Point of View Columns

Reflections during October 2021

Reflections During October 2021

October 4, 2021

It now appears that Cult of Trump entails a full and complete divorce from reality, no matter that there are billions of witnesses to that reality. Case in point, former Vice President Mike Pence has reduced the 1.6.21 insurrection to “a single bad day”. And he says this even though the insurrectionists announced a very clear intention to hang him.

Perhaps he is hoping that this act of act of abject fealty will put him back in Trump’s good graces.

If not, I am sure that he will still continue on his own personal downward spiral of obsequiousness.

October 5, 2021

Not that it should come as a total surprise, but even though pigs are not soaring through the air in formation, there has been real and actual bipartisan activity in Congress. The reason for this seeming miracle is Facebook, and its continual refusal to embrace any corporate responsibility that does not involve pure profit for Mark Zuckerberg & Co.

Even though it is now absolutely evident that Facebook has facilitated teenage suicides and enhanced the clear and present danger of insurrection in the United States and abroad, Facebook has clearly taken pages out of the Standard Oil playbook – straight out of the 19th century.

But, as John D. Rockefeller & Co. learned, the absolute embrace of power and wealth despite human and institutional costs does have consequences.

Stay tuned for Congressional oversight regarding Facebook and other tech companies in the days and months to come.

October 6, 2021

Yesterday Pope Francis issued a formal apology of the Catholic Church for the over 300,000 instances of the sexual abuse of children by thousands of members of the clergy in France. This savagery took place over a period of 70 years and is probably not the complete number. And we can be sure that the situation in France is not an isolated instance as revelations in Ireland and the United States make very clear.

There are no words to describe the betrayal of trust and faith that these revelations reveal. What is also revealed is how institutionalism and bureaucracy can obscure even the saintliest of intentions.

October 11, 2021

While some people will persist on celebrating this day as Columbus Day, it makes more and more sense to go by the more useful celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day in order to serve as a reminder that this nation is literally built with the combination of stolen land and genocide. Of course there is the expected opposition from those who don’t deny the facts, they just don’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable with the reality of “discovery” and “settlement” which presumably is kinder to the ear than “genocide” and “stolen land”.

There will come a time in American history when the sordid history of its origins can be told honestly and without rancor, but with the understanding that, even now, we all have to do better.

October 14, 2021

As every day goes by, it becomes very clear that the elections of 2022 and 2024 may be the most important elections since 1860. We are now witness to hundreds, indeed thousands of elected officials and political operatives who (a) are denying the validity of the 2020 elections and (b) are taking legislative and administrative steps to insure favorable outcomes even if that means invalidating votes that have been cast legitimately.

There has to be a question as to how did so many (predominantly) white Americans decide that, in the face of a growing non-white national population, the best response is not cooperation and collaboration. Rather the sad course that they have chosen sets the stage for something resembling a civil war as efforts continue to impose minority rule in this nation.

Meanwhile China and Russia watch this passion play and don’t have to raise their hands as this country suffers from self-inflicted wounds that could prove to be mortal.

October 15, 2021

Historians will one day look at the 2020’s and wonder at the extreme separation from reality and even a semblance of fairness that seems to have suddenly gripped virtually half of the American people.

Whether it is the denial of election results or the national campaign to restrict the voting rights and political power of non-white people to the cruel imposition of draconian abortion bans after a half-century of providing women with the right to choose what happens to their bodies – madness and meanness seem to be the themes in which the American people have adopted as the “new normal”

October 21, 2021

It is in the realm of possibility that we will come to understand Senator Joe Manchin’s opposition to dental and vision care for the elderly. There is literally no hope that we will ever understand Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s opposition to even a “one penny” increase in the tax rates for millionaires, billionaires and multi-billion dollar companies.

In the meantime, it appears that President Biden is practicing the art of the possible by supporting a scaled down version of his Build Back Better plan. But it should be clear that even a scaled down version represents a major change in American public policy, moving away from decades of penurious and skimpy social service programs (certainly skimpy when compared to any other industrialized countries).

And that being said, it may be possible to see a further expansion if the Trump-led Republicans don’t trash the entire package a little more than three years from now.

A hell of a thought.

October 23, 2021

Somebody in the Biden Administration seems to think that, even though the administration is already dancing on the razor’s edge of multiple crises, it would be a good idea to indicate that this country is prepared to use military force against China in defense of Taiwan. Aside from the fact that such public provocative language will never cause China to pause, there is no sense that the American people are prepared to support another foreign war – with an incalculable cost of blood and treasure – when the interests of the United States are not directly at risk.

Diplomacy exists as an alternative to war. It is spectacularly useless if it is not employed in a timely fashion.

October 24, 2021

The joke of the day is that Trump is starting his own version of Facebook/Twitter through his personal communications company which is in the process of formation. The joke, of course, is that the list of investors who made money in a Trump venture could fit on the head of a pin – a very small pin. The list of Trump founded companies that have been successful could fit on the back of a cocktail napkin – a very small cocktail napkin.

Yet the investors, reputedly some large ones, along with the denizens of MAGA nation will probably put Trump in a position to partially start the company and pocket much of the invested funds if the past is prologue.

October 28, 2021

As President Biden gets ready to leave for the G-20 conference in Rome later today, it would be wise to remember that each of the other 19 countries have paid family leave for the citizens of their respective country. The United States, ostensibly the wealthiest nation in the history of the planet does not.

Somehow this is the only country where providing basic benefits for its citizens is seen as either some kind of gift for the worthy or a payment that must be earned according to some mysterious formula.

What is most astounding is that people who oppose paid family leave, like Senator Joe Manchin have no shame when it comes to this incredibly low level of meanness and disdain for his fellow citizen.

Shameful is the only word that comes to mind.

October 29, 2021

It is very clear that the Democrats, especially those in Congress, cannot break the circular firing squad habit. We saw it during the 2020 presidential campaign and we are seeing this movie again as they seem determined to find a way not to pass the infrastructure and Build Back Better legislation. On the one hand some so-called moderates (why are conservative Democrats called “moderates” when there is nothing “moderate” about denying hearing aids to the elderly of objecting to paid family leave for people who really need that support, especially in these days and times).

On the other hand, we have the self-proclaimed progressives who seem prepared the object to the good in search of the perfect. Considering the fact that the United States is behind every single industrialized country when it comes to the extent and scope of its social safety net, any advance in these areas will begin to change the conversation regarding care for the American people.

Meanwhile the Republicans must be chortling with glee as they hope and wish that the circular firing squad will result in nothing being done – in which case the results of the 2022 and 2024 elections will be easy to predict.

October 31, 2021

The Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, one Glenn Youngkin, is presenting himself as Republican who is not a Trump Surrogate. This despite the fact that all through the primary contest he refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the election of Joe Biden.

Now that he is on the cusp of victory in his race against Terry McAuliffe, he is finding that the biggest boost for his campaign has been to promise to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Virginia public schools because “it teaches white children to hate themselves”.

A few facts – remember those? – are in order. First, critical race theory is not being taught in Virginia public schools. Second, the corrections made to the narrative of American history is meant to remove all of the negative stereotypes of the past, lies and omissions that have given Black boys and girls little of which to be proud except for the passing mention of George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Finally, while the reform of the American historical narrative replaces myth with facts, it does reveal much about American history of which no white child or Black child should be proud. Consider – slavery was imbedded in the Constitution in its original iteration. Consider – ten of the first twelve presidents were slave owners. Consider – literally thousands of Black Americans were victims of white domestic terrorism between the end of the Civil War and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – it was known as lynching. Consider – during World War I blood from Black donors and white donors were segregated so that no white soldier would receive Black blood. Consider – during World War II the American military remained steadfast in its racial segregation policies even while fighting an existential war against the Axis powers.

What American, white or Black should be proud of these facts? What American, white or Black should be proud of the genocide and land theft perpetrated upon the indigenous people of this continent?

And why should white children feel that they should hate themselves in learning about the sordid facts of American history. German children are taught about the Holocaust and there are no reports of German children hating themselves. Japanese children are taught about the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army and there are no reports of German children hating themselves.

But it is clear that Mr. Youngkin has discovered a tune with which he can use his dog whistle. Animosity against Black people has worked for white candidates many times, and it should be no surprise that he would whistle that tune just as voters are going to the polls.

It is shameful what he is doing. But since he is a Republican he is certainly not alone.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 15, 2013

The Teapublican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address was typical – a futile effort to go back to the future. But this time, with the unlikely team of Rubio and Paul there seems to be an effort to revive comedy teams. Meanwhile New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it right by effectively decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. It is the right step of a journey of many more miles. And finally, with the announced resignation of Pope Benedict Catholics and many others are hoping that the new pope will begin his reign by confronting the reality of the Catholic Church in the 21st century.

Slapstick and Punch Lines

Amazingly the leadership of the Teapublican Party thought that it would be a great idea to put Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul on national television to rebut President Obama’s State of the Union address. It wasn’t a fair fight.

Barack Obama may be one of the great communicators of all time, and when he is on his rhetorical game it is hard to say who is in second place. Last Tuesday he was on his game and with applause echoing through the Capitol Senators Rubio and Paul were asked to counter an awesome performance. They both failed – miserably.

Marco Rubio looked like the loser of a high school student council presidential debate to seem like the adult that he was not, reciting talking points that seem to come from the Young Americans for Freedom playbook of fifty years ago. And then he made this magical transition from Teapublican Savior to Water Boy as he virtually ducked off the stage to get some water in the middle of his presentation.

Rand Paul looked like someone who had just climbed out of a laundry hamper and sounded like someone who didn’t think that anyone was listening. His right wing of the right wing soliloquy repeated themes that were soundly rejected by the majority of American voters but he did his best voice in the wilderness imitation.

During the heyday of old time comedy there were comedic teams like the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis, to name a few. We can now add Rubio and Paul to the All Star Clown List.

A Journey of a Thousand Miles…..

New York City Michael Bloomberg announced this week that possession of small amounts of marijuana would no longer result in arrest or being put on an individual’s criminal record. The impact of this directive will mean that hundreds of thousands of mostly young black and Latino men will not have to go to jail for an “offense” that simply doesn’t exist in Colorado and is rarely enforced in suburbs of a different hue. This will also mean that fewer of these young men will be marginalized in the workforce because of a petty criminal record.

That is a great step in the right direction. The next step would be to retroactively eliminate such arrests from the criminal record of the hundreds of thousands of victims of this egregious policy. And the next step after that? That would be to totally eliminate the outrageous “Stop and Frisk” policy which torments hundreds of thousands of young men of color in New York City every year.

The New Pope’s Challenge

The announced resignation of Pope Benedict touched off a flurry of commentaries about his eight year reign and what he should or should not have done while serving as pope. Certainly historians will have plenty to discuss.

It is also important for the next pope to finally and decisively confront the five thousand pound gorilla in the Catholic living room. Unless and until every aspect of the global child abuse scandal (which is most certainly over a century old) is exposed and addressed many people of the faith and outside the faith will view the Catholic Church with suspicion.

It has not only been the horrific tales of continual abuse all over the world that has shocked and dismayed, it has been the institutional cover up of the crimes and the criminals. The steadfast refusal of the leaders of the Catholic Church to fully address not only the criminals but also the enablers who have masked this institutional disgrace is unbecoming of a religious institution with over a billion believers.

We can only hope that the new pope will see that now is the time to right the wrongs by confronting them.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

When You are Living in a Glass House

At the end of last week, after lengthy and sometimes rancorous debate the New York State Legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and that bill was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo immediately thereafter. New York is the largest and most populous state to have legalized same-sex marriage, a point that is useful to keep in mind since a number of states have proposed to outlaw or have already prohibited such unions.

Leading the charge against same-sex marriage has been the Catholic Church. Not content with prohibiting Catholics from entering into same-sex marriages, the leaders, cardinals, bishops and priests have proclaimed that their view of morality and the will of God are so divinely inspired that they have the right to impose that view on non-Catholics as well.

Freedom of speech and freedom of religion certainly empowers these prelates to state their point of view. But if what underlies their speech is the right to deny freedom to others, all freedoms are devalued. After all, there was a time when Roman emperors viewed all Christians as enemies of the state and put them to death for their beliefs. How odd it is that 2000 years later Catholics pronounce political death sentences on politicians that do not support their point of view.

As a practicing Catholic I certainly would feel less queasy about the political activism of the Catholic Church if the now vocal leaders haven’t been oh so silent on the issue of child abuse by Catholic priests. The vehement statements of outrage against same-sex marriage dwarf any statements of dismay, disgust or apology by the Catholic Church when it comes to the abuse of children by priests.

Entire parishes and archdioceses have been bankrupted by the damages awarded to the victims of the Catholic Church. Yet the acknowledgements of guilt and complicity have been tepid when compared to the bellicose roar of the church hierarchy in denying the legitimacy of expressions of love that do not comport with their moral universe.

And the Catholic Church is not the only glass house resident that should be very wary of stones in the neighborhood. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, the new “It” girl of the G.O.Tea Party has proclaimed that as president she would lead the battle to have a constitutional amendment outlawing same sex marriage throughout the entire United States.

To my recollection, this is the same Michelle Bachmann who has ranted against the intrusion of government into the private lives of Americans. This would be the same Michelle Bachmann who is leading the mock battle against the mock demon called “big government”.

Personally, I cannot think of a greater intrusion into the private lives of Americans than for government to dictate who can marry whom and what relationship is valid and valued and what relationship is invalid and devalued. Visions of “big government” and Big Brother come to mind as we watch the borders between church and state being smeared and obliterated by those who would presume to place their moral standards above those of others.

Since Michelle Bachmann went to law school one could reasonably expect that she would shy away from the apparent contradiction of wishing to reduce the intrusion of government in the lives of Americans on one hand while wielding the Thor-like hammer of the Constitution of the United States to smash the rights of privacy and the freedoms of love and association that Americans supposedly enjoy. The constitutional and legal glass house in which she resides cannot possibly stand up the stones of hypocrisy that she is casting with her own hand.

The point is not the obduracy of the Catholic Church or the mindless and pathetic hypocrisy of Michelle Bachmann. The point actually goes beyond the current debate regarding same-sex marriage and civil unions.

I would suggest that we are witnessing the renaissance of a time best left forgotten when imposing moral standards and views on life were accomplished with threats and violence. Ostensibly, the clearly wobbly beliefs of the framers of the Constitution were tested by issues like slavery and suffrage for women. But the sound concepts of freedom and the rights of individuals bound by a union focused on the common good are worth remembering and citing.

Those sound concepts are being remixed and spun in ways that are taking us back into a time of intolerance and injustice. It is time to remember that in such matters it can get late early.

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