Point of View Columns

It’s All Fun and Games Until It’s Not

One can imagine that there are significant numbers of Donald Trump worshipers who took great pleasure in watching him dismantle the norms of propriety along with the protocols of American government from the moment that he took the oath of office. His refusal to be guided by common sense or good advice must have been refreshing to those who felt stifled by the so-called Deep State.

Trump’s adoration of Vladimir Putin might have given some members of the Trump Base pause. But like their leader, they like strong leaders who don’t respect convention.

The false equivalency between neo-Nazi nationalists and civil rights advocates was clearly not a problem and even Trump’s servile posture at the altar of the National Rifle Association was o.k. Even as the American body count from mass shootings and random gun killings continued to mount, the Trump Nation was clearly willing to Stand by Their Man.

Insulting foreign leaders and entire countries was just Trump being Strong. And besides, these leaders and countries were FOREIGN and not American and therefore not worthy of even basic respect.

Railing against black Americans, Latino Americans, Mexicans and “others” was not only not a problem for Trumpistas, it was what they wanted, indeed needed. Validation that the American that was going to Great Again was also going to be White Again washed away any and all missteps, misspeaks and misdeeds when it came to Donald J. Trump.

Indeed it was all fun and games until Trump found a toy that should have been put in a shoe box in the back of a top shelf of a closet, the way dangerous items are kept hidden from children. Because when Trump discovered that he could engage in trade wars with the world without the consent or approval of Congress, the Supreme Court or any other aspect of government, he found his ultimate toy.

Trump found that he could threaten allies and enemies at will, with his tariff pen in hand he could roil the financial markets of the planet and be assured that everyone would care about what he might do next. Indeed, tariffs turned out the be the ultimate toy for a bully like Trump in that he discovered he could threaten without fear of any serious harm – at least that’s what he thought.

And then Harley-Davidson decided to build its next plant abroad in the wake of yet another tariff tsunami. Other U.S. companies reduced or shut down operations, and the entire auto industry and its millions of direct and indirect employees tried to tell Trump that he was playing with their livelihoods.

And then the bully decided it was time to punch up in class and go after China. The thing is that not being a student of history, or anything else for that matter, Trump did not realize that China would be more than sensitive to being bullied by foreign powers, the era of European-American neo-colonialism in the 19th century not being that far away. And so when Trump punched, China punched back. And then Trump nation got punched in the nose.

Farmers, manufacturers who literally earned a living selling to China found themselves on the outside looking in. Trump has been providing bailouts to some farmers, but those “farmers” are typically corporate behemoths and the MAGA hat-wearing tractor drivers are weeping in their beer.

What is tragic about all of this is that the carnage that will soon hit American consumers in a very real way could have been easily predicted and just as easily avoided. Trump minions keep saying that the harm to the American public will be “minimal”, but when people are already earning “minimal” paychecks, even “minimal” harm will hurt.

It remains to be seen whether Trump nation will turn on its hero because of the pain of the tariff wars. Keep in mind that racism, stupidity, coarseness, ignorance, misogyny and lies have not moved the needle. But economic pain has a way of drawing attention and the weeks and months to come we will learn whether Trump has overplayed his hand —–again.

 

Standard
Point of View Columns

Justice Too Long Delayed is Justice Denied

In 1963, in a Birmingham, Alabama jail cell, Martin Luther King, speaking of the ongoing struggle for civil and human rights by black Americans, wrote “Just too long delayed is justice denied”. Those words were true in 1963 and they still ring true in 2019.

Eric Garner was killed by a New York City police officer on July 17, 2014. His murder was captured in real time on video by multiple cellphones and his desperate cry of “I can’t breathe” was heard all over the world although his words fell on deaf NYPD ears. The fact that Mr. Garner’s encounter with the police was connected to the infinitely minor and absolutely nonviolent crime of his selling loose cigarettes (or “loosies”) made this particular blue on black crime even more tragic.

What we know is that several New York City police officers witnessed the murder of Eric Garner and did nothing to restrain Officer Daniel Pantaleo even as he was choking Mr. Garner to death. What we know is that the racist DNA of the American law enforcement system was on full display as the District Attorney of Staten Island, where the murder occurred, did not to seek to indict Pantaleo or any of the police officers for any offenses.

And what we know is that the Obama Administration Department of Justice, headed at the time of Garner’s murder by Eric Holder, and then in 2015 by Loretta Lynch, engaged in a civil rights investigation. Amazingly, this investigation could not come to a conclusion regarding the violation of the civil rights of the deceased Eric Garner, even though his murder was captured on videotape.

And what we know is that on November 9, 2016, then Attorney General Loretta Lynch knew that Donald Trump would be inaugurated as President of the United States on January 20, 2017 and that an Attorney General in the Trump administration would almost certainly put the Garner case into a bureaucratic dustbin. That meant that she had 73 days to make sure that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice took some concrete steps to ensure that justice would be done in the Garner case. And nothing was done.

What we know is that the Department of Justice under the aegis of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III slow walked the Garner case. What we know is that under the administration of Attorney General William Barr the Garner case was permanently buried in 2019, defying logic and common sense in concluding that there was not sufficient evidence that Eric Garner’s civil rights were violated.

What we do know is that throughout all of these meandering delays justice was too long delayed. And what we do know is that when Daniel Pantaleo was finally fired from his position in the NYPD justice had been denied to the Garner family. Mr. Pantaleo will never have to face criminal charges. He will spend the rest of his life as a free man – free to laugh and love and be with his family while Eric Garner remains in his grave and Mr. Garner’s family continues to grieve.

The conclusion must be that the firing of Daniel Pantaleo by the NYPD after five years of delay is that justice has not been served. And what we do know is that the Garner case is another sad illustration of the fact that black lives do not matter in these United States of America. And unless and until there is a basic commitment by governmental authorities and the citizens of this country to acknowledge and recognize the basic humanity of black Americans, it will be impossible to come to any other conclusion but that black lives do not matter.

There has been no justice in the Garner case. Indeed, justice has been too long delayed and justice has been denied.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Time to Thin the Herd

This is how bizarre the Democratic presidential race has become – if you added up your eyes, fingers, nose and toes – you would barely, just barely, exceed the number of Democratic candidates who are presuming to run for office. How anyone in authority at the Democratic National Committee –are you even listening Tom Perez? – can think that totally exhausting the limited attention span of the American public is a good way to find someone who can drive Donald Tinyhands from office is simply beyond comprehension.

People who consider themselves “political junkies” are finding that watching 6 hours of twenty candidates debating on consecutive nights is just too much. The notion that be putting a pride of candidates, or a gaggle of candidates or a murder of candidates in front of American voters would demonstrate the strength and depth and diversity of the Democratic party must have been a conclusion that was arrived at when bright ideas were in short supply.

There is no doubt that all of the candidates are good men and women. But there has to be higher bar – like demonstrated potential for electability (see Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention) or undeniable celebrity (see Donald Trump in 2015). Using these rather basic metrics perhaps there are six of the candidates who need to be battling for the right to go up against Trump. Instead, there are twenty (!!!!) and it is hard to make the case that most Americans, or even most Democrats, believe that the other fourteen could somehow win the nomination and then beat Trump.

And, at the end of the day, Trump provides clear reasons for the need to defeat him virtually every day – whether it is relaxing the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act or mugging for the cameras with the infant of two of the El Paso murder victims in his arms or providing the El Paso killer with the psychic ammunition that ultimately killed Latinos who Trump has called invaders on numerous occasions.

At the end of the day, this is not the time for vanity campaigns or tryouts for the 2024 election cycle. Anything and everything that distracts or detracts from the movement to remove Trump from office poses a danger for the American people who could be victimized by Trump for another four years.

Some of these Democratic candidates would do well to run for Congress or the Senate in their home states and provide the platform for eradicating some of the more egregious actions of the Trump administration. But all of the candidates would do well to remember that Donald Trump has already appointed two right wing of the right wing Supreme Court justices. If he were to be reelected he could end up giving lifetime appointments to a proto-conservative Supreme Court majority that would last for decades (!!!!!) no matter who was elected in 2024.

There is another round of debates coming up in September…..one can only hope that after that it will be clear to one and all that it is time to thin the herd. American cannot afford this circus called the Democratic Party presidential campaign.

 

 

 

Standard
Point of View Columns

A Hate Supreme

Part of the singularly American mindset is the belief that the stated ideals of this country constitute reality, when in fact that is not, and has not, been the case – ever. The Declaration of Independence speak to all men being created equal and there is no doubt that not one of the signatories actually believed it.

The Constitution speaks about “we the people” when the so-called white and largely slave holding Founding Fathers absolutely did not believe for a nanosecond that “the people” included women, white men without property, black people or the indigenous people who had the horrible misfortune of living on land that white Europeans coveted and stole.

It is this willful blindness that has created a public conversation regarding the “rise” of white supremacy and white nationalism and white terrorism as if the recent massacres committed by self-confessed white nationalists is representative of some kind of new phenomenon that is new to America. All the while, even a passing familiarity with American history would reveal that white supremacy/nationalism/terrorism is embedded in the American DNA.

Consider that only an absolute belief in white supremacy could justify Europeans coming to what became North America and claiming the entire continent despite the fact that millions of indigenous people had established civilizations over thousands of years. And, after the first “explorers” “discovered” that this continent was huge and bountiful, the concept of Manifest Destiny proclaimed that some divine right empowered white Americans to literally steal an entire continent.

Consider that even before there was a United States, race-based slavery was an absolute fact of life. And this “peculiar institution” was founded on the notion of white supremacy and the innate inferiority of people of African descent. This concept was embedded so deeply that a Civil War was fought in order to divest slaves from the slave owners who believed so deeply in white supremacy that were willing to kill and die for their belief.

Consider that after the Civil War and throughout the 20th century, state sanctioned white terrorism – based on concepts of white supremacy and white nationalism – victimized black Americans, not only in the South, but in virtually every part of these United States. For those exposed to only the sanitized version of American history, it is important to know that this is the 100th anniversary of the “Red Summer” when over 1000 black men, women and children were murdered by mobs of white terrorists in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The bodies of the victims were dumped into a common grave. And it was during this same summer of 1919 that the black town of Rosewood, Florida and its residents were wiped from the face of the earth by mobs of white terrorists.

It is important to understand that the concept of white supremacy countenanced the white terrorist lynching of thousands of black citizens throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. And it was that same concept white supremacy that allowed white Americans who did not participate directly in this carnage to turn a blind eye and do absolutely nothing.

It was a white supremacist terrorists who blew up the church in Birmingham, Alabama killing four black girls. And it was white supremacist terrorists who killed Emmit Till and Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman and Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King and Harry T. Moore and Viola Liuzzo and so many more.

White supremacy, white nationalism are not new to America. These vile notions are unworthy of the stated ideals of this country but they are as much a part of history as the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

And certainly, the first step to addressing this sad and pathetic aspect of the American Way is to acknowledge the truth – white supremacist terrorism is part of the American Way and it cannot be removed until it is acknowledged.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Love Thy Neighbor?

“If we see one of our brothers or sisters who is in need of clothes or food and do not have enough to live on, and we say, I wish you well……without giving them the necessities to live, what good is that? It is the same with faith, if good deeds do not go with it, it is quite dead.”

This quote from St. James is from a Christian text, but there are similar statements in Jewish and Islamic texts regarding caring for our brothers and sisters – in other words caring for our neighbors, wherever they might be. And these statements regarding empathy are found in so many spiritual and religious guidance documents that it is fair to say that caring for others is a universal religious theme.

This is an important point because in the United States we have seen religious leaders speak out on issues ranging from women’s suffrage to civil rights to the environment, all as part of their spiritual mandate to care for others. In the current era we have seen many of these leaders speak out on issues ranging from abortion to day care to AirBnb to menthol cigarettes.

The evangelical movement, also known as the Religious Right, has been particularly vocal in the modern era when it comes to a so-called conservative agenda. We are told that morality has taken a coach seat on the evangelical bus that is being driven by Donald Trump, as long as that bus is moving in a strictly conservative direction.

As a result, reserved and proper leaders of the Religious Right have accepted the obscenities and the misogyny and the careless, disgusting, egregious and decidedly unchristian behavior of Trump as long as he appoints judges that will reform America that will be coincident with their conservative vision.

But even though these religious leaders have made their deal with the devil, they watch television and read the newspapers.

They see the very real suffering of their brothers and sisters – their neighbors – on the southern border of this nation. They see men and women who are caged and being told to drink out of toilets. They know that hundreds of very young children have been taken from their parents, some instances never to be reunited.

These religious leaders are the first to vocalize their opposition to gay marriages and a woman’s right to choose, but in the instance of the U.S. government-imposed misery on the border these lambs are silent. Indeed, as Trump tries to trash the female members of Congress – who are conveniently non-white – with the worst kind of racist rhetoric, these religious leaders are silent as lambs.

There may be a day when these clerics will look back at their silence with shame. In the present, however, they are content to allow this shameful excuse for a president to demean the office, degrade this country and continue to serve up a witch’s brew of hate, racism, sexism, white supremacy and nationalism to America and to the world.

Clearly these evangelicals, these leaders of the Religious Right, believe in caring for their neighbors. Just as clearly, they don’t believe that everyone is their neighbor.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Requiem for America

Any honest appraisal of the history of the United States would conclude that this is a highly imperfect country. Founded on the conquest and slaughter of the indigenous people encountered by the first Europeans on this continent, there is no way to find any aspect of its beginnings that should be celebrated.

Built upon the unholy twin pillars of slavery and white supremacy, the establishment of what became the United States of America cannot possibly be the source of pride for any human being with a sense of decency and an appreciation of universal humanity.

Any student of American history, which Donald Trump is decidedly not, would have to admit that the notion of Making America Great Again is a logical impossibility, since there has been no point at which this country has been great, its aspirations and mythologies notwithstanding. There have too many crimes against humanity and nature, too many inequities and far too many lies that would make any claim to greatness a false one.

Yet, in these days and times, there is a sense of danger and true peril. There is a sense that whatever pretensions or aspirations to greatness there might be, whatever glimmer of hope there might be for the future of this country, whatever possibility that dreams could become reality are in jeopardy. And that danger, that peril, that jeopardy is clearly seen in the presidency and person of Donald Trump.

For decades Trump skulked and slinked across the tabloid headlines of New York City, always pretending to be more than he was when clearly he was a lesser human being and a very unfunny clown. He claims to great fortune were always untrue and his claims to great achievement were always provably false. The bankruptcies, fake universities, unbuilt developments, sunken casinos, multiple avalanches of lawsuits, cheap steaks and even cheaper ties and general turmoil that surrounded this man condemned him to always being a sideshow in the big circus that is New York.

Historians in the future will always wonder how this classic example of the word “charlatan” ever became President of the United States. And those same historians will be very clear that Trump is the most dangerous president that this country has ever had.

While the daily kaleidoscope of his malodorous persona seeps into our consciousness through Twitter, news shows and the very atmosphere that he seeks to pollute, we are distracted from the very real danger that he personifies. We awaken with dread, wondering what terrible lie he will tell, what war he will threaten, what ally he will insult, what enemy he will bait or what part of the black community, the LGBTQI community, the women’s community or anyone who is non-white community he will seek to demean and dehumanize.

Meanwhile his minions and footmen are busily reincarnating the incarceration state and tearing down the scaffolding of regulations that protect our food, our air, our environment, our climate and our future. Trump’s reckless use of executive powers, this time seeking to circumvent the Supreme Court decision that prevents his administration from using a citizenship question in the census because of its racist and partisan intent, is yet another step in his efforts to virtually demolish the concept of balance of power and checks and balances in the federal government.

Trump will abide by no article, section or interpretation of the Constitution that keeps him from getting his way. And history clearly tells that this is how failed democracies devolve into autocracies and finally into dictatorships.

Trump personifies the trouble with modern day America. The pseudo-Christian ethno-nationalism that neatly describes what passes for his political philosophy appeals to the basest fears and meanest prejudices of his so-called base.

And, in the final analysis, Trump may be the one who proves that, despite all of its faults and errors, America could actually be worse.

 

Standard
Point of View Columns

War is No Game

In the military, efficiency is based upon training, practicing and training and practicing. Some of that practice involves simulations of combat and those are called “war games”. However, it is clear to anyone and everyone connected to the military that war is not a game.

That particular wisdom has not seeped into the American bunker also known as the Trump White House. It appears that Trump and his enablers, particularly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, have concocted an international policy modus operandi that entails threats and faux confrontations, goading and threatening adversaries and then stepping back from the brink of actual confrontation and combat….just…. in…. time.

But if anyone seriously thinks that tightrope diplomacy is a good thing in these days and times of instantaneous communications and response, they also think that dancing on active airplane runways is a good thing.

What is most disturbing in the recent near-clashes with Iran is that there are people in the Trump administration who think that a war with Iran is a viable option and that it is “winnable”, whatever that means. Even more disturbing is that some of these people are the same people who said that a war with Iraq was “winnable” and that a war in Afghanistan was a viable option.

How these advisors can be credible after a trillion dollars of expense and the loss of life of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan men, women and children is a wonder in an of itself. One would think that John Bolton and his running partners – like Mike Pompeo and Liz Cheney – should be banned from ever advising anyone about anything, much less advising the President of the United States on matters involving war and peace.

Mike Pompeo is graduate of West Point and served in the Army for five years. He never went near a combat theater and left the military to pursue a career in business and politics. John Bolton was eligible for the draft during the tail end of the war in Vietnam and joined the National Guard as a way of assuring that he would not have to go into combat. Research does not indicate any military service by Liz Cheney.

So the three loudest voices in favor of military action against Iran have never been in combat and have avoided combat when there was any opportunity to do so (Pompeo could have re-enlisted in participated in Desert Storm, the war in Afghanistan and the 2003 war in Iraq). They are certainly intellectually capable of understanding the human and financial costs of war, but they ignore these costs so as to support a world view that could turn apocalyptic in a literal nanosecond.

It almost seems that these pseudo-war hawks look at war as being part of some great global game where they get to play Masters of the Universe. But in fact, they are playing with the lives of Americans and men, women and children all over the world. And if they think for even a brief moment that America is not vulnerable to a counterattack by Iran then they clearly have managed to erase 9/11 from their collective memories.

But Americans in New York and Washington remember 9/11. Americans who are in veteran’s hospitals suffering from PTSD and countless other injuries and disabilities remember the cost of war. And if these pseudo war hawks think that bombing Iran today and North Korea tomorrow will make America safe they are either stupid or deranged or both.

America and Americans have interests all over the world – therefore we are vulnerable all over the world. No American city will be safe in the event of another conflagration along the lines of an Iranian war. No American who travels anywhere in this world will be safe at a time when America is at war with the world.

Trump has shown some signs of baseline intelligence and common sense by calling off a missile strike against Iran – 15 minutes prior to launch. How close did we come to Trump Induced Trauma throughout the world, we may never know.

But Trump cannot continue to play with fire without America getting burned.

Standard