Point of View Columns

Weekend Fun – A Visit to Dante’s Inferno

It is virtually impossible to find much in the way of fun and humor in these times. Virtually impossible, but not impossible. Indeed, what better way to find fun and humor than to follow Dante’s guide to the 9 levels of Hell.

In keeping with that theme, we can start with each level, I will suggest three candidates for each level and you can add as many names as you like – and if you care to do so please share your selections as a comment.

Each Circle is set forth with the primary sin(s) of the denizens of each Circle. So here we go:

1st Circle – Limbo (the destination of all who are unbaptized and virtuous pagans

  • Since approximately 6.8 billion people on Earth are unbaptized, the 1st Circle will have open seating
  • All NFL linebackers are virtuous pagans (it is part of the job description)
  • All players in the National Hockey League (more virtuous pagans)
  • Your suggestion(s) ______________

     2nd Circle – Lust

  • Hugh Hefner – Hall of Fame
  • Bob Guccione – Hall of Fame
  • Larry Flynt- Hall of Fame
  • Your suggestion(s) ____________

3rd Circle – Gluttony

  • Paul Prudhomme – Not his cooking – it’s the 500 lbs.
  • Haystack Calhoun – Not his wrestling – it’s the 600 lbs.
  • Colonel Sanders – For encouraging around the world
  • Your suggestion(s)_____________

4th Circle – Greed

  • Ivan Boesky – Hall of Fame Wall Street robber baron
  • Elon Musk – Clearly, he will never have enough money
  • Gordon Gekko – Yes, he is a fictional character, so he will be going to a fictional hell
  • Your suggestion(s) _______________

5th Circle – Anger

  • Billy Martin – Seemed like he was always angry as a player and a manager
  • Bobby Knight – Throwing chairs earns him a reserved seat
  • Rand Paul – Seems like he is always angry, even when he isn’t
  • Your suggestions _______________

6th Circle – Heresy

  • Any religious leader who preaches “Prosperity Theology”
  • Joel Osteen – Hall of Fame
  • Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker – They worked hard to earn reserved seating
  • Your suggestions ________________

7th Circle – Violence

  • Hernan Cortes – Ask the Aztecs
  • Josef Stalin – Anyone who kills millions of people gets automatic entry
  • Adolf Hitler – See Josef Stalin
  • Your suggestions ____________

8th Circle – Fraud

  • All robocallers – Especially those who call senior citizens
  • Donald Trump – His ability to defraud in plain view for decades says it all
  • Bernie Madoff – See Donald Trump
  • Your suggestions ______________

9th Circle – Treachery

  • Donald Trump – The only resident of two levels- betraying an entire nation speaks for itself
  • Robert E. Lee -Betraying his oath to the United States and then leading an insurrection against the United States, all in the defense of slavery, earns him a richly deserved space for eternity
  • Richard Nixon – Betraying his oath as President of the United States and never speaking a word of repentance earns his space for eternity
  • Your suggestions _____________________

Of course, there are binders full of names that are highly qualified for a place in the Circles. You can agree, disagree or add additional names.

Enjoy.

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Point of View Columns

Anatomy of an Insurrection

It is rare that a crime, much less an insurrection, is played out literally in broad daylight. But every day that the January 6th Committee airs another hearing on national television, it is clear that all the talk about peaceful protest and freedom of speech is a torn fig leaf revealing a very real attempt to overthrow the government of the United States while shredding the Constitution in the process.

On July 21, 2022, the Committee aired a prime time “Anatomy of an Insurrection”, here are some of the notes from that broadcast, notes that were written in real time:

  • The broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. The Chairman of the January 6th Committee convenes via Zoom as he has been diagnosed with COVID (coincidentally the 79-year-old President of the United States is also quarantined, point out once more that a government of humans is, by definition, fragile).
  • It has been 561 days since the insurrection – are the hearings about to reach a climax?
  • It is pointed out by the Committee members that on January 6th there were 187 minutes that made history – Trump’s inaction after inviting and inciting the mob then made no effort to stop the death and destruction that ensued.
  • We are told that there will be new witnesses including some witnesses that will be disguised for their own protection.
  • We learn that there was “some discussion” among Cabinet members about invoking the 25th Amendment, thereby removing Trump from office. But, of course, the Cabinet has largely consisted of Trump enablers and after four years there was no way that they were going to stop now.
  • As the progression of the insurrection is revealed the term “Dante’s Rings of Corruption” has many people googling “Dante’s Inferno”.
  • New witnesses, Sarah Matthews and Matthew Pottinger, both of whom worked in the White House, and both of whom resigned immediately after the insurrection. One has to wonder, what took them so long? Was Trump o.k. until then.
  • It was mentioned that during a presidential debate Trump told the Proud Boys, prime movers on January 6th to “stand back and stand by” – notably not telling these well-armed domestic terrorists to “stand down”.
  • Both Matthews and Pottinger stated that they believed the Trump purposely focused the mob on harming Mike Pence.
  • There was further testimony that Trump was adamant about going to the Capitol during the insurrection and had to be dissuaded, ultimately due to the fact that no one would drive him there.
  • During the 187 minutes Trump did not call the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security. In other words, he did nothing while death and destruction roamed the halls of the nation’s capital.
  • It appears that Trump was actually o.k. with the notion of hanging Mike Pence and the mob was focused on killing him.
  • The Pence Secret Service detail was sufficiently concerned about the violence that was focused on him that some of the agents were calling their families wishing them goodbye as they felt that a violent death was imminent.
  • Towards the end there was video of Senator and Insurrection Denier Josh Hawley greeting the mob at the Capitol with a raised fist and then……. a few hours later hotfooting it out the Capitol as the mob roamed the halls looking for everyone and anyone. Hawley is clearly an arsonist who doesn’t know that it’s not a good thing to play with fired.
  • The final takeaway is that testimony revealed that Trump actually believed that his “plan” to seize power might actually work.

And, as you are reading this, millions upon millions of Americans want him to be President again.

If you are not worried about the dangerous trajectory of this nation, then you just not paying attention –

….and its time to pay attention.

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Point of View Columns

A Failure of Imagination Can Be Dangerous

And now the nation will be subjected to more Trumpfoolery. From the man who brought you bankrupt casinos and Trump Steaks, we are now supposed to care if/when Trump will announce his candidacy for president in the 2024 election.

Of course, anyone with a shred of decency or shame – two items that are totally absent from the World According to Trump – would not subject this country to the madness and turmoil that will accompany another Trump campaign, much less a Trump presidency.

The fact that, after two impeachments and a failed coup attempt, there should be no way that this sad excuse for a human being could ever be a viable candidate for dogcatcher, much less president. But the sad truth is that he would be a viable candidate and a much stronger candidate than he ever was in 2016 or 2020.

And anyone who thinks that Trump cannot be elected in 2024 is either not paying attention or is suffering from a failure of imagination.

Consider that Trump endorsed candidates have won Republican primaries for Secretary of State, Governor, United States Senator, and Congressional Representative. There is a very real chance that a number of these men and women will be elected and will begin to lay the groundwork for the Restoration of Trump.

It is not hard to imagine Republican-led state legislatures making it even more difficult for people to vote. Certainly, Republican Secretaries of State will have no qualms about simply not counting ballots from majority-Democrat districts and we can expect that many of the vote tampering plots conjured up by John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani in 2020-2021 will just be the way electoral business will be conducted in 2023 and of course, in 2024 leading to the very real possibility that Trump will be re-elected despite losing the popular vote in three consecutive elections.

And for those people who think that the federal courts will reverse any wrongdoing, keep in mind that Trump has seeded the federal judiciary with hundreds of right-wing judges who are almost to a man or woman, Federalist Society acolytes. And, at the risk of pointing to the obvious, the 6-3 right-wing Supreme Court, which features three Trump appointees will not disappoint their benefactor if given the opportunity to grant him a second term.

And if the Republican wave tips the Senate and House into the hands of the likes of Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, we can be sure that there will be Senate and House investigations of everything from the “real truth” about Hunter Biden to dredged up accusations against Kamala Harris. And, we can be sure that Joe Biden will not be able to appoint a single federal judge – not one.

Imagine a Senate Committee chaired by Rick Scott or Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley or a House Committee chaired by Marjorie Taylor Green and it is clear that we will be staring to an abyss over the next two years.

And then, with the election of Donald Trump, it will only get worse.

And anyone who would argue that these scenarios are not possible is suffering from a true failure of imagination.

And in these days and times that can be very dangerous.

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Point of View Columns

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Dear President Obama –

I am writing to you to convey a sense of dire and urgent situation in which this nation finds itself and to ask you to strongly consider bringing your very special gifts of communication and sense of justice back to the political arena. Not with an occasional speech or podcast, not with an op-ed from time to time, but rather going back into the arena as if the life of this nation is at risk, because it is.

As someone who has counted himself as one of your most ardent supporters I certainly understood the need for you to take a respite from that arena after you had been a central part of all of the political and social battles in this nation and around for the better part of ten years. If anyone ever deserved to take some time for self-care for yourself and for your family, it was you.

But it is important to note that you decided early in your career that you wanted to be “somebody” in the socio-political movement and you pursued that goal with remarkable focus and tenacity. Only you know when you decided that you could become president, but you did become President of the United States in January of 2009 (I was there in Washington freezing with millions of others) and many in this nation were ecstatic at the historical import of your inauguration as well as the potential for existential change that your presidency represented.

You spent the next years not only as the Chief Executive of the federal government, you were literally the voice of Hope and Change – to quote one of your campaign posters. Millions of people believed in you and your message, and by any rational analysis your presidency was a success. After all, recovery from the financial crash of 2008 and the Affordable Care Act as well as the inspiration that you brought to a generation of Americans who truly did believe in Hope and Change are certainly indicia of that success.

After you left office we were glad to see that you and your family were doing well after enduring unprecedented and irrational hate and opposition not seen in American presidency since Abraham Lincoln. And we understand that you, as a person committed to respecting precedent, would retire gracefully as have your predecessors.

It should be pointed out that times are different now. At the end of his presidency Ronald Reagan was on his way to dementia and not likely to have participated in national debate on issues if he wanted to do so. When he left office George H.W. Bush had no real role in the development of the issues of the day and when he left office Bill Clinton was glad to have avoided impeachment and was focused on enriching Clinton, Inc. And of course, George W. Bush was happy to go back to Texas and become a painter.

But President Obama – the nation needs your vision and your passion and your unique ability to make people think their way through the clouds of fear and anger and hate and even more fear. The neoconservatives have claimed the high ground in the Supreme Court and they are aiming for the same result in Congress come November. We are at a tipping point in this country.

Your voice can be a counterpoint to that aspect of the Democratic Party that wants to defund the police. Your voice can be a counterpoint to the neoconservatives who are tearing down the democratic infrastructure of American government while pretending to preserve it.

You can make a difference because Americans will listen to you. You are needed to speak truth to power. You are needed to speak truth to lies. You are needed to change the political landscape so that nonsense no longer makes sense. You should have no doubt that many others will follow your lead.

Majoritarian democracy barely exists in America as this is being written. Republicans are a minority party yet they control 30 state legislatures and 28 governor’s mansions. Republicans are a mere single seat from controlling the United States Senate. Minority rule, when fully implemented will make this nation a 21st century version of South Africa in 1948. And as intelligent and observant and well-read as you are, you know that this is not an exaggeration.

There are many voices out there Mr. President, but your voice is special, it always has been. This country needed you in 2008. This country really needs you in 2022.

Unless and until this trend towards minority rule is stopped, our children will live in a country where they are no longer full citizens. You are not the Savior of America, but you can help to save America.

Please listen to all of the voices – Douglass, DuBois, King, Malcolm X and Lewis and so many more who raised their voices in the face of absolute adversity. You have to the power to do what they tried to do – change America for the better.

We need for you to speak and write and appear on all the media options as if you were running for office again, except this time you will be running to save this nation.

Please Mr. President – come back onto the playing field.

Team America needs you.

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Point of View Columns

The Republican Plan to Destroy America

It should be clear to all that Republicans actually mean what they say. They said that they would block progressives being appointed to the Supreme Court until they got a neoconservative super majority on the most important bench in the country. And they did just that.

Trump and the Republicans said that they would withdraw America from the nuclear treaty with Iran which would immediately drive the entire Middle East closer to the brink of some unthinkable Armageddon. And they did just that.

Republicans said that they would expand mineral exploration and drilling rights into nature conservancies all over the United States. And they did just that.

And now, the Republicans have discarded any veneer of decency or a fig leaf of concern for American human beings.

Enter Senator Rick Scott from Florida, the Sunshine State.

Before he was a United States Senator he was the governor of Florida. And before he was governor he was the co-founder and CEO of Columbia/HCA, at one point the largest healthcare company in the United States. And at another point it was adjudged to be the platform for the largest Medicare fraud case in American history – close to $2 billion of fraudulent business practices.

The company was ultimately liquidated after paying enormous fines. Scott has always claimed to be unaware of any fraud, an interesting defense from the CEO of the company that he had founded.

In a rational and just world Scott might just be getting out of prison instead of being the chair of the Republican Senate Election Committee which is charged with supporting the senatorial campaigns of Republicans all over America. And being the innovative and creative person that he is, Scott developed a platform which he is urging all Republican Senate candidates to incorporate into their campaign.

This is a platform that sounds like the Six Commandments from Hell:

  1. Slash Social Security funding and require the entire program to be renewed by Congress every five years. Given the sludge like pace of Congress in doing anything, this would be a death penalty for Social Security.
  2. Require all families, even the poorest, homeless and hungry families to pay a federal income tax. How someone is supposed to pay income taxes without income is a mystery.
  3. A national ban on abortion. There is no mention of exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. That is probably not an oversight.
  4. Ending birthright citizenship. This would require the repeal of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which states that anyone born in the United States is a citizen. It is not clear that this proposal would have some retroactive feature.
  5. Expanded gun rights is another plank in the platform. Considering that there are already more guns than people in this country, and that over 40,000 Americans die of death by gun every year, it is not clear how much more expanded gun rights could be.
  6. Reverse climate change initiatives. Considering that this country is already the largest producer of carbon emissions on the planet, this sounds like an order from a highly intelligent alien life form that wants to clear humans from the planet so that it can be converted into a huge farm for far more intelligent beings from another galaxy.

Not every Republican senatorial candidate is totally wedded to this platform. But the fact that, in the third decade of the twenty first century, we have a major political party advocating a return to the time of famine, plagues and the workhouse as a reasonable political strategy.

It is to be expected that many Americans will not take these proposals as being serious. We should be clear; the Republicans and their billionaire class neoconservative supporters are serious.

And, as Maya Angelou said, when people show you who they are, believe them.

It is time to stop wishing that it isn’t true. It is time to believe and to act.

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Point of View Columns

When Zero Plus Zero Plus Zero Equals Sixty

There can be no serious argument regarding the fact that law enforcement and criminal justice have been race-based since colonial times in North America. And some 400 years nothing has changed – and because we know more about more travesties of justice – it has gotten worse.

Consider the following:

  • A young white man by the name of Dylan Roof shot and killed 9 Black worshippers in church in which he had been welcomed. He evaded the police for several hours and when he was captured not a single shot was fired by any law enforcement officer.
  • A white teenager by the name of Kyle Rittenhouse arrived at a Black Lives Matter demonstration and shot and killed two demonstrators and wounded another. Rittenhouse then surrendered to the police and not a single shot was fired by any law enforcement officer.
  • Another white teenager by the name of Payton Gendron drove 200 miles to a Black community in Buffalo, New York where then shot and killed 10 Black patrons of a supermarket. When the police arrived, he put down his weapon of mass destruction and surrendered peacefully. Not a single shot was fired by any law enforcement officer.
  • A 26-year-old Black man by the name of Jayland Walker was pulled over for a traffic violation by the Akron police. For reasons unknown at this date, Mr. Walker drove away and led the police on a chase for a few miles, got out of his car and began to run. When told by the police to stop running he turned around whereupon the Akron police shot him 60 times and killed him. The police claimed that Mr. Walker turned in a “firing position” although no weapon was found on or near him.

It is not difficult to see a prevailing theme in these stories. Clearly, young white men, even those who are known to have committed horrible crimes are permitted to surrender peacefully without any physical harm whatsoever. A young (or not so young) Black man is subject to a lethal encounter anytime he is stopped by the police. No questions asked.

Such is life in America and the numbers don’t lie – Zero Plus Zero Plus Zero Equals Sixty.

Clearly justice in America is a Black and white affair.

There is nothing more to be said.

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Point of View Columns

A Chance to Do the Right Thing

If history books are being written fifty years from now – not a guaranteed expectation if current events in America are to be any kind of a guide – the name of Cassidy Hutchinson may end up being remembered along with the names of Robert Welch and John Dean.

We might remember that Robert Welch was the Special Counsel to the U.S. Army during the so called “McCarthy Hearings” in 1954 which were meant to uncover nonexistent communists infesting the American government.

Welch became the first person to confront McCarthy by saying, “Have you no sense of decency” after McCarthy attacked a member of Welch’s firm implying that he was a homosexual.

That moment in American history should be remember because that was when the bully named McCarthy was revealed for the venomous buffoon that he had always been.

And within a few years McCarthy was dead and all but forgotten.

Nineteen years later the White House Counsel, John Dean testified during the 1973 Watergate scandal. He told the truth about Richard Nixon’s role in using the federal government to attack his political enemies and within a year the entire Nixon Administration crashed and burned, ending in Nixon resigning in disgrace and becoming a textbook illustration of what not to do as President of the United States.

And now, 49 years later a 26-year-old Republican true believer by the name of Cassidy Hutchinson recounted to the January 6th Committee the utter depravity and recklessness of Donald Trump and his whole cast of enablers. Working as the Special Assistant to Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, she had a front row seat to the entire debacle that culminated in the attempted coup of the United States government.

Ms. Hutchinson certainly entered the Trump White House knowing him to be anathema to most things in which she believed, but working in the White House satisfied both her ambition and, in her view, an opportunity to serve her nation. And it appears that her desire to serve her nation outweighed her ambition.

She is already the recipient of threats and, of course, a torrent of lies and insults from one Donald J. Trump. But it doesn’t matter now- the record is clear, Trump attempted a coup which would keep him in office even though he knew that he had lost a free and fair election – straight out of the Autocrats Playbook.

We may not know exactly how the Trauma of Trump will ultimately impact these United States – the prognosis is not encouraging at the moment – but it is good to know that there are men and women like Welch and Dean and Hutchinson who, when given the opportunity, have at least given this nation a chance to do the right thing.

Only time will tell.

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