Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 20, 2013

It turns out that The Handshake That Shook the World at the Nelson Mandela memorial was more symbolic and important than originally thought. Meanwhile some people are actually surprised that the “Duck Dynasty” patriarch is a homophobic racist. Or is he a racist homophobe? And finally, it appears that the Teapublicans are determined to retire the Lifetime Achievement Award for Meanness as they push to cut unemployment benefits AND veterans benefits – at Christmas time.

About That Handshake

Despite the fact that Richard Nixon shook hands with Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro, and Ronald Reagan shook hands with Mikhail Gorbachev and John McCain shook hands with Muammar Gadhafi, the Teapublicans worked themselves into a frothy frenzy because President Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Nelson Mandela memorial service. But it took Fidel Castro to come out of seclusion to point out the real hypocrisy.

Because while everyone was focusing on the handshake, Fidel Castro pointed out that in the struggle against apartheid the United States government did not do much to aid Nelson Mandela or the African National Congress. Indeed there were economic sanctions in the last days and times of apartheid, but there was also the United States government labeling Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and communist threat at a time when words of support from Washington would have meant a lot.

We should harbor no illusion that a bit of truth will change the hypocrisy of the Teapublican right, but the truth possesses a power all its own.

Dumb Duck

The patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty”, Phil Robertson, in an interview with GQ magazine went on a homophobic rant on the record and for good measure channeled his inner racist. While selectively quoting the Bible to support his damnation of homosexuals he also made the fantastical claim that he never saw black people in the South being mistreated.

To its credit, the A&E suspended Mr. Robertson from the Duck Dynasty show. What is surprising is that anyone is surprised that Mr. Robertson would hold these antediluvian and caucasiancentric points of views. He is who he is.

The Teapublican Grinch

We have read a lot about the glories of the first bipartisan budget since the first one hundred days of the first term of the Obama Administration. But looking behind the curtain we see that there is a clear indication of the stone headed meanness of the Teapublicans in their demand for cuts to unemployment benefits as well as veteran’s benefits.

The unemployed are vulnerable by definition and veterans are worthy of their benefits by reason of their serving and supporting the military policies of this country, no matter how misguided and wrong they have been over the last decade.

The fact that these cuts were announced at Christmastime would be considered excessive if there were such a thing as Mean Olympics judges.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 17, 2011

Columnists and comedians have been gnashing their teeth as the resignation of Anthony Weiner has left too many of them bereft of material, as grey and recycled as it might have been. But one need look no further than the debut of “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs” in New Hampshire on Monday to know that there is always something more bizarre on the horizon. We conclude the review of this week by noting the Republicans’ bait and switch routine on the Libyan conflict as well taking a moment to contemplate the reenactment of “The Harder They Fall”, this time by LeBron James and company.

Snow White and the Six Dwarfs

Last Monday, the Republican presidential candidate debate kicked off the true start of the campaign season that won’t end until November 6, 2012. That’s a long time for anyone to repeatedly state that Barack Obama is the devil incarnate, but the seven candidates who appeared on stage appear to up to that task, if nothing else.

Mitt Romney, playing the part of Snow White, tried to manage to be above the fray of the six dwarfs who clamored for the attention of the electorate by reaching for the extreme and then attempting to throttle the life out of it. Newt Gingrich, who once said that President Obama was a greater danger to this country than Adolph Hitler was not to be outdone by Michelle Bachmann who termed the president a “destructive force”.

Herman Cain managed to outrage every American Muslim with his foolish attacks on the presumed disloyalty of American citizens of a different faith than his, while they all rallied around the notion of dismantling the federal government.

Seeming to be auditioning for the role of Dopey, the six dwarfs all agreed that the reforms in government over the past 40 years should be rolled back, particularly in areas such as labor, education, environmental reform and financial oversight. The fact that these reforms were implemented in order to correct or prevent serial tragedies in American society seemed to escape all of them.

The Republican presidential debate was an Obama Piñata Party. Without some serious rewrites it will get worse reviews than “Spiderman, Turn off the Dark”.

The Libya Bait and Switch

When the uprising against the Libyan government began a few months ago, Republicans were vehement; indeed they were apoplectic, in their calls for President Obama to “do something”. Senator John McCain went to Libya and proclaimed the insurgents as his “heroes”, although, as usual, McCain knew nothing about the subject on which he was proclaiming an opinion (it’s the same kind of non-thought process that resulted in Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate).

And so President Obama ordered the launch of Cruise and Tomahawk missiles against the regime of Muammar Qaddafi. Several months later, even with the cloak of NATO collaboration, this country stands on the precipice of yet another military quagmire.

And now the same Republicans who demanded that President Obama “do something” are claiming that “something” is a violation of the War Powers Act. Investigations and demands for impeachment can’t be far away.

In truth Team Obama should have seen this bait and switch move coming. Hopefully they won’t go for that head fake again.

There’s No “I” in Team

It was a little more than a year ago that LeBron James enraged the city of Cleveland forever by announcing on ESPN that he was “taking his talents to Miami”. Many sports fans were turned off by his flight in search of a title, harking back to the days of Magic and Larry and Kareem who would rather donate flesh than “take their talents” to another team in hope of finally getting a championship ring.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that the Miami Heat put on a really good show in the playoffs. That is, until the pressure of the pressure of playing in the NBA Finals seemed to constrict LeBron’s windpipe and turn his knees into jelly.

And just like that, the “talents” and the will of LeBron James and his teammates went missing and the Dallas Mavericks became champions.

Pride goes before the fall.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

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Be My Guest

“Be My Guest” column by Herb Boyd

So Much Trouble in the World

It is safe to assume that the battlefronts in Libya—like the opinion of the American public on the intervention—will continue to fluctuate by the day, if not for the coming weeks. At the top of the week it was reported that the rebels were steadily advancing from their stronghold in Benghazi along the coastal highway to Tripoli, Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s bastion.

Two days later the rebels were in retreat as Gaddafi’s troops pushed them back from the commander’s homeland of Surt. So long as the NATO forces (read US) were battering Gaddafi’s forces, the rebels were able to gain territory and capture cities on the march to Tripoli. But it appears that Tomahawk and Cruise missiles and bombs can only do so much in unseating Gaddafi, that ground troops may be necessary to completely dislodge him.

Those troops won’t come from the U.S. President Obama has promised repeatedly, stressing that point in his recent address to the American people. Even so, if a regime change is to occur then the NATO warplanes and airstrikes will have to test their precision in bombarding Tripoli, targeting Gaddafi without killing and injuring thousands of innocent civilians.

Most military experts believe that Gaddafi is entrenched and that ground forces will have to be deployed to complete the mission of removing the “tyrant,” as Obama has defined Gaddafi. But that deployment, according to Retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore will not be easy.

Aiding the rebels will require Special Forces, prepared to train the rebels in order to provide maximum effectiveness for any kind of materiel support, Lt. Gen. Honore said during a recent appearance on CNN. On a prior appearance on the station, Honore seemed to feel Gaddafi was on the ropes and had no option but to resign. Apparently he has changed his tune and now feels that NATO or somebody is going to have to commit ground troops in Libya to defeat Gaddafi.

“Just supplying the rebels with arms is not enough,” Honore said. “They have to be properly trained to use the weapons,” especially heavy artillery, rocket launchers, and other sophisticated equipment. Otherwise, he added, we are doomed to make the same mistakes the U.S. made in arming other so-called freedom fighters, particularly the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

On the matter of U.S. supporting the rebels, it was disclosed a few days ago that the Obama administration had authorized the CIA to conduct secret funding the rebels, but no weapons, supposedly, have not been supplied yet. Don’t bet on that.

And even after Gaddafi is done away with, what comes next? Ayatollahs? Al Qaeda? Another ruthless dictator?

“So much trouble in the world”, Bob Marley once sang and the U.S. is in no position to solve or settle any of the conflict, and shouldn’t unless the American people face imminent danger.

Herb Boyd is an author, activist, teacher and journalist and is a roving reporter for http://www.television.org – He is a resident of Harlem, New York

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 25, 2011

The weekend begins with impending radiation doom in Japan and more questions about the U.S. military intervention in Libya and where this will lead. President Obama has a lot of explaining to do in the coming week.

Meanwhile Rush Limbaugh continues to insure his first ballot entry into the “Idiots Hall of Fame” even with Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown giving him vigorous competition. Also, a new photography book chronicling the decline of Detroit offers lessons for all.

Once again, you are invited to visit the “Be My Guest” feature of Point of View to read a column by Professor Pamela Newkirk regarding her absolutely fascinating book “Between the Lines – The Power of African American Letters”. You will be doing yourself a great favor by taking the time to read it.

So Limbaugh Thinks Obama is a “Sissy”?

The week was marked by yet another childish smear of President Obama by that perpetual child, Rush Limbaugh. It seems that Limbaugh feels that President Obama is less manly because he didn’t move more quickly to rain death and destruction upon the military assets of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (and the unfortunate civilians who happen to get in the way).

On the Planet Limbaugh you should shoot first and ask questions later, if at all. Which is exactly why this country is already mired in two seeming endless wars and exactly why serious contemplation of the consequences of military action is needed – now more than ever.

We have already had a Sarah Free February and now a Donald Free March. Perhaps it is time for a Rush Free 2011?

Requiem for Detroit?

The 2010 census report tells us that the population of Detroit is now 713,777. In 1950, when Detroit was the fourth largest city in the United States, its population was 1,850,000. But the numbers do not tell the whole story.

The evisceration of a major metropolis is marked by more than urban flight and urban blight. In a moving book of photographs entitled “The Ruins of Detroit” – http://www.marchandmeffre.com/detroit/index.html – Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have compiled a searing montage of what the death of a city looks like.

There are lessons to be learned in the Detroit tragedy including the enduring possibility of renaissance and renewal. It is clear that Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and his administration have not surrendered to the facts as they are and are instead trying to implement a plan of what can be in the new Detroit.

The prospect of renaissance and renewal in Detroit inspires residents of challenged cities across this nation.

There are also the lessons of what happens when corporate aspirations for profit eclipse notions of community and nation. Detroit is not suffering from a natural disaster like the hurricane in New Orleans or the earthquake in Port Au Prince.

The industrial/corporate complex of Detroit, dominated by the automobile industry, miscalculated and misunderstood the changes in their chosen field. They profited mightily from the labor and support of the people of Detroit and now the people of Detroit are paying dearly for these mistakes.

And now, while American automobile companies and their financiers are enjoying record profits, the people of Detroit sort through the rubble in search of renaissance and renewal.

Indeed there are lessons to be learned in Detroit.

Bad Boys Unite!

Charlie Sheen is careening through the Twittersphere and the blogosphere as the world waits for his brain to actually evaporate. He is getting ready to do a national tour including Radio City Music Hall in New York City as one of the venues for his marathon meltdown. Charlie Sheen may go down in history as the best argument against drug abuse ever.

Then Chris Brown throws a Chrissyfit and trashes an ABC dressing room because he didn’t like being asked about his felony conviction involving his brutal assault on his former girlfriend Rihanna.

The fact that he was so angry that he tore off his shirt and stormed out of the studio shirtless is a particularly curious act and indicates that maybe he is in need of a post-graduate anger management class or two.

Of course, if his celebrity had not earned him probation instead of a jail sentence he would probably be a regular resident of the bridal suite at the Los Angeles County Jail – in which case going around shirtless would have been his normal attire.

Where is Dennis Rodman when we need him?

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Beware of the Slippery Slope

President Obama was absolutely correct in resisting being hurried into committing American military forces to what is rapidly becoming a cauldron of combat and unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

I am hoping that he is in some way correct in ordering U.S. forces to bomb and strafe Libya as part of a coalition of countries that was formed to protect the insurgents who are battling Muammar Gaddafi.
Military geniuses like Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman flailed away at President Obama for “standing by” while Gaddafi “attacked his own people”. Senator John Kerry and others implored him to “do something”. And now he has done something.

American missiles and bombers are now raining death and destruction upon the forces of Colonel Gaddafi. And there have been “unavoidable civilian casualties”. We are told to blame Gaddafi for interspersing his military assets in civilian areas but you can be certain that many people will see Americans killing Muslim men, women and children in Libya, just as this country has done in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen have acknowledged that regime change is not the goal of this mission. We are asked to see the natural justice in protecting the Libyan insurgents in Benghazi and Misrata who Gaddafi had virtually promised to massacre. And there is no doubt that preventing slaughter is a noble cause. But where does it stop?

As this column is being written over fifty people, killed over the weekend by Yemeni government troops, are being buried. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered the bloody crackdown against “his own people”. His people were, it should be noted, demanding his ouster.

It gets even more complicated, of course. President Saleh has been supported by the United States and Yemen is a strategically positioned country. Is it time to unleash some more Tomahawk and Cruise missiles on Yemen to prevent fratricide from becoming genocide?

In Damascus, Syria, President Bashar Assad ordered his police to fire on thousands of “his own people” who were protesting the multiple decades of rule by the Assad family. Several Syrians have already died and it would seem to be virtually guaranteed that there will be more bloodshed unless President Assad decides to leave for Geneva to audit his Swiss bank accounts.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain ordered his troops to fire on “his own people”, wounding and killing scores of protestors. While much is murky, it is very clear that this story is far from over and much more blood will be spilled in the very near future in Bahrain.

If the standard for American military intervention is going to involve preventing governments from punishing and killing its own people we are moving towards a very slippery slope from which there is no turning back.

In addition to Yemen and Syria, which are very much in the news, there are indigenous government forces abusing and torturing and killing citizens in Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. The military rulers of Myanmar are infamous for their cruelty and violence in maintaining their power and the list goes on.

The United States simply cannot be the policeman for the planet. Aside from the questionable commitment of the lives of men and women of the U.S. military one has to wonder about the long term impact of these incursions, even in the name of truth, justice and the American way.

As in Egypt and Tunisia, no one knows the philosophy, ideology or allegiance of the insurgents in Libya. We certainly don’t know what the insurgents and protestors in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria are looking for in the future. We simply don’t know if we are trading the devil we know for the demon that we will come to fear. And all the while we are creating recruitment photo ops and propaganda videos for Al Qaeda and other real enemies of this country.

The lessons of Vietnam, if they are not remembered, will be relearned at a terrible cost. Many should remember that, from the American perspective, the Vietnam War began with a few troops with the limited mission of providing training and technical assistance to the South Vietnamese so that they could fight the communists. Then it was necessary to protect the trainers. And then those troops started getting killed and there was a need for more troops. And then Vietnam became a charnel house for American troops and the Vietnamese people.

We are all familiar with the George Santayana quote, “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Perhaps we should recall another of his less famous quotes, “Habit is stronger than reason”.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 18, 2011

The weekend begins with breaking news as Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns to Haiti less than 48 hours before the election, accompanied by……Danny Glover (and what could Mr. Glover be thinking?). Meanwhile the critics of President Obama continue to unite over anything and everything that he might do. And what on earth could be the reason for hurling insults at Japan as it endures the combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster?

Finally, you are invited to visit the “Be My Guest” feature of Point of View to read a column by Professor Pamela Newkirk regarding her absolutely fascinating book “Between the Lines – The Power of African American Letters”. You will be doing yourself a great favor by taking the time to read it.

Really Danny Glover? Really?

The tragic aspects of Haitian history are well known. Haiti’s recent history has been marked by challenges of almost biblical proportions.

It is a testament to the good will of many Haitians, both in Haiti and in the diaspora, that elections will be held on March 20th that hold the promise of being free and fair. The presidential candidates, Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, have engaged in a vigorous contest right until the final day.

As the fragile tendrils of democracy and transparency try to take root in Haiti, it is incomprehensible that Danny Glover, the famous actor, activist and humanitarian, would take it upon himself to escort former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristede back to Port Au Prince today.

Both presidential candidates and President Obama have asked that Mr. Aristede delay his return until after the election for concern that his presence at this point could destabilize a very fragile democratic process.

Since Mr. Aristede has not participated in any part of the elections and is not supporting either candidate, there would seem to be reason enough for him to agree to wait in South Africa where he has lived in luxury for the past six years (the source of that luxury is another story for another time).

Instead, Danny Glover has seen fit to bring a torch to gasoline refinery. Given the tragedy and pain and suffering that the Haitian people have suffered historically and recently, it is just wrong for Mr. Glover to participate in this potentially destabilizing event. His prior relief work and support of reconstruction is laudable and it makes his current actions baffling.

If Mr. Aristede wishes to distract and disturb the electoral process he must ultimately answer to the Haitian people for any disruption that takes place on March 20th. But to whom will Mr. Glover answer as he jets back to the United States, not having to live with the consequences of his high profile escort of Mr. Aristede?

Hopefully the elections will be fair and free of the intervention of negative forces. But there is simply no reason to increase the degree of difficulty at this point in the history of Haiti.

Critics of Obama Unite!

Since he was inaugurated, President Obama has had to accept the reality that, for some people, whatever he chose to do would be considered wrong.

The latest example of this is related to the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. As encrusted oligarchies in Tunisia and Egypt tumbled President Obama was critiqued for the timing of his support for agents of change in these countries even though his measured support resulted in the desired regime change and accompanying good will throughout the region.

Libya has proven to be a very different situation as the entrenched dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, has shown no inclination to leave and seems to be prepared to immolate his entire country.

In the face of this mindless strategy critics of the president have contended that he should show more “leadership” by establishing a “no-fly zone” and even providing supplies and troops to support the Libyan insurgents.

The commitment of troops and treasure cannot be the first response of this country as there are too many places on this earth with the same fact pattern – right now that would include Cote d’Ivoire, Bahrain, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. Would these critics – most recently David Gergen and Senator Lindsay Graham, among others – have President Obama send troops and jets and materiel all over the world to fight injustice and tyranny everywhere at the same time like some latter day Superman?

Fortunately the United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution calling for a joint military effort in Libya and the wisdom of measured response has been demonstrated once more.

Mr. Gergen and Senator Graham seem to actually believe in Superman. Thankfully President Obama does not.

Insult to Injury

Since the triple tragedy in Japan the global response has been compassionate and tangible. Assistance has flowed to this island nation from all over the world.

But some knuckleheads are determined to show their stupidity by opening their raincoats of fame and flashing their miniscule intellects. Several celebrities including the noted blowhard Rush Limbaugh and the famous philosopher Fifty Cent have been quoted as stating that the people of Japan deserved the tragedies that they are suffering.

Some mish-mosh thought process linking Pearl Harbor to economic success to advocating environmental protection has resulted in this awful stew of hate and misinformation.

Of course Rush and Fitty just don’t care. But the rest of us should.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 11, 2011

The weekend begins with an earthquake in Japan and a tsunami in Hawaii. The week concludes with Libya in flames, passionate revelations by Newt Gingrich and increasing demands for a Donald Free March.

Fantasyland Foreign Policy

Senator John McCain and Senator Joseph Lieberman took to the microphones last week and criticized President Obama for not involving the U.S. military in Libya. These scions of the Senate seem to feel that the United States should support the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi by committing troops, materiel and imposing a “no fly zone” over Libya.

Senator McCain flew a jet that was shot down over Vietnam and he spent 5 ½ years as a prisoner of war. While his courage in the face of adversity should not be questioned, I am not clear as to why that experience makes him an expert on military affairs. Senator Lieberman has no military experience although he has a tremendous amount of experience in betraying his political allies when it is convenient.

I don’t think that one has to be Sun Tzu or Metternich to recognize the dangers of easing onto the slippery slope of “limited” military engagement for unclear purposes. The lessons of Vietnam, Iraq and Pakistan are quite clear.

Additionally, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been adamant in advising against this country stumbling into yet another quagmire.
The American military resources do not include magic wands.

There is also a whiff of politics in the air around Messrs McCain and Lieberman. During the past year hundreds of defenseless citizens have been killed by government forces in the Ivory Coast. During this same time frame there have been countless thousands of men, women and children slaughtered by soldiers in the Congo.

I can find no record of a call to action from the offices of the gentleman from Arizona or the gentleman from Connecticut. But now, Libyan liberation is the cause du jour and they perceive another opportunity to pillory President Obama.

I would also remind Senators McCain, Lieberman and others (like Senator John Kerry) that careless commitments of the military have resulted in disasters and too many men and women have already died, too much treasure has been needlessly wasted, because there was never a clear goal.

Let us hope that it doesn’t happen again in Libya.

The Passion of St. Newt

The G.O.Tea Party continues its race to the bottom with a gaggle of presidential candidates that can only help Barack Obama sleep better at night. The retreaded Newt Gingrich has made faux news by announcing that he will announce his candidacy for president sometime in May. I do not recall hearing a collective gasp of anticipation from the America public when he uttered these words.

Mr. Gingrich also stated that he has engaged in some moral indiscretions for which he is sorry. Presumably these indiscretions would include serving his wife with divorce papers while she was recovering from breast cancer surgery.

Another indiscretion would be the extramarital affair in which he was engaged while he was calling for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
If you are scoring at home that would be – infidelity, hypocrisy, and just plain meanness. That’s quite a trifecta for the Newt Who Would Be President.

And there’s more. Mr. Gingrich blamed his “passion” for working so hard for America for causing him to lose his moral compass. This is a new and refreshingly inane excuse for poor behavior.

I don’t think that this lead balloon will ever fly.

A Donald Free March

During the past week Donald Trump announced that he would make a decision about whether he would run for President of the United States at the conclusion of the season of his “Apprentice” program.

It is good to know that The Donald has his priorities in the right place.

It is now time to proclaim a Donald Free March. It is too much to ask that he go away. But we don’t have to listen to him, do we?

Have a great weekend!

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