Point of View Columns

Requiem for Sanity

As you are reading this, close to 50 percent of likely Republican voters believe that either Donald Trump or Dr. Ben Carson should be President of the United States. Although both men have proudly owned up to statements that alternately boggle the mind or chill the blood, there are walking, talking and voting Americans who think that it would be a great idea for either of these men to be the 45th President of the United States.

Those who follow politics and enjoy the push and pull of democracy in action have had a special treat in watching the Teapublican Clown Candidate Bus careen and lurch over the airwaves and across the country. At first it seemed that there would be a virtual rerun of the 2012 campaign which, in 2011 offered up such implausible candidacies that could have produced a President Newt Gingrich, a President Herman Cain, a President Michelle Bachman or a President Rick Perry as they took their turn as the leading candidate.

But in 2011 and 2012, there was always the candidacy of Mitt Romney looming in the background like a mountain that could never be climbed by the likes of Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin. And while Mr. Romney was never a shining beacon of progressive thought, he assumed the role of the only adult in the room which translated into the inevitability of his becoming the candidate of the Republican Party.

This time it is different. Donald Trump exploded onto the Teapublican arena and immediately started playing the role of Donald and the Fifteen Dwarfs. Sucking all of the media oxygen out of the campaign, “inevitable adults” like John Kasich and Jeb Bush began suffering from asphyxiation and the other candidates scrambled for the few dangling oxygen masks of credibility as they tried to stay alive. Carly Fiorina found one, as did Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz…..and then there was Ben Carson.

Defying the logic that said that his campaign was DOA as soon as he started to sprinkle his Bible-laced homilies with regular references to slavery and Nazism, the Good Doctor has become a leading candidate in the Teapublican Cage Match. In many polls he is THE leading candidate, and so it appears that this  mental and moral tiny person has undergone a growth spurt.

But what does it say about the Teapublican Party when 49% of its likely voters actually support either a man who utters mean spirited comments clad in the velvet cloak made of faux genteel rhetoric or a man who believes that insults and bluster and a wall of gigantic proportions constitute a campaign platform? What does it say about this country that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are taken so seriously that both of them could beat Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party candidate, if recent polls are to be believed?

This country faces enormous domestic challenges – an ancient and decrepit infrastructure, health care concerns with a rapidly aging population, mass incarceration and then there is the issue of lingering and pandemic income and racial inequality. The international challenges faced by the United States are countless as well – ISIS, immigration, climate change, global terrorism and a world economy that seems to be riding a permanent roller coaster.

Who are these Americans who believe that Donald Trump or Ben Carson are the right persons to lead this country through this minefield of problems, crises and potential disasters? After to listening to Dr. Carson opine that his reading the Bible leads him to the conclusion that Joseph had the pyramids built to store grain, for what public office could he be remotely qualified?

Similarly, after hearing Donald Trump set forth his Middle East strategy that seems to come straight out of a Special Ops video game, what form of reality puts him the Oval Office with authority to wage war, putting American lives in harm’s way? Yet here are both of them posing as leading candidates to hold the fate of the planet in their hands.

A sane country would not be in this position. Sadly, it is time for a Requiem for Sanity in America to be held.

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Point of View Columns

The Trouble with Trump

Donald Trump has become the poster boy for The New Jacked Up 21st century politics. Bluster, bigotry and bullying are now legitimate credentials for a presidential candidate, at least in the universe in which Teapublicans reside. While the spectacle that is the Trump campaign threatens the seating arrangement in the already overcrowded Teapublican Clown Car, there is actually a danger that the other candidates will try to out-Trump Trump in order to suck up some precious media oxygen.

As you are reading this, Donald Trump, the Heavyweight Self-Promoting Champion of the World, is leading all Teapublican candidates in national polls. Most self-confessed Teapublicans want him to stay in the race despite the daily exhibitions of classless and tasteless excess which define Trump as a candidate and as a human being. And as you are reading this it becomes clear that Donald Trump is not a momentary publicity comet flitting across the American skies (see Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain). His star has staying power and all of his competitors for the Teapublican presidential crown know it.

It is now a bizarre badge of honor for Teapublican candidates to be attacked by Donald Trump. Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham are thankful to be his targets because that means that for a few nanoseconds their name will be mentioned in the same breath as The Donald. Without being asked to respond to his insults, they would have few, if any talking points that anyone else wants to hear.

While Democrats are looking for ways to keep The Donald Clown Balloon floating high, they should be careful what they ask for. Donald Trump is impervious to insult and insulated from concern as to what others think. His run for president is an example of superselfindulgence on steroids. But, and this is important, if the polls are to be believed, there are millions (millions!) of American voters who think that Donald Trump is a serious presidential candidate.

Consider that just six years ago this country was in what was arguably the most profound, and certainly the most frightening financial crisis in its history. During the past six years plans for universal healthcare coverage and reform of the financial regulatory system were devised and implements.

During this time this country has had to address crises ranging from the massive BP oil spill to the collapse of the Iraqi government to the rise of ISIS and the multiple implications of the Arab Spring. The dawning realization of the impact of climate change, addressing the necessity of a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran and the continued carnage that is woven into the fabric of the United States of Gun are all realities in modern America.

Russia in the Ukraine, new Chinese bellicosity and the explosive realization that black lives do matter, especially in the face of the domestic terror that American racism has supported are all issues that the President of the United States has had to address and we can be sure of only one thing, there will be no certainties for the next President, not here in the United States, not here on this planet.

It is virtually impossible to believe that Donald Trump has the competence, intelligence or intellectual capacity to manage any or all of these issues and more. But what Donald Trump has done is lower the bar for what are considered requisite qualifications to be president. Donald Trump is the one with the loudest bluster. Donald Trump is the one prepared to wrap himself in the hate-soaked banner of bigotry and racism in order to curry favor with the haters and the bigots. And by being the loudest bully on the Teapublican block he has virtually eliminated any possibility of intelligent debate on that block.

Democrats and Teapublicans alike should be concerned. By demeaning the presidential selection process with his antics, Donald Trump is also demeaning the institution of the presidency. If asinine antics and a half-baked act that wouldn’t make it in Las Vegas are enough to qualify someone to be a serious presidential candidate, then the presidency itself becomes seriously devalued.

And that is a danger that this country can ill afford in the 21st century.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 16, 2011

This week it was hard to watch the Tea Party “debate” (and when did the Tea Party get on a par with the Republican and Democratic parties anyway?) and not experience amusement and dismay – cheers for executions and the death of the uninsured, a debate on HPV immunizations that morphed into a discussion of Rodeo Rick Perry’s price tag. What a show! Speaking of HPV immunizations, it seemed that Michele Bachmann decided to add medical opinions to her bizarre repertoire and then she remembered —that’s right, she’ not a doctor! And then James Carville channeled his inner Prince and encouraged the Obama Administration to dance to “Let’s Get Crazy”.

The Tea Party Asylum

In watching the nationally televised Tea Party “debate” it was hard to decide the worst of many evils. In a craven quest for ratings, CNN decided to broadcast a Tea Party “debate”, automatically putting it on a par with the Republican and Democratic parties. This, despite the fact that the so-called Tea Party caucus in Congress numbers less than thirty – and all of them were elected on the Republican Party ticket!

CNN decided to reward the loony, gun-toting, racist-sign carrying, myth-mongering right wing of the right wing with its very own national television show. And that is how fanatics get empowered and gain an impossibly bloated image of themselves.
And what about the “debate” itself? It was hard not to be appalled by Rodeo Rick Perry bragging that 234 human beings had been executed in the state of Texas while he has served as governor. Doing the math, that comes to government-sponsored killing of a human being every other week. And the crowd cheered.

Ridiculous Ron Paul was asked what role government should have if an uninsured person was seriously injured. This elected official of the federal government blithely stated that freedom entailed risk. When asked if the government should let this hypothetical person die, members of the crowd brayed “Yeah” – Congressman Paul didn’t distance himself from that remark.

And who can forget that Madcap Michele Bachmann implying that Rodeo Rick Perry ordered mandatory HPV immunizations in exchange for a $5000 campaign contribution from a pharmaceutical company. Proclaiming his commitment to the sanctity of life (strange words from a man who boasts of executing hundreds of human beings), Governor Perry pronounced himself “offended” that Congresswoman Bachmann would think that he could be influenced by $5000. Presumably he was “offended” by the low price.

Paging Dr. Bachmann?

Not content with slamming Rick Perry for trying to protect young girls from cervical cancer, after the Tea Party “debate” Michelle Bachmann announced that the HPV immunizations posed serious “side effects”, quoting a miscellaneous and anonymous “mother” who told her that her daughter suffered from “mental retardation” after receiving an HPV vaccination.

When faced with a firestorm of outrage from the scientific community for promoting an absolute fallacy (there is absolutely no record of any incidents of mental retardation – or anything similar – as a result of HPV vaccinations), Madcap Michelle retreated just a teeny tiny bit by stating “I’m not a doctor”.
Clearly she isn’t a doctor. Just as clearly she has only a distant relationship with the truth and an even more tenuous connection with reality.

Fire, Indict and Fight!

This week, that Ragin’ Cajun James Carville published some advice for President Obama that can be summarized as “Fire, Indict and Fight” – http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/14/opinion/carville-white-house-advice/ – he basically thinks that the President should fire his economic staff, direct Attorney General Holder to start indicting the Wall Street satraps who have direct responsibility for the financial meltdown that precipitated the current economic crisis.

And finally, he urges President Obama to take on the right wing of the right wing and the G.O.Tea Party and fight.

As Prince has said, “……….let’s get crazy, let’s get nuts.” Given President Obama’s plummeting poll numbers and the fact that 2012 is right around the corner, perhaps he should listen to Mr. Carville.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Once Upon A Time…….

For weeks I have been debating with myself about writing this particular column. Two months ago I read “In the Garden of Beasts” by Eric Larson. The book chronicles the experiences of the American ambassador to Germany whose arrival coincided with the rise of Adolf Hitler to power.

The book is particularly powerful in its rendering of the initial response of the German people to the rise of Hitler. He was viewed as being something of a radical but there was supreme confidence that the institutional traditions of the German republic would bring Hitler and his brown shirted followers into line. His rhetoric and writings were dismissed as…..rhetoric and writings in support of political ambition. No great sin. No great crime.

In reading the book a chilling recognition accompanied every page – radical and overheated rhetoric was rationalized even as the authors of this hateful prose were explicit in their beliefs and goals for the coming of the Third Reich. And then…………..it was too late.

Most readers would write off any comparison of the early days of Nazi Germany to the times in which we now live in these United States of America. Except we read and hear the messages every day and any sane and rational person would have to wonder, what is the end game?

Michelle Bachmann is a radical Christian evangelical. This means a lot more than her believing in the teachings of Jesus Christ. She believes that the United States is a “Christian country” and that it should be governed according to the precepts of Christianity. It is as if the Taliban joined the G.O.Tea Party and substituted a cross for the star and crescent.

If questioned on the subject, she and her androgynous husband will state that “the American people don’t care about such things, they care about jobs”. Read “In the Garden of Beasts” and you will see similar responses from the supporters of the radical movement that ultimately became the Third Reich.

This country has never seen such a powerful doctrine of religious supremacy promoted at the national level. Texas Governor Rick Perry is running for president because God told him to do so. Beware of the zealots, they are always more dangerous than the cynics or the apathetic. And he is already catapulted to being a leading Republican candidate within moments of the announcement of his candidacy.

The battle cry of “taking back America” masks an agenda that ultimately creates an “us-them” scenario that has not been seen since the 1860’s. The G.O.Tea Party circus is about a lot more that making Barack Obama a one-term president. The radical evangelicals are riding the wave of racist-white-hooded tinged hate of Obama into a tsunami of creationism, dominion philosophy and Christian supremacy.

Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons and atheists have very good reason to be worried about the coming days in America. But middle of the road, progressive and tolerant Christians should not feel smug or secure – dominion philosophy does not countenance debate, dissent or difference. After all, evil prevails when good people do nothing.

Michelle Bachmann believes that gay men and women are in league with Satan. Jon Huntsmann and Mitt Romney believe that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri. Rick Perry believes that God has a mission for America (and presumably he is the leader of that mission).

Given the deep financial funk in which the United States is wallowing, the rest of the world must view the opposition to President Obama as being launched from some insane and nihilistic platform. Could the most powerful nation on earth, the planet’s largest economy, be considering the leadership of devout Christian dominion advocates at a time when logic, rational thinking and intelligent strategic planning are the last assets in the arsenal?

The antipathy against President Obama has clearly made a significant portion of this country cross-eyed crazy. In a time of deep economic crisis and global security dangers it is useful to pray. Waiting for miracles may not be such a good idea. Certainly it is written that God helps those who help themselves.

To be fair, the Bachmann-Perry-Santorum right wing of the right wing has never openly advocated extermination of anyone. This wing has, however, advocated the reduction of social services that will, in a logical progression, result in the deaths of men, women and children who are denied housing, healthcare, education and a basic social safety net.

The Bachmann-Perry-Santorum right wing of the right wing should be seen for what it is. Read “In the Garden of Beasts” and then look around. And be very afraid.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 12, 2011

One of the (many) definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result while expecting a different result. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and Lieutenant Governor while serving with Governor George W. Bush, is now going to run for president. Sound familiar? Could this country actually elect George Bush’s lieutenant governor? The G.O.Tea Party had a debate in Iowa yesterday, and the theme song “Send in the Clowns” played in the background. And finally, Mitt Romney has announced that “corporations are people”, confirming his belief in the lousy Citizens United Supreme Court decision as well as confirming his permanent confusion regarding the reasons why corporations even exist in the
first place.

Déjà vu?

One of my favorite Yogi Berra quotes is “…it seems like déjà vu all over again”. The much anticipated entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry into the G.O.Tea Party presidential race is one more sign that the Republicans are determined to do their very best to re-elect Barack Obama.

Let’s see…..Rick Perry was lieutenant governor when George W. Bush was governor. President George W. Bush presided over multiple disasters – 9/11, Katrina and the collapse of the American economy come to mind. Former Texas Governor Bush led this country into not one, but two misguided and mismanaged wars costing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. Rick Perry has never breathed a word of dissent regarding the policies of President Bush.

Let’s see, Governor Rick Perry declared that Texas should seriously consider seceding from the United States. The last time that was tried 600,000 Americans died. Clearly secession is not a term that should be bandied about, even for rhetorical effect.

And, it should be noted that Governor Perry has stated on numerous occasions that serving as governor (and presumably as president) is part of a plan to fulfill his Christian mission. While we should respect any person’s religious beliefs we should be wary of anyone seeking to advance their Christian, Jewish or Muslim mission through holding public office.

Barack Obama is certainly losing sleep (and gaining grey hairs) over the many challenges his Administration has been facing. He shouldn’t lose any sleep over facing Rick Perry in a presidential election.

Would You Like a Clown with that Pie?

A veritable gaggle of G.O.Tea Party presidential candidates showed up for a “debate” in Ames, Iowa yesterday. The word “debate” is in quotes because it was really not a contest of ideas, rather it was a competition for who could blame President Obama the most with a sub contest for catchiest sound bite. Mitt Romney muttered something about not eating “Obama’s dog food” – a real head scratcher.

Newt Gingrich railed against “gotcha questions” from the media. Presumably he is growing weary of explaining how he served his former wife with divorce papers as she was waking up from cancer surgery – and how he and his wife managed to get a $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany’s and still be part of the middle class – and how his entire senior campaign staff just got up and walked out after working for him for………2 weeks.

Michelle Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty had a veritable Twin City Smack Down, but it was very hard to imagine any of the candidates on the Ames stage actually being on the world stage – without a clown suit.

Corporations Are People?

Campaigning in Iowa last week Mitt Romney stated that “corporations are people”. I guess it is now official. In the Citizens United case the United States Supreme Court led by G.O.Tea Party stalwarts Alito, Scalia, Roberts and Thomas ruled that corporations have First Amendment rights including the right to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns.

Now the former governor of Massachusetts has gone a step further by stating that entities that only exist by reason of law are actually people. Presumably he means that corporations have rights and are entitled to safeguards that were previously reserved for human beings.

During my first year at Harvard Law School we were taught that corporations are simply a creation of the law. Clearly Mr. Romney, the G.O.Tea Party stalwarts on the Supreme Court and the right wing of the right wing intend to rewrite law to suit their own purposes.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

The Song of Solomon

The Bible may not offer all answers to all questions, but it does offer some interesting insights. This past Sunday the priest at the Catholic Church that I attend gave a sermon which referred to King Solomon and the gift of wisdom that had been granted to him. A clear illustration of that wisdom was his resolution of the dispute between two women as to who was the actual mother of a small infant.

You will recall that King Solomon, after listening to the arguments of the two women claiming to be the child’s mother, offered a very simple solution – cut the baby in half. One contender immediately agreed to this horrific solution while the other woman, appalled beyond imagination immediately gave up her cause, granting the child to her opponent rather than risk harm to the baby in question.

In his infinite wisdom, King Solomon declared that the woman who agreed to cutting the baby in half was the impostor. His impeccable reasoning was that the true mother of the child would rather give up the child than see it harmed in any way.

And that brings us to the latest debt ceiling/budget debate. Every respected economist, every respectable business commentator and every serious financial publication has stated in the clearest possible terms that the harm of an August 2nd fiscal default by the United States government would result in a horrific impact on the global economy, on the American economy and on the lives and livelihoods of the American people.

In the event of such a default, which would be the first in the 222 year history of this country, the international marketplace would be destabilized, causing incalculable damage to the economy of countries around the world. In the event of a default the American economy, already wobbly and barely breathing the fresh air of distant recovery, would suffer setbacks ranging from higher interest rates to increased unemployment as businesses would lose much needed access to capital for their business operations.

Sadly, the American people would suffer as well. Employees of government contractors would be unpaid and furloughed, if not dismissed. Elderly citizens and children would risk missing meals and necessary medical care.

The Federal Aviation Administration is already shut down in 35 states because Congress could not overcome G.O.Tea Party obstinacy and phony fiscal pledges. As this column is being written 4000 FAA workers have been laid off and hundreds of millions of dollars of airport infrastructure repairs have been halted. Now multiply this madness throughout the entire governmental apparatus and you begin to see the potential for financial and social Armageddon.

The G.O.Tea Party has made a profession out of pseudo-patriotism. But it takes more than singing the national anthem and wearing an American flag pin to be a patriot. The cavalier fashion in which the Tea Party stalwarts and their partners in foolishness have dealt with this self-induced budget crisis is alarming and incredibly dangerous.

Just as King Solomon uncovered the phony mother by threatening to harm the child she claimed to be hers, the G.O.Tea Party is showing itself to be the fake patriots by embracing the disaster that looms over this country and its people.

The truth is that the G.O.Tea Party has no philosophy and no principle to which its followers adhere except the overwhelming desire to bring about the defeat of President Obama. There is no argument regarding fiscal probity that would support allowing the federal government to default. When Ronald Reagan, the G.O.Tea Party deity, was president, the debt ceiling was raised 18 times in a little less than 8 years! Indeed, it was President Reagan who said that allowing the United States to default would be “unthinkable”.

But now the inmates have taken over the asylum and are threatening to blow it up. The no new taxes pledge of the Tea Partiers is a fake fig leaf to cover their naked desire to fatally damage the presidency of Barack Obama. That the G.O.Tea Party would damage this country for decades to come in their frothing ambition to unseat the President of the United States is shameful and should be labeled for what it is – treasonous.

How ironic it is that Representative Michelle Bachmann, the head of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress once suggested that Barack Obama should be investigated for his “un-American views”. It turns out that the real traitors wear Tea Party hats and wave American flags to distract us from their real mission – the defeat of Barack Obama even at the risk of wrecking this country’s economy.

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Point of View Columns

Sex In The City – Sex In The Country

Sex and sexism are never too far from the surface of public discourse and private discussion. And then there are times when these issues come to the forefront and simply cannot be ignored.

The media has worked itself into an absolute frenzy over the latest developments in the sexual assault case of Dominque Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund. For those of you who have been on the Planet Incommunicado for the past two months, Mr. Strauss-Kahn has been indicted on charges related to his having been accused of sexually assaulting a chamber maid in a $3000 per night suite in the posh Hotel Sofitel Hotel in New York City.

Rape and sexual assault cases are never genteel or pleasant. The charges in this case more unpleasant than the unfortunate norm. Mr. Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexually assaulting a domestic worker while he was nude in his suite. Torn clothing, coerced sexual acts and physical injuries consistent with a sexual attack led to DSK, as he is now known globally, being pulled out of a first class Air France cabin and arrested just before his departure for Paris.

Now the Manhattan District Attorney has issued information regarding facts that presumably cast doubts on the credibility of the accuser in this case. It now appears that the accuser may have misrepresented facts on her visa application in coming from her native Guinea to the United States, including fabricating a tale of having been gang-raped (turns out that she may have only been raped by an individual). There is also information about lying on tax returns and sources of income other than her salary at the Hotel Sofitel.

Somehow we are being led to the conclusion that, if a woman lies about a visa application or a financial statement that she cannot be a credible rape victim. If only blameless individuals could be credible crime victims the prisons would be virtually empty.

While the credibility of any witness is important in a criminal (or civil) matter, it would seem that the alleged female victim of a sexual assault has to have a pristine reputation and be possessed of a cloak of eternal virtue in order to be believed.

That the accused DSK is nicknamed “The Great Seducer” is somehow of little or no import given that his accuser may have misrepresented facts on her tax returns. Charges of unwanted sexual advances have followed The Great Seducer around for years seem to evaporate in the heated glare of inquiry over false statements on a visa application.

It would seem that in the delicate balance of “he said, she said”, “she” almost has to walk on water in order to be believed. And, at least in L’Affaire DSK, “he” can track the mud of sordid behavior through the courtroom and into the light of freedom without a care in the world.

And this is not the first case where a female that is the victim of an alleged sexual assault may not be believed – not because her version of the events is not credible, but because her “overall credibility” or “reputation” denies her the right to be able to accuse a man of sexual misdeeds. And this is unfair. And this is wrong.

Meanwhile, there are advocates of women in politics who, while not supporting Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, are complaining that they are receiving unfair treatment as they stalk and stomp their way through the political countryside. While it is certainly true that women are treated unfairly in many situations, it is hard to understand how Congresswoman Bachmann and former Governor Palin fall into the category of the aggrieved.

If anything, they both seem to be getting deferential treatment, perhaps in part because they are women. Consider – if a male candidate for national office could not name a single book, magazine or newspaper that they read on a regular basis they would justifiably be greeted with eternal hoots and catcalls. Sarah Palin revels in her ignorance and deflects any criticism of her limited intellectual capabilities as the fault of the “lame stream media”.

Michelle Bachmann has loudly proclaimed that God “told her” to run for President of the United States. Really? Can we really imagine Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty being credible presidential candidates if either of them stated that they had a mandate from God to run for president? But Michelle Bachmann and her rapture roll on as if she is some latter day Joan of Arc, conversing with God in the morning, and giving us the Word in the afternoon.

Perhaps they really are getting deferential treatment after all.

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