Point of View Columns

Three Days in the Life of America

August 5, 2020

 4,771,5199 –156,830 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

 The day begins with the news that a community activist by the name of Cori Bush soundly defeated 20-term incumbent William Clay in a Democratic primary in St. Louis which virtually assures her victory in November. That is actually good news for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, keeping in mind that Congressman Clay’s father held the seat for twelve years before his forty. Families, Black or white, should not “own” elected offices.

Second, Ms. Bush was only able to win despite Clay’s massive incumbency because she articulated a progressive change agenda that resonated with the people of St. Louis….and that is a good thing.

Third, it is clear from the 2018 election and what appears to be happening in the 2020 election is that people with more progressive agendas are getting elected because people with more progressive agendas are registering and voting. And that is what real change looks like.

Meanwhile, yesterday there was a massive explosion at a warehouse in in Beirut, Lebanon. Scores of citizens have died, thousands have been injured and the physical devastation to a significant part of this major city is quite visible.

Early reports indicate that a huge and incredibly dangerous amount of ammonium nitrate was being stored in the warehouse and the ensuing catastrophic event was a tragic accident of some sort. But leave it to Trump to announce at last night’s press conference that it was “an attack” literally without any evidence to support this misstatement.

The Pentagon went on the record stating in effect that they had no idea what the president was talking about. And further, that there was no evidence or indication that the tragedy in Beirut was the result of any kind of military action.

One has to wonder if Trump was trying to stir up even more trouble than he has already caused in the Middle East, or is he just a mindless simpleton who says whatever may wander through the alleys and byways of his mind. It would be a good guess that the second option is correct.

It would have been hard to predict in January of this year that mail-in voting would become a major presidential campaign issue. Of course, no one knew that a global pandemic would change life as we know it for all time. But it appears that the issue of mail-in voting doesn’t have much to do with the pandemic and everything to do with the Republican years long campaign of voter suppression.

Voter suppression is an American tradition that goes back at least 150 years. It was the suppression of Black male voting rights that resulted in the passage of the 15th Amendment. But sadly the end of Reconstruction also marked the end of Black voting rights until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

From 1965 until 2013 white supremacists disguised as conservative Republicans worked assiduously to gut the Voting Rights Act. For 48 years multiple lawsuits challenging the act made their way through the courts, usually leading nowhere until more rightwing racist judges started proliferating through the federal judiciary thanks to Reagan and the two Bushes (even the “compassionate conservative one).

Finally, those efforts bore fruit in the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision of 2013 which did indeed gut the hated Voting Rights Act. Since then there has been a proliferation of laws, edicts, plans, ordinances and just plain executive action to make it more difficult for Black people to vote – in the process catching poor people, the elderly and people of color in that malignant net.

One of the principle tools to empowering voters has been mail-in voting. But we should keep in mind that mail-in voting has been the only way to vote in Colorado, Utah, Washington State and Oregon for over 20 years – with no problems worth mentioning.

But now……. with Trump seeing the demise of his horrific presidency on the horizon, it casting mail-in voting as the tool of the devil – except in states with Republican governors like Florida.

Trump’s ploy is a pretty transparent two step. Step one is to encourage governors in states with Republican governors and legislatures to ratchet up their voter suppression efforts by focusing on mail-in voting. Step two is to delegitimize the November 3rd election results in advance to prepare for Trump’s likely epic loss.

And then there is this quote from the historian Edward Watts in his book Mortal Republic – How Rome Fell into Tyranny:

 “No republic is eternal……It lives only as long as its citizens want it. And, in both the 21st century A.D. and the first century B.C., when a republic fails to work as intended, its citizens are capable of choosing the stability of autocratic rule over the chaos of a broken republic.”

Now most people would say that was then is this now. And they would be right. But we should all remember George Santayana’s quote….” those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

And the day would not be complete without another outrage emanating from Trump. “What did he do this time?” seems to be the eternal question in America these days.

And not one to disappoint, Trump announced that he was contemplating giving his speech accepting the presidential nomination from the Republican Party from……. wait for it………. the White House. Clearly there is no one in Trump’s very limited universe who would tell him that using the White House as a prop during a political convention is simply not done.

To be clear, presidents have always given political messages while in the White House. There is obviously no need for any president to run across the street to Lafayette Park to say something that had political overtones.

But using the White House as a prop for a political convention has simply never been done in the Age of Television. Trump seems to think that every facet, aspect and element of the federal government is there for his personal use. It is not enough that the modern presidency has many of the trappings of royalty already. Trump clearly is of the mind that being president is literally the equivalent of being a modern day monarch.

It is clear that Trump wants to use his incumbency as a political tool. Fair enough…. incumbents of any and every office certainly will do that. But accepting the nomination of a national party from the Oval Office is over the top – even for Trump.

But there is a very real possibility that this ploy might backfire. Seeing Trump accept the nomination from the Oval Office will remind many Americans that this clown playing the role of a buffoon is still president, and galvanize many voters to cast their ballots for Joe Biden just so that we can be rid of him.

Trump better be careful what he asks for.

But of course, Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word “careful”.

August 6, 2020

 4,824,230 –158,268 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

It has been written several times in this journal, but it bears repeating. The listing of the daily register of sick and dead Americans seems like a satanic scoreboard from some hellish game. We become anesthetized to these numbers, which is why it is important to remember that each and every number is a person – perhaps with a family, perhaps loved and certainly entitled to a presence on this planet.

We are all destined to depart this Earth at some point. But to be the victim of not only a deadly disease but also the unwitting victim of the malignant incompetence, mismanagement of the amoral Trump administration is more than unfair.

And it is unfair because, with a minimum level of concern and with a minimum level of administrative ability and with a minimum level of empathy, Trump could have saved this country from the worst part of the suffering which is being endured by all Americans today.

Although so much of what we see and hear from Trump is too awful to be the source of humor, there are exceptions. Two days ago, while reading a teleprompter script announcing some programs aimed at improving national parks, including Yosemite National Park, he pronounced the famed park name as “Yo Semite” and then repeated his mangling of the park name as “Yo Semite”. It is literally impossible to make this stuff up.

There was a moment when the Anti-Defamation League leadership wondered whether this was an anti-Semitic slur that required an immediate response or whether he was trying to give a garbled shout out to the national Jewish community. And presumably, once it was realized that it was Trump speaking, it was just another reason to laugh at this pitiful excuse for a president.

On a much more serious note, the weekly jobs report came out and another 1.2 million Americans filed for unemployment during the past week. That means that over 50 million Americans have lost their job in the past 20 weeks. Put another way, one third of the American work force has been laid off during the pandemic.

Trump’s Carnage is real – think of it this way, one out of three Americans who went to work on January 2, 2020, the first day after New Year’s Day, are now out of work. And yet the Republicans are balking at a new stimulus package – the old one ran out 7 days ago – and as you are reading this there are countless citizens of the wealthiest country in the history of the planet who are homeless and going hungry.

And it is not being an “alarmist” to think that the worst is yet to come.

And, while we were watching the Trump Clown Show, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency gave permission for a Canadian mining company to begin work on something called the Pebble Mine in Alaska. Turns out the Pebble Mine would be the largest gold and copper mine in the world. And the Pebble Mine sits on waterways that flow into the river which hosts the largest sockeye salmon migration in the world.

The concern of most people, not just tree huggers, is that the waste from the Pebble Mine will ultimate pollute the salmon run resulting in something close to the extinction of this breed of salmon along with other irreversible environmental damage. The Obama administration had blocked this project for years so given that in Trump World all things Obama are bad, his EPA reversed earlier restrictions on this project. And an epic environmental cataclysm may be on the way.

And now, to the rescue comes Donald Trump, Jr.???? Yes, it turns out that Don Jr. is a passionate fisherman, hunter and all around outdoorsman and has now publicly lobbied his father to once again block the Pebble Mine project. Can’t wait to see what comes out the next father-son summit.

And, because things aren’t bizarre enough, we now have the Great Kanye Konspiracy Circus. It seems that some geniuses in the Republican campaign apparatus think that it would be a great idea to put a talented Black man with profound mental health issues on the presidential ballot in order to drain Black votes away from Joe Biden and enhance Trump’s reelection efforts.

What are we to make of this madness? Should the Biden team try to put someone crazier than Trump on the ballot in red states to drain votes away from Trump? Of course finding someone crazier than Trump who is not already institutionalized may be too much of a task in and of itself.

Do the Trump minions really think so little of Black voters that they believe Kanye West would make an even minimal difference in Black voter turnout for Biden. Granted, the late Herman Cain is no longer available, but they could have come up with Diamond and Silk as a competing ticket, which would in a bizarre world make more sense than Kanye West.

Welcome to the House of Mirrors a.k.a. the Age of Trump.

 August 7, 2020

4,884,406 –160,111 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

 Watching Trump is like watching a horrific car accident on the highway. You want to look away, but you end up looking anyway. And so it was yesterday.

There was Trump on the runway at an Ohio airport claiming that not only would Joe Biden attack the 2nd Amendment and religion. He actually said that Biden “would attack God” as president. There is no instance in any know version of the Bible, Koran or Torah where a human even threatened to attack, much less tried to attack God.

Of course Satan did wage war against God. But he was a rogue angel not a human and he literally caught Hell for that. So perhaps Trump is suggesting that Biden is Satan or a member of a satanic cult? The point is that Trump is distancing himself further from logic and sanity daily – and because he is President of the United States and not the host of some gimmick of a reality show – we should be concerned and worried.

The last time there was a president this incapacitated was Woodrow Wilson in 1919. But he suffered from a stroke and was pretty much confined to a bedroom in the White House and could speak very little, if at all. Of course, Trump never stops speaking, but one wonders if members of the White House staff have considered confining him to quarters for health reasons?

Meanwhile, count on Joe Biden to continue to engage in self-inflicted wounding. Yesterday, in speaking about the diversity of the LatinX community – Cuban, Colombian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc. – he felt compelled to take a brief trip to Stupid World and offer the observation that there wasn’t that level of diversity in the national Black community.

Now this came as a surprise to Black Americans who trace their heritage from Cuba, Panama, Nigeria, Barbados, etc. And it would certainly come as a surprise to the Black LGBTQI community as well as Black people who are very aware of the differences between the West Side and South Side of Chicago, or the diverse experiences to be found in Black Brooklyn as opposed to Black Harlem.

But the real point is that Biden really didn’t have to go there. His campaign staff then had to engage in another clean up job which could be summarized as “Joe didn’t really mean what he said”, which translates into “Joe really didn’t know what the Hell he was talking about”, which translates into “We really wish that sometimes Joe would just shut up”.

It is doubtful that Biden’s gaffes will drive any Black people into supporting the Trump presidency or the Kanye West campaign.

But right now Biden’s best bet is to stick to his best argument – I AM NOT TRUMP.

 

That’s really all he needs to say.

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Point of View Columns

Clear Vision v. Impaired Vision

The past few weeks have offered a stark contrast between clear vision and impaired vision. This unlikely illustration began with the train wreck of a Meeting of the Megalomaniacs when Donald Trump and Kanye West met in the Oval Office to discuss Everything That Is Important to Trump and Ye. And a few days later a stunning, riveting and immediately historic film “The Hate You Give” was shown in theaters across the country and the truth of life in black America was on the wide screen once more.

First the White House Circus Maximus – for reasons best known to his fans and celebrity addicts, what Kanye West thinks and says seems to be important to some people. The art of his music is an acquired taste for some and the answer to the meaning of life for others. However, there is no reason to believe that there is anything that has prepared him to be remotely aware or informed about the major issues of the day – domestic, international or intergalactic.

Yet, however unhinged from reality Kanye West may be, he turned out to be more than a match for Donald Trump who somehow thought that it would be a good idea to meet with a black celebrity so that he could fake-brag about his connection to, and concern for, black Americans. The only thing that was more amazing than Ye’s rant and rampage through the wilderness of his mind, was the fact that he was able to get Trump to shut up for more than ten minutes. If for only those brief moments of peace on earth Kanye West should get some kind of award.

The tragic aspect to this meeting is that as football legend Jim Brown sat in bemused silence while Trump and West went through this imaginary conversation, the White House sound machine tried to portray this as a serious meeting to discuss serious issues in the black community. And with that Trump has added further insult to the daily injuries that he is inflicting on the national black community. But due to their impaired vision of reality, Trump and Kanye really believe that their meeting was a matter of positive importance.

But speaking of vision, “The Hate You Give” has turned out to be one of those motion pictures that does more than entertain. The film is certainly entertaining but director George Tillman, Jr. goes much further than that. With a seriously outstanding cast of black and white actors, “The Hate” informs viewers about the tragic hypocrisy and the seemingly eternal chasm between the American dream and black America. The clear-eyed and unblinking vision of a country that discriminates, demeans, degrades and kills its citizens because of their race is simply undeniable.

There will be very few black viewers of “The Hate You Give” who will not relate to the experiences of the black characters. And there will be too few white viewers of “The Hate” (if they even take the time to skip “A Star is Born” and “The Wife”) who will be able to relate to the experiences of the black or white characters. And it is that racial divide that tells us all how far this country has to go to even begin to be something like a truly United States of America.

But there is no doubt that as murky as the vision of the Trump-West summit might have been, the vision presented by “The Hate You Give” is that clear and undeniable.

And finally, George Tillman, Jr., screenwriter Audrey Wells and lead actress Amandla Stenberg must win Oscars for Best Director, Best Screenwriter and Best Actress if there is even a scintilla of justice to be had in the 2019 Academy Awards.

As always, we shall see.

 

 

 

 

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Casting the Second Stone

The controversy surrounding L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his race based rant is fascinating and in some ways difficult to understand. Of course, Sterling’s comments are reprehensible but considering that the Confederate flags still fly over state capitols where NBA franchises are located, it should not be a surprise to discover that some white people really don’t like black people. But if Donald Sterling is to be drawn and quartered for making hateful comments about black people, do black people who make similarly hateful and harmful comments about black people get a pass?

One could argue that enough has been written about a cranky old white man who debases himself before his too-young-for-him mistress of color. True, he does own an NBA franchise, and true, many black people play in the NBA. And true, there is nothing defensible about his comments about black people. Ergo, so the torch and pitchfork carrying media mob contends, Donald Sterling should be forced to give up his NBA franchise and live his remaining years wearing ashes and sackcloth.

But, as noted, this is a country where the stench of the slave holding Confederate States of America is still fresh in the breezes that blow Confederate flags above state capitols and state universities in too many places. This is a country where the first black President of the United States has been called a monkey, the AntiChrist, an alien interloper and a liar on the floor of Congress, all without consequence. And this is a country where black people are routinely barred from the corridors of power by unspoken rules of the road, not by a white robed Jim Crow, but by a  bespoke pinstripe suit attired James Crow 2.0.

So it should be no surprise when a white man (or woman), who is unaware that they are being recorded, tells us how they really feel about black people. And it certainly seems like the torch and pitchfork media mob and its enablers are more than a little disingenuous in excoriating Sterling while racism and horrific language are hurled at black Americans without consequence every day – by black people.

Donald Sterling is eighty years old. He could live another eighty years and never use the word “nigger” as many times as Jay-Z has. The only difference is that Jay-Z has “niggered” his way to an enormous fortune, seemingly without consequence and certainly with little or no criticism. Certainly Jay-Z has never encountered the withering firestorm of criticism from LeBron James, Charles Barkley, the Reverend Al Sharpton or the Reverend Jesse Jackson that the hapless fool that we know as Donald Sterling has experienced.

Jay-Z and Kanye West collaborated on the misogynistic and obviously racist “Niggers in Paris” album and the silence from the Sterling hangmen was deafening. The characterization and reference to black women as “bitches” and “ho’s” and worse has been part of the accepted culture of “artists” like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Little Wayne, Fifty Cent and so many more and nowhere has there been a call to boycott their lucrative “art” or to skewer them Sterling-style.

And let us not forget the less than memorable Cornel West and his anti-Obama rants, likening the first black President of the United States to a “lap dog”. And while Dr. West is entitled to his full exercise of free speech, his off the chain critiques of President Obama have given clear aid and comfort to the enemy. And yet, Cornel West continues to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees based on the insults and calumny that he hurls at President Obama again, without consequence and certainly without receiving the Sterling Special Treatment.

There is nothing about Donald Sterling that is worthy of defense or further mention. The “art” of Jay-Z, Fifty Cents, Little Wayne, Kanye West and others have had a deep cultural and behavioral impact on the American black community, almost all of it negative and decidedly demeaning.

On his worst day Donald Sterling has never inflicted as much damage on the black community as the aforementioned crew and their running buddies. After the torch and pitchfork crew is finished with Sterling, maybe they will turn their attention to the real villains.

 

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 22, 2012

Shelden Adelson is one of the wealthiest men in America. He thinks President Obama should be defeated and is prepared to spend $100 million to make that happen. Welcome to the 21st century edition of the American Way. Meanwhile Professor Frederick Harris of Columbia University seems to feel that trashing the Obama presidency is his way of exercising academic freedom – but whatever happened to responsibility? And finally, Adidas came out with a sports shoe that has shackles attached……really. Protest was predictable. What was also predictable is the lack of attention to the context in which such a product could be sold.

Can You Spare $100 Million?

For those of you keeping score at home, the Citizens United decision by the rightwing of the rightwing of the United State Supreme Court has opened the way for unlimited sums of money to be spent on campaigns by individuals and corporations. By equating the uncontrolled expenditure of money with freedom of speech the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito cabal has guaranteed is that the only remaining question will be the extent to which abuse and excess will be seen.

Working hard to be the Poster Boy for Campaign Excess is Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is reported to be worth $20 billion, made his fortune as a glorified bookie and innkeeper, building and operating hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and now Macao.

Although his enormous wealth continues to grow exponentially, he has come to the conclusion that President Obama is bad for business and so he has announced that he is prepared to spend $100 million to defeat him in the upcoming election. And, we should all keep in mind that $100 million for Sheldon Adelson would be about $40 for a middle class family in this country.

In other words, wealthy individuals and large corporations can skew the political process and screw the American people for an investment that is less than a pittance for them.

And, thanks to the Citizens United decision there is nothing wrong with this.

The Revenge of the Little People

Dr. Frederick Harris is the director of the Center on African American Politics at Columbia University. In the midst of his sublime isolation in his ivy covered ebony tower he has published a book which asserts that the presidency of Barack Obama is a “disappointment” and unworthy of the struggles and sacrifices of the civil rights movement.

Dr. Harris must have uncovered some heretofore unknown document which sets forth the election of a black president as a stated goal of the civil rights movement. The election of Barack Obama is clearly related to the civil rights movement in that advances in voting, employment and academic opportunity helped to create an environment in which he could have been elected. But to suggest that the election of a black president has ever been a goal of the civil rights movement is not supported by any real evidence and makes no sense.

The problem with Dr. Harris, as with other ebony tower occupants, is that he will be taking no responsibility for the negative impact of his book as the presidential campaign begins in earnest. To the extent that some people will read his book and even fewer people will pay him any attention. Dr. Harris can serve to erode the edges of Barack Obama’s support at a time when literally every vote counts.

The inauguration of President Mitt Romney might be a bit bothersome for Dr. Harris but he will still be a tenured professor at one of the leading universities in the world with all the compensation, benefits and trappings that go along with the package.

But I would ask him the same question that I would ask Dr. Cornel West and the other Ebony Tower rock throwers – if Barack Obama is defeated and a Romney Administration takes over in 2013, what will you say to the millions of Americans who will suffer – many of them black – when Mitt Romney keeps the draconian promises that he has made during this campaign?

I’m just asking.

Shackled to Stupidity

This past week we learned that the Adidas shoe company had planned to sell a sneaker that featured ankle shackles. It is not clear if the shackles were meant to invoke images of slavery or prison but the uproar was both predictable and puzzling.

Wearing prison garb, complete with bandanas and sagging, oversize pants has been in fashion in the black community for years. Ankle shackles would just seem to be the next logical fashion step to take. High profile individuals like Jay-Z and Kanye West have made fortunes promoting misogynistic and violent behavior in the black community. When Jay-Z and Kanye West recorded and released “Niggas in Paris” last year there was not even a peep of protest – anywhere.

We are now supposed to believe that Adidas was misguided because it did not have a more diverse marketing team. Given the self-degradation and stupidity that has been created and sold by black people during the past thirty years, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were black people in the room at Adidas on the day that sneakers with shackles were approved.

Have a great weekend!

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