Point of View Columns

Dumb and Dumbest

These are serious times – the economy, the environment, threats of terrorism, the economy, unresolved wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy…….you get the point. If there was ever a time for men and women engaged in public service to be focused on the “service” part of their job it would be now.

It is, therefore, scary in a creepy kind of way, that perhaps as many as a dozen state legislatures are in the process of drafting or considering bills that would require presidential candidates to provide documentary proof of their citizenship prior to being on the ballot.

The genesis for this singularly stupid initiative is presumably strategy straight from the Bozo School of Public Policy at the University of Dim Bulb that contends Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States and that the American people should never be “tricked” again.

As you are reading this article the legislatures in Connecticut, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma are contemplating bills that have already been drafted and are ready for formal consideration. That would be Connecticut with an 8.6% unemployment rate. That would be Texas with an 8% unemployment rate. That would be Missouri with a 9.2% unemployment rate. Oklahoma is sitting fat and happy with a 6.6% unemployment rate.

Of course unemployment is just one issue that state legislatures might wish to examine. The national obesity crisis has reached pandemic proportions. The implementation of the new national health care program will require a great deal of focus for years to come. The energy crisis is at the door and the environmental crisis is already set to cloud the dawns of tomorrows that our children will inherit.

Various polling services have produced results indicating that one out of every four American voters does not believe that President Obama was born in the United States. When polling the Party of No, over 40% of Republican voters believe that he was born outside of America.

These numbers are stunning and numbing when you realize that absolute documentation and verification of this man’s birth in Hawaii in 1961 has been a matter of public record for years.

Political analysts have committed acts of amateur psychology in trying to understand how and why so many people have entered the twilight zone and stayed there. We have noted in prior columns that other Republican presidential candidates were born outside of the United States (George Romney was born in Mexico and Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona prior it to becoming a state and John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone) and there was never a sustained clamor regarding nativity.

Some are of the opinion that the election of an African American President of the United States offends the laws of nature for these “birthers”. A black man being president ranks right up there with rocks falling up and pigs flying – it is something that is not possible and cannot be accepted as fact –ever. Hence we have presumably sane men and women scurrying around in their state capitals trying to “make sure that this never happens again”.

It is also important to note that the “birther” movement is a distinctly partisan initiative. The G.O.Tea Party and its minions are the lone and lonely foot soldiers in this lost cause. And as they tilt at windmills that they imagine to be dragons citizens of this country are worried about their jobs, the economy, their safety and their children’s future.

Rather than demonstrating some semblance of common sense or even a half profile in courage, Republican leaders have stood by and let the dumbness run amok.

This foolishness may satisfy the right wing of the right wing, but “birther” legislation will not rebuild this economy or replenish the reservoirs of hope and confidence that are dangerously low. “Birther” legislation will not provide a single job or save a single business and it certainly will not help even one child learn how to read and be competitive in the global economy.

One might be tempted to just let the Republicans run around in these dumb, self-destructive circles, but these times demand sober discussion and serious debate on the issues of the day. And while the G.O.Tea Party continues to read the Constitution out loud and engage in pyrrhic battles in Congress, everybody suffers from the inertia that is the consequence of their self-indulgence.

“Dumb and Dumbest” is a movie that has not been made as yet. It is very clear who should be cast in the starring roles.

Point of View Columns

It Must Be The Season

I am certain that there is the odd birther and the not uncommon G.O.Tea Partier who celebrated when the news reports surfaced regarding President Obama getting hit in the mouth during a pickup basketball game. But at the beginning of this week the Obama Administration absorbed a serious body blow that cannot possibly be the cause for celebration in any portion of the increasingly self-absorbed American body politic.

Over the weekend, Julian Assange, the self-appointed avatar of the truth (as he defines it) executed the largest leak of United States governmental files and secret information in the history of this country. The hundreds of thousands of files and millions of pages of correspondence and communication between the United States government and its political and diplomatic contacts abroad were disseminated by WikiLeaks and this deluge of confidential information has been the cause for celebration and dismay throughout the world. I am voting for dismay.

This massive dumping of confidential files, communications and information was done in the name of transparency, but clearly there have been no guiding principles involved. Being the coffee swilling private eye parked in a beat up Chevy in the parking lot of the motel of international diplomacy doesn’t strike me as particularly heroic or particularly helpful.

Knowing every internal conversation by every government does not help us to understand geopolitical forces and movements. Knowing that Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi is afraid of heights doesn’t tell us anything important. Now that we know that Saudi Arabian officials may have asked the United States to bomb Iran only tells us that a range of options, even outrageous ones, are always considered by even remotely intelligent individuals who are in positions of responsibility.

The WikiLeaks disclosures may have a harmful effect on the Obama Administration in its pursuit of various foreign policy and security goals and objectives, but no one really knows. It is very hard to prove a negative.

We do know, for example, that the Iranian-American doctor who escaped Iran on horseback and arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey having fled his captors in Iran, is now terrified that his family members living in Iran will be imprisoned, tortured or killed now that his story has been made public.

Who died and made Julian Assange the final judge as to who will live or die by reason of his disclosures? More importantly, one wonders what standards or criteria he employed in deciding what information was worth disclosing and what costs and consequences for others he was willing to consider as being acceptable.

The embarrassment suffered by American diplomats, but one has to wonder if communications in the future will be compromised or constrained both internally and on bilateral and multilateral bases. Frank conversations and blunt assessments have been a part of diplomacy and foreign policy from the earliest tribal days of humanity.

No one should be shocked or surprised by the candor that is found in these leaked documents. But even professional career diplomats will be fettered in their future work if there is the very real likelihood that there every thought, musing or hypothetical conjuring can be made public.

There is an old adage about two things that one never wants to see being made – one is sausage and the other is legislation. I would add foreign policy to an updated version.

If Julian Assange had uncovered corruption, fraud and deceit like the weaving of the myth of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that led to the hellish and damnable American invasion of Iraq I would be the first to applaud him. But this latest foray seems prurient and self-indulgent.

I am in favor of transparency, but there is reason that there are doors on bathrooms and curtains on bedrooms.

Point of View Columns

The Good Pig

In these times of tremendous challenge, and therefore awesome opportunity (we hope!), a bit of humor might be in order.

A resident of New York City goes to visit his friend who lives on a farm in the country. Upon greeting his buddy he is taken for a tour of the farm and sees a three-legged pig limping along in the distance. Being totally unfamiliar with rural ways, the city dweller inquires about the pig.

“That’s one great pig”, is the reply. “That pig has saved my life on two separate occasions and he also saved my little boy from drowning.”

“Well then”, our city dweller inquires, what happened to his leg?”

“Well, with a pig that good, you don’t eat him all at once!”

The Constitution has been a remarkably durable and flexible governing document. Its preamble has been a relevant mission statement before “mission statements” became management tools. Its ability to be amended has given it the ability to adapt to the need for fundamental changes but the amendment process has been necessarily arduous in order to preclude spurious and frivolous changes.

Like the good pig served the farmer and his family, the Constitution has served the people of the United States well. Unlike the good pig, the Constitution has been safeguarded from most rash, self-serving and short-sighted behavior with a few exceptions (Prohibition comes to mind, and that misbegotten amendment was rightfully repealed).

But now we are faced with yet another foray into mindlessness by the right wing of the right wing as their yahoo cohorts call for a repeal of the 14th amendment to the Constitution. This amendment, along with the 13th and 15th amendments did much to begin to heal the gaping wound in the credibility of American claims to freedom and equality that was slavery, a wound that is still not fully healed. But it also codified the notion of citizenship in a unique and historic manner.

The 14th amendment grants full rights of citizenship to any person born or naturalized in the United States. There are no gradations of citizenship in this country and that principle has been crucial in granting equal rights to all men and women regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual preference or physical disability.

The anti-immigrant motives of this bogus constitutional strategy are gossamer thin and fully transparent. With the singular exception of the descendants of full-blooded Native Americans, every American citizen is descended from someone who is from somewhere other than America. And, not surprisingly, American history is full of efforts by more established descendants of immigrants to claim superiority over more recent immigrants.

The Scotch-Irish and German Americans treated the Irish cruelly and ranked them below dogs when they first came to this country in large numbers. And then as the Irish became more “American” they joined in the condemnation of the huge numbers of Chinese who came to this country as laborers in the 19th century. The Chinese remained notably silent in attacking future immigrants, but that was not the case with the less recent immigrant Americans who rallied against the influx of Italians. And then the Eastern Europeans and Russians and more Germans came, and so on.

Beginning in the second half of the twentieth century, however, the flow of immigration which has been this nation’s life’s blood starting getting darker and less familiar to “real” Americans. They came from Puerto Rico (technically a part of America but enough to fuel the anti-immigrant fires – see “West Side Story”), the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana and Mexico. These dreaded and darker immigrants have come in the millions and multiplied before the horrified eyes of the right wing of the right and their yahoo cohorts and their wholly-owned Tea Party subsidiaries.

And in the thought-deprived intelligentsia of the right wing of the right wing, this bright idea was born like Aphrodite strolling full grown from the brow of Zeus. Abolish the 14th amendment and the children of illegal immigrants will no longer be granted citizenship. Of course, the children of actual citizens would also have to have additional documentation aside from a birth certificate in order to claim citizenship, but the right wing of the right wing has never concerned itself with details or logic.

We have been witness to the “birthers” claiming that Barack Obama is not President of the United States because he was not born in America. With the abolition of the 14th amendment it is a safe bet that a faction of the “birthers” would claim that President Obama’s father was not legally in the United States and the “birther” farce would continue. With the abolition of the 14th amendment the Roberts-Thomas-Alito-Scalia wing of the United States Supreme Court will endeavor to more strictly circumscribe the rights that should be granted to all citizens and everything from the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Voting Rights Acts will be in serious jeopardy.

For a long time it has been time for the progressive aspects of American body politic to comprehend the very real jeopardy that the right wing of the right wing represents. This is not an issue of conservative versus liberal – that is a useful and constructive discussion that invigorates the rational exchange of ideas and concepts. What we see now are mean, nihilist and mindless avatars of injustice seeking to impose their small-minded vision of this planet on those of us who remain silent or inactive.

Clearly, now is not the time for silence or inaction.