Point of View Columns

Land of the Gun Home of the Dead

The latest gun massacre, this time in Isla Vista, California, is barely a two day story in the media. We have become anesthetized to mass murder by gun, the only differentiation from one story to another being the sheer number of men, women and children who are killed. And as the blood spills and the tears flow, the National Rifle Association and their pawns, sock puppets and enablers in Congress and on the Supreme Court continue their pompous perversion of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the national body count be damned.

Statistics have a tendency to numb, but they also inform. There are over 30,000 gun related deaths in the United States every year. Since 1982 there have been 70 mass shootings in this country, 36 of them having occurred since 2006. This alarming trend is no secret. It is in the newspaper headlines, the television lead stories and in the countless obituaries that are published every day.

The Bill of Rights was never intended to be the Ten Commandments, and there is nothing absolute about any of these “rights”. Freedom of speech has not been understood to include the publication of child pornography or threats to kill the President of the United States. We are all free from unreasonable search and seizure, but that right can be limited by a search warrant or life and death exigencies.

The logic that suggests that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is somehow sacred would be ludicrous but for the deadly price that we all pay. This logic has resulted in a demented approach to the regulation of guns that is really a series of loopholes connected by disjointed and fragmentary controls that still result in an annual death toll of over 30,000 Americans.

Too much time has been wasted on arguing about exactly what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind when the Second Amendment was proposed, written and ratified. Some legal historians believe that the Second Amendment referred to the establishment of state militias (think the National Guard). Some legal scholars believe that the Second Amendment refers to the actual possession of guns by individuals. It does not matter.

What matters is that the United States has become one vast, coast to coast killing field. What matters is the over 80 Americans who are killed by guns every day. What matters is that there is no mall, church, theater, home, school or street in this country that is truly safe from the plague of bullets that afflicts without regard to race, color, economic status or political affiliation.

Too much time has been spent accepting the legitimacy of the lunatic argument that the only solution to gun violence is more guns. If that sounds about as ridiculous as putting out a fire with a flamethrower, it is because that is the case.

Gun legislation which legalizes death by gun through laws like “Stand Your Ground” and legalizing the carrying of guns in bars, churches and universities doesn’t even begin to seem like a solution in a country where it is a tossup as to which is the greater health danger – carbon monoxide or gun smoke. And the claim that the gun has some kind of iconic, quasi-religious place in American culture only enables the gun worshippers on the altar, drenched with the blood of gun victims, an altar bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association and the merchants of death also knows as gun manufacturers.

The rest of the world looks at the United States in bewilderment as the scenario of Americans killing Americans plays out every – single – day, without respite. And while time and money is wasted on the War on Drugs, the Gun Lobby is waging a War on America. And they are winning.


Point of View Columns

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The Teapublicans have been working on a checklist that has had as its goal the crippling of the Obama presidency, no matter the very real harm that has been suffered by the American people. Government shutdowns, draconian sequestration measures, obstruction of even the most basic presidential appointments –they are all part of this nefarious checklist. And now, with very clear evidence of mismanagement at the Veterans Administration, these same Teapublican co-conspirators can celebrate another Mission Accomplished.

Since the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States in 2009, the Republican Party skipped the step of being the “loyal opposition” and morphed into virtual government in exile, doing everything in its power to overthrow the current regime.

The exercise of that power has manifested itself from the bizarre – questioning the citizenship of President Obama and by extension questioning the legitimacy of his presidency, to crude – calling President Obama a “liar” on the floor of the House of Representatives while he was addressing the nation, to mindless – voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act over fifty times since it was signed into law, to obdurate obstruction – holding up routine presidential appointments for historically long periods of time, to outright domestic terrorism – shutting down virtually all of the operations of the federal government.

That the Republican Party (now Teapublican Party) leadership, in its monomaniacal goal of defeating President Obama has as its subsidiary agenda the obliteration of the legacy of the Obama Administration is clear to all who care to see. It is why unexpected events that are beyond the control of any administration, such as Benghazi and “Fast and Furious” become the subject of multiple congressional “investigations”, “investigations” which are transparent, taxpayer funded attack ads on the Obama Administration.

Now we are faced with revelations that the Veterans Administration is dysfunctional. This is, of course, not a revelation. The sad history of the Veterans Administration during the past fifty years is that there is a mixed record of service and achievement. Indeed there are millions of veterans who have received excellent medical care and literally owe their lives to the Veterans Administration.

Unfortunately, during the past fifty years, during the Democratic Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton administrations, and during the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush (I) and Bush (II) administrations, mismanagement and poor service have too often been the prevailing narrative of the Veterans Administration. Every single one of the listed presidents, and now President Obama, has committed themselves to “fixing the VA”. Clearly, as the current news reports, the results have been mixed at best.

But the difference in the Age of Obama is that the Republican Party has done its very best to make sure that the Obama Administration would be dysfunctional. Draconian budget cuts, time wasting delays in appointments and the Sword of Damocles (representing the ever present potential government shutdown) have only exacerbated any efforts to improve all government services, including the services provided by the Veterans Administration.

For the Teapublicans to howl about the mismanagement issues in the Veterans Administration when they have done everything in their power to hamstring, hamper and handcuff the president responsible for the Veterans Administration, is disingenuous. Indeed, the Teapublicans have created a scenario for self-fulfilling prophecy which has only resulted in unnecessary pain for the veterans whose service they so regularly claim to revere.

The Obama Administration will have to take ownership of the travails of the Veterans Administration. Would that the Teapublicans take ownership of their behavior which has done nothing to provide the Obama Administration with the resources to be successful.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 16, 2014

Reflecting on the recent news it appears that the Teapublicans believe that the lowest earning Americans earning a few more dollars would be destructive of the American economy. Meanwhile, a young man named Kwesi Enin has, by his excellence, illustrated the great divide in this country when it comes to affirmative action. And finally, Boko Haram has proven itself to be a truly demonic and demented terrorist organization. What, if anything, is the United States supposed to do about it?

You Want More?

In considering the Teapublican position on increasing the minimum wage one is reminded of the scene in the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, when the poor, hungry urchin is greeted with outrage when he asks for some more gruel.

While the upper reaches of the American upper class literally cannot count the millions and billions that are cascading into their coffers, there is this apoplectic response to the concept of a minimal raise for minimum wage earners who constitute barely 4% of the workforce.

Would a few extra dollars in the pockets of the men and women who actually labor in the trenches really tamper with the forces of nature? Would a few monetary crumbs, that mean so little to the Masters of the Universe but would mean so much to the working poor, be so difficult to support?

Clearly the Teapublicans in the House and Senate, bloviating about states’ rights and protecting the national economy are revealing themselves to be on the wrong side of meanness, stinginess and basic economic common sense.

Watch This Space

Kwesi Enin is the young man who was recently admitted to all eight Ivy League schools. He has chosen to attend Yale University. That should be the denouement in a great story until we read about his marvelous achievements that his future seems to promise.

But the haters and naysayers who swim in the sewer of negativity characterized his amazing admissions record as an indication of what is wrong with affirmative action. Without knowing Mr. Enin’s grades or SAT scores, they assumed that his academic qualifications were not as good as his competition, simply because he is an African American.

The shameful bigotry and racial prejudice that continues to flow through the veins of the American body politic is clear and present —- and dangerous.

Who are These Guys?

The terrorist organization Boko Haram has been wreaking havoc in Nigeria for several years. Pursuing a strategy of murder and mayhem, Boko Haram seems hell bent on destabilizing what should be the most advanced country on the African continent.

Boko Haram has dominated the international media by kidnapping over 300 young women and threatening to sell them as slaves. The horrific and medieval mindset of the Boko Haram operatives is frightening to contemplate and one can only hope that this latest story of terror by religious zealots will not have an unhappy ending.

Stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

Casting the Second Stone

The controversy surrounding L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his race based rant is fascinating and in some ways difficult to understand. Of course, Sterling’s comments are reprehensible but considering that the Confederate flags still fly over state capitols where NBA franchises are located, it should not be a surprise to discover that some white people really don’t like black people. But if Donald Sterling is to be drawn and quartered for making hateful comments about black people, do black people who make similarly hateful and harmful comments about black people get a pass?

One could argue that enough has been written about a cranky old white man who debases himself before his too-young-for-him mistress of color. True, he does own an NBA franchise, and true, many black people play in the NBA. And true, there is nothing defensible about his comments about black people. Ergo, so the torch and pitchfork carrying media mob contends, Donald Sterling should be forced to give up his NBA franchise and live his remaining years wearing ashes and sackcloth.

But, as noted, this is a country where the stench of the slave holding Confederate States of America is still fresh in the breezes that blow Confederate flags above state capitols and state universities in too many places. This is a country where the first black President of the United States has been called a monkey, the AntiChrist, an alien interloper and a liar on the floor of Congress, all without consequence. And this is a country where black people are routinely barred from the corridors of power by unspoken rules of the road, not by a white robed Jim Crow, but by a  bespoke pinstripe suit attired James Crow 2.0.

So it should be no surprise when a white man (or woman), who is unaware that they are being recorded, tells us how they really feel about black people. And it certainly seems like the torch and pitchfork media mob and its enablers are more than a little disingenuous in excoriating Sterling while racism and horrific language are hurled at black Americans without consequence every day – by black people.

Donald Sterling is eighty years old. He could live another eighty years and never use the word “nigger” as many times as Jay-Z has. The only difference is that Jay-Z has “niggered” his way to an enormous fortune, seemingly without consequence and certainly with little or no criticism. Certainly Jay-Z has never encountered the withering firestorm of criticism from LeBron James, Charles Barkley, the Reverend Al Sharpton or the Reverend Jesse Jackson that the hapless fool that we know as Donald Sterling has experienced.

Jay-Z and Kanye West collaborated on the misogynistic and obviously racist “Niggers in Paris” album and the silence from the Sterling hangmen was deafening. The characterization and reference to black women as “bitches” and “ho’s” and worse has been part of the accepted culture of “artists” like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Little Wayne, Fifty Cent and so many more and nowhere has there been a call to boycott their lucrative “art” or to skewer them Sterling-style.

And let us not forget the less than memorable Cornel West and his anti-Obama rants, likening the first black President of the United States to a “lap dog”. And while Dr. West is entitled to his full exercise of free speech, his off the chain critiques of President Obama have given clear aid and comfort to the enemy. And yet, Cornel West continues to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees based on the insults and calumny that he hurls at President Obama again, without consequence and certainly without receiving the Sterling Special Treatment.

There is nothing about Donald Sterling that is worthy of defense or further mention. The “art” of Jay-Z, Fifty Cents, Little Wayne, Kanye West and others have had a deep cultural and behavioral impact on the American black community, almost all of it negative and decidedly demeaning.

On his worst day Donald Sterling has never inflicted as much damage on the black community as the aforementioned crew and their running buddies. After the torch and pitchfork crew is finished with Sterling, maybe they will turn their attention to the real villains.


Point of View Columns

Beware of the Black Robes

When the Portuguese Jesuits came to Japan in the 1600’s they were referred to as the “Black Robes” and were viewed with justifiable suspicion and concern by the Japanese. In the 19th and 20th centuries, men in white robes were viewed with suspicion and downright terror by black Americans in the South. Now it appears that all Americans should beware of certain men who are wearing black robes in the Supreme Court of the United States.

It seems that over the past several years the Robertson/Scalia/Alito/Thomas cabal on the Supreme Court has alternately shocked, stunned and outraged Americans possessed of a true sense of justice with its stubborn, steel-booted right wing agenda. Cloaking its ambition to turn back the clock to some mythical time in America, the SCOTUS Cabal has intentionally inverted, perverted and conveniently misinterpreted not only the stated goals of the framers of the Constitution but also the original purpose of the Constitution.

The SCOTUS Cabal simply ignores the fact that the Constitution was written in the 18th century – a time when women could not even dream of voting or owning property, black people were property and virtually everyone at the Constitutional Convention was a financially comfortable white man, many of whom were slaveholders. The SCOTUS Cabal also chooses to select facts about the Constitution to suit its right wing goals and therefore ignores the inherent flexibility that was built into the Constitution to allow it to change with the times through amendments and judicial interpretation.

It is only because of its flexibility and adaptability that the Constitution of the United States has been able to remain the governance document of this country for over two centuries. To think that a few landholding, slaveholding white men living on a portion of a sliver of the Eastern Coast of North America in the 1700’s could have envisioned modern America – with its sheer size, diversity, technology and place in the world that simply did not exist in 1787 is beyond absurd.

The framers of the Constitution committed clear and documented original sins in the creation of the Constitution. Chief among them were the legalization of slavery and the refusal to grant full citizenship to black people and white women. Nevertheless, these flawed men did have the presence of mind and foresight to realize that a national governance document that was sustainable would have to be flexible and adaptable to the times.

When the Robertson/Scalia/Alito/Thomas cabal treats the Constitution like the Ten Commandments, arguing that every word is virtually a divine command written in stone from the 18th century, they are fully aware that they are using the Constitution to shield their real goal. And that goal is nothing less than the transformation of the United States into a right wing republic.

And that is why over these past few years we have seen the SCOTUS cabal empower voter suppression by eviscerating the Voting Rights Act. It has empowered the wealthy in subverting the voting process in the recent Citizens United and McCullough decisions and has now placed this country on the slippery slope towards a Christian theocracy by allowing explicitly Christian prayers in town hall meetings.

Much of what the SCOTUS cabal does is cloaked and soaked in legal verbiage and obscure references. But when the Supreme Court lawn is mowed and the rhetorical weeds are removed, it is clear that the SCOTUS cabal – these men in black robes, are to be feared, perhaps more than the Japanese feared the Jesuits or black Americans feared the Klan.

They are that dangerous.

Point of View Columns

It’s the Same Old Song

It is interesting to note that racial slavery in America was around for a longer time (approximately 240 years) than black Americans have lived in a state of presumptive emancipation (approximately 150 years). So it really should not be a surprise that the virus of racism has not been eliminated from the blood stream and consciousness of this country. And that is why it is surprising that people are “shocked” by Donald Sterling’s mindless and malignant statements.

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the National Basketball Association knows that Donald Sterling is a Grade A knucklehead and a horrible owner of a professional sports team. Any semiliterate person with a pulse in Los Angeles knows that he is a racial troglodyte who believes and accepts white superiority in the same fashion that he believes in and accepts the law of gravity.

Certainly the other 29 owners of NBA teams are well aware of the bigoted stench that accompanies Donald Sterling whenever he walks into a room. Yet not one of these 29 billionaires ever suggested that he was a problem until the now viral Sterling recording made the rounds.

Certainly the players and coaches in the NBA just had to know how bad a person Donald Sterling is – his sexism, racism and racist housing practices are a matter of very public record. Yet not one NBA player, black or white, has ever hesitated to pick up the multimillion dollar checks that the Los Angeles Clippers have been handing out for decades.

Perhaps what is most disconcerting about the Sterling Situation is that so many people profess shock and outrage regarding statements made by Donald Sterling while they remain mute or muted when equally offensive or even worse language is flooding the airwaves and cyberspace.

After all, Donald Sterling may be the billionaire owner of a basketball team and controls some real estate properties in Southern California. But Congressman Paul Ryan is one of the leaders of the Republican Party, the party that controls the United States Congress and is seeking control of the United States Senate in November as well as the Presidency of the United States in 2016.

Paul Ryan is a man of real influence and what he says matters – a lot more than any mindless drivel dribbling out of the mouth of Donald Sterling. And when Paul Ryan says that “inner city males” do not come from a culture of working, he demeans and diminishes African Americans in a way that is far more harmful and far more dangerous than anything found on the Sterling Tapes.

That is because Paul Ryan can actually implement policies and legislative initiatives that will be based upon his callous and shockingly exaggerated mischaracterization of African American males. These draconian and punitive policies will be justified by this wrongful and stereotypical portrayal of black men and people will truly suffer.

Yet there has been no hue and cry regarding Paul Ryan’s statements. There have been no demonstrations or proclamations that “racism has no place in the U.S. Congress”. Instead, because Paul Ryan has put some rhetorical lipstick on his racist pig, he is treated as a statesman engaged in honest policy discussion instead of being reviled for the closet racist that he is.

Certainly Donald Sterling deserves the entire tsunami of revulsion that has washed over him. But it is important to remember what is important in this world.

A cranky basketball team owner spewing racist sewage is unpleasant. One of the leaders of the Teapublican Party operative who is third in line to the presidency slinging racist mud while blowing on his racist dog whistle is not only unpleasant, it is dangerous and should not be ignored — ever.