Point of View Columns

The Check is in the Mail

There just may be some truth to the rumor that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, has offered to pay CNN and Fox News to continue to broadcast Republican debates. While there is no truth to the rumor that her offers have been accepted, the rest of us can only hope that the Teapublican Show of Shows is renewed for the fall season.

Thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, any billionaire can decide that virtually anyone with a pulse can be President of the United States. That may be the only way to explain the candidacies of Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, to name just a few of the members of the right wing of the right wing food fight disguised as a presidential campaign. But during brief moments of lucidity and clarity of thought the leadership of the Republican National Committee just has to be wondering if providing a national stage for every lost cousin and wild and crazy uncle in the Teapublican family is such a great idea.

Consider a thumbnail sketch of the leading candidates out of the fifteen remaining from the Spectacular Seventeen that greeted us a little over a month ago, keeping in mind that every single one of them (except John Kasich and George Pataki, propose to deny over 20 million American men, women and children healthcare on “Day One”, by repealing the Affordable Care Act:

• Donald Trump – What else can be said about the Orange Haired Wonder. While it is dangerous to dismiss the Donald, it is important to note that if you distill his message, he intends to govern by bombast, bullying and insult. This might work in the world of real estate, but it certainly won’t work in domestic politics or in foreign policy.
• Carly Fiorina – Her narrative of going from a secretary to a CEO neglects to mention that her father was a federal court judge and then dean of Duke Law School and that her degrees from Stanford, the University of Maryland and MIT might have something to do with her success. And, by the way, the secretary narrative? She worked as a Kelly Girl during her summers in school. Her personal fan dance notwithstanding, her plan to “not speak to Putin” and to “tell the Supreme Leader of Iran” what he must do is so implausible that it would be funny, except that it is not.
• Ted Cruz – He sees no problem shutting down the federal government and says that the Supreme Court acts in an “unconstitutional” manner when it issues decisions with which he does not agree.
• Mike Huckabee – He joins the Teapublican attack on the Supreme Court in the process ignoring the Constitution and over 2 centuries of case law. And he seriously wants to be President of the United States.
• Chris Christie – New Jersey has one of the worst economies of the fifty states. And then there is this pesky corruption investigation by the U.S. attorney, an investigation involving a number of his very senior appointees. And then, he wants us to believe that bullying is useful as a governance model.
• Jeb Bush – First, he is Jeb BUSH. Second, his record as governor of Florida, beginning with his presiding over the first theft of an American presidential election, is not a stunning calling card. And then again, does the RNC really want to pin its hopes for winning the White House on another BUSH considering the impossible mess created by the last BUSH?
• Ben Carson – His avuncular delivery of stunning madness and malice – denying the science behind climate change and comparing Obamacare to slavery (!!!!!!!) – proves that brain surgeons may not be the standard for brilliance in modern society that we might have thought was the case.

Of course the list goes on, and it is interesting that John Kasich, governor of Ohio, usually comes across as the only sane adult in the Teapublican echo chamber. And it is interesting that virtually nobody gives John Kasich a chance of winning the Republican nomination – right along with George Pataki (another sane adult), and Bobby Jindal (not so sane and not so adult).

It may be that there is a bizarro world scenario in which one of the highlighted candidates could win (there is a winning scenario for Kasich and Pataki, for example, but……….well, you know). Nevertheless, the RNC treats us to daily doses of Lindsey Graham wanting to wage more war and Marco Rubio fighting the Cold War twenty years too late, along with eliminating healthcare coverage for over 20 million Americans, and somehow that is supposed to be a winning strategy.

And that is why Ms. Wasserman Schultz is writing out checks to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and any other media outlet that will give the RNC candidates a platform. To the executives of these networks – the check is in the mail.

Point of View Columns

Black Lives Matter – The Other Side of the Coin

There should be no be debate regarding whether black lives matter. But in these United States it is a matter of life and death to assert this truth so that black lives do not run the risk of lethal consequences arising out of contact with law enforcement. But there is another side of the Black Lives Matter movement – it is also a matter of life and death to assert this truth so that black lives do not run the risk of being extinguished at the hands of black people – just ask the family of Carey Gabay.

Caray Gabay was a bright and rising star in the New York black community. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Mr. Gabay was a senior member of the executive team of the Governor of the State of New York. And Mr. Gabay died on September 16, 2015, succumbing to a gunshot wound to the head from a gun which was wielded by a member of a black gang fighting with another black gang.

The tragedy of Mr. Gabay’s death is not just that he was a talented, educated and aspiring young man, by all accounts a great person, a great husband and due to be a father for the first time in the next few months. The real tragedy is that his death is part of the black body count in this country, a body count that rises by the guns and knives and assorted weaponry in the hands of black Americans.

The real tragedy is that Mr. Gabay is now a part of the black body count that far exceeds the number of black men and women slain by law enforcement officers. And the real tragedy is that the black body count remains behind a gossamer veil of partial acceptance and perceived inevitability. While the murder of Eric Garner by the New York City Police Department has justifiably elicited marches and protests and rallies, we simply do not see the same outrage when a black person dies at the hands of another black person. Whether the black victim is a Harvard graduate or a high school dropout, the tragedy is unspeakable and the pain for survivors is actually eternal.

Insofar as the grieving survivors of black people killing black people are concerned, a bullet from a gang gun or a thug gun is no different than the bullet from a police gun or a pistol wielded by a white supremacist. For the survivors in communities that too closely resemble charnel houses and abattoirs, the dead are dead and resurrection can only come in the hereafter. But for those who live in the here and now, there can only be inconsolable sadness knowing that for some bizarre breakdown in logic, death by cop elicits outrage and protest, but black on black crime is rationalized and explained in a torrent of socioeconomic and historic contortions, none of which provide answers or anything resembling solace.

It should come as no surprise that most black people are killed by the acts of other black people. Most people are typically killed by their neighbors, family members and the residents of their community. Indeed 93% of murder victims are killed by people with whom they have a racial or ethnic commonality.

But black people kill other black people in greater numbers than any other racial or ethnic community in this country. In 2011 homicide was the leading cause of death of black males between the ages of 15 and 34. Consider that forty percent of African-American males 15-34 who died were murdered, according to the Center for Disease Control, compared to just 3.8 percent of white males who died. But statistics do not reveal the pain and the terror and the heartbreak that lies behind the black body count.

To contend that these enormous death disparities are solely caused by poverty and unemployment and lack of education is to engage in incomplete analysis. It must be recognized that there is a culture of killing, and condoning of homicide (see “no snitches”) and an accommodation of terror that must be overcome.

Lighting candles on the sidewalk after yet another murder is simply not enough. Indeed, marching through the streets with a few banners and posters is not enough. Changing the culture that glorifies gangsters and murder and mayhem in videos, music lyrics, fashion and language will provide the only relief to the shattered and shredded spirits of the widows and orphans and parents.

Changing the culture is a huge task. But it is where we must start if we wish to stop burying our own forever.

Point of View Columns

Lies and Consequences

The nuclear power agreement between Iran and five allied countries, including the United States, has been unanimously endorsed by the Security Council of the United Nations. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, over thirty senior U.S. generals and numerous former officials of Mossad, the Israeli security agency, have also endorsed it. These endorsements mean nothing on the Planet Teapublican, and as a result every effort has been made to derail this agreement. And now that those efforts have failed, it is fair to ask, now what?

Historians will one day look back at this near debacle and wonder how presumably rational men and women could lock themselves into an alternate universe where anything that President Obama proposes is wrong, and anything that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says is correct. How is it that the reality of the limits of U.S. power is not crystal clear, even after Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and 9/11. And most importantly, historians will wonder what was the real Plan B that opponents of the Iran nuclear deal had in mind?

When the arguments against the Iran deal are distilled, the result is a single phrase – “a better deal”. Of course, the desire for a “better deal” presumes that over the several years of negotiation a “better deal” was not the goal of the Obama administration. The desire for a “better deal” presumes that the United States can simply impose its will, not only on Iran, but also on Russia, China, Britain and France. The desire for “a better deal” is rational only with the assumption that it is the sole province of these United States to determine what reality is – and is not.

The proposed agreement with Iran has been called “the worst deal in the history of the world”, which upon brief reflection has to be an exaggeration that clouds the American mind but does not change the reality that a negotiated agreement, by definition, does not represent perfection for any of the parties to the agreement. But the Teapublican leadership in Congress and the Republican candidates for president seem to think that the discussions with Iran represented an opportunity to dictate the terms of surrender to a defeated country. Of course, that is not true. But facts and truth never seem to get in the way of a good Teapublican myth.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his supporters in Congress seem to think that the negotiations with Iran, possessed of one of the most powerful military forces on earth, should simply capitulate to the will of America. Since that was never the case, it was absolutely impossible for any rational agreement to get the support of the Israeli prime minister (despite the very clear support for the agreement by Israeli military and intelligence experts) or that of the leadership of the Congress which is mired in the mud of permanent opposition to anything and everything that is associated with the presidency of Barack Obama.

Regarding that Plan B, historians will also have to wonder if the “military option” to the agreement really meant sending thousands upon thousands of American sons and daughters to certain death and mayhem without even giving a negotiated agreement a chance. Is the right wing of the right wing so wedded to the American tradition of defining the world by sheer force that it would be willing to risk yet another blood soaked conflagration in a region already destabilized for the foreseeable future due to misguided military incursions in Iraq and Afghanistan?

There are questions that will never really be answered. But in reflecting on the value of the divergent paths of peaceful negotiation and war, why would anyone choose war?

Point of View Columns

What’s in a Name? Everything.

For those Americans who believe that America has changed from its historical origins – origins that have included racially-based slavery, genocide and theft – recent news must have come as something of a disappointment. When President Obama announced that Mt. McKinley in Alaska would be renamed with its original, indigenous name, Mt. Denali, the hue and cry of opposition was at its birther worst.

First some history – the Iñupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian have lived in the area that is known as Alaska for thousands of year. At some point the largest mountain in the northern hemisphere was named “Denali”, a word meaning “tall” in the Koyukon language. And then came the Europeans.

Then came the Russians who in their infinite wisdom and ignorance of the indigenous people named the mountain Bolshaya Gora, the Russian translation of Denali or “tall”. And then came the Americans, no stranger to ignoring indigenous people. An American gold prospector decided to name Mount Denali Mount McKinley, since he supported a presidential candidate named William McKinley. Keep in mind that the naming of Mount McKinley would be akin to naming some geographical phenomenon “Mount Santorum” or “Mount Bernie Sanders” – presidential candidates, not even a president.

But there is more, of course. The opponents of the righteous and rightful renaming of Mount Denali are the cultural and spiritual descendants of the Europeans who came to the Western Hemisphere and destroyed the culture and civilization of the people who had lived on these lands for thousands of years.

We hear the wails and moans of the archeologists after the destruction of undeniably historic sites by ISIS in Palmyra, Syria. The question is asked, what kind of people who engage in such wanton destruction of civilization?

The answer would be the same kind of people who destroyed all significant aspects of the Aztec civilization in Tenochtitlan, now known as Mexico City. The answer would be the same kind of people who destroyed the civilizations of the Cherokee, the Apache, the Iroquois, the Sioux and so many more peoples whose memories have either been obliterated or relegated to being sports mascots and caricatures.

The mindset of those who would oppose the renaming of Mount Denali is the same mindset which has proudly and loudly proclaimed the predominance of white western civilization over all other civilizations. There is no way to justify the creation of the United States on the bones and bodies and civilizations of indigenous peoples. And while the clock cannot be turned back, there is no reason why this country should go forward with such a backward point of view.

One can only hope that after the tide of white ethnic indignation recedes that rational thought and fairness will make themselves known in the national discourse. It does no dishonor to William McKinley or the American presidency to restore the name of Mount Denali. Indeed, the renaming of Mount Denali is an honorable act and we can hope that it precedes other honorable acts of moral reparations – such as finally dispensing with the ethnic slur that is the name of the Washington NFL team along with the names of the Cleveland and Atlanta major league baseball teams along with the numerous college “mascots” that still demean the descendants of the indigenous people of this land.

It is time to say enough. It is enough that the founders and builders of this country killed the indigenous people. It is enough that they destroyed their civilizations and ways of life. Put simply, it is not too much to ask that the desecration and mockery of their culture stop.