Point of View Columns

Cuba Si! Finally!

On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War also granted the people of Cuba independence. However, from that day until January 1, 1959, the United States continued to alternatively treat Cuba as a colony, protectorate, playground and private plantation. Ironically, when Cuba achieved true independence; that is when the real conflict between Cuba and the United States began.

When Cuba achieved its true independence, first from Spain and then from the United States, the United States acted like a spoiled child that had been deprived of a favorite toy or plaything. And, despite the fact that this country has a long history of embracing its former enemies, there has something about Cuba that has precluded reconciliation for over a half century.

The British committed war crimes during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Thousands of American men, women and children were murdered, abused and subject to incredible hardship as part of the military policy of the British. Yet Great Britain has become America’s closest ally and it is considered poor taste to reference past crimes.

During the Civil War that was started by the treasonous Confederate States of America. Over one million people died in that war – which represented 3 per cent of the country’s population at that time (that number would be over nine million today). At the conclusion of the war, even though a supporter of the CSA killed the President of the United States, even though the CSA was clearly guilty of war crimes like the death camp in Andersonville and the slaughter of black troops at Fort Pillow, despite all of these offenses (and many more) there were no mass war crime trials.

Despite all the justification for retribution there was Reconstruction instead. Despite the horrific results of the Civil War the former CSA states are allowed to fly their flag of rebellion and celebrate their treason without fear of punishment.

Total American casualties in World War II exceed one million with over 400,000 members of the military killed. Yet, within a few years of the cessation of hostilities the United States helped to rebuild Japan and Germany, their defeated foes. Within 15 years Americans were buying Toyotas and Volkswagens and all was forgiven.

Over 200,000 members of the American military were killed or wounded in the Vietnam War. Today members of the American military wear clothing made in Vietnam and American tourists travel to Vietnam for holidays on a daily basis.

The People’s Republic of China is unapologetically communist. With a population of over one billion people it is clearly, and obviously, the largest communist country in the world. Yet China is also one of America’s largest trading partners and an embargo against that country would be unthinkable.

Although the current Cuban government has never attacked the United States (although the U.S. has attacked Cuba, i.e. The Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961) an embargo has been in place for over 50 years. The level of American governmental hostility and animosity directed against Cuba has the feel of a David and Goliath scenario except that this David has neither stone nor slingshot and this Goliath possesses nuclear weapons and the largest economy in the history of the planet.

There are so many reasons why the characterization of Cuba as an enemy of the United States is wrong and illogical. And that is why it is a sign of long overdue progress that, due to the leadership of President Obama, the commencement of diplomatic relations and the resumption of trade with Cuba has begun.

Progress long overdue is still progress.

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Point of View Columns

The Road to Nowhere

It is very clear that just when you think the political scene cannot get any crazier, it does. The Teavangelical wing of the Republican Party has not only hijacked the party, it has dominated political discourse with a philosophy based on mini-facts and micro-knowledge. It is a scenario that could be the result of collaboration between Mel Brooks and Franz Kafka.

Consider the latest misadventures that are dumped in front of us on a daily basis. Just a few weeks ago Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was the belle of the ball. After winning the absolutely meaningless Iowa straw poll some of her supporters were measuring the White House windows for red, white and blue Tea Party drapes.

And there she was, on the cover of Newsweek, national talk shows – all the time proving that when you don’t know what you are talking about it is better to be quiet. Ms. Bachmann proclaimed that the credit rating of the United States would not be damaged by a budget debate-fueled default. And then the U.S. credit rating was downgraded just for coming close to default.

Her proclaiming the national gay community as being in league with Satan was somehow considerable a passable point of view for a national political candidate. And she never backed away from that position. And, of course, she continued to announce that God had instructed her to run for president which, in the many empty rooms in her mind, should have settled the entire matter and made the actual campaign and election a mere formality.

And then, Rodeo Rick Perry jumped into the race with his spurs jangling and his six guns shooting. This would be the same Rick Perry who publicly entertained the advisability of his state seceding from the United States.

The current governor of Texas crowed that while he has been in office his state has led the nation in the creation of jobs. However, Rodeo Rick has neglected to mention that Texas also leads the nation in minimum wage jobs and if the Texas model were to somehow be applied nationally, it could only work if oil is discovered in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona and most of us could find a way to work for less than $10 per hour.

Not content with shadow dancing with the truth regarding his so-called job creation skills, Rodeo Rick has also proudly proclaimed that he doesn’t believe in evolution or global warming and the United States Departments of Education and Energy should be dismantled. And, by the way, Social Security should also be dismantled and handled at the state level.

The breadth of his bizarro approach to the issues and challenges that this country faces would be laughable except that he is serious and he is also now the leading candidate for the G.O.Tea Party nomination. He has somehow managed to outcrazy Michele Bachmann – no mean feat – and the zealots of the right wing of the right wing are following their man like lemmings headed for the cliff.

I am just fine with Rodeo Rick not believing in evolution even though there is over a century’s worth of science that he is choosing to ignore. But it is criminal for believers in intelligent design to have their faith-based beliefs taught as science. Indeed, it is as criminal as advocating the dismantling of the Department of Education at a time when educational system of this country is facing unprecedented global challenges.

Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania are all considered to be developing countries. They all have ministries of education. Japan, China and Germany are considered to be developed countries. They all have ministries of education. In what parallel universe could it make sense for the United States to abandon its efforts to establish a world class national educational infrastructure?

Rodeo Rick has mangled history in order to compare global warming naysayers to Galileo. He would do better to liken these pseudoscientific scientists to Jim Jones serving Kool-Aid to those who would believe.

And what must the rest of the world think? The leading G.O.Tea Party candidate does not believe in evolution or global warming, thinks that the Social Security system is a “Ponzi scheme” and has warned the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank against “treasonous” acts.

Imagining Rodeo Rick Perry on the national stage might be the stuff of late night humor, but we ignore or laugh at zealots at our own peril. Imagining Rick Perry bringing his faux Wild West demeanor to the global stage is the stuff of nightmares – and we would be wise to wake up before this nightmare comes true.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 8, 2011

The weekend begins with another nuclear catastrophe being barely avoided in Japan while the Congress has the entire country teetering on the brink of another kind of catastrophe, this time totally manmade as the federal budget impasse threatens to bring this country to a grinding halt. And what is the response of the right wing? Let’s take another look at Barack Obama’s birth certificate! The lunatics have slipped their leashes and are on the loose.

Cruel but not so unusual….

As you read this column the federal government is at the brink of a shutdown engineered by the right wing of the right wing of the G.O.Tea Party in Congress that is insisting upon draconian cuts that will impact on everything and everyone from Planned Parenthood to National Public Radio to homeless veterans.

In adopting this scorched earth version of negotiation, these avatars of social pain and relentless injustice are willing to shut down the federal government even if that means that all Americans will suffer, including the spouses and children of military personnel who are fighting wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere at this very moment. The mirror has not been made that can withstand the visage of these twenty first century fanatics.

They have cloaked their social agenda with budgetary robes. But it is clear to any keen eye that it is not the budget that is out of balance in their eyes. The right wing of the right wing is focused on the imbalances in governmental priorities that deem social services for all citizens to be important instead of continuously glorifying and enabling the endless accumulation of infinite wealth.

The use of words is very important in a society with so many forms of communication. Employing the word “entitlements” to refer providing social services to the citizens of this country is a tactic which is meant to invoke thoughts of undeserved and unearned privileges. Parents warn their children against feeling “entitled” and teach their sons and daughters that they must earn what they receive.

By using the term “entitlements” the right wing of the right wing seeks to demonize the recipients of social services as being undeserving of the unearned services and benefits that they receive. And, of course, these services and benefits are derived from the beneficent largesse of the tax-oppressed billionaires, millionaires and corporate plutocrats who have already suffered much too much.

Tax “relief” for the wealthiest people on the planet and reduction of “entitlements” for those in need of services are the lines of demarcation within which the budgetary battles take place. We have now entered a Dada phase of politics in America where no sense makes sense.

Birther Redux

Sometimes stupidity persists to the point that it seems to be immortal. But typically, stupidity has its Achilles heel – the truth.

In the midst of budget crises, wars and revolts from Libya to the Ivory Coast to Afghanistan to Mexico, while we are wondering if the next rainstorm will contain radiation courtesy of the disaster in Japan, Donald Trump and other half-wits are willing to content themselves with beating the dead horse known as the Obama Birth Certificate Controversy.

In point of fact there has never been a controversy over the site of Barack Obama’s birth. Yet the same people who brought you the Swift boats and the resurrection of Elvis Presley would have you believe that there is some real doubt regarding President Obama’s birthplace, the notion being that if he wasn’t born in America then he shouldn’t be President and his entire presidency is, therefore illegitimate.

I can only wish that The Donald and Mike Huckabee and all the other bearers of this tattered and stained banner of lies would use the internet. Barack Obama’s website has been online for over three years. Here it is again http://www.fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate
These clowns won’t let something like the truth get in the way of a good lie, but at least we know that these clowns are lying.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 18, 2011

The weekend begins with breaking news as Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns to Haiti less than 48 hours before the election, accompanied by……Danny Glover (and what could Mr. Glover be thinking?). Meanwhile the critics of President Obama continue to unite over anything and everything that he might do. And what on earth could be the reason for hurling insults at Japan as it endures the combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster?

Finally, you are invited to visit the “Be My Guest” feature of Point of View to read a column by Professor Pamela Newkirk regarding her absolutely fascinating book “Between the Lines – The Power of African American Letters”. You will be doing yourself a great favor by taking the time to read it.

Really Danny Glover? Really?

The tragic aspects of Haitian history are well known. Haiti’s recent history has been marked by challenges of almost biblical proportions.

It is a testament to the good will of many Haitians, both in Haiti and in the diaspora, that elections will be held on March 20th that hold the promise of being free and fair. The presidential candidates, Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, have engaged in a vigorous contest right until the final day.

As the fragile tendrils of democracy and transparency try to take root in Haiti, it is incomprehensible that Danny Glover, the famous actor, activist and humanitarian, would take it upon himself to escort former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristede back to Port Au Prince today.

Both presidential candidates and President Obama have asked that Mr. Aristede delay his return until after the election for concern that his presence at this point could destabilize a very fragile democratic process.

Since Mr. Aristede has not participated in any part of the elections and is not supporting either candidate, there would seem to be reason enough for him to agree to wait in South Africa where he has lived in luxury for the past six years (the source of that luxury is another story for another time).

Instead, Danny Glover has seen fit to bring a torch to gasoline refinery. Given the tragedy and pain and suffering that the Haitian people have suffered historically and recently, it is just wrong for Mr. Glover to participate in this potentially destabilizing event. His prior relief work and support of reconstruction is laudable and it makes his current actions baffling.

If Mr. Aristede wishes to distract and disturb the electoral process he must ultimately answer to the Haitian people for any disruption that takes place on March 20th. But to whom will Mr. Glover answer as he jets back to the United States, not having to live with the consequences of his high profile escort of Mr. Aristede?

Hopefully the elections will be fair and free of the intervention of negative forces. But there is simply no reason to increase the degree of difficulty at this point in the history of Haiti.

Critics of Obama Unite!

Since he was inaugurated, President Obama has had to accept the reality that, for some people, whatever he chose to do would be considered wrong.

The latest example of this is related to the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. As encrusted oligarchies in Tunisia and Egypt tumbled President Obama was critiqued for the timing of his support for agents of change in these countries even though his measured support resulted in the desired regime change and accompanying good will throughout the region.

Libya has proven to be a very different situation as the entrenched dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, has shown no inclination to leave and seems to be prepared to immolate his entire country.

In the face of this mindless strategy critics of the president have contended that he should show more “leadership” by establishing a “no-fly zone” and even providing supplies and troops to support the Libyan insurgents.

The commitment of troops and treasure cannot be the first response of this country as there are too many places on this earth with the same fact pattern – right now that would include Cote d’Ivoire, Bahrain, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. Would these critics – most recently David Gergen and Senator Lindsay Graham, among others – have President Obama send troops and jets and materiel all over the world to fight injustice and tyranny everywhere at the same time like some latter day Superman?

Fortunately the United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution calling for a joint military effort in Libya and the wisdom of measured response has been demonstrated once more.

Mr. Gergen and Senator Graham seem to actually believe in Superman. Thankfully President Obama does not.

Insult to Injury

Since the triple tragedy in Japan the global response has been compassionate and tangible. Assistance has flowed to this island nation from all over the world.

But some knuckleheads are determined to show their stupidity by opening their raincoats of fame and flashing their miniscule intellects. Several celebrities including the noted blowhard Rush Limbaugh and the famous philosopher Fifty Cent have been quoted as stating that the people of Japan deserved the tragedies that they are suffering.

Some mish-mosh thought process linking Pearl Harbor to economic success to advocating environmental protection has resulted in this awful stew of hate and misinformation.

Of course Rush and Fitty just don’t care. But the rest of us should.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Global Homecoming

When I first heard of these plans I could hear the birther wing of the G.O.Tea Party claiming that the President was going to Indonesia, as part of a four country tour of Asia, in order to: a) find and destroy his birth certificate, b) announce that he was going into exile or c) to introduce the American people to his “real” family, complete with several wives and scores of children. So far the birthers have been disappointed and Fox News is scrambling for other faux news.

Upon further reflection, I do believe that President Obama’s visit to Indonesia points out another reason why he is an exceptional president in a time that demands exceptionalism from leadership. By reason of his mother’s marriage, President Obama lived in Indonesia for four years, from the age of six to the age of ten. He returned to the United States at the end of this time and the rest, as they say, is history.

It was in Indonesia that Barack Obama first went to school. It was in Indonesia that he learned to encounter and accept a different culture. And it was in Indonesia that he first learned to encounter the planet without holding his mother’s hand. There is no way to underestimate the profound value of this experience.

I went to Japan at the age of four. I attended a Japanese kindergarten and an English Catholic school and, because my family lived in totally Japanese neighborhoods, all of my friends were Japanese and I learned to speak fluent Japanese. I didn’t go to school in the United States until I was in the fifth grade.

I can speak from experience and with certitude that President Obama’s experience of living outside of America at an early age provided him with a perspective on the rest of the world – not just Indonesia. His childhood adventure was not an adventure for him; it was another chapter in his personal book of life.

He certainly learned as a child that there is more that links all people than separates us. Clearly culture, history, politics and religion impact upon the nature of every country and every person on earth. But people are truly people at the end of the day, and perhaps seeing the world through the eyes of the child can help to inform the mind of the adult.

One cannot help but think that the benighted and historically unfortunate foreign policy decisions that characterize the administration of George Bush might reflect his America-centric life and insular existence. Invading Iraq, Afghanistan and the “my way or the highway” attitude towards allies did nothing to make this country safer and did everything to alienate the world.

As we progress through the 21st century it will not be enough for America to just be the biggest and strongest country. Indeed, China and India and coalitions of nations may have something to say about those claims in any event. Understanding the world is certainly the first step towards this country being a better global partner.

Since he became president, Barack Obama has sought to repair and reinvent America’s alliances and relationships throughout the world. We can be certain that the boyhood experience of “Barry” Obama have helped to inform the worldview of President Obama and we are all the better for the vision that he has brought to the White House.

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