Point of View Columns

Three B’s and a T?

Amazingly enough, the past few months have witnessed the global center stage being focused upon autocrats, wannabe autocrats and outright rightwing partisans who could break into an authoritarian fandango at the drop of a few more guard rails.

There is a certain misplaced poetry in identifying these threats to the planet, as clear and present a danger than any disasters posed by climate change. The Three Be’s and a T?

Boris Johnson

Bibi Netanyahu

Jair Bolsonaro and the list of aspiring autocrats must include……

Donald Trump

It is really quite interesting to see what this motley crew has been up to lately. And, by the way, “motley” is the right adjective considering that all four of them are either under investigation or fighting various charges of malfeasance, misconduct and general behavior not becoming of a national leader.

Boris Johnson was recently removed from office as prime minister of Great Britain for so many offenses even his own Conservative Party lost count. His mindless pursuit of Brexit has set his country adrift for the foreseeable future, if not forever, and his determination to dismantle so much of the infrastructure that has provided the British people with real comfort and support seems positively malign.

Nevertheless, 44 days after being out of office he decided that he would be the best successor to Liz Truss, his hapless successor. While it is not clear why he withdrew his battered hat from the ring, it is clear that his authoritarian view of himself as an “indispensable” man for the times is a sign that we probably have not seen the last of The Man Who Would Be More Than He Ever Will Be.

Meanwhile Bibi Netanyahu took time out from defending himself against various fraud and corruption charges to assert himself as the leader of Israel after the collapse of the coalition that replaced him as prime minister. And he has made it clear that if he become prime minister again he will pursue authoritarian policies both at home and abroad, all in the name of the security of Israel, wrapping himself in the flag of nationalism.

And then there is Jair Bolsonaro, currently the president of the largest democracy in the Western Hemisphere. Bolsonaro seems to be intent on getting Brazil out of the democracy column, now proclaiming that he will only accept the results of the upcoming presidential election if he is the winner. A familiar autocratic tune.

Of course, when candidates start to declare victory even before the voting starts, you know that democracy is in trouble indeed. And all the while he has been turning the Brazilian government into an employment agency for the Bolsonaro family, turning nepotism into something of an art form, and all the while using the police and military to crack down on crime – including the crime of opposing Bolsonaro and his family.

And then there is Donald Trump. What is there to say about a man that is truly ignorant of the democratic process and who does not care that he is ignorant. Trump would love to be a true tyrant and it remains to be seen when whether the so-called “guard rails” of American democracy will be enough to protect over 300 million people from a truly malevolent and violent future.

What is clear is that Trump only cares that he has power – unlimited power being his preference. And in that regard, it remains a matter of time to see if he can actually join the pantheon of great dictators and authoritarian rulers.

Clearly autocracy is on the rise around the world.

Clearly it is past time to start paying attention.

Point of View Columns

Great Britain is Falling – Will the United States Be Next

Great Britain is Falling – Will The United States Be Next

In the modern era Great Britain has endured and overcome existential threats including World War I, the global disruption of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, the German bombing campaign during World War II, the overall devastation of the World War II, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the loss of its colonies and the attendant dislocation occasioned by that loss.

In what would seem like an act of exquisite prestidigitation, Great Britain not only survived. It reinvented itself and continued to be considered a Superpower although not in the same league with the United States, China or Russia (when it was it was the Soviet Union – Russia is now a second chair power as well). Great Britain was still at the table.

As you are reading this Great Britain is a nuclear power, with formidable land and sea power. But, of course, that is only part of the story.

The Conservative Party, essentially the ruling party of England for the better part of 200 years has done a pretty good job, from the British point of view, with leaders like Disraeli, and Churchill and Thatcher being in the pantheon of British leadership.

And then something happened. The Conservative Party started to be populated by right wing politicians who wanted to shrink or eliminate the National Health Service, an enormously popular and effective program, certainly when seen in comparison to the United States healthcare, that even with the existence of the Affordable Care Act, has a patchwork system that is shameful in the wealthiest country in the history of the planet.

And then there was Brexit. Relying on the ideology that called for making Great Britain great again (starting to sound familiar?) the Conservative Party promulgated the Big Lie (sound familiar?) that the country did not need to be a part of the European Union, the unarguably successful coalition of multiple economies. The Big Lie avoided the reality that in terms of economic power the country lagged behind Germany and France.

And so the Big Lie prevailed and Great Britain started to go into an economic death spiral. The very foundation of trade with Europe was shattered overnight, new rules and regulations shattered the stability of the British economy – But at least Great Britain was great again, or so the Big Lie went.

And then Boris Johnson, a passing look alike for a certain former U.S. president comes along as prime minister and makes a bull in a china shop like look like a kitten with a ball of yarn, compared to the dislocation and virtually daily confusion and detachment of reality that seemed to occupy his every other word (sound familiar?).

And finally he simply had to go. The British parliamentary system allows for such things, would that Congress had similar governmental tools.

And along comes Liz Truss who amazingly enough makes Boris Johnson look like Disraeli, Churchill and Thatcher all rolled into one. In just a few weeks she let ideology over pragmatic governance almost collapse the British economy – literally. The World Bank had to adopt policies towards Great Britain that are usually reserved for so-called Third World countries.

Now Liz Truss is gone after 44 days. The shortest term for a British Prime Minister in history. We shall see what happens next.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – here in the United States we have a coalition with the Republican Party that, if given the power, will disband Social Security and Medicare, environmental protection, basic civil rights and human rights, and list goes on. They will advocate policies with an ideological perspective instead a pragmatic perspective.

And if you don’t think it can happen here, ask anyone in the U.K. what they think about inevitability.

It can happen here. Indeed, in some very real ways, including the Boris Johnson impersanator political arsonist that is stalking the nation.

It can happen here.

Point of View Columns

The Republican War Against You

As the midterm elections get closer by the day, it is something of a wonder that there are so many predictions of the Republicans regaining control of both the House and the Senate. Due to the gerrymandering shell games by Republican led state legislatures (Republicans control 30 state legislatures which, of course, is where congressional districts are established) there is a very real possibility that the Republicans will control the House of Representatives featuring some new MAGA believers who will make Marjorie Taylor Green look like Mother Theresa.

The Senate is another story of course. There are 35 senate seats that are up for election, with 14 seats held by Democrats and 21 held by Republicans. Since there is currently a 50-50 split in the Senate every race is critical. And this is where one Senator Rick Scott comes to center stage.

It should be noted that before Rick Scott was elected as a senator from Florida he was elected as governor of that state for two terms. Before that…. he was the chief executive of Columbia/HCA Healthcare, a company that defrauded the federal government out of $1.7 billion in the largest Medicare fraud in American history. As the CEO of this criminal enterprise Rick Scott should just be getting out of wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Instead, Senator Scott is the chairman of the National Republic Senatorial Committee which has as its mission to elect as many Republicans to the Senate. And, as chairman Senator Scott has established a platform for candidates which, among other things, calls for a “sunset” feature for Social Security and Medicare, among other programs.

“Sunset” means that Medicare and Social Security would cease to exist after five years unless these programs are renewed by Congress and the President. Which means that, given the inability of Congress to agree on just about anything, these programs upon which so many millions of Americans rely upon could literally disappear.

Particularly disquieting is the Republican attitude that Social Security is some kind of gift from the government to Americans when Americans pay into Social Security with every pay check during their entire working lives. Treating Social Security as an entitlement program is an insult to every working woman and man in this country in every state – red or blue.

While it makes all the sense in the world for Democrats to shine a bright light on the Republican plans to curtail abortion rights out of existence, it makes no sense to not mention – the attack on Social Security and Medicare- that this is an open declaration of war on all Americans.

It would seem that regardless of party affiliation, there are very few Americans who would knowingly vote to eliminate Social Security and Medicare.

With the November 8th approaching by the minute, it would seem that it is time to make all Americans aware of this Republican declaration of war on America.

Point of View Columns

When a Dog Whistle Becomes a Fire Alarm

If you are an avid follower of college football then you probably know the name Tommy Tuberville because he was a very successful college football coach at Auburn University in Alabama. If you follow the political circuit these days you probably know Tuberville as a Republican senator from Alabama who is a first-class member of the MAGA tribe. And if you really pay attention to these things, then you will remember that it was Tuberville who spoke at the rally prior to the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol and called for “trial by combat”.

You can be excused for not following all of the ranting and raving in which this man engages. But sometimes even the demagogues warrant attention. Take, for example, the extraordinary speech that Tuberville, a sitting U.S. Senator, gave in Las Vegas this past weekend.

He not only referred to reparations for Black Americans as “bullshit”, he also claimed that any reparations dollars would be going to criminals. And not finished wallowing in this rhetorical mud, he went on to claim that “they” (presumably Democrats and Black Americans in particular) were coming to take away from his virtually all white audience whatever wealth they might have.

The noxious nature of this speech drew some criticism – very little from Republicans and not so much from Democrats either. And the problem with that reaction is that Tommy Tuberville is not going to crawl under a rock where he belongs, he will continue to race bait and continue to light the fires of racial hatred and bigotry that have never been truly extinguished in the entire history of this nation.

Everyone who considers themselves a person of good will should be more than concerned, we should be terrified that senior political leaders are free to spew such hatred, because there is no reason that like some vile virus, this hatred won’t spread in unimaginable ways.

I am reminded of the words of Martin Niemoller which should be a message for all of us who have yet to confront the dawning of a new American nightmare:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.

Maya Angelou once said that when someone tells you who they are, believe them. The denizens of MAGA nation have told us who they are. We fail to believe them at our own peril.

Point of View Columns

Reflections on Indigenous People Day

If you follow American history and believe in the myths, legends and fantasies you will never be disappointed in that there will always be one more way that this country can abuse the environment along with any and every non-white component of the so-called Melting Pot.

On the other hand, with even a rudimentary knowledge of history you view this country with a jaundiced eye, you will never be disappointed as there appears to be no limit to the lies, fantasies and hypocrisies that are presented as the “true story” of America.

Take, for example, the celebration of Indigenous People Day – which is not a national holiday, by the way, but rather an aspirational observance of the presence of indigenous people in this country due a presidential proclamation by Joe Biden. The day is meant to “honor the sovereignty, resilience and immense contributions that Native Americans have made to the world”.

This would be all well and good except for the fact that the indigenous people of the United States were subjected to genocide and the land theft of historic proportions. The land theft part is pretty simple to quantify – every square inch of these United States were held by indigenous people, and now their territory is confined to a number of “reservations” have cemented their lower class status in the United States as a part of national policy.

The genocide is also a matter of historic proportions. It is estimated that in 1600 approximately 60 million indigenous people lived in what is now the United States. By 1900 the number of indigenous people was 237,200. That is not a misprint.

But somehow American hypocrisy and the failure of this nation to atone for the crimes committed against millions of men, women and children has been sanitized and air brushed in order to present the false legend of American “expansion” and the establishment of the United States of American.

To “celebrate the resilience” of the indigenous people in this country rings hollow and false in the face of the reality of American history.

America has, from time to time, proven that it can do better. Now is could be of those times.

And true reparations would be a good place to start.

Point of View Columns

How Putin Got Something Right and Other Thoughts

The past week, like so many weeks these days, has been so full of news stories that trying to keep track of all of them is like drinking from a fire hose. Here a few of the many items that warrant some attention:

How Putin Got Some Things Right

One need not be a mental health specialist to observe that Vladimir Putin is dealing with some kind of mental health abnormality that has been manifested in his taking Russia on a race to the precipice that resembles the end of the motion picture “Thelma and Louise”.

Last week he announced his imaginary annexation of 15% of Ukraine and magically made all the residents citizens of Russia “forever”. He also threatened nuclear war just to make sure the world is paying attention. But somehow all of the press commentary has made no mention of the facts that were hidden in plain view during his rant.

But Putin did get a few things right:

  1. The United States engaged in widespread genocide and land theft against the indigenous people of North America – there simply cannot be any argument that the brutal attempt to exterminate the indigenous people while taking ownership of virtually all of the land on which they lived is simply a matter of fact.
  2. The United States engaged in the enslavement of Black Americans as a matter of law (and the original version of the Constitution) – the truth is the truth.
  3. European powers engaged in the disruption of virtually all of the lives of all of the people of Africa, looting its wealth and subjugating its residents (those were not enslaved) to colonial rule – again, the truth is the truth.
  4. The United Kingdom engaged in plundering the wealth of China and India, colonizing the people of India in the process – again the truth is the truth.

There is no doubt that Putin is a madman, but it is fascinating that nowhere on any of the Western news channels was there any mention of what Putin got right. Perhaps these uncomfortable truths were just……too uncomfortable.

Did the World Just Forget Pakistan

Less than a month ago Pakistan was hit with cataclysmic flooding that left one third of the country underwater, killed well over one thousand people and left much of the infrastructure in shambles.

What made this flood even more tragic is that this flooding was not due to the weather, it was due primarily to glacial melting. As it turns out, Pakistan is one of eight countries that are most susceptible to glacial melting and that melting is absolutely due to global warming. And, the cruel irony is that while Pakistan contributes to no more than 1% of the world’s carbon emissions, carbon ovens like China and the United States and Europe are most responsible for carbon emissions. Yet Pakistan is paying this awful price for the neglect of this climate abuse.

To make matters worse, after the first outpouring of global concern that concern seems to have evanesced. Ukraine remains the headline story and now the goldfish-like attention span of the United States has been diverted to hurricanes lashing and devastating Puerto Rico and Florida.

Meanwhile most of the flooding in Pakistan has not receded. Meanwhile millions of Pakistani citizens are without proper food and shelter. Meanwhile the rest of the so-called developed world feels no responsibility to provide anything but a relatively perfunctory early expression of concern followed by the so-called developed world moving on.

One can only hope that the Pakistani government, the Pakistani people and the Pakistani diaspora would be more strident in making sure that the story of the suffering of this nation does not simply fade away.

After all, a closed mouth does not get fed.

Watching Ron DeSantis as Janus

The Romans had many gods. One of them was Janus – indeed the month of January is named after him as he was the god with two faces, one looking back at the old year and looking forward to the new year. In 2013, after Super Storm Sandy lashed the New York City metropolitan area along with a good portion of the Northeast, then Congressman Ron DeSantis voted against federal aid to New York City. His rationale was that state and local governments should rely on their own resources and not count on federal aid every time and anytime that they need help.

Just last week, nine short years later, Ron DeSantis is the governor of Florida. Of course Florida is suffering from the catastrophic damage from a once in a century Hurricane Ian which has caused billions of dollars of damage to a wide swath of Florida.

And just last week, Governor DeSantis wrote a formal letter to President Joe Biden requesting a massive amount of federal assistance. Joe Biden being Joe Biden did not comment on the irony, but it can be mentioned here.

It appears that Ron DeSantis is channeling his inner Janus. Clearly in politics according to DeSantis, two faces are better than one.