Point of View Columns

The Negro Problem and the Letter

Ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, there has been a split screen perspective on his administration. On the one hand the livid, steel-boned opposition of the Teapublicans has been described as normal politics – perhaps a tad more strident, but nothing worse than what Lincoln or both Roosevelts or Clinton faced during their presidencies. But there is another perspective which is a reflex that reflects the vile virus of racism that still afflicts this country.

“There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own constitution.” – Frederick Douglass

The eloquence of Frederick Douglass in damning slavery and its racist foundation reverberated in real time and has echoed through the ages to this very day. His challenge to the American people to “live up to their own constitution” could have been spoken this week.

One of the interesting aspects of the United States Constitution is that even though it was written over 200 years ago, it continues as the governance document for this country because of its initial clarity and its continued capacity for adapting to modern times. On the issue of the role of the President and Congress with respect to foreign policy, Article II of the Constitution states:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur

This week that 47 members of the United States simply defied the Constitution that they are sworn to uphold by sending a letter to the leadership of Iran that was clearly intended to interfere and subvert the Obama Administration’s negotiations with Iran regarding limiting its nuclear energy usages. Even the most serious student of American history would be hard pressed to locate a similar instance of absolute insult and disrespect by Congress for any President of the United States.

It is reasonable to ask whether these 47 senators and their supporters are so firm in their fear of Iran or so steadfast in their unequivocal and unquestioning support of Israel that they felt it necessary to shatter the centuries old divide between the Presidency and Congress on matters of foreign policy. Was there some imminent danger to which the Obama Administration had turned a blind eye which warranted this shameless conduct?

The answer to all three questions is simply “no”. So why would these senators take such an outrageous action that embarrassed the entire nation in the eyes of the world. Could it be the “negro problem” to which Frederick Douglass referred?

Could it be that the fact that President Obama is black suddenly changes the Constitution, rules of decorum and traditions of probity and respect? How the unprecedented pledge of the Republican opposition in January 2009 to ensure that President Obama would “fail” as president be explained? What other reason can there be for no sanctions being imposed on South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson when he called President Obama a liar during his State of the Union speech to Congress?

Could there be any other explanation other than the “negro problem” for Congress shutting down the federal government and precipitating the lowering of the nation’s credit rating by doing the default death dance with the national budget. And for what other reason would Congress unilaterally invite a foreign head of state to speak for the sole purpose of criticizing the policies of a sitting president?

It would be a waste of time to search for other explanations. The “negro problem” has unhinged the Obama Administration’s opponents to the point that they cannot even feign respect. The “negro problem” has stripped the Teapublicans of their ability to respect the Constitution and it is proper to wonder if this “negro problem” has impaired their ability to think clearly, if at all.

When will the Teapublicans have “loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution”?

Inquiring minds need to know.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 24, 2012

With his incredibly stupid comment about “legitimate rape” Congressman Ted Atkins found himself in the middle of a national firestorm of outrage. But Congressman Paul Ryan has sponsored legislation referring to “forcible rape” and an entire cadre of Teapublicans in Congress thinks that all of this idiocy makes sense. Is Atkins the Teapublican head fake to distract us from the toxic mission that they are undertaking? Meanwhile we learn that the Teapublican Majority Leader and Majority Whip of the Congress led a taxpayer funded delegation to Israel that featured drunken and nude swimming in the Sea of Galilee. This is so wrong it’s hard to know where to start. And finally, the National Urban League has decided that Nike is charging too much for its sneakers. Can that be news? And doesn’t the Urban League have a few other, more pressing issues to worry about?

Watch for the Head Fake

It would seem that the Teapublicans are intent on self-immolation even before their hurricane-cursed convention begins next week. By choosing a doctrinaire, Ayn Rand acolyte as his running mate, Mitt Romney has painted himself into the right corner of the room on the right at the end of the hallway on the right.

Now, Congressman Ted Atkins, in striving for a Lifetime Idiocy Award, has gotten the full and complete attention of the American public when it comes to the abortion policy of the right wing of the right wing that has hijacked what used to be the Republican Party. The most dangerous part of Atkins’ statement was not his reference to “legitimate rape” (whatever the hell that might mean), but rather that his fundamental philosophy is that while the rapist should be punished, the rape victim should be forced to bear the child of that rapist.

By lifting the lid on the G.O.Tea Party Crazy Box, the entire country can now see that this is a party that clearly believes that women have no right to any kind of choice when it comes to reproductive issues. Congressman Steve King of Iowa joins Congressman Atkins and dozens of other members of Congress in believing that for biological reasons it is almost impossible for a woman to become pregnant by reason of rape.

But we should not let this instance of dumbness distract us from the entire Teapublican package which disputes evolution, believes that creationism is a scientific theory worthy of academic recognition and also is positive that climate change is a myth. In Tampa we will get the full view of the rush to idiocy that will become a national mission if Romney-Ryan is victorious on November 6th.

Pilgrims’ Progress?

Now it turns out that a short time ago, two budget hawks from the Teapublican Party led a Congressional delegation to Israel. Congressmen Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy are not foot soldiers in the G.O.Tea ranks; they are Majority Leader and Majority Whip respectively.

They also claim that waste is a key element in the budget crisis that this nation is facing.
So it might be a good idea to ask why it was so important for them to lead a delegation of over a dozen members of Congress and their staff members to visit Israel and spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars so that they could “fact find”. It might also be a good idea to ask how much of the people’s business was being taken care of when many of the members engaged in a drunken midnight swim in the Sea of Galilee, at least one member of Congress being so overwhelmed by this holy site that he swam in the nude.

Let’s see – wasting money – check! Desecrating a holy site – check! Looking like idiots while representing the United States abroad – double check! It sounds like the Secret Service was serving as their travel agents.

Wake Up Urban League!

The leading cause of death for young black men in America is homicide. Unemployment in the black community is at historic levels. The Teapublican Party has declared war on black voting rights and has legalized voter suppression. These are all pretty daunting challenges for the national black community.

So why would Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, go on national television to criticize Nike for planning to sell sneakers that will cost $300. This would be the same Nike that has been selling overpriced sneakers for over a quarter of a century.

It cannot be news to the Urban League that Nike sells overhyped sneakers and markets them to black consumers. It cannot be news that black consumers buy these sneakers. And it cannot be news that Nike’s mission is to sell as many sneakers for as much money as possible.

But what is news is that the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has passed a voter i.d. law that is clearly designed to diminish and suppress the black vote. It is news that voter suppression is being legalized and legitimized as a protection against non-existent fraud.

With the black community in danger of being disenfranchised after less than fifty years of nationally mandated enfranchisement is the real news. The National Urban League would do well to focus on priorities that really matter and that does not include Nike sneakers.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 23, 2011

As the week meanders to an end this country continues its love affair with death – another week, another two state-sponsored executions. But the fact that only one execution was the subject of protest tells a lot about this country’s ambivalence when it comes to killing people. Meanwhile, Rodeo Rick Perry has been bamboozled and hogtied by the right wing of the right wing of Israel and they have him spreading the gasoline of incendiary rhetoric in the most flammable region of the world – Yee Haw! It is also clear that now is the time for Ralph Nader to stop before he does more harm to this country than he did in 2000.

In Love with Death

This past Wednesday morning there was a wave of national protest aimed at stopping the execution of Troy Davis in the state of Georgia. Much of this protest against Mr. Davis being legally put to death has been based on claims that he is actually innocent of the murder with which he has been charged.

Meanwhile the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer in the state of Texas was accompanied by the sounds of silence. Mr. Brewer, who is white, was convicted of the particularly gruesome murder of James Byrd, a black man. Mr. Brewer was convicted to wrapping a chain around Mr. Byrd and dragging him to death from the back of a pickup truck.

There are 137 countries on this planet that have outlawed capital punishment. Australia banned the practice in 1984, Bulgaria in 1998 and Russia (as a matter of practice if not law) in 1999. None of these countries are thought of as being particularly soft on crime.

Nevertheless, this country continues its dance of death, joined by its dance partners – China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In 2007 88% of all state sponsored executions in the world took place in three countries plus the United States of America. It is certainly a dubious accomplishment.

It is more than odd that, in a country where the sanctity of life is regularly proclaimed and defended (witness the ongoing choice-right to life debate); those who announce themselves to be “pro-life” are decidedly “pro-death” when it comes to capital punishment. Witness Texas governor “Rodeo” Rick Perry who will proudly let anyone know that 243 human beings have been put to death while he has been in office (that comes to a state sponsored killing every other week for ten years) – and he hasn’t lost a minute’s sleep about it.

It seems that the occasional protest against the execution of someone who may be innocent misses the point. Capital punishment is a state-sponsored crime. Whether it is the possibly innocent Troy Davis or the admittedly guilty Lawrence Brewer, it is wrong for the government to put people to death. People who only rally around the “innocent man” actually do a disservice to the cause of abolishing capital punishment and they should make up their mind – either the death penalty should be a part of this society, or not.

Perhaps it is just finally time for the United States to drag itself away from this medieval relic. And the occasional protestors would have a much stronger argument, and much broader support, if they opposed all state sponsored murders, instead of just a select few.

Rodeo Rick is Loco!

The misadventures of Rodeo Rick Perry in his quest for the presidency would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. His latest gaffe was to allow his campaign to be hijacked by the right wing of the right wing of Israel.

While it was clear that he knew next to nothing about the Arab-Israeli conflict except that Israel is always right, that didn’t stop him from opposing any accommodation or recognition of the Palestine Authority. He made sure to also say, “Who cares what the Palestinians think?”

One shudders to think what Palestinians and their supporters will think about the United States with Rick Perry as its president. We should also worry about what they will do. There’s a line from a Janis Joplin song, “…….freedom is another word for nothing left to lose…..”

It is Time for Nader to Stop

Ralph Nader was rightfully called a hero when he almost singlehandedly took on General Motors and exposed the company’s treacherous safety practices in his historic book “Unsafe At Any Speed”. Mr. Nader was rightfully called a villain, and worse, for his vainglorious presidential candidacy in 2000 which siphoned just enough votes from Al Gore, giving the Republican Party just enough leverage to be able to steal the election for George W. Bush. And we all know how that turned out.

Now, Ralph Nader is calling for a series of primaries against President Obama in 2012. These primaries can only weaken the candidacy of President Obama and could very likely result in the inauguration of President Perry or President Bachmann or…………. On that very sad day in January of 2013 Mr. Nader might be satisfied that he proved his point – but the rest of us will suffer from his self-indulgence.

It is time for Nader to stop…………..now.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Obama’s Egyptian Puzzle

Beginning with the very recent demise of the presidency of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, President Obama has been confronted by a change in the house rules that have governed American foreign policy in the Middle East.

The current governmental crisis in Egypt is already being replicated in Yemen, Algeria, Syria and Jordan and only a political Pollyanna of the highest order would think that the turmoil will end there.

Libya is on high alert. The House of Saud in Saudi Arabia is watching everything that is happening everywhere. The leadership of the United Arab Emirates is uncomfortable, unhappy and in all likelihood they are keeping their private jets fully fueled and at the ready.

When he became president, Barack Obama was presented with certain orthodoxies regarding U.S. foreign policy – certain accepted facts. A central theme with respect to the Middle East and Africa was that stability was more important to American national interests than the aspirations of the average citizens in countries located in the Middle East and Africa.

The United States has supported the stability (and longevity) of monarchies, oligarchies and dictatorships in these two regions in exchange for support of American policies, strategies and initiatives.

These have ranged from anti-communism during the Cold War to support for the American “war on terror” in its various forms and manifestations. Support for American policies with respect to Israel, war against Iraq, war in Afghanistan and opposition to the regime in Iran has been the currency that purchased American support.

This seemed to work well when the United States built coalitions and secured statements of endorsement for the two wars against Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. The tempering of Arab hostility towards Israel from military to simply rhetorical has also been a part of this not so simple equation.

The political awakening of the people in many Middle Eastern and African countries has complicated the equation. With or without American support and endorsement, regime change is coming to these regions.

With or without American support there will be new leadership, new priorities and new visions being articulated in the near future. The right of self-determination is not an American right, it is a human right and that right is now being claimed by more and more people.

Incredibly, but predictably, some critics of the Obama Administration have actually gone on record to suggest that the United States should continue to support soon-to-be-deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak because he has been a “reliable ally” of this country.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, conveniently omits reference to the many billions of dollars that have flowed to this “reliable ally”, enriching Mr. Mubarak, his family and his coterie of supporters, enablers and sycophants. For a billion dollars most people would be reliable.

During the mythologizing of Ronald Reagan that continued over the weekend with the celebration of his 100th birthday, there has been little reference to the inconvenient truth regarding his foreign policy. Wherever and whenever American business and political interests benefited, this country supported and endorsed dictatorial regimes and oligarchies around the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa.

President Obama inherited an American foreign policy tradition that many supported as long as the odor of oppression, torture and repression wasn’t unbearable. Of course, now the winds of change are blowing that odor in all directions and it is the unenviable task of the Obama Administration to come up with a new playbook right in the middle of the game. It’s just like trying to change tires on a moving car.

President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton have been very clear in supporting the concept of change in Egypt, for example. They have not allowed the United States to be anchored by the Reagan policy of supporting stability even in the face of repression. They have recognized the inevitable nature of the change that is sweeping across the region and are taking useful steps to keep America relevant instead of insuring that it will be reviled.

The eternally recalcitrant members of the Party of No will continue to suggest that facing reality doesn’t make sense. But in point of fact the Obama Administration is taking the logical path by supporting and endorsing a process of change.

In this case, it is also the right path.

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