Point of View Columns

What a Difference a Day Makes

Monday, August 12, 2013 will be noted as an important day by those who pay attention to what goes on in this country. Because after all of the A-Rod, Anthony Weiner and Lindsay Lohan stories, there are actually some very important issues of justice that are being addressed. And how they are addressed is going to make a huge difference on how all Americans will live in the days and years to come. And we can start with today’s “Stop and Frisk” court decision.

Today, Federal District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled in a 195 page decision that for close to a decade the New York City Police Department has systematically, intentionally and institutionally violated the constitutional rights of blacks and Latinos through its eternally controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy. Her decision does not mince words and leaves New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly without a legal leg to stand on.

For example, the City of New York argued that the high proportion of blacks and Latinos who were stopped reflected the high proportion of crimes committed by blacks and Latinos. Judge Scheindlin correctly and logically pointed out that stopping virtually all black and Latino young could not be justified because some black and Latino men commit crimes.

What is astounding is that the case itself brought to light the fact that over the past decade millions (yes, millions) of stops of the “Stop and Frisk” variety were inflicted on black and Latino young men (88% of the stops). Yet less than 10% of these stops resulted in reasonable cause for arrest and less than 5% who were stopped were ever convicted of a crime – and in the overwhelming majority of those convictions the crime was possession of small amounts of drugs (usually marijuana).

That the police department of a major American city would inflict such draconian measures upon a large and much maligned segment of the population is stunning. “Stop and Frisk” as employed in New York has been nothing less than despotic in its implementation and incredibly corrosive when it comes to the relationship between the police department and the minority communities of the polyglot capital of the world known as New York City.

The only surprise is that some people, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, are surprised that an impartial judge would find the City of New York to be at fault. And we can only hope that in the future the common effort to prevent and deter criminal activities does not give rise to other “simple” solutions that so casually violate the rights of millions of Americans.

And, on this same day, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will instruct U.S. attorneys across the country to limit charges in drug cases so as to limit the terms of incarceration that are imposed. Attorney General Holder pointed to the fact that although this country has 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of all of the prisoners in the world. Clearly this astronomical incarceration rate is expensive ($80 billion per year) and just as clearly indicates a dysfunctional criminal justice system.

As the so-called War on Drugs approaches the half century mark it is clear that this war is beyond “winning”, whatever “winning” was ever supposed to mean. The War on Drugs did give rise to a private sector corrections industry and widespread corruption within the law enforcement sector. And it has also resulted in the horrific decimation of communities of color across the country as men (and increasingly women) in these communities are arrested and convicted and sentenced and incarcerated in much higher proportions than their white counterparts.

Interestingly enough, Attorney General Holder and the Obama Administration did not take this matter before the politically hogtied United States Congress. Even though the drug sentencing proposals have widespread bipartisan support at the state level, it is now a sad fact of life that any proposal with “Obama” connected to it is virtually DOA when it arrives at the door of the House of Representatives.

Nevertheless, Attorney General Holder and President Obama picked a good time to remind the Teapublicans in the House what the word “executive” in the Executive Branch actually means.

All in all a good day for justice.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 12, 2013

During this week we watched in wonder as the United States Senate voted in favor of debating a much diluted gun control bill. This is what passes for courageous action in 2013. Meanwhile what do Anthony Weiner and Mark Sanford have in common? They have a shared belief in redemption. But do voters agree? And finally, it appears that as a political leader Dr. Ben Carson is a great neurosurgeon.

Fake Gun Fight

Since the Newtown Massacre there has been considerable energy and emotion spent on a campaign for reasonable and useful gun control measures. Since the Newtown Massacre over 2000 Americans have died from gun violence. The irony is apparent.

The United States Congress has given us a kabuki theater presentation that pretends to convey a serious effort to pass gun control legislation. The only thing is that the proposed legislation is now so diluted that any progress on this issue will be largely symbolic.

It was announced on Thursday that the Senate has voted to allow a debate on gun control legislation that features background checks for selected gun purchasers and…..well, that’s pretty much it. And to think that some senators have been proclaiming their courage in agreeing to debate a bill that should have been passed two decades ago.

Not exactly the next chapter of “Profiles in Courage”.

The Age of Redemption

A couple of years ago then South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford disappeared on the Appalachian Trail only to surface in Argentina in the arms of his mistress. Very soon thereafter he was resigned as governor.

A couple of years ago then Congressman Anthony Weiner claimed that texted photos of him in his underwear were the work of photo shopping hackers. Soon thereafter he admitted to being the being the adventurous phototexter and resigned as governor.

Seventeen years ago the President Bill Clinton famously proclaimed that he “did not have sex” with Monica Lewinsky. Soon thereafter he admitted that he did have sex with Monica Lewinsky and was impeached for lying during a deposition in the subject.

These three men all clearly believe in the powers of redemption. President Clinton has famously revived his seemingly shattered career by surviving impeachment, establishing the Clinton Foundation and reestablishing himself as one of the most influential political leaders of this era.

Mark Sanford, after doing his penance in obscurity, decided that the people of South Carolina needed him to represent them in Congress once again. And the Teapublican voters in a primary agreed with him and now he is a candidate for Congress.

Anthony Weiner should take heart. Coming out of the shadows of self-imposed seclusion he has broadly hinted that he may run for Mayor New York City. And before anyone discounts his chances, it might be useful to remember that in American politics there is always a second act.

Carson Quickie

Dr. Ben Carson is not simply an accomplished black neurosurgeon. He is one of the most accomplished neurosurgeons of any background in the world. His personal narrative is awesome in its inspiration having come from a humble background to attain incredible personal and professional excellence.

It came as some surprise, however, when Dr. Carson was recruited on to the Teapublican “We Need Black People” Tour and began to speak about his political philosophy. Up until now we had only heard Dr. Carson speak in uplifting terms, his soaring oratory inspiring thousands, if not millions.

However, the Other Dr. Carson appeared on the Tour and spoke about his staunch conservative philosophies. And he was alright until he compared same sex marriage with bestiality. And then it was time to bring down the curtain on the brief political career of Dr. Ben Carson who, as a political leader is a great neurosurgeon.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Child’s Play

I will confess to checking my hall closet for a handy pitchfork so that I could join the crowds howling for disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner to resign. And then I did something that I try to do at least three times a day – I thought.

And I realized that Weinergate and all of its monstrously irrelevant iterations is the latest stale bread being served in the media circus. Holier than thou pundits and politicians have railed against his seemingly bizarre behavior which, it seems has disqualified him from ever walking the hallowed halls of Congress ever again.

These would be the same halls of Congress that has seen a former chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee cavorting in a Washington, D.C. fountain with a stripper. These would be the same halls of Congress that have been witness to obscene and salacious texts from a congressman to teenage pages and interns. We know of at least one senator with a “wide stance” while he solicited sex in a men’s bathroom and of another congressman who fathered a daughter out of wedlock while being married.

The sordid laundry list is seemingly endless. And now, Anthony Weiner has had his name added to the Wall of Shame that occupies a very prominent place in the halls of Congress. And now every politician and pundit with an urge for airtime has something to say about what Anthony Weiner and his betrayal of his marriage, of his constituents and the American Republic.

Of course what happens between Congressman Weiner and his wife is not the business of the public or the media. We don’t know the status of their relationship, nor should we. For now it appears that his constituents, the people who actually have voted for him, still support him and want him to stay in office. And if the American Republic can survive strippers in fountains and senators with wide stances, I am sure that it can survive salacious texts by Anthony Weiner.

Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have called on him to resign as his presence is a “distraction” from the important issues facing the American people. Republicans, including Majority Whip Eric Cantor, have called on Congressman Weiner to resign because he is a “distraction” from the important issues facing the American people.

I hope that someone notices that the only people doing the distracting are Democratic and Republican leaders along with their media handmaidens. Certainly there are some Americans who will indulge in the titillation that comes with peeking through the keyhole into someone’s private life.

But there are at least 14 million Americans without jobs who probably are not spending a lot of time worrying about Anthony Weiner. There are millions of Americans who depend upon Medicare to keep them healthy and alive who are scared to death by the Republican plans to eviscerate this lifesaving program while Democrats offer limp and ineffective defense.

There are $10 billion U.S. tax dollars being spent in Afghanistan during this month of June and that worries most Americans more than the most ridiculous Weinergate “breaking story”.

It appears that Congressman Weiner has not broken any laws. He has not been accused of sexual harassment. He may have done some of his sexting from his congressional office but I don’t think any sane human being, even members of the G.O.Tea Party can argue that this is a reason for him to resign.

The intimate aspects of his private life became public. His private life should return to the four walls and closed door where they belong. No one reading this column, no one calling for Anthony Weiner to resign, would wish to endure the kind of scrutiny to which he has been subjected. The fact that some of this scrutiny was the result of his self-inflicted inadvertence is not really the point. We are all residents of glass homes and stoning Anthony Weiner is not only childish, it is hypocritical.

The fact that too many members of the media are now engaged in a third week of Weinergate while the world goes to hell in a hand basket is shameful and unspeakable. Prurient interest can sustain a story but so far – there have been no crimes, there has been no corruption, there has been no fraud and there has been no betrayal of the oath of office that Congressman Weiner has taken.

There is nothing worse than adults playing like children when they are charged with more serious affairs. Perhaps it is time for all of us to grow up.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 10, 2011

This week has just been stupidhot in New York City and just about everywhere else in the United States. For those of us who complain about cold weather, Mother Nature has provided a steamy retort. And all the while the question of the day is – who will quit first, The Newt or The Weiner? And not to be outdone, Sarah Palin continues to insist that her madcap version of the ride of Paul Revere is historically correct. We are going to miss her when she is gone.

The Madness of King Newt

Newt Gingrich had the indisputably worst start to a presidential campaign by any serious candidate. He stumbled out of the gate by making a pretty credible criticism of the Congressman Paul “Genghis Khan” Ryan’s Medicare proposal, thereby earning himself boos and brickbats from the right wing of the right wing.

As Gingrich gave tortured apologias it came to light that he and his wife had a half million dollar credit line at Tiffany’s. He correctly cited his right as a private citizen to shop wherever he wanted, although he did seem a tad bit defensive. But his claim of being an “ordinary citizen” melted in the dazzling brilliance of imagined diamonds and rubies.

And now his entire senior campaign staff has resigned en masse. The reason for the lemming like departure from the S.S. Gingrich was the feeling that he was not sufficiently serious about campaigning for President of the United States.

One staff member cited the Gingriches going on a two week cruise of the Greek Isles (presumably with Tiffany jewels in tow) as Exhibit A. The Newt responded with saying something about needing to get away so that his great mind could summon great ideas.

The Newt has stated that his campaign will continue. Presumably he will press on even if the campaign consists only of The Newt, his wife, her jewels and his great mind with its great ideas.

The Saga of Little Anthony

The legendary sixties group, Little Anthony and the Imperials, recorded the hit song “I Think I’m Going out of My Head”. And now, almost a half century later, another Little Anthony, this time Congressman Anthony Weiner, has clearly demonstrated that he is going out of his head.

He internet and Twitter behavior has been well documented. It will take an entire phalanx of psychiatrists and psychologists to begin to help us understand how a United States Congressman would take time to post X-rated photographs of himself on the Internet.

What is a lot more fascinating than the pitifully tawdry details of Weinergate is the fact that these revelations about members of Congress arise with stunning frequency. We have learned about Senators with “wide stances” and Congressmen who grope and tickle their staff members. Married members of Congress end up in the address books of madams while others father children out of wedlock while married.

Clearly when some members of the Congress tell their constituents that they are busy with the “affairs of state” they aren’t kidding.

Make the World Go Away

Sarah Palin has discovered a seemingly infinite number of ways to make a fool of herself. Her recent demolition of historical fact when referring to the legendary ride of Paul Revere was topped only by her insistence that she was correct.

And I am proposing that we find the school where little Sarah Palin learned that Paul Revere rode to warn the British so that he can be closed – immediately. I am assuming that this would also be the school where she learned that Lexington and Concord (the site of the so-called “Shot Heard around the World” at the inception of the American Revolution) are located in New Hampshire – another example of a Palin-like stagger through history.

We also learned this week that the original Mama Grizzly has sought a meeting with Margaret Thatcher to further cement her claim as the natural heiress to the Reagan legacy. Ms. Thatcher is reported to have said “Who?” or words to that effect.

We can be assured that this will not deter Sarah Palin in the least.

Have a great weekend!