Point of View Columns

When a Sham Becomes a Shame

The only thing surprising about the Trump presidency is how consistently awful he is and how there seem to be no redeeming factors with which he can be associated. At times that there only redemptive feature of President Trump is that, no matter what, he cannot be president after January of 2025. And that is a poverty stricken gossamer thread of hope for anyone who care about this country and its people.

One would think that insulting the entire NATO alliance, tossing candy at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, endorsing British Prime Minister Theresa May’s political nemesis and walking in front of Queen Elizabeth would have been enough chaos for Hurricane Donald. But there was more, much more. Virtually fawning over his bromantic partner Vladimir Putin, Trump actually denigrated the American justice and intelligence communities while stating that America was at fault for the differences between Russia and the United States, managing to also turn the evidence-laden proof of Russian meddling in the 2016 election into just more “fake news”.

It will be up to historians in the future to fully comprehend the amount of damage that this man has caused in just 18 months of being president. Trade wars around the world, engaging in a futile pas de deux with North Korea, inhuman treatment of immigrants at the American border with Mexico and the demonization of the American news media (or were the shootings in the Annapolis newsroom too long ago for anyone to remember) – these are actions which have current repercussions. But it is the turmoil that is still incubating which is even more worrisome.

While Americans wake up every morning literally wondering what outrageous statement will spew from the White House, so much more is going on right below the surface. It is hard to pace with the termite-like attacks that the Trump Administration is pursuing, attacks that are just below the surface and will not become apparent until the edifice starts to fray, crack and crash.

As you are reading this, the Trump Department of Education and the Trump Department of Justice are looking to virtually outlaw affirmative action in higher education. If his minions are successful, and with the likely installment of Brett Kavanaugh insuring an iron conservative majority on the Supreme Court for the next 10-15 years they almost certainly will succeed, diversity will no longer be a reality on many college campuses – it will only be a word found in a dictionary in a library, if anyone can find a library.

Meanwhile departure of Scott Pruitt as Executive Director of the EPA was a cause for only momentary celebration for those of us who think that clear air and clean water are important. That is because his replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is a coal industry executive and destroying the environment is a key element of his professional resume.

The Trump/Sessions Department of Justice tries to make people think that reopening the Emmett Till case is an example of the shell game also known as benevolent ivory justice. One can only assume that we should forget Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and all of the other black men and women who have been “lawfully” lynched by the system that has reneged on a promise of “just for all”.

The point, of course, is that while we continue to be focused on the Trump Clown Show, Trump and his minions are engaged in the serious and serial and systematic dismantling of so much of the infrastructure of hope and promise (as imperfect as it has been) that has made this country worth saving. And every day that Donald Trump is president is another day that hope and promise fade just a little bit more.

And that may be The True Tragedy That is Trump.

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Point of View Columns

Autopsy of a Debate – What Hillary Should Have Said

In the aftermath of the first presidential debate of 2016 there is no end of commentary, spinning, more commentary and more spinning. Upon reflection in the bright lights of the day, it would seem fair to say that if Hillary Clinton’s goal was to shake, rattle and roll Donald Trump then she definitely succeeded. If Donald Trump wanted to engrave his “Crooked Hillary” slogan into the consciousness of America, he was clearly waiting for the second debate to do so. Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton left some money on the table as there were a few things that she should have said:

1. Presidential Look
When asked about his contention that Hillary Clinton did not look presidential, Trump said that she didn’t look presidential and didn’t have the stamina to be president. Hillary should have said:

“Donald, all 44 presidents of the United States have been male, 43 presidents have been white males. So I can understand why, from that limited perspective, a woman cannot look presidential. But I ask you to look around the world and through world history – Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi and Angela Merkel have all been successful leaders of their countries, and the citizens of those countries thought they looked quite presidential. And, by the way, since you seem to like Russia so much, have you ever heard of Catherine the Great?”

2. It’s Just Business
When Hillary mentioned his not paying contractors and employees, Trump said it was “just business”. Hillary should have said:

Donald, you say that you are a successful businessman, but most successful businessmen pay their bills, they pay their contractor and they most certainly pay their employees. Certainly there are disputes over performance and delivery of service in business, but you have had a unique capacity to attract litigation while putting small business people out of business and leaving entire communities worse off because your business practices – all anyone has to do is to ask the citizens of Atlantic City?

And, by the way Donald was it just business to operate Trump University, which was never a legal university? Was it just business to tell the students, actually the customers, of your fake university to max out their credit cards to learn the “secrets” of your success, secrets which turned out to be little more than rehashed versions of your speeches?

Tell the American people Donald, is this kind of business the American people can expect from you if you should, heaven forbid, ever sit in the Oval Office.”

3. It is Smart Not to Pay Taxes

When Hillary suggested that the reason that Trump is not releasing his taxes because he does not pay federal income taxes, Trump stated that this made him smart. Hillary did mention that this would mean that he had paid zero dollars in support of troops, veterans, etc. Hillary could have also said:

“So Donald, I guess that since most Americans do pay their federal taxes, that means that most of us aren’t as smart as you. I guess that means that, by your definition, if Americans were as smart as you, we could end up with a tax noncompliance crisis just like Greece. Is that how you want to make America great again Donald? Do you really want to make America like Greece?”

4. Being a Birther is a Good Thing
Donald Trump actually said that he did Barack Obama did Barack Obama a favor in “forcing” him to show his birth certificate. Here is what Hillary should have said:

“Donald, you will never cease to amaze the American people. Do you think that we don’t realize that during your lifetime, during which there have been twelve presidents, there has never been a question about the birth certificate of the eleven white presidents, only the one black president?

Do you think that the American people don’t realize that during your primary campaign, you never, never, never asked to see the Ted Cruz birth certificate even though everyone knows that he was born in Canada? Is it because you like Ted Cruz so much, or just that Ted Cruz is not black?

Maybe you are not as smart as the American people after all”

That’s what Hillary should have said….and may still say in the next two debates.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 25, 2013

The continued unveiling of the activities of the National Security Agency has elicited cries of “shock” from this country’s European allies. Have they been watching too much “Casablanca? Meanwhile, one of the residuals of New York’s odious Stop and Frisk policy has been the establishment of a new crime category –“Shopping While Black”. And finally, the rollout of Obamacare has been slowed by technology failures. Amazingly, the Teapublicans are outraged – and confused.

“Casablanca Redux”

It turns out that the National Security Agency has been monitoring the calls and communications of citizens in Europe. And it appears that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is included in this mix. And Chancellor Merkel was so “shocked” that she is said to have called President Obama to complain to him personally.

But what is the reason for all of this “shock” and outrage. Every developed country has an equivalent of the NSA and every country conducts various forms of industrial, military and diplomatic espionage and surveillance as a matter of course.

Chancellor Merkel may be shocked that the NSA surveillance of her communications was exposed. What she should be shocked about is that the German equivalent of the NSA or Secret Service wasn’t able to prevent that country’s head of state from being the subject of surveillance by another country for two years. Now that is shocking.

Buying While Black

The many harmful side effects to New York City’s horrible and hateful race-based Stop and Frisk policy have been recounted. The degradation of black and Latino youth and the erosion of trust of the police in communities of color are fairly obvious consequences.

And now a spate of recent news stories has revealed another consequence – the general criminalization of black people in New York. Three separate stories recount the unwarranted arrest of a black college student, a black nurse and a black movie star at prominent New York City stores – Barneys and Macy’s. Their crime? Buying While Black?”

While you won’t find this crime in the New York Penal Code, it is clear that in the view of the New York City Police Department – and local retailers – infected by the racial contagion of Stop and Frisk – feel that there is reasonable cause to arrest a black person for buying a $300 belt, a $2500 purse or a $1400 watch. Even if those purchases were purchased with the valid credit/debit card of the owner. Clearly a black person buying a high end item – or anything – is reasonable cause for arrest.

Gil Scott-Heron wrote an anti-apartheid song entitled “Johannesburg”. It might be time to change the lyrics to “What’s the word, New York New York.

Computer Blues

Since October 1st, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, has been the subject of numerous technical website problems. Although hundreds of thousands of people are already registered for affordable health care, there are millions who remain waiting online.

The Teapublicans, at their predictable knee jerk best, have convened Congressional hearings, but not for the purpose of finding out the reason for the unsurprising glitches in the most ambitious American healthcare initiative in a generation. The Teapublicans want you to believe that these absolutely correctable computer issues are justification for dismantling Obamacare in its entirety.

The fact that millions of Americans have benefited from the passage of Obamacare since 2010 is beside the point on the Planet Teapublican. The dismantling of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement is their one and only goal.

Clearly the Teapublican Party is a one trick elephant.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

In Search of Mitt’s Millions

Ever since he was elected president, we knew that Barack Obama’s reelection campaign would be different. We had no idea……from Sarah “Lock and Load” Palin to Rick “Oops” Perry to Herman “Pizza Man” Cain, the Teapublicans have emptied the barrel in an effort to find the ABO candidate, Anybody But Obama. And scraping the bottom of the barrel, the G.O.Tea Party presents us with Mitt “Etch and Sketch” Romney, a political weather vane with millions of dollars stashed around the world. Really?

There are so many bizarre aspects of Mitt Romney and his overseas accounts. We could start with the fact that this is the first time in memory that a person has run for president of the United States with multiple multi-million dollar accounts in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Lord knows where else. While it is not illegal for Mr. Romney to put his money anyplace in the world, one would think that the American people would be a little uncomfortable with a president who hedges his bets on America by placing considerable sums of money abroad.

And before Teapublican zealots begin to foam at the mouth because someone is besmirching the sacred cause of capitalism, think of the furor that would have consumed whole sections of this country if it turned out that President and Michelle Obama had Swiss bank accounts. This would have been seen as absolute proof that Barack Obama was some kind of Muslim Manchurian Candidate and calls for impeachment would ring from sea to shining sea.

It is also worth considering what the world reaction would be to a United States president who kept untold millions of dollars in secret bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands (we just don’t know about the Isle of Man, Vanuatu and other havens for the tax averse, the secretive and the wealthy individuals who are obsessed with amassing great wealth and then hiding it). It may be perfectly legal but appearances mean something too.

It is doubtful that Angela Merkel of Germany and Vladimir Putin of Russia have Swiss bank accounts. We do know that former Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha had Swiss bank accounts. We do know that Congolese president for life Mobutu Sese Seko had Swiss bank accounts. We can safely assume that former Liberian president, Charles Taylor (recently convicted of war crimes), had a Swiss bank account.

Other heads of state that have had Swiss bank accounts would include Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Juan Peron of Argentina and Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic. This would be truly strange company for the president of the United States to be keeping.

Mr. Romney and his cast of defenders and apologists will point out that all of his financial dealings are “perfectly legal” and indeed they may well be. But it is fair to wonder if the code of conduct for the president of the United States should simply entail his/her staying within the boundaries of the law pursuant to the advice of well-compensated lawyers who specialize in taking clients right up the line of legality.

There is no compelling reason for Mitt Romney and his wife to have millions of dollars deposited in accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands except to avoid tax consequences. Certainly Mr. Romney cannot be worried about the safety and security of American banks.

Mitt Romney has been quoted as saying that he pays all the taxes that he is required to pay “and not a penny more”. That doesn’t sound like the patriotic attitude that built this country, it sounds like someone who wants to get the benefits of living in the United States on the cheap.

And it is also worth asking what, if anything, is Mitt Romney doing with his great wealth aside from building more mansions than he can ever need and two Cadillacs for his wife? After all, he has claimed that wealthy people are the “job creators” of this country. But we have yet to learn of firms or businesses or start up ventures in which he has invested his personal wealth. It doesn’t seem like he has been pushing the job creation button for quite awhile, if he ever did.

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice once said “taxes are the price that we pay for a civilized society”. Clearly Mr. Romney either wants the discount version of civilization for you and for me or he just wants you and me to pay for it – not him and his family.

Remember November 6th!

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