Point of View Columns

In Search of Obama

There is no doubt that history will refer to Barack Obama as a U.S. President Like No Other. There is the obvious aspect of his being the first African American president. But he was also the president who led this country out of a backbreaking economic disaster while easing the United States out of two unwinnable wars. There is also the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) which transformed the American vision of healthcare and the Dodd Frank Act which was the first major reform of the American financial services industry in almost 80 years. And now, it is time for Barack Obama to be an Ex-President of the United States Like No Other.

Donald Trump is on a daily voyage between tragedy and travesty. His sense of the presidency is informed only by his massive lack of knowledge and his disdain for even the most basic precepts of American government. But his incompetence, ignorance and ill-will are distractions from the real damage he is doing to this country by empowering right wing ideologues and conservative fanatics to wreak havoc upon the American people.

Sadly, the list of harmful acts courtesy of Trump is virtually endless. The exit from the Paris Climate Accords is but one example of the kind of endless global damage that this man is capable of causing. The return to criminalizing low-level non-nonviolent drug offenses guarantees that the Incarceration State will be alive and well in this country for years to come. The elimination of labor safety laws and the all-out assault on voting rights, civil rights and women’s rights are also signs of the messy handiwork of the Man Called Trump.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has largely observed the unwritten rule that ex-presidents do not criticize their successors, at least for the first year. But now the first year is up and the President Like No Other has to become the Ex-President Like No Other. Because the reality is that Barack Obama, perhaps unintentionally, became the leader of a progressive surge that countered a quarter of a century of conservative ascendancy.

While no one would ever confuse the 44th President of the United States with being a radical progressive, his presence on the national political landscape empowered progressive men and women to envision an America where the meanest and least civil aspects of the conservative movement were no longer inevitable. And indeed, there are options to the fevered dreams and wishes of the Ayn Rand acolytes who would transform political and policy dialogue into a Maker-Taker Texas death match.

And this is where Barack Obama comes in. While Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker and who knows who else position themselves for a possible presidential run in 2020, there is real work to be done right now. This country cannot afford three more years of Democratic rope-a-dope and because he cannot run for president in 2020, Barack Obama can be the honest and true voice of progressive concerns, in the process concentrating constant and withering criticism of the man who challenged his citizenship, his college degree and his law school credentials.

When Barack Obama points out that Donald Trump has managed to denigrate black Americans with his dog whistle call to Make America Great (White) again while treating women like disposable accessories and demeaning and insulting the American immigrant community and the international community of color, people will listen and listen differently.

We have heard President Obama say that he has run the race and many would agree that he deserves time to be himself. But the mantle of leadership is not an easy one to cast aside and in these dangerous days and times he simply cannot observe and occasionally comment.

Barack Obama became President of the United States carrying a message of “Hope and Change”. If there was ever a time for Hope, it is now. If there was ever a time for Change, it is now. In 2008 this country was ready for that message.

And now, a decade later, America is ready for that message – again. And Barack Obama needs to be that messenger.

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Point of View Columns

Taking Ben Carson Seriously

Many people who consider themselves progressive, and most people who claim sanity, do not really believe that Dr. Ben Carson will ever be elected President of the United States. That dangerous presumption could actually lead to his election, and it is time to take the man seriously and take him at his word(s). And what words they are.

Dr. Carson may singlehandedly dismantle the belief system that holds brain surgeons in high esteem because of their innate intelligence. His kindly, avuncular manner of presentation thinly disguises a malevolent and dangerous worldview, which if implemented would resurrect suffering and discord that many have thought were banished from this society years ago. Consider these words of Ben Carson:

• Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery – Dr. Carson seems to take exceptional pleasure in exhuming the rotted corpse of slavery and inserting it into serious contemporary discussion. Perhaps he feels that since he is of African descent he can play fast and loose with the memory of the millions who suffered and died under the legal lash of American bondage. Just as Jews and all people of good will are righteously outraged at useless comparisons to the Holocaust, there is simply no reason to bring slavery into a discussion of the Affordable Care Act, except for shock value. And Dr. Carson clearly pleasures himself by shocking others.

• I would rather see bullet riddled bodies than any limits on gun ownership – Rather than engaging in some semblance of decency and respect for the survivors of gun victims, Ben Carson used the recent campus gun massacre in Oregon to proclaim his dedication to the gross and historically incorrect interpretation of the Second Amendment. It is never clear whether Dr. Carson actually believes the outrageous statements that he makes. But what is clear is that words matter, and his words are offensive in the extreme.

• With less gun control Jews in Germany could have defeated Hitler – Statements like these remind us of the drunken uncle at Thanksgiving who, sometime after the dessert wine has been served, goes off on a riff so stupid, so asinine and so devoid of logic that all in attendance hope that it is only the wine that is doing the talking. But as far as we know Ben Carson does not drink alcohol and therefore we should take him at his word and reject him for his words. The illogic, the incorrect history and the bizarre belief that lightly armed German Jews could have defeated the Wermacht are woven together into a bizarre tapestry that literally defies response.

It is a sad testament regarding the state of the Teapublican Party that its leading presidential candidates are Donald Trump and Ben Carson. The only hope for the former Grand Old Party is that 70% of self-identified Republicans have not made up their mind. Nevertheless, one has to wonder who are these people that are not offended by Ben Carson’s rhetoric and who the people who actually embrace what he says?

We can be certain that there will be no apologies forthcoming from Dr. Carson. He believes so deeply that what is so wrong is right that there can be no cure for his very special madness.

And while we may feel certain that he will never be president, we should be very concerned that there are literally millions of Americans who believe that what he says is so right that he should be President of the United States.

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Point of View Columns

The Check is in the Mail

There just may be some truth to the rumor that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, has offered to pay CNN and Fox News to continue to broadcast Republican debates. While there is no truth to the rumor that her offers have been accepted, the rest of us can only hope that the Teapublican Show of Shows is renewed for the fall season.

Thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, any billionaire can decide that virtually anyone with a pulse can be President of the United States. That may be the only way to explain the candidacies of Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, to name just a few of the members of the right wing of the right wing food fight disguised as a presidential campaign. But during brief moments of lucidity and clarity of thought the leadership of the Republican National Committee just has to be wondering if providing a national stage for every lost cousin and wild and crazy uncle in the Teapublican family is such a great idea.

Consider a thumbnail sketch of the leading candidates out of the fifteen remaining from the Spectacular Seventeen that greeted us a little over a month ago, keeping in mind that every single one of them (except John Kasich and George Pataki, propose to deny over 20 million American men, women and children healthcare on “Day One”, by repealing the Affordable Care Act:

• Donald Trump – What else can be said about the Orange Haired Wonder. While it is dangerous to dismiss the Donald, it is important to note that if you distill his message, he intends to govern by bombast, bullying and insult. This might work in the world of real estate, but it certainly won’t work in domestic politics or in foreign policy.
• Carly Fiorina – Her narrative of going from a secretary to a CEO neglects to mention that her father was a federal court judge and then dean of Duke Law School and that her degrees from Stanford, the University of Maryland and MIT might have something to do with her success. And, by the way, the secretary narrative? She worked as a Kelly Girl during her summers in school. Her personal fan dance notwithstanding, her plan to “not speak to Putin” and to “tell the Supreme Leader of Iran” what he must do is so implausible that it would be funny, except that it is not.
• Ted Cruz – He sees no problem shutting down the federal government and says that the Supreme Court acts in an “unconstitutional” manner when it issues decisions with which he does not agree.
• Mike Huckabee – He joins the Teapublican attack on the Supreme Court in the process ignoring the Constitution and over 2 centuries of case law. And he seriously wants to be President of the United States.
• Chris Christie – New Jersey has one of the worst economies of the fifty states. And then there is this pesky corruption investigation by the U.S. attorney, an investigation involving a number of his very senior appointees. And then, he wants us to believe that bullying is useful as a governance model.
• Jeb Bush – First, he is Jeb BUSH. Second, his record as governor of Florida, beginning with his presiding over the first theft of an American presidential election, is not a stunning calling card. And then again, does the RNC really want to pin its hopes for winning the White House on another BUSH considering the impossible mess created by the last BUSH?
• Ben Carson – His avuncular delivery of stunning madness and malice – denying the science behind climate change and comparing Obamacare to slavery (!!!!!!!) – proves that brain surgeons may not be the standard for brilliance in modern society that we might have thought was the case.

Of course the list goes on, and it is interesting that John Kasich, governor of Ohio, usually comes across as the only sane adult in the Teapublican echo chamber. And it is interesting that virtually nobody gives John Kasich a chance of winning the Republican nomination – right along with George Pataki (another sane adult), and Bobby Jindal (not so sane and not so adult).

It may be that there is a bizarro world scenario in which one of the highlighted candidates could win (there is a winning scenario for Kasich and Pataki, for example, but……….well, you know). Nevertheless, the RNC treats us to daily doses of Lindsey Graham wanting to wage more war and Marco Rubio fighting the Cold War twenty years too late, along with eliminating healthcare coverage for over 20 million Americans, and somehow that is supposed to be a winning strategy.

And that is why Ms. Wasserman Schultz is writing out checks to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and any other media outlet that will give the RNC candidates a platform. To the executives of these networks – the check is in the mail.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 18, 2014

WEEKEND EDITION – April 18, 2014

This past week the Teapublican Terrorists tried to make a Nevada farmer who wants his cows to graze on federal property for free some kind of hero. Meanwhile, President Obama was pleased to announce that over 8 million people have now received healthcare coverage because of Obamacare and the rightwing of the rightwing is sure that this is one time when the numbers do lie. And finally, Baseball Hall of Fame legend Hank Aaron must have touched a nerve when he told the truth last week.

The Freedom to Steal

By all accounts, Cliven Bundy is a successful Nevada cattle farmer. For a number of years he paid the federal government for the right to have his cattle graze on federal property – a very ordinary arrangement in many parts of this country.

A few years ago Mr. Bundy decided that he would no longer “recognize” the federal government and he stopped paying the grazing fees. As you are reading this column Mr. Bundy owes the United States government over $1 million.

When federal agents arrived to remove his cattle from unlawfully eating grass on property owned by the American people Mr. Bundy reached out to fringe right wing supporters who showed up with rifles, pistols and AK-47’s, ready to do battle with the United States of America on behalf of a thief in a ten gallon hat.

The federal agents wisely decided to stand down – for the moment. But we can be sure that this is not the end of the story. What is more bizarre is that leading Teapublican Terrorists have supported this clearly illegal activity by Mr. Bundy, characterizing his larcenous behavior as a blow for freedom.

The Teapublicans have already shown themselves willing to defend the thieves on Wall Street. It would seem that by defending a thieving cowboy they are equal opportunity defenders of lawlessness – just as long as they are the right color lawbreakers.

The End of the Numbers Game?

A few days ago President Obama announced that 8 million Americans now have healthcare coverage pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. This is a tremendous achievement for the Obama Administration and an even greater moment for the American people.

Finally, the United States is beginning to provide healthcare for its citizens in a manner consistent with the successful policies of virtually every developed nation on earth. And this country is moving to a point in time where universal healthcare will be protected right, a right almost as important as the right to own machine guns.

Of course the Teapublicans have a problem with all of this. Along with over fifty votes in the House of Representatives to repeal Obamacare, the right wing of the right wing has advanced this notion that universal healthcare is a bad thing.

They are also contending that the 8 million people mentioned by President Obama really don’t exist. Of course, when Obamacare enrollment was lagging, they were only too happy to accept the numbers as gospel.

Obviously the Teapublicans are only happy with facts that support their anti-American, nihilist agenda. Unfortunately for them, the facts are apolitical and they cannot select their own version of reality.

It is what it is. Eight million times over.

Hank Aaron Hits Another Home Run

During the celebration of the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in major league baseball, Hall of Fame legend Hank Aaron was asked if he thought there had been racial progress since Jackie Robinson’s historic moment.

He answered honestly. Hank Aaron stated that there had been progress but that there was still racism in the United States. And, he mentioned that instead of wearing hoods and sheets, some racists now wear shirts and ties.

It is instructive that Mr. Aaron’s comments could be seen as controversial in some right wing enclaves. All kinds of epithets and racial slurs were hurled at this gentleman/star for daring to compare racists of today to the Ku Klux Klan.

It would seem that the truth hurts – when it is true.

Happy Easter – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

Trains, Planes and Obamacare

There is a line from the Walt Kelly’s old comic strip “Pogo” – “We have met the enemy and he is us.” And with all of the bile and rage that is launched against the Obama administration from the Teapublican rhetorical artillery installations, it sometimes seems that the progressive left is even more intent on defining the presidency of Barack Obama as a failure. The current status of Obamacare is a case in point.

Even though the Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land since March of 2010 and even though literally millions of Americans are benefiting from the features of this historic program, the right wing of the right wing continues to bray that Obamacare is “a disaster” or “a failure” or “the worst thing since slavery”. But by now we have come to expect that the rhetoric of the right wing would have a common link to something that you might scrape off the bottom of your shoe with a stick…….a very long stick.

But, despite the very clear facts relating to the successes of Obamacare to date, the recent technical flaws in the enrollment process have sent the commentators from the left streaming to the cliff of despair like lemmings. Not only has the executive capacity of President Obama been questioned, he is now accused of setting back the liberal movement for a) centuries or b) forever, because the American people have now learned that government cannot operate large programs for the benefit of the American people.

A few things need to be said about all of this gnashing of teeth. While the American people can be easily misled and many times have an attention span that is often exceeded by that of a goldfish, most Americans do understand that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, food stamps and college loan programs are run by the federal government.

Most Americans are reasonably satisfied with these programs and it is that satisfaction that provides a roadblock to the nihilist cohort of the right wing that would decimate and eviscerate most of these programs and many more. And while many Americans are deluded into drinking the Teapublican Kool-Aid they usually wake up when they realize that the big government that they hate so much is responsible for the programs that mean so much to them.

But all of this weeping and wailing on the left about setting back liberalism and permanently obliterating Americans’ faith in government seems to be intergalactic in origin because it cannot possibly come from an earth-based life form. While conceding the bamboozability of the American people, the American people are also used to organizations experiencing mishaps and even failures and recovering from them – consider trains, planes and automobiles.

Trains – during the Thanksgiving weekend a commuter train crashed in New York City and four people died and scores were injured. This is not the first train crash on the New York City public transport system and there have been, unfortunately, more crashes across this country during the past decade. No one has suggested that travel by train is unsafe or should be abandoned. Problems are meant to be solved.

Planes – Boeing has spent over a decade designing and building the 787 Dreamliner. After multiple mishaps and failures the planes were deemed worthy to be sold and flown all over the world – that is, until they were deemed unworthy and grounded all over the world. And now the planes have been fixed (presumably) and thousands of people are flying Dreamliners every day. No one has suggested that Boeing is an incompetent business. Problems are meant to be solved.

Automobiles – During the past few years we have seen millions of trucks and cars recalled by their manufacturers for all kinds of structural problems, some of which have caused the deaths of drivers and passengers. No one has suggested that Toyota, Ford or General Motors should go out of business or that they are incompetent organizations. Problems are meant to be solved.

But the naysayers who are against a national healthcare system, even if it worked perfectly from inception, would have us believe that the faults and flaws of Obamacare are reason to abandon a program that will allow uninsured people to be insured and will keep Americans from going bankrupt if they are seriously ill. They would have this country abandon a program that has already reduced the rate by which medical costs have been increasing.

But for the left wing to abandon ship because perfection has yet to be achieved means that they miss the point – national health care, a goal of American progressives for over a century, is the law of the land. By any measurement this is a tremendous achievement for President Obama.

One would think that now is the time to move forward with fixing what needs to be fixed rather than succumbing to the gloom and doom that is the eternal clarion call of the right wing.

 

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 29, 2013

The recent announcement of a potential nuclear agreement with Iran should have been greeted with thanks as Thanksgiving Week began. But, predictably, it was not. Meanwhile, the Teapublicans are intent on portraying Obamacare as a “disaster” even though it is not. Perhaps if they say it long enough and loud enough it will be true? And speaking of Obamacare, in 2014 the Supreme Court of the United States will decide whether corporations can impose their religious ideals on their employees. No kidding.

Diplomacy 101

After over three decades of mutual enmity, the United States (and several other nations) and Iran have agreed to an arrangement that will severely curtail its nuclear enrichment program in exchange for modes reductions of the international economic sanctions that are battering Iran. That this agreement would come to pass while the chicken hawks on Capitol Hill have been clamoring for all-out war with Iran on this issue is nothing short than amazing and can only be seen as a positive.

But, think again, there are the predictable Teapublican chicken hawks crowing for bombs and battle from the safety of their congressional cocoon. But there are also relatively sane members of Congress who are also opposing this deal because it does not fully eliminate Iran’s nuclear program. The fact that every country engaged in negotiating with Iran (United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia) has nuclear weapons – as does Israel, doesn’t seem to factor into the discussion.

Moreover, it appears that there may be a need to reintroduce the concept of diplomacy to the members of Congress who seem to think that any compromise is a sign of weakness and a tactical error. Of course, as a matter of course diplomacy is only effective when each side gets something but doesn’t get everything.

Hopefully, the members of Congress will return to reality in time to recognize the historic and global importance of this agreement.

The Disaster that Isn’t

The Teapublican playbook seems to be based on the belief that if one says something loud enough and often enough, it will be perceived as true – even if it isn’t. In the case of the continuing saga of Obamacare, the Teapublicans who closed down the entire federal government and voted to repeal it about 5 million times are now claiming that the law that they always hated is a “disaster”.

Exhibit A has been, of course, the computer/website problems that began with the October 1st enrollment process. There are anecdotal stories of individuals who have lost insurance or are paying more for insurance and there is always a doctor somewhere who will stand in front of a camera and explain how Obamacare will ruin “the best healthcare system in the world”.

These same naysayers ignore the millions of Americans who have benefited from Obamacare since it went into effect almost four years ago. That is four years of people not being denied insurance because of pre-existing and catastrophic illness. That is four years of adult children being covered by their parents’ health insurance until they are 26. And that is four years of healthcare costs in this country finally trending downward.

But the Teapublicans never let the truth get in the way of a good “Bad Obama” story.

Religion Incorporated?

Ever since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the Citizens United case that corporations enjoy the Constitutional protection of freedom of speech, we have waited to see when the other shoe might fall – or how many shoes there might be poised to fall in the further perversion of the United States Constitution.

The answer may be given in the spring of 2014. SCOTUS has agreed to hear a case based on the presumption that the religious freedoms of corporations can the subject of constitutional protection. Now you might not have realized that corporations, a legal mechanism created for commercial and organizational purposes, had any kind of religious affiliation.

We can all accept that Catholic Charities and the United Jewish Appeal have religious affiliations and those affiliations are recognized by the Internal Revenue Code. The idea that any commercial corporation could claim religious affiliation and “rights” is an awful concept and, a perversion of the concept of religious liberty that gave rise to it being constitutionally protected in the first place.

Imagine corporations determining what kind of healthcare their employees can have based upon the religious beliefs of the shareholders – no blood transfusions, no abortions, no contraception, no medical treatment at all – that would be the Brave New World of corporations as “people” as Mitt Romney so eloquently put it.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

Fake Fuss over Obamacare

The frenzied farcical furor surrounding the technology challenged rollout of the latest phase of the Affordable Care Act would be laughable if the subject matter wasn’t so serious. The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, was passed into law in order to address a critical challenge for the people of the United States – quality affordable healthcare being made available to a third of a billion people. While the record is quite clear that Obamacare has begun to address the healthcare inequities of Americans, the Usual Suspects are only too happy, indeed gleeful, to celebrate even any misstep.

A bit of historical perspective is always useful. At the beginning of the 20th century President Theodore Roosevelt advanced the concept of universal health care, an obvious product of the Progressive Movement that initiated so many beneficial reforms in these United States.

Since that time, many presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton have all tried, and failed, to implement a universal health care system that would guarantee medical care for all Americans. And since that time virtually every developed country on this planet (and many that are not so developed) has implemented a universal health care system for its citizens.

When Barack Obama became president in 2009 over 40 million Americans had no medical insurance and millions of other Americans were hopelessly underinsured. And this societal disgrace existed in a country with the best medical technology in the world and the highest medical costs in the world. That the Obama administration was able to shepherd a healthcare bill through a Congress that was already careening towards the partisan poisoned train wreck that it is today, will one day be noted as a great legislative and political achievement.

It should be no surprise that the Teapublicans have led the full throated disparagement of every aspect of Obamacare. But they are silent when it is pointed out that Americans with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be denied health insurance – an established procedure in the health insurance industry prior to the passage of Obamacare.

They are also silent when it is pointed out that, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act Americans can no longer lose their healthcare coverage when they are afflicted by a catastrophic illness. Dropping people with such illnesses from health insurance coverage was standard operating procedure prior to the passage of Obamacare.

And the Teapublicans simply don’t want to talk about the fact that millions of Americans can keep their children covered by the family health care plan until that child turns 26. This is another new feature that was the stuff of fantasy before the passage of Obamacare.

So why would the Teapublicans and their right wing cohorts want to repeal Obamacare? The House of Representatives has voted to repeal Obamacare 47 times. The right wing zealots who populate that chamber have shut down the federal government and taken the entire global economy to the brink of an unthinkable cataclysm – all in the name of derailing a law which provides healthcare to Americans.

It has to make one wonder what is it about Obamacare that makes the Teapublicans cross-eyed crazy? Can they be so opposed to children with cancer receiving healthcare? Are they that opposed to men, women and children being able to see a doctor without the specter of bankruptcy looming over them if they get sick? And, have the Teapublicans ever offered a credible alternative to Obamacare?

The answer to the last question is “no”. And the answers to the other questions are probably “no” as well. In which case it is clear that the magma of hate for President Barack Obama has spewed forth in a volcanic eruption of opposition, confrontation, disrespect and invalidation that continues to this very day as Teapublicans are holding up President Obama’s third judicial nomination to the United States Court of Appeals. And there should be no doubt that there is a racialist and racist source to the white hot magma that flows through the halls of power of Washington.

And now we are supposed to believe that the Teapublicans are caterwauling over the technological missteps in the next phase of Obamacare because they care about the healthcare of Americans being jeopardized. Their record of crass and senseless opposition to All Things Obama makes them all look like they are crying crocodile tears.

The computer failures of Obamacare will be fixed. Obamacare will continue to be the law of the land. More Americans will have access to affordable quality healthcare because of Obamacare. And the opponents of Obamacare will find themselves being footnotes to footnotes of history.

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