Point of View Columns

An Excerpt from An American Journal – Awake in a Dream or Asleep in a Nightmare?

November 29, 2020

13,246,771-266,074 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Over the weekend the Supreme Court ruled that state public officials could not put restrictions on religious gatherings in temples, churches, mosques, etc. as that would be a violation of the First Amendment rights of worshipers. And so we begin to see that the iron hand of the religious right being revealed as Amy Coney Barrett, no longer restrained by confirmation concerns or bad publicity, made it clear that the most right wing interpretation of the Constitution will be the indelible mark that she will make on any case that comes her way.

Every first year law student knows that none of the rights articulated in the Constitution are unlimited. You cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater or threaten the life of the President of the United States to name two pretty basic examples. The idea that public gatherings of any sort – religious or not – cannot be limited by public health officials in the middle of a vicious and totally agnostic pandemic – is offensive in its lack of concern for the safety and well-being of the entire public.

Obviously the restrictions on religious gathering have nothing to do with limiting anyone’s right to worship. But someone’s right to worship does not include the right to infect and kill anyone and everyone else.

Justice Barrett has shown her hand. And it is made of iron.

Her absolutist positions on issues related to religion – like gender equality, abortion and climate change, for example – will soon be on full display.

November 30, 2020

13,385,495-266,887 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Trump continues to rant and rave and rave and rant to whomever will listen, claiming and bellowing that he did not lose the election due to “massive fraud” that literally does not exist. He demanded that Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, a loyal lap dog if there ever was one, invalidate the recent election results, at least the part where he was concerned.

To his credit, Governor Kemp actually understands the importance of taking an oath to support the Constitution of the State of Georgia and its laws. And its laws state that Governor Kemp cannot do what Trump demands. Again, to his credit, Governor Kemp took the unpleasant but correct choice and told the emperor that he was nude.

There are reports from sources in the White House that Trump alternates between ranting and morose brooding, continuing to say, many time to himself, that he won the election. One staffer likened it to watching the Mad King George. So when, exactly, does the 25th Amendment actually get put to use before Trump does a slovenly sloppy version of “Thelma and Louise” and takes the entire country over the cliff of madness?

December 1, 2020

13,546,787-268,103 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

So November blends into December and more Americans are in hospitals than ever before and more Americans are dying by the day. Trump is totally ignoring the tsunami of death and destruction as he continues the madness of election denial. The sad fact that lurks behind everything this man is doing is the fact that over 73 million people voted for him knowing exactly who he is. The path to the self-immolation of a nation could not be clearer.

Of course, ever the hustling con man, Trump has raised over $170 million from MAGA Nation since November 3rd. Presumably donations are supposed to support his doomed legal fight to overturn the election results. But……read the fine print and Trump can use the money to pay campaign staffers, travel for himself and initial funding for his 2024 campaign.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to do everything he can to disrupt and destroy by demanding an acceleration of the release of the vaccines that are going through the final review process. Of course if he gets his way, the man who brought you Trump University will immediately destroy the credibility of the entire vaccination process thereby prolonging the pandemic needlessly.

Members of his legal team are issuing death threats against election officials, many of them Republicans, and it would seem that it is only a matter of time before further tragedy occurs. The mere possibility of this imperils the entire democratic process in a manner that typically proceeds authoritarian rule.

That may seem like an exaggeration. But the thought of 73 million votes for Trump seemed like an exaggeration thirty days ago.

December 2, 2020

13,721,304-270,642 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at t0he beginning of the day)

Yesterday Chief Trump Enabler William Barr, a.k.a. the Attorney General of the United States, stated that the U.S. Department of Justice had found no indications or evidence of any significant fraud in the recent presidential election. This should have put the nail in the coffin of Trump’s fake attacks on the election.

Needless to say, it did not, another Tweet storm ensued and now we have one more day in which 2,000 Americans died from the pandemic while Trump does literally nothing about it.

December 3, 2020

13,925,350-273,847 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a slow motion nightmare from which we cannot awake. The news in one day would be the horror story of the year in what used to be called normal times. Consider:

  • Over 3000 American COVID-19 deaths in one day
  • Former National Security Advisor and recent recipient of a Trump payoff pardon (and author of the “lock her up” chant) Michael Flynn calls for an immediate declaration of martial law and an order for a new election which must warm the hearts of dictators and autocrats all over the world.  
  • Meanwhile Trump ponders whether to fire Barr for finally telling the truth at least one time. One would think that Trump would give him some kind of credit for all the lies that Barr has told on his behalf.
  • What we are seeing is far worse than the scenarios that were imagined just a few months ago – millions of Americans are literally starving – more than 50 million voters believe that the election is a fraud – 73 million Americans voting for Trump in spite of……well, in spite of him being Trump for the past four years – millions of businesses evaporating, taking millions of jobs (and hopes and dreams) with them – clearly too many of us suffered from a failure of imagination

It is worse than it looks and it looks pretty bad

December 4, 2020

14,147,754-276,401 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

In the midst of an epic pandemic with spiraling death tolls and collapsing economic indicators, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris remind us of what sane used to look like during an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN.

Coming on the heels of what was even for Trump an epic 46-minute video rant on Facebook reminds us that Trump was prepared to wreak even further havoc on this country if he was reelected. Further proof can be found in the fact that even as a (soundly) defeated soon to be ex-president, he is looking to bring down the columns of the temple on all of us if given just a little more time.

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Point of View Columns

When a Debate is not a Debate

The first and only debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence promised to be more coherent and rational if only because Donald Trump was not in the room. Of course by now most observers understood that Pence was Trump Lite, perhaps more palatable but still with the same message.

That having been said, the debate promised to reveal actual policy concerns instead of personal differences.

Here’s what we learned in real time.

  • The debate rules agreed to by both teams required that all in attendance would wear masks. The Biden-Harris team insisted that there be plexiglass partitions separating Harris and Pence and while the Pence team acceded to this demand they thought it smart to mock Kamala Harris for wanted to be protected from a man who has been in close proximity to a current COVID-19 patient (that would be Trump). But that is what logic looks like in the Land of Trump.
  • From the very beginning Susan Page seemed to be a better moderator than Chris Wallace by taking charge of the proceedings in a fashion that seemed to escape Wallace. Of course, she did not have a raging bull named Trump pawing the ground while panting and sorting and clearly that would make a difference.
  • The first question addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and the way that the Trump administration has responded. Harris immediately drew blood by stating that the incompetence that she outlined meant that the Trump-Pence team had “forfeited the right to reelection”. Ouch.
  • That initial comment left Pence shaking his head and, as it turned out he spent a lot of time shaking his head while Harris was speaking. That is, until a fly seemed to find some kind of fascination with the top of Pence’s head.
  • When Pence was asked about the globally high pandemic death rate in America he pivoted and stated that Trump has put the health of America first. He then went on to blame China and predict that there would be vaccines available before the end of the year. He went on to state that the Biden COVID plan was actually the Trump plan and accused Trump of plagiarism, in the process alluding to a plagiarism incident involving Biden when he was in his early twenties. Once again providing the Trump-Pence team when given a choice, will always go low.
  • Harris retorted with haymakers detailing the incompetence and malpractice of the Trump administration during the pandemic. Pence then wrapped himself in the flag and stated that for Harris to criticize the Trump administration was “an insult to the American people” although it was never clear why that would be the case.
  • When asked about the viability of a vaccine, Harris stated that she would take a vaccine that was endorsed by Dr. Fauci but would not take a vaccine recommended by Trump. Pence, seemingly affixed to his high horse, accused Harris of “playing politics with people’s lives” although again, it was not clear why that would be the case.
  • Notably both Pence and Harris absolutely dodged the question about whether they have had discussions with Trump and Biden respectively regarding 25th Amendment issues given that on January 20th either man would be the oldest person ever inaugurated as president. Interesting duck and dodge.
  • The debate settled into a traditional thrust and parry with neither side drawing blood. Harris claims that the Trump promise of a healthcare plan to replace Obamacare is imaginary, Pence basically pirouettes and doesn’t respond.
  • Pence goes on to introduce a bit of magical thinking by claiming that the environment is better since Trump became president which is simply not true. And when asked about climate change Pence spins again and starts talking about tax cuts.
  • When asked about how the Obama administration handled ISIS Harris deftly ducked and dodged into a conversation about Trump referring to veterans and dead American war heroes as “suckers and losers”. Ouch.
  • Pence starts to look like Trump in try to talk over the moderator but Susan Page is no Chris Wallace.
  • Pence then executes another pirouette from a question about Roe V. Wade to talking about Isis and Iran – the connective tissue being apparent to nobody but Pence. But he does take the time to explicitly embrace a ban on abortion.
  • As should have been expected, Pence denies the existence of systemic racism in America – and why did he do that?
  • Pence walked into a buzz saw named Harris who almost certainly was waiting for this moment, nailing Pence to Trump’s praise of white supremacists with his “good people on both sides” comments after Charlottesville.
  • Pence, pinned against the ropes executes a clever deflection by attacking Harris on the Black incarceration rate in San Francisco while she was District Attorney – nowhere near a mortal blow but certainly on that had to leave a mark.
  • The debate ends with Harris repeatedly lecturing Pence on the fact that she will not be lectured to.
  • Pence waffles on the peaceful transition of power question and it would seem clear that even in the face of an electoral landslide it will be more than a notion to pry Team Orange out of the White House. Of course, by that time many of the White House staff may just be in the final stages of COVID-19 recovery.
  • The debate ends and Harris is greeted by her mask wearing husband and Pence is greeted by his maskless wife, despite the very strict pre-debate guidelines. What is it with masks and these people?

It is clear that this was not your typical college or university debate team type of debate. It was a series of suitable sound bites with the opponent simply being the foil for yet another talking point.

Of course that is why, in 2020, a debate is not a debate.

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Point of View Columns

Another Five Days in the Life of America

September 7, 2020

6,277,005–188,941 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

It is almost impossible to fully comprehend the daily rising of the pandemic infection and death toll – translating numbers into the suffering of actual human beings is an overwhelming task. But being overwhelmed is not an option for leadership during a pandemic and that is exactly what Team Trump is – overwhelmed. As Barack Obama so aptly stated, “he’s not up to the job”.

Reflecting on the spate of Trump reveal books that have been and are coming out, one can be reminded of the 1950’s movie, “A Face in the Crowd” featuring a soon to be television megastar by the name of Andy Griffith. Griffith plays the role of a drifter who improbably becomes a wildly popular radio talk show with the name of Lonesome Rhodes.

Rhodes portrays himself as the Common Man even though he soon begins to flaunt a lavish lifestyle with a penthouse, butlers and everything. All is well however, and he continues to be wildly popular until he is taped when he thinks the studio microphone is off. And that is when he goes into a rather unpleasant spiel regarding his absolute disdain for his great unwashed followers. Needless to say, that marked the beginning of the end of Mr. Rhodes.

Similarly, those who know Trump best and see him at his worst, are keenly aware of his absolute disdain for anyone not named Donald J. Trump. And now, in book after book and interview after interview, the True Trump is finally coming too light. The question is now whether, or when, MAGA Nation will turn on him.

We will see if life imitates art.

Yesterday, in a Sunday morning interview Kamala Harris was asked if she would take a vaccine that comes out of the accelerated testing scheduled promoted by Trump. She honestly said no. She also said that she would only take a vaccine that was approved by the scientists and medical personnel who know about such things.

It should not be odd that she would not want a vaccine by the man who brought you the fake Trump University, the failed Trump Airlines and a “miraculous” disappearance of the pandemic by April – which would be five months ago. What is odd is that today Trump accused her and Joe Biden of being “anti-vaxxers” when what they are is justifiably skeptical of anything that Trump says.

And in another day of rants – Trump has the amazing ability to amaze. This time in trying to detach himself from the Tar Baby of his reportedly calling dead and injured American military personnel “losers” and “suckers” he falsely claimed that the soldiers love him but the generals don’t. His reason was that generals disliked him because they like to start wars in order to please arms industry corporations who get to sell more planes, missiles and weapons.

There is no doubt that there is a military-industrial complex, Dwight Eisenhower stated that quite clearly over a half a century ago. And there also no doubt that said military-industrial complex has grown exponentially through the Cold War and even afterwards with the infusion of trillions of dollars in the name of national security.

But there is also no doubt that there are very few generals and admirals who relish the thought of sending men and women into battle to possibly get injured or die. Command in the time of war requires acknowledgement that loss of life is always a probability. For Trump to suggest that any military commander would willingly send men and women to their death in the service of the military-industrial complex is to only reveal his craven and damaged inner self.

September 8, 2020

6,301,451–189,221 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day begins with the rather amazing story that the Trump presidential campaign is running out of money having begun the campaign with a billion dollars. It appears that, in true Trump fashion, the management and staff of the campaign engaged in a profligate spending spree where limousines, lavish salaries and sumptuous offices were more of a priority than actual re-election work.

What is even more amazing is that Trump has said that he would put some of “his own money” into the campaign if necessary. He pointed out that he put $50 million “of his own money” into his 2016 primary campaign although there is no proof of that and it is clear that no Trump money went into the general campaign.

The truth is that New Yorkers who have been following Trump for the past four decades know that he has always been cash poor. There is the flash and the fake glamor but, when it comes time for real money to be put on the table Trump is rarely the one who puts up the cash.

Think about what would be the case if a true billionaire like Michael Bloomberg was facing a situation like this. He wouldn’t talk about putting up some “of his own money”, implicitly soliciting contributions, Bloomberg would just put up the cash.

Think about the fact that a true billionaire would not be trying to nickel and dime the federal government by having military flights routed through his golf course in Scotland just so that he could pocket several thousands of dollars. And a true billionaire would not be billing the American taxpayer for his personal protection at Trump Tower in New York City or at Mar a Lago, his Florida hideaway. A true billionaire would just consider it his contribution to the American people.

But Trump is a true billionaire. And when, and if, Trump claims to put some “of his own money” into this 2020 campaign it would be a good idea to ask for the receipts – along with his tax returns.

September 9, 2020

6,328,054–189,698 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Trump was in North Carolina yesterday at another one of those rallies that he loves so much because he gets what he believes as adulation which he needs as much oxygen and Big Macs. He rambles and he rants and he literally preens before MAGA Nation thinking that this is what being President of the United States is all about. When he is at a rally he couldn’t be happier unless he was in a House of Mirrors by himself.

During his rants he somehow focused for a moment, this time he managed to turn to Kamala Harris. He actually said that if she became the first woman President of the United States it would be “an insult to America”. With that singular statement he made it clear to all who needed clarity that he is no longer using a dog whistle when it comes to race, racism and racist comments.

George Wallace used a dog whistle in comparison to Trump. Trump is using a foghorn.

Trump may have inadvertently done the Biden-Harris campaign a favor. In an effort to distract, distraction being his go-to trick in his bag of tricks, he announced from the White House lawn the appointment of twenty new federal court judges. He made sure to be clear that these were all very conservative, right wing of the right wing judges, most of whom are young, who will be interpreting the Constitution in a manner that endangers civil rights, voting rights, immigration, a woman’s right to choose, the environment…. the list goes on.

And, as if this horror movie scene wasn’t enough to further energize the Biden-Harris campaign, Trump also mentioned that the 2020 presidential election would be the most important in history because in the coming presidential term there will most probably be two, if not four, vacancies to fill on the United States Supreme Court.

The specter of SIX TRUMP JUDGES on the Supreme Court for the next twenty years has to be more than enough to make the blood of the supporters of the Biden-Harris team and for those supporters to make sure that every eligible voter does actually vote. It would appear that it is far from an exaggeration to state that the future of the United States is on the line.

No matter the Trump Fan Dance of Distraction, there was no way he can divert the exhausted American attention span away from the shocking and disgusting revelations in Bob Woodward’s new White House book, “Rage”. The distillation of Woodward’s eighteen interviews with Trump is that he is a narcissistic megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur.

But what we didn’t know until Trump told Woodward is that he knew how deadly and contagious the COVID-19 virus was for many weeks before he even acknowledged that was the case. In the meantime he derided the coming pandemic as a “hoax” (there’s that word again) or that it would disappear miraculously while all the time he knew that this was not true.

His excuse? He was showing good leadership along the order of Churchill or Roosevelt by hiding the truth of the imminent fatal danger in order to avoid a panic. Of course Churchill and Roosevelt told the unpleasant truths to their nations so that they could be prepared for adversity and have the hope that they would prevail.

September 10, 2020

6,362,440–190,872 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day opens and closes with Team Trump trying to (a) say he didn’t say what he said, (b) that he was being presidential in lying to the American people and (c) forget about the lying, by shutting down flights from Europe and China he kept the pandemic death toll at a mere 190,000 American lives instead of 2,000,000.

And when that didn’t work Trump tried a couple more distraction curveballs. First he said that Woodward – the universally acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize winning author – misrepresented what he said on tape, even though Woodward played the actual tape. Curveball two was that Woodward should have said something when he, Trump, revealed to him how deadly the virus was if he was so concerned.

There is clearly nothing so pitiful as a con man who can’t con anymore.

September 11, 2020

6,397,547–191,802 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

September 11, 2001, commonly known as 9/11 has taken on iconic status – the 21st century version of December 7, 1941. Yet another day that will live in infamy.

It was expected that the Biden-Harris team would refrain from any politicizing this solemn day that exposed the vulnerability – and mortality – of all Americans. And they were true to form today.

But with Trump, one can never be too sure. He did read a teleprompter speech in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where 40 Americans battled the terrorist hijackers and diverted a 757 jetliner from the intended target of the Capitol building and instead crashed the plane into a field killing all on board.

Trump read as if he were anesthetized, which is how he sounds when he reads from a teleprompter. There was no emotion or compassion or true expression of sympathy. But thankfully there were no impromptu comments and we should be grateful for the small things.

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Four Days in the Life of America

August 20, 2020

5,530,247–173,193 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Last night Barack Obama took the gloves off and repaid Trump for a decade’s worth of lies, accusations, more lies, misrepresentation and attacks. Up until recently Obama did not think it was worthy of his own self-image to give Trump the recognition that he so clearly craves.

Up until now his most personal attack on Trump came at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011 when he virtually barbecued Trump for all the world to see. Indeed, he stripped Trump naked with a smile on his face. And there are more than a few people who believe that it was on that night that Trump swore to run for president and erase and/or degrade Obama’s legacy.

Last night was different. In reciting the many crimes and sins of Trump, Obama concluded that Trump was “treating the presidency like another reality show in order to get the attention that he craves”. That had to leave a mark.

The day progresses after last night’s Trump Twitterstorm when he responded to Obama’s takedown. Certainly, for a committed racist and an absolute white supremacist like Trump, being termed incompetent by not one, but three Black people – two of them Black women (!!!!) had to get under his remarkably thin skin.

But, since wit is not one of Trump’s few attributes (another being the ability to walk upright and not drag his knuckles), the best rejoinder he could summon could be summarized as “I know you are but what am I?” which certainly taxed Trump’s capacity for creativity to its limit.

Later in the day a story burst on to the news cycle that could have been written by Mel Brooks or the Coen brothers or Monty Python. Former presidential advisory Steve Bannon was indicted and arrested for being a central player in a $25 million scheme to raise money for the “Build the Wall Foundation” and then pocketing the proceeds for his personal life style and that of his coconspirators (Bannon was arrested on a yacht off the shores of Connecticut- cannot make this stuff up).

This scam is made all the more implausible when we learned that Donald Trump, Jr. was one of the promoters of this scheme and that one of the other promoters assured the public that Donald Trump the Elder supported this initiative. And these basic facts raise all kinds of questions.

First and foremost, wasn’t one of the foundational principles of the Trump Movement that Mexico was going to pay for the wall? And then, even the most modest wall budget estimates were in the billions, so how did ordinary citizens, even well to do ordinary citizens, imagine that the princely sum of $25 million was going to build more than a few yards of wall? Perhaps a 1000-mile velvet rope, but

Then there is the issue of the venal nature of Bannon and his cohorts. Whatever their many flaws, the population of MAGA nation truly believes in Trump. To take advantage of these people is beyond crass, it is cruel. And it is truly sad that they would take advantage of the people that truly believe, no matter how misguided they might be.

And then there is this:

 Nine former Trump administration or campaign officials have been indicted or convicted of a catalogue of crimes which now includes Steve Bannon being indicted for masterminding a “Build the Wall” scheme (soliciting funds from the MAGA faithful, keeping in mind that it used to be that Mexico was going to pay for the wall) and using the proceeds to support the lifestyle to which he believes he deserves. However, if he is convicted of these crimes, his lifestyle will change radically for a very long time.

Either Trump is the worst judge of character of any president with the possible exception of Ulysses Grant and Warren G. Harding who presided over epic scandals or……. he chooses to be closest with people who are just like him – kind of an Ocean’s 45 instead of Ocean’s 11. I am going with Door Number 2.

August 21, 2020

5,530,247–173,193 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Last night Joe Biden did his very best to draw the inevitable contrast between Trump and himself. So last night he was everything that Trump is not. He was compassionate, empathetic, insightful and most of all, intelligent.

Meanwhile Trump seems to moving closer and closer to fully embracing the QAnon movement. That would be QAnon that preaches a gospel that speaks to the existence of a cabal of Satan-worshipping, blood drinking pedophiles who are embedded in the Deep State. QAnon followers who also believe that George Soros and Bill Gates have conspired to utilize 5G technology for mind control purposes.

Several QAnon followers have been successful in Republican primaries in deeply red districts. That means that in all likelihood several QAnon followers will be in the United States Congress in January of next year. It will be like the Tea Party of steroids (and acid) coming to D.C. with the sole aim of disrupting.

If Trump is still president, this country will be in worse trouble than it already is. It will certainly be helpful to pray….it will also be important to vote.

August 22, 2020

5,624,721–175,416 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day spins around the axis of the release by Trump niece Mary Trump of comments by Trump sister Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. You will recall that Mary Trump wrote a book, “Too Much and Never Enough”, that was released several weeks ago. Mary Trump revealed the not too surprising fact that the egotistical megalomaniac that we have come to know is an egotistical megalomaniac in private.

Clearly, Mary Trump was not through barbecuing her uncle. Last night she released an audio tape of Trump’s sister referring to her infamous brother in the most unflattering terms, unconsciously echoing Barack and Michelle Obama in saying that Trump just doesn’t want to do the work. And that was probably the best thing that she had to say about him – as a distillation of her taped comments was that she was appalled, dismayed and disgusted – but in no way surprised – by Trump’s behavior as president as the office has not changed him – it simply revealed him to the rest of the world.

 August 23, 2020

5,668,564–176,371 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Yesterday Trump accused the leadership of the FDA as being part of the “Deep State”, malevolently delaying vaccine approvals in order to favor the Democrats in November. Today Trump announced that the FDA is approving the use of convalescent plasma as a therapeutic treatment of COVID-19 virus victims.

This is all coming from the man who brought you Trump University. This is coming from the man who recommended bleach, the internal use of ultraviolet rays and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the pandemic. And now, this accelerated conditional approval of the use of convalescent plasma. And it is certainly far, far away from being a “cure” for pandemic.

It is important to realize that having scientists defer to political considerations at the Environmental Protection Agency (degrading environmental issues) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (degrading climate change). And we know that in those two instances that Americans and citizens of the world are already suffering the consequences.

Watching FDA officials fawn and grovel at the feet of Trump will serve to vitiate and deteriorate the credibility of FDA in the near future and in years to come. Hearing the FDA officials and other members of the administration almost reflexively referring to “your leadership” with Trump hovering nearby, looks like something out of a press conference in Pyongyang today or Berlin circa 1936. And clearly, politicizing the FDA is as dangerous a Trump move as anything that he has done since January 20, 2017.

And it is important to note that Trump dragged FDA officials in front of cameras to announce a faux historic achievement with respect to battling the pandemic. One need not even read the fine print on this one – the second paragraph of the announcement makes it very clear that this is not a great achievement and will do next to nothing to ease the pain, suffering and misery of the American people.

But it will make a great sound bite at the opening of the Republican National convention tomorrow.

And then there is the matter of the RNC Convention which begins tomorrow. It is scheduled to be a four-day affair, and guess which egomaniac president has decided that he should be a featured speaker for all four days? It was going to be difficult to watch this Trump extravaganza, now it may require hypnosis or very strong sedatives to endure the next 96 hours.

At the DNC convention Barack Obama spoke of Trump using the presidency to get the attention that he craves. This coming week Trump is providing all the evidence necessary to prove Obama’s point – appearing on stage on all four days of the convention not only has never been done by a party nominee, it is so far over the top that no one could see the benefit of going there.

But Trump craves attention, if not affection. Trump does not care. In the canyons and caverns of his mind all eyes will be on him, and for Trump that is more than enough.

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Three Days in the Life of America

August 15, 2020

5,316,637–168,481 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans t4he beginning of the day)

Were it not for the fact that we are in the Age of Trump in the United States of Crazy, the fact that the first three attacks on Kamala Harris’s presumptive Vice Presidential candidacy were epic. Here they are in order of stupidity:

  1. She is angry, mad (as in angry, not mad as in Trump) and she is nasty;
  2. She sounds like Marge Simpson (Marge Simpson immediately issued a strongly worded expression of outrage at being “disrespected by Team Trump – I cannot make this stuff up); and
  3. Harris is not a natural U.S. citizen, even though she was born in Oakland, California, because both of her parents were immigrants making her an “anchor baby” (spoiler alert – there is no such exception of “anchor babies” in the Constitution.

One has to wonder if this is what amounts to Team Trump’s best shot. Or is this some Machiavellian strategic plan to lull the Biden-Harris team into a sense of complacency – kind of a Trump-style Rope A Dope. And since Trump can’t even spell Machiavelli, the smart money is betting that items 1,2 and 3 represent the Trump Team’s best shot.

The smart money is also betting that Team Trump will go back to sewer diving and gutter hunting and will come up with something a lot more offensive.

 August 16, 2020

5,361,613–169,489 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans t4he beginning of the day)

The day begins with what is supposed to be a good day in the new reality of Trump World because “only” 1,000 Americans died yesterday. The phenomenon of Trumpthink will result in the devastation of the Republic.

Meanwhile it was announced that former Republican Governor John Kasich will speak at the Democratic convention. What might have been a moment of apostasy a few years ago seems very much like common sense who senses the lurking abyss in a second Trump term as president.

And the Trump Sound Machine continues to beat the birther drum at Kamala Harris while claiming that it isn’t. The latest Trump strategy is to blame the entire birther controversy on “the media” even though everyone watches Trump peddling bizarro theories regarding her citizenship that do indeed originate from sources outside of the White House. But of course it is the White House remix that gives the these theories legitimacy in the fevered minds that inhabit MAGA World.

And tomorrow, the Democrats host the first national convention that will be totally virtual.

Welcome to the Brave New World.

 August 17, 2020

5,404,115–170,052 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The countdown begins as the virtual Democratic National Convention will begin this evening. Trump will be hosting rallies throughout several swing states this evening in an effort to distract attention from this evening’s events. And somehow we are not supposed to notice that we are in the middle of a cataclysmic pandemic while the President of the United States is hopping around the country as if the American people don’t have a care in the world.

As if tens of millions of Americans haven’t lost their jobs. As if close to 200,000 Americans have lost their lives while another 5,000,000 Americans have been infected. As if millions of businesses haven’t closed for good, turning lifelong hopes, dreams and aspirations into bitter ashes. As if fear stalks even the bravest as well as the most foolish because it is clear that no one knows what tomorrow may promise.

Ostensibly we are supposed to take some comfort in knowing that Trump is doing his damnedest (an intentional choice of words) to confuse, confound and derail the upcoming election by effectively dismantling key elements of the U.S. Postal, never mind that millions of Americans rely on the postal system not only to vote, but to receive medication, checks, and a range of goods and services. Clearly, Trump doesn’t know and/or doesn’t care.

Meanwhile the latest polls have the race between Biden and Trump narrowing to the point where it is virtually a statistical dead heat (an apt choice of words here). And one has to wonder who is it that, upon seeing the carnage that Trump has visited upon this country is convinced that he should be reelected?

Can it be, that with the death and disruption occasioned by the incompetence and intentional ignorance of the Trump regime being clear for all the world to see, that half of the American voting public will still want him to continue in office.

Clearly there is still a place for racism and stupidity and vile hatred in American politics…….and we should all be very afraid.

And now, the most unusual Democratic National Convention in history will start shortly and we shall see what the new normal looks like.

And then Michelle Obama decided it was time to eviscerate Trump in real time. As she recounted his many faults and multiple missteps she concluded with, “….he’s in over his head. It is what it is.” Ouch.

And if that last part sounds familiar it is because she was repeating Trump’s response when questioned about the (then) 150,000 American COVID-19 fatalities – “it is what it is was Trump’s memorable expression of empathy and sorrow for the deaths of so many Americans.

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Point of View Columns

Three Days in the Life of America

August 1, 2020

In Memoriam

Carmen E. Ford

January 10, 1926 – April 17, 2020

Memorial Service held at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Harlem, exactly 3 months and 2 weeks after her death due to the COVID-19 pandemic

 August 2, 2020

4,620,502 –152,449 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans4 at the beginning of the day)

Sunday begins and continues with Trump stirring the pot of controversy with manic skill and energy. For the past 48 hours he has been floating the ideas that the coming election will be “rigged” because of mail-in voting (despite zero evidence to support this bogus claim) and that he may not be prepared to accept the election results (or leave office on January 20, 2020 as required by the Constitution).

This bit of malignant musing is literally new to American politics, although it would certainly sound familiar in Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italy. In 240 years of governance and over forty presidential transitions this issue has never been a matter of concern.

‘The closest analogy would be the 1876 election where Rutherford B. Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden – and then made a backdoor deal with Southern Democrats in returning for leaving Black people in the South to the tender mercies of the Ku Klux Klan by withdrawing federal reconstruction troops in return for the requisite votes in the Electoral College. The other example would be in 2000 when Al Gore conceded the bitterly contested election to George W. Bush “for the good of the nation”.

It goes without saying that Trump would never do anything “for the good of the nation” if it wasn’t good for Trump. And it remains to be seen that if the popular vote in November results in the poll-predicted repudiation of Trump if there would even be an opportunity to conjure up some back door Electoral College deal (the Hayes-Tilden vote was very close). So for Trump, there remains only the blended option of denial and resistance to political reality.

Many commentators, including this writer, have for several years urged Americans to be aware of an epic and historical constitutional crisis in November of 2020 in the event that Trump lost the presidential election. Many commentators rejected this possibility out of hand then – but not now.

Trump is actually telling us that he is prepared to play the role of Samson and bring the temple down on himself – and us. And that is why not only Democrats, but any Americans who are concerned about this looming tragedy to begin building an institutional and legal series of defenses and strategies because they will be needed.

This is not a matter of crying “wolf”.

The wolf has announced his intentions to all who will listen.

August 3, 2020

4,667,957 –154,860 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

It remains a mystery how the reopening of schools, colleges and universities in September is a subject of debate. There are very few people who seriously believe that students have a better educational experience in distance learning environments. There are even fewer parents, educators and medical professionals who believe that keeping schools closed in the fall would be a good thing.

Clearly there is no debate. The only question is, or should be, one of safety. Safety for the students, of course, and also safety for the faculty, administrative staff and support staff at any school, college or university.

By now it should be clear to all – except perhaps that doctor who believes in demon seed – that COVID-19 is an exceptionally lethal virus that is spectacularly contagious. We are not talking about measles or the flu, we are seeing a monstrous pandemic that feeds off ignorance and stupidity.

Trump and assorted Republican governors can “order” that schools be open, but they can’t order COVID-19 to be less lethal. So parents and students and teachers and administrators will make the final decision about the opening of schools.

All this talk about young people being less likely to be seriously ill even if they contract the virus is all well and good when Trump and his minions are speaking about someone else’s child. But who will speak to someone who loses their child because of a premature and politically motivated opening of schools and colleges and universities? And please note that the school that Barron Trump is attending will not open until October.

Meanwhile the preventive and curative properties of hydroxychloroquine with respect to COVID-19 have been debunked and disproved at every turn. So it is a mystery as to why Trump and his running dogs continue to tout this drug as being effective during this disaster of a pandemic.

Could it be that somewhere in the bowels of the Trump Organization there is an investment vehicle that has an interest in a company that manufactures hydroxychloroquine? As vile and corrupt as that might be, Trump’s huckstering would make more sense than him just being increasingly unhinged and on barely speaking terms with truth and reality.

Trump also reiterated his opposition to any aid to states and cities in the long delayed, and now overdue, stimulus package. His argument is that such aid would be a “bailout” of incompetent Democratic governors and mayors can’t stand the light of the moon, much less the light of day.

By most indicia regarding the quality of life of its citizens, so-called Blue states have better statistics with regards to health, education and economic vitality. Indeed, the Blue states contribute more in tax revenue to the federal treasury than they receive in federal assistance. It being just the opposite with Red states.

But Trump has never let facts get in the way of his lies, and he seems to believe that if he and McConnell say “bailout” enough times it will be taken as truth. But if there is no aid to states and cities in this upcoming stimulus package, police and teachers and health care workers and sanitation workers will be laid off in Red and Blue states and the American carnage that Trump unwitting predicted on January 20, 2017 will become an inferno that will consume this entire nation.

It appears that with Trump, it can always get worse.

And then there are the Democrats. And it would seem that there are still high placed operatives within the party that are determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We saw all of tendencies to self-immolate during the primary campaign, which came to a merciful end by the end of March thereby avoiding the completion of an unspoken suicide pact.

But now, as Joe Biden completes his vetting and selection process for his running mate, there seems to be a very vocal chattering class that is attacking the credibility, viability and electability of several of the Black female prospects.

This is so bad in so many ways. Beginning with the fact that there is a very real possibility that two of the major targets of this chattering class, Representative Karen Bass and Senator Kamala Harris, could very well be the VP nominee. So there is no real point in providing ammunition for Team Trump for the fall.

There is also the very real possibility that neither of them will be the eventual VP nominee in which case there are going to be some very angry supporters of these two women who will be expected to fall in line and get with the program. And in any event, sanctioning the disparagement of Black women who are ambitious and aspiring is an old message and has always been the wrong message. And is certainly the wrong message now.

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Point of View Columns

Three Days in the Life of America

July 26, 2020

4,178,730 –146, 463 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

 The death of Congressman John Lewis has provided an opportunity to once again fully appreciate the importance and nobility of his life, which was one of protest and advocacy for change and justice literally until the day he died. There have been the expected hypocritical and totally hollow mechanical statements from the like of Trump and Senator Marco Rubio (who couldn’t even tell the difference between Elijah Cummings and John Lewis when he tweeted his faux statement of sympathy).

 

But there have also been eloquent statements from his remaining peers like Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young to name but a few. And certainly many current leaders like Kamala Harris and Marc Morial, again to name but a few, have been delivered statements that meet both the gravity and the glory of the moment.

 

And then there have been some statements by commentators and members of the press to the effect that the leadership of the civil rights movement is dying. And that is an astounding misstatement of fact and history. It is misstatement of history because it perpetuates the absolutely false assumption that the civil rights movement began in the 1950’s until at some point in the latter part of the 1960’s after the passage of the Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Fair Housing Acts.

 

The reality is that the struggle of Black Americans for civil rights and the institutional recognition the humanity of Black people began in 1619 when at least one or more of the first enslaved Africans said no. The struggle for civil rights was manifested in the Underground Railroad and the hundreds of revolts by Black slaves. Pierre Toussaint was a civil rights leader in the New York of the 1700’s as he established his humanity not only by being a successful businessman but also by being a philanthropist.

 

Nate Turner and Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vesey and so many other leaders of slave revolts were civil rights leaders – as was Harriet Tubman and the other conductors of the Underground Railroad. Black abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, Prince Hall, Sarah Parker Redmond, Henry Highland Garnet and William Still were all civil rights leaders.

 

And when they died the mantle of leadership in the ongoing struggle for civil rights rested on the shoulders of the like Ida B. Wells and Monroe Trotter and W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington and Walter White and Marcus Garvey and Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall and Harry T. Moore.

 

And when they died this country learned the names of Malcolm X and Whitney Young and Roy Wilkins and Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown and Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver and Robert Williams as advocates for civil rights.

 

Clearly the list goes on of the men and women of this day who believe in and live for the struggle for racial justice and dignity for Black people. And the fact that many of these names And while it is right and just to mourn the passing of John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, the idea that the leadership and heroes of the Black civil rights movement sounds like the beginning of an excuse for future inaction and a defense of acceptance of the status quo because “our heroes are dying”.

Every man, woman and child is a hero – we are all heroes, if we would only take the time to realize that fact and then act.

 July 27, 2020

4,234,140 –146, 935 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

We begin the day with the breaking news that National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now quarantined at home. The White House immediately reassured America that Trump and Vice President Pence are safe.

Somehow, Americans are supposed to be assured that not only are Trump and Pence safe, but that American children will be safe to go to school next month even though the highest officials in the federal government – who are in the White House on virtually a daily basis and presumably tested regularly – fall to the disease. How many infections and how many deaths will be too many for this White House to backtrack on mandatory school openings? Clearly it is an unknowable and probably unthinkable number.

And then there is this – and if anyone who is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement thought that white supremacy was just going to go away to the dustbin of history quietly, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton had this to say:

“We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country.

“As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”

There is no way to argue with a stone. And there is no way to argue with this kind of stubborn embrace of white supremacy. The real question is how his colleagues in the Senate and the House and the people of this country will respond.

It is safe to say that if a United States Senator were to suggest that slave labor and prison camps were “an understandable choice by Nazi Germany” that there would be a justifiably righteous uproar and outrage. The question will now be one of how America – having embraced the concept of Black Lives Matter by kneeling at a few public events and taking Aunt Jemima off the pancake box and removing a few statues of dead Confederate thugs and offering up ritualized mea culpas regarding slavery and systemic racism and the death of George Floyd – will respond to a new blooming of the rancid flower of racism in the moment.

It’s now pretty safe to agree to take down the Confederate swastika flag. But it is always safe to condemn the past and be silent in the present. What is going to happen to Tom Cotton? Will he be censured on the floor of the Senate? Will editorials flow from media outlets from coast to coast? We know that Trump will do nothing, but what will Joe Biden do? What will the Congressional Black Caucus do? And what about the clergy and elected officials across the country – what do they have to say?

Years ago Jimmy the Greek, a glorified TV bookie spewed some rancid garbage about the inherent inferiority of Black people and he never worked on TV again. Tom Cotton is a United States Senator, one of only one hundred elected officials with awesome responsibility, awesome power and awesome stature. If a glorified bookie can be sanctioned for making racist remarks what should happen to a sitting United States Senator?

We know that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson will be silent, but there are 49 other governors. We know that Arkansas Senator John Boozman will be silent, but there are 98 other senators.

The American response to Tom Cotton’s outrageous embrace of white supremacy and justifying and legitimizing of slavery is a perfect opportunity to find out if Black Lives Really Matter.

Meanwhile Republicans in the Senate are finalizing their version of a stimulus package which includes virtually no money for states and localities – a position that will virtually guarantee the near collapse state and local governments across the country. Trump has been running ads claiming that Joe Biden supports the defunding of the police. But in reality it will be the Republicans who will literally defund the police in states across the country if the stimulus package does not address the pressing needs of states and localities.

But even the part of the Republican bill that deals with direct aid to American citizens, the proposal is to reduce the $600 per week income supplement to $200 50 million suddenly unemployed Americans have an incentive to go back to work.

This from a group of well fed and financially comfortable and self-righteous satraps who seem to have a good dose of mean flowing through their veins. They are reminiscent of the billionaires who give a quarter to a homeless man on the corner and then feel like they have done a good deed.

 July 28, 2020

4,294,770 –148, 056 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Because constant drama seems to be a hallmark of the Time of Trump while awaiting the appearance of Attorney General (and Trump consigliore) William Barr before the House Judiciary Committee, the chair of the committee, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, was delayed when his car was in an accident. It appears that he was unhurt but the conspiracy theorists on every side of the political spectrum are already in a frenzy.

When William Barr did appear he did not disappoint his Godfather Trump or his fiercest critics who have accused him of being nothing more than Trump’s consigliore and fixer – kind of a Michael Cohen with an Ivy League pedigree. Democrats on the Committee came looking for a fight and Barr certainly accommodated him.

Fresh off his denials of being involved in the multi-year sexual scandal at Ohio State where he was an assistant wrestling coach, Congressman Jim Jordan did his best pit bull imitation in trying to turn the hearing into an Inquisition of……. the Obama administration, of course. Accusing the Obama Justice Department of spying on the Trump campaign only makes sense

if Jim Jordan simply ignores the fact that Trump campaign operatives engaged in conversations with Russian operatives who were being spied on – and that is when they became persons of interest and ultimately some of them became convicted felons as a result. But, to the likes of Jim Jordan, facts have no place in a good Inquisition.

The Republicans began their turn at the hearing by airing what looked like an updated version of the dystopic 70’s movie “Wild in the Streets”. If you believed the GOP production America is in flames and at any moment the peasants will be at the gates with torches and pitchforks. And our only hope is the gestapo tactics of Barr, who is playing Pinocchio to Trump’s Geppeto. And we kept waiting for the Republicans to trot out some Benghazi tapes while they were at it.

The Democrats attacked Barr and there was a lot of thrust and parry. It is fair to say that no one landed a knockout punch, on either side. Although Barr did make a couple of stunning statements including:

  • He was not sure if Trump could or could not change the date of the national election
  • He would not answer what he would do if Trump refused to leave the White House on January 20, 2021
  • He implied that there might be instances where the President accepting election from a power might be permissible.

Any one of those statements would be jaw dropping. But since we are living in the Age of Trump, no one’s jaw dropped even once.

And the day mercifully ended with Trump conducting another press conference where, among other things, he reiterated his support for a Nigerian-American doctor who claims that masks are useless, hydroxychloroquine is a cure for COVID-19 and that some doctors have been working on vaccines involving the DNA of aliens (simply cannot make this stuff up).

Trump went on to complain that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx were getting higher approval ratings than him. And he mused out loud as to why people don’t like him.

At least he didn’t start sucking his thumb.

But there is always tomorrow.

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Point of View Columns

In Search of Obama

There is no doubt that history will refer to Barack Obama as a U.S. President Like No Other. There is the obvious aspect of his being the first African American president. But he was also the president who led this country out of a backbreaking economic disaster while easing the United States out of two unwinnable wars. There is also the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) which transformed the American vision of healthcare and the Dodd Frank Act which was the first major reform of the American financial services industry in almost 80 years. And now, it is time for Barack Obama to be an Ex-President of the United States Like No Other.

Donald Trump is on a daily voyage between tragedy and travesty. His sense of the presidency is informed only by his massive lack of knowledge and his disdain for even the most basic precepts of American government. But his incompetence, ignorance and ill-will are distractions from the real damage he is doing to this country by empowering right wing ideologues and conservative fanatics to wreak havoc upon the American people.

Sadly, the list of harmful acts courtesy of Trump is virtually endless. The exit from the Paris Climate Accords is but one example of the kind of endless global damage that this man is capable of causing. The return to criminalizing low-level non-nonviolent drug offenses guarantees that the Incarceration State will be alive and well in this country for years to come. The elimination of labor safety laws and the all-out assault on voting rights, civil rights and women’s rights are also signs of the messy handiwork of the Man Called Trump.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has largely observed the unwritten rule that ex-presidents do not criticize their successors, at least for the first year. But now the first year is up and the President Like No Other has to become the Ex-President Like No Other. Because the reality is that Barack Obama, perhaps unintentionally, became the leader of a progressive surge that countered a quarter of a century of conservative ascendancy.

While no one would ever confuse the 44th President of the United States with being a radical progressive, his presence on the national political landscape empowered progressive men and women to envision an America where the meanest and least civil aspects of the conservative movement were no longer inevitable. And indeed, there are options to the fevered dreams and wishes of the Ayn Rand acolytes who would transform political and policy dialogue into a Maker-Taker Texas death match.

And this is where Barack Obama comes in. While Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker and who knows who else position themselves for a possible presidential run in 2020, there is real work to be done right now. This country cannot afford three more years of Democratic rope-a-dope and because he cannot run for president in 2020, Barack Obama can be the honest and true voice of progressive concerns, in the process concentrating constant and withering criticism of the man who challenged his citizenship, his college degree and his law school credentials.

When Barack Obama points out that Donald Trump has managed to denigrate black Americans with his dog whistle call to Make America Great (White) again while treating women like disposable accessories and demeaning and insulting the American immigrant community and the international community of color, people will listen and listen differently.

We have heard President Obama say that he has run the race and many would agree that he deserves time to be himself. But the mantle of leadership is not an easy one to cast aside and in these dangerous days and times he simply cannot observe and occasionally comment.

Barack Obama became President of the United States carrying a message of “Hope and Change”. If there was ever a time for Hope, it is now. If there was ever a time for Change, it is now. In 2008 this country was ready for that message.

And now, a decade later, America is ready for that message – again. And Barack Obama needs to be that messenger.

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