Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 21, 2012

Trying to peer through the clouds of gun smoke that is hovering over this country it is very easy to lose sight of the tragic and cruel treatment to which Susan Rice was subjected. Meanwhile House Speaker John Boehner has blundered badly with his horrible Plan B budget proposal. So badly that come 2013 he may no longer be House Speaker – but who would want to lead the Teapub yahoos in the House anyway? And finally, as the shattered bodies of the children slain in Newtown were being buried the NRA announces a proposal to put armed guards in all schools. How stupid. How cruel and insensitive. How soon can the NRA go to hell?

Revisiting Rice

It is understandable that the Newtown tragedy would dominate the national news for the past week. Nevertheless it must be noted that Senate Republicans led by John McCain with their efforts to mash and mangle the reputation of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice managed to force Dr. Rice out of consideration for the role of Secretary of State.

With trumped up claims that Ambassador Rice somehow engaged in the deception of the American people with respect to the Benghazi incident, John McCain and his fellow deceivers managed to muddy the waters surrounding her performance in office as well as her character. That John McCain could engage in such shameless and vindictive grandstanding should not be surprising, because he has proven himself to be a small man, not only in stature but in character.

After all, it was John McCain who, in the name of naked political expedience, chose Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. In choosing such an inexperienced, unprepared and not particularly talented person to be next in line to be president showed that John McCain had complete and total disdain for this country and its citizens. For him to assail Dr. Rice’s competence or qualifications to be Secretary of State is hypocrisy of the highest order.

It is also useful to note that in his series of personal attacks against Ambassador Rice John McCain said that she is “not very bright”. Considering the fact that John McCain graduated at the absolute bottom of his class at the U.S. Naval Academy one would think that he might pause before impugning anyone’s intelligence.

But he showed once again exactly why he graduated at the bottom of his class.

What Comes After Plan B?

In his fiscal cliff duel with President Obama House Speaker John Boehner came up with what he believed to be a cunning maneuver. He proposed a “Plan B” which would only raise taxes on people earning more than $1 million. This plan would also eliminate unemployment assistance for millions of Americans as part of a number of other drastic draconian measures that would inflict pain on Americans who are already suffering.

One problem though. The Teapublican wing of the House refused to go along with the plan because it entailed raising taxes on millionaires. And so the plan didn’t even come to a vote. The Teapublicans are prepared to defend the tax plantation of millionaires and billionaires no matter how much pain is inflicted on the rest of us.

And John Boehner has got to be wondering how he is going to be reelected Speaker of the House in January when he can’t even get his members to support his Plan B. Quite soon John Boehner may be relegated to Plan X status, as in Ex-Speaker.

More Guns, More Blood

Exactly one week after the Newtown massacre and one week after an average of 34 Americans were killed daily by gun violence; the NRA announced their response to these tragedies. Incredibly and horribly, the NRA proposed to place armed guards in all schools throughout the country.

That any sane individual would think that the answer to 300 million guns in America is more guns is stunning. That any responsible organization would make such a bizarre proposal as children from the massacre are being buried is vile and reprehensible. The only thing worse is that in a spot poll over 40% of Americans seem to think that armed guards in schools is a proper response to the tsunami of gun violence that sweeps across this country like clockwork.

There has to be a special place in Hell for people who, in their blind romance with rifles, handguns and shotguns, want to see even more guns in schools. And the gun manufacturers who shield their love of profit by twisting the Second Amendment to the Constitution should be ashamed. But, of course, they are not. They never are.

What will be enough to change the gun-worship culture in this country? Clearly the horrific spectacle of Newtown is not enough. Clearly the daily death toll of gun deaths is not enough.

What will be enough?

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 30, 2012

Tomorrow is the first day of the last month of the year and what a year it has been! In the “fiscal cliff” negotiations President Obama served notice to the Teapublicans that he really did win on November 6th. We also have to wonder what was on the menu for that private White House lunch featuring President Obama and Mitt Romney as the only diners. And finally the Teapublicans seem obsessed with destroying Susan Rice – and it seems that now the really dirty work has started.

President Obama Puts the Man in Mandate

Earlier this week President Obama made a move that will only serve to make the denizens of Angrywhitemenistan crazier than they already are. He sent Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Capitol Hill to meet with the Teapublican leadership to inform them of the Obama Administration’s “fiscal cliff proposal”

Some of the key elements – a $1.6 trillion tax increase which encompasses a rise in tax rates for every wealthy American, a five year multibillion dollar stimulus package that will focus on the infrastructure and job development and an end to the annual carnival of the Teapublican Congress tying up America by threatening not to raise the national debt ceiling.

There is a lot more in the Obama proposal and what is clear is that as an opening gambit the president is playing offense and drawing a line in the sand that is a lot closer to the hopes and aspirations of most Americans.

Needless to say John Boehner’s spray tan could not hide the sick pallor that surfaced on his face when he realized that President Obama realizes that he is the man with the mandate.

Dining with Mitt

During his victory speech on November 6th, President Obama promised to meet with the defeated Mitt Romney in the near future. Being a man of his word Mr. Romney was the only guest at a private White House luncheon with President Obama.

One can only wonder what was on the menu. A platter of sour grapes and baked filet of crow seems about right. Perhaps there was some alphabet vegetable soup so that Mr. Romney could just eat his own words and finish by swallowing his pride..

It is also possible that President Obama gave Mitt Romney a doggie bag so that his do would have something to eat while riding on the roof of the car on the way home.

The Passion of Susan Rice – cont’d

There is virtually no way that the Teapublicans can maintain their slippery grip on reality unless and until they decide that trying to destroy the career and reputation of Ambassador Susan Rice is a fool’s errand. But too date there are more fools lining up, including Maine Senator Susan Collins.

Senator Collins has now joined the Let’s Lynch Rice Mob by claiming that she could “never” support Ambassador Rice for the position of Secretary of State because she appeared on Sunday morning news shows. And, in a display of cunning and a revelation of possible motives, Senator Collins stated that she would be able to support Senator John Kerry for Secretary of State.

That slick dagger throw then opened up another spigot of stupidity as progressive commentators started to play right into the Teapublican hands by assuming that Ambassador Rice’s yet to be announced nomination for Secretary of State could be stopped by the Teapublicans. And that’s we started to hear the names of John Kerry and Al Gore as possible alternatives to succeed Hillary Clinton.

This is so shameful on so many counts – Ambassador Rice is a highly qualified and globally respected foreign policy professional who would be an immediate asset as Secretary of State. For any Democrats or progressives to kowtow to the Teapublicans and starting suggesting alternative candidates at State would only encourage right wing bloodlust.

Her most vocal Teapublican opponents supported the nomination of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State even after it was known that she had fumbled her 9/11 intelligence role, had lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and misled the American people regarding the non-existent connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Hypocritical is the mildest world to describe their position.

We can only encourage Ambassador Rice to stay strong and hope that President Obama will continue to support and defend her —- and nominate her to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Have a great weekend!

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The Stopped Clock Theory Rides Again!

The affirmation of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is as important for what it is not as for what it is. It is certainly a momentous decision as it grudgingly moves the United States into the 21st century when it comes to providing healthcare to its citizens. National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius absolutely upheld one of the cornerstone accomplishments of the Obama Administration and this decision will reverberate through this country. But it is also important to understand what the decision is not.

First of all, it is not a courageous episode in the career of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Roberts is the very real architect behind the Citizens United decision which has so seriously damaged democracy in this country. He may be a lot of things, but don’t get ready to put his story in the updated edition of “Profiles in Courage”.

Conservatives and the right wing of the right wing may be gathering feathers and boiling tar for Justice Roberts, but all that he did was what he said he was going to do. He interpreted the Constitution of the United States as it was written and did not try to engage in contortions to get it to support his own political point of view.

There is no logical or constitutional support for ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. That the right wing cabal of AlitoScaliaThomas, joined this time by Justice Kennedy, sought to overturn this historic legislation is a testament to their blind partisanship and once more reveals the poverty of their jurisprudence.

Justice Roberts did lead the support of the Affordable Care Act and he should be applauded for doing his job. But, by ruling that the Act is supported by the right of the government to tax and not by the commerce clause of the constitution, he has thrown into question over a century of American judicial decisions who have determined that the power of the federal government to address national needs can be based upon that very same commerce clause.

Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare and many other federal programs have been ruled constitutional by reason of the commerce clause. We now have to wonder if battles that have been fought and won so long ago will return to fields of combat because of the poison pill that Justice Roberts inserted into his decision.

The recent Supreme Court decision also did not settle the issue of health care in the United States for all time. While it is true that many initiatives articulated in the Affordable Care Act will continue to move forward – insuring coverage for persons with pre-existing illnesses and allowing parents to continue coverage for their children until the age of 26 are items that come immediately to mind – there should be no doubt that the right wing of the right wing will not go away quietly on this one.

Consider that the Supreme Court decision permits states to opt out of this national program. And, by opting out, they guarantee that millions of Americans, mostly working poor, will either be uninsured or underinsured when it comes to health care. Why the Teapublicans feel that it is so important to institutionalize misery for Americans in the name of patriotism is one of the great mysteries of the 21st century.

Indeed, the battle lines have been drawn for November 6th, and it is clear that electing Mitt Romney will signal the beginning of a titanic battle with no less than the health and welfare of the American people at stake. And, make no mistake about it; the reelection of Barack Obama will not end this battle, as the Teapublicans have stated that their mission is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act no matter how many millions of American lives are saved.

As Election Day grows closer with every sunrise, it would be useful to consider why it is that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is virtually a blood oath for the right wing of the right wing. If the concern is that there are aspect of the Act that should be improved or corrected, there is a legislative process that will permit such reform.

But Speaker of the House John Boehner has promised to pull up the Affordable Care Act “by its roots” and it would seem that the real fault of the Act is that it has originated with the Obama Administration. The most contentious element, the individual mandate, was originally proposed by the highly conservative Heritage Foundation. As the Republican governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney endorsed the individual mandate as an important definition of individual responsibility.

But, because the name “Obama” is associated with the Affordable Care Act, the Teapublicans are willing to sacrifice the health and welfare of the American people.

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Death by Tea Party

As this column is being written we seem to have avoided The Rapture and Armageddon is probably several months away. Nevertheless, during the past two business days the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped by over 1000 points and Standard & Poor’s has dropped the AAA rating of United States debt for the first time in history.

To paraphrase an old line, the G.O.Tea Party will try to pour water (or something like it) on our heads and tell us that it is raining. The canned caterwauling of the right wing of the right wing is already claiming that these financial calamities are totally the fault of Barack Obama because the events happened “on his watch”. Of course, as usual, the G.O.Tea Party is allergic to facts and deathly afraid of the truth.

The dangerously bad economic news of the moment is totally and absolutely due to the Congressional hi-jinks perpetrated by the G.O.Tea Party during the debt ceiling debacle. While Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell would mouth the right words about avoiding default, they did nothing to quiet the Kamikaze Korner of the right wing of the right wing that seemed to welcome the idea of default.

The rest of the planet (and Standard & Poor’s) saw leaders of the American government playing with matches in an ammunition dump. These same leaders, Boehner and McConnell included, showed absolutely no inclination to engage in rational dialogue with President Obama by refusing to consider any tax revenue increases even if it meant damning the country into economic hell. And by Friday, August 5th, the heat that you felt wasn’t the dog days of summer; it was the fiery breath of an economic hell storm that is the clear progeny of the right wing of the right wing.

In the past that I have written that the G.O.Tea Party is so offended by the idea of the President of the United States being Barack Hussein Obama that it would seek to destroy American rather than see him lead it. I thought I was engaging in rhetorical hyperbole of the type that the right wing of the right wing has mastered. But I was wrong.

When irrational actions take place it becomes necessary to determine the irrational basis for those acts. John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Michelle Bachmann have to be held accountable for their actions. By engaging in an adolescent game of “chicken” with the greatest economy in history the right wing of the right wing and its supporters and enablers have wreaked havoc on the people of this country and on the global economy.

They have to know what they are doing.

The G.O.Tea Party blaming Barack Obama for this country’s latest financial woes is like the arsonist blaming the fire department because the building that he set on fire burned down. That would be the same arsonist who also stole the fire hoses and let the air out of the tires of the fire trucks.

They have to know what they are doing.

The financial debacle is not just a matter for historical reporting or historical analysis. Real men and women are losing their jobs because of this plummeting spiral into which America’s economy has fallen. In the days and weeks to come homes will not be purchased, companies will not open or expand. In the weeks and months to come flickering hopes will be extinguished by the icy breath of a recession that will not go away because it is welcomed by the G.O.Tea Party.

They have to know what they are doing.

In effect the right wing of the right wing is engaging in the “honor killing” of the United States. Rather than see this country under the leadership of a black American named President Obama they would kill it – not through bombs or guns, but through slow, but thorough, economic strangulation.

As the life’s breath wheezes out of the American people their strategy is to “blame Obama” even as they tighten the noose with every nihilistic tactic, with every statement of nullification. The only thing that matters to them is to build a pyre high enough and flammable enough to consume the Obama Presidency – using the American economy as fuel and the American people as kindling.

They have to know what they are doing.

For too long the Democratic Party, progressives and those of us interested in our own survival and that of our children have allowed the right wing of the right wing to dominate the center stage of public discourse, in the process setting the agenda – no government revenue increases, no public spending to stimulate the economy, no increase in the size of government (even for food inspection, airline safety and education) – no, no, no.

The miasma of negativity has traversed every part of this country. The right wing of the right wing is, in this country, entitled to its point of view. It is not entitled to dominate.

Remember – They have to know what they are doing.

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Weekend Edition – August 5, 2011

The dogs days of July have morphed into the lupine days of August – the wolves are out and no one is safe. Sarah Palin cries crocodile tears about being labeled a terrorist, but she IS a terrorist. Critics claim that Obama “surrendered” to the Tea Party loons in the immortal budget/deficit battle that will rage for years, but who’s got his back? And meanwhile, in case no one noticed, the economy of the planet is plunging like Icarus who dared to come to close to the sun…….whither Daedalus?

Sarah…You ARE a Terrorist

At some point during the autopsy of the godawful debt ceiling battle it was reported that, during a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats someone referred to the Tea Party kamikazes as “terrorists”. This created an artificial hue and cry from the right wing of the right wing wailing and bellowing that their patriotic bona fides were being impugned.

In keeping with the strict rules of the theater of the absurd, Sarah Palin popped up and claimed that Tea Party advocates and their running hounds in the Congress were simply patriotic Americans who were advocating the benefits of fiscal probity. And then, just to be sure that we understood how ridiculous she is, the former governor of Alaska stated that if the Tea Party advocates were domestic terrorists President Obama would be “palling around with us like he palled around with Bill Ayres”.

As it turns out Sarah Palin and the Tea Party maniacs employed classic terrorist tactics in holding the entire economy of the planet hostage while making outrageous demands to reduce the size of government and cut vital social services, all the while refusing to even consider increasing revenues by any means. Osama bin Laden must be laughing from his watery grave.

In his most virulent dreams bin Laden could never have imagined collapsing the entire American economy. Knocking down a few buildings and blowing up a few airplanes is child’s play compared to the damage that Sarah and the Tea Partiers have in mind for this country. Al Qaeda killed thousands, the bullet heads in Congress and their supporters threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions, if not billions throughout the world.

Clearly Sarah Palin is counting on the collective amnesia of the American public. But we should remember that it was Sarah “Lock and Load” Palin’s website that put rifle cross-hairs on the congressional district represented by Gabrielle Giffords who was, in turn, shot in the head. The fact that yet another gun-toting loon committed the deed does not absolve Sarah Palin of responsibility for creating an atmosphere and fomenting violent emotions where something like this can happen.

And finally, her snide remark about Bill Ayres requires some kind of response. Sarah Palin is either too young or too dumb to realize that during the 1960’s progressive activists were being shot and killed by National Guard troops in places like Kent State and South Carolina State Universities as well as being beaten and jailed by Chicago police during the Democratic Party convention.

Radical philosophies were freely debated and espoused but rarely was there any violence that remotely resembled “terrorism”. What we do know is today Bill Ayres is Executive Director of World Hunger Year – http://www.whyhunger.org – dedicating his life to feeding the hungry while Sarah Palin continues to stir the boiling cauldron of hate and irresponsibility.

So you see Sarah Palin, it is YOU who is the terrorist.

Who’s Got Obama’s Back?

The retrospective regarding the role of President Obama in the recent debt ceiling fiasco has been immediate and not very kind to the president. While some commentators have correctly pointed out that negotiating with terrorists disguised as members of Congress and the Senate is an almost impossible task and he got the best deal possible under the circumstances.

Others have pointed out that Barack Obama seemed to allow himself to be bullied by the Eric Cantors and John Boehners of the moment never threatening retribution but always being amenable to compromise. Once he made it clear that he would do anything to avoid the nation’s credit default he became impossibly vulnerable.
By taking the 14th Amendment option off the table in negotiations with the Republicans President Obama gave up the one weapon that he might have used, at least as a threat. His reason for doing so is that White House lawyers did not think that it was a viable tactic.

The argument could go on but the question still arises – where was support for Barack Obama during the negotiations? Where were the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and Nancy Pelosi? Where were Al Gore and Bill Clinton and the National Conference of Mayors? The NAACP and the National Urban League were having their annual conventions during this recent madness, where were the resolutions supporting the president and demands for him to use the 14th Amendment hammer?

As I wrote earlier this week, Barack Obama was like a guy in a chair fight where everybody had a chair but him. Not a great place to be.

Let’s hope that going forward we will see the same support that got Barack Obama into office resurface in order to keep him in office.

The Crash of ’11?

On August 4, 2011 the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted by over 500 points continuing a decline that has taken place over the past month. Analysts connect this indication of economic turmoil to market distress in Europe as well as the budget dysfunction in Washington. And this has happened without a default by the United States.

The G.O.Tea Party is masterful in denying reality. This would be the same party whose most vocal members claimed that a default would not adversely affect the American economy. I am guessing that they also believe in the Easter Bunny.

Have a great weekend!

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Weekend Edition – January 28, 2011

The first month of the new year has seen the renaissance of the Obama presidency, a massacre in Tucson and revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Looks like 2011 is off to a flying start:

A Tale of Three Justices

Tradition holds that for the State of the Union address all of the members of Congress, the Cabinet (save one Secretary for security purposes) and the Justices of the United State Supreme Court are in attendance.

For the attendees it is not an optional event, it is part of the job. Attending doesn’t indicate political or philosophical support for the President; it is a matter of respect for the institution known as the government of the United States.

Somehow three Supreme Court justices didn’t get the memo. Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas did not attend -Justice Scalia having accepted a speaking engagement in Hawaii that conflicted with his being present in Washington on that day.

The fact that these three neo-con icons saw fit to disrespect the President and the institution that they represent should come as no surprise. They have routinely imposed their right wing political vision in the guise of judicial pronouncements.

The theft of the 2000 election by Justices Scalia and Thomas will go down as one of the great heists in history. The institutional damage to democracy in this country wrought by the three of them in the Citizens United decision is beyond calculation.

The absence of these Three Judicial Amigos was little noted but it should have been. Chief Justice John Roberts is no less a conservative than Scalia, Alito and Thomas, but at least he had the decency and respect to be present last Tuesday.

I guess they didn’t get the memo.

Along Comes Ms. Bachmann

At the beginning of this year’s Congress Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota was appointed to the House Intelligence Committee. For anyone familiar with Ms. Bachmann’s mindless ranting and raving this sounds like a punch line waiting for a joke. But its no joke, it is true.

This is a member of Congress who has called President Obama and his supporters Un-American and has publicly stated that the “Founding Fathers” were always against slavery. Of course, these would be the same Founding Fathers who were slave owners (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson among many, many others).

She claimed that President Obama’s recent trip to Asia cost $200 million per day (a lie). And she is now conducting an ongoing seminar on constitutional law for members of Congress – one of her faculty members is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (can you say “conflict of interest” or “impropriety”?).

And, by the way, she is contemplating running for the presidency. I just don’t believe that Barack Obama could be that lucky.

Alternative Universe

Anyone watching the State of the Union address saw newly enthroned House Speaker John Boehner looking like a man who had swallowed a lemon and had a train to catch. I hope he doesn’t play poker because he doesn’t have a poker face.

He was clearly not pleased to have to listen to President Obama for almost an hour.
He also wasn’t listening.

The entire planet heard the President say “…..the United States is the greatest country in the world…” Then within 48 hours Speaker Boehner was quoted as saying that Barack Obama doesn’t believe in American “exceptionalism”.

Huh? We know that John Boehner is addicted to smoking cigarettes and that smoking is bad for your health. Obviously it is also bad for your hearing.

Have a great weekend!

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(What a) State of the Union

President Obama in delivering his State of the Union message has wisely chosen to speak to the future of this country rather than the past. When he was inaugurated in 2009 he inherited a country that was mired in two unwinnable wars while watching its economy simultaneously implode and explode.

There is no doubt that the economic downturn has abated only slightly and only for a few. Most Americans are learning that there is something worse than losing a job –the fear of never getting a job again.

The herculean efforts of the Obama Administration to turn the tide of financial wreckage and shattered confidence have not been a complete “fix”, of that there is no doubt.
But there is also no doubt that the G.O.Tea Party do-nothing-let-the-free-market-prevail approach to America’s ailing economy would have had brutal results, with all but the wealthy being exempt from the pain.

That President Obama would be criticized by those who would have stood by while General Motors disappeared, countless millions lost their homes and jobs and the country as a whole suffered the numbing fear of tomorrow would be ironic were it not so tragic.

In his State of the Union address President Obama has chosen not to point out that the American tragedies and disasters over which he presides are not of his own making and are not the results of his policies or his philosophy. Were he to state this simple truth it would be mere moments before John Boehner or Michelle Bachmann or Eric Cantor would accuse him of “whining” and “refusing to take responsibility”.

So Mr. Obama has but on his big boy pants and stepped in front of the American people to take ownership of the problems that beset these United States. Only by taking ownership of the problems can he also take ownership of the solutions. But not everyone needs to be so restrained and reserved.

In point of fact the economic collapse which continues to erode and corrode and degrade the American belief in tomorrow was not the result of some cyclical market adjustment. The policies of the Bush-Cheney administration created a no-fault, no rules casino-like environment in the financial marketplace.

Regulators appointed, empowered and directed by Republicans turned a blind eye, looked the other way or didn’t even know where to look while a Rube Goldbergesque finance edifice was built that was guaranteed to come crashing down.

And when it did crash, it didn’t crash on the bankers and their enablers; it crashed on factory workers and homeowners and fixed income seniors. And, sad to say, most of the victims are still trapped in the wreckage.

That the Bush-Cheney administration and the Republican Party are able to treat this shameful episode in American history as an act of God, not unlike a hurricane or a tsunami is a tribute to their ability to avoid the truth while not actually lying. And it is an indictment of the media and the writers of history who accept this very Grimm fairy tale as being true.

What President Obama did not say in his State of the Union message is that the American economy has been seriously damaged by the godforsaken war in Iraq which drained billions of dollars out of this country with no consequent increase in security.

The President will not say that the Bush-Cheney Administration lied and deceived the American public and most of the world in stomping towards the killing ground that Iraq was to become.

Dick Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, made billions of dollars in profits while American soldiers and Iraqi men, women and children died. The Republican Party stood shoulder to shoulder while American men and women were chewed up and spit out by the monstrous war has become yet another Grimm fairy tale.

And this war, with its trillion dollar cost, combined with a jerry-built economic marketplace, caused the downfall of the American economy. President Obama did not choose to cast blame in this State of the Union message, but that doesn’t mean that there blame should not be cast.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the G.O.Tea Party are counting on the American public having the attention span of a goldfish. That way they don’t have to lie, they just have to act as if they are not responsible.

In point of fact they are irresponsible. President Obama did not say it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

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Weekend Edition – January 22, 2011

The aura of Chinese “Tiger Moms”, the hypocrisy of repealing healthcare and a Sarah Free February pledge, these are all part of this weekend’s Point of View.

“Tiger Moms” to the Rescue?

The January 8, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal contained the single most widely read article in the 100+ year history of the publication. The topic wasn’t chicanery in the banking system or an analysis of the global economy; it was “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”.

The article details a rigorous and fully disciplined approach to parenting that the author, Professor Amy Chua of Yale School, contends is responsible for the academic success of her children and millions of other Chinese children – both here in the United States and in China.

The ensuing hotly contested debate was predictable. The defenders of the “western” approach have launched a full throated protest against what they contend is a barbarous and abusive approach to raising children.

The supporters of the so-called “Tiger Moms” stress the statistical proof of the academic success of their progeny as being a definitive and absolute justification – the ultimate proof of the end justifying the means.

I would recommend that you take a few minutes to read Professor Chua’s article. It is much too easy to mythologize or demonize the Tiger Mom approach to parenting. I would also suggest that you take a look at some other statistics – like the ones that show American schoolchildren underperforming when compared to their peers, not only in China, but in almost every developed country on this planet.

The globalization of the economy has also brought about the globalization of competition in almost all walks of life. American children may be less prepared for this competition than their parents and grandparents and that would be a sorrowful legacy to convey.

Healthcare Hypocrisy

Last week the House of Representatives voted to repeal the healthcare bill passed by Congress in March of 2010. In a high and righteous dudgeon, the new Republican majority congratulated itself in firing the first salvo in the battle to repeal “Obamacare” because, in their view, the American people do not want the universal, guaranteed healthcare that every citizen of every developed nation on earth expects and receives as a matter or right.

A few true ideologues in the G.O.Tea Party have refused the gold plated healthcare coverage that every member of Congress receives from the day they take office for the rest of their lives – past retirement, indictment and conviction.

But most of the Republican leadership, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Michelle Bachmann come to mind; have clung to these benefits without excuse, explanation or shame.

It is bad enough and sad enough that as this country continues to slog through an economic morass that Republicans think that symbolic votes to nowhere is what this country needs. It is even worse that they walk the halls of Congress attired in full frontal hypocrisy – healthcare for me, but not for you – is the clarion call of the day for the Party of No.

Sarah Free February

It has been time for Sarah Palin to go for a long time. She was “refudiated” by the American electorate in 2008. She wisely quit as governor of Alaska before the citizens of the 49th state had the opportunity to administer a coup de grace to her political career.

Since then she has absorbed the limelight and spewed illogic, in the process assuming importance out of all proportion to her relevance or intelligence. And then there was the Tucson Massacre.

By clearly demonstrating her narcissism and tone deafness she has forfeited even the pretension to any position of leadership. But, being Sarah Palin, she won’t exit the stage as long as a few footlights continue to shine on her tarnished persona.

So Point of View will observe a “Sarah Free February”. Not another word will be written about her for the rest of this month or for the month February. After that, we shall see.

One more thing – GO JETS!!!!

Have a great weekend!

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Don’t Ask? Don’t Tell?

It is with a sense of wonder that I have watched the continuing debate over whether gay men and women should be allowed to serve in the military while being “open” about their sexual orientation and gender preference.

Opposition to allowing millions of American men and women to serve in the military honestly is difficult to understand except for the obvious homophobic undertones. Morale issues are cited. Presumably the notion is that soldiers in combat who are primarily interested in staying alive, will now be forced to divert their attention from survival to concern about the sexual orientation of the artillery commander who might save their lives.

What is more difficult to understand is how the opponents to gays in the military are willing to obliterate the principle of civilian control of the military. Recent polls indicate that well over a majority of Americans support the concept of gay men and women serving openly in the military. In 2008 American voters elected as President a candidate who unequivocally stated his support for the abolition of the much maligned “Don’t Ask, don’t tell” policy. There would seem to be little doubt that any referendum on the issue would result in a similar outcome.

Nevertheless, the Congress and the Department of Defense have gone through this very expensive polling of the members of the American military to ask how they “feel” about gays serving openly in the military. The charade has continued as Senator John McCain, waving his internment as a P.O.W. like a cloak that is supposed to confer omniscience, suggests that the wrong questions were asked in the poll and that, in any event, the poll results are ambiguous and do not warrant a change in military policy. We should await full clarity on the matter.

To quote Representative John Boehner, “chicken crap”.

A bit of history is in order. Black soldiers served in integrated military units during colonial times, through the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. After that the U.S. military was segregated, even during the Civil War over 180,000 black troops fought for the Union in segregated units.

During World Wars I and II black and white troops were segregated. But in July of 1948 President Harry Truman signed an Executive Order abolishing racial segregation the military.

It is very clear that if President Truman had asked the military leaders for their opinion integration would have been delayed for decades. Future President Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II commanded a fully segregated military. He only had black troops fight with white units as an emergency measure during the Battle of the Bulge. And even that life-saving move was opposed by many generals and members of Congress.

But President Truman signed an Executive Order. The order was clear and the military, observing the institutional deference of the military to the civilian government of this country, complied.

During the ensuing sixty years the American military has been a leading institution in promoting racial progress, if not complete harmony.

Think about the America in which President Truman signed this executive Order. In 1948 black men and women were still being lynched. The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation in schools was years away and Till, Chaney, Schwerner, Goodman and Evers all thought that they still had lifetimes ahead of them.

The opinion of the members of the military on the issue of gays in the military is not the issue. The duly elected President of the United States, aka the Commander in Chief, has been clear. To continue this charade is pitiful and dishonorable and only serves to further erode the principle of military deference to the civilian branch of the government.

We are approaching a slippery slope. Today it is the issue of gays in the military. Tomorrow it could be whether or not to withdraw troops from Afghanistan (remember General Stanley McChrystal?).

We need to wake up before the Night of the Generals is upon us.

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Point of View Columns

The Day After the Day After

First there is a statement of contrition. Then there is the act of penance. These are very elementary steps on the road to salvation and renewal. And the day after the day after, President Obama has already manned up and taken these elementary steps.

At a post-election press conference he took the blame, admitted his shortcomings and acknowledged that his presidency had clearly frustrated and even angered a number of Americans. No statement of contrition could be clearer.

As an act of penance, even before the press conference, President Obama called the always tanned and newly lachrymose Congressman John Boehner (presumably soon to be Speaker of the House and third in line to the presidency) and Senator Mitch McConnell (who missed being Majority Leader of the Senate by an Angle and a witch), and expressed a desire to work with them. The fact that Congressman Boehner and Senator McConnell have stated that their primary legislative goal is to make certain that President Obama serves only one term absolutely qualifies these phone calls as true acts of penance.

The road to salvation and renewal in the days and weeks to come is going to be slightly more complicated and a hell of a lot more nuanced. There will be multiple autopsies of the election results and, to tell the truth, it is impossible to know where to go without knowing where you have been. But it is clearly time for some prospective thinking.

There are correctable missteps. It will be very important for President Obama and his Administration to clearly and constantly highlight and emphasize achievements. Americans must know of the bridges that are built, teachers that are hired, automobile factories that are staying open, previously uninsured men, women and children who now have healthcare coverage – all because of the Administration’s policies.

It is not enough to cite the statistics; the American public is easily distracted. The Obama Administration will have to show brick and mortar, flesh and blood, over and over again.

The devastation wreaked upon the economy has defied conventional solutions. The strategies implemented by the Obama Administration have prevented more damage and saved jobs but it is hasn’t repaired the damage and not enough jobs have been created.

It is very difficult to celebrate the rescue workers when the fire is still burning. It will be necessary to more clearly connect the dots between policy initiatives and the intended end result – new jobs, saved jobs, new housing, foreclosures avoided, new businesses started, existing business saved. President Obama and his Administration and his supporters are going to have to connect the dots every day.

Last point – democracy is not a spectator sport. Politics does not reward those who stay on the sidelines. The Tea Party may be odious and offensive to some, but some stayed on the sidelines and the supporters of the Tea Party worked hard and voted. November 6, 2012 is getting closer even as you read this column.

Unless we want November 7, 2012 to be another day of whine with no roses, the time to act is now.

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