Point of View Columns

A Race to the Precipice

This country has now reached that tragic and fearful moment where no sense makes sense. When madness is cloaked in normality there are no more norms, there are no more traditions and most importantly, there are no more laws that need to be observed, much less obeyed.

It has been part of the bedrock of American mythology that the Constitution is a wondrous document created by white slave owners and their enablers. That is certainly an overstatement but the Constitution has served as the governing document for these United States for over two centuries – a Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Great Recession.

And then along came Trump.

It should be made clear that Trump is not an evil genius – so comparisons to Hitler, Stalin, etc. are way off base. Trump is the symptom of a malady that has been coursing through the American body politic since the founding of the Republic. A nation which embraced epic genocide and massive land theft in the name of a white EuroAmerican supremacist concept of manifest destiny does not all of a sudden become well.

A country which embraced race based chattel slavery and then countenanced race based discrimination and injustice for centuries does not all of a sudden become well.

A country which to this very day embraces the concept of a second class of citizenship for all women does not all of a sudden become well.

There have been efforts at recovery to be sure. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were a good start – of sorts. But all the good will that gave rise to that good start were trampled in the rubble resulting from the deconstruction of Reconstruction.

In the modern era we have seen reparations for Japanese Americans, Supreme Court decisions affirming the basic inhumanity of state-based segregation and the President of the United State proclaiming that “we shall overcome” as he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and then signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But much in the same way that some therapeutic treatments result in negative side effects, those steps towards something resembling progress revived and restored the malady of racism and supremacy. The therapy of progress created the side effects of a renewed commitment to advancing fake grievances and revived opposition to the notion of liberty and justice for some.

As this nation seemed to progress to some semblance of a better state the side effects festered and grew stronger antibodies to that progress. The Republicans did not help with their dog whistle politics, stirring this toxic brew of racism, sexism and supremacy with calls for “Law and Order” and Willie Horton ads.

Barack Obama became president and the dam broke. The streams and rivers of race hatred and misogyny in this country became a flood – Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, the Tea Party were all further symptoms that the progressive vaccine was not working and the side effects had now become the malady that has been raging through this country.

And then along came Trump. It was more his megalomania that his falsely reputed skills as a marketer which brought him to the fore as the leader of a movement, indeed a crusade, to reclaim America in the cause of white male supremacy. He clearly craves attention like an addict needs his next fix and Trump discovered that he could not only get attention, he could receive adulation for spouting principles that he barely comprehends.

And now, after six years of overdosing on adulation, the favorite drug of megalomaniacs, he simply cannot turn it loose. Unfortunately for the people of America there is no rehab clinic for megalomaniac presidents and as a result Trump gets to play out this insane tragicomic opera of setting the world on fire as he resists losing his drug dealer – the drug dealer being the adoring MAGA hat-wearing citizens of Trump Nation.

And so as far at Trump is concerned, the Constitution is just a piece of parchment. For Trump presidential traditions are incomprehensible and meaningless. And if he sets the world on fire with reckless international actions it matters not to this man.

The question for Republicans and other Trump supporters is this – are antiabortion judges and massive tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the history of the planet worth the systemic dysfunction that Trump has brought about? Are the gutting of environmental protections of the air that we all breathe in the name of even more profit and the stamping out of even the pretensions of racial progress and gender equality worth turning the governmental apparatus of this nation into wreckage, perhaps beyond repair?

No one can truly know how this is going to end.

What we do know is that this madness will not end on January 20, 2021.

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Point of View Columns

A View on Some of the Last Days Before the Election

October 26, 2020

8,636,169-225,230 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Sometimes it just becomes impossible to watch the Trump Train Wreck. Today Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court concluded. There wasn’t even a fig leaf of propriety or recognition of the fact that this is simply a naked power grab by Senators who represent a minority of the American population to ensure that the Supreme Court will have a right wing of a right wing perspective for at least a decade.

And in a satanic bit of irony, Clarence Thomas, arguably the most rigidly conservative justice on the Supreme Court, administered the oath to now Justice Barrett. It would appear that Chief Justice John Roberts had a conflict (of conscience) in his schedule.

The fact that the Republican majority in the Senate represents only a minority of the American population and that Trump was elected without winning the popular vote are red alert warnings that minority rule is now a reality. Even though a majority of Americans pay a majority of the taxes and create and manage a majority of the economy, this overwhelmingly white right wing minority has managed to maneuver the system of government to its advantage.

What we now know is that even if the Democrats win the Senate and the presidency and hold on to the House, there are a number of right wing pillars built in to the American government that will require the Democrats to make some hard decisions. In other words, Democrats will need to adopt the bare knuckles approach to governance that has been the Republican strategy for decades.

Clearly bringing a bouquet of constitutional propriety flowers to a gunfight has an inevitable and sadly predictable result.

October 27, 2020

8,704,606-225,735 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

 There is no way to explain or expect the outrages that spew almost hourly from the House of Trump. A video has appeared of the First Son-in-Law (and Son of a Convicted Criminal) saying in effect that there are Black men and women who just don’t want to be successful in spite of all the wonderful things that Trump has done for the Black community.

One would hope that a man who was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth and has never had to work for a living would be more generous in his comments about anybody who is struggling to earn a living and make a life in these days and times. But for a privileged, coddled, swaddled and entitled talentless white inheritor like Jared Kushner to suggest that some Black people are not in his economic stratosphere because they just don’t want to be successful is not only stupid – it is shameful and racist.

Kushner’s comment harkens back to the days of Zip Coon, Stagger Lee, Sambo and all of the caricatures of lazy, shiftless, watermelon eating lazy Black man (or woman). Who knew that an intellectually incurious son of fortune would be able to unearth such unfortunate memes?

Team Trump never ceases to surprise and shock and…. disgust.

Meanwhile, providing further proof that Black Lives Really Don’t Matter, last night several Philadelphia police officers shot a 27-year-old Black man to death in a volley of at least a dozen shots. The young man was wielding a knife but had not harmed anyone and did not appear to present a clear and present danger to the police officers. But a seemingly angry Black man with a weapon was clearly a lethal threat per se to these white police officers – so that young Black man had to die.

The more things change the more things simply do not.

It has been good to see Barack Obama barbecuing Trump at every rally these days. He brings to mind that White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011 when he virtually stripped Trump naked, leaving him shamed and humiliated. Indeed, that may be the animus for Trump deciding to run for president and seeking to erase Obama from history. Hell hath no fury like a shamed megalomaniac.

Obama almost certainly struck a Trump nerve when he said that Trump was jealous of COVID-19 because it was getting more media attention than him Of course, sometimes the truth is said in jest.

And sometimes the truth is just the truth.

October 28, 2020

8,836,861-227,409 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

And this is the day that that White House Office of Science, Health and Technology lists ending the COVID-19 pandemic as an accomplishment of the Trump administration.

And this is the day after 985 Americans died from COVID-19 with every indication that there will be many more thousands of American deaths in the days and weeks to come.

And this is the day that CNN national polls indicate that Biden has a 12-point lead over Trump. Which immediately sends Democrats into a 2016 déjà vu panic attack. There are too many nightmarish memories about unopened bottles of champagne and lost opportunities.

What we know now is that a decade of economic expansion in America has been eradicated. And we know now that millions of Americans have lost their jobs – perhaps forever – and hundreds of thousands American small businesses have simply evaporated, taking their jobs with them. And we know now that giant corporations in the airline, hotel, leisure and entertainment industries are standing at the precipice and leaning the wrong way.

And all of this has happened with Trump being president for a little less than four years. The blood runs cold at the thought of what havoc he could wreak during another four years as president.

October 29, 2020

8,859,300-227,701 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

In what may be a sure sign that the apocalypse is imminent, today television ads promoted the Joel Osteen Inspiration Cube for $39.99. It just may be that the end is near and Reverend Osteen sees this as an opportunity to cash in on the misery, dysfunction, confusion and fear that spreads across the land.

In a way, one has to give Joel Osteen for seeing a market opportunity and then seizing it. On the other hand, it is more than sad that this rank commercialization of the spirit is considered right and righteous.

These are, in the words of Roberta Flack, trying times.

And now, we are officially in the final days of what seems like the longest presidential campaign ever. It also feels like the most important presidential election ever – at some point in the future historians may argue if that is in fact true -but right now we know that it is true.

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Point of View Columns

Voter Suppression in the Era of James Crow

The pandemic days continue inexorably and the country has now reached the point where 1,000 Americans dying every day to be part of the so-called New Normal. There is no national day of mourning. There are no words of condolences from the White House. There is no resolution of mourning from Congress. It seems that 1000 Americans dying every 24 hours is considered not worthy of note.

And this obliviousness to this massive and continuous loss of human life may be one the worst residual effects of this pandemic – hopefully not the longest lasting.

As the voting in America continues it is now clear what voter suppression looks like. It is important to note that we are now in the second now in the middle of the second national election since the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

It is important because in the 2016 election, a noticeable decline in the Black vote was observed. Many observers attributed the decline to the lackluster campaign of Hillary Clinton combined with the absence of Barack Obama on the ballot.

But those many observers failed to observe that the purpose of the Voting Rights Act was to protect Black voters and that when those protections were suddenly removed the racist tendencies of the right wing of the right wing were immediately released and the ensuing New James Crow policies most certainly suppressed the Black vote.

Having had four more years to refine the James Crow policies and procedures it is clear that voter suppression is different from the Jim Crow policies and procedures of a half century ago. In the days of Jim Crow Black voters had to risk their jobs, their homes and in many instances their lives for just trying to register, much less vote.

In the days of James Crow, the polling sites have limited hours and a limited number of locations. Black voters are no longer concerned with losing their jobs because they voted. Black voters are now concerned with losing their jobs because they had to stand in line for ten hours to cast a vote – an excuse which might not be acceptable to many employers.

And those Black voters who are self-employed or are business owners have to be prepared to lose a day of income during a pandemic – a new kind of poll tax in the James Crow era.

As some observers marvel at the dedication and enthusiasm of American voters, other observers in other parts of the world wonder at the antediluvian voting process in this country. In many countries voting takes place on weekends or a national holiday. In some countries voting is conducted online. In many countries voting takes place on multiple days in order to make it convenient for voters.

But in the era of James Crow, the bedsheets have been replaced by pinstriped suits and Ivy League jargon. But the burning cross of voter suppression continues to burn bright.

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Point of View Columns

Another Five Days in the Life of America

September 7, 2020

6,277,005–188,941 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

It is almost impossible to fully comprehend the daily rising of the pandemic infection and death toll – translating numbers into the suffering of actual human beings is an overwhelming task. But being overwhelmed is not an option for leadership during a pandemic and that is exactly what Team Trump is – overwhelmed. As Barack Obama so aptly stated, “he’s not up to the job”.

Reflecting on the spate of Trump reveal books that have been and are coming out, one can be reminded of the 1950’s movie, “A Face in the Crowd” featuring a soon to be television megastar by the name of Andy Griffith. Griffith plays the role of a drifter who improbably becomes a wildly popular radio talk show with the name of Lonesome Rhodes.

Rhodes portrays himself as the Common Man even though he soon begins to flaunt a lavish lifestyle with a penthouse, butlers and everything. All is well however, and he continues to be wildly popular until he is taped when he thinks the studio microphone is off. And that is when he goes into a rather unpleasant spiel regarding his absolute disdain for his great unwashed followers. Needless to say, that marked the beginning of the end of Mr. Rhodes.

Similarly, those who know Trump best and see him at his worst, are keenly aware of his absolute disdain for anyone not named Donald J. Trump. And now, in book after book and interview after interview, the True Trump is finally coming too light. The question is now whether, or when, MAGA Nation will turn on him.

We will see if life imitates art.

Yesterday, in a Sunday morning interview Kamala Harris was asked if she would take a vaccine that comes out of the accelerated testing scheduled promoted by Trump. She honestly said no. She also said that she would only take a vaccine that was approved by the scientists and medical personnel who know about such things.

It should not be odd that she would not want a vaccine by the man who brought you the fake Trump University, the failed Trump Airlines and a “miraculous” disappearance of the pandemic by April – which would be five months ago. What is odd is that today Trump accused her and Joe Biden of being “anti-vaxxers” when what they are is justifiably skeptical of anything that Trump says.

And in another day of rants – Trump has the amazing ability to amaze. This time in trying to detach himself from the Tar Baby of his reportedly calling dead and injured American military personnel “losers” and “suckers” he falsely claimed that the soldiers love him but the generals don’t. His reason was that generals disliked him because they like to start wars in order to please arms industry corporations who get to sell more planes, missiles and weapons.

There is no doubt that there is a military-industrial complex, Dwight Eisenhower stated that quite clearly over a half a century ago. And there also no doubt that said military-industrial complex has grown exponentially through the Cold War and even afterwards with the infusion of trillions of dollars in the name of national security.

But there is also no doubt that there are very few generals and admirals who relish the thought of sending men and women into battle to possibly get injured or die. Command in the time of war requires acknowledgement that loss of life is always a probability. For Trump to suggest that any military commander would willingly send men and women to their death in the service of the military-industrial complex is to only reveal his craven and damaged inner self.

September 8, 2020

6,301,451–189,221 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day begins with the rather amazing story that the Trump presidential campaign is running out of money having begun the campaign with a billion dollars. It appears that, in true Trump fashion, the management and staff of the campaign engaged in a profligate spending spree where limousines, lavish salaries and sumptuous offices were more of a priority than actual re-election work.

What is even more amazing is that Trump has said that he would put some of “his own money” into the campaign if necessary. He pointed out that he put $50 million “of his own money” into his 2016 primary campaign although there is no proof of that and it is clear that no Trump money went into the general campaign.

The truth is that New Yorkers who have been following Trump for the past four decades know that he has always been cash poor. There is the flash and the fake glamor but, when it comes time for real money to be put on the table Trump is rarely the one who puts up the cash.

Think about what would be the case if a true billionaire like Michael Bloomberg was facing a situation like this. He wouldn’t talk about putting up some “of his own money”, implicitly soliciting contributions, Bloomberg would just put up the cash.

Think about the fact that a true billionaire would not be trying to nickel and dime the federal government by having military flights routed through his golf course in Scotland just so that he could pocket several thousands of dollars. And a true billionaire would not be billing the American taxpayer for his personal protection at Trump Tower in New York City or at Mar a Lago, his Florida hideaway. A true billionaire would just consider it his contribution to the American people.

But Trump is a true billionaire. And when, and if, Trump claims to put some “of his own money” into this 2020 campaign it would be a good idea to ask for the receipts – along with his tax returns.

September 9, 2020

6,328,054–189,698 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Trump was in North Carolina yesterday at another one of those rallies that he loves so much because he gets what he believes as adulation which he needs as much oxygen and Big Macs. He rambles and he rants and he literally preens before MAGA Nation thinking that this is what being President of the United States is all about. When he is at a rally he couldn’t be happier unless he was in a House of Mirrors by himself.

During his rants he somehow focused for a moment, this time he managed to turn to Kamala Harris. He actually said that if she became the first woman President of the United States it would be “an insult to America”. With that singular statement he made it clear to all who needed clarity that he is no longer using a dog whistle when it comes to race, racism and racist comments.

George Wallace used a dog whistle in comparison to Trump. Trump is using a foghorn.

Trump may have inadvertently done the Biden-Harris campaign a favor. In an effort to distract, distraction being his go-to trick in his bag of tricks, he announced from the White House lawn the appointment of twenty new federal court judges. He made sure to be clear that these were all very conservative, right wing of the right wing judges, most of whom are young, who will be interpreting the Constitution in a manner that endangers civil rights, voting rights, immigration, a woman’s right to choose, the environment…. the list goes on.

And, as if this horror movie scene wasn’t enough to further energize the Biden-Harris campaign, Trump also mentioned that the 2020 presidential election would be the most important in history because in the coming presidential term there will most probably be two, if not four, vacancies to fill on the United States Supreme Court.

The specter of SIX TRUMP JUDGES on the Supreme Court for the next twenty years has to be more than enough to make the blood of the supporters of the Biden-Harris team and for those supporters to make sure that every eligible voter does actually vote. It would appear that it is far from an exaggeration to state that the future of the United States is on the line.

No matter the Trump Fan Dance of Distraction, there was no way he can divert the exhausted American attention span away from the shocking and disgusting revelations in Bob Woodward’s new White House book, “Rage”. The distillation of Woodward’s eighteen interviews with Trump is that he is a narcissistic megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur.

But what we didn’t know until Trump told Woodward is that he knew how deadly and contagious the COVID-19 virus was for many weeks before he even acknowledged that was the case. In the meantime he derided the coming pandemic as a “hoax” (there’s that word again) or that it would disappear miraculously while all the time he knew that this was not true.

His excuse? He was showing good leadership along the order of Churchill or Roosevelt by hiding the truth of the imminent fatal danger in order to avoid a panic. Of course Churchill and Roosevelt told the unpleasant truths to their nations so that they could be prepared for adversity and have the hope that they would prevail.

September 10, 2020

6,362,440–190,872 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day opens and closes with Team Trump trying to (a) say he didn’t say what he said, (b) that he was being presidential in lying to the American people and (c) forget about the lying, by shutting down flights from Europe and China he kept the pandemic death toll at a mere 190,000 American lives instead of 2,000,000.

And when that didn’t work Trump tried a couple more distraction curveballs. First he said that Woodward – the universally acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize winning author – misrepresented what he said on tape, even though Woodward played the actual tape. Curveball two was that Woodward should have said something when he, Trump, revealed to him how deadly the virus was if he was so concerned.

There is clearly nothing so pitiful as a con man who can’t con anymore.

September 11, 2020

6,397,547–191,802 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

September 11, 2001, commonly known as 9/11 has taken on iconic status – the 21st century version of December 7, 1941. Yet another day that will live in infamy.

It was expected that the Biden-Harris team would refrain from any politicizing this solemn day that exposed the vulnerability – and mortality – of all Americans. And they were true to form today.

But with Trump, one can never be too sure. He did read a teleprompter speech in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where 40 Americans battled the terrorist hijackers and diverted a 757 jetliner from the intended target of the Capitol building and instead crashed the plane into a field killing all on board.

Trump read as if he were anesthetized, which is how he sounds when he reads from a teleprompter. There was no emotion or compassion or true expression of sympathy. But thankfully there were no impromptu comments and we should be grateful for the small things.

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Four Days in the Life of America

August 20, 2020

5,530,247–173,193 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Last night Barack Obama took the gloves off and repaid Trump for a decade’s worth of lies, accusations, more lies, misrepresentation and attacks. Up until recently Obama did not think it was worthy of his own self-image to give Trump the recognition that he so clearly craves.

Up until now his most personal attack on Trump came at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011 when he virtually barbecued Trump for all the world to see. Indeed, he stripped Trump naked with a smile on his face. And there are more than a few people who believe that it was on that night that Trump swore to run for president and erase and/or degrade Obama’s legacy.

Last night was different. In reciting the many crimes and sins of Trump, Obama concluded that Trump was “treating the presidency like another reality show in order to get the attention that he craves”. That had to leave a mark.

The day progresses after last night’s Trump Twitterstorm when he responded to Obama’s takedown. Certainly, for a committed racist and an absolute white supremacist like Trump, being termed incompetent by not one, but three Black people – two of them Black women (!!!!) had to get under his remarkably thin skin.

But, since wit is not one of Trump’s few attributes (another being the ability to walk upright and not drag his knuckles), the best rejoinder he could summon could be summarized as “I know you are but what am I?” which certainly taxed Trump’s capacity for creativity to its limit.

Later in the day a story burst on to the news cycle that could have been written by Mel Brooks or the Coen brothers or Monty Python. Former presidential advisory Steve Bannon was indicted and arrested for being a central player in a $25 million scheme to raise money for the “Build the Wall Foundation” and then pocketing the proceeds for his personal life style and that of his coconspirators (Bannon was arrested on a yacht off the shores of Connecticut- cannot make this stuff up).

This scam is made all the more implausible when we learned that Donald Trump, Jr. was one of the promoters of this scheme and that one of the other promoters assured the public that Donald Trump the Elder supported this initiative. And these basic facts raise all kinds of questions.

First and foremost, wasn’t one of the foundational principles of the Trump Movement that Mexico was going to pay for the wall? And then, even the most modest wall budget estimates were in the billions, so how did ordinary citizens, even well to do ordinary citizens, imagine that the princely sum of $25 million was going to build more than a few yards of wall? Perhaps a 1000-mile velvet rope, but

Then there is the issue of the venal nature of Bannon and his cohorts. Whatever their many flaws, the population of MAGA nation truly believes in Trump. To take advantage of these people is beyond crass, it is cruel. And it is truly sad that they would take advantage of the people that truly believe, no matter how misguided they might be.

And then there is this:

 Nine former Trump administration or campaign officials have been indicted or convicted of a catalogue of crimes which now includes Steve Bannon being indicted for masterminding a “Build the Wall” scheme (soliciting funds from the MAGA faithful, keeping in mind that it used to be that Mexico was going to pay for the wall) and using the proceeds to support the lifestyle to which he believes he deserves. However, if he is convicted of these crimes, his lifestyle will change radically for a very long time.

Either Trump is the worst judge of character of any president with the possible exception of Ulysses Grant and Warren G. Harding who presided over epic scandals or……. he chooses to be closest with people who are just like him – kind of an Ocean’s 45 instead of Ocean’s 11. I am going with Door Number 2.

August 21, 2020

5,530,247–173,193 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Last night Joe Biden did his very best to draw the inevitable contrast between Trump and himself. So last night he was everything that Trump is not. He was compassionate, empathetic, insightful and most of all, intelligent.

Meanwhile Trump seems to moving closer and closer to fully embracing the QAnon movement. That would be QAnon that preaches a gospel that speaks to the existence of a cabal of Satan-worshipping, blood drinking pedophiles who are embedded in the Deep State. QAnon followers who also believe that George Soros and Bill Gates have conspired to utilize 5G technology for mind control purposes.

Several QAnon followers have been successful in Republican primaries in deeply red districts. That means that in all likelihood several QAnon followers will be in the United States Congress in January of next year. It will be like the Tea Party of steroids (and acid) coming to D.C. with the sole aim of disrupting.

If Trump is still president, this country will be in worse trouble than it already is. It will certainly be helpful to pray….it will also be important to vote.

August 22, 2020

5,624,721–175,416 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day spins around the axis of the release by Trump niece Mary Trump of comments by Trump sister Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. You will recall that Mary Trump wrote a book, “Too Much and Never Enough”, that was released several weeks ago. Mary Trump revealed the not too surprising fact that the egotistical megalomaniac that we have come to know is an egotistical megalomaniac in private.

Clearly, Mary Trump was not through barbecuing her uncle. Last night she released an audio tape of Trump’s sister referring to her infamous brother in the most unflattering terms, unconsciously echoing Barack and Michelle Obama in saying that Trump just doesn’t want to do the work. And that was probably the best thing that she had to say about him – as a distillation of her taped comments was that she was appalled, dismayed and disgusted – but in no way surprised – by Trump’s behavior as president as the office has not changed him – it simply revealed him to the rest of the world.

 August 23, 2020

5,668,564–176,371 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Yesterday Trump accused the leadership of the FDA as being part of the “Deep State”, malevolently delaying vaccine approvals in order to favor the Democrats in November. Today Trump announced that the FDA is approving the use of convalescent plasma as a therapeutic treatment of COVID-19 virus victims.

This is all coming from the man who brought you Trump University. This is coming from the man who recommended bleach, the internal use of ultraviolet rays and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the pandemic. And now, this accelerated conditional approval of the use of convalescent plasma. And it is certainly far, far away from being a “cure” for pandemic.

It is important to realize that having scientists defer to political considerations at the Environmental Protection Agency (degrading environmental issues) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (degrading climate change). And we know that in those two instances that Americans and citizens of the world are already suffering the consequences.

Watching FDA officials fawn and grovel at the feet of Trump will serve to vitiate and deteriorate the credibility of FDA in the near future and in years to come. Hearing the FDA officials and other members of the administration almost reflexively referring to “your leadership” with Trump hovering nearby, looks like something out of a press conference in Pyongyang today or Berlin circa 1936. And clearly, politicizing the FDA is as dangerous a Trump move as anything that he has done since January 20, 2017.

And it is important to note that Trump dragged FDA officials in front of cameras to announce a faux historic achievement with respect to battling the pandemic. One need not even read the fine print on this one – the second paragraph of the announcement makes it very clear that this is not a great achievement and will do next to nothing to ease the pain, suffering and misery of the American people.

But it will make a great sound bite at the opening of the Republican National convention tomorrow.

And then there is the matter of the RNC Convention which begins tomorrow. It is scheduled to be a four-day affair, and guess which egomaniac president has decided that he should be a featured speaker for all four days? It was going to be difficult to watch this Trump extravaganza, now it may require hypnosis or very strong sedatives to endure the next 96 hours.

At the DNC convention Barack Obama spoke of Trump using the presidency to get the attention that he craves. This coming week Trump is providing all the evidence necessary to prove Obama’s point – appearing on stage on all four days of the convention not only has never been done by a party nominee, it is so far over the top that no one could see the benefit of going there.

But Trump craves attention, if not affection. Trump does not care. In the canyons and caverns of his mind all eyes will be on him, and for Trump that is more than enough.

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A Day in the Life of America

July 30, 2020

4,427,493 –150, 716 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Sometime early this morning Trump decided to do yet one more thing that no president has ever seriously considered. Tweeting his concern about the fable of potential fraud in mail in voting in November, he mused that it might be useful to postpone the election. The fact that no president has even suggested that elections should be moved even during the Civil War or World War I or World War II should be reason enough to consider Trump to be uttering pure madness.

But that would be a mistake. Dismissing Trump as mad, an idiot, an ignorant Neanderthal. He may be all of these things, but he is clearly high functioning and tens of millions of MAGA hat wearing/bleach drinking/no mask wearing supporters will follow him lemming-like over the cliff toward authoritarianism. The message from his message – do not ignore or dismiss him, consider the danger and prepare to defend the system.

And of course, it may be that this particular mud ball was hurled in order to distract Americans from the worst economic news – the largest decline in the GDP of the United States in history. And we once again realize that Trumpadamus was looking into the future when, on January 20, 2017, Trump declared that when he looked at the United States he saw “American carnage”.

Of course there was no carnage then, but there is now. Fifty million Americans have lost their jobs, over 4 million Americans are infected with the COVID-19 pandemic and ov150,000 Americans have died and by Election Day the number is trending towards at least a quarter of a million. Discontent and protest is surging through the country in response to the systemic racism that Trump so eloquently represents and the status of this country abroad is at its lowest point since some time in the 19th century.

So yes – “American carnage” it is.

And then there was the sublime aspect of the day. The funeral of John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the pastoral home of both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. There could be no more fitting venue for the home going celebration of the life of a great man. Three former presidents were there – George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – Jimmy Carter, who is 95, did not attend for obvious health concerns but he did send a message. It goes without saying that Trump did not attend.

If he had, it would have been as if a disheveled drunken uncle showed up at a wedding celebration. He would have been admitted, but he would not have been welcome.

To his credit, Trump’s prejudice and bigotry guided him to make the right choice and let the world know what he thought of John Lewis and the ideals which guided his life. Trump could have sent Vice President Pence, or Ben Carson, the only Black member of his cabinet, or at least a faux letter of condolences in the fashion of the inimitable Senator Marco Rubio who posted a photograph of Elijah Cummings when “mourning” the death of John Lewis on Twitter.

But true to his racist heart he did nothing – not even a passing mention at his press conference later in the day.

And, to say that Barack Obama’s eulogy was eloquent would be beyond understatement. In addition to honoring John Lewis he also reaffirmed the commitment to dignity and justice that has been obscured by the orange clouds emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And in honoring John Lewis he also honored the movement towards racial justice which existed before John Lewis was born and continues after his death.

Obama clearly enumerated the epic levels of injustice including police brutality and the suppression of Black votes. He pulled no rhetorical punches and his call to action was loud and clear. John Lewis would have been proud to know that his legacy, and that of so many others, would continue and prevail.

And last but not certainly not least, Obama reminded us of what a President looks like. He reminded us of what presidential leadership looks like. And he made America how far we have fallen during the Trump regime.

During his press conference Trump recited a series of statistics to make us ignore that although this country has 5% of the world’s population, we have 25% of the global COVID-19 cases. He spoke about PPE’s in the hundreds of thousands when that might be the requirement for a single major U.S. city in a single week.

Indeed, the more he spoke, disjointedly and scarily detached, the more concerned we should be that the ship of state is being steered by a captain who is totally incapable of getting the ship to safe harbor.

November 3rd. cannot come soon enough.

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Point of View Columns

When Nightmares Come True

First, will someone please tell Trump and Mike Pompeo that the one million Iranians gathered in the streets of Tehran are not “dancing in the streets” after the U.S. assassinated Iranian Major General Qasim Suleimani. We should remember that Pompeo opined that the people of Iran would be “dancing in the streets” after the rogue president flexed his ego and proved yet again that he is a disaster waiting to happen.

Prior to November of 2016 one of the worst nightmare was that the pompous blowhard named Trump might come close to being elected president and that his disgruntled constituency would have to be reintroduced to sanity. Of course, the undreamable nightmare of Trump being elected did come true and has been the source of countless sleepless nights for countless men, women and children who care about……………….just about anything.

Some observers took solace in the belief that the sheer gravity of the office of the presidency would ease Trump towards a path that at least resembled sanity and that wise advisors would do their best to make sure that this orange-hued bull in the American china shop would not destroy the planet. And we see now how that worked out.

Impeachment may have unleashed the very few emotions over which Trump had any control. It is clear that he is not concerned about his legacy or the consequences of his actions. The fact is that Trump’s immediate predecessors – George W. Bush (who will never be found on anybody’s Mensa membership list) and Barack Obama (a Nobel Peace Prize winner) both understood that  while assassinating Suleimani provided no long term advantage to the United States it would almost certainly be viewed as an act of war by Iran. And there was one other fact, despite the overwhelming military power of the United States, the vulnerability of the United States – and its citizens – was also overwhelming.

There is no reason to believe that Trump ever thought about the consequences of his actions which is why we now live in the nightmare scenario avoided by two presidents when they walked up to this potentially disastrous precipice. We know that Iran has already walked away from the nuclear treaty which had curtailed its production of nuclear weapons. We know that Iraq now wants all U.S. troops out of Iraq. We know that the U.S. military has put its pursuit of ISIS on hold. And we know that we should worry about what we don’t know – and given the viciously mendacious nature of the Trump administration we can be sure that there is more bad news coming.

And because it should be beyond clear that elections matter, it is beyond baffling that there are Democratic operatives who think that it is a good thing that multiple candidates are spending millions of dollars attacking each other for the honor of being the bloody but unbowed winner in Milwaukee in June, somehow believing that this Training Camp episode will end up with a Democratic victor in November.

Someone please tell the Democratic Party leadership that nightmares really do come true….sometimes more than once.

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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.

 

 

 

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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 on the basis of something resembling merit? 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 would be the subject of pity. But not this time. And 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, if they knew him at all, as the raucous host of the “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show. 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 might have 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 then at 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, if given the chance, 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 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner was almost certainly 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 a federally issued orange jumpsuit that will quite poetically 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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