Point of View Columns

Stop in the Name of the Law

By now we have been bludgeoned by reality and accept that there is no rule, law or moral norm that means anything to Donald Trump. Whether its discriminating against black men and women trying to rent apartments in Cincinnati, or buying the silence of former lovers and porn stars (in Trump’s case they are the same), or not paying hundreds of workers and contractors doing work on his failed casinos, or simply swindling thousands of aspiring dreamers who thought they could learn something from attending Trump University (spoiler alert – they learned that Donald Trump cannot be trusted), Donald Trump has found that he can get away with anything if he is willing to pay some money. But there are limits – even for Trump.

Ever since the Trump-induced government shutdown ended, Trump has loudly hinted that he might declare a national emergency and siphon funds from various federal agencies to build his hallowed wall if Congress won’t give him what he wants. Somehow his bullet head advisors like Steven Miller and John Bolton have Trump believing that all he has to do is to say “emergency powers” like some sort of magical incantation and presto – he will have the power to build his wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. But Trump and his enablers are making a huge misstep because (a) they don’t read or (b) they can’t read or (c) they don’t care what the laws and the Constitution say. For those keeping score at home (c) is the correct answer.

Clearly Trump and his minions haven’t read, can’t read and don’t care about the National Emergencies Act of 1976. If they did they would know that it was enacted for the specific purpose of limiting the use of emergency powers by the President of the United States. If they were willing to peruse modern history, they would see that national emergencies have been declared by presidents as the result of hurricanes, tornadoes, 9/11, earthquakes and the like.

The National Emergencies Act in its language and in its application was never meant to give the President an option if he/she could not reach an agreement with Congress. As they roast slowly in Hell, true fascist dictators like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin must watch Trump with some admiration as he tries to be a dictator in a government with a Constitution that was specifically designed to block dictators. Trump’s dilemma probably makes them chuckle as they are basted by Satan.

A bit of history – when the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia in 1787 there were some basic concerns that needed to be addressed. First, since the Articles of Confederation had resulted in near total governmental chaos, it was important to establish a government structure that could work.

A close second however, was the almost universal belief of the delegates (Alexander Hamilton notwithstanding) that the power to govern could not and would not reside in one person or even one branch of government. And that is how three co-equal branches of government – executive, judicial and legislative – were established with a system of checks and balances so that no one person could control or direct the government. It turns out that the delegates were really serious about sovereign power resting with the people.

And now Trump threatens Congress with his supposed emergency powers somehow believing that the legislative branch (Congress) and the judicial branch (Supreme Court) will simply go along with this unprecedented grab for power. Trump will meet Nancy in Court and my money is on Nancy and the Court.

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Point of View Columns

And It All Came Tumbling Down

According to the American governmental protocols, barring impeachment or being kidnapped by Martians and held for ransom, Donald Trump will be President of the United States until noon on January 20, 2021. That is a long time for Americans to hold their noses and pray for relief at the same time. That is also a long time for the Tweeter in Chief to continue to wreak havoc in this country and literally all over the world. There are already serious questions as to how the population of this planet will survive climate change. Now there is a more immediate concern as to how we will survive Trump. And that is now a real question.

The history of the great civilizations of this planet – The Ming Dynasty in China, the Roman Empire, the great African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai, the Greek Empire, the Egyptian dynasties – all have something in common. The common cause of their demise came from within. Complacency, belief in their own inevitability, an unwillingness to adapt to change – all of these flaws multiplied and metastasized until each and every one of these landmark achievements of human accomplishment were relegated to the dusty pages of history.

One could never imagine this happening to the United States, and certainly not after only 230 years. But then one could never imagine a President of the United States who revels in the notion that the federal government might be shut down for weeks, months or even years, in the process bringing about the degradation of the daily lives of over a third of a billion Americans. And one could never imagine a President who has been the serious target of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the possibility that the President could be an asset for the Russian government. And what can be said about a President who meets with the head of America’s greatest adversary and then confiscates the notes of that meeting?

The Era of Trump has exhausted the American vocabulary – the worst, the most ignorant, the most immoral, the most amoral, the most ignorant, the most callous, the most racist, the most sexist, the most careless, the most ignorant – these words lose their meaning due to overuse and in any event mean nothing to Trump because he has heard these words used to describe him for his entire adult life. And the reality is that, barring those aforementioned Martians coming to take him away, he will continue to be President for two more years. Because even if Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives his feckless Republican enablers in the Senate will simply never convict him and remove him from office.

And so we watch the national parks and monuments drown in garbage. We watch airline safety degrade by the moment. An epic outbreak of E-coli killing thousands is only an unwashed hand away. And if a blizzard or a reprise of 9-11 were to occur, this country would be staggered.

And yet, the unindicted domestic terrorist in the White House thinks that his Wall Complex is worth all of this damage. Just as he thinks that threatening to withdraw the U.S. from NATO, or bailing out on the Paris Climate Accords are making America great, what he is really doing is making America a lesser country every day. It is a hard thing to do, but clearly Trump is the man for that job.

There is this assumption that once the federal government shutdown ends that within a few days or weeks America will be back to normal. But ask the 800,000 federal workers and their families what “normal” feels like. Ask the men, women, children, veterans and disabled who rely on the federal government every day what “normal” will look like. And as Americans lose faith in their government and in the leadership of that government, it is only a matter of time before the assumption of the Inevitable America isn’t so inevitable any more.

There is no clear proof that Trump is a Russian asset. And there probably never will be clear proof. But is clear that Trump as President of the United States is the greatest gift that Vladimir Putin could have ever hoped for, and that truth should make every American very afraid. And we should remember the common cause of the death of every great empire and civilization has always come from within.

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Point of View Columns

A Fighting Chance – The 2020 Matchup

As the Democrats finish up their 2018 Midterm Election Happy Dance, it is not too early to remember that November of 2020 moves closer every day. And if the 2016 presidential election turned out to be a battle for the soul of America, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the foreseeable future and well-being of the nation will be at stake. The question, of course, is who is the man or woman who can defeat a lying, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, studiously ignorant incumbent with historically low approval ratings?

Any student of recent American political history might answer this question with a simple response – anybody. And that would not only be a simple response, it is simplistic. Of course, there is a school of thought which holds that but for the fact that Hillary Clinton ran what might arguably be called the worst presidential campaign in modern history, she would be finishing up her second year as the 44th President and the first woman president. But common knowledge turned out to be not so common and she lost and this nation has been hijacked by a man who could not be more destructive of the people and institutions of this country if he was actually trying to do so.

The real problem with this particular line of thinking is that it leads to the conclusion that just about anybody can beat Donald Trump in the 2020 election, as long as the Democratic base turns out. And while it is true that voter suppression is at an historic high in the post- Shelby v. Holder era, anyone who thinks that there will be less voter suppression in 2020 is spitting into the wind.

There is a very real possibility that by 2020 will reveal that Trump and his Teapublican enablers will see that their accumulated misdeeds, corruption, dishonesty and incompetence are so overwhelming that threats of impeachment and indictment and ensuing humiliation might be the least of his worries. And it is at this point we will see Trump wrapped up in his most vicious and nasty persona and the presidential election campaign will sink to a no-holds-barred mud and slime fight.

How will Democrats respond? There is an old saying that if you get in the mud with a pig you will certainly get dirty – and the pig is already dirty. The 35% of the American electorate that support Trump mindlessly would love to watch a mud fight featuring their hero and champion. And Trump has already proven that with the combination of the antiquated Electoral College and his ability to hoodwink and bamboozle another 15% of the American people he can win a second term and most assuredly wreak more havoc on the American people.

From the perspective of the Democrats, if the successful nominee is not going to out vicious/nasty Trump, then that man or woman will have to truly inspire the electorate. It is doubtful that an “I am not Trump” campaign theme will lead to victory. And as the current field of wannabe’s, liketobe’s and neverwillbe’s line up at the 2019 starting line, the question will be who that truly inspirational candidate is?

It was not that long ago that in 2004 the prevailing wisdom  was that there was no way that George W. Bush could be re-elected. With an unpopular war in Iraq and a very vivid aura of incompetence surrounding him, his re-election prospects resided somewhere between impossible and improbable. And you can ask President John Kerry how that turned out.

And now, John Kerry is one of the wannabe’s lining up to take on Trump. And with all due respect to John Kerry, the Democrats better focus on inspiration and not just aspiration. Otherwise we will be in for Act II of the Trump Apocalypse – and that is a thought that should make the blood run cold.

This is one time when party matters. America cannot afford the reelection of Donald Trump.

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Point of View Columns

No Fun and No Popcorn at This Circus

From the time that Donald Trump oozed into the public consciousness of New Yorkers who were addicted to lite news, he has been the master of distraction. Even as his multiple business ventures lumbered and careened into failure (remember Trump Airlines? Trump University? Trump Casinos?) he proclaimed himself to be one of the wealthiest men in the world. And some of the world believed it and rest of the world didn’t care (except for his ex-wives and legions of debtors who have not, and will never be paid). His ability to dangle bright shiny objects of controversy, publicity or just noise are reminiscent of the basic protocols for a three ring circus.

Even though Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has gone the way of the passenger pigeon, there are still enough circuses around for the analogy to have meaning in these days and times. The basic principle being that whether the circus has one, two or three rings, there are enough attractions and distractions so that the audience cannot really focus on the fact that the lady on the flying trapeze is barely flying through the air and the lions and elephants parading around are long past their prime and, in many instances, are seriously sedated. But with multiple distractions and attractions spinning, flying, marching and clowning around, the audience goes home entertained and satisfied.

And it clear that Trump has brought his well-worn and perfectly polished circus act to the White House. And that is how the nation focused upon the profound insult visited upon American and Allied soldiers who died in World War I by Trump while plans were in place to replace the despicable Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a wannabe hack nobody named Mark Whitaker.

And while we focused on the expectedly abrupt departure of Sessions and wondered and the incredible lack of qualification that can best describe Whitaker, in his last and final dastardly act as Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the Obama era policy that called for the Justice Department to investigate police shootings of unarmed civilians. This was the policy that was the basis for supervision and consent decrees to control and eliminate racist police policies in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri.

But while we were watching this particular high wire act we learned that the senior deputy to John Bolton (a Neanderthal Cold Warrior if there ever was one), the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States was fired by Donald Trump because his wife did not like the deputy. And because our senses are virtually overwhelmed by the spinning plates and dancing clowns and piano-playing monkeys in the Trump circus, we actually lose sight of the fact that the individuals who are supposed to be responsible for national security policy in a world that includes ISIS, North Korea and Russia are subject to the piques and tantrums of the wife of the President of the United States despite the fact that her knowledge of foreign affairs and foreign policy would not overflow a thimble similar in size to the one that contains Trump’s foreign policy expertise.

And while we are distracted by that bit of business Trump embarks on an historic attack on the American press and the First Amendment, banning a reporter from the White House because he does not like Jim Acosta, while seeming to single out black female reporters for extra insult and opprobrium. His assault on the Fourth Estate has been so dangerous and the seeming prelude to even more dictatorial actions, that Trump has managed to get CNN and Fox News to join forces in a lawsuit against him creating such an impossible union that Americans are search the sky for pigs flying past a blue moon.

And while a Trump-appointed federal judge presides over what may be an historic test of the strength of the First Amendment and the Constitution (and with a Trump majority on the Supreme Court waiting in the wings), Trump is stomping one tweet closer to ending the Robert Mueller Russia investigation. That singular rash act would seem to bring about a constitutional crisis that would make the Nixon era seem like a dispute over parking tickets. And the brief and sordid history of the Trump presidency tells us that not only is Trump’s naked obstruction of justice possible – it is probable.

And what that same history also tells us is that another circus act is waiting in the wings – it might be military action in Venezuela, it might be a much needed reform of the criminal justice system it might be the firing of his Chief of Staff John Kelly, or it could just be another Trump insultathon at the upcoming G-20 Summit. What we do know is that is that as long as Trump is president the circus will continue.

All that is missing is a calliope.

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Point of View Columns

Rebirth of a Nation

It is rare that we recognize history being made as it happens. Times of great stress and tragedy – Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and 9/11 were all moments that were etched in history in real time. And then there are days like November 6, 2018. While there is the very real hope that some cataclysmic event will not occur, it is also quite clear that there is a very real opportunity for the citizens of this country to begin to divert the United States from what has seemed to be an inexorable slide into permanent division and hopeless conflict inflamed by racism, hate and lies.

When Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, there was a feeling that seeped into the national consciousness that the circus act that resulted in his improbable election was not going to end. And it became clear that the word “circus” was not going to be the benign cavalcade of clown shows, trapeze artists and somnolent lions. The Trump “circus” has turned out to be an affair of which Caligula would have been proud with damage and destruction and mindless outrage being the main events. The Trump Circus has provided very little bread for any but the very rich, but the circus act has entertained and inflamed his base to the point where a Trump-led victory in the midterm elections would certainly send this nation careening into something that would look very much like chaos.

And that is where the opportunity for historic action comes in. There is no way that Donald Trump will not be president on November 7th. But if enough Americans vote, and are allowed to vote, and are able to overcome vile Republican efforts at voter suppression – then Donald Trump will not be able to use the United States Congress as his personal sock puppet. If enough Americans see November 6th as an opportunity to bring some sanity and clarity and minimal decency into the political and governmental processes in Washington, then he will be rudely disabused of his very clear belief that his real title is “king”, and that as “president” he will have to contend with constitutional checks and balances that will occasion the rebirth of this nation.

It is not an exaggeration to state that the current condition of this country, anesthetized by lies, terrorized by presidentially-inspired hate without even a fig leaf of an attempt to be decent could have lasting effects long after Donald Trump is lost on the trash heap of history as a failed president and a miserable human being. However, the rebirth of the nation begins with voting – not necessarily for the perfect candidate, but certainly for the possibility of rebirth and renewal.

This country has always been a nation of second chances. Voters will determine if this is also a country capable of rebirth.

 

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Point of View Columns

The Secret Danger of Living While Black

In just a week we have seen the madness that is the Trump Era played out for all the world to see. Multiple mail bombs sent to designated Trump “enemies” including two former presidents, Trump’s opponent in the last presidential campaign and a major media Trump critic sounds like a plot from some the fevered hate swamp in some mythical third world country. Instead it is the America that Trump promised to make great again. And this is what greatness looks like in Trump World.

And the day after 11 Jewish worshipers were shot down in a Pittsburgh synagogue, two innocent black citizens are shot dead in Kentucky by a self-avowed white supremacist. And as we view the news with trepidation and horror, we can be assured that as long as Donald Trump is president there is more to come. But while we are revolted by this new wave of domestic terror, we are distracted from an ongoing terror, the terror visited upon those who have discovered the all too prevalent danger of Living While Black.

It should be self-evident that the potentially fatal condition of Living While Black (or LWB) is a condition that only affects black Americans, there are a growing number of mutations that seem to be proliferating across the United States, creating an epidemic that is reminiscent of the 19th (or even the 18th) century. The news over the past few years has chronicled the progression of this malady:

  • HWB (Hooded While Black) – Trayvon Martin
  • SCWB (Selling Cigarettes While Black) – Eric Garner
  • BWB (Belligerent While Black) – Michael Brown

But now there are new iterations. Recent news reports from Detroit indicate that GWB (Gardening While Black) is a condition that can result from offended white women calling the police because they don’t appreciate the community garden on a vacant lot tended to by a black man by the name of Marc Peeples. In Dallas, SWB (Sleeping While Black) turned out to be a fatal condition for Botham Jean who was shot to death by a white policewoman who mistakenly entered her apartment thinking that it was hers. And then there was an outbreak of GHWB (Going Home While Black) in St. Louis when D’Arreion Toles was challenged by a white woman while trying to lawfully enter the building where his apartment was located.

Sad to say, these are not isolated events. Driving While Black (DWB) has been a common malady for many years. And all of these events can have life-threatening consequences depending upon the mood (and color) of the police officers responding to calls for assistance from these faux damsels in distress. And, sad to say, there has yet to be any consequences visited upon the instigators, even though false or baseless calls for police assistance constitute a criminal act in many jurisdictions across this country.

The point is that even with the madness of the mail bombings, synagogue massacres and white supremacist rampages, it is important to remember that there are other insidious, but just as repellent.

These are behaviors that endanger the lives of black Americans every day – behaviors that are no less vicious due to the lack of concern for the potential consequences. And it is so very sad that in this Trump Era, the standards for decent and humane conduct have been degraded to the point that Living While Black is fraught with dangers, dangers that every black American must risk every day.

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Point of View Columns

Clear Vision v. Impaired Vision

The past few weeks have offered a stark contrast between clear vision and impaired vision. This unlikely illustration began with the train wreck of a Meeting of the Megalomaniacs when Donald Trump and Kanye West met in the Oval Office to discuss Everything That Is Important to Trump and Ye. And a few days later a stunning, riveting and immediately historic film “The Hate You Give” was shown in theaters across the country and the truth of life in black America was on the wide screen once more.

First the White House Circus Maximus – for reasons best known to his fans and celebrity addicts, what Kanye West thinks and says seems to be important to some people. The art of his music is acquired taste for some and the answer to the meaning of life for others. However, there is no reason to believe that there is anything that has prepared him to be remotely aware or informed about the major issues of the day – domestic, international or intergalactic.

Yet, however unhinged from reality Kanye West may be, he turned out to be more than a match for Donald Trump who somehow thought that it would be a good idea to meet with a black celebrity so that he could fake-brag about his connection to, and concern for, black Americans. The only thing that was more amazing than Ye’s rant and rampage through the wilderness of his mind, was the fact that he was able to get Trump to shut up for more than ten minutes. If for only those brief moments of peace on earth Kanye West should get some kind of award.

The tragic aspect to this meeting is that while football legend Jim Brown sat in bemused silence while Trump and West went through this imaginary conversation, the White House sound machine tried to portray this as a serious meeting to discuss serious issues in the black community. And with that Trump has added further insult to the daily injuries that he is inflicting on the national black community. But due to their impaired vision of reality, Trump and Kanye really believe that their meeting was a matter of positive importance.

But speaking of vision, “The Hate You Give” has turned out to be one of those motion pictures that does more than entertain. The film is certainly entertaining but director George Tillman, Jr. goes much further than that. With a seriously outstanding cast of black and white actors, “The Hate” informs viewers about the tragic hypocrisy and the seemingly eternal chasm between the American dream and black America. The clear-eyed and unblinking vision of a country that discriminates, demeans, degrades and kills its citizens because of their race is simply undeniable.

There will be very few black viewers of “The Hate You Give” who will not relate to the experiences of the black characters. And there will be too few white viewers of “The Hate” (if they even take the time to skip “A Star is Born” and “The Wife” who will be able to relate to the experiences of the black or white characters. And it is that racial divide that tells us all how far this country has to go to even begin to be something like a truly United America.

But there is no doubt that as murky as the vision of the Trump-West summit might have been, the vision presented by “The Hate You Give” is that clear and undeniable.

And finally, George Tillman, Jr., screenwriter Audrey Wells and lead actress Amandla Stenberg must win Oscars for Best Director, Best Screenwriter and Best Actress if there is even a scintilla of justice to be had in the 2019 Academy Awards.

As always, we shall see.

 

 

 

 

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