell the difference between a friendship and an affair and has ideas “twirling around” in his head was considered by many Teapublicans to be preferable to Mitt Romney.

Rodeo Rick “Oops” Perry was the darling of the right wing of the right wing until it became perfectly clear that Governor Perry was all hat and no cattle. And still, at this very moment, there are Teapublican delegates in Tampa who would vote for Rick Perry if they are allowed to do so. And we can’t forget Saint Santorum who wholeheartedly agrees with Paul Ryan that a rapist’s child is a gift from God to the rape victim.

Donald Trump, he of the manufactured hair and the contrived lies (or is it the contrived hair and the manufactured lies), played a latter day Dumb Quixote tilting at the birther windmill, that is until he was absolutely skewered and barbequed by President Obama at the National Press Club Annual Dinner. And The Donald, like a bad smell or a bad dream, still won’t go away.

And finally, it wasn’t too long ago that Newt Gingrich was the Teapublican flavor of the month (basically defined as Anybody But Romney). His ignoble failure at leadership as Speaker of the House and his pitiful personal narrative were bad enough. The fact that it was revealed on the national stage that he really had no reason to be so impressed with Newt Gingrich pretty much sealed the coffin of the Gingrich candidacy….and I haven’t mentioned Ron Paul who has been so moved by that fashionable neo-fascist Ayn Rand that he named his son, U.S. Senator Rand Paul after her (can you imagine a Democrat naming his son/daughter Marx?).

Nevertheless, there will be thousands of Teapublicans on full display who truly believe that a rapist’s child is a gift from God and that Barack Obama is a Kenyan, Muslim anti-Christ. There are presumably sane men and women who will contend that fraudulent claims of voter fraud are a legitimate tactic to deny the right to vote to black Americans.

The airwaves will be full of frothing Teapublicans who want to bomb Iran, shoot illegal immigrants and shred the social safety net. Shrinking the federal government to a size so that it could be drowned in a bathtub may be Grover Norquist’s ghoulish catch phrase, but most of the people that you see on television this week believe that this catch phrase articulates a strategy that will make this country better.

And underlying this entire maelstrom inside of a hurricane will be the gusting winds of racism. Toure and Chris Matthews at MSNBC have come under criticism for telling the truth. Ascribing foreign and un-American characteristics to President Obama are slick and slimy methods of playing the race card and stoking the mindless and soulless racist resentment that fuels the white heat of opposition to the very existence of Barack Obama on this planet.

And meanwhile, Mitt Romney blithely lobs not very subtle racist dog whistles and slime balls by touting his citizenship even though, ironically, his father George Romney actually was not born in the United States. But as Romney grips and grins his way through this outrageously gruesome Klown Karnival, the RNC leadership hopes that no one is watching…..or really listening.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 24, 2012

With his incredibly stupid comment about “legitimate rape” Congressman Ted Atkins found himself in the middle of a national firestorm of outrage. But Congressman Paul Ryan has sponsored legislation referring to “forcible rape” and an entire cadre of Teapublicans in Congress thinks that all of this idiocy makes sense. Is Atkins the Teapublican head fake to distract us from the toxic mission that they are undertaking? Meanwhile we learn that the Teapublican Majority Leader and Majority Whip of the Congress led a taxpayer funded delegation to Israel that featured drunken and nude swimming in the Sea of Galilee. This is so wrong it’s hard to know where to start. And finally, the National Urban League has decided that Nike is charging too much for its sneakers. Can that be news? And doesn’t the Urban League have a few other, more pressing issues to worry about?

Watch for the Head Fake

It would seem that the Teapublicans are intent on self-immolation even before their hurricane-cursed convention begins next week. By choosing a doctrinaire, Ayn Rand acolyte as his running mate, Mitt Romney has painted himself into the right corner of the room on the right at the end of the hallway on the right.

Now, Congressman Ted Atkins, in striving for a Lifetime Idiocy Award, has gotten the full and complete attention of the American public when it comes to the abortion policy of the right wing of the right wing that has hijacked what used to be the Republican Party. The most dangerous part of Atkins’ statement was not his reference to “legitimate rape” (whatever the hell that might mean), but rather that his fundamental philosophy is that while the rapist should be punished, the rape victim should be forced to bear the child of that rapist.

By lifting the lid on the G.O.Tea Party Crazy Box, the entire country can now see that this is a party that clearly believes that women have no right to any kind of choice when it comes to reproductive issues. Congressman Steve King of Iowa joins Congressman Atkins and dozens of other members of Congress in believing that for biological reasons it is almost impossible for a woman to become pregnant by reason of rape.

But we should not let this instance of dumbness distract us from the entire Teapublican package which disputes evolution, believes that creationism is a scientific theory worthy of academic recognition and also is positive that climate change is a myth. In Tampa we will get the full view of the rush to idiocy that will become a national mission if Romney-Ryan is victorious on November 6th.

Pilgrims’ Progress?

Now it turns out that a short time ago, two budget hawks from the Teapublican Party led a Congressional delegation to Israel. Congressmen Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy are not foot soldiers in the G.O.Tea ranks; they are Majority Leader and Majority Whip respectively.

They also claim that waste is a key element in the budget crisis that this nation is facing.
So it might be a good idea to ask why it was so important for them to lead a delegation of over a dozen members of Congress and their staff members to visit Israel and spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars so that they could “fact find”. It might also be a good idea to ask how much of the people’s business was being taken care of when many of the members engaged in a drunken midnight swim in the Sea of Galilee, at least one member of Congress being so overwhelmed by this holy site that he swam in the nude.

Let’s see – wasting money – check! Desecrating a holy site – check! Looking like idiots while representing the United States abroad – double check! It sounds like the Secret Service was serving as their travel agents.

Wake Up Urban League!

The leading cause of death for young black men in America is homicide. Unemployment in the black community is at historic levels. The Teapublican Party has declared war on black voting rights and has legalized voter suppression. These are all pretty daunting challenges for the national black community.

So why would Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, go on national television to criticize Nike for planning to sell sneakers that will cost $300. This would be the same Nike that has been selling overpriced sneakers for over a quarter of a century.

It cannot be news to the Urban League that Nike sells overhyped sneakers and markets them to black consumers. It cannot be news that black consumers buy these sneakers. And it cannot be news that Nike’s mission is to sell as many sneakers for as much money as possible.

But what is news is that the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has passed a voter i.d. law that is clearly designed to diminish and suppress the black vote. It is news that voter suppression is being legalized and legitimized as a protection against non-existent fraud.

With the black community in danger of being disenfranchised after less than fifty years of nationally mandated enfranchisement is the real news. The National Urban League would do well to focus on priorities that really matter and that does not include Nike sneakers.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Guns and Drugs – Stuck on Stupid

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, getting the same result, and always expecting a different result. It could also be a useful definition for stupidity. And, it could also be a useful description of American policy towards guns and drugs over the past forty years. Despite steadfast adherence to failed strategies the United States has stayed mired on the wrong road. Stuck on stupid, as it were.

During the past forty years the United States has had the dubious distinction of having the highest death-by-gun rate per capita of any country in the world. Americans die of gun-related homicides and accidents at horrific rates, punctuated by random catastrophes like Aurora or Virginia Tech or Tucson or Columbine. The primary cause of death of young black men is homicide committed by young black men, typically murdered by a gun.

The United States also is a world leader in the illegal use of drugs. Whether the drug of choice is marijuana, cocaine, oxytocin or methamphetamines, Americans ingest drugs at rates that can only be described as amazing. And despite the expenditure of billions of dollars during the past forty years, drug use and drug abuse continues virtually unabated. And the collateral consequence of the drug trade has been the appearance of mammoth criminal enterprises that control entire neighborhoods in American cities and sometimes entire countries that supply the eternal desire for the eternal high.

The United States has assumed world class status by virtue of it being a focal point for innovation and original thought. This is why it is all the more surprising that, when it comes to guns and drugs, America stays stuck on stupid, trying the same failed policies over and over and expecting that somehow, someway, the results will be different someday.

Despite the daily gun carnage that takes place in the United States, the exceedingly vocal minority gun absolutists, led by the National Rifle Association, have totally hijacked any opportunity for debate and sane discussion on the issue on the control of guns. That anyone could seriously connect possession of armor piercing bullets or assault rifles to some contrived constitutional right is bizarre enough. That such a wrongheaded and societally suicidal mindset could set the narrative for gun control is nothing short of appalling.

There seems to be no death toll high enough, no massacre grotesque enough that will empower and enable common sense in the national dialogue when it comes to guns. Presidents have been slain, heroes have been slaughtered, children have been routinely sacrificed at the point of a gun and still, there is no change in the national dialogue. One wonders what ghastly catastrophe would finally get this country to stop being stuck on stupid when it comes to guns.

And all the while, despite a pitifully ineffective multibillion dollar “war” on drugs during the past forty years, drug usage has not been significantly decreased. But this “war” has eviscerated black and Latino communities across this country through the incarceration of young men for decades for charges that have little or nothing to do with drug trafficking or drug manufacture. The illegal status of these drugs has spawned a prison industrial complex that is highly profitable. The illegal status of these drugs has also given rise to local, national and international drug cartels that trade their commodities on a global level in the multibillion dollar stratosphere.

For those who think that a “war” on drugs is somehow better than legalizing drugs, I recommend “Last Call” by Daniel Okrent. Dr. Okrent chronicles the disastrous failure of Prohibition and points out that it was Prohibition that gave rise to the major national criminal syndicates which plague this country to this very day. Why anyone would think that this “war” on drugs would fare any better than the “war” on alcohol is baffling – the expression “wishful thinking” comes to mind. And so does “stuck on stupid”.

Billions of dollars and millions of lives are being wasted by the structurally damaged American strategies regarding guns and drugs. It is plain to see that there is not enough of a law enforcement presence when it comes to guns. It is also quite clear that the absolute criminalization of the use of drugs has only produced failure with toxic impact on entire communities, and in some cases entire countries.

I do not know how long this country can stay stuck on stupid when it comes to guns and drugs. But it is clear that, until and unless there is change, the reign of misery connected to guns and drugs in America will not end.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 17, 2012

The Teapublicans have as one of their rallying cries that it is time to “take back America”. Now that the presidential campaign is moving to the gold medal round it might be time to ask, take America back from whom? And exactly who is doing the taking back anyway? Meanwhile, we have learned that, in vetting Paul Ryan for the role of vice presidential candidate, Mitt Romney reviewed at least five years of Congressman Ryan’s tax returns. Nevertheless Mr. Romney and his sidekick Paul Ryan are adamant that the American people need to see only two years of their tax returns. And finally, Donald Trump continues to do an excellent impression of a broken clock by being right twice a day. He had one of those days last week.

Take Back America?

Seemingly within hours of the inauguration of Barack Obama the right wing of the right wing took up the “Take Back America” battle cry. Since then the phrase “take back America” has been a part of the Teapublican orthodoxy.

It was clear from the very outset that “taking back America” meant wresting the presidency from the dusky hands of the first black president of the United States. Just as clear is the implication that the control of this country is somehow a white birthright and no minorities need apply —- and it is pretty iffy as to whether any women, of whatever hue, should consider applying as well.

Every presidential election is, to some extent, a battle of competing ideologies and a value comparison of visions for this country. But this “take back America” business is just another dog whistle code phrase for “get that black so and so out of our White House”.

Amazingly, the Teapublicans wield this phrase and think that only their adherents can hear their dog whistle.

Ryan’s Returns

In 1968, George Romney, Mitt Romney’s biological father, became the first presidential candidate to release his tax returns and he released twelve years of his returns. In 2012 Mitt Romney reviewed at least five years of Paul Ryan’s tax returns prior to selecting him to be his running mate and right wing man. Yet, Mitt Romney is steadfast is refusing to release no more than two years of his own returns.

In his typical, smarmy pseudo patrician fashion, Mr. Romney has referred to concerns about his tax returns as being “small minded”. But somehow “small minded” Republican such as Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich have all seen fit to release several years of their tax returns when running for president.

In this day and age when every applicant for any job has to disclose anything and everything requested by their prospective employer, it is shocking, outrageous and insulting that Mitt Romney refuses to divulge his financial background.

If Mitt Romney wants to keep his life so private then he simply should not run for public office.

Trump’s Stopped Clock

Donald Trump is so outrageously and consistently wrong about everything that it is actually news when he is right. He has singlehandedly resurrected the concept of the stopped clock theory which is right twice a day no matter what.

After the announcement of Paul Ryan as the Teapublican vice presidential candidate The Donald bellowed that Mitt Romney had made a huge mistake. It is Mr. Trump’s view that having an honest to God ideologue on the Teapublican ticket will make it easy for President Obama and the Democratic Party to further marginalize the Romney-Ryan ticket and put the RR team on the railroad to defeat.

One can only hope that this is one of the few times that Donald Trump is right.

Have a great weekend!

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Ryan’s Express

Say one thing for Mitt Romney, when he decides to capitulate he doesn’t bother to half-step. Ever since his failed presidential campaign crashed, burned and died in 2008, he has been determined to make sure that he would dance to the tune of the right wing of the right wing of what is now the Teapublican Party. Now, with his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, he is literally welded to the most radical and punitive budget agenda that this country has ever seen.

As the leader of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney showed himself capable of being firmly focused on a goal – making money. With that mindset he was able to buy and sell companies, build and dismantle them, hire and fire thousands of men and women, all with the goal of making money. His success in pursuing that goal is clear in the hundreds of millions of dollars that he earned in his role as the CEO of Bain.

As a failed presidential candidate in 2008 he perceived his best opportunity for becoming the next candidate of the Republican Party would entail his catering the increasingly powerful right wing of the right wing. Despite the fact that his prior political positions were relatively moderate on issues like gun control, healthcare, immigration and abortion rights, he managed to make a rightward turn that would put all of his opponents on his left.

During this current campaign, while continuing his starboard lean, Mitt Romney had endorsed in principle the budget plan proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan. The words “in principle” gave Romney some wiggle room on the controversial elements of the Ryan plan. Now that Ryan is the presumptive vice presidential nominee and his running mate, Romney is wedded to a fiscal plan that would have to be modified in order to be called draconian.

The Ryan budget plan calls for nothing less than the dismantling of the federal government as it has been known for almost eighty years. The fact is that during these eighty years this country has experienced unprecedented growth and distributive prosperity that is unequaled in the history of this planet. And clearly this is without meaning or import to Ryan and his right wing cohorts.

The Ryan budget also calls for a radical overhaul of the federal tax code which will sharply decrease taxes paid by the wealthiest citizens of this country while actually increasing the tax burden on middle class and lower income Americans. By the time the Ryan budget is fully implemented, the concept of a progressive income tax system will be a faint memory discussed over tattered card tables in crumbling nursing homes.

And the nursing homes, where they exist, will be crumbling, because the Romney-Ryan budget will call for an overhaul of Medicare and Social Security that will result in fewer resources to assist the elderly and the needy. While Romney and Ryan spout platitudes about the American spirit, the clear goal of their budget is to shred the social safety net and turning this country into some kind of neo-Darwinian social experiment that is straight out of an Ayn Rand nightmare.

The Romney-Rand calls for absolutely no reductions in the bloated defense budget. Instead, expenditure reductions are proposed for education, transportation, the arts, the environment and infrastructure. One can easily see that these are all areas where this country needs more, not fewer, expenditures, but the Romney-Ryan vision doesn’t see it that way.

Romney and Ryan speak about not passing along a debt burden to future generations. But they fail to explain how future generations with fewer educational opportunities will succeed in the global marketplace where every developed and developing country is increasing expenditures in all phases of education. They fail to explain how future generations will move from city to city on an antiquated transportation. They also fail to explain how future generations will appreciate a society with a withered artistic and cultural aspect. A despoiled environment and a crumbling infrastructure hardly seem like a part of desirable inheritance.

Romney and Ryan know all about inheritance. Mitt Romney gave $10 million to one of his son’s to start a business. Paul Ryan’s father died when Ryan was sixteen, but he was an heir to a multimillion dollar family business (building roads for local, state and federal projects) that has made it possible for him to make it to the age of 42 while working in a real private sector job for less than two years. A paltry inheritance for most Americans seems to be okay with them.

After all is said and done, there will be a very clear choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Most American, including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, are the clear beneficiaries of a federal government that, while far from perfect, has provided hundreds of millions of Americans with a platform for success. The Romney-Ryan budget seeks to tear down that platform.

The choice is clear.

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Weekend Edition – August 12, 2012

It has been said that Sunday is the most racially segregated day of the week in the United States. Two weeks ago in Mississippi, this saying was proven true once more. Meanwhile, the mystery of Mitt Romney’s taxes continues. Can he really be elected without disclosing his tax returns? And finally, Michael Jordan is already in the Hall of Fame. Now he is doing something that is more important that scoring baskets.

Mississippi Goddamn!

About 45 years ago jazz legend Nina Simone wrote the song, “Mississippi Goddamn”. It was a song that highlighted the outrageous racism that was unique even during the worst racist eruptions that have convulsed this country. Sadly, Mississippi has fairly earned its characterization as an ultra-racist enclave that is truly the last holdout of the Confederate States of America.

So we shouldn’t have been surprised that a predominantly white Christian congregation in that state of confusion called Mississippi actually banned a black couple from being married in its church. Keep in mind that this couple was not committing the unpardonable sin of engaging in interracial marriage. Both the prospective bride and groom were black.

The couple, rather than fight foolishness on what is supposed to be a day of joy and celebration got married in another church. After a few days a representative of the church apologized with one of those gossamer “if we offended anyone” routines that are employed by gaffe-prone celebrities, politicians and athletes.

And at the end of the day nothing has changed in Mississippi.

Mitt’s Mystery

In 1968, George Romney, Mitt Romney’s biological father, became the first presidential candidate to release his tax returns and he released twelve years of his returns. Since then, liberal and conservative and Republican and Democratic candidates have all released their tax returns as a matter of course.

It seems reasonable, after any cabinet secretary has to release his/her tax returns. Certainly appointees of many local, state and federal offices have to release their tax returns. And, come to think of it, shouldn’t the American people have the right to know how their president makes his/her money?

Apparently Mitt Romney doesn’t think so. He has spoon fed the public one year of tax returns and has only committed to releasing one more year at some point in time. The contempt that he has for the political process and the American people is so foul that you can almost smell it.

While it is true that tax returns and private finances are personal, it seems pretty clear that an individual who chooses to hold public office has to give up some of that privacy.
Or else they can just stay home and stay private.

It will be interesting to see if Mitt Romney can continue with this stubborn refusal to hold on to his tax returns and still get elected president.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time”. Mitt will just have to learn the hard way.

Hooray for #23

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest professional basketball player who ever lived. And while there is an argument in a sports bar or a barber shop that is just waiting to begin, there is no doubt that Mr. Jordan has come a long way from his apolitical days (remember “Republicans were sneakers too”?).

Michael Jordan and several other NBA players have endorsed the candidacy of President Obama and are actively campaigning for him. And while supporters of Barack Obama are understandably pleased there is another positive dynamic that cannot be ignored.

For too long too many black professional athletes confine their celebrity to selling overpriced sneakers to underserved youngsters. In the alternative they engage in saluting conspicuous consumption while promoting self-destructive behavior. Clearly Mr. Jordan and some of his colleagues have realized that they can be a force for positive change and engagement in the political process which can result in benefits that even the best sneaker can never provide.

Hooray for #23.

Have a great weekend!

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