Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 28, 2014

It seems that there are people who think that any black American slave who resisted was a terrorist. And that tells us a lot about those people. And in Arizona it seems that persecuting Latinos has been replaced by persecuting gay Americans as a legislative blood sport. And in Africa, it seems that persecuting gay Africans is more of a priority than fighting hunger and disease.

My Hero is Your Terrorist

Denmark Vesey was born a slave. Although he managed to buy his freedom, his wife’s master would not let him purchase her freedom – or that of their children.

Denmark Vesey ultimately led one of the major slave revolts in American history, an insurrection that spread fear and panic in the hearts of every slave owner and every supporter of slavery. The fact that his revolt did not succeed and that Denmark Vesey was hung did nothing to assuage their terror.

Almost two hundred years later there is a plan to erect a statue in his honor in Charleston, South Carolina, the site of Denmark Vesey’s rebellion. And there are some noble white South Carolinians who are complaining because, in their view, Denmark Vesey was a “terrorist” who didn’t “work within the system”.

The absurdity of the naysayers is obvious and further comment is unnecessary. Let’s just hope that the statue is erected…………………and very soon.

Arizona Crazy

The state government in Arizona has been so obsessed with persecuting Latinos in the name of immigration security that it took the Supreme Court of the United States to curtail some of the more egregious legislative actions. Sullen and unbowed, the Arizona Bigots have clearly focused on yet another target – gay Americans.

Recently, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a measure passed by the legislature that would have given the operators of public facilities – hotels, restaurants, theaters, etc., the right to refuse service to individuals whose lifestyles offended their religious beliefs.

This was a gossamer legislative veil over the intent to give these same operators of public facilities the right to refuse service to gay Americans. And Governor Brewer, with visions of Super Bowl and gay consumer dollars galloping away from her state wisely vetoed the measure.

But what is it about alternative lifestyles and different concepts of love and caring that make some people so hateful in the first place?

Back into the Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness describing the bleak and horrific characteristics of the European colonization of Africa. Over a century after that book was published we are now witness to the leadership of too many African nations advocating draconian legislative actions which criminalize the lives and lifestyles of gay Africans. Death sentences, life sentences, banning and shaming are all part of the New African Fascism.

In too many parts of sub Saharan Africa there are challenges of crime, civil unrest, genocide, hunger, disease and poverty. Can it be that alternative lifestyles and different concepts of love and caring are the priority issues when so many Africans are suffering, not from homosexuality, but from ineffective, corrupt and misguided governance?

It may be time to hit the reset button in Africa.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

Slipping (Further) Into Darkness

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, the world will little note or remember Ted Nugent. This past his prime rock star has managed to cling to shreds of infamy and notoriety by hurling multiple insults and threats at President Obama. He has disappointed many by not following up on his promise to commit suicide if Barack Obama was reelected president and now he has decided to dive deeper into the sewer of racist calumny by calling the President of the United States “a half breed mongrel”.

It is always important to keep in mind that to be President of the United States one must be prepared to be the target of epic insults. George Washington was called “illiterate and unlearned” and Abraham Lincoln was likened to a baboon. So in looking at the cascade of insults that have been directed against Barack Obama an historical perspective is important.

That being said, one would have to be as innocent as a newborn to not discern the scruffy stain of racism that is a part of the Obama Insult Brigade’s weaponry. Early in the Obama Era Teapublican partisans and others felt so liberated in the so-called post-racial America that they carried around signs and posters with Barack Obama being depicted as a sub-mythical stereotypical savage with a bone through his nose.

Clearly some image consultancy consigned such obvious signs to the scrap heap, or at least to some place off camera. But the Confederate flags, the swastikas and the repeated references to President Obama as “not American” are all ladled from the same racist cesspool.

We should not spend a lot of time worrying about a has been like Ted Nugent. We should be worried that a leader of the Teapublican Party who aspires to be president – that would be Texas Senator Ted Cruz – has no problems with Ted Nugent’s remarks and continues to appear with him in public.

We should also be concerned that the spillover from these racist attacks can be seen on college campuses across this country, most recently at the University of Mississippi where some miscreants thought that it would be a good idea to hang a noose around the neck of a statue of James Meredith, the first black student at that school.

The point is that we are as far from a post racial America as we are from Mars. The point is that as long as racist language and racist behavior is tolerated and not shunned, as long as such behavior is embraced and not the proscribed, we will get to Mars sooner than we arrive at that post-racial America.


Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 23, 2014

Is there something about the water in Florida that empowers white men to shoot young black men, secure in the righteousness of their conduct? Meanwhile, we should pay attention to what Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says – and doesn’t say. And finally and incredibly, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is right – for once. Really.

The Florida Death Penalty

Michael Dunn is white. Jordan Davis was black. Michael Dunn did not like the volume of the music that Jordan Davis and his friends were playing. Michael Dunn shot and killed Jordan Davis.

Michael Dunn was accused of murder and attempted murder. A jury convicted him of attempted murder. A jury refused to convict him of murder (how one can be convicted only of attempted murder when that person kills someone is a Florida mystery special).

In the aftermath of the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his acknowledged killer, George Zimmerman, we have to wonder if there is something in the water of Florida that empowers white men to kill young black men with impunity.

The sun has clearly set on the Sunshine State.

There’s Something About Clarence

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has revealed himself to be living in a world of fantasy where the problem is race has been caused by the victims of racism. He also has managed to envision 1960 Georgia as a virtual Eden where black people were free of concerns about freedom.

Aside from his raucous voyage into the bizarre, it should be pointed out that this weekend marks 8 years since Justice Thomas spoke from the bench of the United States Supreme Court. That constitutes a very bizarre record as comments from the bench are a very important indication of the thinking and reasoning of Supreme Court justices.

Of course, it is possible that on the Planet Clarence Thomas there is not a lot of thinking and reasoning going on.

Rand Paul is Right!

United States Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is rarely right about anything. But last week he advocated eliminating post sentence felonies for convicts – a very good and just position.

Right now there are 29 states where ex-convicts do not have the right to vote even after they have served their sentence and completed any accompanying parole/probation.

This cruel and unusual punishment extends to preventing ex-convicts from obtaining gainful employment and living in public housing.

This practice is not in keeping with the constitutional concepts of banning cruel and unusual punishment and double jeopardy.

Senator Paul gets it. Hopefully others will as well……………and soon.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

The Amazing Mr. Thomas

It is with a sense of involuntary amazement and fascination that one observes the life and career of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Being born in unimaginable poverty, his life narrative should be a testament to perseverance, overcoming, accomplishment and a clear commitment to success. However, Justice Thomas has used the platform of his career to not only attack and eviscerate the societal infrastructure that allowed him to succeed, he has also engaged in a view of his own life that alternates between neocon fantasy and unmistakable self-hatred.

Most recently Justice Thomas opined that in the modern era there is a baseless preoccupation with race in all phases of society. Choosing the ignore the racism and racist practices that are still found in America in 2014, he went on to say that life was actually better for black Americans in his home state of Georgia in 1960 than they are today.

Speaking at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla., Justice Thomas criticized a society that is more “conscious” of racial differences than it was when he grew up in Georgia – in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Justice Clarence Thomas is entitled to his opinions, unfortunate as they might be.  But he is not entitled to his own set of facts.

In 1960 there were 1,133,596 black Americans living in the state of Georgia. There were no black members of the Georgia state legislature, no blacks elected to state-wide office and no black people representing Georgia in the United States Congress.

It is difficult to understand how Justice Thomas believes that a state where virtually one third of its population simply did not exist in the state legislature could be a virtuous occurrence. It is impossible to understand how life for black Americans in Georgia could have been better than today.

In 1964, Lt. Colonel Lemuel Penn, a black Army reservist completing two weeks of training at Fort Benning, Georgia, was shot gunned to death on a desolate highway in rural Georgia. The white killers were acquitted by an all-white jury. A measure of justice was meted out when some of those killers were convicted under federal charges several years later.

Again, it is impossible to find the logic or reason in the statement by Justice Thomas that black people were better off in 1960 when the random assassination of black Americans was part of the Georgia way of life. And Clarence Thomas grew up in an age when the lynching of black men and women in Georgia were not a distant memory but rather they were a part of the daily news of those times.

That Clarence Thomas engages in this obscene form of neocon fantasy should just be the subject of pity or scorn. But, as a sitting justice on the United States Supreme Court, it is more than troubling that someone with such a defective and demented sense of history is permitted to partake in decisions which not only affect black Americans, but every man, woman and child in this country.

If Clarence Thomas were to deny the Holocaust suffered by Jews in Europe he would be rightfully castigated as being absolutely unqualified to be a Supreme Court Justice. In such a case, any sitting justice who would deny such an awful reality could not be trusted to comprehend the truth in the present tense.

Similarly, for Justice Thomas to blithely deny the suffering, terror and degradation suffered by black Americans makes him unalterably unqualified to sit as a justice on the United States Supreme Court. He should be allowed to wallow in his alternative universe, but he should not be allowed to participate for the rest of his life in court rulings that will affect Americans for the rest of our lives.

In all likelihood Clarence Thomas will continue to spew his misstatement of history and allow us to watch him self-indulgently engage in self-hate. Being that his appointment to the Supreme Court is for life, he should brace himself for scant praise more pity and scorn.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 14, 2014

During the past week we have seen what at first glance seem to be the first signs of sanity creeping into the Teapublican wing of the Congress. But then again…….Meanwhile, Comcast is acquiring Time Warner Cable, which would result in a mammoth communications empire. And the operative word may be “empire”. And finally, of all people, Samuel L. Jackson is concerned about the imagery of black people as portrayed in “Twelve Years a Slave”. Really?

The False Rays of Dawn

The Teapublican majority in the House of Representatives along with their comrades in nullification, the Teapublicans in the Senate, actually voted to send a “clean” debt ceiling bill to the White House. By “clean”, it is meant that for the first time during the Obama Administration the Teapublicans have not tried to hold the full faith and credit of the country hostage in exchange for what used to be the routine raising of the debt ceiling.

Some people are acting like the Teapublicans deserve a medal for doing their job. A job that has been done scores of times in the past without anywhere near the controversy that has been created by these same Teapublicans.

Some commentators have opined that we may be seeing a more pragmatic and realistic Teapublican Party in the days to come.

While that may be true, recent history has shown that the Teapublicans rarely miss an opportunity to be on the wrong side of logic, history and the American people.

There’s a Giant among Us

Comcast offer to purchase Time Warner Cable has been accepted by the Board of Directors of Time Warner. Now all that stands between the American people and a new and powerful communications empire is the Federal Communications Commission.

There is something troubling about the size and scope of the proposed new entity that will control the broadcast signals that will go into the homes of untold millions of American homes. The potential for abuse should be obvious and it can only be hoped, indeed expected, that if the FCC were to approve this transaction that there will be a set of built in checks and balances that will prevent that abuse.

Otherwise, choice in television viewing may be one of those things that the next generation will consider to be in the same category as this generation thinks of rotary dial telephones.

No He Didn’t!

Incredibly and unbelievably, and in an act of stunning self-promotion, actor and TV pitchman Samuel L. Jackson injected himself into the Academy Awards discussion by contending that the film “Fruitvale Station” should have received consideration by the Academy. No problem there as Mr. Jackson is entitled to his opinion.

But then Mr. Jackson opined that “Fruitvale” should have received nominations instead of “Twelve Years a Slave” because the latter movie did not portray black people in a positive light. Somehow, the black actor who has literally made a career of portraying pseudo badass trash talking brothers in a variety of galaxies, eras and situations is now concerned about the image of black people in the movies.

And what law or rule states that only one movie that centers on black people should get Academy consideration in a single year?

Or is that another Badass Samuel L. Jackson Rule that we didn’t know about?


Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

Be the Light Not the Darkness

It is a certainty that Barack Obama did not run for president so that he could be the first one to cut the food stamps program, a program whose recipients are mainly mothers, children and the elderly. It is also a certainty that his supporters never envisioned him presiding over a federal government that often seems to only care about shredding, carving and eviscerating America’s social safety net. To counter this Season of Mean, President Obama has stated that he will take executive action wherever possible to stem this terrible tide and it is time for us to do the same.

The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), also known as the food stamp program, was devised to assist people who were on the wrong side of the poverty line. That there should be anyone in danger of starving in the wealthiest nation in the history of the planet is a disgrace. That the United States Congress could be bullied and browbeaten by Teapublican domestic terrorists and thugs wearing the gossamer disguise of fiscal conservatism is also a disgrace. But somehow, reducing the food stamp program by $8 billion over the next ten years seems better than reducing it by $40 billion over the same period of time – once more proving that the Teapublican terrorist tactics seem to be working.

The federal unemployment insurance program for the long term unemployed has literally helped people keep their homes, their hopes and their dignity. Once again the Teapublican thugs and domestic terrorists have seen fit to dismiss the very real human misery that they have caused. And in an obscene demonstration of Orwellian illogic they have claimed that unemployment insurance actually prevents people from seeking employment.

In the face of this windstorm of misery President Obama announced that he will be utilizing executive orders wherever and whenever possible to offset the domestic terrorism emanating from the right wing of the right wing. But it is a certainty that President Obama recognizes that this will not be enough.

And that is why it is important that the supporters of a progressive vision in this country expand the battlefield from the political charnel house that is the Congress to every state, city, community and neighborhood. That is why it is important that every person who believes that compassion is a virtue and that humanity is not a sign of weakness take it upon themselves to bring light where others would impose darkness.

It will remain important to change the political dynamic in Washington and in state houses and cities across the country. But the systemic change brought about by the right wing of the right wing took decades of dedicated and consistent effort. Countering that change will not take place overnight or by magical incantations.

But while that change is being confronted, countered and reversed there are children who are hungry, families that are homeless and men, women and children who are hopeless. And it is not enough to identify the Teapublicans who are their tormentors. It is time to be the light.

There are countless ways to bring gentle into the public dialogue. There are an infinite number of ways that we can demonstrate kindness – hiring an extra worker, volunteering at a school, giving food to a pantry or friendship to someone who believes that they are friendless.

What is most important is that those who truly believe in a progressive vision take the time to be the light. And in this time when the forces of darkness are real and strong, it has never been more important to be the light.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 8, 2014

It is the nature of bad taste that there are no limits to how bad it can get. So it may come as no surprise that a sin-stained child killer (George Zimmerman) and a washed up rapper (DMX) will stage an exhibition boxing match – but still…. Meanwhile, the George Washington Bridgegate scandal is turning out to be The Death of a Thousand Cuts for Chris Christie. And finally, in a monumental tribute to insensitivity, Turner Classic Movies aired “Gone with the Wind” on the first day of Black History Month. Really???

Just Say No!

It has been said that no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people. It can also be said that it is hard to lose money selling bad taste to the American people.

A case in point – George Zimmerman, the acquitted killer of Trayvon Martin, who should forever hide his face in shame and beg his God for some measure of forgiveness, is slated to appear in a celebrity boxing match. DMX, an outdated has been of a rapper, who has spent more time in prison than on stage in recent years, will be his opponent.

This is wrong on so many levels it is impossible to know where to start – the promoter, the faux pugilists? There is certainly a special place in Hell for whoever came up with this idea.

In the meantime, we should keep in mind that it is possible to ignore this obscenity and not watch it as it sinks into to the immoral slime from which it came.

Christie’s Circus

Clearly, at some point in the recent past, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie decided that, instead of trying to run for president he would pursue a career in comedy. That is the only explanation behind the dumb as a bag of hammers move by someone in his office to close the George Washington Bridge followed by a cover up that makes the Nixon Administration look positively Machiavellian by comparison.

And now, the Christie administration has brought up the 11th grade record of a possible accuser (and former Christie appointee) as a means of attacking that person’s credibility. Please reread the prior sentence because it is so stupid that it has to be true.

Clearly Chris Christie believes that when you are in secondary school there really is such a thing as a Permanent Record.

Turner Classic Ignorance

For those of you who pay attention to such things, Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, began on February 1st. Either the big brain executives at Turner Classic Movies didn’t know that, or they just didn’t care.

In any event, TCM decided that February 1st was a great evening to air that racist slavery fantasy, “Gone with the Wind”. We should be glad that “Birth of a Nation” was presumably not available.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

The Lost War on Drugs

One of the many side shows related to the Super Bowl was the passing reference to the fact that the two contending teams came from states where the personal possession and use of marijuana is legal for all intents and purposes. This was treated as a kind of humorous aspect of America’s secular holiday but in point of fact this is no laughing matter. The drug policy of this country has produced barbaric and horrific results on millions of undeserving Americans with no appreciable impact on drug use itself.

There has been a so-called War on Drugs in the United States for over forty years. The “war” has consumed billions of dollars and consumed millions of lives as well. Employing a policy towards controlled substances that would have to step up a notch to be considered antediluvian, the federal government – along with state and local law enforcement agencies – has criminalized huge cohorts of the American people while unwittingly gutting neighborhoods, destroying communities, atomizing families and crippling cities.

One would have hoped that the spectacular failure of Prohibition would have resulted in a national lesson. Using the criminal law to control personal behavior simply doesn’t work, especially when that personal behavior is connected with profit, pleasure and enjoyment by the users. Banning the sale and consumption of alcohol stopped virtually no one from drinking alcohol. But it did provide an opportunity for the capitalization of organized crime and the spectacular corruption of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Yet, out of the ashes of the Prohibition debacle the federal government doubled down on criminalizing personal behavior by categorizing marijuana, heroin and cocaine as “controlled substances”, the possession and use of which called for imprisonment pursuant to draconian sentencing policies. The irony of whiskey (alcohol) swilling, cigar (nicotine) smoking members of Congress passing laws that selectively criminalized certain behavior is lost on most historians but it is certainly clear in retrospect as well as in the present.

Nevertheless, the so-called War on Drugs has never been seen as a bizarre lost cause that would never work and will never work. What the War on Drugs has done is put millions of men and women in prison pursuant to racially skewed sentencing, creating criminals rather than preserving public safety or the safeguarding the social fabric. The War on Drugs has created a permanent criminal class in this country while also directly capitalizing and financing a Prison Industrial Complex.  And, in the process no one is safe and the drug dealers are getting wealthier by the moment.

And now, in the second decade of the twenty first century, this country is still wrestling with the idea of the extent to which marijuana use should be decriminalized. Even though more people die from obesity, lung cancer, prescription drugs and cirrhosis than from marijuana/cocaine/heroin use (by many times), there is this monomaniacal focus on these controlled substances while real people die from real consequences of perfectly legal substances.

Any discussion of a wholesale reformation of this nation’s failed drug policies is  typically met with horror and outrage. Somehow, to some people, it is reasonable to continue to squander billions of dollars annually and to imprison hundreds of thousands of men and women while continuing to shred the social fabric, all the name of a “war” that can never be “won”.

That is why there is really nothing funny about marijuana legalization jokes – whether they are in Denver or Seattle – because they obscure the fact that this country’s sadistic and antiquated War on Drugs continues to destroy more lives than it can ever possibly save.

And while the band plays on, the police Stop and Frisk, the judge’s sentence according to race and class and entire generations reside on the planet owned by the Prison Industrial Complex.

If there was ever a time for change, now is the time for change, not misbegotten jokes.