Point of View Columns

All Along the Watchtower

“There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief”
Bob Dylan – Sung by Jimi Hendrix (among others)

Ever since the inauguration of Trump on January 20, 2017, there has been apocalyptic visions and versions of what is happening to these United States expressed in news commentaries and columns, Saturday Night Live and on every late night television show. And Trump has obliged the purveyors of doom and naysayers by reigning over the most destructive, pernicious and dysfunctional presidency in the history of the Republic. And yet, just when you don’t think that he can be any worse, sink any lower or be a true imitation of an avatar of doom, Trump gets worse, he sinks lower and he makes national doom seem like a real possibility.

Trump’s recent Executive Order proclaiming a fake national emergency would seem to be his final step in convincing even his most fervent supporters that this man should not be President of the United States for even another nanosecond. Of course, the cold shower of conflict politics in this country informs us that there may be literally nothing that Trump can do that will dislodge his base from believing that he is their Orange-Haired Savior come to rescue from the black and brown hordes that would keep America from Being Great Again.

Most Americans cling to sanity and believe that something called the American Way will certainly sort out whatever damage that Trump is wreaking havoc on America and the Planet Earth. However, this declaration of a faux national emergency in order to circumvent Congress and the Constitution constitutes a national emergency in and of itself. And even the laziest students of history in the modern era must understand that this is how dictatorships begin, flourish and reign.

It is no small thing for the President of the United States to actually state that he will circumvent the Constitution, which vests Congress with the sole power to allocate monies for government activities, in order to pursue his blatant political goals. This particular of allocation of power to Congress is in the first Article of the Constitution, which convince anyone of how serious the framers of the Constitution were when it came to the allocation and separation of powers. For Trump to consider the words “national emergency” as the equivalent of “open sesame” in granting him powers that supersede that of Congress is way beyond dangerous.

It would do well to remember that dictatorships in the modern era find minorities to demonize and mobilize their base, cast the media and journalists as enemies of the state, degrade the electoral process and slowly but surely erode the modes of government until all that is left is an imperial executive. We would do well to remember that Hitler was elected. We would do well to remember that Mussolini was elected. It was what they did after they were elected that created dictatorships which ruined Germany and Italy respectively.

The historic government shutdown, the dog whistle appeals to the worst racists that this country has to offer, self-aggrandizement of Trump Incorporated on an epic scale, the strong scent of collusion with Russia and the energized and intentional demolition of international alliances are turning out to be just a warm up for Trump. While it is probably true that since he does not read and apparently has no knowledge of history, Trump has no real idea of what he is doing. But like the proverbial bull in a china shop or the four year old at the controls of a 747, he is capable of doing great harm.

It is now up to Congress – not Democrats or Republicans, and the Supreme Court – not Conservatives or Liberals – to decide to keep political battles within the demarcated boundaries of the playing field. Trump embraces chaos and wants this country to go there and stay there.

Congress and the Supreme Court need to make sure that this does not happen.

And if they don’t it will be up to you and me. Things have gotten that serious.

Point of View Columns

Devil in The White Dress

Trump’s State of the Union speech received mixed reviews, to be kind. They ranged from “psychotically incoherent” (Van Jones) to “his worst speech ever” (Rick Santorum) to “the most inspiring State of the Union speech in history” (guess……………you are correct, Sean Hannity). The fact that for many the most memorable moment was Speaker Nancy Pelosi clap-shaming Trump kind of says it all. But there was more going on that night, and there are some women in Congress, all dressed in white, who have some explaining to do.

It was certainly noteworthy and historic and far too long in coming for the largest number of women in Congress were seated in attendance. Many of these women dressed in white to commemorate the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919. This amendment, which was ratified and became a part of the Constitution in 1920. The 19th Amendment was seen as the signal and most important victory of the almost 100 year old women’s suffrage movement.

One has to wonder if all of those women dressed in white knew what they were celebrating. The history of the (white) women’s suffrage movement existed hand in hand with domestic terrorists like the Knights of the White Magnolia and the Ku Klux Klan and the rhetoric of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton rang with words like “sambo”, “baboons” and “black rapists” as they advocated for (only) white women to have the right to vote.

But even in the age of Trump facts matter. The 19th Amendment did not give women the right to vote – it prohibited states from preventing women from voting. The 19th Amendment did absolutely nothing to protect or assert the rights of black women when it came to voting. And the almost 100 year old women’s suffrage movement was a virtually whites-only organization that grudgingly permitted black women a seat on the back of the suffragette bus, alternatively ignoring and insulting them.

And it is because of this skewed whitewashing of women’s history that little white girls and boys and little black girls and boys do not know the names of Mary Church Terrell, Ida Wells, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Coralie Franklin Cook, but they do know the names of unreconstructed racists and bigots like Anthony and Stanton.

While there was a linkage between the abolitionist and suffrage movements prior to the Civil War, ironically due in no small part to the advocacy of the African American hero Frederick Douglass. After the Civil War the cause of the rights of black people diverged from the advocates for women’s suffrage.

That is because the female leadership of the women’s suffrage movement were as racist as their American male counterparts. Leaders like Anthony and Stanton opposed the 15th Amendment because they felt that white women should have the right to vote before black men. The leaders of this movement barred black women from their marches and many of their public events and the historic Women’s March on Washington 1913, black women were forced to march – you guessed it – at the rear of the parade.

And when the 19th Amendment was ratified, the leaders of these (white) women’s movement did nothing to support their black sisters in their effort to vote. Black women were arrested, beaten, sexually assaulted and killed in their efforts to claim the benefits that the Women in White celebrated at the State of the Union.

Of course there should be no surprise that white women in the North and South stood by while their white brothers, sons, fathers and husbands rained all kinds of holy hell on black people in America.

Without Sanctuary is a photographic history of lynching in America. In almost everyone of these horrific pictures there are crowds of white people in attendance, looking on with undisguised pleasure and even glee. And at least half of those in attendance were — you guessed it – white women.

The facts are that the 19th Amendment did little or nothing for black women, and the rights asserted by white women as a result of this amendment meant nothing for black women until the passage of the Voting Rights Act — 45 years later. One wonders why these female members of Congress, black, white, Latina and Asian would think it important to celebrate this historic moment of white female supremacy – and not even the notice the irony of wearing white for such a celebration.

The fact is that there are many times in this country’s history and in the present when women of all colors and backgrounds have come together to advocate justice for all. The fact is that the 19th Amendment is not one of them, and just like Robert E. Lee’s birthday and the Confederate flag, does not deserve celebration or observation.

For more information and more facts please see Brent Staples NY Times article on this subject


Point of View Columns

Stop in the Name of the Law

By now we have been bludgeoned by reality and accept that there is no rule, law or moral norm that means anything to Donald Trump. Whether its discriminating against black men and women trying to rent apartments in Cincinnati, or buying the silence of former lovers and porn stars (in Trump’s case they are the same), or not paying hundreds of workers and contractors doing work on his failed casinos, or simply swindling thousands of aspiring dreamers who thought they could learn something from attending Trump University (spoiler alert – they learned that Donald Trump cannot be trusted), Donald Trump has found that he can get away with anything if he is willing to pay some money. But there are limits – even for Trump.

Ever since the Trump-induced government shutdown ended, Trump has loudly hinted that he might declare a national emergency and siphon funds from various federal agencies to build his hallowed wall if Congress won’t give him what he wants. Somehow his bullet head advisors like Steven Miller and John Bolton have Trump believing that all he has to do is to say “emergency powers” like some sort of magical incantation and presto – he will have the power to build his wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. But Trump and his enablers are making a huge misstep because (a) they don’t read or (b) they can’t read or (c) they don’t care what the laws and the Constitution say. For those keeping score at home (c) is the correct answer.

Clearly Trump and his minions haven’t read, can’t read and don’t care about the National Emergencies Act of 1976. If they did they would know that it was enacted for the specific purpose of limiting the use of emergency powers by the President of the United States. If they were willing to peruse modern history, they would see that national emergencies have been declared by presidents as the result of hurricanes, tornadoes, 9/11, earthquakes and the like.

The National Emergencies Act in its language and in its application was never meant to give the President an option if he/she could not reach an agreement with Congress. As they roast slowly in Hell, true fascist dictators like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin must watch Trump with some admiration as he tries to be a dictator in a government with a Constitution that was specifically designed to block dictators. Trump’s dilemma probably makes them chuckle as they are basted by Satan.

A bit of history – when the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia in 1787 there were some basic concerns that needed to be addressed. First, since the Articles of Confederation had resulted in near total governmental chaos, it was important to establish a government structure that could work.

A close second however, was the almost universal belief of the delegates (Alexander Hamilton notwithstanding) that the power to govern could not and would not reside in one person or even one branch of government. And that is how three co-equal branches of government – executive, judicial and legislative – were established with a system of checks and balances so that no one person could control or direct the government. It turns out that the delegates were really serious about sovereign power resting with the people.

And now Trump threatens Congress with his supposed emergency powers somehow believing that the legislative branch (Congress) and the judicial branch (Supreme Court) will simply go along with this unprecedented grab for power. Trump will meet Nancy in Court and my money is on Nancy and the Court.

Point of View Columns

Howard Schultz – Spoiler in Waiting

What most Americans know about Howard Schultz, if they know his name at all, is that he became a billionaire by figuring out a way to make people want to buy really expensive coffee – all the time. It is fair to say that not many people cared about his political beliefs one way or the other, and there has literally been less than zero public interest in the possibility of his becoming President of the United States. And what we now know is that, based on these facts, Howard Schultz has decided that he should seriously consider running for President of the United States as a self-funded independent.

In any other time, Mr. Schultz might be seen as another billionaire seeking to enhance his monetarily certified illusions of grandeur by aspiring to the presidency. And, of course, we are all witness to the fact that, given the right set of circumstances, a self-absorbed and self-impressed billionaire can actually be elected President of the United States.

But these are especially dangerous times. Trump in the White House has jeopardized just about every aspect of what is important in this country. His denigration of the judiciary, his attacks on the press, his absolute disregard for international alliances and the environment have secured for him the title of the worst president in history in just two short years. His historic shutdown of the federal government should prove to everyone that he is just getting warmed up when it comes to nation-destroying tantrums.

It is hoped that the search for the perfect candidate will not result in the organization of a circular firing squad that leaves all candidates ruined or wounded. Assuming that the Democrats do maintain some semblance unity, it is hoped that a candidate from that party will unseat the Destroyer in Chief before he does any more damage.

But all of the planning and attempts at unity by the Democrats will go for naught if Howard Schultz, or some other delusional billionaire, actually runs for president as an independent. All anyone has to do is to look at the election of 2000 when Ralph Nader ran as an ideologically pure Green Party candidate with the result that George W. Bush was elected president – with the thumbs of the conservative Supreme Court justices on the scale.

It is fair to say that George W. Bush was never as bad as Donald Trump has been. It is also fair to say that if Al Gore had been elected president the United States would never have invaded Iraq and the crash of the U.S. economy in 2008 probably wouldn’t have occurred. Of course, hindsight is by definition 20/20, but many observers and commentators in 2000 sounded the alarm that a Nader candidacy could spell victory for Bush. And they were right. The self-indulgent candidacy of Ralph Nader damaged this country in so many ways.

And now a coffee-salesman with buckets of money seems to think that his running for president as an independent will not result in Trump being re-elected. As a billionaire he can afford to take that chance. Most of us cannot afford six more years of Donald Trump.

One can only hope that philanthropy or probiotics or ventriloquism will distract Schultz because if he persists in running for president as an independent he will make Trump’s dream of re-election come true and will create a nightmare for the rest of us.

Point of View Columns

And It All Came Tumbling Down

According to the American governmental protocols, barring impeachment or being kidnapped by Martians and held for ransom, Donald Trump will be President of the United States until noon on January 20, 2021. That is a long time for Americans to hold their noses and pray for relief at the same time. That is also a long time for the Tweeter in Chief to continue to wreak havoc in this country and literally all over the world. There are already serious questions as to how the population of this planet will survive climate change. Now there is a more immediate concern as to how we will survive Trump. And that is now a real question.

The history of the great civilizations of this planet – The Ming Dynasty in China, the Roman Empire, the great African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai, the Greek Empire, the Egyptian dynasties – all have something in common. The common cause of their demise came from within. Complacency, belief in their own inevitability, an unwillingness to adapt to change – all of these flaws multiplied and metastasized until each and every one of these landmark achievements of human accomplishment were relegated to the dusty pages of history.

One could never imagine this happening to the United States, and certainly not after only 230 years. But then one could never imagine a President of the United States who revels in the notion that the federal government might be shut down for weeks, months or even years, in the process bringing about the degradation of the daily lives of over a third of a billion Americans. And one could never imagine a President who has been the serious target of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the possibility that the President could be an asset for the Russian government. And what can be said about a President who meets with the head of America’s greatest adversary and then confiscates the notes of that meeting?

The Era of Trump has exhausted the American vocabulary – the worst, the most ignorant, the most immoral, the most amoral, the most ignorant, the most callous, the most racist, the most sexist, the most careless, the most ignorant – these words lose their meaning due to overuse and in any event mean nothing to Trump because he has heard these words used to describe him for his entire adult life. And the reality is that, barring those aforementioned Martians coming to take him away, he will continue to be President for two more years. Because even if Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives his feckless Republican enablers in the Senate will simply never convict him and remove him from office.

And so we watch the national parks and monuments drown in garbage. We watch airline safety degrade by the moment. An epic outbreak of E-coli killing thousands is only an unwashed hand away. And if a blizzard or a reprise of 9-11 were to occur, this country would be staggered.

And yet, the unindicted domestic terrorist in the White House thinks that his Wall Complex is worth all of this damage. Just as he thinks that threatening to withdraw the U.S. from NATO, or bailing out on the Paris Climate Accords are making America great, what he is really doing is making America a lesser country every day. It is a hard thing to do, but clearly Trump is the man for that job.

There is this assumption that once the federal government shutdown ends that within a few days or weeks America will be back to normal. But ask the 800,000 federal workers and their families what “normal” feels like. Ask the men, women, children, veterans and disabled who rely on the federal government every day what “normal” will look like. And as Americans lose faith in their government and in the leadership of that government, it is only a matter of time before the assumption of the Inevitable America isn’t so inevitable any more.

There is no clear proof that Trump is a Russian asset. And there probably never will be clear proof. But is clear that Trump as President of the United States is the greatest gift that Vladimir Putin could have ever hoped for, and that truth should make every American very afraid. And we should remember the common cause of the death of every great empire and civilization has always come from within.

Point of View Columns

A Clear and Present Danger

Until very recently, the notion of applying the 25th Amendment to a strategy to oust Donald Trump as president on the grounds of his being psychologically unfit to serve seemed to be just the feverish dream of the most rabid Trump haters. But now, it seems that times have changed.

Before he was elected most Americans who cared knew that he was vulgar, mercurial, sexist and racist. Since he has been inaugurated, Trump has demonstrated a stunning disregard regard for the truth and a total embrace of ignorance even in the face of overwhelming and indisputable facts. That he has translated his mendacity and his ignorance into policy is undeniable. But if the truth be told, he is not the first president to lie, although he has set an Olympian-level record for lying that will be difficult to surpass. And Trump is not the first president to be careless about what he knows, or doesn’t know.

The difference with Trump is that his behavior would make most six year olds ashamed as he insults the world, bullies and threatens any opposition and brutalizes anyone foolish enough to think that they can actually work with this man. The further difference is that his character flaws have been converted into damaging policies that literally put this country at risk.

Getting into useless brawls with NATO, the European Union and Iran make it possible that his next tweet could result in the loss of American lives. His denial of climate change and pulling this country out of the Paris Climate Agreement has resulted in the very real possibility that a child born today may not reach adulthood with clean air and clean water being readily available during his/her lifetime.

But now, in shutting down the federal government, and threatening to extend the shutdown for months or years, Trump has shown himself to either be dangerously unstable or possessed of a very real desire to damage this country if he doesn’t get his way over a wall. Even if he knows nothing about the unseen work of the federal government and its multiple agencies and multitudes of public servants, someone in the White House must have explained to him that millions of Americans are being damaged every day. And to even threaten “months or years” of a government shutdown is to bring joyful hope to every enemy of this country.

If a terrorist were to wear a bomb vest and walk into Grand Central Station in New York City and threaten to blow up that iconic landmark, no responsible law enforcement officer would wait to see if the threat was real. The mere utterance of that threat combined with the perceived capability to carry out that threat would be enough cause to neutralize that terrorist.

What we are now seeing is Donald Trump playing the role of a domestic terrorist. His office gives him the ability to carry out his threat to cripple the government of the United States. His threats to have to be taken as serious. And therefore, it is clearly the responsibility of the Congress to neutralize this individual before he actually carries out threats that will provide unspeakable damage to the men, women and children of this country.

And that is where the 25th Amendment which allows for the removal of a president who is unfit to serve. And if there was ever a man who has demonstrated that he is unfit to serve as president for even another day, it is Donald J. Trump. Playing with the lives of Americans and the future of this country as if were just another one of his mediocre reality shows is all the evidence that anyone needs to realize that he simply should not be president.

One has to wonder if Republicans are so enamored of tax cuts and conservative judges that they are willing to risk the fate of this nation. One has to also wonder if Democrats are so fearful of Fox News and being seen as partisan extremists that they will not act to save this country before it is too late.

To paraphrase the late Barry Goldwater, extremism in the defense of the survival of this country is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of purely partisan goals is no virtue.

Even if the shutdown ends sooner than later, Trump has told everyone who will listen that he only cares about Trump and the rest of us can either act or suffer the consequences of inaction.

Point of View Columns

The Greatest Generation – A Point of Personal Privilege

As the New Year begins, I am reminded that my father, Wallace Ford Sr., was born on January 2, 1922. Had he lived past his 73rd year, he would be 97 years old. He was one of the unheralded members of the so-called Greatest Generation. And the word “so-called” is used intentionally, because of the monochromatic description of that generation employed by Tom Brokaw and so many others who purposefully and intentionally chose to ignore the black men and women who were in many ways the reason that Generation was great.

My father’s parents left North Carolina as teenagers to seek the very obvious better opportunity in New York than in a state where the Ku Klux Klan and lynching and Jim Crow oppression was simply a way of life. And the parents of the brothers and sisters of my father’s generation also journeyed to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh and anyplace but the former Confederate states. And my father and his generational brothers and sisters did not simply endure the ubiquitous discrimination and prejudice outside and within the South, they prevailed.

The almost forgotten black members of the Greatest Generation went into the military and made history as they helped America win World War II. Their sisters went to work in shops and stores and factories and changed the face of the American workforce. And in the times after the Great Depression and World War II at Tuskegee and Montford Point and so many other places that are hidden in the shadows of history, they made a way for themselves even though the racism in America’s DNA did not surrender easily. And in making a way in this brave new world they endorsed and supported and joined the next phase of the civil rights movement that had begun one hundred years earlier, and revealing the determination and persistence and sheer will of their fathers and grandmothers and ancestors, they were able to see the obvious signs of prejudice fade and in some ways, disappear. And all this while their little girls and boys were cursed and spat upon for daring to go to grade school. And all this while their icons and heroes and sheroes were killed before their very eyes. And all this while the likes of Faubus and Wallace and Stennis and Bilbo paraded their hate in full view of the world.

And these black members of the Greatest Generation also raised a generation of sons and daughters who were taught and trained and encouraged to seize opportunities that never existed. These sons and daughters went to colleges and universities. These sons and daughters became lawyers and doctors and governors and mayors – and most importantly they became mothers and fathers determined to fulfill the dreams of all who came before.

Those dreams have yet to be totally fulfilled. They continue the battle, they continue to struggle and they struggle to make the dreams of that Greatest Generation come true.

And as this New Year begins it is important to keep those dreams alive and to remember as it was for the Greatest Generation, it is true for us – dreams can come true.

Happy Birthday Dad.