Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 12, 2012

It has been said that Sunday is the most racially segregated day of the week in the United States. Two weeks ago in Mississippi, this saying was proven true once more. Meanwhile, the mystery of Mitt Romney’s taxes continues. Can he really be elected without disclosing his tax returns? And finally, Michael Jordan is already in the Hall of Fame. Now he is doing something that is more important that scoring baskets.

Mississippi Goddamn!

About 45 years ago jazz legend Nina Simone wrote the song, “Mississippi Goddamn”. It was a song that highlighted the outrageous racism that was unique even during the worst racist eruptions that have convulsed this country. Sadly, Mississippi has fairly earned its characterization as an ultra-racist enclave that is truly the last holdout of the Confederate States of America.

So we shouldn’t have been surprised that a predominantly white Christian congregation in that state of confusion called Mississippi actually banned a black couple from being married in its church. Keep in mind that this couple was not committing the unpardonable sin of engaging in interracial marriage. Both the prospective bride and groom were black.

The couple, rather than fight foolishness on what is supposed to be a day of joy and celebration got married in another church. After a few days a representative of the church apologized with one of those gossamer “if we offended anyone” routines that are employed by gaffe-prone celebrities, politicians and athletes.

And at the end of the day nothing has changed in Mississippi.

Mitt’s Mystery

In 1968, George Romney, Mitt Romney’s biological father, became the first presidential candidate to release his tax returns and he released twelve years of his returns. Since then, liberal and conservative and Republican and Democratic candidates have all released their tax returns as a matter of course.

It seems reasonable, after any cabinet secretary has to release his/her tax returns. Certainly appointees of many local, state and federal offices have to release their tax returns. And, come to think of it, shouldn’t the American people have the right to know how their president makes his/her money?

Apparently Mitt Romney doesn’t think so. He has spoon fed the public one year of tax returns and has only committed to releasing one more year at some point in time. The contempt that he has for the political process and the American people is so foul that you can almost smell it.

While it is true that tax returns and private finances are personal, it seems pretty clear that an individual who chooses to hold public office has to give up some of that privacy.
Or else they can just stay home and stay private.

It will be interesting to see if Mitt Romney can continue with this stubborn refusal to hold on to his tax returns and still get elected president.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time”. Mitt will just have to learn the hard way.

Hooray for #23

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest professional basketball player who ever lived. And while there is an argument in a sports bar or a barber shop that is just waiting to begin, there is no doubt that Mr. Jordan has come a long way from his apolitical days (remember “Republicans were sneakers too”?).

Michael Jordan and several other NBA players have endorsed the candidacy of President Obama and are actively campaigning for him. And while supporters of Barack Obama are understandably pleased there is another positive dynamic that cannot be ignored.

For too long too many black professional athletes confine their celebrity to selling overpriced sneakers to underserved youngsters. In the alternative they engage in saluting conspicuous consumption while promoting self-destructive behavior. Clearly Mr. Jordan and some of his colleagues have realized that they can be a force for positive change and engagement in the political process which can result in benefits that even the best sneaker can never provide.

Hooray for #23.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 8, 2010

The cool weather presages the changing of the leaves and the hint of the first stirrings of what will soon be winter. As the days and weeks rocket past our observation point, it is time again to consider some of the events of the past week:

C’mon LeBron – Part II
Recently, in continuing his “Ain’t I Great?” tour of the planet, LeBron James was quoted as saying that he thought that race (specifically his being an African American) was a factor in the outpouring of antipathy that was directed at him when he announced in the third person his departure from long suffering Cleveland to the sunny and seductive climes of Miami.

There is no doubt that loud and vociferous cries of betrayal and assorted calumny rained down upon the head of the self-proclaimed “Chosen One”. But I don’t believe that I heard a single commentator, fan or sports nut deny James’ right to work wherever he wants. I do know a lot of people who thought that his departure seemed disloyal to the fans in Cleveland who lived and died with his every crossover dribble – and his orchestrated departure courtesy of ESPN seemed pretty cheesy – to be kind.

And I do I think that King James is treading on very thin ice when he plays the race card on this one. He should ask the O’Malley family that moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles how welcome they are in Flatbush more than fifty years after the move. He might ask Art Modell, who moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore about twenty years ago. It wouldn’t be wise for anyone named Modell to be seen walking along the shores of Lake Erie. He might also want to ask the Irsay family, whose patriarch moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis almost thirty years ago when was the last time they had crab cakes in Maryland.

The point is, sports fans are notoriously nuts. The word “fan” comes from the word “fanatic”. All of the team owners mentioned are white. The elaborately tattooed and spectacularly unringed King James hasn’t received a tenth of the opprobrium that has been visited upon the O’Malleys and the Modells and the Irsays.

It should also be pointed out that Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley have also been critical of James, publicly questioning his competitive fire and his championship cojones. The last time I checked, Magic, Michael and Sir Charles were all certified African Americans, so it is difficult to see how their criticisms would be racially based.

There are too many instances of racism and racist behavior in this country for LeBron James to be crying wolf because his feelings are hurt. He made his decision. He is making his multimillions. Good for him.

But too many men and women and children still suffer the very real slings and arrows of truly racist behavior for an enormously gifted athlete, who would make Croesus look impoverished, to claim that he is suffering the lash of racism because some sports fans do not adore him anymore.

C’mon LeBron!

Dream A Little Dream With Me….
There are news reports and pundit ponderings to the effect that President Obama should consider having Secretary of State Hilary Clinton be his Vice Presidential running mate in 2012, switching Vice President Joe Biden to the office of Secretary of State.

My first thought when I read this was, when I grow up I want a job that allows me to get paid to just think up stuff. By all accounts Secretary Clinton has done an outstanding job at the State Department as the Obama Administration has sought to deal with the rubble and detritus of the damaged international reputation of this country, one more going away gift from President George W. Bush.

Further, it appears that President Obama and Vice President Biden enjoy an excellent working relationship and several recent books indicate that Biden is a real partner (albeit junior) who is involved in all serious policy discussions. So why change these horses in the middle of the stream?

It seems that some journalists have deadlines and sometimes there isn’t enough subject matter for the moment….and that’s when it’s time to make up stuff.

And that’s the job I want when I grow up.

Keeping Hope Alive
Continuing on the theme of the value and potential validity of a Clinton-Biden role reversal, other great minds have determined that the sights must be set higher in planning the Hilary Clinton Restoration. The prevailing thought among some hardcore Clintonistas is that Secretary Clinton will be positioned to run for President in 2016 whether or not she switches roles with Vice President Biden.

The argument progresses with the observation that Hilary Clinton will be 69 in 2016, younger than when Ronald Reagan was first elected President (and we all know how well that turned out). Further, so the theory goes, Secretary Clinton will be possessed of such national and international stature by 2016 that her election as President would be foreordained – almost a coronation.

I would suggest that there may be a few tiny flaws with this paroxysm of Clintonmania. First, on numerous occasions Hilary Clinton has categorically denied any interest in running for President again. Even accounting for the fact that she couldn’t very well say anything else at this time, one can imagine that she has already considered some other countervailing forces.

As time progresses between now and a putative campaign in 2016, Hilary Clinton will not be the only one getting older. Her original base of support is getting older and I cannot imagine that she wants to be known as The Last Gasp of the Baby Boom. There are other younger potential candidates who probably are not interested in waiting another 12-16 years before running for President and will portray Hilary Clinton as part of the Old Guard, an irony that would be impossible to ignore or counter.

Finally, this discussion about Hilary Clinton and 2016 has a sinister tone to it. It is almost as if some cohorts in the progressive wing are willing to write off 2012 and President Barack Obama, even before the 2010 midterm elections. If too many eyes are on the 2016 prize, it may come to pass that the opportunity to continue progress in 2012 will simply evanesce and the 2016 “prize” will be fool’s gold.

Have a great weekend!

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