Point of View Columns

A Tale of Two Tragedies

It is a part of human nature that the latest outrage, the latest tragedy, will overshadow the disaster that precedes it. So it should come as no surprise that the carnage related to the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris has riveted the attention of much of the global media. What should be a surprise, or at least a cause for concern, is that the ongoing death march being conducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria barely moves the media needle.

Last week self-proclaimed Islamic jihadists wreaked murder and havoc in Paris and spread fear through much France. The reaction of the French government and its allies around the world was immediate and swift. With the deaths of seventeen people, over 18,000 French police and military personnel were deployed to seek and kill the perpetrators and to act as a deterrent to further terrorist actions.

Within days of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, leaders from most of Europe (and Israel and the Palestinian Authority) marched through the streets of Paris in an unprecedented show of unity and determination. These images, which were carried around the world, conveyed an opposition to the reign of terror proposed by jihadist terrorists who had attacked a little more than 100 hours earlier.

Meanwhile, in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, the streets moved with business as usual. This, despite the fact that about a week before the slaughter in France, the killers who call themselves Boko Haram attacked and killed as many as 2000 men, women and children. This, despite the fact that during the past few years thousands of Nigerians have been slain by Nigerians, the murderers calling themselves inspired by their God, although it would seem that their motives and calling come straight from Hell.

Nevertheless, the same leaders who marched the streets in Paris are nowhere to be found in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the response of the Nigerian government, with the largest military force in Africa, has been tepid at best and obviously ineffectual.

Despite the fact that Boko Haram threatens to destabilize the largest economy on the African continent, the African Union has been muted in its response to this regional threat. And, despite the obvious trampling of the human rights of the Nigerian people, there has been no call in the halls of the United States Congress or the White House to “do something” to stop these war crimes against humanity.

This tale of two tragedies reveals that it matters where crimes against humanity occur and who the victims are. A terrorist monstrosity raises its bloody head in Europe and a million voices are raised against it and robust military action takes place immediately. A terrorist monstrosity of even greater magnitude in Africa spills out over the media channels and the response in Africa is undeniably weak and the global response reveals that human rights violations in Africa are simply not a priority.

Of course, given the less than robust response to the depredations of Boko Haram by the African Union and the Nigerian government, it is difficult to understand how the former African colonialists and neo-colonialists are supposed to come to the rescue. And without an African response to the death and destruction currently raging in West Africa, there is no doubt that the global response will be rhetorical at best.

All lives matter. All lives have intrinsic value. All murder is senseless, whether it occurs in Ferguson, Paris or Nigeria. But it is clear that the venue of the tragedy and the identity of the victims do matter. And that is an injustice that simply cannot be allowed to continue.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 16, 2014

Reflecting on the recent news it appears that the Teapublicans believe that the lowest earning Americans earning a few more dollars would be destructive of the American economy. Meanwhile, a young man named Kwesi Enin has, by his excellence, illustrated the great divide in this country when it comes to affirmative action. And finally, Boko Haram has proven itself to be a truly demonic and demented terrorist organization. What, if anything, is the United States supposed to do about it?

You Want More?

In considering the Teapublican position on increasing the minimum wage one is reminded of the scene in the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, when the poor, hungry urchin is greeted with outrage when he asks for some more gruel.

While the upper reaches of the American upper class literally cannot count the millions and billions that are cascading into their coffers, there is this apoplectic response to the concept of a minimal raise for minimum wage earners who constitute barely 4% of the workforce.

Would a few extra dollars in the pockets of the men and women who actually labor in the trenches really tamper with the forces of nature? Would a few monetary crumbs, that mean so little to the Masters of the Universe but would mean so much to the working poor, be so difficult to support?

Clearly the Teapublicans in the House and Senate, bloviating about states’ rights and protecting the national economy are revealing themselves to be on the wrong side of meanness, stinginess and basic economic common sense.

Watch This Space

Kwesi Enin is the young man who was recently admitted to all eight Ivy League schools. He has chosen to attend Yale University. That should be the denouement in a great story until we read about his marvelous achievements that his future seems to promise.

But the haters and naysayers who swim in the sewer of negativity characterized his amazing admissions record as an indication of what is wrong with affirmative action. Without knowing Mr. Enin’s grades or SAT scores, they assumed that his academic qualifications were not as good as his competition, simply because he is an African American.

The shameful bigotry and racial prejudice that continues to flow through the veins of the American body politic is clear and present —- and dangerous.

Who are These Guys?

The terrorist organization Boko Haram has been wreaking havoc in Nigeria for several years. Pursuing a strategy of murder and mayhem, Boko Haram seems hell bent on destabilizing what should be the most advanced country on the African continent.

Boko Haram has dominated the international media by kidnapping over 300 young women and threatening to sell them as slaves. The horrific and medieval mindset of the Boko Haram operatives is frightening to contemplate and one can only hope that this latest story of terror by religious zealots will not have an unhappy ending.

Stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

The Road to Nowhere

It is very clear that just when you think the political scene cannot get any crazier, it does. The Teavangelical wing of the Republican Party has not only hijacked the party, it has dominated political discourse with a philosophy based on mini-facts and micro-knowledge. It is a scenario that could be the result of collaboration between Mel Brooks and Franz Kafka.

Consider the latest misadventures that are dumped in front of us on a daily basis. Just a few weeks ago Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was the belle of the ball. After winning the absolutely meaningless Iowa straw poll some of her supporters were measuring the White House windows for red, white and blue Tea Party drapes.

And there she was, on the cover of Newsweek, national talk shows – all the time proving that when you don’t know what you are talking about it is better to be quiet. Ms. Bachmann proclaimed that the credit rating of the United States would not be damaged by a budget debate-fueled default. And then the U.S. credit rating was downgraded just for coming close to default.

Her proclaiming the national gay community as being in league with Satan was somehow considerable a passable point of view for a national political candidate. And she never backed away from that position. And, of course, she continued to announce that God had instructed her to run for president which, in the many empty rooms in her mind, should have settled the entire matter and made the actual campaign and election a mere formality.

And then, Rodeo Rick Perry jumped into the race with his spurs jangling and his six guns shooting. This would be the same Rick Perry who publicly entertained the advisability of his state seceding from the United States.

The current governor of Texas crowed that while he has been in office his state has led the nation in the creation of jobs. However, Rodeo Rick has neglected to mention that Texas also leads the nation in minimum wage jobs and if the Texas model were to somehow be applied nationally, it could only work if oil is discovered in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona and most of us could find a way to work for less than $10 per hour.

Not content with shadow dancing with the truth regarding his so-called job creation skills, Rodeo Rick has also proudly proclaimed that he doesn’t believe in evolution or global warming and the United States Departments of Education and Energy should be dismantled. And, by the way, Social Security should also be dismantled and handled at the state level.

The breadth of his bizarro approach to the issues and challenges that this country faces would be laughable except that he is serious and he is also now the leading candidate for the G.O.Tea Party nomination. He has somehow managed to outcrazy Michele Bachmann – no mean feat – and the zealots of the right wing of the right wing are following their man like lemmings headed for the cliff.

I am just fine with Rodeo Rick not believing in evolution even though there is over a century’s worth of science that he is choosing to ignore. But it is criminal for believers in intelligent design to have their faith-based beliefs taught as science. Indeed, it is as criminal as advocating the dismantling of the Department of Education at a time when educational system of this country is facing unprecedented global challenges.

Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania are all considered to be developing countries. They all have ministries of education. Japan, China and Germany are considered to be developed countries. They all have ministries of education. In what parallel universe could it make sense for the United States to abandon its efforts to establish a world class national educational infrastructure?

Rodeo Rick has mangled history in order to compare global warming naysayers to Galileo. He would do better to liken these pseudoscientific scientists to Jim Jones serving Kool-Aid to those who would believe.

And what must the rest of the world think? The leading G.O.Tea Party candidate does not believe in evolution or global warming, thinks that the Social Security system is a “Ponzi scheme” and has warned the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank against “treasonous” acts.

Imagining Rodeo Rick Perry on the national stage might be the stuff of late night humor, but we ignore or laugh at zealots at our own peril. Imagining Rick Perry bringing his faux Wild West demeanor to the global stage is the stuff of nightmares – and we would be wise to wake up before this nightmare comes true.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 10, 2010

As the holiday season approaches the news is the gift that keeps on giving:

Nigeria – the new avatar of justice?

This past week saw the Federal Government of Nigeria issue a warrant for the arrest of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

For some, the only real surprise is that the Nigerian government filed charges ahead of the United States Department of Justice given the crimes that Mr. Cheney committed against the American people – his lies and deceptions that led to the disastrous war in Iraq being just one count in any indictment.

But the Nigerians have beaten America to the punch. The published facts indicate that during the time that Dick Cheney was Chairman and CEO of Haliburton, a subsidiary of that company is accused of paying over $100 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in as part of a successful effort to access a natural gas opportunity in that country.

Several Nigerian officials have already been accused and apprehended and one can only imagine the chorus of canary singing that is going on behind bars.

Statements by Mr. Cheney’s representatives refer to the Nigerian charges as “baseless” also pointing out the long and very public record of corruption in various aspects of the Nigerian government over the years. Nevertheless, Mr. Cheney and the rest of us should take this legal action very seriously.

Not too long ago the pharmaceutical behemoth Pfizer became embroiled in legal controversy stemming from charges of improper and unethical field testing procedures. Mr. Cheney will ignore Nigeria at his own peril.

It appears that Nigerian justice officials are willing to take on Dick Cheney, something no part of the American justice system has yet to do. Whatever the outcome, I hope that for once Dick Cheney will have to account for his actions in a public forum.

R.I.P.

Tradition used to put the initials “R.I.P.” on tombstones, a final prayer that the dearly departed would “rest in peace”. Yesterday two major legislative items seemed to have died unnatural and unnecessary deaths.

Through a series of arcane and incomprehensible parliamentary procedures the legislation that would have repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law that currently precludes gays to serve openly in the military was strangled in Senate red tape. Added to the charnel wagon was the legislation that would have provided federally funded healthcare for workers at the site of the 9/11 attacks who have suffered debilitating and sometimes fatal illnesses.

The arguments of the senators from the Party of No argued that now was not the time to allow American men and women to serve in the military without regard for gender preference or sexual orientation.

Of course, using that standard women might just now be finding their way to polling booths and the abolition of Jim Crow laws might finally be the subject of debate in Congress.

The Party of No also has argued that the funding of the aid for the 9/11 first responders is too expensive and that the City of New York and the State of New York should pay these costs. Using that logic, only the citizens of Hawaii should have paid for the health costs of civilian workers who assisted after the Pearl Harbor attacks.

We live in a time when no sense is sense. That so many have to suffer the effects of this callous madness is tragic.

Tax Daze

Finally, this past week President Obama negotiated a tax bill “compromise” with Republicans that essentially grants tax cuts to all Americans, including the millionaires and billionaires.

The President has been roundly criticized for “caving” on the issue of tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy. He likened negotiating with Republicans to negotiating with hostage takers and perhaps between the lines we find the reason for his backtracking on one of his major campaign pledges.

From Thanksgiving until the lighting of the White House Christmas tree yesterday, neither of the First Daughters, Sasha and Malia, was seen publicly.

Clearly the Republicans were holding them hostage and the tax cut “compromise” was the ransom that had been demanded. We all know that the Republicans are capable of dastardly acts, but now they have just gone too far!

Have a great weekend!

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