Point of View Columns

Trump as Macbeth

When it comes to Donald Trump there appears to be no limit to the depths to which he will descend in his faux campaign for the presidency, a campaign that seems more and more like a textbook exercise in narcissistic self-indulgence. But this time, using his dog whistle to suggest a “Second Amendment solution” to Hillary Clinton he has once again gone too far.

It was only six years ago that Sarah Palin rose from the ashes of a failed campaign for the Vice Presidency to reincarnate herself as a Tea Party Queen. But as she staggered and wobbled from one misstatement to another falsehood, she too went too far. In the fall of 2010 she “targeted” members of Congress who should be defeated by the Tea Party zealots.

In case anyone was short on interpreting symbolism, Sarah Palin’s website displayed a national map and put a gun scope on the offices of the “targeted” Representatives. And then, a few months later, one of the Congressional Representatives targeted by Palin, Gabby Gifford of Arizona, was shot in the head.

Although it has not been confirmed that the shooter was inspired by Sarah Palin, and it is clear that he is a deranged individual, Sarah Palin created an atmosphere where “Second Amendment solutions” start to sound sane to the insane. And the blood of the individuals killed and maimed in Tucson is on the hands of Sarah Palin – indeed she is a modern day Lady Macbeth who will never be able to wash that blood off her hands.

And now along comes Donald Trump, a virtuoso dog whistle player, intimating that Second Amendment adherents could somehow solve the “Hillary problem”. Defenders/enablers of Trump contend that he is guilty of no more than spewing a bad, tasteless joke.

But there is a huge part of this country’s population that has seen presidents shot (Reagan) and killed (Kennedy, John). Many Americans have also witnessed the assassination (Kennedy, Robert) and maiming (Wallace) of presidential candidates in real time. And now that we live in a nation with over 300 million guns it would seem that this would be the worst time to kid around, joke around or dog whistle around rhetoric that even hints of “Second Amendment solutions” to the presidential campaign.

The Secret Service has already taken note of Trump’s comments, another unprecedented occurrence in American political history. But much like Lady Macbeth, we already know that any violence directed against Hillary Clinton or anyone associated with her campaign will elicit a canned denial from Trump, who will then be America’s Macbeth.

Of course, what is so sad and sickening about this entire situation is that Trump is the designated candidate of a major American political party. What is worse is that there are tens of millions of Americans who think that arrogant, indecent and profane man should be President of the United States. What is even worse is that even when Trump is defeated in November and he goes back to his gaudy hotels and his defraudulent schemes and his golf courses, those tens of millions of Americans will still be with us.

And that may be the greatest danger of all. Trump will go away and disappear into the swamp of indecency and self-aggrandizement from which he slithered. But those tens of millions of Trump supporters aren’t going anywhere.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 4, 2013

While one person’s terrorist is another person’s patriot, in these United States it is hard to argue that the Teapublicans in Congress are not home grown terrorist as they revel in the damage that that they are inflicting on the American people. Meanwhile, the musty, funky smell of racism is attached to the mindless opposition of the Teapublican terrorists, reminiscent of a terrible time in this country’s history. And finally, ever wonder what would happen if the Teapublicans were black? History tells us what did actually happen.

Tea for Terror

The Teapublican terrorists in Congress are very clear that they are prepared to wreak damage on this country if they don’t get their way. This is not the way of the “loyal opposition” or the conflict resolution process envisioned by the Constitution. This is anarchy pure and simple.

It is true that “terrorist” is a subjective term. George Washington, Menachem Begin, Yasser Arafat, Jefferson Davis and William Tecumseh Sherman were all considered “terrorists” by the other side. By that standard, today’s congressional Teapublicans are certainly terrorists.

Even during their most virulent and repulsive iterations, racist Dixiecrats like George Wallace, Strom Thurmond and John Stennis never even hinted at collapsing the governmental infrastructure of this country as they sought to defend the hellish segregationist culture that they espoused. To their credit, they regrouped and reconfigured as Republicans and have indeed been able to roll back some key elements of the civil right movement that they opposed.

Today’s Teapublicans are not concerned with process or protocol. Their one basic demand is my way or the hostage gets it…and in this case the hostage is the United States government. It is certainly not the American way. It certainly is the way of terrorists.

The Return of the Nigger Breakers

In all discussions about the mindless opposition to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, there is an almost universal reluctance to confront the fact that there is a deep and undeniable racist element to the hard core Teapublican attacks on President Obama. Barack Obama’s presidency has been essentially moderate and middle of the road, much to the chagrin of some of his supporters who are truly on the left. Nevertheless this centrist president has been attacked as if he were getting his directions from Moscow, Beijing or Nairobi or wherever.

During the terrible hell that was slavery in the United States, plantations would employ specialists who had the ability to “break” recalcitrant or resistant slaves. They would either “tame” the oppositional slave or kill him/her. They were known as “nigger breakers”.

Similarly, the Teapublicans wish to “break” Barack Obama. Indeed, Senator Mitch McConnell was quoted in 2009 as saying that he would “break this boy” referring to the President of the United States.

And the Teapublicans have taken up the task of delegitimizing President Obama – through the “birther” nonsense to “Fast and Furious” to “Benghazi” to calling him a liar during his address to Congress to the multiple attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act – it is all about the Teapublicans seeking to “break” the first black President of the United States.

If the Teapublicans Were Black…..

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if the Teapublicans were black? You need not wonder. In the 1960’s there was an organization called the Black Panther Party. The Black Panthers advocated that black Americans exercise their Second Amendment Rights. The Black Panthers argued that government should be limited in its presence in the lives of black Americans.

What happened? Many Black Panthers were shot down in the streets. Many Black Panthers were arrested, tried and convicted for conspiring against the government of the United States. Forty years later many Black Panthers are still in prison.

Clearly there is a difference between White Tea and Black Tea.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

A Tale of Two Bloombergs

There is a big digital clock in the offices at New York’s City Hall counting down the last days of the mayoral tenure of Michael Bloomberg. Now that there are less than five months remaining on what will be a twelve year term, it seems that this is as good a time as any to begin a retrospective on the Bloomberg Era in New York City. And it is fair to say that any analysis will arrive at the conclusion that it is A Tale of Two Bloombergs.

Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor in 2001 as a “virtual” political rookie. Buy many people forgot the “virtual” part of the description because Michael Bloomberg may not have ever run for political office before, but he certainly was no rookie when it came to politics. He wielded his unlimited funds and his media empire in the political process and was not a stranger to the arena where he was now the main attraction.

Michael Bloomberg rode into office on a tidal wave of cash that had only one donor – himself. That meant that he was not beholden to any interest group by reason of their financial support. That also meant that he felt that he didn’t really have to listen to anyone else unless he wanted to.

In telling The Tale of the Two Bloombergs, it should be clear that Michael Bloomberg introduced the people of New York to expanded visions of what the world’s greatest could be – and should be. As a result New Yorkers saw amazing (and free) art installations that encompassed all of Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Bloomberg the visionary shared that vision with the people of New York and then, amazingly, he made many things happen. There is no doubt that Michael Bloomberg and Robert Moses would have gotten along famously if they had ever met.

Bloomberg the visionary installed hundreds of miles of bike lanes and turned out to be absolutely serious in bringing about a green, environmentally friendly culture to business, industry and everyday New Yorkers. But in The Tale of Two Bloombergs, even while New York became greener, Michael Bloomberg routinely flew around the world in one of the jets from his private fleet – arguably the most environmentally unfriendly way to travel known to humankind.

Perhaps most importantly, Mayor Bloomberg implemented serious public policy measures in the area of health that have saved lives. Most famously, the ban on smoking in most public places has certainly saved thousands of lives over the past twelve years and for the foreseeable future. “Nanny State” naysayers notwithstanding, the visionary Michael Bloomberg proved once again that government can be a force in transforming – and saving – lives.

The Tale of Two Bloombergs also has shown us Michael Bloomberg playing a maniacal Captain Ahab to the White Whale of “Stop and Frisk”. Even as the majority of New Yorkers, the federal court and the United States Department of Justice have seriously questioned the tactic, Michael Bloomberg has refused to even acknowledge the possibility that black and Latino young men are being constitutionally violated by the extreme measures employed by the New York Police Department.

Bloomberg the inflexible either cannot, or will not, see that there may be another side to the narrative that he has articulated. And it is Bloomberg the inflexible who is channeling his inner George Wallace by stating that his administration will not cooperate in any way with the federal court decision regarding “Stop and Frisk”. And it is Bloomberg the inflexible who has now gone so far as to suggest that public housing residents should be fingerprinted raising the specter of the Slave Codes from long ago and apartheid-era identification cards from not too long ago.

Bloomberg the inflexible has been unapologetic and unrepentant in the face of the facts that the senior officials of his administration reflect so little diversity that there almost has to be an intent to bar all but a few people of color from the higher echelons of Team Bloomberg. Indeed Team Bloomberg has turned out to be whiter that the senior team of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who is the godfather of denying diversity and affirmative action.

Finally, by spending approximately a quarter of a billion dollars of his own money in getting himself elected three times, Michael Bloomberg has skewed the political process in New York City for the foreseeable future. If he wasn’t writing the playbook on how to buy elections, it certainly looks like it.

So the Tale of Two Bloombergs is complex and not given to simple analysis. Michael Bloomberg probably doesn’t care whether history will be kind to him. We can hope that history will tell the whole truth.

Wallace Ford is the principal and founder of Fordworks Associates, a New York-based management consulting firm, a professor at Metropolitan College of New York in New York City and is the author of two novels, The Pride and What You Sow.

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Point of View Columns

Dan Snyder – All American Tragedy

You may not know who Dan Snyder is, and that might be just as well because in addition to being the owner of the Washington NFL team he is also a sad and tragic individual who is mired in the muck and sewage of racism, intolerance and stunning insensitivity. In this country there is a prevailing belief that if someone is rich they must also be smart and have something worthwhile to say. Dan Snyder is living proof of the absolute fallacy of that belief.

The cause for concern here is the fact that the shameful naming of the Boston (later Washington) football team as the “Redskins” in 1933 is defended in the name of tradition. The problem with that argument is that this “tradition” is based upon the horrific history of the Native American population and its interaction with white Western Europeans. Through plague and mass killings it is possible that as many as 70 million Native Americans died while America was first “discovered” and then “settled”.

It takes a special kind of insensitivity and blockheaded arrogance to decimate a group of people through genocidal practices and then to turn them into mascots and human sock puppets that populate the mythology of American history. And in this enlightened age where we have finally acknowledged using the proper terminology when addressing people who are gay or unusually short or physically challenged, how on earth can anyone seriously suggest that using a racist epithet as the name of a football team is a tradition that is worth defending?

I am a graduate of Dartmouth College and that institution changed its “tradition” over thirty years ago and renamed its sports teams to the “Big Green” relegating the former mascot name of “Indians” to its deserved place on the trash heap of misbegotten monikers.
In the past thirty years many colleges and universities, with a “tradition” a lot longer than the Washington NFL team, have also jettisoned the needless slurring, trivializing and humiliation of Native Americans and have moved on.

The logic employed by billionaire Dan Snyder is so impoverished that if he had been applying it to his business affairs he would have been lining up for food stamps a long time ago. Mr. Snyder is arguing that a wrongful act should be perpetrated because it has been around for a long time and that tradition shouldn’t be changed.

Clearly Mr. Snyder conveniently forgets that there used to be a “tradition” in this country that black people could be owned as slaves. There also used to be a “tradition” that women could not vote. There was a “tradition” that Jews could not attend certain schools or join certain country clubs. There also used to be a tradition that gay men and women could not marry.

But the “tradition” that Dan Snyder also forgets is that these United States, with all of its flaws and faults also has a “tradition” of trying to correct those flaws and faults. And it is because of that tradition, the tradition of change and the tradition of embracing transition that resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation, women’s suffrage, the virtual elimination of religious discriminatory practices at universities and country clubs and the growing legalization of gay marriage.

Meanwhile, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the National Football League has been notably silent on this issue. The NFL is a multibillion dollar image conscious enterprise. For Roger Goodell to sit on his well-manicured hands while one of the owners of the NFL franchise is taking a page out of the George Wallace/Lester Maddox playbook. (George Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to bar black students from attending and Lester Maddox stood in the doorway of his Atlanta store armed with an axe handle to block attempts at integration.)

It doesn’t matter that 79% of the American public do not think that the Washington NFL team should change its name. Morality and justice cannot be subject to a vote. And the NFL, which extols courage and bravery, should strap on the helmet of courage and the shoulder pads of bravery and do the right thing.

There is no doubt that Mr. Goodell would respond immediately and stop an NFL owner who wanted to change the name of his team to the San Diego Wetbacks or the New York Niggers or the Philadelphia Faggots. Those incredibly insulting terms are as insulting as the term “Redskins” is to Native Americans.

It is time for the Roger Goodell to demonstrate some leadership and time for all of us to embrace the stated American tradition of change for justice.

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Point of View Columns

The Difference Between White Robes and Black Robes

Sometimes irony just isn’t very funny. The Supreme Court is currently considering a case where it is contended that the Voting Rights Act of 1964 should be overturned as it is no longer necessary. Wouldn’t you know that the case is being brought by the State of Alabama. And wouldn’t you know that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thinks that is just fine.

A quick tutorial – the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1964 to provide a legal framework that would protect black people in the South who were regularly lynched, bombed and massacred for trying to exercise their right to vote. The fact that much of the violence directed against black men and women (and their white supporters) was sanctioned by the southern state and local governments made it absolutely necessary for the federal government to step in.

The law has stated that before any state can make any fundamental changes in the voting process those changes have to be approved by the United States Department of Justice. Not surprisingly, there are nine states on the federal government’s “watch list”, and all nine states are southern states, each with a bloody and grisly history of violence against black people, especially when it comes to voting.

We now fast forward to 2013 and the attorney general of the state of Alabama comes before the Supreme Court of the United States and argues with a straight face that the Voting Rights Act of 1964 is no longer needed because Alabama, like the rest of this country is in a post-racial era and there need be no further worry about government-sponsored discrimination against black people or other minorities.

Incredibly, if you are reading this during the daytime, the state flag of Alabama, a St. Andrew’s Cross modeled after the Confederate flag is flying over the state capital in Montgomery. For some perspective, imagine a German provincial government disavowing anti-Semitism while flying a flag “modeled after the Nazi swastika” and you can understand why the United States Department of Justice along with black people of Alabama look at that state’s post-racial contention with something less than confidence.

Now comes Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, he of the ScaliaRobertsAlitoThomas right wing cabal. Although he had a singularly undistinguished career as a lawyer he somehow has stumbled onto the pages of American history as one of the architects of the highjacking and theft of an American presidential election in 2000.

Not satisfied with that unfortunate distinction, Justice Scalia is now taking the lead in rolling back the legal and legislative accomplishments of the civil rights movement. During oral arguments he had the temerity and reptilian insensitivity to refer to the Voting Rights Act of 1964 as another example of “racial entitlement”.

Where does one begin with racism soaked in stupidity and ignorance? In 1964 Justice Scalia was 28 years old and a lawyer who had already graduated from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. It is impossible that he was not aware of that Birmingham, Alabama was known as “Bombingham” because of the relentless bombing attacks carried out by white citizens against black people who sought to exercise their right to vote.

Antonin Scalia may feign ignorance, but he had to know about the four black girls that were killed in a Birmingham church bomb because that church was the base for civil rights efforts. He had to know about Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman and Medgar Evers and Viola Liuzzo and the Ku Klux Klan and George Wallace standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama blocking the entry of a black woman who wanted to attend school.

To term the Voting Rights Act or any civil rights legislation “racial entitlement” is either ignorant or racist. That is because one would have to be ignorant of the institutional racism that consistently denied civil rights and humanity to black people since the ratification of the Constitution that sanctioned slavery in 1789.

One would have to be a racist to think that dismantling an legal and legislative infrastructure that imperfectly protects the rights of blacks and minorities could possibly be a good thing. Antonin Scalia is the son of an Italian immigrant family that never faced obstacles to the exercise of his civil rights as his father could literally get off a boat from Sicily and immediately walk a paved road to citizenship.

How dare Antonin Scalia and the AlitoRobertsScaliaThomas cabal try to deny that right to black Americans or anyone else? There may be a day when specific civil rights legislation to protect the rights of blacks other minorities and women is not necessary.

This is not that day and Antonin Scalia should know that.

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Point of View Columns

Domestic Exile

Unless you spend your time plotting fantasy football fantasies it is almost impossible to ignore the political prognostications that predict overwhelming victories for the G.O.Tea Party. As a citizen and the resident of the United States I am wondering when I fell asleep and woke up in a foreign land.

Is it possible that adult voting Americans are not offended by a political party that is comfortable having Nazi reenactment aficionados and supporters of the Dred Scott decision? Clearly the answer is in the affirmative and that is really just too damn bad.

The campaign that is mercilessly grinding to an end has seen President Obama called a liar on the floor of the Congress and hung in effigy within sight of the Lincoln Monument, with no remorse or indication of an effort to distance the G.O.Tea Party from these odious acts. We have seen G.O.Tea partiers question the need for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and unemployment insurance and yet voters are supposed to flock to the polls on November 2nd to support these damnable and heartless public policy positions.

Sharron Angle, who famously stated that her fellow Nevadans should seek “Second Amendment solutions” to the public issues of the day, is now favored to become the next senator from Nevada. Carl Paladino, who is infamous for unapologetically sending racist and misogynistic e-mails to his friends and colleagues, is the G.O.Tea Party candidate for governor of the state of New York. And while he probably won’t win, it appears that at least 3 out of every 10 voters in New York will vote for him.

I am under no illusion when it comes to these United States. From Jefferson Davis to Roger B. Taney to Father Coughlin to Lincoln Rockwell to George Wallace, this country has disgorged its historical share of villains – enemies of all humanity who abused and misused the public platform to appeal to the lesser aspects of the American people. But today’s villainy is more cosmetically presentable, wrapped in a banner of patriotism, addressing the urgent need to “take back America”.

Of course, it would be useful to know if this foolish slogan is meant to refer to taking America “back” from some unstated cabal of evildoers or taking America “back” to another time. Perhaps a more comfortable and simpler time, when issues of racial equality and sexual equity were unspoken? Perhaps there was a time when energy conservation and environmental protection and international understanding were not priorities for the American people and that is where America should go “back” to?

This message is intentionally blurred and clouded so as to take advantage of the clear rage and frustration that many Americans feel as they feel their way of life gutted by an economic system that no longer rewards productivity and punishes commitment and dedication to building for the future. And President Obama and the Democratic Party are useful targets for that rage – reason be damned.

Supposedly, according to the G.O.Tea Party avatars, Americans want limited government. Those limits are not defined, however. These limits certainly don’t include farm subsidies, Social Security or the work of the Army Corps of Engineers or the Food and Drug Administration. But we are supposed to believe that there is some intrusive act of government that must stopped by any means necessary. And the G.O.Tea Party moves forward, riding on waves of diversion, incitement and obfuscation.

I am afraid that when I wake up on the morning of November 3rd I will find myself in exile in the only country of which I am a citizen. When the waves of hate and lies and avarice subside, there will be time for hope again, and it will be time for all of us to wake up all over again.

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