Point of View Columns

Chris Christie Fairy Tales

There is a tendency for Chris Christie/Bridgegate fatigue to set in because everyone has seen this movie before. A high ranking government official has obviously done something wrong, yet they continue to deny until it seems that they were born on the banks of a river in Egypt. And then the truth comes out and either they take the hit and move on, or the tides of time and circumstance sweep them into the Sea of the Forgotten.

The facts that we know is that the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York City with New Jersey, is the busiest bridge in America. We know that in September of 2012 access to the bridge was seriously curtailed for four days, causing incredible hardship and inconvenience for commuters, truckers, tourists, school children and the residents of Fort Lee, New Jersey. We know that the George Washington Bridge fiasco was ordered by a member of the executive staff of Governor Chris Christie and a Port Authority New York and New Jersey direct appointee of Governor Chris Christie. And then it gets interesting.

Governor Christie has gone to Gulliverian lengths to assert that he knew nothing, nothing, about the shutdown of the George Washington Bridge traffic. That assertion requires us to believe that during the week in September 2012 in question, he didn’t read a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch television or……that he didn’t think that gargantuan traffic disruption on the George Washington Bridge required the attention of a self-described micromanager.

Since then, Chris Christie and his Teapublican enablers have tried to minimize the very real damage caused by Bridgegate, alternatively throwing every Christie associate under the bus until the bus simply cannot move. Governor Christie has also tried to minimize Bridgegate, continue to claim ignorance, and/or blame the entire imbroglio on partisan politics and a liberal media vendetta.

And, in an interesting pirouette for a man weighing over an eighth of a ton, Chris Christie spent $1 million New Jersey taxpayer dollars to pay for an “internal investigation” conducted by Randy Maistro. That would be the same Randy Maistro who was a deputy in the administration of Rudy Giuliani and that would be the same Rudy Giuliani who has been a longtime and ardent supporter of Chris Christie. Pigs will fly before Randy Maistro ever issues a negative “internal investigation”.

And the pigs are still grounded as the Maistro Report stated that Chris Christie knew nothing about Bridgegate, and even if he did he has forgotten. The Maistro Report also extricated some Christie appointees from under the bus to throw them back under the wheels of the Chris Christie Rolling Thunder Tour Bus – with a pinch and a dash of sexist snark to make it all the more interesting.

As Chris Christie traveled to Las Vegas last weekend to genuflect at the throne of billionaire right winger Sheldon Adelson, he actually claimed that Bridgegate was now conclusively over. He said this notwithstanding the fact that investigations by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the United States Attorney for New Jersey and the New Jersey state legislature have yet to be concluded.

Clearly Chris Christie is operating under the theory that if he says something loud enough or rudely enough or just over and over, that it will take on the appearance of the truth. He seems to think that this convoluted strategy will allow him to fandango his way to a presidential campaign in 2016.

It remains to be seen whether Teapublican voters will validate P.T. Barnum’s maxim about a sucker being born every minute.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 28, 2014

Taking a page from “American Idol” or the “Miss America Pageant”, right wing billionaire Sheldon Adelson is summoning Teapublican candidates to audition – the prize? His multimillions. Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spent $1 million taxpayer dollars on an “internal discussion”. The takeaway from this “impartial” report – Chris Christie knew nothing about Bridgegate and can’t remember anyway. And finally, as Americans and the United Nations continue to bemoan the Russian annexation of Crimea, a short history lesson on annexations is in order.

Showtime for Sheldon

Sheldon Adelson, best known for being the eighth wealthiest man in the world (he owns the Las Vegas Sands Company) with hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and Macao. In the last few years he has been making a name for himself as the personal piggy bank of rightwing causes having given over $30 million to conservative candidates in 2012 alone.

Now he has organized what can only be described as a series of auditions for prospective Teapublican 2016 presidential candidates. He has virtually summoned over a half a dozen of these hopefuls to come and dance before his Las Vegas throne in the hopes that he will anoint one of them with the holy oil of his fortune.

Aside from the unseemly sight of the possible next president of the United States kowtowing before the head of a gambling empire, it is unsettling to know that the pursuit of campaign cash has now come to this golden rule. He who has the gold makes the rules.

Elephantine Memory Loss

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie commissioned an “internal investigation” headed by an attorney who is a former deputy of Rudolph Giuliani, a major supporter of Chris Christie. Clearly this “internal investigation” is missing even a gossamer thread of impartiality.

The “investigation” trashes the Christie staff members who Governor Christie already deposited under the bus two months ago. It also concludes that Governor Christie knew nothing about Bridgegate in real time and that, in any event, he cannot remember anything that was said to him about the four day tie up of the busiest bridge in America at the time the George Washington Bridge was intentionally blocked.

It remains to be seen whether federal or state investigations will vaporize the implausible notion that a known serial micromanager would allow the George Washington Bridge to be blocked without his consent, or at least its knowledge.

But if Chris Christie thinks that anyone will actually buy the results of his “internal investigation” I have a bridge that I would like to sell to him.

Calling Peabody and Sherman

It is fair to say that at the beginning of this year most Americans, and certainly most Teapublicans, couldn’t find Crimea on a map even if you led them to the Black Sea. Now, of course, the Russian annexation is being touted as one of the worst acts of international thuggery since…? Actually, that is a good place to start because this country and many others (who voted to condemn Russia in the United Nations last week) have employed annexation as a very real part of foreign policy.

Consider the history of U.S. annexations in a fashion very similar to the Russia-Crimea scenario – West Florida – 1810, Texas – 1845, New Mexico – 1848, Hawaii – 1898, Puerto Rico, Philippines and Guam – 1898.

Of course annexation has a global tradition. Consider Indonesia – East Timor, 1975, Morocco – Western Sahara – 1975, Israel – East Jerusalem, 1967.

The point is that annexation is far from unknown in world history, right up to the present. And while there may be very real objections to Russian annexation in Crimea, it is more than a little disingenuous to suggest that this is one of the more outrageous international actions ever seen. In reality, we have always seen that annexations take place when they serve the foreign policy objectives of the annexing country.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

Their Freedom Not Yours

While many of us were anxiously awaiting the news about the lost Malaysian Airlines jet and others were watching the NCAA basketball tournaments (Men and Women), the United Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that has incredible ramifications regarding the definition of religious freedom. A number of corporations are plaintiffs in a case claiming that their religious freedom is being violated because they cannot impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

Mitt Romney is on record as saying that corporations are people. The Supreme Court in the infamous Citizens United case has ruled that corporations have First Amendment rights and can therefore hurl untold gobbets of cash into the political fray. Clearly this mindset has emboldened the plutocrats and billionaire Masters of the Universe who believe that their wealth translates into moral superiority in all matters.

The toxic combination of the entitled one percent united with religious zealots who believe that their personal understanding of spirituality should dominate has produced an alternate universe where religious freedom means religious oppression and domination. In this bizarre logical inversion the Supreme Court is being asked to affirm religious freedom at the expense of the religious rights of others.

The current case before the Supreme Court is based upon the contention of corporations that the Affordable Care Act, which requires that private sector employers must provide contraception and related services to their employees. The plaintiffs contend that being required to do so will offend and violate their religious principles. Seriously.

The problem with this case is that it is a classical slippery slope. If employers have religious beliefs that are not consistent with contraception and are entitled to deny such services to their employees, there is a long of line of alternative believers who also will need to be heard. There are religious adherents who oppose blood transfusions, vaccinations and, in some instances, any traditional medical care whatsoever.

People are entitled to adhere to those beliefs but it is unconscionable to suggest that these beliefs should be imposed on people simply because they are employees. Indeed, if a condition of employment means submitting to the religious beliefs of the employer, we are about to witness the tyranny of religion that would make Savonarola smile.

There is also a need for a real world discussion regarding religious liberty. From the inception of the Republic, it has been clear that every American citizen should be free to practice their religion and expression of spirituality in whatever fashion they deem appropriate and satisfying. The corollary to this right is that no American citizen has the right to impose their religious beliefs on another citizen.

This is a fairly simple and fair concept. But there are those who are using the right of freedom of religion as a cudgel to bash and batter their fellow citizens into their belief universe.

This is dangerous, wrong and unfortunate in the extreme. We can only hope that the Supreme Court will, in this case, observe the original intentions of the Framers of the Constitution and not confuse religious rights with the right to oppress in the name of religion.

Point of View Columns

Living in the Land of No

The constant, consistent and persistent efforts to obstruct, erode and diminish every aspect of the Obama Administration are as regular as the heartbeat of a malignant creature. Ever since his inauguration in 2009, President Obama has been confronted with a seemingly seamless wall of opposition by the right wing of the right wing, and sometimes by members of his own party. The recent debacle concerning his appointment of Debo Adegbile to the lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is a sad case in point.

Debo Adegbile is an outstanding attorney whose many accomplishments include leading the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, one of the premier historical forces for good and justice in this country. A graduate of New York University Law School and currently senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, one would think that his confirmation by the same United States Senate where he works would be merely a procedural matter. And one would be thinking wrong because in these days and times we live in The Land of No – certainly when it comes to All Things Obama.

In an act that reeks of hypocrisy, bigotry and double standards, the Teapublican rightward wing in the Senate opposed Mr. Adegbile’s nomination by President Obama. The gossamer fig leaf for the general opposition by the Teapublicans is that Mr. Adegbile participated as an attorney in the successful appeal to prevent Mumia Abu-Jamal from receiving the death penalty.

One can begin with the fact that the Constitution and the United States Supreme Court have clearly established that all citizens of this country have a right to a fair trial and counsel. It is also axiomatic that attorneys who ensure that every person receives representation in a criminal case are not to be characterized by the crimes for which that person is charged.

If a doctor treats a murderer for an illness, that doctor is not criticized. If a priest, minister, rabbi or imam counsels a rapist in prison, that person is not reviled. Until the matter of Mr. Adegbile, no attorney has been criticized for representing a defendant in need of counsel, no matter how reprehensible the crime charged.

Yet the Teapublican wing of the Senate, along with some Democrats who clearly live in fear of the right wing, opposed Mr. Adegbile’s nomination and to date it languishes in the procedural limbo of the Senate where many nominations and much legislation go to die. That this opposition is false and transparently hypocritical is absolutely clear when one examines the background of the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts.

As an attorney, Chief Justice Roberts did pro bono legal work for death row inmates, including a serial killer. During his nomination to be Chief Justice this legal work was never raised as a point of criticism or a reason for opposition to his nomination. And it has certainly never been raised since he has been on the Supreme Court. And it never will be raised by the Teapublicans because who who an attorney defends should not be an issue.

That is, unless the issue of an attorney’s clients can be used to block a nomination by President Obama.

It is shameful that the shameless oppositional strategy of the Teapublicans continues 24/7 and will not abate until the day that Barack Obama leaves the presidency. In the meantime not only does his Administration suffer, the American people suffer as well.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 14, 2014

Clearly the one of the life missions of the Teapublican Chicken Hawks is to get the United States involved in another war – anywhere. There is no other reasonable explanation for the bellicose saber rattling that we are hearing from the right wing of the right wing. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton must have sipped some Teapublican Kool-Aid by going so far as to compare Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. And, not to be outdone, Teapublican Congressman Darrell Issa has proved by his behavior that there is no limit to rudeness, crudeness or barbaric conduct in the congressional right wing of the right wing.

The “Freedom Loving” People of Ukraine

To hear Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham and their Teapublican colleagues tell it, the United States has some kind of moral imperative to intervene militarily in the Ukraine. This is the same John McCain who went to Syria and posed for photo ops with a known Al Qaeda operative, and the same Lindsay Graham who thought that it would be a good idea to put “boots on the ground” in Libya.

The facts are that the relationship between Russian and the Ukraine is complicated, to be charitable. And any policeman will tell you that intervening in a domestic dispute is dangerous business.

And we should be clear that the “freedom loving” peoples of Ukraine boast a robust anti-Semitic population segment and they are very vocal and very active. These same “freedom loving” people have no problems calling black soccer players “monkeys” and worse in their Ukraine stadiums.

And one has to wonder exactly who are what American troops would be fighting for in a worst case scenario?

Hillary’s Misstep

Virtually every political expert concedes the fact that Hillary Clinton will run for president. The problem with being the early prohibitive frontrunner is that such a candidate is forced to comment on anything and everything in order to establish bona fides on this issue or that one which may come in handy when the real campaign begins.

That may explain why Ms. Clinton felt compelled to say anything about the faux Crimean crisis (faux in terms of direct American interests). Endeavoring to demonstrate that no potential Democrat (or Republican) will be able to impugn her willingness to project “strength”, she compare Russian President Putin’s tactics in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s tactics in Austria and Czechoslovakia.

This was wrong on so many levels. We can begin with the fact that the relationship between Russian and Ukraine is complicated and similar to the German/Austrian/Czechoslovakian situation optically, but not substantively. But it is also wrong because to compare Putin to Hitler because the Russians lost 30 million people in a war with Hitler’s Germany and that particular comparison is grotesque insult that is stained with stunning insensitivity and ignorance of history.

There are many reasons why Hillary Clinton might be a great president; her comments regarding Putin and Hitler are not part of that list.

Barbarians in the House

Less than two weeks ago at a House Oversight Committee meeting Chairman Darrell Issa decided that he had had enough of Congressman Elijah Cummings so he peremptorily adjourned the meeting and ordered that Congressman Cummings’ microphone be cut off. Just like that.

It should not come as news that yet another Teapublican, this time Congressman Issa, seems to have majored in rudeness and minored in crudeness in a previous life. Partisanship in Congress is approaching the levels of blood sport and it is clear that there is very little benefit to the American people coming from this.

There will be commentary about there being raucous and reckless and rude behavior on “both sides of the aisle” but it will be hard to find comparisons to Congressman Issa’s behavior or that of Congressman Joe “You Lie” Wilson on the progressive side of the aisle.

Clearly on the Planet Teapublican being right makes it alright.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

Truthspeak 2014

In 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian novel, there is something called “truthspeak”. This crowd management doubletalk was meant to guide the public in a direction that always favored the ruling class. While 1984 is a work of fiction, thirty years after 1984 “truthspeak” has been elevated to a malignant art form particularly in the rhetoric of the Teapublican right wing of the right wing, particularly when it comes to President Barack Obama.

This week’s news reports that President Obama’s approval rating is now at 41%, the lowest point to date during his presidency. Such low polling numbers would seem at first to be counterintuitive. The economy has been improving throughout his entire presidency, the slow pace of that recovery being further evidence of the devastation brought about by the would be Pirates of Wall Street and their enablers in the Bush Administration. Unemployment is at its lowest point since the Great Crash of 2008. And it was the stimulus strategy of the Obama Administration that literally saved millions of jobs along with the American automobile industry.

These are facts that should increase, not decrease, the approval ratings of the president, any president. And there is more. The housing market has improved greatly during the five plus years of the Obama Administration, and a country that was in two wars, bleeding blood and treasure by the minute is now extricated from the Iraqi death trap and is on its way out of the gory mire that is Afghanistan. And despite repeated calls from Teapublican chicken hawks, President Obama has kept this country out of war in Syria, Libya and (to date) the Ukraine.

The Obama Administration supported the challenge to the odious so-called Defense of Marriage Act and with it being overturned by the United States Supreme Court this country is now several steps closer to something resembling equality and humanity. And it was the Obama Administration that led the struggle to pass and implement the first universal healthcare system in the history of the United States thereby giving this country the tools to finally have a healthcare system that is on a par with the healthcare system of every developed country on this planet.

These are all fact that should increase, not decrease, the approval ratings of the president, any president. But, of course, President Obama is not any president. In an unprecedented act of near treason, the leaders of what would soon be the Teapublican cabal met on the evening of President Obama’s inauguration to plot his failure as president, not caring what damage would be inflicted on the American people in the process.

Since January of 2009, the other part of this cynical strategy has been to simply lie about President Obama and his policies and initiatives at every possible opportunity. Using the “truthspeak” theory articulated in 1984, the Teapublicans have preached that the truth is a lie and that lies are the truth.

Using “truthspeak” the Teapublicans have told their adherents that President Obama is not a citizen of the United States. They have been told that the stimulus package did not save millions of jobs even as they elbowed their way to the window of the U.S. Treasury to get stimulus checks for their districts and jurisdictions. Teapublican “truthspeak” states that the Great Crash of 2008 was not that bad and that President Obama should not get credit for what has been essentially a cyclical recovery.

Teapublican “truthspeak” preaches that President Obama is “weak” because he has not needlessly committed American combat troops to wars in which the American people do not have a direct interest. Teapublican “truthspeak” states that President Obama is “lazy” even though the evidence illustrating the activity and productivity of his Administration is crystal clear – despite Teapublican obstruction in Congress.

And, perhaps the biggest lie of all, the Teapublican “truthspeak” machine has continuously stated that the Affordable Care Act is a disaster for the American people even as millions of Americans are signing up for healthcare. They continue these lies even as the American healthcare system is finally being overhauled and pulled and pushed into the 21st century.

The declining ratings of President Obama are visible evidence of the power of “truthspeak” and a victory for lies and mendacity. And that is truly a shame.

Point of View Columns

The Harder They Fall

Recent events in Ukraine have resulted in predictable, though bizarre, reaction in the United States. Suddenly people who couldn’t spell “Ukraine” if you spotted them a “k” and a “U” are clamoring for President Obama to take bold action. American politicians who couldn’t find Crimea on a map with the aid of Google maps now make the argument that American interests are at stake because of the invasion tactics employed by Russia.

The rest of the world must find the United States to be increasingly odd in its world view. Because it is the United States that has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan because it believed that its national interests called for such action. And, going back just a little further in time it was the United States that invaded Grenada and Panama for the same reasons of self-interest and continues to beleaguer the Republic of Cuba because its sociopolitical structure is not to the liking of a very loud and exceedingly vocal minority in this country.

Of course that is just relatively recent U.S. history. A further review of this country’s invasions and incursions include the occupation of Haiti and the annexation of Texas along with the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran at the behest of oil interests. The point is, the United States is the historical invading pot that should have difficulty calling any other invading kettle black.

The reality of the Planet Earth is that countries take actions to protect and preserve what they perceive as their national interests. Russia has taken actions in the Ukraine that certainly have a plausible connection to that country’s perceived national interests however inconvenient that particular truth might be. And, as noted, the United States is one of the last countries on earth that should criticize another country that utilizes military action to protect and preserve those national interests.

But, never letting reality getting in the way of an opportunity to attack President Barack Obama, the Teapublicans are now claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin felt emboldened to invade Ukraine because of some undefined weakness that President Obama has shown. These same Teapublicans conveniently forget that President Putin also felt emboldened to invade Georgia when Republican President George W. Bush resided in the White House. Perhaps Mr. Putin doesn’t really care what the United States thinks when he acts on behalf of his country.

Nevertheless, we are being showered with by the Teapublican noise machine with the usual suspects, chicken hawk Senator Lindsay Graham, twice failed presidential candidate Senator John McCain and hasbeen wannabe celebrity Sarah Palin claiming that President Obama is not demonstrating “leadership”. Their thought process must embrace the notion that the only leadership that counts is leading a country into war even as President Obama has been leading this country away from war and perilous military actions.

Another failed presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has contended that President Obama hasn’t shown “leadership” because he takes too long to think and consider various options and that he consults with his advisors to excess. He favorably compares Vladimir Putin as a “leader” because he makes up his mind quickly and acts.

One would think that after the disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq the one thing that the American people want, and the one thing that this country needs, is a leader who thinks about the consequences of acting before acting. If it were up to the Teapublican chicken hawks the United States would be mired in wars in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and North Korea right now. And if it were up to these same Teapublican chicken hawks more Americans would be killed and maimed, more of this country’s wealth would be squandered and the security of this planet would be all the worse for these actions.

History will show that by being a thoughtful and deliberative president, Barack Obama has been a good steward of the White House. Although it is doubtful that the Teapublicans who have already determined that All Things Obama Are Bad will ever come to that realization.