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 on the basis of something resembling merit? 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.

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Obamas – A Real Class Act

As the Obama Administration heads into the final lap of its eight year term, it is time for retrospectives to begin. And we can begin with the fact that, even after all the mudslinging and flaming arrows aimed at the President and Mrs. Obama; they have Stayed Strong and continue to Be Great. They have epitomized the concept of “grace under fire” – one more thing for which little credit is given to Barack and Michelle Obama.

Consider the First Lady’s remarks at the recent Jackson State University commencement ceremonies:

“When I hear words like dignity and excellence, I think about my husband … As I’ve walked this journey with Barack, I’ve gotten a pretty good look at what it means to rise above the fray, what it means to set your eyes on the horizon, to devote your life to making things better for those who will come after you. I have seen how, no matter what kind of ugliness is going on at any particular moment, Barack always stays the course …”

Much has been written about the substantive and institutional accomplishments of President Obama – the Affordable Healthcare Act and the introduction of a national health care system – the Dodd Frank Act and the initiation of the most ambitious reformation of the financial services system in almost ninety years and, of course, the salvation of the American economy in 2009. These items are historic and undeniable.

More subtle, and perhaps more important, has been the ability of President and Mrs. Obama exhibiting grace and class under the most intense pressure imaginable. Being called a “liar” from the floor of Congress or doubt being cast on the patriotism and Christianity of the President has been bad enough. Being called “shiftless” by the Sarah Palin, the Wicked Witch of the West must have been galling.

Being assailed on the “birther” issue by a carnival barker like Donald Trump might have been laughable for the first week or so, but after the first year the racist fumes of this noxious assault must have been revolting. But Barack and Michelle Obama stayed the course.

And for those who would say that in the 21st century the Obamas do not have any particular responsibility to establish respect for black America or represent black dignity in America I would suggest that they should take a closer look the next time they go shopping. Aunt Jemima is still on that pancake box, Uncle Ben is still on that box of rice and the Gold Dust Twins are still selling flour in the next aisle.

The sordid reality is that in the 21st century relics of black minstrelsy and slavery are still acceptable in the marketplace and so it should come as no shock that dignity and respect for black Americans are goals that have yet to be achieved. The First Family did not seek the responsibility of countering these charmless images, but just by being they have done so.

And so it is important that Barack and Michelle Obama have been able to maintain a stable marriage and raise two teenage daughters in the pressure cooker that is the American presidency, giving many white Americans (and some black Americans), a vision that they can only imagine. Given all the negative statistics regarding the pathologies attendant to black families, this First Family opens the door to the truth that stable and positive black families can and do exist in these days and times.

There will always be the black naysayers who want Barack Obama to “act more like a brother”. But history will show that what was important was that he and his wife acted like a man and woman with class and charm and dignity.

And that says a lot in these days and times.

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Rise (And Fall) of the Black Obama Bashers

The phenomenon of the BOBs, a.k.a. Black Obama Bashers, began to appear as soon as then Senator Obama announced his candidacy in February of 2007. Unlike those who have serious policy or political differences with Barack Obama, the BOBs have always attacked him because of their own inner motivations – motivations which are so reflexive that they simply can’t help themselves. And we find that these Black Obama Bashers fall into three distinct categories.

Obligatory BOBs – These men and women attack President Obama as if their lives depend on them doing so. And in fact, their livelihoods do depend on it. We find these BOBs presenting themselves as black Republicans or even Teapublicans. These BOBs hold positions such as the in house expert on All Things Black or “urban policy” in right wing think tanks and foundations.

The job description for these BOBs is quite clear – engage in high profile attacks against President Obama thereby giving cover for the white organizations with which they are affiliated. After all, no one can reasonably accuse these institutions, foundations and political parties as racist when the ones throwing stones are black. Right?

Mercenary BOBs – These Black Obama Bashers are distinguished from the Obligatory BOBs because they are a bit more creative and are definitely more entrepreneurial. The Mercenary BOBs may or may not have deep philosophical differences with Barack Obama.

However, the Mercenary BOBs have ascertained the virtual gold mine of opportunity available to semi-articulate and passably educated black intellectual poseurs who mount attacks against the first black President of the United States. These BOBs are virtually agnostic on the question of President Obama’s accomplishments but they are passionate in their belief in the monetary value of their attacks.

And so they continue to launch their fact-challenged, historically deficient and logically impaired salvos at the White House, secure in the knowledge that they can write, rhyme, rap and cakewalk their way to fame and fortune, eternally grateful that there is a black man in the White House. For the Mercenary BOBs are nothing if not acutely aware of the fact that when Barack Obama leaves the White House in 2017 they are going to have to come up with a brand new routine. After all, playing the college level version of the dozens with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or Rafael (just call me “Ted”) Cruz won’t be anywhere as entertaining for the black audiences that they play to.

Pathological BOBs – These BOBs are actually in need of some kind of intervention. They cannot really help themselves when they see black people achieve more than they are capable of achieving. For the Pathological BOBs, Barack Obama is just another target to be placed alongside Oprah and Ken Chenault and Michelle Obama and Martin Luther King.

These Black Obama Bashers are simply reflexive and would be deserving of pity and sympathy were it not for the corrosive damage that they inflict upon the national black community by trying to diminish the achievement of members of that community.

What we do know is that all of these BOBs are destined to fade from memory. What we do know is that a library of books will be written about the presidency of Barack Obama. And what we also know is that the sad gaggle of BOBs that has proliferated over the past eight years will only deserve a footnote, if that, in any of the books in that library.

In the final analysis their contribution to serious deliberation, debate and discussion can be summed up in one word – zero.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 7, 2012

There is no question that the DNC convention speakers, headlined by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro stated the party’s position as clearly as possible. One very clear point was made – the Teapublicans want to go back to a mythical past when all was well – well at least for some. Meanwhile, Paul Ryan clearly has an alias – Lyin’ Ryan. He seems to be a man who lies just to stay in practice. He can’t even tell the truth about his running time — and a lot more. Finally, with the presidential election less than 60 days away, it is clearly time for the talking heads/mouths that make a living being Obama naysayers to take a break – the stakes are just too high.

Back to the Future

Last week Julian Castro did a pretty fair imitation of Barack Obama circa 2004. Michelle Obama reminded everyone that she is an exceptional First Lady and all of a sudden talk of Michelle in 2016 started to circulate. Bill Clinton was exceptional in so many ways while Barack Obama reminded everyone why he has always been a very special President of the United States.

While it has been clear that the Romney-Ryan team seeks to go back to a future that is rooted in the past, it was important that the Democratic Party speakers make the point over and over again. Certainly Teapublicans will continue to serve up the same old stew while telling the American people that it is a new item on the menu.

This point was never clearer when it was revealed that 17 of the 24 members of the Romney-Ryan foreign policy team served in the Bush-Cheney administration. That would be the same administration that hoodwinked this country into a war in Iraq and the most dishonorable military disaster in American history.

This would be the same administration that botched the search for Osama bin Laden and mismanaged the military incursion in Afghanistan to the point that the United States is still mired there today. This would be the same administration that frayed and damaged this country’s international standing almost beyond repair.

One would think that serving on the foreign policy team of Bush-Cheney would be an immediate disqualifier. Not for the Romney-Ryan team. They want to go back to the future.

Lyin’ Ryan

Paul Ryan swings from hiding the truth to outright lies. As an example of the latter – he cites his mother taking public transportation every day to attend college to get a degree so that she could improve her professional career. He fails to point out that public transportation on public funded highways to attend college that receives state and federal funds forms an example of how and why government is important in the lives of all Americans. That would be the same governmental structure that he now seeks to dismantle.

As an example of the latter – Congressman Ryan states that he ran a marathon in 2 hours and 50 seconds. Fact checking soon revealed that he ran the referenced marathon in 4 hours and ten minutes – a credible time but nothing like the heroic time that he cited.
He said he forgot.

As someone who ran for thirty years I am very clear that any serious runner knows and remembers their running times in significant races – like a marathon. And no truthful runner could confuse a four hour marathon time with a less than three hour achievement.

It may seem like a small lie but it reveals a disturbing pattern in Mr. Ryan’s very real tendency to lie and misrepresent whenever it is convenient for him to do so.

The Vision Thing

During the past few years several talking heads and running mouths (Tavis Smiley and Cornel West come to mind as examples) have made not so small fortunes bad mouthing nearly everything that President Obama does and says. That is, of course, their constitutional right.

But after the sequence of the Republican and Democratic conventions it should be very clear that there are stark differences between the two candidates this time around. It is not exaggerating to suggest that a Teapublican victory would be catastrophic for many Americans while enriching and engorging a few very wealthy Americans.

One can only hope that these talking heads and running mouths will declare a two month cease fire rather than run the risk of becoming the 2012 version of Ralph Nader circa 2000.

Have a great weekend!

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Weekend Edition – December 23, 2011

The year 2011 meanders and waddles and lurches to its end. True to form, we have gotten revelations that Congressman Ron Paul’s newsletter occasionally launches into racist rants – and he doesn’t know anything about it. Bank of America agrees to pay a $335 million dollar fine for enticing barely creditworthy minority customers into purchasing homes that they couldn’t afford. In addition to precipitating the bursting of the housing bubble, Bank of America has managed to damage and destroy communities all across this country. And finally, a nonentity of a congressman in Wisconsin thought that there was nothing wrong about him referring to the First Lady of the United States in appalling and disrespectful terms. Only in America.

Will the Real Ron Paul Please Stand Up?

Congressman Ron Paul is one of the leading G.O.Tea Party presidential candidates. Indeed, we shouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be the winner of the Iowa Caucus.

Being a leading candidate has its disadvantages. One of them is that reporters actually take the time to find out what you stand for and believe in. It turns out that Ron Paul has been publishing a newsletter for over 20 years which has had interesting statements such as:

• The Martin Luther King holiday is “Hate Whitey Day”
• The riots in Los Angeles only stopped when blacks had to pick up their welfare checks
• In Washington, D.C. 90%-95% of African American males are criminals or engaged in criminal activity

When questioned about these outlandish and purely racist statements Congressman Paul copped out. He said that he didn’t write (or read) the newsletter and that such scrutiny by the press is unfair.

There are strains and threads of racism all throughout the G.O.Tea Party fabric. Ron Paul missed an excellent opportunity to play to his base by owning up to these statements.

The Un-American Bank of America

This past week Bank of America agreed to pay a $335 million fine in connection with its outrageous practice of enticing minorities who were not credit worthy into purchasing homes with the assistance of so-called sub-prime mortgages.

The collapse of the housing market in 2008 was due in no small part to these piratical banking practices. These predatory lending practices have also resulted in the wholesale evisceration of neighborhoods and communities that had been stable until some executives at Bank of America started to put on their thinking caps.

We might think that $335 million is a lot of money. That is, until we compare it to the cost of destroying homes, lives and communities across this country. Indeed, Bank of America is very un-American.

The Bottomless Pit

The slime that has been directed at the Obama Administration started being hurled on January 20, 2009. Political attacks are part of the process but the partisan vitriol has been extreme. President Obama has been called a socialist, a fascist and a Kenyan anti-colonialist. There are still millions of Americans who will never believe that he was born in the United States and if nothing else, the
G.O.Tea Party has been unified in its dedication to seeing that he “fails” and is reduced to being a one term president.

But this past week a new low has been reached. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, a virtual nonentity from Wisconsin, was quoted as saying that Michelle Obama has a “large posterior” for someone who advocates healthy foods and exercise.
Of course this idiot gave the classic “if I offended anyone” non-apology.

During all the political battles involving Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton – and I am referring to classical wars over policy and vision – I cannot recollect a single word that referred to Lady Bird Johnson or Pat Nixon or Nancy Reagan or Hillary Clinton in such a stunningly disrespectful manner.

Barack Obama is a man possessed of considerable restraint not to respond to this vulgar attack on his wife and the mother of his children. What is incredible is that this disgraceful disrespect is not out of the ordinary in the United States of Stupid.

Have a great weekend!

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 25, 2011

Last weekend First Lady Michelle Obama appeared at a NASCAR rally and was booed. Sadly, the rudeness is not a surprise. But who is it on the White House staff that thought that having Mrs. Barack Obama go to a NASCAR rally was a good idea? Meanwhile Newt Gingrich has surged to the lead in the G.O.Tea Party presidential polls. Could Barack Obama be that lucky? Finally, the G.O.Tea Party zealots in the Congress passed a bill overturning an Obama Administration initiative to have whole grain foods and vegetables in federal school lunch programs. A simple of example of how stupid can turn to dangerous.

Hail to the First Lady?

Last week First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden attended a NASCAR rally. They were roundly booed in a display of rudeness that was shocking even in the United States of Stupid. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden were there to promote support of American troops that are returning to the United States from the seemingly endless wars that this country is waging.

The booing should have been expected, however. If there is anyone on the White House staff who believes that a NASCAR rally is a suitable venue for Mrs. Barack Obama has been working in a soundproof cable-free bubble for the past three years.
The only thing that would elicit a positive response from the NASCAR denizens would be an announcement by Michelle Obama would be an announcement that President Obama had resigned.

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh rushed into the frenzy contending that Michelle Obama should have stayed in Washington instead of going anywhere for any purposed. He went on to say that the First Lady of the United States was “uppity” in presuming to make appearances around the country.

We know by now that Rush Limbaugh is a racist, drug-addled, stupid lout who should thank his lucky Jesus that by some quirk of fate he has been able to make millions spewing hate and ignorance. But does he have to prove it every day?

Newt on Deck

This week we learned that Newt Gingrich has surged to the lead in the G.O.Tea Party presidential polls. Presumable this is because Michele
Bachmann has turned out to be certifiably crazy, Rodeo Rick Perry is a caricature of Rodeo Rick Perry and Herman Cain’s self-inflicted wounds are beyond healing.
It is a testament to the sour taste that Mitt Romney leaves in the mouths of the zealots who occupy the right wing of the right wing in the G.O.Tea Party that damaged goods like Newt Gingrich could be given serious consideration as a presidential candidate.

There may have been other successful presidential candidates who married their high school teacher and then divorced them as they were recovering from cancer surgery. However their names escape me at this time.

There may have been other successful presidential candidates who have engaged this kind of over the top fear mongering – “Barack Obama is a greater danger to this country than fascism during World War II”. However, their names did not come up in my research for this column.

I would have to think that Team Obama would welcome a Gingrich candidacy. Of course, it is useful to remember to be careful what one wishes for.

Bon Appétit

During the 2010 election campaigns, the Tea Party faithful promised real change when their candidates arrived in Washington. Now we have found out what they meant.
Change has meant absolute, wooden-headed obstruction to any and every piece of legislation that does not precisely conform to Tea Party orthodoxy. Change has meant that this country has teetered on the brink of fiscal default and disarray, a potential disaster that the G.O.Tea Party has crazily embraced.

Change has also meant rolling back the Obama Administration initiative that calls for healthier federally funded school lunches. More whole grains, more vegetables and other subversive elements have now been eliminated by the G.O.Tea Party zealots in the House of Representatives.

By the way, pizza and tomato paste as a vegetable are o.k. in the world inhabited by the right wing of the right wing.

Have a great weekend!

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 25, 2011

This week Motown came to the White House and from all appearances, everyone had a great time – President Obama had a chance to dance with someone other than the Republicans. Meanwhile rumors persist that Donald Trump might be a presidential candidate. Also, how long will Barack Obama continue to ignore Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on his wife. And finally, how long before the freedom movement moves from North Africa to the rest of Africa?

Obama vs. Trump in 2012?

In a recent hypothetical poll Donald Trump and Barack Obama were in a statistical dead heat in a 2012 run for the presidency. I don’t know who was polled but I do know that more people voted in the last “American Idol” competition than in the last presidential election. Therefore there is a strong likelihood that Trump’s self-proclaimed star power propelled him to these Olympian polling heights.

I also think that President Obama and his advisors are crossing their fingers and lighting votive candles all over the place hoping that The Donald and his hair would somehow be the Republican nominee next year. Just his presence in the Republican primaries would roil the right wing waters all over the place.

While it is true that sometime the American public confuses celebrity with competence the presidency is not another reality show. It makes all the sense in the world to take Donald Trump seriously as an entrepreneur and promoter. It makes no sense to take him seriously as a presidential candidate.

The real question – could Barack Obama be so lucky?

Obama vs. Limbaugh?

Barack Obama is famously know for being cool, unflappable and restrained. Nowhere has this restraint been more evident than in his non-response to the ever infamous Rush Limbaugh. This is the same Rush Limbaugh who stated publicly that he wanted Barack Obama to “fail” as President of the United States.

In his latest foray into swamp talk Limbaugh referred to Michelle Obama as a hypocrite for urging Americans to have healthier eating habits while she herself occasionally dines on something less healthy than tofu.

Limbaugh, the overweight, cigar chomping, recovering addict, also proceeded to opine on the attractiveness of the First Lady of the United States. In his view Michelle Obama wouldn’t qualify as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and Alex Rodriguez would never ask her for a date.

Perhaps it’s best that Limbaugh chose to pick on the wife of a man who is restrained, calm and cool. By now any number of men would be knocking on Rush’s front door before kicking him in the rear.

African Freedom?

Since the insurrection in Tunisia, followed by the revolts in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, there have been constant news reports and analyses regarding “change that is sweeping through the Arab world”.

A look at the map will reveal that all of the aforementioned countries are in Africa and that the “change” taking place involves the replacement of sclerotic regimes that have been around for too long.

Africa is a big place, however, and we should also note that there are a number of other African countries with regimes that have been around too long to the detriment of their people.

Consider – Teodoro Obiang – Equatorial Guinea – 32 years, Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe – 24 years, Yoweri Museveni – 25 years, the Bongo family – Gabon – 43 years.

Do not be surprised if the “change” sweeping its way across North Africa turns south sooner than later.

Have a great weekend!

Standard