Point of View Columns

College Admissions in America – The Tip of the Iceberg

The series of revelations describing a veritable cesspool of corruption, cheating, bribery and betrayals in the admissions process at prestigious schools of higher education including Georgetown, Stanford, the University of California, Los Angeles, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Austin, Wake Forest and Yale leaves one spectacular question swinging in the air like a rotting corpse of lies – what is it that we don’t know? In other words, in the jet-propelled world of high stakes college admissions, are we to believe that only the nine schools mentioned are the bad actors? Or are we looking at the tip of the iceberg?

In a country where a fake billionaire can lie his way into the presidency, why should we be surprised when anyone with $50,000 to $4,000,000 can lie and cheat to get their son or daughter into the college of their choice, instead of their child being chosen by the college? The audacity of the half a hundred otherwise wealthy and respectable defendants is breathtaking in that whatever concerns that they might have about equity, fairness or….wait for it…..setting a good example for their children, were outweighed by their desire to be able to say that their child was a student at Yale, UCLA, Georgetown, etc.

In a culture where imagined success literally trumps actual success, we cannot be surprised to find out that there are privileged young men and women are at this very moment students in colleges and schools that they are not qualified to attend. And it is tragic that students who might actually benefit from having a cherished once in a lifetime opportunity to attend these schools are not attending because their place has been taken by someone who already has access to every opportunity that life has to offer.

But we should not be deceived into thinking that this is simply a matter of a few (fifty???) bad actors trying to game the college admissions system with several millions of dollars and some photo shopped applications. This is not the only way that the United Privileged Parents of America are gaming the college admissions system.

We should understand that even reasonably bright and capable young men and women are being asked to compete for seats in universities and colleges all over America with young men and women (who may or may not be reasonably bright and capable) who have the advantage of having SAT “coaches” and college admissions consultants which can cost their parents tens of thousands of dollars a year – not to mention the fact that attendance a prestigious (and therefore brutally expensive) private prep schools and “special” public schools. In other words, the system is so rigged that the notion of equal access and success based on merit are simply wisps of words that need not even be spoken.

The magnitude of these crimes are almost too profound to comprehend as we will never know how many truly qualified students are being denied admission to colleges. The magnitude of the crime of rigging the entire college admissions system to solely benefit the children of the rich and privileged not only deprives the children of everyone else, it also deprives this country of its best talent and its best chance for a successful future.

John D. Rockefeller, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Michelle Obama, Reginald Lewis, Mario Cuomo, Mark Cuban, Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz are just a few of the contemporary prominent achievers who would never have been able to compete in the high stakes college admissions racket – their parents simply didn’t have enough money to “buy” opportunity through SAT coaches, college consultants, etc., much less be able to buy their children’s admissions at schools where the price only needs to be right.

We may never find out the scope and breadth of the outright bribery that is taking place in the college admissions universe. There are prosecutors and judges and juries and prisons that can address this kind of bad behavior. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The iceberg is the entire imbalance in the K-12 and college/university environment where power plus money equals college admission. And this situation makes it all the more problematic when conservative foundations and their attack lawyers seek to eliminate the few programs that seek to successfully level the playing field for those whose parents are not rich and powerful. Because some day, sooner than later, those without power and money will simply need not apply.

And that is the real tragedy for these United States.

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Point of View Columns

Trump and Cruz – Beware of the Head Fake

In most sports the head fake is an important weapon, both on offense and defense. The intent of the head fake is to get the opponent to go in a direction different from that which is planned. The head fake is meant to trick, fool and bamboozle the opponent. And, the more that we hear about members of the Republican establishment uniting to derailing the Trump candidacy, the more we should beware the dreaded head fake.

So much, too much, has been written about Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. It is quite clear that he can be profane, insulting, bombastic and boorish in the extreme. He may be the most unpresidential presidential candidate since………Michele Bachman, and that’s saying a lot. Many leaders of the Republican Party find the idea of a Trump presidency so repulsive that they are supporting Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as viable alternatives to Trumpageddon.

With Donald Trump so much is so wrong, be it is his endorsement of torture, his willingness to insult everyone and everything, or his mythic policy proposals – from building walls with Mexican money to winning trade wars with China and Japan. As a result, the prospect of Trump as the Republican standard bearer strikes many Republican leaders as the beginning of the last days and times of the G.O.P. And according this same Republican establishment, the antidote to this noxious prospect is Ted Cruz or maybe Marco Rubio.

For those who care about what happens to this country, this Cruz-Rubio alternative to Donald Trump is the ultimate right wing head fake. If the rationale for the Cruz-Rubio antidote for the virulent form of Trumpitis that is sweeping this country, is that either one of them is better than Donald Trump, the American people are being forced to pick their poison.

Far too much has been written and said about the odious Mr. Trump, but that does not make Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio gifts from Heaven. Consider that both of them are irrationally committed to the total dismantling of the Affordable Care Act “on day one” of their presidency. The fact that almost 20 million Americans will lose health care coverage on that dreaded “day one” has not inspired either of them to propose and alternative that will take place on “day one”.

Consider that Ted Cruz has called for the carpet bombing of various parts of the Middle East “until sand turns to glass”. He has held to this position despite the opinion of various military experts that such a strategy would result in untold civilian deaths and the virtually eternal enmity of the survivors, thereby confirming the rhetoric of jihadists throughout the region who reference the United States as “The Great Satan”.

Both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio adhere to an antediluvian Neanderthal view of the right of women to choose their healthcare provider (e.g. the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood) and the right of women to freely exercise their Constitutional right to access abortion services. The administration of President Cruz or President Rubio would take this country back to a time before the Roe v. Wade decision of 1972 when women had to exercise their right to choose in back alleys.

Their positions on immigration reform can be distilled in a few words – when to deport and how to deport. The fact that close to 12 million human beings might be subject to policies that are sickeningly close to fascism do not seem to faze either of these children of immigrants.
Ted Cruz proposes a flat tax and the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service without telling anyone how taxes will be collected in the United States of Cruz. Both Cruz and Rubio do not believe in the science that supports the existence of climate change on this planet, which means that President Cruz or President Rubio would have a good chance of dooming the children of this country to inhabiting and environmentally damned planet.

The point is that the entire Republican presidential campaign cycle has revealed the party to still be the Party of No. The Republican platform that is hammered together in Cleveland will once again demean the humanity of immigrants, place the gun on an altar, demean the rights of women and worship a fossil fuel philosophy when it comes to climate change.

So when Mitt Romney or John McCain or Lindsey Graham tells the American people that Cruz or Rubio are palatable alternatives on the Republican menu as opposed to the option of a Trump entrée, we should remember that any of these choices will make America sick.

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Point of View Columns

The Teapublican Road to Perdition

Since January 20, 2009, the Teapublicans in Congress and throughout this country have pursued a constant and consistent strategy of endeavoring to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. It is the stuff of legend, but it is undeniably true that on the evening of Inauguration Day Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman John Boehner and other leading Republicans (that had yet to evolve into Teapublicans) met and decided on a strategy that could be summarized as “Just Say No to Obama”. And they have spent the better part of seven years doing just that – and only that.

It is nothing short of remarkable; indeed it is miraculous that the Obama Administration has been able to achieve anything, much less the historic accomplishments that will be remembered long after names like McConnell and Boehner are mere footnotes in the narrative of American history. Salvation of the automobile industry, Stimulus Program that helped to rescue the American economy, record job growth, record corporate profits, institutional change in the financial services industry; historic appointments to the Supreme Court and this country’s first national healthcare system are part of the real “change” that Senator Obama promised during his first campaign for president.

The Republican/Teapublican response has been, channeling their inner Nancy Reagan, to just say “no”. And that nihilist response has gone so far as to justify shutting down the government of the United States and coming close to seriously damaging the international credit of this country by taking all of us to the brink of default.

And it should be clear that a great deal of the Teapublican opposition to Barack Obama is not based on some great philosophical divide. President Obama was twice elected President of the United States by margins that dwarf the victory margins of George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy. Obamacare is largely based upon a healthcare plan devised by a Republican think tank. The bailout of the financial industry began with legislation passed during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, there has been a concerted effort to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. Whether it has been calling him a liar during his speech to Congress (that would be Congressman Joe Wilson, another walking footnote to a footnote) or refusing invitations to attend state dinners at the White House, many Teapublicans have refused to accept the reality of an Obama presidency. The question is why? The answer is a matter of race.

Consider that opposition to the Obama Administration’s support of a nuclear energy limitation agreement with Iran was legitimate. But the unprecedented act of 47 United States Senators sending a letter to Iran’s Ayatollah cannot be explained by a simple matter of policy differences. Those 47 senators simply cannot bring themselves to truly accept the Obama presidency. The question is why? The answer is race.

Although Barack Obama’s mother was born in Kansas and there has always been a Hawaiian birth certificate to further confirm his citizenship, the “birther” controversy has surrounding the 44th president has never died. Although Bernie Sanders father was born in Poland, Donald Trump’s mother was born in Scotland and the fathers of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were born in Cuba, no one has ever uttered a word about the birth certificates of these men. The question is why? The answer is race.

And now, with the death of Antonin Scalia we hear the Teapublicans claim that President Obama should not be able to even nominate a replacement on the Supreme Court because……………it appears the rationale is that seven years of Barack Obama as president is enough. The call for “letting the people decide” on the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is a straw man, the people never have decided who should sit on the Court.

The people have always decided on who nominates Supreme Court justices, and right now that person is Barack Obama. Sixty five million American citizens elected Barack Obama to a four year term, not a three year term. Why would the Teapublicans seek to nullify sixty five million votes? The answer is race.

The danger in the Teapublican strategy, in addition to the corrosive effect of racist behavior, is that in trying to delegitimize the Obama presidency they will delegitimize the presidency itself. Barack Obama’s legacy will be secured in history. The damage that the Teapublicans are doing the institution of the presidency may turn out to be irreparable. It is very difficult to unbreak.

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Point of View Columns

Harvest of the Dragon Seeds

In Greek mythology the teeth of dragons, once planted, would grow into fully armed and fearsome soldiers. Upon reflection, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan planted the dragon seeds and we now see the bitter harvest for America in the personages of Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio and yes, even Donald Trump.

As we sift through the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses and await the results of the New Hampshire (first in the nation) primary, we perceive a toxic blend of meanness and dog whistle rhetoric that beckons the hounds of misogyny, xenophobia, gun violence, homophobia and racism. And it is clear that this pack of mongrels is hunting for the heart and soul of America.

Ted Cruz proudly proclaims that he will “repeal every word of Obamacare”. Presumably he is okay with the fact that his proclamation will immediately remove healthcare coverage for over 18 million men, women and children. And he must be smart enough to know that “every word of Obamacare” would mean sending people with pre-existing illness and chronic illness and catastrophic illness back into the Stone Age of healthcare coverage – that would be the Age before Obamacare. The harvest of the dragon seeds is valued.

Ben Carson states that he would rather see “bullet riddled bodies” instead any limitations to the Second Amendment. This is a statement that reeks of total disdain for human life and the pain that is suffered by survivors when those lives are lost to gun violence. Yet Dr. Carson did not disqualify himself from being a Teapublican presidential candidate. The harvest of the dragon seeds is valued.

Marco Rubio has actually stated that as president he would sanction the resumption of the use of torture at Guantanamo in order to get ISIS captives to “tell us everything we need to know”. Aside from the fact that psychologists overwhelmingly state that torture is an ineffective interrogation tool, most reasonable people understand that torture is an effective recruitment tool for ISIS. The harvest of the dragon seed is valued.

And then there is Donald Trump, still the leading Teapublican presidential candidate. The Donald is the quintessential fruit of the dragon seed harvest. He is mean. He is vulgar. He wallows in his own ignorance. He clearly believes that insult and bombast are useful tools in business and in politics. And he is embraced by millions of Teapublican supporters who see him as the Savior who is going to Make America Great Again. Donald Trump is the most valued vintage fruit of the dragon seed harvest.

What is both interesting and sad is that according to most polls and polls of polls, these four candidates have garnered the support of over half of the Teapublican voters. It would take most people hours of mental contortions to understand the logic which results in the serious visualization of Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump as President of the United States – delivering the State of the Union address, speaking at the United Nations, negotiating at the G7 summit or going to the funerals of the victims of the next Sandy Hook.

But it is important to understand that there are millions of American voters who can successfully visualize such scenarios and they are to be taken seriously. And the power of their passion must be taken seriously.

In many places across America the harvest of the dragon seed is valued.

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Point of View Columns

The “Failure” of the Obama Administration

What do Donald Trump, Cornel West, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Tavis Smiley have in common? When it comes to any analysis or judgment about the Obama Administration they drift into a fact-free universe where they can criticize without consequence. It is certainly the right of these men to wander in a world of fantasy, but when they presume to lead and influence close to a third of a billion people they become downright dangerous.

In using the word “failure” or inferring it, Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio and Smiley would have anyone who would listen believe that there has been little or nothing of value about the seven years of President Obama’s tenure. Trump, Cruz and Rubio, true to the Teapublican mantra over the past seven years, have played the role of truth deniers when it comes to the 44th president because that it suits their political ambitions.

Professor West and Mr. Smiley approach President Obama in a slightly different and bizarrely nuanced fashion. By referring to him as a “lap dog”, damning him as not being a “revolutionary” and claiming that insofar as black people are concerned he has been a terrible president, these black men seem to find some noble purpose in demeaning and degrading the legacy of the first African American President of the United States, even though facts serve as sharp pins in their hot air balloons.

Here are some facts regarding the so-called “failure” of the Obama Administration:

• When Barack Obama took office in January of 2009 we were witness to the not so slow motion collapse of the global financial universe. Major banks (Washington Mutual, for example) and major investment banking firms (Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers, for example) virtually evaporated before our eyes. Shares of Citibank were selling for less than a dollar and the deaths of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford Motor Company were presumed to be imminent.

• In the first six months of 2009 Americans were losing their jobs at a monthly rate of 750,000 and the national unemployment rate was 9% and rising fast.

• Fully implementing the Troubled Asset Protection Program (TARP) the Obama Administration stabilized a financial services industry that was tottering from self-inflicted wounds. That financial services industry is now robust and achieving historic profits. There is no one on Wall Street who has been cashing fat bonus checks over the past seven years or the owner of shares in a major bank who honestly believes that the Obama Administration is a “failure”.

• Providing leadership that led to the passage of the $819 billion Stimulus Package, the Obama Administration literally rescued the American auto industry as well as the related industries resulting millions of jobs being saved.

• There have now been 70 consecutive months of private sector job growth creating 14 million jobs. The unemployment rate is now 5% and last year the automobile industry sold over 17 million vehicles – an historic record. There are 14 million Americans with newly created jobs who could argue with the Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio, Smiley team when they talk about the “failure” of the Obama Administration. And the same can be said for the auto workers who are riding the crest of an historic industrial wave in their industry.

• The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has provided healthcare to over 17 million Americans who didn’t have healthcare. We should ask the Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio, Smiley team to speak to the parents of a sick child who now has care thanks to Obamacare and ask them about “failure”. And Professor West and Mr. Smiley should take special care to note that Obamacare has resulted in major improvements in the health of the national black community – another “failure” in their eyes one can be sure.

• The Obama Administration led the push to pass the Dodd-Frank Act, an historic re-regulation of the financial services industry. The most comprehensive legislation of its type since the Glass-Steagall Act during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (presumably another “failure” in on the Planet Trump-West-Cruz-Rubio-Smiley).

• President Obama has issued historic executive orders aimed at dismantling the system of mass incarceration that has imprisoned millions of Americans and eviscerated black communities throughout this country. Another “failure” only in the eyes of those who refuse to see.
This is not to suggest that there have not been mistakes and shortcomings on the record of the Obama Administration. But to suggest that it is a “failure” is to ignore facts and deny both history and the present.

In a world of ordinary people, there are less than extraordinary people who seem to believe that they can change history by denying it. But when history books are written a century from now, Barack Obama will be recognized as an historic icon while Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio and Smiley will be footnotes to footnotes –and that will be one more thing that they will have in common

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Point of View Columns

Why Elections Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Point of View Columns

Nada Word Was Said

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black voters matter. Latino voters matter. Indeed this country matters. Perhaps Teapublicans will figure this out in December 2016.

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