Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 28, 2012

Marie Antoinette has nothing on Mitt Romney and his “let them use the emergency room” response to healthcare for uninsured Americans. Meanwhile hopeful Teapublicans are touting Mr. Romney’s primary debate experience as a plus going into his debate with President Obama next week. They must be kidding. And meanwhile, Paul Lyin’ Ryan, the other 2/3 of the Teapublican presidential ticket seems to be hedging his bets more than a little bit.
Mr. Marie Antoinette

Mitt Romney has promised to repeal Obamacare as soon as he is inaugurated as president. “On Day One”, is Mr. Romney’s pet phrase. When asked what would happen to the over 40 million Americans who are currently uninsured and will be insured by Obamacare in the near future, Mr. Romney channeled his inner Marie

He actually pointed to the fact that there are plenty of emergency rooms in hospitals all over the country as a viable alternative. The mystery is really that callous or is he just that out of touch with fragile nature of this nation’s healthcare system.

It is difficult to believe that a serious candidate for president would suggest that emergency rooms represent a viable healthcare strategy. And while we can be sure that Mr. and Mrs. Romney have not spent a lot of time in urban emergency rooms, it is still difficult to believe that a serious candidate for president would consign the sick, the elderly and children to emergency rooms for their primary care.

By the way, Marie Antoinette never actually said “let them eat cake”, but it is true that Mitt Romney has said “let them use the emergency rooms”.

Moving up to the Big Leagues

As the first presidential debate approaches, remaining Romney supporters are touting their candidate’s extensive primary debate experience as a reason why he will do well in Denver on October 3rd and beyond. They can’t be serious.

While Mr. Romney did indeed engage in twenty debates during the primary season, does anyone think that participating in a Klown Karnival qualifies as preparation for debating President Obama on the issues of the day? While practice is important, the level of competition is a critical factor.

Perhaps the Romneyites forget that one of Mr. Romney’s opponents couldn’t even remember his own talking points – Rick “Oops” Perry. Or that Michele Bachmann is at best delusional and may actually be in need of medical supervision – her claim that HPV vaccine causes mental retardation comes to mind.

Other Teapublican candidates that Mitt Romney vanquished included Herman Cain who admitted to having things “twirling around in his head” and Newt Gingrich who thinks that colonizing the moon is a good idea.

And we can’t forget Rick Santorum whose self-righteousness might have been attractive during the Inquisition but doesn’t come off so well in the 21st century. And, rounding out this less than impressive list of debate opponents was Ron Paul who played the part of the cranky old man at all of the debates.

If anyone on the Romney team thinks that debating these Klowns qualifies as useful preparation President Obama’s biggest task may be to steadfastly avoid the pitfalls of overconfidence.

Hedging His Bets

In 2008 then Senator Joe Biden ran for re-election as senator while also running as a vice presidential candidate. Not everyone saw this move as a demonstration of full confidence in the Obama-Biden ticket although some Democrats in Delaware thought it important not to give a certain Teapublican witch named Christine O’Donnell even a ghost of a chance of winning.

Now, in 2012, we have Paul Ryan, another vice presidential candidate who is hedging his bets. While campaigning on the sinking Romney-Ryan ticket he is also campaigning for re-election to Congress in Wisconsin. It cannot be the kind of move that inspires confidence with rank and file Teapublicans.

But then again, perhaps Paul Ryan knows something that they will only find out on November 6th.
Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Chain of Fools

Perhaps Christine O’Donnell was trying to tell us something during her bizarro senatorial campaign in Delaware last year. She famously stated that she “was not a witch”, but maybe she was trying to tell us that she actually was a witch who was planning to work her black magic in Washington with the other Republican wizards, witches and warlocks.

That would at least be a logical explanation as to how the G.O.Tea Party has been able to spin the facts and flip the scripts at dizzying speeds as it pursues its right wing of the right wing agenda. An examination of the facts does not justify or support that agenda but facts never deter zealots.

The battle cry du jour of the G.O.Tea Party pertains to the need to balance the budget immediately, decrying the wasteful spending that has brought this country to the precipice of financial ruin. The liturgy of the Church of Mean demands that health care, education, social services and arts and culture be sacrificed on the altar of alleged fiscal probity.

The only problem with this faux scenario is that it is based upon the absolute misrepresentation of the facts. According the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – http://www.cbpp.org – a non-partisan research and policy institute working on federal and state fiscal policies and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income Americans, most of the budget deficit can be directly attributed to the Bush-era tax cuts and two misguided and ill-advised wars.

The economic downturn that began in 2008 is a contributing factor to the deficit but it did not precipitate the budget deficits that this country now faces.

The fact is that the Bush-era tax cuts drained billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury. And the Bush-era tax cuts were extended in December of 2010 as the result of a non-negotiable demand of the G.O.Tea Party. As a result, more billions of tax dollars will not be collected by the federal government due to the creation of this “structural deficit”.

The fact is that the two wars started by President Bush were misguided and mismanaged from the very start, resulting in the shameful loss of life and the incredible waste of this country’s financial resources. The war in Afghanistan was never had a goal or a mission that justified the expenditure of billions of dollars.

In bowing to military and political strategic concerns, the Obama Administration has compounded the errors of the Bush Administration by committing more troops and many more billions of dollars to this wasteful and ultimately futile exercise.

The fact is that the war in Iraq started by President Bush was based on lies and guileless deception. There were never any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was never a threat to American national security.

Every key member of the Bush Administration knew this and yet this country was plunged in to the mire of bloodbath from which it has yet to fully emerge a decade later. And, in the process, a trillion dollars has been spent building a bridge that truly leads to nowhere.

The fact is that the economic downturn that began in 2008 was not a cyclical occurrence that could not be avoided. The fact is that this near cataclysmic collapse was directly attributable intentional lack of oversight of the same financial markets that are now supporting further tax cuts and budget cuts having been bailed out in 2009.

The Republicans now contend that programs like Healthcare, pre-school education, Medicare, veterans’ assistance, Planned Parenthood and the National Endowment of the Arts should have their budgets eviscerated in order to eliminate deficits that their policies caused. As we should all know by now, this budget battle has never been about dollars and cents.

There is no financial logic to support the G.O.Tea Party budget position. There is the ideological foundation to this budget battle which ultimately would change the purpose and mission of government from taking care of the American people to being a caretaker for a system that will only reward the wealthy and the powerful.

That the G.O.Tea Party has been able to present these baseless budget arguments without the kind of thunderous criticism that they deserve may just be a tribute to their witchcraft and magic. Or perhaps we are just being played for fools.

Point of View Columns

Modern Day Fairy Tales

When we were children we listened to fairy tales and fables. Cows jumping over the moon and gingerbread houses and magic beans were all part of our nightly fare. As parents, we have told these magic nighttime stories to our children replete with goblins and fairies along with wizards and warlocks.

It all seems to be perfectly harmless. After all, reality is always lurking outside the door, waiting to ensnare children in the coils of responsibility and sober reason. Some mystical escapism tempered with the lessons of the day has been a timeless combination that continues to this very day.

The only problem with fairy tales and fables is when children become adults and still believe them. Women waiting for Prince Charming and men searching for Cinderella can really be quite sad in reality. Political candidates invoking the boogie man and trolls under bridges along with pots of gold at the ends of rainbows are really quite dangerous given the gravity of the problems and challenges facing this planet.

I imagine that all of us wish the travails of Mary and her little lamb and little Miss Muffett and her arachnophobia were the biggest problems of the day. But these are grim times and not Grimm times – there is a difference.

The G.O.Tea Party has sauntered its way to the presumed precipice of victory on November 2nd by peddling fairy tales and fables that, repeated enough times, have taken on the aura of reality. The fable of “death panels for grandma” ranks right up there with the seven dwarfs, but somehow too many of the American people believed and of an important end of life counseling feature of the original healthcare bill was eliminated. And those of us living in the real world must suffer the consequences.

There have been so many “statements” and “inquiries” regarding President Obama’s nativity that questions of his citizenship have the same currency as the NORAD tracking of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Most adults know that the NORAD tracking is just for the amusement of children. The damnable questioning of Barack Obama’s citizenship is shameful and stupid, but more people question his birthplace today than when he ran for President two years ago.

The G.O.Tea Party and its cohorts (with brown shirts and sheets and torches and pitchforks safely tucked away for the moment) would have us believe that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party have embarked on a left of liberal, quasi-Marxist legislative agenda that will subvert the rights of every citizen.

Like the three little pigs hovering in their brick home, the G.O.Tea Party adherents believe that Big Bad Obama will huff and puff and blow away all of their freedoms. The fact that there is no proof of such an agenda has not deterred the proponents of these diatribes and the lack of reality has not caused true believers to even pause and wonder.

The stimulus package in all likelihood saved the American economy from cratering and collapsing. There is no doubt that the Obama Administration saved the American auto industry and the millions of jobs related to an industry that has been the very embodiment of Americana for over a century. How that translates into taking away freedoms, aside from the freedom to be poor and unemployed escapes me. But then reality escapes most of the G.O.Tea Party, so we are even.

Mice running up clocks and spiders washing down water spouts may be great conversation points for five year olds, but it is not helpful to the national discourse. Advocating the dismantling of the United States Department of Energy and the United States Department of Education are stories to scare children at night – they are not part of a useful political agenda when this country’s energy policies are in dire need of reconfiguration and this country’s education system teeters between world class quality and dysfunction (depending on where you live and how much money you can spend).

While Halloween is fittingly two days before the midterm elections, even Christine O’Donnell flying by on a broom can’t make reasonable people believe in these fairy tales. We are living in very difficult times with an uncertain future.

This cannot possibly be the time for fables and confectionery stories that make us feel good right after we have our warm milk and cookies. The fact that the Obama Administration has tackled the structural problems in this country’s economy is not a cause for alarm, no matter what is said in the multimillion dollar advertising campaign funded by individuals and corporations that have made billions by reason of these structural problems.

What is important now is for people who are awake and in possession of their wits to go and vote. Too many people who want to believe the G.O.Tea Party fairy tales are going to vote, supposedly in record numbers – with their anger and their refusal to acknowledge the fables that they have been fed for what they are – cynical lies intended to distract voters from reality.

And the reality is that the day after the election, if too many people believe the fairy tales, there will be a real nightmare that will not end.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 24, 2010

Summer has departed. A disappointing season to be sure, too hot, too angry and too crazy. Autumn usually promises a cooling a soothing moment before arid chill of winter, but probably not this year:

The Tea Party at the Gates

There has been much talk about the Tea Party movement and how it represents a populist surge that is therapeutic and cleansing. It has been likened to being a high colonic for the body politic.

But nothing in politics is ever that simple. There are deep seated resentments and restrained urges towards meanness that are now in the light of day, having been given legitimacy by a seemingly supine Republican Party leadership.
Current G.O.Tea Party Republican candidates for Senate promise to bring an agenda to Washington that does not seem to be therapeutic.

There is one candidate who believes that unemployment insurance may be unconstitutional (Miller – Alaska). There is another who believes that women in the military vitiate the preparedness of the American armed forces (O’Donnell – Delaware). We can’t forget the candidate who questions the legitimacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Paul – Kentucky). And then there is the potential United States Senator who proposes to abolish the Department of Energy and the Department of Education as well as Social Security for good measure (Angle – Nevada).

I wish that someone would ask Michael Steele or Mitch McConnell or John McCain or Sarah Pailin if they really believe in this madness. Prior inquiries have been greeted with pabulum-like homilies about the right of the local electorate to express itself. But, of course, the United States Senate passes national legislation that affects everyone in this country.

Does Michael Steele really believe that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be reconsidered? As an African American Mr. Steele and his family personally benefited from this historic legislation, does he give Rand Paul a pass on this one?

John McCain has spent his entire life in the military and has always been a supporter of women serving in the armed forces of this country. Is he prepared to support Christine O’Donnell and her antediluvian views on this subject?

Sarah Palin presumes to belong to America now, but she never hesitates to refer to her Alaskan roots. No state has benefited more from the policies of the Department of Energy than Alaska. Is she prepared to correct Sharron Angle on this subject?

Clearly there is anger and resentment and bitterness flowing through this country. Candidates who channel that anger can be successful in the short term. But if those emotions are only channeled in a destructive direction Steele, McCain, Palin, etc. may regret reaping what they have sown. And so will the rest of us.

War Without End

“You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”……General David Petraeus from Obama’s War by Robert Woodward

This one quote from Robert Woodward’s new book is chilling and sad and heartbreaking. If the military proponents of the war in Afghanistan do not believe that the war is “winnable”, however that may be defined, then why are hundreds upon thousands of men, women and children going to die as a result of that war?

It is clear to many that the security of the American homeland is not tied to the war in Afghanistan in terms of protecting the citizens of this country. The security of this country is undoubtedly endangered by the anger and resentment arising from the collateral deaths of thousands of civilians sucked down into the cauldron of war. And yet, this country still goes forward in this war without end.

The Mouths of Gift Horses

There is an old saying about not looking a gift horse in the mouth. A fairly benign advisory needs to be brushed off given the events of this Friday.

On September 24th, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook and said to be worth over $7 billion, will announce a gift of $100 million to the Newark (New Jersey) school system. This gift represents 10% of the annual budget for that city’s school system and is by far the largest individual gift that it has ever received. Newark Mayor Corey Booker will accept this gift on the Oprah Winfrey show. So what could be wrong with this picture?

Some critics are carping that Mr. Zuckerberg is making this gift because an uncomplimentary bio-pic entitled “The Social Network” is opening in theaters at the same time. Somehow, this $100 million donation to the children and teachers and administrators and parents in Newark is supposed to blunt or deflect the inevitable criticism that will flow after “The Social Network” hits the silver screens of the world.

The thought that comes to my mind is “Who cares?” Tens of thousands of people will benefit from Mr. Zuckerberg’s largesse. In this era of naked and rampant greed and selfishness perhaps a few more of the mega wealthy men and women of this country will use the fig leaf of charity to hide their nakedness.

Carnegie, Rockefeller, Morgan, Ford and many others have done it. If Mark Zuckerberg wants to burnish his image by doing undeniably good and charitable work, here’s hoping that a few more tycoons, athletes, rappers and bankers follow his lead.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

G.O.Tea Party

It was with great interest and no small sense of irony, that I read a recent article about Democrats debating whether or not to link the Republican Party to the Tea Party movement that is surging and deluging the right wing of the right wing. I actually wonder if predicate debates involved determining if the sky is in fact blue or if the law of gravity is a scientific fact.

My unsolicited advice is to simply state the facts – the Republican Party has become the carrier for the virulence and ugliness that is the Tea Party and is as dangerous and as toxic as the legendary Typhoid Mary or Gaetan Dugas, also known as Patient Zero (reputed as having been responsible for introducing the AIDS virus to North America).

The historical legitimacy and institutionalized stature of the G.O.P. has been hijacked and has been used to camouflage the nihilism and racism and extremism that are the true hallmarks of the Tea Party movement. And the traditional Republican leadership has been a willing participant to the hijacking, kind of like the Stockholm Syndrome gone wild.

Exhibit A: The REPUBLICAN senatorial candidate in Nevada, a Tea Party alumna by the name of Sharron Angle, is on record as saying that if a woman is impregnated as the result of rape she should not be permitted to have an abortion. Instead, according to Ms. Angle, the woman should look to “make lemonade from a lemon moment” and forego abortion and have a baby conceived by force and violence. Not one Republican leader has refused to support Ms. Angle’s candidacy.

Exhibit B: The REPUBLICAN senatorial candidate in Delaware, another Tea Party savant by the name of Christine O’Donnell, is on record as saying that women in the American military academies tends to weaken the capabilities of the armed services. Despite the fact that women in the military as an issue was decided many years ago, Ms. O’Donnell felt compelled to dredge up the bones of this moldy corpse of discrimination. Not one major Republican leader has refused to support Ms. O’Donnell’s candidacy despite the fulminations of Karl Rove to the contrary (he is supporting her, by the way).

Exhibit C: The REPUBLICAN gubernatorial candidate in New York, a Tea Party troglodyte by the name of Carl Paladino, has admitted to distributing e-mails containing pornography, titles like “Run Nigger Run” and has referred to the Jewish Speaker of the New York State “the ant-Christ”. While it is amazing that thousands of New Yorkers would find Mr. Paladino qualified to serve as governor, it is even more amazing that not a single Republican leader is sufficiently repulsed or revolted by his commentary to speak out against him.

We are witness to the Republican Party hierarchy remaining silent while their Tea Party spawn refers to President Obama as Hitler and an enemy of America. We have heard Republican candidates and wannabe candidates use terms like socialist, communist and Nazi when referring to President Obama and his Administration and I no longer wonder when they will hit bottom. The answer is never.

The silence of the Republicans, and too many Democrats and independents, is dangerous because hyperbole begets more hyperbole until the entire political discourse becomes overheated and potentially destructive. When “the tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of tyrants” becomes a campaign slogan we should be concerned. When “Second Amendment solutions to our political issues” becomes a political strategy we should be afraid.

America does not do metaphor very well. Not too long ago a misguided fool and Tea Party advocate flew his plane into an IRS office building to protest big government. He not only killed himself, he also killed an innocent IRS employee who thought he was serving his country and was not its enemy. We should be afraid to ask what is next.

But we should not be afraid to speak out against the madness that is being foisted upon the American people. The bright light of public attention and scrutiny must shine on the bizarre, fallacious and misanthropic rants and ravings that are thinly disguised as campaign rhetoric.

In point of fact we are witness to an effort designed to fundamentally change this country. Talk of “taking this country back” is not idle chatter. This is a clarion call to take this country back into a time when civil rights and social compassion were simply not a part of the national dialogue. It is a call to take this country back into the hands of an almost entirely white, monochromatic segment of this population, relegating everyone else into the class of the “other”.

That is why the Lower Manhattan Islamic center controversy is so important. Today it is the Muslims and the Arabs. Tomorrow it is the immigrants who can be racially profiled. It is always the black people and the day after it may be gays or Jews or any other “other”. The stampede towards mindless prejudice in the name of some barely articulated concept of patriotism and nationalism is a story that has been told many times in history. It never has a happy ending.

It is time for those of us who have a different vision to be heard. Silence would be a greater sin than all the clarion call for injustice.