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

The Rise of the Black Obama Bashers

When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States this country was losing over 800,000 jobs per month. During the seven years of the Obama administration over 14 million jobs have been created. Employment opportunities have appeared in a range of industries and in the process a new and unique set of jobs have become available, jobs that are almost exclusively reserved for black intellectuals, black academics and black commentators. The job title – Black Obama Bashers.

It should be noted that there are jobs available for White Obama Bashers, but they are not as plentiful and certainly not as lucrative. White Obama Bashers fall into the “dog bites man” category, to use a phrase employed by journalists. A significant portion of white Americans believe that President Obama is (a) the anti-Christ, (b) a Muslim terrorist, (c) a Kenyan version of the Manchurian Candidate, or all of the above. For many white Americans, hating Barack Obama is as American as apple pie. As a result, White Obama Bashers are simply not news.

But Black Obama Bashers are the quintessential “man bites dog” story. Over 90% of black Americans voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. As the first black President of the United States, Barack Obama is virtually revered in the national black community, if only for this singular and heretofore seemingly impossible achievement.

Further, as president, Barack Obama and his family have carried themselves with polish, class and dignity. There has never been a hint of a whiff of a scent of scandal in the Obama narrative. As president Barack Obama has obliterated prevailing stereotypes and stubborn prejudices regarding black people. And as president he has personally opened an entire universe of aspiration for young black boys and girls and young black men and women who now understand in real time that “hope” and “change” can be more than just slogans, they can be a way of life.

In this landscape, the Black Obama Bashers or BOBs have had to find a way to sell books, demand five and six figure speaking fees and maintain their presence on television and radio so that they can sell those books and get those lucrative speaking gigs. And so the BOBs have settled on a successful formula, if success is to be judged by how much attention they get and how much money they make.

It is not particularly useful to name this murder of BOBs, this will only give them more attention, but they know who they are, and we know who they are. And they gain attention by calling the first black President of the United States a “lap dog” or a “nigger” (as in “nigger please”) or someone does not love black people as much as we love him. Others have accused Barack Obama of pimping black people and who is afraid of white people and therefore refuses to confront the issues of race and racism in America.

We read and hear bizarre and contorted logic disguised as serious commentary when Barack Obama is deemed not sufficiently black because neither of his parents (or their forebears) experienced American slavery. Presumably we are to assume that these blacker than thou BOBs grew up listening to the rattle of grandma’s shackles and learned field songs at the knee of Uncle Mose.

Claiming that criticizing Barack Obama is right and just and necessary is a gossamer thin shield for the true motives of the BOBs. President Obama and every president should be scrutinized and criticized. But it is hard to remember the times that the BOBs aimed their rhetorical poisoned arrows at George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. Indeed, one will be hard pressed to find BOBs spending much of their time attacking the Teapublicans, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell or any of the countless domestic terrorists who actually pose a real danger to the national black community.

The BOBs know on which side their croissants are buttered and as they barely conceal their own envy at the fact that a black man has done something that they will never do, they totally ignore the potential damage that their moneymaking scheme can cause.
BOBs have eschewed the path of legitimate and useful critique and have chosen to put a shirt and tie on the “dozens”. But while they spew vitriol and nonsense at Barack Obama, they run the very real danger of demeaning and tarnishing the legacy of this man’s real achievement the consequence of which could be leaving black Americans with the bitter taste of disappointment and dismay.

And meanwhile, the BOBs will settle into a first class seat as they jet off to their next speaking engagement or TV appearance. And one wonders, what will happen to the BOBs in February of 2017 when they will no longer have any dogs to bite. That is when they will lose the jobs that they have created for themselves and then they will truly miss Barack Obama.

And that’s just sad.

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Point of View Columns

Donald Trump and “Straight Talk”

One of the more interesting aspects of the Trump candidacy is how he is able to give voice to the major and minor prejudices and bias that infect the national bloodstream – doing so in a way that is supposed to be “straight talk”. His “straight talk” is appreciated by a significant part of the right wing of the right wing of the Teapublican Party. We will see how far “straight talk will take him”.

We have already heard Donald Trump attack, demean and demonize Mexican American immigrants, and by extension immigrants from just about anywhere in the world where white people are not the native population. He took a baby step backward by admitting that not all Mexican American immigrants are rapists, and that was very kind of him. But he still paints these immigrants as the lesser, as the other, as the unwanted in America.

And because this is supposed to be “straight talk”, not bigoted and hateful discourse, he has not disqualified himself to be President of the United States. Indeed, on August 6th, The Donald will be center stage at the first Teapublican presidential debate, playing the role of the leading candidate. Clearly, “straight talk” trumps the dog whistle rhetoric engaged in by the likes of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, et. al.

It appears that under the heading of “straight talk”, Donald Trump can get away with saying anything. In his passionate crusade to denigrate President Obama at any and every opportunity, he has departed from his “birther cruise to nowhere” and now is intent on proving that the president is incompetent, weak and “the worst president in the history of this country”.

Never one to let the truth get in the way, Trump conveniently omits President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, his leading the country out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, saving the auto industry, saving the banking industry, instituting a national healthcare system and establishing a financial services regulatory system that most probably would have saved this country from the aforementioned economic crisis had it been in effect in 2007.

Trump is so concerned about being a “winner”, despite the multiple bankruptcies of companies with the Trump name and his own flirtations with personal financial disaster. But being such a “winner”, one would think that Trump would appreciate the fact that Barack Obama won the presidency with more than 50% of the popular vote – twice. President Obama is the only person to do that since President Eisenhower over a half a century ago. That should make him a “winner” by the Trump standard. But then, Donald Trump has never let facts get in the way of a good diatribe.

And so, as he continues his rant about the failures and deficiencies of Barack Obama, Trump engages in “straight talk”, saying that President Obama will make it impossible for another African American to be elected president “for generations”. Such language and thinking is precisely the source of the racist virus that has afflicted this country from its very inception.

Even if one wishes to accept Donald Trump’s outlandish assessment of President Obama’s record, even if he were as bad as George W. Bush – he of the stolen election and lie-based wars – why would that keep another African American from being elected president? Jimmy Carter was not considered to have a particularly outstanding one term presidency, but that did not prevent another white Southerner, Bill Clinton, from being elected twelve years later.

The racist tone and logic of Donald Trump’s statements regarding the election prospects of future African Americans, in the name of “straight talk”, is actually an illustration of dog whistle politics without the dog whistle. He is only saying what too many white Americans still believe. The shame of Donald Trump’s rhetoric is that too many Americans are listening and liking it.

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Point of View Columns

Prelude to Impeachment

Since the evening of the  very day day he was inaugurated as President of the United States on January 19, 2009, the opposition to Barack Obama has sought to delegitimize his presidency, obstruct his administration all the while dismissing his achievements and exaggerating his missteps. The results have been mixed. President Obama was reelected by a sizeable vote in 20012. Today his poll numbers are at an all-time low. On the Planet Teapublican that means it is time to play the Impeachment Card.

Only two American presidents have been impeached – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton (Richard Nixon narrowly escaped almost certain impeachment and subsequent conviction by resigning and fleeing the White House in disgrace). It is worth noting that neither impeachment resulted in conviction, leading to the slightly obvious conclusion that these proceedings were politically motivated rather than being inspired by actual “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

The politically charged atmosphere of the Obama Administration where the clouds of  negative ions are almost visible, it should come as no surprise that Teapublicans are feeling more empowered to use the “I” word every day. Of course it is hard to bring impeachment proceedings just because his very presence in the White House offends the racial and political sensibilities of his opposition. That is where the Prelude to Impeachment becomes a part of the always rickety and forever bizarre Teapublican strategy.

While highly respected constitutional scholars like Sarah Palin and Darrell Issa have opined that there are already grounds to impeach President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner has settled on a game plan that begins with the House of Representatives filing a lawsuit against the president. The basis for this lawsuit appears to center around the use of executive orders and the president exercising his discretion in the face of historic Congressional inaction.

It must be noted that lawsuits have been filed by Congress against the President in years past. But this planned lawsuit must be seen within the context of a six year campaign to get Barack Obama out of the White House by any means necessary.

The “birther” mania, while brainless and idiotic, was given CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation through nuance, implication and inference by the likes of John Boehner, Mitt Romney and other “serious Teapublicans”, to say nothing of the braying of Donald Trump, the screeching of Sarah Palin and the caterwauling of Michele Bachmann. Even the dimmest of these dim bulbs have always known that the “birther” strategy was not going to work, but it represented a few grains of hope on the hard scrabble earth of truth and reality.

Now there is some real sustenance for the meat eaters on the right. A lawsuit sounds sane and reasonable and it involves real lawyers and real judges – nothing nutty like questioning the provenance of a birth certificate. A lawsuit by the United States Congress sounds reality-based and if it wasn’t in the sixth year of the Obama Era, it might possible that there would be a credible basis for legal action.

But this is the sixth year of the Obama Era and it is hard to separate the delegitimizing efforts of these six years from this proposed lawsuit. The fact that law school professors and other “scholars” have supported the notion of this lawsuit misses the point.

The proposed lawsuit is a clear Prelude to Impeachment. The Teapublican strategy can be described as follows:
1. File a lawsuit against President Obama claiming that he has overstepped his constitutional boundaries.
2. Tie up the Obama Administration and the media attention for the next few months.
3. Await the 2014 election results.
4. Regardless results of the election and the lawsuit commence impeachment proceedings in 2015.
5. Tie up the Obama Administration and media attention for all of 2015.
6. Even with the likely event that President Obama will not be convicted even if he is impeached, leave President Obama as the lamest of lame ducks in 2016 with his legacy forever tarnished.

This is the Teapublican strategy which, if you will notice, does nothing to address the economy, the environment, the infrastructure, immigration reform or healthcare. All that this strategy represents is the last major assault by the Teapublicans against President Obama. A last gasp, if you will.

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Fake Fuss over Obamacare

The frenzied farcical furor surrounding the technology challenged rollout of the latest phase of the Affordable Care Act would be laughable if the subject matter wasn’t so serious. The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, was passed into law in order to address a critical challenge for the people of the United States – quality affordable healthcare being made available to a third of a billion people. While the record is quite clear that Obamacare has begun to address the healthcare inequities of Americans, the Usual Suspects are only too happy, indeed gleeful, to celebrate even any misstep.

A bit of historical perspective is always useful. At the beginning of the 20th century President Theodore Roosevelt advanced the concept of universal health care, an obvious product of the Progressive Movement that initiated so many beneficial reforms in these United States.

Since that time, many presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton have all tried, and failed, to implement a universal health care system that would guarantee medical care for all Americans. And since that time virtually every developed country on this planet (and many that are not so developed) has implemented a universal health care system for its citizens.

When Barack Obama became president in 2009 over 40 million Americans had no medical insurance and millions of other Americans were hopelessly underinsured. And this societal disgrace existed in a country with the best medical technology in the world and the highest medical costs in the world. That the Obama administration was able to shepherd a healthcare bill through a Congress that was already careening towards the partisan poisoned train wreck that it is today, will one day be noted as a great legislative and political achievement.

It should be no surprise that the Teapublicans have led the full throated disparagement of every aspect of Obamacare. But they are silent when it is pointed out that Americans with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be denied health insurance – an established procedure in the health insurance industry prior to the passage of Obamacare.

They are also silent when it is pointed out that, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act Americans can no longer lose their healthcare coverage when they are afflicted by a catastrophic illness. Dropping people with such illnesses from health insurance coverage was standard operating procedure prior to the passage of Obamacare.

And the Teapublicans simply don’t want to talk about the fact that millions of Americans can keep their children covered by the family health care plan until that child turns 26. This is another new feature that was the stuff of fantasy before the passage of Obamacare.

So why would the Teapublicans and their right wing cohorts want to repeal Obamacare? The House of Representatives has voted to repeal Obamacare 47 times. The right wing zealots who populate that chamber have shut down the federal government and taken the entire global economy to the brink of an unthinkable cataclysm – all in the name of derailing a law which provides healthcare to Americans.

It has to make one wonder what is it about Obamacare that makes the Teapublicans cross-eyed crazy? Can they be so opposed to children with cancer receiving healthcare? Are they that opposed to men, women and children being able to see a doctor without the specter of bankruptcy looming over them if they get sick? And, have the Teapublicans ever offered a credible alternative to Obamacare?

The answer to the last question is “no”. And the answers to the other questions are probably “no” as well. In which case it is clear that the magma of hate for President Barack Obama has spewed forth in a volcanic eruption of opposition, confrontation, disrespect and invalidation that continues to this very day as Teapublicans are holding up President Obama’s third judicial nomination to the United States Court of Appeals. And there should be no doubt that there is a racialist and racist source to the white hot magma that flows through the halls of power of Washington.

And now we are supposed to believe that the Teapublicans are caterwauling over the technological missteps in the next phase of Obamacare because they care about the healthcare of Americans being jeopardized. Their record of crass and senseless opposition to All Things Obama makes them all look like they are crying crocodile tears.

The computer failures of Obamacare will be fixed. Obamacare will continue to be the law of the land. More Americans will have access to affordable quality healthcare because of Obamacare. And the opponents of Obamacare will find themselves being footnotes to footnotes of history.

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Here’s What’s Wrong with Cornel West

It appears that ever since he did not get the prized inaugural tickets that his massive ego demanded, Cornel West has been determined to claw and gnaw at the presidency of Barack Obama. While he is free to permanently and totally disagree with any and all of the policies espoused by President Obama, it might be useful for Dr. West to remember that with freedom comes responsibility. And in that regard Cornel West has come up short – so to speak.

From the time that he took office Barack Obama has been subjected to ridicule and disrespect rarely seen in modern times. While it is true that John Adams was labeled a “hermaphrodite” and Abraham Lincoln was called a “baboon” and a “gorilla”, one would be hard pressed to recall another president who was called a “liar” from the floor of the House of Representatives by a member of the House of Representatives. President Obama’s wife, children, mother and mother-in-law have been fair game in the game that is being played by the right wing of the right wing.

Part of this has to do with the mud and dirt that one must endure when entering the political arena – just ask Bill Clinton or read about the full frontal attacks on Franklin D. “Rosenfeld” by the right wing of another era. But, as has been noted many times, there is a sharper and barbed edge to the arrows shot in the direction of Barack Obama and it is not being overly sensitive to suggest that this is because he is the first black President of the United States.

It is, therefore, odd and troubling that someone like Cornel West, a self-styled intellectual and self-anointed spokesman for oppressed black people, has taken it upon himself to castigate, demonize and trash the Obama legacy. One would think that there are enough white right wing zealots available to do that job – and then there are always the two Alans, Alan West and Alan Keys, if there is a need to add some color to the attack tag team.

As an accomplished academic, Cornel West has taught at Princeton and Harvard and is currently on the faculty at Union Theological Seminary. Although his multiple degrees do not include history or political science, it is fair to hold Dr. West to a higher standard of awareness than the man or woman on the street – wherever that street might be.

And by that standard it is incomprehensible that a presumably intelligent and educated man like Cornel West would engage in hurling playground invectives and insults at Barack Obama in the hope of…..what? Is he seeking to encourage thoughtful discourse and criticism regarding the policies of the Obama Administration? That is hard to believe when he labels the first black President of the United States “a lap dog for Wall Street”.

When he calls the man for whom over 90% of voting black Americans selected – twice – “a Rockefeller Republican in blackface”, exactly what point is he trying to get across? Aside from the very clear point of making sure that the name “Cornel West” stays in the media spotlight no matter how irrelevant he is becoming.

And in the middle of the distress and dismay following the despicable and damnable verdict in the George Zimmerman case did Dr. Cornel West offer some solace to the parents of Trayvon Martin. Did he try to put the case within the historical context of the seeming devaluation of black life by American institutions?

Of course not. Cornel West, a clear master of self-promotion, chose that very sad and somber moment to label President Obama “a Global George Zimmerman”, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. In doing so Cornel West misdirected attention away from serious consideration of the Zimmerman trial and verdict to…..you guessed it, Cornel West. And one can be certain that this attention helps Cornel West as he charges $30,000 – $50,000 per speech as an advocate for poor black people. The irony is simultaneously inescapable and miserable.

The truth of the matter is that when the history of the Obama Administration is written decades from now, or next year, Cornel West will warrant something less than a footnote. He is a self-promoting and self-serving rhetorical provocateur who continues to do more harm than good every time he opens his mouth.

Perhaps one day Dr. West will come to grips with the fact that with freedom of speech comes some sort of responsibility for what one says. But don’t hold your breath.

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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!

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