Point of View Columns

We Have Been Warned

Anyone who is surprised by the vitriol spewing from The Fountain of Hate That is Trump has not been paying attention to what has been going on in this country. Either that or the surprised individuals have been spending too much time in the smoke bars of Denver and are now totally delusional.

At some point during the past six months, too many people were willing to dismiss the Trump presidential candidacy as a passing diversion or, in the alternative, an entertaining intermission until the real campaign started. However, from the outset, with his attacks on Mexican immigrants, drug dealers, murderers and rapists disguised as mothers with children, Donald Trump made it very clear that he was prepared to wade into the American muck of racism and bigotry in a cesspool that has no bottom, and stay there.

Still, many Americans found his misogyny to be amusing in a frat boy kind of way or, at worst, mildly disturbing. His ad hominem attacks on his Teapublican rivals were seen to be either a sign of his strength, power and rhetorical virility or a mildly offensive use of personal invective.

But all along Trump was laying the groundwork for a way to separate himself from the pack and draw from the Teapublican base that always hated President Obama because he is black, from the right wing of the right wing that lived in fear of the demise of the white man’s America and the rise of a truly multicultural United States of America. Black Americans were not a useful target if only because black Americans are always a target for some. Latinos equal immigrants in the TepubSpeak, and in that regard Trump was not alone in his disdain – just listen to Ben Carson.

But the inexorable rise of ISIS gave Donald Trump the target that he, and only he, could use as a hate magnet. The Muslims of America are a small (3%) part of the population and an identifiable group that has enough tenuous links to the global reign of terror to satisfy the haters. And Trump has decided to become the drum major of hate.

In what seems like a twenty first century version of the Nazi playbook in the 1930’s Trump has vilified this American super minority and connected it to the fear and terror that ISIS, Al Qaeda and daily gun violence has created. And when people are afraid a common enemy is a unifying force. And Trump has decided that hatred and fear Muslims is the brick and mortar that will cement his position as the leading Teapublican presidential candidate.

Keep in mind that when Trump called for a “registry” of all American Muslims the general reaction was passing disdain even as his poll numbers rose. Now he is calling for the death of the families of ISIS operatives as well as the banning of all Muslims from the United States (a shout over the whisper of Jeb Bush calling for the inclusion of only Christian Syrians in this country’s refugee policy).

And now, it is not an exaggeration to compare his proposals to the hate policies of the Third Reich. The irony of Muslims now being the Jews of the 21st century American hate theater rerun of the 20th century German tragedy is painful and sad.

What is worse is that we always knew that Trump was a bigot and a pitiful purveyor of hate. What is even worse is that Trump is not going anywhere. And what is worse than that – Trump could become President of the United States.

And that is when fear will become the oxygen of the America atmosphere.

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Point of View Columns

The Check is in the Mail

There just may be some truth to the rumor that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, has offered to pay CNN and Fox News to continue to broadcast Republican debates. While there is no truth to the rumor that her offers have been accepted, the rest of us can only hope that the Teapublican Show of Shows is renewed for the fall season.

Thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, any billionaire can decide that virtually anyone with a pulse can be President of the United States. That may be the only way to explain the candidacies of Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, to name just a few of the members of the right wing of the right wing food fight disguised as a presidential campaign. But during brief moments of lucidity and clarity of thought the leadership of the Republican National Committee just has to be wondering if providing a national stage for every lost cousin and wild and crazy uncle in the Teapublican family is such a great idea.

Consider a thumbnail sketch of the leading candidates out of the fifteen remaining from the Spectacular Seventeen that greeted us a little over a month ago, keeping in mind that every single one of them (except John Kasich and George Pataki, propose to deny over 20 million American men, women and children healthcare on “Day One”, by repealing the Affordable Care Act:

• Donald Trump – What else can be said about the Orange Haired Wonder. While it is dangerous to dismiss the Donald, it is important to note that if you distill his message, he intends to govern by bombast, bullying and insult. This might work in the world of real estate, but it certainly won’t work in domestic politics or in foreign policy.
• Carly Fiorina – Her narrative of going from a secretary to a CEO neglects to mention that her father was a federal court judge and then dean of Duke Law School and that her degrees from Stanford, the University of Maryland and MIT might have something to do with her success. And, by the way, the secretary narrative? She worked as a Kelly Girl during her summers in school. Her personal fan dance notwithstanding, her plan to “not speak to Putin” and to “tell the Supreme Leader of Iran” what he must do is so implausible that it would be funny, except that it is not.
• Ted Cruz – He sees no problem shutting down the federal government and says that the Supreme Court acts in an “unconstitutional” manner when it issues decisions with which he does not agree.
• Mike Huckabee – He joins the Teapublican attack on the Supreme Court in the process ignoring the Constitution and over 2 centuries of case law. And he seriously wants to be President of the United States.
• Chris Christie – New Jersey has one of the worst economies of the fifty states. And then there is this pesky corruption investigation by the U.S. attorney, an investigation involving a number of his very senior appointees. And then, he wants us to believe that bullying is useful as a governance model.
• Jeb Bush – First, he is Jeb BUSH. Second, his record as governor of Florida, beginning with his presiding over the first theft of an American presidential election, is not a stunning calling card. And then again, does the RNC really want to pin its hopes for winning the White House on another BUSH considering the impossible mess created by the last BUSH?
• Ben Carson – His avuncular delivery of stunning madness and malice – denying the science behind climate change and comparing Obamacare to slavery (!!!!!!!) – proves that brain surgeons may not be the standard for brilliance in modern society that we might have thought was the case.

Of course the list goes on, and it is interesting that John Kasich, governor of Ohio, usually comes across as the only sane adult in the Teapublican echo chamber. And it is interesting that virtually nobody gives John Kasich a chance of winning the Republican nomination – right along with George Pataki (another sane adult), and Bobby Jindal (not so sane and not so adult).

It may be that there is a bizarro world scenario in which one of the highlighted candidates could win (there is a winning scenario for Kasich and Pataki, for example, but……….well, you know). Nevertheless, the RNC treats us to daily doses of Lindsey Graham wanting to wage more war and Marco Rubio fighting the Cold War twenty years too late, along with eliminating healthcare coverage for over 20 million Americans, and somehow that is supposed to be a winning strategy.

And that is why Ms. Wasserman Schultz is writing out checks to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and any other media outlet that will give the RNC candidates a platform. To the executives of these networks – the check is in the mail.

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Point of View Columns

The Trouble with Trump

Donald Trump has become the poster boy for The New Jacked Up 21st century politics. Bluster, bigotry and bullying are now legitimate credentials for a presidential candidate, at least in the universe in which Teapublicans reside. While the spectacle that is the Trump campaign threatens the seating arrangement in the already overcrowded Teapublican Clown Car, there is actually a danger that the other candidates will try to out-Trump Trump in order to suck up some precious media oxygen.

As you are reading this, Donald Trump, the Heavyweight Self-Promoting Champion of the World, is leading all Teapublican candidates in national polls. Most self-confessed Teapublicans want him to stay in the race despite the daily exhibitions of classless and tasteless excess which define Trump as a candidate and as a human being. And as you are reading this it becomes clear that Donald Trump is not a momentary publicity comet flitting across the American skies (see Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain). His star has staying power and all of his competitors for the Teapublican presidential crown know it.

It is now a bizarre badge of honor for Teapublican candidates to be attacked by Donald Trump. Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham are thankful to be his targets because that means that for a few nanoseconds their name will be mentioned in the same breath as The Donald. Without being asked to respond to his insults, they would have few, if any talking points that anyone else wants to hear.

While Democrats are looking for ways to keep The Donald Clown Balloon floating high, they should be careful what they ask for. Donald Trump is impervious to insult and insulated from concern as to what others think. His run for president is an example of superselfindulgence on steroids. But, and this is important, if the polls are to be believed, there are millions (millions!) of American voters who think that Donald Trump is a serious presidential candidate.

Consider that just six years ago this country was in what was arguably the most profound, and certainly the most frightening financial crisis in its history. During the past six years plans for universal healthcare coverage and reform of the financial regulatory system were devised and implements.

During this time this country has had to address crises ranging from the massive BP oil spill to the collapse of the Iraqi government to the rise of ISIS and the multiple implications of the Arab Spring. The dawning realization of the impact of climate change, addressing the necessity of a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran and the continued carnage that is woven into the fabric of the United States of Gun are all realities in modern America.

Russia in the Ukraine, new Chinese bellicosity and the explosive realization that black lives do matter, especially in the face of the domestic terror that American racism has supported are all issues that the President of the United States has had to address and we can be sure of only one thing, there will be no certainties for the next President, not here in the United States, not here on this planet.

It is virtually impossible to believe that Donald Trump has the competence, intelligence or intellectual capacity to manage any or all of these issues and more. But what Donald Trump has done is lower the bar for what are considered requisite qualifications to be president. Donald Trump is the one with the loudest bluster. Donald Trump is the one prepared to wrap himself in the hate-soaked banner of bigotry and racism in order to curry favor with the haters and the bigots. And by being the loudest bully on the Teapublican block he has virtually eliminated any possibility of intelligent debate on that block.

Democrats and Teapublicans alike should be concerned. By demeaning the presidential selection process with his antics, Donald Trump is also demeaning the institution of the presidency. If asinine antics and a half-baked act that wouldn’t make it in Las Vegas are enough to qualify someone to be a serious presidential candidate, then the presidency itself becomes seriously devalued.

And that is a danger that this country can ill afford in the 21st century.

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Point of View Columns

Why Elections Matter

There are reasons why presidential elections seem unimportant. The cascade of clown-like candidates – Donald Trump comes to mind- and demagogues – Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum certainly come to mind – diminishes the ability of some voters to take the entire election process seriously. And that is truly a shame because, as the recent Supreme Court decisions made clear, presidential elections really do matter.

During the last week in June the United States Supreme Court handed down several decisions of epic importance. In the process SCOTUS surprised some observers, confirmed the predictions of others and definitely affected virtually every citizen of this country. With the RobertsScaliaAlitoThomas cabal firmly in its place on the bench of the highest court in the land, it surprised some that marriage would be confirmed as a right that could not be restricted by any state on the basis of gender preference. Given the propensity of that cabal to engage in black robed politics (See Gore v. Bush – 2000); it was also more than a mild surprise that the court would confirm the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

For good measure SCOTUS also affirmed an Arizona state initiative that will seriously curtail redistricting with obvious partisan motives. And it also ruled that affordable housing development cannot be restricted to lower income neighborhoods and communities – a decision which will have a huge (and positive) impact on urban development in this country.

The Roberts/Scalia/Alito/Thomas Gang of Four surprised no one by affirming the culture of government sponsored murder by ruling that the use of death penalty drugs was constitutional. It also limited the powers of the presidency with respect to restriction of anti-pollution measures and limits on mercury emissions. And for a final act, SCOTUS has agreed to (once again) revisit the issue of race-based affirmative action strategies in higher education – not a good sign for those who support equity in higher education in this country.

Wherever one may be on the political spectrum, there is virtually unanimous agreement that the decisions of the Supreme Court were of great importance with generational, cultural and institutional impact that goes well beyond the actual court cases. Everyone knows that the Supreme Court is an important part of the federal government but occasionally SCOTUS really flexes its judicial muscles.

This is important because of the following facts. There are nine members of the Supreme Court – four of them – Scalia (78), Kennedy (78), Ginsburg (81), and Breyer (76) by the end of the next president term their ages will be 83, 83, 86 and 81. It is highly likely that the next president of the United States will be in a position to appoint between one and four new Supreme Court justices.

Understanding that SCOTUS is virtually split between 5 Reagan-Bush appointees (Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas) and 4 – Clinton-Obama appointees (Breyer, Kagan, Ginsburg, Sotomayor), it should be crystal clear why elections matter. If the next president were to choose justices in the Reagan-Bush mode the Affordable Care Act and same sex marriage decisions could go the other way. If the next president were to choose justices in the Clinton-Obama mode affirmative action and the Affordable Care Act and same sex marriage will in all likelihood be preserved.

After SCOTUS stole the election from Al Gore and gave the presidency to George Bush, it should have been clear for all time why presidential elections matter. The last week of June 2015 made that point again and everyone can wonder what kind of Supreme Court Justices Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or Donald Trump might select and what kind of justices Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders might select.

Chief Justice John Glover Roberts, Jr. is 60 (DOB: 27 January, 1955).
Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia is 78 (DOB: 11 March, 1936).
Justice Anthony McLeod Kennedy is 78 (DOB: 23 July, 1936).
Justice Clarence Thomas is 66 (DOB: 23 June, 1948).
Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg is 81 (DOB: 15 March, 1933).
Justice Stephen Gerald Breyer is 76 (DOB: 14 August 1938).
Justice Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. is 64 (DOB: 1 April, 1950).
Justice Sonia Sotomayor is 60 (DOB: 25 June, 1954).
Justice Elena Kagan is 54 (DOB: 28 April, 1960).

The numbers tell the story.

That should be enough for everyone to realize why elections really matter.

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Point of View Columns

Nada Word Was Said

Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and immediately insulted and degraded Mexican Americans, Mexican immigrants, Latinos and all Americans of good will and decency. But this is not about Donald Trump. It is about Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and all of the other Teapublican candidates who uttered not one word of protest, revulsion of criticism. Not one word. Nada.

To be clear, The Trump Man was not guilty of simple public indecency or petty political incorrectness. He did not infer, he categorically stated that Mexican immigrants are “bringing in drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” These were words that would make a lot of racists and xenophobes cringe. But not the Teapublican presidential candidates – from them we heard the sounds of silence.

Keep in mind that every single one of them is a child of immigrants – it’s only a question of when. But Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are the sons of immigrants. Jeb Bush is married to a Mexican which means that his children are……….wait for it………….Mexican Americans. Chris Christie is the grandchild of immigrants. And, in any event, all the Teapublican candidates are the descendants of immigrants to this country.

Nevertheless, not one of them was sufficiently aroused or offended by Trump’s remarks to utter one word of criticism. Clearly none of them think about the fact that 250,000 Latinos turn 18 in this country every year and will continue to do so for decades. They obviously don’t realize that the United States has the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world so it is probably not a good idea to call Mexicans “rapists” who “bring in crime” when a presidential election is less than 18 months away.

But it seems that these candidates are afraid of offending the angry white fringe of this country that passes for the “base” of the party. But that base is shrinking, getting older and dying faster than falling leaves in their generational autumn. The future success of either of the major political parties depends to a very real extent on how they fare with Latino voters. While the Democrats have not covered themselves with glory with their immigration policies, at least they don’t call Latinos criminals and rapists. The Teapublicans seem to be comfortable letting the Democrats simply be the lesser of two evils.

We can say that the Teapublicans are not biased when it comes to being biased. After the Charleston Massacre the Teapublican presidential contenders dithered for days as to whether this tragedy was a “hate crime” or “terrorism”. Some had the gall to suggest that Dylan Roof was attacking religion when the historical evidence does not begin to suggest that conclusion. It screams “terrorism” because white on black terrorism is a sad but very real aspect of the black experience in America.

It is only when the bigotry and callous nature of their falsehoods became too heavy to carry that we started to hear tepid acknowledgement of the horror that took place in Mother Emanuel AME Church. And the hesitation and delay will be remembered by black voters just like their sounds of silence will be remembered by Latino voters.

There are critically important policy issues that need to be discussed and debated. But it is difficult to understand how people are supposed to be interested in the Teapublican policy positions after they have dismissed the humanity of black voters and silently acquiesced Latino voters being insulted by a  maniac posing an orange haired maniac posing as a presidential candidate.

Black voters matter. Latino voters matter. Indeed this country matters. Perhaps Teapublicans will figure this out by late November 2016.

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Point of View Columns

The Turtle on the Fence Post

Country sayings are interesting and, in many instances true. For example, if you see a turtle on a fence post, you can be pretty sure that it did not get there on its own. Similarly, when we see voting restrictions being imposed all over the country, we can be sure that it is neither a matter of coincidence nor serendipity.

Almost immediately upon the election of President Obama in 2009, Teapublicans began a monomaniacal jihad with the sole goal of preventing him from being reelected. This group of supposed patriots hit upon the idea of restricting voting rights and the ethnic cleansing of voter rolls as a way of diminishing the support for Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Historians will view this as strategy that is soaked in brutal irony – the patriotic right wing that claims to revere the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence has sought to deny the right to vote to certain Americans.

It took some time for the Teapublicans to get their act together, but after the Roberts-Alito-Thomas-Scalia Supreme Court cabal eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013, the path to constitutional villainy became an open highway. Indeed over fifteen states and numerous towns, counties and municipalities have instituted laws, rules and regulations which have as their goal the restriction of voting rights.

Claims that these laws, rules and regulations are intended to prevent voter fraud are simply lies. There are no statistical reports which indicate anything but a miniscule number of voter fraud cases over the past two decades. The fact that the voting rights restrictions have nothing to do with concerns about voter fraud brings us back to the story of the turtle on the fence post.

The effect of the voting rights restrictions has been to reduce the opportunity of blacks, Latinos, the elderly, the very young and the very poor from exercising their franchise as citizens of this country. The individuals in these demographic sectors are not known to be traditional supporters of Teapublican candidates or the Teapublican agenda.

Is this result simply a coincidence? Are voting limitations on the constituencies that elected and reelected Barack Obama just an unintended consequence of the Teapublican initiatives, however fortunate it might be for the right wing of the right wing? Just think about that turtle on the fence post.

The reality is that many of the current riders in the Teapublican Presidential Clown Bus have supported these voter suppression strategies – Chris Christie in New Jersey, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in Florida, Rick Perry and Ted Cruz in Texas are up to their eyeballs in denying constitutional rights to American citizens who don’t figure to support them. They will deny this, of course, but remember that turtle on the fence post.

The Teapublican voter suppression strategy began after Barack Obama was elected. This strategy has never had anything to do with voter fraud. This strategy has always been about reducing the turnout of voters likely to support Barack Obama and Democrats in general. And any Teapublican who is thinking about running for President of the United States will want to stack the deck in their favor by diminishing the turnout of the Obama/Democratic base.

So, as the denials will spew from the likes of Christie/Walker/Bush/Rubio/Perry/Cruz………….just remember that turtle on the fence post.

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Point of View Columns

More Science. Less Fear

Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City is one of the most outstanding medical institutions in the world. Its cancer treatment programs are globally recognized for excellence. MSKH has as its motto, “More Science, Less Fear”. These are words that the anti-vaccine lunatics and the climate change deniers would do well to heed – before they mindlessly degrade the planet in the name of……..well, nothing.

We can begin with the recent attention that the anti-vaccine mob has garnered, primarily because of the national outbreak of measles. Measles is a disease that had been virtually eradicated in the United States due to……………….you guessed it….universal vaccinations. But, due to a mindless public health decision, the state of California has given parents the right to opt out of mandatory vaccination regimens.

This anti-vaccination turmoil gained momentum when that world renowned scientist, Jenny McCarthy, started making the talk circuit spewing discredited theories regarding the connection between vaccinations and autism. Ms. McCarthy cited an Englishman by the name of Andrew Wakefield and his “studies” on this non-existent connection. Wakefield’s “studies” were revealed to be bogus and he has been barred from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom – hopefully for the rest of his life.

Somehow, the complete devastation of any logical, statistical or factual basis to claim that vaccinations are a public health hazard, much less that they are connected to autism, has not been enough to deter Jenny McCarthy or her followers. Although one would think that we have progressed from the times when scientists risked being burned at the stake for articulating scientific principles that we now take for granted (see the near death experience of Galileo, for example), it is clear that there remains a deep seated distrust of science, even when it saves lives.

We see the same distrust virus ravaging the logic and thought processes of the deniers of climate change. Presumptive presidential heir Jeb Bush pronounces himself as to being “skeptical” as to the impact of human activity on climate change. And he is not alone. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney and seemingly any aspiring Teapublican candidate has drunk the Koch brothers Kool-Aid and not only denied climate change, but they have also denied the melting polar ice caps, the rising sea levels and the weirdest weather patterns in the history of mankind.

Presumably, the climate change deniers adhere to this madness because to admit that climate change exists and is the result of human activity would require inconvenient modifications of human conduct. Alternative energy sources, conservation and respect for the environment would deny some people the enjoyment of the planet to which they feel absolutely entitled.

But we also know that the purveyors of fossil fuels understand quite clearly that the modifications of human conduct will lessen their bloated profits. And they are quite ready to sacrifice the future (as well as the present), on the altar of their profit and loss statements. And so it is important for climate change deniers to substitute fear for science, in this instance, fear of the change of lifestyle that would accompany the intelligent acknowledgement of the science that supports climate change.

More science and less fear should be our guide in these twenty first century debates that should not even be debates. Science has made undeniable progress in understanding diseases and how to prevent them, making the entire planet safe in the process. Science has helped us to understand how industrial and technological progress could destroy this planet as well as how to escape those consequences through scientifically-based strategies.

There are really no scientific rationales to oppose vaccinations or strategies to offset climate change. The proponents of fear tactics endanger not only themselves, but you and me and everyone we love.

More Science. Less Fear.

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