Point of View Columns

In the Land of the Blind……

There is an old saying –“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. These days it seems that too many Americans are blindly following leaders with very limited vision when it comes to what is best for this country. Issues like the debt ceiling and gun control are currently elbowing for position on the front pages, but the more fundamental issue of where this country is going is worth examining too.

While it is absolutely possible for there to be intelligent, non-absolutist debate about gun control, it is very difficult to see how there can be any resolution to America’s gun addiction and predilection for using them to kill people as long as right wing political leaders and gun manufacturers maintain that there should be no limit on the ownership of weapons or even the type of weapons that should be owned by civilians.

It has been patently clear for years that the National Rifle Association is the lobbying arm of the gun manufacturing industry and the members of the NRA are just the lipstick on this particular pig. Yet millions of Americans have been persuaded that it is a critical, constitutionally-protected right to own entire arsenals of military weapons and that any control, scrutiny or limitations on this ownership is the first step towards tyranny that has not been seen in this country since the reign of King George III.

But for all of its posturing, the NRA is simply silent on the fact that 11,000 Americans die every year as the result of gun murder. The fact is that since the Newtown massacre last month over 600 Americans have been killed by guns and the chances are that someone else will have been killed by the time you finish reading this article.

This country’s passionate embrace of guns is encouraged and fueled by the right wing of the right wing even as their own constituents and their children are fall to gunfire. The logical extension of the right wing gun policy would have millions more Americans who will be better armed than most police officers and small nations – with no control, training and oversight. The imminent catastrophe can be seen even through the gun smoke.

Meanwhile, the debate over the debt ceiling has spilled over to the debate about how to assist the millions of Americans, primarily in New York and New Jersey, who have suffered greatly as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Incredibly, there are right wing G.O.Tea Party zealots seemingly without compassion or memory, who are opposing the levels of assistance that are requested as part of their opposition to increased spending.

In what can only be describing as hypocritical acrobatics, many of the congressmen opposing this aid come from places like California (earthquakes), Louisiana (hurricanes and floods), Texas (forest fires and tornadoes), Florida (hurricanes) and South Carolina (more hurricanes) that have received billions upon billions of federal assistance when calamities have hit their districts and communities.

It would appear that no one has told these members of Congress that the War Between the States ended in April of 1865. To engage in regional fiscal combat while American men, women and children are suffering is despicable and shameful. And everyone knows that when the next disaster inevitably hits Texas or Louisiana that the right wing zealots will somehow try to explain how the misery of their neighbors is different from that currently being endured in New York and New Jersey.

It is this kind of small-minded and myopic mindset that will doom this country in the near future unless the blind cease being led by the blinded. The right wing of the right wing mindset would never have financed the construction of the Hoover Dam or the Rural Electrification Act or the Tennessee Valley Authority, three projects that literally transformed the lives of tens of millions of Americans and truly brought this country into the 20th century.

The current G.O.Teapublican mindset would never have supported the G.I. Bill after World War II which empowered and enabled millions of veterans to go to college and create the modern American middle class. And the irony is that most, if not all of the Teapublican zealots can thank the federal programs just named for some aspect of the prosperity and comfort that they now enjoy and would deny to present and future Americans.

We continue to hope that the blind who are being led by the one-eyed blinded leaders on the right will open their eyes before it is too late.

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Point of View Columns

Special Weekend Edition – December 14, 2012

IT’S STILL THE GUNS STUPID!

As you are reading this the final body count after a shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut is being finalized. Because we are all so anesthetized and acclimated to gun carnage I will repeat: “As you are reading this the final body count after a shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut is being finalized.

Like every parent with a pulse when I first heard the report of the shooting at a school my very first thought was of the life and safety of my child. Then, learning that my son was safe I tried to comprehend the news reports of the inevitable suicidal lone gunman shooting twenty small children with an assault rifle typically used by urban SWAT teams.

We have to wonder about what this country will look like in another decade without some dedicated strategy to control the amount and type of guns that are available in this country. It is unthinkable that a third grader cannot go to school safely without body armor – but Kevlar may be part of the 2022 school dress code at the rate we are going.

The gun-loving maniacs of the National Rifle Association have their canned response to this tragedy at the ready. That’s because in the NRA universe there is no need for gun control. The daily tragedy of bloodshed on American streets has nothing to do with the readily availability of lethal weapons. After every Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora and now Newtown, the NRA and the supporters of gun madness would have us believe that rational gun control would not have saved a single life.

But I wish that the NRA representatives would fly to Connecticut and explain to the bereaved mothers and the anguished fathers in Newtown that there is a constitutional right for private citizens to have .223 caliber assault rifles. And then they can do a national tour to Brooklyn and Chicago and Washington and Oakland and New Orleans and explain to the mourners of gunned down Americans why it makes sense to have even limited controls on gun ownership.

House Speaker John Boehner was quoted as saying that he “stands with the citizens of Newtown”, whatever that means. But it is a safe bet that neither he nor any of his Teapublican colleagues who moonlight as NRA lapdogs will do anything about gun control.

President Obama was quoted as saying that it is time for new strategies without a concern for politics. One can suspect that this is a call for gun control in Obamaese. But in these United States of the Gun, President Obama is going to have to be a lot clearer and a lot more vocal.

One wonders what is the body count in a single incident that will finally turn this country in the right direction when it comes to guns. In 1911 146 people (mostly young women) died in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. The enormity of that tragedy led to workplace safety laws that have saved millions of lives during the past century.

We know that 27 people died in Newtown. We know that 32 people were slaughtered at Virginia Tech. We know the numbers in Columbine and Aurora and in the streets of urban America. John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X., John Lennon and so many more iconic individuals have been swept away in gusts of gun smoke. Incredibly and sadly the numbers and the horror have not been enough to bring about any kind of reasonable restraint on guns.

And so we close the day and the week with the wails of sirens and the weeping of parents as fresh blood is washed away until the next massacre. And while it is horrible to say, it is true, there will be a next massacre and another and another until this country becomes sane on the subject of guns.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 19, 2012

The really good news about this past week’s debate is that Obama is back…still don’t know who that guy was in Denver a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, amid news that the so-called gender gap between President Obama and Mr. Romney is closing the question must be asked – who are these women? And finally, Paul (Lyin’) Ryan got busted doing fake good deeds. Why are we not surprised?

Obama’s Back

The best thing about the most recent presidential debate is that the Barack Obama who inspired a nation and electrified the world showed up. Mitt Romney returned with more salvos of bluster and sketchy math, and he has shown a remarkable ability to lie with confidence– an indispensable talent for a confidence man.

When questioned about his unwavering support for the National Rifle Association’s positions on gun control – namely as little as possible – he actually said that he didn’t see a need for more regulation, even in the instance of assault weapons before going on off on an illogical riff about how single parent families are a significant causal factor when it comes to gun violence.

Unlike the first debate, President Obama did not let Mr. Romney cakewalk his way through his tax cut song and dance. Ultimately Mr. Romney’s message to the American people was that the math for his budget plan would work because he said so.

In running for the nomination of the Teapublican party, Mr. Romney pitched so far to the right that he now his trying to walk back from his draconian positions on issues like contraception and abortion. He did maintain his draconian positions on immigration and we will have to see how that plays out with American voters who are immigrants or the children of immigrants.

But President Obama saved the best for last, nailing Mitt Romney on his infamous 47% soliloquy – when Mr. Romney final comments included his tinny love song to the 100% of Americans, Barack Obama reminded everyone of what he said behind closed doors.

Who Are These Women?

This has been one of the other worldly presidential campaigns in memory, so it shouldn’t really be surprising to get the counterintuitive news that more women voters are now favoring Mitt Romney over President Obama. Could it be that these women do not know the
following?
• Mitt Romney has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, a source of primary healthcare for millions of women and girls
• Mitt Romney and Teapublican Party have sworn to limit access to contraception and abortion services – he is also committed to appointing Supreme Court justices who will vote to repeal Roe v. Wade
• Mitt Romney has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act which currently provides specific coverage for women’s health issues.
• Mitt Romney has refused to support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which was passed to address the FACT that women earn 73% of the wages paid to men for the same work.

All of these facts are well known and the Romney-Ryan team has clearly stated their positions on all of these issues. So the question is…..who are these women?

Lyin’ Ryan Strikes Again

Last week vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s team set up a photo op for him to visit a homeless shelter in Ohio. The press was treated to pictures of Mr. Ryan diligently scrubbing pots and pans in the shelter presumably to portray the softer, gentler side of the man who has crafted a budget plan that will absolutely shred the American social safety net.

The only problem was that the pots and pans were clean before Mr. Ryan arrived. He also engaged in only perfunctory conversation with homeless individuals who were at the shelter. And…………..the management of the shelter was furious that their site was being used for political purposes without their permission.

Just another day in the Life of Ryan.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 20, 2012

Contemporary commentary can sometimes be a sad litany of lurching steps that are taken in the direction of injustice, sometimes in the name of justice. In New York City, a “Stop and Frisk” procedure by the NYPD has resulted in hundreds of thousands of black and Latino young men being stopped and frisked without probable cause. The official reaction is that the declining crime rate justifies turning New York City into a police state. Meanwhile last year there were 5000 gun shows in the United States! That comes to about 13.69 gun shows per day. The NRA doesn’t think that’s enough. And finally, the Teapublicans in the United States Congress want to cut food assistance to needy Americans by redefining need instead of addressing the need. Where are the compassionate conservatives when you need them?

Stop Stop and Frisk

For several years the New York City police department has carried out a “Stop and Frisk” policy whereby individuals can be stopped and frisked on the streets of New York without probable cause. Last year over 600,000 people were stopped. Over 80% of these individuals were black and Latino young men and it seems that the only “probable cause” was that they were black and Latino young men.

New York City officials including the mayor and police commissioner cite the decline in the city’s crime rate as justifying this step that comes perilously close to the slippery slope of the police state. Given that only 10% of the over 600,000 “stops” resulted in probable cause for arrest that claim is tenuous at best. There was also no snow in New York City this past winter and there may be a time that “Stop and Frisk” is credited for this meteorological phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the cynical final spiral of the policy underlying “Stop and Frisk” is that if everyone was arrested, the crime rate would disappear. Constitutional rights cannot just be an inconvenient obstacle to law enforcement. Constitutional rights are part of the laws that are supposed to be enforced.

Gunmageddon

The National Rifle Association had its annual convention in St. Louis last week. In celebrating the cult of guns, the NRA has shown itself willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of men, women and children on an altar built with assault weapons, armor piercing bullets and a skewed interpretation of the second amendment to the United States Constitution that never contemplated the carnage that has been carried out in its name.

The NRA is proud to tell you that there are over 5000 gun shows in the United States every year. That comes to 13.69 guns shows per day in this country, every day. And it is at these gun shows that whatever limits and controls on the sale of weapons go up in gun smoke. Any fool meditating on committing felonies can stroll into any one of those 13.69 gun shows and purchase enough weaponry to replicate Virginia Tech, Columbine or any of the other countless massacres that ring up the NRA body count scoreboard.

While most Americans favor some kind of control on the sale and use of guns, the United States Congress has shown no interest in even minimal control of assault weapons and the NRA body count scoreboard total continues to rise.

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake

The Teapublicans in the House of Representatives have now come up with a proposal to cut federal expenditures for food stamps over the next five years. This proposal is not based upon some dramatic improvement in the American economy.

Instead, it is based upon the truly mean spirited notion that Americans are simply too dependent on the largesse offered by the federal government.

Incredibly, these self-satisfied and overwhelmingly comfortable gaggles of Babbits cannot even contemplate the idea that the men, women and children who rely upon food stamps are not dining at groaning banquet tables. Social responsibility entails providing for that portion of citizens who need help caring for themselves. Clearly compassion does not translate into the very special language spoken by the denizens of the G.O.Tea Party.

Have a great weekend

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