Point of View Columns

College Admissions in America – The Tip of the Iceberg

The series of revelations describing a veritable cesspool of corruption, cheating, bribery and betrayals in the admissions process at prestigious schools of higher education including Georgetown, Stanford, the University of California, Los Angeles, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Austin, Wake Forest and Yale leaves one spectacular question swinging in the air like a rotting corpse of lies – what is it that we don’t know? In other words, in the jet-propelled world of high stakes college admissions, are we to believe that only the nine schools mentioned are the bad actors? Or are we looking at the tip of the iceberg?

In a country where a fake billionaire can lie his way into the presidency, why should we be surprised when anyone with $50,000 to $4,000,000 can lie and cheat to get their son or daughter into the college of their choice, instead of their child being chosen by the college? The audacity of the half a hundred otherwise wealthy and respectable defendants is breathtaking in that whatever concerns that they might have about equity, fairness or….wait for it…..setting a good example for their children, were outweighed by their desire to be able to say that their child was a student at Yale, UCLA, Georgetown, etc.

In a culture where imagined success literally trumps actual success, we cannot be surprised to find out that there are privileged young men and women are at this very moment students in colleges and schools that they are not qualified to attend. And it is tragic that students who might actually benefit from having a cherished once in a lifetime opportunity to attend these schools are not attending because their place has been taken by someone who already has access to every opportunity that life has to offer.

But we should not be deceived into thinking that this is simply a matter of a few (fifty???) bad actors trying to game the college admissions system with several millions of dollars and some photo shopped applications. This is not the only way that the United Privileged Parents of America are gaming the college admissions system.

We should understand that even reasonably bright and capable young men and women are being asked to compete for seats in universities and colleges all over America with young men and women (who may or may not be reasonably bright and capable) who have the advantage of having SAT “coaches” and college admissions consultants which can cost their parents tens of thousands of dollars a year – not to mention the fact that attendance a prestigious (and therefore brutally expensive) private prep schools and “special” public schools. In other words, the system is so rigged that the notion of equal access and success based on merit are simply wisps of words that need not even be spoken.

The magnitude of these crimes are almost too profound to comprehend as we will never know how many truly qualified students are being denied admission to colleges. The magnitude of the crime of rigging the entire college admissions system to solely benefit the children of the rich and privileged not only deprives the children of everyone else, it also deprives this country of its best talent and its best chance for a successful future.

John D. Rockefeller, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Michelle Obama, Reginald Lewis, Mario Cuomo, Mark Cuban, Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz are just a few of the contemporary prominent achievers who would never have been able to compete in the high stakes college admissions racket – their parents simply didn’t have enough money to “buy” opportunity through SAT coaches, college consultants, etc., much less be able to buy their children’s admissions at schools where the price only needs to be right.

We may never find out the scope and breadth of the outright bribery that is taking place in the college admissions universe. There are prosecutors and judges and juries and prisons that can address this kind of bad behavior. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The iceberg is the entire imbalance in the K-12 and college/university environment where power plus money equals college admission. And this situation makes it all the more problematic when conservative foundations and their attack lawyers seek to eliminate the few programs that seek to successfully level the playing field for those whose parents are not rich and powerful. Because some day, sooner than later, those without power and money will simply need not apply.

And that is the real tragedy for these United States.

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Point of View Columns

Trump – The Eternal Minor League Player

As the avalanche of indictments, resignations and revelations threaten to wash away the Trump presidency like a bug on a windshield in a car wash; it is becoming clear to the entire world that Donald Trump was never ready for prime time. As long as he could live in the minor league universe of pretense, lies, fraud and more pretenses, he could escape the kind of scrutiny that he now encounters. If he were anyone else, he could be the subject of pity. But not this time, it is time for The Donald to find out what it means to move from the minor leagues to the major leagues.

A bit of history, until 2009, most Americans had only known Donald Trump as the raucous host of the “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show, if they knew Donald Trump at all. Because he lived in the media capital of the world, Trump garnered more attention than most mid-level legacy real estate developers and failed hotel casino owners received. And so Trump always received points for self-promotion if not for stunning insight or superior intelligence.

And so, whether as an indifferent college student at Fordham University and the University of Pennsylvania, or as a headline chasing New York City businessman who employed questionable practices, he could hide in the herd of men and women who hustle and outrageously self promote that make up a significant part of the population of New York City. But not satisfied with being the impresario of the Miss Universe contest (a bit of business that seemed tailor-made for a self-proclaimed misogynist and groper) and not being satisfied with a stint as a torch and pitchfork leader of a would-be lynch mob that would have wrongfully executed the innocent Central Park Five, Trump decided that he actually had something to offer to the American people aside from his “You’re Fired” tagline.

He began by being the self-proclaimed leader of the proto-racist “birther” movement, claiming that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not the United States. His fruitless efforts to delegitimize the first black President of the United States obviously made Trump feel that he could be president. The fact that President Obama absolutely barbequed him over the birther issue at the White House Correspondents Dinner was probably a motivating factor for America’s Supreme Megalomaniac.

Running a haphazard, seat of the pants campaign with, it appears, the assistance of the Russian government, Donald Trump became president. And that is when reality started to enter his fantasy world. Indeed, Trump is reminiscent of one of those cartoon characters who runs off a cliff and keeps on running and running…..until he looks down.

And now Trump finds himself and his enablers and minions the subject of multiple Congressional and criminal investigations. He is finding out that it is one thing to set up a bogus college (see “Trump University”), or a bogus foundation (see “Trump Foundation”) or failed hotels and casinos. The lesson that he is learning the hard way is that money laundering, collusion with the Russians and playing fast and loose with federal campaign laws as President of the United States can end up with him wearing an orange jumpsuit that quite poetically will almost match his hair.

If Trump had just stayed in his lane as an ignorant, blowhard huckster, he probably would have escaped any significant law enforcement scrutiny. His desire to move from the minor leagues to the big leagues clearly has consequences that never occurred to him. And now he is learning that lesson the hard way.

It is said that pride goes before the fall. And in the case of Donald J. Trump, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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Point of View Columns

Still in Search of Obama

It just may be true that every blessing is mixed. There is the joy and pleasure when something good and great happens. But there is also the remorse and dismay when that something good and great doesn’t last forever. And so it may be that when the history books are written decades from now the phenomenon known as Barack Obama may be viewed as a mixed blessing for black Americans in particular and for Americans of good will, whatever their hue. And if those far off history books turn out to be correct, it will be due to the memory of the remorse and dismay that were experienced by the many who embraced the Obama phenomenon.

Many historians and political observers agree that Barack Obama was an extraordinary president who came to office during extraordinary times. His successful leadership during the worst economic time since the Great Depression of the 20th century are Rushmore-worthy. His effort to fundamentally reform the delivery of health care in this country is a worthy legacy. The reform of the financial services industry just may have rescued this country from the self-inflicted wounds of Wall Street. Progressive movement regarding gender equality and gender preference and commitment to environmental salvation are all hallmarks of a remarkable presidency.

The list goes on. But the takeaway is that Barack Obama has a place in history for more than being the first black President of the United States. A lot more.

But historians from the future, visiting us now, may tell us that because Barack Obama was the first black President of the United States, and a progressive president at to boot, the cauldron of racism that still bubbles in too many communities without color boiled over, in the process merging and melting racist sentiments with anti-women sentiments, anti-gay sentiments, anti-regulation sentiments and run of the mill right wing of the right wing sentiments.

This amalgam fueled by the pure hatred of that Kenyan in the White House, solidified a bloc of Americans who not only hated Obama, but hated anything and everything that he supported. And that is one of the key reasons that we now have Donald Trump as president.

Granting that hindsight vision is invariably 20/20, the election of Donald Trump as president was at least probable, if not predictable. The meanness, the ignorance and the dedication to the impossible task of reconfiguring history are not surprising considering the whiplash of a back lash that affected too many Americans upon the election (and reelection of Barack Obama).

But what could not have been predicted is the virtually sphinx like silence of the now former President Obama as he witnesses the rampant and raging destruction of his legacy as well as the possibly irreversible harm that Trump is visiting upon all Americans. While it is true that tradition has dictated that former presidents are silent former presidents when it comes to criticizing their successors, it is clear that these are not traditional times – and Barack Obama is not a traditional ex-president.

While there is nothing in his personal history – both prior to and during his presidency – to indicate that former President Obama would be the vocal leader of resistance to epic systemic harm that is the hallmark of the Trump Era, it is now shocking that Barack Obama has been virtually silent when it comes to criticizing Trump and articulating all that is wrong with this demon of a president.

The people who are being harmed the most by Trump are the people who supported Barack Obama, marched for Barack Obama and waited in line for hours to vote for Barack Obama. The America that is in jeopardy of ruination is the America that Barack Obama swore to protect, and it is impossible to believe that that oath expired on January 20, 2017.

Yet Barack Obama maintains virtual silence – with the exception of a few tepid Delphic comments that are subject to the interpretation of whatever audience has paid to hear him speak. His most vocal, but still veiled comments that might have referred to Donald Trump were spoken in South Africa, 7000 miles away from the Trump crime scene.

It is simply not enough for the man who electrified a nation and a generation with the promise of Hope and Change to stand quietly on the sidelines working on library and Netflix production deal while this country and its people go to Hell in the Trump hand basket.

For better or for worse, Barack Obama’s voice is the only progressive voice that commands national attention and it is Barack Obama who can mobilize and energize the resistance that can turn the Trump tide.

It is time for Barack Obama to shed his cloak of invisibility and to renounce his vow of silence. The time is now – we can only hope that this is the change that we will see in the 44th President. Destiny led him to the presidency. Destiny now leads him to be a vocal ex-president.

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Point of View Columns

In Search of Obama

There is no doubt that history will refer Barack Obama as a U.S. President Like No Other. There is the obvious aspect of his being the first African American president. But he was also the president who led this country out of a backbreaking economic disaster while easing the United States out of two unwinnable wars. There is also the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) which transformed the American vision of healthcare and the Dodd Frank Act which was the first major reform of the American financial services industry in almost 80 years. And now, it is time for Barack Obama to be an Ex-President of the United States Like No Other.

Donald Trump is on a daily voyage between tragedy and travesty. His sense of the presidency is informed only by his massive lack of knowledge and his disdain for even the most basic precepts of American government. But his incompetence, ignorance and ill-will are distractions from the real damage he is doing to this country by empowering right wing ideologues and conservative fanatics to wreak havoc upon the American people.

Sadly, the list of harmful acts courtesy of Trump is virtually endless. The exit from the Paris Climate Accords is but one example of the kind of endless global damage that this man is capable of causing. The return to criminalizing low-level non-nonviolent drug offenses guarantees that the Incarceration State will be alive and well in this country for years to come. The elimination of labor safety laws and the all-out assault on voting rights, civil rights and women’s rights are also signs of the messy handiwork of the Man Called Trump.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has largely observed the unwritten rule that ex-presidents do not criticize their successors, at least for the first year. But now the first year is up and the President Like No Other has to become the Ex-President Like No Other. Because the reality is that Barack Obama, perhaps unintentionally, became the leader of a progressive surge that countered a quarter of a century of conservative ascendancy.

While no one would ever confuse the 44th President of the United States with being a radical progressive, his presence on the national political landscape empowered progressive men and women to envision an America where the meanest and least civil aspects of the conservative movement were no longer inevitable. And indeed, there are options to the fevered dreams and wishes of the Ayn Rand acolytes who would transform political and policy dialogue into a Maker-Taker Texas death match.

And this is where Barack Obama comes in. While Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker and who knows who else position themselves for a possible presidential run in 2020, there is real work to be done right now. This country cannot afford three more years of Democratic rope-a-dope and because he cannot run for president in 2020, Barack Obama can be the honest and true voice of progressive concerns, in the process concentrating constant and withering criticism of the man who challenged his citizenship, his college degree and his law school credentials.

When Barack Obama points out that Donald Trump has managed to denigrate black Americans with his dog whistle call to Make America Great (White) again while treating women like disposable accessories and demeaning and insulting the American immigrant community and the international community of color, people will listen and listen differently.

We have heard President Obama say that he has run the race and many would agree that he deserves time to be himself. But the mantle of leadership is not an easy one to cast aside and in these dangerous days and times he simply cannot observe and occasionally comment.

Barack Obama became President of the United States carrying a message of “Hope and Change”. If there was ever a time for Hope, it is now. If there was ever a time for Change, it is now. In 2008 this country was ready for that message.

And now, a decade later, America is ready for that message – again. And Barack Obama needs to be that messenger.

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Point of View Columns

The Shame of it All

The New Year has begun as last year ended. Shameful, disgraceful, embarrassing, horrific and pitiful are just some of the words that come to mind when the words “Donald Tinyhands” are written or spoken. Indeed, it really should come as no surprise that, on the exact anniversary of the inauguration of Donald Trump, the entire government of the United States shut down. The poetic symbolism is inescapable.

If the Russians, the Chinese or the Martians wanted to come up with a way to destabilize the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the planet, they could not have come up with a better Trojan horse that Donald J. Trump. While some commentators will point to continued improvement in the economy – rising stock market, plunging unemployment rates – these same commentators seem to willfully ignore the fact that Trump is riding the crest of an economic wave that began eight years ago during the administration of President Barack Obama. Indeed, Trump reminds us of the rooster that takes credit for the sun coming up, when all he really does is making joyful noises over something which is totally irrelevant to his efforts, policies, programs and rhetoric.

But, while too many of us are transfixed by the numbers, this draft-dodging, megalomaniac misogynist is doing everything within his very limited power to take a wrecking ball to this country. He has legitimized racism, sexism and basic bad behavior. While his legal team pays off porn stars and his press team pretends that he doesn’t say the words that he says that he says, huge portions of this country have not only lost any respect that they might have for Trump, they are also losing respect for the men and women in the governmental institutions who are either mute or muted in the presence of this awful man who somehow has become President of the United States.

Here is a president who refers to African “shithole” countries the day before reading a proclamation commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King and three days before he goes golfing on national day of observing Dr. King’s birthday. And while there are voices of outrage, they seem muted in the face of the Trump sound machine – or perhaps there is simply too many people who are too afraid of the Wrath of Trump.

Here is a president who after firing the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, now casts doubt on the integrity of the FBI, the Department of Justice and any other law enforcement institution that might dare to think that Donald Trump, he of the thousands of settled lawsuits, might have engaged in wrongful conduct. And yet the voices in the Senate and the House are muted.

One wonders what would have happened if all the Trump stories of his first year in office had the name “Obama” instead. Actually we don’t need to wonder as it is sure as the gravity that binds us to this earth that impeachment would have been the least of Barack Obama’s worries and that a moving van would have been leaving the White House with everything Obama a long time ago. But, of course, the first African American President of the United States was held to a much higher standard than the standard that is applied to Donald Tinyhands.

And so, in this New Year, with a shutdown government, and a President who can’t shut up, we know now that the standard for presidential behavior has been lowered – we can only hope that this is not a permanent condition.

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Point of View Columns

The Madness of King Trump

Ever since he exploded on the national stage as a serious presidential candidate, Donald Trump has redefined the concept of who should be considered “serious”. There have been small armies of psychologists and psychiatrists who have tried to tell us that Donald Tinyhands is a man with serious mental problems. But even his most vehement opponents seem to be contact to accept that, while Trump may have serious mental issues, he is high-functioning and further discussion of the matter will just degenerate into useless name calling. But that was then and this is now.

During the first eleven months of his presidency, Donald Trump has normalized erratic behavior to the point that the media, his opponents and the American public are seemingly anesthetized. Insulting heads of state are just part of another day in Trump World. Ethnic and racial taunts are just part of the normal language employed by the 45th President of the United States. Speaking and tweeting in fact-free fractured syntax has taken a little getting used to, but all of the above might just be quirky or indicative of the fact that Donald Trump just takes some getting used to. But that was then and this is now.

As you are reading this column, during last 48 hours the President of the United States has given clear indications that his mental issues may be something more than just a collection of his personal idiosyncrasies. Four recent examples of the erratic conduct of Donald Tinyhands have to give even his most ardent supporters a reason to pause, and question and wonder.

Exhibit A – Early in the morning of November 29th Trump posted a series of anti-Muslim video tweets should make everyone worry. Why is the President of the United States up in the middle of the night trolling alt-right sites in the United Kingdom? Why does Donald Tinyhands think that it is a good thing to inflame the already tense planet by posting anti-Muslim videos? And, by the way, there is no way of knowing if these videos are real or fake.

What we know if that if Donald Trump were the employee of any decent public entity or private company he would be sanctioned if not fired on the spot. Why the President can distribute hate videos without consequence is a question that the Congress and the American people need to answer.

Exhibit B – Early in the morning of November 29th, the 45th President of the United States decided that it would be a good time to unearth the totally false and debunked birther controversy that he tried to attach to the 44th President of the United States. Aside from the fact that birtherism is a fake, false, infantile, racist and bizarre attack on Barack Obama, one has to question the mental balance of Donald Tinyhands to do a birther replay now. Why now?

Exhibit C – During the day of November 28th, Donald Trump decided to try to make the American public believe that his voice was dubbed in the now infamous, and always vile, Access Hollywood tapes. Rolling out a dusty and worthless version of “don’t believe your lying eyes”, Trump clearly believes that the Bigger the Lie, the more likely it will be believed. And somewhere, in the bunker that is his brain, the Big Lie is the truth, because he says so.

Exhibit D – During the evening of November 28th Donald Tinyhands decided to resurrect his claim that he lost the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election (which he won, by the way) due to voter fraud. That would be the voter fraud that not a single Secretary of State of any of the fifty states has claimed. That would be the voter fraud that simply does not exist except in the fever swamp that is the Trump thought process.

Unfortunately there will be more instances of inappropriate, dangerous and mindless words and deeds by this President. And while the prospect of a President Mike Pence makes the blood run cold, the thought of 3 more years of President Donald Trump should make everyone on this planet afraid. Very afraid.

And for all the Americans who didn’t vote in 2016, for the Americans who thought that Donald Trump as president might be entertaining, for the Americans who thought that a protest vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or Bernie Sanders (as a write in) was a good idea, this is why elections matter.

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Point of View Columns

The Congressional Black Caucus – MIA

Begun as the Democratic Select Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus was founded in February of 1971 with twelve members. At the time, it was the only voice of black elected officials with a national platform. The CBC, as it came to be known, was a voice of opposition to the Nixon presidency and supported what became the successful liberation movement in South Africa. Now that the CBC has 49 members, one should expect that it would be a strong in mighty voice in the face of the storm that is the Trump Administration. But that is clearly not the case. The CBC is MIA – Missing in Action.

Over the years, the CBC has spoken out on a number of issues that affected black America. Every American President since 1971 has met with the CBC and on many occasions, listened to the CBC. And, although most CBC members did not initially support the candidacy of the man who became the first black President of the United States, it continued to elicit the perspective that it was important, influential and relevant.

And now, when this unofficial of voice of Black America needs to stand up to President Trump and his minions, the CBC is curiously muted, and many times it seems that it has joined the ranks of the Silent Minority. And this is not a matter of opinion. Recent news proves that this is a fact.

Consider that just three weeks ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a CBC member from Florida along with the widow of a slain black serviceman were called a liars by not only the Liar-In-Chief, President Trump, but also by his Chief of Staff, John Kelly. And after it was absolutely proven that Trump and Kelly had lied about Representative Wilson, Mr. Kelly went on to lie about her public record and insulted her in a most base and common manner.

If the CBC took a position on this outrageous incident, if the CBC called out Donald Tinyhands and his minion Kelly, it must have been hidden on the back page of a shopping mall handout. If the CBC took to the steps of the United States Congress to denounce the President for treating Congresswoman Wilson like the field hand he thinks she is, they must have done it in the dead of night when no one was watching. Obviously, the CBC was MIA.

And it gets worse. Earlier this week, Mr. Kelly reiterated his lies about Congresswoman Wilson and virtually pledged never to apologize to her. And then………..Kelly claimed that the Civil War came about because of a failure to compromise. He stated that there were men and women of “good faith on both sides” and that Robert E. Lee, was a heroic figure even though he led a rebellion that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who were fighting for the United States of America. And in the face of these horrific and demonic lies and distortion of history the CBC has been silent. Once again the CBC is MIA.

The notion that the enslavement of black Americans could be the subject of compromise is a vile notion. It is the dehumanization of black lives that permits someone like John Kelly to say something like that. To suggest that there are people of “good faith” on the side of slavery is to offer a view of the speaker’s mind that does not believe that black people are as human as white people. And to suggest that Robert E. Lee was a hero is more unpatriotic and insulting to the stated ideals of this country than all of the kneeling NFL players put together.

And yet, the CBC is MIA. And what is so ironic is that when the CBC consisted of only twelve members it was more vocal than now, when the CBC consists of forty nine members. That is more than a tenth of the entire   House of Representatives, almost a third of the Democratic members of Congress and close to double the number of the Freedom Caucus, aka Tea Party. Nevertheless, with that kind of clout, the CBC remains the Silent Minority even as black Americans suffer insults and true degradation by reason of the policies of the Trump Administration.

Why is the CBC not standing on the steps of the U.S. Congress every day denouncing the Trump Administration as it attempts to shred the social safety net? Why is the CBC not speaking out on the floor of Congress at every opportunity, reading into the Congressional Record the litany of terrible deeds that are defining the Trump Administration?

Ironically, the CBC was more vocal about criticizing what President Obama wasn’t doing for the black community than it is in attacking President Trump for what he doing to black people. A most curious double standard indeed.

To put it most simply, why is the CBC MIA silent or muted at just that moment in history when it is needed the most? Unless and until the CBC finds its voice, it will be judged very harshly by history – and that would be a shame.

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